Feb 15, 2010

Mercedes Marathon - Birmingham, AL

Unfortunately all the snow in the South did a number on flights getting in and out of Atlanta so I had to make the trip by myself. Luckily my wonderful wife secured a ticket for me to get there on Saturday afternoon.

To get the abbreviated version, click the movie below, otherwise, keep reading:

First of all, by the numbers:

3:40:22, 8:25 per mile. I finished 19th of 92 in my age group, 159 of 850-900 overall and 129 of ??? for men only. Interestingly enough I was 31st in my age group at 10k, 28th at 15k, 27th at 25k, 21st at 30k and ultimately 19th. Seems some people out there slowed down more than I did.

It was cold to start, just below 30 degrees I think. Luckily there was no rain or snow though. Mostly cloudy for the whole thing but the sun did manage to peek out occasionally.

Yet again, I started out faster than I wanted too. It wasn't my fault, really! I mean it was soooo easy. The first time I looked at my watch it was in the 7:50's and I thought something must be wrong with my Garmin. I had to force myself to slow down and then slow down some more and then some more. The first few miles weren't hilly but they weren't flat either. First 5 miles 8:18 pace.

I thought I'd like the double loop course but I found myself just wanting to get the first half over with so we could get rid of the half marathoners and I could just get down to finishing the race. A half marathon is a long time to go "just wanting to get it over with." We hit the biggest hills on the course from miles 7-10. Crowds were good, especially at the relay exchange zones where they crowded the streets and only 2-3 runners could pass at a time. It was kind of fun actually. Second 5 miles 8:21 pace.

The course flattened out quite a bit and they separated the half people from the full people just after 10 miles although they were just on the other side of the street. Since they separated us it seemed like the halfway point should just be around the corner but it was still 3 miles away! Seemed like forever. Finally, they finished and we kept going; no official halfway timing mat but I think I came in around 1:49:07, 8:19 pace. Too fast because this was just a training run after all and I want to be able to keep training this week. Third five miles 8:23 pace.

I felt pretty strong the whole race, runners came and went but I seemed to be passing more than passed me. The second loop wasn't nearly as supported by fans. I guess they were all there for the half marathoners. Does anybody else out there hate taking gels as much as I do? I don't mind the flavor but I just don't like having to take them. I don't like drinking either. Just something I gotta do. Fourth 5 miles 8:31 pace.

Finally we were over the hills and things started flattening out again. Some lady took a horrible fall up ahead of me. I don't know if it was because she tripped on a pothole or another reason but she went down hard. Luckily there were spectators and officers immediately on hand to take care of her. Around mile 23 I felt the exhaustion set in. I always repeat my mantra "Just keep running, just keep running." I also tell myself that the miles are long but the marathons are short and it will be over with before I know it. And it always is. Fifth 5 miles at 8:40 pace.

Down the homestretch I passed the man with the Ironman hat that I thought was long gone when he passed me in mile 11-12. Somebody passed me and I said "good start" and he said "thank you, thank you" but I wonder if he knew what I meant. Entering the final chute I like to raise my hands to the crowd because they always respond with a big cheer and I know it is for me. It worked again for this marathon, twice. They announced my name and home town as I crossed the line. Last 1.2 miles 7:47 pace. Second half about 1:51:15, pretty even pacing.

Officially I had 26.07 on the Garmin. But the course is certified and that is 99.5% accuracy so I guess it is acceptable. All the mile markers seemed about a quarter mile off though. Whatever. One thing I would have liked to see would have been the water on one side of the street and the powerade on the other. It was kind of hard to get exactly what you wanted. Also they could have draped the medal over your head at the end instead of just handing it to you. Just the little things I guess.

I seems if you run a marathon on Valentine's Day, as I have the last two years, you get a bright red technical shirt for your trouble. Also got a hat. The medal is okay but I would have liked to see the little triangle areas be hollow so it would look more like a Mercedes hood ornament.

After an ice bath and shower I was back at the airport by noon. It was kind of a planes, trains and automobiles adventure getting home. I caught the first flight out of Birmingham, sat in Atlanta missing some full fights before changing concourses, flying to Chicago and getting into Minneapolis at about 9:30. Wait for the train to the other terminal, walk through two parking garages and finally get home at 10:30 PM. Yes, at that time I shovelled the driveway.

All in: 26.2 miles at 8:25.


Julie said...

Hi Az,
Congrats on your awesome marathon finish and time:) Good job! I love the medal:)

Jill said...

Congrats on an amazing time and placement finish! I used to live in Huntsville and have been to Birmhigham often so know how non-flat it is there. It IS so hard to not go out too fast at the start when we feel so great; I've ruined more races by doing so. Great job for pulling back!!

Karen said...

Congrats on the great time! I actually like the medal, might have to check that one out for next year :)

lindsay said...

congrats on a great race! i dislike when they don't "medal" you after a race (well halves and fulls). in nyc they were just handing them out but i bent my head down and the lady caught on quickly enough to 'medal' me. i have been wanting to run mercedes but haven't had the chance to yet... maybe one day! glad your travels weren't completely botched so you could still get down there.

also - since your front tires are the "driving tires" it's just more dangerous to have a plug there in case it pops out while driving at high speeds. would be more dangerous than in a rear tire i guess. you can temporarily plug, but it's best to take it to the shop and get a patch put on from the inside. this is what they told me last week anyway! i would've just gone to get it patched but i needed new ones anyway.

Meg said...

I love the movie, very entertaining but you are too skinny and a tad rigid with the hand movements at the end. Still, I cracked up, thanks for the fun!
Nice race, awesome time and placing. Now you can taper again...

Beth said...

Great job! And you did the driveway, too! I got a kick out of the movie. Very funny. Congrats on a great race!

Karen said...

Congratulations on the race that's a great time. The shoveling doesn't sound like fun but if you ever get stuck in Chicago or Milwaukee you have a place to stay.

Glenn Jones said...

Okay. That movie is way cool! xtranormal huh? Nice.

And way to go on the race! Great race plan executed well. I like how you have the discipline to pull back and save yourself.

Finally, I had to chuckle at your ending. After all the excitement, all the racing, and all the travlling, when you get home you're just ol' AZ!

TokyoRacer said...

Good race. Will there ever be a marathon where we are not exhausted (legs of concrete) in the last 3 miles? I hope so....
I agree about the gels and water. A real pain. Last race I worried about them too much and kind of lost focus. Next time I am going to be more relaxed about it.

San said...

Wohoo well done Az. Congrats on this fantastic time and the snow shovelling.

Nicely done Movie too. Are you the next Tarantino?!


Jean said...

Fantastic race, AZ. What a great performance you had. And that medal is AWESOME! How cool.

Great running so far this season...two marathons down already! Way to go, and keep it up!

San said...

To answer your question: Leipzig Marathon will be on April 25th.