Monday, February 15, 2010

Birmingham Recap, Part 1

*Sorry for the formatting issues with this one. Every time I fix it, it just goes back to wacky.*
Where to begin. I’ve decided to split it up into two reports: one about my race and one about the race itself for those of you who might be thinking of running it. This one is long, so get comfy.


Can basically be summed up by a series of fails! Not even kidding. When we left Atlanta it looked like this:

I was so worried that the roads were going to be a mess in Birmingham because they had got the same storm. Luckily, it was a sunny day and there was a HUGE melt. Phew. Drive and Expo were fairly uneventful. We did pass by Talladega, but I saw no signs of Ricky Bobby (I know nothing else about car racing). Dinner was the scene of the first big fail. We went out early (5pm) to get some pasta and the restaurant already had over a 1.5 hr wait! Damn you Valentine’s weekend. We called an audible and went to the next closest place that was seating. So prerace meal was nothing like what I wanted and I ate a veggie burger and fries. Yes, I would pay for this. We got back to the hotel to find out that the convention center attached to the hotel (where the expo was) is having a Black Eyed Peas concert along with 2 other events that night. Hmm. Let’s just say the tweens were not so quiet and I didn’t sleep well at all.

Morning of the race I woke up with a few tummy issues (really shocking I know) and wasn’t really in the mood to eat, which got me really worried. I choked down a quarter of a bagel, a banana, and a cup of coffee. Definitely not as much food as I had hoped. At this point, the forecast was still calling for rain/mix midmorning and heavy clouds, so I picked out my outfit accordingly. I decided to go with some sweet pigtails to cheer myself up a bit. I was in good spirits heading to the start and was determined to put the morning’s fails behind me.

I told you they were sweet.


Miles 1-7: I chewed down a pack of Luna Moons in the starting corral and started to look for the 4:15 pace group. My goal was to run with them for at least the 1st half to keep my pace even and conservative. I teamed up with the 4:15 pace ladies around mile 0.5 and just tucked in behind them to settle in. After about 2 miles I was already feeling a little hot, but I figured it was because the sun surprised us and came out, but by mile 3 I figured out what was going on. The pace ladies came out of the gate a little excited and we went through the 3 mile marker in 25 flat. I saw the clock and just went ‘Oh Sh*t’. Instead of dropping the pace they just kept chugging along and I was not in the mood to lose them yet. By mile 5 we were over 6 min ahead of pace. They had us on track to go sub-4 and then some. I was starting to worry I was going to PR the half while I was at it, and knew that was NOT a goal I wanted to accomplish today. So basically my ‘conservative’ start was way out the window. Once seeing our mile 5 split, the pace ladies slammed on the breaks. I wasn’t in the mood to drop gears that far, so I went on in an even pace with what I had trained for (9-9:30ish). I did not see them again until sometime in the 20’s. I took my first power gel (vanilla, tasted like pudding) around mile 7 (Success)! The weather remained perfect for the rest of the race (mostly sun with some clouds, temps around 50). Too bad I didn't have my sunglasses.

Miles 7-12: Shortly afterward, I was joined by a nice gentleman who was also frustrated with the 4:15 fiasco (He was tall, dark and handsome, let’s hear it for speed dating). Alex was from Birmingham and running the half due to ITBS, but had run the full several times. He gave me a guided tour of the neighborhoods we went through and told me a few things to remember for the second half (it’s a double loop course). He was a huge help (besides his desire to push the pace)! The elevation map showed only one hill on the course at mile 10/23, but it really was a series of long hills for about 3 or 4 miles from 7-11/19-23. Alex told me which one was the longest (1.5 miles long) and where to play it safe. We parted ways at the split around mile 12. I came through the half around 2:02 and was happy with my pace, but wanted to reign it back in for a little bit knowing I would have the late hills again.

Miles 13-20: Around the half-way point, I was joined by a runner named Joe running his first full. He was looking for someone to pace with, and I was looking to put on a breaks a bit, so we were a good match. Joe amazed me with how strong his training was. He ran 3-22milers and 2-20milers. I admitted to him that I ran one 19miler and a bunch of 13-15 milers. If anything, I think it helped his confidence. I took another gel around 14-15 (right as planned) and then we were joined by Rachel, another victim of the 4:15 pace group. Rachel was running her 7th marathon and determined to finally break 4:15. Rachel and I ran the rest of the race together and really help each other keep a good mindset. We lost Joe around mile 18 when we started to push the pace back up a bit. We kept it comfortable through 20, both knowing that that is where the race really begins.

Miles 20-Finish: It was only after mile 20 that I let myself actually think about what I had left to do. I was really proud that I never had the “15 miles left” thoughts at any point in the course, and it worked really well for me mentally. My word of the day was patience, and I think I totally (beside the pacing fiasco) accomplished it. Rachel and I took it one mile at a time from 20 in. Since most of this was in the hilly section, we did walk during aid stations just to make sure we got our powerade in and give us a mini-break from the hills. That was the only walking for the entire race though. Around 22, I got a shout of from one the cops, “Pigtails! You’re back!” which was really surprising but fun. I thanked him and replied that I wasn’t coming back for another loop. I did not take my 3rd gel at 21 (mini-fail), but I did consume many oranges along the course and never felt any major sugar blues (WIN!). This was probably one of the best-aided courses I have been on. I have tons of good things to say about it, but more on that in my next post.

Rachel and I made it through the hills in good time. Afterwards we had a long straight away in a warehouse district for miles 23.5-25. Unfortunately a head wind had kicked up, so these miles were a little more challenging. At 24 I felt the pop and let out an “Oh no!” and then explained to Rachel my blister/toe had just exploded. She quickly glanced at my feet and responded, “Yeah, don’t look down”. At mile 25 we had over 11 mins to get Rachel to the tape under 4:15 and we started to move. We had been joking earlier that mile 26 is the longest mile ever, and unfortunately it was literally true. My mile markers had been slightly off on my garmin all day, and they fixed with a long mile 26. Instead of having 1.2 left we probably ended up with closer to 1.4, which was just enough for us to miss 4:15 by about 1 min. Either way, we were both ecstatic coming across the line with big smiles and were incredibly happy with our race. The 4:15 ladies finished about 100 feet in front of us with their yo-yo pace.

Post Race: This was by far the best I have felt mentally and physically during a marathon. I loved every minute of it and tried to smile at every camera I saw (I tend to have angry looking race photos)! I finally feel like I get the marathon and now am very excited to run (and really train) for another. It was a huge confidence boost. Now I want to start tackling time.

Race goals: Two out of three ain’t bad.

1. Fuel: Though I only took 2 gels, I did supplement with probably 4-5 orange slices and the wall never even crossed my mind. HUGE WIN!

2. Feet: Um, yeah. I eluded to what happened at mile 24, but here is a pic. Thank heavens I didn’t look down until after the finish. I actually had quite a bit of foot pain from 20 miles on. BIG FAIL.

3. Brains: I had tons of fun and was full of smiles. It was either the smiles or the pigtails that got me all my running buddies along the way. I really felt like my head was in the game the whole time and thanks to Rachel for making me push at the end. HUGE WIN!

Have a great Monday! Thanks to everyone for their support and stay tuned for a pros/cons about the race as a whole tomorrow.


  1. Great race report! I took out my last marathon way too fast and was not as smart as you to slow it down early on...well done running a smart race.

    I love how many friends you made along the course! Sounds like you had a BLAST.

  2. Awesome race recap girl! I LOVE the pigtails and you did so great! Fun to meet people along the way to pace with. I can't believe about your foot! Ouch! Bask in that afterglow girl, you've earned it!!!


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