Sorry for the delay folks, but finally a race report!
Last Sunday I ran the Talladega 21000 Half Marathon in Alabama (Yes, that Talladega). The race was in rural Alabama (cue banjos) and highly Nascar themed as the course literally took you on, around, over, under, and through the middle of a Nascar track. I'll admit, I know close to nothing about Nascar, except that they are very good at making left hand turns, so I picked the race purely for the novelty and people watching. Good news: I wasn't disappointed.
As a northern, I am still highly amused by the south (and occasionally afraid of it). In order to fit in (not look like a total Yankee), I decided a nice John Deere trucker hat was essential race attire. Let's be honest, nothing runs like a Deere and evidently at this race that includes me (but we'll get to that later). The race is a small one (1200 runner cap) and is in its second year. Runners really get to see all aspects of the track, including parking in the infield and pre-race church services in the Sprint Cup Garage (this is the deep south after all).
Pre-race smiles, check out the bank!
As we wondering out on to the track for the start, I realized that some of the other runners really embraced the 'nascar/festive' element of the race and dressed accordingly:
There isn't enough body glide in this world for me to run in that.
These costumes (yes they were costumes) were hilarious. Multiple pairs of jorts, a wolf shirt, two nascar cut off tees, carefully designed facial hair, and even a faux tramp stamp. Delightful! One of them even pounded a PBR as he came across the line. Several runners had registered as Ricky Bobby, which made the finish line announcing more entertaining (and Here comes Ricky Bobby up to the line).
We started at turn 4, and let me tell you the bank is CRAZY! People basically had to climb up to the walls:
Walk to the start.
We ran through this tunnel on our way back onto the track.
Check out how tall the corners are!
The race started with a nice 'runners start your engines' and then we were off. The first two miles were around the track and included lots of 'rubbing is racing' jokes from the runners. We ran on the lower part of the track for the corners (otherwise it would have been inhumane). After two miles we exited the track and ran around the grounds for the next 5 miles. It was actually a nice course around country roads, so it was a nice change from the city. It was around mile 2 that the sun really started to shine. Pre-race was chilly (50s), but I had an overwhelming fear that it could get hot, and boy did it ever. It was in the 70s for most of the race and it was one of the first really hot days we had had. I carried my fuelbelt for the race purely for this reason. Unfortunately, I had pretty bad middle 4 miles (including 1 bathroom stop, 1 round of vomiting, and 2 walk breaks). I knew early on it wasn't my day, and given the week I had leading up to the race, it was no surprise (Note to self: sleeping 3 hours a night and surviving off coffee for a week is NOT appropriate race prep!). But alas, I stuck with it and was determined to finish.
Around mile 7 we came back over the track running through the grandstands (we even had access to real toilets which I enjoyed!), and then around the top of the banked corners, which was a pretty crazy perspective. At mile 10, we can up under the track and ran through the infield and back on to the track. At this point, I was in full meltdown mode, and as I was soaking myself down at the water stop I noticed one of the jorts characters was about to catch me. That was enough motivation for me to pull it together and run the last three miles in solid. I did partake in the beer stop at mile 11, because when in Alabama, you drink beer from dixie cups.
There was no way he was beating me!
I ended up finishing in 1:57:47, which pretty much shocked my running socks off me. I had great training runs leading up to the race and knew I was ready, but figured with my physical disaster, I would be dragging across the line. Overall, the race was a lot of fun with a great post-race party including live music, southern bbq, and delightfully cold beer. I am happy I ran the race and stuck with it to the end. Hopefully I will be back next year for a little revenge on the course!