Monday, March 2, 2015

February 22, 2015, Mercedes-Benz Half Marathon, State #20. AL (Part 2)

I awoke on race morning feeling refreshed. I think I had the best sleep I’ve ever had at a hotel before a race. I'm not sure why that was, but I wasn't going to question it. I went through my usual pre-race morning ritual with one small blip. The coffee maker in the room leaked all over the place when I tried to brew a cup. Luckily, I had a cup of coffee that I purchased at the airport as a back-up, but the room didn’t have a microwave to heat it up. I was going to brew a hot cup to mix with it to heat it up, but instead I just made a mess. I tried another cup, but that one leaked, too. I managed to salvage some of it and then ended up drinking mostly cold coffee. Whatever. It was better than nothing. It is always a good idea to bring your own "standards" with you, as you never know what will happen. I was glad I did.

Ugh! Leaky coffee mess!
One super fantastic thing about the race in Birmingham was that my hotel was  so close to the starting line, about a 5 minute walk. It was raining lightly, so I decided to stay in my room as long as possible to avoid getting soaked before the race. The temperature was in the 50’s, so at least I wouldn’t freeze out there. That was good news, too. 
I made my way to the starting line after one more bathroom stop and arrived with about 5 minutes until the starting gun. I had to jump the barricades to get in to the starting corral near my pace. If I had gone to the end of the corrals and tried to thread my way up to the 8 minute/mile group, I never would’ve made it, and I just wanted to be near the front of the pack. Psychologically, I have an easier time starting near the front rather than at the back. If I start near the back, I feel this need to have to “catch up” the whole time, and I think it drains my energy. I never seem to do as well.
View of the starting line.
The starting gun went off and we made an initial loop around the downtown area near where my hotel was and then through to some more industrial parts of downtown Birmingham. It was still raining, but the roads were mostly flat at this point, so my fear of slipping on a downhill stretch was at bay for the moment. 
Around mile 5 we entered a more residential area. The houses were small craftsman style bungalows lined rather close together. Again I got the sense of the 1950’s screaming through the scenery. Sadly, many of the homes in this area were run down and in need of restoration. I could absolutely see this area as an “up and coming” neighborhood for motivated buyers who like to rehab homes. It could be adorably charming if given the attention it needs. 
True to the race map, the largest hill was at mile 8, but it really wasn’t a killer. I just stayed steady in my stride. The rain had lessened at this point and was more like a mist. Groups of fans were here and there along the route, with the best cheering sections anchored around the water stops. The volunteers at this race were great…right on their game. 
The next part of the race featured some larger and more grandiose homes and a large park/golf course. The parks along the race route featured natural landscapes, wispy grasses and rolling hills. It was nice to look at these features along the way, and in fact the entire race had rather varied surroundings, making the miles tick by rather quickly. For not having trained to my usual level prior to this race, I felt rather good. Not too tired, keeping a decent pace, no injuries to speak of…
After another hill at mile 10, it was basically all downhill. I tried to take advantage of all the declines as much as possible in this race. It was nice because I didn’t start out too fast, so I had some gas left to speed up a bit on these later downhill miles. Before I knew it, I was heading back in to the downtown area where the finish line awaited. I crossed the line at 1:48:46, well below my expectations of where I thought I might finish. Hooray! I was awarded my medal along with a Mercedes-Benz beach towel. Nice! 

Next, I made my way through the finish area to stretch out a bit, and I spied two women who had lined up next to me in the starting corral. I congratulated them and we traded stories a bit. One of the women, Jess, PR’d in the race which was so exciting. Her friend (Andrea, I think her name was, or maybe it was Amanda) was a teacher from Atlanta, and she was intrigued to hear of my 50 state journey. We had a great chat and hopefully she will read about herself here in my blog. Hello lovely ladies! We took photos for each other, and I made my way back to my hotel for some stretching and a glorious hot shower.
After a delicious lunch of a steak salad, I hopped the shuttle to the airport. Unfortunately, my flight was delayed, and I would miss my connecting flight in Charlotte. Alternate flights were all booked up, as the snow up north had wrecked travel for thousands of folks finishing up winter school vacations. I was stuck. Until my genius husband found a Southwest flight that might work. I hightailed it to the Southwest counter, and as luck would have it, two seats were still available on the flight. Credit card in hand, one of them was now mine. 
The flight home was good, if long. I had to go from Birmingham to Orlando to get to Hartford (go figure!). The important thing was that I’d be home that night. My last leg of the flight was interesting, as I sat with two women who had also run in races over the weekend. One ran the Disney Princess Half Marathon that morning and the other ran the Disney Princess 10K the day before. We chatted all about our running adventures and other things all the way home. 
Although it was about 17 degrees when I arrived home, I was glad to be back and see my husband and sleep in my own bed. Birmingham was a super friendly city and a delightful race. Upon checking the race results the next day, I discovered I’d finished 11th in my age group! How about that?! I guess my winter training wasn’t so shabby after all. 


  1. Hello it's Carly! I met you on the shuttle from Chicago airport. I hope you're doing well :)

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