Mercedes Marathon - Birmingham, AL

Mercedes Marathon (Birmingham, AL)

Marathon #2, State #2

Finish time – 3:38:14 (New PR!)

Well I’m super happy to report that Marathon #2 is in the books (48 states to go), and I have a brand new PR (3:38:14, 8:20/mile). Now let’s talk about how I got there...

I’m going to try to keep this recap on the shorter side; I know I tend to get long winded. Anyway, those that have been following my progress know that I got extremely sick after my last marathon. The flu, bronchitis, and a mean stomach virus had me out for about a month. As a result, I had less than 2 months to get prepped for this marathon. Due to the short training cycle and severe illnesses, I came pretty close to cancelling this race, but I decided to just try to ramp up my mileage as quick as possible and see how I felt as race day got closer.

Well my training cycle, while short, went extremely well. I was able to ramp up my mileage while staying injury free, and I felt strong and healthy. I set my goal at 3:50 and felt reasonably confident that I could make it as long as I stayed healthy.

I arrived in Birmingham Saturday afternoon, hit the expo to get my bib, checked into the hotel, and hit up a few meet and greets with my roommates and fellow BMR members Nick and Terry. I won’t bother describing the expo and all that because nothing much has changed since last year, and I covered it pretty well in my prior Mercedes recap (when I ran the half marathon and relay). Let’s just fast forward to race day…

The big question mark regarding race day was the weather. There was a solid chance of rain in the forecast and it had been pouring down the night before. My room faced the atrium and offered know view of the outside; so when we woke up, we really had no clue what the weather was like. Nick calls down to the front desk and they inform us that it was currently raining and had been going back and forth between light drizzle and heavier downpours. Great!! That’s sarcasm, of course.

Good news is that by the time we got ready, took pics, and hit the starting line, the rain was down to a pretty light drizzle. After a few miles into the race, the rain had stopped completely. That left us with cool cloudy weather and no rain for the large majority of the course. Weather was in the 40’s… this made for perfect racing conditions from my view point.

The course is a double-loop. Again, I had ran the half marathon last year so I was somewhat familiar with the course. A double loop for today’s marathon meant that I’d be VERY familiar with the course by the second half of the race… Again, this is all good news for me. I wasn’t sightseeing and really didn’t care about seeing the same stuff twice on the course.

Miles 0-17 (All in my stride) – Average pace = 8:03/mile

Okay I’m recapping this race is much larger chunks than I normally do. That’s because there really wasn’t as much variation in my results… I credit this to a slight increase in preparation and experience on my behalf. My past marathon included the following, in this order: (1) some slower warm up miles (2) some faster miles of increasing speed (3) a section of strong miles where I really hit my stride, and finally (4) the final miles where I wanted to die. This time, I did 10 minutes of warm up runs and stretches and was able to hit my stride right from the get-go. As a result, I’m down to three sections: (1) a large chunk of miles where I really hit my stride (2) a smaller chunk of miles where I could feel some fatigue and faded slightly, and (3) an even smaller chunk of miles at the end where I wanted to die.

Miles 0-17 were essentially all the same… I was nice and comfortable in my stride straight out of the gate. Through the first 17 miles, my average pace was 8:03/mile. While my base “goal” was 3:50, I knew that I was in much better shape than that. A few people knew that I was going to go for a little bit more, and it wasn’t until I started running that I knew for sure what my “little bit more” was going to be. I ran that first 8 or so miles with Terry (he was running the half) and I told him that I  was going to see if I could hit 3:40. Running with Terry helped the first 1/3 of the race go by pretty quickly. I really don’t have much else to say about this section because it really did feel pretty easy. The 8:03 pace felt conversational… evidenced by the fact that Terry and I did have a fair bit of conversation going on.

Just before the half marathoners and marathoners split (around mile 12), a woman called over to me and said that I was looking great. Apparently, she had been running with me and I didn’t realize it. I think she had assumed that I was also running the half and was noticeably surprised to see me veer to the right for the full marathon double loop. Little things like that can go a long way with me; her positivity gave me a little boost of energy. I meant to look for her after the race… but yea, I forgot about all of that.

Miles 18-24 (feeling some fatigue) – Average pace = 8:33/miles

Miles 18-24 contained the lion’s share of the steep elevation changes in the race. It was during these miles that I first realized that I was getting a bit tired. Not exhausted, but a combination me being deep in the race and facing the steepest climbs started to work on my quads a bit. Conversation pace all of a sudden started feeling like tempo pace. For me, these miles were all about putting in the work. I kept telling myself that these were the miles that I trained for.

It was also during this stretch that I realized that I was going to break 3:40. I’ll never forget the feeling as I came up on the end of mile 22 and saw the clock read roughly 3:00. Some simple math in my head told me that I had a little over 4 miles to go and 40 minutes to get there. That’s 10 minutes per mile…. Wait, 10 minutes per mile!? Yes, Yes I can do that! After literally running through the math at least 4 more times in my head (40 divided by 4 can be a difficult computation after you’ve ran 22 hard fast miles), I finally settled on the fact that no matter how tough it got, I was going to be a sub-3:40 marathoner… Best. Feeling. Ever!

Miles 24-the finish line (someone help me… now) – Average pace = 9:19/mile

By the time I got through mile 24, all I could think about was how heavy my legs felt. I was running with one other guy and a woman… I used them to push me through these miles. It was tough… but I knew that I could run 10 minutes miles, so I knew that I would reach my stretch goal. That made it easier. I’m not going to over-glorify this stretch with a bunch of unnecessary adjectives but yeah, it was tough.

After crossing the finish line I collected all of my stuff. I enjoyed the weight of the medal swinging on my neck, and I felt surprisingly much better than I did after my prior marathon. In fact, after taking a long hot shower (perks of the hotel being 2 blocks from the finish line), I felt good as new. After the shower, I straight killed that free Jim and Nicks free BBQ at the finish line and swapped war stories with the other finishers. It was a great day at the office.

3:38!  Straight like that! … until next time.