Sunday, February 19, 2012

Mercedes Half, I mean, Full Marathon February 12, 2012

After my last post I am pretty sure I will never match the popularity of it but I do want to get back to writing about my running so here goes...

After running a few marathons in the last few months I decided back in December that I was going to run the half at Mercedes this year. My first full marathon was at Mercedes in 2010 so I like going back to the event but I only wanted to do the half. Well, obviously, those plans changed.

As with many other races, Torie(@toriebell2002) and I met up with some running buddies at the expo to pick up packets and then get some carbs for dinner. My buddy Tim, a.k.a. @abuloruns, stayed at the same hotel so we all rode down together. We met Sam L (@alum98), and Tara B at the expo. Though the expo is much smaller than many that I have seen in the past, Mercedes always does a great job with their expo. They have a good selection and always some great deals. This year was no different. They also have a quick and easy process to get packets and verify time chips.

As I went to get my packet for the half I noticed that the full marathon registration was still open which is something that I am not used to seeing. In my mind, I immediately thought, "Why don't I just do the full?" I brushed it off though because I really didn't want to run 26 miles in 20 degree weather the next day! As I got down to where everybody else was waiting, I told them about the full still being open and I wondered out loud why I didn't switch. Tim and Sam both asked my why not do it and the decision was almost a done deal in my mind. As Tara went to get her packet I asked her to see what the price would be if I moved up to the full. Her text response was that it was free. Decision made. I was running the full.

With my previous marathons I had trained with intensity for a full marathon and went into it with some expectations. There have been a few where I just wanted to finish, but every time, in my mind, I knew there was a time that I was shooting to beat. That time has always been 4:30. For some reason I have never thought of myself as a true marathoner. Believe me, I know that after seven marathons I can definitely claim to be a marathoner but I still wanted that 4:30 to soilidify it in my mind. This full was going to be different though: no pressure, no expectations, just finish.

The forecast for the race was "COLD". The temp forecast ranged from 16 to 24 degrees at the start with 5 to 10 mph winds. Well the famous James Spann (@spann) was dead on as usual. It was COLD! I saw 22 and some said colder but the number wasn't important. There was no doubt that it was colder than I had ever run in before. Here is a pic of Tim and I with John T (@twitttyrun)before the race. We were defnitely prepared for the weather.

As the reace started I had in my mind that I was going to maintain an easy pace and finish up strong. I also wanted to run/ walk at a 4 to 1 ratio. I wanted to run for four minutes and then walk for one. I had done a 3 to 1 ratio at Disney out of necessity and it seemed to work. I ran the first 3 or so miles with my high school buddy Chris R who was running the half. At mile 3 I moved into the run/walk method and I wondered out loud if it would work. As I started the process I knew the 4:30 pace group was a good bit behind me and I wanted to keep them there. Almost immediately, I could feel that it was working.

At mile 8 or so I knew I was clipping off miles at a good steady pace and more importantly, I felt good. As a matter of fact, I really felt great. The miles continued to go away and I was getting more and more impressed with how I felt. I began to wonder if I could turn in a good time for this race. Torie typically meets me at mile 12 or so and this race was no different. She gave me my NUUN and some Spark as I stopped and I told her then that I felt better than I ever had at this point of a full marathon. She told me after the race that she said I also looked better at 12 than I ever had. Quite honestly I'm usually hurting at 12 and most of the time look like I am doing so. This race was different. Torie got this picture of me at mile 12 as I ran up to her.

In my previous marathons it has been miles 16 to 21 that have been my downfall. I have lost it both mentally and physically. Many times I have started cramping and even had to stop completely for a while to even be able to move my legs. In the past I have also hit a wall mentally at this point of the marathon. I typically just decide to finish and quit worrying about a time. At mile 20 I knew I was still on a 4:15 pace and was really encouraged. I was just hoping I could keep from slowing down too much and finish under that elusive 4:30 mark. Miles 21 through 25 went smooth. As each mile passed, I got more and more excited. I stayed on my 4:15 pace the entire time. I even considered pacing up a bit but I decided not to get greedy this time. I stayed with the 9:45 pace.

Mercedes has a fun finish where you run down a long stretch with several spectators cheering you on. It was here that I feel like I made my only "mistake" strategically in the race. I paced down a good bit for about a quarter of a mile so I cold finish strong. As I made the final left and the quick right turn I saw my mistake. I had missed being under 4:15 just barely! Torie got a pretty good picture of me sprinting to the finish.

At most of my previous marathons I was dead at the finish and was just happy to be able to stop. This one was different. I sprinted hard trying to beat that 4:15 mark. I even had some friends that from Birmingham that commented on how I finished strong. It felt really good to finish one on a mission!

Torie and Tim were waiting for me after the race. It's always good to have somebody there for you after a race whether you have done well or not. I know I've finished a couple of them solo and it can be rough. Not only did they meet me but I also saw two of my good friends from Birmingham who ran the Relay, Heath and Robin.

This is one of Tim and I after the finish.

Another of Heath and Robin with me after the race.

As with my past marathons I like to look back and see what this particular race taught me. This one taught me a few things for sure:

1. Most importantly, I think it taught me that I have mentally cost myself a ton in previous full marathons. I worry about it too much and the anxiousness has effected me. This one, I only had a few hours to think about it. Obviously a positive.

2. There is nothing wrong with the run/walk method. For some reason, in my mind, I had always thought negatively about it. Not now. It worked and I will continue to use it on long races until I think my body can handle more.

3. Nutrition is key! I dramatically changed my nutritional habits after Disney and it worked. Message me and I will tell you the specifics.

4. I love running distance. I wanted to shift to shorter focuses this Spring but I want to do long runs. Crazxy I know, but true. I would like to do a full marathon a month this year.

Major shout out to all of my running friends who did well at Mercedes this year. The weather obviously had something to do with it but I saw several great times. Tim, Sam, and Tara all had PR's in their races. My buddy Michael G (@bama26point2) turned in a PR on his half also. It was a great day for running and Mercedes and the City of Birmngham once again pulled off a great event!

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