Race Weekend Recap: Mercedes Half Marathon 2015

Location:  Birmingham, AL
State #8
Half Marathon #15
Time:  2:14:41
Pace:  10:17

Thanks to my bitchy hip, I hadn’t run the 8 days preceding this race.  After two visits to the chiropractor and a lot of quality time with my foam roller, a softball (because the foam roller just didn’t hurt quite bad enough!), and an ice pack, I was almost back to normal although not quite at 100%.  But since I was assured that it’s just tightness and inflammation and that nothing is torn nor in danger of being torn, I wanted to give it a shot.

When I registered for this Sunday race, I already knew that I was going to have to work for a couple of hours Saturday morning, but I thought, “No big deal!  I’ll be out of there by 10, home and packed and gone by 12, and at the expo well before it closes at 6!”  Well that’s what I get for making plans.  haha We had two rounds of severe winter weather come through last week, and the roads were positively treacherous on Saturday, the worst they’d been all week. The highways and roads in town were clear, but I work in the delivery industry, and those roads only account for a small percentage of the roads traveled by my employees every day.  Usually when I’m going to be out of pocket, I let my people know to call a manager at a neighboring office if there’s an emergency, but I just couldn’t do that Saturday.  I couldn’t leave knowing my employees were out on those dangerous roads, and I couldn’t put the burden of worrying about them on any of my co-managers as they all had their own people to worry about.  But anyway, back to the point… it was nearly 5:00 by the time I got out of the office, filled my gas tank, grabbed a pizza to heat up for supper in the hotel room later, and got on the road.  The drive down was miserable.  I hate driving under three conditions:  at night, when it’s raining, and when I’m sleepy.  Well I had the perfect trifecta going for me Saturday making it a looooong 4-1/2 hours.  I had called ahead earlier that afternoon to the expo to let them know I wouldn’t make it in time for packet pickup, so they sent my goody bag and bib over to the host hotel where I could pick it up when I got to town.  I was super bummed about not making it down earlier because I had made plans to meet Holly from HoHo Runs at the expo!  So I drove straight to the Sheraton, was in and out with goody bag in-hand in less than two minutes, and back on the road to Homewood (where I’d booked a hotel just outside of Birmingham to save a few bucks!)  I had JUST gotten back on the interstate when traffic came to a dead halt.  All I saw were blue lights and tail lights.  I was was so ready to just eat and go to bed, and there I was, 10 minutes from the hotel, stuck in traffic.  Well one of those things I could take care of.  I reached into the back seat and grabbed my pizza.  Cold pizza for the win!  Thankfully, traffic cleared within just a few minutes.  I finally got to my room about a quarter till 10.  After a quick text to Holly letting her know I’d arrived and arranging our morning meetup plans, I crashed and burned.

Holly was also staying in Homewood at a hotel just right across the street from mine, and she very graciously offered to drive us downtown to the start.  She picked me up at 6:00 on the dot and we made our way downtown.  Parking was a breeze, so we had plenty of time to mill around before the 7:03 start.

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Right after this picture was taken, the rain started.  It was never a heavy rain, but steady enough that we were pretty well soaked before the start.

We lined up between the 9:00 and 10:00 min/mile pacers.  I was planning on shooting for 10:00 miles, but once we started moving I settled into a 9:30ish pace and felt fantastic. There really wasn’t much to look at on the course, but I was never bored with it like at Mississippi Blues last month.  Even with the soggy weather, there were lots of people out spectating and lots of groups had come out and set up their own aid stations with gummy bears, bananas, orange slices, etc.  This was hands-down the most well-supported course I’ve ever been on.  The race itself had probably 8 or so stations (3 of which had GU), and there were probably at least that many extra ones tossed in.  It made them quick and easy to get through.

At the 10K mark, my time was 58:15, a 9:33 pace.  I was pretty excited to see that number because at the race that holds my current HM PR (2:07:24) my 10K split was 59:45.  But very shortly after that, things went downhill.  I wish I could blame it on my hip, but I can’t.  I didn’t even feel a twinge until around mile 10.  The same thing happened that happened at St. Jude in December.  I just reached a point where I was DONE.  Like flipping a switch, running all of a sudden got a LOT harder!  It could have been a lot of things really, (lack of sleep the last few weeks, dehydration, hills, stress, humidity) but none of the excuses matter.  It just wasn’t my day.  Not only did I not get that PR, I didn’t even meet the “B” goal of averaging under 10:00.  Matter of fact, my time was a minute and a half slower than last month.  I can’t lie and say I’m not disappointed, but I’m not beating myself up.  I still got to go to a new place and run a great race and turn a blogger buddy into a real-life buddy!  haha  And my race photos don’t even suck!

2-22-2015 - Mercedes Marathon 2

2-22-2015 - Mercedes Marathon

2-22-2015 - Mercedes Marathon 3

2-22-2015 - Mercedes Marathon finish

I would definitely recommend this race to anyone thinking about doing it.  It was reasonably priced, well supported, easy to get to, had fantastic post-race festivities, and I loved the shirt and medal.  And we even got a finisher’s beach towel!

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I’d love to say I’ll be back to this race, but the truth is, I’ve got a lot more states to do before I start doubling back and repeating states!  haha  Maybe in 2025…

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RnR St. Louis Race Weekend Recap – Day 3 – RACE DAY!

If you missed Days 1 & 2, go catch up here.  I’ll wait…

Okay, now that we’re all on the same page, let’s pick up where I left off.  IT’S RACE DAY!!!!  Start time was 7:00, so we had set our alarms for 6:00 with plans to leave the room about 6:45.  We were only a few blocks from the start, and it was chip timed, so none of us really cared to stand around in the corrals forever before the start.  As we were walking up, still several blocks away, we heard the gun but still didn’t bother to get in any hurry.  We still stopped to get pre-race pictures before jumping in the corral.

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Me, Kim, and Trisha. We hadn’t found Tiina yet.
10-19-2014 - Pam & Tiina before RnR St. Louis
FOUND HER!

Kim snapped this photo from the start line.  The race banner, the sunrise, the arch in the background… best race photo ever.

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And just a couple minutes later, we were crossing the start line.  I had absolutely no plans or goals for this race whatsoever except to ENJOY IT!  I hadn’t run more than 8 miles since March, so the only thing I had in mind was to keep it slow and steady so I didn’t blow up halfway through.  I did a pretty good job of that.  I felt really good all the way through, other than being pretty hot.  It was in the 40s at the start and in the 50s by the finish, which I usually wear shorts to run in, but that day I had on tights.  I ran pretty steadily until I hit the 10-mile mark and then I started walking up some of the hills, of which there were plenty.  That’s one of the things I love about this course.  It’s constant rollers.  I have learned that I by far prefer a rolling course to a flat one.  I seriously just love this race.  I crossed the line in 2:21:35.  Out of my 12 half marathons, that puts this one right in the middle time-wise.  Given that this one was run solely for fun I’m TOTALLY cool with that.

10-19-2014 - Pam crossing finish line

10-19-2014 - RnR St. Louis finisher's photo

It’s fun to think that a few years ago I ran a 2:21 fully trained and felt tanked at the end and now it’s my “fun run” time after a full day on my feet and climbing up and through and over shit at the playground…excuse me–“museum.”  And I remember a day when running 10+ miles would put me back in bed for a nap before lunch.  haha  Okay, maybe that’s not a good point because I totally would have taken a nap Sunday if I’d had time.  But instead we all headed back to the hotel for quick showers because we had tickets to go up into the Gateway Arch at noon!  We thought we were leaving in plenty of time, but a complicated checkout at the hotel, lots of traffic because of the Rams/Seahawks game, a walking detour because of construction at the Arch, and a long security line made us a few minutes late.  Thankfully they let us go on up anyway.

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View of the stadium from the top of the Arch.

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River view looking out the opposite side.

And just some more photos from the park grounds…

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One of my favorite pictures from the weekend, taken by some random kid Kim picked out of a crowd.  haha

And with that, our weekend was a wrap.  Kim and Trisha had a plane to catch, and I needed to get on the road home, so we dropped Tiina back at her car where she’d parked close to the start line that morning, and we headed back to the airport.

I had an AMAZING time with these ladies, and I cannot wait to do it again!!!!!

RnR St. Louis Race Weekend Recap – Days 1 & 2

TL; DR version:  Met friends in St. Louis.  Did some stuff.  Ran a race.  Did some more stuff.  Had fun.  The end.  If you want the full story, grab a snack and get comfortable, ’cause this is gonna take a while!

Once upon a time, way back in April, this crazy blogger lady was in town on her quest for 50 half marathons in 50 states.  Long story short, we met for dinner, I mentioned that I was running RnR St. Louis in October, she hadn’t run a race in Missouri yet, my plans became her plans, and BOOM, it was settled.  We were meeting in St. Louis!  Somewhere along the way, she conned a friend into coming with her, and I twisted Tiina’s arm (Not very hard either.  She’s pretty easy like that.) and a twosome quickly became a foursome.

Kim and her friend Trisha were due to arrive at 2:55 Friday, I left my house right at 10:00 and somehow timed it perfectly.  I parked in the airport cell phone waiting area and texted her to let her know I was there, and she replied that they had just landed.  I drove around and picked them up within minutes and we were ready to get our weekend started!

After checking into the hotel, we walked just a few blocks to the expo to get that part out of the way.  We thought it’d be quicker and easier to get in and out Friday, and MAN we were right.  It was the least crowded I’ve ever seen an RnR expo.  I think a lot of the vendors weren’t even there yet.  There were very few samples being given out.  Although I have to say I got the coolest freebie at this expo that I’ve ever received at any expo ever–A SLINKY!!!  (Side note:  Slinkies do not work on escalators.)

It was while we were at the expo that I got a text from the missing quarter of our foursome telling us that she’d had a family medical emergency and that she’d have to skip dinner with us that night and just meet up with us the next day.  So three tourists set out on a mission to find food, which turned out to be quite the fiasco.  haha  The other girls had BBQ on the brain and we ended up at a place called Marcel’s.  We looked at their menu before we went in, and there were veggie-friendly items on the menu.  Baked sweet potato, veggie of the day, side salad, done.  Easy enough, right?  So we were seated.  We ordered our drinks and three appetizers to share, and then when the waiter came back to take our order, he informed me that they were out of sweet potatoes.  “No problem,” I said, “just change that to a regular baked potato.”  Ummm… yeah, they were out of those, too.  Seriously.  Had I known where the nearest grocery store was, I’d have gladly offered him directions to procure a potato.  As it were, I just ate more than my fair share of our appetizers and said I’d grab a sandwich somewhere when we left.  I used the Happy Cow app and found a sub shop nearby that had veggie options, so we hoofed it there on our way back to the hotel only to find them CLOSED.  I got a little irritated then.  But we had passed another sub shop on the way there, so we went back to it, stopped to look at the menu on the door.  TEMPEH!  WIN!!!  We opened the door to go in and the guy behind the counter tells us, “Sorry, we’re closed.  We close at 7:30.”  It was 7:effing34.  “Oh, you’re closed?  Sorry, I was confused by your unlocked door and your lights being on.”  Ugh.  By that point I was ready to give up and hope for better luck at breakfast.  But then purely by luck we happened by another little restaurant.  Without much hope, I walked up to look at their menu.  The first two things I saw were peanut butter & jelly sandwich and hot dog.  I entertained the idea of a PB&J for a split second and then I saw it–eggplant sandwich!  Ahhhhh… finally a full, happy belly.

So then we headed back to the hotel and started mapping out the rest of the weekend.  We knew for sure we wanted to do three things:  Tour Busch Stadium, tour the Budweiser brewery, and go to the arch.  With tickets bought and plans made, we called it a day.

The next morning, we hit the ground running and didn’t stop till we crashed that night!

Busch Stadium Tour:

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So weird to see the stadium completely empty!
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2011 World Series Championship Trophy
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View of the field from the home announcers’ press box.
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Me. In the Cards’ dugout. HAPPY, HAPPY GIRL!
Picture of a picture.  I usually don't fall into the tourist photo trap, but this one was too good not to buy!
Picture of a picture. I usually don’t fall into the tourist photo trap, but this one was too good not to buy!

The plan then was to meet Tiina for lunch and head to the brewery for their free tour (because the paid tour was sold out).  Thing is, you can’t book the free tour.  It’s first come, first served.  So when we got there at like 3 in the afternoon, the next tour wasn’t until 7 that night.  Had we known how crappy and short the free tour was gonna be, I’d have suggested we skip it, but we didn’t know.  But that left us with lots of time to kill, so we looked to Tiina to entertain us since she knows the city.  And this is why I love Tiina… she took us to a big-ass playground.  Well, she called it a “museum,” but she described it perfectly when she said, “The City Museum is a museum in the same way a tomato is a fruit.”  haha!

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Coolest. “Museum.” Ever.
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My only advice to anyone about to go down a 10-story slide is to wear jeans that don’t have metal on the back. It will light yo ass up!
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Multi-level metal grates should be a mandatory alternative to stairs everywhere.
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Trisha making her way through a wire tunnel a couple of stories up.

After we’d had our fill of the playground, we headed back over to the brewery to hang out in the biergarten until our 7:00 tour, but we just happened to get there about the time the 6:00 tour was starting.  We decided to try our luck at crashing, so we just kind of stood there like we belonged and nobody ever kicked us out.  We started out in the Clydesdale stables.  Those horses have it made.  I’m not one to support animals being exploited or forced to perform or even be on display for human entertainment, so trust me when I say Budweiser is doing it right.  These animals are treated like royalty.  When we arrived, most had already been blanketed and put in their stalls for supper, but one was out being groomed.

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Now that’s a big horse’s ass.
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Massive beautiful beast. I just wanted to go hug it.

Then we went inside the brewery where basically we saw some big tanks where the beer is stored and that’s pretty much it.  It kind of sucked.  I guess they know that and that’s why they give you a free beer at the end as some sort of atonement.

After that, we grabbed some grub and headed back to the hotel to turn in.  We WERE there for a race after all!

Okay, that’s long enough for one post.  More tomorrow.