I love coming to Birmingham– Mercedes has one of the best post-race parties (BBQ, beer, MERCEDES medal– bling!, and live band indoors!); it finishes at Linn Park, where I got to see Conor finish the ’04 Olympic Marathon Trials and started dreaming; and, the Southern hospitality makes you feel welcome. I arrived on a delayed flight at 11:30pm, and the guy next to me (John Stafford) offered a ride to my hotel. I wouldn’t normally take a ride from a stranger, but he reminded me of my Dad- Southern hospitality!
I owe a big thank you to Jill Edwards, Race director Valerie McLean (who owns the Trakshak and coordinates tons of events in Birmingham), the sponsors (including Mercedes), and the race beneficiary, The Bell Center for Early Intervention Programs. They flew me down, and I got to be part of the whole weekend festivities! Given my claim to fame as Spiderwoman, it was a natural fit to make an appearance as Spiderwoman (~Superhero 5K and Kids Run on Sat.). Some of the highlights of my first day there:
- Wonder girl, Frances, and I got to be on TV in our costumes! Ironically, Frances was born a few days before Mercedes 2 yrs ago, which I won. She’s the adopted star of the race and currently is working on her walking skills at the Bell Intervention Center.
- Ran with my friend Meagan N., who reps for Karhu and Craft and who I got to witness qualify for the Trials 2 yrs ago. She was racing the HM this time, while working the Expo 2 days (hardcore!).
- Got to be on TV with Fox Channel 6 weather guy, Fred, as we promoted the Superhero 5K
- Made an appearance at the Kids Run as Spiderwoman, and shot ‘web fluid’ at the kids.
- Got to meet lots of volunteers and enjoyed some yummy food and gigantic chocolate chip cookies at the hospitality room.
On Sat., I got to hang out with Jerry and Jane Smith, who took care of me 2 yrs ago. They have a new house at the top of the mountain overlooking the valley. Very cool house and location! Jerry went to Ohio State and has a large part of their house decked out in Ohio State stuff (including a guest bathroom). They also have a TV/movie room with a 108 in projector TV-pics don’t do it justice. We got to see the sun set across the valley at dinner- imagine seeing that every day!
I roomed with my Master’s friend Lucie, who also ran MS Blues in Jan.. We woke up at the same time on race day, 5:10am with a 7:03am race start. It was a positive sign to step out of bed, my foot felt good, and didn’t need much time to loosen it up. We both talked about how nice it was to not have to take a bus to the start (hotel only ~400-600m from start!). She turned on the weather, and the weather guy exclaimed, “These are the coldest temps we’ve experienced this winter!” 24 degrees, brrr. Fortunately, the wind was fairly calm. I was able to clear my gut in the hotel room- I’m 2 for 2 this year on the gut feeling good!
I warmed up my usual 10 min., and I felt pretty ‘sprightly’ and springy- definitely springier than I felt at MS Blues. I decided to wear Inov-8 230s, which is a flexible trail shoe I wore at the ’11 NYC marathon. I ran into Oklahoman and fellow Landrunner, Chuck Mikkelson, as I was stripping down at the bag drop, so we took pics together! Him, his wife Mary, and Jamie K. missed their flight the day before, so I picked up their bags at the Expo.
Gun went off! Right away, I could tell my stride was starting to feel more normal. As always, I like to work my way into a steady groove, aiming to lock in between 6-10 miles. I used the HMers to help get my momentum going. We hit the hills on the backside between 6-11, but it’s also the most scenic section. Birmingham as a city reminds me a lot of Louisville. As a 2 loop course, we split off from the HMers, and I had to mentally prepare to push myself thereafter. I was hoping to really crank the pace on the second loop… Body willing!
In terms of fluids, they offered Powerade, but since I got acid reflux from it at OKC, I planned to only take water and gels. Like MS Blues, the stations weren’t well organized, so I screwed up a few times on getting the right cups, or not grasping right. I didn’t take much fluids at all, which was somewhat Ok with the cold weather, but I got a bit of a stitch and hamstrings cramping on the second loop.
My foot started going numb/getting floppy around 12 miles. I was a little freaked out cause I didn’t know what was wrong and how it would holdup on the 2nd half! My arch got tight/painful, and I worried I had torn something. After about 3 miles, I felt my foot spasm and ‘”release”. After that, I felt like I could push off somewhat normally again. Then, when we hit the hills again, my foot felt weak getting up the hills. I didn’t feel as fluid as I was on the first loop. I know my splits fell way off, but I did the best I could with the weak foot/hills (and weaving around HMers). I was just happy to feel somewhat normal for the first 12 miles! I finished in 2:44:25, which wasn’t too far off the 2:43 I ran 2 yrs ago with 2 (mostly) healthy feet.
I’m not sure what to think about my foot, as if a nerve is being pinched by the lingering scar tissue?! It reminds me of back in 2010 when I had the hernias, which pinched a nerve down my leg– at some point my leg would shut down when I tried to accelerate. The shoe change and barefoot running is definitely helping to loosen it up and get stronger, but it’s a work in progress. I’m getting twice weekly acupuncture and ART treatments with Dr. Kevin Jones. If anybody has any added suggestions on how to treat this, esp. the nerve part/moving the scar tissue off the nerve, I appreciate it!
After the race, I did what I did 2 yrs ago by cooling down to the Hash House Harriers beer and donut stop! It was just before the 25 mile marker. Good times with the Hashers and lots of hilarious signs.
Then I cleaned up and went over to the post-race party- the crowds had fortunately thinned down by 1pm. Got some Jim ‘n Nicks BBQ and slaw and beer that filled up through a magnet on the bottom of the cup. I hung out with 2 nice ladies, Tracy and Yan, and gave Tracy my 10% discount tag to Trak Shak. She said she’s inspired to train for a 5K. I also hung out with Chuck and Mary. Chuck is a beer connoisseur, so of course he hit up the Hashers stop! Unfortunately, no Mercedes for the winners…. But 2 yrs ago I got a gold Mercedes watch. This time I got a crystal bowl (plus prize money).
Now, I’ve got 12 days to recover for The Woodlands Marathon!