Sweet Home Alabama

In late December, I was contacted by a local writer about running a marathon in every state and how he wanted to include me in an article. I jumped at the chance because he was the first to ever contact me about this. So we scheduled a phone interview. And it went down as I headed on my way to another marathon. There was just one twist – he was from Birmingham, Alabama. Yes, someone writes about me and it is from a state I fly to get to! In any case, it got me to thinking should I go back and run Mercedes Marathon in Birmingham again? There was really no reason not to. They were doing an article on me. I needed a sub 3:30 in the state still and I had a free place to stay with my good friend Leigh. Of course the ticket was not cheap but that has seemed to be a common theme this year so I bit the bullet and paid the $400 to knock off Alabama.

I arrived in Alabama late at night and was lucky enough to have Leigh and her friend, Janet, pick me up from the airport. It had snowed the day before and it was the talk of town. It was nice to get in a day early to Alabama. Sometimes my biggest concern is that I do not spend enough time in these areas. I went to Birmingham last year and saw the town. Last year we went to the Vulcan Statue. This year we went and saw Noccalula Falls (beautiful) and I went running around Pell City. I was also able to spend Valentine’s Day with two beautiful ladies and have a local brew from Alabama. As for the run, it went well and I had good feelings about my second Mercedes Marathon. I went to bed the night before the expo happy and relaxed

The next morning went slowly as there was excitement for the expo and Leigh can take her time to get ready. I went out for a run and her daughter was babysitting. The kid was pretty excited about running so after a good four miles I came back and took him out for a one mile run. It was nice to get him keeping running in his future. He even got some speedwork out of me. That did not go well. Eventually we got to Birmingham and Leigh had her first taste of Mongolian. After that, we stopped by the local Lulu and checked to see if they had any new goods. And then it was off to the expo. As soon as we got there we saw Lynne who was coming out and we rushed in to see who else we could run into and well we had to wait for that. We ended up taking a seat waiting for people. And I was in such a hurry. I know, I know!

Mercedes changed their shirt to short sleeves this year and had the city’s Vulcan icon on it so it was much improved. They included the usual free gloves in our bags rather than on a table and somehow I got two lefts. The folks at Coca-Cola were providing free bottles of Dasani and I had at least five of those – I try to intake 150 ounces of water the day before a marathon and the expo was happy to oblige! And then people started to show up. Jay, Brett, Stacey and Michelle showed up and we took a few pictures together. Then they all got together for shots on the superhero bike they had set up just for picture taking occasions. I did not take a picture which they thought was odd but then again I have not rode a bike in over 15 years – how true and fake would that be?

Lynne joined us with her husband later on and we all talked about the weekend and how we were looking forward to running Mercedes. They mentioned a dinner and it sounded promising. And after that it was just friend after friend showing up including Keith and new friend, Kathy from Texas. It was also great to see Brian, Joe, Aaron, Dan and so many others too numerous to name including celebrity runner Jen Metcalf! Some marathons (mostly in the Midwest oddly enough) get people from all around to show up and run them every year. They have a huge presence and you know just by the list of friends signing up. And then some marathons everyone signs up for some unexplained reason one year and it becomes an event. Mercedes is popular every year but this really was a banner year for it.

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As it got later, we had not a clue where to eat. The fine folks at Run 365 had a good dinner planned, Phil Min always has a get together at a local pizza place, and Keith was going to the Mellow Mushroom. I had told Brian I would tell him what we were doing once Leigh and I decided and at the last second we chose the Mellow Mushroom. The place was too crowded for our own table when we got there but Keith had already saved one for us. We got a high top next to their standard table but at least we were sitting together and then when Brian and Aaron showed up it really made the meal complete and more comfortable for Leigh and I. They had plenty of local brews on tap and a buffalo chicken pizza (no tomato sauce) so I was more than happy.

We had some good times and met a lot of Keith’s friends. Keith is one of those people that you meet along your journey that though he may not have an immediate presence he has a good, lasting presence and it is easy to become fast friends shortly after that. I don’t think I will see him again until Boston and that saddens me a little. It had been nice to run into him the past three months. Though he is faster than me, I can always judge how I am getting better by my time compared to his. And it was great to hang out with Brian and Aaron. They had to leave immediately after so this was going to be the large amount of getting to hang out with them.

I went to bed that night with just the 3:30 in my head. That was all I was here for and if I did not get it, this was going to be a very expensive trip especially if I had to return next year. I woke up the next morning and Leigh and I were running late so we missed both the Maniac and Run 365 pictures. This was not shocking, and it did not really bother me either. Only because Mercedes always seems to be freezing at the start every year, and I was more than happy to stand inside until I had to get in the starting corral. I was lucky enough to meet a couple new people including a potential new member of 50 Sub 4. I am doing my best to channel my inner Kino or Brian and talk people into joining whenever I meet them.

I got into the start corral and just before we started I was lucky enough to run into my Georgia friend (I always forget her name and love seeing her) and also Kino! A late flight caused him to arrive after dinner and then Eddie Vega came walking by too – another barefoot state for Eddie on this day. It was like my head was on a swivel trying to talk to everyone. We were all a bit concerned about one thing. For some odd reason no one was lined up at the front of the start and there was a HUGE gap so we were a lot farther up front than we had a reason to be. We were in front of the 7 minute pace signs. I did not think I was going to be that fast on this day. But seriously there was a huge area in front of there so why would we not line up there?

We took off and I honestly just never hit speed. I tinkered around with my pace but by Mile 4 I was dropping back already and kept losing ground until Mile 10. The course had changed slightly but was still on the hilly side. The support was good and it was starting to warm up to be a nice day. The one sign I saw and liked at Mile 10 was one that stated, “I thought this was the Downton Abbey Marathon.” I chuckled even though I swear they printed Downtown. Pretty sure not too many runners got a large charge out of that one. And after running through the Buts (Birmingham Ultra Trail Society) water station I think we all got another good laugh and offered some free beer as well. I did not partake though – things were not going that good.

The split came and I watched as many halfers pulled off to their side. It is funny whenever I am having a bad day and think, well most of these people passing me are probably just running the half, I find out just how much better people are at pacing themselves than I am. There were a lot of full marathoners out there and I was struggling to keep up with them. I hit the halfway point at 1:37 – not bad but not good for me. I was doing the math already. I only had 8 minutes of bank time for the 3:30 and I was not heading in the right direction.

We circled around to the beginning again and it was time to complete Loop number two. Mercedes is two loops and though I like the course, I always feel like there is so much more of Birmingham to see. Some people love the multiple loops knowing what is coming around the second time. That is all good in a smaller town. I just wish we could go up by the Vulcan statue – though I have a feeling that would make the course very hilly. I hit Mile 15 until I had to take my customary walk break. Lately I have noticed that I do not have to walk necessarily out of tiredom but rather to catch my breath. The harsh winter has really killed my sinuses and it feels like I have had a 3 month cold and clogged nasal cavities. At Mile 16 I grabbed the GU, popped it down hoping for some sort of boost and my stomach turned. I had to go to the bathroom and now.

At Mile 17 I found a port-a-potty and the lines were two deep. It did not matter. I had to solve this situation. All I could think was ‘my 3:30 is most probably out the door at this point.’ It was exactly at that moment I heard Brian behind me yelling out, “Get your ass out here and run this bitch Cade!” Looking back, I am not sure if he knew it was a bathroom break or if he thought I was quitting because later on he would say I looked hurt and was favoring my left leg again. In any case, I guess that was all I needed. I knew this break would steal my 3:30 so I got back out there. The issue seemed to be only GU related because I was a little uneasy from time to time but it was nothing awful after that.

I pushed on and chased Brian hoping to catch him but after a while his pace became unobtainable. Kino would pass me eventually too with some words of encouragement. And honestly at Mile 22 after another walking spell I thought I was done. It really was not my day! But after coming down the hill to Mile 23 and noticing if I ran 8 minute miles to finish I could make 3:30 still? I decided it was time to push for it. And push for it I did! I ran past BUTS without slowing down at all. I ran past the beer stop at Mile 24.5 with only a second of hesitation. I passed Leigh at Mile 25 with just a brief hello. She told me I had it made, but I could take nothing for granted and I was relieved when I got in at 3:29:25. Kino and Brian were both there to cheer me on and take pictures. I was exhausted and thrilled!

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After that we went to the afterparty and went immediately to get our BBQ. Honestly I don’t think we ate more than three bites all together. But when Brian got the beer? Now that we could stomach! Keith came by and had just run his first Sub 3! I could not have been happier for him. His hard work and speed training really is paying off. Leigh found us and was so thrilled with her new Mercedes Benz emblem bling – this is her 7th Mercedes. I stepped out to take a shower. And after that, I ran into Diane Jones Bolton and we talked for a while about her quest of running an inaugural race in every state. Such a neat and unique goal! And when I made my way back to the expo I was thrilled to run into Marina White and Larry Wasson! They had come in with Halbert and Denis and we all sat down and put down quite a few beers with Leigh, new friend Kathy, George and some others. We literally closed the expo down – second time in February!

After that, those of us sticking around made our way back to Mellow Mushroom. Leigh gave me a ride over and we were joined by Kathy from Texas and Denis. Denis had a bad race. He finished and immediately had to get EMT help. He lost his jacket along the way. It was one of those days where he was just thrilled to make it to the finish line. He was shaking pretty bad when I first saw him at the expo. Thankfully the more time we spent at the restaurant the better he looked. He has run at least one marathon since and looks much better if you are wondering. He said new medication was the cause.

Kathy would later state she would go into the weekend knowing no one and meeting a bunch of new great friends afterwards. She was my new friend for this run. She works in banking from Texas and was originally from Wisconsin I believe. It was nice to talk to her because though we both hail from the Midwest, I suppose we both feel a bit like fish out of water. She lives in Texas now and as much as I travel I never feel quite right in Iowa anymore. Sometimes I feel like only on the road am I at home. It can get really expensive to go back home nowadays.

And as we finished up pizza and beer, Kathy had the best quote of the entire day. Denis was talking about the day he had and how he was going to stay at Diane’s to rest up before heading the whole way home and we all agreed it was a good idea. Kathy stopped to ask him about his accent and he replied that he was Irish. I mentioned something about Leigh’s Southern accent and Leigh looked a little hurt and said, “You think I have an accent? I didn’t think it was that noticeable.”

That’s when Kathy said, “Leigh honey, you have the most beautiful sweetest accent in the world, but honestly you just used the expression might could just a little bit ago? Trust me, I knew you have an accent! Only people here in the deep South use that expression.”

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One response to this post.

  1. Amazing race! Well done.

    Reply

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