Posts Tagged ‘50 states marathon’

My 100 Marathon!

The next morning after the Big Cottonwood Marathon and fresh off my Personal Record, I set my alarm to get up first thing, lace up my shoes and go out and run my daily 5 miles. After not much thought I decided, I had a good amount of drink still in me and decided against it. I flew home and decided to run that night. I was a little concerned that night as I headed out that night as I was in the middle of a five mile streak and running five miles did not sound like a good or fun idea. It was not. I went from averaging 7 minute miles to 12 minute miles in one day. And it felt worse than the time indicates. I was looking forward to the next day when I would feel better. I did not – 13 minute miles.

And when I “improved” to 12 minute miles again by Tuesday I was getting very concerned. I had scheduled my next marathon for that next Saturday in Dayton, Ohio. Though this may not normally be that big a deal… Air Force Marathon was going to be my 100th marathon! And I was having a hard time walking right much less running. I was able to see my chiropractor by Wednesday and get a little better but even by Thursday I had yet to break a ten minute mile. And I was not alone. Stephanie and Jennifer were struggling with their daily mile as well. Karen was hurting but she was lucky enough not to be streaking so she only had to feel it every three days or so and she chose to skip a running day to avoid that pain as well. Their pain was the only thing helping me feel sane.

I left early from work on Thursday to get to Dayton early to enjoy the expo and the day before. It was a good decision because even though it seemed like I would get there earlier I arrived about two. Karen had a better plan to get there early, arrived on time, and met me at the expo. We were able to catch fellow runner and friend, Dan Semsel, just as he was finishing his shift working at the marathon! We wandered down to the floor of the expo and breezed past almost all the booths with the exception of one where I looked for new shoes.

When we got to the floor I was truly disappointed that I did not have Bib #100. Dan is an Air Force member and thought he may be able to get some pull and get the number for me. There was an email earlier in the week with my bib number (that was not 100) but there is always hope, correct? Karen and I left the expo quick as Dan was now in full guest mode. Every year Dan invites at least six runners to stay at his house the night before the marathon and Karen and I had taken him up on the offer. We were some of his easier visitors (not that he minded any extra effort mind you) and he still had people to go pick up at the airport.

There was a burger place kitty corner from the expo and even though the drive took much longer than it should (awful marathon traffic) to go two blocks, we made it in time for me to eat by 2:30 or so. The burger was not that great but the beer menu was fantastic! And after a couple beers we left to go over to Dan’s where it was another small reunion with Dan and this time with his wife and daughter. In the next couple hours as groups would come in and out and we would have at least three more small reunions. We were also able to make a small trip to the grocery store and pick up all our needed marathon supplies.

That night we were able to eat dinner at Dan’s house as they made spaghetti with two sauces, salad and Karen and I made ourselves responsible for the beer. Dan’s family and we were joined by Karin, JC and his wife Jeanette, and Jen. Not everyone could make the dinner as we were joined later in the night by others as well. The pasta and beer were good (a couple local brews!) and everyone seemed pleased. Later on Jennifer and Stephanie would stop by and give me my 100th present which was a stuffed ferret and a five pound bag of Haribo gummy bears! It is over two months later and I have yet to make it through them. On top of that, it was great to see Marathon Maniac President Steven Yee and Patty stop by as well. That night all four of us Big Cottonwood marathoners made our way to bed with dreams of just finishing in our heads.

The next morning we awoke and made our way to the race. We received preferred parking and that was awesome! We were able to get to the marathon just feet away from the check in. Furthermore when we got to the Port a Potties there were no lines and the bag check line was non-existent as well. Arriving early was so nice. It was also incredible to see all the jets they had out for us to see that would ultimately be lining the finish line. I considered taking a picture with one but restrained from doing so. There was plenty people to see before the race and I tried to run into everyone I could. I am sure I fell very short of that goal but made sure to take a pre-race picture or two. I did a last minute bathroom stop and lined up with Jennifer and Karen with the four hour pacer to start. I had ran better the day before while travelling. I was hopeful, but was still pretty scared about my reaction from Big Cottonwood.

The gun went off and as usual, I had nothing to worry about! I took off and by the quarter mile point I was passing a lot of people. I was able to pass by JC and running celebrity Jen Metcalf by the half mile point and was just having a generally good time. At the half mile point I did notice one thing that must be commented on. What is it with people at marathon events lining up in front of the 4 hour pace and then going out and start walking immediately? Especially those marathons that deal with the armed forces?!? This practice is very upsetting to me. I deal with this every year at Marine Corp as well even running a ten minute mile to start this year. However I get it at Marine Corp where the wait can be over 30 minutes to start but at Air Force the wait is not more than ten minutes in the back of the crowd and you are not doing yourself that huge of a favor. As a matter of fact you may be endangering yourself as faster runners are not always considerate when they try to get around you. If you are going to walk in the first mile please get to the back of the crowd. And if you are part of this practice please let me know why you do it.

After one mile I was done navigating walkers and we were heading up a hill. I found a pacer at 3:40 and easily passed the group. I was shocked at how well I was doing! My legs were feeling no sour effects at all. I found Michelle Walker with the 3:35 pace group, smiled and said hi and kept going. I kept looking for Fast Jen Bakula as well but forgot about her soon enough figuring the race was a little large and I may have just missed her.

The race started off nice enough as we meandered through the air base. There were a couple good bands and not much crowd support (for obvious reasons) but there were huge water stops and everyone was very positive. Also where spectators were allowed, they were quite numerous. I was shocked to see Chuck Engle at the out and back around Mile 9 which was put him two miles in front of me. He was not supposed to be here (I had asked him if he was coming and he said no), but he was not looking as strong as usual either (side effect of Big Cottonwood? – I think so!) However when we got to Mile 10, that was when everything turned fantastic! This mile and a half section is called the Fairborn Fly Zone and boy do they come out to cheer us runners on! It was seriously like a tunnel of noise! I was so into the crowd I could barely notice the pacers or where the other runners were in comparison to me. By this point I was on a better than 3:30 pace and when we got to the out and back I noticed there was a pacer still a good 2 or 3 minutes in front of me. Was that 3:30 or was I missing something? And who was the pacer in front of him?

I was able to see all my friends on the way back and they all seemed to be doing well considering how much we had feared this race. And when I got to the Alien Water Stop complete with volunteers dressed as aliens and look out for alien children warning signs, I was positively beaming! Seriously, I enjoyed it more than Mile 10. And then at Mile 13 the inevitable happened – I caught the 3:30 pacer. I looked at the clock as we passed it and he said, “We are a little fast.” We were more than a little fast. I was over 5 minutes fast for a sub 3:30!

And I kept on moving, passing people and feeling great until the wheels came off at Mile 17. I drank some Gatorade and chatted with a couple runners. One was running his first marathon and I found it very funny to be talking to a first timer on my 100th! They were feeling the heat – that can be a downside with Air Force – we run around an air base and it can be very unshaded. However and somehow, when I heard “Groove is in the Heart” at Mile 18 I knew I was coming back and some of the people I was walking with were now left in the dust. I still felt good but the legs were dragging. There was a Christmas based water stop I loved and wish I could have spent more time at, but I was seriously still on pace to get a sub 3:30! And on a day when I was just hoping for a sub 4? I would take that one! At Mile 20 I was at 2:31. This was going to be easy.

But it was not. My legs did give in. I had the hardest six miles of my life and the hills really kicked my butt. I just had to keep thinking “take it easy so you can run another day.” I kept waiting for that pacer to pass me but he never came my way either. I passed the finish line just short of 3:31 and have never been that close to a goal time, but by then it did not matter to me. I was just happy to finish. I felt that awful. One poor volunteer followed me around thinking I needed serious help. None of my friends ever passed me so I knew I had to be one of the first ones in and just went for some rest. I tried to find the beer but could not find it. I ran into AJ Hacker and talked to him for a bit. Finally Michelle Walker came in and gave me two more gifts – 100 cookies and a 100 marathon club finisher shirt!

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We talked for a while and then Jen and JC came in smiling and looking great! We took plenty of pictures and I texted with Fast Jen to find out she ran a 3:20 and came in top 10 women overall! Karen too had fallen apart and Jennifer had stopped to walk her in, but they were available to do plenty of Bearfaces during the race and just have a great time. Stephanie had one of her slower races and cursed Big Cottonwood as she struggled along. We all did.

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After that, it was a party! President and Patty came in and we had a large congregation just outside the finish line taking tons of pictures and enjoying a couple of beers apiece. There was photobombs galore! We had a couple other maniacs join us and some people from Dan’s place as well. Dan came in and we all congratulated him on his excellent day. Everyone had plenty of cookies and I wore my brand new shirt (thank you again). We spent way too much time there for as little beer as we had. It was that much fun.

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That night Karen and I left Dan’s house and decided to catch drinks with Jennifer and Stephanie for dinner that night. They had brought their dogs to the hotel and were going back early in the morning. We decided to stick around and make a night of it as well. They said they were going to bed early and Karen and I have never been much for going to bed early with so many friends in town. So in that tradition, we went out with Fast Jen and her crew and had drinks at a local watering hole.

A picture with Eddie Vega. He is running all 50 states barefoot.

A picture with Eddie Vega. He is running all 50 states barefoot.

I know most other people enjoy their 100th with a large party and plenty of people. I decided to keep mine mostly low key so much so that a good friend asked me a couple weeks before when my 100th was coming up and I had to tell her it was Air Force and a month away. I never intended to make a big deal out of my 100th marathon and when it finally came up I never planned on anything different. I am thankful for all those that showed and appreciate everything I got. To me it was the perfect way to get my 100th marathon completed even if I did struggle through the last 6 miles. I ended it my way – with a few friends and a good time.

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Oak and Done

After going to Little Rock (that blog is coming soon) I decided to sign up for another marathon and realized I had scheduled 7 marathons in 7 weeks! I know this may disturb several of you and it had me bothered as well – how could I really have an odd numbered streak? So at first, I tried to talk Cathlin into a marathon I could drive to. However with no luck there I was about to strike out when new friend from Mobile, Jen Bakula, told me I should come on over and run the Oakland Marathon with her. I looked it up and other than a spendy side plane ticket it was a really good deal. So for the second time this year I was headed to California and honestly the way weather has been in the Midwest? Huge win! So I requested the Monday off to get to know San Francisco better (Jen lives there) and booked the trip.

I flew in at 11 on a Friday night where Jen picked me up and got me back to her place quickly. I was jealous of those out partying, but I was pretty tired as well so when Jen hit the hay early it was fine by me. I woke up the next morning and immediately went for a nice little run – I was hoping for three miles. Jen lives very close to the bay so I was able to get out there and run some pretty free miles without the concern of stoplights or stop signs. It showed as I put in my best non treadmill training run of the year! I even stretched it out to 7 miles and averaged a great pace. On top of that, with 50 degree temps, I put on a long sleeve shirt but I can tell you that it was not needed. Sunday’s marathon would clearly be short sleeve weather. I was pretty pumped. A good run and good weather – Sunday was destined to be my best run of the year!

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After a good pancake breakfast we headed out to the expo to pick up our numbers and get ready for the big day ahead. Jen was not sure how it was going to go and even though I had felt so good that morning, I had my doubts as well because the same cold I had been trying to kick for the last month was still causing breathing issues. I was feeling good, but if the breathing issues would affect me that would not happen until about Mile 20 and not in a 7 mile run. Jen is very fast and one of my friends who can beat me on a regular basis so I was not sure who I was hoping would have a better day. I did not need a time goal but wanted to rebound. Jen did not have a time goal and it was a small run – we both knew if she had a good day she may even place. I guess we were both holding back from high hopes in case it went bad.

As soon as we got to the expo, it was great to see Sam Louie standing out there guiding people in! I had not a clue he even lived in the area and it was about the first time I have seen him in a year. Even Jen had to comment on his positive attitude. He was a bright light that morning and I started to think maybe this marathon really is a gem you do not hear about? Honestly, I really had no judgments going in. I saw they had posted that some publication had voted it the best marathon on the West Coast but I had my feelings that was not completely true. I also had heard from everyone – “Don’t get shot when you go to Oakland!” I knew that was not going to happen but obviously it showed the reputation the town had. At least so far the town was nice and people quite cheery.

We went through the expo and there was nothing too unique or extraordinary there. The shirt was a jacket and it is a nice flyweight jacket (the only downside being I will probably get 4 total this year). The Emergen-C stand gave me further hope that their mix would scare away the cold I had by Sunday. We left rather quickly, said goodbye to Sam and made our way back to San Francisco. Jen is not a fan of expos (a lot of my friends are not) and I suppose I am finding myself a non-fan lately as well. They are just a lot the same and I have enough free chapsticks and koozies to go around. It saddens me and I hope I see one soon to turn me back to the light.

We spent the rest of the day walking and eating at local restaurants – pretty much readying ourselves for the big run the day ahead. We walked around San Francisco and had clam chowder breadbowls (lots of carbs!) that night down on the wharf. I was able to see Lombard Street and get the best view of San Francisco one could ever see from one of the piers. Jen does not drink the night before a marathon so I figured I would try something new. Besides I had two more days to try the local brews. I went to bed early with visions of a nice healthy run dancing in my head.

And the next morning it was more than just the difference of not drinking a beer. I also did not bring my 5 hour energy shot and I forgot my calf sleeves as well. I guess this would be a change in a lot of factors that I usually race with. I actually believed the change in race day etiquette would be good luck. And while I was waiting to drop my stuff off at the bag drop I bumped into my new friend for the race Joyce Lee! Joyce had posted in a group that I am a member of, Run 365, that she would be there and sure enough I ran into her. She was looking to get a Sub 4 on this day and has really picked up some speed lately. She also has been running at least a mile a day since January 2013 (and possibly even longer)! Impressive to say the least. Someone else walked up to us and asked when the Maniac picture would be. I saw it later even though all three of us were maniacs we all missed it. I guess Jen and I rubbed off on Joyce as well.

Now Oakland may not be the best marathon ever as proclaimed earlier (though it really is a fine event) but one thing they really got right is starting the marathon an hour and a half before the half marathon. It is not that I mind running with the half runners at the start, but more so it was so nice to go to the bathroom without humongous lines or to be able to drop off my clothes at the last second and stay warm. Also it was nice to have the half runners merge with us later and give us words of encouragement later on. I know I have done this before at marathons (and yes I have complained) but it really turned out well on this day. I suppose streets have to be closed down longer but really it makes for a better more free running experience!

I took full advantage of the port-a-potty situation and went to the bathroom five minutes before start and still got up past the 3:20 pacer. And just as Jen and I were standing there waiting a girl in a green matching running outfit moved up to the front. I nudged Jen and said, “Uh-oh I think your competition is going to beat you.” It reminded me of the time I raced in Hawaii and a girl showed up at the last minute in the shortest outfit ever. She ended up coming in first woman overall. I expected nothing different on this day. I felt bad afterwards for saying it to Jen, but some people just look like they are made to run. I think Jen enjoys the fact that she is the underdog and no one expects her to be fast. But with a PR of 3:12 and several good races under her belt she has gotten used to coming in top 10 and qualifying for Boston near every race.

The race started and we took off at a brisk pace. I was a little concerned about the size of the race. I like smaller races like this one but any time they get too small I get a little concerned I will get out front and get nervous about placing. How would I feel if I started losing spots after Mile 20? Though I have never truly placed I figure it has to happen sooner or later! Well thankfully there were no concerns about that one as plenty of runners got out there in front of me even as I was running Sub 7’s. I felt pretty good and was looking forward to taking on the hill that started at Mile 3.

The hill started as a slight incline after a turn and it did not start off well. As soon as it started four or five runners passed me. I was okay with that as I was trying to save up my strength. And as we hit an out and back around Mile 6 I was pretty happy with where I was in relation to the pacers. I was not far in front of the 3:10 pacer but I figured I was still in front of him while we are on the hill. Unfortunately, another hill came much steeper this time and the 3:10 pacer passed me easily before I could make it another mile. I kidded with myself that I may be able to catch him on the downhill as I watched him get farther and farther away. We had a good climb for a good half mile on what seemed to be an on ramp to an interstate. Up next it was a right turn and suddenly it was all worth it. We had made it to an overgrown park area on a slightly inclining trail and I was thrilled. The brush was overgrown and so pretty. There were feral cat warnings and the trail was kept up so well. Sometimes during the full 26.2 you can see the real cool parts of town and this was it. I was looking forward to slightly climbing this trail up until we went for the eventual downhill at 11. I figured we would be on this for a long, long time.

And after a half mile of that I found out I was so, so wrong. We left the trail, got back out onto the streets and went down just to go back up at a steeper incline each time. And though there was some more downhill along the way it was pretty obvious we were going uphill a heck of a lot more than down. Afterwards Jen would say it may have said 700 feet of elevation change on the map but we climbed at least 1000 feet in those 8 miles. She had to be right. And as runners passed me, I could not wait to get out of the hills and going down. I know heading up is not my strong suit. And after one long hard half mile climb up at Mile 10, there was a turn up the steepest climb yet… and I should have walked. My gait wobbled as the incline totally messed with my legs and that was the point when I was no longer running right.

However I did not know this at first because the drop was immediate after that hill, and though it may have taken us 8 miles to get up there, it did not even take us a mile to get back down. We went straight down! I had a 6:26 Mile at 12 and seriously that was by far my fastest mile. I was also able to put in a good Mile 13 and 14 but then at 15 just as I wondering if I would be able to run the entire distance, I hurt and not in a usual way.

My right hamstring felt injured. And I knew the culprit. While flying down the hill I spotted a pothole. My shoe was headed right for it and I had to kick it out a bit more or possibly trip and fall. It may have stopped a trip and fall but it had hurt my running for the long term. I was grabbing anything I could to get the leg working again – GU, Gatorade and finally Gummy Bears. It was at the Gummy Bears when Jen ran past me grabbing at my shoulder to get me to come with her. I choked down the bears and tried to keep pace with her and actually did for about a mile staying just behind her.

But then the stiffness of the leg kicked in and I had to walk again. I would never again make it a mile after that without having to stop and walk to get the leg going again. It was rough and I did not feel well but it was far from stopping me from finishing. I was happy the sun was out and I could bask in the California sun. The half marathon joined us around 16 and the walks never seemed quite as lonely as half runners constantly gave support and offered help. Eventually I got settled in with a group and the 10 of us made our way to the finish sticking together for the last 6 Miles. They were not as fast as me but my walks helped them to catch up.

The Raiders sponsored a Mile around 22 and that was awesome – loud music, colorful people and megaphones. They love their rowdy reputation and honestly I only wish it had been longer. The end of the course was awesome circling a lake and I only wished I could have enjoyed it more instead of just wanting to finish. I struggled across the line to finish in 3:36. It was a shame – I just wanted a 3:30 but that was over by 20 so I was happy that I did not totally fall apart. Even with all that walking my legs stayed good enough for the last four miles to never even go over 8:30 per mile. I would not have thought that possible.

And Jen was at the end talking to her friend. She had run a 3:28 and came in 6th overall female. Heck green did come in second but only beat Jen by six minutes. Jen was a little perturbed she did not take the race a little more serious. She did admit later that she too thought the girl was really going to blow everyone away. And after I got my stuff and laid down, I was lucky enough to meet Jen’s 4 other friends. We would end up having some local beers with them that afternoon and going to their place to eat tamales.

I invited Alison from San Jose over. I thought there was no way she would make an hour and a half drive but she did so happily. I told her I would return the favor and meet her in Iowa. We had a great night eating and watching the NCAA tournament. Alison was a vegetarian but Jen’s friends were such gems they bent over backwards to make tamales for her and to even offer to go buy more food for her. We were able to sit out on the patio and enjoy perfect weather as well. It was one of those weekends where you can see why everyone wants to live in California.oak2

And after Jen and I headed back to her place for the night, she mentioned to me that I have an odd running style and started to question some things I did. She commented that I always stare down. A by product of all the treadmill running I supposed. She said my arms swing too high. I was not sure how this would matter but knew this was only tensing me up. And she told me that at Mile 15 I did indeed look like crap. I laughed and mentioned that everyone only tells you how good you look. I must have looked hurt so she felt awful.

But I reassured her that was not what I meant. I loved it. I can learn from her observations. Only her and Brian tell me what I am doing wrong. I cannot learn from those that tell me I look great when I am hurting. I can only learn from people like these two. So two days later as I ran the wharf in San Francisco again my eyes started to head up and I worked on my posture. I relaxed my arms a little and though I was just on Week 1 of 8 marathons – I had a  feeling it was going to be my worst. Thank you Jen for everything. You did not just give me a place to stay – you gave me a chance to improve.

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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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