Finish time: 1:40:02
28th out of 551 overall finishers
24th out of 221 men
3rd in 40-44 Age Group, Men (37 runners)
I run CIM in two weeks, so when I saw this race pop up on the race calendar, I thought it would be good to have a race/training run opportunity late in the cycle as a way of 1)giving a little race day practice in terms of pacing and prep and pushing through late miles and 2)a great way of getting off my regular running route and change things up a bit as I entered taper. In fact, before I decided to run CIM, I had considered running the marathon that this race had offered but later canceled for lack of registrants. As a side note, my guess as to the lack of registrants for the Studdard Marathon was that this race is just too close to the Mercedes Marathon that is run in February. That race has a pretty dedicated following and few marathoners are wont to try and run two races so close together.
So let me begin by saying that I am considering filing a class-action lawsuit against races that advertise “flat, fast” courses, when in fact they aren’t. Oh sure, there were no mountains, no 1,000 foot climbs, but if you run long enough you know that the worse kind of course is one with a steady and gradual incline, one that you can’t really “see” but certainly “feel” after the miles. This race, at least the last 7 miles was that kid of course. This was, to me, a scenic course, which took me by landmarks of Birmingham’s past; places where the city’s founders resided. The oldest ballpark in the nation, Rickwood Field, where my dad took us 2-3 times a week in the early 1980s to watch minor league baseball. Legion Field, the site of so many epic college football games, and a side of the city that has seen better years, true, but is important to those of us who grew up there. I guess as a historian, this stuff appeals to me: the architecture, the history, the feeling that I was exploring my own past as I ran.
The plan was to start out in my Goal Marathon Pace (GMP) bubble, 7:25-7:35 miles for the first half and then see what I could do in the second half. The gun went off and after navigating some walker/jogger types, who irritatingly placed themselves at the front of the pack, I settled into the bubble. The first 5 miles of the race, save for one pretty nice little hill, was fairly flat and I found the running easy and smooth. I was a little confused because I thought it was TOO easy at first. Settling right into GMP was surprisingly not that hard so I found a couple of people with a similar pace and we ran with each other. Trouble is as we came across that first hill they all fell back and I kept searching for people to pace with. I know this sounds kind of haughty or pompous, but you can easily spot people in races who don’t do their hill work. They may cruise fast and easy on the flat but as soon as they hit the incline they fall back and struggle. I felt good holding pace up the hill, knowing that my many miles up and down Mountain Avenue were paying off.
Through mile 6 things were fine. Pace was good, heart rate was in a good area, low zone 3. This is when I noticed the running getting slightly more difficult. The slow gradual incline that would last for the next 7 miles had appeared. There were some smallish hills in the midst of this gradual incline (which I liken to Golden Gate Park along the SF marathon course, slight and gradual but enough to slowly suck the life out of your legs!). I held pace but realized at about mile 8 or 9 that I would likely have no kick today. So I decided to hold the GMP bubble for the rest of the race, practice good form, work on keeping my shoulders low (they tend to creep up into a hunch as I get tired), and finish strong.
A couple of nice highway overpass ramps did my legs in and I struggled to hold GMP in the last mile. But still finished strong and with a new PR and finished 3d in my 40-44 age group.
This was a good race for me. It came a week after my peak training mileage week and a 24-mile run the Sunday before. Running strong, getting a PR, and doing it on tired legs is quite satisfying. It also comes right at the start of my taper for CIM, and was great way to test myself and work on lots of race-related issues, sch as mental toughness. This has always been my weakest point, my mental toughness, and any opportunity to work on it before CIM was welcome.
Ruben put on a good race, with good support and enthusiastic volunteers, and enhanced by good communication with runners in the weeks leading up to the event.
Here are my splits: