Hey! I finished a race report less than a week after the race! I'd need to check, but I'm sure that's some kind of record. Anyway, here is the Reader's Digest version:
Made it to Birmingham in one piece. Only got lost once, trying to find a parking spot near the expo. It was chilly, especially for us weather-impaired wimpy Florida chicks. Wore pants and long-sleeve shirt and throw-away gloves, which I threw away too early. A pretty, well-marked, well-supported course. The hills were diabolical. This is a great race if you like hills. REALLY REALLY like hills. Big ones. With steep descents. Great medals, heavy and shiny with a pretty ribbon. Nice cotton participant shirts, nice finisher tech shirts. I finished in 5:49:08, which is almost 7 slower than my PR last December at pancake-flat Kiawah Island, but it was a much tougher course, so I'm ecstatic with the time.
Longer, slightly more detailed version:Left my house around 4:45 AM to pick Kay up in Winter Garden and get on the road to Birmingham. We made fairly decent time, plus gained an hour crossing into the Central Time Zone. Drove around the block three or four times trying to find first the expo site, then, giving up on that, the hotel. Which we found once, but then lost. Don't ask. Eventually, we figured out where we were and got settled in.
It was already chilly out, so, being the idiot naturalized Floridian that I am, naturally I neglected to bring a jacket. I *did* have a sweater, which I threw on over my LS tee, and I was okay to walk to the expo, a few blocks away. We got our packets, shirts, chips, etc., and wandered around the expo a bit. There really wasn't much there, but I guess it was okay for a medium-sized marathon. If you wanted a free beer, that was the place to go :) We then went back to the hotel, hit the gift shop where Kay bought a book and I got a magnet that says "Birmingham" on it. I started collecting refrigerator magnets of every place I travel a couple of years ago. I don't know why. Anyway, then we watched TV, read a little, and fell asleep.
Woke up early the next morning, got dressed in our warm clothes (at least I was smart enough to pack both shorts AND pants) and headed to the start. I have never seen so much makeup and hairspray on women about to run a race in my life. I saw mostly eyeliner and mascara, but there were a few perfectly coiffed women in full makeup, and, granted, most of them were doing the half, but Kay was in front of a lady in the potty line with full makeup AND a full marathon bib. I sweat too much, become covered in salt, and wind up looking like hell anyway, so I figure, "What's the point?" But that's just me. Ya gotta love the South.
I was surprised that, being in the Deep South, there was neither the National Anthem nor a prayer before the race start. They just counted down and we were off. I saw a guy dressed like Scooby Doo (not running) and a lady with a Lambchop puppet (also not running), and three escapees from a prison, in white jumpsuits with "Prisoner" and their number. They were very nice. I was talking to one of them, a guy whose name I can't remember. He asked me where I was from. When I said, "Tampa," (which I feel is misrepresenting myself, but I digress...), he said, "Don't y'all have a marathon coming up next weekend? Are you going to run it?" I said, "No, one marathon a week is plenty for me, thanks." There was also a guy running in a tutu, but unfortunately, I never saw him. Just on the news.
I got a shout-out from a band playing near mile 8 ("Hey, Number 128--lookin' good!" He lies.) Kay and I hooked back up around mile 15-ish (I think) and started walking up the majority of the hills. We met a lady from the San Francisco area named Barbara who gave us some handy hill-running tips. Mile 22 was a mile-long incline. Mile 23 was the descent. An extraordinarily STEEP descent. With a hairpin turn thrown in for good measure. I really wished I had some roller skates at that point. Kay suggested that we lay down and roll down the hill, which was sounding pretty good. The police officer at that corner was laughing at us.
That brought us back into downtown Birmingham, where it was relatively flat. Hallelujah! We walked a bit, me with my iPod in one ear, giving Kay a concert. Sorry I'm not a better singer, Kay ;) We started running just past the 26-mile marker, all the way to the finish. Got our chips off, got our medals, a mylar blanket, our finisher shirts, some water and headed into the post-race party. Our goal was to simply beat the six-hour cutoff, which Kay and I were both worried about, and we had originally planned to draft off the Balloon Lady. Turns out we didn't even see her except at the beginning and at an out-and-back portion of the course around mile 21 (I think). She was about three miles behind us; that's when we knew we were all right. She finished about 15 minutes after us (we slowed down *just* a bit in that last five miles, LOL)
Went into the party--they were out of BBQ (not that my stomach could have handled BBQ right after a marathon anyway, but still...), but snagged a Coke and waddled up into the stadium seats to watch the awards presentation. Neither of us got a chance at the Mercedes, so we managed to make our way back down the steps and back to the hotel. Showered and took a much needed nap, then ate a steak AND dessert at the hotel restaurant :) Went to bed pretty early, then drove back to Florida the next day. It really really hurt getting out of the car.
My second favorite marathon to date :) Pictures to come next week.
Bring on Atlanta! And more freakin' hills...