Saturday, February 23, 2013

Reflections of Mercedes

"You really don't notice it at first. Then it becomes a little annoying. Then it gets really annoying. Then it hurts. Then you die. At 20 miles, I was afraid I would die. At 25 miles I was afraid I would live and have to finish the damned thing" - Micah Ward

And so, last weekend, we wrapped up the Mercedes Marathon and Half Marathon for the 12th year and what a great event it was. The Expo was vibrant, and although not very big, had many new vendors. The registration went as smooth as can be expected and of course, there was a boatload of Southern Hospitality to impress our out-of-state gusts. I'm sure there were some problems, but I'm part of the staff and I heard of no snafus at all. Even the weather cooperated with a cool (ok, cold - 25 degrees) morning that warmed up nicely to the sunny mid 40's. 

It continues to surprise me for some reason, but even as the event gets bigger, the Race Director, Val McLean, pulls this off smoother and smoother every year, despite the fact that we never have an "All-committee-free-for-all" meeting. If it was me, we would have all the committees get together frequently, order pizza and beer, gossip for an hour, shout at each other to establish territorial rights about which committee is more important and leave 3 hours later having accomplished very little, which would have to be rectified with another meeting. Val just surrounds herself with people who know what they're doing (the Pace Team Leader and Training Director is a little shaky) and she is readily available to right any listing ship. Thanks Val.

Some of my personal reflections: 
Once again, I took a page from Val's book and surrounded myself with a solid Pace Team for paces from 3:45 to 5:00. Every group got in within 4 minutes of their goal! It certainly echoes the idea that even pacing is the best way to run a marathon. Every Pace Group Leader had a plan and each one delivered. The same as any runner or ball team or whatever, once you settle on a plan, don't deviate from that plan unless you get into panic mode. At less that 2 miles in, a runner from Michigan pulls up to me and asks me what my pace plan was (she wasn't part of our group, mind you). I told her we were going to run even pace and walk through every other aid station (there were ELEVEN AID STATIONS each 13.1 mile loop!). She then began to berate my plan...while we're running...and saying I should do run/walk and my results would be better! When I told her I had my plan and this was my 11th year of pacing, she said she had run 29 marathons and I still had time to change my plan!! I didn't say what I wanted, but I did say "see ya". Geez!!

As much as I like it, my Nike+ watch failed AGAIN! I had it set for overall pace on the big screen. The first loop was perfect, but somewhere around 16 miles, the satellite was cloaked by the Klingons, and I lost contact for about a mile and a half. It kept up with the time, so when it found the satellite again, the overall pace was shot to hell, and the pilot (me) was winging it. I soon had a foot issue and our co-pilot (Bill Woody - who just agreed to pace the week before!) took over and guided the group home. Excellent job Bill (he had also run 5 miles before the race!). Anyway, back to the watch...I also had the footpod on and I thought the purpose of the footpod was to keep up with the mileage if you lose the satellite. Yeah, that's a nice sales pitch! The total mileage at the end read 24.55 miles. I've run many marathons that I wanted to stop a mile and a half short, but this day I was sure I had put in at least the required 26.2.  Anyone have an idea about this footpod line being fed to me by Nike? Put it in the comments if you do.

During the race, I recognize faces. I may not readily recall your names, but we are all connected by the memories of training, the memories of raceday, the memories that you carry away. Experiences you don't forget.

Proud of all of you but especially those of you that trained with me & Ken on Sunday mornings. But, I have the same pride as Danny Haralson feels about his runners, or the Trak Shak Guys feel about their group, or (I'm sorry I'm not sure who THE coach was) the huge group running for the Bell Center. We literally are a Team of Teams.

I've recieved several emails thanking me, but YOU inspire me. I am not an expert imparting wisdom - I am a long-distance runner that has been doing this for a long time and still have a strong desire to share. Maybe you will catch the marathon bug for a long time too, and more importantly, you will pay it forward to future marathoners. The community of marathoners is fueled more by the sharing of first-person experiences than it is by books or running magazines. 

The marathon is brutally and beautifully honest. You get back on raceday what you put into it during the many months of training. A quote I often use is "You can't run a million dollar marathon with ten-cent training". There's only one way to buy a marathon - not with cash or credit cards, not with your fame or power, but only with proper preparation. Everyone who crossed that line, be it in 3 hours or 6 hours, put in miles in the rain, and cold, and dark. That's where a marathoner is made.

"The marathon can humble you".  Not original....a Bill Rodgers quote. Even with the best training, it can still throw you a curve and you're not home free until you go under the balloons at the end. I went under the balloons...a little later due to that foot problem that came out of the blue. But, the marathon can also make you proud, and each of us (including me) can be proud of a finish that time-wise is in my top 3 of worst times. I loved Mercedes this year. I ran every step of the way with my very good friend (my "lost brother") Moha, and these days, I'd much rather run a marathon like this than be in oxygen debt for 3 hours. I'm bothered by runners who say "I'm only a back-of-the-packer", or "I'm only a run/walker".Take pride in your marathon! You've heard it before, but by finishing a marathon, you are one of 1/10th of 1% of the population. WOW!!

Ok, I've gone on longer than I intended (kinda like my race). These are just a few of my reflections. I'm sure you who ran have your own stories. And those that didn't run have a whole host of stories in you just waiting to be let out. Don't wish it...want it!! 

I'll continue to see you all on the roads - AL

"One child lost is too child saved can change the world"


Cheryl Hamilton said...

Thanks for your blog Al. I read it every week and I feel like it will help me get back to it. Setbacks be damned(lingering ailment plus a broken toe around the 1st of the year).

AL said...

Thanks for your comment Cheryl. Glad you like the blog. Yeah, a broken toe can of play havoc on your pace. Be patient, you'll be on your feet (I crack myself up) soon. Keep reading and I'll keep writing

MNMD said...

Thank you for posting. I love reading your blog. I am running the half in tuscaloosa this weekend. thank you for all the inspiring words to keep me running and training. See you on the roads. :)

Al D. said...

Thanks so much for your comment. I am so glad you enjoy the blog. I sure enjoy writing it. I'll keep writing and you keep doing the work on the roads.

Lisa R said...

Al, I found your blog after googling the words.. running with your head down. I just looked at my post half marathon race pictures from Little Rock and laughed as every one of 6 pictures had me staring at the ground. I knew I was bad but seriously? Then I read your blog , laughed some more and started reading more posts... This one contained some much needed advice... as I was contemplating jumping from 1/2 up to a full in just 7 weeks... The attraction .. a 12 hour time limit.. but there is no way I can do the appropriate work to have an enjoyable experience. So I will do another half.. and schedule another full in the fall.. You have picked up a new reader!

AL said...

Lisa - thank you so much for your comment. I do enjoy to get new readers. Where in the world did you find a marathon with a 12 hour time limit? Congrats on your Little Rock finish. Always an accomplishment. Hope you keep reading and above all, keep your head up!