Just got back from Birmingham and the Mercedes Half Marathon. Overall the race went really well and the weekend was a lot of fun. Here is the written report, picture updates will follow tonight.
I headed over the race site around 5:45 for a 7:00 start so I could find a place to park and warm up. After jogging around a bit and taking a few restroom breaks, it was game time. The weather forcast at the start was low 40s and sunny and it actually felt surprising warm. I went with shorts, a jersey, and gloves as I remembered last year in the half I did Brendan decided NOT to wear gloves and he ended up regretting it big time. I also saw my running buddy, David Riddle, at the start so we decided to take it out together even though I had a pretty good idea he would be dropping me before too long.
So the gun finally went off and we were on our way. About halfway into the first mile, David says, "just to let you know, the first mile is notoriously fast so dont freak out." I thought he was referring to races in general when people go out too hard so I thought maybe we'd be 5:20-5:25 pace (since I wanted to run 5:30s at the beginning.) First mile: 4:52. HA! Wow, he wasnt kidding. Must be downhill. Anyway, I settled in and was still feeling really good. David took off around mile 2 which was fine with me as I knew he was in better shape.
I knew there were hills between miles 4.5 and 9 so I was trying to take it pretty conservatively up until that point. After about 3 miles I was more or less in no man's land, clicking along, waiting for the hills to start. Finally there was a long uphill between 5 and 6 which, looking back, I probably couldve pushed a little harder. Up until that point I was still ahead of 5:30 pace but that mile was around 6:00 which really hurt the average. At that point I was 33:20 which put me 20 sec off 5:30 pace. At this point I decided to pick it up a bit and try to get my head in the game a little more. Luckily I saw a guy up the road so I set my sights on catching him. That happened around 6.5 and I came through 7 in 38:46 (5:25) and wanted to try to get to 9 in 49:30. That way, I would have 4 basically downhill or flat miles leaving me well under 5:30 pace.
7-8 was partially rolling which transitioned into a long climb and then 8-9 was more of the rolling stuff leaving me at 49:56 through 9 miles. I was still feeling pretty good and had up my effort a bit but I believe those miles are both net uphill which caused them to be a bit slower. After passing the 9 mile marker I had a steep uphill to crest then it was all down. I kept it under control up the hill and then opened it up on the way down which, BTW, was really steep. IMHO, this is what cost a lot of time. Its so hard to make up time when you are going down a really steep hill.
So I came through 10 at 55:30 which meant I was 30sec over 5:30 pace, which was my minimum goal. That meant I just had to run at least 5:20 pace for the last three to get those 30sec back. So I took off and it felt great to open it up a bit. The last three miles took us back into downtown and I ran them in 5:11, 5:23, 5:52 (including the 0.1) and best of all I passed two guys in the last couple of miles. The last I passed was a Kenyan with about a half mile to go. I'm sure he had already mailed it in for the day so he can go road whore somewhere else next weekend, but it still felt good to pass him.
As I came across the line, I thought I had snuck under 1:12, but alas, the results said 1:12:00 for a 5:29 average. Oh well, still a PR on a hard course so I cant complain. Better yet, I felt REALLY good the whole time. Totally in control the whole race which gives me some confidence heading into the season. Now if I can only learn to ride a bike I'll be all set...