13.1

Chris here, guest blogging. I suppose at this point I should take the title “Contributing Editor” or something significant like that.

Anyway, my blog post.


I definitely had icicles in my moustache at one point. And I may or may not currently have diaper rash from excessive sweatage. But I’m glad I did it.

It wasn’t the idyllic leisurely jog through the City of Eden that I experienced last summer in San Diego.

No, quite the opposite.

It was competitive (with a clock mostly), brutally cold (if you’re from Alabama. I’m sure people in Juneau have a chuckle at Southern cold tolerance), and required beginning the day milling about in the dark waiting for the race to start.

But I’m glad I did it.

I like to run. This is no secret. But I have always resisted the Mercedes events here in Birmingham because of the February date. Its always bitterly cold for the races. Except last year. I remember it being a beautiful day. Don’t get me wrong – I don’t want it to be 80, but maybe 35 or 40. Is above freezing too much to ask?

I decided to get over myself, man up, and do it. So I signed up for the Half-Marathon early this year, determined to survive.

If you have an inclination to try a distance event in February (c’mon – it’s for charity!), here are my tips:

Step 1. Grow a Beard. Yep, I put down the many-bladed hyper-marketed razor and let nature’s weather shield ease on out. Don’t underestimate the protective force of body hair.

Step 2. Buy spandex. There is no chafe protection like super tight neck to ankle spandex. Although awkwardly unattractive if worn alone by someone my size, when placed modestly underneath wind pants and a jacket, they provide a priceless service to the epidermis.

Step 3. Bodyglide. This product should be direct pyramid scheme marketed with downlines, commissions, the whole 9 yards. It is essential in an icy exercise event for the nether regions, and super helpful for any part of the body that doesn’t like to be excessively rubbed or exposed to the wind.

Step 4. Hand warmers. Nobody likes to carry dead weight, but the tiny little iron packets that heat up to 135-150 degrees inside your gloves are well worth carrying their diminutive weight.

So race day arrived. The morning low was 18. The wind chill? 12.

I got up at 4, had coffee in a dark and quiet house as I contemplated the cold and prepared myself with 2 pairs of socks, earbags covered by a toboggan, and numerous OCD points of comfort and organization.

I made it downtown, and eased into the NIGHT with my aforementioned handwarmers sandwiched between 2 pairs of gloves. A couple of cold-induced port-o-let onesies later, I was milling around at the back of the starting chute as the sun came up, making conversation to pass the long minutes ‘til the start.

The gun went off, and I walked slowly forward with the frigid throng, and eventually passed the start line at a comfy running pace.

I warmed up quickly, and I have to say, it wasn’t nearly as cold as I thought it would be. The only clothes I threw away were the extra pair of gloves at about mile 8, but I was comfortable.

So comfortable in fact that when I snagged a napkin out of my pocket to drain my nose, I found the aforementioned icicles in my moustache.

Ice.

Growing on my body.

And I was unaware of it.

When does this happen in life?

We (and by we, I mean me and the 10.5 – 11.5 min/mile pace crowd I was with), including my 2 chosen competition targets, Army Guy Carrying a Giant Shoulder Pack and Girl with The Bright Yellow Toboggan Mohawk, passed lots of interesting Birmingham neighborhoods, including 90’s trendy Southside, 00’s trendy Avondale, and 10’s trendy Railroad Park. We passed the yummy smelling Jim ‘N Nicks in 5 Points and the yummier smelling Merita Bakery on 1st Ave South. And lots of landmarks: the Civil Rights Museum, the Alabama Theater, old parks, and older churches. I got high five’s from official volunteers and the friendly guys at the Firehouse Shelter.

Somewhere between mile 11 and 12, I heard the short whoop-whoop of a police siren behind me giving a get-out-of-the-way love tap. The motorcycle cop was followed by another police car, escort vehicles, and the Fox 6 Storm Tracker Hummer with aft-mounted video camera, which was being followed by the full-marathon leader, Michael Wardian, who was churning his long legs at rate that really puts one in their athletic place.

I had just been lapped.

On a 13 mile loop.

I was on mile 12. Mike was on mile 25.

After marveling at the disparity between his fitness and my own, I soldiered on.

In the end, I met my dear sweet wife and was surprised by another friend at the finish line after collecting what has to be the coolest race medal out there. Who doesn’t love the classic cool of the Mercedes Benz emblem?

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It turned out to be a beautiful, albeit frigid, day. I saw parts of my city I’d never seen before. I conquered the beast. And in way less time than I expected. I got the bling, and the beard is already gone. Overall, a total win.

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Rachel’s side of the story:

The above photo came at a price.

Chris told me to be downtown by 10 AM to see him finish. He did not, however, figure in the cold weather speed-up effect into this estimate.

Fortunately, there are tracking chips with each runner, and you can follow their progress online.

Unfortunately, these tracking chips only update at 6K, 10K, 15K, and the finish line.

So by the time I got his first estimated completion time of 9:28 AM, I already knew there was no way I could make it. One cannot speed up the process of getting two kids ready by an entire half an hour – this is a scientific impossibility.

I woke the kids up in a frenzy, rushed them into their clothes without bothering to brush any teeth, sped to church, dropped them off in Sunday School under the care of my parents, and then sped like a maniac downtown.

Halfway there, I realized I had forgotten my map.

I can find my way around downtown any day, but on this tight of a timeframe, I was worried about my ability to have quickness and accuracy.

I texted a friend who texted her sister who told me the best exit ramp to take. I prayed for a parking space and one appeared. Then I saw the runners and began running alongside them to the finish line…in my heels.

I ran for two blocks before realizing that those were the marathoners, not the half-marathoners, and I was running away from the finish line.

I began running in the opposite direction. In my heels.

My lungs began to complain of the bitter cold. My ankles began to complain about my heels. And it was 9:30. There was no way I could make it…

I arrived at the finish line at 9:31 and fought my way up against the fence. I checked my phone – it hadn’t notified me of his finish yet. I was hopeful, yet doubtful.

I got my camera ready and waited.

And one minute later, I saw him coming.

Still panting from my ridiculously excessive four block run, I snapped a few photos of my husband finishing his first half-marathon.

Because I totally rock like that.

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Okay, he’s the one who rocks. But I did run four blocks.

Leave your comment below!

Comments

  1. Congratulations Chris! That is an accomplishment I don’t think I could ever pull off. I will use the excuse of my bad feet but even if I had great feet I can’t imagine running a half Marathon especially in the cold, and yes I know for a fact that people who live in more northern locales laugh out our cold tolerance. I am not allowed to complain about the cold to my Best Friend in Milwaukee.

    Congratulations to Rachel for making it to the finish line in time and running 4 blocks in heels.

  2. What a wife…what a man…what a team.

  3. way to go Chris!!! i understand the cold thing. shane did a 5k this past weekend here in colorado and it was the same temp! luckily he has facial hair, so im sure he’d agree with you on that point :) however, he came across like a champ with little frosties on his nose and sweat freezing to his face. as for me? i had 2 layers with a scarf, gloves, and hat and no facial hair. you people are nuts :)

  4. I had to look up toboggan because I have only heard one use of it. So I had a rather vivid picture of a big, long, flat-on-the-bottom sled perched precariously on your head and maybe swaying side to side in a vain attempt to cover the earbags. It puzzled me how you could possibly run like that, so I looked it up.
    Now I know. The dictionary said it’s a southern thing:)

  5. Woo hoo! Congrats on the 13.1 … and congrats to Rachel on the .001. ;)

  6. We are all SUPER proud of Chris! C ran in the kid’s Mercedes on Saturday morning, and it was painfully cold. Our immediate thought was of how cold it was going to be for Chris the next morning. Not only did he finish (in the c.c.c..cccold), he beat the time he set for himself! Stud!! B sends a virtual fist bump. Go you for that four block heel sprint of wifely fortitude!

  7. nice…way to go!!! I plan on competing next year….maybe….if I can grow a beard… ;)
    I actually had some friends run the half marathon. I’ll have to ask them their times…

  8. Congratulations! And did you beat Army Guy and Mohawk Girl?

  9. Awesomeness! You both rock!

  10. Wow! I am totally impressed (in a variety of ways)!

    I can’t run. Well, I CAN but it is NOT enjoyable and should NEVER be done in public. ever. (even when I’m not hugely pregnant). I definitely can’t run in heels, and there is NO WAY I would even attempt to run a half marathon!

    My husband on the other hand is quite the athletic type and is up for any and all opportunities that involve cardio-whatever. Unfortunately, he would rather die than write or even read a blog… so I’ll just live vicariously through your life when it comes to the areas lacking in my own. :D

  11. Wow, impressive! I really wish I loved to run but I just. do. not. At all. The four blocks are more my speed. :)

  12. The fact that you had the presence of mind to check the race status while aearching for parking and dodging potholes in heels speaks volumes. Pardon me for being way more intereated in how high the heels are and requesting a picture of said race-catching apparatus foor the full atory. Oh, and congrats to Chris for conquering the halfmile race. Nice bling too!

  13. First: congrats to Chris for finishing so quickly!

    I am confused though, and not just by the sled on your head. Isn’t 18 well above freezing? Assuming you are using fahrenheit, isn’t that about 8 in celcius? That doesn’t make sense! What did I miss?

  14. Never mind: apparently Google lies! -8

    That makes more sense, though I’m still surprised by the hand warmers! I should send you some real gloves…

  15. Loved reading this post!! I ran the Mercedes Half last week too! {My first half} I’m now addicted, and can’t wait to run another!!

  16. Congrats Chris! And, Rachel for finding a parking spot and making it to the finish line. My husband has done the Mercedes twice, and both times it was bitterly cold. Last year was definitely a trick of weather, not normal. I have my first half in two weeks (!) in Seaside Florida. I’m hoping to not have to worry about a jacket, much less icicles forming on my person.

  17. Augustina says:

    WOW just what I was searching for. Came here by searching for mercedes half marathon

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