Thursday, April 7, 2011


That’s right! Pictured above, is an RV, behind my son, Max, on a rolling giraffe, and the Martinez home for the Saturday night before Talladega Half Marathon! I know the race director fairly well, and she was nice enough to rent the “Queen Sized” RV for us and get permission to camp out behind the pit garage! We arrived around 2 PM on Saturday and stopped by packet pick up to see four gracious volunteers manning the tent with Corona Lights in hand and a curious picture of a familiar face (Julia) taped to a tent post front and center! Apparently, “Julia” was the complaint department!
Other than the huge grand stands and the blowing flags, two things reminded me I’m at Talladega almost immediately. First, the curmudgeonly gate keeper at the guard shack of the main entrance. Three years ago, when we ventured to the track to measure the half marathon course, the very same guard, who’s name escapes me, didn’t seem to be too happy with our presence. He had the same demeanor on Saturday afternoon! Second, the roar of pistons pushed to their limits echoed around the track as we parked in front of our “mobile home”. I’ve now visited the track at Talladega a total of five times, twice of which were to attend actual car races. I will admit, I am no NASCAR fan, but the first time you see 40 cars traveling at close to 200 miles per hour around that track, you can NOT help but be amazed! That day, the Dale Jarrett racing adventure was in session, so we got a very small taste of “racin’”! Max loved it!
After helping with the half marathon course set up, which included Clark and I dragging coolers full of water bottles with a golf cart to the finish line, the tail gaiting commenced! Corralled by 6 RV’s, the tail gaiting area included a gas grill large enough for 100 hot dogs and burgers, a fire pit, two coffin sized coolers full of your favorite cold beverages, and a projection screen set up to broadcast the Kentucky vs. UConn Final Four matchup! Needless to say, it was a good time! The clock struck 11, and I snuck into our recreational vehicle’s door past a zonked out Max in a pack n’ play, into the “queen” sized “bed” (note my overuse of quotations) in the very back.
2:30 AM! We awake to Max calling out MOMMA, MOMMA! WHO KNEW! My son didn’t take a liking to sleeping in a home on wheels with a gas powered generator running all night! It was pretty much play time for him for the better part of the next 4 hours! OH YEAH, did I forget to mention in this running related blog entry that I was participating in the Talladega Half Marathon on Sunday morning? My bad!
7:00 AM! I jogged around with eventual winner Scott to warm up, wake up, whatever you want to call it! The one responsibility I had, other than to make it to the start, was to deliver an iPod full of tunes to the race coordinators to play over the enormous sound system during the race. I will take this opportunity to apologize to Audrey, Martha, and Kathleen for my grouchiness. Apparently, little sleep and no coffee equal grumpy pants!
7:30 AM! The race starts under pristine conditions! We pass by the finish line where Audrey, the race MC and one of the witnesses of grumpy pants, actually called me “Grumpy Pants” over the sound system that can be heard from space! It’s around turns 1 and 2 when the enormity of the track is realized, and, FYI, the point at which I was offered my first beer! NO! I didn’t partake, but thanks BTC and Hashers! We’d almost completed 2 miles as you exit the track just before turn 3. The course then winds around the apron of turn 4 where you can look down and witness what a 36 degree grade actually looks like!
7:58 AM! I only know the time because 7 minute pace seemed to be the comfort zone for the first 4 miles. My friend Chappy says, “We can run faster than 7 minute pace!” After little sleep, no coffee, and this little pain in my right shin, which I will cover in my next blog entry entitled “Stress Fracture?”, I was really comfortable at 7 minute pace, but what the hey! 6:30’s and 45’s took us through the next few miles. After running off the Talladega Superspeedway grounds, we reentered under the Gadsden Tower of the grandstands. It was a great break from the sun!
To make a long story short, the pace stayed pretty steady over the apron of turns 1 and 2, through the Allison Grandstands, and around to the tunnels to enter the infield. Then, the wheels came off! I was just begging for the finish line from then on! We got back on the track just before mile 11, where once again I was offered a beer, which I refused. My apologies to the BTC and Hashers! As an ex-track athlete, I kept thinking “just one more lap”, but for some reason 2.1 miles kept creeping back into my head! I limped across the finish line in 1:28! Now, on the positive, that time was 3 minutes faster than Mercedes! Now, on the negative, I was limping and didn’t feel all that great! I think no break from running since October had taken it’s toll! The best thing, Lena and Max were there waiting on me at the finish!
I cannot thank the volunteers, the directors and the guys who run the Superspeedway enough! The Talladega Half Marathon is by far the most unique race I have ever run! If you’re thinking of taking a tour of the Superspeedway, I’d recommend taking the “running” tour and enter next year’s Talladega Half Marathon!

1 comment:

Kathleen said...

I LOVE your write up!!! Especially since you named me in it! No apologies needed! You were fine! actually smiling when we finally saw you! I should apologize for waking you up after your dreadful night!!! And , may I correct you, the screen was set up to watch Talladega NIghts, NOT basket ball!!!!!