Friday, September 26, 2014

CAUTION: Talladega Half Recap Ahead! #ItsDegaBaby


      It's no secret that I love running the Talladega Half Marathon in Talladega, Al. I just completed my 5th event (there have been 6). Sponsored by the The Trak Shak, Birmingham Coca Cola Bottling Company, Red Diamond Coffee and Tea, Talladega Super Speedway, Jim N' Nick's BBQ,The Urology Centers of Alabama (Birmingham) and The Birmingham Track Club, the main goal of this race to raise awareness for Prostate Cancer via Urology Health Foundation .

     Growing up about 15 minutes from this NASCAR track, this is a super fun venue for me. I see lots of friends and family and get to run on the track where I used to "hang out" on as a teenager.

     I got to the track before sunrise. With a 7:30am start time, the race officials ask that everyone arrive no later than 6:30. I was pulling in to the infield to park before daylight. How fun is that?! The sun coming up over the track is so pretty!

     First stop: FIND MY PRINCESSES! My Mom, My sister and one of my bff's Leigh, all gathered up and are ready for lots of fun photo opps. I mean, what else do ya do an hour before race time? :) 



And then, here comes my Dad! He knows not to EVER expect a serious pic! 


      My Peeps! We were definitely missing a few but these are some of my closest running buddies. Paw Paw, Grandmary, Tommy (The Fabulous Pell City Coffee Co. Owner), The Flash (aka known as Walker The Wonder Dog's Daddy), Scott Wood (one Scott from The Scott and Scott Running Club), Jeanine (from the Morning Show), me and @MsPrincessLeigh. We all have our own paces and race to run but in the end, we all find each other, compare stories and then start planning our next race. Running in Bama would not be the same without these guys. And for the record, because I know that a couple of these fellas might just be reading this, I'm going to claim that I'm faster or just as fast as them. Just sayin. ;) 


     One thing that I really like is that because this race is on a Sunday morning, lots of people will miss church. This race offers a Non-Denominational worship service before the race begins on the infield near the Kids Zone by the pit garage. Now that's the way to get your praise and worship on! 


     Ribbons line the fence in honor of those battling Prostate Cancer. Very cool tribute to those battling.


     Selfie with "the Flash"!


     Selfie time with the sis! 


     Here we go boys! Let's do this! 

     The race announcer announced over the speedway..."This is more than a race!! THIS. IS. TALLADEGA. 

....And we're off!!!! 



     The race starts on the track and we are off! Headed for Turn one and the runners already start to spread out. This track is BIG. As we approach the turn, we have to merge closer to the left side. The bank is steep. Not gonna lie, this is killer on the ankles if you are too far to the right. 


     We make a full loop around the track and jump off and head towards the parking lot. As you can see here, we are already up a good but higher than where we started. There are not huge hills, just a gradual incline. In the pic above, I'm looking through the fence over the track. 

     As I was leaving the track, I look over on the bank (just above where the start line was) and I catch our fearless race director (Val McClean) cheering on the runners. I love that about that her. She supports the runners and is on-hand during the entire race. She also coordinates the Mercedes-Benz Marathon Weekend so this lady is the expert of putting on a good race! 

     Of course, I have to stop and tweet to Val what a great job that she is doing by cheering us on! As I'm just about to start running again, a friend from Twitter/Instagram, Jodi (aka @jlthore) spotted me! We were hoping to meetup in Nashville but didn't make it happen so I was really excited to finally meet her in person. We ran a few miles together just chatting and chatting. I really love meeting new friends on the course...each race experience is a totally new experience, even if it's the same 'ole course. :) 


      After I left Jodi and her boyfriend, we were headed back into the entrance of the Talladega SuperSpeedway. This was approximately mile 7-8, something like that.



Selfie at the Infield Tunnel Entrance. 


      Up a pretty big hill and then it's time to run the Grandstands! This is a really nice change of scenery. You actually run through the breezeways of the grandstands and there are REAL RESTROOMS there if you need it. I don't stop but I saw lots of other runners taking advantage of them. 

     At some point between mile 8-9, my friend Rachel (aka @runinhighheels), caught up with me. We ended up running the rest of the race together which was totally fun and unexpected. We chatted the whole time about different races, training, brands that we are working with (or want to work with) and just girl stuff in general. And of course, we posed for the camera. ;)


      At mile 11.5ish you shall find the Beer:30:00 tent set up. Not kidding. This is an "official" stop on the course. Come on, it's Dega Baby! 


     Another thing that I loved was seeing all of the quotes from the movie Talladega Nights. Any reference to Ricky Bobby or Shake and Bake and I'm in! I loved this quote.....#Merica. 



     One more loop around this track and we are DONE! It seems like it goes forever too because one lap around it over 2 miles....WOWZA!! 

     Caution: The Finish Line complete with Checkered flags is straight ahead....I spy the Bling!!!!

     Rachel and I had really had a blast running together...we sprinted to the finish line like we were total ROCKSTARS for a strong finish and decided that we will definitely run more races together! Too much fun! Can you say hammin' it up for the camera?!!




     Stopped for a quick pic with Val. She's really a doll and I wish every race had a race director as great as she is!


     It's a Pit Row Finish! My time was not the greatest but I don't really care about that. I train hard at home for speed so that I can relax at the race and know that I will have the "time" to goof off and get a good run in too. Backwards logic when compared to most runners..but I'm not like everyone else. I run for experiences.  I had a great time, got a good workout in and another long training run for Chicago Marathon, Rock 'n' Roll Vegas Marathon and Walt Disney World Marathon is in the books! Yeahhhhhhhh


     Seriously. I'm hanging out on pit row with my bling! #NascarQueen 

     Just as I was leaving the track, I was stopped by another Instagram friend of mine...it's @WDW13point1. How fun is it to connect with your online buddies in real life?? Super cool in my opinion! Again, I could have chatted with him for hours....So much to talk about! Running, Disney, Social Media. What's not to love?!?

     So I finally left the track and was headed to the pit garages for the after party....but first, let me take another picture with my medal! The official race photographers were set up on Victory Lane for pics. I had to stop there too. Can you really have too many?!?! 

     And then there's THIS GIRL. I have have no words for the amount of fun that I have with my Leigh Marsh! Get me to the Pit Garage!!! I'm starving!!

Next stop. It hit the Pit Garage packed full of Live Music, Lots of Jim N' Nicks BBQ, and of course beer. I didn't drink the beer, instead I opted for a hot cup of Red Diamond Coffee. I know, I know. I might just be the only runner in America that wants coffee after a race but I seriously freeze to death after I cool down. Thanks Red Diamond...You are the #BombDotCom!



     I will DEFINITELY run this race again. It's already on my calendar for next year. As always, there was not a shortage of porta-potties, water/Power Ade/GU stations.  My event shirt was a short sleeve, women's cut dri-fit shirt with the Talladega 21000 Half Marathon logo on it and there was plenty of BBQ! Score!

 I left the Speedway and headed home but had to make a quick stop by my Mom's house. I grabbed another cup of coffee and took one last medal pic. Super fun day, great race, fun times with my peeps and coffee for the road. I love being a runner. :)


**For more information on the Talladega 21000 Half Marathon, 5K Lap around the Track and One mile Fun Run/Walk please visit TalladegaHalf.com

Happy Running and See You at the Track!

*Disclaimer: I was graciously provided a complimentary entry for this race in exchange for my social media coverage. However, I love this race and would pay to run it any day. #ShakeAndBake