I've given a lot of thought about how I'm going to approach the Mercedes this coming Sunday. Probably too much thought. Common sense tells me I should start out slow and work towards negative splits as I go. The only reason I have questioned this approach is because of the hills positioned smack dab in the middle of the course. Here's the elevation provided on the half marathon website.
When I first was asked about running Mercedes I was reluctant to agree, because I'd heard so many people complain about the hills. This year, I'm told, they've changed it and made it a little friendlier. The graphic above still makes it look imposing, so I decided to see for myself just how bad it really is. I calculated the road grade where significant changes appear to occur.
0.00 (600') - 4.25 (600') = 4.25 Miles, Flat
4.25 (600') - 6.50 (650') = 2.25 Miles, 0.4% Uphill Grade
6.62 (636') - 8.33 (768') = 1.70 Miles, 1.5% Uphill Grade
8.33 (768') - 9.25 (673') = 0.90 Miles, 2.0% Downhill Grade
9.25 (673') - 9.75 (735') = 0.50 Miles, 2.3% Uphill Grade
9.75 (735') - 10.2 (636') = 0.45 Miles, 3.75% Downhill Grade
10.2 (636') - 13.1 (610') = 2.90 Miles, Miniscule Downhill Grade
I'm happy to report I'm not as intimidated as I was when I first looked at the map. A 2% grade over roughly 4 miles is not something to get worked up over. I can say this because I still have nightmares about the 6% grade over 2.5 miles I ran last Thanksgiving in New Hampshire. Further, here's another elevation map from MapMyRun that softens it a little. Heck, it almost looks flat on this one!
So, for all the fuss what will I do? I'll stick to the common sense plan. I'm going to try to start out at around an 8:10/mile and increase to 7:40/mile over the first 4.25 miles. My hope is that I will be able to keep my pace under 8:00/mile over the next 4 miles up the hills, use the following downhill stretches to catch my breath and make up lost time, and then dig deep for the last 3 miles. Not exactly science, but it will have to do.
If anyone has some wisdom to impart, please do so. I'd really like to hear other strategies, even if they just validate my own. :)
Good luck to my fellow racers! Hope to see you on Sunday!