Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Nashville Country Music Half Marathon - 4/28/12

It's good to be back! While I intended to drop my mileage and take some time off racing during the beginning part of the year it was never supposed to be this long. I can thank neck problems for the long racing hiatus I've been on since mid-December. Thankfully I was able to keep running through most of it, but I did have to keep my mileage fairly low. On a whim in November, Annelyse, my sister, and I decided that we wanted to run the Nashville Country Music Marathon and registered on the spot. We soon learned that a lot can happen in the five months leading up to a race. I'd signed up for the marathon, but after the long battle with my neck I found myself extremely thankful I was even able to run the half marathon. Unfortunately, my sister and Annelyse were not so lucky and both had injuries that made them unable to run.

After a short, but fun trip to Arkansas to visit Annelyse's parents we headed to Tennessee on Friday. There my sister, Sully, nephew Colton, and Sully's sister, Beth, had all arrived as well. After hearing we were running Nashville, Beth, having become quite the runner herself, decided to join us. We met at a local brewery for pizza and beer and all retired early in preparation for an early start time in the morning.

I woke up at 5:30a thrilled I was getting to race. I was really only able to start upping my mileage in the last four weeks leading up to the race so I wouldn't necessarily say I was well trained for it, but I didn't care, I was just glad to be able to run it. Annelyse and I met Beth in the lobby and all walked to the start of the race at Centennial Park less than a mile away. After a few pre-race pictures we each went to our appropriate corrals. As I entered my 1:45 corral I did feel a bit like a fraud knowing I wasn't in that kind of shape yet. 

One of the things I love about the Rock 'n' Roll races is that they do a great job of implementing a wave start with each corral starting a minute behind each other. With over 30,000 runners it does a surprisingly good job of spreading out the group. Annelyse was standing right past the start to see us off. Even early on it was clear that it was going to be hot. I was thankful the race started at 7a, because by the time I was three miles in the sun was really beating down on us. 

In our first two miles we ran down West End Avenue past the old Union train station, a massive cathedral, and the Center of Visual Arts. We soon found ourselves in the heart of Nashville's nightlife district on Broadway. Country bars galore! And these country bars weren't just going off on Friday and Saturday nights. Sunday afternoon we came back to explore and get our two step on and practically every single place had live music. While I'm not a huge country music fan myself, we had a great time dancing and trying to sing the songs. My sister, on the other hand, knew every single word and could have been mistaken for a true Nashvillian. 

Just after we hit mile three we ran through the Music Row Roundabout. Music Row houses hundreds of music related businesses, including recording studios, and is the heart of the country entertainment industry. This being a Rock 'n' Roll marathon there were of course many bands on the course. My favorite band was near this roundabout. They were a bunch of teenager girls (band name: Hangin' with Stogie) singing country rock and were pretty fantastic for being so young.

The day before I had decided to run with my phone so I could take pictures of the course. It's not everyday that I get to run in Nashville, and I figured I wasn't going to set any PRs so no reason not to enjoy myself. This had the advantage of letting me also send text updates to Annelyse letting her know what mile I was on so she could make her way to different points on the course to see me. Even though she didn't get to run, she definitely put in a number of miles just getting from point to point around the course to cheer us on. She had made it to mile 3 just in time to see me pass.

Most of the remainder of the course, except for the last three miles or so, was through residential areas. The course entertainment continued with not only race organized bands, but also numerous homeowners and spectators along the course. Many were playing their own music, either live or by stereo, and a number of people were handing out water, fruit, and even beer. It seemed to be a party for the residents of the area. People gathered on their lawns with friends, eating and drinking as they watched us all go by. 

As the morning wore on the sun started blazing down on us. There was decent shade coverage in some parts, but not everywhere. It was hot and I was not used to running in the heat. Luckily the humidity wasn't as bad as it could have been. Being that I didn't want to dehydrate, I did something I normally don't and took water from all but the first water station. The rolling hills didn't make it any easier. I wouldn't say that any of the hills were killers, but the up and downs were constant. For the most part though I didn't mind it since it made the course a bit more interesting. 

The last couple of miles we found ourselves in more of the downtown area. We broke off from those running the full marathon at mile 11.5 and I remember thinking that maybe it was a blessing in disguise that I couldn't run it. The heat alone would have been torture. There was one last push up a long hill that took a number of runners down. I saw at least four on the side of the road getting medical attention. Luckily none of them looked too serious, just dehydration and exhaustion, but still scary. 

Just before mile 13 we crossed a bridge over the river and headed toward LP Field where the Titans play. It was a fast downhill that let all the runners finish strong. As with almost the entire course the streets were lined with spectators, and about a tenth of mile from the finish, Annelyse had a prime spot to see me come in. After I finished I joined her to cheer in Beth who had a strong race herself and ran by with a huge smile on her face. Kim, Sully, and Colton also had made it just in time to see Beth finish as well. After we all stood around listening to one of the bands that was playing at the end while drinking our free beer. And while it was sad that not everyone was able to run the race, it didn't take away from the fun we all had exploring Nashville together for a long weekend. I'm so lucky for the amazing family I have. 

As for my time, I did better than I thought. I wasn't even close to a PR time, or even a typical time, but considering the lack of training and the picture taking along the course, I was pretty happy with it. I finished in the top 4% of my age group with an official time of 1:50:50. I can say for certain that I've got the racing bug back. I can't wait to be able to really start training with my running group again and get my speed back! Next up: San Diego!

Race stats:
Overall female: 418 of 14189
Age Group: 95 of 2511
Chip Time: 1:50:50 (pace 8:28)
GPS Time: 1:49:32 (pace 8:21)