Friday, May 1, 2015

Race Report: St. Jude Country Music Nashville Half Marathon

Arrival at Nashville International
Airport, with this fun piece of
art hanging above my head..
Leaving after work to head to Newark, I headed to the airport for my 8:30pm flight direct to Nashville the day before the race.  I’d be arriving at around 10pm, planning to get an uber to take me to the hostel that I booked a mere four blocks away from the startline of the Country Music Half Marathon.  I got settled into the hostel and went immediately to bed – there were two sets of bunkbeds in my room, and two folks were already fast asleep when I arrived.  I made sure to set aside my running kit so it would be a quick change in the morning.

A restful sleep was not to be, as the fourth member of our hostel room arrived at around 3 in the morning, turning on the light and making a ruckus.  I had set my alarm at 5:45 for the 7am start, so I could allow myself ample time to pick up my bib and drop off my bag at gear check.  I still managed to get a few hours nonetheless, on and off through the night.

With Lily - former Gothamite, turned
The morning came quickly and I was out the door and in the lobby where there were a few other runners already assembling to get out the door.  It turned out that a fellow Black Sheep Run member, Fred, was in the same room as me, as I had recognized his silhouette when he left the room in the morning before I had gotten up.  I got out the door and thankfully the skies had stopped raining, but stayed overcast and muggy, which would be the rest of the morning for our race.

I headed over to the solutions tent to pick up my bib, which had an unusually long line.  Apparently, the weather the night before delayed many participants of the morning’s race, so there were quite a few folks picking up their bibs on the morning of the race.  Ended up running into my friend Nicole while in line for bibs.  After picking my bib up, I headed over to gear check to drop off my bag.

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I hurriedly tried to get to the corral for a picture with friends from Black Sheep Run at 6:45, but with the crowds, it was not to be, but I still managed to sneak into corral 4 and meet up with my friend Lily, a fellow a cappella singer/runner also running the half, who moved to Nashville only a couple years ago with her wife Nicole (also a fellow a cappella singer).  A couple minutes after 7, and we were off, on the slight downhill that started off the Country Music Marathon and Half Marathon.

Marathoners carrying pizza boxes...
for quite possibly all 26.2 miles?
I had set my watch to a 5:00/1:00 run walk interval, because I was planning to run another half marathon the next day and needed to conserve my legs.  I felt pretty good as we ran down Broadway and then turned on 1st Avenue, facing the Cumberland River.  I’d see this area again, at the end of the race, but on the other side of the river.  We made another turn onto Demonbreun Street and I started to run alongside two guys who were running the marathon… dressed in black polos (with the Papa John’s logo) and khakis, carrying pizza boxes!  I managed to snap a photo with them, before heading off to run my own race. We made a couple more turns, and ran through Music City Center, before I decided to conserve my legs a bit and actually follow my intervals.  Soon, we had passed the one mile marker just past Bridgestone Arena.  We turned again, and headed down Broadway again, but this time, we began to pass people who were still waiting to start the race, but were in the furthest back corrals! 

Inventive signs along the race course!
We turned again out of downtown Nashville, passing the mile 2 marker, and down Music Square West through the area known as Music Row.  Miles 3 and 4 was where the hilliness was starting to make itself known.  We ran further through more residential areas surrounding Belmont University, and then into a more affluent neighborhood called Hillsboro… affluent enough that there was a couple sitting on some very nice furniture out near the curb, dressed to the nines, and cheering the runners on – while they sipped on champagne!  I wish I got a photo of them, but I just kept going.  I did manage however, a sip of roadside beer along this street!  A little while later I spotted a shirtless guy with a funny, “go faster or I drop the sign!” poster – such a juxtaposition of sights along the road!

The hills are alive... with the sound
of painful groaning...
As we continued down through Belmont Boulevard, we made a right turn at the mile 5 mark onto Clifton Lane, and I just remember rolling hill after rolling hill along this street.  We made a left turn on Lealand Lane, and then headed northward back toward downtown, past the mile 6 mark near Sevier Park, and then turned again on 12th Avenue.  There was a steady 100 foot climb for about a mile from mile 6.5 to mile 7.5, down long stretches of road, where you could see the road just force itself upward.  Man, was this a  hilly course!  Mile 8 and 9 came and went as we trudged back toward downtown along 16th Avenue, and then we made our way around the west part of downtown Nashville, then up north toward Victory Park.  This was at about mile 10.6, when we started to see folks on the other side of the hill, hitting mile 12.  Kind of depressing, but I knew I’d get there somehow! 

Victory Headstand!
Continuing my 5:00/1:00 interval, I made my way through the 11th mile and 12th miles in Victory Park.  I was tiring out for sure, as the humidity was definitely taking its toll, and I was ready to be done!  Soon we were heading over the Cumberland River, and going downhill (thankfully, most of mile 9 up to about mile 12.5 were net downhill miles), and we turned toward LP Field, and there was the finish line!  I stepped over the mat in 2:16:31, literally ONE second faster than New Jersey the week before.  After progressing through the finish areas, I headed for the heavy medal tent to retrieve my Southern Charm (for finishing three Southern RnR races!) and my Six-String (for finishing six RnR races so far).  I met up with friends to chat after the race, and got my victory headstand photo alongside the river with downtown Nashville in the background, and then Laura and I headed out toward the airport for some awesome barbecue at a great little restaurant overlooking the Nashville Shores Marina (thanks Yelp for suggesting it!  Papa Turley's... GO if you're in the area)  Then I headed to the airport to prep for my 3:30pm flight back to NYC.  And there we go… 17 hours in Nashville, check!

Post race with De Moe and Laura!
Met up with Nicole and Lily after the race too!  So great seeing them :)

Ran for all the bling!

Team Fireball, still going strong...
Absolutely necessary post race munchies...
When in the South... barbecue it up!

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