Monday, April 30, 2012

Country Music Half Marathon Race Recap

Team Super Stove before the race

I've put off writing this recap for a couple days now. I guess I just don't know what to say about the experience other than I went, I ran, I conquered.

Obviously, I couldn't be happier with my performance. If you had told me in February 2011 I'd go from not ever wanting to do a half-marathon again, to doing my 2nd one in 3:35 to finishing this one in under 3 hours, I probably would have rolled my eyes and told you to get out of my face.

KG likes to constantly remind me that not oh so long ago I told her, "Karen, not everyone is made to be a runner!"

But now, I am a runner.

The morning started out with a 3:45 AM wake-up call. Considering my corral didn't leave the gate until 7:43, a 4 hour lead time seems sort of ridiculous looking back. But I heard from a co-worker the interstate was backed up from downtown all the way to the airport by 4:30 AM. Traffic is not your friend on race day. We didn't take the interstate.

We parked at the finish line and took the shuttle to the start line. We basically walked right up and got on the shuttle and we were at Centennial Park by around 5 AM - it was still dark outside.

I should have taken a picture of my breakfast, but I had a whole wheat bagel with peanut butter in the car. I have eaten this (bagel + peanut butter) my last 2 races. It's sort of tradition now. I also had coffee on the way.

Since I knew we had so much time to kill before even starting the race, I brought a banana along with me.

I made the decision to not wear my camelbak for hydration. I thought I'd be fine with the hydration provided on the course, but I regretted this decision by mile 2. I trained every week with my camelbak. I should have just worn it. I carried my phone, ID, and honey stingers in a SpiBelt instead.

After the mandatory port-a-potty visit, we meandered around towards the start line. By this time, the first gun was well past. It was probably about 7:20 when I went into the corral. Just so we're clear, the corrals were a clusterf*ck. I was originally assigned to 32, but I got moved up at the expo to corral 28. I was doubting my abilities so I thought I might go in more at 29, but the back corrals were missing for some reason and when I went back a little farther in the line, I found the end of it. Knowing I was way faster than where the walkers would be at the end of the line, I went back up to find corral 28. There was 27 and 29, but no 28. I ended up getting in just behind the 2:45 pacer. Sure, that was a pipe dream, but I figured it was better than having to run around people.

Well, I still had to. I'm not sure what the heck happened in the back corrals, but even though I started up early enough to be with a 2:45 pacer I had to consistently weave in and out of people who were walking the first few miles and pretty much the whole race. It kind of pissed me off. Don't get me wrong, I am all for people walking these races. Hell, I walked my first one and it took me over 4 hours to do it. But, I also was courteous enough to know to start in the back corrals and not with a 2:45 pacer. Corrals is where Disney has it right. They have volunteers checking your bib before you can enter a particular corral. Why have corrals if no one is going to hold people to them?

This with the fact that because there was no corral 28; twice the amount of people began during my start. Apparently this happened at least one other time during the start as my co-worker who was closer up in corral 17 also had two corrals go at the same time and experienced the same over crowding.

I know I took this part too seriously for what my pace actual is. I mean, I am no where near more "serious" runners, but I was dead set on killing this race and with every person I had to weave around or slow down for, I expended energy.

Energy that couldn't afford to be expended since it was HOT. I can't believe it's taken me this long to complain about the heat. I guess I expected it, but it was as sunny as can be and in the 70s, which feels like 90 when you are running. Since I didn't start until 7:45, I was hot before we even started. This is where I complain that they don't have enough water stops on the course and complain that most of the water stops were running out of water by time I got there. I mean what did the walkers do? If you are hell-bent on having a race in Nashville at the end of April, please have enough water. This complaint has come withe me all the way from CMM 2009. That's all I'll say about that since I know it's beating a dead horse. So note if you plan on ever doing this race: carry your own water.

Now that my two major complaints are out of the way, I'll say the first 6 miles were pretty much great as far as how I felt. I felt strong and pretty much kept to my intervals. At the 10K mark, you turn to go back towards downtown. The next 2 miles of the course are shitty. There's no other way to put it. there are about 5 BIG rolling hills along this stretch and it was by far the part of the race I was most angry about. All I wanted to do is get back to the Music Row area of the course. That stretch was a nice relief until I hit kind of a wall at mile 9. The one thing I will give this race is the amount of spectators. I never felt bored because it was fun to people watch the sidelines and every mile or so there was something at least interesting to look at even though I know the city like the back of my hand. Mile 10 I got a little bit of a 2nd wind because in my head I thought, "oh there is only 5K left. 5K is nothing, I'm basically done." Of course you forget the last 3 miles are certainly the worst.

I was unfamiliar with the course at the 10/11 mile mark. They've changed it since 2009, which is fine but when I kept thinking we were going to go straight there would be another turn. Then the stupidest part of the race happened. You come out of the Nashville Farmer's Market/Bicentennial Mall area and get back on what I think is James Robertson Parkway. You turn left to go away from downtown (the finish is just across the river from downtown at Titan's stadium). So you turn right and you have to go up what is probably only a few hundred feet just to turn around a median to go the right way towards the finish. S-T-U-P-I-D. This is at about mile 12, so I am pretty much done at this point anyway, but really they couldn't find somewhere else to make up this couple hundred feet?

Between mile 12 and the finish you wind back through downtown a little and I swear there are like 5 or 6 turns. Not the best mentally when you know you just have to make it over a bridge and the finish will be RIGHT. THERE.

The last two miles I really had to talk myself into finishing strong. I knew I had to average a 13:40 pace to finish in 2:59. My Garmin was at about 13:25 with 2 miles to go. I knew I couldn't slow down and in fact needed to speed up a little to not miss my ultimate goal. I made myself stick to running the last two miles of preset intervals of half-mile run, quarter-mile speed walk.

I ended up running the last 0.7 mile to the finish line at a strong 12:30 minute pace. As I came over the bridge to the finish, I felt chilled and slightly fuzzy. I knew I was about to take a turn for the worst if I didn't get some hydration soon. As soon as I crossed the finish, I grabbed 2 bottles of water, a Gatorade and a bag of pretzels (along with the cold wet towels they were giving out - great idea!) and found a place with no crowd to contend with and recovered.

I was done and I knew I conquered it.

Although I had a victorious race with a strong finish, I have no desire to do the Country Music race again. I'm not sure if it is an issue with Competitor (we'll see in Seattle, I suppose) or if the Nashville stop has just gotten too big for them to handle without extra logistics planned for. The course is painfully hilly, and the timing of the race (late April) is way too hot for Nashville standards. I didn't enjoy the process of this race as much as I did at Mercedes and Disney (but of course, how do you beat Disney).

Post race meal was Sonic, followed by dinner and margarita's that night with the whole Super Stove crew. Of course my post-race eating habits bled over to Sunday as well. :)

There is no shortage of fitness related goals here, but first I am planning on taking this week off from at the very least running. My ankle has been a bit sore since the race and although it's already improving I'm concerned there may be an issue with it from overuse since I've been training for half-marathons for 8 months straight.

I still love races, so as mentioned, I am planning on doing the Seattle Rock n Roll half-marathon while I'm there for a conference in June and I was already planning to do St. Jude in Memphis since I love a good winter race. St. Louis Rock n Roll and Disney Princess 2013 are on my radar too. Amongst all this, I am also planning on doing my first sprint triathlon in July. I will start training for that next week while I also try to keep up my endurance for Seattle.



AshleyG said...

Hi, congrats on an amazing finish! I have a question (and maybe I missed the post where you talk about this) but did you use a training plan? I know you mentioned intervals and I have been using intervals the last couple months to return from a back injury. I'm just curious about what intervals and training plan you used. Thanks! Love the blog!

Jennifer said...

Glad your race went so well, and what an amazing finish!! Half marathons are such a challenge for me, as they are for most people, so it's great to see someone improve so much from one to the next. I hope I can do the same!

marisol said...

So proud of you! I am so scared of the hill for Bay 2 Breakers at the end of the month. But I will survive.

Miss Lynn said...

You didn't mention how HUMID it was on Saturday, too! I think that, plus the sun made the upper 70s we experienced feel completely oppressive.

So proud of you, Super Stove Emily! :)

Kandi said...

I'm a new reader here. Really enjoyed reading this race recap. I am doing my very first 1/2 marathon in 2 weeks, at 30 years old. Until recently I spent life being lazy and negative and never would have imagined doing something like a half marathon!!!

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