The race started out with some bad news.
Amanda texted me on the Wednesday before the race to ask what day we had signed up because she couldn’t find her confirmation email for packet pickup on Thursday. I searched my email and told her it was July 19th, but they had sent out an email last Friday with a link to use. She said she didn’t receive that. I started joking around with her that she had never actually signed up. But when she tried to log into their website to view her confirmation it soon became clear that she had never actually signed up. I teased her about it and figured she would just go ahead and sign up since registration was still open.
On Thursday, I texted her to ask about meeting her for dinner after packet pickup. She said she wasn’t coming up because she wasn’t running. Say what? She said she couldn’t afford it and refused my attempts to pay for it. So, I sadly lost my race buddy, which super bummed me out since running a race and having no one to share it with at the finish line is not really fun at all.
This really diminished the excitement I felt for the race, and I almost didn’t want to do it anymore. But I had paid for it and the fleece tech shirt they give you is really nice, and I wanted to be able to wear it, so I forged on, despite this warning that was posted to their Facebook page the night before:
The weather was forecasted to be in the 20s on Saturday morning with a windchill of around 12. (Whyyyy?) So I opted to wear running tights with compression sleeves under them, my long-sleeved half-zip with thumb holes, my new Brooks jacket, mittens, and my earwarmer headband. I also decided last minute to wear my Skechers; the tread is running a little low on them, but it’s not completely flat and the midsole seemed fine. I knew they wouldn’t give me blisters, and that’s all I cared about.
I went to bed the night before with a bit of a stomach ache. I don’t know why it was hurting. Jonathan and I had decided to postpone most of our Valentine’s celebration until after the race, so we had just ordered pizza. No alcohol. Nothing unusual. I woke up the next morning still in pain, although it wasn’t as bad as the night before. I downed some Pepto-Bismol and hoped that it would subside. I was imagining having to write a blog post on having to quit the race halfway through due to stomach issues.
I arrived in downtown Nashville around 7:30 am for the scheduled 7:55 start. It was so cold and starting to snow. I spent about 10 minutes lightly jogging and trying to warm up, but the entire time I was standing in my corral, I couldn’t feel my fingers or my toes. I thought to myself, “Never ever ever let yourself sign up for a winter race again!” I was in K corral, which was two corrals back from the start (A-H were for the 5k). We were sent on our way a little after 8am.
My goals for this race were pretty simple. I knew that I could easily do it in under two hours. I would be greatly disappointed if I went over that time. But I was really aiming for about 1:50, which would tell me that I was on track with my half marathon training (with the goal for that to finish in 2:45). I decided not to do structured intervals, but just planned on walking through water stops and on uphills.
The way the course is laid out, the first two miles are fairly flat. Then you get four(ish) miles of mostly uphill, then four(ish) miles of mostly downhill. Really good training for the Country Music Half, since it’s kind of similar and along some of the same route. The first two miles were pretty uneventful, although sucky in the way the first two miles always are. I warmed up pretty quick after we got going, so the cold stopped being an issue. Just before the first mile marker, I got something stuck to the bottom of my shoe that was causing a big bump under the toes of my left foot. I thought I was going to have to stop and remove it, but it worked itself out after a few minutes. The first water stop was just after mile 2. It was so cold, all the water cups were filled with slushy ice. I dumped some in my mouth to let it melt and started running again.
Soon after was the first big hill, which was the ramp on Rosa Parks. It was steep. It was so steep that I literally only saw two people attempting to run up the thing. Everyone was walking it. About a half mile after that was another hill. This one wasn’t as steep; it was just long. So I ran up part of it and then walked the rest. About a quarter mile after that, right before the fourth mile marker, was the second water stop. This is why you will notice that miles 3 and 4 were my slowest; this was most of the walking that I did.
It was pretty steady for a while after that. Most of miles 5-7 were through Centennial Park, which is fairly flat. There was a turn around point just before the sixth mile marker that was on a hill, but I ran all of it. The third water station was just after that and they were also handing out chocolate candy. I hadn’t eaten at all and my stomach had been growling, so I took one. I unwrapped it and stuck it my mouth before I realized my mistake. It was 20 degrees outside and the chocolate was rock hard. I chewed it up as quickly as I could and then dumped some ice from the water station in after it to try to wash it down. Luckily, the discomfort of having chocolate stuck in my mouth didn’t last long, and I was soon running through the 10k point. I hadn’t been checking my watch very much, but I did look at it around 6.2 miles and realized that I had just ran my fastest 10k. “Huh,” I thought. I was feeling really good, so I decided to pick up the pace a little.
There were no stops from miles 6 to 8. There was the occasional rolling hill, but it was mostly a downhill trajectory, and I managed to average under an 11 min/mi pace with mile 8 being my fastest of the whole race at 10:28. The fourth and final water stop was just after mile 8 at the base of a hill. I took my last gulps of ice, walked part of the way up the hill, and then started my final mile to the finish. I ran mile nine in 10:38, with that mile marker telling me to pick up the pace even further because there was only 0.3 left. I pushed harder until I saw the mile 3 marker for the 5k, signalling there was only 0.1 left. I started passing people left and right, sprinting across at a 9 min/mi pace.
I hit the stop button on my watch and looked at my time. One hour and 46 minutes. Fourteen minutes faster than my I-can-definitely-do-this time, and four minutes faster than my it-would-be-awesome time. I was incredibly happy. Later, I plugged that time into the McMillan calculator and saw that if I kept up my training, that meant I could potentially run the Country Music Half in 2:33. *jaw drops*
I picked up my souvenir race mug, which had hot chocolate, a banana, and chocolate fondue with wafers, marshmallows, pretzels, and a rice krispie treat to dip. I sat down and ate my banana, but I was soon becoming very, very cold again. So I downed my hot chocolate and hightailed it back to my car, saving the fondue for when I got home.
It was one of the most well-organized races I’ve run, especially for its size. (There were an estimated 6000 people running that day.) Packet pick-up was a breeze. They let you exchange hoodies if you got one that didn’t fit. (Mine fit perfectly.) Speaking of the hoodies, BEST RACE SHIRT EVER. They are long-sleeved tech fleeces with thumb holes. (You know I love thumb holes.) Very warm and comfortable. I haven’t run in mine yet, but it will definitely go in my winter rotation. Corrals were clearly marked, as was the entire course. There were parts of the course that had ice on it, but they set up barriers so you wouldn’t run over it. The volunteers were fantastic. Names were announced as you crossed the finish line and you were immediately handed Gatorade or water. (Gatorade has never tasted better.) The finisher’s mug was great. The hot chocolate was some of the best I’ve ever had. I didn’t eat the fondue till I got home, but it was easy to heat up in the microwave. All-in-all, an amazing race that I will definitely do again next year. (They’ve already announced the date!)
I chose the perfect outfit to run this in. My hands got sweaty occasionally, but I would just take my mittens off and put them in my jacket pocket until my hands got cold again. The zippers on both my jacket and shirt allowed me to use them as a kind of thermostat. I felt completely comfortable despite the 20 degree temperature throughout the entire race.
So now it’s time for all the charts and graphs and analysis! You know, the part I love that’s probably also boring to read about. So I won’t say anything and just post the screenshots. First up, my mile splits:
By the way, my official time agreed with my watch time down to the second, so apparently I did a good job hitting buttons:
Also, according to Strava:
Shoes: Skechers GoRun 2
All on-course photos by Souvenir Photography.