Rock ‘n’ Roll Nashville Half Marathon – April 30, 2016

Going into this race, I kept my expectations low. I hadn’t trained well or often. Most of the training period had consisted of IT band issues on my side and ankle issues on Jonathan’s side, with an added dose of insomnia. I knew Jonathan would be fine, but I was disappointed that his first half marathon experience would include probably a lot of walking because of my lack of training.

However, we said we would just do it for fun, not care about our time, and just do whatever I felt like I could. My only real goal was to not get a personal worst, which just meant beating my Walt Disney World Half time of 3:07.

Race Day

We left the house around 6am for the 7am race start. This soon proved (we thought) to be a bad decision because traffic was terrible to get to the race. We didn’t get to park until after 7:00. It was pouring rain as we walked from parking at the stadium into downtown.

We knew we would have a little time before our corral (19) left, so we had a final bathroom break before heading up to the start line. Apparently, there had been lightning in the area, so when we finally arrived close to 7:30, the race hadn’t even started yet. Jonathan took this opportunity to stretch, and I just hung out looking awesome in my trash bag. It had stopped raining at this point.

trash bag couture

Miles 1-3: 12:14, 12:30, 13:25
My strategy to start out was to run flats and downhills and walk the uphills (and water stops). I was feeling pretty comfortable with this strategy, wanting to make sure I conserved some energy for the end, and hills are what had been giving me problems in training over the last couple months. Jonathan stopped for a quick bathroom break on mile 3.

starting the 2016 rock n roll nashville half marathon

Miles 4-6: 10:45, 11:18, 11:10
Soon after the start of mile 4, I ate my first lemonade Huma gel. This felt like it gave me some good energy (caffeine buzz?) and so the next three miles were pretty good. I even ran up some hills. It also helped that these miles are my favorite of the race, running through the Belmont area with all the spectators giving out high fives and cheering you on.

Miles 7-9: 12:22, 13:02, 12:55
The next few miles were hillier and a little tougher. I trudged on but my stomach was starting to feel a little funny. I thought maybe I was hungry again, so I ate my second gel. This turned out to be not such a great idea. My stomach went from just a little rumbly and full on pain.

Miles 10-13: 14:35, 18:48, 16:22, 15:34
We started walking a lot from that point on because I felt like I was going to throw up whenever I ran. On mile 11, I took a bathroom break, but it only moderately helped. We ran a few times, but most of this stretch was just walking and trying to finish. If Jonathan hadn’t been with me (and I hadn’t wanted that medal so bad!), I probably would have called it quits at this point. I was in a ton of pain.

Final 0.1 (0.31 to my watch): 2:57 (9:36 pace)
The course had changed a little this year (at least compared to two years ago) and the ending had a lot more hills than before! Not cool! After we topped the last one, we started to run into the finish. My stomach felt okay, and I was able to finish well.

finishing the 2016 rock n roll nashville half marathon

Official Time: 2:57:53

I did finish ten minutes ahead of my PW time, which is all I really wanted to do, so I can’t complain much, although I wish Jonathan’s first half marathon experience could have been better (he says he still had fun, even though I made him walk a ton). I do wish I could have prevented the stomach issues, but I still have no idea what happened. It hurt for the rest of the day, even just lying on the couch.

I was happy with the stretch of miles through Belmont. Too bad I couldn’t have kept that momentum up.

at the finish line of the 2016 rock n roll nashville half marathon

The race had a decent spread of food at the end, though, for once, I didn’t have much of an appetite. I ate a few pretzels and drank some chocolate milk. We didn’t hang out too long, as it was starting to rain again.

I do love the medal. 🙂 It is my new favorite.

I love this medal. #rnrnashville #racemedals #halfmarathon #runner

A post shared by Jessica (@progressiverunner) on

Advertisements

Race Report: Kentucky Derby Festival miniMarathon – April 25, 2015

Out of all my spring races, this is the one I was looking the most forward to, and not just because it was the last one (although that was also awesome…very burnt out on racing at the moment). I had been told by many runners that this race is awesome. It’s flat (as long as you are running the half and not the full) and you get to run through Churchill Downs the week before the Derby. I really wanted a PR at it, but I didn’t think I was in shape for one since February’s weather and whatnot messed up my sub-2:10 plan. Still, I made it my A goal. My B goal (the one I thought was actually obtainable) was to just be better than Oak Barrel, since that was my training race for this.

A Goal: 2:13:25 or better
B Goal: 2:20:00 or better
C Goal: Just enjoy it!

Jonathan and I headed up to Louisville on Friday afternoon. We checked into the Galt House, which was the official race hotel. There were several other conventions and things going on at the hotel, including a body-building competition and a junior chess championship. It made for an interesting mix of people wandering around the hotel, but with so many people staying there, it meant the elevators were sloooooow.

After dumping our stuff in the room, we headed over to the expo. It was well-organized and went smoothly. We checked out several of the vendor booths, but I ultimately didn’t see anything I really wanted. We ate dinner at a local pub, wandered around the city for a bit, and then it was time to get some sleep.

Race Day

I had been obsessing over race morning weather all week. Rain and a possible thunderstorm were being forecast, with temperatures ranging anywhere from the 40s to the 70s. I had brought several outfits with me to have options depending on what it was actually doing that morning.

When I woke up at 6am, I checked the weather. It looked like there would definitely be rain with temperatures in the low 50s. I opted for shorts and a long-sleeved top. I had prepped a garbage bag the night before to wear over my clothes until the start of the race.

I headed out to the starting line. Corrals A, B, and C all seemed kind of sparse, but when I got to my corral, Corral D, people were everywhere! The gear check was also here, which may have been why. I squeezed in a spot near the front of the corral. I could see the marathon’s 4:30 pace group ahead of me in corral C. I knew I eventually wanted to try to catch up with them so I would be on course for a 2:15 half before the marathoners split from the half marathoners on mile 9.

A couple girls next to me were discussing the race, so I asked if they had run it before. One of the girls, who turned out to be a local, had and assured me that it was flat except for the ramps in and out of Churchill Downs.

The gun soon went off and all the corrals were released together.

Note: I’m using my Runkeeper splits for this report, instead of my Garmin splits. We went through several tunnels on the course and Garmin reports that all wonky. I did not run an 8 minute mile on mile 13 of a half marathon.

mini cooper pace car

They had Mini Cooper pace cars!

Mile 1: 10:37
Although the rain held off while we were in the corrals, it started to sprinkle right as I crossed the start line. The first mile actually went by super quick. Soon after I started, I saw Jonathan in front of the hotel cheering me on. I ran over and gave him a high five and he assured me I was almost done. Ha!

kdf half marathon 2015

Mile 2: 10:23
The first water stop was around mile 1.5, so I stopped briefly to gulp down some fluids.

Mile 3: 9:53
Time was still flying by at this point. I remember there were some spectators handing out orange slices, but I didn’t take one.

Mile 4: 10:16
I downed my first gel at the beginning of this mile in preparation for the second water station coming up.

Mile 5: 9:57
We passed a huge building that I assumed was a courthouse, but said it was a post office. Turns out it is a courthouse after all.

About halfway through the fifth mile as we turned onto 4th Street, there was an awesome large group of spectators cheering. I gave a couple high fives and then I realized that my shoe had come untied, a race first! I pulled over to the side and quickly retied it.

Mile 6: 9:53
Halfway through this mile, my shoe came untied again! I was frustrated, so I double knotted it this time and hoped it wasn’t too tight.

Mile 7: 9:29
I finally came up to the 4:30 marathon pace group during this mile. I thought about staying with them for a bit, but I was feeling good, so I went ahead and passed them, since they would be splitting off in two miles anyway. This told me that I was doing pretty good on time, since they had been ahead of me at the start.

We were running through a portion of the University of Louisville’s campus at this point, so there were lots of college kids out cheering us on. I ate my second gel right before the fourth water station at the start of the eighth mile.

Mile 8: 9:55
I knew when we reached the end of this mile, we would be right at Churchill Downs. I was so excited to get there.

Mile 9: 10:08
Running through Churchill Downs was awesome, even though it was probably the most congested part of the course. You go into a tunnel that runs underneath the horse track and come up on the inside of the field. There were horses running around on the outside, practicing and warming up for the next weekend’s race. They were so fast! It was completely exhilarating to be running so close to them. I wanted to stop to take a photo, but I knew I was doing well and didn’t want to use up any precious seconds of time. To exit, we went through another tunnel and up a ramp back to the street.

churchill downs half marathon

I was so enthralled with Churchill Downs, I didn’t even notice this photographer.

Mile 10: 9:45
After we left Churchill Downs, I started actually paying attention to my time. I was estimating around 2:11 if I kept my pace at this point. I knew it would be tough but I thought I could do it. So I pushed on.

We were running back through campus on this mile. I ate my last gel.

Mile 11: 9:32
I couldn’t believe there was only 5k left. I have never felt so strong at the end of a half. I wasn’t hurting at all. I continued giving spectators high fives as we ran back towards downtown.

Mile 12: 9:23
For the last couple miles, I put my Spotify playlist on. It pumped me up so much for the end of the race. I was practically dancing my way to the finish line. The rain started to pick up.

mile 12 of the ky derby minimarathon

Mile 13: 8:56
Jonathan was waiting for me back on Main Street as we neared the finish line. I knew I was definitely going to PR at this point, so I screamed “PR! PR!” at him as I ran by. I’m pretty sure I had been grinning like an idiot the entire mile, even though rain was pouring down at this point.

Final 0.1 (0.21 to Runkeeper): 1:43 (8:19 pace)
I posed for a picture before the finish line (now I’m stuck on victory fingers for some reason…I need some new poses) and then pushed with everything I had, around a 7:30 pace. I was so pumped. I knew I had done well, but I wasn’t sure how well. I pulled out my phone to see a text message with my time.

finishing the kentucky derby festival minimarathon

Finishing sprint!

Official Time: 2:09:47

Sub-2:10!!!

I seriously have never felt so good after a half. I wasn’t hurting. I wasn’t exhausted. I had given this race everything I had and was rewarded with an awesome PR.

As I came through the finisher’s chute, a medal was placed around my neck and I was given a mylar blanket (my first race space blanket!). The food line was kind of chaotic but I managed to grab a bagel and some chocolate milk (they also had bananas, chips, and crackers available, from what I could see through the crowd).

I found Jonathan and then got to take a whack at the gong that was set up for you to hit if you got a PR!

PR gong

Race Review

I loved nearly everything about this race.

Even though all the corrals went out at once, the beginning never felt so congested that I couldn’t go the pace I wanted. Maybe that has more to do with people lining up in the appropriate corrals, I’m not sure, but I didn’t start too fast or too slow.

The course was great. Lots of interesting things to look at and, of course, running through Churchill Downs was amazing, especially with the horses out practicing. And it was, in fact, fairly flat. A few inclines here and there, but nothing I would call a hill. There were ramps going in and out of Churchill Downs, but they were short.

The volunteers and spectators were fantastic. Especially considering that it was raining the whole time! They all deserve medals for standing out in that. I was a little worried that the rain would keep the crowd support down, but it absolutely surpassed all my expectations. There were large crowds of spectators sprinkled all throughout the course, not just at the start and finish. I love that.

There were plenty of water stations, and it seemed like most of them also had Powerade, if that’s important to you. (I accidentally grabbed a Powerade once instead of a water.) I can’t speak for any gels they had on the course, since I had brought my own, but a lot of spectators were also handing out orange slices.

My only small quibble was the congestion around the food table at the end. I don’t know if that’s because they had to set it up in a smaller area under an overpass to keep it out of the rain or what, but I was unable to grab a banana. I did manage to get other stuff though, so it wasn’t a huge deal.

I loved the PR gong! The shirts are nice and the medal is definitely one of my favorites. They had engraving on-site for $10, but I was tired of standing out in the rain, so I will probably get it engraved with my time elsewhere.

Race Analysis

I wish every race felt like this! I never had a negative thought enter my mind. I never felt like I needed to walk. I knew this was my last race of the season, so I gave it my all and didn’t hold back anything.

I negative split every 5k. That’s amazing.

5k splits

Fueling

Night Before: pepperoni pizza and soft pretzels with beer cheese
Pre-Race: nothing, I forgot to eat
During Race: three Huma gels: one strawberry and two lemonade
Post-Race: blueberry bagel and chocolate milk

Gear

Sports Bra: Champion Shape T-Back
Top: Lululemon Run Swiftly 1/2 Zip
Bottom: Oiselle Distance Shorts
Socks: my trusty Injinjis
Shoes: Mizuno Wave Sayonara 2

Race Report: Oak Barrel Half Marathon – April 4, 2015

I didn’t really have any goals for this race, since it was training for the Kentucky Derby Half. I knew I wanted to walk some of it, so recovery would be easier on me. I promised myself I wouldn’t get a PR. I was hoping for around 2:30 for my finishing time.

Race Day

I got up bright (err, dark) and early at 4am to get ready. I had been back and forth on what to wear (the weather was supposed to be 45-50 and sunny) but finally decided on tights and a long sleeved thin shirt.

I was carpooling with one of the Mt. Juliet Flyers, so I met him at 5am and we were on our way to Lynchburg. The best thing about being up that early was being able to watch the lunar eclipse until the moon finally set around 6am and we couldn’t see it anymore.

We arrived in Lynchburg close to 6:30 and got our packets. Then we stayed in Rob’s truck for the next hour because it was cold. We finally got out and met up with the other Flyers for some photos.

mount juliet flyers

Do I look cold? I was cold.

After a port-a-potty stop, I joined back up with some Flyers at the start line. We just stayed towards the back since it was going to be congested no matter what, and I didn’t want to start too fast.

starting the oak barrel half

Starting!


Mile 1: 10:16
It was pretty congested at the start, so there was a lot of weaving going on. My plan was to try to run with one of the Flyers who was doing 4:1 intervals, but she took off, and I lost everyone else as well, so I ended up on my own. I hadn’t set up my watch for intervals, so I decided to just start out walking a minute each mile.

Mile 2: 10:36
I was feeling pretty good on the first few miles. I knew Whiskey Hill comes on mile 5, so I didn’t want to use up too much energy early on. I just tried to keep a steady pace. I think it was on this mile that we passed a very smelly cow pasture. Very smelly.

oak barrel half

Looking okay around mile 2.

Mile 3: 11:00
I was having some issues with my running tights trying to slip down, so I took a bit of a longer walk break at the start of mile 3 to tighten up the drawstring.

The end of the third mile was marked with the first water station. There was a competition between the water stations (we had to vote after the race) and the first one was Mario-themed. I took a couple photos and continued on.

mario themed water stop

Mile 4: 10:26
I spent mile four mentally prepping myself for Whiskey Hill. I decided that once this mile was over, I would switch to doing 3:1 intervals for the next mile until I got to the top of the hill.

Mile 5: 12:41
I started out the 3:1 intervals pretty good, but by the time I got to the steep part of the hill, I just started walking. That was hard enough. My data says at one point this hill reaches a 28% grade. There was a photographer at the top of the hill, but he/she missed my victory pose and just took a photo of me looking like I’m dying. Don’t think I’ll be getting that one.

whiskey hill

No photo could capture the actual steepness of this hill.

Mile 6: 10:23
Mile 7: 11:37
Mile 8: 10:35
I took a gel after getting to the top. I had forgotten my gels at home (!!!) so I had borrowed a Gu from one of the Flyers. Gu is thicker than my Huma gels and it didn’t sit very well in my stomach.

The next few miles were a bit of gentle rolling hills. I was just happy to be over Whiskey Hill. I did take a couple extra breaks on mile 7, when there was another steep (but much shorter) hill, and to try to get my stomach to calm down.

Mile 9: 10:16
Starting at mile 8.3 or so, you get some nice downhills. I was hurting, but I tried to enjoy these.

Mile 10: 10:29
The fifth water stop had food. I went for an orange slice, since I didn’t want to eat the second Gu I had borrowed.

Mile 11: 10:23
The last water station had a Wizard of Oz theme. I stopped briefly to take a picture for Amanda, who is a big Wizard of Oz fan.

wizard of oz themed water stop

Mile 12: 10:59
Mile 13: 10:27
I started walking quite a bit more on the last two miles because my legs felt shot. I had put on my finishing playlist, so I would just take a short walk break at the end of every song. I started picking up the pace a little with a half mile to go.

Final 0.1: 8:43 pace
I ran in as fast as I could at the end and managed to pose for my finish line photo (V for Victory!). This was probably the best I have felt at the end of a half so far, even though I was still hurting.

finishing the oak barrel half

finishing the oak barrel half

Official Time: 2:20:42

Race Review

All in all, I enjoyed the race. I’m still not a huge fan of country races, as I really miss having a lot of spectators and I’m not very good at just enjoying the view, even though there were parts that were really pretty.

Post-race, there was a lot of food, which is nice. There was one whole table that was nothing but different kinds of cookies. I had at least one of everything (and many of some, haha).

oreos and nesquik

We also got some nice swag post-race. While we got our tech shirts at packet pickup, you had to actually finish to get your socks and hat. Definitely a nice perk. And the medals were pretty cool.

oak barrel half marathon medal

I’m glad I got to experience Whiskey Hill (which is no joke), but I think I may stick to more urban races for awhile. However, if you enjoy running through the country, I would definitely recommend this one!

Race Report: Cedars Frostbite Half Marathon – February 7, 2015

Once I decided to run the Tom King Half, I knew that the Cedars Frostbite would make for a perfect training half. It’s held exactly a month before, which is when I’d be putting in a 13 mile long run anyway. And it’s only $8. Heck yeah, I’ll pay $8 to get water stations and some free food after my long run! I just had to make sure not to run it too fast, especially considering that the Hot Chocolate 15k was the following weekend.

That, perhaps, is easier said than done considering I had been running most of my long runs too fast. I just had to keep repeating to myself, “You’re not allowed to look at your watch. Your time does not matter.”

I did want to use the race to test a new fueling strategy. For the Country Music Half, I fueled twice, around the top of each hour of running. I wanted to try fueling three times: every 30-45 minutes with the last two being caffeinated gels. The Cedars Frostbite has only three water stops (miles 3.5, 7, and 10), so it made choosing when to fuel fairly simple. See a water station coming up? Time to eat.

Race Day

The race wasn’t until 11am, so I got to wake up at a reasonable hour. The weather was amazing for February: mid-50s warming to lower 60s and sunny. I chose to run in shorts and a short-sleeved shirt.

There was no packet pickup ahead of time, so I was aiming to get there an hour or so early in order to be able to park, get my bib, and then use the restroom if I needed to. I plugged the address into Apple Maps and was off. Except Apple Maps still isn’t always very correct, as I turned around at a dead end. There was a car behind me doing the same thing, so I figured they were using the same GPS.

Then my GPS told me to turn down a gravel road. Nope. I kept going. I finally ended up in the right spot. When I finally parked, I asked the other car if they had been using Apple Maps. They said they had just been following me. Heh, sorry!

I walked down to the start and went inside to get my bib — I was #1! This, of course, called for a photo.

bib number 1

I’m #1!

I didn’t need to use the restroom, so I just stood inside to stay warm before heading out to the start line about 5-6 minutes till. I didn’t warm up because this was supposed to be a training run.

starting the race

Mile 1: 10:06
Mile 2: 10:01
Mile 3: 10:27
I was very committed to keeping this like a training run. So I did not look at my watch, except to glance at the lapsed mileage so I would know approximately when to take my gels. I also took a walk break for 30 seconds to a minute at the start of each mile (unless I had just passed a water station).

I felt very weak and shaky at the start of the run. I felt like I was running through molasses. My form seemed off. This photo, taken around mile two, shows how unrelaxed I was. Need to lower those shoulders!

cedars frostbite half marathon

Mile 4: 10:20
Mile 5: 9:26
Mile 6: 10:16
I took my first gel, a strawberry one, shortly after the start of the fourth mile. We were soon upon the first water station, so I took a quick break there instead of at the beginning of mile five. Right after the water station, we headed up a gravel path for the next 3-4 miles.

Mile 7: 10:24
Mile 8: 9:38
Mile 9: 10:22
After we got off the gravel path, it was time for another gel and another water station. This time I took a lemonade one, which is caffeinated. It was yummy! Tasted just like lemonade. And when I reached the water station, the flavor in my mouth made the water taste like Gatorade.

Mile 10: 11:04
Mile 10 was my slowest because I took a longer walk break to down my last gel. It was a chocolate one and was thicker than the others, so it was harder to down it while running. It was tasty, though!

It was around this time that I did actually glance at my watch. I only had 5k to go, and realized with some surprise that if I kept my pace steady, I would actually finish in under 2:15.

Mile 11: 9:29
Mile 12: 10:27
Mile 13: 10:12
The last few miles were rough. I knew all I had to do was keep under an 11 min pace, but that felt like a monumental task at the end of a half marathon.

With about a half mile to go, I was passing another girl and we just kept yelling encouragements at each other as we neared the final hill. “We can do anything for three more minutes!”

Final 0.1 (0.14 to my Garmin): 1:17 (9:18 pace)
When I saw 2:13 on the clock as I was nearing the finish line, I couldn’t believe it. I didn’t have enough in me for a finishing sprint, so I just mostly maintained my pace through the finish. I immediately grabbed a water and walked to cool down a bit.

finishing cedars frostbite half marathon

Official Time: 2:13:26

Ridiculous.

I did everything I could think of to keep this like a training run. I didn’t taper. No warm up. Didn’t look at my watch. Walked every mile. Plus the entire course felt uphill! And there were miles of gravel trail! Uphill gravel trail! With muddy potholes! What am I actually capable of running when I try to race a flat course?

Race Review

I actually enjoyed this race more than I thought I would. I normally like urban races with lots of crowd support. Maybe it was because I had the mindset of it being a training run, but it was actually quite peaceful being in the middle of nowhere.

Yes, the course is hilly. It feels like the downhills never make up for the uphills. And, yes, there are about three miles where it’s nothing but a narrow gravel trail and is covered in potholes, so you have to constantly weave to avoid them and other runners.

And there’s no medal. Which didn’t bother me at first, since I wasn’t planning to PR, never mind beat my goal for the year. Now I want one. Maybe I’ll consider my Beat the Blerch Virtual Race medal to be the one for this race. I didn’t even buy the t-shirt.

The food was okay: bagels, bananas, pizza, and cookies. I am not a Papa John’s fan, but even it tasted good after running 13 miles.

post-race food

Race Analysis

I’m not quite sure what there is to analyze, since I never really felt like I was racing. I was stiff most of the race, due to cumulative fatigue from not tapering. Again, it just makes me wonder what I could do in optimal conditions.

Race Report: Country Music Half Marathon – April 26, 2014

My second half marathon is in the books!

country music half marathon finisher

My time goals were as follows:
A Goal: Run 2:30:59 or better.
B Goal: Run 2:38:59 or better.
C Goal: Run 2:45:59 or better.
D Goal: Just finish with a PR. Any PR.

If you recall, I managed to run the 13.1 distance in my 14 mile training run in 2:42:47, so I knew at least my C Goal was achievable. (My half PR from the Disney half was 3:07:43. Totally beatable.) My times based on my performance in my 15k, 5k, and 5 mile races that I’ve ran over the past few months predicted 2:33:41, 2:25:27, and 2:23:54, respectively. I’d been training for an 11:30 min/mi pace, which would put me at 2:30:39 with even splits. I’d been getting faster. The speed work had been paying off. My goal pace was starting to feel “easy”. So everything was there to say that I could achieve my A goal. I just had to put the pieces together.

The plan was to run the first 4 miles (the uphills) easy, keep a steady pace through the flatter miles, and fly on the downhills (miles 8-12), only walking at water stations and a little extra at the 4.6 mile and 9.2 mile stations to eat my gels. (I haven’t mastered running AND eating AND drinking all at the same time. I feel like elite runners must have more hands than me.)

I also wanted to keep the first few miles easy because it was impossible to warm up before starting. We had to be in our corrals at 7am, but Amanda and I were waaaay back in corral 35 (out of 40). There’s 1-2 minutes between corrals, so you do the math. Any warmup I would have done wouldn’t have done me any good after an hour of waiting. So I was starting back with the 3 hour finisher folks (plus I wanted to hang out with Amanda since we had to chill for so long) hoping that I wouldn’t go out too fast.

Race Day

My alarm went off at 4:45 am. I got ready and was out the door by 5:30. Traffic was a little slow around downtown, but not too bad, and I managed to get in a good parking space at LP Field around 6am. From there, I met up with Amanda at her office to use the restroom (I try to avoid port-a-potties if at all possible) and apply sunscreen. Then we stopped by gear check and were in our corral at 7am. And then we waited…and waited…and took some selfies…

before the country music half marathon

After an hour of waiting, we were happy to be almost to the start line!

Finally, we were at the start, just after 8am. Even though I was back with a slower crowd (the 2:30 pace group was up in corral 30), they still started off faster than I wanted to, around a 10 min/mi pace. I forced myself to slow after the first half mile or so and completed the first mile just under goal pace in 11:20.

Mile two ended on that hill on Demonbreun that I’ve run twice before, so I was ready for it. I slowed a little on it, but Jonathan and his friend Andrew (whose wife was also running the half) were waiting at the top to cheer me on. At the 5k point, my watch said it had been a little over 35 minutes: right on target.

country music half marathon

Passing by Jonathan and Andrew after the second mile

The next three miles I ran a little fast: 10:59, 10:48. and 10:36. Miles four and five were down Belmont Blvd and a bunch of people were out cheering us on. I gave so many people high fives as I ran by! I think the crowds were probably what excited me and my adrenaline rush made me go faster than planned. I ate my first gel just after mile four, and didn’t stop while I was eating it until I got to the water station to wash it down. I also appreciated the people with water hoses spraying everyone because it was starting to warm up! I hit the 10k mark a little ahead of schedule.

Mile seven was down 12 South and the entire mile was a steady incline. And it was in the sun with no shade. So back to goal pace, finishing the mile in 11:26.

The next three miles had a lot of downhills so I sped up again: mile eight in 11:09, mile nine in 10:55, and mile ten in 10:50. I passed Jonathan and Andrew again right before mile nine and then ate my second gel.

country music half marathon

Passing by Jonathan and Andrew again!

Somewhere just after I started the final 5k (just after mile ten), I realized how exhausted I was. I also knew what goes down will probably go back up. I kept going but had slowed back to goal pace, completing mile eleven in 11:30 exactly.

running the country music half marathon

My only official photo? This was around mile 10-11.

There had been a water station just at the start of the twelfth mile, which I had stopped at for a cup. I kind of wished I had gotten two, as it had heated up above 70 degrees at this point. I knew the heat was getting to me and I was feeling a little dehydrated. I ended up walking a little extra past Bicentennial Park. Then I came upon another, unexpected, water station. Yay! I grabbed another cup and downed it before finishing off the mile. It was my slowest, obviously, coming in at 12:18.

I knew at this point there was only a mile left, but all I could see was the long incline ahead of me. So I walked a little briefly at the start of the thirteenth mile as well. With a half mile to go, I took off. I was feeling sluggish, but I knew there wasn’t much left. I passed all the crowds lining path to the finish line. Once the finish was in sight, my body found all sorts of untapped energy and I SURGED to finish. I don’t think I’ve ever ran that fast in my life. My data says I hit a 6:05 min/mi pace at one point for 10 seconds! In fact, my whole last half mile was the fastest I did the entire race, averaging 9:38 min/mi. While it was fun to finish that strong, it made me think that I probably could have finished the race without the extra walking and maybe finished faster.

country music half marathon finisher

This was taken within 5-10 minutes after I finished. So happy to be done!

Not that I can complain. My official time was 2:27:43. Yes, I achieved my A Goal by over three minutes! And it was exactly a 40 minute PR. Down to the second. I shaved 40 minutes off my half marathon time in only three months (okay, 6 of those minutes don’t really count because I was taking photos with Disney characters, but still)! That’s what actual good training will do.

After I crossed the finish line, I got my medal, some water, and some chocolate milk. Jonathan and Andrew found me and we waited for Amanda to finish. She crossed the finish line in a little over three hours and officially became a half marathoner!

after the country music half marathon

Amanda and I proudly displaying our medals!

Race Review

Big races like this can be kind of hit or miss. I didn’t have any issues with anything, other than the $5 charge for runner tracking, which seems a bit nickel-and-dime to me for an already pricey race.

I seem to only have one official photo, which is weird. I saw several photographers out on the course and Amanda has a ton of photos, but I don’t even have one at the finish line. I guess I was running too fast for their photographers to catch me? (Haha!)

Otherwise, it was a well-organized race. We quickly got through the expo without any hiccups. The corrals were clearly marked and went out fairly quickly. Water stations seemed well-stocked and were plentiful. The volunteers were all fantastic. And I love the medals!

medal from the country music half marathon

Fleet Feet in Green Hills did free engraving the day after the race, so I took mine in to have it engraved. Nice bonus!

engraved medal from the country music half marathon

Race Analysis

Here’s my official time with my 5k, 10k, and 10 mile splits:
country music half marathon finish time

Everyone complains about how hilly this course is, but I had no problems on the hills. Maybe it’s because I trained on worse ones, and I ran that Demonbreun hill twice in training? They didn’t phase me at all; I honestly don’t even remember thinking about them. I just kept running. Here’s a breakdown of my average pace on inclines, flats, and descents:
average pace by elevation

I wore my footpod and my cadence hovered right at 90 (180 for both feet) the entire race. Perfection! You can see that the only times it went below 90 are water stations and my two brief walk breaks towards the end. Look at it shoot up for my finish!

cadence for country music half

My outfit was perfect. I bought a warm sweatshirt from Goodwill the day before which I stripped off right before the start of the race and threw in a donation pile. My Brooks mesh shirt kept me super cool in the sun and dried fast, even after I ran through sprinklers and water hoses. I chose to run in my Pearl Izumi N2s, which are the shoes I do all my long runs in (and also the ones I ran in at Disney). I got one blister on my left foot, but I don’t think any of my other shoes would have faired better. I’ve determined I need to size up a half size in all my running shoes this year.

My watch read that I ran 13.15 miles, so I did well on my tangents and weaving! Even though I still felt that I did quite a bit of weaving since there were a lot of walkers on the course. By mile 10 or 11, it was rare to see anyone running.

Overall, I am pretty happy with my performance. Except for that one slow mile. I wish I would have sucked it up a little more and kept going. In more optimal weather, I probably would have. But I can’t be disappointed with my time at all!

So will I do another half? Probably. But not this year. I’m eyeing a few different ones in 2015, including the Tom King Half early next March. We will see how my 5k/10k training goes this summer, and then I will probably start making decisions on when I want to start training for distance again.

Shoes: Pearl Izumi Road N2
Pre-race food: 4-5 watermelon Gu Chomps
Mid-race food: 2 strawberry Huma gels