Saturday, May 27, 2017

Beats and Heat in Music City - St. Jude RNR Nashville Marathon RR

Last month, Jen and I traveled down to Nashville, Tennessee to race the Rock 'n Roll half and full.  I have a bucket list goal of racing a marathon in every state, so it was hard (really impossible) to say 'no' when Jen brought up the race.  The Rock 'n Roll races are well known for having rock bands at every mile and the awesome race bling.  What better place to go than Music City itself?

We arrived in Nashville with a warm welcome.  And by warm, I'm talking 20+ degrees Celsius and 80% humidity.  Ugh.  This was going to be a rough race.  But more on that later.

Nobody was using the commuter bikes, because they were all on the party-beer-bike-mobile. 

We were doing a marathon, seems fitting that Nashville is nicknamed Athens of the south.
Parthenon replica in Centennial Park


Statue of Athena Parthenos holding Nike, the Goddess of Victory

The race expo was pretty cool  Jen signed up for the remix challenge (2 races in one weekend, for 3 medals), so we had to stop by on Thursday.  This actually worked in our favour, as we didn't have to wait in any lines.  Score!  Toyota was one of the title sponsors.  They had a little area set up with fun and games, which included making your own tie dye headbands!  Jen and I went the matchy-matchy route and got them made in the same color as our shoes.

Race Bling for Mile, Re-mix Challenge, and Half
(this one has a light up display inspired by Broadway!)
Tie-dye Headbands to match our shoes!

So now for the first race; Jen's mile.  I had the luxury of leisurely walking to the finish line and watching the race unfold from Shelby bridge.  On a side note, my past job looked into a conceptual design a marina here, but it never got constructed.  Now back to the race, Jen and this other girl were battling it out down a long winding hill.  I captured the moment Jen passed this girl and went on to win the race (note the double Mohawk which reminds me of a cats tail when they get scared).

Double Mohawk!

View under Shelby Bridge of the would-be Marina

With the scorching temperatures, the race director decided to start the race 30 min earlier, meaning we had to be on the start line at 6:45 AM.  This didn't make it any easier, as the heat and humidity had already reached a record high for the race (24 degrees Celsius and 80% humidity at the start).  Prior to this race, I got some expert advice from Canada's favourite marathoner, Rob Watson, to adjust my race goal by 5-7 min.  Honestly though, the heat made the race feel similar to a triathlon run.  So, I treated my nutrition and race strategy like a triathlon. I felt like a bag of bricks right from the gun.

Pre-Race already sweating (no pun intended) :)

When the gun when off, a whole sea of people took off down the hill.  I tried to hold back knowing that most of that group was doing the half distance.  The course has a lot of history, passing through some of Nashville's most iconic areas.  This includes the Honky-Tonks, Music Row, 12 Ave South and Centennial Park.  So the first 7 miles were basically all up hill.  Though most of it was gradual, there were a couple punchers.  I tried to stay relaxed and mosey my way to the top.

Because of the heat, the race director told the marathoner's that we could divert towards the finish line at the 18K and 30K marks if things got tough.  When we reached the 18K point, only a small trickle of people turned off for the marathon (curse them!!!!).  It was deflating knowing that I would be running solo for the rest of the race. A group of 4 of us ran for a bit. A triathlete in the group became friends with me after the race and told me he signed up for the season tour pass (great idea)! I eventually caught the lead lady and ran with her a bit.

I don't think Jen was here for the race...

The course took us to a baseball stadium at the 28K mark.  I hit a home run and had to run the perimeter of the stadium.  Too bad the stadium wasn't full of excited fans, because I could have used them.  Lol!!  The second half of the race was much harder than the first half, despite being flat.  The racers were all spread apart, and temperatures reached the low 30s.  My pace slowed drastically, but I was catching people.  It was encouraging to hear spectators tell me that I was in 24th place overall.  Normally I never hear this (being ranked over 100+)! The loop around Shelby Park was near death at 38K! Temperature was well into the 30s Celsius by that point. I eventually caught 4 more men and finished a personal best of 20th overall and won my age group (which never happens in a marathon).  Even though I ran a 12 min positive split, I still felt strong. I was very happy with the race, despite running 15 minutes over my PB.  After all, the winner also ran a positive 12 min split. Jen finished 3rd female overall in the half. :)

After crossing the finish line, Jen and I went out to explore Nashville.  We went to the honky tonks (live music at the bar on at least 4 days of the week - odd criterion) and learned that marathoners are ultra-light weights.  Haha!  Nashville is well known for its barbecue.  Basically meat that has been smoked all day and so tender.  My mouth is watering just thinking back to it.  One of our friends at Mile2Marathon recommended going to the Swingin' Door Pub for honkey tonks.  It was so good that we had to go for barbecue two more times (one was with Jen's friend from university).


Post Race Barbecue, I reluctantly posed for the photo, but I was so hungry, I just wanted to eat!
Nashville's Favourite Treat

For those of you who follow hockey, Nashville was in the playoffs.  They had one home game while we were there.  They had a large TV set up outside the stadium for fans to watch.  The atmosphere was electrifying.  Before the mile, Jen was talking to a fellow competitor from Nashville.  He was saying that down town Nashville had a sketchy vibe, and until the Predators came to town, few people would hang out there.  That must be why the city supports their team so much!  I can say it feels safe like here at home. Everyone was supporting their team by wearing cow boots and hats. As a fun activity, they had a car with for the St. Louis blues that people could smash with a hammer.  Afterall, we were in Smashville :).

Overall, this was a really fun experience.  Jen and I got the 3 pack pass, which means you will be reading about two more Rock 'n Roll races this calendar year.  Stay tuned.

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