RnR Nashville: The Hills Are Alive…

After a tumultuous training cycle, I ran the St. Jude Rock ‘n’ Roll Nashville Half Marathon on Saturday. And as can be expected, a tumultuous training cycle can yield some unpredictable (and slightly disappointing) results.

Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon Nashville: I finished
Spoiler alert: I finished!

I flew into Nashville still recovering from a cold/flu nightmare that had me literally flat on my back for two days and kept me from running for a week. That wouldn’t have been terrible… except I missed my 12-mile training run, which mentally set me on edge. Add in some lingering coughing and sneezing, and I’m boarding that plane full of apprehension. (Plus Melissa is a new travel buddy, and I was terrified that we wouldn’t be on the same page with food, sleep, and the like. I needn’t have worried. Anyone who says, “No drugs, crazy bars, or strip clubs” is going to be a good traveling companion for me.)

Anyhow. Melissa and I headed to the airport at Are You Kidding? O’Clock on Friday (the best flight option to Nashville!) We got to the Rock ‘n’ Roll Nashville Marathon and Half Marathon race expo just as it opened, so we were able to pick up our bibs, sample some protein bars and cookies (I introduced her to the No Cow cookies that had made an appearance in a Fit Snack box), and shop. The company puts on a great expo, with vendors ranging from the usual running apparel and associated paraphernalia to Toyota, where I got a cool dirty gear bag for being an owner. We also picked up our tickets for the post-race concert (Hunter Hayes!) and spent some time with the compression booties. Rookie Mistake #1. We also walked around Nashville to eat lunch, get some fruit and sundries from a bodega, and tour the Johnny Cash museum. We did a lot of walking. Rookie Mistake #2. And, because I didn’t have time to break in new running shoes, I planned to run in a pair that was nearing 400 miles. Rookie Mistake #3.

Rock ‘n’ Roll Nashville Half Marathon: Go Time!

The morning of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Nashville Half Marathon, there were no more rookie mistakes to be made. I had fueled appropriately and was as ready as I could be, save for a nagging cough. Melissa and I huddled in the Music City Center with the trash bags we had purloined from the hotel to stay warm (it was cold at wake-up time). Participants started in 38 different waves; I was in Wave 7, and Melissa had been placed in Wave 3, I think, but she kindly stayed back with me. Just before our wave went, we were herded too close to the start line timing mats, so everyone thought we were being tracked. (I don’t think we were.) And then… go time!

The first half mile or so was downhill – and my music wasn’t playing. I wrestled my phone out of my FlipBelt, got it working, and kept running – way too fast. That would come back to bite me later, really hard, because by the third hill, I had to take a walk break. In fact, I had to take several.

Yes, the Rock ‘n’ Roll Nashville Half Marathon is a really hilly course.

Every uphill, my legs felt like lead. I wasn’t the only one; plenty of people were hiking up those steep hills. I immediately revised my goal time to anywhere near 2 hours. I knew going in that a PR was not in the cards.

I tried to stick to the plan, I really did. My plan was to enjoy the course. Eat my own GUs. Not get distracted.

So of course, by the second gel station, knowing that a PR was not in the cards, and with the sun beating down on me mercilessly, I stopped to grab an SIS gel (which was really good, by the way, and caused exactly ZERO GI issues). I immediately ran through a sprinkler. Oh, and then I slid into a water station table like I was trying to steal second base. I rammed my left quad hard on the plastic table, knocked over half the water cups, and basically wanted to DIE of embarrassment. Like, thank God no one caught that on video. I mumbled an apology while the poor volunteer was trying to ascertain whether I was injured. A couple runners stopped to make sure I was okay.

I was mostly fine, although my quad was throbbing. My pride hurt more than anything else. So I kept running.

I loved the course, though, despite the hills.  The Rock ‘n’ Roll Nashville Half Marathon went down Music Row past the recording studios, and I loved seeing the big “Congratulations” signs for the artists. Crowd energy and course support were phenomenal – plenty of aid stations and medical stations, and a lot of cheering spectators, some of whom had set up unofficial aid stations to hand out oranges and, in at least one instance, beer.

When I hit the 11.7-mile timing mat, I actually felt a little sad, even though I was riding the struggle bus at this point. I mean, it was almost over! (And Melissa had already finished.) At 13 miles, I booked it. My Strava data notes a serious heart rate and pace spike, and I felt it. I crossed the finish line feeling like my legs would give out, especially my left one.

My official time: 2:00:49.

I still got the medal. I still finished in the top 25 percent. And, most importantly, I got to check Nashville off my bucket list!

A half marathon. Nashville. Girls weekend. Could this get any more fun?
And I got to hang out with Melissa!

The Rock ‘n’ Roll race crew did a phenomenal job. Yes, I was comped entry into the race. But I still think it was a very well-run operation! The post-race area had chocolate milk, Gatorade, water, and fruit, and the post-race festival was fun – Jillian Cardarelli playing covers of country songs I loved. (I had “Friends in Low Places” stuck in my head after that, in a good way.) We got complimentary tickets to see Hunter Hayes, who puts on a great live show. He played at the Ascend Amphitheater, so I got to listen to him under the beautiful, peaceful Nashville sky.

Also, my worries about traveling with Melissa? Totally unfounded. I had an absolute blast with her exploring Nashville, avoiding the NashVegas side of things, and just hanging out. We did a LOT, and I couldn’t have asked for a better traveling companion.

In short: The hills ate my lunch, hurting my leg definitely didn’t help, but I still finished and I had an amazing girls’ weekend in Nashville.