Friday, May 29, 2015

Country Music Half Marathon 4/25/15 - First Race-Vacation

This past weekend I ran the Country Music (part of the Rock'n'Roll race series) Half Marathon in Nashville.  This trip was randomly planned about 6 months ago on a random Saturday morning when Kristen and I woke up and thought we'd just find a cool place to go and squeeze in a race.  I have no idea how Kristen came up with this one but I loved the idea and we booked the race and flights for a long weekend in a new city we'd never visited before.  We submitted estimated race times and I landed on 1:36.  Yep, 1:36.  With 6 months to train, how could I NOT hold a low-7 minute/mile pace?  If I'm anything, it's aggressive with goals, and also, kinda dumb.

We invited a few friends and family, my sister took us up on the idea, and she met us in Nashville coming from Birmingham, AL.  It would be the Skutch kids' first half marathon- a big deal.  I was a little envious of her only having a 4-hour drive to Music City but our flight was so easy, direct from PHL, Nashville will certainly become a repeat visit.  Hotels were pretty booked and fairly pricey.  We wound up also booking our first Airbnb lodging.  It was relatively close to downtown, reasonably priced and we hoped for the best.

While we were both a little stressed about getting work done leading up to our trip, we were ecstatic about getting out of town for 5 days.  We flew out early Friday and took a bus from the airport straight to packet pick up and the expo.  Nothing remarkable but we did find a few tables where we could pick up some race nutrition in the form of Gu gels packs.  Not my go-to but not a big deal.  Leaving the expo we found lunch downtown on a roof deck and walked down Broadway to get an idea of what that was like.  Easy to see the nickname Nashvegas and could instantly picture it filled with weekenders and bachelor/bachelorette parties.  We then found a bus easily took us directly to our Airbnb where we met our host and dropped off our luggage.  The place was a small studio apartment but had everything we'd have expected from an extended stay hotel.  It was a little small for 4 people but very comfortable.
First cocktail of the trip.  OK by me!
Not content to "rest up" like some kind of sissy, we made our way to sight see and bar hop on 12th Ave nearby our apartment.  It was full of awesome restaurants, boutique shops, music shops and a pretty great-smelling bbq restaurant.  We figured we'd found our pre-race bbq as has been our tradition the last 2 years' big April races we'd done.  By the time my sister had arrived, the bbq line was out the door so we opted for another place up the road, ate, drank, enjoyed, wrapped up early and hit bed.

Avoiding the bus schedule, we took an Uber cab to the starting area, hit the bathrooms and hung out at the Frist St Baptist Church right by the starting line.  It was there, where we snapped our pre-race pictures and I discovered my Garmin had been drained.  I never realized how reliant I had been on my Garmin until that moment.  After the initial devastation, I considered the idea that I would be fine without it.  I may not get credit from Strava for the April half marathon challenge but, who cares?  I did want the ability to check in on my pace but what else would I really need it for?  I knew my corral was going to be fast so my goal was to not keep pace with them.  Fantastically simple.  I did also know my 6-month old goal time was improbable and my new goal was to aim for 1:45: 8-minute miles.  I thought this was a bit of a reach but as the race approached, I gained confidence.
Prerace shot with future wifey.

My sister and her boyfriend, real troopers for driving up and turning in great first 1/2 marathons!
I was in corral #2, right behind the elite guys, probably 2 corrals up from where I should've been but I spied in the crowd pacers holding target signs.  Finding the "1:45" pacer not far behind my corral I knew I could just try pace myself with the course clocks and stay ahead of them.  If they caught me and I could keep up, I'd just be a few minutes behind my goal.  There were nearly 40 corrals of about 1000 runners each.  Kristen was in 11, I knew my sister and her boyfriend were in the 30's so I'd have some me-time at the finish line.  We said our goodbyes and the race was on.  For me, anyway.  They got to wait like another hour.

I really enjoyed the first couple miles.  They were effortless and I was finding I really did know an automatic 8-minute pace.  The challenge began keeping it after mile 5.  At about half way, the 1:45 pace group caught me and I kept with them for a short while and let them go.  I was already disappointed in my race and still had a while to go.

The course was awesome, the weather was also perfect.  Beautiful neighborhoods of Nashville and almost constant cloud cover and pretty cool.  A stark contrast to the forecast the week prior: 82 and 100% chance of thunderstorms.

I enjoyed the course, those cheering, the volunteers and was extremely happy to see the course split for 1/2 runners to turn right and the full marathoners to turn left.  A few miles to go and I plodded along slowly and tried to make that last mile count and stay under 2:00.  I knew I was close to the 1:56 pace group so it was still a real goal.  A turn onto a bridge, a long straightaway where the crowd began to roar (I thought to cheer me on but really to cheer a dude in his 70's as he passed me) and a final left turn and I finished at 2:01:53.  I was happy with my run, unhappy with my training and my goal planning.  But the race was over so... whatever!

Nashville is an awesome city.  We spent the duration of the trip packing in some great sightseeing, eating, drinking and unavoidably, music.  Here's some random crap we saw:
After visiting, I have enough proof to believe it does exist

We visited a church on Sunday and their band was fantastic!

There's like 10 of these at any given time in downtown Nashville.  100% of them are bachelorette/bachelor parties.

A find in the country music hall of fame.  If my car needs 2 things, it's steer horns and a pistol on the hood.

More excellent live music.  This guy played a solo show and I immediately bought all his music. 
Reflection selfie on a globe.  It's no Chicago bean but it's cool.

Someone thought it would be cool to build a full size Parthenon for the city.  Why not?

I can't remember why I took this.  Who cares?
I would absolutely recommend running this race or just visiting the city.  Can't wait for the next race vacation!

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