Rather than a long-winded description of my entire racecation weekend, including everything I bought at the Expo, and a mile-by-mile recount of all the signs I liked and blah blah blah, I’ll keep this recap mostly short and sweet with the impressions of just the race itself. I do have a lot to blog about, trying different classes on Class Pass and making different resolutions and goals, trying new things, but frankly, not a lot of energy to blog. I’ve been lurking other blogs a lot lately rather than posting my own content, and taking the motivation out to work out more, I just haven’t been bringing it back and writing about it so much.
So, I finally ran in Nashville. Ever since I discovered “destination racing” I’ve wanted to run in Nashville. This was supposed to be my second full marathon but when my job change and cross-country move hit, I downgraded to the half, and it was an incredibly smart move on my part. There is just no way I could have properly trained for THAT marathon, if I could have trained for a full marathon at all.
Make no mistake: the Country Music Marathon, run by the Run Rock ‘n’ Roll race series and Competitor Group, earns its reputation as one of the toughest courses in road-racing. I thought the mid-Atlantic was hilly. I thought east Texas was hilly.
No comparison to middle Tennessee. When you try running in a town built into mountains, you better have the legs of a machine.
For this reason I’m really, really glad I’ve been focusing on strength-training in the last few weeks. I had a moment during a particularly long, steep hill where I noticed how much stronger I felt battling this hill than I had at Dallas just over a month prior — my legs could handle this. My lungs could handle this. My core still has some work to do but was in SUCH better shape than just a month and a half ago.
The race began in downtown Nashville in the city center, right on Broadway, past the honky tonks and U-turning through the Country Music Hall of Fame to go back up Broadway. And I do mean UP. I can’t express to you how dauntingly steep this street is. Even just as a tourist wanting to walk to some stores, I looked at it like “ugh, really? I’m on vacation.”
And it never relented. Every time I thought we were cresting a hill and turning a corner would take us back downhill, the turn only took us further uphill.
Yes, there were some downhills. But it really felt absolutely brutal and unforgiving in the elevation of this course. There’s an overall climb of 200 feet and you make that climb all at once, more than once, with only some rolling downhills to take you back down.
I kept a pretty steady 4:1 run:walk interval. These are much shorter intervals than I normally do. I stuck with it for a few reasons:
- My number one goal for this race was to not feel like crying when I finished. My last few races, my lower back has been in so much pain that I’ve wanted to quit running. In the Galloway method’s effort to prevent injury, I put in more frequent short walk breaks to reset my form and straighten up.
- Another reason I needed to reset my form is that I still have some lingering tendonitis in my left foot. It’s not from running though — the boots I wear at work, because I work in the sticks and there are all kinds of not so safe critters hiding in tall grasses in east Texas country, are incredibly sturdy and have caused my left foot to stiffen up because there is no give in the toes. Why the left side primarily, probably to do with my poor posture and tendency to throw my weight to one side, but there it is. The tendonitis meant that for the first couple of miles, I seethed with pain almost every time I planted my left foot until I was able to somehow relax that foot inside my running shoe with my stride. My walk breaks gave me the opportunity to loosen up my shoelaces just a bit, flex my foot, and reset.
- Mental focus. I was nervous going into this race. Very nervous, because I so badly wanted to love this race and my last 3 races just got progressively worse. I wanted to go in with 4:1 intervals and not go out too fast in this race, and set my expectations for myself low, letting myself walk often in case I needed to without feeling like a failure if I chose to do so.
That being said, I skipped my walk break several times over 13.1 miles. My cardio is in a better place than it’s been in months, and when I felt really in a good heart rate zone, I’d just skip the walk break and run for 9 minutes. Especially if the walk break was right before one of the rare and treasured downhills, I skipped it and took advantage of the nice downhill run feeling.
I didn’t take any pictures of the course. I wanted to keep my phone safe and dry in my armband so as not to risk yet again losing a phone while out of town to any number of factors on a long run. I also wanted battery at the finish line in case I needed help finding my way back to my hotel.
I kept a visor on the whole time, because even though the rain I was going to use it to shield me from held out, and it was cloudy skies so I didn’t need to block out sun either, a visor helps me stay mentally focused. I could visually block out upcoming steep hills and stay calm and in the steps I was in. Don’t get me wrong; I enjoyed the sights. Nashville is very pretty – we ran through the Belmont University neighborhoods, past Sevier Park through the 12 South neighborhood. Tennessee is so lush and green and gorgeous. I just didn’t bother to stop my forward progress to wrestle with my phone to take pictures or gawk at an upcoming hill.
I wouldn’t say any particular part of the course felt easy; I just felt stronger. I knew I was still going more slowly than I’ve gone in the past, and I was keenly aware of my weight gain in the last 6 months. My hips and butt make running more difficult than it was when I was a bit lighter. But my lungs and legs were stronger than they’ve been in the last 6 months too. I just reminded myself to keep doing what I’m doing, say no to sweets a little more often, and I’ll be fine. I don’t need to be an Olympian or a size 2; being healthy is the goal.
Around mile 11.5 is where the wall kind of set in. A huge boost was the orange station around this part of the course, and a fresh orange for fuel was better than any GU gel or chug of NUUN water I’d had the whole race. It propelled me through the next half mile til I made it past the 12 mile sign.
It was at this point that I was really glad for the mental place I was in. Instead of thinking, “okay, good enough, just phone it in for the last mile,” or “dear God, only a mile left and they’re STILL forcing us uphill? Fuck this, I’m walking,” I got kind of annoyed with the hills at that point, and instead of throwing in the towel, just thought about how the faster I move past them, the faster I’m done. So I actually found some strength left in the tank to stay on my intervals through some nasty last few hills until we rounded the corner and the 13 mile sign was visible on a downhill stretch.
At that point I just willed myself to stay in running motion. I couldn’t have sped up if I tried, but I knew if I just kept in a running motion, I’d beat my Rock ‘n’ Roll Dallas time, and that would be good enough for me. So I did, and I cruised through the finish line with a smile on my face and my fist in the air.
Chip time: 2:38:13
Overall: 11944 / 18331
Females: 7203 / 12163
Division: 1786 / 2532
I spent the rest of the day on a runner’s high I haven’t felt since probably last August after PRing my 10-miler with a time I’m going to have to work really hard to get back to. It wasn’t about my time in relation to my overall last 2 years as a runner, it was about progress made in the last few months. I was very, very happy with having pushed through, gotten stronger, and finished strong.
Tomorrow I’m taking advantage of the Flex in Class Pass and trying out a barre studio in Nashville before flying home to Texas. I hope Pure Barre in ritzy Brentwood, TN is as surprisingly welcoming as Barre Code in ritzy Dallas!