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Country Music Half, Take 3: 1:51:59

Posted Apr 29 2013 10:04pm
Long time no post, I know. I deliberately avoided posting in the immediate Boston Marathon aftermath because I didn't feel like I could eloquently reflect on it, yet I knew I would be remiss to post without mentioning it at all. Two weeks later, I still don't really know what to say. I was lucky to hear from my sister before the news even broke and and know that she and our friends who she was cheering on were all okay. Marathon Monday was a sad day for runners and race supporters everywhere and while it does make me feel uneasy that it was so easy for someone to walk up to a race finish and do something so terrible, I don't think we should live in fear.

Anyway, in the couple of weeks since I last posted, Coach Celia had me do another 20-miler with the last six miles at marathon pace. That run itself went really well but the high mileage leading up to it (including an 11-mile run commute followed by a failed tempo attempt) left me feeling wiped out. Celia decided to have me cut back the following week so that I would feel rested in the days leading up to the Country Music Half-Marathon in Nashville.

I got to Nashville early Friday morning and spent most of the day downtown and in and out of the expo. I stuck around long enough to try all the samples, stock up on Nuun and Gu Chomps, and listen to Kara Goucher speak about her experience in Boston and do a Q&A with us runners.

Kara's thoughts on racing in the rain: "You're gonna get wet, it won't kill you."
After Kara's talk, I got takeout in the form of breakfast for dinner (all the carbs!) and settled in to watch TV at my hotel before crashing early.

The next day I was up bright and early at 4:45 to have some coffee, get dressed, and hop in a cab to the race start at Centennial Park.

All week the forecast had been calling for strong storms and an 80 percent chance of rain on Saturday morning, and all week I crossed my fingers and toes hoping it would be off. Spoiler alert: it wasn't. But I showed up much more prepared than I was for the Houston Half in January, packing plenty of dry clothes, an umbrella and garbage bags to wear at the start.

I got to the park with plenty of time to spare, so I sought refuge in the Starbucks across the street to eat  my breakfast and use a real bathroom before the rain hit. Soon enough it was time to drop my bag off and line up after the showers started. Such a shame that the photographers didn't catch me in my garbage bag cover-up and nun-style veil (not really).

Celia decided she wanted me to try to run this whole race at goal marathon pace (8:41-8:46), which I knew would be a challenge on the ridiculously hilly Nashville course.

Hills for breakfast!
I reluctantly agreed to try to go for it, even after revisiting last year's Garmin stats

Finally, the gun went off and each corral was quickly let across. The first two miles were mostly downhill and felt ridiculously easy. When Celia made my pacing plan for the 2012 NYC Marathon-that-wasn't, she told me that if I ran the beginning right, the first mile would feel almost like I was walking. Mile 1 of this race was 8:37 and I didn't feel like I was working at all. The first significant uphills showed up between miles 3 and 5 and when I clocked 9:01 for my fifth mile I didn't get discouraged since my average pace was still on target. At this point I decided my garbage bag cover-up was cramping my style and decided to toss it, but not before the race photographers caught me, of course.

So stylish.

Thanks to the crappy weather, there wasn't much live music on the course at all this year, which I was bummed about since that's what really makes this race. There were a few spots where people were playing music (sometimes country, sometimes a random, un-clean version of Alanis Morissette's "You Oughta Know..."), which sort of made up for it.

Dark as night.
After five miles. I picked it up for the next two miles, then slowed down on another uphill for mile 8. A few minutes after hitting the eighth mile marker, my pace was still hovering around 8:15 and I could hear my sister's advice about racing in the rain in my head: "Run fast to be done fast."

Mile 9: 8:14

Run fast to be done fast.

Mile 10: 8:13

Run fast to be done fast.

Mile 11: 8:02

Run fast to be done fast!!!

Mile 12: 8:04

Alright, hope you enjoyed that while it lasted, legs, because the mother of all ill-timed uphills is coming right up.

Mile 13: 8:30

Final 0.36: 2:30, 6:55 pace

When I stopped my watch, it read 1:52:46 and I was ecstatic to see those numbers. I was even more psyched when I looked up the official results and saw this

Official finish: 1:51:59, second-fastest half time ever and closest I've come to my PR since running it in October 2011.

Negative splits, woot, woot!
When I finished, I was immediately freezing. It would have been really nice if they had opened up the Titans stadium so that we could have had a place to change without being indecent. Once I found overhead cover, I took off my soaked shoes, socks and shirt and put a waterproof jacket and pants over my wet shorts and sports bra. After waiting far too long to find a cab to pick me up, I called an old friend from Houston who recently moved to Nashville, and she was more than happy to rescue me and drive me back to my hotel so that I could have the best hot shower of my life. (Liz, you're a lifesaver!)

I don't think I've felt that strong at the end of a race since I ran that PR. Hills  are admittedly my weakness and this was the first time in a long time that they actually didn't completely crush my soul. (My quads, on the other hand, tell a different story.)

Even though the Newport Marathon is still just over a month away and I've still got a few long runs to tackle, I'm feeling pretty confident that if I can hold it together and follow a smart pacing strategy in the early miles, I can have a similarly strong race there as well.

Thanks for another great race, Nashville. Let's have some sunshine next year, okay?

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