Nashville Marathon

Nashville 2016

Nashville Marathon 2016 – CHECK!

A lot can happen in 26.2 miles and it was a roller coaster from Start to Finish. Marathon weekend started with the drive down to Nashville, going to the Expo, and then getting settled in our Tiny House (which you can read here if you like). But first – the Race!

Getting to the Starting Line

Training in Chicago and running in Nashville, I wasn’t sure what to expect for weather.  The South typically has a lot hotter weather than us northern folk experience, especially in the spring.  Forecast called for warm temperatures with a chance of rain and I tried to pack accordingly, with shorts and a light long-sleeve top just in case.  

Lo and behold, on the walk to the start line, in just a few blocks, the clouds cracked open and it down-poured! Thunderstorms were in the area and the start was delayed until all was clear.  In the downtime, it definitely got chilly but I tried to stay positive. While many were worried about the cold, having trained in warmer climates, I was comforted – it made me feel back at home. I’d trained in rain, I could totally handle this!

Ready, Set, GO!

And we are off! My wave had crossed the Start Line and we were pounding the pavement.  

And the crowds were amazing!

Lining Music Row – and most of the streets throughout the rest of the course – were so many people cheering on us runners. It was as if this were event day for them, too! There were tailgating setups to rival most football stadium parking lots and southern hospitality was on high.

I was feeling great and loving the race day atmosphere – taking you as high as all those hills!

Speaking of hills, wow. There are a lot of them down in Nashville. Training in Chicago didn’t quite cut it but I was determined to stick with it – push up, coast down and somehow I’ll make it through.

At the Half

Well, if I didn’t know it at the beginning, it was clear by the half – most people were sticking to 13.1. At the split probably 90% of those around me turned and headed toward their finish.

Boy did things get quiet.

The cool thing about the smaller crowd is that you weren’t just one in a herd. While the opportunity to engage with those around me had been there the whole time, I felt the need and opportunity to do so more with fewer people.  

I had been running a similar pace with one girl for a while. We passed people at the same time, we approached hills the same way. So, naturally, we struck up a conversation.

She was in school at Indiana and this was her first marathon.  She came from a family of big runners, who offered a lot of advice, and had prepared well on trails packed with hills. And she was killing it! She ran with a mini table taped to her arm with pace marks and mile markers with aid stations. All she used to keep track of her pace was her watch. I was impressed!

This was one of my favorite parts of the race.

I never learned her name and won’t meet her again but she will forever be a positive part of my race day. I highly recommend striking up a conversation with your fellow runners as often as you’re able. You’re both here for a purpose and short of breath so silences are okay. Just give it a try. Who knows who you’ll meet!

Miles 18-20

The zone known for The Wall. It’s around the time where, if you’ve trained on glucose supplements and Gatorade, your body’s fuel source is basically depleted and in need of a pick me up.

We had made it through First Tennessee Park and were headed back into the city’s center. The many hills had taken their toll and it was getting really hard for me to keep pushing through. Plus, the southern humidity that had been kept away by our earlier thunderstorms was creeping back in.

This was the tough spot. I had to make the choice: slow down overall or walk the hills. Or both.

Personally, I try to avoid stopping, even at water stations, because I have a hard time getting started again. But going at a slower pace would only draw out my time spent running – and I had my PR to work towards!

I pressed on, walking up steeper hills and catching up on the decline.

The Final 6.2

At this point, the course turns to a more secluded portion going along the Cumberland River. There were fewer people running, fewer people cheering, and we are ducking into a park and golf course. Every step was challenging since it’s the final miles of the race but happily, it again felt more like home and reminded me of runs along the Michigan lakefront (which I had often run at off-peak hours to bring the pup along).

And, in this moment of Chicago-based thoughts, who should I see? One of the coaches I had been working with at home! (Shout out to Denise @RunForChange!)

How lucky to run into her – almost literally! – right when I was needing a little pick me up. She was a bundle of positivity and also was challenged by the hills, taking a similar approach and walking up the hard ones to make it through.

So with this new motivation, we snapped a quick selfie and pressed on.

The Finish

Now, back at the expo, Brent and I had agreed on specific points to look out for each other. I had missed him around the 20-mile mark and was hoping not to do so again at the 25.  I needed his help!

My legs were crazy tired. The weather had turned even muggier. I just needed a friendly face to get me through.

And, like an angel, he was there. Oddly, barefoot, but still there.

Seeing me struggle to continue putting one foot in front of the other, he joined in – barefoot and all – and together we ran our way into the finish line! DONE!

Lessons from the Race

Every post needs a purpose and, while I hope you enjoyed reading about my experience, I’m sure you want to walk away with something more, something you can use.

So here are things that I learned that I hope you can also grow from, add or avoid:

  1. Actively incorporate extra inclines into your workout.  Chicago’s ‘hills’ and the Hill setting on a treadmill weren’t enough for me. If your next race is in a hilly region, you’ll thank yourself later for the extra challenge now.
  2. Change your fuel source. I trained with cubes of nutrition to get me through long runs and on race day, it gave me a stomachache I really didn’t want to deal with while running. There’s ways to train your body to use fat as fuel instead of using sugar. To each their own but I’m changing my source for next race.
  3. Meals matter. Along a similar vein, what you eat makes a difference and “carbing up” may not be the best route. Now, ‘how you eat affects how you run’ isn’t new nor rocket science but it’s worth saying again just because it is such a big factor!
  4. Watch your knees. As with any training plan, stretching is paramount. Nashville’s added hills were just one more thing that challenged my knees so it’s worth giving them extra attention and rolling out regularly.
  5. Post-race massages – treat yoself! After my first marathon, I had a massage that was probably as painful as the actual race but made an incredible difference the following day. I’d add that even a pre-race massage 2-4 weeks before race day would help prepare your muscles as well. You’re worth it!

There you have it. My biggest takeaways related to training from my Rock N Roll Nashville Marathon. I hope these help you as you prepare for your next race!

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