Since it was so early, I got up and read for about 45 minutes and then took a quick shower. I got dressed and went down to Starbucks in the hotel lobby to pick up a tall dark roast and a cup of hot water for my oatmeal. Back in the room, I prepared my oatmeal with 1 banana and 1 tbsp. of peanut butter. Normally I have to choke down food on race days, but I was able to eat most of the oatmeal with no problem. I did a few more things around the room to get ready, including several trips to the bathroom, and then headed to the start around 6:15am.
I had planned on walking to the start, which was only 1.5 miles down the road. It was PERFECT! The weather was so nice - it was sunny and clear, about 60 degrees. I was hoping that we might miss all of the severe weather that was predicted for the day. The walk to the start was super easy - I basically just had to walk down one road for 1.5 miles. Didn't have to make any turns or anything! The road was closed to traffic, and it was basically a mile of gas stations, hotels and restaurants...a nervous kidney's dream!! I stopped in at two hotels to use their bathroom, which were empty and clean - sure beats a port-a-potty! I got to the starting area around 6:45am, and then I heard the starting gun go off. What? The race started at 7:00am...but I found out later that due to the impending severe weather they decided to start at 6:45am. Since there were so many people participating it didn't make too much of a difference, though. I was supposed to be in corral 13, but after one last stop at a port-a-potty I joined the runners in corral 18. After waiting for a few more minutes, our corral got to the starting line (they were releasing the corrals in waves) and off we went.
As the marathon started, I realized I was surrounded by a sea of half-marathoners. There were very few blue marathon bibs (I think there were something like 24,000 half marathoners and 3,000 marathoners) and I remember feeling proud to be running the full. I felt ready, relaxed and prepared for the day. My plan was to stay nice and steady throughout the whole race. Miles 1-11 were very crowded, and actually went by pretty slowly. I thought the first half would go by quickly, what with all of the spectators, other runners and adrenaline - but it actually seemed to take forever! I did see one guy running in a Paducah, KY bike jersey so I struck up a conversation with him. He said he was mainly a cyclist, but had gotten into running. I asked if he had done a half-marathon before, and he said his first race was actually an ultra marathon! He was just doing the half in Nashville because his foot was broken! Crazy.
It was starting to get pretty hot (upper 70's) and the sun was out in full force. I tried to be very conscientious about taking in plenty of water and Cytomax at the aid stations. By the way, the aid stations were perfect! Every time I started to think "I'm a little thirsty" there was an aid station stocked with cold water and friendly volunteers. I tried not to drink too much - didn't want any bathroom breaks - and I also started pouring water on my head to cool down. The race split just after mile 11 - the marathoners went left and the half-marathoners stayed straight. After the split, it really thinned out which was nice. I read some reviews that said the last half of the race was pretty desolate (before you swing back into town for the finish) but it really wasn't that bad. It was kind of nice to have a little serenity and quiet on the course for a while! Amazingly, miles 15-19 went by really quickly. I felt like I was holding onto a steady pace, and the miles were just clicking away. We went through a park near the Cumberland River, and ran on a levee up by the river for a while. Somewhere around here a girl broke down crying and her boyfriend/husband was like "what! what are you doing?" And she was like "I'm listening to my body!!" And he was like "No you're not! Come on, keep going!" And she was like "No - just leave me!" It was a very dramatic exchange. I'm not sure what happened after this, but I hope she continued on!
Around mile 18 we were headed back into town and we came to a long, steady 5 block climb up a pretty substantial hill. That was tough, and everyone around me was walking up it. I did not want to walk at all, so I kept trucking my way up it. I actually did think "well, maybe it would be better if I walk up the hill now to save my energy for later in the race" and I took one walking step, but then I quickly started running again because I could tell that walking would only equal misery.
Around mile 16 I stopped being able to stomach shot blocks. Up until that point I had been eating one every 30 minutes, but then I just could not eat any more. At mile 19 we were back in the downtown area and it started to get very dark and windy and started to rain. Just after mile 20 I noticed they were packing up the timing mats on the course and then everything kind of got chaotic. Spectators and other runners were saying "they're cutting the course short" and "they're making us stop now" and "there's a tornado warning." Honestly, I was like well, that wouldn't be too bad right about now. My quads were definitely starting to ache, but I know I had 6 miles left in me. I was so excited to be at mile 20, in the home stretch, and then the next thing I knew I was crossing the finish line for the half-marathon. What? Basically, the half and full were supposed to split one more time on the course - the marathoners were supposed to go left and do some more miles and finish from the right side of LP Field, while the half-marathoners were to take a right and finish from the left side of LP Field. They blocked off the left turn to the marathon course and forced everyone to finish at the half-marathon line.
Here is the info from the website:
Due to severe weather in the Nashville area on race day, a large number of Country Music Marathon runners were subject to a route diversion at one of three different locations. While we know that this was very disappointing to all those affected, this plan was in the best interests and safety of all involved, especially the participants and volunteers. Thank you for your understanding and cooperation on race day.
The marathon diversions that were in place are as follows:
- If you did not reach the 11.2 mile at approximately 9:20 you were diverted to the half marathon course and your results will appear as a half marathoner.
- Just past the 20 mile point at 1st and Woodland runners were diverted to the half marathon finish and completed approximately 20.4 miles. If we recorded you on the 20 mile mats and you had a finish at the half marathon, you were moved to a newly created 20.4 mile race.
- Just past the 21 mile point at 5th and Davidson runners were diverted to the marathon finish and completed approximately 22.2 miles. If we recorded you on the 20 mile mats, had a finish at the marathon finish and took less than 30 Minutes to complete the last 6.2 miles, you were moved to a new 22.2 mile race.
I got my medal (I felt justified taking the full marathon medal) and walked into the finish area. My legs (quadriceps mostly) immediately began aching upon walking, and I could feel the toll that all of the hills had taken. I didn't mention this earlier - but Nashville is one hilly town! I train on a lot of hills so I was prepared, but for some reason I thought it would be a flatter course.
There were lots of fruit cups, bananas and apples, but I was craving something salty like chips or pretzels, and then I had the weirdest craving for beer. I don't even like beer, and have never really even had it. Which brings me to a point that I read on another guy's blog. He ran the race and was pretty pissed about being diverted. His point (a good one) was that none of the tents in the finishing area had been packed up. There were still finisher's merchandise tents, medal engraving tents, beer tents, etc. Were we all in such grave danger that we couldn't run run 4 or 6 more miles, but we could take the time to hang around and get our medals engraved and buy a finisher's t-shirt? That is pretty frustrating. If they were going to shut down the race to get people out of the weather, they should have shut down everything.
Since I finished 1 hour earlier than expected, I borrowed someone's phone and called Chad. He was waiting for me at mile 25, so we quickly decided that we would meet at the foot of the big pedestrian bridge that goes from downtown Nashville over to LP Field. I was basically right at the foot of the bridge, but for some reason I thought it was on the other side of the stadium (and a lady told me it was on the other side) so I walked entirely around the stadium just to get back to where I started! Oh, and it was absolutely pouring rain at this point.
I finally found Chad and explained the whole thing to him as we walked over the pedestrian bridge in gale force winds to get to the car. We headed to our hotel, stopping to eat lunch at a Jack in the Box. I was so tired and so hungry, and my Jumbo Jack, fries and Coke were delicious and full of the sodium I was craving. I know I only ran 20.4 miles, but I felt like I ran a marathon that day!
After lunch we checked into our hotel and I took a shower and changed into warm dry clothes. We wanted to explore Nashville a little more, but the weather was still pretty hellacious outside. Then the power went out in the hotel for about 2 hours, so that was wild. We ventured out that evening for barbecue, and then came back to the hotel and watched more episods of The Pacific and Mayweather Mosley 24/7. And then I went to bed about 8:00pm! Overall, it was a nice and restful low key afternoon and evening.
Overall, I had a fantastic time in Nashville. The race was a great experience, for the most part. It really sucked to have the race cut short, but what can you do. I know the Race Director did what he had to do, and as a participant I should respect that. I think that some of the major decisions (like the early start) could have been communicated better, but you live and learn. Overall, it was a really great trip and I had so much fun with Chad. I don't know if I will do any more full marathons in the future (I think I am going to stick to half-marathons and triathlons), but I would definitely recommend the Country Music Marathon to anyone.
Finally, here are some pictures from the day!
I am not sure why there is a weird bulge near my belly button...this is NOT a baby bump!
This involved chicken tenders, mashed potatoes, green beans, and fried pickles