Southern Hospitality at the Country Music Half
We couldn't have asked for better hosts than Rachel, Brent and Pippin. We couldn't have asked for better weather. We couldn't have asked for a more memorable time. It was seriously awesome. Mike and I had a blast and they are the kindest folks around. If you ever have the chance to meet them, DO IT!!
Phog and Pips are hands down, the two cutest dogs EVER in the existence of cute dogs. I'm deeming them BFF's. After we left Phog seriously went into this major funk--he's definitely bumming. And when he's not bumming...he's sleeping because Pippin totally wore him out. I think Phog will be hibirnating for the next three weeks, if not longer. He's passed out on my lap as I type this now.
Upfront...2:48:14. Not bad for pulling a half marathon on virtually no substantial training! AND, it's less than 6 minutes from my previous half marathon time. I'm actually pretty pleased with myself. I just wanted to get around three hours...and the fact I came in at 2:48 was quite a surprise, especially for the hilly course. After this weekend's performance, I have no doubt in my mind that I will rip my next half marathon to shreds.
Once we arrived at the start line at Centennial Park early in the morning, Rae and I managed to make a cameo appearance on the local news--after a few waves and a high five, we were on our way to the starting corrals.
It took Mike and I a little over 30 minutes to cross the start line. And after running only a tenth of a mile or so, Mike pulled over to a porta potty to relieve himself and I trucked on. Up the hills. All alone. The hills put me in a foul mood and as a result, I was pretty ticked off for the first 5k. I cursed the course. But just before I hit the round about with the "necked" people I went through the TNT water station...it was definitely re-energizing. Even though I wasn't wearing purple, I was reminded why I run...and so I pushed the frustration out of my mind, chugged my ass up the hill and managed to get a smile on my face.
Around the necked people I went to find Brent armed with his camera. He got some great shots including this one...and judging from what he captured, you never would've guessed I had a miserable first 5k.
Shortly thereafter, Mike caught back up with me here for another mile or so and the course took us up a few more hills, through music row and into the neighborhoods of Nashville. Spectators in Nashville are awesome. Families lined their lawns, cheering everyone on...there was even an older couple who set up a table, including fine linens, on the end of their driveway, and waved to everyone while drinking mimosas.
Before I knew it, I saw my folks just after mile 4. My parents, in their infinite awesomeness, were cheering everyone on and waving signs. How many people can boast they have a traveling road crew?! This is the third race they've traveled to cheer us on at, and I'm sure there will be more in the future. (On a side note, my mom even suggested that she may be up for walking a half marathon one day...maybe she'll become an RBFer?!)
So yes...mile 4, things are progressively getting better. Folks are passing out fresh orange slices and bananas, a shot of salt helped keep me hydrated and the bands are rockin'. And I'm actually starting to like this hilly course. Who woulda thunk?!
The miles quickly started to tick by one by one. I ran into my Godfather's wife and daughters along the course...then eventually my Godfather and my parents once again. I stopped to chat and take photos with all of 'em and eventually...stopped to pee. I was excited to find a fellow Chicago TNT-er on the course, Sean...a friend of mine who was part of last year's Saucony 26 for the Chicago Marathon. Sean and I ran together for a little bit and parted ways before hitting the PowerGel Zone.
I was amazed at how my body didn't really have any problems until mile 10 or 11. I started having some really terrible cramps in my calves around the Bicentennial Park. But I managed to run through them and up around the final hill...and finally, the stadium was in sight. Over the river I went and spotted both Rae and Brent.
They joined me on the downhill slope to the finish line, with Brent snapping away with his camera before sprinting ahead to the finish line. It was wonderful to have such encouraging company the last little bit of the race. Right as I came around the corner and saw the 13 mile marker I kicked it into high gear. And with that...came a truly awful cramp in my right leg. Holy cow. I was grimacing in pain. And of course, Brent managed to capture this on film. It's not the most flattering shot, but Rae suggested it's the kind of photo you'd see in a shoe ad...pure grit (not to be confused with grits).
I'm pretty impressed with myself on this race. Considering the number of stops I made, the amount of walking up hills I did and all that jazz, I just wanted to have fun and not embarass myself. So with that, I'd say I won this race.
Hands down, this is my favorite race after the Chicago Marathon. And even with all of the hills, I'd do the half again in a heartbeat. Heck...this may turn into an annual tradition for Mike and me...assuming the Tennessee duo isn't sick of us.
The biggest and bestest part of the whole half marathon...there was no pre-race vomiting. WE WERE YAK-FREE IN TENNESSEE, FOLKS! Either I need to start planning all my races in Tennessee or dragging Rachel and Brent along with me. They were seriously the best keeping my head in check. Brent handled logistics. Rae got me to snap out of it. And Mike helped keep me calm.
Good times, campers. Good times. I've been working on this post for oh...about four hours now (while being distracted by the TV, of course), so it's time for bed. Must get some sleep before meeting up with Coach Leah & Jason tomorrow night. Party on Wayne....Party on Garth...good night!
All photos courtesy of the one and only, fantastic photographer, Brent D. And coming soon...a glimpse of some of the canine glamour shots he took. Too cute for words.