Sunday, May 8, 2011

She's gone country - a weekend in Nashville

"And if all you ever really do is the best you can,
Well, you did it man"
Those are lines from Montgomery Gentry's "Something to be Proud of" which they played at the post race concert, and I couldn't help getting chills (not just because the arena was freezing).  I think everyone who was there celebrating a finish to the half or full marathon had given their best, and we all had something to proud of. 
I'm a big country music fan, so I decided to head to Nashville for the Rock n Roll Country Music Marathon and Half Marathon.  I had considered this race back in January and then decided against it, but while I was waiting in line at the Disney Princess expo for my number, someone told me this was one of her favorites so I decided to register.  I was planning to meet Mom and Dad there, but Mom hadn't been feeling great lately so she made the smart choice and stayed home for the weekend. 
Pretending to sing at the Ryman (the original Grand Ole Opry)
Nashville was an awesome race.  The course was pretty hilly and challenging (I heard quite a few unhappy people after the race), but I have never run in a race with so much crowd support!  I was reading signs that were literally making me laugh while running, high fiveing little kids, seeing whole neighborhoods gather to cheer us on, getting offered oranges and was awesome.  Apparently some people were even offering beer on the course but I missed that (and wouldn't have gone for it anyway), but still pretty hilarious.  The city and all its residents were just so welcoming, and they made the hills and miles fly by. 

The race got off to a shaky start.  We had some hotel drama the night before we were leaving, but got last minute reservations to the Gaylord Opryland hotel.  I'm not really sure you can call it a hotel.  It's over 2,000 rooms, with waterfalls, boats, fountains, fountain shows, restaurants, etc INSIDE the hotel.  It was just gorgeous! 
That is inside the hotel
Once we checked in, we headed to the Expo to get my packet.  It was really well run and pretty enjoyable (though my size small tshirt feels like a medium or large, but that's ok).  We went back to our hotel, had Olive Garden for dinner, got to bed early and got ready for Saturday.

The sponsor, Brooks, apparently had a sense of humor.  Love it.
Though our hotel was a little bit outside of downtown Nashville, they had a shuttle you could pay for that would take you straight to the race.  Except the day of, they said they were only selling tickets to runners (not spectators) and my dad couldn't join.  Luckily I was not the only one upset and they decided to allow ticket sales for everyone.  Crisis averted.

Dad and I got over to Centennial Park where the race was starting, and the porta-potty lines were insane.  It took over 30 minutes, which I think made people practically miss the race.  But we had a nice chat with the people around us and actually found out the woman behind was from Virginia Beach.  What a small world!  So the time flew by and we headed over to my corral.
 That may just look like a crowd, but that's a small portion of the porta-potty line.  It was crazy!
I seem to have a way of ending up in Corral 4 every time!  There were about 35 corrals, so I was happy to be decently close to the front and avoid terrible crowds.  The corrals were still packed, but I think the start of the course was wider than the corrals so I never felt like I couldn't run at my own pace.  But let me say, people around me were fast!  I went out pretty conservatively since I'd only done one brief 3 mile run since Dismal Swamp Stomp and the foot adventures.  Once I started running though, I was feeling good!  My foot wasn't perfect, and around mile 3 I started to get some painful twinges that had me nervous.  But they seemed to fade away and it really only hurt when I was pivoting around corners.  
 It's like a game of "Where's Waldo", except with me instead of Waldo.  Hint: I'm behind the guy in the striped shirt.
It was a gorgeous day but a little bit hot, and around mile 7 or so I started to get worried that I was going to hit my infamous "wall" that had appeared in the last two races.  On race day, you should never do anything you haven't done in training - never wear a new outfit, never use anything new, and never eat anything you haven't eaten in training.  Well, I had never tried a sports drink during a run.  I calculated the risks - having an upset stomach from the sports drink, or getting too exhausted from the heat, and decided to give the Cytomax (like Gatorade) a try at the water spot.  Guess what?  I did fine!  I had barely any since I still haven't mastered the running-while-drinking-out-of-a-small-paper-cup routine, but it must have been enough because I was rockin' now.  And I decided to try some GU gel and had no problems again.  It was a risk, but so worth it.  And though I felt like the race never stopped being hilly, they were rolling hills, and I seemed to handle them well.  The constant crowds and cheering got my spirits high and kept my feet going.
This race included about 30,000 of my closest friends
I cruised to the finish feeling great.  Certainly not my best time (1:49:41), but given the difficulty of the course and my foot problems going in, I couldn't be happier.  I saw my dad almost immediately at the finish, and he stayed parallel to me (outside of the runner gated area) as I got my medal, got ice on my foot, and got the plentiful amounts of food and water and Cytomax at the finish.  
Then we went over and they had ice baths for your feet.  Can I just say that this is the greatest idea ever?  Made my feet feel so good!  And we saw Matt, who I hadn't seen until that point in the race. 
The most wonderful ice bath ever, and my traditional call to Mom to tell her that we're one step closer to kicking psoriatic arthritis' butt.
Then we went over to the celebration area and enjoyed our complimentary finisher's beers and music for awhile.  Overall, just a really fun finish to a race.
And the medal?  Fantastic!
We spent the rest of Saturday to Monday enjoying Nashville.  Saw Montgomery Gentry (free concert for finishers), saw lots of great live musicians, walked around the Vanderbilt campus, saw the parks, enjoyed the view by the waterfront, relaxed, and talked.
I wish Mom had been feeling well enough to come to Nashville, but I enjoyed spending some time with Dad.  If you haven't picked up on it by now, both of my parents are just amazing people and I'm so lucky to have them in my life.  
 When you're in Nashville, you have to take stupid tourist pictures like this, right?!
As for the foot?  Well, it's not 100%, but I'd say 95%.  The night before the race, Doctor Dad checked it out and still got me to practically kick him from the pain.  Yet somehow after the race, it was much less painful.  I guess I'm just meant to run!

So far, the races I have expected to be the toughest have been the best and vice versa.  Go figure.  Yay for race #5!
 Don't you think Adam would have looked great if I'd bought this for him? 

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