I think this race had one of the longest names ever and I get tired just typing it I’ll back up and recap the rest of the weekend later but for now, let’s start with the good stuff… the actual race!
Another half marathon is officially in the books! This race made me happy to be a runner and terrified for my upcoming full marathon at the same time! Let’s just say when the full marathoners went left when we went right at mile 11.5, I was terribly happy I was headed on the path I was on! I am getting a little ahead of myself though so to be thorough, I’ll begin back at the very beginning of the day…
Sister and I woke up at 2 am for this race which is almost as bad as the WDW wake up call?! Sister had purchased a VIP parking pass for us so we had to be at the parking lot by 5am. Our hotel breakfast was not open yet so we also had to run to Mickey D’s “quick” for some coffee. (Side note: not a quick trip… first we got there and they only took cash. Strike one. Then we went back and they ignored us for like 5 mins. Awesome.) We had our coffee, breakfast, packed our gear and attempted to head for the parking lot and shuttle by 5 am. We ended up running a little late but still should have been ok until we hit another Nashville traffic disaster. Sitting on an exit ramp, not even moving, for a solid 20 mins. Needless to say, I started freaking out. Luckily sister was smart enough to find a detour option on the gps. Score! We pulled into our special parking area and waited in long lines once again for our shuttles to the start line.
By the time our shuttles came and we got to the start line it was getting very close to 7am. Sister stopped for a Port-a potty visit (we totally forgot about our VIP toilets!!!!) but I went for the start line since I’d stopped at the ones near our shuttle at the last minute (good idea!). I was in corral 8 so I figured I would be starting before sister who was in coral 16 so I left her by her lonesome and wandered to the start corral. I was in my corral with plenty of time to spare so I just soaked up the experience. After 7 corral count downs, it was time for mine to start off!
In the start corral, I ended up standing next to a guy who was running his first half marathon and somehow we ended up running most of it together. He was from this area so I got a form of running site seeing tour of downtown which was extra neat! Out of the corral, it was a progression of up, up, up, up, up… This was the hilliest course I have ever run and a total different experience from running in the flatland of Wisconsin.
Miles 1-5 passed rather quickly because of these hills that never seemed to end and there were bands spaced out about every 1.5 miles or so I think? After mile 5, it started to get a bit rougher though. My running tour guide kept telling me “one more hill oh yeah, one more…” after awhile, I realized this was all lies and my legs started to really feel each and every hill. It helped fool me for the first half of the run though so that was a very good thing! I’m not used to running any hills, let alone 13.1 miles of them. The weather also started to get much, much hotter this point and I was getting really spent by mile 8.
I took my second clif shot at this point and I was only able to down about half of it. The dehydration and heat were starting to make my stomach and sides cramp up and it was just plain rough. At about mile 9, I lost my tour guide for a bit because I could not keep up and alternated between running and walking for about 2 miles. It was so hard to run at this point but I kept trying little bursts. Right before mile 12, my running mate came up behind me again so he had started having trouble too. I felt like more and more people were having extended walking periods at this point.
By mile 12.5, I knew it was now going to be continual pain and a mantra of “don’t stop now, don’t stop now”. The slight down hill portion turned back to an uphill for a little bit and then a steeper downhill until the finish. At this point I had to leave the guy I was running with again because he needed another walking break when I knew if I stopped, I might not ever start again… So I wished him luck and went for the finish! Turns out the downhill hurt my legs so much worse at this point then any of the uphills before this!! I ended up taking 2 10 sec walk breaks going down because my calves were cramping SO bad! But I told myself only 10 secs and somehow managed to make it down with that relief.
The mile 13 flag was so incredibly welcomed but .1 at this point sounded incredibly long… But I sprinted with everything I had left and went for it! I am sure I have been just as happy to see a finish line but in that moment, I was pretty sure this was the most beautiful thing ever!
After sprinting to the finish, I got hit with the total feeling of passing out because of the abrupt halt that you come to at the end of a busy race. Moving that slow through medals and food makes me feel so, so horrible. I really wish it was easier to finish, grab your stuff and stretch and calm down a bit and cool down a bit. But no luck. I did grab my medal, found some cold water, cold Gatorade, a towel I drenched with ice cold water, frozen strawberries (best finish line treat ever!,) and a banana, I struggled back “upstream” to try to grab sister.
I looked and looked for her for probably 35 mins or so and was starting to really freak out when all of a sudden, she just appeared right in front of me. Good thing someone was paying attention!! Sister looked and seemed in much better spirits than after Disney which really surprised me because of the course but she did awesome! We grabbed some more beverages and also found some chocolate milk and then walked towards our car. I must say, this race was the best ever finish line food I have ever seen!
My mom and dad were signed up for texts with finish times so once we were back to the car we were able to figure out our finish times before they were officially published. I was happy to learn I had finished in 2:15:54 which considering the heat and hills was right on track for what I would have expected. I figured 2:10 with hills and then another 5 mins for heat would be a good “goal” to work with and it ended up being spot on to my finish time.
I honestly would not have done as well on this race if I had not had my running pacer to run with. I think we both ended up making ourselves run better because we were not as “alone” on the course. I am surprised again and again by how much of a community is created by running races and how random people can come together for a race and help support and encourage each other just because we all know exactly what the others are going through.
Overall, my thoughts on the Rock ‘n Roll series and this race in particular are as follows:
1) Rock ‘n Roll races are incredibly busy. Like insane compared to other local races that I am used to. I would even say this was crazier in some ways than Disney even though they had similar numbers.
2) Traffic for this race was a
bitchpain. I almost lost it multiple times when not moving an inch in 10 mins so if you’re doing this race, allow LOTS of travel time. Like what you think it will take, add some and then double that!
3) Because of the size of the race, it was very well supported. The finish line food was awesome, the course support was awesome and the volunteers were awesome.
4) The bands did not “carry you through” the whole course. In fact it seemed really light at the end for music and that when it should have been really heavy with tunes! But maybe this was just because I was super exhausted at this point.
5) Hills suck.
6) This race was like Summerfest in so many ways minus the whole no water issue. It was hot, hot, hot and hilly as hell.
7) Having a pacer is incredibly helpful and I might try to run my next few halfs with the pace team to attempt to make it in 2:00.
8) 13.1 miles is hard. Just when I think I’ve got a distance “down”, a race like this teaches me my lesson
9) This course was one of the prettiest I have ever run but one of the most tiring at the same time.
10) And one more random bit… the best spectator sign = “Don’t look back now! Remember what happened to Lot’s wife!”
All things considered, this was one of the most fun races I have done so far. I doubt I will sign up for another Rock ‘n Roll race though because the crowds just stress me out a little too much. Even though it was crowded, the course was more interesting than most and the travel road trip with sister turned out to be more fun than expected! Even though this was not my magical <2 race I want so bad, it was still a race to remember! Now to rest up the legs a little for one more long training run and then marathon taper!?!?