RR: Country Music (kinda) Marathon

I need to start out by thanking everyone – for listening to me gripe about getting burned out and worrying that I couldn’t finish. Most of all thanks for your concern while I was MIA…refusing to seek shelter from the storm I couldn’t out run. I’m blessed with the most amazing friends in the world  
Ok, enough with the cheesy stuff…here’s the details on how your girl didn’t finish a marathon but earned a BA badge instead.
Last year I heard stories about the heat during the CMM. The high reached almost 90 and I remember after my horrific 22 miles, which ended in 86 weather, saying I’d rather it rain than be that hot. Be careful what you wish for. Needless to say I was soon eating my words as we kept seeing thunderstorms in the forecast a week out. No big deal, who trusts the weather man anyway? Every few hours we checked the weather and every few hours we watched the % chance for severe weather increase until it reached 100%. Certain doom came in the form of an announcement from the National Weather Service:
…POTENTIAL FOR SEVERE WEATHER LOOKS INCREASINGLY LIKELY IN MIDDLE TENNESSEE ON SATURDAY…
A STRONG UPPER LEVEL STORM SYSTEM WILL MOVE OUT OF THE SOUTHERN PLAINS ON FRIDAY AND BRING A CHANCE FOR SHOWERS AND THUNDERSTORMS TO THE MID STATE AS EARLY AS FRIDAY NIGHT. BY EARLY SATURDAY…SOME STORMS COULD BECOME SEVERE…AHEAD OF AN APPROACHING UPPER LEVEL DISTURBANCE…WITH THE THREAT FOR SEVERE WEATHER CONTINUING THROUGHOUT THE DAY SATURDAY. A FEW STORMS WILL HAVE THE CAPABILITY TO PRODUCE LARGE HAIL…DAMAGING WINDS AND POSSIBLY TORNADOES. THIS IS THE STRONGEST STORM SYSTEM TO AFFECT MIDDLE TENNESSEE SO FAR THIS SPRING…AND THE POTENTIAL FOR SEVERE WEATHER LOOKS TO BE INCREASINGLY LIKELY…INCLUDING TORNADIC SUPERCELLS.
I still dont know what a tornadic supercell is…but it’s no buneo!
My Pikermi Princesses were sitting out this race but supported my efforts with a huge sign so I could take them with me to Nashville. Unfortunately, they could not fit in my luggage, but Shannon took a pic of me holding it when she dropped me off at the airport (shout out to my awesome girls!).
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The flight to Nashville was really uneventful. I managed to chat with Rob for a bit during my layover and text poorCary, who was stuck in traffic. While talking to Cary, I learned that the inclement weather plan included pulling people off the full course who weren’t making a 4:30 pace. This really concerned both Cary and I…as we knew we can do a half in 10:20 min miles but we both planned out a 4:45-5:00. Way to rattle the race plan.
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Tiffany and I goofing off at the Expo
The Expo was a lot more crowded than VA Beach, in fact there was a large sign indicating that the half marathon was sold out. I bought a pair of awesome shorts at the Expo, from http://oisellerunning.com/ with 3 pockets – it can hold 10 gels! The lady at the booth was really nice…advising me to stick to my race plan when I expressed concern about begin able to make the cut.
Group dinner was close to the Expo at a restaurant called Demos. If you ever run the CMM, I really recommend this place prerace. It’s basic pasta and sauce (no frills to hurt the tummy), super quick, and super cheap. The girls decided we needed some cake before bed for extra carbs. The hotel restaurant’s Obnoxious Chocolate Cake lived up to its name.
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We were up at 5:15 expecting to see a hurricane or cows flying by but it was calm. The sun wasn’t up yet but you could see breaks in the clouds. We were relieved to think maybe we’d miss the storm entirely.
We walked about a mile to the start and I was already breaking a sweat due to the humidity. The air was really thick, which reminded me it’d be a long race if I wasn’t smart. I texted Cary and Rob a bit as I was walking. I knew we were running late, later than I’d like to be for a race that big, but I was surprised when the cops started making us get off the road. As I was walking to the UPS truck to check my bag, I heard the National Anthem….then I saw the corrals moving. Apparently the race started 15 minutes earlier to try to beat the storm, but we didn’t get that memo. No pre-race porta potty for me!
I couldn’t figure out the corrals since people were moving away from the signs. It didn’t seem like any of the numbers on the people were close to each other so I picked a spot and shuffled towards the start with the rest of the drones. Amazingly, as fate would have it…I ended up about 5 ft away from Cary! I’m so glad she spotted me! I got to meet her DH too, who had a big camera and was walking beside the corrals snapping photos like paparazzi. Cary and I went over our goals (I had a pace chart in my pocket – Cary had one on her arm!!), she told me about her HORRIBLE trip to Nashville (I swear she had to climb over way too many obstacles for her 26.2!), and we tried to predict the weather. At that point the heat and sun made it impossible to picture a storm later on.
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Cary and I at the start…pocket full of GU!!!
We crossed the start and settled into an easy pace. I had my Garmin set to yell at me if I was faster than a 9:00 or slower than a 12:00. Cary and I decided to ignore it on any downhills since they weren’t too steep. Miles 1 and 2 were both 10:43, which was right where we were hoping to hit. Miles 3 and 4 were both uphill and slowed us. By then the humidity was bothering me a lot so I took a gel way earlier than planned. I was glad I did because I felt a lot better.
As we ran away from downtown Cary and I saw an amazing woman in a wheelchair. It was super inspiring seeing someone tackle such a hilly course in what looked like a normal chair – not one of those fancy racing ones. She had a full marathon bib and I dont know if she made the cut off but as things got hard later on I tried to remember what a gift it is to be able to run.
The course was amazing. Its energy rivaled the amazing reports I read about Boston. It seemed like every other house had people in the yard. Some seemed more interested in their own parties than cheering but it just added to the overall fun. Miles 4-8 were my favorite of the race. Bands, people offering beer, bloody marys, and mimosas to runners, old men who look like they’re tailgating, kids offering orange slices. And the signs! My favorite was “Run like there’s a tornado coming!” since it was one of the few times it was true!
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It was a lot more crowded in both directions when Cary and I went through…but people drinking mimosas and passing out fruit was the norm!
*taken from the main pic gallery on the CMM site
The clouds started to roll in after mile 10. The 4:30 pace group had long since passed us. The moment of truth was coming: would we be allowed on the full marathon course? They split us up for almost a half mile hlaf marathoners on the right and full on the left for almost a half mile and the disproportional ratio became apparent. Up until then the course had been really congested. Cary’s description of an ant farm was dead on. I was happy to finally have room to breathe and move. Unfortunately the half marathoners took the crowd support with them. The second half seemed like a completely different race.
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Heading out of the party district...still feelin good at mile 9.5
Somewhere on mile 12 we passed two tall guys dressed in full suits and visors. I had been dying in my shorts and tank top – I was even throwing water on myself trying to cool off. I’d hate to see that dry cleaning bill! I dont remember what I said to them but they responded by telling me they were running for office. I chuckled at the pun. After hitting the half way point I started feeling really bad. I took another gu and some salt but nothing seemed to be working. I slowed around mile 14 and stayed a few feet behind Cary as we entered a greenway. On the map, I thought this would be a pretty run with the river on the left. What the map doesn’t show is that to the right is an industrial park. The sky was getting really dark and I hadn’t seen a band in a while. On top of that I lost sight of Cary around the 25k mark. I was feeling super defeated knowing I had a little over 10 miles. This was also when I started seeing people being taken away by medics. I wondered if they had pushed too hard in the humidity to make the 11 mile cut off. Miles 16 and 17 were my slowest of the whole race and I decided to break out my ipod.
The greenway ended on a STEEP downhill. It was so steep I felt nervous watching people navigate it – almost everyone chose to walk down it backwards. WTF? I am not a good backwards walker so I scooted down it with one foot perpendicular to the other. Luckily I avoided a fall infront of the cute band boys (who were just about done packing up).
The rain started coming down as I got to the 17th mile marker. They were big fat raindrops, the kind you liked to play in when you were little. I was walking up a large hill and noticed my shoes were filling with water. The squish squish squish is a feeling I hate only slightly less than wet jeans. However, rather than  discourage, this was when things started to pick up for me. The rain was coming down hard and the wind really picked up. It was invigorating! Like an ice bath (even though I’m way too much of a pansy to have one for real) and I instantly felt alive. I started jogging again…but there was spring to my step. I called out volunteers, who seemed like heroes in their thin plastic ponchos. I told every spectator what great friends they are and joked about how I paid for this. Most of all, I had the best new mantra ever (modified from Kat’s) – “Who’s a BA? Jen’s a BA!!!” I was feeling so good that I really wasnt paying attention to how bad the storm was. I watched water drip off the bill of my hat and saw flashes of light but it really didn’t occur to me that there was a storm. I was running with only one headphone in…but I never registered any announcement or thunder. I passed through another water station at mile 19 and was still amazed by the volunteers. Seriously, there had to be at least 20 people at that one water station!
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Feeling better in the rain. Obviously watermarked but not getting a pic with my eyes closed!
At 19.5 we merged back with the half marathon course. I was pretty much alone then and some of the half people started cheering for me, clapping beneath their ponchos. I kept turning around to make sure there were other marathoners behind me. I didn’t see anyone in front of me on the left side of the road and the marathoners I did see we going the opposite direction. I slowed a bit in my confusion but felt better when I saw the 20 mile marker. I couldnt believe how good I felt with only a 10k to go. I was right around 4 hours and feeling good. It was sinking in that I was doing a marathon!!
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Marathoners braving the storm
*photo from the Tennesean
I picked it up only to realize something was really wrong. I saw the 13 mile marker and realized I was going into the stadium. Huh? Another girl came up beside me and we looked at each others blue bibs and than up at our mutually confused faces and came to a complete stop. A volunteer nearby told us we missed the split as another man pulled up. The three of us ran back towards the 20 picking up other confused marathoners as we went. Once back at the 20, where we should have gone straight, we were told the course was closed and we need to finish for our safety. Two of the girls said “eff that, I’m going back to 17” so I followed. We were yelling at everyone we saw to make sure they knew what was going on. I felt amazing. If you ever run a marathon and hit a wall at mile 20, imagine it being a real wall that tells you that you CAN’T finish…best pain reliever in the world. I ran back against the half course because it had more people. I still didn’t fully understand how bad the storm was. All I wanted was 26.2 on the Garmin. Just before the mile 12 marker on the half I saw the shuttles. They were sweeping people off the course. A cop yelled at me to get on or seek shelter at LP field. Defeated, I turned around. I know better than to argue with a cop, even when I’m feeling like a BA. I ran back into the stadium and managed a sprint. The video finish makes me laugh, because all the half finishers are walking and I am running through them like Forrest Gump. Total was 22.47 miles in 4:26:07…battling heat, sun, humidity, rain, and wind.
The thought occurred to me to keep running but I told my friends (who were all doing the half) not to wait around and I didn’t know how long the UPS truck with my gearbag would stick around. There were some volunteers passing out medals but other than that everything was packed up and ready to go. It seemed like they were really getting out fast. I walked over to get my finisher’s pic taken but just as I got there the wind ripped the zip ties open and tore down the pipes holding up the background. Only at that moment did I really look around and see how bad the storm was.
My phone had about 35 messages on it – almost all of them worried. I had been so focused on finishing not only did I ignore the storm, I didn’t think about the fact that people would be looking for me finish and be worried that I was MIA. I know they weren’t surprised to hear that I put up a bit of a fight over the whole diversion and they kicked me off the course.
At that point I was sitting on the ground outside LP. My legs were locking up and although I had thrown in a rain coat and dry yoga pants and shirt…the only thing I wanted was dry shoes. I debated figuring out the shuttles vs trying to find a cab when Rob, as if he was psychic, said he was still near by and offered a ride to my hotel. HOLY KNIGHT IN SHINING ARMOR BATMAN! I barely knew were my hotel was and I was dripping all over his truck. Mad props to him for driving all the way out to Nashville and staying through all that mess (and keeping the board up to date – you people rock!). If I could cut off a piece of my fraudulent marathon medal for him I would.
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All smiles while soaking the seat of poor Rob’s car
My feet were prune-y and pale when I finally got my socks off. My shoes were wet for the next 36 hours even with paper stuffed in them. I was surprisingly not sore for an almost marathon. After a quick nap and happy hour at the hotel we hit up Nashville. I wish I had gotten to post party with my race buddy, Cary. We were zombies and didn’t stay out too late anyway.
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  The Crew out on the town
Overall, I’m impressed with the RnR. Sure, the course closure and early start should have been better communicated but I know there’s plenty of times instructions are perfectly clear and I still get  confused or dont pay attention. They moved my results from Half Marathon to Diverted within hours of my request. They are giving us a $50 coupon towards another RnR Event. And even opening 50 spots in Seattle and San Diego (I heard both are sold out) for the diverted marathoners. Honestly, I think they’ve gone above an beyond what I’d expect. I’m disappointed I didn’t get to finish. But I’m sure the race organizers are even more disappointed. It’s a great race on one of the best supported courses I’ve ever ran on. I’d do it again.
Already considering a marathon before MCM in October. I might have to put my triathlon hopes on hold…as I’ll have to dip into bike fund to pay for another registration fee and plan ticket…but it looks like I’ll be going to see my super pregnant sister in Buffalo and running a marathon in Canada along Niagara Falls!
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