Nashville Marathon 4/25/09

I had a little over five hours and fifteen minutes to craft the best race report ever written.  I came up with many excellent opening lines.  I mentally crafted page upon page of hilarious and thought-provoking prose.  I even laughed to/at myself as the words flowed effortlessly and endlessly forth.

I’ve forgotten every single bit of that so the uninspiring note that follows will have to suffice.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009, would have been an excellent day to run a marathon in Nashville, TN (with an overnight low of 45 and a high of 62).  Wednesday, April 22, 2009, would ALSO have been an excellent day to run a marathon in Nashville, TN (with an overnight low of 37 and a high of 72).  Unfortunately, the race was on Saturday, April 25, 2009, and by then the weather gods had shifted from accommodating to downright resentful…nay, pissed off (with an overnight low of 66 and a high of 86 achieved, I’m fairly certain, shortly after sunrise).

You can pick your race but you can’t pick your weather.  That being said, you can use decades of empirical data to eliminate races from your short list whose average low on the day of the race is anywhere north of 60 degrees.  Period.  Heretofore, that will be known as “Marathon Rule #1”.

Nashville was my 10th and slowest marathon, barely edging out Albuquerque (which was my 9th and slowest until Saturday).  I trained more for Nashville than any other marathon I’ve ever done.  My final long run was the only part of this particular build up that had me somewhat concerned.  You see, I use a 13 week build up.  During the first 8 weeks of this build up I ran long runs of 16, 18, 20, 23, and 20 miles.  After that, a series of events transpired that left me without a run of significant distance for the final five weeks.  In short, I don’t recommend a five week taper…

Weather and training aside, the race itself was fine.  It’s reasonably well organized.  There was plenty of water and Cytomax on the course, easily every mile or so.  The Cytomax was strong but everywhere there was Cytomax there was water to dilute it down a little…which is what I did.  I’d grab a Cytomax and a water, mix them together, slam the Cytomax, and dump the remaining water on my head.  Towards the end I would usually grab extra water, drink half, and dump the rest on my head a second time.  It was that hot.  Many of the residents along the route had water hoses out spraying runners as they went by, to them I am eternally grateful.  Most of the water stops were misting their area as well although some seemed an unintentional byproduct of loose fire hydrant plumbing.

I told POJ at the starting line that I planned on running the first few miles at a comfortable pace.  I hoped that would be somewhere in the low 9s.  It turned out that comfortable for me was around 9:30.  After four miles of that, POJ had enough of my slow ass and started to pull away.  I looked up around mile six and noticed he was only 20 or so yards ahead of me.  I sped up to catch him but, after clocking an uncomfortable 9:01, could not make up the ground (actually gave some ground) so I went back to my original pace.

By mile eight, I was already coming to grips with exactly what the day had in store for me.  I’ve never felt so bad so early in a race.  I grabbed a couple of free GUs, knocked one back, and put the other in my pocket for later.  When the full and mini courses split just after mile 11, I seriously entertained hanging that right and calling it a day.  Not willing to be the punchline for many ship jokes for months or years to come, I kept to the left and tried to muster up a rally to the 13.1 mile marker by spitting out my Big Red gum.  That seemed to help as I did eventually make it there though the miles were clicking by very slowly.

Deep into mile 14, the race course picks up an asphalt trail that parallels the Cumberland River.  If you’ve ever run Albuquerque, it is a lot like the trail that parallels the Rio Grande on that course.  A repeat of that fiasco was not at all what I had in mind.  I had an immediate gag reflex and thought, again, about quitting.  I decided to continue but made a deal with myself that I could take my first blissful walk break at mile 16 (if I made it that far).  There was a wild little tube bridge right at the 16 mile marker so I took that as a sign that walking with 10 miles to go was perfectly acceptable, even necessary, today.  Shortly after that, the course took a hard right turn down a steep ramp that marked the end of the riverside trail portion.  I had to walk backwards down the ramp…it was that steep.

I learned that I can walk at around 16 minutes per mile.  I decided that if I could maintain that pace I would walk a 16 and try to run a 10 alternating each mile for the balance of the race…averaging 13 minute miles to the end.  That’s pretty much what I did for the next 6 miles.  At some point, I lost my ability to run uphill so I started paying less attention to mile markers to determine my walk/run cadence and, instead, started walking the uphills and running the downhills.  This method seemed much more appropriate for this course in light of the fact that there are no discernible flat sections (which would have lead to guesswork with respect to whether it should be walked or run).  In terms of my overall physical condition at this point, my hamstrings and butt muscles felt like one continuous, horseshoe-shaped muscle.  My calves felt disconnected from the horseshoe and bungied to the asphalt.  Mentally I was gone as well, basically mumbling the f-word over and over again.

I caught up to POJ at around mile 22.  He was suffering as much as I was but we decided to do what we had to do to get to the finish line.  This section of the course is basically on out & back whose mid-point is a park called Shelby Bottoms.  The road is a narrow park road that does a lap around a bunch of baseball fields.  We were surprised by the number of ambulances we had to yield to as runners succumbed to the weather.  Many were being tended to by friends or other runners, some by spectators, and many more by medical staff inside the med station tents.  We walked the better part of the last 4 miles, only giving into the urge to “run it in” when we passed the 26 mile marker and the crowd began to thicken up.

After crossing the finish line, we had a long walk over a very tall bridge to the car.  I’m not the least bit embarrassed to say that we had to stop several times to get over that sucker.  We found a convenience store, picked up a sixer of Red Hook ESB, I taught POJ how to open bottles with a  doorknob back at the hotel, we spanked a few of them and then headed to 5 Guys Burgers & Fries for some recovery food.  It really hit the spot!!

I made my way back to my little sister’s house (where I was staying) for a shower and a nap.  A friend of hers came in from NC and the three of us caught the Dave Matthews Band that night at Vanderbilt Stadium.  Great show!  A huge “thank you” to Cap’n Jim’s wife for hooking me up with a DMB CD prior to the show so I didn’t have to show up overly ignorant to some pretty darn good tunes.

All-in-all…a good experience.

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2 Responses to “Nashville Marathon 4/25/09”

  1. Marathon Me Says:

    Way to Run Big Jeff! I hate hot marathons, and you made the right choice to finish and avoid the jokes 😉

    Frank

  2. Heather Says:

    Dude, for you, the weather and pace don’t matter. You’re always hot! And man-tough. “Others were being tended” but not you or POJ. Way to go Big!
    Heather

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