Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Race Recap: Nashville Rock & Roll Marathon

Last Saturday, I ran the Nashville Rock & Roll Marathon, and after years of trying, I finally crossed the finish line! In 2018, I signed up for the race and got a stress fracture in my foot two weeks before the race. In 2019, Paul and I ran it together (you can read that race recap here), but we didn't make the cutoff time and were pulled from the race at mile 19. I'm a slower runner, so I'm always chasing cutoffs, but that was my first (and only) experience actually being cut off from finishing. In 2020, I signed up again, but we had this little pandemic that canceled everything so ...

Fast forward to this year: This year's race was actually the rescheduled 2020 race, and it was supposed to happen in spring 2021 but was moved AGAIN to this past weekend. I was soooo glad to FINALLY be running it again! Here I am at the race expo at Nissan Stadium (where the Tennessee Titans play) the day before the race.

I arrived in Nashville on Friday around 2 pm and went straight to the expo. The expo was pretty slim this year. Just a few booths, besides the usual bib and shirt check-in tables. I guess Covid has killed big race expos too. After I worked my way through the expo, I drove to Brentwood to check into my hotel. And then I headed out to Nicoletto's Italian Kitchen because I'd heard they have vegan meatballs and egg-free homemade pasta.

Wow! I may have a new favorite Nashville restaurant! I ordered the Spinach Fettucine with Marinara and Vegan Meatballs, and it was perfection! All of their handmade pastas are vegan, and the big ass meatballs are made with seitan. I probably shouldn't have eaten every bite because I try not to overdo it the night before a race, but it was too good. So I ate it all!

After dinner, I went back to my hotel and enjoyed my one pre-race beer, a Memphis Made Colonial Aggression ESB that I packed from home, while I watched a Forensic Files marathon on HLN. I have a bit of a true crime addiction. 

I went to bed super-early — 8:30ish — since I needed to be up at 4 am for the race. I didn't sleep very well by myself in a new place, but I got up at 4 am and heated my bagel with peanut butter, got dressed, and headed back to Nissan Stadium for the race. They had free parking at the stadium until 6 am, but my race didn't start until 7:20 am. I arrived around 5:30 am and had to sit in my car for about an hour (it was too cold to head to the start line). 

Here I am in my "throwaway clothes" (most races donate discarded items, so I always grab warm stuff from the Goodwill to wear before a race in cooler weather) heading to the start! It was in the 30s at the race start, but thankfully, the weather warmed to almost 60 during the race.

The race got off to a great start, and I was surprised that I was able to hold a fast (for me!!) pace for the first half of the race. Negative splits are ideal, but I've never been able to master that in a marathon, so I like to run a little faster in the first half since I know I'll slow down as I tire. It's not a perfect strategy, but it typically works for me.

The first half of this race is always a giant party because the Rock & Roll series races tend to attract way more half-marathoners. So for 13 miles, you're running with a big crowd. And then the half-marathoners split off, and you're suddenly all alone (or at least that's how it is in the back of the pack where I am). In the past, the second half went through a desolate business district, and it was super-sad. But they changed the course this year, after complaints from runners, and the second half went through a park. 

There was a 3-ish mile loop that repeated twice in that park, and as I entered the park for my first loop, I spotted the mile 24 sign. I knew I wanted to stop and get a picture there if I made it past the cutoff again. I had a good feeling I'd finish the race because my pace was much faster than in 2019. Once I made it into that second loop, I knew I'd made it past the cutoff, and I got a little teary! Paul wasn't able to run with me this year because he's having some health issues, so I knew I needed to finish this race for the both of us.

I finally got to that mile 24 sign and stopped for that picture. I texted this to Paul and said "I'm gonna finish this thing!" He'd been tracking me on my Garmin so he knew I was doing well!

I crossed the finish line only a few seconds slower than my marathon PR from the Little Rock 2020 Marathon! Technically, my Garmin said the Nashville course was a little long, so if I were going by my watch, this race was a PR! Either way, I finished in an excellent (for me!) time!

I was so proud of myself. And I couldn't wait for that free post-race beer. So I hobbled over to the beer tent, only to discover that they were only giving out alcohol-free Heineken. WHAT?! That was a bummer. 

Oh well. I downed my one booze-free beer and then headed to Paul's parents' house (they live in Nashville) for a quick shower. Then I went to Wild Cow for a post-race treat. I wanted to eat everything, but I finally settled on a Gyro Pita Sandwich (made with seitan, mixed greens, tomato, cucumber, olives, and tzatziki) with Hummus & Chips. All that bread and seitan and salt hit the spot!

Then I hopped in the car for the three-hour drive back to Memphis! I was stiff and sore from the race, so bathroom stops were a challenge. But I made it. As soon as I walked in the door, I opened a REAL beer — a 9% ABV Over Achiever Imperial IPA. I figured I'd earned that!


Susan said...

Congratulations! I am so happy for you that you finally got to do it!

Sarah C said...

Major congrats. I love reading about your running just as much about the food (although I've not been able to run for a few years because of a knee injury, I'm going to try to work myself back into some running I hope). So impressed at the distances you go!

Sri said...

Woo hoo! Congrats on your third big race this year!!!! Awesome job. Sorry to hear that Paul’s health issues prevented him from joining you. Hopefully next year!

Jenny said...

CONGRATULATIONS!!! i'm a little late commenting, but this is awesome! So glad you had a good race and let's just call it a PR. Kind of funny about the NA beer at the finish- I'll be there were a lot of cranky runners!
Best wishes to Paul- I hope he's okay. And I hope you both had a great Thanksgiving!