Saturday, May 2, 2015

A Music City (Weather) Miracle - Nashville Country Music Half Marathon 2015

We keep talking about how the sun seems to follow us on our races. Except for a few (Anchorage, Providence, Montreal, DC), we've gone to 94 of our 98 races without even a hint of rain. For Mardi Gras 2011 Nashville 2011 and Cleveland 2013, when the weather before and after the day of the race was brutal enough to cancel flights, the hours on the course were dry. The weather cleared up in Antarctica the day after we arrived. We're beginning to think California weather follows us around.

Then we see the forecast for Nashville this year. Al calls this a 'kitchen sink' race since the weather can be anywhere from near freezing to 90 degrees with rain, sleet and an occasional tornado watch. Basically pack everything, including the kitchen sink. As late as the night before, there were weather advisories for thunder showers and damaging hail. Maybe it was time that our luck ran out. Just for perspective, here's the screen shot from the Weather Channel app when we landed Thursday night. The race was scheduled to start at 7 AM.

For a Saturday morning race we caught an early Thursday flight to arrive mid afternoon. Along with the 30K+ coming into town for the race, the Nashville Predators were playing an early round of the NHL playoffs. Nashville hotel prices were 2 - 3 times the usual rate, so we opted to stay closer to the airport at the Sheraton Music City. Caryn has been missing from our RNR Gypsy group as she was neck deep in work and planning a friends wedding. She happened to be in the area for a work trip, so naturally, she had to squeeze a half marathon into the weekend.

Thursday night was a bit of a splurge meal. Dinner at the Watermark Nashville ended up being a three hour affair. If you get a chance to stop by, the gelato (especially the green apple), the lemon chiffon cake with meringue and the chicken and waffles (really!), are absolute MUSTS!

Our waiter was hilarious. We challenged him to match the appetizer to the person who ordered it and he was spot on. We asked him to take a picture of dinner at the table. We were right behind this big pole, but he improvised well.

Friday had a series of work calls, so between Caryn, Susan and Ron, one of us was always back at the hotel room keeping the world from falling apart. Caryn stayed at the hotel on the first trip where we ran into some of our RNR Gypsy friends as always. Nashville is Competitor's third biggest race behind Las Vegas and San Diego. It's also one of the oldest in the series which makes it all the more impressive for these 39 people who have run every race.

Geo Melichar joined us for the first time since RNR New Orleans. He's in training for the Eurogames this year so he's been focusing on local training. 

Al is a fan of ZipFizz, especially the Iced Tea flavor. For those in the know, expos usually have the best prices around for gear and fuel. Al is not one to pass up a deal and a few bonus bottles for the purchase.

We went back to the hotel for Caryn and had a quick bite at McNamara's Irish Pub for lunch. This place is known for live music and good authentic Irish food. It's come to my attention that I'm falling down quite a bit on food pictures these days, but if you go, the Corned Beef Bites, Black and Tan Onion Rings and the Potato Soup were big hits. While Caryn and Al finished up at the expo, I caught up with Kevin Gonzalez really briefly on the way out for dinner. Kevin had PR'ed in Boston the week before Nashville after PR'ing at the half the week before that in Raleigh. At some point, he may learn about taking it easy so he doesn't eventually implode, but I don't see that happening any time soon.

We had dinner with Al's friends at The Yellow Porch. Al's friend Sue and Eric picked out this little place and proceeded to impress the heck out of us with stories about their kids. I have a feeling that family is going to be a force to be reckoned with in the tech world some day.

At this point, the forecast was looking better for Saturday morning. There was still a lot of concern about the folks who would be up early setting up the course, especially the large metal frames for the start and finish lines. The threat of thunderstorms was moving later in the afternoon, but they added large hail and damaging winds to the forecast. Competitor was keeping us up to date and had a text alert system set up to give us the latest at 5AM. As late as Friday night, it still looked pretty scary.

The text came in the next morning that the race was to start on schedule. I checked the weather and heard Al Michaels in the background saying "Do you believe in miracles?!" I'm beginning to think we should ask for rain in California.

We parked at LP Field and walked over the bridge to the starting line a mile away. I remember in Montreal when we somehow ran into Beth and Jim out of the 15,000 people in the race. This time, we found Andrew, Michelle and Ted (and Hyalker, who we saw shortly after this shot) on the way to the starting line. It was like Montreal a few years ago. In a sea of tens of thousands of people, we gypsies always seem to find each other.

Nashville is a huge race for St. Jude's Children's hospital. St. Jude Heroes raised $1.8 million for the charity. Our friend Thao is the charity liaison for Competitor Group. She says her job is the most rewarding on the planet.

As for the race itself? No rain. not a drop. I think the only water I felt splashed on me at an aid station or from a hose that was misting down runners at mile 10. The music was great. I heard a few people saying they were pretty sure they were using DJ's, until they turned the corner and saw a live band. 

I remember a lot of people complaining how hilly this course was. Depending on if you look at total elevation change or gauge it by the steepness of individual hills, you could argue this was about the same as RNR Raleigh. Having started out training in San Francisco, I think our expectations are pretty high.

Two of the most inspiring runners on the course wore bright green shirts, surrounded by support staff. I didn't get names or bib numbers, but this lady and a fellow before her both finished in the 2:10 - 2:15 range for the half. 

Both are legally blind. Your arguments are invalid.

There was a bit of confusion at the finish line which was supposed to be about 50 yards past the final turn off Woodland to South 1st Street. Since there was still a threat of thundershowers, CGI elected not to put up the finish banner. While we heard Ann Wessling on the PA, most of us didn't even know she was on the stage. I stopped before the finish line to go back for a long-distance high five. 

While we were waiting for Caryn, we made our way to medal pick up - that was the plan in case we got into any weather issues. We caught up with our friends Amy and Ainsley (whom we met in DC) and Fred (met in Raleigh). For five of us, this was our 6th RNR, giving us the Six-String Heavy Medal and the Southern Charm medal for completing RNR New Orleans and RNR Raleigh. If you missed Nashville, but completed the other two, you can still earn this challenge medal by completing RNR Savannah in November.

Yes, I got stopped going through airport security. I'm learning to pack the medals on top in one layer.

Fred is one of the five people who picked up the Eight Track Heavy Medal. The thing is a monster.

According to Amy at the Heavy Medal booth, there are about 30 people who picked up the Six-String and about the same picking up the "Stairway to Seven." It looks like the Hall of Fame medal was a huge incentive this year and if there is a banner like 2014, it's going to be very VERY crowded!

There was a post-race concert this weekend, something that used to be standard for RNR races, but not for the past few years since we started racing more. Martina McBride performed at the Bridgestone Arena and to get in, all you needed to do was show your race bib. 

Ron, Susan, Caryn, Sherry pre-show. Joe had great side view seats and took some awesome pics and video.
I know a few people who weren't able to stay for the show. It was a great reward after a pretty tense weekend and a challenging course.

On the way back to the car (the long way), we swung by Savannah Candy Kitchen on Broadway. This is where social media and my incurable sweet tooth tend to enable each other since I saw a ton of pictures from my friends who stopped by here. Even if you don't buy anything, it's a treat just to watch the pralines and rice krispie treats being made.

I know the sun doesn't REALLY follow us around the world, but I continue to be grateful for the opportunities we've had to continue racing. Never in my wildest dreams did I think we'd be where we are, coming up on turning 50, traveling the country and the world, in great shape and spending time with wonderful people. 

Maybe it's the attitude we all share that brings the sun with us.


The Country Music Marathon and Half Marathon was held for the 16th year in 2015. There were 23,130 total finishers including 2,635 in the full, 18,351 in the half and 2,260 in the 5K. Median finish times were 4:41, 2:25 and 00:39, respectively. This is the largest race around with the entertainment dedicated to country music. This year was a little muggy, but considering what the forecast was like up until Friday night, no one is complaining. In the past 5 years, weather has been really random. Check forecasts often and be adaptable. Also be ready to shell out some bucks for hotel rooms, noting that there's reasonable parking at the finish line for this year's course, so staying outside of downtown is very convenient.

This was our first time back in Nashville since 2011, the first year we ramped up our race schedule to get the first Rock Idol medal for 10 races. I remember it being muggy, but not a drop of rain on the course. The sky opened up the afternoon after the race when we headed out to Memphis on the way to Graceland. We haven't signed up for Nashville 2016, but may put it on our list to rotate every other year with eastern and central races depending on our RNR race goal for the year.

Nashville was our 98th lifetime race at the half, full or ultra distance. When Ron was 38, he set a goal to complete A marathon. After that, the next goal was 50 events by age 50. When we both reached 50 when Ron was 46, we raised the bar to 100 events by age 50. We're on track to do that with a year and a half to spare. Next us is The Biggest Loser RunWalk in Crown Point, Indiana.

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