Saturday, April 3, 2010

Race Report: Inaugural Oak Barrel Half Marathon

Some of you who have been reading here for a while know that I've been fortunate enough to have quite a few opportunities to travel. It seems like anytime I go somewhere (even when it's been out of the US) and I tell people I'm from Tennessee, the response is always, "Oh yeah, Jack Daniels!"

Yep. Jack Daniels. The distillery is about an hour down the road in Lynchburg, TN. Apparently it's made out state famous throughout the world. :)

When my friend Amy told me about the Inaugural Oak Barrel Half Marathon, I figured I might as well sign up. I love running inaugural races, I love running close to home, and I thought it'd be fun to run something new. Plus, it was only $50. If I only knew what the day held...

I woke up to cloudy skies. I knew that there was a chance of rain, so I dressed on the light side. The rain hit as I was driving to Lynchburg, and the wind was so rough that my car was shaking on the interstate. Most of the drive is on country highways, and the speed limit would often changed from 55 to 30 with practically little notice. I was starting to get a little nervous that I was cutting it a bit close to make it on time, especially with the rain.

I also saw a BIG bolt of lightning as I was getting closer to the race. It's funny to me that I saw that and hardly thought twice about it other than to jump a little when it startled me. When did I reach this place where I'm UNFAZED about running in a thunderstorm?

When I pulled into the parking lot, I had about 25 minutes until the start. Nonetheless, I hopped out of the car and let my mom (who ever so kindly went with me) take over getting it parked while I got my packet. I desperately needed to use the bathroom, so I was soon standing in line at the porta potties when I spotted my cousin. It's always nice to see someone I know at a race.

After taking care of business, I found Amy and we were able to get a quick photo in the rain before heading to the start just in time to hear someone fumble up the national anthem (she was able to laugh at herself about it, so that's good, haha) and then we were off!

Here we are just before heading to the start line. We both rocked the Huntsville marathon hats we earned in December. I really don't like running in a hat, but I always do when it rains to keep the water out of my contacts.

We headed out to enjoy 13.1 miles through Lynchburg. Even though it's so close, I'd honestly never been there before. I was kind of excited about running somewhere new.

We had been warned that the course was hilly. Considering I run in Percy Warner Park pretty often, it never occurred to me to think twice about this fact. Around mile 4, we found ourselves running up one of the biggest hills I have ever attempted to run. We eventually just walked up the rest of it, and it took me a few minutes to catch my breath at the top. Someone had the sensible idea to put a water stop at the very top. This was brilliant, to say the very least.

Running through Lynchburg was beautiful, but I have to admit I probably would have enjoyed it more if it hadn't been raining. I didn't spend as much time looking around as I think I would have should the weather have been nicer.

There was one really awesome part where we ran past a field that had a big group of horses, including one baby horse. They were running around all over the place in a big group. It was really cool to see that. I'm sure they were probably a little disconcerted that all these people were running by on their usually quiet and lightly trafficked road.

I'm so used to living in the Nashville metro area that I forget sometimes that most of TN really is countryside. Lynchburg is definitely a good example of small town TN. I passed so many farms on the way there this morning, and the little town area is definitely the kind of small, quaint town you'd imagine. I almost got the feeling that I had gone back in time, although I suspect they've kept things kind of old looking as part of the tourist appeal.

Amy and I chatted during most of the race, and I know that part of why I did so well is definitely because I had her company. The course really was challenging, and I think I might have gone slower or walked more had I not been running with someone.

The last mile seemed to drag on since we were running straight down a highway that was not closed to traffic, but we soon headed into the finish chute and finished in 2:06:16. (The race results say 2:06:52, so I haven't figured out how it is that my watch time is different when I started and stopped it on the chip mats at the start/finish.. so I'm going with my time.)

I was pretty glad to be done with this. Today marked my 11th half marathon, and it was definitely the hardest and hilliest one I've ever run! The rain added to the challenge. It was a tough event, but I really enjoyed getting it done and knowing I did something that was a bit challenging. I'm not in PR shape right now, but this wouldn't have been a PR course anyways. I was thrilled with a 2:06 under the conditions.

Both of us were happy to get this one done, and we've both agreed that it was fun to do... but that we probably won't feel the need to do it again. Once is enough. The medals were pretty cool though.

The post-race food was ok. I can't say I want Brunswick Stew after running a half. I did have a corn muffin that was pretty good before making the walk back to the car. There wasn't a dry piece of clothing on my body, so I got colder and colder as I made the 10-minute walk back to the car.

I wasn't about to make the hour drive home in wet clothes, so I orchestrated a change in my car. I drive a little 2-door Mercury Cougar with a tiny backseat. Changing every piece of clothing (underwear and all) back there was quite the challenge!

I got home and discovered I was 18 out of 56 in my age group and 315 out of 685 overall. I also found out my cousin got third in his age group. How fun!

The shirts and medals were probably my favorite part of the event. Even though it's a tech shirt, I don't think I'll run in it. The fabric isn't my favorite, and it's a little short... but I like the design so I'll likely wear it with jeans.

The medals were made of wood and had the design carved into them, and they had twine to hang them around your neck. I think it's one of the coolest medals I've ever earned!

I was so exhausted when I got home that I just laid down on top of my bed and crashed. Normally I like to shower first, but I just couldn't bring myself to do it. Four hours later, I finally woke up and got cleaned up. My body feels pretty good, but I'm still kind of tired. I'm definitely taking it easy tonight!

All in all, I'm really glad that I challenged myself and ran this race. Honestly, I always feel a little bad ass when I run a challenging race, especially when it's done in the rain. So I'll take that. :)


Christy said...

It's SO refreshing to hear that you walked up that hill! I'm running my first 10k next weekend (first race ever, actually!) and my first Half next month and am so nervous about stopping and walking, but it's nice to hear that you did, since you're an experienced runner! Glad you had a good race! Sorry about the weather!! said...

I LOVE this race report! Sounds like a crazy challenging race but that you did very well! :) i love the pictures and the medal! super super neat! :) cant wait to see you in almost a month! xoxo

lawmonkey13 said...

Great job on the half! That's my old stomping grounds from high school days about forever and a year ago, so I was mad that I didn't find about it till too late.

d.a.r. said...

Great job!!!!

I love the medal!

Mauri said...

I actually visited the Distillery on Saturday!! After the rain, it was a gorgeous day! So many people were walking around in their shirts; they're so cute! Great job - especially with the hills!

LPT said...

Brunswick Stew? Sick. That's like the Hyannis Marathon serving Clam Chowder. (Thank god I was too slow and they'd served it all by the time I got to the finish line... ugh the smell!)

Also, awesome medal!

Tasha said...

Sounds like a fun race even if it was rainy out! The medal is really cute too! (Found your blog from Just another day in our midwest paradise).

Brad said...

Hey, Melanie! Thanks for the commentary! I was hoping to find a picture of the "medal" and enjoyed discovering your report! Glad to hear more about the runnin' scene in Nashville! Come run in Raleigh anytime!

Joel said...

Melanie - I'm with the Oak Barrel Half staff. We've received a ton of great feedback on the inaugural event via our Facebook page, Twitter, email and like that in your blog post. Repeat runners will see changes at the 2nd annual. Our runners are our top priority. So, what can we do to get you back? We want to earn it. Email me at

Happy running!