Sunday, September 26, 2010

Race Report: Nashville Women's Half Marathon

Alternatively Titled: How to Get a PR When You Least Expect It

A few months ago I found out that the Inaugural Women's Half Marathon would take place this weekend in Nashville. I didn't really need to run a half, but they were offering the first 200 to register a discounted entry of $50. I decided that I'd do it with full intentions of using it as a training run.

Over the past few months, I put together a small team of girlfriends to run it for Mercy Ministries, a local non-profit that I support.

On Friday, I headed downtown to visit the race expo. I was not surprised that EVERYTHING was pink. The bags. The shirts. Everything any of the vendors were selling. I really am not a pink kind of girl, so it made it easy to keep my wallet in my purse. I did decide to buy a couple of Bondi Bands since I've heard good things about them.

My friend Tish met up with me at the expo. We had a little time to kill before our dinner reservation, so we wandered down Broadway and acted like tourists.

A view of Broadway - I love this city!

We met up with the ladies on our team at the Old Spaghetti Factory and enjoyed a fantastic pre-race meal. I also acted like a total goofball and showed off one of my new Bondi Bands - this one says my favorite running slogan, "Some girls chase boys - I pass 'em!"

A group photo at dinner.

Saturday morning brought a 5:30am wake-up. I got ready and headed downtown to meet my team for a team photo in our Run for Mercy shirts and to wish everyone well.

The weather wasn't as hot as it could have been. We've still been having some 90 degree hot and humid days down here, but some rain on Friday cooled things off a bit. It was still warmer than I'd prefer for a race, but I'll take it.

The race started with the first couple of miles being run downtown. In case you're not familiar with Nashville, the downtown section is pretty hilly. My legs felt like lead, I already felt hot and sweaty, and I was not pleased with the hills. I was managing to keep a 9:00 pace for those first few miles, and I found myself just hoping I could hang on to it and finish the race in about 2 hours as I intended.

We ran up and into Centennial Park, and my legs finally started to loosen up. There were hardly any spectators throughout the course, but the ones that were out there were definitely encouraging. A lot of them were men since it was a women's race, and my favorite were two guys holding signs that said "Single Doctor." They were pretty cute, and I've been kicking myself for not telling them my name and to find me in Nashville. (Because if they actually had, I'd have been impressed and met them for coffee with a friend or something. Oh well.)

As we continued along, we ran down Belmont Boulevard and back. I really tried to pick it up a little on the out portion since it was downhill, knowing that I'd lose a little time on the uphill back out. I was really determine to run a 2-hour half, and I was nervous I'd start to lose it since we were hitting miles 7 and 8.

Since Belmont Blvd. was an out and back, I was able to see most of my other friends as I was heading back down the Boulevard. It's always fun to get to call out and wave at friends during a race like that.

Next thing I knew, I caught up to my friend Liz. She's a lot faster than me so I was worried to see her. Turns out she was having a rough morning. Goodness knows I've been there. I kept on trying to maintain a steady pace, and before I knew it we were at mile 10.

It was then that I looked at my watch and realized that even if it took me 30 minutes to run the last 5K, I'd be really close to my previous PR of 1:56:09. I decided that it was worth trying to push the pace a bit the last 3 miles, even though I was definitely feeling tired and it was warming up outside. I hate the heat.

I also knew that we were heading back downtown for the last 3 miles, and that was not going to be flat. We ran down Broadway, but then we turned and ran up 2nd Avenue. Let me tell you... that road is a long, steep hill. I was relieved to get to the top, but then we ran over the river on the Woodland Street bridge. While the downhill of the bridge was nice, I felt kind of doomed. I knew we had to cross the river again to get back to the finish line.

We ran around the Titans stadium, and then sure enough... we ran up the Shelby Street bridge. I knew I had less than a mile to go, but it is one steep bridge. I allowed myself to lay off the pace a bit and just focused on getting myself to the top. I wanted to walk so bad, and the sun was beating down on me. I felt hot and nauseous. I finally made it to the top and was able to coast down the other side.

After a few turns, the finish line was in sight. I had nothing left in me for a sprint, so I just kept it steady and pushed toward the finish line... knowing that I had a PR. I'm pretty sure I was smiling.

I crossed the line in 1:53:57... a new PR by 2:12... an average pace of 8:42.

I almost couldn't believe it. It took me a little while to get my walking legs and catch my breath, but then I got my medal and headed to grab some food and Gatorade.

I have to say that I really felt shocked. I have NO idea how I pulled that off. I had gone into this race intending to just use it as training and run it in around 2 hours. I've been planning on trying to PR in a few weeks at The Middle Half... a flat course and potentially cooler weather. This course was hilly. It was still pretty warm. Not to mention, I ran 21 miles the Sunday before!

There is no good explanation. For all intents and purposes, I should not have been able to run a PR. The old one had been standing since March 2008... and I got it on a flat course in cool temps.

So I'm curious to see now what will happen in a few weeks in Murfreesboro. I'm thrilled to have a new PR, so if I don't get another one that day I'll be fine. But it'd be kind of cool to beat it again.

Over the next bit, I started finding friends. I really enjoyed that the race had a Cookie Cafe, and I think I may have had like 8 cookies over the course of the hour or two I hung around waiting for everyone.

The medals are music notes and really awesome!

I'm pretty pleased with the results. I placed 37 out of 553 in my 25-29 age group. It's crazy that 36 people were ahead of me because I felt like I ran so super fast, but I'm thrilled to have placed so high in the group. I was 222 out of the 3819 women in the event. I'll take that.

Would I do this race again? It's hard to say. I'm so NOT a pink girl, and I knew when I signed up that I was getting on board for a whole lot of pink. If everything is pink every year, I'd get tired of getting all that pink loot. Even the reusable goody bags are pink.

And it was a hilly course. Sure, I PRed. But I took a beating doing it. I napped for 4 hours after the race, and then I slept another 10 last night. My quads are sore. My butt aches. And my back is so sore that I can't stay in the same position long. And my shins are a little tender.

I really felt like they should have had water/Gatorade at every mile instead of every 1.5ish or so. I also didn't really enjoy any of the post-race food except the cookies.

I enjoyed myself and had fun getting a team to Run for Mercy in the race, but I'm not sure if I'll do it again. There are just so many other races out there to try, so this may be another one and done. We'll see.


Niki said...

Congrats girl! Way to PR!! You are super speedy!

Jamie said...

Congrats on the huge, unexpected PR! That's awesome!

Jamie said...

Congrats on the huge, unexpected PR! That's awesome!

Nicole said...

great job Melanie!!!

I love the shirts and the medal!

SO cute!!!

Amy said...

Congrats on the PR!!!!! That's an awesome time!!!

Kimberly300 said...

I was so looking forward to reading your race report.. I had really wanted to run this but my running buddy does NOT like races and I didn't want to do it alone.. I don't care for pink either so between that and the hills and stuff.. I'm not as bummed about missing it now. ha!

congrats on the PR.. awesome job!!

Keri said...

Congrats on your PR! My PR for the half is on a hilly course as well. Weird how that happens.

Love to Run said...

Way to go, Melanie! Great job on the PR! It is good to hear your running is good so far this year.

I really like the idea of the "Women's" races going on all over the country. Let the ladies be in the spotlight for the day! Did you see any men in the race? I have heard that some men enter like in the Nike Women's Marathon. Not for me though. I definitely would be there watching though!

Your training will serve you well at the Monkey and the Goof!

d.a.r. said...

Did you ever know that you're my herooooo?

Seriously, WAY TO GO!!! That's an awesome race!

Holly said...

congrats on the PR my sister and I traveled to run this race! (you can check out my blog for my race report!) um holy hills batman!! I didn't PR but was still happy with my time!! I wanted to yell profanities by the time I reached the bridge but i held back, and decided to preserve my energy!!