Recently it was my birthday so I decided to take a quick trip and head to Nashville for the Rock N Roll Marathon Weekend out there. I’d never been to Nashville, I love to run marathons, and I was already a 3 pack Rock N Roll holder so why not, right??
I had read about the hills but I live in some foothills so again, why not??
I read it would be hot, but my first marathon was hot, so WHY NOT??
I got a small bug and couldn’t keep food down the day before I was to fly out, but I tend to have a nervous stomach so I pushed on. Why. Not.
So I arrived in Nashville on Thursday around lunch and got an Uber to my Hotel. I have to hand it to Nashville their airport is so easy to navigate and I loved they had a ride share area making hailing an uber nice and simple. I checked in, laid out my bag, freshened up and headed downtown. My hotel was about two miles from the expo so I just hoofed it to see what it would be like if I walked race morning. It was a nice little walk and I loved the mix of modern and old southern architecture. It made me think that if Savannah, GA and Atlanta, GA had a baby it would be Nashville. I will say the drivers there are terrifying. I had at least two cars hop the curbs at the handicap ramp and drive on to the sidewalk. Maybe it was the chaos of the weekend?
The Expo was a bit small but easy to navigate. I was able to get my packets for both the full and one mile with no wait. I was also able to change my corral very easily which I appreciated.
I didn’t buy any merch at this expo. I tend to buy a sweaty band with a race logo and a necklace from races which they didn’t have here. I did pre order a cute shirt that says “no. 26.2” as a nod to Jack Daniels. The fit is good and I love the bright orange!
After the expo I rushed over to the start of the 1 mile run. It was a bit confusing since this was just over the top of a hill and the streets were narrow so I couldn’t see the start until I reached the top of the hill. Along the way I met some really nice folks who teased me for looking too serious and gave me a hug since I committed to run the full marathon. It seemed a little odd but also very fitting.
The one mile was a good taste of Nashville running. Just hilly enough to challenge me but not so bad that I doubted what was to come. The weather this day was also perfect making it an enjoyable albeit too quick race. The bib came with a free beer at a local honky tonk so what’s a tourist to do but get that beer!!! At first I felt like a fish out of water but once I was able to order a fried baloney sandwich and something called a “yeehaw” I was able to loosen up some.. maybe it was the yeehaw that tasted something like a creamsicle. One thing I will say is Nashville is a party town. I did not know this going in, so my walk back to the hotel was reminiscent of being in Savannah on St. Patrick’s Day, or a southern Vegas…
The next day was spent trying to overcome the bug I still seemed to have and laying around watching TV. I was sleep deprived from not feeling too good so I kept packing and unpacking everything trying to be race ready. It was a hot mess, I won’t lie. I think I finally passed out around 7PM but woke up an hour later when the air stopped working. I tossed and turned until 3am when it was time to get up. The hotel told me late check out was only possible if I checked that morning so here I am sick, tired, about to run a full wondering if I need to check out or if I can shower after… they said they’d only hold my spot until 12 and being cautious on an unknown course I opted to check out. I rushed around gulping coffee and trying to convince myself a banana should be eaten, but I just felt so awful. I ate half of it and tried to check out which turned into a confusing whose on first trying to explain I am not the fastest and while I would love a shower post race, I wouldn’t love finding out my stuff was removed and I couldn’t get into the room.
After that I headed out on my walk to the starting line. Hey, guess what? I had to throw away my throw away about 2 minutes in because it was already about 70 degrees at 5am. Cool.
I’m walking to the start village and get there and grab a bottle of water and sit trying to calm my stomach. I listed to a voice mail from my father urging me to take care of myself and to enjoy my birthday. A few deep breaths and I went to pre race tinkle. Except there were no port o johns in the Runner’s village. Okay, I hear that they are at the 5k start. I walk about a half mile there nope no bathrooms. Walk back to the start for the half and full and now it’s jam packed. Crowds can’t move. Can’t find the potties. Had to ask an officer who told me they were further down. I eventually find them and get in line. Where I got cut in line but several people shoving their way in. It was potty chaos. People were refusing stalls because they were nasty. People were fighting. The anthem started. A slow push of crowds starting to move the lines into the sidewalks. Nightmare fuel. I did make a potty line friend when we banded together to pounce on two stalls. As we escaped the crowd pushed us forward like salmon as we both tried to figure out how to find our corrals. I saw hers and shouted goodbye as the crowd swallowed me. All my pre race adrenaline was now wasted for the rush of the potty….
My corral was tiny. Maybe 30 of us. Most others were massive. It was bizzare. The corral control was just people yelling. It was confusing..
We started down the road and I felt great. Whatever sleep deprivation and bug I was fighting was holding back and I just paced myself smiling and saying “what’s another marathon?”.
Heh. By mile 5 the hills were already kicking my ass. Temperatures were already starting to get out of control. Water stations were already flipped with empty tables. At mile 5. And I was solidly mid pack. I saw EMTs taking people away at the 10k mark. I heard women around me say their hands were bloating. Oh shit. They needed salt. I switched from race mode to mama bear mode. I slowed down and handed out salt tablets and checked on people who felt “weird”.
Around mile 10 it was cooking out there. I was so sweaty I couldn’t open my stinger waffles or gu packages. Volunteers were disappearing. Water stations were disappearing. I was damn near alone. But this is only mile 10 and I’m 2 hours ahead of cut off pace! Soon the clocks weren’t working. Soon I saw them, the sweepers, about 4 miles back on the other side of our loop. In an industrial part of town the signs were held by lone cardboard cutouts..and maybe it was the heat but the messages seemed cruel like “you’re not even half way there”. WTF? Bands had packed up… we ran through a baseball stadium and there was a collapsed girl inside. No water to give her. No course aids saw her. A group of girls I was pacing flagged the only person we saw, a camera man, to help her. W-T-F?
I started to struggle around 18. The heat was becoming too much. My feet were swelling too much. I felt like the race was trying to steer everyone to quit early between the lack of bands, water stations, and those fucking signs. (Again maybe I imagined them. But I swear…)
I was digging deep. I kept thinking of John Locke from LOST. How people said he couldn’t do things because of his legs and he’d tell them “DONT TELL ME WHAT I CANT DO!”. I wasn’t going to let the heat, or the bug, or the hills, or those FUCKING signs tell me I couldn’t finish this, my third full. I trotted on. I felt weird. I ate a lot of salt. I gave out a lot of salt. I started crying out of pure frustration at mile 22.
But I finished. I finished it with a sponge in my hand now warm from being shoved on my face every few seconds. My finishers photo with that sponge might be the best race photo I ever have taken.
And then I drank a beer.
I had to then hustle back to my hotel and change in their restroom and catch a cab to the airport. As I sat at a restaurant trying to feel human as the sleep deprivation, exhaustion from running, and heat washed over me. Another runner limped to a table neerby and we nodded our congrats to one another. We both knew we didn’t just finish a marathon, we put our all out there that day.
It’s been about two weeks and my toenails are red and black. All the swelling from the heat and the downhill running did a number. One toenail wants to escape but I’m keeping ol stumpy. It’s a badge of honor at this point.
I can’t blame the race for the heat. I can’t blame them for the hills. I will say their port o John situation needs help. Their corral and start system is absurd (P.S. they started the 5k at 6:15 am but held us full people until about 7…). They really needed more volunteers at the water stations. And their overall race organization was lacking. But the city of Nashville was kind and welcoming to me and thousands of others. For that I’m greatful.
Hopefully the heat just made it a bad race and the next Rock N Roll Marathon for me in a few weeks will be more on point.
For now it’s time to pack because I’ve got the Tinkerbell Half Marathon coming up on Sunday and mama needs a new pair of shoes at the expo.