Country Music Half-Marathon Race-Report

Ready to RaceOver the weekend I ran the 2013 Country Music Half-Marathon with 20,000 of my closes friends.

I placed 3rd in my age group and 24th overall. My time of 1:19:57 was a significant new PR (previous PR was 1:22:16). All while running in the rain! It was also my first race as a member of the Nashville Running Company race team, so it was a great race.

Last week I wrote a Country Music Marathon Course Preview that was pretty well received. I am going to apply the same format to this race report.

Pre-race:
Erica drove Matt and I to the start line so we didn’t have to deal with the shuttles or parking. We pretty much immediately set off on a two-mile warmup down West End Avenue 40 minutes before the start. It was a fun atmosphere and the weather was cooperating (cool, overcast, no rain). On our way to the 1 mile marker we passed several people including eventual CMM winner Scott Wietecha. After hitting the 1 mile marker we headed back and I found an empty port-pottie on a construction site close to the start line. I never made it to the actual pre-race area and instead just hung out under the RiteAid covered parking area as it started to rain. I didn’t check a bag and just tossed an old Zoo Run Run shirt to the side as well as my makeshift arm-warmers (dress socks with the toe cut off).

The Start:
I was in Corral 1 with a few hundred other runners. It was a really fun and festive environment and I saw lots of friends. Ashley Evans and I chatted a bit and talked about both starting out about the same pace. I still didn’t know what my goal pace/time really was and was just hoping for a new PR.

The start was delayed because of some cars still on the course. During this time they took the opportunity to play some slow and non-energizing music (WTF?!). I guess “Sweet Caroline” as some significance in relation to the Boston Marathon, but I didn’t get it and it was hard to stay race-ready through a series of ballads. Eventually, the wheelchairs were started and about 30-45 seconds later our gun went off. It felt like time stood still for a couple of seconds, but then we were off.

American Flag at the start of CMMThere was some guy at the very front and center of the race who was carrying an American flag. Apparently he wasn’t in the front because he was going to run really fast with the flag, but rather for a great photo op. Unfortunately his flag was hitting me in the face during said photo that ended up published in the Tennessean.

After swerving around a couple of people I fell into a rhythm and started racing. As we passed the 1 mile mark I looked at my watch and realized I had just run the first mile way too fast (5:46ish). I decided to just go with it and see if I could run a sub 1:19 (qualifying standard to bypass the lottery for the NYC marathon).

We then ran past Hume Fogg high school. On Thursday night a couple of girls from HFHS had come into my store to buy clothes to wear while cheering the marathoners. I couldn’t make out any individuals, but I did manage to wave in their general direction. We then ran down Broadway to 4th. As we turned on to 4th I had expected to see a lot more people than we did and didn’t recognize anyone I knew like I had hoped. Oh well.

The climb:
I don’t remember much of the 3rd mile other than that I was kinda shocked to go through 3 miles in less than 18 minutes. Last year I couldn’t run a 5k as fast as I ran the first 5k of this race. Shortly after I started to pay the price as I slowed down while we climbed Music Row. This is where I started to question the pace, but I tried to stay calm and remember that this is one of the toughest parts of the course. Soon I was be at mile 5 and pass some friends.

The neighborhood:
At mile 5 I passed my friend Dan’s house. As I ran by I looked over and say Vicky who cheered my name and then I heard Dan and some others call out as I passed. That was a helpful boost and then a block later I passed my mom who had my son’s with her. I tried to smile and wave as I passed by, but according to my other family members she called my smile came across as more of a grimace. Then a couple of blocks later I heard my name again and looked over to see Will cheering on the side of Belmont. Another good boost.

12th South:
This part of the course was not nearly as tough as I expected, but that may have been because I had settled in to a slower pace. Brian and I were running side-by-side for a while. Apparently he was wearing an East Nasty shirt, so I just pretended that all of the East Nasty cheers were for me. I also remember seeing Chip on 12th South.

As I climbed my way back to Music Row I started to need to pee.

The descent:
I NEEDED TO PEE. BAD.

That is all I could focus on. This was supposed to be the easy part of the course and one where I picked up the pace. Instead I was trying to figure out what to do with my bladder. Since we were already soaking wet from the rain, I decided to just piss my pants.

Have you ever tried to piss your pants? It is incredibly hard to do while running. I spent at least a mile trying to figure out how to relax enough so that I could pee. As we passed Musica and headed to the Gulch I even tried pulling my shorts to the side to see if some fresh air helped to get things going. It didn’t. No matter what I tried I just couldn’t figure out how to do it. At this point I decided that I must not have to pee that bad :-/

As we entered the Gulch I just focused on not falling down since the roads were soaked and that steep little hill seemed dangerous. Along this stretch is when I completely lost focus. I started debating what my goal was for the race – should I race hard? should I try for an easier PR? should I just get close to my PR? should I slow to marathon pace and practice taking Gu and drinks on the move?

The split:
As we entered the Farmer’s Market area I felt like I was just out for a training run. My focus was completely shot and I was doing the math to think about how slow I could run and still PR. I no concept of how close I was to hitting the NYC qualifying mark and didn’t feel like I was even running hard. Just before mile 12 I was passed by the 1st place woman.

We passed mile 12 with 1:13:xx on the clock. I realized that even if I slowed to 7 minute pace I would still PR, but somehow I didn’t realize I had a shot at going sub-1:20.

The finish:
2013 CMM ResultsAs we snaked around downtown and started to head over the Woodland Street bridge I realized that I had a choice. I could either be the first man to get beat by a woman, or I could be the last man to not get beat by a woman. I decided to snap out of it and focus on catching that one last person. I picked up the pace and passed her while going down the final stretch to the finish. As I rounded the turn I saw that they were putting out the woman’s finisher tape and had to swerve to the left so that they could spread the tape on the right and let her break it. CRAP! I was THAT GUY.

Oh well. If I hadn’t decided to pick off that one last runner, I wouldn’t have come in under 1:20. For that I am grateful. Hopefully I didn’t create a stressful situation for her. :-/

Summary:
I didn’t run a smart race, which bums me out. The flip side is that races are a test of fitness and my fitness has improved again. Even with the super wet conditions (it rained the entire time) and even though I started out too fast and didn’t stay focused during the race, I still PRed. By a lot. This is a good sign for my marathon.

This also was my first race as a member of the Nashville Running Company race team. That was a cool experience and I look forward to running lots more local races in that kit.

New PR. Top 25. 3rd in my age group (Men 35-39). All-in-all that is a damn good day.

Looking forward:
VO2 Max 04/2013The chart to the right shows my VO2  Max as calculated from my half-marathon races over the past 28 months (how long I have been running). The days of huge improvements are coming to an end but I do think there is still plenty of room for improvement. Just going by the trend on the graph I think I can get VO2 Max close to 60 by November (HM time of 1:18-ish) and then 61 by April (HM time of 1:17-ish). Maybe there are still some big jumps left if I can figure out how to train consistently with higher mileage (or if I can make significant improvements to my running form / economy). Time will tell.

Now, back to marathon training! I am going to try to run 10 miles in the heat today :)

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