Thursday, September 30, 2010

Women's Half Marathon Race Review

I dreamed that I was running through a sea of Pepto Bismol. Pink --- pink everywhere! Soft baby pink, bright hot pink, flamingo pink, Barbie pink, cotton candy pink, bubble gum pink; pink pink pink. Then I came to my senses and realized that I wasn't dreaming, I was running the inaugural Women's Running Magazine's Women's Half Marathon in Nashville and pink was the girly color of the day.

We all know I love to run races, we know I love to see my sis. This race offered the chance to do both. It sorta kinda fit right into my training calendar, between my longest training runs. So I registered, bought my plane ticket and headed to Nashville for a weekend of family and fun.

We went to the expo Friday, arriving early enough to be first in line when before it opened. For us, it was simple to pick up our (pink) bibs, emblazoned with our names and race number. We moved along and picked up our very cool goody bags:

They were filled with an assortment of stuff and the usual ads and papers. The expo was definitely womencentric with all the girly clothing and gewgaws a (female) runner could want. I spent a teensie bit of money there, walking away with a pair of shoes, a running skirt, a couple of headbands, a couple of boxes of Gu, a pair of sunglasses and my usual running hat. We remembered to pick up our race shirts which were, surprisingly, pink. They were also, surprisingly, big enough. A very nice tech shirt with some shaping and no ads.

In total disregard of the old saw that you never do anything new on race day, I decided to wear my new running skirt and my new cap. I figured this was going to be one of my shorter runs for a while, I was supposed to treat it as a training run, so no big deal. I crossed my fingers and hoped I wouldn't regret the decision.

Early Saturday we arrived at the starting area. Still dark, it was bustling with excited runners and walkers preparing for the race. We headed over to the line of porta potties and the sky exploded. It was truly bizarre; the potties were lined up under a row of trees that were apparently the resting place of a very large flock of birds. There were many hundreds of these birdies who took wing as the sun started to rise. Sweeping back and forth and back again, the birds wheeled around the sky as runners and walkers and spectators covered their heads and hoped.

My sis and I knew we couldn't run together since she isn't running these days but we lined up together in our corral. Then we noticed that we were ahead of the pacers holding up signs for 2:30, 2:45 and 3:00. That was wrong so we moved back. My goal was to take it easy, have fun, not get hurt. I didn't want to start too fast. Her goal was to finish walking a half marathon when she just wanted to run.

Finally the race started and we split up right at the mat. The race was, to be brief (hah!), great. It was well organized, well supported, well routed. The course was varied through business areas, residential and parkland. We ran on streets and trails. The police were wonderful keeping the routes clear of cars, the volunteers were friendly and helpful, the water and ade stations plentiful. It was hillier than I had expected from the course profile but it wasn't bad until about mile 12 when we had to run on an overpass in the blazing sun in the heat and humidity. But after that it went downhill or flat until the end.

I ran:walked my normal 9:1 until that overpass when I walked and ran when I felt like it. My splits were pretty even (except for my fumbled water bottle fill at mile 8 that took an extra 2 minutes) until then, and my last 2 miles were slow. I had realized finally that I was running a little harder than I had intended, it was hot, it was humid, so I slowed down. That's my story and I'm stickin' with it!

I crossed the finish line to the sound of my name (according to my bro-in-law who was waiting, there were lots of finishers with my name), had my huge medal draped around my neck, and was handed a bottle of water. I wandered down the line, greeted my bro-in-law, had my picture taken and headed to the food tables. They were filled to bursting with bagels, muffins, granola bars, bananas, apples, probably more that I didn't notice. There were buckets filled with icy water and bottles of energy drinks and water. I grabbed a cold one and went back to wait for my sis to finish.

After a while I saw her and her friend cruising across the finish line. They had made excellent time on their walk and both looked fresh and happy to be done. We hung out taking pictures for a bit, then moved along to the food tables which still were groaning under the weight of lots of food - even after 3-1/2 hours. I'm not used to anything being left at a half when I finish, let alone much later. Then we walked over to the cookie place. Yes, a set of tables just for cookies. Not quite a beer tent, but second best.

The medals were made just for this race in Music City. They're a two-piecer, with a center piece that could be removed and put on a necklace. Which coincidentally they were selling at the expo and after the race for a mere $10. Yes, we had purchased them at the expo and worn them during the race with the intention of having the charm hung after the race. There was a booth with helpers transferring the charms and there was no line so we were through there quickly.

Final thoughts: great race. It's not east for an organization to put on such a successful inaugural race. Soup to nuts, everything went right. There was a medical tragedy on the course that was quickly handled with sensitivity. The expo, while not as huge as the bigger races, carried just about anything a runner or walker could want for a race or other fun run. Packet pickup was efficient. Amenities (bag, shirt, medal, food and drink afterward) were ample and fun. Course support, both police and volunteers, were ample and cordial and friendly. Participants ranged from newbies who had never done a race to experts hoping for a PR. The weather even cleared up; hot and humid to me but cooler and drier than it had been. I'd do this race again, and I'd do another of their races if I had the weekend free. Give it a try!

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