Race Report: Tom King Classic Half Marathon 3/9

Introduction

I registered for this race as part of my goal to run a race every month this year.  I had debated whether to race it or use it as a training run but, in the end, I really wanted to try to knock off some more time from my personal record so I decided to race it.  Thus, my goal was to run faster than the 2:43:51 I set in the New Orleans Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon.

The Tom King Classic Half Marathon is a local Nashville race hosted by one of the running clubs, the Nashville Striders.  I learned that Tom King was one of the founders of the Nashville Striders and this half is kind of his baby.  He races it with a shirt on that says “I am Tom King.”

For all of you non-Nashvillians, I thought I would start off my Nashville race reports with a couple fun facts about the Music City:
(1) Nashville is also nicknamed the “Athens of the South” because of its 17 post-secondary institutions and strong music and art communities. Nashville takes this comparison so seriously that they built a full-size replica of the Parthenon in 1897.
(2) Building on the Greece comparison, Nashville has a surprisingly old running culture, with one of the oldest running specialty shops in the country.  Jeff Galloway’s store in Atlanta, the “oldest running store in the world,” was opened only two months earlier (January 1973 v. March 1973).

Pre-Race: Shooting from the Hip

The morning of the race was probably the most hectic I’ve had before a race so far.  The race started at 7:30 AM.  I woke up at 6:50 AM.  The race was in East Nashville, twenty minutes away.  Thus, I was scurrying to throw on clothes, get everything I needed together, scarf down some oatmeal and water, and get on the road.  I had to drive pretty rapidly to get to the race on time and did so just barely.  I parked at 7:30 AM, jogged to the start, and minute or two later, I was going past the start line.

Race

Surprisingly, the course was fairly flat for a Nashville race.  It started at LP Field (where the Tennessee Titans play) and went out to the end of the Shelby Bottoms Greenway and came back to LP Field.  The weather was great at about 50 degrees and 57% humidity.

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When I started out, my pace was fairly fast for the effort I was putting in, especially in light of having had only one day of rest before and having not warmed up or stretched before the race. I decided to just keep up the pace for as long as I could.  I feel like part of the reason for my faster pace was the smaller size of the race (1500).  There weren’t any corrals and there were fewer people that were running my pace.  So I set out to maintain a pace about 0:30 faster than the pace I aimed for in the New Orleans Rock ‘n’ Roll Half.

I was able to keep the pace pretty well until mile 8.  Lesson learned from this split: don’t carbo load with Mexican food.  Felt a little nauseous and nature called.  Was able to pick it back up for a couple more miles and then mile 11 was really slow because I stopped at a bathroom.  Besides for these two miles, I was really happy with my pacing.  I think this race showed that I went out too conservatively  during my last race.

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Throughout the race, I was going back and forth with a Gallowalker.  At first, I could tell that we were just near each other by coincidence.  But after awhile, she just would sprint as soon as I passed her and then would walk. I think the walk/run strategy is fine if it is for you, but I thought this unstructured approach crossed a line.  It is already a little annoying to have re-pass the same people over and over and over again.  But then when you have to do it twice as much just because someone is seemingly too embarrassed to be slower than you, it comes off as repugnant to the spirit of the sport.  After playing this game for far too long, I just sped up when she tried to pass me again and she fell back.  I think she finished 5 or 6 minutes after me so this little game she played must have really worn her out.

By the time these shenanigans were over, it was the last mile. I picked up the pace a little but not as much as my last race.  The finish line of the race was really cool: you went into the bowels of LP field and came out on to the football field.  After circling the field once, the finish was at the 50-yard line.  As you crossed, they had you up on the jumbotron. Really cool.

Finished with a PR (2:42:59)!  1224/1332 overall and 62/65 in my age group.

One thing about the course and out-and-backs in general.  The course read a little long on my Garmin, which I know is normal.  But I think with out-and-backs this is probably a bigger problem.  You aren’t able to take the tangents with people coming back the other way and I doubt they measure it with only half of the path in mind. Maybe this is nonsense but out-and-backs always measure long for me and I think this may be the problem.

After the race was over, they had a really tasty breakfast buffet in the club level of the stadium.  But, who am I kidding?  Anything is delicious after a race.  It could have been terrible I wouldn’t have known the difference.

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I thought the medal was classic and understated.  I really like the brown strap (although you can’t see the brown in the picture) with the gold:

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Here I am in the car after the race (first race without the girlfriend, so it was harder taking pictures!!):

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Matt would you do it again?

Definitely.  The course was really scenic.  The price was right ($45, I think) and the food/ceremony after the race was really great. I also really like that the race is small and in town and that the course is very similar to the last stretch of the Country Music Marathon, which I am preparing for.  I think this will definitely be a yearly race for as long as Nashville will have me as a citizen.  For anyone considering doing this race in the future, this year was the first that the race sold out so be sure to register early.

Takeaways

(1) I feel like I could run a faster race at this fitness level.  I had two trash splits that I could eliminate with better race day preparation.
(2) I have never not PRed a race.  I kind of want to keep this up for as long as possible.
(3) Feeling pretty good about the Country Music Marathon on 4/27.  Still a little nervous but this race eased my nerves a bit.

Weekly Recap 2/24/13 – 3/2/13

It was a big week!  I was able to set three personal records this week: (1) weekly mileage; (2) monthly mileage; and (3) half-marathon time.  The marathon training is approaching its peak but my body seems to be adjusting pretty well.

Scheduled Runs

Sunday- New Orleans Rock n Roll Half Marathon
Monday – Rest
Tuesday- 5 miles
Wednesday- 8 miles
Thursday- 5 miles
Friday- Rest
Saturday- 18 miles (ended up stopping at 17 because the Striders’ training route was a mile short)

Overview

I started off the week by shaving off a couple minutes from my 13.1 PR, finishing the half in 2:43.  I wasn’t sure if one day of rest would be enough to bounce back into training from a destination race, but my week ended up going pretty well.  I finished each of the 5-8-5 runs strong.  I had been concerned because since starting to use a Garmin, my pace had been slower.  I started rotating in a couple new pairs of shoes (a new pair of Asics GT-2000s and New Balance1080V2s) my pace dropped again.  I think my shoes going dead may have been part of the problem.

As the month ended on Thursday, I wrapped up my best month yet.  I finished the month with 138.3 miles.  My best before that was January with 106 miles. Although there has been somewhat of a challenge in balancing the increased mileage with school and work, I have really enjoyed my ability to spend more time with myself out on the road and the increased challenge of longer and longer runs.

As the week wrapped up today, I finished my best week yet with 48.12 miles.  My best week before this had been two weeks ago with 39.07 miles.  Although, this week was a bit of an anomaly because a race and a long run fell on the same 7 days. Probably won’t beat this PR until my fall marathon training plan.

Other happenings

1. Mo Farrah is quite the guy calling off the hounds from the ill-prepared reporter that interviewed him after his half marathon win on Sunday.

2. Hide yo kids and hide yo wife and hide yo husband because the sinkhole’s comin’.  But seriously, a really strange and sad story.

3. More financial debates in DC.

Looking forward

I have a pretty big week coming up. 6 – rest – 5 – 8 – 5 – rest will be pretty standard going forward but I will have another chance to lower my 13.1 PR at the Tom King Classic on Saturday.  I am looking forward to getting some experience racing on hills in preparation for the Country Music Marathon.  The race ended up selling out, so I was lucky to think to register early!

Race Report: New Orleans Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon 2/24

Introduction

I lived in New Orleans at one point and my girlfriend wanted a really flat course upon which to run her first marathon.  Thus, our plans to visit New Orleans for the Rock ‘n’ Roll Half and Full Marathons were born.  Back in August when I began running, this race was my goal race.  I progressed a bit faster than anticipated, so I did a half in December and this race became the half for my marathon training plan.  My goal was just to improve on the time of my first half (2:45) and to pace the race well.

Pre-Race

We got into New Orleans on the Friday before this Sunday race.  We stayed in the Hotel Indigo in the Lower Garden District.  I lived in this neighborhood before and it wasn’t too far from the race start, so it seemed like the perfect choice.  Saved a bit of money too by not staying right at the start.  As it was right on the streetcar line, we didn’t rent a car (this is important later).  Overall, I was really pleased with the service, value, cleanliness, and feel of the hotel.  Would definitely stay here again.

Saturday we slept in a bit and then ventured out to the convention.  The convention was in the Central Business District.  We took a cab down and went through all of the convention shenanigans.  Bought a shirt, collected the free swag, and got some last minute Gu.  Took some pictures as well, i.e.:

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After the convention, we went out to grab a bite.  Settled into a CBD favorite of mine, The District, but it was kind of busy so we just got a beer and a snack and moved on. Tried to get an oyster po boy at my favorite po boy shop, Freret St. Po Boy and Donut Shop but they closed two hours early!!  Ahh! So we ended up at another favorite of mine that is just across the street, Dat Dog.  I got this really delicious duck dog with some sort of berry reduction and other toppings.  I was really impressed.

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We then went back to the hotel, took a nap, got dinner in the lobby, and tried to go to bed early.  Before we knew it, it was race morning!  It was kind of challenging finding some pre-race breakfast options because the hotel breakfast and places nearby didn’t open until 7 AM, the time the race was supposed to start.  We found out that Trolley Stop Cafe opened at 5, though, and we ended up eating there. I got a pancake, banana, and a bagel with some coffee and water.  We then took a cab down to the start, settled in, and, before we knew it, they were waving on corrals for their respective starts.

Race

I knew I didn’t want to start out too fast, so I tried my best to lay back and ease into the race. As always, people around us blasted off the start and I did my best just to use my Garmin to go at my own pace. I realized quickly that I had to use the bathroom!  So because my hotel wasn’t at the start but was along the course (and fairly early too), I waited until about mile 3 where my hotel was.  I ran into the lobby, used the facilities, and filled up my water.  Much faster than the 10 min+ wait there was at most of the port-o-potties. I think I may book a hotel down the course in the future for this reason.  It was super convenient.

I settled back into my groove as the course took us up an out-and-back along St. Charles.  There were about five bands or so along this way.  Most were pretty good, with a few incompetent ones thrown in (one brass band sounded worse than my high school jazz band :/ ).  By mile 6 or 7, I was started to feel a little rough.  The sun was making it hotter than I am accustomed to this time of year, there was 100% humidity, and I had a pretty bad bloody nipple (see end result of the bloody nipple below).  I wasted a bit of time around this point trying to get some vasoline at medical stations for my nipple.  As we turned down the straightaway towards the finish in City Park, I was starting to feel better.  Before I knew it, there was just about 1.1 miles left.

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I felt like I had enough in the tank to start picking it up.  I was finally able to pull away from some run/walkers that were annoying me ( kept going back and forth with them and they kept spreading themselves out across the course after they would re-pass me on one of their run intervals).  I picked it up some more. And then a little more.  After I passed the mile 13, I cranked it up to a near sprint.  I think in the last 1.1 I passed about 50 – 60 people total.  Now, I know going hard at the end seems silly to many, my girlfriend included.  I know I’m not an elite runner or even an average runner.  But I never claimed to be rational either.  There is something deeply satisfying about turning it up and leaving nothing in the tank at the end.

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I ended up tweaking my foot as I finished (Tory: “I told you not to sprint at the end”).  So I went to the medical tent and got a bit of ice and iced it while I waited for Tory to finish her full marathon.  It was kind of nice just relaxing, listening to the music stage in the distance and just reflecting on my race. After a couple hours, I hobbled back to the finish and watched Tory finish her first full marathon. So cool!  I was (and still am, I suppose) so proud of her.

So, anyways, in the end my splits were:

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Of course, I forgot to stop my Garmin right away so the last .1 is a little off.  My final time took a couple minutes off my first 1/2, with a 2:43:51.  Looking forward to trying to shave some more off at my next race (Tom King Classic on 3/9/13).

Matt, would you do it again?

Overall, I really enjoyed the race. The course went through some of the prettiest parts of New Orleans.  The medical tents were on top of their games.  There was plenty of water, Gu, and Gatorade. Everything was well organized.  The race wasn’t too enormous, but was big enough to get that big race feel. If I were to improve one thing, it would be the bands.  If you’re going to have bands at all, at least get good ones.  Some were real stinkers (but full disclosure: I am a former musician so I may be overly critical in this area).  Also, the location of the  end point made it hard to get transportation back to any of the hotels.  I feel like they could have mitigated this issue by alerting cab companies that people would likely need some cabs in that area.  All that said, I would definitely go back.  Wouldn’t mind making this race a yearly thing.

Take aways:

(1) I am really slow.  But the improvement is encouraging.
(2) Maybe I won’t go quite as hard at the end of the next race, especially if its not a goal race.  But I am a blockhead, so who knows?
(3) Next time, I will rent a car and pay for the parking at the end of the course.  The $50 we saved just taking cabs was not worth all of the trouble.