I had a blast running the Rock n Roll Nashville Half Marathon last weekend!
Well, I had a blast for the first 7 miles. After that I got walloped by the heat and humidity and spent all of post-race in bed fighting off a massive throbbing headache from heat exhaustion.
Let’s back up.
I knew it was going to be hot. The race organizers had been sending out advisories all week about the expected heat and had moved the start time up to try to beat the weather. I had been ending my runs in 80 degree heat so I wasn’t too worried about that, but holy moly, I was not prepared for the humidity. It was 75 degrees when I left my hotel room at 6:15 in the morning and it felt like I stepped into a steam room. I stopped off at the St. Jude Hero’s VIP area (thank you for the actual bathrooms!!!) and hung around until 6:40ish, knowing I had at least until 7:15 before my corral would hit the start line. I got caught in the crowd and edged along towards the start line, like a herd of cattle, while the race gun went off and the handcycle athletes began (they are AMAZING by the way- always my favorite part of a race!). Finally I found the start line and started edging my way back towards my corral, lucky number 29. I walked, and walked, and when I hit corral 15 I thought to myself “This is stupid! The corral is going to move up towards the start line, stop walking!” So I hung out a bit longer as the corrals slowly moved up. By corral 12 I had to pee again, so I quickly walked the 2 blocks back to the port a potties. Walked back to the corrals again, this time finding an earlier gap in the fence, and waited another stretch before my group appeared and I slid right in.
We crossed the start line at 7:30, and I tucked right in at my long run pace. The first few miles were awesome! It seems like the whole town of Nashville comes out to watch the race. At mile 5 you turn down a long street of homes where all the neighbors are out for their annual block party. They’ve got chairs and shade tents, signs posted on telephone poles, they’re spraying water on people, they’re handing out ice and letting kids spray the runners with squirt guns. It was fun! One tent was even handing out beer shots, which was a terrible idea and had few takers, but I appreciated the effort. It was such an energy boost.
Then we hit mile 7, and it felt like God turned on the microwave. The humidity was soul sucking. It was like my legs weren’t really connected to my body, and my brain fought with my body to keep it moving. The hills I was promised did not disappoint- it was like you went up hill but never came back down. I run a lot of hills in practice so I’m used to leaning into them, and I passed a lot of hill walkers earlier in the race. Now I gladly became a hill walker. I did everything I could to bring my body temp down- I drank my nuun, dumped ice down my bra, dumped water down my head and back- but my heart rate was still about 20 bps faster than usual at the pace I was running. I took my time walking for a bit, adding a minute to miles 7 and 8, and worked on getting myself together. Once I felt okay again I went back up to my expected pace and started doing some mental math, which is never a good idea. I was still making decent time and thought I could make a sub-2:30 goal if I continued to average an 11 minute mile, so I started to push a bit. A few 10-10:30 pace pushes to balance out the walk breaks, a little more dodging around all the walkers. Then at mile 11 I started to get woozy. My skin got the chills and I had goosebumps, a sign that my body was beginning to fail to regulate my core temperature properly. Mental fog set in, and I didn’t even realize that my music had shut off. I had a brief moment where my brain wanted to play the mental toughness card and push through, but I knew this feeling was more dangerous than usual body pain, so I decided to play it safe and went to a walk-run strategy for the last 2 miles.
In the end, given the conditions, I feel great about my 2:33 finish. It took a lot out of me- I was looking forward to some delicious fried food and a beer, but I had such a headache and felt so odd that instead I spent most of the afternoon in bed. I managed to make it out for a milkshake and again to a fancy dinner, which I hardly ate. Honestly, what is the point of running 13 miles if you can’t eat your weight in food later?
Anywho, I definitely recommend the Rock n Roll Race Series to anyone thinking about a running race (runrocknroll.com). It was exceptionally well organized and the shirt, medal, and post race experience were well worth the money. As for me, I’m done with long distances for a while. Time to go fast again!