Bluff City 10K Recap

Beer and medal, enough said
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Last Saturday was the inaugural Bluff City 10K benefiting Habitat for Humanity here in Memphis. And since the Grizzlies advanced to the second round of the NBA Playoffs, graduation was moved to Sunday and I was able to participate in the event. Too bad the weather did not cooperate with my good fortune.

Red normally is not good for running

Red normally is not good for running

The morning began with the threat of rain and storms, and for once, the weatherman was right. Thirty minutes before the race was scheduled to start, the bottom fell out and the lightning came with a fury. A large group of us huddled up in a parking garage, waiting for the lightning to subside so we could fuel our running addiction along the soggy course. With each lightening strike came another delay of 20 minutes. It seemed as if we were not going to get to run the race, or even an abbreviated version of it. But just as quickly as the storm began, the lightening halted. 700 idiot runners cheered, and we swam towards the start line. Honestly, I welcomed the rain. It was a warm and humid day, so the rain helped keep my core temp low. I may not have been thrilled with the soggy shoes, but there is no need to complain about that.

Ready to play in the rain

Ready to play in the rain

This race had a first for me. About the time we were listening to the thunderstorm contingency plan, we heard a report that two of the water stations had been stolen! That’s right, some locals decided that they needed the tables and coolers more than us runners, so they helped themselves to them. This occurrence does lend itself rather nicely to my favorite quote from Clerks, “Bunch of savages in this town!” I will say that Start 2 Finish did a great job making accommodations for the missing water stops and we did not even notice it during the race. Kudos.

Bluff City Savages

Swag: A: A simple, but great looking medal and t-shirt for all finishers. The post race spread was a nice mix of chips, bagels, and pizza, with plenty of Memphis Made beer flowing, even in the rain.

Beer and medal, enough said

Beer and medal, enough said

Course: A: Not terribly challenging, and it included a great snapshot of Midtown Memphis. Obviously the rain created some puddling issues along the course, but it did not create any areas that were impassable. And even though some individuals absconded with two of the water stations, we still had water (and not from rain) each mile.

Shirt, medal, bib

Shirt, medal, bib

Overall: A: Great logistics and a fun race, even with all of the potential for disaster. I love that there is another 10K in town, and I suspect this race will grow in popularity at a rapid rate over the next few years. I, for one, will certainly participate in this event again.

My optimism for this race could also be from the fact that this is the best I have felt after a race in several months. I have been in a funk, and it felt great to finish an event without having the feeling of having the crap kicked out of me!

2015 Country Music Half Marathon

Nashville is known for its hot chicken, so of course that is how I refueled after the race!
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Another half marathon, regardless of how slow I ran it (it is now my personal worst finish, but we will examine this in a later post), is in the books. Saturday marked my second consecutive year of surviving the hills of Nashville in the late April humidity. The weather could have been worse, the predicted storms could have come through, ravishing the course and participants, but luckily all we had to endure was humidity at the start, and actually was blessed with a reprieve from the sun beating us down along the course. The temperature remained relatively cool, especially for late April in the south.

2015 Country Music Half Marathon Finisher's Medal

2015 Country Music Half Marathon Finisher’s Medal

There were over 30,000 participants for the day’s activities, and while at times, it certainly felt like you were around 30,000 other people, the event does a good job of managing the masses. There is plenty of parking at LP Field, especially if you arrive early, which is something I always try to do. Traffic is a beast, but that cannot be avoided in Nashville. The city is designed in such a way that traffic delays are unavoidable, especially during major events. If you have some knowledge of the side streets, you can circumvent some of the delays, which will certainly help your stress level. The event had 43 starting corrals to spread us out along the course, which certainly helped with the early congestion in the race. I was in corral 19 which meant I started about 35 minutes after the elite runners. The standing and waiting for your race to begin is not ideal, but it certainly beats trying to funnel 30,000+ people along city streets and through water stations. I cannot even imagine the chaos that would ensue without the wave start!

An area that the event could improve its crowd management is with the porta-potties, beer ID check, and post race refreshments. On my walk from the parking lot to my starting corral, I only saw four clusters of less than 20 porta-potties within each cluster. For 30,000+ people, this can create some issues. Especially when units begin to run out of toilet paper, which happened around 6:15 for the units closest to the parking lot. To get your ID checked for the post race beer, you had to stand in a long line at the expo. Maybe checking ID’s at the bib pickup location could help? I do not know for sure, but several people skipped the ID tent because they did not want to wait in line for their 21 and over bracelet. The finish line was a huge cluster. People were trying to stretch, refuel, and meet up with their families in a very finite space that was constantly adding new people to it. It felt like runners were being herded like cattle from receiving our medals to the various refueling options, around the corner to the beer tents. Honestly, the process would have probably worked better if the race could have used the facilities inside LP Field, not just around it.

Yep, my iPhone equated the hills to roughly 54 flights of stairs. My Fitbit placed the hills at over 60 flights of stairs.

Yep, my iPhone equated the hills to roughly 54 flights of stairs. My Fitbit placed the hills at over 60 flights of stairs.

Course: B: It was hilly, but we knew that going into the event. There were bands throughout the course and quite a bit of crowd support. Water stops were frequent and there was GU at mile 11, which is where the marathon and half marathon split up. The wave start helps to maintain the crowd considerably along the course, with only minor issues when the course goes through a residential neighborhood towards the middle. The course incorporates music row and downtown, which are areas everyone wants to see in Nashville.

2015 shirt, bib, and medal

2015 shirt, bib, and medal

Swag: A-: I like the medal, the shirt is good, but not great, and the post race refueling was plentiful. Rock ‘n Roll events are expensive, so it is nice to know that you got your money’s worth once you finish the event.

Nashville is known for its hot chicken, so of course that is how I refueled after the race!

Nashville is known for its hot chicken, so of course that is how I refueled after the race! This meal was consumed at Hattie B’s Hot Chicken. It was excellent.

Overall: A: Managing an event for 30,000+ people is not easy. There are going to be complications to address. Lines will be long, the crowds will be dense. The expo was a great example of this. There were numerous vendors there, but getting to each one could be a chore. I loved the expo, and I scored a few much-needed running items on the cheap. I really do enjoy this race, even though it is a challenge for those of us flatlanders that get kicked in the teeth by the hills. I have run in this event before, and I will run in it again. And maybe next year, I will be closer to my 2014 results, and not this year’s disappointing finish.

And on a side note, if you like fried chicken and spicy flavorings, Nashville has you covered. I loved the hot chicken at Hattie B’s, and will also be making a return trip there in the future!

I am a Rock ‘n Blog Ambassador for 2015 and I ran this race as such. It in no way skewed or influenced my reflections of this event (you can check last year’s review for that confirmation). All views and opinions within this blog are my own. 

2015 Murray Half Marathon Recap

2015 Murray Half Marathon Finisher's Medal
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Last weekend I was able to run a half marathon in a town about as close as possible to my hometown, which was great. I was able to stay with my parents, have a home-cooked meal, and relax in a house rather than a hotel. The race also happened to be in Kentucky, which enabled me to cross off another state in my running journey, which is now at six states for the half marathon distance.

Start line before the race began

Start line before the race began

Going into this race, I had no idea what to expect. It was a small town race in its fifth year of existence, with under 1,000 registered runners. It could be great, it could be terrible, and it could be something in between. You never know what the crowd support will be like and how capable the RD will be (this can be true at big races, as well). After running the race, I must say that I was pleasantly surprised by the crowd support. There was a spirit competition for supports at the water stops and other areas across the course, several locals were about to cheer us along, and the race went along smoothly.

Soem of the Murray Spirit Teams

Some of the Murray Spirit Teams

The weather started cool, and warmed throughout the morning. The early fear was that there were going to be storms on race morning, but those fears were unfounded. The sun was out for the entire race, which actually began to take its toll on me. As the miles racked up, so did the humidity and sunshine, and my mental state did not endure. This mental deterioration also accompanied the course going primarily rural. But I finished the race, and that was the goal!

Course: B+: The course was a combination of residential and rural, with crowd support along the entire course. There were plenty of water stops, and even Cliff Blocks at some of the water stations. There was no bottle-necking along the course, even at the start and the out and back stretch through a local park. There were more hills than I expected, and as my mental state waned, it felt as if we were only going uphill (which I know is not true, but it did feel that way).

2015 Murray Half Marathon Finisher's Medal

2015 Murray Half Marathon Finisher’s Medal

Swag: A: The medal has a classic look, with a design on both sides. The shirt was made from technical material and the design plays well on both the shirt and medal. The bibs had the runners’ full names and hometown on them, which was a first for me. Several races will have your first name or nickname, but not a full name. The expo was small, but was packed with vendors. The goody bag had several samples, including a free car wash and multiple pain relief remedies.

2015 bib, shirt, and medal for the Murray Half Marathon

2015 bib, shirt, and medal for the Murray Half Marathon

Overall: A-: Great race, with plenty of support. The post race was fun, with plenty of items. Parking was tight near the start line, but runners could use the parking lot at the football stadium for Murray State University and be shuttled to and from the race. The only issue with the shuttle was that the pickup location was not clearly marked, so several us missed the first pickup. The race also had chip timing rather than gun timing, which is not a given for a small town race.

I would do this event again in the future, even if it was not so close to my parents’ house.

Motivation Monday: Boston Edition

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As almost of you certainly know, today is the Boston Marathon. It is the world’s most famous race, and entry into the event is highly coveted. Qualifying for the event is not an easy endeavor, and earning a finisher’s medal will invoke envy from the masses. With this in mind, I thought it would be appropriate to share some motivation from 2014 Boston Champion Meb Keflezighi and the Rock ‘n Roll Marathon Series for today’s motivation. Enjoy.

Very true

Very true

2015 Kick It 5K Recap

Team Sue's Crew
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A few weeks back, I ran the Kick It 5K here in Memphis. This was my first time running in this event, which raises money and awareness for the treatment of pancreatic cancer. The event does an excellent job of incorporating survivors, families affected by the disease, and advocates for treatment. I participated with a team honoring the mother of one of Susan’s coworkers which passed away from pancreatic cancer after a lengthy battle. It was an awe-inspiring experience to see the amount of support and dedication for the cause presented at this event.

Team Sue's Crew

Team Sue’s Crew

It was a gloomy day, with rain and wind throughout the day. Luckily, the rain subsided long enough for the race to transpire, and the course was not overwhelmed by the weather. It was my second race of the weekend, and what is becoming a recurring theme, I was not at my best. I did feel good, however, and I did enjoy it.

Course: B: It is the standard 5K course that almost every 5K at Shelby Farms follows. The course is always overcrowded at the beginning taking about a mile to gain separation for those not lucky or fast enough to get to the front of the pack. It was announced several times for walkers to go to the back of the starting group, but most people ignore this. The course has a few hills, with the biggest sequence of hills right before the finish line. Honestly, I need to run this course more in training so I can get the mix of hills and enjoy different scenery during my runs.

Kick It 5K swag

Kick It 5K swag

The downside with the course is the early congestion. I was not paying attention at the start, and ended up having to start closer to the back than I would have liked. Having to weave around walkers and talkers cost me some time, but I was not going to PR or place in my AG, so it really does not matter.

Swag: A: This was a 5K, so swag basically means t-shirt. If it looks good, the review goes up. If it is ugly, it goes down. Anything extra is a great bonus. The shirt for this event was a long-sleeved white shirt. The post race food was quite extensive, with BBQ and all of the trimmings. There was also a silent auction during and after the event, and a live band. I would have stayed longer if the rain was not beginning to fall once again.

Overall: A: A great event that is run well, and for an excellent cause. The event does a fantastic job of raising awareness and support for pancreatic cancer. I will run in this event again.

And on a side note, in all of my races over the years, I have never had a repeated bib number. This event marked my second race of the weekend with the exact same bib number. Weird and random.

2015 Atlanta Braves Opening Day

The Chop
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In what is becoming an annual tradition here, today is the day in which we celebrate the (should be considered) national holiday of Opening Day in MLB! This is the point where I usually write several paragraphs about how his is the year in which everything comes together and the Braves finally realize their potential. This is the year that the Braves make a deep run in October. This is the year their young talent fully matures and makes that next step. This could be the year that the Braves return to the World Series. Well, a funny thing happened between the last pitch of 2014 and this first pitch of 2015. The Braves went into full-fledged rebuild mold.

Julio Teheran is the Opening Day starter for your Atlanta Braves

Julio Teheran is the Opening Day starter for your Atlanta Braves

Gone are prodigal son Jason Heyward, the savior at second base Tommy La Stella, both Upton brothers, the best closer in the game Craig Kimbrel, feel good story Evan “El Oso Blanco” Gattis,  the 2014 Tommy John casualties Kris Medlen, Brandon Beachy, and Jonny Venters, the hired gun Ervin Santana (who is now gone from his new team for 80 games for using PED’s) and nearly every setup man in the bullpen from last year. Gone is the hopes of the Braves celebrating their 20 year anniversary of being World Champions with a repeat performance of this feat. Gone is the general manager to either praise or blame for the current state of the Braves. Gone will be several fans (not this one) upset and hurt by the moves. Rather, enter the pains of rebuilding.

Taken from the Braves Facebook page

Taken from the Braves Facebook page in 2013…  :(

The Braves did not just give away these players (well, Melvin Upton, Jr., they certainly tried and his transaction became the toughest, but more on this later). The fact was that the Braves team of the past few years was talented, but flawed. They did win 96 games and the NL East only TWO years ago! With a young, and mostly returning team. The originally projected Braves team for 2015 would have been decent. The problem is that is was unlikely that the Braves were going to be great, and then next year, there were going to be a massive exodus of talent due to the team’s corporate ownership, Liberty Media, and the bottom line. In reality, the looming exodus after 2015 did not have to happen, but was going to, regardless of what we fans think. And with the new park opening in 2017 (a subject for another day), the new front office decided to punt on the last two years at Turner Field and have hope for Sun Trust Park. So here we are, a team of misfits, scabs, and a couple of remaining stars from the past half decade, and a wounded fan base.

The Braves have certainly found a way to dominate the offseason chatter. They have actually done this for three consecutive years now. 2013 they signed the then BJ Upton to the largest free agent contract in team history, traded for his brother Justin, and had what many people, myself included, felt was the most talented outfield in the game. Ultimately we were wrong, but it was exciting and fun. 2014 saw several extensions for the rising young stars of the team. Freeman, Kimbrel, Simmons, Teheran, and Johnson signed huge extensions days after news of the new park was announced. The GM Frank Wren and Manager Fredi Gonzalez received contract extensions. Heyward had his arbitration years bought out, creating hop a longer extension was still an option. And after Medlen and Beachy had their right elbows fail them again, the Braves made a huge splash by signing Ervin Santana to save the rotation. The 2014 season did not cooperate. The hitters regressed, the pitching was solid, but not exceptional, and the team only won 79 games. A drop of 17 games with a very similar roster is troubling, but what if 2014, and not 2013, was the aberration?  A couple of moves could be made to bolster the roster, and look out MLB in 2015! Sadly, that is not the direction the team went.

Pic from MLB's Facebook page (2013)

Technically true! Pic from MLB’s Facebook page (2013)

The alarming strikeout rates, lack of power, and complete failure with runners in scoring position prompted a complete overhaul. Young second baseman Tommy La Stella was sent to the Cubs for a former Braves pitching prospect derailed by injuries. Heyward was sent along with primary setup man Jordan Walden to the St. Louis Cardinals, just so all my friends and family can enjoy their talents at my expense, for young pitching prospects. Justin Upton was moved out west to the Padres for more prospects, including one recovering from Tommy John surgery, which is the Braves way, of course. Bullpen arms David Carpenter and Chasen Shreve were sent to the Yankees for a former highly touted prospect returning from Tommy John surgery. Then El Oso Blanco was sent to the Astros for more prospects. Then yesterday, as everyone was preparing for a 2015 season that may or may not be good, the Braves pulled the trigger on another deal. The best closer in baseball was packaged with the worst contract in baseball and sent to the Padres for a couple of warm bodies for the outfield (one of which was immediately DFA’d) and a couple more intriguing prospects.

Heyward and Justin Upton were pending free agents, so moving them was rationalized simply by stating the obvious, they were gone after 2015 anyway. Sell now, and get max value. Gattis was a cheap power hitter, but really had limited options on the Braves roster due to rising catcher Christian Bethancourt, Freeman at first, and the scary prospect of him lumbering in the outfield. If MLB had the DH in both leagues, then maybe Gattis will still be in the middle of the Braves lineup, but they do not, so he is now in Houston. All the setup men are gone because bullpen arms are mostly expendable when you are not going to contend. La Stella played the wrong position and the Braves could get a high ceiling arm (who is now suspended for 80 games for PED’s…). Kimbrel is gone because a closer like him is a luxury and dumping him and his salary allowed for the Braves to also jettison the other Upton’s albatross of a contract while still getting impact prospects in return.

The Chop

The chop!

 

Whereas 2015, and probably 2016 are going to painful to watch, there is a plan in place. The Braves farm system went from the bottom five in baseball to the top five in the matter of months. Draft picks were acquired and a focus on scouting has returned. Even a greater nod to analytics has begun with the inclusion of Coppolella in the front office. Several veteran players were signed and even if half of the new pitching prospects realize their potential, the rotation will be scary good in the near future. Rebuilding sucks, but you know what else sucks, mediocrity. Year after year of being just good enough to contend, but ultimately not being good enough to excel is hard to endure. The string of recent first round exits and Braves postseason heartaches has not been fun. My Cardinals friends give me grief about the Braves only winning one World Series in the 90’s. All of that talent, and only one ring to show for it. I always respond with something about the Buffalo Bills or decades of losing in markets like Pittsburgh or the hell that was the 80’s for Braves fans. But the truth is that the 90’s do sting a bit. The 1991 and 1996 World Series were very winnable. The 1997 NLCS still haunts me. Even one more World Series win changes everything. If this rebuild is what it takes to get there, then so be it. I will still watch more than my fair share of Braves games this year, including this afternoon’s opener. I am honestly excited to see how this team does. The offense of the past few years has been painful to watch, so this new look team should at least be a little bit more exciting to watch. I could be wrong and this could be a callback to the 1980’s Braves with Freddie Freeman playing the modern day Dale Murphy.

I'm going to miss seeing this (photo from NBC)

I’m going to miss seeing this (photo from NBC)

So here is to another year of baseball! My team may not be favored to win it all, but wait ’til next year (in my best Cubs’ fan voice)!

Race for Recovery 2015

Race for Recovery swag
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This post is a little delayed, but back on March 21, the second annual Race for Recovery was held here in Memphis, TN. The proceeds from the event go towards supporting the Shelby County Drug Court. Just like last year, I am employed by the drug court, and therefore, I will not be offering my traditional rankings of the event.

The venue for 2015 was moved from Overton Park to the Mississippi Greenbelt Park. I loved the venue change, even if the weather and park confines did not exactly cooperate.

Race for Recovery swag

Race for Recovery swag

The park has a running trail, but it is a dirt path along side the Mississippi River. When it rains too much, the path becomes muddy, and the river overtakes the path. This happened prior to the race this year. Gone was the scenic path along the river, replaced with a swampy mess that was not the easiest course to transverse. There was also a big hill at the halfway point, and some of the runners, me included, added some distance to our course towards the end due to some confusion on the course.

I love the shirt design for this year’s event. There was also a water bottle from a sponsor and plenty of snacks at the race conclusion.

It was a small race, and despite my struggles with the course, I did finish second in my age group and received a medal for my efforts.