2015 Stars and Stripes 5K Review

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It is amazing that despite how brutal of a summer that we have been having that an evening race in July was bearable, but that was the case for the 2015 Stars and Stripes 5K held at the Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium and Tiger Lane here in Memphis, TN. Originally I was not going to participate in this race, but we had a friend, Abby, coming in from out-of-town and she wanted to run in it, so I decided to as well. I ran in this race two years ago, and while I thought it was a fine race, there was a train that ran through the middle of the course, causing several runners to have to wait out the train, destroying their pace and finishing times. Luckily the course has since been tweaked and there were no trains to contend with this year!

Post race fireworks (taken from the Start 2 Finish Facebook page)

Post race fireworks (taken from the Start 2 Finish Facebook page)

Abby was wanting to improve on her time and wanted me to help motivate and distract her along to course. In theory, the plan seemed solid, but in action, I discovered that I am kind of terrible at being a running coach! We started strong, actually probably too strong trying to find a nice section of the pack. During this jockeying, I lost Abby. I tried to slow down or stop a couple of times to wait for her, but with over 1,600, the crowd was too big for any recon, so I just forged ahead. I finished the race, informed Susan and Abby’s mom of our separation, and then headed back onto the course to find Abby and help her finish. I found her about half a mile short of the finish and I started running with her. I tried to minimize what was left on the course and let her know how close to a victory beer she was! As the final stretch came along, I encouraged Abby to sprint to the finish, pointing out a lady a few feet ahead of us that I knew Abby could beat. I actually yelled to Abby “You can beat her!” and then took off. Not only did Abby beat our mark, she sprinted past several people to a PR by over 5 minutes! It was a great performance by her and I was happy to be a part of it! I was so happy that Abby was able to exceed her goal and feel great about it!

A post race beer!

A post race beer!

Swag: A: After the race, there were burgers, hot dogs, watermelon, beer, and the other staples of a July 4th celebration. There even was a fireworks show for the participants and their families! The ultra soft, cotton shirt was so much better than a cheap, white t-shirt, and holding the event at a football stadium and tailgating venue really helped with crowd control and parking.

2015 Stars and Stripes race shirt and bib

2015 Stars and Stripes race shirt and bib

Course: A: Not too hilly, and they avoided the train tracks, so that is a plus. Also, with a crowd of 1,600+ runners, the majority of the course was able to accommodate us, even though I was scolded for running outside of the cones during one of the turns!

Overall: A: All in all, this was a very fun event, and thankfully the weather cooperated with us for the run! I will return for at least a third time!

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2015 Navy Ten Nautical Miler Recap

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Two weeks ago I participated in my second straight Navy Ten Nautical Miler on the naval base in Millington, TN. I loved the race again this year despite the higher temperature and humidity for the 2015 version. As the race progressed, it became more of a just finish mentality rather than pushing for a PR. I am not going to lie, I struggled greatly during the run, and questioned this whole running thing! I ended up finishing the race about 15 minutes slower than last year, which seems to be a theme for this heat and my running. The heat got so overwhelming, but I finished and once I cooled off, my rational mind took over and I was eager to run once again.

Battle of Midway

D-Day

The distance of 10 nautical miles is clearly not an arbitrary distance. Rather, it has some significance from the Battle of Midway. The Battle of Midway was a major victory for the US Navy in WWII, and marked the first naval defeat in almost 100 years for the Japanese Navy.  The battle was between June 4 and June 7, 1942. And since the battle was in early June, the race is likewise held in early June, despite the heat and humidity this time of year in Memphis. As was stated at the event, if the US Navy had won the battle in October, the race would be in October.

2015 10NM Race Swag

2015 10NM Race Swag

Swag: A+:  This race provided one of the better goody bags that I have ever received. All runners received a good-looking tech shirt, financial book, race decal, KT Tape sample, race logo mixing cup, 10NM race decal, as well as some other promotional items and race literature. Finishers received a fantastic finisher medal that was a heavy-duty anchor on a navy and gold cord. It is an awesome finisher’s medal and certainly stands out on my wall. Also, the Cool Zone fans and ice bag chairs were lifesavers on the hot morning!

2015 10NM Race Medal

2015 10NM Race Medal

Course: B+: Mostly flat course with some rolling hills that serpentines through the naval base and a brief stretch of country road. There were water stops at each nautical mile and good crowd support along the way. From the guys handing out cold beer at nautical mile six and the kids with Super Soakers spraying runners right before nautical mile 7, the spectators helped make the race even better. The only downside was that the course between nautical miles 7.5 and 9 incorporated a track around the barracks/family living units on base. It was a boring stretch of the course.

Overall: A:  Great race, with lots of support and excellent swag.  I love that there is a reason why they host the event and amount of support from the community as well as the naval sailors and officers. This is a must run the race for those in the Memphis area, and it will certainly be one that I return to in the future. And I am certain that next the weather will be brutal, but I am still looking forward to getting another anchor medal!

Bluff City 10K Recap

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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

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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

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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.

2015 Kick It 5K Recap

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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.

Race for Recovery 2015

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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.