2016 St. Jude Half Marathon

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For the fifth (would be sixth if Mother Nature cooperated) time, I have successfully completed the St. Jude Half Marathon in Memphis, TN. And that is where the good news stops, at least for my personal performance. To say that I finished the 2016 race calendar with a whimper would be an understatement. Actually, to call my 2016 in running anything but an unmitigated disaster would be an understatement, but that is not the point of this review.

crowd

A wonderful shot of the race crowd. Pic is not my own.

My love for the St. Jude Memphis Marathon Weekend is well documented on this blog and throughout social media. I return to the race year after year, regardless of my training level to complete the 13.1 miles. And no year tested this dedication like 2016. For starters, I did not train  like I should. This is no one’s fault but my own. I could have gotten up earlier, I could have made arrangements, but I let the excuses win. But to make matters even worse, I spent the Thursday night before the race in the ER with my son with croup. And obviously his health comes before all else. So after spending the night in the ER receiving treatment, we were able to come home around 6:00 am. At this point I was at the 24 hour mark of no sleep. I smarter man would have called in sick and rested all day, but I had a project due so I went into work. And I stayed there all day. Now I am at 35 hours of no sleep. My wife decides that take our son to her parent’s house for the evening so I can get some rest before the half marathon, and she is a saint for this. I finally go to bed around 8:00 pm, which eclipsed the 38 hour mark of consecutive hours awake. My alarm was set for 5:30 am, so let’s just say that my two-day average of sleep was not great.

The forecast for the race was cold, with some rain, and both occurred throughout the morning. I had a rain jacket early in the race, but ditched it because I was overheating and thought that we had missed the rain, which was not 100% accurate. Within 30 minutes of discarding of my jacket, the rain began. It was more of a heavy drizzle and dropped my core temperature more than making me uncomfortably wet. Luckily for me, my decision to ditch my jacket was not a total disaster.

The last four miles, however, were a total disaster thanks to my lack of training and haphazard race prep. My legs quit on me. At first it was cramps in my right calf, then my left calf. Then my left knee started feeling like something was running around inside of it. I no longer could run even a few feet. The Nuun or water on the course was not helping. The Gu I brought did not help. I was resigned to walking the last four miles or so of the course, or quitting. Susan offered to come pick me up, but I refused. I signed up for the race, I raised the money for the kids of St. Jude, I had people cheering me along the course, including my wife and son, I had made it this far, so I was finishing this race! And so I limped along, trying to jog every few minutes, until I crossed that finish line at my glacial pace.

race-beer

This beer was the most helpful refreshment on the course! Thank you, High Cotton Brewery!

Swag: B: I like the medal, I was disappointed in the shirt. The medals have gotten progressively better over the years, with last year’s race being the high watermark for the finisher’s medal as well as participant shirt.

st-jude-medal

Course: A+: I love the changes to the course this year. Removing the long stretch of boring miles along North Parkway, the paved path through Overton Park, and the uphill climb on Poplar Ave was a gift from above. Adding in more time through Overton Square and the surrounding neighborhoods made the changes even better. Hopefully this was not a one year course deviation.

race-family

Nothing beats an on course family photo!

 

Country Music Half Marathon Recap

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This post is a little delayed, but I have been piecing it together since the event on April 26 as I take breaks from my final papers.  I am finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel with this semester and will get back to a normal running/workout/blogging schedule.

Start line pic taken from the CMM Facebook page

Start line pic taken from the CMM Facebook page

I arrived to the expo on Friday around noon and it was a madhouse.  There was very little parking near the expo and the ones that were available would price gouging runners.  Therefore, Susan dropped me off and made the block while I grabbed my registration stuff.  The expo was well-organized, it was just a large mass of people in a small space.  There were several vendors in attendance and if Susan was not waiting on me, I could have spent some time wandering around the various booths.

Country Music Half Medal

On race day, it was advertised that you needed to get to LP Field by 5:30 am or there would be no free parking available.  We got there at 6:00 am and had no problem getting a spot, but the issue was traffic, as any trip to Nashville involves.  I went the long way to LP Field and missed the vast majority of the traffic, so that did help.  Parking was 1/2 a mile or so from the start line, so runners could get a little bit of a warm up before getting to the corrals.  The lack of porta-potties was noticeable on my walk to the corral.  The few that I did see had insanely long lines.  Around corral 14 there were several porta-potties, but by that point most people had fought the crowds.

Prior to the race, all I heard about the event was how hilly it was and that the weather could be quite unpredictable.  Whereas the course was hilly, especially on mile 12, that was not the most notable feature of the course to me.  The most notable feature was the amount of runners on the entire course.  There were over 19,000 finishers for the half marathon alone!  This is the first race that I have run in that had a crowd for all 13.1 miles.

This was before my walk to the start, minus my Grizz headband

This was before my walk to the start, minus my Grizz headband

I did a fairly decent job of watching my pace early in the race, balancing the hills, sun, and crowds.  In fact, it was not until mile 11 that I really started to feel the effects of the course.  And at that point, I had not fueled besides my water and Gatorade stops, so I just sucked it up and gave it my best attempt to finish.  There is a modest hill at mile 12 that felt like a mountain to me, and my splits reflect that.  I did feel good as I crossed the finish line, and felt that it was a great race overall.

Course: B: It was hilly, but not overwhelmingly so. 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 finish line, however, was a huge cluster.  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 use the facilities inside LP Field, not just around it.

And for those of you that frequent The Chive like I do, the water station around mile 7 was sponsored by Nashville area Chivers.  It was great to see all those green and BFM shirts.

Race swag

Race swag

Swag: A: A nice looking tech shirt and two medals!  One medal was for completing the race and one was for being a St. Jude Hero.  The bonus medal was not from St. Jude, but rather the fundraising medal given to everyone running in a Rock ‘N Roll event for charity.  The 2014 Country Music Half Marathon medal and race shirt were MUCH better than years past, especially the 2012 medal and 2010 shirt.

Rock 'N Roll charity medal that I received for being a St. Jude Hero

Rock ‘N Roll charity medal that I received for being a St. Jude Hero

Overall: A-:  Fun race with tons of support and upgraded swag.  Weather in late April in the south can be quite unpredictable, but this year we really dodged a bullet.  It was almost a perfect day for running, and I finished as the heat began to set in.  I would certainly run in this race again.