Heroes – RNR Nashville 2016

When I was young, heroes wore capes and masks. They were superhuman and did amazing things with unearthly powers. As I got older, I recognized heroes in other uniforms. They still did amazing things, laying down their lives for a higher cause, but they were just ordinary people. Now I see heroes all around me, making the world a better place, some just by going above and beyond, or just being who they are.

We flew into Nashville late Thursday afternoon. Better deals for a hotel closer to the airport offset car rental and parking. We didn’t land in time to get to the expo, so we hit McNamara’s Irish Pub for dinner with Al and Sherry. She hasn’t been home since Rock n Roll Madrid the previous weekend and Al has been traveling for business for nearly 3 weeks. The food was great. The Corned Beef Bites, Black and Tan Onion Rings and Potato Soup are specialties there and worth the drive out.

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Friday morning was expo day for us. Rock n Roll Nashville, otherwise known as the Country Music Marathon was our sixth race on the Rock n Roll circuit for 2016 and we may have it on as a permanent destination until we get tired of chasing the Hall of Fame medal. (Yeah, good luck on that). Nashville in late April is very unpredictable in terms of weather like last year where the forecast of thunderstorms disappeared the night before the race. The forecast this year was no different. Other than the Mustang 50th Anniversary half, we’ve never been even yellow-flagged for heat, but there were a lot of big cautionary signs for the runners on the way in. Beth and Jim were reporting snow in Denver. I’m not sure who got the better end of the deal.

Al was able to get in the day before which freed up his time while we did our rounds. It turned out to be a good thing because he got volunteered into helping out with a lot of tasks in Merch, Registration and VIP pickup as people got off work and the crowds came in for bib pick up. Even head of PR for CGI, Dan Cruz was pitching in to help. Volunteering and taking on whatever is asked of you. Hero status.

We did the usual ‘who’s here’ roll call at the Rock n Roll booth. We were missing Carl and Ilona. Even though their filming schedule put them in Tennessee late in the week, they were prepping for the Flying Pig Half in Cincinnati. Every one of the top 7 Rock n Rollers were ready to snag the Eight Track Heavy Medal. Hyalker added Nashville to his schedule this year in addition to the Mainly Marathons Independence series, so he’ll be finishing his 100th half marathon at RNR San Diego. Kamika was getting yet another double weekend in, doing Nashville on Saturday then flying to Iowa City to finish a half marathon in the last of the 50 states.

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Kamika has finished 100 full, 100 half marathons and done 7 halfs on 7 continents in just over 7 days. He’s finished marathons in all 50 states and was on his way to 50 half marathon states. Hero status in my book

On the way out, we ran into Tracy Sundlun who was talking to local radio personality Amy Paige from The Big 98. Amy was one of the many Heroes at RNR Nashville raising money for the St. Jude Children’s Hospital. As we were chatting, she refreshed her fundraising tracker app to see a big donation hit. Her team raised nearly $150,000 for the event.

No cape. Still a hero.

Tracy also asked me to send the spreadsheet we compiled last year of the people who’ve done the most Rock n Roll half and full marathons all time. It sounds like CGI is committed to celebrating these big milestones. We’re projecting three people running their 100th Rock n Roll this year and at least four in 2017.

We had pre-race dinner at Five Odd Fellows. We all picked up a half dozen palm-tree patterned windbreakers to wear in honor of Kamika’s 50th state half. Al had a beautiful custom bib made for Iowa City and thought ahead enough to make him a second one that could be kept clean to save or frame. He really enjoyed the card from Beth too. The drag bar back story refuses to die, it seems.

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We headed back to the Sheraton to lay out our race gear. Thanks to Beth for giving me the idea of not just dressing a chair. I planned to pour myself into my clothes and I’ll be ready in no time!
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Saturday April 30th: RNR Nashville Half (and some crazies doing the 5K!)
When we went to sleep the night before (left), it looked like our streak of weather luck might be coming to an end, but as we rolled out of bed (right), the rain and thunderstorms were moving into the late morning. This seems to happen every. single. time.

While we didn’t get much rain walking across the bridge from the Nissan Center to the start line. Sherry’s roommate Holy was headed to Flying Pig the next day for a weekend double. We were able to catch up with Jennifer and Blair fresh back from their honeymoon. After Vegas last year, storms in Nashville should be a piece of cake!

Sherry took off to find the start line for the 5K. Susan and I had a few minutes of dry weather to take some start line pictures. About 3 minutes later, we were caught in a squall that sent Susan and me running to shelter.

Even though the rain held off, the 6:45 AM start of the 5K kept getting pushed back. The 7:15 AM start for the half and full was under threat of thunderstorms with lightning strikes as close as 9 miles away. Fortunately, we were able to wait out a few squalls at the Honky Tonk a few blocks from the start. CGI set up the weather alerts by text and we waited until we had a confirmed start at 7:45. We’d likely be wet, but the rain actually kept the temperatures quite a bit cooler than we were expecting.

Just for grins, we hung out with Kamika on the other side of the starting line to watch the first few corrals take off. If you haven’t done this at a big race, I recommend doing it at least once!

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Start line picture with Ann Wessling. She was doing her best to stay dry. Some of the squalls knocked out power to the PA system
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On the far side of the start line, we saw Kamika in his natural habitat
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Off on the course, I run into Larry Macon. His latest marathon count is north of 1,600. Wow.
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One of the cool things about the 5K starting before the half and full was that I saw a lot of people I rarely see on loop courses. Amy snuck up behind me, followed by Greg,David and a few more.
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Keeping the theme of Heroes. The humidity must have been brutal in full turnouts.

For whatever reason, I just wasn’t feeling this was going to be a push race. Maybe it was the delayed start, the muggy weather or the wet pavement, but I was considering just slowing down early. I kept walking in the mid 11 minute miles through mile 10 until I passed Hailey. This was her first half marathon and she was limping along with IT band problems. After a few months of TNT conditioning, Coach Mode activated and I decided not to leave her alone. We gutted it out for the next two miles. It’s her first. It’s a PR.

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Not giving up when you had every reason to do so. This woman is a hero.

Susan continues on track as we prep for Victoria Falls and the 6 hour cutoff. She walked just about 2:50, give or take a few minutes catching up with Ann at the finish line.

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About the only real bummer about the weekend was having to take off early. This was one of the rare trips where we needed to catch an early flight. Hotel and airfare prices are starting to add up for 2016. Race number 6 and the Six String Heavy Medal goes into the backpack for the flight home.

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We keep talking about how our Rock n Roll Gypsy group keeps finding each other. It turns out that Kamika was taking Southwest to Midway so he could drive to Iowa City for his Sunday race. Tawni, Tamie, Al, Susan and I were all catching the same flight for connections. The weather ended up being pretty shaky, so maybe we got lucky for the flight.

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Or did we?

~//~

Rock n Roll Nashville is the third oldest race on the Rock n Roll Circuit. 2016 was the 17th running of the event. CGI added a 5K Music City Challenge where runners start 30 minutes before the half/full. The challenge was getting from the finish line at Nissan Stadium, back across the bridge to the start of the longer events – about a mile. With over 30 corrals, most of the challengers appear to have made it back. There were 24,216 total finishers (3,101 in the 5K, 18,147 in the half and 2,968 in the full). 

There were only slight changes to the course from last year, mainly in the first 5k. While we heard quite a few gripes about hills, total elevation gain/loss of 530/590 feet is less than RNR Raleigh (646/632) or RNR San Francisco (1310/1380).  Weather, once again, was the wild card for this race. If you come, pack everything.

Nice side note. Five couples got engaged at the finish line at Nashville. All five proposals were accepted. We saw a couple who were going to be married on May 22nd running with matching back bibs. We figured if they could get through a full marathon together, marriage would be a breeze.

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