Well, this was my goal race. I finished it and I wasn’t swept away by a tornado, so I suppose that’s a big win for me. But things didn’t go as well as I would have hoped.

The day started out ominously. There was red all over the radar and tornados and large hail in the forcast. I actually wasn’t very worried about the weather for two reasons: 1) The TV stations here ALWAYS overhype any weather system that comes into Nashville. “Will it rain frogs tomorrow? Find out at 10 o’clock!” 2) I was going to do this thing no matter what the weather was like.

I left a little later than I had wanted to and on the drive into town there was some nasty lightening off to the west. As I approached the downtown area, traffic began to back up and I soon feared that I’d miss the start of the race. After remembering that over half of the participants would be from out of town, I decided to take my chances on the side streets. I got off the interstate and within 5 minutes I was parking, so that went better than expected. I walked over to the stadium and got on a bus to take the trip to the starting line.

When I got to the start, most of the runners were already there. The rain clouds were still a ways off, but it looked like they were going to miss us, so I went ahead and changed into my running clothes and checked my gear bag. I wandered around for a bit and noted the long lines for the porta potties. No use even trying that, so I started looking for my corral. A few people I knew were there and we chatted for a minute before I moved off to look for other people I might know (no luck). Then they sang the national anthem and started the race 15 minutes early. Since I was in corral 23, it was still quite a while before I made it up to the start line, almost 30 minutes if I recall correctly.

The people I had been chatting with at the start were trying for a 2:30:00 finish time, so I hung with them for a little while and then dropped back and kept them in sight. Since I hadn’t had a chance to warm up, I was a bit stiff for the first two miles and had some side stitch pain. The pain went away after a while though and the hills didn’t seem to be bothering me too much, so I kept a pretty good pace through the first 6 miles. After that the weaving back and forth to avoid walkers and the hills started to take their toll.

At about mile 8 I took my first walking break. I knew that I didn’t really have much left at that point, but I soldiered on. By mile 9 I was really feeling it and by the 15K marker all of my goals went out the window and my one goal was to just finish. At mile 10 people were handing out beer to the runners and just the thought of it made me want to throw up. I was doing quite a bit of walking at this point. At mile 11 they were handing out GU packets and I took one, but pocketed it instead of using it. I took a drink of Cytomax and poured a couple of cups of water over my head and started running again. Somewhere around mile 11.5 an old high school buddy saw me and shouted my name. Luckily I was running at this point and I got an extra burst of speed until about mile 12 where I walked some more. As I neared the finish, more people lined the roads and most were shouting, “This is the last hill, you’re almost there.” I still had a mile to go though. I walked a good portion of that last mile. I was completely out of energy at this point and even the walking was difficult. As I came around the next to last corner I decided to run it out as fast as I could (which was not very). I sucked it up and crossed the finish line in 2:45:50 which was only 50 seconds away from my goal time.

As I crossed the finish I slowed down to a small walk. I was taking the smallest steps I could and very nearly collapsed as my body rebelled against the pounding I had given it. A girl at the aid tent asked if I needed assistance and I said no. I took a bottle of water and poured it over my head as I wound my way through a maze of aid stations and swag tents. I took a bottle of Cytomax and sipped on it a few times. I really wanted to just get out of there! A group of people were handing out finisher medals and I took mine and put it around my neck. It was so heavy I nearly fell over forwards. Finally, after many twists and turns and pushing and shoving I came out of the finishing area and went in search of my gear bag. I was in a lot of pain at this point and was still just taking those baby steps.

I got my bag and went and sat on a planter for a minute or two while it started raining. I decided it was time to go and began the hardest part of the day yet, walking back to the car. I baby stepped it from the stadium, across the street, and into the parking lot where cars where already lined up trying to leave. The rain was really pouring down at this point and I must have been a pitiful sight. A woman in one of the cars applauded for me in a knowing kind of way and I gave her a painful smile. As I reached my car I nearly collapsed again, but caught myself on the car. I finally got the door open and fell into the car. I just laid there for a while with the door open until I could get enough energy to shut it, then I laid there some more just trying to get my bearings. I realized fairly quickly that I was going to have to wait a while to leave because my parking lot was closed due to the race still going on. I lay there in my seat listening to opera and the rain and dining on my GU packet and Cytomax. After two hours the lot finally opened and I was free to go.

If I had to do it over again, I would not have picked this half marathon to be my first. It was very hilly and very crowded. But when I started this whole adventure, I didn’t know a thing about running or what races would be like. I don’t regret doing it at all and I’m even happy with my results. This is the 3rd race I’ve done and the first I’ve actually missed my goal time. It leaves me wanting more and wanting to go back out there and do it again and push even harder next time. Next time I will do better!