Rock ‘n’ Roll Raleigh Marathon – Raleigh, NC (2017)

I had gotten a free entry to a spring Rock ‘n’ Roll race as part of the goodies we got when the Mississippi Blues race got cancelled in January, so I decided that the Raleigh half would be my “redemption” run for not getting the chance to run in Mississippi. As I got closer to race day, the weekend mileage was calling for 24 miles, so I decided I would try to move up to the marathon at the expo. The week leading up to the race had some unexpected travel, so my biggest concern for the race was that I didn’t want to get swept. Having just done the New South Marathon the weekend before, I wasn’t sure how my legs would respond to another marathon, so I just wanted to stay ahead of that 5:30 pacer. When I got to the expo and went to change my bib, I was only the 15th person to upgrade to the marathon, which only cost me $35 (score!). I ended up being in corral 5 for the marathon. I knew this was a smaller race (at least for Rock ‘n’ Roll), but I wasn’t sure how many corrals there would be. I ended up getting into the corral with the 4 hour pacer (what??). Oh well, I figured that would give me plenty of buffer room before the sag wagon and my 5 hour pace band would help keep me on track as to where I needed to be to hit the overall cutoff.

I did the half marathon version of this race in 2015 and I knew that it was a very hilly race, but I was not expecting the nonexistence of flat sections. I think there were only a few miles of flat – everything else was up or down! The weather race morning was amazing – 50 degrees and overcast for virtually the entire run. I decided to just run by feel and not worry about my time too much. I recognized a lot of the half marathon course which we split from around mile 8 where we went off for a few miles into Meredith College before meeting back up for another mile or so and then heading off on our own for the second half of the race. I hit the halfway mark at 2:20:30 and was surprised at how good I felt. I didn’t think I would be able to keep up that pace for the remainder for the race, but that gave me a good cushion to break 5 hours again, so I kept an eye on my pace band to figure out how far below the 5 hour mark I was and see if I started to slip at all in the second half.

As we got to the halfway point, we ended up back on NC State’s campus, running through the quad of the Engineering buildings – that campus is huge! After leaving campus, we headed towards Lake Johnson and found the only flat part of the course (maybe an exaggeration, but it felt like the only flat area). As we veered onto the greenway path, the trail got more crowded, but certainly didn’t create an issue. This was definitely the most scenic part of the race and one of the few places I actually stopped to take some pictures!

After the lake, we headed back towards NC State’s campus and eventually downtown. This part of the race was more exposed with lots of running on multi-lane roads. I almost stopped to take a picture when we hit Achievement Drive, but by the time I thought about it again, I was on the wrong side of the road. By mile 23.5 we looped back onto the half marathon course and I recognized the section we were on. Just after this, I could hear a band playing Sweet Caroline from somewhere ahead of me and we were close enough to see downtown, so I was just counting down to when I would get to the finish line. As I passed the band and started heading up yet another hill, they started playing Bye, Bye, Bye by NSYNC and I just had to laugh. One last major hill to climb, but they had put out some great motivational signs to help keep runners going.

By the time I crested that hill, I knew I would be able to PR in this race and possibly even break 4:40, so I just kept moving. I turned one final corner just after mile 26 and could see the finish line, so I pushed myself to finish at 4:39:31 – a 7:11 PR in my second marathon in 8 days! I knew I had gotten to about 19 minutes below my 5 hour pace band around the halfway point of the race, but I didn’t believe I was going to be able to hold on to that until I hit those motivational signs at mile 25 and then I knew I could PR. This race was a huge boost for me mentally – the hills were tough (and again, not nearly as tough as they’re going to be) but I was able to keep pushing myself and only had 4 miles where my pace was over 11:00 and that included stopping to refill my water bottle twice. This was the perfect end to my last long week of training for the Blue Ridge Double Marathon and with this finish, I officially became a Marathon Maniac (#13742) and Double Agent (#2896) so I proudly posed with my signs after the race before heading to collect my new marathon jacket.

Now, after I finished, I was hurting and I knew it’s because I pushed myself, so that 3.5 hour drive back from Raleigh wasn’t too much fun, but we stopped for some Rita’s Italian Ice (quadruple chocolate for me!) and I got a short nap, so overall it was a great day. I know some people don’t like the super fluorescent shirt colors, but I like having a variety of those, especially as I’ve been doing more running at dawn / dusk this training cycle. I still wear all my actual reflective gear when road running, but you certainly won’t lose me in a crowd in this shirt!


Country Music Half Marathon – Nashville, TN (2015)

Apparently this race is not called the Rock ‘n’ Roll Nashville race (even though it is a Rock ‘n’ Roll event held in Nashville), but regardless of the name, we got to wander through the streets of Nashville and go up (and up and up and up) all of the hills around town too! My Garmin actually had the elevation gain at 574′ while we lost 593′ so while it apparently felt like we went up forever and never came back down, that was not the actual case.

Thursday, I headed to the expo, and again I found it to be very well organized, and rather quiet, especially given the number of people who were wandering the downtown streets of Nashville. By Thursday, the weather had changed from rain to potential serious thunderstorms and the possibility of tornados and Friday didn’t bring much of a change to that, though we did start receiving updates from Rock ‘n’ Roll about when we would know more about the severe weather plans, with a final update planned for 5:00am Saturday morning. Friday night was a big hockey night, so I knew I might be staying up later than I normally would before a race, so I laid out all of my clothes, filled my water bottles & put them back in the fridge so they would be cold, realized that I didn’t have my bib belt (safety pins to the rescue!) and tried to figure out what to wear after the race, since it was likely going to be raining the entire time.

When my alarm went off around 4:45am Saturday, the weather report changed to rain around race start time (7:00am) followed by lots of clouds and thunderstorms in the afternoon. Since I was on my own for this race, and because I was staying at a hotel near Opryland, I opted to take the shuttle down to the start line. It was an extra $20, but meant that I didn’t have to figure out parking at LP Field or how to get to the bag check / start line from there. There were 3 shuttle options and I decided to aim for the middle one just in case I got there a bit late, I would still have one more option. I ended up on the 5:15am shuttle and made it to the bag check line before 6:00. Since I still had an hour before the race was scheduled to start, I headed into the first hotel I saw and just killed some time, ate a peanut butter bar and used their indoor bathroom before gathering my stuff to head out to bag check and on to the start line. As I was breaking out my throwaway rain jacket (kept me warm at the start line, but mostly unnecessary), I realized that while I had packed my water belt, my water bottles that I had so meticulously prepared the night before, were still in the refrigerator in my hotel room… so much for planning ahead! The good news was that I still had my GU, so I could still fuel during the race, but I would just have to rely on the water stops instead of using my water bottles.

I found my corral pretty easily and had about 15 minutes to kill before the race would start, so I found a corral 19 volunteer and she graciously allowed me to take a picture of her sign in front of a beautiful church.

It took us about 30 minutes (maybe a little less) to get to the start line, but since we were standing on a hill, it made for an interesting picture of downtown Nashville as we moved toward the start – this is just one corral in front of me.

Soon enough, my corral was at the start line, and I was able to position myself right near the front of the corral, which is something I highly recommend trying at some point. It’s a little like being in the front row of a roller coaster – you get a whole different perspective than those who are in the middle!

After a short countdown, we were off! It was fairly flat in this section and we went down a few blocks, made a turn and then headed back up the hill we were all originally waiting on. When I was in the corral, I was on the far end of the road, so I couldn’t really see any of the leaders coming through, but it was fun to double-back on the starting corrals like that because you got an immediate boost from those who were still waiting to get to start their race.

  • Mile 1 – 11:19
  • Mile 2 – 10:31
  • Mile 3 – 10:19
  • Mile 4 – 10:37
  • Mile 5 – 10:15
  • Mile 6 – 10:13
  • Mile 7 – 12:14
  • Mile 8 – 10:32
  • Mile 9 – 10:40
  • Mile 10 – 10:56
  • Mile 11 – 10:08
  • Mile 12 – 12:01
  • Mile 13 – 10:45
  • Last .27 – 8:50

Average Pace: 10:47
Official Time: 2:22:42

I don’t have any particular reason that I can think of that mile 7 was so much slower than my other miles, but I do know that once during one of the water stops, I stopped to take in a full GU, so that could have been it. It was definitely more challenging to coordinate my GU intake with the available water stops. Instead of being able to do my 4:1 ratio and basically ignore the water stops, I had to plan ahead to start taking the GU as I approached a water stop. I did make the mistake of trying to take a GU without water early in the race, but that was quickly thrown out once I realized it was really hard to swallow without some water! Definitely not the end of the world, but I certainly prefer to have my water belt with me instead.

As we were cresting our last hill, we were treated by this guy giving high fives and encouraging runners to finish the last hill before we went across the bridge and headed into LP field. 

After crossing the final bridge, we made a quick turn down to LP Field. The biggest letdown of the day was that there was no “finish line” – there were two timing mats and then a bunch of people standing around, but nothing really to indicate that the race was now over. I feel really bad for the first-timers – there’s nothing like heading toward the finish line of your first race and this one was basically just run until there’s a wall of people and then you know you’re done.

The weather turned out to be great for the race! It was actually a little warm for me (mid-60’s) and I definitely didn’t pack any sunscreen in my drop bag, so after wandering around the festivities at LP Field, I had the medics give me some ice for my knee and then grabbed a shuttle back to the hotel. Most people who had hotel rooms in downtown opted to take the bridge back downtown and I did wander over that way a little bit and got a picture of the full stadium.


The shirt design for this race followed the themes of the others, featuring a country musician including cowboy hat, guitar and microphone and the finishers medal features cowboy boots and guitar strings. One unique benefit of this particular race was a concert by Martina McBride on Saturday night at Bridgestone Arena. I’m not really a country music fan, so I opted for other activities, but I saw some pictures from the concert and everyone who went seemed to have a good time.

Nashville was definitely a happening place while I was there. Broadway street was packed from the time I arrived Thursday afternoon well through our race Saturday night and even where I was up near Opryland, there were tour buses and people everywhere. You can definitely find things to do in Nashville! Tune in later this week for a recap of my tourist time in Nashville.