Friends + fun + run = Nashville 2008. It was the first group trip Jen and I had been on in a while, and the first with our Saratoga posse. Eight of us headed to Music City for a long weekend, and four of us ran in the Nashville Country Music 1/2 Marathon. It was pretty much an awesome experience all around.
Not only did Team SHAG achieve the goal we all set out to achieve on New Year’s Eve, but we exceeded our personal goals in the race — I beat my goal of 1 hour and 45 minutes by a solid 6 seconds (1:44:54), finishing 1,234th out of 21,398 total finishers (oh yes, that’s right — finisher #1234, baby! 5.3.2008 update: what the hell?? they changed my place to 1,242! I demand a recount!). Alex finished in an impressive 370th place (1:35:36). Sarah beat her goal by nearly 5 minutes while Hugh, in a feat of undeniable hardcoredness and awesomeness, showed the rest of us how it’s done by partying down — yes, the kind of partying that may have involved beer, shots, and Coyote Ugly — the entire afternoon before running 13.1 miles and doing his signature shots of JD before and during the race. You are a machine, Hugh — err, Ricky Bobby!
Speaking of Ricky Bobby, some memorable highlights from race day:
- Seeing Hugh emerge from the hotel donning his kick-ass Ricky Bobby suit
- Surprising Alex with Hugh’s presence (more on that later)
- Arriving in the pouring rain, stretching, and hoping the skies would clear in time for the start (they did just in time)
- Posing with everyone for some last-minute photos
- Walking with Hugh past another group who cheered out: “Ricky Bobby! Shake ‘n Bake!”
- Giving my wife one final pre-race motivational kiss as I waited in the porta-potty line (I know, so romantic)
- Being part of an energized crowd of 30,000 people who all trained for a shared goal
- Cheering with my fellow members of Corral #4 as we crossed the starting line and began our personal journeys
- Getting the chills at the beginning of the race as I looked around to see all the cheering crowds
- Feeling really strong as I powered through all 13.1 miles
- Seeing our awesome cheering section — Team E-Triple J — as I ran past around the 9.5-mile mark
- Giving rows of high-fives to all the little kids who sheepishly yet excitedly lined the course
- Crossing the bridge before LP Field & running fast down the final hill toward the finish line outside the stadium
- Running across the finish line & feeling incredibly proud to have run my first 1/2 marathon 6 seconds faster than my goal
The awesome weekend to Nashville was inspired by the race, but it was about so much more. Our group of eight included Team SHAG (Sarah, Hugh, Alex, and Gabe) and our racing support crew, Team E-Triple J (Eric, Jen, Jami, Justin). It was a truly awesome whirlwind weekend of non-stop fun that I’ll never forget.
The weekend was orchestrated by Hugh and Jami, but they almost didn’t make it. Due to work obligations, Hugh thought he wasn’t going to be able to make it. So at first Jami was planning not to go, but then she decided not to leave the rest of us hanging. So Jen, Jami, and I traveled together. When we changed planes at Chicago’s Midway, I called Hugh to see if he’d been able to secure a flight after all. The cover story was that he hadn’t, but secretly he had. The ladies tried to get it out of me, but I kept the cover.
Late that night, after rendezvousing with Sarah and Eric in Nashville, Hugh’s cover was blown by friend and former colleague, Ben the Southern Sherpa. Excitement was in the air for Hugh’s 7am arrival, but discussion quickly turned to how Jami was going to get him back for trying to surprise her. Great (and dirty) minds think alike and we quickly formed a plan: The next morning, Jen, Sarah, Eric, and I would race to Jami’s room and climb into bed with her to wait patiently for what Hugh thought would be his surprise arrival. The plan went off perfectly as a shocked Hugh entered what he thought was the wrong room when he saw a man’s legs protruding from the bed where he thought his wife would be sleeping.
I had to play both sides to execute on the plan, but I think we all agree it was worth it.
Registering for the well-oiled event that was the Country Music Marathon was an exhilarating experience: Getting my race number, the chip that would be fastened to my shoe for an accurate time, and a bag full of other goodies made it all seem more real.
Later that afternoon (Friday), as the ladies headed off for a day of shoe shopping (how the ladies can shop for so long is beyond me), the menfolk stayed behind downtown and partied the afternoon away (some of us were good and fueled up on water and carbs for the race the next day) with stops at River City and Coyote Ugly.
Saturday after the race we enjoyed some celebratory shots and beers, then cruised back to the hotel to get cleaned up for what would be a non-stop afternoon and night of fun: Lunch @ Irish pub Dan McGuinness; Honky-tonk bars full of bands and hopeful stars; $1 PBR specials; ice cream; singing & dancing @ Coyote Ugly; late-night pitas.
Our final day in Nashville was a bit more subdued than the day before, but no less fun: Browsing the Tennessean Sunday paper to see all our names and official race times in print; enjoying breakfast at the Loveless Cafe and going through ordering negotiations so hilarious and complex that the couple at the next table actually clapped when we were done; strolling around Centennial Park and the Parthenon replica; posing for a photo to imitate the Musica statue (waiting for photos from Alex’s camera); and just hanging out with friends.
Good times, Team Nashville! You all rock!
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