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This was not supposed to be a fast race. From the moment I decided to run it and registered, this was always just a throwaway race. A Rock & Roll joint designed to get me one event closer to my Grand Slam Heavy Medal that I decided I needed to get this year. I’d run it as a wildly expensive supported training run. A dress rehearsal for the Kirkland Half Marathon two weeks later that I was intending to run fast.

That was all before the bursitis happened and I took the first half of April off. Two weeks before the race, I was maxing out at 5 miles before things started to hurt and I realized two things: One, I needed to get my ass out of spin class and on to the elliptical so I could get something that at least resembled miles under my belt and two, there was a very good chance that this was going to be a long, slow, painful slog to the finish line. I was even considering getting back on the Advil wagon for a few days before and after the race to keep things from getting too irritated and ouchy. I was trying to stay optimistic, but I was mentally preparing for the worst. I was secretly glad that I didn’t have any big expectations for this race, because now there was just no way it was going to be a fast race. I was prepared to feel lucky if there was a race at all.

Then things started turning around. A week before the race I headed out with the idea to run 10 miles but not really expecting to. Then, lo and behold, I made it the entire way. No pain, no twinges, no tightness or anything in the hip. I was filled with hope and optimism. There was still no way I was going to run fast, since that 10-miler was the furthest I’d run in almost two months (since New Orleans), but I’d at least be able to get from start to finish without any trouble. Or drugs. It was all going to be OK. I flew out Thursday night with just one goal for the race: run a good, consistent, even effort. Stay within yourself. No second-half heroics like in New Orleans. I was going to find a good pace and stick with it until the end.

Which is exactly what I did. Actually, what I did is I went out and run the race I should have run in New Orleans, and exactly how I should have run it in New Orleans. My first mile ticked by in 10:30, and while it was a bit speedier than I was expecting, it felt just fine. I was a little worried that I was going out too fast, but I didn’t worry too much. I just told myself that if it start to feel hard, I’d slow down. Which I did. In a few places on the course, a significant headwind kicked up. Rather than fight it to stay on a certain pace, I just backed off a bit and let the wind slow me down until we turned a corner or the gust was over.

I ran easy. I took in the sights of downtown Nashville and Music Row. I enjoyed the people camped out on their front lawns cheering us on as the course wound through residential neighborhoods. I picked up water at every aid station and took my Gu just past the 7 mile mark. I enjoyed the fact that we had some cloud cover to keep things cool (it had been 85 and sunny the day before the race) and thanked my lucky stars that there was, so far, absolutely no sign of the major storms that were predicted to roll through the area and the miles just flew by. Before I knew it, I was crossing the 10-mile mark and only had 5k to go.

The last 5k were a bit tricky, but I did it to myself. At that point in a half, I start to get impatient to be done and so I pick up the pace a wee bit, even if I’m not trying. I was still chugging along at a nice even pace, though, so I kept at it. The course wound down along the railroad tracks for a bit, which wasn’t the most inspiring scenery, and then we headed straight uphill into downtown. Going through downtown there were a lot of twists and turns, and they were of the sort that I cannot stand at the end of a race: the kind of turns that feel like someone said, “We’re a quarter mile short – let’s just take ’em around this block to fix that!”

When I crossed the 12-mile mark, my watch said 2:05 and change. I thought if I really hauled some serious ass I could get in under 2:15. I tried, but there was still a couple hills left and my legs were tired. I crossed the finish line in 2:16:37. Twenty seconds faster than in New Orleans, which meant a totally unexpected PR.

While there were a lot of annoying things about the race, like the insanely crowded expo and course (seriously, I never stopped weaving through people), it’s hard to be upset after such a surprisingly good performance. I have no idea if this means I’m going to have another stellar day in Kirkland next weekend or if I’ve totally blown my legs out for a few weeks, but I suppose we’ll see. If nothing else, it just adds to my confidence that I’ll definitely be under 2:10 by the end of the year. Which is pretty awesome, if you ask me.

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