Sunday, August 2, 2015

Nash-Vegas!! An update on marathon training from Dr. Brandon Larkin!


Runners are an interesting breed.  They are typically a pretty obsessive group, and that’s even worse during marathon training season.  It’s raining?  The training schedule says I gotta run.  Blazing sun and 105 degree heat index? Yep, I’ll just take a little more water.  But I gotta run.

Missing a group long run while out of town on vacation with the family?  13 miles?  Hmmm.  I can make that work.  The schedule says…..

We’ll leave our jobs and our house and our real life responsibilities to take a vacation, but we can’t neglect that run.  So this past weekend my wife (thankfully an accomplished marathoner in her own right, so she gets it) and I loaded the kids into the Family Truckster, heading southeast toward Nashville, Tennessee. 

Already, the 13 miler was on my mind—driving on the highway will do that. “I could totally run to the next exit if we ran out of gas.  It’s not that far.”  But my incessant thoughts didn’t last long.

Now if you have been to Nashville, you undoubtedly know the force that is “Hot Chicken.”  Worshipped around the city and celebrated on national television, hot chicken is just that—fried chicken prepared to varying degrees of spiciness.  And just for good measure, the flagship of the hot chicken armada, Hattie B’s, dumps spicy fried chicken grease on the bird as a final step in its preparation.

My insistence on trying local cuisine while traveling is just as strong as my desire to complete every run during training season as scheduled, regardless of location.

This turned out to be a mistake.  Hot chicken does not make for a good pre-run late dinner.  Nor does the local microbrew consumed to extinguish the fire.  But when in Nashville….

Still licking the spicy from my fingers, I returned to the hotel and planted the computer on the bed to map my route for early the next morning.  Nashville has a nice greenway trail system that runs into downtown that I could pick up just a couple of miles from the front lobby of the sprawling Gaylord Opryland Hotel.  

So here’s the plan: Up with the sun, knock out 13 miles and meet the family to refill the gut with biscuits and sausage at a highly Yelp! rated breakfast spot downtown.  What could go wrong?  I mapped the entire route, sent it to my phone, and clicked off the light. And that little access road that didn’t seem to connect all the way on Google Maps?  It’s fine! I crossed checked it with satellite imagery and it goes through—pavement the whole way!  No problemo! Nighty night.  Ooh, that was an interesting tummy rumble.

Passing the Opryland Hotel and the adjoining Opry Mills Mall consumed darn close to two miles of the run.  The complex is really a shining monument to commercialism and capitalism.  But would it kill them to have the doors to the restroom open at 6 in the morning?

Having made it past the Mills and now a stone’s throw from the greenway along the Cumberland River, I hit that little questionable spot on the map.  And while my satellite reconnaissance was correct—it was a through road—I neglected to notice the ten foot high locked gate surrounded by barbed wire lined fencing during my research.

So I started thinking about options to get to the trail:
  1. Climb it.  Sure the gate and fence are there for a reason.  And the barbed wire.  And what’s that strange car doing parked a few yards away?  I don’t want to break a leg this early in training.  And who am I kidding?  I wouldn’t make it to the top, much less over it.
  2. Quit.  It’s only one run.  It’s not going well anyway.  This is a sign.  And that hot chicken is starting to become a serious concern.  Oh, and YOU’RE ON VACATION!
  3. 7 loops around the Opryland/Mills complex.  But once this mall opens, people will happily run me down looking for ridiculous deals.
  4. Consult the map.  I can still get there, but I have to run on a highway.  But just for a half mile or so.  Tempting, but….
  5. Head back to the room, grab the car, and drive to the trail.  With no car, the family can’t meet me downtown.  OK, I’ll just do an out and back and we can hit breakfast together when I’m finished.  It’ll be a bit of a pause in my run to get there, but it’s better than snagging my Achilles on razor wire or being shot for trespassing. Bingo!  And there’s a bathroom in my hotel room!  Everything’s falling into place!

So I head back, and as it turns out, the rest of the run was perfect.  It was a beautiful trail with a pedestrian bridge crossing of the Cumberland River.  Lots of friendly runners and cyclists.  A few deer.  Just what I was hoping for, minus the little detour.  Long run—check.

The biscuits tasted a little sweeter later that morning.  Probably because they were topped with success and perseverance.  And extra honey, you know, for the effort.

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