The Return to Nashville, Tennessee

Nashville Honky Tonk

“I love Nashville.   It seems like everywhere you walk, there’s great music coming out of every wall”.

(Imedla May)

I am always looking for a clever quote to help me get started with the writing process.

My friends and family know I love Tennessee and Nashville is one of my favorite places to visit.  I did not realize it has been almost 3 years since my last visit to the Music City.

The 2019 Rock N Roll Half Marathon and NFL draft weekend was the last time I was in Nashville. 

https://walkintothefuture.blog/2019/05/23/nashville-and-the-wild-horse-saloon/

The 2020 Rock N Roll Half Marathon was cancelled due to COVID-19.  The 2021 Rock N Roll Half Marathon was moved to the week before Thanksgiving.  I thought about using my race credit and running the fall version of the race, but it would have kept me from exploring the Smoky Mountains.  Got to have priorities in life! 😊

It looks like I will be able to run Nashville again in April 2022 with the Rock N Roll crew again.

Back to present day Nashville.

I decided to visit Nashville prior to Christmas for a trip to explore the city in a different way than I normally do.  Most times I am in Nashville for an event (race/football game) and get focused on the task at hand.  I have a regimented eating pattern when I am in town for a race.  I also must keep track of how much I am on my feet prior to a race so I can conserve energy to compete.

 I went full tourist mode for this trip so I could explore different areas and venues without worrying about how much time I spent walking or standing up.

Booked a convenient downtown hotel which was only half a mile from Broadway which is the main entertainment center in Nashville.

This easy walk made Nashville more accessible to me since I did not have to worry about finding a place to park.  Nashville is like most big cities where parking is a premium and of course you pay a premium to park.  I simply left my rental car in the hotel parking lot and got my steps in while enjoying everything Nashville had to offer.

Ryman Auditorium

I have been to Nashville 10 times over the years but never visited the Ryman Auditorium.  I have walked by this historic music venue multiple times but for some reason never tried to go in. 

The Ryman Auditorium is steeped in musical history and transcends multiple genres.  It is the original home of the Grand Old Opry and music fans from all over the world converged there to see their favorite artists.  The Ryman Auditorium started as a house of worship but expanded to host political rallies, plays, conventions and musical acts.  I was surprised to see how many rock, pop and R&B acts played at the Ryman Auditorium.  The Grand Old Opry moved out of the Ryman in 1975 to the current location in Opryland.  The Grand Old Opry show returns to the Ryman Auditorium on a regular basis, and they continue to attract national headliners.  Josh Turner was playing the same day I took the Ryman Auditorium tour.  Highly recommend adding this tour to your Nashville travel plans.

https://ryman.com/

Country Music Hall of Fame

The Rock N Roll Race EXPO is right next to the Country Music Hall of Fame.  I have walked by the building a thousand times but never made my way up the stairs to see the exhibits. ☹

This trip was designed to be a true tourist, so I made my way up the stairs and entered the Country Music Hall of Fame.  It did not have the same nostalgic feel of the Ryman Auditorium, but it was a great place to see and relive the history of country music.  The exhibits included subtexts to ensure everyone knew what they were seeing to include instruments and clothing country music stars wore in their videos and on tour.

A surprising aspect of the exhibits was how small most of the country artists are.  A lot of artists look bigger than life on TV but most of the female artists based on their outfits are 5’ 4” or shorter.  Even the BIG country guys are not as big as they appear on TV based on the outfit that were on display.  My favorite artist is George Strait and I thought he was 6’ 3” or 6’ 4”.  He is 5’ 10”—never would have guessed that before seeing his exhibit in the Country Music Hall of Fame.  I made my way into the Hall of Fame Rotunda to view the plaques for everyone who has been elected to the Hall of Fame.  Got to see all the legends in the rotunda but made sure to get a shot of George Strait’s plaque.  Highly recommend a visit to the Country Music Hall of Fame.

https://countrymusichalloffame.org/

Nashville Strait

Wildhorse Saloon

The Wildhorse Saloon is one of my favorite places to visit when I am in Nashville.  The food, atmosphere and music venue are all first rate.  One of my targeted activities at the Wildhorse Saloon is the chance to get in some line dancing.  The staff at the Wildhorse teach multiple dances throughout the day and then get everyone on the dance floor.  I have learned quite a few new dances over the years.  Sadly, the Wildhorse Saloon was closed while I was in Nashville.  They decided to give the staff some time off before Christmas and I respect that.  The gift shop was open, and I was able to pick up a few souvenirs before heading back over to Broadway for music.

Broadway

Broadway is the main drag in downtown Nashville if you are looking for entertainment.  I have covered almost every inch of Broadway over the years and still discover new places to listen to music.

There is no cover to enter the Honky Tonks so there is freedom to roam and change venues.  I love this aspect because I move around depending on the bands playing and how good they sound.

I hit most of the Honky Tonks on this trip but found myself gravitating to The Stage, Whiskey Row, Jason Aldean’s Rooftop Bar and Tequila Cowboy.   The sound stage in these spots were better quality and I enjoyed the bands playing.  The food at Jason Aldean’s was good so why I kept going back. 😊

https://dierkswhiskeyrow.com/nashville-tn/

Nashville is a great place to visit if you have never been.  Looking forward to getting back there in April 2022 for the Rock N Roll Half Marathon and line dancing at the Wildhorse Saloon.

“We’re playing your song”.

(Tennessee Department of Tourist Development)

2020 Orlando Utility Commission (OUC) Half Marathon

OUC1

“I plan on having such an epic run, Morgan Freeman should narrate it”.

(Runner’s World)

Running and racing has become such a large part of my lifestyle that I felt a definitive loss in 2020.

I will not harp on the COVID-19 impact on our daily lives.  There are more important things in this world than me traveling around the country and chasing people in my attempt to gain a personal record (PR) in the half marathon.  Everyone who reads the Walk into the Future blog or listens to me long enough know I love my PR attempts. 

My 2019 progress set the stage for me to run even faster in 2020 while tackling more races and new locations.  I targeted 7 half marathons to complete in 2020 with an incremental decrease in my PR time for each race I ran.  My goal continues to be to run the half marathon distance under 2 hours.  I will need to bring out the Benjamin Button affect again at some point to reach this goal. 

Luckily, I was able to complete the 2020 New Orleans Rock N Roll half marathon in early February before we knew the future impact of COVID-19 on the country.  I left New Orleans with a goal to train harder and get ready for the 2020 Nashville Rock N Roll half marathon scheduled for April—Nashville is my favorite race and city.  Missed seeing the sights in Nashville and line dancing at the Wild Horse Saloon.  Maybe in 2021!

Races 2 (Nashville) through 7 (San Antonio) were all canceled/postponed/terminated due to COVID-19.  Most of my running friends wanted to race but we knew eliminating the races was the right thing to do.  I still trained but not with as much intensity because I did not have a finish line to run across.  I wrote earlier about the virtual race process but never felt the same excitement racing against myself.  Could not make myself run fast without someone else around for me to compete against.

Fast forward a bit and my favorite running club, Track Shack in Orlando identified they received Orange county and City of Orlando clearance to stage the 2020 OUC Half Marathon in December with new safety measures.  I did not immediately sign-up but got excited when I discovered a real race was possible again.  I did a lot of research on the Track Shack race safety measures to make sure I would not be at risk during the event. 

The entire race experience was adjusted by the Track Shack staff to keep all runners physical distanced before and after the race.  We were required to wear masks prior to starting the race and immediately after crossing the finish line.  We did not have to run with the masks on but had to have them for the finish line.  Runners were lined up in corrals based on estimated finish times, but we had to stand on assigned markers on the ground before we could start the race.  Felt a bit weird but everything was done to protect the runners.

I registered for the OUC half marathon on October 15, 2020 with a race date of December 5, 2020.  This timeframe gave me less than a two-month physical and mental preparation window for the 13.1-mile journey in front of me.  Decided at this point to just enjoy the training runs and eliminate the thought processing of chasing a PR.  This concept provided me with a free mind and gave me the perspective that completing the race was the most important thing.  Thing #2 was to run the race and not hurt myself! 😊

OUC3

Race day

The Orlando weather was a bit warmer than I expected but the cloud cover kept the sun away which helped a lot.  I did not queue up close to the front corrals since I knew I was not going fast this year and wanted to let the faster folks go out without me in the way.

The new safety measures allowed about 200 runners to go out at a time, so I ended up waiting about 20 minutes before I made it to the start line to begin the race.

Mask off and I was back in my world of racing!  I am sure people wondered why I was smiling so much but the joy of running was there at the beginning.  My first mile pace was 8:50—which was not too bad considering my goal was to go out nice and easy.  Felt good so I kept running at this pace for a bit to see what I had under the hood this year. 😊

A fun fact–at the 3-mile marker while running through a downtown Orlando neighborhood I passed the house of one of my old on-campus recruiters from my UCF days.  He was standing on his front lawn cheering on the runners with his daughter.  Did not know if he would recognize me in my running gear but I was able to say hello to him and invite him to recruit students at my new school.  Please note, I never broke stride but was able to successfully network with an Orlando recruiter while running a half marathon. Completed a Zoom call with him the following Monday and he is excited to recruit our students in the spring semester—small world, huh?

Miles 3 through 8 were my parade through Orlando neighborhoods.  I waved at spectators who were out on their lawns to cheer for the runners.  I stopped at a pop-up table serving shots of beer as a refresher during the race.  I thanked law enforcement officials who were there for traffic duty.  You would have thought I was a politician with the amount of smiling, waving, and speaking to people I got done during this race.

Miles 9 through 13 were not as enjoyable as the previous set of miles.  Limited training also means my lactic acid thresholds were not built up as they should have been.  This means my legs started to hurt and it only got worse the longer I went.  I have been here before, so I was able to press forward but my speed and demeanor changed quite a bit.  The smile was gone, and I did not feel like waving at folks anymore.  Had to bear down and keep moving forward towards the finish line.  Luckily for me I was not chasing records and just wanted to complete the race while enjoying the process of running again.

Crossed the finish line with a smile on my face because I was able to run and compete again.  COVID-19 has beat us up in 2020 but it could not keep me from running in one of my favorite cities.  Mission complete!

The post-race area was sparse as part of the safety measures.  No beer, doughnuts, or music to enjoy this year.  We were handed a Publix bag with water, banana, granola, and our race medal.  That was it—no fanfare, networking and hanging around to cheer other runners on.  Run, conquer, and go home was the message of the day.

No worries, we had a great day to race and fantastic people to chase around Orlando again.

Fingers crossed that racing returns in 2021—I have a few PRs to set! 😊

What are you looking forward to in 2021?  Let’s make it happen!  Irie!

“You never realize how long a minute is until you are running”.

(Pinterest)

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