“I’m not the weak link!!” – Mississippi Blues Marathon Weekend, Part 2

The glory of the host hotel is not to be understated. There is really something to be said for waking up as late as possible before the race start, knowing you can walk quickly to the starting line. We woke up as late as humanly possible with every intent of grabbing some food downstairs (the hotel had advertised “grab and go” breakfast) and making it to the Maniacs picture at 6:30. As usual, I was the first one ready to go, so I headed downstairs with Amanda, only to find that the “grab and go” breakfast was actually a basket of granola bars, apples and bananas. So much for the bagel I was hoping for! I grabbed a granola bar and stood around, talking to fellow Maniacs, when a girl came up to me and asked if I was T-Rex Runner.

Girl: “Are you T-Rex Runner?”

Me: “Yeah, hey! I’m Danielle.”

Girl: “Cool! I’m  Kelly from Race for all 50 States.I’ve been reading your blog since I started running, so this is kind of like meeting a celebrity for me!”

Me: “Haha…no, I promise you, it is not.”

Oh herro Kelly
Oh herro Kelly

Seriously, what is WRONG with me? I am so socially inept. Kelly didn’t seem to mind, as she had thoughtfully brought me a delightful gift – a whistle shaped like the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile! She remembered my obsession with the wienermobile from back in May, and since she DRIVES the wienermobile for her job (you freaking read that correctly), she had the hookup.

WIENER WHISTLE FOR THE WIN
WIENER WHISTLE FOR THE WIN

We did make it to the Maniacs picture, although I am unable to find a picture proving that, for some reason. I delivered a Team T-Rex shirt to my friend Steve, who later changed into it and wore it during the race! That’s dedication right there.  I also got to meet Houston for the first time and see Abbi and a bunch of other Maniac friends! I love these little reunions. After the picture, we even had enough time to go back to the hotel to go to the bathroom again before the start of the race. No porta potty lines? Hell yeah.

I promise we were at the real Maniacs picture, but here's a good one of Team T-Rex
I promise we were at the real Maniacs picture, but here’s a good one of Team T-Rex

With the start of the race, Kate, Amanda and I decided to go out easy and then…go easier. Kate hadn’t run consistently in about a month, and it was the same for Amanda. They had both been battling injuries, and as awful as it sounds, I was a little relieved to know that I wasn’t going to be holding them back during the race (probably). The plan was to shoot for 5 hours but mostly just have a great time and enjoy the day. As I apparently like to say, I don’t usually get a good time, but I always have a good time.

We started the race with Kristen, but the half marathon split off from the full around mile 3 and we lost Kristen before mile 2. For whatever reason, Amanda and I started out really fast. I don’t know what it was. The early miles were clicking by at 9:30 pace, plus some walking at the water stops, and Kate was not pleased with us. She knew it would be a struggle later, so she made us slow down. It was honestly the weirdest thing. I would look down at my Garmin thinking we were running SO slow and see a 9:30 pace looking back at me. I got yelled at a lot by Kate, but we all knew she was right. It’s not very often that Amanda and I feel good or fast, so we were probably a little too excited.

Run with a celebrity? Check.
Run with a celebrity? Check.

I started to feel nauseous fairly early on, but for some reason, I felt compelled to drink Gatorade. Normally I avoid Gatorade like the plague because it upsets my stomach, but I figured if I was crazing it, I should just go for it. What delicious salty magic that was! I sometimes felt a little hungry, but whenever I did, I would just grab some Gatorade at the next aid station. The course wasn’t particularly scenic, although we did go through some very nice neighborhoods with HUGE houses. Every once in awhile, we would come across a blues musician playing or a funny sign. We stopped to walk or stretch when we felt like it, but mostly we just cruised along.

Our photo ops were fairly limited.
Our photo ops were fairly limited.

I will say that the course was hilly, and not so much in the way the race director had described. The terrain is rolling, but there are some pretty serious hills on the course, so I think he’s just biased because he’s from Jackson. We were prepared to walk the hills as needed, but it wasn’t too much of an issue at first. Houston’s pace team (4:45) cruised by us, and we obviously had to force him to take a picture with us while his pace group charged on ahead. Sorry we’re not sorry!

Houston told me once that my blog entries are "mostly" worth his time. I appreciate that kind of honesty, because they are mostly worth mine too. No one is perfect, as he pointed out.
Houston told me once that my blog entries are “mostly” worth his time. I appreciate that kind of honesty, because they are mostly worth mine too. No one is perfect, as he pointed out.

One thing that is really important for me to note about this race was how absolutely amazing the volunteers are. Seriously, I’m pretty sure every single one of them thanked us for coming to the race. They were so friendly and kind and the whole thing just oozed southern hospitality. I live in the south, so I know that southern hospitality usually just means that people are nice to you to your face and then rip you to shreds behind your back, but I don’t even care if these people were sincere or not because they totally have me fooled. They cheered us on the whole way and always had smiles on their faces, even during the episodes of rain.

We hit the halfway point on pace for a 4:50 finish, which was really quite delightful. Then, I saw Mr. McGibblets from The League, which is one of my favorite shows. I tried to tell him all about my fantasy football teams, but for some reason, he was not interested.

This one's for you, Lauren!
This one’s for you, Lauren!

I was still feeling slightly nauseous, so I never really got around to eating anything. I had brought a granola bar with me (forgot to bring the Sprite and Oreos…fail), but I just didn’t feel much like eating it, so I didn’t. Kate’s knee had started bothering her, so we were doing a lot more walking in the second half of the race, especially up all the hills. Amanda’s hip hurt every time she walked, so they were both limping along and it was really quite the scene. The best part about going slow and not caring about your time is that you can take pictures whenever you want. Kate and I also worked on the development of a Maniacs cheer or song, eventually deciding to use “She’s a Maniac” as the tune of the song. How creative, right?

She’s a Maniac, Maniac, out on the course. And she’s running like she’s run a lot before!” I know. You’re stunned by how good that is.

God knows I love a race with a swing.
God knows I love a race with a swing.

Even though I didn’t feel perfect, it was definitely better than I had been feeling in races recently, which was great. I don’t care if you think I’m awful for saying it – I was SO glad not to be the weak link in Team T-Rex this time.  In fact, I was so glad that I kept saying it, which probably made Kate and Amanda want to smack me. They understood that this doesn’t happen very often, especially when I run with Kate, so it was great not to be the one asking for walk breaks. I was good with whatever everyone else wanted to do. Even though Kate and Amanda were both in pain, the race was really going by quickly. Somewhere around mile 17, we remembered that Sarah, a friend we had met at dinner the night before, would be waiting at the Fleet Feet tent with MIMOSAS at mile 21. All of a sudden, the race seemed totally manageable! Just 4 more miles til mile 21, then 5 miles til the race was over! No problem at all.

Mimosas at mile 21? Don't mind if we do.
Mimosas at mile 21? Don’t mind if we do.

It started raining around this time, and I was getting just a little bit cold. We ran into Krissy and Andrea, who had caught up with us at the mimosa station while we were standing around. After the great time we had at dinner the night before, we were pumped to see them again, and Andrea was pumped to see the champagne. Kristen had finished the half marathon and made it to the tent also, so we had lots of familiar faces to cheer us in. It’s highly possible that we stopped a little longer than we should have, but let’s take a moment to be proud of me – I felt the mimosa hitting my stomach in a less than ideal way, so I didn’t finish the whole thing. LOOK HOW EVOLVED I’M GETTING.

From that point on, the 5 of us decided to run together since we were all just out there to have fun and we were all walking up all the hills. We had long since given up on the charade of even pretending to run up them anymore. I knew I had more speed in me since I wasn’t hurting and my stomach wasn’t nearly as upset as usual, but I was having too much fun to stop. The last few miles went through the “less attractive” parts of Jackson, which Krissy warned us about. So obviously, we stopped in the middle of it so Krissy could play her harmonica and I could blow the wiener whistle. Yes, I’m laughing at that sentence like a 13 year old boy.

The harmonica and the wiener whistle make beautiful music together.
The harmonica and the wiener whistle make beautiful music together.

After running past many a burnt out building and crack house, we were suddenly surrounded by people who seemed entirely unconcerned that a marathon was going on. We ran past a park where I’m confident a drug deal was taking place under a gazebo, and we also saw 3 men walking down the middle of the street, one of whom was rolling a suitcase behind him. They were not homeless. Now that I think about it, there was probably a human head in that luggage. Or cocaine. Or a bomb. Nothing good. At no point did any of us feel unsafe, and some of the residents went and sat on their porches to cheer on the runners. I personally love running through those kinds of neighborhoods, because I think you get a feel for the entire city that way.

By the time we got to mile 25, it was time for the ever popular and ever famous T-Rex! I had warned Andrea of this, and she was totally on board. The other girls obviously already knew what was coming. It only took us about 10 minutes (no, seriously) before we got an appropriate T-Rex picture, and we were off!

Today's award for best T-Rex face goes to Kate
Today’s award for best T-Rex face goes to Kate

I really couldn’t believe how fast the race had gone by. I never really needed to stop and stretch. I didn’t need to throw up, although I probably could have. I didn’t feel bad. In fact, I almost felt…dare I say…good? I mean, let’s not get carried away, but it was definitely better than usual. As we got closer to the finish line,  I told Krissy and Andrea about the jumping process and how it works.  Basically, I awkwardly yell to the photographer “WE’RE GOING TO JUMP!” which, by the way, I realized sounds eerily like we’re about to commit mass suicide, and then I yell “1….2….3!” and we jump on 3. We did our best to execute the jump, but the race pictures aren’t up quite yet, so it’s hard to say if it worked or not. I know y’all are on the edges of your proverbial seats with anticipation.

Team T-Rex killing it at the finish!
Team T-Rex killing it at the finish! And by killing it, I obviously mean waving to Kristen, who was doing gymnastics in the street while waiting for us.

As we crossed the finish line, we were so in sync (and all wearing the exact same shirt and basic outfit) that the volunteers tried to put relay medals around our necks! In fact, they tried to do it twice. For a race with such awesome marathon medals, this was a huge deal since the relay medal is tiny by comparison! We finally got the right medals, only to have another volunteer ask for our relay chip back. Now that is coordination, people.

We crossed the finish line in 5:23 and change, which definitely isn’t fast, but most importantly, it’s faster than our finish time at Tulsa on a much hillier course, and I finished feeling a thousand times better! Kate said she thinks I held up better at this marathon than I have at any we’ve done together in awhile, and she’s right. I just kept saying “I wasn’t the weak link!” over and over to anyone who would listen.

This race had finish line props for picture ops. I mean, COME ON. That's awesome.
This race had finish line props for picture ops. I mean, COME ON. That’s awesome. On an unrelated note, I love how I appear to gain 10 pounds over the course of a race, only to lose it all again the next day. WTF.

Even though it was raining and we were all quite cold, we decided we had to go grab some of the great food and beer that we had been promised would be waiting for us at the finish. Let me tell you something, people – John was not lying when he said there would be tons of food left for everyone, no matter what your finish time. There was warm pizza, sandwiches, cookies, red beans and rice, and THREE FREE BEERS EACH. It was awesome! I was so impressed that I not only got a beer to drink after the race, I also got food! That doesn’t happen very often, but I was having such a good day that it became necessary to celebrate.

The most terrifying T-Rex picture ever? Maybe, but that's how much I love pizza and beer.
The most terrifying T-Rex picture ever? Maybe, but that’s how much I love pizza and beer.

The host hotel had been kind enough to give us a 2 pm checkout, so we even had time to hang around for a bit with Andrea and Krissy for a bit and see some other Maniacs in the tent before heading back to the hotel to shower. There were so many Maniacs milling around, and I got a chance to meet a reader, Cara, who was nice enough to ask me about my stomach and how I was feeling, even though she had just run her own marathon. Y’all seriously amaze me. It’s hard for me sometimes to keep track of every message or comment I receive, but I am constantly in awe of you guys keeping me in your thoughts and bringing me wiener whistles. You rock.

With the exception of the fact that the course isn’t particularly beautiful (although there are some very nice parts), I have to say that this race really was everything I hoped it would be and more. It is definitely hilly, but everything John told me in his interview was true. The volunteers are awesome and encouraging, all the swag is just as cool as you would expect, and the medal is even better in person! The blues theme runs throughout the entire race, and there are musicians along the course to keep you entertained. And perhaps most importantly for those of us who are more focused on having a good time than getting a good time, there is plenty of pizza and beer at the finish. And really, what more can you ask for? So go “get the Blues” next year. You won’t regret it!

Very happy and very cold Maniacs. We love you, Mississippi!
Very happy and very cold Maniacs and Fanatics. We love you, Mississippi!

28 thoughts on ““I’m not the weak link!!” – Mississippi Blues Marathon Weekend, Part 2

  1. Great recap! It sounds like such a great race and I am happy you had a good time. How cool that you met and snap a pic with Mr. McGibblets! So love that show, how fun!

  2. Love your wry sense of humor! Or is that ham on rye? I would love to run with you sometime. If you really want to run slow, join my 5:30 pace group in Columbia in March, or better yet, my 5:30 group in Myrtle Beach next month! Happy running!

    1. There is a very good chance I will run with you in Columbia, Murray! As of now I had not planned on going back to Myrtle Beach – I’m going skiing that weekend, but you never know!

    1. I think I’ve pretty much decided that I want to always stay at the host hotel if it is within walking distance of the start/finish. If not, then I’ll go somewhere else…but that was so awesome. Can’t wait to see you in your Maniacs gear!

  3. In no particular order:

    1.) “Even though Kate and Amanda were both in pain, the race was really going by quickly” is one of the most wonderfully, unintentionally catty sentences you’ve ever typed, and I couldn’t be prouder;
    2.) My favorite part of your picture with Kelly is Kristen’s groggy death state in the background;
    3.) I was really enjoying this entry until I got to the part where you OPENLY ADMITTED that you didn’t finish your drink. I have issues with this;
    4.) I had a number of jokes lined up about “The most terrifying T-Rex picture ever” (your words!), but I feel it’s more effective to let the (tremendous) picture speak for itself;
    5.) Congrats on finishing a race feeling good(ish) for what feels like the first time in forever! Hopefully, you’re back on the right track. I feel like we’ve both got our respective 2013 race seasons mapped out, but perhaps there can be a reunion in 2014?

    1. 1) TO BE FAIR I said that because we all agreed the race was going by quickly for all of us, ok? If I’m going to be catty, it’s going to be intentional, thank you very much.
      2) If there is one thing Kristen has down to a science, it’s death stares
      3) Ugh, that’s what I get for trying to be smart
      4) Yeah no, the jokes really write themselves on that one.
      5) Seriously, I will not see you in all of 2013? Unacceptable. Work on that.

  4. Nice write up. I and probably many of your blog ‘addicts’ want to ask about how your tummy held up. Seems like ok. The Gatorade thirst I thnk is a very healthy sign, I hope.

    Great that you all enjoyed it and had a lot of fun. My ‘forever’ memory of this marathon is when I went back .5m or so on course listening to the live band jamming…only to find out later who the drummer’s Dad is/was. That’s the MS Blues for you….you never know who is playing out there.

    1. Yeah, the race director was telling me that a lot of the musicians are actually really famous, just most people here don’t really know it. That is so crazy! We missed you out there!!

  5. Man, reading your posts makes me so annoyed at myself that I thought running was akin to self-flagellation when I lived in the states, because there are so many awesome medals. I guess I’ll just have to keep collecting in Texas during my obligatory (but much loved) ‘visit the family’ trips home!

    1. Well, Texas is a really great state for marathons, so at least you’ve got that going for you! There are a ton of Texas races I want to do when I finish with the 50 states. I actually should probably start writing those down.

  6. Awesome write up! You make me want to do this race, even though I’m going to knock out Mississippi next month.

  7. Great recap, you make me want to run this one and I’ve SEEN that elevation profile, it’s no joke. I don’t really do hills during a race. I’m glad you felt so good during the race, that is definitely something to celebrate.

  8. I read Kelly’s report a few minutes ago and I find it funny that you both heavily punctuated the THREE BEERS EACH perk. It’s funny because after a marathon, it takes me a good two hours to want a beer, so three of them at once wouldn’t be good for business.

    Glad to see your stomach is doing better though — obviously you’re not yet where you want to be, but it looks like you’re going in the right direction.

    As for the race, my long-long-long term goal is to go 50 sub-4, so I’ll have to return to Mississippi to make that happen. My swamp-ass Tupelo time was 31 minutes too slow, so I’ll probably need to hit up the Blues to make it happen.

    Keep on keepin’ on.

    1. Actually, it’s not really that my stomach is doing better so much as I’m just learning more about all the perks of the races and I refuse not to be included. I never actually want to drink beer or eat food at the race, but when that’s highlighted as a serious benefit of a given marathon, I feel obligated to partake – especially when I have interviewed the race director and he’s so excited about it! I only drank half my beer and didn’t eat my whole slice of pizza. I am weak. You will enjoy the Blues! I laughed at the swamp-ass Tupelo reference. I’ve heard that is a great race, but I just can’t get behind the idea of Tupelo on Labor Day weekend.

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