On Wednesday, Wendy and I flew to Nashville and were picked up by Dad, Patrick and Alana at the Nashville airport. We drove to Uncle Darrel and Gay Dawn’s beautiful home on Two Rivers. It’s a three-story home that sits bank of the Cumberland River. They have a long back porch, part of which is covered (sunroom-style), so that you can sit outside in any weather. We didn’t have any rain or storm, but I imagine it’s fun to sit on that covered porch in the middle of inclement weather.
With Wendy being 7 months pregnant, I supposed I shouldn’t be surprised that we ended up in the coveted office, which converts easily into a bedroom. It was comfortable and made us feel at home as we settled in.
That night, as we became introduced and reacquainted with Darrel and Gay Dawn, out on the back porch, we watched the General Jackson float by several times. “The General” as it is called, really adds to the charm of this abode and I found myself oathing that I, too, would someday own a home on a river, in Tennessee. So far, I own 1/30 of home (the bank and I have joint-custody), have visited Tennessee, and have seen a couple of movies with River Phoenix in them…you gotta start somewhere.
We woke up early on Thursday and drove down to Tuscumbia, Alabama, where we would meet more family, including my dad’s sister, Patricia and her husband, Crochen. Patricia is the eldest of my dad’s siblings and is a gracious hostess. I have always loved my Aunt Patricia. She is so warm and easy to converse with, even if we haven’t seen her for years and years. In my mind, she is ever-young and the life of her home.
Crochen is a wealth of knowledge, and seems to know more about my dad’s side of the family than most, even though he is not blood-related. However, it’s interesting to me that he knows so much, because I think of how much I know about my wife’s family history or how much she knows mine, and it’s not much. But Crochen can provide insight that fills in our paint-by-numbers family history. I would love to sit with him for a day and record stories about our family. Wendy loved Uncle Crochen and thought he was a riot.
Unfortunately for me, I had to work on Thursday (if work is reading this, what I meant to say was: “Thursday, I worked my fingernails off. Yay, work!”) I unsuccessfully tried to find an internet solution at the three family homes that are near each other. So dad drove me over to the Hellen Keller Public Libray in Tuscumbia where I could get a solid wireless connection and VPN into our corporate network.
It was a busy day for work, and I know I got some looks from the locals (most have never seen a SLC geek with a black Mac), but they were gracious and allowed me to steal enough bandwidth to keep myself employed. Dad took me to lunch at Southern Bar-B-Q and I had a pork sandwich, which was good. I had the hot sauce, but it just wasn’t hot enough, so I added an inordinate amount.
I finished off my work day at the library, then dad and I drove back up to the Seals’ home. We sat and talked with the family and I got to know my cousins a little better. The more I meet my family members, the more proud I am to be a Nelson with roots in the south.
Friday, of course, was expo day. But we started off at the Cracker Barrel, which seems to be a family place for us (Wendy and I frequently take our girls to the location in Springville, Utah). But on Friday morning, we found ourselves eating and drinking the dread of what would become tomorrow’s marathon. Also, we ate breakfast. The only problem with the Cracker Barrel is their lack of Dr Pepper. You will order a Dr Pepper and they will kindy ask, in a southern drawl of Mr Pibb is ok. You will, in your Utahan, western non-drawl reply that Mr Pibb is not ok. They will suggest that perhaps you would like a Coke, and you will agree, because there is no point in arguing with every Cracker Barrel within the Lower Continental (but it seems like you do, every time, anyway.)
This brings up an interesting sub-plot. In the south a Coke is not a Coke. In fact, if you could see the word from a southern perspective (over the top of your grits), you would see that the word is not capitalized. This is because a Coke has now become a coke, a general term, meaning “soda” (and I really don’t want to go into the whole “soda” vs. “pop” thing right now, so please don’t ask, thank you very much). So, it is quite possible that if you ask for a “Coke”, you’ll end up with a Pepsi. Irregardless (not a word), we ate at the Cracker Barrel, and it was good.
After breakfast, we made our way over to the marathon expo to get our race packets. Because I had signed up for the full marathon, they gave me a black shirt with a black bib (1/2 marathoners were issued red shirts and bibs). Unfortunately, I already knew that I was going to run the 1/2, so I set out on obtaining a red shirt (I don’t like pretending to be someone I’m not…unless it’s a rock star, but that’s another topic). I was told that I’d have to do this on Saturday, after the race. (Spoiler alert: I don’t end up with the red shirt or bib, so I am probably going to end up wearing a black shirt that I don’t deserve.)
The thing that I noticed about this expo was that it was very BIG AND CORPORATE. The Country Music Marathon Expo had the look and feel of an AIG executive holding an acoustic guitar, singing some Waylon. Maybe that’s not the best analogy. And maybe, really it’s not a bad thing. It takes a lot of money to make these things (a marathon) happen. I guess I’m comparing it to a smaller race (St. George, Utah), and that’s probably not fair. But this isn’t a marathon review, really, so who cares? One thing I did appreciate about this Expo was the wide isles. At the St. George expo, it’s close quarters. Here, in Nashville, it was like shopping at Costco, except the food venders are the guys offering rub-downs with The Stick and the oversized shopping carts are the massive drop bags that Nashville handed out.
At the expo, and several times since, I mentioned to Wendy that after she has the baby, I’ll be nagging her into running a 1/2 marathon. I know that its moments like these that strengthen a marriage and ensure that we’ll be together, forever.
That night, we got most of our stuff ready for Saturday morning. I am a little weird, maybe even superstitious about Marathon Eve. There are several things that I need to have organized in order for me to rest:
1. All clothes are layed out.
2. Chip timer is securely fastened to my shoe.
3. Bib is pinned to my shirt, centered and level. Also, the bibs’ center is over my belly-button, leaving a little space on my chest, where I can slap the sweat from my forehead with my hand to my shirt. This is crucial, and I take painstaking efforts to get this right, inculding sometimes donning the shirt and pretending to wipe the sweat from my forehead and quickly slapping “sweat” to my chest (sometimes, I even run in place to simulate the effect). I do this in private, however have no qualms about posting this practice to the internet, apparently.
4. GPS watch is charged and in my shoe (so I don’t forget it)
5. Glide is ready for application (non runners: This stuff helps runners so they don’t chaffe, when running. I won’t explain it, so you’ll have to Google it, yourself.
I have to take a break to share something. Wendy and I are currently on a flight from Cincinnati to Salt Lake City, to go home from Nashville. For the last 20 minutes, there has been a guy about two rows back, standing in the middle of the isle, with his laptop resting on top of the seat in front of him. It’s weird and unnecessary. If anything happens to this flight, and somehow you’re able to scrape this post off of my Mac’s badly-damaged hard drive, just know that my opinion is that the disaster had something to do with that guy. Anyway, our story continues…
6. Inhaler is full and ready for use.
7. iPhone. This has become a recent addition to my arsenal of stuff for running. I like carrying it, because it allows me to do several things. I can use it to call someone, take pictures, mobile blog, and record short videos. It’s become a “must” for my running, training and racing.
So yes, I’m a little picky about Marathon Eve. I don’t think that anyone else in the family is like this. I’m not sure how I got to be so freakish about the day before a race, but here we are.
There were thirty-thousand-plus runners, and our family was spread part in different corrals, so we didn’t keep track of each other at the start. I watched runners being released in waves for about 25 minutes before my corral was released. When we started, I really had no idea how this was going to end up. For the first mile, I concentrated on not running too fast. I think that I kept a 9:30 to 10 minute pace, which I kept through most of the race (unless I was walking).
Miles 2-5 were ok. I noticed that it was getting warm, fast. I fell into a steady pace and found a good rhythm with my breathing, pace, etc. I took walk breaks every so often and I had to really work at not tripping over other runners. Even with runners being released in waves, there are a LOT of runners out there, so you have to pay close attention to what’s going on around you (partly because there is a small number of runners who are not paying that close of attention).
Miles 6-7 concerned me. I could tell that the heat was starting to get to me and that I was slowing down, a little. But I had a pleasant surprise coming up…
At mile 8, I found dad. I ran up to him on his right-hand side and waited until he noticed me. When he did, we chatted a little about how things had been going. Dad was certainly running faster than I was, and I was struggling a little to keep up. But dad didn’t want to lose a running buddy, either, so I think that he might have slowed down, a little for me. Around mile 10 (or so) I let dad go. I was really slowing down and he needed to keep going. So I lost him and it was back to the humdrum of my struggling 1/2 marathon battle.
At mile 12, I knew that I was going to make it. I ran until I could see the finish line and made darn sure that the cameras that shot my picture couldn’t mistake me for walking.
I finished this race with no pain. No IT Band pain; no shin splints pain. I feel that this race was successful, because I was able to run with my family in Nashville, sans injury.
After the marathon, we scooped ourselves up and made our way back to Darryl and Gay Dawn’s home, where we ate pork sandwiches, hot dogs and hamburgers. It was great.
On Sunday, we woke up and drove to Dickson for church. Wendy and I both felt that this was one of the friendliest wards we’d been to in a while (If anyone reading this is somehow offended, please come and talk to me personally. I will attempt to reassure you that, as an individual, you are the friendliest person I have ever met). People came up to us and greeted us and made us feel at home. Only a couple of years ago, Dickson only had two LDS congregations. It now has two, due to some shifting around in ward boundaries, growth, etc. Great ward, though (as is the Parkway 4th; please relax).
After church, we drove to the Montgomery State Park in Burns, Tennessee. This is a beautiful place, with a place to golf, swim, bike, etc. We went for the purpose of eating. I maintain that this was the best place that I ate on the entire trip (save it be for that provided by family). The food was delicious and, as far as I can tell, quite southern. Due to time constraints, we left without me going for a second piece of apple cobbler. As we left, I vowed to someday return and finish the job.
We drove out to The Country (this is what my family in Tennessee and Alabama call it), where we saw the houses that my dad and his siblings grew up in. We visited two family graveyards. I enjoyed the peaceful atmosphere, and tried to pay attention to the names and dates on each gravestone. As we left, I realized just how little I know about my extended family. I know that I need to do some work in discovering more about my roots and see what I can do to scrape up a semblance of how they grew up and lived their lives.
I worked on Monday from Nashville, from Darryl and Gay Dawn’s home. It was a little sad that we’d be leaving, but we had a great time out there. We ate at the Cracker Barrel for breakfast, but after that I worked and prepared to catch a flight with Wendy back to Salt Lake. We flew on buddy passes, which meant that we had to keep an eye on flights to Salt Lake. With the help of Lynn, we finally settled on a flight that would give us a layover in Cincinnati. It was a tight squeeze (we flew standby and made it on the plane with one seat to spare). From Cincinnati, we flew to Salt Lake. Aside from the grewsome details of how I found my car in long-term parking after an hour and a half of walking, hitching a ride with an airport worker and involving approximately 3 other workers, we made it home safely.