Many yearn for far-off destination vacations and “someday” bucket-list adventures but forget how much of the world is waiting close by. Such is the joy of road trips both near and far. I’ve always enjoyed being on the road since family trips as a kid to visit our grandparents in New England where I learned to imagine stories as I watched the signs go by and peel through books while passing through states in the atlas. Derek and I share a love for travel and have taken many mini-vacations together to hike, camp, and visit family members whenever possible.
Our latest adventure was a trek down to Tennessee to see my brother Steve race his first 13.1 miles at the Nashville Rock and Roll Half Marathon. A recent victim of the running bug, Steve has been exchanging tidbits of stats with us while completing his training runs in the weeks leading up to the race. We were both so excited for him and I just knew that this would be something special that I would want to be present for. Seven hours can be a lonely road for one’s sanity and I was grateful for Derek’s companionship on the journey. I stocked up on a small selection of comedy shows, audiobooks, and David Matthews Band cd’s from our local library for our entertainment along with a pack of not-so-healthy cherry twizzlers as my guilty pleasure for the moments I might feel sleepy and need to snack.
We arrived late Friday night to Steve’s apartment where he filled us in on his anticipation for the race. Proud of his new place, our host gave us a tour and then offered his guest room as he ducked out for an early shuteye. While our pre-race strategy had already been mapped out, the morning of the race brought new complications. Jogging to the corrals in a thunderstorm with less than an hour before the start amidst a sea of 35,000 faces was not how we expected to start the day. I had hoped to take pictures at the race but couldn’t risk my camera getting damaged in the downpour. The rain died down after a 30 minute delay and we gave our parting words as Steve entered corral 14 for his potential 2:00:00 finish.
Derek and I walked to mile 1 in the hopes of seeing Steve set off but could never find him among the masses. Finally, I asked a passerby which corral she had started in and found that he had already slipped by. As we made our way to the next checkpoint along the route, the Rock n’ Roll Half updated us on Steve’s 5K time via text message so we relocated to mile 9. He was pacing quickly and maintaining a sub 9:00 minute pace per mile so we timed out when to expect him at the water stop and spotted him descending the hill! Steve ran over for high fives as he passed through and we consulted our map for the most direct route to the finish line in a 30 minute jog on side streets and bikeways.
Steve finished with 2:00:25 almost exactly on his time goal with a job well done!
I’m proud of his accomplishment despite the huge numbers of race participants, high humidity, and rolling hills throughout the city. I look forward to his next running (or triathlon) milestone. The remainder of our stay in Nashville included getting a behind-the-scenes look of the brewery Rock Bottom Bar compliments of Steve’s friend, Mitch, along with a delicious plate of nachos for our post-race lunch as well as an evening tour of jazz, country, rock, and more on Music Row. We also had time to squeeze in an easy long run on the Shelby Bottoms Greenway Trails in a light rain.
Early Sunday awaited a long trip home with an hour to tack on from the Central time zone change so Derek suggested a side stop off I-65 at Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky, home of the longest known cave system in the world.
We picked the 2 hour “Domes and Dripstones” tour–250 feet below the surface down a plunging, slippery staircase with a narrow passage taken cautiously step by step. The temperature dropped as we descended and the anticipation grew as Ranger Eric guided us to the belly of the beast. The outcome was absolutely gorgeous and we relished the experience and history in the caves.
We knew that we would have to revisit this national treasure again some day soon.
Back on the road, the return of any trip can have its downfalls but I chose to reflect with gratitude and satisfaction than dread of my Monday workday when in traffic and construction.
I knew that it was a trip well worth it and we had a very hungry cat anxiously awaiting our arrival. It’s in the little decisions of plans and mileage that I cherish the time spent with my best friend. One more adventure down and a lifetime more to come.