Thursday, May 1, 2014

Riverboat Series Day 2, Meeman-Shelby State Park (TN) - April 13, 2014

This is part 2 of a 5 part series about the 5 half marathons in 5 consecutive days in 5 states trip that I recently took which was hosted by Mainly Marathons.

Part 1, and Kentucky, can be found here.

Like I mentioned in my last post about this trip, the days seemingly blended together. To me, the parks we were running in seemed fairly indistinguishable from the next, and other than the course on day one in Kentucky, they seemed fairly unremarkable. No worries though, because the reason that I do these series is less about seeing interesting places and more about spending time with interesting people.

Day 2's course was plotted through the Meeman-Shelby State Park. According to the Tennesee Parks Website, "Meeman-Shelby Forest State Park is a 13,476-acre hardwood bottomland area bordering the mighty Mississippi River 13 miles north of Memphis featuring mature Bald Cypress and Tupelo swamp. Most of the facilities are on top of the majestic Chickasaw Bluffs that rise from the bottomlands and are covered with large oaks, American beech, hickory and sweet gum. There are 10 state Champion Trees and two National Champion Trees as well as endangered and protected plants. Deer, turkey, otter, beaver, foxes and bobcats are plentiful throughout the forest. Over 200 species of songbirds, waterfowl, shorebirds and birds of prey, including the American Bald Eagle can be seen; the area is a favorite for bird-watchers."

We only got to see a small area of the park, as this was a 6+1 lap course, but what we saw on that course left an impression on me. I think that if I had to choose one word to describe this race, it would be Green. The course started in the parking lot near a picnic area, and we quickly found ourselves trekking through what felt like a living and breathing canopy of greenery. I had never seen colors quite like this and it felt like it was comforting in ways that I am not sure I could even put into words. This was by FAR, my favorite course of the Riverboat Series.

I know I've mentioned it before, but when I first registered for this series, I had hoped that I would be able to run all 5 races and in some way redeem myself from what I perceived as poor performance during the Center of the Nation Series back in September, but with my injuries never quite healing on schedule and then feeling residual weakness, I knew this wasn't going to happen for me during this series. Day 1 in Kentucky didn't help. My right hip really took a beating during the first day, and I was still scared of reinjury to my right heel and ankle... I had gotten a massage the day before which helped me tremendously, but I was definitely afraid of pushing myself. Through the help of some pharmaceutical intervention, I was able to cut the pain a bit, but I felt myself holding back. Though I was walking the course, I wanted more than anything to run, finish and do well, but even finishing at a walk meant getting out of my own head and letting myself go a bit. And in letting go, I kept finding myself getting distracted by the sheer beauty around me. I guess there are worse things to be distracted by...

You know that scene in Twilight where Bella and Edward are getting married and it this surreal forest wedding and they are blanketed by the most amazing foliage? That's the only thing that I can really equate this course to. Of course it wasn't really like this, and of course there were no glittering quasi-vampires or bad actresses, but still, this is what it felt like to me. And it made me happy. And it made me linger on the course.... taking each and every moment in, enjoying the simple fact that I was alive to experience this.

And then there were the butterflies. The only wildlife that I saw out there were the surreal moments where I was surrounded by the most beautiful groupings of butterflies that I ever saw. Butterflies are very special to me (did you know that the Monarch's DNA actually changes when it transforms from caterpillar to butterfly, something that I had always wished that I could do when I left my family of birth for my family of rearing), so this was a really neat experience in and of itself.

I don't have that much more to say about this race or the course, other than to say that I enjoyed each and every moment of it. My times reflected the constant lollygagging and self-reflection that I stopped for... and normally slower times would have bothered me... but looking back. I almost wished that I had taken MORE time on this course.

Finish time: 4:11:41

My time had me coming in last place for the half marathoners that day, qualifying me to receive the infamous gator bait (last place finisher) award. The award is on the sill above my desk, and every time I glance up, I am reminded of what a surreal experience this was. Thank you to Clint and the folks at Mainly Marathons for bringing me to this magical location.

To be continued...

*Disclaimer: Nearly none of the photos that you will see in the posts about this trip are mine. I chose to not bring my camera with me during the races and instead rely on other people. To the people who have contributed photos to help tell this story, I am thankful.

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