Monday, November 19, 2012

Flying Monkey Marathon Race Recap

This past weekend, I flew to Nashville, Tennessee to run my 9th Marathon – The Harpeth Hills Flying Monkey Marathon in Percy Warner Park. It was my second trip to Tennessee and I was excited because I’d heard so much about the Flying Monkey from my Run It Fast friends who have run it before. The race has a cult following and after running it, I can totally see why! It was hard, hilly, beautiful, and a lot of fun.

So yeah, I picked another race with hills. I guess I’ll never learn! 

The Flying Monkey is THE race that gave me the idea for my Year of Animal Racing in 2012. I knew I wanted to sign up for it this year so I figured why not do as many animal races as I could find. Wouldn’t you know, since last year sold out so fast (in less than 4 minutes), this year RIF #57 Trent (@hhflyingmonkey), the RD, did a lottery. Let me tell you, I used every wish possible to get into the Monkey. And luckily…or not so luckily as the race veterans would say, I got in! 

Since the Flying Monkey is the Sunday before Thanksgiving, I decided to take Mon-Wed off of work (we get Thanksgiving and Friday as paid holidays). The plan was I’d drive to Arizona, fly out to Nashville on Saturday, race and have fun, fly back to AZ on Monday and then stay thru Thanksgiving with my family there. So on Friday after work, I drove to my dad’s. Spoiled daughter alert…my dad got up with me at 3:45 on Saturday so he could take me to the airport for my 6:20 am flight. Thanks dad! Love ya!

My first flight was to Chicago and we had a tailwind so we were almost 30 minutes early. And then my flight from Chicago to Nashville was early too. Sweet! The weekend was off to a great start! This was a good sign for the race the next day. After I landed, I got my rental car and then drove over to the race expo to pick up my packet. Totally sweet swag with my bib. Not one but TWO shirts (one tech and one cotton one), a sticker, and a magnet (which was perfect for my magnet collection).

So cool that my tech shirt has my name on it, er Coyote on it! And I love the Banana in Black shirt too.

I also picked up Josh’s (@bayou) packet and RIF #151 Chris’s packet since Josh would be doing the early start and Chris and I were going to see him off. Then I went to the hotel…and then went for an easy 5K run. Probably shouldn’t have but wanted to keep the run streak alive. I’m a nut, I know. But it was a good run. Then I showered and got ready and headed to the pre-race dinner at a little Italian place in downtown Nashville. 

There was a good turnout at the dinner and the food was good, especially the pizza. And there was monkey cake! Woo! There were 4 other RIF Club Members there, RIF #124 Michelle (@MarathonMomof6) who I met at the Leading Ladies Marathon, and then I got to meet RIF #13 Mikki, RIF #44 Heather, and RIF #9 Jess. I also got to meet Houston (@houstonwolf) who I know from FB/Twitter. Michelle was our hostess for the dinner and she did a great job. She gave out door prizes and I won a barrel of monkeys!

After the dinner, I went to the store to buy breakfast and water and goodies to take to the race. Then I got my gear ready and went to bed. I slept pretty well and woke up at 4:45 to eat and shower and get ready. I left the hotel at 5:55…and had to wait 5 minutes for the ice on the car windows to melt! Holy smokes it was cold. I wasn’t expecting it to be that cold. This So Cal girl does NOT like cold like that. I drove over to the park to meet Josh and Chris. Luckily, Josh had the Tahoe running and the heater was blasting so we could stay warm while he got ready. Then it was almost race time for him so we got out and headed over to the start. I met RIF #187 Daniel for the first time. There were about 30 early starters, including RIF #159 Diane who I’d also met at the Leading Ladies Marathon, and they started at 6:30. Brave souls were facing the monkeys without support until 8 when the official race started but I think they all made it out alive! Josh ended up running a 3:49 which is awesome! I saw him a few times on the course but didn’t get to see him after the race because he had to head back to Jackson for a funeral.

Once the early starters were off, I hung out with Chris and Daniel and then met RIF #182 Clark. Then I went and got ready myself, hit the porta potties, and went back to the start. All the RIFers I’d met so far were there and then I met a few more – RIF #181 Donna, RIF #189 Marlene, RIF #186 Danny, and RIF #34 Leah (@leahthorvilson). We took a couple of group pictures and then it was time to race!

Ok, so the Flying Monkey has hills. And not just one or two but pretty much all 26.2 miles you are going either up or down. It’s in Percy Warner Park and it’s on roads thru the park with just a little bit of grass at the start and at the end. There were a few cars and some cyclists in there with us but for the most part, we had the roads to ourselves. It is a beautiful park and the last bit of fall was hanging on so the trees and the scenery were gorgeous. I did get distracted a few times from that.

It was also cool listening to the birds and other animals while we were in there. At one point, late in the race there was no one else around and listening to everything going on made me think of the beginning/end of Pirates of the Caribbean and I thought, “yeah, this was an E ticket ride”. :) Also, I’m pretty sure I heard monkeys a few times but never saw them! Which is kind of disappointing but probably for the best since I’m not sure I could have survived both a monkey attack and the hills!

My plan for the race was to just have fun. I didn’t think I would be speedy coming off last week’s Malibu Marathon. I didn’t taper for the Monkey (ran 10 K, 8 miles, 5K, 8 miles, 10K, and 5K Mon-Sat) either but was still feeling really good and ready to run. 

MILES 1-13
These miles seem to fly by. I ran most of the hills and walked some of the steeper parts. There was man I leap frogged with the entire race. I’d pass him going up the hills and he’d pass me on the downhills. I got to talk to a few other runners and ran with Donna for a little bit. You could hear the aid stations thru the trees and that made it fun too. The volunteers on the course were awesome, very enthusiastic and helpful.  There were also fun signs along the course to help pass the time but like I said, the miles flew by. I did the first half in about 2:27. I had visions of a 5 hour finish at this point. But the Monkey had a different plan for me. 

MILES 13-20
After the halfway point, my stomach started getting grumbly. Not gurgly, sloshy like it sometimes gets but it wasn’t happy. I was drinking GuBrew /S Caps combination (I add 3 S caps to the mix so I don’t have to keep popping them on the course) and I don’t think that bothered me so I’m not sure what happened there. It didn’t slow me too much until I got close to mile 18. We had a nice little downhill going to the aid station there and instead of enjoying it, my stomach rebelled furiously. I couldn’t remember if there were porta potties there but felt like I needed one quick but there wasn’t one there. After the aid station, we headed for a good uphill and I decided to walk most of it to see if that helped settle my stomach and it did help some. At least it settled to a point where I didn’t have to worry about having an accident anymore, if you know what I mean. I popped an S Cap hoping the extra salt would help and maybe it did. The runners thinned out in the second half but I didn’t mind. It was cool and a little breezy and the sun thru the trees was amazing. Seriously, if you’re gonna do hills, pick a beautiful course and then you won’t notice. Well, not much anyway. ;)

MILES 20-26.2
My stomach felt better after the walking bouts between 18-20 so I was able to run a little better after that.  I was zapped of energy but nothing hurt and no blisters that I could tell. Just a 10K left so might as well run, right? Let me tell you, I sure was glad the course was marked and there were people directing us on the course because I had no idea where I was most of the time! I worried that if I got lost in there, I’d never make it out and I’d be monkey food for sure. But I didn’t get lost and just kept moving forward. I never once doubted I would finish but was a little sad to see the 5 hour goal slip by. Then my next target was 5:15 so I used that to make myself run when I felt like walking. I was tired and ready to be done! I wanted that medal! :) So the miles kept slipping by and then there was only 5K left and then only 2 miles and then finally it was the last mile and I could hear the finish. I knew everyone could see me coming across/down the hill in the grass so I mostly concentrated on not tripping in the grass. I did not need hundreds of witnesses for a face plant at the end. Or grass stains on my sparkly new white RIF shirt. I’d never live it down.

And then I was in the last turn to the finish and then there was the finish and I was done! 5:16 and change. My first Flying Monkey Marathon! I’d survived and had one kill under my belt. I got my Monkey Medal! Woo!

I also got a beer glass…

I’m pretty happy with the 5:16. I know I didn’t run the Monkey as hard as I could have. I have a 10 mile Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving and a 10K Turkey Trot on Saturday so I did want to save a little bit for those. One or the other I hope to run hard but I’m not sure which yet. Maybe the 10K. Anyway, I think I ran pretty smart and would have had a better time if not for my stomach. Stupid stomach! 

After I finished, I saw RIF #79 Dallas and he put the medal on me and congratulated me. I went to the car to change my shoes and clean up a bit and then went back to race for the rest of the festivities. I met a couple more RIFers, #165 David (@DavidRoadRunner) and #206 Gary and then hung out and talked to some of the other runners while we waited for the awards and door prizes (I won the Monkey gloves pictured with the beer glass above!) to be handed out. I also grabbed a plate of food. I’m not sure that was the smartest idea but I needed food and thought maybe real food would help my stomach. No beer for me, but I sat with Dallas and Jess in the beer corral for a while and visited. 

When my stomach started acting up again, I decided it was time to head out and get a hotel for the night. I drove over to Nashville and got a room near the airport, rested a while, showered, and then headed out for some dinner. I’d asked at the hotel for some recommendations and they suggested a little place near Opryland, which I wanted to visit too. It was a placed called Caney Fork and I had the BBQ Pork sandwich and fries. I could have probably eaten the whole BBQ Pork plate but I wanted to save room for ice cream! Oh, and they served up a free appetizer of hush puppies so you know this girl was happy. I did not get a pic of the hush puppies because I may have inhaled them. Man, it’s a good thing I can’t get those at home!

I walked off dinner by walking over to Opryland. It was a cool but beautiful night and Opryland was already decorated for Christmas so it was awesome.

Inside was pretty darn cool too with lights and wreaths and poinsettias and Christmas decorations everywhere. I checked out the lobbies and the atriums and the shops and stopped for some Butter Pecan ice cream. Yummy! 

And then I was one tired runner girl so I walked back to my car and headed back to the hotel. I packed my bags for the flight home last night and I got so much Monkey Loot, I had a hard time getting my bag closed! That’s what I’m talking about! That’s exactly why this is cult race. Not only do you get cool swag but Trent goes that extra step with the small details like our names on the bibs and shirts. I WOULD recommend this race but that might make it harder for me to get in again so don’t run it! It’s really hard and there are scary flying monkeys that love to eat runners for breakfast! Don’t do it! ;)

Anyway…I flew back to AZ this morning (this flight arrived early to so I had a VERY lucky travel weekend) so it was a quick trip but it was jam packed with friends and meeting RIFers and adventure and hills…and a little running. ;) My kind of weekend!

Thanks for reading!


  1. That sounds like a phenomenal weekend, Lisa! I love your travel spirit - always up for trying new things. Awesome! Congrats on your finish!

    1. Thanks Carilyn! Adventure is good. :)

  2. Lisa, you are awesome. I want to live your life of travel and adventure. And, of course, all that running! I've been injured and barely running most of this year and reading about all your races makes me happy and I feel like I am living vicariously through you. Congrats and great job!

    1. Thank you Jen! I hope you feel better and get back to running. I realize that I'm blessed and very thankful for that.

  3. Great report, Lisa! Glad you enjoyed your time in Nashville. Going to the Opryland Hotel was the perfect thing to do. I enjoyed meeting and running with you.

    Donna #181

    1. Hey, Donna! Thanks for stopping by. It was great meeting you and running from the monkeys together. :)

  4. What a fun read and congrats again to you! You are definitely a bad-a!

  5. Maybe next year you'll see a monkey. I've only seen one in the last 10 years.

    1. Lol, I'm glad you survived the encounter. :)

  6. It's views like that, that make me love running. I run on a few trails locally every week. I only just finished a half-marathon and a 10k. I'm going to register for my first trail run on December 9th and 15th (provided I don't hurt myself on the 9th).

    Still working my way up to a full marathon. Truth is, I really need to get those long-runs in to train my body to handle the longer distances. It's a work in progress, but I'm getting there :-)

    1. Thanks for stopping by Ricardo. Congrats on your 1st Half and good luck with your trail races. You will do great!

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