Archive for February, 2012

South Carolina

It was about five years ago when I started running marathons. I vowed to never run one again after my first coming in around four and a half hours. Only begrudgingly I ran my second. I cut 40 minutes off my time and vowed to never run one again. I ran a couple more and got the hang of it coming down to around 3:35. My fifth marathon my hamstring tightened up and I stopped running for a year. When I ran Iowa, I improved my time just under three and a half hours. I never thought things would get much better in my time department – I had already lost an hour? I was wrong.

February is understandably not a huge marathon month – it is short, there are no major holidays and it is cold in most of the country. So when I started mapping out my agenda for this year there was one race I circled pretty early on – Myrtle Beach in South Carolina. I was hoping to make it in a month when there were few runs. Then after meeting Brian, he had also scheduled the run so clear back in November of 2011 when I was in my hotel in Charlotte – we booked it. So South Carolina was out of the way after getting plane tickets and buying in cheap through the world’s best running group – the Marathon Maniacs! (seriously saved $25)

The weekend came up and plane rides went easy enough. We even got out of the airport pretty easy. The rental car was ten times the pain it needed to be and then we hit the road and flew through downtown Charlotte and then – hit a red light. And seriously we drove for an hour hitting a red light (I wish I was exaggerating) at least once a minute. It was the most infuriating drive of my life – and I was just a passenger! Charlotte and navigator please do not advise this route to future Beach travelers! Please? Thank you.

Once we got into the open road – it was scenic I suppose. There was actually a lot of run down homes but the country side was pretty and a lot of woodlands. I suppose South Carolina really does not really have too many large towns and it was nice to see lots of cotton but it did get a little depressing. We got to the town and traffic was bad again but it was just nice to be there and then we got to the expo. But not before seeing the upside down Ripley’s Believe it or Not museum. No, I never went in but it is worth it just to see the building. It looks just like a tornado took a town hall and flipped it on top of a warehouse!

The expo was usual. I really truly wish they did not charge us for parking though. You already got $80 plus dollars from us and now you want to add another $3 fee for showing up? Seems more than a little cheap to me! The event had some good sponsors – oddly enough not too many other national marathons and there was free beer – that is usually a good sign! I don’t drink the day before running 26.2 but I was pretty tempted. Who is not tempted my free Michelob Ultra?

The next morning was awesome. The temperatures were in the high 30’s. There was a huge free parking lot right next to the start (by the Ripley’s museum too). There were lots of runners going to the start line and maniacs taking pictures together. There was plenty of port-a-pots and the lines were not that long. There were a couple technical issues but nothing to complain about. The start line was crowded but not so that I could not move to where I wanted to line up.

They had a 3:05 pacer and I lined myself up behind her. The run began and it was pretty perfect. They had check points at all the outlying points (this prevents cheating and though most would not – I love a race with integrity). On a side note I recently ran a five mile where they didn’t do this and they still have me coming in 53rd in the five mile. I assure you they need to set up check points next year at the Red Flannel Run! That was me calling them out. Yes, I may have been 30th but not 53rd. Des Moines runners are not THAT fantastic.

The run was advertised as fast and flat and it was just that. I settled in at a 7 minute pace and hoped to keep it. The course looped back around and went down the line of hotels that sit along the ocean. I only wanted to be closer to the ocean but it was more than acceptable to get an occasional glimpse. It was at Mile 18 when the 3:05 pacer finally passed me and though sad, I stayed near the group until Mile 18. My goal was 3:10 – I actually liked my chances!

I tried to keep up the pace occasionally sloshing Gatorade all over my shirt and not stopping no matter what. At Mile 24 I remember hoping to be at 2:51:30. I was at two seconds over! That meant I could do two eight minute miles and still had two and a half minutes to complete the .2! I may have tried to speed up but mostly I did not exert myself. I was passed by three other runners but I just wanted a time that I was sure I could get. Some guy raced past me right at Mile 26 but I was so sure of myself by that point I just smiled and cheered him on. Then when I went around the corner? The clock still said 3:08. I had just done it!

When Ohio came up, I ran a 3:16:29 and when I finished I started talking to a volunteer. I had sliced open both my nipples in that race and we were laughing about it. He mentioned Boston and asked how close was I to it? I said I don’t thinkĀ  I am that good. He figured it out for me in his head and seriously I had missed it by 30 seconds. In my age group it was 3:15 but they let you finish within the minute! Well I wasn’t that far away after all! The guy who thought Boston was impossible and had already peaked was that close? But I knew something was afoot.

They made it harder. They pretty much took five minutes off all times and made it harder to qualify for Boston because so many people were able to make it with the current standards. My time went down to 3:10 and even though 6 minutes may not seem like much? I started going the other way clocking in at 3:20 or 3:30 and blaming injuries for the next 7 months. Then came Delaware and a 3:14. Louisiana was only better at 3:11 and I had a feeling South Carolina may be the key. I started to embrace running and love running rather than just doing something I am good at.

When I crossed the line the time was just over 3:09 I knew it was going to be under 3:09 – 3:08:52 to be exact. I had just qualified for Boston. And oddly enough the best part was yet to come. Brian came in close to a personal record missing his by 30 seconds and then he introduced me to a couple marathon maniacs I know I will be hanging with again – Kino and Shannon. Boston was nice – but being able to share it with others who knew my accomplishment was such a fantastic way to end it. Neither of us wanted to leave the group or the race but you do have to check out of your hotel sooner or later we supposed. They were even nice enough to let us check out an hour late.

The quote of the day had to come from Adam as we were walking away from the marathon. He looked at me and saw my shirt stained by a cup of Gatorade and a broken nipple that had bled through my shirt and said – “If that is what a Boston Qualifying time looks like? I don’t think I want one?” Admittedly, I looked pretty bad but my smile was ear to ear.

We left the Beach almost immediately so we could get back to Charlotte. Brian and Adam were really excited about going to a local Lulu Lemon shop so we got directions there. Now, I was not too excited about this trip. Last time I went to Lulu Lemon the lady that helped me was gushing about every woman who came up and talking about how they were faster than their husbands and how AWESOME women were at running! No one bothered to help me. I finally strolled up there and bought an awesome shirt and it was a terse conversation about if I was going to run the Charlotte Marathon and see you later. I was tempted to challenge her sexist ass the next day!

But this time a girl came over to help me and talked me up. Brian told her I had just qualified for Boston and she was so thrilled for me. I just loved her energy so much, I picked up a pair of underwear and a pair of socks. That may not seem like much but it was about $35 dollars of stuff. I rolled up to the register and the other employee told me to put my card away. And she meant it! She gave me both items for free! Yes, support Lulu Lemon – you have my complete backing.

In summation, best marathon ever! A great course, great support (I didn’t even mention the race director who talked to me for ten minutes asking how everything went), great pacer, great local stores, and great new friends. I cannot wait until Arkansas!