That’s the position that I’m currently running for, or at least acting as though I am. I’ve been majorly slacking on both my running and keeping this blog poppin’! In a confusing twist, I actually do believe my skills may be better utilized if appointed Governor of Rutville, as I am currently in a significant running rut. I have no doubt that it’s just one of those less than fruitful phases during which you simply aren’t feeling it the majority of times you lace up the running kicks, but it’s no fun nonetheless. I’m just hoping I start feeling “it” a bit more before the Cooper River Bridge Run this coming weekend!
In an attempt to somewhat assuage the slacker stench that’s been pervading this blog for a month or so now, here are some of my favorite pics taken during runs over the past few weeks:
So here’s to losing my two election bids and instead getting back to some quality running in the near future! (along with less blog slacking of course…)
Yesterday morning, I had my weekly longish run slated on the calendar (not physically of course, but rather in my mental calendar). I was shooting for somewhere between 8-10 miles (yes, I’ve been slacking on my long runs since I’m not currently training for anything), and had initially thought it a good idea to head out to the West Ashley Greenway to knock out those miles. However, on Sunday morning a combination of laziness (since I’d have to drive out to the greenway) and rekindled love for the Morris Island Lighthouse (since I had just written a much delayed race recap) led me to the zany idea that running from my doorstep to the beach front near the lighthouse would be a better option for completing my longish run.
Ideally, I would love to live somewhere where you can lace up your running kicks, bound out the door, and have your choice of different running routes you could complete right from your doorstep. I’ve lived in places ranging from pretty solid out the door running spots to downright awful. Where I lived for my last two years in Durham, NC definitely offered the best in terms of a running neighborhood. Unfortunately, my place in James Island does not offer the same diversity of options when it comes to running routes in da ‘hood. Sigh.
As chronicled in this blog in the past, I’ve come to enjoy beach running and typically head out to the beach for a run whenever afforded the opportunity. Thus, wouldn’t it be near ideal if I could combine my love of beach running with my desire for out the door runs? Yes, I certainly believe it would be. The problem with that dream, however, is that in order to get to Folly Beach from my house you’re going to spend some time running along Folly Road. Yes, you can minimize your time on Folly Road by running along some side roads for a bit, but ultimately all roads lead back to Folly Road.
You may be wondering, what’s so bad about Folly Road? Well, in a general sense it can be a traffic nightmare during the summer since it’s the only road leading in and out of Folly Beach (but that’s not what we’re talking about here). From a runner’s perspective, the main issue is that there’s only a sliver of shoulder for much of the road (though there are some well-worn dirt paths on the side of the road at times). Combine this lacking shoulder with motorists who tend to fly along Folly (and who may or may not be intoxicated during the summer months), and you’ve got a potential recipe for disaster.
On this morning, however, I was feeling brazen (and lazy–I really didn’t want to drive anywhere). I had run from my home to Folly before, but had never run from my house over to the end of Folly near the lighthouse. How far of a trek would this be? I consulted with my legs who informed me that they had a maximum of 10.01 miles in them today…maaaaaybe 10.02, but any more than that and they would abandon me outright. I knew they weren’t bluffing as they had quit on me before and clearly were not above doing so again.
I drew out the run on Google Maps, and rejoiced when I saw that the route would be approximately 9.7 miles! My legs gave their nod/shake/jump kick of approval, and Alicia agreed to provide shuttle service at my run’s terminus. So off I went!
I am glad to report that the run was uneventful overall, and enjoyable on top of that. My knees were both a bit sore initially, but felt better after about 15 minutes of running. No cars hit me on Folly Road…score! Believe it or not, I even got a bit of a sunburn on both my forearms as the first half of the run was pretty sunny (it became significantly overcast for the second half) and Folly Road offers little in way of protection from the elements. I passed “Phaz” (or at least that’s what I think it’s called), which I believe is being marketed as a bar or night club but is really two run down buildings with a “courtyard” (read: open space with cinder blocks on the ground) between the two buildings. This spot opened up a few months ago, and it has intrigued me ever since. Further arousing curiosity is the fact that they intermittently advertise Happy Hour and oyster nights (though they seem to be continually changing which night is oyster night…how are you going to build a solid patron base that way?) on their billboard up front. I have found very little information regarding this joint aside from a sparsely maintained Facebook page which may or may not belong to this establishment. Do any Charlestonians out there know anything about this spot? Also I apologize to the owner of Phaz if he/she is among the dozen of blog followers I have and is reading this. I am sure your establishment may indeed be world-class and it is most likely my ignorance (given that I have never stepped foot through your enterprise’s door) bleeding through here.
I was also afforded the opportunity to run over a few waterways, which I always enjoy and I weaved in and out of the Folly Beach neighborhood streets, admiring the beach houses that I certainly would not mind inhabiting. There’s always something magical about being in a beach town, and I’ve found that it feels even more special when you’re there during the off-season as one of the “locals”. I am definitely lucky to live so close to the ocean.
At just about 9.7 miles, I reached Morris Island lighthouse and the end of my run. My legs congratulated me, but reminded me that they were ready to bail on me in another third of a mile (thanks, guys). After snapping a couple pics of Morris, my chariot arrived and whisked me off to the rest of the day’s adventures!
Just about three weeks ago (on February 1st to be exact; yes, I know I’m slacking big time on the blog posts), I ran the Save the Light Half Marathon along the streets of Folly Beach, SC despite the fact that I had run my first full marathon a mere two weeks prior. I was a bit wary (as well as apologetic towards my legs) about running another 13.1 miles after barely surviving the full a couple weeks before. However, I’ve never been accused of making the smartest decisions and I really wanted to contribute towards the cause, and thus I signed up and ultimately lined up on race morning.
As for the cause, the proceeds from the race were going towards Save The Light, Inc., a grass-roots, non-profit organization committed to initially “saving” and now preserving the Morris Island Lighthouse. Now I love lighthouses. Why? Perhaps it’s because of my Jersey roots and the fact that I spent so many summer hours out on Sandy Hook while growing up, and thus got to take in the majesty of the lighthouse there on a regular basis. Who knows? Regardless, the fact remains that when a lighthouse needs saving, you know I’ll be there!
Getting back to the race itself, another plus for me were the facts that the race was on the small side (280ish finishers for the half marathon and another 200 or so for the 5K) and very local to me as Folly Beach is essentially right down the road from where I live on James Island. Quick transit time, a familiarity with the course, and not having to worry about parking nightmares can go a long way on race morning!
Start time for the race was 8:30am, and thus I arrived on Folly around 8:15, found a parking spot, and started to walk the three or so blocks over to the starting line. Stepping out of the warmth and dryness of my car, I quickly realized that the weather gods were not in the best of moods this morning.
Luckily, the race was not on the beach itself but rather through the streets of the Folly Beach neighborhood. As everyone lined up, the sky was “spitting” rather than producing any significant rain, but there was that damp chill in the air that made the 40F temps feel significantly cooler.
As everyone stood around talking about how chilly it seemed and their hopes that it wouldn’t “really” rain, the starting gun fired without any warning or preamble and off we went!
Given that the entirety of Folly Beach is roughly 7 miles and this race took place wholly on the East side of the island, you can imagine that this wasn’t a point to point race or a pure out and back course. Instead, the biggest continuous stretch of miles came along one road (Ashley Ave) with the rest of the mileage coming from different loops of varying distances within the neighborhood roads. The course was actually pretty ingenious as it managed to cover a USATF certified 13.1 miles within a smallish chunk of real estate. Sadly, the course didn’t allow one to see the lighthouse while on the run itself as this would be impossible without running off-road and onto the beach, but the course took us as close to the lighthouse as we could get while still staying on black top. I like to think that ol’ Morris knew we were running for him and could feel our presence there.
I felt pretty solid during the first 2-3 miles as I stayed within myself and didn’t push too hard. My legs felt a bit stiff at first, but quickly loosened up. Unfortunately, however, as my legs loosened up the skies opened up! Soon there was a torrential downpour upon us, and we were all a bunch of fools running through heavy rain. I don’t typically mind running in the rain (unless it’s a very cold rain on a cold day), and I actually usually enjoy it. This day was no different. As I became progressively more soaked, I had one of those “Why do you do this to yourself?” thoughts that amused me, but otherwise I didn’t let the rain dampen my spirits too much (top-tier humor there!).
Luckily, the weather gods took mercy on us and the rain abated after a few miles. I continued to feel strong, hovering around my goal of an 8:00 minute/mile pace. I started to waver a bit as we entered into a long stretch of Ashley Ave that is pretty wide open and near the shoreline, thus offering very little protection from the headwind that was constantly trying to sap all my energy. I promised myself that things would be significantly easier once I hit the turn around point at the end of Ashley Ave (aka near Morris’s home). The pessimistic side of my brain tried to argue that I had no basis for such a promise, but I tried to drown him out with some “Augustines”.
Coming up on the turn around, the elite runners passed all us chumps going the other way, looking strong, graceful, and as though they were born to run as I’m sure all us mere mortals looked slovenly, uncoordinated, and completely gassed. Nonetheless, I tried to put on a face that said “this isn’t my first rodeo and I feel great” as I passed the course photographer at the turn around. I even posed with a fist pump type of move because nothing exudes false confidence like that gesture. Sadly, I haven’t seen those photos yet (let’s pretend I was waiting for them to get posted before I wrote this recap), so I don’t know how it all came off…
After the turn around, the course did actually get a bit more manageable as the head wind became more of a tail wind and I felt rejuvenated by all the other runners around me, waving and nodding to others that were still making their way to the turn around point. Around mile 9, I downed a couple of Shot Bloks with Gatorade from my water bottle as I was beginning to feel I was dragging a bit.
As I came into the last few miles of the race, it started to get a bit more mentally challenging as we were going in and out of neighborhood loops that we had already covered in the past. I always feel like retreads on a course are a bit mentally draining and tough to stay motivated for. Plus it made it more difficult to gauge where exactly we were going and how close we were from the finish (even though my Garmin was obviously providing stats for me). Furthermore, after mile 10 I found myself running pretty much by myself as the field was thinning out over the many in and out loops. I don’t know about everyone else out there, but I find it tough to stay on pace when I’m out there all by myself (one major reason why I shouldn’t be an ultrarunner…that and the lack of endurance). I tell myself I’m just running for and against myself, but still my competitive side doesn’t want to see me get passed by someone when the field has thinned out to that point and that late in a race. Maybe I just need to think less…
In any case, I luckily started to close on a dude that was running ahead of me and looking strong. For the last 1.5 miles (as the rain started to come down again), I simply stayed within a few paces of him as he led us to the finish line. He was running strong and thus I never felt the need or desire to pass him, and instead just stayed with him through his kick to the finish line. After we crossed the line, he turned to me and said, “Thanks for the push”. I told him I was just happy to hang on.
Ultimately, I finished in 1:43:50 which is a half marathon PR for me! Thus, I was very happy with my performance overall.
About 15 seconds after crossing the line, it started to reallyrain again. My fiancée and sister were supposed to meet me after the race at the finish, but fortunately for them (in this case) they’re slackers and thus were “just leaving” my house when I called them after cooling down for a minute. I told them not to bother, and that I would rather meet them back in the dryness of our home.
The next morning, Alicia and I went out for a little Sunday run together. We had planned on running on the beach, but high tide pushed us back out to the streets of Folly Beach. Alicia had only wanted to run 5ish miles, but I tricked/persuaded/pushed her to run a bit further so that we could get to ol’ Morris given that she had never actually seen the lighthouse and the fact that I saved him the day before. After a little bit of “Negative Nancy” talk, she pushed through and persevered to complete her longest run to date. Victory!
Yesterday morning, I went out to the always scenic (and often offering adventure) Folly Beach for my Sunday morning run. I set out aiming for six miles on the beach, and that’s ultimately what I accomplished. It was a beautiful (albeit a bit chilly) morning and I felt good overall despite having run the truly epic Onshore Racing’s You Can’t Run From Love 8K the day prior (race recap coming in a future blog entry when I stop slacking so much…).
Although this weekend run was rather ho-hum overall, it was notable on two counts:
The sky was (for lack of better terminology) poppin’!
I tried to rescue a horseshoe crab.
While the pictures may suggest otherwise, this “run” wasn’t all about being awed by the beauty of the sky.
Right as I was coming up on my three-mile turn around point, I also came across a horseshoe crab lying/resting/dying/drying out/tanning just beyond the shoreline. Now seeing a horseshoe crab stranded on the beach is no longer the sight it once was for this guy given the fact that they are frequently desiccating out on the beach (I’ve actually noticed that there are way more dried out horseshoe crabs out on the beach in the winter months than during the spring/summer months…maybe someone out there knows why this could be?). In fact, this horseshoe crab dude that I speak of was probably the fourth or fifth I had seen on this run alone.
What set this guy apart from the rest, however, was the fact that he did not appear all that dried up…and the fact that he was moving!
Yes, indeed I could clearly see him waving about his rear rudder tail/scorpion stinger appearing death appendage as he laid there helpless on the sand. So I paused my Garmin and took to assessing the situation which involved taking the above picture and admiring his cool barnacle like appearance.
After the in-depth assessment was completed, what ensued was a 10 minute cycle of me picking the big guy up, avoiding his rear tail (yes, I know it won’t kill me but still…), placing him a bit deeper into the water, watching to see if the tide takes him out, and then repeating. It was a delicate dance balancing my desire to save a majestic sea beast and my hope to not get my shoes soaked. Ultimately, the scales tipped further towards the humanitarian side and thus I was able to get him sufficiently far enough off shore that he could “swim” off to his sea home if he wanted to. I watched him for a bit, and he was definitely making movements on his own but I never saw him enter into the true depths of the ocean. After all, I didn’t have all day to watch him…sheesh!
So who knows if I ultimately did a good deed or not. It could be that he was dying and just wanted to be left alone in peace on the shore and instead some jerk in shorts threw him back into the water. It could also be that he was out on the shore to mate (though I don’t believe it’s crab mating season now) and thus I effectively “you know what–it rhymes with rock”-blocked him. Or in the best case scenario, it could be that I truly did save his crabby life.
In any case, I learned from Wikipedia (which contains only factually correct material) afterwards that horseshoe crabs are often used as bait fish for eel buta “permanent moratorium” has been put in effect in SC to restrict this practice. Way to go, South Carolina! Not enough to make up for being part of the Confederacy, but it’s all about baby steps…
If you somehow read this or have someone read the blog to you, Mr. Horseshoe Crab, please know that I was only trying to do you right.
Unrelated to running and crabs, I was able to close the day out with drinks at Kudu and watching the sunset with Alicia “It’s So Cold Outside” Herklotz. It was a good day overall.
A few weeks ago, I heard that the always stellar Homegrown Brewhouse would be hosting a tap takeover at their establishment by a South Carolinian brewery, River Dog Brewing Co. Now I enjoy a tasty brew and a friendly pup as much as the next guy, yet I had never heard of this brewery despite the fact that they were advertising bringing along 15 different beers to the tap take over! Hoping to remedy this oversight as quickly as possible, I took to the interwebs in order to ascertain where exactly in the state this brewery is located. Well, it turns out that it is significantly south of the Charleston area (more specifically in Ridgeland, SC). One may even say that the brewery is “practically in Georgia”…
After reading a bit about the brewery and being very intrigued by the large number of brews they were reportedly bringing to the tap takeover, I rationally decided that I had to check them out! Unfortunately, the tap takeover timing at Homegrown Brewhouse wasn’t going to jive with my schedule (incidentally, the first tap takeover had to be postponed due to the crippling Icepocalypse). Thus I resorted to the next most logical step–planning a road trip down to the brewery!
Maintaining some level of rational thought, however, I realized that a nearly two-hour (one way) drive down to a brewery was teetering on the brink of low-level insanity (yes, only low-level). However, upon further inspection of Google Maps, I found that a wildlife management area that I have been wanting to check out, Donnelley WMA, is conveniently located on the way to River Dog (stay tuned (or not) for a future blog entry about that spot). Perfect! I sold the idea of a Saturday road trip to the always skeptical Alicia and to a regal friend, Queen Amber, who was planning on making a pilgrimage from her kingdom down to the Lowcountry that weekend, and off we went!
After making a stop to explore the aforementioned Donnelley Wildlife Management Area, we ultimately arrived at our craft beer destination. If you have made pilgrimages to breweries in the past few years as I have, you are most likely familiar with the trend of breweries setting up shop in industrial parks (which seem to offer varying levels of shadiness). Now that’s not to say that one cannot have a perfectly epic brewery situated in an industrial park–heck, some of the best breweries I’ve visited have been “industrialized” so to speak! Nonetheless, it was nice to find that River Dog Brewing was actually in a seemingly nice and clean “business park” called RiverWalk Business Park.
The inside of the River Dog space was simple and unassuming. Bar to your right and relatively spacious tasting room to your left with numerous high tops and tables spread throughout along with merchandise to purchase on the far left wall. We did not indulge in a tour (as I believe we all have a touch of ADHD and I’m not even sure if they were offering tours at the time), so I cannot speak to the set up of the brewery itself.
Within a few moments of walking through the door, a very kind bartender came out to us in the taproom space to inform us of their flight and pint prices. After we all ordered flights, he kindly told us to find some seats and he’d bring them out to us. Score!
Now the flights were quite a deal. For a whopping total of $8, you got 4oz pours of all six of the beers they had on draft (that’s 24oz or two 12oz standard bottle/cans of craft beer goodness for a very low price!). Did I also mention that the flight carrier was made of beautiful stained wood? Oh yes, it was indeed.
Another obligatory flight shot…
The six beers on draft for the day and thus those included in our flights were as follows:
Chocolate Rye Porter
Toffee Holiday Ale
As I’m typically an IPA guy, it’s no surprise that I enjoyed the IPA here. It was hoppy though not overly so, easy drinking, and with a pleasant citrus undertone. Somewhat surprisingly, I very much enjoyed the American Red. In fact, that was probably my favorite brew here! Simply put, it was quite smooth and tasty. On the other end of the spectrum, I really did not enjoy the chocolate rye porter. I am definitely not a darker beer fan, though I’ve been trying to branch out a bit. Regardless, the porter here tasted a bit like cigarette butts. Yikes. How do you know what cigarette butts taste like, you may ask. Well, truth be told I don’t, though this is what I imagine they’d taste like. Again, my disclaimer is that I typically do not enjoy porters so you can draw your own conclusions there (though it should be said that my two compatriots for the brewery adventure also had the cigarette butt thought; I cannot speak to whether or not they have more refined palates than mine and perhaps have actually ingested cigarette butts in the past). Despite my general aversion to darker brews, however, I did enjoy the toffee ale. Similarly, the lager and wheat beers were also quite solid.
All in all, a great time was had at River Dog Brewing Company. Excellent beers, friendly staff and clientele, a wandering pup in the tasting room, and a great overall set up–what else could you ask for? Well, it’d be nice if the brewery were located a bit more up North…
Winter Storm Leon made his presence felt here in the Lowcountry as he made a pass through late yesterday afternoon into this morning. On paper, it would look as though he did very little damage (probably less than a 1/4 inch of snow and a bit of ice) but if you watch the news or take a look out your window here in the greater Charleston area, you shall soon realize that good ol’ Leon actually crippled the area.
It all started Tuesday morning when numerous businesses, clinics, shoppes, etc were closed down for the afternoon in anticipation of the snow/icepocalypse. Unfortunately, Leon ran a bit behind schedule (caught up in other shenanigans presumably) and did not hit the Charleston area until later Tuesday evening. By that time, a state of emergency had been declared and essentially everything had been prospectively put on ice (yikes, that was bad) in terms of Wednesday operations.
Ultimately, the ice did come overnight on Tuesday and into this morning. In the end, it was clearly a wise decision to shut most everything down for Wednesday given the overall inability of the South to handle any type of adverse winter weather, the numerous bridges in the area (all of which freeze and pose significant hazards), and the countless drivers in the area who have probably never had to navigate anything worse than a rain storm.
Don’t get me wrong here–I am in no way complaining about getting 1.5 snow/ice/precipitation days! I just think it’s amusing how different the South is from the Northeast in terms of handling winter weather.
In any case, the ice has resulted in my largely housebound status for the day. The long johns clad Alicia and I did, however, manage to get the pups out for a walk around the development this morning (pictures below; the pups treat snow as though it was powder cocaine). I also hope to get out for a quick run around the development shortly, and I’m sure that shall be an adventure given the still significant amount of ice on the roads and walkways…
Well, for once I’m hoping that Frank Turner (despite all his English boy wisdom) is incorrect and that my post-marathon recovery is swift rather than prolonged…
Regardless, there’s no denying that I am not a superhero and thus this guy’s quads, knees, calves, feet, toes, and spirit all need a bit of recovery time following my first ever full marathon.
For better or for worse (it may very well be that I’m deluding myself), I feel as though I’ve bounced back surprisingly well to this point. The afternoon immediately following the race was clearly a wash. Both my mind and my body were in some strange post-marathon dimension where I wasn’t physically in too much pain but simply felt “off”. I was tired but couldn’t fall asleep. I was excited, but also worn out. I was hungry, but couldn’t stomach much food.
Luckily, that weirdness abated by the next day (although the leg pain did not!). The afternoon following the marathon I took part in a short, easy 2 mile recovery run around our housing development with the lovely Alicia. It took a half mile for my legs to loosen up to the point of actually being able to engage in any sort of movement aside from a geriatric shuffle (not that there’s anything wrong with that!). After my legs broke out of their invisible plaster casings, however, I felt pretty good (not good enough to run any more than an easy two miles, but pretty good nonetheless).
The day after that (two days post-marathon), I ran 3.5 miles out on the beach. Again, I took it easy and though my legs felt heavy, I felt solid overall. In fact, I felt good enough to pick up the pace during the second half of my run to a point that is respectable for this guy.
Then, I took two consecutive days off from running which is something I very rarely do. I took the first day off on purpose, but the second one was not intended. It was simply one of those nights where I wasn’t feeling a run at all. I tricked myself by proposing to my brain the possibility of taking a “short nap” at around 9:30pm and then waking up to go for a short 1 mile jog around the development (after all, it’s just as dark and cold at 10:15pm as it is at 9:30pm, I reasoned with myself). My brain loved the proposal! And subsequently held my body hostage in a sleep state until early the next morning…drats!
I figured I could get by with a couple of days off in a row, though, given the fact that I had just run my first full marathon.
As an aside, earlier in the week a boss of mine at work gave me a hard time about running a marathon in relation to the dangers of long distance running. He cited the studies that point to increased cardiovascular stress and subsequent increased morbidity/mortality of marathoners and ultramarathoners. I countered with the notion that we are “running people” with a long tradition of such that is still alive in some cultures (ie, the Tarahumara) and that we are most likely capable of much more than we realize. Ultimately, the debate was never truly settled. It is a very interesting topic, however, and one that I think about/fret over from time to time (possibly a future blog topic?). Perhaps luckily (or lazily?), I don’t envision myself transitioning into a regular marathoner or ultra runner.
The icing on the cake came when I asked him that given what we had been discussing, what did he then think about another co-worker of ours who is an Ironman triathlete and regularly competes in triathlons of varying distances. My debate partner simply shook his head, and said (deadpan): “He is going to die.” He was joking, of course, and the delivery was pretty hilarious.
Dead endurance athletes aside, I picked back up running this afternoon by squeezing in a late run out on the beach. I almost didn’t make the trip out to this sandy haven, but ultimately dragged myself out there to get in a few miles and boy, was I glad that I did! The run wasn’t all that great (tired, heavy legs), but the view was simply jaw dropping. The sky looked to be on fire as it lit up the whole beach on the second leg of my out and back run.
Honestly, the backdrop was downright spectacular and once again made me thankful for the beach running opportunities I have nowadays.
So here’s to more beautiful running views and continued recovery!
Before we get more into that, however, let’s take a look at some of the nitty-gritty stats:
What?: Charleston Marathon
When?: January 18th, 2014
Where?: Refer to the “What?”
Why?: Well, it seemed like the next logical step…
Who?: Yours truly!
Kicks: Brooks Ghost 5’s
Fuel: Clif Shot Bloks, Sport Beans, Pretzels, Gatorade
Tunes: Varied mix with heavy doses of The Gaslight Anthem, Pela, Fake Problems, The Killers, Arctic Monkeys, Frank Turner, Jukebox The Ghost, Spoon, etc
Results: 4:20:38 (9:56 Pace)
The very good news is that I crossed the finish line in my first ever full marathon this past weekend. The bad news is that I am admittedly my own worst critic and thus cannot say I’m satisfied given the fact that the race did not go according to plan (though really, what does?). The other piece of good news to finish off this good/bad news sandwich is that my outlook is shifting more and more towards the sense of accomplishment spectrum and further away from the “you suck” spectrum.
Let’s start from the beginning, shall we? First off, I do want to say that it’s my opinion that the Charleston marathon was organized well from beginning to end and executed extremely well on race day. I have heard others coming down on this race for one reason or another, and whereas it is true that there are indeed areas that the race directors can look to improve upon in future iterations of this event, it is my newbie marathoner’s (though not newbie racer or runner) opinion that this was an excellent event overall. Plus you have to remember that this is only the fourth year that this race has been around and the first time that the event sold out (it capped at a combined 5,000 participants for the half and full). In any case, the fact that 46 States and 10 countries were represented must mean that they were doing something right here! (or maybe just that people love to visit Charleston?…nah)
The race expo on Friday night was a no frills type of affair (which was more than fine by me!). I wanted to get in and get out, and the set up at the expo allowed just that. A free (well, with the registration fee) technical shirt and my race bib was all I was searching for, and so I snatched them up and got on out of there!
After taking the above photo of the ol’ race shirt, tweaking my marathon playlist a bit, and setting up my race gear for the morning, I set off to bed. I managed to get to bed around 11pm which is early for me and good considering the anxiety I was beginning to feel more acutely. I slept well and awoke to my alarm at 5:30am feeling well-rested along with a mixture of nerves/excitement. One cup of coffee, a peanut buttered bagel, and a shower later and I was out the door accompanied by my lovely driver/cheerleader/motivational speaker for the day, Alicia.
As expected, there was race day traffic near the starting line but nothing too crazy and the future ball and chain my beautiful fiancée was able to drop me off a few blocks from the jumping off point. While walking over to the starting area, a black cat did cross in front of myself and two other runners walking in front of me. Was this an ominous curse or a good luck blessing? I’m still not sure. Maybe I should try to find out how those two other runners fared so that I can establish a final verdict…
The race started at 8am, and it was sunny but cold (at least by Lowcountry winter standards). The temperature was around 34F when the race began and only rose to about 45F during the course of the event. Although it was a tad bit chilly while standing around before the race, the cool air felt good for the most part while running. I’ll always prefer cooler temps during a run as opposed to warmer ones given the overall lesser degree of stress on the body and hydration status. It is worth pointing out, however, that gloves may have been a good idea given the fact that I found my fingers to be largely non-functional the first time I went to grab some Shot Bloks out of my Fitletic pouch. Opening up the Shot Bloks packaging was also quite challenging. Yikes!
At 8am, the gun went off and the race began! The first four to five miles were jumbled as any race that draws more than a few hundred people is. These miles were perhaps the most scenic as we ran along The Battery and up along the “touristy” part of King Street. I focused on staying relaxed and not pushing my pace, keeping it around 8:40 per mile. I told myself to just enjoy the experience (“This is your first marathon and it’s awesome!”).
The problem is that I never felt good. You know those runs when you realize you simply don’t have it within the first five minutes? Well, this was one of those runs…and it was my first marathon! It would be one thing if this was a 10k or even a half marathon since then I could just say, “Meh, you’ll get ‘em next time”, and take it easier than I normally would have while knowing that I would still finish (or at least most likely would!). Having never run more than 20 miles at a clip, I didn’t know what this all meant for my morning as I would ultimately be heading into uncharted territories…
I told myself things such as, “Well, they don’t call it a marathon for nothin” and “If it was easy, everyone would be doing it” to try to motivate myself.
Ultimately, around mile 6 I started to have some significant GI distress. I’ll spare you all the details, but suffice it to say that the Shot Bloks were not sitting well with me that morning. This fact was both surprising and a bummer given that this was the fuel I had been training with all along while preparing for this marathon, and it had never disagreed with me before. Did I say something to offend the Bloks? I’m not sure. Regardless, we were like an old married couple locked up in an epic argument that made it painfully clear we could not even be in the same room together.
After hitting a port a potty at the mile 8 aid station in an attempt to smooth over the disagreement myself and C. Bloks were tangled up in, I actually felt pretty good. There was a bounce in my step and I was able to pick up my pace a bit. I passed the 4:00 hour pace group somewhere around mile 13 and was feeling pretty good…
…until the Bloks and I began not seeing eye to eye again. This resulted in another call of nature stop at mile 16, but unlike last time no magical rejuvenation coursed through me after exiting the green construction site staple beacon of hope.
My pace again began to falter. I switched to Sport Beans, which were apparently friendlier on my system but didn’t work any miracles.The 4:00 hour pace group passed me looking like a group of Olympians. My left ankle began hurting (that was weird). My right quad began screaming out in pain. I felt like I was stuck in quicksand and I’m pretty sure a teeny, tiny ant zoomed passed me and shook his head in disgust.
Around mile 20, I began questioning whether it was even worth it to continue running. After all, I was a failure–I was significantly behind my goal time, I felt like death, and I was even considering walking. For some reason, that was the part that stung the most. I was ashamedto even consider engaging in such a preposterous and lowly act! How embarrassing would it be to walk past volunteers and spectators?! After all, this is a run! What would they think of me?
Now I don’t know where these ridiculous thoughts were coming from. After all, I am nowhere near an elite runner and am instead a middle of the packer at best on most days. Furthermore, I have always had a healthy dose of respect for any variety of distance runner (respect which has only grown since this past weekend).
Luckily, my brain was still functioning enough to realize it was indeed being absurd and convince my legs that walking is ok. “After all”, my brain said, “we want to get out of here in one piece”. They tried, but ultimately my legs could not argue with that logic.
So that’s what I did. After mile 20, I alternated walking with bits of running. When my body felt like it was going to give out during these running spurts, I stopped and resumed walking. I leisurely hit up the aid stations along this stretch and consumed electrolyte laden Gatorade. Around mile 23, I called my partner in crime, Alicia, to tell her that I would be nowhere near my goal time and would instead be lucky to cross the finish line. (She missed the first call and subsequently called back to ask if she had missed me at the finish–this was around the 3:41 mark; I wish!).
Still, I’m not going to say the last 10k or so of the race was easy by any stretch of the imagination even with the walking. There were still times when I thought about just throwing in the towel. How easy would it have been to have just walked off the course, sat down on a park bench, and called my chauffeur up?
I didn’t, though. Simply put, I didn’t want to quit. So I kept putting one foot in front of the other–sometimes it is as simple as that.
The volunteers and spectators were great as they offered support and kind words even when I dared to walk! (How bout that?) The cheers of the crowd were enough to motivate my legs to run the last 0.40 miles of the race and even pass a couple of other runners on the way down the straightaway (a girl in the crowd actually met my eyes and called out to me that I’d better “watch out” because a guy behind me was making a last kick and going to pass me down the final stretch; maybe I would’ve cared another day, but I didn’t on this day). I crossed the finish line and pretended I wasn’t going to die long enough for Alicia to greet me and act as a support beam as I became a lean-to.
In the festive atmosphere of the post race festivities, I wasn’t feeling good enough to stomach the free shrimp and grits or even much of the complimentary brews (though it should be noted also that it was Bud Light), but I did begin to feel proud of what I had accomplished out there on the 26.2 miles of pavement I left behind. Sure, the clock didn’t read what I had hoped but I persevered through one of the most physically challenging runs I have experienced and the most mentally challenging run. That is something that I’ll always remember and hopefully be able to draw from in the future.
1) Major thanks to the lovely and talented AJH. Without her support (emotionally and physically following the race), I would not have survived!
2) Next time(and let’s be honest–there is clearly going to be a next time), I’m going to nail down my fuel plan and have a stronger base going in.
3) I hope I at least look good in the race photos. Ha!
Tomorrow I shall be attempting to run and complete my first full marathon at the 2014 edition of the Charleston Marathon (at least it’ll be flat!).
Before we get to my anxiety thoughts on that, let me rewind a day and mention that I went for my last pre-marathon run yesterday afternoon (two days before race day). The training plan schedule that I’ve been following pretty closely (at least with respect to tempo and long runs, as well as total weekly mileage) called for two days off before running a final 2 mile run today. As I tend to not run the day before a race (I like to keep my legs fresh) but also do not like taking two consecutive days off before a race (I don’t want my legs that fresh), I opted to go out for my last run two days before the big race day.
Thus, I took to the beach late in the afternoon yesterday for an easy, breezy two miler. I felt good and focused on going nice and slow, which made the jaunt peaceful and calm. The upside of running on the beach during the “magic hour” was that it afforded some beautiful (albeit blinding at times!) views.
Back to the lecture at hand (shout out to old school Dre and Snoop…I know you two G’s are following along), I have to admit that I am pretty anxious about the run tomorrow. I generally don’t get too nervous before a race (it’s not like I’m anywhere near an elite runner and am not challenging for any sort of age group (or otherwise) win or placing), but I definitely find myself feeling anxious as I sit here typing away. Part of it has to do with the fact that this is a new distance for me, and a distance that I have never covered before. Yes, I guess the unknown is indeed scary. However, I feel as though most of my uncertainty and unease come from the fact that my last long run was less than stellar. Had I dominated (or at least survived) that training run, I am pretty sure my head would be in a different place (as would the butterflies in my stomach).
But none of that matters now! The past is the past, right? No need to dwell on that and I should instead focus on the positive and visualize myself crossing the finish line tomorrow so that I can add “marathoner” to my CV. That reminds me that I need to add “blogger” to that as well…
So tonight and tomorrow morning, I’ll carry out my typical pre-race/pre-long run rituals and have faith in the notion that these acts have gotten me this far and thus will help power me through to the finish line tomorrow.
For me, these rituals include constructing and subsequently devouring a home-made pizza this evening along with a couple of beers (as you need those liquid carbs…and some of us need to write blogs incorporating running and craft beers!), getting to bed early (often the hardest part for a perpetual night owl like myself), getting together my race gear tonight so I only need to do a minimal amount of thinking in the AM, eating a bagel with peanut butter in the morning along with only one cup of coffee (below my normal day-to-day intake but I’ve found greater quantities can be hazardous for longer runs), and getting to the race early enough to hit a port-a-potty (hey, you gotta do what you gotta do!).
Perhaps I’ll also watch some sort of inspirational or running themed movie tonight to set the tone. Or maybe I should just watch one of my favorite movies to put my head in a good place? Hmmm…
I’m curious to hear about anyone else’s race eve or race day morning rituals along with any suggestions for a good flick to check out the night before a race. Also, is there anything you do to ease your mind or get yourself focused before a race? I’d love to hear about it!
Smuttynose’s Graviation is one of the brews in their “Big Beer” series which are touted as “Big Beers in Big Bottles”. As per the Smuttynose website, these beers are produced in small quantities and sporadically, and furthermore they don’t brew every style each year. Thus, the beers are “maddeningly hard to find” . Damn you, Smuttynose!
But seriously, let’s please refrain on the damnation of Smuttynose as that is one spot that is definitely on my brewery bucket list.
So what did I think of Gravitation? Well first off, this is definitely an in your face type of brew. This quality can be at least partially accounted for by the fact that it rings in at a respectable ABV of 11.3% (for the 2013 version), but furthermore its significant raisin character gives it a greater “fruity” presence than would be expected. The bottom line is that this brew has a nose on it and is not a “ho-hum” type of beer. You’re not likely to forget this brew, that’s for sure!
All in all, this doesn’t strike me as your traditional Belgian Quad (though what do I know?). It poured a much deeper amber red than I would have expected, and was much fruitier than I had anticipated. You definitely taste the alcohol content in this one, so there’s no chance of acting surprised when you’re trashed following the consumption of just one of these bad boys.
This particular brew wasn’t my cup of tea, though I tend to love the Smuttynose line in general. Perhaps with time the fruitiness of the beer would mellow out? I’ll never know as I needed to drink mine in the interest of good blogging.