Sunday Morning Long Run

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.

This sign is NOT found on Folly Road.
This sign is NOT found on Folly Road.

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!

Still saved.
Still saved.
Morris from behind a tree.
Morris from behind a tree.

Save The Light Half Marathon

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.

"The sea was angry that day, my friends, like an old man trying to send back soup in a deli."
“The sea was angry that day, my friends, like an old man trying to send back soup in a deli.”

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.

Shot of the Folly Beach Pier on race morning.
Shot of the Folly Beach Pier on race morning.

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 really rain 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.

Race bling!
Race bling!
Pretty sweet poster by a local artist that came with registration. It's crooked in the photo because it's crooked on my very yellow wall as well...boom!
Pretty sweet poster by a local artist that came with registration. It’s crooked in the photo because it’s crooked on my very yellow wall as well…boom!

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!

Running all-star Alicia and Morris beaming with pride.
Running all-star Alicia and Morris beaming with pride.

Sometimes Even Horseshoe Crabs Need a Hand

(Because they don’t have any…)

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:

  1. The sky was (for lack of better terminology) poppin’!
  2. I tried to rescue a horseshoe crab.
Look at those popcorn clouds!
Look at those popcorn clouds!
I mostly took pictures while warming up and cooling down, but will admit I stopped to take a couple during the run itself...
I mostly took pictures while warming up and cooling down, but will admit I stopped to take a couple during the run itself…

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!

Come on, buddy, let down your hard shell guard a bit. I'm just trying to help ya...
Come on, buddy, let down your hard shell guard a bit. I’m just trying to help ya…

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 but a “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…

Maybe the crab dude was just coming to shore to admire the sky as well?
Maybe the crab dude was just coming to shore to admire the sky as well?

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.

His and Hers Evil Twin Brews at Kudu.
His and Hers Evil Twin Brews at Kudu. 

The sunset as seen from Folly.
The sunset as seen from Folly.

 

River Dog Brewing Company

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”…

Hmmm Savannah appears to be closer to the brewery than does Charleston...
Hmmm Savannah appears to be closer to the brewery than does Charleston…

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 skies were blue and we were ready to have a drink!
The skies were blue and we were ready to have a drink!

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...

Another obligatory flight shot…

 The six beers on draft for the day and thus those included in our flights were as follows:

  1. IPA
  2. Chocolate Rye Porter
  3. Toffee Holiday Ale
  4. American Red
  5. Lowcountry Lager
  6. American Wheat

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.

That's what we're all here for...
That’s what we’re all here for…
Great brews!
Great brews!

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…

Good to the last drop...
Good to the last drop…