Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Race Report: Dasani Myrtle Beach Half Marathon

Waiting for our flight to Myrtle Beach
I took Friday, February 13th off for my flight down to Myrtle Beach with my running buddy Donna.  And since I was flying Spirit, I packed lightly and decided to wear multiple layers since I knew this airline to be very strict about their carry on rules.  Upon arrival at LaGuardia, it turns out the flight was delayed by roughly an hour, so we sat around waiting for any news from the ground crew about when we were going to board.  Eventually we did, and a few hours later, we landed in Myrtle Beach.

After picking up our rental car (a nifty black VW beetle, which we lovingly referred to as Beulah!), we headed to the expo at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center, where we picked up our bibs for both the Neon Nights 5K that would occur that night and for the half the following morning.  The expo was cute - about medium sized.  There was a booth with a lady selling some delicious cookies, which we decided to partake in... and unusually a booth dedicated to the local humane society with golden retriever pups up for adoption, and another booth for guide dogs (there were about 20 just laying around on the floor with huge signs saying "don't pet, I'm working.") And thankfully, a beer booth, which we gladly partook in, as well.

Myself, Dan, and Donna before
the Neon Nights 5K
We then headed to the resort to drop off our bags and check in, and then get changed for the 5K that was to happen that night at Broadway at the Beach, Myrtle Beach's premier shopping destination.  We got there a little early, so naturally, we found a restaurant that served drinks, and Donna and I got ourselves a mojito and strawberry margarita, respectively.  Minutes before the 5K, we found our buddy Dan from Kansas City, and outfitted with our nighttime glow-in-the-dark accessories, were on our way!  The route took us all the way around the shopping center, and then out onto the street, where we continued along a barricaded route to the TicketReturn.com Field just down the street, where the finish line laid.  It was a very chilly night, so we promptly returned to our car, and headed back to the resort to get some rest before the morning's events.

She dragged me out into the cold!
February 14 arrived... and so did my 31st birthday.  Oops, one thing I forgot to mention - I was running this half to kick off my birthday weekend festivities!  Another chilly morning before getting out to the 6:30am start.  We stayed in the car for as long as feasibly possible, thankfully finding a parking spot only steps from the start corrals.  Bundled up in our black garbage bags, we begrudgingly took off into the brisk 27ยบ weather (with thankfully, no wind).  I was able to get rid of my garbage bag early on, while we ran down Grissom Parkway, and then took our turn onto Mr. Joe White Avenue (really, the name of these streets!) before hitting the 1 mile mark.  We then took a right turn onto South Kings Highway (US Bus Rte 17) where we ran on a long stretch for about 3.5 miles.  Along this stretch, we ran by many miniature golf courses, which Myrtle Beach is famous for having the most of, per capita, in the world.

At mile 5, we ran by the airport, seeing the runway to our right.  We finally turned right onto Farrow Parkway, running toward The Market Common, the 114-acre community that used to be part of the air force base complex that surrounded the current airport when it was an active air base.  It was promising to run up this street because there were runners coming back in the other direction, which signaled the halfway point of the half marathon wasn't too far ahead of us.

At mile 7, we were back on Farrow Parkway, heading into the straightaway to Ocean Boulevard, another long stretch that would take us closer and closer to the finish.  It was a four mile long stretch, and it felt like it never ended.  Mile 11 finally showed up, and we turned left onto Mr. Joe White Avenue, and then it was just a matter of time before we were headed back down the streets we initially came down when we started, then turning into the TicketReturn.com Field parking lot, to get to the finish line.  I finished in 2:18, which wasn't particularly great or bad - but knowing that it was a flat course, I wish I could've gone faster.  Granted, it was COLD.  And I guess I'm a little spoiled by having done halfs that have hydration stations at shorter increments than the "every two miles" mark that this race course had -- even then, they weren't exactly at the mile markers, and so I kept on anticipating them, but they wouldn't show up for a few hundred meters down the course.  After the race, we stuck around for several of our friends to finish and reconnected with new friends for some photos -- and then proceeded to find warmth as soon as we could!

After my birthday lunch!
To celebrate my birthday, Donna and I met up with Dan and his wife Paula, and Ken Fattmann and his incredible 13 year old son Calix, both of which are prolific half marathoners/marathoners (At this writing, Calix has 132 halfs and 17 marathons under his belt!) for a late lunch at RIOZ, a Brazilian steakhouse, which was PERFECT for our protein needs and muscle recovery post race!  After a quick nap back at the resort, we headed to the marathon after-party at the House of Blues (after getting lost for about 45 minutes going in the wrong direction...oops!) and met up with some other new friends, Jason and Travis; later we accompanied Travis at a Thai restaurant near his hotel to talk shop about races -- the half that morning was Travis' very first half marathon!

Sparklers on my birthday!!
We wouldn't leave till Monday afternoon, so the rest of the trip was spent discovering more of what coastal South Carolina (and even North Carolina) had to offer - driving up to Wilmington for lunch, and then to the kitschy "South of the Border" landmark at the NC/SC border further inland; a stop at Chili's (Donna has added a Chili's component to her "Halfs in all 50 states" journey, so we kind of had to!); and then lighting fireworks in the middle of the street at our resort (they're legal in South Carolina!)

All in all, a fun (even if a bit cold) weekend celebrating my birthday in South Carolina!

Victory Headstand in Myrtle Beach!

Margaritas are necessary

Having too much fun at "South of the Border"

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