Saturday, February 14, 2015

Myrtle Beach Marathon (South Carolina)

February 14, 2015
Marathon 50, State #44 (Age 46)
Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

I'm looking for 2015 to be a monumental year in my marathon quests.

First race of the year brings me to Myrtle Beach, SC.    This is a long way from home, 2,578 miles to be exact.   Myrtle Beach will be special for a couple of reasons, first it will mark my 50th marathon start and 50th marathon finish.  It will also fill in the hole in my map in the south!

Second, my next official race will be in June and will be my only other planned 50k (31 miles) other than my last in 2005 which I swore I would never do again!

Thirdly, I'm inching ever closer to 50 years old and wanted to complete all 50 states before I turn 51, so once again this fall I'll attempt my 3rd double marathon weekend in Maine and New Hampshire in the NE.

I've had a string of less lonely marathons, that is many have been solo trips.  For South Carolina I actually turned to one of my non-running friends from Charlotte, NC.   I reached out and at first suggested that I fly into Charlotte and we drive 4 hours to the coast together for the weekend.   After he checked his calendar it just so happened that he and his wife had already planned a weekend get away the very same weekend to the very same city of Myrtle Beach.  I'd like to say the planets were already lining up.   Even more convenient he already had a condo rented for the weekend with plenty of space as well as I wouldn't have to rent a car because he would be able to shuttle me around for the weekend.  Bingo!

In planning this marathon adventure, it was with little time to prepare for I committed to registration and airfare just on Christmas Day, which only was about 8 weeks away.   Yikes!    Training was further complicated with an already planned trip to Ohio for 5 days in January which cold temperatures and a busy social schedule while visiting family pretty much made it impossible to run for 5 days further complicated by another 5 days of a winter flew when I returned home.

Lets just say training and preparation for this marathon were less than desired.  I'm a believer of under training but this was in my mind even less adequate than I would have liked myself.   My only three long runs were before January 10th and each only 7-8 miles.   I usually shoot these days for about a 4 hour marathon and although this course was completely flat at sea level I was thinking my 4 hour marathon might be a long shot this time around!

It seems that more and more marathons I've been running have been on Saturday which I find a little more fun because it usually doesn't entail racing to the airport directly after the race and an extra night to enjoy time in a new city.   At the same time, especially, all the way on the east coast, requires leaving a day earlier on a Thursday vs. Friday.    I've also seemed to try to capitalize on three day holiday weekends for an extra day to recover and this race is no different because Monday is President's Day!

Traveling is more complicated traveling time zones for a race.  To fly from California and have a 6:30 marathon start on the east coast basically equates for me as a 3:30 start time so when the alarm goes off in the morning a little hard to get out of bed.   Unlike my last adventure and coordinating 2 state high points in the day before the race, Myrtle Beach I would find a little more relaxing.

After a long flight and finally arriving at Myrtle Beach airport at after 10pm I was greeted by my good friend Scot who picked me up curbside.   Upon exiting the airport I was immediately shocked, by the wind and the cold.   I hadn't really expected the south to be this cold, low 20's  before windchill.   We ventured back to his condo and had a few drinks while catching up and staying up way too late.   So much for trying to get used the new time zone by getting to bed early!

Friday morning I did get to enjoy sleeping in till 10 a.m. and then on to visit the Myrtle Beach Convention Center for the marathon expo.    Not a large marathon yet still a descent expo with quite a few vendors schlepping their goods.   It was evident the arctic freeze that was tormenting the south wasn't going to give us a break all weekend and I hadn't brought the ideal running clothes for the cold, especially with the heavy winds that made it much worse.    I wanted to pick up a light shell jacket that would shield me from the wind however also was well ventilated, and where other than a marathon expo to find a good selection at great prices so found just the one that I hoped would be perfect!

My friend Scot had traveled with his wife, his mom, and his dog so he had his whole crew.  We did get a chance to drive up and down "the strip" of Myrtle Beach where all the hotels lined the coastline, however, his condo was in the far south of town, but just happened to be on the marathon route, so he could walk out (in the cold) and see me pass by if he wanted to.   Next to the condo was a little Mexican restaurant they've been meaning to try called Nacho Hippo which hit the spot.   We dropped the girls off at the condo and then headed out and he gave me a tour of the town and gave us some more time to catch up with just the boys.

Game plan was for any early dinner and hopefully an early night to bed.   Scot's wife didn't feel well so for dinner we headed out to Murrells Inlet to a place he went just the night before called the Dead Dog Saloon right on the water with great views of the marsh.  The place was interesting because when you first walk in you see 100's of photos on the wall of people's pets all in different frames all around the restaurant which apparently all the dogs were once favorite family pets buy now have passed.   Morbid yet cute all the same.   As planned we returned home early and I tried to retire early, but even a 9p.m. bedtime still felt like a 6pm bedtime for me so had a hard time falling asleep as early as I would have liked.

With all my marathon travels, one thing that I'm becoming a master is packing lightly just the bare necessities in a 32L carry on backpack.  Also I'm pretty proud of my time management in sleeping in as long as possible race day and not arriving any earlier than necessary.  Especially being so cold in the morning no need to stand out in the cold any longer than necessary before the race gun is fired to start the marathon.   In my planning I hadn't considering having the light switch power off the outlet to charge my ipod, the extra 10 minutes to defrost windows for 10 minutes because they were iced over nor did I plan on no car access to the start line and having to walk nearly a mile to the start, so by the time I found the bag drop area to dump my extra clothes, both the warm clothes I had on and dry clothes for after the race I literally had 1.5 minutes to get to the start line.  Of course being a small event, I was cool calm and collective, never rushed, no anxiety, and made it to starting line in just a nick of time!

It was dark, cold, and windy at the start of the race. No one ever said marathoning would be easy!   The course was pretty straight forward, just one giant loop first heading south then turning around near our condo, then all the way back north along the strip of all the hotels lining the ocean front then back to an area nearby the start line.  So the gun was off and I jumped in line near the start of the pack.   Game plan was to stay warm and finish.  I'm all about breaking 4 hours whenever I get to the start line of a race and this one was no different tho I felt was a bit under trained so hoping the cool day and the flat course would help compensate for my lack of preparation for this marathon.  I shed all my warm clothes except one lightweight throwaway jacket I received in Fargo so by the 2nd mile I had already warmed up enough and thought I could stay warm enough with just my three layers (short sleeve tee, long sleeve tee, and new windbreaker)  so dumped the 2nd jacket.

There are some courses that are "beautiful" however as close as this was to the ocean and the the limited views of the actual water I wouldn't put this course in any spectacular scenery list.   I usually don't have a cheering crew and for certain as cold as it was didn't expect Scot and his family to come out to watch, however the race actually passed right in front of the condo we were staying so he claimed he would take the dog for a walk and try to see me pass by.   I guessed 55 minutes from the start I would pass and sure enough I was right on the money, however I came and went and didn't see any cheering crew.  It ends up a guy next to Scot was showing him an app for the marathon that shows runner statistics.   I think I may have passed him right when he was looking down and I didn't see him so we missed each other.   Oh, well on with the last 19 miles.

Mile 8-17 was a straight shot right along Ocean Blvd, however it was shaded from the sun the entire length so even though the wind was at our backs the course never really warmed up.   I made the half way point about 1:57 which put me about a 9 minute pace.  Water stops the first 20 miles were every 2 miles, so I tried to run station to station so every 2 miles I would take a 10-30 second walk break.   At this point I'm thinking to myself I will soon start slowing down and there is no way I'll be able to hold onto this pace and I'm going to end up if I don't bonk coming in a few minutes over 4 hours.    I did pass a Michigan fan about mile 16 and yelled "go Bucks" which he responded "go Blue" and we both laughed.   It was still cold and slowing down only meant getting cold or being out in the cold longer so I kept moving along.

Once we turned around at about mile 19 I knew I was on the home stretch, the only problem, the howling wind which because of all the tall hotels had been pretty much neutralized.  Most of the last six miles was directly into a head wind and not much cover to block the wind's cold chill.   My only option was to seek out other runners and as we do in cycling try to draft.  This had two advantages, having the wind blocked I stayed warmer but also I was conserving energy.   I hopped from runner to runner and as they would slow down I would pass them and jump onto the tail of another runner.  A couple guys were displeased with this strategy of mine.   One guy kept on running all over the road instead of a straight line which made it senseless to follow.  Mostly the wind took the toll on the guys directly in front of me so I found it easy to continue to pass runners.   Finally the last 3-4 miles I found a group of 3-4 runners that again were going my pace and offered a great wind shield.  I followed them all the way to the finish line with no complaints.   Looking at my splits the last 4 miles ended up being some of my fastest splits.   Usually I taper off and last few miles are slower, but even with my lack of training, I had a really strong finish partly fueled by the fact I needed to work hard the last few miles to break 4 hours.   Ends up I finished 3:54:10 which was an 8:56/mile pace.  Not bad for an under trained old fart!

I made my way through the finish chutes, received my medal, and was instantly in search of bag drop to put on my dry warm clothes.   Next onto the food tent and then to connect with Scott.   He was expecting my call and just leaving the condo.   I got it touch with him just in time to ask him to grab me a cold Red Bull I had in the refrigerator.  I recognized the finish area by a few landmarks I had seen the day prior when Scot had given me a tour of the town so was pretty easy to give him directions to find me.   I found a warm building to duck in while I unwound and waited for my taxi home.

Saturday afternoon was very relaxing for my friends all left for lunch with some of their friends in town and left me to fend for myself.   Perfect afternoon of a hot tub, tho outside was a bit chili, but nonetheless hit the spot.  All except for that is the big gust of wind that flung my only dry towel right into the pool.   I finally had enough courage to try to walk all the way to the pool club house in search of a new towel, but no luck.   It was so windy that I was dry before I returned to my pile of clothes next to the hot tub (which thankfully didn't blow away), so quickly dressed and next was to search for lunch.   The condo was in a cute area with lots of shops and restaurants called The Market Common.   I found a great crapery spot for a fresh lunch and great dessert!

Nutella, Strawberries & Bannanas
From lunch a call to my girls back home and then back to the condo to relax for a few hours until my friends returned from their luncheon.   Lunch was great but before we knew it, it was time to start planning dinner.   Again the decision was to head back to Murrels Inlet and line of restaurants along the marsh.   This time it was just Scot and his wife and I and we walked along a boardwalk called the "marsh walk".   Pretty views of the water and sunset.   A few drinks, one at a place along the marsh, then we drove up the street to a hole in the wall bar for a second drink.  Boy were there some characters in there!  Gotta love the south!   Finally for dinner we drove again a mile down the road to another dive, this one served food, that ends up was out of this world.   The day was long enough for me so nearly as soon as we returned home I was out like a light.

Sunday was again a long travel day back to Cali.  First was arriving at the airport in Myrtle Beach over 5 hours early.   I think Scot made it back to Charlotte driving before my plane took off, then a 2 more hour layover in Atlanta.  A weather front was moving in and going to cripple the NE and parts of the south, but fortunately I miss out both on all the upcoming delayed flights as well as all the delayed flights earlier in the weak that played havoc on the NE.   Finally safe and sound in LA, load up the VFR and return home by about 1a.m.  Since I started my day EST and then finally home PST it was like I stayed up till 4a.m.   

I awake Monday morning to a fun day of entertaining Parisa all day long.   She loves to come see my gifts and wear my medal.   This is when I noticed it said "Marathon RELAY".  I worked way to hard to take home a medal that said "relay", so got on the phone and raised some hell.  New marathon medal coming soon via mail!  Yippee!  

Splits Time Cumulative Time Moving Time Distance Elev Gain Elev Loss Avg Pace Avg Moving Pace Best Pace Avg HR Max HR Calories
1 8:55.9 8:55.9 8:56 1.00 -- 3 8:56 8:56 8:23 153 177 136
2 8:41.4 17:37 8:43 1.00 7 -- 8:41 8:43 8:25 149 156 136
3 8:45.1 26:22 8:44 1.00 -- 22 8:45 8:44 8:16 149 156 137
4 8:38.9 35:01 8:39 1.00 15 -- 8:39 8:39 8:26 152 155 137
5 9:11.9 44:13 9:12 1.00 3 7 9:12 9:12 8:31 145 152 134
6 8:35.0 52:48 8:35 1.00 7 7 8:35 8:35 8:23 148 154 137
7 8:58.7 1:01:47 8:59 1.00 3 3 8:59 8:59 8:22 145 151 136
8 9:04.3 1:10:51 9:05 1.00 -- 7 9:04 9:05 8:24 144 149 138
9 8:36.3 1:19:27 8:35 1.00 -- -- 8:36 8:35 8:14 146 150 136
10 9:08.1 1:28:36 9:08 1.00 7 -- 9:08 9:08 8:28 145 149 138
11 8:45.9 1:37:21 8:46 1.00 10 13 8:46 8:46 7:26 143 149 135
12 8:50.5 1:46:12 8:50 1.00 5 7 8:50 8:50 8:29 146 150 137
13 8:55.6 1:55:08 8:56 1.00 2 -- 8:56 8:56 8:11 146 150 139
14 8:49.1 2:03:57 8:50 1.00 -- -- 8:49 8:50 8:34 150 153 137
15 9:09.1 2:13:06 9:08 1.00 6 9 9:09 9:08 8:33 148 154 136
16 9:10.4 2:22:16 9:11 1.00 3 -- 9:10 9:11 8:29 151 157 137
17 9:04.5 2:31:21 9:04 1.00 30 7 9:04 9:04 8:35 153 159 136
18 9:16.0 2:40:37 9:16 1.00 12 23 9:16 9:16 8:35 153 159 138
19 8:51.0 2:49:28 8:51 1.00 15 17 8:51 8:51 8:31 155 160 136
20 9:13.4 2:58:41 9:13 1.00 12 18 9:13 9:13 8:40 157 160 139
21 9:23.7 3:08:05 9:25 1.00 9 -- 9:24 9:25 8:43 155 161 136
22 9:01.5 3:17:06 9:01 1.00 4 -- 9:02 9:01 8:35 159 162 137
23 9:04.8 3:26:11 9:04 1.00 -- -- 9:05 9:04 8:14 158 166 137
24 8:58.5 3:35:09 8:59 1.00 -- 13 8:58 8:59 8:30 161 164 138
25 8:43.1 3:43:52 8:43 1.00 7 -- 8:43 8:43 8:23 163 166 136
26 8:24.9 3:52:17 8:25 1.00 -- -- 8:25 8:25 7:49 167 171 137
27 1:56.2 3:54:14 1:56 0.24 -- -- 8:10 8:09 7:40 170 171 33