Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Myrtle Beach Marathon Recap

I know I normally write my travel recap first for races, but I have a lot on my mind from the Myrtle Beach Marathon that I want to get down before I forget. Besides, I'm sure you all care much more about my race than my other adventures anyway!

For some ungodly reason, the race starts at 6:30 AM (right around sunrise), despite it being mid-Feburary. I'm guessing this is because the main road along the ocean gets shut down and traps everyone at the resorts.

Michael and I both had a horrible night's sleep Friday. An itemized list of the noise we endured: a family cursing at full volume running down the hall at 10 PM, the same family cursing and running at 11 PM, a toddler having a meltdown in the next room because she was up until midnight (parents, what did you think would happen?!?!), and a smoker watching videos at full volume on his phone outside the room at 1:30 AM.

Our hotel (Crown Reef Resort) was certainly Not Cheap, but a lot of the other guests seemed...out of place. I would definitely recommend staying elsewhere if you go to Myrtle Beach. I would also recommend being at least 25 so you can stay at a nicer resort. (Yes, I'm still very bitter!)

The 5 AM wake-up call came very early, considering I got probably less than six hours of sleep. I reminded myself I had no problems running Hatfield-McCoy on less than four hours last year, so I sucked it up.

Parking was free at Broadway at the Beach, and it was about a five minute walk from the start. We also could've taken a shuttle from the hotel, but we wanted the warm car to wait in, and I had read less than stellar reviews of the shuttles in prior years. It was a little tricky to find in the dark with the road closures, but it was still stress-free. There were tons of spaces, so we had no trouble parking less than 45 minutes before the start.

By the time I had finished my bagel, I realized we only had about 15 minutes until the start! We quickly packed up our stuff and headed to the start. There weren't too many people walking over, but we managed to get to the right spot. We were also able to walk right into port-a-potties and then waited in line only a few minutes before the gun.

The pacer started out way too fast, so we didn't end up running with him.
It was around 30 at the start, but I only wanted a light jacket for the race, so I brought my mylar blanket I had been saving since Maine to throw away. That was an excellent idea! They also had a big clothes drop a few miles in specially for donation, so that's an option as well.

I am sad I didn't stop for a quick picture at this point. A crescent moon was still clearly visible above the palmetto trees, and it looked exactly like the state license plate. It was pretty crowded and I didn't want to get run down. Looking back though, I wish I had hopped on the median to get the shot!

The race is a loop course but has very few turns, though there are a few short out-and-backs to add distance. We began with a long run towards the airport. It was very pleasant as soon as the sun came up. The humidity actually felt pretty nice after so many dry winter days in Michigan. I spoke briefly to a couple transplants who were worried about how cold 30 degrees would be.

We passed a band around mile six or seven playing Country Roads and sang along. I have no shame when I'm running marathons. One guy also stopped and danced along to it. I would say the race had a super fun, relaxed atmosphere - at least towards the back by me.

We then hit Ocean Blvd and ran along the strip for a very long time. Other people had complained they didn't like having the ocean blocked, but there were still quite a few spots with an unobstructed view, plus the buildings were great at sheltering us from the wind.

Being from a small town, I also thought running through "honky tonk" was pretty neat. It had that fun tourist feel without the downside of being filled with tourists. Win win, if you ask me.

My legs were feeling great at this point. My goal was to run 10:53 min/miles, and my average was just about dead on, with only quick walk breaks at water stops. At mile 12, in the honky tonk section, I put on my podcasts to get myself to mile 20. The halfers had split off at mile 11, so now the course had plenty of room and I could really get into my own groove.

Around mile 15 or 16 we entered North Myrtle Beach and ran by private homes and had more ocean views. At this point, Michael started struggling to keep pace, and he dropped back from me.

I was interested to try out my plan from Stone Bridge that worked so well and use my podcasts to zone out until mile 20. For the first time, I think I finally understood what it means when people say they "go inside" themselves for a run. I still enjoyed the course, but I was able to block out all concept of time and distance and just put one foot in front of the other. I started getting a little fatigued by mile 18, but I was able to just focus on my podcasts and keep up the pace.

I was really confident I would hit my 4:45 goal until I made the turn and hit mile 19. Out of nowhere, there was a horrible, horrible headwind. A runner near me reported the forecast had said it was 20 mph, but honestly, head-on, it felt much stronger. I felt like I was running into a brick wall. I walked through more water stops at this point, so it's harder to analyze my splits, but it seems like I did an okay job of keeping up the pace.

At mile 20 I switched to the new music I bought and got ready to rock out. That is, until I came up on mile 21 and started feeling a tingling in my hands. I had a decision to make - this was clearly the sign of a rapidly approaching bonk - what should I do?

I remembered how horrible I had felt when I bonked at Sleeping Bear, so I slowed to a power walk and began stuffing Sports Beans in my mouth like it was my job. I ate and ate until the tingling went away. My stomach was pretty unhappy at that point, but the silver lining to IBS is I'm actually pretty proficient at ignoring that discomfort and carrying on. Looking at my splits, I lost only about two or three minutes there, and I'm sure I would've lost much more time if I let myself go over the edge.

I also had a crazy revelation at this point. My Garmin starts my lap pace over each mile (which I like), and there were a couple miles where the beginning was sheltered from the headwind...and I was running a sub-10 pace. What? Who was I? I'm not a runner who can run sub-10 miles in the last 10K of a marathon! But apparently I am. That was a huge moment for me. To go from not being able to run one 10 minute mile to running that pace at the end of a distance race in a couple years is a huge achievement for me!

The last few miles were on a bike path, which did offer some protection from the wind. A lot of people were beaten down at the point and walking, so I felt pretty good passing a lot of runners. Yet another thing I'm not used to! Maybe I need to give myself more credit.

The race finishes at TicketReturn.Com Field (yes, that name is super stupid). They are the farm team for the Cubs (who my parents love), but I couldn't coordinate taking my camera out for a picture at mile 26.

No pictures after mile 25!
The chute was almost .2 miles long and felt like it went on forever! I had promised myself earlier I wouldn't kick if I didn't want to, but I did try to pick it up at the very end. My legs were spent from fighting the wind, but I managed a sub-10 pace for the last bit.

Time: 4:51:07

Despite all the obstacles - a five minute PR! I was overcome with the same feelings I had after my first marathon and almost cried. It passed quickly, but it was still overwhelming. I finally accomplished a goal I've been chasing for over a year.

The chute continued for quite a ways past the finish line. I got my medal (placed around my neck!) and skipped the free picture area since I was alone. I hobbled to the food tent and was very pleased to find a police officer keeping out everyone without a bib. Considering how many people still tried to get in, they really needed someone with authority. I was super bummed the promised Krispy Kreme donuts were gone, but I got some pretzels to settle my stomach.

I retreated to a hill overlooking the chute to wait for Michael. I really wanted to walk back to the finish line to get pictures of him, but my legs just hurt to badly to contemplate moving. When I heard his name called, I did hobble back down the chute to meet him.

I picked up a few more snacks, including chocolate milk, and we found a curb to sit on. The group next to us had a Stick, and I was really tempted to ask to borrow it. My quads were so tight!

Overall, this race was awesome, and I would highly recommend it. It was well organized, and, as a Northerner, I found the course pretty scenic and interesting. The volunteers were awesome, and I never wanted for anything.

I think I needed this race to really fine tune what I learned at Stone Bridge. I need to just go inside myself from mile 8-12 until 20, then use music to power myself home. Bonks need to be addressed immediately.

Now the question is - can I gain back some of those lost minutes at Knoxville in five weeks?


  1. Congrats on a great race AND a PR! What an awesome day :) Curses to that headwind, though!

    1. Thanks! The headwind was brutal! But I'm glad to know I have a faster time in me, it just wasn't the right conditions that day to truly run my best.

  2. Congrats! Awesome job and a 5 minute PR! Woowoo! I hear ya on the headwind. We had one for most of DONNA as well. Running along the coast is fun, but often windy! Hope you are recovering well! :)

    1. I felt like such a wimp - we certainly get very strong winds in Michigan, but they're a whole nother beast coming right off the water like that. We did tons of walking the two days after the race, so my legs actually feel great, which is a nice change of pace!