Thursday, March 26, 2015

Myrtle Beach Marathon Race Rating

Race: Myrtle Beach Marathon
Date: February 14, 2015 (note the race will be in March in 2016)
Location: Myrtle Beach, SC
Year Running: 18th
Registration: $60 (with the extra early bird deal, which I think has passed for 2016)

Race Information
Size: 1478 full, 2793 half, 86 relay
Course Limit: 7 hrs
Min. - Max. Elevation: 0 - 50 ft
Min. - Max Temperature: 40-62
Charity Supported: Red Cross, Leukemia & Lymphoma Society

Airports: Myrtle Beach has its own airport, but some direct flights are seasonal (like from DTW). It seems like a lot of flights connect through Charlotte, which isn't a bad drive from Myrtle Beach, especially considering the money saved. We ended up flying on a baby plane to Florence because it was actually cheaper than ending our itinerary in Charlotte. I'm not sure if more options will be available now the race is moving to March.

Rental car: Could do without. Some of the host hotels have an airport shuttle, and there is also a race day shuttle. Depending what else you want to see in the area, you could live without one. (I think there is a bus system, but it seemed to be running very infrequently in February.)
Host hotel: Many. But be careful - lots of them only can be reserved by people over 25, and these aren't specifically marked on the Myrtle Beach website. Maybe people from beach towns know to look for this, but we almost got screwed. (Also, we stayed at the Crown Reef Resort, which I do not recommend.)

Communications: Very good. I think we got several emails leading up the race, including our bib number. It was communicated parking would be $3 at the expo, but it was not made clear that it was cash only. We got lucky I happened to have some. The expo is moving locations in 2016, so I'm not sure if this will still apply.
Expo: At the Myrtle Beach Convention Center, but it will have a new location in 2016. There was plenty of space, but the volunteers let people congregate in large groups and block aisles. I ended up feeling pretty claustrophobic.
Admittedly, it looks less crowded when I'm not hangry.
Other Activities: Friday night 5K, post-5K party, post-race party 
We didn't participate in any of these, but I think I've heard in the past that the 5K is fun. The post-race party sounded like a good time, but we had tickets for the Carolina Opry instead.

Race Day
Parking: Plenty, since it's at a honky tonk area. However, it was pitch black, and honestly dangerous to walk around in. Cars couldn't see you, and we almost fell into a ditch as well.
Shuttles: These cycled between all the host hotels every 15 minutes, but we didn't want to deal with finding them after the race, so we drove. I also read less than stellar reviews in the past, so I'm not sure if any of those issues were addressed this year.
Bathrooms: Plenty. We arrived at the start with about three minutes to go and walked right in.
On Time: Exactly on time.
Corrals: None, though they had pacer signs lined up. We got the whole road to start with, so it never felt crowded, even with the halfers.

Type: Loop
Terrain: Concrete and dirt/rock - major road along the beach, neighborhoods, bike path
Bathrooms: Every few miles, but there was a wait until about mile 18.
Crowding: None
Highlights: Myrtle Beach

Course Support: Great. There were plenty of volunteers, and most aid stations had a person clearly calling out the order of the water and Powerade. They also did a great job dealing with annoyed tourists that couldn't leave their hotels for a couple hours. I give them major props for that.
Spectators: Few, but it was unseasonably cold. 
Local knowledge of race: Hard to judge. The permanent population of Myrtle Beach is small, and we were mostly in the honky tonk areas.

Food: It seemed pretty picked over, and I couldn't find the promised donuts. There was a nice variety of sweet and salty options. They also had a police officer guarding the tent keeping out non-runners. He was a boss.
Atmosphere: Festive, since there was a post-race tailgate type area set-up. 
Party: The official one was later, but lots of people hung out and checked out the booths.

Shirt: Long sleeve technical T-shirt. I got a woman's small, and it actually fits!
The v-neck scared me a little, but it's pretty shallow once you put it on.
Medal: Awesome. I love the flip-flops to tie to the beach theme!

Each distance had it's own size and color.
Final Thoughts
  • I'm glad the race is being moved to March. While the weather could be perfect in February, it was pretty cold (relatively speaking) this year, and someone we ran with said it had snowed the past several race days. It didn't bother us during the race, but it was hard to enjoy the rest of our trip when it was in the 30's-40's.
  • Overall, the organization did a great job. I felt well taken care of on the course and afterwards. I think they could use some crowd control at the expo (but this might just be a Southern cultural thing) and maybe a few signs at the finish pointing towards the food tent. 
  • Be prepared for the wind. The race made no mention of it (but again, maybe people from beach towns don't even consider it?), and I'm glad I read about it on Marathon Guide. It really sapped my energy in the final miles, but I think it would've totally drained me if I hadn't been expecting it.
  • The course is very fast and flat. I did all my training in Michigan, and I don't think I noticed anything I would consider a hill the whole race. Some people have said they found the course boring, but coming from a small town, I thought the honky tonk was fun to see.
  • Lots of the typical tourist trap stuff is closed in the off-season, so research some other things to do. Charleston was a doable drive, and we really enjoyed taking a day to go there.
  • 50 Staters: Yes. The race is well-organized and a fun location. 
  • Non 50 Staters: Yes. Myrtle Beach is already considered a big travel destination, and it's fun to go when it's not packed to the gills with people. I would recommend it even more now that it's been moved to March and will be warmer.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

No Longer a Michigander

What a whirlwind it has been.

10 days ago I packed up a truck (and my car) with all my earthly possessions and moved them four hours away.

Nine days ago I traded in my boring white Michigan license for a shiny red Ohio one.

Seven days ago I started my new job.

Oh yeah, and in five days, I'm running another marathon. The best laid plans....

It's hard to believe all that has happened over the course of two weeks. It feels like about two years. There's a lot to adjust to here - my commute is 15 miles but takes an hour (can't wait until we move and I can take the bus!), my beloved Meijers is gone, and there's hills on every running route I seek out.

But there's so much more good than bad!

The library system here is amazing - there are 28 branches, 3 in my city alone, and I can see the closest one from my window. I managed to restrain myself and only check out five books this past weekend, and I binged on one in two days. (It probably would have been faster if not for March Madness.)

The book mentioned twice how terrible my previous employer was. I'll take it as a sign!
The Metropark system is also phenomenal. It's called the Emerald Necklace - since it forms a necklace-ish shape around the city of Cleveland. I thought having a couple metroparks by me growing up was awesome, but here there's more than I know what to do with, all within an easy drive. In fact, this past Saturdat, I drove five minutes to a parkway in the system and enjoyed a wonderful 10 mile run through quiet neighborhoods along a creek.

There's also tons of races in the area! I haven't had much to do at work yet, and one of my coworkers tipped me off to the big racing company in the area, so I finally found a comprehensive race calendar for Northeast Ohio. I spent quite a few hours yesterday drooling over it. Because not only are there actually choices, they have good start times (like 9 or 10 AM!), and lots of them have fun themes. I'm not lying when I say we have two different pierogi races within a three week span.

And speaking of work, I love my job! I've only scratched the surface, but it's a really nice change of pace to go from a for-profit chemical company to a non-profit hospital. I don't have any patient contact, but it's much more fulfilling, since I'm supporting clinical research. Plus, since we're a hospital, wellness initiatives are our jam. Right now I'm waiting for a free pedometer to come, so I can convert my daily steps into gift cards. How awesome is that?

This little guy is about to be my best friend.
But probably the most amazing thing about the move is getting to live with Michael. After being long distance for our whole relationship, it is amazing to be able to see him every day. Plus, since he leaves work an hour before me and has half the commute time, he has been doing most of the cooking. But even if he didn't, just being able to sit in the same room together each evening is so nice, even if we each do our own thing.

It also makes planning our trips so much easier! It was wonderfully easy to plan our Knoxville trip side by side on the couch, as well as to look at flight options for Montana. (If you missed it on Twitter, we got our vacation time approved and will be spending a whole week there in July! So so so so excited.)

How is Glacier a real place?
On the topic of Knoxville, I feel surprisingly good for the race this weekend. I was feeling really stressed about it before the move, but I realize now that I was just channeling all my anxiety into that one event, instead of thinking of every single stressor involved. (I guess there are worse coping mechanisms?)

I have noticed since moving that my easy pace has gotten substantially faster, despite the hills. I had a hunch that RLRF was stressing my body quite a bit (mostly because I gained a little weight and couldn't lose it no matter what), but this just seems to confirm it. I think my body has had enough time to recover, and I'm bouncing back with faster times. I had been a little nervous to try for a 4:45 again, but after keeping a 10:36 pace without trying (too hard) Saturday, I'm ready to give it a shot.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have some downtown traffic to fight.

Any tips for dealing with driving in a major city?
Any tips for not crying when I look at how expensive flights to Montana are?

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Weekly Training Recap: 3/2-3/8

I know I missed a few of these weekly recaps, but I've been so busy finding a new job and getting ready to move, that training recaps fell off the to do list completely. But the cliffs notes version is that I took the two weeks prior to this one very easy. Both weekends I made unexpected trips to Ohio, and I was overcome with this long-delayed exhaustion and relief once I got my new job, that I cut myself some slack and lazed on the couch.

I also needed some time to think about how I wanted to handle my training now that I've finished RLRF. While I learned a ton by trying training plans besides Hal Higdon's, in truth, his worked really really well for me. I need to get over the fact that I feel like a "newbie" runner for using them, if they help me run my best. I know I'm serious about my training, and that should be all that matters.

Therefore, I've decided to use his various Multiple Marathon plans through Missoula in July. (At that point, I'll evaluate what I want to do to train for Newport in October.) I will keep strength training and swimming twice a week each, since I really enjoy both, and I think they help keep me healthy.

I went back and forth on what pace to use, but I eventually settled on shooting for a 4:30 marathon time. I was making such great progress before I got injured, that I want to have faith in myself and shoot for it again. It will be interesting to see what time I end up running in Missoula!

You have no idea how excited I am for this race!
Monday, March 2
lunch - NROLFW Stage 1A
PM - 3.3 mi hill (12:11 min/mile)

Knoxville has some rolling hills, and Blue Ridge is nothing but hills mountains, plus Hatfield McCoy has a few monsters as well, so I decided to switch one easy run to a hill workout each week. As you can see, I kept the pace very slow so that it didn't get too intense. But man, can I feel the burn!

Tuesday, March 3
lunch - 600 yd swim
PM - 6 mi easy (11:25 min/mile)

I knew I would skip my run if we got snow as predicted, so I kicked my own butt and packed a gym bag. Getting back on the indoor track was no fun (so. many. laps.), but I'm glad I made myself stop making excuses.

Wednesday, March 4
lunch - NROLFW Stage 1B
PM - 4 mi easy (11:45 min/mile)

I did my run on an out-and-back route. I had a sinking feeling when my pace "out" seemed too fast, and sure enough, I had a killer headwind on the way back. I was just thankful I wasn't doing speed work.

Thursday, March 5
lunch - 600 yd swim

The lifeguard called me ma'am, and I wanted to give him a hug.

Friday, March 6
6 mi tempo (1 mi WU, 4 mi @ 10:11, 1 mi CD)

My legs had felt a little dead all week, and I was starting to get concerned, but picking up the pace turned out to be exactly what they needed. I had been saving Marathon Training Academy's interview with Sean Astin (his goal is also to do the 50 States - I just about died from geeking out so hard), and the run flew by.

If you disagree, we can't be friends.
Saturday, March 7
14 mi long (11:38 min/mile)

It felt so weird to slow down my long run (I'm doing Higdon's recommendation of MP+90), but it oddly seemed to go faster than before. I guess I'm using way less mental energy? My legs still felt pretty fatigued when the run was done, despite the slow pace.

Sunday, March 8

My parents came up and helped me pack the apartment. I was feeling so overwhelmed, but together we got everything I could pack now packed in about three hours. Only a few days left in Michigan!

Run Miles: 33.3
Swim Miles: .7
Lifting Time: 38 mins
Total Time: 7:37

This week we're supposed to have temperatures go up into the 50's! The high on my last day of work here is 51, so you bet I'm leaving right after lunch to go soak it up. My whole routine will be different next week though, so I'm trying to savor these last days as much as possible. I'll be in Ohio before I know it!

Any tips on establishing a new fitness routine after moving?
Any tips on not going crazy while moving?

Monday, March 9, 2015

South Carolina Recap

When Michael and I sat down to plan our marathons for 2015, there were a lot of factors to consider. Cost is obviously one of the biggest (vacation time being a close second).

We usually try to be pretty frugal on these trips, but we both thought taking an extended trip to South Carolina in the middle of winter sounded like an awesome idea. (Of course, neither of us expected temps would range in the 30s-40s after race day, or travel would be disrupted due to ice. But I suppose it was warmer than the -20 plus windchill at home!)

One of the things I'm most excited about now that I'm moving to Ohio is no longer having to play airport tag to get us to the same place at the same time. I love trip planning and finding good flight itineraries, but trying to find two inexpensive options is a huge pain. (CLE is surprisingly small, and most flights are on baby planes express aircraft, which is way different than DTW!)

However, I think I did a good job setting up this trip. We both departed our respective home airports at the same time to CLT (juvenile, but this is a horrible airport code!), where we would be on the same flight to Florence.

Never heard of Florence? Neither had I, but it was less than a two hour drive to Myrtle Beach, way cheaper than flying into MYR on a "weekend" day, and the rental car was the same price. I thought it was pretty cool, because it was my second time on a propeller plane. (Michael was not much of a fan, though.)

Skies were clear, so I had some great views for our puddle-jumper. Our flight time was about 30 minutes, with less than an hour on the plane, but two women still got up to use the bathroom and got scolded by the flight attendant for violating the seatbelt sign. Seriously, people, I have to pee all the time, and I was fine!

Despite a bathroom stop after landing, we beat everyone to the rental car counter and were in and out in seriously 30 seconds. However, we discovered the second worst car ever. (First is the Kia Rio, and I don't think anything can seriously contend for its spot.) It was an Avenger, which I had never driven, but it looked like a classic sedan and had tons of trunk space, so I figured it was fine. Nope.

First of all, the keys went in next to the wheel, not on it, which drove me crazy. The brake was also way higher than the gas pedal, so while my foot would hit it automatically, I would only catch the very bottom, and it made me nervous about what would happen if I really had to stomp on the brakes suddenly. The wheel was also huge to the point that it was uncomfortable for me to turn. (On top of all this, we discovered the headlights were out that evening, so I proceeded to do all night driving with my brights. I felt like the biggest asshole ever blinding everyone on the road.)

Once I figured out how to maneuver the awful car around, we made it to FATZ, an American-style restaurant in a converted Texas Roadhouse. The food was super good, but it also introduced us to a common problem on the trip - understanding the locals. I found one of the hardest things was to determine whether someone was asking a question or making a statement. I felt like I was back in Germany, blindly answering yes at what were hopefully appropriate times.

Now full, we took off for Myrtle Beach. I had re-listened to Marathon Training Academy's podcast on the Myrtle Beach Marathon, and I knew we were supposed to avoid Conway because of traffic. However, I forgot the number of the Conway Bypass, and none of the signs named it as such, so we ended up spending at least an extra 30-40 minutes crawling through Conway.

Luckily our hotel was at the very tip of Myrtle Beach, so we thought we were set. Turns out the check-in desk in the off-season is only open across the street, but we eventually figured it out and got our keys. Our room was a little pricey, but the view was awesome!

If only it had been warm enough to sit outside....
We then headed to the expo at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center. The location is changing next year, but we really struggled to find the entrance to the parking lot, plus it was $3 to park. It was not advertised that parking was cash-only, and neither Michael nor I usually carry cash, but luckily I had some from when I thought I might need to park at the MSU basketball game.

The expo had a nice layout and wasn't very packed, but it seemed like all the Southerners liked to stand in massive groups and chat, volunteers looking as if this were not an issue, and I started to feel pretty claustrophobic. I was also edging towards hangry at this point, especially after the Conway driving and messing with the hotel, so we just grabbed our stuff and left.

We found a cafe for dinner, and after 10 minutes of trying to park, we found out there was a significant wait time. I was about ready to cry at this point, so we broke our no-chains rule and went to Fuddruckers across the street. I felt significantly better afterwards.

Michael and I headed back to the hotel and had a relatively restless night of sleep. If you're 25 and have your pick of hotels in Myrtle Beach, do not stay at the Crown Reef Resort. The other guests were incredibly noisy, and I felt pretty nervous around most of them. That being said, despite the sleeping troubles, I went on to have a great race the next day. You can read all about it in my race recap.

Jumping ahead to Saturday afternoon, we both tried to take a post-race nap. However, the screaming/running family from the night before was at it again, so we didn't sleep much. Surprisingly, we both felt pretty good without one.

We headed off to Mellow Mushroom for dinner (okay, they're a regional chain, so they get a pass on the no-chains rule) and fell in love. The appetizer pretzels were so good, and the pizza was too.

Satisfied, we drove back towards the race start for the Carolina Opry.

Tickets were a little bit on the pricey side, but a friend had gone the past fall and said it was well worth it. I wasn't quite sure what an Opry was, but it turned out to be a variety show, mostly made up of singing. There was also some pre-show entertainment, which was a nice touch. The show was about 2.5 hours, including intermission, which was just about the perfect runtime.

I did feel a little lost when they had some traditional country or very South Carolina-y segments (in fact, the first song was about how it's okay not everyone watches NASCAR...uh....), but it was definitely appropriate for the venue. I did get a little weirded out when we ended with God Bless America, but I guess it comes with the territory.

Sunday our mission was to head out of Myrtle Beach to the Brookgreen Gardens about 30 minutes south. It was in the 30s, but sunny, so it was still pretty nice at the Gardens, even though all the local docents were freezing.

We watched the introductory film (one of my favorite things!), and it did a good job explaining the history of the place. Apparently a billionaire from New York was looking for somewhere warmer to bring his wife to treat her TB, and he bought four abandoned plantations. His wife was an accomplished sculptor, so together they constructed the gardens and filled them with her artwork.

Despite the "inclement" weather, they were still running their tours of the Sculpture Gardens. The tour ended up being the two of us, plus a man from Illinois, so we all thought it was very pleasant out, but the docent cut it short since it was so cold for her. It was pretty neat, though, because she was also training to be a plant docent, so she pointed out a myrtle bush to us.

But for real, you named a beach after this?
I'm glad we went, because I would have missed so much without someone to explain it to me. I'm not a huge art person, but I can appreciate it, and I got a lot more out of our visit with the docent's help.

This is the "Grand Canyon" of American sculpture. Who knew?
After the sculpture tour, I dragged Michael over to the zoo for that tour. The "zoo" was pretty small but contained almost all native animals, which is my favorite kind. We both loved the small Fargo zoo, because it had lots of cold-weather animals we had never even heard of before, let alone seen.

Ok, I have seen red foxes before, but they're so cute!
This docent was actually from New England, so she had no issues with the cold. The theme of the tour was feeding the animals, which was awesome to see. The docent was super knowledgeable, and I really enjoyed learning more about South Carolina fauna from her.

There was one very sad bird outside the enclosure watching the zoo birds get fed.
The zoo is set off in the woods, so we were sheltered from the wind, but my face and toes were still pretty numb when we were done. Michael insisted we needed to go back to the sculpture garden before, which was a little irritating, but he loves gardens, so I figured I could suck it up for 20 more minutes.

I had a feeling something was up all day, but I knew when Michael led me back to an area of the garden we had already been that we weren't back at the gardens to see more art. This is when he ended up proposing!

In front of a pretty cool statue, no less.
After I said yes (which I forgot to do until Michael prompted me!), we ran back to the car to warm up. Our first meal as an engaged couple was at the Dead Dog Saloon, of all places, but my crab cakes was super good, and the dog theme was pretty cute.

Our plan had been to maybe walk on the beach and swim at the hotel, but instead we had phone calls to make! That ended up taking quite awhile, so we decided to be super crazy that evening and just get Mellow Mushroom take-out (with pretzels, obviously) and rented Guardians of the Galaxy to watch in the room. Normally I freak out about changing the itinerary (or just relaxing on a trip), but this was a perfect night.

After finally getting a good night's sleep, we were up pretty early to head down to Charleston for the day Monday. I got this idea because I thought sneaking down to see Fort Sumter would be fun, and it blossomed when I discovered an awesome aquarium was immediately next to where the tours departed. (Way better than the Ripleys one in Myrtle Beach!) I also found these was another small NPS site on the way, and the day was set.

The drive was super easy and stress-free, except for the little bit in downtown Charleston. Our first stop was the Charles Pinckney National Historic Site. Never heard of him? That's normal, because he's known as the "Forgotten Founder." In fact, all his buildings are gone, so the site is housed at a farmhouse built long after his death on the property.
Not even a traditional sign for him.
We started, of course, with the introductory film, which I found to be a pretty helpful overview. Supposedly he is ranked as the fourth most influential person on the Constitution (though a little sign in the museum made a note that what he actually wrote is hotly contested, since all his papers burned in the Civil War). However, his only role in the Revolution was being a prisoner-of-war, and most of his political work was strictly related to South Carolina. On top of that, he was very pro-slavery his whole life, so I can see why he's been left out of the history books, especially in the North.

I think we were at the site for about 40 minutes and managed to see most of the museum. There was a walk we could have done on the grounds, but almost no other buildings are standing, so I was okay missing this.

We completed the rest of the drive to Charleston and snagged a metered spot for free (since Presidents Day is a city holiday!) and picked up our Fort Sumter tickets. We had ours on will call, but people were still able to get tickets on the spot with 30 minutes before departure. The museum was wall-to-wall people, so we used the bathroom and then got in line to board.

Now that's a sign!
Because it was another cold, windy day, we snagged spots down below and ended up sitting with a nice couple from Toledo. (I did go up on deck for a few minutes to buy a snack, and I almost froze. I don't know how some people were up there the whole time!)

They told us to make sure we went to the Brookgreen Gardens (ha!), but they did show us their pictures from there in the summer. It was cool to see how they looked in full bloom.

The ride was about 30 minutes, and there was a recorded narration that played about the history of Charleston and the fort on the way. I think everyone knows Fort Sumter as this iconic place, but I honestly couldn't tell you much about it, other than the Civil War started there.

We waited a few minutes on the boat once we arrived so the rangers could turn the alarms off, then we were allowed to disembark. The narration talked so much about how the fort was turned to rubble, that I was expecting a pile of rocks, so I was surprised how much was actually left.

However - and I thought this was such a neat interpretation of history! - the visitor center on the mainland was built to the same height as the fort used to be, and this helped me visualize much better how much was missing.

While you can go anywhere in the fort once arriving, Michael and I chose to attend the brief 10 minute ranger talk first. Again, not knowing much about the fort, I found this very informative. Though I did feel out of place when the ranger was throwing out South Carolina related dates that I had no clue about (like the date of secession). This is also when the Civil War started being called the War of Secession. For some reason this really weirded me out. I'm trying to keep an open mind as we get to know the country, but I draw the line there, I guess.

We wandered the fort a little bit, but there's not too much to see now.

Eventually I wimped out and dragged Michael into the museum. This one was obviously much less crowded, so I was able to actually read the exhibits. (Except this one annoying lady kept standing six inches from the panels and blocking my view. When I skipped ahead a section to get rid of her, she jumped two sections ahead of me. Don't worry - I got her back by not holding the bathroom door opening from her. God, I am petty.)

Some of the exhibits were cool, like the model of the Civil War era fort, but a lot of the written text was done in a very South Carolina context that I knew nothing of, so I got a little lost in all the new names and dates. I'm sure more local people or total Civil War buffs would have loved it though.

We boarded the boat back a bit early, but it was worth it to guarantee seats inside. I'm glad I got some views of the water on the way out, because we got stuck in the middle this time.

We walked a few blocks to a nearby deli to grab a late lunch, then it was back to Liberty Square to visit the South Carolina Aquarium!

Some of the reviews of this aquarium were not the best, but it sounded like those people were expecting something like the Shedd, so I still had high hopes. Spoiler alert - it was awesome! The focus was almost entirely on local flora and fauna, and it was just the right size. I think it took us about two hours to go through it (reading almost all the signs), and it might take an extra hour if you had little kids. Each exhibit was different "area," and they were pretty impressive.

I believe this was Mountains.
The aquarium has some pretty unique animals, including an albino alligator.

Another highlight is their giant, multi-story tank. We even got to see the divers doing the afternoon feeding, so lots of the inhabitants were more active than normal.

They also had a very cool (and random) exhibit about Madagascar. I'm not sure why it was at the South Carolina Aquarium of all places, but it had lemurs, so I won't complain.

Because of the late lunch, neither of us were hungry when we were done, so we opted to drive back to Myrtle Beach before dinner. The plan was to check in for our flights and then grab something to eat. But the best laid plans and all that.

I had no issues checking in for my flight, but Michael's had a syncing issue that could only be resolved in person or over the phone. Of course we discovered this 10 minutes after the ticket counter at the airport had closed for the day, so we spent the next two hours trying to get through on the phone. It took about an hour to figure out the right menu options (if only you knew how many times we kept ending up with tech support in India), but then there were so many callers due to the impending snow, that we were automatically disconnected every time. I even tried tweeting US Airways and was told there was nothing they could do.

Finally, at 9, we gave up and got Arbys for dinner. We then got up at 6:30 to be at the US Airways ticket counter when it opened so Michael could check in. Then it was back to the hotel for a nap followed by breakfast.

It doesn't seem so bad when I condense the incident into a few sentences, but it really ruined our final night and morning of our trip. Plus it was just so frustrating that it was an error on the airline's part that should have been a five second fix, but we had no way to deal with it.

However, the fun didn't stop there. As soon as we were through security, I got an email saying my flight to Detroit was cancelled. Luckily, the gate agent in Myrtle Beach was very helpful and got me a seat on Michael's flight to Cleveland no problem. My car was at my parents' (they live close to DTW), so once we landed, Michael drove me to the end of the Turnpike, where my parents met us to drive me to my car, then I had another two hours to drive home. This was still way better than when we had to get home from O'Hare in a rainstorm, but it still put a huge damper on the end of the trip.

But in the end, this was an amazing trip, bad weather and bad travel and all. I ran a well-organized race and PRed, and I got engaged. I think I just need a little more time away from the South before I'm ready to go back!