There is no way to describe my experience in Myrtle Beach this weekend besides surreal. It was just unbelievable on every level – the good, the bad, and the ugly. To start the weekend off, Chuck picked me up Saturday morning and we headed directly to Myrtle Manor. Oh, you’re not familiar with Myrtle Manor? Well, get your life together and turn on TLC because it is the world’s most famous trailer park.
So basically, it’s a trailer park in Myrtle Beach that now has its own television show, and it’s pretty glorious. I mean, I guess it’s actually really redneck and trashy, terrible entertainment, but like I said – glorious. We saw all of the landmarks of the show, including the famous “Myrtle Manor” sign, the Tangulls salon, the pool, and everything else. We even saw some of the cast outside their trailers. They literally live there. It’s not a joke. And they will come outside and talk to you and take pictures with you. Chuck and I were not that brave – too starstruck.
We also took a picture with the owners of the trailer park, Becky and Cecil, who are featured on the show. They were just hanging out, selling Myrtle Manor merchandise out of, you guessed it, a trailer. They were really nice and we talked to them for a long time. Maybe I bought some stuff, maybe I didn’t. I’m not telling you how much I spent there. It’s embarrassing.
After having our minds blown by Myrtle Manor, Chuck and I decided to head over to the Run Like a Diva Health and Fitness Boutique. You read that correctly. It is not an expo, it is a boutique. I find things like this odd, but I get that it’s part of the whole Diva schtick. The parking situation was a little hectic, and once we finally pulled into our space, I saw a car covered with writing that said things like “Diva or Bust!” and “Gone to get our Diva on!” and polka dots and stuff on the back windshield and it just really amused me, so I was pulling out my phone to take a picture when the car suddenly started – awkward! It reminded Chuck of the Tebowing incident from the Disney Marathon back in 2012, so he couldn’t stop laughing.
The inside of the boutique (yes, I will be italicizing it every time) was absolutely packed. It was actually considerably smaller than I expected it to be, and there wasn’t nearly as much merchandise as one would think. We grabbed our bibs and headed over to get our shirts, knowing that Chuck would be receiving a women’s cut since although they allow men to run in the race, they do not provide them with t-shirts. Not that it would have mattered, honestly, because the shirts were almost hilariously small. I had sized up and gotten a medium, anticipating just such a thing, and it’s still almost a belly shirt on me. This struck me as kind of odd because it’s a race for women, so you would kind of think the one thing they would really have figured out would be the shirts, right? Well, not so much. Good thing I have too many race shirts to care, but I could see people being upset if it was their first race. Anyway, we quickly got over it because there was a drag queen available to take pictures with. Everyone loves a drag queen.
It may also be worth noting that Ali Vincent, the first female winner of the Biggest Loser, was there as well. We felt too awkward asking her to take a picture with us, so we didn’t. Just for fun, here’s a picture of a girl who walked into the expo with her bathing suit on, because YOLO, I guess.
After the boutique, Chuck and I met up with Amanda back at our hotel and we went on a short shakeout run to discuss our race strategy. Amanda and I were still feeling pretty apprehensive about the entire situation, but I decided that I was going to steel myself and be positive and not panic no matter what. We all went to dinner and then literally went to sleep at 8:30 pm, because that’s what (lame) runners do.
I woke up in the morning feeling tired, having slept restlessly. My legs felt heavy, my stomach felt stupid, and the idea of running was just not appealing. No matter – we had a sub-2 half marathon to run! We were able to get to the starting area and park with ease and even managed to hitch a ride on a golf cart to the line. So much for warming up, I guess! As we milled about at the start, Chuck kept looking around for other guys and wasn’t really having any success. Finally, he shouted and pointed “Look! There’s another dude!” It was not a dude. We decided to implement a “no gender guessing” rule from that point on.
Meanwhile, I was keeping my eye out for several readers who I knew were at the race, and one of them found me! It was great to meet Ann, who runs with the Strictly Running group in Columbia. She gave me a huge hug and said she loved my blog, and we all know I love people who love my blog. Sorry in advance for the remaining pictures on the blog – it was not my most photogenic day.
The race started and I quickly started panicking about all the people ahead of us that were clogging up the road. The one thing about this race that I was really afraid of turned out to be true – a lot of women came to the race in groups for a girls weekend and all ran together. I totally get that and I think it’s something that is really great and fun, but these huge groups were in the corrals that were supposed to be for people running 6-7 minute miles. I don’t care how fast you sprint, your walk/run strategy is not keeping you moving at that pace. Sorry I’m not sorry. So we spent the first probably 4-5 miles weaving in and out of different groups and me silently cursing at everyone. I was so worried about getting really behind on our pace and having to run much faster to catch up. Only our first mile was too slow, though, and only by 18 seconds, so my fears were overcome. I kept reminding myself “don’t panic, don’t panic” because my friend had told me no matter how fast or slow the first mile went, it wasn’t that important and I shouldn’t panic. I tried to listen, Doug! I had written our pace splits on Amanda’s arms (she sweats the least of all three of us and we were not so thoughtful as to print out a pace band), so my thoughts for at least the first half mile of each mile we ran were pretty much occupied by doing mental math and calculating where we needed to be at each mile marker according to our coach’s plan for us.
The plan was to run exactly on pace (9:09) for the first 3 miles of the race, then run 9:00-9:05 for the next 6-7 miles to provide a little bit of a cushion for the last 5k of the race. We hit the 3 mile mark pretty much dead on where we were supposed to be, even with the slow first mile. That was a huge confidence boost because one of the things I was the most worried about was pacing. I mostly led the group, but Chuck wore my Garmin and told us when we were going considerably faster than we should have been. I didn’t want to wear it because I knew I would check the stupid thing every 2 minutes and it would stress me out, and I’m glad I didn’t. I felt like we were running a consistent, comfortably hard pace. No one could really talk much, but every once in awhile we would try. It definitely wasn’t a conversational pace, so any talking ended shortly after it started.
As we made our way through the next 10k, I wanted us to hit each mile marker at a 9 minute pace, but I quickly realized we were running faster than that. Chuck was only calling out overall time, not our individual mile splits so as not to give me and Amanda panic attacks about our blazing speed. As the miles went by, my calculations were clearly showing us a good bit ahead of sub-2 pace. We still walked through the water stations – although I think we might have skipped one or two – but we walked for much less time than usual. It was literally a “chug water and go” situation. I had my handheld bottle with my “Motts for Tots” juice in it and was feeling good. One of the other big concerns I had was needing to run faster to make up for walking at the water stops. Amanda and I are used to taking pretty decent walk breaks at the water stations, and I was worried about how the lack of walking would affect me mentally and physically. I honestly think I was so focused on the numbers and achieving our goal that it didn’t bother me as much as it probably should have. The miles just kept ticking away, and before I knew it, we were closing in on mile 8 and I started thinking about what time we would have to get to mile 8 in order to be running at a sub-9 minute pace. It’s an hour and 12 minutes, in case you were wondering, and we got there in 1:11 and some change. I was really excited when I realized that we only had about 45 minutes of running left – it seemed like nothing! Amanda was not happy when I announced that because apparently she was not feeling like 45 minutes was nothing. Even though I felt good, I never let my guard down that something might happen. With as many stomach issues as I have, I honestly wasn’t prepared to consider that a sub-2 hour finish might really happen until I saw the clock at the finish line!
With not talking too much and not taking pictures, we didn’t really have too many amusing things happen. Pretty much our sole source of entertainment was all the spectators and the other runners who were making fun of Chuck for being a guy in an almost entirely female race. Early on, one of the other runners said “Hey! He’s not a diva!” Rude. Dudes can be divas too, ok? Pretty much everyone thought it was funny and he got lots of encouragement. I think we saw 3 other guys in the entire half marathon, so definitely not too many. That being said, even though it was an all women’s race mostly, it didn’t really feel any different. Maybe it was because I was running with one of the few guys, but I really didn’t notice a difference. Also, it was very quiet near us for the most part because it wasn’t really an easy pace. There was much less of the walking, picture taking, and chatting than goes on at the slower paces. I will say that there were a TON of spectators at this race, which really surprised me. It was better attended than the vast majority of marathons I have been too, which was really cool! I guess a lot more people come to watch when it’s a race of all women…pervs.
We hit mile 10 at 1:29 and some change, and I knew we were in really good shape. I modified Taylor Swifts “22″ and started singing “I don’t know about you, but I’m running under 2!” much to the simultaneous amusement and dismay of Chuck and Amanda. I was feeling great! Now it was just about focusing on staying strong and not psyching ourselves out. The miles kept ticking by and I almost couldn’t believe it was happening, but I forced myself not to count our chickens before they hatched. As we hit mile 12, we literally had 14 minutes to finish the last mile and come in under 2 hours, so I was finally optimistic about our chances. We pushed hard that last mile because I knew that we could finish at sub-9 minute pace. During the last mile, I finally started to get a bit uncomfortable as we ran fast. It was a wonderfully cloudy and cool enough day, but it was very humid and I started getting really warm. About 0.2 miles from the finish line, we hit the “boa and tiara” station and grabbed some props for the finish line! I looked behind me to make sure Chuck had grabbed his, and he was like “Oh, I missed them!” Nice try, Chuck. No way he was getting away with not wearing something totally divalicious as we crossed that finish line! So I handed him my tiara with a look of disapproval and kept my boa and we kept running hard.
So, do you think we broke 2 hours? You’re damn right we did. Our official finish time was 1:56:05. Yeah, that’s 8:51 pace. The top 8% of all 3640 finishers. BOOM. A 6+ minute PR for me and an 11+ minute PR for Amanda!
After the finish line, I had to face my worst fears and collect my medal from a shirtless “fireman” while literally dripping sweat. As if that was not mortifying enough, Amanda recognized this as good blog material and insisted we take a picture. She doesn’t often insist on anything, so I agreed.
After the traumatic shirtless firefighter incident of 2013, we walked through the food and picture line to chants of “Go Diva! Go Diva! Go Diva!” which was possibly my favorite thing that has ever happened in my entire life. We were given roses and perhaps the most disgusting champagne on the planet, which was funny because I have less than zero knowledge of what good versus bad champagne tastes like it, but this was universally terrible. All in all, I was genuinely impressed by the race organization, as much as it pains me to say. It was a really well done event on race day and I truly have no complaints besides preferring that the medal bearers wear shirts, but I believe I am alone in that category. Although the shirts and the boutique could be improved, everything else was really spot on. You win this round, Divas.
I am so proud of how all of us ran this race. Chuck stayed behind us and therefore was an exceptional pacer because he didn’t lead us astray. Instead, he made sure we stayed on track and amused us by being one of the few men in the race. He was so positive and comforting the whole time and was an awesome cheerleader! Amanda overcame a lot of uncertainty and self doubt and kept pushing the last few miles even when it got hard. I did not panic and kept breathing the entire time and was comfortable the entire race. I finished knowing that I probably could have run a little bit faster (which I am glad we didn’t because I had no idea what that pace would feel like for that long) and that I could have continued running at the same pace for another 3-4 more miles if I had to. When I texted our coach to tell him, he said “T-Rex is a speedasaurus!” which made me laugh and then told me our new marathon goal is a 3:45, which made me cry. Nonetheless, this race made me feel really optimistic about the training I’ve been doing, and I was proud of myself for putting so much effort into doing a lot of mental preparation. I feel like it really paid off, and I am so grateful to all of you for your advice! I used many of your mantras along the way, and thinking about them the whole time made me laugh! Ultimately, I came up with my own, and I repeated it to myself several times throughout the race to remind myself that I am calm, controlled, and can run at this pace all day if I need to: “I am Anton Krupicka with cleaner hair.”
Want to know something else that’s cool? One of the awesome readers of this blog, Deb, came in 2nd overall in today’s race and my friend super speedy friend Kristen came in 9th! I am so lucky to know all of you super fast people – you inspire me! And on that note, I’d like to share with you something one of my friends wrote on her blog that I thought was awesome: “My slowest half marathon is someone else’s fastest half marathon, and my fastest half marathon is someone else’s slowest half marathon. That doesn’t make us bad runners or bad people; everyone is experiencing different circumstances in life or in their runs, and the thing that matters is that they are out there doing it and getting it done. I truly believe that the very last finisher, or the person who struggles the most, is just as strong if not stronger than the person who is the best or comes in first.”