I decided to head to Myrtle Beach on somewhat of a whim and partially with the help of y’all’s votes on behalf of my health and sanity. I forgot, naturally, that Myrtle Beach as a city is a place that deprives you of sanity. Nonetheless, the Marathon Maniacs have a great group rate that allows us to register at the last minute for super cheap, and baby is all about super cheap. I left work around 3 on Friday and figured I’d get out to Myrtle Beach no later than 5:30, with plenty of time to hit the expo and mess around before the 5k began at 7. Here’s a fact about me that I’m finally ready to admit: I constantly lie to myself about the amount of time it takes to get places. I am in complete denial because I detest driving. I loathe it, so I like to pretend that the amount of time it’s going to take me to get anywhere is much shorter than it actually is. I believe that if I actually admitted to myself how long it takes to get anywhere, I would never go, so it’s important to lie. The problem is that this results in me going into a dramatic hate spiral when my lie fails to come to fruition and it takes me over 3 hours to get to Myrtle Beach instead of the estimated 2. The traffic on the way to Myrtle Beach is ridiculous no matter what time of day, what day of the week, and what month of the year. It is traffic that no one can actively explain or understand, since not that many people live there. It is positively loathsome. So I’m sitting in traffic on the one road that takes you to the beach and I’m panicking because I’m not only not going to get there at 5:30 and have time to hang out, I might not even make it in time for the 5k! Four hours to drive less than 150 miles? COME ON.
I did make it, though, and was able to meet my friend and fellow Marathon Maniac, Murray, who also happened to be the race director for the PNC 5k. He had kindly gotten Amanda and I registered for the 5k and picked up our bags and packets, so I didn’t need to worry. I also saw Maniac Lonnie, who would be pacing the marathon the next day.
I wasn’t the only one who was having a hard time in traffic, though. Amanda was cutting it really close on time and we were wondering if she would make it, but sure enough, she was parked by 6:30 and we got our bibs and everything ready to go. As the sun set, the temperature dropped fast, and we were surprised how cold it felt. It must have been the humidity in the air, because normally, 50 degree temps aren’t bad at all. We were freezing! As we stood around waiting for the race to start, a couple of guys commented on our shirts and how “official” they looked. They were wearing polo shirts and sweatpants and carrying their race bags, so clearly they weren’t taking the event super seriously. I explained about my blog and my goal to do a marathon in every state before I turn 30, and they could not believe it. They were even more shocked when we told them we were planning to run the marathon the next day. “A 5k tonight and the marathon tomorrow? NO WAY.” I decided not to tell them about marathon doubles.
The 5k finally got under way with a cannon shot that made Amanda and I jump about 5 feet in the air. We were NOT expecting it at all! Despite the fact that I run in the dark fairly often, there was something super unnerving about racing in the dark. It seemed like everyone was bouncing around and I could never quite get a grasp on my surroundings. It might have had something to do with the weird lighting as we ran around Broadway at the Beach, which is a big restaurant and entertainment area that is lit up kind of like a mall. Amanda agreed that it was really disorienting, but fortunately we weren’t gunning for a PR (are we ever?). This 5k actually had pacers, which I thought was just precious. Amanda and I just ran along and chatted, though, and laughed at the people wearing camelbaks or wearing fuel belts. I mean, really, it’s 3 miles in the dead of winter. We saw the sweatpants guys again as we ran past them, and we ended up finishing in 29 minutes as we jumped across the finish line and collected our medals(!).
After the walk back to the car, we still had to get to the expo and pick up our packets for the marathon itself. Thankfully, the expo was open til 9, so we headed over to grab our stuff. I had heard ahead of time that there were tiger cubs at the expo because the race had added TIGERS, a group based out of Myrtle Beach that promotes conservation of threatened and endangered species. We were getting to the expo so late that I wasn’t sure they would still be there, but they were! It was unquestionably the best thing I’ve ever seen at a race expo.
We also ran into Wayne, Ruth, Eddie, and Nilda at the expo! One of the best things about being a Maniac and doing so many races is having so many friends everywhere you go. I never feel alone at a race! Amanda and I made our way over to the free beer at the expo, which amazing featured Goose Island 312, which is my favorite beer ever since I had it in Chicago. And of course, who should we run into at the beer tent? More people I know, obviously – Team in Training coaches Robin and Roddy!
As we tried to leave the expo, we kept running into tons of people we knew. It’s hard being so popular. It was closing in on 9 o’clock, and we still hadn’t eaten yet or gone to our hotel. Not exactly the most well coordinated pre-race evening of all time. We couldn’t decide where to eat, so we just headed back to Broadway at the Beach to go to Margaritaville, figuring they would have some type of suitable food. Of course we got there at 9pm in the middle of February and there’s somehow a half hour wait for 2 people, but we really didn’t have much of a choice at that point. I didn’t think getting a beer would be a great idea since it was so late, and clearly we weren’t making it to a local brewery, so I was sad to have to let the tradition go for this particular race. I thought a burger might be good, but I was horribly wrong. Within just a few bites, my stomach was violently rioting against me. I ended up getting a side of rice instead- not much in the way of fuel.
After dinner, Amanda and I headed to the hotel where her family was staying in this massive compound. I didn’t know hotel rooms came with giant apartments, but apparently some of them do, and this one had 3 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, a kitchen, living room, etc. It was awesome! Her whole family had come up for a vacation that weekend, and I was welcomed in like one of their own. Still, we weren’t going to get to bed til much later than I was hoping, and with my stomach doing flips, I was not optimistic about the next day’s events. My sleep suffered, and I tossed and turned the whole night, constantly reminding myself that no matter how sick I felt the next day, this would be the last marathon that I had to feel that way because it’s the last one before my surgery. I can do anything for 26.2 more miles, right?