THE BIG 3-0! – MYRTLE BEACH MARATHON WEEKEND, PART 2

In the 29 marathons I did prior to this one, I have never repeated a marathon. It’s not that I haven’t wanted to so much as it is it just hasn’t made sense. I couldn’t pass up the low registration fee and the fact that the race was local, though, so I figured why not? My Myrtle Beach experience last year left a lot to be desired, though. I didn’t come out with the fondest memories of the race. Combine that with the fact that I was feeling like crap when I woke up on Saturday, and my enthusiasm was less than contagious. Did I mention this race starts at 6:30 in the morning? Geeeeeezzzz, Myrtle Beach. My stomach felt like absolute garbage when I woke up, so I was rage spiraling. We had to make it to the start line by 6:15 for the Maniacs picture, which meant a 5 am wake up call. Side note – I know there’s a lot of people out there who wake up hours and hours before a race, and more power to you, but I am not one of those people. When I checked my Facebook the morning of the race and saw that people had been up since 4, my mind was blown. What are you people doing??? Please inform.

Anyway, Amanda and I did indeed make it to the starting line in time for the Maniacs picture, which was quite glorious. When the announcer called for all of us to gather at the starting line for the photo, we made our way up, and I heard someone yell “Danielle! Hey!” and turned around to find my friend Deanna, a TNT runner from Columbia who I do a lot of my long runs with!

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I couldn’t believe that Deanna’s 14 year old son was out there so early! Way more of a trooper than me.

So, the big deal with the Maniacs picture? Well, in addition to the fact that it’s when I get to see all my favorite people, there was an actual elephant that would be the backdrop of the photo. Yes, a real elephant. Her name was Bubbles.

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This was taken over my shoulder. Because Bubbles was RIGHT THERE.

Like I said, the TIGERS foundation was one of the benefited charities of the race, so they had brought some animals to the starting line! I was marginally afraid that I was going to be trampled by Bubbles, but she turned out to be quite amenable to the Maniacs.

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Oh you know, just your average starting line picture with an elephant.

One of the really awesome things about this race was I was able to see so many people I know from all over the state, Maniacs and TNT alike, at the starting line! I saw Crystal, one of my favorite readers who I ran with in Charleston recently, and my former TNT Disney roommate Cynthia, and tons of other local runners. I love a good reunion! As the race started, Amanda and I settled around the 5 hour pace group and decided to go out and have a great time! We decided to take it easy and enjoy the day and the scenery, and I have to say, I really noticed how pretty it was this year. I realized that last year when I was at the race, it was the first time I was in Myrtle Beach, so I didn’t really have a frame of reference for where I was or what I was looking at. This year, I had been to the beach a few times and had my bearings, so I found myself having a great time.

There’s a lengthy-ish out and back section of the race where I remember seeing a lot of Maniacs and Columbia-area runners last year, and it didn’t disappoint this year either. Of course, I completely missed the people that I was looking for, but they found me (thanks Bobbi! You looked very fast!) – typical.  A reader yelled out “Go T-Rex!” and made me feel super cool. Around mile 6, Amanda got in a long line for the bathroom and I stood off to the side and decided to wait for people I knew and yell to them. One of the funny byproducts of writing this blog is that a lot of people know how crappy I feel during a lot of races and they worry about me, so if I’m standing off to the side somewhere, no matter how content I look, everyone who runs by who knows me asks if I’m ok! It’s quite nice, but just makes me laugh. You know you’re not an elite marathoner when people are constantly worried about you dropping dead on the course, even at mile 6.

Amanda finally escaped from the eternal porta potty line, and we set back off on the road again. It wasn’t long before JC caught up with us, and Team T-Rex was nearly complete, minus Kate, of course. By this point, we were running down the main strip of Myrtle Beach, which is decidedly less hideous during the winter than the summer. In the summer, the place kind of makes my skin crawl. It is covered with the world’s most unattractive and ill-mannered people, the loudest screaming children, and unreasonably expensive everything, but in the winter, it’s super peaceful and actually kind of charming.

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I lost count of the number of Ferris wheels we ran past, but I liked it.

It was nice knowing what to expect as we ran along the course. I realized that this was not only the first marathon I’ve ever repeated, it was the first race of any distance I’ve ever repeated. It was a little odd to constantly be comparing this year to the previous year as we ran by different landmarks. Myrtle Beach last year was the first marathon AJ ever came to, so the whole course made me think of him and wish he was there, even though I know he was much happier asleep at home. Besides, I had lots of fun people to look forward to seeing! My former TNT coach, Roddy, would be near mile 12 or 13, and he always adds a sunny spot to any race.

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You can always count on Roddy to tell you a story about an old famous movie star, and the selected star of the day was Paul Newman.

We hit the halfway point in 2:25, which we were happy with, but we knew it wasn’t going to be a sub-5 kind of day. Everyone was feeling a bit lazy, and the weather was beautiful! We kept going back and forth with other Maniacs on the course, including Wayne and Ruth and Barco, and we also swapped spots with Becca, another Columbia TNT runner, which was great because we were able to encourage each other the whole time. She ROCKED her first marathon!

I knew that at mile 17, we would also expect to see our coworker Andy, who had been out in Myrtle Beach for a work conference and found out the race was that weekend! His brother in law was also running the full marathon, so he stood out looking for us. It’s really exciting to see spectators out on the course that are looking for you! It doesn’t happen too often for me anymore now that people are used to me running marathons and it’s no longer so exciting for family and friends to come visit. Wahhhhhh.

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Team LPA! PS how awesome are me and Amanda’s sequential numbers? That makes 3 races in a row.

Mile 18 is pretty much where the course starts to get not so fun. There start to be random out and backs in kind of the middle of nowhere, you run along a major highway, through this kind of wooded area…it’s all a little odd, but at least the first 18 miles are good. At this point, it started to feel just a little bit too warm outside with the sun beating down on us and no shade, even though it was probably in the low 50s. We let the 5 hour pace group leave us in its dust (GO CRYSTAL!) and walk, ran, and chatted, planning our future marathon adventures. Amanda and I learned that JC is planning on finishing his 50 states in June in Anchorage, Alaska, and we are going to be there, purely by coincidence! It also will be is 100th marathon, so I’m feeling like a really awesome and supportive friend right now because I will just so happen to be there. I am the best. On that note, please tell me if you have milestone marathon coming up, and maybe I will be there.  It could be your lucky day.

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Amanda, me, Barco, and JC. Maniacs unite!

Anyway, I started feeling sick as the race went on, which really wasn’t too bad, in all sincerity. I can’t really be upset about feeling sick in the last 6 miles of a race, you know? That’s nothing. I think by this point, Amanda and JC were none too sad that we needed to walk more, because they didn’t feel like running much either. Every time I would ask them if they were ready to run again, they would just shrug and say “eh, I guess.” That being said, our pace was pretty good when we did run, so we tried to keep moving between mile markers and then would take extended walk breaks at the aid stations. Around mile 23, I got a phantom pain in my right knee, which I’ve never had before. It’s funny that non-runners always tell me I’m going to destroy my knees with all this running, but my knees are one of the few parts of my body that never hurt. Anyway, we sat down for a minute and cheered people on while I rubbed my knee, then kept trudging along.

We got ready to do our T-Rex at mile 25, and we were all pretty ready to be done. There was only one problem – on our way to the finish line, Amanda was speaking to her sister Jillian, who was planning on coming to the finish area with Amanda’s niece. Amanda is really close with her family, especially Jillian and London, so she was overjoyed to see them on the side of the road waiting for us at mile 25.5. Normally, a T-Rex requires us to run all the way from mile 25 to the finish line, but I reminded Amanda that stopping is allowed during a T-Rex, just not walking. The only requirement is that you run the entire distance, but you can stop in the middle for photo ops as required. Aren’t I so generous with my own rules?

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So adorable.

With that, we were ready to finish this race, and as we ran towards the finish line, we saw Robin from the TNT group! She ran with us for about a tenth of a mile and then headed back to go collect all the rest of the TNT participants. Such a good coach! Of course, as we got closer to the finish line, we prepared to do the customary jump. Although the race pictures aren’t up quite yet, Eddie got this epic shot.

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Could I be any less coordinated? Good Lord.

After the race, I had only one thought on my mind – beer! My stomach was a mess, but food didn’t really sound appetizing either, and I knew the race had plenty of free beer. We headed over to the Mich Ultra tent (ugh) and as we were leaving with our beers, I saw the Goose Island trailer off to the side. COULD IT BE? IT WAS! Sweet nectar of the Gods! Goose Island 312 was there, free just for me and any other runner who wanted it! This firmly cemented Myrtle Beach as a superior quality event in my mind. No, not the great organization, cool medals, fantastic volunteers, or generally likeable course – it’s the free GOOD beer at the finish that did it for me. I honestly couldn’t even tell you if there was food at the end. Who knows? Who cares?

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Some of my very favorite people in the world

After the race, we walked backed to our cars and I drove JC over to his car. He had crazily driven down from New York – 12 hours – to run the race, and he had gotten into a car accident on the way down, so in his quest to save $100 on a plane ticket, he’s going to spend $500 on a new bumper. Typical Team T-Rex fail! Within about 2 minutes of me dropping him off at his car, he called me to say his battery was dead and he needed a jump. What a day! Meanwhile, I was driving AJ’s car and the gas was below the E. As I sat there idling and charging the battery of his car, I was freaking out that the car was going to run out of gas! Finally I started heading towards the interstate, and it seemed like every road I needed to turn on to get towards gas stations and the highway was blocked because of the marathon! My own people were sabotaging me, and I was starting to panic. I finally saw a gas station and figured out an alternate route , which was such a relief. Of course, getting gas and heading out of Myrtle Beach just meant I got to sit in Myrtle Beach traffic…again. Oy vey.

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My love affair with Myrtle Beach ended just as quickly as it began.

And with that, my 30th marathon was complete. All in all, it was a really great experience, and it definitely made me see the value in running the same race twice. Although I ran much faster last year, I had much more fun this year and felt much better at the end of the race. Even when I felt sick, I was happy, because I knew that this would be the last time I had to run a race with my stomach upset. With surgery coming up tomorrow (Feb 19th), I’m entering a new chapter of my marathon career. Despite the fact that I’ve been sick for so many of these past 30 marathons, I’ve had the best time of my life. I can’t even imagine how amazing the next 30 will be! Thanks for sticking around for the ride.

 

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