Sunday, February 19, 2012

Myrtle Beach Marathon recap

Yesterday, I completed my fifth marathon. Official time - 3:57:52. I think the only slightly less than positive thing I have to say about this race was that they made the huge "medical tent" signs look exactly like mile markers, and that really ruined my life at what I thought was mile 24. 

On Friday, Emily, who was about to run her first half marathon, met Lily, Eric, and I at the race expo to get our packets. 

We were really into the palm trees.
We then adjourned to enjoy what might be the world's greatest lunch: soup and salad at Olive Garden. After that, we headed to the hotel to check in and get set up for the weekend. It turned out that we were staying at an absolutely gorgeous, gigantic villa, with two bedrooms and bathrooms, a full kitchen, and a large living room. Which was lucky, because here's what we brought with us.

This is just from four of the six of us staying in the villa.

Can't beat this view from our private balcony. 
We took a dip in one of the many outdoor hot tubs to relax before the race. I've never done that in hotels before races in the past, because I was afraid it would dehydrate me, but I'll never forgo the hot tub again.

The last two members of our party, our friends Nicole and Mike, arrived later Friday night. Mike was about to run his first marathon, and Nicole was, by far, the best spectator and most enthusiastic cheerleader at the race.

I'm sure you can imagine my excitement when I saw the sign she had made us. It was even more exciting because she had no idea that Emily had found us absolutely epic race shirts. 

5am pre-race pictures are always a good idea.
If you don't understand why this is fantastic, stop reading this blog and start reading the Hunger Games.

We went to the race in two shifts: those of us who freak out if we aren't at the race super early, and those of us who freak out about having to wake up super early. The second group got to the start line with less than a minute to spare.

6:30 am race start means you get to see the sun rise!
I've run a good number of races in my day, and this one was one of the most well organized that I've experienced. There was a huge shopping center with tons of free parking right at the start line, more than enough porto-potties (enough time for those of us who need to go twice to easily fit that in), and music blasting to get us pumped up.

The half and the full started together and stayed together for the first 11 miles. Eric likes to run alone, so he headed to the back of the pack, and Emily, Mike, Lily and I started out together. The first mile was so crowded (we ran it in 10:46!) but it quickly spread out and there was plenty of room for the following 25.2. 

We separated from Emily early on (around mile 2), but stayed with Mike until mile 8. He kept us at a good pace (between 8:30-8:45), and then felt good, so he headed out while Lily and I walked through a water stop. I was feeling great, and really enjoying the course, which was through the touristy strip of Myrtle Beach. The only problem was having to pee by mile 2, which led me to believe that my goal of no bathroom breaks wasn't in the cards for this marathon.

I made it until mile 9 or 10, but then we saw some bathrooms with no line so we decided to just get it out of the way, and were back on the course in less than two minutes. I was still upset at losing the time, but feeling so much better helped me get over it. 

At mile 11 the full and half marathon split. I've never been in a race where the half marathoners split off like that, and I thought it would be a real downer seeing them head off toward the finish with more than 15 miles left to go, but it actually didn't bother me. The course cleared out a lot after that, but there were still plenty of runners to keep things interesting. 

At mile 12, Nicole was cheering her ass off for us.

If you've run a marathon, you know you have to play some completely insane mind games to get through it. Any time I wanted to slow down, I'd tell myself "If you don't speed up and pass this guy/girl RIGHT NOW Cato is going to come up behind you with his knife and completely F%&# you up." 

Training helps, but the ability to be completely delusional is really what gets you through 26.2 miles. 

Can you spot me and Lily?
Just after the halfway point, I felt pretty good, so I told Lily I was going to try to push it and we said goodbye. I thought I could run a few miles before I started jamming to my music, but I had my headphones in by mile 14. Music is just so much more motivating than listening to a bunch of sweaty people breathing heavily. 

Just after we passed our hotel at mile 17, we turned away from the main strip we'd been on since mile 8 or 9 and passed the next few miles in some random neighborhoods before heading back toward the finish. A guy had collapsed and was surrounded by a group of runners while someone performed CPR and mouth to mouth. Runners separated and helped to direct an ambulance rushing toward him. It was really scary to see, and after the race we kept checking the news to try to find out what happened. Luckily, we found out later that night that he had survived and was recuperating in the hospital.

I was pretty shaken after seeing that, but obviously there was nothing I could have done to help, so I tried to just move on. I saw Mike and Lily again in an out and back portion and they both looked strong, so that helped. Also, the weather could not have been better. It was in the high 50s/low 60s and sunny with barely any wind. I was still enjoying the course and felt good. Miles 8-18 my pace was in the 8:50-9:10 range.

The next few miles had some good crowd support, which was nice, but then we turned off onto some random paved path next to a highway, so there was really nothing to look at except.....highway. Around mile 22 I went from feeling great to feeling like complete hell, which in my experience is the nature of marathons. Something about that running 22 miles as hard as you can really takes a toll on you. 

At mile 20 the clock was at 3:03. I hadn't been looking at my Garmin at all. It hadn't found satellite right away, so it wouldn't have been accurate, and I wanted to run by feel instead of obsessing over pace, which seems to be my best bet. We'd crossed the start line less than a minute after the race began, so I knew getting in under 4 hours was going to be a challenge. I'd been walking through every other water stop since mile 8 and refilling my handheld when needed, but there was no way I was stopping or slowing down after mile 20. Too much risk of not being able to start again. My pace was just under 9:00 in miles 20-25.

There were clocks every two miles after that, so I was continually playing the game of "omigod, I only have 40 minutes to run 4.2 miles, can I do that? What pace is that? What pace am I running - should I look at my Garmin? No, you've come this far, don't look at it. How the hell long does it take to run .2??" followed by "just calm down and keep running like you have been". I'm fairly sure that's the most pain I've been in during the last 10K of a marathon. I definitely remember feeling a lot better in the last 6.2 of the Baltimore Marathon

So, the last few miles were pretty freaking rough. Nicole was cheering at mile 25.5, and all I could do was turn my head towards her and give her a halfhearted grimace that was supposed to be a smile. It should have been a huge boost, but I was giving everything I had to keep running at that point, and had zero energy left over for things like emotions.

There was no 26 mile marker, but there was a clock, which I assumed was at mile 26. The clock said 3:57, and I let out a huge groan. Like, I'm talking top volume. I knew I was going to have to sprint it in to make it under 4 hours. The final .2 was at a 7:15 pace, and I'm really not sure how I pulled that out after 26 miles, since sometimes I can barely run 800 intervals that fast. Emily said she saw me come across the finish on the huge TV, and I can't even imagine how frightening I must have looked.

Immediately after finishing I found Emily, Nicole, and Mike. I could barely walk or think, but I'm sure deep down I was really excited for Emily and Mike for completing their first half marathon and marathon, respectively.

Mike did great, although I'm pretty sure that he should sell this picture from the finisher's chute to, so they can post it as a warning to all those interested in signing up for a first marathon.

Running a marathon is fun, but be prepared to look like this afterwards.

We managed to pull it together a tad for a photo op, but not by much.
After walking around in a daze collecting random foods and drinks, we finally managed to get the group together.
Mike was still struggling with directions such as "look at the camera and smile".
I love small races, but big races like this also have their perks.
After stopping here, I was in slightly less pain.

Having that early race start meant we had plenty of time to take a dip in the freezing cold ocean.

At mile 24 I saw a finisher wearing his flip flop medal, which was one of the reasons I kept going.

We spent some quality time in the hot tub, then some time doing this.

The marathon continued to exceed our wildest expectations when we headed to the post race party. The party was at 5pm, so I loved that it gave the runners time to shower, drink coffee, and regain some of their mental faculties. It was in a huge bar with two floors, tons of food, free beer, live music, and footage from the race streaming on huge TVs everywhere.

We showed off our medals and race shirts. It took me five marathons, but I finally got a short sleeve race shirt. 

I'd had a few snacks at the hotel, but none of us really ate until we got to the party, where they had the perfect runner's dinner: two kinds of pasta and a rice dish. Still, apparently not eating much all day, going in the hot tub, and chugging Michelob Ultra wasn't the best plan, because I was really nauseous when we got back. The three full marathoners took yet another dip in the hot tub, and then we busted out the sundae bar that I'd been so excited for. The though of ice cream made me want to hurl, so while I feared for my sanity, this was all I could manage for dessert.

I love Cheez-Its, but they're no sundae bar.

Despite the fact that I was in the most marathon pain I've been in during the end (possibly, or possibly I've just blocked out other marathons), I loved this race and really enjoyed it. I had a fantastic time up until about mile 21 or 22, and that's really all you can ask. 

Thank you so much for all the supportive comments! Don't worry, I plan to destroy the remnants of the sundae bar tonight.


  1. Well, now I wish I'd come run with you guys! This sounds awesome (also, loving the hunger games motivation). I'm going to go wallow in my lame weekend, now.

  2. Congrats! Now that I've finally signed up for a full, I'm completely pouring over every marathon recap I can find :) Thus far, your Hunger Games signs are my favorites!

  3. Your beer choice shames me and I'm not even a beer snob. Did you pick it just because it said "Ultra"? :)

    You freaking killed it for this race! I wish I could have been there. It sounds like you felt like I did for the last 6.2 of Baltimore, so I would have really enjoyed potentially switching places with you.

  4. What an awesome race! I am so sad that ice cream made you want to hurl. I fully expect to see some pictures tomorrow of sundae wonderfulness!

  5. Great race Alyssa! I love destination races. It is always nice to sandwich a little R & R between a race. Safe travels home!

  6. Congratulations!! What an awesome race! Was that a PR? Your running math kills me. I'm always doing that in races and my math skills are a little sub-par to begin with.

    Also, can we please start praying to the weather gods now for similar weather on March 17? It looks beautiful there.

  7. Awesome race - LOVE the shirts!

    I admit, I now what to do this race too. I may need to stop following runner's blogs, my wish list is getting too long. HA!

  8. Very exciting and entertaining race report. Hotel looks luxurious.

    I don't like music at races, but the parking and port-o-potty situation sounds excellent.

    I'm not reading some chick novel to find out what that sign means; I'll continue to think it reflects that you're all crazy.

  9. I agree with Kara- Maybe a better beer would have left you feeling better :) If you love palm trees, you can come see them in CA too! There are palm trees in my new neighbor's backyard.

    I like the caption for your post-race group pic. Great job on another sub-4 marathon! Sounds like your pace was pretty consistent too. And now I need to go read Hunger Games.

  10. That was a great recap, and it sounds like you had a blast. Except for the time (which I won't be near), I can only hope my experience during my first marathon is as positive as yours. Well done !

  11. Great recap! Congrats on another sub - 4 marathon.

  12. Around mile 11 when I started seeing finishers walking towards us with their race medals, I was literally ecstatic they were flip flops. Best race medal ever for my first!

  13. congrats on another sub-4!!!! i would have been freaked out too seeing that other runner getting CPR. thank god he is OK.

    taking a dip in the ocean post-race is the best!

  14. Congrats! Sub-4 was clearly not a fluke! I have never had a post-race massage and it's now my goal to find a race where that can happen.

  15. Amazing job!! Love the shirts and the sign! And I LOVE that you were telling yourself that Cato would cut you if you slowed down, that would get me moving!

  16. Congrats on another amazing marathon! I always enjoy your recaps and this one did not disappoint at all. The post-race party looks impressive!

  17. I am running this next year as my first full. Excited even more so. Congrats on your finish.


Thanks for commenting! Comments make me probably more happy than they should.