Around this time last year, I pitched the idea to Brittney that there was a race in Myrtle Beach that had an awesome medal and that we should take a trip to participate in it. Little did I know that she took me very seriously and actually registered us for the race as my Christmas present. Can you say best Christmas gift ever? We quickly planned our week from there and went ahead and booked a condo for four days. Fast-forward to a couple of weeks ago when Brittney’s husband got a new job in a new city. They bought a house and were scheduled to close on their new home right when we should have been laying on the beach so we were sort of at a loss as to what to do. We ended up compromising so that my handsome fella and I would head to the beach on Thursday (instead of Wednesday) and then Brittney and Cameron would join us Friday night after they closed on their house. Talk about a tight time frame.
So, this past Thursday morning, my fella and I headed to South Carolina to start our vacation. We were able to check in early (hallelujah) and we immediately parked our butts on the beach. Since I had only ever visited Myrtle Beach in the summer months, I was pleasantly surprised as to how nice and warm the weather was. There is no better view that the vast ocean with the sand between your toes.
Friday we made sure to be at the beach as much as possible. I got in a three mile walk by the ocean that morning to get my legs ready for the half on Sunday and that really helped get the day off to a good start. It was so nice to be able to lay on the sand all day listening to the waves. Thankfully that relaxation allowed me to take a little one hour nap on my quilt. Before heading to dinner we stopped by packet pickup. It was in a beautiful hotel and was very well organized. The expo was bigger than I was expecting and the race apparel was on point although I didn’t actually purchase anything. We had received two complimentary tickets to the Medieval Times dinner show so we treated ourselves to dinner there after picking up our race bibs. I love free things. Cameron and Brittney made it to the condo Friday night and we all sat in the hot tub until staff kicked us out. Vacationing with friends is so much more fun!
Saturday was spent vegging out on the beach. We took a break to grab lunch at one of my favorite seafood joints, Mrs. Fish, and then made sure we laid by the ocean for the remainder of the day. It was hard to remember that we actually had to race a half marathon the next morning but we didn’t let that damper our good time. We braved the freezing cold water and actually went swimming in the ocean for a little bit. That evening we headed out to take some beautiful photos on the pier before grabbing dinner. We picked out a nice little oceanfront restaurant in the center of town and chowed down on some fantastic food. Nothing we ordered was even a remotely smart choice for a pre-race meal but hey, you only live once. My footlong chili dog tasted wonderful and luckily didn’t bother me on race day. After getting full we headed back to the hotel to soak in the hot tub with some interesting Canadians we met before heading to the room for an early bedtime.
Race morning came very quickly and I woke up before my alarm. I was excited with a few nerves. We weren’t going out there with a goal time in mind but I was scared about all the things that could go wrong during the race. The morning was very low-key which helped calm the jitters. Brittney and I let our gentlemen sleep in and we drove ourselves to the start line. The start was held in a mall parking lot which was very convenient. Everything was well organized and we never felt confused as to where to go. I will say the port-a-potty line was the longest I had ever seen but it seemed like there were dozens of them so maybe everyone just waited until the last minute. We lined up in the 12 minute mile corral and were totally fine with that. The only goal was to run as long as we could at the beginning and then start intervals.
Once the gun went off, we made our way around the perimeter of the mall which took about one mile. Brittney and I were running a steady pace as we headed out onto Grissom Parkway which is where we would be for several more miles. As each mile went by I tried not to look at my watch but I did take note that we were running a consistent pace. The water stops were very well stocked with plenty of volunteers. Brittney grabbed water at each stop but I didn’t start taking fluids until after mile 3. We made it to mile 4 before taking our first walk break. It felt good to give our legs a rest and we could really feel how beneficial it was once we started running again. We made it to mile 5 and took another walk break. This basically became our strategy for the remainder of the race. We would run to a mile marker and then take a quick break that was usually around 1-2 minutes. Surprisingly our pace rarely dropped due to our walk breaks. I will chalk it up to us subconsciously running faster during the running portions to make up for the walk breaks.
There was a lot of crowd support and we both continued to feel good for most of the race. It was a welcome relief to finally get to Ocean Blvd where we would finish the race. The wind was strong and very chilly on our skin but it was much needed since the sun was out in full force. Brittney and I pushed each other through each mile and just kept the finish line in mind. Around mile 11, my legs really started to hurt. They were heavy and hurting and that is not a good combination. I later learned that mile 11 and 12 were some of our fastest splits of the day. How does that happen?!?! We could see people on the streets walking back to their hotels with their race medals so that kept us motivated to press forward. Right around the 12.5 mile mark we saw our men standing to cheer for us. We actually didn’t notice them until we were right beside them or else we would have made a better effort for a good photo.
We could see the turn to the boardwalk ahead and I was elated. The finish line had been directly next to our restaurant the previous night so we knew exactly what we were about to experience. The boardwalk was very windy and twisted and people were cheering everywhere. It was a truly magical feeling running the final sprint directly beside the ocean. We finished strong and we also finished right behind a couple which ruined the photos that Cameron and TJ were all set up to take. Seriously if we had planned better, then we would have had beautiful finish photos. Oh well.
After making our way through the finish chute and collecting our massive medals, we headed right down to the beach to soak up the views and to take some photos. I think every race should finish beside the ocean. The medal was huge but was unique in that it had a heavy magnet on the back and the ribbon was velcro so you could remove it and place it on your refrigerator. It was definitely a medal worth running for.
Our official time was 2:35:40 which was incredible for us. We haven’t been training for this race and given the horrendous food choices we made (hello, it is vacation), we were super pleased with the time. We had sort of imagined a 2:45 or even 2:50. This makes it my 4th fastest half to date. This race was also my 14th half marathon and it marked off my 6th state on my quest to do a half in every state.
The race offered shuttle buses from the finish back to the mall but luckily Cameron and TJ drove us back. Once we picked up the other car from the start it was back to the condo to shower, pack, and check out. We sat on the balcony for a bit taking in some last minute ocean views. Before leaving Myrtle Beach we stopped at River City Cafe for some delicious burgers. I will always stand by the statement that burgers and fries are the perfect post-race meal. My burger of choice was the fried mac and cheese burger and boy was it wonderful. I was so glad to have my belly full before making the long drive back to East Tennessee.
I’m taking today and tomorrow as a rest day even though I’m not really sore at all today. I do have a blister under one of my toes but I’m keeping it doctored up nicely. This was a great race with superb race organization. We loved the course and the event as a whole. The fact that we turned it into a couple’s retreat made it even better. Today it is back to reality but I’m very thankful for a refreshing and relaxing vacation. When is the next one?