"If you’ve raced with men on foot and they have worn you out, how can you compete with horses? If you stumble in safe country, how will you manage in thickets by the Jordan?" (Jeremiah 12:5). Our journey is intended to be more than simply "stumbling" through the days while the world "wears us out.” We are made to experience the thrill of "running with horses” and to navigate life amongst the "thickets." The RWH blog focuses on both the spiritual race of which Jeremiah speaks, and the physical act of running that I absolutely love. In short, it's where "the miles meet the Message" to provide insight, perspective & encouragement that might enable you & I to successfully run either of the races set before us. May our course be purposeful and may we be passionate in our pursuit of the abundant life He desires for us.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Myrtle Beach Marathon 2013 - Teamwork!

Running Myrtle Beach had the feeling of coming full circle to an event that I had originally planned to run in early 2006 (at last the half marathon was the plan then).  However, an expedited relocation to California a few months prior, required that I cancel those plans.  Now, here I was.  Not only ready to run the popular beach front marathon, but running it with my good buddy Ken, in his first 26.2 attempt.   Ken and his wife Lindsay were special friends of ours from the Florence, SC days.  They caught the running bug a few years ago and have been tearing it up ever since.
The MBM supported an endangered species fund

The original goal had been to shoot for a 3:45 +/-.  Ken had run a really fast half this past year and I had intended on coming into Myrtle Beach in decent shape post-Chicago. But the best laid plans, as they say. Ken struggled with a foot issue, which limited him to just 6 weeks of hard training, and my back kept me out of some critical long runs in early January.  Ken now insisted that he just wanted to finish.  I insisted that we could still hit a sub 4 hour.  Only one way to find out ........

And we're off (Honestly, I never saw the elephant?)
Before commenting on how the race actually played out, I'll provide my usual list of observations, thoughts and feedback on the event itself.

  • For an above average size race, between 8-10,000 runners in two distances, the overall atmosphere felt much smaller.  This was perfect for getting through the expo and maneuvering around the start / finish areas, but the organization also felt like a small race.  This is not a slam, just an observation.  Some specifics are found below. 
  • Parking at Broadway at the Beach was excellent.  I was within 100 yards of the starting line, and only a couple 100 yards from the finish.  This made it easy to get to my vehicle following the race and I could hang out in the warm confines of my rental car (with Sirius and E Street Radio no less) up until the final pre-race moments.  Having gone the way of shuttles and subways for the past few marathons, parking nearby was nice.
Neon by night, race course by day (Ocean Blvd for 8 miles)
  • The weather was excellent.  Myrtle Beach is known for being a "take your chances" race.  Usually this is due to wind off the ocean and often bitter cold temps.  We started in the high 30's and came in around 48. Could have used a little more sunshine, but no complaints.
  • The course is promoted as flat, and comparatively speaking it is flat. But don't be fooled, there are several rolling sections along Ocean Blvd and throughout North Myrtle Beach.  I would say that Chicago was much flatter than Myrtle, but it is definitely a top 5 run for the hill-challenged like myself. 
  • The course is great from the standpoint of long straights and occasional beach views.  The course was not great from the standpoint of spectators and/or entertainment. Very few locations of cheering, encouraging, sign holding watchers.  In most of those few locations, it was the same group of individuals going from spot to spot.  As for music and entertainment, I can recall three or four.  I'm sure there were more, but all I can recall is a church band, a crazy lady dancing around an extremely large and loud hip-hop speaker, and really good country singer.  That was about it.  Oh well, I had Bruce going full blast and was just cruising down Thunder Road! (more on that here: The Boss-athon)
  • The finish area was a bit frustrating.  Once you crossed and received your medal, the next item provided was a store bought poncho in a clear package.  This was to serve as your Mylar heat blanket.  No such luck.  Unfortunately, a more traditional blanket would have served us well on this crisp morning.  More frustrating was the lack of direction to the hydration and nutrition area. Having eventually been pointed to the area by other runners, we arrived and there was plenty of good choices, including chocolate milk and warm soup! 
So, as an event, I would give Myrtle Beach a 3.5 / 5.  Not great, but a solid good.  But as the ol' MasterCard commercial goes, running with a partner was priceless.  A solid 5 / 5.  And speaking of running, back to the race. 

Fighting through the wall
I knew from our start that the key to bringing us home under 4 hours would be to try and hold Ken back.  I call him the Florence Flash and he is a speedster.  I insisted that we pace 9:05 miles for the first half of the race.  We were fairly successful at that and came in with a 1:57 half.  We were both feeling good and we started to push a little more (this was a mistake). Under normal preparation and race ready conditions, I would not have thought twice about picking up the pace at this point.  But we had not prepared normally at all.  When we turned a few 8:30 miles at mid-race, I kept thinking we might be in trouble.  I started pulling back a little more forcefully.  

Then we hit what I always call the midpoint of the race, mile 20.  I was hurting.  My thighs were pounding pretty good and I started to worry some.  Our miles really slowed towards mid 9:00's and even some slower 10:00's as we made our way through aid stations and downed a few more salt tablets.  (NOTE: this was my first attempt at using salt tablets during the race.  The result is that this was my first marathon to not experience any form of leg cramps in the final miles.  Hmmm, maybe I'm on to something). 

Hitting miles 22-24, Ken was looking strong and became an encourager that I truly needed on this day. I began insisting that he continue on at pace and finish strong, I would eventually make it home.  Ken would have none of it.  I recall saying that I just didn't know if I had it in me today to stay running. Ken looked over and said, "Come on Dave, run with horses man, run with horses!"  Well, what was I going to do then.  We kept running.  

Never so happy to see that line!
I have only really "hit the wall" once prior.  A hot day in the Pocono Mountains whipped me good and I still staggered home at just a few minutes over 4 hours.  Other than that, I've never really felt a wall.  On this day, I experienced not only "the wall", but amazingly somewhere just shy of mile 25 I felt a renewal and a surge. Like breaking through the wall.  I started picking the pace back up and felt like I could almost sprint home.  Then I saw Ken grimacing a bit.  His calves were going on strike.  Some stretching on the curb, a few more yards, some more stretching.  We were close, but yet so far.  

Ultimately, Ken fought through the calf cramps in the final mile and we crossed the line at 3:57:14! What a great feeling.  We fought it out together.  Pacing one another.  Encouraging one another.  Pushing one another (although I think he ended up pushing me a lot more than I did him). I really needed that.  I had such a horrible feeling late in the race that I was keeping Ken from getting that goal time.  He just kept saying, "all I wanted to do was finish, I don't need to come in under 4." Then he would look at his watch and say, "but I still think we can, come on, let's do this thing!"
We earned a couple of medals on this day, no doubt
Number six on my journey to fifty is in the books.  I am learning that every one of them will require something different and I will learn more about myself with each cycle of training and crossed finish line.  This was a special one.  It wasn't a PR.  It wasn't an awesome crowd and course.  It wasn't the best shape I've ever been in.  But it was a shared experience, requiring an all-out effort and collective strength.  Something about the whole is greater than the sum of it's parts. Thank you Flash, can't wait to hear about your next one!

The bling was great, to go with a nice shirt, blanket and bag

Brother Ken opted for a dip in the ocean for his ice bath

Post-race glow from the Browns.  A big burger and a race recap.  
For those familiar with Myrtle Beach, you can see that we began at Broadway and finished at Pelican Stadium.  You can click on images for larger view. 

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