February is in full swing and our running is following suit.
On Saturday, February 4, I (Sue) made a two-hour early morning trek northeast to Tybee Island in the Savannah area. Since the race was not scheduled to start until 8:30, my wake-up time was actually not much earlier than a normal race morning. Overnight rain, the temps forecast to stay in the 40s, and steady winds in the 20mph range all led to my decision to dress warm and bring extra layers for before and after the race.
The drive was uneventful and after taking advantage of the free parking at the YMCA, I walked the 1.3 miles to the start. There was parking available closer, but fees on Tybee are a bit pricy and I didn’t want to get mixed up later in the day trying to get out with races still going on. The concept of the Critz Tybee Run Fest is somewhat unique and intriguing with a series of races starting with a 5K on Friday night through a one-miler Saturday afternoon. If you run all five races, the total mileage adds up to 26.2 or a full marathon. I, however, chose to run only the half marathon on Saturday morning. Once at the start area (which was also the finish for the 10K which had started at 7:00, I picked up my bib and shirt and watched the 10K runners come in until just a few minutes before the scheduled start of the half. I then begrudgingly removed my extra warm layers, checked my gear bag and wrapped myself in a mylar blanket I’d saved from a previous race for just this purpose…shedding that only a minute or so before the gun sounded.
The race itself had little of interest to relate. To me, the course was mediocre and it seemed we were just weaving back and forth and across approximately the same two to three square miles, with the cold headwind around every other corner. Ironically this same race last year was my first in the quest to complete 60 for the Sole Sisters Running 4 ALS endeavor and the weather was almost identical. I believe this could be an enjoyable race if it was warmer and calmer, but all I could do is count down the miles in my head until I’d be finished and able to put my hoodie and extra pair of warm running pants back on. My iPod died about a month ago and I haven’t managed to replace it yet and I didn’t have Rhonda by my side, so there were no distractions to make the time go any faster. But eventually I heard the familiar cheers and my name called out as I crossed the finish line in almost exactly my “usual” time even if it seemed like nearly an hour more. I retrieved my gear bag and found a somewhat sheltered corner to add the layers back on, eat a banana, drink some water, text my husband and Rhonda and then walk back to the car. Another one in the books!
The following Friday (February 10), I packed my bags and got back in the car to cover many of the same miles, but this time to meet Rhonda (YAY!) on Hilton Head Island. The trip for me was again two hours, but almost twice that for her. We met up at our hotel right around 3:00pm and just in the nick of time as our hydration efforts and lack of facilities enroute were having an effect. Stop lights and traffic were Rhonda’s nemesis that afternoon. Once we were checked in and settled in our room, we drove over to the hotel hosting packet pickup for the Hilton Head Island Marathon/Half/8K. There was no actual expo, so once they opened the doors, it was a very quick turnaround. Although it was still early, we realized we were both quite hungry so we set about to find some pizza and bruschetta at one of our favorite places, Mellow Mushroom.
Bellies full, we got back in the car and decided to scope out the race location on our way back to the hotel. I kept missing either the entrance or exits to various traffic circles and the GPS would “recalculate” eventually sending us down a good portion of the route we would be running in the morning, even if we didn’t know it at the time. Back at the hotel, we followed our usual routine of prepping clothing, gear, and fuel and hydration for the following morning then settled in early as usual.
On Saturday we followed our usual race morning routines and left the hotel on time for the short drive to Jarvis Creek Park. The thermometer read 50 degrees, yet it seemed much warmer and we were both happy we had chosen short-sleeved shirts with arm sleeves we could take off, rather than long-sleeved tops. Anyone that knows me knows that for me to say I was not cold in 50 degrees is an oddity. We had timed our arrival so that we stood around before the start for only a short five minutes or so. Unfortunately, we were in that park for only the first two miles (a one mile out and back), then it was out onto the Cross Island Parkway (four lane highway) for another out and back section that was well over half the total distance of the race. We did run through another park and some additional scenic areas at the far end of that section also, but it was quite disappointing that we were running a race on Hilton Head Island and most of it covered major roadways with little to no scenery to speak of. I felt sorry for those running the full marathon that had to cover that same portion of the course a couple more times.
Earlier in the morning my stomach was feeling upset, but after popping a couple Pepto tablets, it had mostly settled down. But a couple miles into the race, Rhonda’s started acting up and eventually she had to stop drinking or eating to keep it settled. Hmmm, maybe we need to rethink this pre-race pizza thing. Although neither of us was on top of our game, we were happy to be together and able to chat and support each other through those 13 miles. We again entered Jarvis Park and after a few turns, crossed the finish line, collected our medals, grabbed water, juice, fruit, trail mix and donut holes. Then back across the street to the car and a short return trip to the hotel where we cleaned up, packed, checked out and met up again a few miles down the road for breakfast at IHOP. The weekend – or actually less than 24 hours – had passed much too quickly and it was time for a hug and goodbye. But we’ll be back together in three weeks.