Like I said in my previous post, I did just about everything wrong that you could do on this race. So, if you want to read the unhappy news, go to that post. This is the post about what did go right.
We left Clemson around noon, with sandwiches from the always delicious Pot Belly Deli. Bella got the usual St. Stevens (turkey and swiss on a croissant) and I got the Healthy Club (not THAT healthy as it has cream cheese AND cheddar cheese) and off we went. The drive was easy. Getting to Charleston from the upstate goes like this: get on 385, which dead ends on to 26. Go straight for 200 miles.
After a clusterf*k of traffic in Charleston, we finally got to the Expo, which was insane. INSANE. Not sure I’d go back to the Expo. I’m not one to seek bargains or giveaways at those events. Maybe I’ve been in the business too long, but I really don’t want most of that stuff they hand out. We saw people walking out with these enormous bags of stuff. I think people just … grab, without care or thought. It feels like there’s this mob mentality and the lizard brain kicks in and people just start grabbing whatever they can find.
Now my daughter can’t stand crowds or difficult situations like not finding parking. I mean, who does, right? But it makes her stomach hurt, can make her physically ill, even. This is why we don’t plan to go back to DisneyWorld. She pretty much cried through the experience. So, once we survived the parking, survived the packet pick up, I told her she could eat wherever she wanted. She picked Hominy Grill. We’d eaten there two years ago plus she’d seen it on Man vs. Food, a show that she and my husband really enjoy. Here was the first thing in Charleston that went right for us. We managed to find parking on the street (the lot was full) and there we are, on a Friday night before a big event, 40,000 people running a road race the next day. The host says “well, we are booked, but we have someone coming in at 8. It’s 7:05. If you can eat in 55 minutes, you can have the table.” YES! I had a delicious salad of greens, pumpkin seeds, feta and I’m sure other stuff I’ve forgotten and the chicken, sweet potato and black bean soup. Bella had the shrimp and grits.
And then she turned evil on me. It came time for dessert. And she chose the coconut cake. Not the buttermilk pie, which is legendary, the cake. And if you folks follow me in any way, you probably already know I gave cookies and cakes for Lent. So Bella had it all to herself, which is why she used two forks. We finished up at 7:45 and gave up the table in great shape, very full and content.
Back to the hotel and we tried to get to sleep early. I did not sleep well at all. My husband could not go as he was in Orlando, so I had a huge concern about my daughter. I couldn’t well leave her by herself in Charleston for three hours, and my Jazzer-buddy Jessica and her husband Stanley had graciously assented to him hanging out with Bella for that time. But we had to meet up with them to make that happen, and this meant I had to be on time to do that. And since I hadn’t booked my hotel earlier, we were a good 20 minutes out. We woke at 5 am (ouch), spent 10 minutes getting ready and hopping in the car, and then cruising back down what Bella was now calling eBay Street aka East Bay Street. Fortunately, Jessica and Stanley were easily found. One concern resolved. Now we would just have to find them at the end of the race. More than 40,000 racers and I knew that might be a challenge as well.
We managed to park at the very top of the parking deck and to the buses right at 6:00. We got on a bus almost immediately. (Stanley told us we got lucky; the line got much much longer very quickly.) Bella noted that these buses seemed so new and shiny and that they didn’t have any writing on them. A sad statement on the SC Education system. We got on the bus and I immediately felt 10 years old again. It was really strange how that happens, the smell of the naugahyde and the size of those seat backs (which I’m presuming act as some sort of airbag with the lack of seatbelts in them.) Half an hour later, there we were in Mount Pleasant. A 20-minute stroll past a lot of port-a-potties and we waited — a long, long time. It was an hour and a half. It’s a good thing that I like Jessica and we found plenty to talk about, because it could have been miserable had I been alone.
Around 7:30, we got into our corral (an 11-step staggered start, no lie), listened to the wheelchair race start, stretched and listened to Ruben Studdard sing the National Anthem. Then we moved up every 3 minutes, until finally corral D was ready to start. And with that, Jessica and I along with about 4,000 others, trotted down the road. The first several miles were easy and the crowd broke up pretty well and we dodged and weaved our way up the street.
And then we ran up the bridge. Here was my first mistake. I just ran too fast. Add to what I’m realizing now was my second mistake: I didn’t drink enough water. I didn’t want to pee all over myself and I was afraid of running on a full bladder. So around mile 4, my innards started to cramp a bit. Those last 2.5 miles were very hard for me, even with the crazy easy terrain. I never run at an elevation of 2 feet. I had to take about four 30-second walk breaks.
Still, a gorgeous run and a stunning day to do it. And the bridge is simply gorgeous. It was hard to look over the bridge too much to the Cooper River; there were just too many people to dodge. But running up to it, wow. Beautiful. And the bands that played along the way were fun.
The after party at Marion Park is also just insane. I think this is where the organizers for this race really shine. There were free, well, everything. Bananas, pineapple slices, apples, oranges, bagels, muffins, slushies, ice cream, Clif Bars, massages, water. Mounds and mounds of food. HUGE piles of muffins, for example. People were taking boxes from the vendors and filling them up with the free samples. A big free concert going on, which Ruben was singing when we got there. We got ready to leave and we saw this HUGE line for Johnsonville Brats, all being cooked on the most enormous cooker you have ever seen. It was like the length of a truck rig, no lie. Oh, and chocolate milk. The most delicious chocolate milk ever. The wienermobile showed up. There was apparently an old Cadillac that Bella said she saw.
So, this begs the question: will I do it again? I don’t know. It’s a lot of work to get down there and get ready for it. Having to get up and at it three hours before an 8:00 am start is rough. But it’s fun. I almost feel like I need to do it again so that I do it correctly next time. If my family is willing to walk it next year, I’d do it again. But I won’t raise money again, and I’ll plan to spend more time in Charleston.
Oh, and next year I’ll stay in Mount Pleasant! Maybe then I can just wake up at 6:30.