We arrived in Norfolk a few minutes early just after 9 and grabbed our rental car from Hertz which happened to be a ford hybrid I had never heard of and made our way down to VB stopping at KMart on the way to pick up some supplies for the weekend.
Friday we awoke earlish and gathered our things for the beach before heading down to the complimentary breakfast at the Fairfield Inn. It was a decent spread, and it wasn't very busy yet. We only spotted a few runners and a pair of guys who were obviously working the GEICO booth at the expo. We grabbed a couple of peanut butter packs to power our race day breakfast and headed down to the beach.
Due to packing constraints (I'm cheap and didn't want to pay to check a bag), we didn't bring any beach towels so we grabbed a couple of pool towels from the hotel which turned out to be woefully too small and headed across the boardwalk to the waves. Just after 9AM the beach was pretty empty and the lifeguards were just making it to their stands, but sand was already starting to get hot and the water was cool. After about two hours, several fly overs by F-16's and a visit from a passing pod of porpoises, we headed in to clean up, and so Julie could take a conference call before we headed down to the Expo.
Getting to VB convention center (which also was the site of the starting line) from our hotel was very simple, a straight shot up 19th street for about three-quarters of a mile. When we made it there, things were in full swing and the parking lots were full but I decided to take a chance and see if we could find a close spot in lot 1, and was rewarded with about 20 open spots reserved for Hybrid or Electrical cars right up front. Score!
We made our way in and headed to get our bibs and something didn't look quite right, there was smoke rising to my left and...is that...a volcano? We grabbed our bibs, shirts and swag bags and headed over to the race store. The Brooks exhibit which used to be carnival theme now had an island theme and was named "Run Happy Island", complete with customs where you can get your passport, a mechanical shoe you can ride and yes a volcano name crackatoe-a where you can race people to the top. Brooks had brought the interactive experience to a whole new level.
We grabbed our passports and took it over to the gift shop to see what we had won. The QR code on it determines the free gift you can win which was between a new pair of shoes, a beach bag, a tinted visor or a foam Shaka. Julie and I both won a run happy visor. I had my gait analysis done last time so no need to do that again and Julie was afraid she would actually crack-a-toe-a (really I think it was lose to me) so we didn't race up the volcano. We watched some people get thrown from the shoe, but I think I need to lose a few more LBs before I do that. Maybe next year.
We made our way out to the rest of the expo to grab a few items for the race. We both grabbed a iPhone holder that can either be use on your arm or hand. I thought I would want one that goes on my right hand but the guy told me most righties have it on their left so I went with the left. If I didn't like it, it also came with a strap to use as an arm band. I think what finally sold us was the place in the holder to store money and IDs. I used it during the half and I liked it. It straps on so you're not required to actually hold it and it was fairly quick to get access to the phone for pictures as well as being light and as Julie said "not annoying". It did give me a small blister on my thumb but that didn't happen to Julie. If it's something you think you might like you should check them our at hbtune.com.
It wasn't really for the race, but it's been pretty dark recently so I wanted to get a light to allow drivers to see me better while training (it's always nice to not get hit by a car). I found a booth selling an array of lights from rings to arm bands to hats and visors. I opted for the visor which had a variable speed red light in back and white LEDs in the brim to illuminate my way. It's adjustable so that I can place a wool hat on under it. Now that I'm ready to train in the winter I just need to get into Boston (fingers crossed). We grabbed some info on the Baltimore running fest so that I can try and talk my buddy Ryan into joining us and then headed back to the hotel.
The sun was starting its descent so it didn't make much sense to go back to the beach for just a short while, so we decided to walk along Atlantic Ave, which is the Main Street in VB and runs parallel to the beach. The street is full of tourist trap shops selling t-shirts, souvenirs and beach wear. We made the mistake of stopping at "Visitor Information" which is really just a way to give you a coupon map and try to rope you into going for a time share presentation. I got us a free dinner and TWO vacations back to VB (like I said I'm cheap) but Julie wasn't impressed so we passed. Before heading back to grab some food we did find beach mats two for $5 that we snatched up for use the rest of the weekend.
We grabbed dinner at The Ocean House which was next to our hotel. It's a beach bar with standard bar grub and cold beer at a reasonable price. The real attraction is its open air upper floor that overlooks the ocean and you can't beat that!
After dinner we headed down to the main stage for night one of the American Music Festival. Tonight it was Fuel opening for Daughtry. Julie and I found a spot to the right of the stage still on the boardwalk which allowed for a great view. We had seen Fuel a couple of years ago at Rider and they were much the same as back then playing the songs you know from 90's radio with a good amount of energy. Next up was Daughtry and after about four songs I decided that Chris Daughtry was a bit of a screamer, I mean he even screamed while he was introducing his guitarist. Who does that? After that it was time to go to rest up for tomorrow.
Saturday we got up at a more reasonable hour and headed down to breakfast which was packed with runners this morning. After a quick bite to eat and grabbing some bagels for our pre-race breakfast we headed back up to our room to sit on our balcony, read and look out at the ocean until about 11.
Day two of the festival, the headliners played during the day to allow the runners to get a good night sleep before the race, so we packed up our stuff and headed down to rent a bike. Before we rented I told the guy specifically that we wanted a lock and he told us he had them so we rented our bikes at which time he then informed us he didn't have any locks but one of the places down the boardwalk would. We headed out and stopped at the first sister shop on the pier. They had no more locks, neither did the next, nor the grocery store on Atlantic ave which was sold out. I had visions of having to go back to our rental place an arguing with the person to give us a refund when the last bike rental shop had one lone lock which they gave us. Note to self bring a bike lock with us next time. We locked up our bikes and headed down to the water to claim a spot.
We spent the afternoon alternating between sitting in the sun and body surfing in the water. About 1PM the first act came on. LONGREEF was from Sydney Australia and was good but isn't this the American music festival? Next up was Smashmouth who played the type of set I think most people wanted to hear. They played all of their hits, including the one from Shrek, but they played for less than an hour which was a bit strange as it was less than the first band.
Finally the headliner was up Bare Naked Ladies (OK Canada is practically America so I get that one). They played a mix of new and old but and as the previous two times I had seen them they had fun ad-libbing with their surroundings. At one point with the life guards blowing their whistles and waving some swimmers in, the band announced to the swimmers "The life guard would be much more comfortable if you made your way this way. Yes you, quit your bullshit and swim this way." They then broke into an impromptu song about life guards to the music of a Rush song. Overall it was fun day on the beach and I ended up with a little sunburn (Julie says I look like a lobstah) which will be fun for the run tomorrow I'm sure.
We headed back to the hotel to clean up and headed to Big Italy for dinner. They have a large set of unique pizza options and we went with the carb loading friendly Mac-n-cheese pie, which is exactly like it sounds. After dinner we headed back to the nearby stage to catch a little bit of Eve6, but had to leave early as the bikes needed to be back by 9.
On the way back the boardwalk was speckled with bands playing from small stages every couple of blocks. Had we know we would have just gotten take out and ate on our balcony listening to the band outside our hotel. At 9 the smaller stages had to end, but after some prompting the band below our balcony said "You guys will have to come bail us out if we get in trouble, but to hell with the city ordinance" and broke out one more tune. Race day tomorrow so after that last song it was off to bed for us.
For about an hour. Just after 10 I awoke to strange banging outside like another band had taken over but it was just the bass drum. I went to the window and there was a ship offshore shooting off fireworks. The show lasted about 10 minutes and it was back to bed for good this time.
4:30AM came way too early but because of the heat this race starts early (7AM). We ate the bagels that we pilfered from breakfast the day before and got ready for the race. About 6:40 we started the walk down to the start line. The temperatures were climbing into the upper 70's and the humidity meeter was pegged near 100% making it feel at least 10 degrees hotter. The race started right on time and we jumped in a corral just behind our assigned number 11 and I bid goodbye to Julie.
The course started back down 19th towards our hotel before turning left and then a U-turn back out of VB on Atlantic ave. Atlantic ave was full of spectators urging on the runners and as we pass the Pirate Ghost tour building one of the runners to my left ask "If it's about pirates why is there a spaceship up on the building?" I looked up and sure enough there was a flying saucer. One of life's great mysteries I guess.
After that the course heads out of VB and down towards and through Camp Pendleton while passing neighbor hoods, condos, a group in jail house rock costumes and a KOA campground where I saw a couple we met the day before from NJ (John and Joanne). The scenery out this way wasn't the best when it wasn't running through the wooded areas which were nice and provided some much needed shade, but Julie gives a big thank you to the families in Pendleton who were giving out handfuls of ice. After exiting Pendleton the race heads back the way it came and back into VB.
Because of the heat there were more people than I have ever seen getting medical treatment. The medical personnel were really great today. Along the route they had cooling buses which were tempting but I thought that if I got in one I might just ask it to take me the rest of the way so I steered clear, but I did take advantage of all the water stops. Normally the RnR races have water stops about every 1.5 miles but here they seemed to have extra stops for the heat along with a sponge station and the locals turning on their sprinklers and handing out popsicles to help the runners beat the heat.
Over the bridge the race goes back into VB and takes a couple of turns before heading out onto the boardwalk. Along the last stretch you pass the main stage for the festival and hordes of spectators pushing you on to the finish, which is really needed as the temp on the concrete soared making my sunburn sting. I crossed the finish line and was thankful for the water gatorade and misters that your see on sidelines of football games (they are awesome if you're wondering).
I grabbed by medal and my heavy medal (super 6) and headed up to the room to grab some flip flops for myself and Julie along with some more water before heading back down to get my (and Julie's) free beer. In the beer garden I met some other people from Boston and talked with another group about how to get their results and find out if you've placed in the age categories. Seeing as I've never come close to winning anything, I wasn't able to help them on that front. Soon Julie joined me and after grabbing some VB gear at the merchandise tent we headed down to the water for Julie to make a splash before heading up to change.
After a shower we headed back to the The Ocean House for lunch and a couple of beers. I don't know if it was the beers or a touch of heat stroke, but once we got back to the room I was asleep and out for a couple of hours. After I awoke we spent some time reading on the balcony before heading down to Rock Fish for dinner. While at dinner the weather started to move in and it started raining, so instead of renting a bike again (I kept the lock from the previous day) and heading down to see Robert Randolph and the Family and Third Eye Blind, we went back to the room and waited for it to pass. The band setting up across the boardwalk had now taken down all their equipment so it looked as if the main stage would be the only music tonight. We received word that the concert was delayed a bit but had started and since the rain was still falling we decided to stay in and just relax.
Labor Day morning we woke up early to spend some time on the beach and take some pictures with our medals before heading off to the airport. All in all this was one of my favorite races being combined with the music festival. It's a hot one though so don't expect to set any PRs and make sure you take care on the beach but I think we might find our way back here next year. No rest for the wicked, Philly in 14 days and Providence in 21. As one shirt I saw this weekend said, "Why train? Just taper."
Overall: 5,070 out of 9,853 Division: 435 out of 664 Gender: 2,697 out of 4,292