Monday, November 11, 2013

Race Report: Rock n Roll Savannah Half Marathon

The Savannah Rock n Roll half marathon, my 9th half of 2013, was a very unique experience.  We headed down to Charleston, SC the Wednesday before the race.  We picked Charleston as our flight hub as it's only about a 2 hour drive from there to Savannah, was much cheaper to fly in and out of and was a city that Julie and I wanted to visit for some time now.  The flight down, direct on Jet blue was uneventful and I napped almost the entire way down. It was a bit strange after traveling all these years to not have to turn off my phone, nook and iPad.  Once we arrived, we grabbed our rental car and headed for the hotel to drop off our stuff before we headed downtown.

We didn't have anything planned so we just picked up some brochures at the visitors center and go the layout of the city by walking around the College of Charleston before we headed back to our hotel to change and head back out again for dinner.  Our first night dinner was at the Charleston Grill, which is a top notch restaurant attached to the Charleston Place hotel.  Personalized service, live jazz, exquisite food and a wine list to rival the size of a best selling novel (most of which I couldn't afford), created a wonderful dinning experience the type that we can't afford often but was experience none the less.

Thursday morning we woke up early for our ferry out to Fort Sumter, the shelling of which started the Civil War.  The 30 minute boat ride was smooth until the end, when it became a bit choppy as we docked at the fort.  During the ride (both ways) the boat has an automated tour guide who tells you about the surrounding area and it's history, and does a good job of priming you for your visit to the fort, and the National Park Service only has one boat on the island at a time so it never felt crowded while we were out there.  Once on the island there are a few guided tours and talks, or you can go at it by yourself which is what Julie and I did.  We walked around the fort and outer walls reading the plaques.  You only get about 70 minutes on the island (unless you want to pay extra to stay and catch the next ferry home) but I think that was sufficient to get a good history of the place.  Towards the end of our time we headed over to the museum which gives some more details on the life at the fort and it's history before we jumped on the boat and headed back for some lunch.


Back on the mainland we walked over to Ted's Butcher Block to grab a couple of sandwiches for lunch.  This place is a true gastro meat shop (I'm trade marking that term) offering high end sandwiches, meats and cheeses, as well as a bacon of the month club if you're looking for a Christmas gift for me.  Julie and I split Italian and Caprese sandwichs then headed to waterfront park to do some more sight seeing and grab a carriage ride around the city.

At waterfront park the first sight we hit was the iconic pineapple fountain.  On our numerous tours we learned that Pineapples are a sign of hospitality as returning sea captains would bring them back to their wives who would place the husk of the pineapple outside their home to indicate the captain was home so friends and neighbors should come visit (or your lover should stay away depending on who was telling the story). 

From there we headed down the market to grab a carriage for a tour around the city.  Because there are so many tour companies the city regulates where they can go amoungst three different routes via a lottery system (which seems to defeat the purpose to me, what happens if one color keeps comming up).  According to my uncle who frequents the city often, 1 is excellent, 2 is very good, 3 is not good.  As our carriage pulled up to the check point, the city worker she started the ping pong ball wammy no wammy no  What the heck does blue mean?  Is that a water tour and we're turning this carriage in to a duck?  The city worker ducked in and came out carrying a sign with the number 2 and attached it to the carriage. One mystery solved. 

We headed out on our tour which took us through the historic district showing us some of the beautiful architecture and homes in the city, and gave us a great overview of history of Charleston.  After about 90 minutes we headed back to the stables then back to the market where Julie and I did some browsing at the shops (we made a rule before arriving that we wouldn't purchase anything that said "Y'all" on it which made shopping hard as about 75% of items had this phrase on them) before heading back to our hotel for a change in clothes and to grab a drink and watch the sunset over the water before another wonderful dinner at S.N.O.B. (Slightly North of Broad). 

Rainbow row

Why change addresses when you can just add a half!

Thanks to the time change we're still waking up early on our own, so on Friday we packed up our stuff and checked out to start our drive down to Savannah but not before a nasty breakfast at Hominy Grill.  No the food was great what Julie got was nasty, the Big Nasy a piece of fried chicken inside a split bisicut covered in sausage gravy with just a hint of jalapenos.  I went with the huevos rancheros which was good but Julie was the big winner on this meal.  Fueled up it was time to head down to Savannah.  

The Big Nasty

The drive between cities along 17 and 95 is rather boring and thankfully traffic what pretty light, but something rather disturbing occurred to me on the drive.  During the approximate two hours it took between cities we saw 5 Waffle Houses which were concentrated primarily at the start and end of the trip, which left well over an hour of non Waffle House driving.   This is a tragedy of epic proportions! I mean don't people in rural South Carolina deserve Waffle Houses too?  How can people stand to live in a place where you have to drive 45 minutes ONE WAY for fried chicken and waffle?  It really is an injustice that needs to be rectified.

As we approached Savannah we stopped just outside of the city at the convention center to get our bibs for the race and were greeted by a large law enforcement contingent.  The amount of local and state police at the expo was pretty amazing, but kept the traffic moving well.  In the expo it was unbelievable the number of people.  The race only had 20 corrals, much less than say Seattle, but the density of people at the expo was much more than any other race I had been to.  We grabbed our bibs which included a special rock idol bib for doing 10 races in 2013 and headed out to meet the vendors. Other than a new pair of running sunglasses to replace my broken ones, we weren't looking to buy anything, but we ran across the Old Towne Trolley tours who were offering half off tickets at the expo as well as discounted ghost and graveyard tour tickets.  Brilliant, why don't they do this for all races in the cities where they run tours? We snatched up two tickets for that day and two G&G tickets for Saturday night and headed to check in to our hotel and jump on the trolley.

The trolley tour does a large loop around the city taking approximately 90 minutes to complete and since they come every 15 to 20 minutes, you can jump on and off as you wish.  It was a great way to see the city, learn some of the history, and mark places that we want to visit later in the day.  After about 3 of 4 stops we jumped off for some sandwiches at Leopold's, which is a famous ice cream shop in Savannah.  After a traditional southern pimento cheese sandwich, we jumped back on the trolley to continue the tour.

The race had some streets closed, which re-routed our trolley, and the influx of runners started to snarl traffic, but it was still a nice way to see the city and stay off your feet.  We took the tour all the way around and back past our hotel to Forsyth park to get some pictures of the famous fountain (which we learned was ordered from a mail order catalog from New York City), before walking back to our hotel to enjoy the view of the city from our balcony. That was cut short when Julie remembered we needed to find breakfast for the morning!


City Hall
That evening we walked down to the Cathedral of John the Baptist to check out the interior before jumping on one of the last trolleys to take us to dinner at the Olde Pink House (which used to be white until the fire of 1790 (ish) made the brick beneath the white stucco bleed through.  We arrived a little early so Julie hung around the square outside while I ran to grab some bagels for tomorrow morning's breakfast.  While waiting Julie was witness to a waiter hanging over a nearby garbage who was then be transported to the hospital from the OPH.  All of a sudden Julie was texting me to question my choice of dinner places (on my foodie friend Dave's recommendation)...yellow fever hit hard here way back when, concerned???  After jokingly debating, we went in because the menu was too good to pass up, and were treated to another wonderful dinner in an amazing home.  After dinner, we headed back to the hotel for an early nice since tomorrow was race day!

The Cathedral from our Room
Inside the Cathedral

Olde Pink House
Saturday morning broke later than normal, as we're now seasoned vets we no longer get up 3 hours before race time but rather slept in to a lazy man's 4:30 (AM) for this race.  While back in Philly I lamented about the lack of television at this hour, having to entertain myself with The Weather Channel and infomercials, but today was even worse as the cable to the entire hotel was out leaving just a black  screen of "no signal" floating around.  Adjusting to life in this new third world of Georgia we find ourselves in silence as we prepared for our last race of the season.

At 6:30 we headed down to the start with two things in mind 1) get some more pins to help hold on our special bibs and 2) find the Brooks VIP "Potty like a rock star" porta-potties we got passes for since we each bought some Brooks warm weather gear at the expo.  Number 1 was pretty easy to do at the solutions tent number 2 was a bit harder (pun intended).  We searched up and down the corrals, but we couldn't find them at all so we ended up just jumping a short(ish) line.

The race started down East Bay Street, and is flat for almost a mile before heading up and over a small bridge.  The streets were lined with people seeing off the runners (one spectator even had a remote controlled UFO looking thing hoovering over with a Go-Pro attached!), and the cold morning left piles of discarded sweatshirts along the course.  Again the law enforcement presence was intense.  

As the course moved out of the downtown area, the crowds lessened to small gatherings of people but the calls of the spectators actually increased.  Every 50 feet or so was another person yelling "Good Morning" and waving.  The runners would in turn answer back creating strange "Good Morning" echo that went on for about four or five miles.  This was good because the first part of the course was relatively uninteresting and made for a fun way to past the time.  Julie also heard one lady ask an officer "Are you a Georgia State Trooper?"  "Yes Ma'am" he replied.  "Then where is your smile?"  She asked bringing raucous laughter from the Officer.  Apparently it's Law Enforcement with a smile down here in the south.

Back along the race I was making good time.  I decided for my last race I was going to let it all hang out (figuratively, did I mention the large law enforcement presence?) and really pushed my time.  At 5K I was just under 30 minutes and at 10K I was just under an hour, both of which were the fastest times I've ever had during a half.  

At mile 6 the course comes back into the city proper and as the race made its way down and back East Liberty there were thousands of people lining both sides of the road through mile 7.  From there it made its way through the heart of the city for miles 8 and 9.  At this point I was still running sub-10 minute miles and thought I might be able to do this under 2:05, but at mile 10 I hit a mini wall and mile 11 was my first over 10 minute mile.  I had missed the earlier Gu station and my legs were starting to get a bit heavy, but I pushed on and started back towards downtown and the finish.

Starting after mile 11 the crowds picked up again, and all of the support from the spectators really helped push me along keeping me in the mid 10's the rest of the way.  As I saw mile marker 12, I knew I would break 2:10 but 2:05 just wasn't going to be possible.  

Finally the home stretch came and course turns right to end at the edge of Forsyth park with spectators cheering 5 deep. I crossed the line with a new PR of 2:08:28, over 5 minutes faster than my previous PR.  That means in just over a month I've improved my PR by over 11 minutes!  I grabbed my medal along with my Gatorade and headed over to pick up Julie and my number 10 heavy medal "Rock Idol".  Right next door was the medal engraving station which only had 1 person in line so I put in my medal to get my first sub 2:10 engraved and then picked up my Rock Idol medal.  

Of all the heavy medals we've gotten this year number 10 is the biggest and by far has gotten the most reaction.  "What's that big one for?"  "10 in a year?  That's impressive, (crazy, bad ass, etc).  Along with the bib on the back made for a lot of attention post race (and for Julie along the race since people kept passing her).

While waiting for my medal I headed over to get my free beer and took in the opening band for a bit.  Savannah doesn't have an open container law so people had brought coolers of beer, wine and mimosas to celebrate with the runners.  I've never seen a city embrace a race as much as Savannah did.  Almost every store and restaurant was having a special and had a sign welcoming runners.  At the concert it appeared as if the entire city was there and there were so many people that cell service was jammed.  I had to walk a ways away to text Julie to tell her where to meet me.


Finally my medal was ready and I went to find Julie (missing Jackyl's "Lumberjack" in the process).  As Julie approached I yelled her name and stuck her Rock Idol medal out to her but in the zone she sped past me nearly running into my arm.  I found her just after the finish to give it to her and photo bomb her finisher picture.  

After she finished we headed to the west side of town to find Blowing Smoke BBQ on the recommendation of one of the hotel's staff.  Because of the lack of cell service we knew approximately where it was but we weren't sure, so we started walking in the general direction hoping we could get a signal.  As seems our MO in Georgia while walking around looking for something, we found ourselves in the no so nice parts of town.  With Julie feeling a bit uncomfortable, I finally asked a passerby who informed us that it used to be right here but was now out of business. If looks could kill!  On that note we slowly made our way out of the area and back to the hotel bar for some lunch and beer!

After resting up at the hotel a bit (and answering more questions about the big medal) we headed back over to Forsyth park to take some pictures with our medals at the fountain.

That evening we headed down to the only brewery in Savannah, Moon River, for some dinner and drinks.  They were offering a deal to the runners so it was packed when we got there but thanks to Open Table we were seated right away.  Julie found a white beer that she liked and I took part in the sampler.  The beer was good and the food standard, my biggest complaint about this place was that it seemed like they weren't preparing a lot from scratch.  The goat cheese and leek fritters were nearly sold out and the taco-dilla was sold out, but overall I'd go back, especially if I'm in the mood for a burger and beer (or just beer).  
Moon River Sampler

After dinner we headed down to River Street to jump on our ghost and graveyards tour.  The tour takes you though the city pointing out some of its more disturbing history while making two stops.  The first is at the site of a grizzly murder which happens now to be their trolley depot, where you hear the story of the multiple murders then get a chance to do some ghost hunting of your own with company provided EMF finders (AKA ghost boxes) that apparently you can buy on eBay, if anyone is interested.  The next stop is an antiques store which holds a tale all of its own.  Overall it was a fun time.

Who ya gonna call?
The next morning we woke up for the drive back to Charleston to fly home.  The Hilton's morning paper today was the Savannah morning news which included multiple stories about the races along with race results of all the individual runners, another way the town embraces this race.  Again we were up early so we took a detour through Beaumont, SC, which made the ride a bit more pretty, before stopping for some BBQ just short of the airport.

All in all this was a wonderful race made better by the city and it's southern hospitality.  I hope to get back here to run it again and take full advantage of all city has to offer.  Next race is the Bucks County Thanksgiving 5 Miler.  Talk to you soon y'all!




Segment Pace

Overall Page

















Overall: 3,854 out of 11,390 Division: 290 out of 548 Gender: 1,776 out of 3,453

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