March 8, 2014
I my quest to complete a half marathon in every state, this would not have been one that I would have originally chosen but my husband discovered that the had some ancestry roots in and around the Greenville area so we looked for a race where he could also do some geology on this trip. Thus I discovered the GHS Half Marathon in Greenville, South Carolina. I filled out an application and mailed it in so that I could save on the fees but I registered my husband on-line. We also needed to purchase bus passes since this was a point-to-point race so I just did all three of those purchases (his entry & two bus passes) at one time. Registration for me was $60 and the bus pass was $10 (+ a fee).
According to MapQuest, it would be about a 9+ hour drive so we planned on leaving the house Friday morning at 6:30AM. And we left pretty close to “on time” after we stopped for coffee, gas and ice. Per usual (since we’ve gotten older!) we didn’t make it far – Seymour, IN – before we had to make a potty stop. In and out at McDonalds in no time and we were back on the road. Another stop in Lexington, KY and another McDonalds. My husband LOVES their sweet tea so this is usually one of the places we look for when we need to stop. Then about 85 miles north (?) of Knoxville, traffic was at a standstill. We were either parked or just creeping along. Not really sure what the issue was because once we finally made it through “whatever it was” we never saw anything. We just about missed our I-640 exit but Speed Racer (aka my husband) was able to get over at the VERY LAST SECOND! We had a good laugh. We stopped just inside the North Carolina border for another bathroom break and while trying to take a picture of the WELCOME sign “someone” thought it would be funny to photo bomb it.
It did make for a super cute and funny picture. Luckily we weren’t on any major interstate when we crossed into South Carolina so my husband was able to pull over so I could get a really good picture of the sign.
We actually made pretty good time and we were at the Fleet Feet store – which was the packet pickup site – in plenty of time. Although they offered packet pickup race morning, I always feel better about having my stuff the night before. I found it odd that on a Friday it was only available until 6:00PM. Absolutely NOTHING else to say about packet pickup because that is all that it was…unless you wanted/needed to buy something at Fleet Feet. And I’m not sure how they assigned bib numbers. I sent my form in to them in December and was #811. I registered my husband on-line on February 4th and he was bib #446. AND…his name was printed on his bib and mine was not. I found it all to be odd and I’ll admit I was a little sad that my bib didn’t have my name, just a lame sticker with my info.
It was just a 1.68 mile trip from Fleet Feet to the hotel, the Courtyard by Marriott. We saw something WE don’t see everyday…as we were waiting at the light to turn, a white Rolls Royce is headed our way. The driver is wearing a chauffer's uniform, he is sitting/driving on the left side of the car and there is an elderly lady in the back seat being “driven” by him. It was all very Driving Miss Daisy!
So we check in, relax for a bit and then research where the nearest Applebee’s is. #RespectTheStreak For all the great things we’d heard about Greenville, the Applebee's was on the wrong side of town. Certainly not Chamber of Commerce material! And I’m pretty sure my jaw hit the floor when we walked in, asked for a table for two and then they asked “smoking or non-smoking?” Oh my gosh…I didn’t even know that was an option anywhere anymore! I ordered my usual 3 Cheese Penne Pasta with Chicken and after dinner we went over to Walmart to get some quick supplies; chocolate milk, skim milk and underwear for my husband. What? He didn’t realize that we were staying until Monday (although from the very beginning of planning this trip that was HIS suggestion) & didn’t pack enough supplies!
Back to the hotel and we just relaxed the rest of the evening.
RACE MORNING: I set my alarm for 5:30AM which was probably too early but its my thing. The weather forecast was good; maybe a little chilly to start but it looked like it would warm up quickly.
The race start time was 7:30AM and we were less than a 10 minute walk to the finish line/bus shuttle area. There were two shuttle options: 6:00AM and 6:45AM. I don’t know why anyone would want to get on the first shuttle and just have to stand around. Needless to say we opted for the later shuttle. (You also had the option to drive to the start area and could be shuttled back up there from the finish) As we were walking over, my husband realized that he’d forgotten to put on his visor. Not a deal breaker and he could have done without it but since we were so close and had plenty of time, he walked back to the hotel to get it. We met some nice people while waiting for the bus and talked all things running, half marathons, triathlons, etc. Travel time was about 15 minutes and I met another Half Fanatic on the bus. She and I were wearing the same hat but sadly I never got her name.
The start area was a little congested and appeared to have no rhyme or reason to it. There were people with pace signs bunched up together, I never saw a porta-potty (and I sort of had to pee) and I never heard the National Anthem. What we did see was plenty of people with Ironman shirts, hats and tattoos. This was surprising. Usually you’ll see a few at half marathons but they were plentiful at this race.
Our quick traditional pre-race photo and then we were off.
The course was labeled mostly flat and even a net loss in elevation. And aside from the initial uphill that took us through a cemetery, it did feel flat while we were running on the trail - until we got back into Greenville downtown. You can read more about the Swamp Rabbit Trail here.
I really had no finishing time goal in mind for this race. It was only my second half marathon of 2014 and I’d run less than 80 training miles in February. Of course in the back of my mind is always what my fastest half marathon time is and the “wonder” if I can best it. I carried my cell phone for about the first 3 miles but there were only a few things that I had even the slightest interest in taking a picture of (and didn’t) so I put it away in my race belt. I’m sure the course is very pretty in the Spring when the flowers begin blooming and the trees are starting to bud but right now everything was still pretty much brown and bare. Although I did see some daffodils. The trail is very well marked on its own with permanent post markers every mile and half mile and the GHS course markers were easily seen as well. There were aid station every two miles. They weren’t overly staffed so often you had to get your own cup from the table but there was never a point where I couldn’t get something. Hammer Gels were handed out around mile 8. I took one but didn’t care for the flavor. A few things of note on the trail: at one point on our left we passed a pile of mulch (it was not right next to the trail but visible) and it looked like it was steaming. And man, it STUNK! It smelled like a manure pile rather than mulch. So Gross. Also along the trail is a store – The Swamp Rabbit Café & Grocery – I would imagine this is a great place to stop while riding your bike or walking your dogs, etc. There weren’t any ports-potties but there were some permanent bathroom facilities along the course. We ran past one of the Furman College Cross Country entrances, past an old railroad car and a CrossFit facility. From the distance, I thought people had gone in the CF gym to use the bathroom but as I got closer and saw more people going in and out, I realized that it was just part of their workout. Probably the oddest thing that I saw near the end of the race as we were coming back in to the downtown area was a warning painted on the road that the railroad tracks could catch fire. Obviously this has happened at some point, right? Why else would that warning be there. Again, I thought about taking a picture but didn’t.
Between the 11 mile maker and the 12 mile marker I started having some pain in my right calf so I did a fair amount of walking hoping it would stretch it out and I could run to the finish. I had looked at my watch when I reached the 11 mile marker and it appeared that I was well in front of where I usually am at the point…even better than where I usually am at 10 miles! The walking break seemed to help. The downtown streets gave us a few “rollers” and I think I took another 30 second walking break. I saw the street sign for McBee (where the finish line was) made the turn and kicked it in. There was a “family” of 4 running – in a row - ahead of me and one other girl and I BLEW past them. Crossed the finish line, stopped my watch and at first glance it looked like I had just finish almost SIX MINUTES FASTER than my previous best half marathon time!!! Are you kidding me? Thankfully I found my husband right away. I was worried that he might have gone to the hotel since he wasn’t expecting me yet. I grabbed some post-race snacks, found someone to take our “finishers” picture and then we walked back to the hotel.
Official results were up and confirmation was received. It was a new PR for me and just as I thought…just under 6 minutes faster. I’m sure some of it had to do with the fact that the course was flat/downhill most of the way, I had been doing some Speed work (and I use that term loosely) on the treadmill and that I didn’t stop & take any pictures along the way. Funny thing, I wasn’t jumping up & down with joy with this new PR but I think its because I was just stunned. Too bad Greenville isn’t closer so that I could run this again and see if it was a fluke. I guess I’ll just have to see how I do in future half marathons in 2014 and compare it that way.
Overall a good race but there are things they can improve on, especially their website. Maybe some races don’t necessarily want to attract out-of-towners but – in my opinion – you need to make everything clear as if no one has every done your event before.