Arrrr. Shiver Me Pinchers

My beach fantasy:

 I am strolling along a quaint beach town with my flip flops in hand and my gauzy dress billowing out behind me in the breeze. I hear only the sounds of the seagulls and the gentle crashing of the waves. It’s a quaint southern town where the locals smile and haul in the daily catch as I watch, knowing that is the fish I will have for dinner that evening at the diner where they welcome me as if I was one of them.

My beach reality:

My husband loves Myrtle Beach. I think it’s the familiarity of the place that he likes. He knows he is going to enjoy himself when he goes there, he knows exactly what he will get. It’s sort of like going to McDonald’s when you’re in a strange place because you know what the food will taste like (even if it’s not that amazing). I’m not much of a fan of Myrtle Beach, or McDonald’s for that matter, but he averages about one trip a year with me so if Myrtle Beach is what it takes to make him happy then off we go!

I really don’t mind all that much because I know that when we’re together we can make anything fun. I know, insert cheesy awwww here, but it’s the truth. So we spent four days in the bustling beach city and of course had a blast. We did compromise a bit by eating at local off the beaten path restaurants.

We were the only customers at Mrs. Fish. I will admit the place made me a bit nervous, but the grilled Grouper was really delicious as was the Flounder. Service was good and so were the prices.

My search for delicious Maryland style crab in the south has come to an end. Here was my little slice of heaven right in the middle of the Grand Strand. The food was fabulous!

Jon was only slightly appalled at the sight before him. Ok, he thought it was pretty gross. He actually quoted Leviticus at me and then called my delicious crabs an abomination. I just dipped my abomination in butter and made sure to give him an extra loud slurping noise with my next bite. 

If loving a crustacean now and then is wrong, then I don’t want to be right.

On the way back from my crab feast I came to a realization- it is possible that I could someday afford my dream beach home.

I mean, who says it has to be a magnificent stilted structure overlooking the ocean? As long as I’m close to the crabs.

 

The Scream Half Marathon

I can think of very few reasons why a person would run screaming down a mountainside for thirteen miles in the drizzling rain.  I’m thinking bear attack or escape from an ax murderer, but last week my friend Allison and I did it because it sounded like fun. The Scream Half Marathon took place in the beautiful mountains of North Carolina and we were lucky enough to be two of the just over two hundred people that were able to participate.

We traveled to the mountains on Friday afternoon to stay with Allison’s mother at His High Places. The landscape was gorgeous and we couldn’t have been more excited. Get a load of this place!

The weather was a brisk 59 degrees when we arrived- a welcome relief from Virginia’s blistering heat, but it did leave me a bit worried about my race plans. I was expecting (and training for) a race day that would be hotter than Hades, and worse yet the forecast was calling for a slight chance of rain. After a giant dinner we got our race gear ready….

And tucked in early for our 4:45 wake up call.

Can you spot a couple of nerds when you see them? 

We awoke Saturday morning to a light drizzle, thick fog, and temps in the low 50’s. So hard to believe in mid-July, but I guess mountain weather is unpredictable.  Allison’s mother and sister dropped us at the starting line and headed down to the two mile marker where they had volunteered to hand out water. I should add that this was Allison’s first half marathon (she’s only been running less than two years) and her mom was busting with pride. Can you blame her? I was proud of her too. A half marathon is no easy feat and then you add something as crazy as a downhill run through the mountains into the mix. She’s fearless I tell ya.

We checked and double checked our laces. I was a bit intimidated by the wet road surface, the rain, and the fact that it looked as though we were literally running inside of a cloud.

One last trip to the bathroom before the start.

A race with Allison and myself wouldn’t be complete without a restroom adventure. As seems to be our M.O. we found the porta-potties to be full and headed to the woods. And as usual, we were caught. Fearless Allison went first while I was on the lookout. Just as she was in the middle of her “break” I spotted a man coming down the trail. I coughed a quick “Man coming!” at her and she whipped her pants up so fast I thought she was going to fall over into the weeds. All I can say is thank God it was raining anyway…Bwahahaha!

Finally we all lined up at the starting line, covered in the light mist but thankful the sun wasn’t blazing heat down on us. There was such a mix of people at the race. It seems as though people came from everywhere to be the pioneers of The Scream.  I was extremely impressed with how organized this event was. In the mountains of what seemed like the middle of nowhere, I thought it stood a chance of being a disaster but as soon as we arrived I knew this was going to be an excellent race.

The first two miles were mostly flat and a little uphill. The surface was blacktop road. Shortly before the two mile mark we made a turn and headed down a gravel/dirt road. This would be our surface for the next eleven miles. 

One quick drink and then I’m off. 

Miles three and four were such a blast, I found myself holding my arms out, smiling, and fleeing down the mountain like a little kid. The twists and turns of the road were a little tricky with the road beginning to become muddy from the rain but it just added to the fun of it.

At mile 5 my feet were totally wet.

At mile 6 I developed a blister the size of Rhode Island on the ball of my foot…and the drizzle turned to  a full on rain.

Mile 7 was a hill that appeared to descend straight to…. I was like the train in Unstoppable. You could have put something in front of me to slow me down but I couldn’t have stopped if I wanted to. This locomotive had no breaks.

At mile 8 I happened to reach back and feel my hair. The rain had soaked it and the running had made it tie itself in one giant knot that stood straight out on the back of my head. I imagined I looked like Marge Simpson.

Miles 9- 11were a blur of blister, mud, rain, Clif shots, and pain but I don’t think I ever stopped smiling.

Right around mile 12 I crossed a concrete bridge and heard a woman say that we were still under 2 hours. After running on that dirt and gravel surface the concrete burned my feet. It was sort of like landing on the ground after jumping on a trampoline, but it looked like this:

and it was amazing.

Mile 12 was cruelly flat. Enough said about that.

I was so happy to see the finish line. 

My husband says I have the world’s most unattractive run. He is correct.

But it doesn’t have to be attractive to get me to where I need to be. 

It wasn’t long before Allison joined me at the finish line. 

Allison’s first 5K (less than 2 years ago)

I’ve said repeatedly that this will be my last half marathon. I told myself that all summer and the whole way down the mountain. It’s hard on your body and takes so much time to train. The race itself isn’t the hard part, it’s all the miles that lead up to it. I’m thinking it’s time to slow down a little (as if I was fast to begin with). I’ve pretty much made up my mind…..but I think there may be one race that could pull me out of retirement next year. I’ll see you at the bottom.

 

Sake Saturday and Other Thoughts of Charleston

Charleston, South Carolina is one of those places where you can literally feel the history in the air. The tree lined streets beg to be explored. Every corner holds another story. The smell of salt and low country cooking takes me back to a time when men were heroic and history was still being written. The city is beautiful down to the smallest detail.

From gas lanterns to iron gates, the city itself puffs up its feathers for visitors from around the world.

An opportunity for beauty is never missed, even in the most mundane places.

But what I think makes the city so magical is its proximity to water. Maybe it’s because I’m a Pisces (if you buy into that mumbo-jumbo), but there’s something about the ocean that calls to me. It makes me feel small and powerful at the same time.  Standing on the water’s edge, I feel a hush come over me.

This trip to Charleston held special meaning for me though. This trip was all about the Cooper River Bridge Run. My friends and worked towards the goal of getting over this monster for months and we couldn’t have asked for a better day to do it. If you’re a runner, I highly suggest you put this race on your calendar! If you do, be sure to check out Tips for Running the Cooper River Bridge Run. This is a race that requires a little bit of planning.

 No trip to Charleston (or blog for that matter) would be complete without mentioning what I ate and drank while I was there. We’re talking amazing. AMAZING! The first stop on Friday night was my absolute favorite place in the world. 

Located on the northern end of King Street, it’s easy to walk to and you will need to walk after eating one of these babies. There are different flavors available each day, so you have to go back more than once while you’re there. Luckily, my favorite flavor was waiting for me when I arrived.

Chocolate Tuxedo- chocolate with white chocolate chips, cream cheese icing, and ganache. Seriously.

After the race on Saturday it was impossible to get into any restaurant in Charleston. The place was full of 40,000 sweaty, starving runners and their families so we decided it would be best to get out of town. We headed out to my other favorite place in the world, Folly Beach, and hit up Taco Boy.  This was the perfect post-race relaxation spot. As you can tell by this picture….

The mint that lined the patio smelled so fresh. It really was a gorgeous day. This place has the perfect outdoor seating. Here’s a pic of a few of my favorite people- the best race day buddies ever!

Taco Boy is one of the most popular places on Folly Beach. Here’s why: I love this.

Here’s a philosophy I try to live by- buy local and put as little junk in your body as possible. Taco Boy seems to share my thinking on this. You can taste the difference in their food. This is no Taco Bell.

I had the Baja Fish Taco, but don’t let the pic fool you. I did some serious eating that day. I followed this delicious munchie up with Grilled Shrimp Quesadillas and the largest assortment of salsa, queso, and guacamole you have ever seen. 

A stroll down Center Street led us to a brew pub that is definitely worth a mention. The Folly Beach Brewing Co. takes the phrase “hole in the wall” to a new level. It is literally a small room with a concrete floor and a bar. However, most of the patrons enjoy sitting out on the sidewalk and watching traffic roll by. We took a spot at the bar and became fast friends with the bar dog. You have to love a bar that has a dog. I believe her name was Mookie. Isn’t she adorable? 

Hanging with the locals here made me want to shed my life as mainland school teacher and live the island life. I was so jealous of the bartender with her cute dog and island home.  Wonder if I could talk the husband into making a move? Nope. While I couldn’t be a local, we were treated as such when they shared their tradition of Sake Saturday with us. The locals in the bar started yelling SAKE as loud as they could and we were quickly informed that when this happens everyone in the bar must take a shot of Sake. Um, not so delicious, but why not?

Warning: Sake may make you consume large amounts of ice cream and walk into traffic.  Maybe.

Before leaving on Sunday we had to hit my favorite breakfast spot, Hominy Grill.  This is an absolute “must visit” spot if you are planning a trip to Charleston. Since it’s such a hot spot there is a bit of a wait and parking is a problem, but it is so worth the hassle. We arrived ten minutes before opening to find a line down the street waiting to get in. 

I stepped out of my comfort zone of Shrimp and Grits or Huevos Rancheros and tried the French Toast with Apple Maple Syrup and Pecan Butter.   Out. Of. This. World.

The drive home was a sad one because I don’t have any immediate plans to return to South Carolina. But somehow I get the feeling I’ll find a reason to make a trip. The girls have already been discussing a half marathon in the fall. Savannah, maybe? 

Here’s to good food, great friends, big adventures, and reaching your goals. Isn’t that what life is really about?