Race recap: BOOM! This race sure started out with a bang, quite literally, as what sounded like a war cannon was fired to send runners on their way. After the ringing in our ears subsided we quickly found our stride on this fairly flat course hugging the sand dunes of the Outer Banks of North Carolina. The first few miles on Highway 12 were very fast – we likely went out a bit too overzealous, especially as the temperature and humidity were both a bit higher than we were accustomed to running in the cool fall temps of Chicago-land. Around mile 5 we turned off of the Highway for a few miles along the West coast of the Outer Banks. As we enjoyed the views along the coast, we chatted with a few fellow runners – Kristin with a really nice gal from Tennessee and I with a few older gentlemen from Indiana. It’s inspiring how a race on the coast of North Carolina can bring together so many different people from all over the country. Apparently the conversations were intriguing as somewhere around mile 7 I inadvertently pulled ahead of Kristin. I didn’t notice my running buddy wasn’t at my side until around mile 8, when I turned to make a joke about the cleverly named mini-golf course “Jurassic Putt” and realized Kristin was about 50 yards behind me. Whoops. No love lost as I was soon back in stride with Kristin and her new running pal, but after a few miles I became a little antsy as the pace had slowed dramatically. Once Kristin realized that our pace was now ~2 minutes per mile slower than the beginning of the race she wished her pal good luck and we set out to finish what we started. After a gel we powered up the much over-hyped Washington-Baum Bridge (it was a moderate incline, but not really the “incredibly difficult ascent” described). Miles 10 and 11 were actually kind of depressing – the visibility was forever long and it just felt like as much as we ran we weren’t making any progress. It didn’t help that the gel was sitting very heavy either. By Mile 12 we were both sweating a lot, especially for a half in November, but we powered through and finished together.
Highlight: Before starting the race we walked down to the beach with Minda and Marty (running buddies from Palatine) and were treated to a pretty spectacular pre-race sunrise over the ocean. Also, I’m pretty sure my ears are still ringing from the starting cannon.
Oh, and I almost forgot...North Carolina was state #40!
Day 1 (Saturday):
After driving to our first choice for lunch (Taste Unlimited) and learning that the restaurant was in the midst of relocating (total fail for not mentioning this anywhere on your website Taste Unlimited), we were starving and running short on time so we stopped into Firehouse Subs. The warm Hook and Ladder sub (turkey and ham) was good and the selection of hot sauces was great, but all in all it was nothing all that different from most chain sub places.
Doesn't Kristin look good as a red-head? We had a little fun in the local K-Mart looking for a case of water.
While driving from Chesapeake, Virginia down to the Outer Banks area we literally did a U-Turn to check out the home of monster truck legend Gravedigger! No, we are not big monster truck fans, but in college we went to on a whim and had a good time (I learned a valuable life lesson that trying to “recreate” that experience for Valentine’s Day a few years later was a terrible idea).
We met up with our friends Minda, Marty and Minda’s brother Wes at the Wright Brothers Memorial and Museum. The museum itself is fairly small, but it was pretty neat to learn about how through trial and error the Wright Brothers pioneered aviation. Make sure to check out the full size replica of the plane Orville Wright piloted in the first successful flight in world history, it’s a pretty impressive ride. As we approached the Art Deco monument and saw our friends at the summit Kristin looked at me and said “Go” and tore off running. She may have gotten a few steps on me, but sweating and winded I closed the gap and we both collapsed on the top step of the monument.
The expo was fine, but really hard to find – when we put Dare County Youth Center into our phone it directed us to some grocery store which was nowhere near the actual expo. FYI the Dare County Youth Center is south of the Wright Brothers Memorial, just West of the Outer Banks Brewing Station (see a map of the cross streets here).
The destruction of Hurricane Sandy the week prior to our arrival caused a lot of panic and some flooding in the Outer Banks (including closing a Jamaican restaurant on our list) but the effects were not that bad, especially when compared to the destruction New Jersey endured. Our pre-race meal at Kill Devil Grill was a perfect substitute – the grilled Haddock was a bit meatier than advertised by the wait staff, but nice and fresh and Kristin’s massive serving of three chicken breasts really hit the spot. The whole table tried each other’s dishes and Marty and Wes’ Pork shank was fall off the bone tender and very tasty.
Tip: The restaurant has limited seating for groups of 5 or more, but it gave us a chance sit at the bar, which is made out of a 1939 Kullman dining car and enjoy a Carolina Brewery Oatmeal Porter (very tasty and not too heavy). Even if you don’t sit for a drink, make sure to check out the bar/dining car as its one of only 6 diners in the national registry of historic buildings!
We stopped for some build your own frozen yogurt at Sweet Frog, which was a great cap to the day. We had a great time telling stories and laughing as we enjoyed our frozen treats. Aside from the cheesecake, which was super nasty, everything else was pretty decent. Some "interesting" toppings too...
Day 2 (Sunday - Race Day):
After regrouping and stretching a bit we headed over to Poor Richard’s for some hot breakfast. The restaurant was exactly what we needed, super close to the finish (literally feet from the finish) with a very relaxed feel inside. While it would have been nice to secure a table on the small patio and soak up some rays with our breakfast, we were happy enough to have piping hot coffee and eggs - I had the breakfast burrito and Kristin had the traditional scrambled eggs with ham and toast. We tried the sweet potato biscuit, which was super heavy, dry and pretty much a disappointment, but we had plenty of food to appease our appetites.
After grabbing a complimentary beer at the race’s beer garden we took a short walk to Roanoke Island to get a closer look at the old time ship The Elizabeth II docked in the harbor. When we learned the entry fee to look at the ship was $10 per person we decided to just tour the island on our own as we sipped our beers. At the end of the crushed gravel trail on the Eastern most part of the island is a dock that looks overlooks Shallowbag Bay – a pretty awesome spot for a photo.
We made it to Duck Donuts literally 5 minutes before it closed, and boy howdy was it good! Unlike most donut shops were the pastries are made well in advance and just sit on the shelf, Duck actually prepares donuts to order. You pick the coating (everything from cinnamon sugar to lemon icing) and the topping (sprinkles to bacon bits) and a donut chef prepares them fresh. The five of us each ordered a different donut and shared a smattering of interesting options from the traditional chocolate icing to the maple icing with bacon bits, everything was great. You really can’t beat a fresh donut from Duck’s.
Brew Thru is basically the greatest invention ever for the lazy beachgoer. It’s essentially a giant refrigerator that you drive through (like a car wash) and an attendant brings you whatever kind of beer/liquor you want, all without leaving your car. Well played Outer Banks, well played.
After a very disappointing stop at the Bodie Island Lighthouse which was under construction and not all that impressive from the outside we drove to the nearby Coquina Beach and enjoy the fruits of our stop at the Brew Thru as we strolled the beach, soaked our sore feet in the cold water and gathered some seashells and even spotted a ghost crab. Pretty spontaneous and pretty fun.
Unfortunately a number of great looking lunch stops, including Corolla Village BBQ, were either closed for the winter or as a result of restaurant owners fleeing in anticipation of Hurricane Sandy. While searching for food we stumbled upon the Currituck Beach Lighthouse, which is in a nice wooded area and was much more appealing than the Bodie Island Lighthouse. After a few quick photos we decided to stop at the local supermarket for some chips, salsa and guacamole. Maybe not the most "balanced" lunch, but it sure was enjoyable.
The first wind powered brewery in the U.S., Outer Banks Brewing Station is one of the primo spots in the area to grab a craft beer. Minda ordered a sampler and we all tried the current selection of beers on tap, before all agreeing that the Guy PA (IPA) was our favorite and ordering a few pitchers. This was our first real taste of vinegar based North Carolina BBQ. The BBQ pulled pork sandwiches were good, but I think we are more accustomed to a thick, stick-to-your-fingers BBQ sauce.
Back at the hotel we decided to finish off the Brew Thru beer as we caught the Bears / Texans football game. Unfortunately, the weather in Chicago was just awful – it rained the entire time – which made for a pretty sloppy game and the Bears got pasted.
Day 3 (Monday):
We headed out for an early morning stroll along the beach in Duck. Kristin was in search for shells and starfish and she was in luck. Hurricane Sandy the week before had washed a lot of shells onto the beach, so the picking was good. In addition to seeing a school of dolphins, Kristin and I also witnessed a starfish moving its tentacles (click here for the video) which was kind of eerie. Really a nice and relaxing way to end our trip to North Carolina.
Tip: There is free public beach parking in Duck - click here for a map.
North Carolina Half Marathon Medals
November 11, 2012: Outer Banks Half Marathon