Race recap: Ka-THUD! Some races start with a bang, but unfortunately this race started with a handful of runners getting tangled in each other’s legs and being served a hearty plateful of pavement. The domino effect of runners biting it took place no more than 100 yards from the start, just as soon as everyone was close to race pace. Kristin was right behind the melee, but as I saw the fall unfurling I threw my arm back and somehow managed to grab Kristin and pull her out of the wreckage unharmed. It’s one thing to take a spill in a race, but less than a minute into the race makes for a rough day. The first few miles were around a scenic forested area and picturesque lake, which was very pleasant. For some reason I kept thinking an alligator was going to come running out of the lake, which helped to keep the pace speedy. Around mile 3 we turned onto the highway and stayed on the concrete through mile 5 when we ascended the Broad Creek Bridge. The bridge was a bit steep, but the views from the top were pretty sweet. After we tackled the bridge we ran the next 3 miles on a bike path through some neighborhoods and along a nature trail. The time along the nature trail was very peaceful and at times it felt like the two of us were just out for a long weekend run. Around mile 8 the course became very tight and we were limited to running single file, which always drives me nuts as I like to run with Kristin, not behind or in front of her. At mile 9, the course opened up again as we re-ascended the Broad Creek Bridge (it’s a loop course) we hit our stride for the final 5k and headed for the finish.
Highlight: Running the Broad Creek Bridge (normally a toll road and not open to runners) was pretty awesome. Also, I have to give Kristin credit for tackling a race so well less than a week after being too sick to move!
Tip: This race has been around for 10+ years, but somehow the race still doesn’t provide gear check, which was a pain because it was cold and the parking lot is ¾ mile from the start line.
Day 1 (Friday):
As we strolled the streets of downtown Charleston, it felt like we were in California as we saw people skateboarding, riding beach cruisers and even one college kid driving a golf cart down the road. Very hip area. Lunch at Five Loaves was great. A huge selection of homemade soups and sandwiches, with pretty much every ingredient coming from local shops. The ham and brie on a baguette with tangy coleslaw was very good, but a full sandwich may have been a bit too rich. The turkey on sourdough with cranberry sauce was freaking awesome. Incredibly fresh and delicious. This place is a must for lunch.
Next we made a quick stop at the Fort Sumter visitor center. Not a whole lot to see here, just a small museum, but the backside of the building has a really nice deck area where you can see the Arthur Ravenel Bridge which is pretty impressive. There is a ~40min ferry ride to the fort but it’s looked like a long trip with not much to see on the actual island, so we took a pass.
We stopped into Southend Brewery to sample the local beers and unfortunately neither of us really liked anything we sampled. The Rip Tide Red was ok, but tasted a bit salty to me. The rest of the beers just weren’t that good. It’s not common for us, but we left more than half the samples on the bar and hit the road. Nothing to see here folks, look elsewhere.
After a drive past Rainbow Row – named for a stretch of colorful historic houses on East Bay Street just south of Elliot Street – we drove along south along East Bay Street, continuing past the scenic White Point Gardens. This stretch of houses is absolutely worth a drive. If we had been staying in the downtown Charleston area we definitely would have lined-up a run along this breathtaking stretch.
Next on the old agenda was a stop at The Citadel to watch the cadets perform the “retreat parade”. It was interesting to watch the parade, which was akin to watching a marching band during the halftime of a football game. The announcer really helped to explain what the “troops” were doing, which made the experience more enjoyable. Worthwhile stop as it was neat to see a parade that really hasn’t changed much in hundreds of years. Oh, and the surprise cannon blast nearly caused me to mess myself.
Tip: Parking is a premium here, just make sure not to park in a Cadet only spot and be prepared to walk a bit.
After a two-hour drive to Hilton Head, we had our packets in hand and headed off to dinner at Fancy Q for some pre-race sushi. Yum! This place was awesome. Super fresh yellow fin tuna and really great sushi. Very reasonably priced and our meals even came with soup, salad and deep fried oreo’s (insert Homer Simpon’s ahhh sound effect here).
Day 2 (Saturday - Race Day)
When we arrived at Plantation Café we were told they had just stopped serving breakfast, which was a huge bummer. We actually debated leaving, but we were starving so we just ordered lunch. We should have left. Lunch was meh. It’s very much a non-impressive lunch spot – think greasy food with a lot of older people looking for a place without a wait where the waitress knows there name when they walk in. The highlight was this was the first time I have ever had a deep fried sandwich (Monte Cristo, but I think it should have been called a Monte Crisco with all the grease). There are so many better options on Hilton Head, and in our opinion this was a swing and a miss.
We took a short drive to Savannah to check out the scene and I’m glad we decided to make the trip. As we walked around the Historic District we spent time checking out the historical architecture as we wandered from square to square (there are a bunch of tree covered parks within the city, with each square unique in some aspect, like the Pulaski square which was an homage to the war hero Casmir Pulaski).
Just on the East side of Pulaski square is the Green Medrin House, which served as the headquarters of General Sherman after he occupied Savannah in 1864. The wrought iron fence surrounding the house was really intricate and gives you a good idea of the styling of a distant era.
The Cathedral of St. John the Baptist was repeatedly described as “majestic”. Maybe we’ve seen more churches than the average person, or maybe we’re just a bit more critical, but this church was ok. The outside was under heavy construction and the interior looked like it had been hastily rebuilt – for example the marble pillars were actually plaster painted to look like marble. The arch ceiling was impressive, but the church was underwhelming to say the least.
The best part about Savannah are the liquor laws. When we stopped into Moon River for a quick pint the bar was full so the hostess asked if we wanted our beer to go. Sit in a crowded, musky bar or take our beer outside and sit in the sun, ummm…tough call. We each enjoyed a Swamp Fox IPA as we soaked in the sun on the steps of City Hall and just talked and watched the world go by. Impossible to recreate but quite possibly one of the best parts of our entire trip.
As we wandered back toward our car we made a quick stop at Angel’s BBQ for some down-south BBQ. We split a pulled pork sandwich, which was everything it was cracked up to be. The homemade sauces are fantastic and really make the sandwich. A mix of the house sauce and Memphis sweet was pretty much a party in our mouths. It’s not called a hole in the wall for nothing, this place is tiny and a bit tricky to find, but it’s worth it for some quality BBQ.
After driving back to Hilton Head we stopped in for a beer at the Hilton Head Brewing Company. Neither of us was very impressed with the selection of draft beers or our selections (apparently the IPA is decent, but they were out). For a second time, we both left more than half our beer at the bar as we headed out to find dinner.
Kristin’s sleuthing led us to Truffles Café for dinner. The word “café” in the name should not throw you, this is a really nice restaurant (but not too nice as we didn’t feel totally underdressed in jeans). Without a reservation we were seated right away at a table in the cozy bar area. As soon as we tried the bread and homemade garlic butter spread we knew we were in for a treat. This was the absolute best food we had in South Carolina. I had the white fish special with mashed potatoes and green beans and Kristin enjoyed the shrimp linguini. Both were incredibly fresh, well prepared and well presented. We don’t usually do desert, but we were having a great time and decided to split the blondie brownie with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Amazing dinner.
Day 3 (Sunday):
We decided to get up a little early and watch the sun rise on the beach. It always amazes me how quickly the sun rises :)
After a short jog to loosen up the legs we headed to Southern Cooney for breakfast, but made a wrong turn and drove past Kenny’s B’s French Quarter Café. We took a peek inside Southern Cooney and it looked dingy and unfriendly, so on a whim we decided to eat at Kenny B’s. Best choice of the day! The restaurant is incredibly warm and the owners were super friendly. Brunch was buffet style and included all you could eat beignets. Pretty much everything we tried was good – from the corned beef hash to the potato, egg and bacon casserole. And to top it off they had chickory coffee from Café DuMond (in New Orleans) and we got to meet the old Georgia Bulldog mascot! The food was good, but the experience and the people really made this a great stop.
On our way back to Charleston we planned a stop at the Middleton Place Planation – a National Historic Landmark and home to America’s Oldest Landscaped Gardens. The gardens are huge (~65 acres) and the tour around the property is pretty impressive. There is such a large variety of different plants – from daffodils to oak trees to bamboo forests – it will keep you entertained as your tour the vast property. We were even lucky enough to see a bald eagle nesting and a pair of alligators warming in the sun. This is really a sight to be seen.
We stopped into the Middleton restaurant for a quick bite and split the pulled pork shoulder BBQ, macaroni and cheese, green bean casserole and fresh made cornbread. It was the right idea to split, the portion was huge, but it really hit the spot. This place could get pricey quickly, but the views overlooking the water from a glass sided restaurant made for a pretty great last meal in South Carolina.
South Carolina Half Marathon Medals
February 9, 2013: Hilton Head Half Marathon