The 2015 Sunset Beach Half Marathon

Hello? Can you hear me? Is anybody out there? Does anyone still read this thing? Did anybody ever? For the one or two of you answering yes, come on in! Sorry I’ve been gone a while – I’m pretty busy these days. I just realized I never wrote a race recap of the Sunset Beach half marathon. My bad. Let’s rectify that now.

This was the second annual running of the Sunset Beach half marathon and since Laura and I had done pretty well in the first and thoroughly enjoyed it, we decided to come back for more. Laura won the women’s race the first year and was all set to defend her title. I was second overall and dreamed of the miraculous one-spot-higher finish. And the race was still small enough that one could stay in the motel literally a stone’s throw from the starting line. So that’s what we did (stayed in the motel, not threw stones).

We were lucky for the second year in a row – the weather was about as perfect as one could hope for in early May, partly cloudy with temps in the low 50s at the start. Laura and I snuck in a little one mile warm-up jog as my old problematic Achilles gradually loosened up.

We got to the start with only a minute or so to spare and must have missed some key instructions from the race director because when he cried out, “Three, two, one, go!” Laura, three or four other folks, and I took off, only to have the race director yell, “No, no, no, only people with baby strollers!” as Laura plowed into the back of the guy in front of her who slammed on brakes immediately. We sheepishly returned to our places at the front of the corral.

One year earlier, I was hard pressed to find fast-looking folks in the starting corral. This year, there were a slew of them, including some Charlotte-area speedsters like Richard Hefner and Angie Pilkington, both of whom have beaten me on multiple occasions. And last year’s winner had returned, this year decked out in Skechers garb. (I wondered if Chris had hooked him up.) I let go of the win dream early but I thought I still had an outside shot at a podium, top three, finish.

Finally the air horn sounded for real and the second running of the Sunset Beach half marathon was underway in earnest.

I wanted to take it out easy, just as I had done a year ago, but it was tough with people blowing by me right out of the gate. I tried to assess who would come back to me and who wouldn’t. “Skechers, not coming back. Little girl with iPhone, coming back. That dude could go either way. That lady is definitely coming back.” That kind of thing. On the Mark Sports posted a ton of pics so here, enjoy:


This little girl running with her phone held high zipped past me early on and I thought, "I'll see you again."

This little girl running with her phone held high zipped past me early on and I thought, “I’ll see you again.”


I would not have felt so confident had this speedy looking girl had passed.

I would not have felt so confident had this speedy looking girl passed me.

This guy, just easily loping by with an elongated stride, passed me early and I thought it could go either way. I might catch him later. I might not:

Loping guy casually cruises past me early...

Loping guy cruises past me early…

This guy in red looks old and chubby as he gets passed.

This guy in red looks old and chubby as he gets passed…

Stick these together and you can make an animated gif...

Stick these together and you can make an animated gif…

I guess I can tuck in and draft.

I guess I can tuck in and draft.

Loping guy, Jerry according to his bib, didn’t blaze past, he just gradually got around me. So I just tucked in behind him. We took the right onto the road that leads to the bridge and Jerry seemed to freak out a little. He turned to me and said, “Will you look at that?! Man, what a sight! Oh man!” This was what we saw:

I think Jerry found this view rather daunting.

I think Jerry found this view rather daunting.

But having run this bridge several times, I knew it wasn’t nearly as bad as it looked and I told Jerry this. Maybe I shouldn’t have because then he just casually dropped me, damn it. Maybe I should have said, “Oh yeah man, that thing is awful! You’d better start praying!” Or something along those lines.

I relaxed and cruised up the bridge. With Jerry pulling away up the bridge, I felt like I was already in no man’s land – I couldn’t hear any steps behind me and Jerry was easily gapping me. I just focused on effort. I thought I had an outside shot of going sub-1:30 and/or PRing (low 1:29) but I knew it would take some hard work. Keep chugging little train. I think I can…

I crested the bridge apex and let gravity help out as I opened up the stride and cranked down. At the bottom of the bridge, I noticed iPhone girl up ahead. I made a concerted effort to catch her. I needn’t have tried so hard – she seemed pretty beat when I passed her. And we hadn’t reached mile four yet.

Now I really was in no man’s land. Jerry was a yellow dot on the horizon and with iPhone girl fading fast, I couldn’t hear anybody near behind. But I was starting to hurt a little, and much worse than a year earlier. Uh-oh, not good – it was early and I was already starting to struggle to keep my splits under 7:00. I quit looking at my watch.

We made the left turn onto the little road that cuts behind a shopping center (not as bad as it sounds) and I struggled to maintain pace. I hurt so much worse at this point than I had last year. Not cool. Around halfway, getting back on the highway, I was sputtering.

We hit the long straight stretch adjacent to a golf course and I spotted someone up ahead – it was the women’s leader. I tried to reel her in. Then suddenly, she made a hard left onto the golf course and there, right in front of god and country, she tucked in behind some brush, aka monkey grass, and dropped trou. I did not think “Oh that poor girl has to go” or “What is that girl doing?!?” All I thought was “Hurray, I can pass her!” And I did. I was now in the top five. Go, Allen, go!

Moments later I heard footsteps. What the?!? It was Drop Trou Girl, let’s call her DTG for short. She had taken a world-record-fast pee and apparently wanted her top five spot back. Which she got. Quickly. Sigh. I guessed I was now fighting for sixth because she passed me like I was moving backwards.

We turned onto the road through the golf course. It curved all over the place and I feverishly tried to run the tangents, which was exceedingly tough as the road was not closed to traffic. I cut in front of several cars and just waved, hoping they would put on brakes and not get overly pissed. DTG was up ahead and really sucking at tangent running – even though she was running significantly faster than I was, I gained on her because she was staying to the far left, clearly the safer, but slower, route.

Despite her poor tangent running, there was no catching DTG. And I was fading and desperately trying to hang on. I quit thinking about DTG and started worrying about those behind me. Hang on for a age group!

I started up the bridge again and somehow it seemed to have steepened and elongated since we’d last run it less than an hour ago. I looked over the side as I climbed in hopes of catching a glimpse of Laura.

I finally crested the bridge and tried to crank down again. My legs did not want to cooperate. At the bottom of the bridge were a couple of cops. I cried out, “Can you see the next runner behind me?” “Yeah”, answered the bigger of the two. “How far back?” I gasped between breaths. Big cop, “Uhhhh…” until little cop interjected, “They’re just coming off the bridge now.” Oh good, that meant they should be a couple of hundred meters back. Barring disaster, I should be holding on to my spot.

As we made the right onto North Shore Drive, I couldn’t have felt more different than I had a year ago. Then I was gaining speed and running a couple of the fastest mile splits I’d ever run in a half marathon. Now, I was hanging on by a thread and thinking, “Don’t walk. Don’t walk.” Last year’s mile 12 split: 6:38. This year’s: 7:38. Ouch, very ouch.

I made the final turn, left onto Main Street. I glanced at my watch and saw 1:27. “I still have a shot at PRing!” I thought and tried to pick up the pace. Oh so very wrong – I forgot how long this stretch was. Notice the pained expression on my face in this pic taken on the final stretch:

Hanging on for dear life.

Hanging on for dear life.

I worked exceedingly hard to pick up the pace, and did, but all I managed to accomplish was to go from very slow to slow. I crossed the line in 1:32:twenty-something and was instantly disappointed.

Somebody draped this year’s huge medal over my head, I bent over to catch my breath, then I stood up and turned around just in time to see Laura cross the line. Crap, she was directly behind me! Another quarter of a mile and she would have caught me!

Little did I know it, but this lady was rapidly reeling me in.

Little did I know this lady was rapidly reeling me in.

Laura and I finished sixth and seventh overall and Laura was the second overall woman behind DTG.

I was a little frustrated, and posted this pic and caption on Facebook:

I basically followed this rule in the 2015 Sunset Beach half marathon.

I basically followed this rule in the 2015 Sunset Beach half marathon.

But all in all, it was a good day. The weather was perfect, we were at the beach, what else could you ask for? And they had a really good post-race spread, complete with free sliders, BBQ, pizza, smoothies, and more – the only thing missing was beer and I had a cooler of that in the motel room less than 100 meters away, so we were good.

Some girl walked up to me during the post-race and asked, “What’s your name?” When I answered, she said, “I thought so. I follow your blog! Love it! You’re a great writer!” She was the farthest-away-from-home blog fan I’d ever encountered, so that was kinda nice.

And that was our 2015 Sunset Beach half marathon. Here are some awards pics for your perusing pleasure:

DTG, Laura, and Angie on the podium.

DTG, Laura, and Angie on the podium.

When was the last time Richard didn't win his age group?

When was the last time Richard didn’t win his age group?

I somehow managed to win my age group. Miracle!

I somehow managed to win my age group. Miracle!


One Response to “The 2015 Sunset Beach Half Marathon”

  1. Some girl (Nicole) Says:

    If you had been wearing JITFO, I would have known it was you! Congrats on your age group win.

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