Palmetto Bluff Half Marathon Race Report

This was a fun racecation.  My husband and I decided to do a weekend getaway that would involve warmer climate and a race for me.  This winter has been absolutely brutal, not that we knew that was going to be the case when we originally planned the trip, but it worked out well.  Basically, he gave me a weekend that he would be available, and he said, find a race you want to do.  Basically, I only found 2 realistic options — a race near Las Vegas, and the Palmetto Bluff  Half Marathon in Bluffton, SC, near Hilton Head.  Perfect.
It was really cold and nasty when we left NJ on Friday, but when we arrived in SC it was also cold and nasty — drizzling with temperatures in the high 40s.  We went for a walk on the beach anyway.

The next morning dawned sunny and beautiful.  Temperatures rose into the high 60s/low 70s, and we spent a lot of time walking on the beach and hanging out by the pool.  We drove to packet pickup and then had a nice sushi dinner.  Unfortunately, that evening my stomach wasn’t behaving, and we were both worried that I wouldn’t be able to race the next day.


Packet pick up


Fortunately, when I awakened Sunday morning my stomach was fine.  We drove the 45 minutes to the race site which was at Palmetto Bluff Resort.  We were able to drive on part of the race course, so I had a good idea of what to expect — beautiful trees, flat, scenic.
Before the race, I prepared my bottles with coconut water and put my baby food pouches in my fuel belt.  All set. My husband said he was going to go to the other side of the starting line to try to get photos.
Soon after starting, I realized that my fuel belt was going to be a problem.  It’s Velcro, and I had tightened it as much as I could and had secured the extra part of the strap with a safety pin, but I kept having trouble with my bottles coming out and the whole thing riding up and down.  It wouldn’t stay put as it usually would.  I guess it’s old now, and it probably is more stretched out since I’ve been running with more layers than usual this winter due to extreme cold.  One lady recommended that I hand off the bottles to a volunteer to pick up later, but I wanted my coconut water. I stopped just before mile 2 and tried to readjust the belt, but it didn’t work. I ended up putting one bottle in my top between the top and the sports bra, and the other bottle seemed to stay put in the fuel belt.  Not attractive, but whatever works.
Unfortunately, somewhere during having to stop several times to pick up dropped bottles and stopping to readjust my belt, I realized that I had accidentally stopped my Garmin.  It was at 1.88 miles, and I had already well passed the 2 mile mark.  I restarted it but had to wait until the next mile marker to see how far behind I was. 
I was already off to a rocky start.  Not really, actually — I happened to be running the pace I wanted to pretty easily.  Despite the fact that I had not been able to train well this winter due to the bad weather, I was on pace for a PR.
Eventually (somewhere around mile 5 maybe) I was fortunate enough to end up running with a group that were keeping the pace that I wanted to keep.  The group consisted of a guy and 3 women.  One of the women had just moved to SC from NJ so we had something else in common!  It was fun running together and it took my mind off the fact that my lack of training should be catching up. 
One of the women commented that she really liked my running skirt, that it was cute and flirty.  She said that she wouldn’t comment on my “jugs”, referring to my prominent water bottle sticking out of my top.  Ha ha!
One of the things we talked about was what we were most looking forward to at the end of the race.  The guy said he was looking forward to the finish line.  I said I was looking forward to the BBQ.  One woman said she was looking forward to earning the finisher’s medal.
We were cruising along and entered the little village right around the 10 mile mark.  There were homes, shops, and restaurants, and there were quite a few spectators out cheering us on.  We came upon our first “hill”, a little bridge going over a stream, and we joked about the huge hill.  One of our group commented that we had a great group with a great vibe going on.  Spectators were cheering and waving to us all when we came to the second big “hill”, another bridge.  This one was a metal grid bridge, the type that I hate driving or running on because they tend to be very slippery.  Just as I was telling myself to be careful, one of the women in our group goes down hard.  We all swarm to her an ask her if she’s OK, but it was obvious that she wasn’t.  Her face was bleeding from a couple of gashes sustained from her glasses cutting her face when she fell.  You know the split second feeling of “what do I do” when there’s a crisis?  My first thought was to get help, and I knew there was a volunteer that we had passed not long before.  I ran backwards to find the volunteer; another of our group ran forward to find a volunteer; and 2 stayed with the injured runner as she was very upset (as anyone would be).
The volunteers came, and after asking the injured runner if she was OK and wanted to keep running, realized that she definitely needed medical attention.  The rest of us were at a loss as to what to do as other runners streamed past us, and as the volunteers led the injured woman away.  Unfortunately, this was the first half marathon for the woman who fell, as bad luck would have it.  That knowledge made me feel sick to my stomach — such a shame that she was the one who got injured (I REALLY hope that this does not turn her off to half marathons).  We took off running again, but it wasn’t the same.  The 2 SC friends seemed to be on a mission to finish the race for their friend, and I couldn’t keep up.  The other NJ woman was right behind me. 
With the wind knocked out of my sails, it was a struggle to finish the race.  Yes, I would finish, but my feet really started hurting, and I just kept telling myself, only X amount to go. 
Without reliable Garmin data due to the Garmin being turned off, and with fuzzy race math which often happens late in the race, I couldn’t calculate what my finish time might be, or what I needed to do to make it better.  I just willed myself forward.

Eventually, I could hear the music from the finisher area and knew the end was near.  I rounded a corner and could see the finish arch.  As I scanned the crowd to find my husband, I willed myself forward.  Finally I saw him and smiled and looked all happy for the camera.  To my credit, you can’t tell from the photos that my feet were in pain and I was just done.  As I glanced at the finish clock, seeing that I was finishing in 1:57 and change was a surprise (official finish time was 1:57:28).  Not a bad finish considering lack of training and the incidents during the race.


 Heading toward the finish line



My new favorite race photo…running toward a finish line that says “start”

I received my finisher medal and water bottle, then headed over to meet my husband so I could have some of that BBQ.  While we were in line for BBQ we were talking with a man behind us who happened to have grown up in the neighboring town to where we live now — small world.


BBQ and a finisher medal — what more could a runner want?

The BBQ and music were great, and after we were done, we started to walk toward the parking area.  Then I spotted my running group — the NJ woman and the 2 SC runners.  I asked about the status of their injured friend, and they didn’t know for sure but thought she had been taken to the hospital for stitches.  We talked for awhile about the race and about other races, then wished each other well and headed our separate ways.

Overall, this was a well-organized race on a beautiful course.  It’s a shame that a runner was injured, but otherwise I had a great experience.  My husband and I spent the rest of the day walking on the beach and relaxing by the pool.  Plus, I feel great about the start to the race season and feel confident that with decent training, I can shatter my half marathon PR this year.