Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The Dirty Double Part II(or Southern Exposure)

Part I brought you, the reader, up to our Monday night in Orlando after Amber had an excellent race down in Miami. We awoke that Tuesday morning and headed over to the Orlando YMCA aquatic center. Probably similar to Concord's, right? Yeah but instead of four lanes to chose from there were twenty-five. And the treadmills all had individual TVs which was good because after running outside the day before I didn't want to risk my life again. So while Amber swam, I ran a 10k on the treadmill(that is the most I've EVER run on a treadmill and was only moderately worse than the usual 15 minutes I can tolerate). After a quick stop at Whole Foods for breakfast, Amber and I took to Coco Key's water park. Designed for children between 4 and 8 years of age, it was just the right amount of thrills for Amber. After one particular ride, she added water parks to activities that she would never do again(previously limited to white water rafting and 10 mile swims-interesting they're all related to water).

We then resumed our road trip north with our next stop in Gainsville where Amber's cousin, Rebecca, works. Through Facebook we divined the name of the hospital at which she works. So apparently the hospital campus was slightly larger than Concord Hospital's. After about a mile of walking and a hilarious shuttle ride later(where we were exposed to some unusual southern dialect) we finally arrived at her work. After a brief stop(she was at work and we had arrived unexpectedly after all) we got back in the car. Amber then decided that she wanted to make it the rest of the way to Panama City that night. Moments after settling in for the long haul, Amber promptly fell asleep. Awaking several hours later, several hours closer to PC, Amber had awoken to some of the more Alabama-esque towns we had yet to drive through.

We arrived in Panama City Beach as darkness had settled around us to our hotel. Or should I say motel cave. We were on the second floor but because the parking lot and lobby were on the third we actually had to descend into darkness to our room which happened to be located right next to what appeared to be a CSI crime scene. Combined with the Deliverance vibe we had experienced on our way in, we were not too impressed. However we were so exhausted that we quickly fell asleep(Amber not under the covers for fear of bed bugs). The next morning came with a glorious sunrise out our window overlooking the ocean, the crime scene was apparently just some water leakage and not one person had commented on our purty teeth. Things were looking up!

View from our hotel room

Little Known Fact: In addition to being an excellent athlete, Amber has the uncanning ability to hunt out and find the location of every local coffee shop and health food restaurant in any locale. Over the next few days, her skills were put to the test but she came out on top with an excellent coffee shop(Deja Brew-who's owners actually have a coffee plantation in Costa Rica) and two very different but equally amazing restaurants. One Finn's was a little shack on the side of the road with the best fish tacos ever. Freshly caught and only open weird hours, we still managed to go there 3-4 times.
 The other: the Shrimp Boat provided us with our most fancy outing of the trip as well as the most delicious fresh fish right on St. Andrew's Bay. Definitely worth a trip off the Panama City Beach strip.
Old St Andrews
We spent the rest of the week exploring the area, eating, swimming, snorkeling, taking a self-guided tour of an alligator park, eating, running on the beach and eating some more.

The day before the race, the weather was so severe that Amber didn't do her bike for fear of being blown out to sea and the water was so choppy that the Red Do Not Swim flags were flying high. So what to do? I decide it's as good an opportunity as ever to ride my $3.50 inflatable raft I had picked up from Walmart. The tricky part of the chop wasn't just the strength of the undertow but the direction. Instead of just going directly out to sea, it would pull you to the side as well. Pretty much creating a dishwasher effect. Straddling the inflatable, I'd last two or three waves and then be 200 yards away from the hotel. Not the wave riding I had in mind but a fun experience nonetheless. That evening, Amber and my friend Audra(race director at the awesome Timberman 70.3 event), had given us VIP passes to dinner. We get there and it's free drinks at the bar and the most raw oysters I've ever seen. After about a dozen raw oysters and a beer or two(it was unfortunate this was before the race and not after), we headed home knowing the race would come early as always.

When we awoke, the wind appeared to have died down a bit but when we got to the race site, the waves didn't look any better. These were certainly the times when I appreciated being a spectator. I hunkered down in the VIP viewing area next to a slew of Bahrainians(?) who were supporting two Sheiks who were racing. In my shorts and T-shirt next to this entourage in down jackets must have made for a funny sight. Amber arrived behind the front pack by about 1 minute on the first of two laps in the ocean looking beleaguered. Just getting past the breakers on the second lap seemed like quite the struggle. I could tell that this race wasn't going to be easy...
Due to her struggles in the swim, Amber got out of the water almost 1 1/2 minutes back from the main pack of women. Darn! This would make for a very long and lonely ride. I decided that I would drive ahead on the course a little to cheer her on and combat the loneliness. I originally started out thinking I'd do a "little cheering" but after seeing her a few times and watching as she was closing the gap on the pack ahead of her, I couldn't help but continue riding. I'd go ahead find a good place to park and cheer, maybe get a coffee, or explore the area(I found this really cool state park with natural springs on a small side road) and then get a chance to see her zip by.
The natural springs
Amber zipping by
And that's how I racked up an additional 112 miles on the rental car.
Amazingly, she actually WAS catching that pack ahead of her and she had moved up a few spots and rode an astoundingly fast 4:48[side note: at IM Mont Tremblant, as an age grouper(i.e. with the ability to slip stream and benefit from the draft of faster swimmers), I rode a 5:40 and was pleased. Ergo: Amber is a BEAST!].

On to the run!

Amber took off like a bat out of somewhere undesirable but not quite hell. Meaning, she was cruising but not huffing and puffing. Still ticking off 6's for the first 4-5 miles of a marathon may be a little fast. This marathon is one of those 26.2 versions. Due to the course design, I was able to see Amber 4-5 times per lap but had to run 1-2 miles between sightings.

That first lap when she was cruising meant that I had to be cruising too. I almost missed her at the first spot, despite her having to run over a 1/4 mile more than me. Since she was chasing down girls ahead of her and not wanting to get her too riled up early in the run, my cheers were fairly subdued for the 1st lap(possibly also due to the wheezing). But she was cruising and knocking off runner after runner and had moved up to 8th place by the start of the second lap. And runners 4-7 all looked catchable. I started to excitedly give her splits on the girls right ahead knowing that she could catch them. Unfortunately Miami caught up with her legs and you could almost hear each of her muscle fibers squealing for rest. She still was able to pass the girl directly ahead of her to finish with her second 7th place finish in six days. Also another PR this time it was HUGE: 9:07! I am so excited to see how much better she continues to get in the 2014 season under the tutelage of the sage Kurt Perham. She's getting there! To read more about her race, read her report here.


The next day we had to fly home but as we didn't have to fly out until the evening, we had time to go to the ocean one last time and find one last new beach. A nice relaxing final day in a Florida far different than that of Miami 
Our last view of the beach before heading to the Airport. Think it's Fort Walton Beach


In fact, after only four days back in NH, I flew out again this time to Savannah to compete in the Rock N Roll Marathon. I had been given a complimentary entry through Brooks and I was originally supposed to be joined with my college buddy, Brooklyn, whom you may remember from such memorable moments as hiking Mt Washington in jeans and running the Flying Pig Marathon with me the year I broke my foot. He must have also remembered those moments because at the last minute something "came up"(likely lack of training) and he had to bail. No big deal. My dad and brother were driving down from Atlanta and would be meeting up with me the day after the race. That did mean that I was going stag to the 26.2 miles of Rocking and  Rolling.

Okay and cue the excuses...

With no one to blame but myself, I decided that the night before the race would be a good time to try the Silverado Saloon and kitchen a short walk from my hotel. While the Jalapeno chili burger tasted pretty good, it was only an hour later or so that I was doubled over the toilet throwing up. I spent the next several hours in and around the bathroom seemingly throwing up most of my large and small intestines. I finally drifted off around 1am only to wake up to my 4am alarm to get ready for the race. I still couldn't eat anything but made sure to drink as much Gatorade and water as I could tolerate. By the time I got to Hutchinson Island to park my car, I was feeling somewhat better. Taking the ferry across to the start of the race was a mixed blessing. The cool brisk morning air definitely made me feel better but the rocking of the boat-not so much. Still, I had budgeted an hour to do all the parking/ferry riding but it was so well organized that it afforded me almost 45 minutes to relax before the start. By the time the gun went off, I was actually thinking I may be able to race.
Danny running

The half and full started together so the 1st half you get to run with lots of people and then at mile 12 when it splits, you are left all alone. I went through the half in 1:20 in 4th place and was 11th place at 20 with a 2:05... Clearly I was slowly down. This may have been due to my inability to take in any nutrition. Usually in a marathon, I'll alternate between water and Gatorade every aid station and have 2-3 gu's, but after trying to swallow a bite of the first one at mile 9 and nearly vomiting, I realized just how tenuous my stomach still was. I ended up just sucking on a few Sports Beans. Clearly not enough carbs(for me) to get through a marathon. But it was only the last 5 miles that really did me in. I ended up walking part of each of those miles and finished in 2:54 for 18th place. Not a spectacular day but I was happy to be able to do it at all and still be able to somewhat enjoy it. This was helped by an amazingly supportive crowd. One guy was riding a bike with a basket filled with Gatorade's he was handing out. While I was walking at mile 23, I traded him my uneaten gu's that I was still carrying for a Gatorade.

Another good feature of those slow last miles, is that I wasn't all that sore after the race. This allowed me to have fun the rest of the day. I hung around to hear Jackyl who I believe no one has soberly done before and I wouldn't recommend it. And though the course isn't all that pretty, the mile and half walk back through all the parks is beautiful and I would have missed it if I opted for the shuttle. I then drove to the Savannah Wildlife Refuge where, within a few shorts jaunts I was able to see turtles and alligators as well as more birds than I can name. I continued on to Hilton Head, South Carolina for the heck of it and spent the rest of the afternoon on the beaches(sorry HH but unless you're talking about golfing or premium outlet shopping, you've got nothing on Florida!).

Welcome to South Carolina!
 Speaking of Florida, on my walk back to my car after the marathon, I came across a monument commemorating Special Order Number 15. Never heard of it? Neither had I but it was a decree by General Sherman in 1865 that gave freed slaves 40 acre land parcels in Florida. After Abe was assassinated, President Jackson then reneged on it. It's amazing how that day at the Ford theater played such a larger role in history than I even knew.
A Savannah

Hilton Head
Aligators always look less impressive on camera
The next day, I awoke feeling much better and went to the Savannah Wildlife Refuge again this time for a run. I was smart and stayed on the trail-no need to get bitten by an alligator. I actually saw a huge deer swing out of the high grass while I was running. That surely startled me. Luckily no alligator or python followed. I then went into Savannah and met up with my brother, Andrew, and dad.

We immediately headed to Tybee Island where we went to the Crab Shack. Suffice it to say, the crabs were very good.


We then headed over to the beach where, not only did we see dolphins but we actually saw them jumping out of the water. They were probably less than 15 feet off the shore and doing flips. It was crazy. After that we headed over to the Tybee Lighthouse which supposedly is one of the most famous in the country...
Tybee Lighthouse

Back in Savannah we spent the rest of the day exploring the town, watching NFL games and just enjoying ourselves. All in all it was a very fun Sunday in Savannah.

WWII Monument

A monument for the Haitian Soldiers who fought in the Revolutionary war-the drummer went on to becoming the first king of Haiti

Bridges connect the park to River st buildings

The next morning, my dad and I took the ferry to Hutchinson Island and then over to the Waving Girl Monument and walked around the city, had coffee and breakfast and packed up before Andrew was out of bed. The three of us then watched the Veteran's Day parade and headed to the Pirate's House. This historic restaurant was built in 1753 and mentioned by Robert Louis Stevenson in Treasure Island. Historical significance aside, it had a great seafood buffet. Thus I ended my Southern Exposure trip on a full stomach and headed back up to the frozen tundra which is New Hampshire. No more races planned for Amber or me for the rest of the 2013 season but between snowshoeing and triathlons 2014 is expected to be a busy one!

A huge cargo ship going down the Savannah River




  1. You walked in a 2:54?! Damnit Danny. You might actually be good at this marathon thing... with proper pacing and nutrition. :)


  2. Haha. Thanks Michael. I wish the nutrition thing hadn't been an issue because I'm not sure the pacing was the problem. We will see. Think any more about some winter hiking? Coming up soon:)

    1. So, you're in 2:40 shape then? Also, winter sucks. I hibernate after MCR. :)

  3. Michael, I can't tell if you're mocking me or not, you sarcastic so and so. I'd say I'm probably in 2:42-2:45 shape given the right day and course... I've been on marathonguide.com trying to find another one in the next few weeks. Winter sucks because you hibernate. Come outside and celebrate!

    1. Definitely not mocking. Definitely still hibernating. BTW, I hear that Palm Beach, FLA is nice (and flat) this time of year!

    2. That would be good but those darn flights to Palm Beach are expensive though. Trying to keep expenses as low as I can. I'm thinking SC and flying into super cheap ATL.

      What if I promised a repeat sighting of Amber on the trails?