Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Midnight Train (plus a Bus, Plane, Ferry, & Trolley) to Georgia

Last weekend I completed the Inaugural Rock-n-Roll Savannah Marathon. Jen and I were together again since our last race together in Arizona in January. This race secured us the Triple Crown Heavy Medal for doing 3 Rock-n-Roll events in one calendar year. To commemorate the event, we came equipped with our very own entourage of professional photographers, Todd and John. Somehow, we got access to the VIP tent as well. We need to travel with these guys more often.

My roommate warned me about inaugural races and I quickly realized why. Getting to the Expo on Friday night was quite the ordeal. The race was Saturday so we arrived Friday. The race organizers decided it was a grand idea to put the expo in Savannah's new civic center on Hutchinson Island...which had only one road in and one road out. After sitting in non-moving traffic for a bit, we ditched the idea of driving and decided to take the ferry across, which was a brilliant idea in hindsight. So, after taking a nearly every mode of transportation available to someone in one day (a bus, a train, a plane, a car, a ferry and a trolley), I finally made it from Chicago to the hotel with my race packet in hand, ready to go directly to bed and get up 6 hours later to run 26.2 miles.

First, I'll comment on the race course before getting to the fun travel stuff. Excluding the expo, the race itself was well organized with plenty of aid stations. There were lots of folks out in the wee hours of the chilly morning wishing the runners a friendly Southern "Good morning." My favorite part of the course was running in the historic district of Savannah, where at times, the trees were like canopies over the street, with Spanish moss hanging down, the sun glinting through the moss. It was really beautiful. Despite that, I was still envious of the people I saw with mimosas out there cheering us on, because a mimosa would have been pretty darn nice right about then. It was also pretty awesome running out by Savannah State University. The marching band was out there loudly cheering the runners on, creating a great "rock star" moment.

My least favorite part.... miles 21-24 which took place on Truman Parkway. Nothing like ending your last few miles on a desolate stretch of highway running directly into a strong, blustering wind. As often happens when I encounter strong winds, I was cursing under my breath. I had also come to the conclusion that Truman Parkway was the devil. All I wanted in the world was to get off that stupid highway. So even though I was exhausted and being propelled back by the wind, I pushed forward mumbling profanities to myself like a crazy person.

Then finally....the homestretch was in front of me. And suddenly also Todd and John who materialized out of nowhere. (eh hem...where were you guys earlier???) Todd ran alongside me down the finish line corral. I, of course, totally didn't notice he was there because I had tunnel vision and just wanted to get past the finish line so I could stop running. I think worth noting is that he was pretty winded after running a block or so with me. ; ) Once I stopped, a bee line it was to the VIP tent where Jen was waiting for me. She was relaxing after finishing her half-marathon with a pretty good time. We're both sure that after getting VIP treatment, we can't go back to just being "regular" runners. The question is how can we keep getting this VIP access? Let me know if you have any tips on this.

Ok, enough about the race. Here's all about our trip to Savannah. We weren't able to get a hotel in downtown Savannah, so we decided to stay at the beach on Tybee Island instead. We found a quaint place called the Georgianne Inn pretty much right on the beach. The owner, Nick, was more than accommodating, staying up late waiting for us to arrive after the whole expo debacle. We got the best of both worlds, experiencing the beach life and still being able to enjoy the historic downtown. Seriously stay there if you're ever in the Savannah area. It's a quick 25 minute drive to downtown. And the beach has a great sunset.

So onto my favorite part.... the food. Every place we had dinner ended up being pretty fabulous. Friday night, we hit a french place called Circa 1879. Great steak tartare and we had an awesome cassoulet. Post-race on Saturday, we had an amazing dinner at 700 Drayton. The decor was beautiful and modern, while still giving you the feel of an old mansion. It was probably the best crab bisque and crab cakes I've ever had. Jen and I also shared a pork tenderloin special that was amazing and Todd was pretty excited about the pan seared sea bass.

After dinner we took the Ghosts and Gravestones trolley tour. Some parts a bit cheesy, but a great way to see some of the historic sites of Savannah, while not having to walk it (important after running a marathon). You also get hear some interesting ghost stories while you do it. Looking for more ghosts, we headed to the Bonaventure Cemetery Sunday morning. We had hoped to see the famous Bird Girl statue from the cover of the book, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, but it had been moved to a downtown museum. Bummer. We still enjoyed our visit as evidenced by our photos. I think we got some pretty good shots for our album cover when we decide to form a band.

After the cemetery, we sadly had to drop Jen at the airport so she could return home to L.A. So me and the boys continued our sightseeing at Fort Pulaski. John, who is Polish, informed us that Casmir Pulaski had fought at the fort during the Revolutionary War, or something along those lines. Fortunately, we met Jason. He was a civil war buff from Florida, who set us straight, informing us that the fort was actually used in the Civil War, so Mr. Pulaski likely didn't fight there. (We love you for trying John!) Just to confirm (because who the hell are we to trust Jason??) we did some Goggling and discovered that Pulaski died during the Revolutionary War after being wounded in the battle of Savannah. So I guess those Confederates thought he was a pretty cool guy and decided to name their fort after him.

Sunday night we had dinner at the Olde Pink House. The place was listed as one of the top places to visit in Savannah and was rumored to be haunted. I was a little concerned that it would be total tourist trap with just so-so food and was happily proven wrong. While the menu was clearly southern, (I mean come on, we started with fried jalapeno mac-n-cheese), it was delicious. The jumbo sea scallops melted in your mouth, the filet mignon was cooked to pink perfection, and even the fried lobster tails disappeared somehow from John's plate. Our server was great and took us on a tour of the olde house. Sadly, no ghost encounters for us, but hearing some of the stories from staff members, we were definitely feeling the heebie jeebies!

Monday, we said goodbye to Savannah, and were on our way back to Charleston. (A more reasonable air fare and only a 2 hour drive). We had just enough time for lunch in Downtown Charleston before having to head to the airport for our flight. We lunched on the back patio at the Blind Tiger Pub, which catered to those looking for all types of ethnic fare. The starter menu had edamame, hummus with tzatziki, AND perogies. The crab cake sliders were not too shabby and the reuben was pretty darn good too. And $2.50 bottles of Newcastle beer? I mean, that's just stupid to say no to that. It's like we were saving money!

So 11 states down, 39 to go. I think after a busy 2011, I will take it easy until my next registered race in April 2012; the Country Music Marathon in Nashville, Tennessee! Grand Ole Opry, here I come! To see the states I've finished, here's a map of them. Green means done, yellow means coming up, and blue means still working on it. https://docs.google.com/drawings/d/1irnZ9cx5uCFnjLBc4a0z1ZRdzenUo2cUVqxDRJ_lf-c/edit.
Stay tuned for some grumbling winter running blogging. : ) Hope you all have a safe and happy holiday season!