Sunday, September 5, 2010

Virginia Beach knows how to Rock

Rock and Roll Marathon Series event number 8 is in the books and Virginia Beach was a great host. It was kind of the trip from hell for me but once I got to the beach all was good.

As with most of my RnR trips this year, I combined work – client consulting and visits – with the trip but had lots of snafus at the beginning. First off, my work laptop died the day before this trip and I had to send it back to my company to be reimaged. Which normally wouldn’t be a big deal as I back up my work files at home and could grab my trusty MacBook Pro. However, despite it being able to reliably connect to the corporate network over the past several months, it and the VPN decided to part ways when I got to SFO for my flight. The Mac isn’t fully supported by our IT department (neither is Windows 7 which was also on my Mac via Bootcamp) so I was hosed. And to make matters worse, when I got to DFW for my layover and found an outlet to recharge the Mac I found no power supply. I had left it plugged into the outlet in my home office. Not a good start to the week as I had deadlines looming and needed to be productive on the flight to Washington, DC. Oh well.

Got a replacement power supply the next day and had some great meetings with clients but luck struck back at me again when I left one of the afternoon meetings and couldn’t find my Oakley Half Jacket sunglasses. We called back to the client, they couldn’t find them either. Ugh. And I had just bought replacement lenses for them.

Things calmed down a bit from there. Until that evening’s weather report showed that Hurricane Earl was headed our way – right at Virginia Beach. Thankfully it didn’t plan to stay long. It brushed the coast line about 2 am Friday morning and was on its way to Boston by that evening. Virginia Beach reported some crazy early morning waves and showers but was gorgeous by the that evening and reported clear skies for the weekend.

Of course, the drive to Virginia Beach would be another story as it was Labor Day weekend and everyone was heading out of the Washington area for a last summer fling. My last meeting ended at 2:30 pm and I promptly plugged Virginia Beach into the Garmin and was off, hoping I’d beat the rush. For the most part this plan worked out. The first hour was all 20 mph and bumper to bumper but cleared shortly after that to freeway speeds. I lost about 10 minutes along the way when my GPS tried to get me to take an HOV lane from highway to highway. When I skipped this option (and the $395 ticket I surely would have received given how the rest of the week went) she persisted to try and turn me around and take that damn HOV onramp. I finally found the signs for the rest of us to switch freeways and I was off.

Arriving at Virginia Beach was a very welcome relief. It was around 8 pm when I got there and was still light outside. The beaches looked gorgeous and tons of people were out strolling the boardwalk. I dropped my bags at The Cavalier, a circa 1920 classic hotel (where the elites were staying as well, BTW) and headed down to join all the beachcombers.

Coinciding with the Rock and Roll Virginia Beach Half Marathon was a music festival featuring live bands on 4 stages up and down the beach. Headlining that night was Camper von Beethoven, a throwback to my youth. I caught a couple of their songs before hunger got the best of me.

For those that aren’t following me on Twitter or Facebook I’ve decided to try being a vegetarian for at least the month of September so I passed on all the burger and seafood joints (very hard to do in a beach town) and found a great little restaurant called Eat and had their vegetarian lasagna. It was a great surprise as it wasn’t your typical heavy meal with tomato sauce and cheese but a baked stack of pasta, then fresh tomato, then fresh zucchini, then cheese and another layer of pasta. This continued two more rounds and it was delicious. Highly recommend Eat if you get to this town.

Saturday started with a swim in the indoor Olympic-sized pool at The Cavalier. This was a total treat as it was a classic pool surrounded by verandas so you could watch the swimmers. I rarely get treated to a hotel with full Olympic distance and well marked lanes, so I took it.

After that I walked down to the best breakfast place in town (or so a few locals told me) Pocahantas Pancakes. At 8:30am it was packed and I spent the morning sharing a table with a couple who have lived in Virginia Beach for 48 years. Wow. They had great stories about what it was like before the Chesapeake tunnel was built (“it was a two-day trip from Norfolk to the beach”) and the days when The Cavalier was the toast of the town.

Next up was the Half Marathon expo and some relaxing time at the beach. Heaven. That evening it cooled down nicely to about 70 degrees and I was itching to run so I decided to see more of Virginia Beach than just the boardwalk and the course which I would see Sunday. It was a perfect night for running and the city has bike trails everywhere. I certainly understand why this is a such a hot destination for regional tourists.

Virginia Beach was celebrating its 10th running on its half marathon this Sunday and thanks to its partnership with Competitor Group it celebrated with nearly 19,000 participants. Several elites came to run the course as well, including Constantina Dita the reigning Olympic gold medalist in the marathon.

The sun broke over the hotels just as the starting gun went off and we ran straight into it the first half mile, then turned south through town. The course was mostly flat and beautiful. It ran down into a gorgeous tree-lined nature preserve, past some stunning waterfront homes and on two loops through famous Camp Pendelton. After this, it worked its way back to town. There were lots of places where the course ran back onto itself allowing you to cheer on other runners and check out their form and style. Especially noteworthy was a guy running in a Yogi Bear costume and a couple TNT volunteers dressed as a parrot and a cowboy riding a dodo bird. That was especially original.

I say Virginia Beach really knows how to rock because of the bands. Where most of these events have a band per mile, Virginia Beach had about 16 bands on the course and a string of bands playing at the finish, then an evening celebration concert (free to all runners) featuring Pat Benatar and REO Speedwagon. I have REO Speedwagon-aversion so I got out of there Sunday afternoon.

Weather wise, Virginia Beach shined as well. It was in the low 70s at the start of the race and shady roads and a coo ocean breeze kept the temperature perfect. I didn’t have a perfect running day but I’ll take a 1:39 finish.

Another great Rock and Roll adventure is behind me. Six more events to go and the next few are every two weeks starting with Philadelphia. Wish me luck.


James Staten said...

A few photos from Virginia Beach:

Shelly said...

Sounds like the race was a good time. I ran the Shamrock Half Marathon there in March. The crowds weren't that great, but I had a good time. I'll be running in the RnR Philly in a couple of weeks. Good luck there!