A 4am wake up call got my race day started and by 5am we were on our way to the beautiful Outer Banks for the 12th Annual Sandbar 5K. Benefiting the Outer Banks Relief Foundation, this 500 participant maximum 5K takes place all on the sand at Mile Post 4.5 in Kitty Hawk, NC. This was my second year participating and it was, again, a really fun event.
The first step after arriving in a race location is to find the start and get parked. The start was in the same location as last year, directly across the street from the easy to find Black Pelican and although getting there over an hour before start time meant we had our choice of parking spots, the lot was quick to fill up behind us. Packet pickup was next, and like parking, was very easy to find and get through. There was an on-site registration table with two volunteers right at the top of the beach access, and the pre-registered/packet pickup table was further down the beach. Manned by two people, one handing out numbers and pins and another dishing out the Sound Feet Shoes reusable swag bags, I moved through very quickly. As with parking, when the crowd grew in size, the line started to back up and it would have been useful to add another person behind the table to expedite the packet pickup process for those arriving a little later. After pickup, we headed back to the car to pin our numbers on, check out our swag bags, tie our shoes on tightly, use the restroom one more time and hang out until it was time to head to the start. My swag bag contained an OBX spinner flag, an OBX wind chime, a Sandbar 5K cotton t-shirt, an OBX bumper sticker, two small doses of sunblock, one container of floss and a coupon for a free appetizer at Port ‘o’ Call restaurant. My race buddy’s swag bag was purple while mine was blue, and contained a blue coozey instead of a wind chime, but otherwise the contents were the same.
Swag, Iced Towel, Race Number and Medal
Both Men’s and Women’s restrooms were easy to find, and indoors, which meant there wasn’t a port-a-potty in sight to ruin anyone’s view of the beautiful beach. I didn’t face a line in the Ladies Room when I used it right after picking up my packet, but about ten minutes later while walking to the start, I noticed a lengthy line had developed. I threw the car key in my sports bra and we headed back to the sand around 715am. There were about 450 people of all ages and sizes standing and stretching on the beach waiting for the race to start and a DJ from Beach 104 was sharing information, interviewing participants and playing pretty good tunes. The starting line was incredibly easy to find located halfway between the dunes and the water, which meant both the start and the finish would take place in deeper sand. A Sandbar tradition, two skydivers from Skydive OBX dropped in right near the start with fast and exciting dives sliding across the water to get everybody prepared to run. Getting ready to line up, there were lots of families, so I was a little concerned about people not lining up where they should in the single corral start (walkers in the back). Thankfully, the start was well-organized, and people generally lined up in the single corral where they belonged. After a few announcements, we were off right on time at 730am.
The course was as expected, sandy and wet. I had looked at tide tables for the area and knew the tide would be coming in during the race, so I was prepared for running in some waves. I also had to look down a lot at the start, due to heavy traffic, in an attempt to avoid the hills, mounds and holes common on beaches. I managed to avoid all of the above with one exception, a nice big hole where I rolled my left ankle a little bit about half a mile in. While heading towards the turnaround, I didn’t face any oncoming traffic until about mile 1.3 at which point the leaders were speeding by me in the deeper sand. I tended to stay right on the tide line, but there were a few places throughout the course where both the beach and my fellow runners forced me to zigzag into some of the deeper stuff. It was during one of these zigzags I noticed the car key attempting to dive from my sports bra to the water, so I carried it in my hand for the rest of the race. I’m not used to carrying anything while I run, but the small size of the key let it go fairly unnoticed and my form was unaffected.
At the turnaround I had to head up into the deep stuff to pass through the designated flags at mile 1.55, where there was also a water stop that I did not take advantage of. Most of the weaving I had to do happened after wrapping the turn around flag and starting to run into oncoming traffic, some of whom weren’t paying attention at all to those running directly at them, but it was expected and didn’t push me off my line too far. At mile 2.0 I passed my race buddy, who was headed toward the turnaround, and we nailed a solid high-five I was proud of. Around mile 2.2 I was clear of heavy oncoming traffic and the remainder of the run-walkers and walkers were easy to avoid, which helped me pick up my pace slightly to finish. Splashing through a few more waves before cutting back up onto the deeper sand to run through the finish line left my shoes nice and sandy, but I felt good about the race I had run.
Walking through the finish chute I was handed a nice cold bottle of water and a fantastically cold iced towel. The towels are painted with the date of 2014’s race and were a welcome addition at the finish this year. Just past the towels were bananas, bagels and oranges and I grabbed a banana to munch on while I trotted to the car to retrieve flip-flops and a camera fast enough to get back to watch my teammate finish. The finish was, like the start, very well-organized and the crowd was able to spread out to prevent congestion.
After my race buddy crossed the finish line, we hit the line-less restrooms again before heading to the beer tent. Shock Top and Michelob Ultra were our choices, and both of us went with the very refreshing Shock Top. I had first had Shock Top after a race at the Flying Pirate, and I enjoyed it just as much the second time around. We waited for results to be posted and drank a few beers before checking the posted results to see that I had finished second in my age group. Realizing we would need to stick around for the awards, we grabbed another Shock Top and settled into a spot in the sand as one of the race directors started calling out the race numbers of those who had won one of the many raffles. We won zero raffles, which continues my winning raffle streak of 0-life. The raffles went on a little longer than I would have desired since the beer tent was unfortunately closed before the awards were given out. With a 730am start time, we were quite surprised, and very disappointed, that by 850am the refreshments had been shut down.
Once the raffles were finished, awards were delivered and we headed off to return home. Overall, the crowd, parking, restroom availability, the event organizers, the start and finish, the swag and the course were all great. The only disappointment was an early close to the adult refreshments, and that was pretty traumatic. A fun event again this year, with 450 finishers and the additional bonus of a second place age group finish, this was a great way to kick off Fall 2013. With my race schedule open for 2014, I’m definitely ready to head back to the Sandbar!
Post Race, Post Awards Hanging by the Ocean!