Pre and Post Thunder Road Race, Charlotte NC

I hope you guys enjoyed my Thunder Road 5K recap, so here’s another post about the rest of our trip (race vacation… race-cation) to Charlotte a few weeks ago. As I noted in the race recap, we won this trip (lodging, race entries, and spending money) from the Y102.5 radio station here in Charleston, and I’m grateful to have the opportunity to stay overnight and explore the city- as well as share some neat places with you guys.

Between errands and housework, I didn’t eat much lunch before we left for Charlotte, and we didn’t stop anywhere on the road to eat (I’m convinced no decent restaurants exist right off the interstate), so we were super hungry when we arrived. Located just a few miles from the race expo at the Sheraton, our pre-race dinner was at Pinky’s Westside Grill in Downtown Charlotte.

My friend Lizzie (current Charlotte resident, former Florence resident) recommended Pinky’s, and it did not disappoint. The restaurant had a cool VW bug outside in the lot and also one on the roof, along with some cool interior décor.



But, the entire menu of vegetarian and vegan options even beat the atmosphere.


I got the Nature Boy, which is a veggie burger topped with cheese and roasted red peppers (interesting burger topping). It was served on a sesame seed bun and pretty delicious- very large burger and filling, but I didn’t leave overly stuffed. Clay got the White Trash Burger, which came with tasty sriracha ranch sauce, and some wings.

Obviously, we were very hungry and happy to get our food.


We were also pretty happy to get into our hotel. It was an Embassy Suites that was a quick 10 minute drive from the start- on an interstate and definitely not walking distance, but still an okay drive.

The room itself had a separate kitchen area and living room area; it was clearly designed for people travelling on business or staying in the hotel for several days. Or in our case, so we could watch one game in the room with the bed and one in the room with the couch and desk (college football addicts, are we not?) Our only complaint was the lack of free wifi ($10 per day- bleh!)

The huge king sized bed was pretty amazing since we have a queen at home, and we both got a great night’s sleep before the race.



The radio station hooked us up with two nights in the hotel, so after our Thunder Road 5K race Saturday morning, we had the entire afternoon and evening to enjoy Charlotte. Once we’d celebrated my age group win and cleaned up, we did what any Charleston resident would do in Charlotte: hit the mall.

For a great city, Charleston’s malls are sorely lacking, so we went to South Park Mall, about 20 minutes from our hotel. The mall had a crazy tall Christmas tree- pretty awesome to Christmas shop in Charlotte! I bought a few ornaments at the mall.


South Park has a ton of stores we don’t have in Charleston, including places I like, such as Macy’s and Abercrombie, and upscale stores that this house poor girly can’t afford (Lilly Pulitzer, Coach, 7 for all mankind, lululemon). An Xbox One was on demo in the mall for all the guys to play while the ladies shopped. Every mall needs this- clever idea, South Park!


We had a quick lunch in the mall’s food court (definitely not the best food, but it did the job of feeding us while we were at the mall and before we could get a nice dinner out) and shopped until we dropped- or until we hit every store we could afford- before heading back to our hotel. Embassy Suites Charlotte has a nice garden courtyard and a happy hour each night from 5-7 when you could get free drinks, so we sat downstairs and watched some football and ate some snacks (Clay had a drink, I only drink girly drinks so I didn’t partake).

For dinner, we met up with Clay’s aunt Janet and her son at Casablanca Café, a Moroccan/Greek restaurant in University City (north Charlotte). Casablanca Café was my first time having Moroccan food, so I had the vegetable paella, a rice and vegetable mixture that also came with a salad, while Clay had the lamb tangine. We also split a falafel appetizer.



It pays to have a family member in a city because they can recommend great restaurants. Clay hadn’t seen Janet in years and it was my first time meeting her and her son, so we had fun catching up and just talking about life.


After our wonderful dinner, we headed back to the hotel and watched the South Carolina vs. Florida football game (Carolina won- hooray!) before turning in for another great night of sleep in the huge bed.

As if the bed didn’t spoil us enough, we had a full breakfast cooked to order at the hotel on Sunday morning. The hotel had breakfast on Saturday morning, but neither of us wanted much of anything to eat before the race, so we made up for it on Sunday. Cooked to order eggs, meat, pancakes, grits, potatoes, and omelets definitely saved us from having to eat breakfast on the road and kept us full until we got back to Charleston.


Apparently all the Embassy Suites hotels have this, and it can save you time and money if you like a huge breakfast- who doesn’t love breakfast food?

All in all, we had a great time in Charlotte. It’s a pretty cool city, and I’d love to go back to visit more and run. Clay’s aunt lives there and I have some cousins there, plus it’s not a bad drive. In fact, I wouldn’t mind doing the Thunder Road half marathon- Charlotte has neat terrain for running since there are actual hills.

But, Charleston is home now, and we were pretty stoked to get home Sunday afternoon and rest up after the fun weekend. It was a great little weekend trip away and we had lots of fun.


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26 Responses to Pre and Post Thunder Road Race, Charlotte NC

  1. Amy says:

    You two are so cute! I do the same thing when I get the (rare) opportunity to sleep on a king sized bed! Morrocan food sounds wonderful and it looks like a fun weekend!

    I, too, am convinced that no good food is available off of an interstate, but sometimes I get so hangry just sitting in a car that I need to attempt to find good food available somewhere and I do extensive yelp searches on upcoming towns. Sometimes it works, others I just get something to hold me over until we reach a destination.

    • Amy Lauren says:

      Yelp is definitely the best! I’ve already reviewed most places where we stopped, ate, etc. I even review gas stations on there (mostly for the coffee). I want other people to know where to stop and where to go.

      Travelling is stressful enough without bad experiences or bad gas station coffee.

      The best off-interstate food is definitely Cracker Barrel but that’s all country cooking.

  2. Liz says:

    I wish Jon would let me take as many pictures as Clay does! He hates being in pictures! And your food all looks amazing!!! I love peppers on top of burgers (which I rarely eat cause beef just isn’t really my thing). The Moroccan food looks like a lot of the food we ate in Spain (except the olive part). Do you Scoutmob? I have been doing it lately to try some new places when we actually go out to eat and it’s fun to find stuff on there! I would love a king sized bed! We have two queens, but one day when our house is bigger, we will be getting a bigger bed! Jon and I both like space when we sleep!!!

    • Amy Lauren says:

      I’ve never heard of ScoutMob- I do yelp because I am a yelp elite (which means I get invited to cool parties, and since I’m not very cool, that’s about the only way I get invited to things!). It’s so much easier to find things on social media though with reviews, pics, etc. Definitely beats travelling and just having to stop into a restaurant or hotel and not know what to expect.

      Clay doesn’t like being in pictures too much but sometimes I get him to!

  3. Christine says:

    Aw, I miss Charlotte. I lived there for a year and a half before moving to Charleston (which I also love), but Charlotte holds a special place in my heart because it’s where my running endeavors began. And wow, I miss running all of those crazy Charlotte hills. Nothing like that here in Charleston.

    Thunder Road was my first marathon last year (not my best race by any stretch, but oh well, a fun experience nonetheless!), and I’d love to go back and do either the 5K or half. Charlotte is definitely a running town, more so it seems than Charleston. My running group there had over 100 people in it, the beer running club at NoDA has several hundred people and TripleC is growing by the week, and races are generally a lot larger (which is good and bad, I suppose), plus there are more races in general. Oh, and how I miss the Southpark Mall! 🙂

    Your trip there sounds really fun and how cool that you won it! Congrats on your AG win!

    • Amy Lauren says:

      Thanks for the congrats on the AG win. It was a fun and fast course for Charlotte! It could have been a LOT worse with hills and elevation, as other places we drove around the city had more.

      Some friends and I run garages to get the hill effect :). It’s a lot of fun and you’re welcome to come join sometime- we usually do it on Wednesday afternoons, it’s 6 garages downtown. I saw where you joined a training group in Charleston for the marathon- I’m not sure if you’re in my training group or not, but we have a ton of people training for it through TrySports, and I am pacing the half but I am pacing a speed much slower than you appear to be. I haven’t been to enough TrySports runs to actually meet all the training group participants (oops).

      I’m sure the Charleston Running Club has more than 100 people in it, although I’m not a member of it to know. This is a big running community, but not city- as most runs, running stores, and even Charleston Running Club events are actually in Mt. Pleasant rather than *Charleston* (there are tons of runners in Charleston/West Ashley though, we just seem to get ignored!).

      • Christine says:

        Yeah, the 5K is the nice part of the Thunder Road course! Even the half marathon isn’t as hilly as the full. The back half of the full is the worst! So exceptionally hilly!

        I’m training for the Charleston half with Fleet Feet and there are about 15 people in that program – a huge adjustment from when I ran with the Run For Your Life training group back in Charlotte (my old running group there). But I have no idea what my speed will be for that because I’ll be running it 5 months pregnant, so no clue what to expect there, sort of taking it one week at a time. I was originally planning to run it in about 1:45 based on my improvements over the past year, but that might be out the window at this point.

        Does TrySports have a fall half training program? I’m thinking the Myrtle Beach Mini is going to be my target post-pregnancy race for next fall. I live in Mount Pleasant, so it’s nice to know a lot of the running communities are there! And I would love to run garages sometime. The only hill I know of around here is the Ravenel Bridge.

      • Amy Lauren says:

        TrySports had a Fall marathon/half marathon training program last fall, in 2012, with the goal race being Savannah. However, all of our store’s programs are tailored to your race. For example, we had a guy in our Fall 2012 program who was signed up for Kiawah instead, and one of the ladies actually sat down with him at Starbucks after run club one day and charted out the 5-6 weeks for him to prepare for Kiawah. In fact, a lot of us were signed up for full and half marathons this Fall, and even though there was no organized “program” through the store, we all trained together and got support from the run club.

        Of course, I am an ambassador for TrySports in MTP, but Fleet Feet is great as well. I have a few friends who work there and their staff is super nice. I remember seeing Chris on mile 9 of a 10 miler when it was super hot, and he was super encouraging to me- telling me I looked great out there when I was sure I didn’t. Those are the things you never forget as a runner :).

        Yikes for the last half of a full marathon being hilly. That’s NOT where you want uphills! But, with 26.2 miles in Charlotte, you’re definitely going to experience a lot of hills, no way around it. You won’t have to deal with any in the Charleston half… minus the railroad tracks and a speed bump. Those are the closest things to hills on that course!

      • Christine says:

        Haha! Yeah, I did the Charleston half last year and I remember the only “hill” was a tiny bridge. I was running with a friend and we were marveling at the flatness for half the race.

        Fleet Feet isn’t doing a fall training program, so that’s why I’m scoping out options. I like the coaches a lot at Fleet Feet and Chris is definitely awesome!

      • Amy Lauren says:

        Well, stay committed to FF’s program, because obviously they are coaching you for this half and you’ve signed up for it :). For your post-baby comeback in the Fall, I’m not sure if we’ll have a program or not, but we have a group that does long runs every Saturday morning whether they are training for a half marathon or full or not. I’m not training for any races right now, but I’m still running 10-12 miles on Saturdays mornings for kicks, because long runs are important, and because I have friends training.

        So… even if TrySports isn’t doing an organized, paid training program (or even if you’re not enrolled in it), you’re always welcome to come join us at IOP.

  4. runawaybridalplanner says:

    I love staying at the Embassy Suites for the same reason, the food is great and it saves a person a lot of money! Especially in larger cities!!! I haven’t been to Charlotte yet, but will one day, I want to run their Thunder Road Marathon one day:) Looks like you guys had a great time, congrats on the race!!!

    • Amy Lauren says:

      This was our first time at an Embassy Suites (We go with Doubletree a lot, or on a budget, Holiday Inn Express/Hampton/Country Inns), but the breakfast was quite delicious. Doubletree never offers that, but usually we’re staying before we go on a cruise so we don’t really care, we know we will eat on the ship anyway. If you like big breakfasts though, Embassy is definitely the place for that!

      Based on the expo and after party, I would recommend the Thunder Road 26.2. Of course, I have no clue about the course, but if the support is anything like the 5K, you will probably enjoy it.

  5. I love Moroccan food! I’ve tried it for the first time when hubby and I went to Disney World at EPCOT. Soooo good! 🙂
    Looks like a fun weekend for you! 🙂 I would love to visit Charlotte one of these days! Looks like a fun place !:)

    • Amy Lauren says:

      It was fun! I’m hoping to find some similar food around Charleston- I’m sure it’s here. I love ethnic foods in general and of course, trying new restaurants. Charlotte’s a great city to visit, with a ton of races there, so that’s a good excuse to visit!

  6. Sounds like a fun city to travel to! I love your bed flop photos!

  7. harveylisam says:

    The Christmas tree is gorgeous! Short little trips are lots of fun – glad it was a good time 🙂

    • Amy Lauren says:

      It was a beautiful mall tree! Definitely bigger than the mall trees here in Charleston. We liked the short trip because we didn’t have to miss loads of work and it was just a fun little weekend away :).

  8. Sounds like a really great deal on the free race and accommodations. Plus you were able to find tons of great places to eat. Always helps when you get good reviews from friends or family.

    • Amy Lauren says:

      It definitely helps :). Eating at new places is one of our favorite things about travelling- we love the food here in Charleston but you can’t beat going somewhere new and eating at a little divey place there. We don’t do big chains really, mostly just local, cheap dives! Of course that’s about what we eat here in Charleston too 🙂

  9. what a great hotel! I have never stayed at an embassey, but it looks amazing and nice! ANd a great deal for free!

  10. Glad your trip (or race-cation) was nice! It looks like you found some really yummy food. I haven’t stayed in a hotel since September 2012, and I’ve never stayed in Embassey’s but like the above comments say, they look really amazing. And ahh,,, the infamous faceup and facedown bed photos. Glad you caught up on sleep and had a nice rest before the race. 🙂

    • Amy Lauren says:

      We love taking those pictures any time we travel.

      Embassy is a nice hotel, my first time staying in one too. I would definitely stay at one again, though. It was a great place to stay for free with winning that prize, too!

  11. LilMysNinja says:

    There’s nothing like coming home after an eventful trip! 🙂 Looks like you had a blast and were well taken care of. That breakfast looks so delish! It’s pretty cool that all that was covered on the trip you won. Congrats again! One of the places that I like to indulge in while visiting Charlotte is the Cheesecake Factory. And love that bug too!

    • Amy Lauren says:

      We had a great time and the bug was awesome! We’re not big fans of large chain restaurants like Cheesecake Factory (actually, neither of us really care for Cheesecake at all). We’d just rather go local (and cheap…)

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