A Simple Running Log

April 29, 2019

New Jersey Half Marathon recap

Filed under: Uncategorized — aschmid3 @ 4:27 pm

I got in another solid training run at the New Jersey Half Marathon this weekend. Unfortunately, I had to stop twice on the clock to use the bathroom, so my chip time was a few seconds slower than the half marathon I ran a week ago, rather than a few minutes faster like I was aiming for, but I had a lot of good miles in there.

Sometimes I wonder if Pepper misses me when I go to a race by myself. Judging by the snuggling that was going on Saturday morning, I think he prefers it haha.

pepper and clark snuggle

I’d be more offended by how much more he loves Clark if it wasn’t so freaking cute.

Outside, it was very windy. Before I walked out the door, I was already letting myself slack on my planned 5-miler and thinking I’d cut it down to just a 3-mile out-and-back, but it felt pretty nice out once I started running. I ran the 5.5-mile loop after all, at an average pace of 8:49/mile for the third day in a row.

I got on the road before 11:30 a.m. Stopping for lunch at Chick-fil-A in Camden was a much bigger hassle than I expected (I love the new queso dipping sauce too, but DAMN, does everyone in central Delaware need to get it at the same time?), but that was the only minor glitch on the drive to Asbury Park, N.J.

I stayed in the Berkeley Oceanfront Hotel with Chris and Sara, who’d both flown in the day before. I got there a little after 3 p.m.

hotel

It actually fronts a grassy square, but the rooms on the right side of the building look out over the ocean.

Once I got to Asbury Park, parking was a GIANT pain in the ass. I won’t bore you with the details, but it took almost an hour to get the car parked, and I wasn’t entirely convinced it wasn’t going to be ticketed or, worse, towed away before we needed it to get to the race start the next morning.

Things quickly got better after that! Chris, Sara and I went to the Asbury Park Convention Hall on the boardwalk, conveniently located cattycorner from our hotel’s front door.

convention center

This place was built in 1929.

entrance

Expo entrance on the boardwalk.

There was a line to pick up bibs. They were making volunteers assign bib numbers in the system as runners checked in, rather than pre-assigning them, which seemed to be holding things up a lot. I got it eventually, along with the clear plastic bag we had to use for gear check and a wristband designating me as old enough to use the single post-race beer ticket attached to the bib.

I also picked up my race shirt, one of the better ones I’ve ever gotten. The rest of the expo was surprisingly small for a mid-size race like this one. We didn’t spend much more time in there.

Then we walked down the boardwalk and along a river to the Asbury Festhalle & Biergarten, where we met almost everyone else we knew in town for the race weekend. We had a couple beers there (they had a huge selection of German hefes and pilsners — I could’ve stayed there all night if I hadn’t had to run the next morning) and then went to the Crust & Crumble for dinner, where I polished off a personal pizza with Italian sausage, peppers and onions.

dinner

Left side: John, Chris and Greg. Right side: Sara, me, Liz and Jonathan.

After dinner, a few of us got one more round at the Biergarten, and then John and Greg drove Chris, Sara and me back to our hotel. We got our race stuff together, set the alarms for 4:45 a.m. and hit the hay.

I didn’t sleep all that great Saturday night, and I’m not sure why. I was really tired but I just couldn’t fall asleep.

Sunday morning, I really wanted to poop before the race. I had a plan. Chris brought me two bags of uncrystallized candied ginger from Trader Joe’s, which helps with digestive issues. (The closest TJ’s to us here in lower slower Delaware is an hour and a half away, so yeah, it was easier to get it flown in from Colorado. Thanks, Chris!) I had a couple pieces of that after I woke up, and took the bag with me so I could have a couple more pieces just before the race.

Then I did 10 minutes of ab exercises. Over the winter, I noticed if I do that and drink a cup of coffee before my long runs, I can usually poop before I start running. It isn’t always the only time I have to go before the run is done, but I’ve spent a LOT less time pooping in the woods over the past few months. The only thing was there was no coffee maker in the room, so I had to wait until we stopped at a Starbucks on the way to the race start for that.

Unfortunately, there was no movement before we left the hotel, but no matter. I still had almost two hours until I had to start running at that point, and I thought there would be plenty of port-o-potties at the race start. (Spoiler alert — there was NOT.)

We made the trek to where I’d had to park the car the day before. It was still there! And there were no tickets on it. Sweet.

Next stop was Starbucks. We got there a few minutes before it opened, but were in and out quickly once the doors were unlocked. I just got a small black coffee.

Google Maps took us on what seemed like an unnecessarily convoluted route to the race start at Monmouth Park, a horse racing facility in Oceanport. Turned out Google was just doing us a favor — it helped us skip part of the traffic backup on the main road to the park.

Even so, we sat in line for a long time, inching toward what must have been the single entry point for traffic coming from five different directions. We’d gotten there early, expecting a backup, but it was moving so slowly, we were starting to wonder if we’d be parked in time to do anything before the start but sprint to the corrals.

All of a sudden, the cops controlling traffic directed the car in front of mine to turn right, down a road that had been blocked off until then. I was directed to follow it. Thirty seconds later, we were the first two cars parked in another lot, right next to the start area. Score!

Suddenly we had plenty of time before the start. I ate a Stroopwafel and finished my coffee. We made our way over to the security checkpoint to get in the fenced off start area. Security was very serious about that “no bags other than the clear race-issued bag” rule — I heard one cop arguing with a runner over whether or not her fanny pack counted as a banned bag, and another cop made Sara take back to the car the small purse she’d wanted to keep in her gear check bag.

Sara later reminded me there’d been a pipe bomb planted in a trash can along the course of a 5K in Seaside Park, N.J., a few years ago — it exploded, but fortunately no one was in the area yet so no one was hurt — so it’s understandable this was by far the strictest security I’ve seen at a race. It’d be a lot easier for everyone if some people could just not be such stupid assholes who ruin things.

At this point, we had 25 minutes until the 7:30 a.m. start. Normally, this would be the perfect time to get in line for a port-o-potty for one last pre-race evacuation.

However, this race had the absolute worst lines I’d ever seen. It looked like every single runner was in line, and they weren’t moving at all. It was clear there was no way we’d get through one in time before we were supposed to start running. I’m not sure if it was a case of not enough port-o-potties, or if there were just that many runners really taking their time when they got in one, but it was ridiculous.

So we all stripped off what we weren’t going to wear for the run, checked our gear bags, pretended we didn’t have to pee anyway (we did!) and got in the corrals.

Chris and I were placed in the fourth corral, one behind the corral with the 2:00 pacer, even though we were both sure we’d put something faster than 2:00 down for our predicted finish time. Oh well, it would just be a slower start.

before race

Ready to go! I wore my hat because when there’s a chance of rain, it only rains if I don’t have it.

A minute later, John pushed past us. I recognized his Rehoboth race shirt and grabbed him. He was also planning to run faster than 2:00, but he started with us.

At 7:30, they played “First Call,” that bugle song you hear before every horse race, since we were at a horse racing park. (Bruce Springsteen’s “Born to Run” was another popular song at this race, as The Boss got his start at The Stone Pony in Asbury Park.)

It was about 15 minutes later when the fourth corral got to go too.

The first mile felt clunky. I was cold and I had to pee really bad. (I was super jealous of all the guys whipping it out and taking a quick piss in the trees right next to the starting corrals, by the way.) We were also a little boxed in since we’d started farther back than we wanted.

My first mile was 8 freaking 49. AGAIN. It’s like my body has been put on cruise control!

We got some room to run in the second mile and sped up so we could clear the 4:00 marathon and 2:00 half marathon pace groups. That one was 8:23.

Right past that mile marker was the second bank of port-o-potties (the first ones we passed, in the first mile, already had a big line.) There were only a couple people waiting in line for these though, and Chris and I both REALLY had to go by that point, so we got in line. John waited for us.

The handle on the one on the far end was green. We weren’t sure if it was open, so Chris knocked on the door a few times. No answer. Then she slowly pulled it open. Still nothing. It wasn’t until the door was fully open that anyone could see the dude pissing in the urinal against the wall, who hadn’t locked the door or responded to either the knocking or the door opening until he was in plain sight, and then looked annoyed. Come on, man!

Anyhow, we both got a chance to pee, FINALLY, and then the three of us took off again. Our third mile split was 9:49.

We got into a groove the next several miles. My splits for miles 4 through 7 were 8:24, 8:22, 8:36 (had to run up a bridge — the only slight “hill” on the course) and 8:29. It was fun running with those two! We chatted the whole time. I also took a Huma gel just before mile 5.

running with chris and john

John, me and Chris running over the bridge in the sixth mile.

Somewhere in the next mile, Chris said the pace was getting to be a little too much, and she needed to back off. I kept running with John. Mile 8 was 8:21 and 9 was 8:12.

But then I had to poop. Dammit!

The next port-o-potties were just before mile 10. I sent John on his way that time and told him I’d see him at the finish.

I had to wait in line again. Then, the port-o-potty I got had a handle that wouldn’t close all the way. I was at least pulling my shorts back up when someone inevitably pulled the door open on me.

I took off for the finish. Mile 10 was 10:02.

Mile 11 sped back up to 8:13. I recognized the compression socks ahead and pulled up alongside Chris, who looked shocked to see me, until the realization hit her.

“Did you have to shit?”

“Sure did!”

We ran the rest of the way to the half/full marathon split around mile 11.5. Chris said she needed a short walk break as we turned onto the boardwalk toward the final stretch, so I went on my way.

I passed mile 12 on the boardwalk — 8:38 — when my Garmin was already nearly to 12.2. I hate that! But it was expected, with two port-o-potty stops and all the weaving we’d had to do at the beginning of the race.

on the boardwalk

Somewhere on that last stretch along the ocean.

I decided to make my last mile my fastest. That got a little hard on the boardwalk, which had a bunch of traffic barrels and construction zone fencing narrowing the course, but I still ran 13 in 8:04.

final stretch

Coming to the line.

I ran the last .3 by my Garmin in 2:13, and officially finished 13.1 miles in 1:54:38.

Even though the majority of my miles were in the intended 8:15 to 8:30 range or faster, the ones that weren’t killed me. Running an extra 0.2 didn’t help either. As a result, my official average pace was 8:45/mile.

certificate

That time placed me 56th of 268 in the F 35-39 age group, 313th of 1,798 women and 861st of 3,334 total finishers.

In the finisher’s chute, we got a pretty cool medal that looks like a vinyl record and spins. We also got water, Gatorade, face towels, bananas, popcorn, some kind of nut bars, chips, fruit snacks and big ol’ soft pretzels. I hate hard pretzels, but soft ones are OK. Turns out soft ones coated in salt right after a run are perfection.

Chris and I got our gear check bags and changed into dry clothes. I realized after I’d pulled off my sweaty sports bra that I’d been in full view of an opening in the flaps of the tent haha. Between the full moon someone got in the port-o-potty at mile 10 and the peep show anyone outside the changing tent might have gotten just then, I was a regular exhibitionist that day. Who cares — I felt a million times better in dry clothes.

We then had to re-check our gear bags before we could go back into the finish line festival. This is the first race I’ve done that didn’t even allow its own official gear check bags through the secured area at the finish.

I’d read that beforehand and knew the drill, but there were a LOT of runners who hadn’t and were arguing with the cops about it. Chris later said she heard a cop tell another cop there was no way he was volunteering to work that detail on race weekend next year. I don’t blame him! There are argumentative, entitled jerks in any large group of people, even runners, who are supposed to be blissed out on endorphins or something.

Then we went to the beer pen. It was this fenced-in area where we had to stay with the post-race beers.

Everyone got a ticket for one 26.2 Brew by the Marathon Brewing Company.

me post race

My favorite part of races — in dry comfy clothes, free beer in hand, basking in the glow of knowing I don’t have to run another step that day.

Eventually, the rest of our group made its way to the beer pen.

post race beers

Chris, me, Gwen, Jonathan and Liz.

Gwen posted this picture on Facebook and tagged me. My brother said he almost called me out for holding a beer cup that said 26.2 when I only ran half that haha. He didn’t seem to believe that was the name of the beer.

We were right by the fence so we could keep an eye out for the last runner in our group, Sara. That had two advantages. One, runners who didn’t want their beers walked right up to the fence and offered us their tickets. I got two extra free beers.

And two, I got to pet this boxer puppy wrapped up in a heat sheet, who was there in someone’s arms while they also waited for a runner to come through.

puppy in heat sheet

He was SO SOFT.

You may have noticed I wasn’t wearing my hat anymore after I changed. Naturally, it started raining.

Just about everyone else dispersed after either saying goodbye or making plans to meet later for lunch. Chris and I waited in the rain until Sara finished what had turned out to not be a fun race for her, and then we waited a little more so she could drink her hard-earned beer. We were all shivering by the time we finally left the post-race area.

We got back our gear check bags for the last time and then followed some other people in the wrong direction, thinking they were going to the shuttle bus pickup to return to the race start. By the time we figured it out, we were too cold and lazy to go back, so we just stopped moving and called an Uber to rescue us haha.

Frank drove us back to Monmouth Park and then we drove ourselves back to the hotel.

We took our time showering. Then we met everyone at The Robinson Ale House next to the convention hall. Unlike after a marathon, I usually have a pretty good appetite after a half. I almost finished a burger smothered in two of my favorite things, big slabs of soft brie and a mound of mushrooms. My mouth just started watering again while I typed that haha.

Chris, Sara and I were the only ones who stayed Sunday night too. After lunch, we went back to the hotel and chilled out for a while. We watched Chase Elliott win the race in Talladega.

Clark was sending me pictures all day from Fenwick Island, where he and a couple coworkers — and Pepper, of course — had taken the Jeep on the beach for the first time this year. This was my favorite picture of the day:

pepper in th ejeep

Pepper looks like a badass but he’s really just trying to figure out why Clark is more than an arm’s length away and if he needs to go after him haha.

That evening, we went for another walk. We stopped in the Silverball Museum. They had a ton of vintage pinball machines and arcade games — and they were all fully functional and playable!

pinball museum

atari

An original Pong arcade game!

'50s pinball machines

’50s pinball machines.

Our destination was Cookman Creamery for ice cream. I got my old standby, mint chip in a waffle cone. It was delicious.

They had a freezer full of “artisan” ice creams made with weird ingredients in little jars that were $13 to $15 each.

cbd ice cream

You might be a hipster if… you pay $15 for ice cream made with CBD oil.

I also picked out a couple six packs of local beers to bring home. Then we got Korean fusion tacos and burrito bowls to go and took another Uber back to the hotel.

last night beers

Cheers!

This morning, we went back to the boardwalk one last time, to get coffee from the little shop in the convention hall. I got a Nutella chocolate milk latte special. So good!

The sun was finally back out.

boardwalk

Largely deserted boardwalk along the beach.

I drove Chris and Sara to the Philly airport, and then I drove home. It was close to lunchtime by the time I got to Camden so I stopped at the same Chick-fil-A to get some more of that queso dipping sauce haha.

So, to wrap this up, I wasn’t particularly impressed with the New Jersey Half Marathon — the course was pretty, well-supported and super flat, and the swag was great, but some of the other things that go into a race were a pain in the ass — but I’m glad I ran it, because I had an awesome time with some people I really like but don’t get to see nearly enough.

NJ half swag

Shirt, bib and medal.

That was the last race I’ll run in training for St. Michaels. Honestly, that 8:04 I ran at the end felt hard, and I’m thinking 7:45/mile pace might be too ambitious for a half in three weeks. I might dial it back to an 8:00/mile goal for this one. And I clearly need to keep working to find something that makes me poop before I start racing!

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2 Comments »

  1. You always write race reports so well and remember all of the juicy details! I’m also glad that I ran the race but don’t think I would do it again. As organized as they appeared to be, it really wasn’t; and I’m just not a big fan of bigger races where you are packed in most of the way. However, it was GREAT seeing and running with you again. It just sucks that I wasn’t able to go faster (my own fault!) AND that I had stomach issues…AGAIN.
    Good luck at St. Michaels! I really think you should still go for it! Maybe for that race you’ll get some good sleep, your coffee when you need it, get to poop AND pee before you start, and just be able to cruise!

    Comment by Chris Bouldin — April 30, 2019 @ 11:21 am | Reply

    • That’s a good way to describe that race — “As organized as they appeared to be, it really wasn’t.” Parking and port-o-potties aren’t the most glamorous parts of race directing, but they are just as important!
      Stomach issues are the worst — hope you can get yours figured out too!
      I’ll see what happens in St. Michaels. You’re right, maybe perfectly-timed coffee and actually getting to use the bathroom before the race starts will be the key!

      Comment by aschmid3 — April 30, 2019 @ 11:37 am | Reply


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