2013 Long Branch Half Marathon Race Recap

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The Long Branch Half Marathon was initially slated to be my spring goal race. I ran into an issue with my arch in March and scaled back on running so things wouldn’t get worse. Obviously it was a disappointment to realize Long Branch wouldn’t be a PR race, but I was happy to be returning to run the shore nonetheless.

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Race day started super early with a 3:30am wakeup call. The half kicks off at 6:45am and traffic starts to build pretty early on local roads. I made sure we were out the door, hit Dunkin Donuts (one of the 35 trips I made while visiting NJ) and on our way to Oceanport by 4:45am.

We hit traffic. It wasn’t terrible. I read plenty of complaints on the Facebook page about how traffic was horrendous and some even said they’d never run the race again because of it. Had they been paying attention to the many race director emails and daily (seriously, DAILY) posts on FB to arrive early, maybe they wouldn’t have had that problem. Just sayin’.

My longest run prior to race day had been 10 miles during the Austin 10/20 a few weeks earlier and I was oddly okay with it. Usually I’m antsy at the starting line of a race I don’t feel particularly prepared for. Instead of antsy and nervous, I was completely at peace and actually excited to hit the streets and run 13.1 miles through Monmouth County.

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By 6:35 I was tucked into my corral, thankful for body heat from fellow runners that kept me warm on the chilly 40 degree morning. Starting around 6:50 (slightly late start), each of the five corrals were sent off with the traditional bugle Call to Post (since it started at Monmouth Racetrack) followed up with Sweet Caroline (for Boston) and Born to Run (by Bruce! for Jersey!).

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My race strategy was to run 3:1 intervals and simply take it one mile at a time. No need to go crazy and push the pace. My only goal was to enjoy the miles and wrap up spring race season with a smile on my face, on the Jersey Shore where I grew up.

Most of the half is on residential streets…

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and over a couple small bridges.

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The course support was great! So many families were out very early Sunday morning to cheer us on, offer us screwdrivers/mimosas/jello shots, and blast Bruce Springsteen + Rocky from huge speakers at the end of their driveways. Race volunteers were amazing as well, positioning themselves before each water stop with a megaphone letting runners know which tables had water and which had Gatorade.

My father works near Mile 10 so my family was able to park there and walk to the mile marker to wait for me. I thought I’d be sad to have to wait so long to see them but it actually helped since it gave me something to look forward to! By that point my Nuun water bottle was empty and I was DONE carrying it. I tossed it to my mom, thanked her, and kept running.20130505_091045

The half/full split. I let out a little sigh of relief to be heading to the left of the barricades as we made the turn onto Brighton Ave.

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Once on Brighton I knew it was only a matter of minutes before I’d see the wrath of Hurricane Sandy. The boardwalk portion of the final miles was no longer intact, the beach had shrunk, and many homes had been destroyed due to the massive storm that hit my home state last October. IMG_20130505_093257_082

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The headwind on Ocean Boulevard was pretty brutal so I tried to keep my head down and hold a steady pace.

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Half marathon #13 – DONE!
Spring race season – DONE!

NJ Marathon Finisher

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After last year’s DNF in the full marathon, I really had no desire to return to this race. This year’s race had a different feeling to it. It could have been returning to the hometown race post-Sandy. Or maybe it was the way all of the runners banded together that day dressed in blue and yellow, with “Boston Strong” and “Run for Boston” shirts, singing the lyrics to Sweet Caroline. Maybe it was that I toed the line without an ounce of stress weighing on my shoulders. The only thing that showed up that morning was my desire to run.

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And for all those reasons, I ran one of the best races I’ve had in a long time. This is probably the worst time of year for me work-wise to take a vacation, but I’m almost positive I’ll be back to run this race again in 2014. And if the stars align, I will be running alongside my sister during her first half marathon! Ahem, Kylie, go register. NOW! Please and thank you.

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Long Branch, I hope to see you next year.

Run. Restore. Rebuild.

Jersey Strong.

Fall Racing Decision :: Will Run for BEER

It might seem a little premature to be talking about the fall racing season as the spring one hasn’t even wrapped up yet. However, the racing scene in Austin pretty much shuts down (with the exception of 5Ks) after April. The Austin 10/20 is coming up this weekend and then I head to NJ the first week of May for the Long Branch Half.

Upcoming Races

And after that, I’ve got nothing on my radar.

SO! It’s time to think about the fall. Every year since I started running I’ve done a fall destination race. 2010 was Disney’s Wine & Dine Half, 2011 was Marine Corps Marathon and 2012 was Philly Marathon.

I had a few half marathons in mind for 2013: Hartford, Wineglass, Mohawk Hudson River Half, OUC, ZOOMA Cape Cod. But after mapping out our travel schedule for the rest of the year {with Nuun Hood to Coast tentatively penciled in *fingers crossed*} we realized a fall destination race probably isn’t in the cards.

The plan for the next 13.1 is to stay semi-local. I’m 90% sure we’ll be heading south in November for the 2013 Shiner Beer Run.

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This race combines two of my favorite things: running + Shiner beer. 4 complimentary frosty beers at the finish for each runner? A medal that doubles as a bottle opener? A race that starts and finishes at the Spoetzl Brewery? I’m having a hard time coming up with reasons NOT to run this race.

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My sub-2 goal might get pushed to the beginning of 2014 considering the arch issues I’ve been having lately. Long Branch is not going to be a PR attempt and I’m absolutely okay with that. It’s part of a vacation to New Jersey to see my family and I’ll just be happy to see how far the area has come since I was up there in November post-Sandy.

If I had to guess, I’d say my sub-2 attempt will be at 3M in January 2014. But that’s REALLY far away, so we shall see!

Do you have your fall goal race picked out yet? Is it a destination race?

Exiting the Comfort Zone

In reflecting over the past year of running, I can’t help but be disappointed with my race (and even training) performances. 2012 started off with a bang, knocking out a 5K PR on the first day of the year and a 23-minute half marathon PR on the last weekend of the month.

After that though? Things sort of fizzled out. My half marathon times gradually slowed, I stopped racing shorter distances, and after a not surprisingly spring burnout, I ran myself right into my first ever DNF at the New Jersey Marathon. After getting my ass kicked at the Spartan Race, I took a full month off of running. This ended up renewing my love for the sport and fueled the fire to begin training for the Philadelphia Marathon.

Halfway through July I began to reassess my goal time for Philly. The 90-degree evenings were beginning to take their toll on me at the track and my long-run pace was nowhere near what it should have been. I’m not the fastest runner to begin with, so to say this was discouraging is an understatement.

Once September rolled around, I threw all pace goals out the window. My goal for Philly was to finish. I registered Brad and I for the Austin Distance Challenge, putting races on our calendar every month through the middle of February. We knocked out a 10K and 10-miler in October, I ran Philly in November, and then finished an incredibly hilly half marathon in December. I closed out my running year on December 29th with the Operation Jack 10K, as I do every year.

So now I’m here. It’s January 8, 2013 and I’ve got a blank slate for the year. So how am I going to tackle it?

Here’s the plan:

  1. {spring} Focus on the half marathon distance. I really want to get my PR (2:14) down. Ideally, I’d like to get it under 2:10 at the Long Branch 1/2 Marathon in May. (NJ Marathon course redemption? I think so.) I have 3 half marathons in between now and then (3M, Austin, and ZOOMA) but plan to use those as training runs. Long Branch will be my spring goal race.
  2. {fall} run FAST. Yeah, this one is kinda huge. A sub-2 half marathon. Coming from someone with a (year old) 2:14 half PR, it’s terrifying to consider crossing that finish line in 1:59:59 or less. Sure, I have other race goals for the year – but this is the important one. Before December 31, 2013, I would like a sub-2 half under my belt. The race is TBD but I have the Shiner Beer Run tentatively penciled in. Any other suggestions for a fast fall half marathon? Open to traveling!
  3. Do NOT register for any full marathons. This one directly stems from item 2. I would like my half PR to be under 2 hours before registering for another full marathon. In other words, I’m shelving the 26.2 distance until 2014.
  4. Stop running races just to finish. Do you know what kind of problem this is? An expensive one. The city of Austin makes it incredibly hard for me to resist clicking that “Register” button. Obviously you can’t commit to racing every.single.race you enter, but I need to work on managing my schedule better. 4 half marathon in 4 months? Not necessary. It definitely makes achieving my goals harder by putting this much stress on my body. This being said, I probably need to adjust my 13 Races in 2013 goal. Quality > Quantity.
  5. Find the perfect pair of running shoes. Good lord, I’ve been searching long enough. Right now I’m running in Brooks Adrenaline GTS 12. Great shoe that keeps my shin splints at bay, but my arches HATE me after about 3 miles. Lose one pain, gain another. I also have a pair of the Mizuno Wave Inspire 9 that I bought back in November. They’re still in the box, with a fresh pair of Oiselle laces, ready to go! I’ll probably test them out at the end of January and hopefully (as long as I’m shin splint free) use them for the Long Branch 1/2 training cycle. Maybe they’ll be my perfect pair? Only time will tell but I’m keeping my fingers crossed.
  6. Dig deep & exit the comfort zone. While reviewing my current PRs, I noticed the paces are VERY similar. {5K 9:29, 10K 9:55, 13.1 10:13} I nearly hit my 10K PR during 3M last year! I’d love to drop the 5K pace to high 8’s, 10K to low 9’s and 13.1… well you know where I want that one to be. I know I have more in me, but I need to dig deep, push harder, and exit the comfort zone. I need it to feel uncomfortably hard. I need to really RACE.

So that’s it. My running goals for 2013. My list of non-running goals is a work in progress, but I’m getting there. The running ones absolutely deserved their own post though – hey, this is Melissa RUNS after all.