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.

2012 New Jersey Marathon Race Recap

Here we are two weeks post-race, and I’m just getting around to writing up the recap. There’s a reason. If you follow me on Twitter, you already know how this race played out. If not, here’s the short version: the New Jersey Marathon was my first DNF.

Race morning began with my alarm blaring at the ungodly hour of 3:15am. I think I slept about 30 minutes the night before, and 12 hours total between Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights. I was up pretty late and my nerves were out of control. Ashley was picking me up at 5am so I wanted to have enough time to eat something, get ready, and spend a bit of time freaking out with my fellow racers on Twitter.

I was having the same feeling I had prior to the Austin 10/20. I wasn’t really in the mood to race. In the weeks leading up to the marathon I went back and forth on switching to the half no less than 800 times. My training hadn’t been geared towards New Jersey; I was focused more on the many half marathons and shorter races. My longest training run had been 17 miles. But I was convinced since I had conquered the 26.2 in the past, mentally I’d be able to latch on to that fact and power through.

Ashley picked me up and we went back to her house for a little bit. It took me nearly 30 minutes to choke down half a bagel with peanut butter. We piled into the car with two of her friends, and picked up another two girls on the way to the start in Oceanport. Everyone in the car with the exception of Ashley and I were running the half. I was a bit jealous when they all ran to the start. A half marathon sounded much more feasible at the time. I should have taken that as a sign.

We checked in all of the half marathoners bags for them and then jumped in line for the portapotties. At this point we were surrounded only by marathoners and I started to get pumped up a bit. Maybe it wouldn’t be that bad. We met up with Ashley’s friend Sky – the two were attempting their first sub-4 marathon. Spoiler alert: they succeeded!!

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I ran into my family and Brad on my way to meet up with Libby, who I’d be starting the race with. It’s amazing to be surrounded by such a great support system. It really gives you something to look forward to you and keep you moving along the course. I appreciate it so, so much!

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Once I found Libby and Eva, we headed into our corral. We heard the National Anthem and then it was time to get the show on the road. No turning back now!

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Libby and I had decided to start the race together since we’d be shooting for a similar pace but if either of us decided to hang back or speed up, no problem. No commitment. Eva stuck to her intervals and was always a little behind or a little ahead of us. It was awesome running with Libby. We chatted the whole way and kept a decent (faster than we had planned on) pace. The weather was cool and clouds kept the sun at bay. It was a perfect day for running.

Around mile 7 or 8 I needed a walk break because of a side stitch, and this was where things started to unravel a bit for me. Once I took that first walk break, I knew I’d need to take them regularly after. This worked out fine until around mile 11. Libby decided to keep on going. We wished each other good luck and parted ways. (Libby ended up with a PR on her 3rd marathon in 3 weeks. Such a rockstar!) I clicked my iPod on and tried to zone out until mile 12 when I knew I’d see my support crew. Somehow we missed each other and Brad ended up having to break into an all-out sprint to catch up with me. He had desperately been yelling my name but Luke Bryan was singing in my ears and I couldn’t hear him.

I stopped with him at a nearby water station while he caught his breath and ate a few of the Shotbloks he handed to me. My family arrived shortly after and we chatted a bit.

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After a few minutes I said my goodbyes and continued running. My iPod went back on and I tried to just focus on the music and the scenery around me.

Side note: after I left, Brad needed to lie down on the sidewalk and recover from his sprint session. I’ll turn him into a runner someday! They just happened to be near a hospital at the time and my sister took full advantage of the photo op:

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I passed the split for the half and full marathoners and it was hard not to sail into the finish and call it a day. My walk breaks became longer and more frequent. The negative thoughts started creeping in. If I’m walking this much, what are the chances I’ll still come in under the time limit?  I didn’t run anything over 17 miles – how can I finish 26.2? I’m exhausted, haven’t slept well in days, legs feel like lead. So on and so forth.

We began the long out-and-back (my favorite! ::sarcasm::) portion of the course. At mile 13, the full marathoners coming at you in the opposite direction were at mile 24. I had nearly 10 more miles before I hit that point, and would have to watch all of the faster runners run closer to the finish line for the next 6 miles before the turnaround in Ocean Grove. It was disheartening.

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I tried to draw in some positivity, repeat motivating mantras, pump myself up – halfway done! But nothing was working. I was drained both physically & emotionally, my pace slowing dramatically. I felt defeated. I knew my heart wasn’t in it and didn’t want to push it. I wasn’t ready for the race and my mental game was off too. It was time to make the decision I’d been prolonging

Just past the mile 14 marker I texted Brad “I’m going to stop. It’s not my day. Will you think less of me if I quit?” He replied, “Absolutely not. Where can we meet you?”

I immediately felt as if a huge weight was lifted. No more pressure to finish. But at the same time I was overwhelmed with disappointment. It was my 2012 goal marathon race. And now it was over.

I removed my bib, folded it up, and carried it with me as I made the walk of shame towards the boardwalk where my family and Brad were waiting. I saw Ashley and Sky killing it, well on pace for a sub-4 and looking STRONG!

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Photo Credit

In hindsight, I probably would have fared better switching from the full to the half at the expo. I should have swallowed my pride and chose the distance I was better prepared for – not the one I was registered for. My DNF was incredibly humbling but thankfully I learned a lot from this race. At least the walk to meet up with my family was scenic.

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One thing is for sure – there will be sweet, sweet marathon redemption in my future.

New Jersey Marathon Expo

After a 3am wakeup call, two flights, and a minor nervous breakdown in Newark Airport over a lost suitcase, we finally arrived at the New Jersey Marathon Expo at Monmouth Park in Oceanport.

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The expo was a bit smaller than expected, but had all of the staples you’d expect to find at many other race expos.

First order of business: packet pickup!

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Personally I thought the shirt ran a little small, but the people working the shirt booth were extremely generous and offered to swap out sizes for me without a problem.

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Since the race shirt has long sleeves and Texas temps would allow me to wear that oh, mayyybe twice, I decided to invest in a short-sleeved shirt as well.

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Due to the aforementioned lost suitcase, I replaced a few packs of Gu Chomps and Shotbloks, and picked up a new stick of Body Glide. Other than that, the wallet stayed shut. I know, I was shocked too.

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I almost picked up a pair of heavily discounted Newtons at the Road Runner Sports booth, but unfortunately my feet were a tad too big for the only size they had out on the table. Bah!

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And that was that. New Jersey Marathon Expo, done and done. We were in and out fairly quickly, which is definitely a plus. Sure, there could have been a few more booths but I think it would have cramped the space a bit. There were a good amount of vendors for the space Monmouth Park provided.

Side Note: Road Runner Sports, can you please open a store in Texas? Or make appearances with your $50 shoes at Austin race expos, at the very least? I promise to give you lots of money. Thank you!