New Jersey Marathon 2017: Race Recap

Disclaimer: I received a free entry to the New Jersey marathon as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!

Just a few days ago I finished my second marathon! It was an amazing day and I’m still on an emotional high from it. The weather worked out perfectly and it was an all around wonderful day. Spoiler alert: Goals were crushed.

Race day eve: The night before, my boyfriend and I enjoyed a dinner at Olive Garden, played some mini golf and billiards, then settled into our hotel. Harry Potter was on tv all night, which was great – however, the partiers throughout our hotel were not. I didn’t fall asleep until 1 and I woke up around 5.

Pre-race: By reading other runners’ recaps,  I knew that traffic has been an issue at this race in the past. I arrived at the Monmouth Park race track just after 6 (for a 7:30 start) with plenty of time to use the porta johns (there were plenty), and wait. I started the morning a tad grumpy due to my lack of sleep. Checking my bag and getting settled into my corral (7, the last one) was painless. The race started right on time, and I crossed the start about 10 minutes later.

Miles 1-5 brought us on a long loop through neighborhoods around Monmouth Park. My plan was to run in the 12:00/mi range for the first 5, but I ended up being a little faster. I spent a lot of time on my phone trying to figure out tracking. The AthLinks app wasn’t working for my mom, so I turned on MapMyRun (I’m glad I paid for the MVP plan!). My heart rate stayed reasonably low, and after a couple of miles I was able to run with plenty of room around me. Splits: 11:21, :38, :51, :48, :47

Miles 6-10 – “mighty, strong, powerful”. I upped my intervals from 60:30 to 90:30 as I hit mile 5. I contemplated waiting, but my goals weren’t going to be met by me sitting back. These miles brought us closer to the water and through some nice neighborhoods with people cheering on couches that they brought outside to sit on. I felt great during these miles, despite a dull ache in my left ITB that almost sent me into a panic. This was eventually settled by finding the right place on the road to run. I lost about 90 seconds during a potty stop at mile 8, but aside from that, these 5 miles were pretty uneventful and (mostly) below goal pace. The best part? There was a girl singing potty songs outside the porta johns! Splits:  11:17, :18, :22, 12:23 (potty break), 11:08.

Miles 11-15 – “this is NOT Marine Corps (Marathon)”: I mentally faded a bit during these miles, especially 11-13. The half marathoners turned off, leaving the course much emptier. I struggled with remembering that this is where I started to lose it during Marine Corps, especially with my knee still bothering me a bit. I wasn’t really paying attention to my watch, but if I had been, I would have seen that it felt hard to run because I was running faster than goal pace. I kept repeating out loud “This is NOT Marine Corps!” and it really helped me keep going. I came out of it when I hit 15, and knew it was time for the last of “four 5-milers”. Splits: 11:10, :19, 10:58, 11:01, 10:43.

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Miles 16-20 – “You’re doing this!” – As soon as I hit 15 miles, I started processing that a sub 5:00 was very possible if I kept running as well as I was. I was entertained by beautiful seaside houses and before I knew it I passed the 5:05 pace group, which started about 1:30 before I did. Next was Asbury Park, which was not nearly as nice as I had imagined. However, I was on cloud nine. I started passing people left and right. I also started feeling pretty hot, and dumped water over my head every 1-1.5 miles. I struggled a bit around mile 19, wondering when the turnaround would hit. Once I turned around, my quads started burning and I started to truly feel fatigued. Splits: 11:02, 10:57, 11:20, 10:52, 11:24.

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Miles 21-26.2 (or 26.49): The miles north were riddled with challenges. I definitely hit a sort of wall. Around mile 22.5, 2.5 miles of side stitches began. I struggled so much during miles 22-25. People around me were having a rough time, and I started to feel like them (although I was still passing them all). At mile 24.5 (I think), the 5:05 pacers passed me. Oh no, I’ve lost my sub-5:00. At one point they got to be almost out of my view. I decreased my intervals to 75:30 and pushed forward. Around the 25 mile marker, my cramps subsided, but my legs were still dead. I turned off my interval timer and decided to do what I could. I caught up to, and passed, the 5:05 pacers! While I realized the sub 5 wasn’t happening, I was going to fight for a 5:05. The last mile or so is a blur of me looking for Jake and wondering where the finish was (my watch had been about .2 miles ahead all race long). As soon as I saw the chute, and Jake, I gave as much as I could. I just remember the announcer saying “Look at her smile! She is so exhilarated!” Yes, yes I was. Splits: 11:15, :44, 12:19, :19, :43, 11:26, 5:17 (.49)

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Final time: 5:03:43. I met my C, B, and A goals and set a PR by 28:32. I can’t say that I “couldn’t believe it”, because I could. I trained hard, was in great shape, believed in myself, and executed my race plan pretty well. I had the race that was truly for me, and despite having a 5 at the beginning of my time, I couldn’t be happier.

Post race: I made my way through the chute pretty quickly, getting boxed water (why boxed?), gatorade, and a snack box. I skipped the photo station, which I regret, as I decided to buy my pictures. Reuniting with my boyfriend and getting my bag was painless, however the fact that you couldn’t bring bags into the finish festival just created a hassle that I wasn’t up to. I changed out of my shoes, ate some potato chips that I had packed in my checked bag, and left pretty quickly. I felt great, but I was ready to go get some FOOD. Jake kept asking me if I felt good and said I “looked like I was in a lot of pain”, but I really was just so happy that I couldn’t do anything but smile and laugh. It wasn’t until after food and a nap when my body caught up with my emotions!

Swag: The medal is absolutely beautiful! It is a spinner with beautiful colors. I love that all of the towns the course runs through is on the back as well. The marathoners received a long-sleeved shirt that matched the medal (the half-ers got a tee that matched their medal).

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Overall, this race was wonderful. The course support and volunteers were amazing. The course was mostly beautiful, aside from Asbury Park (which also smelled) and a stretch in Long Branch. The course was virtually flat, with only 2-3 gentle inclines over bridges. You also can’t beat boardwalk miles and a beach finish.

While the field was mostly half-marathoners, I actually liked that the course emptied out. It allowed me to focus on my run more. I also loved the out and back. Seeing the marathoners coming back was really motivating and kept me moving. I could also see how much time I had gained on those who I had passed!

Just a few days out, most soreness has subsided, aside from some quad stiffness. I’m already yearning to run another 26.2. I love the training and the pain that comes after mile 20, along with the pride that comes with meeting your goals. I’m not running until Sunday at the earliest, but I’m ready to get back to the grind. While the Goofy Challenge is the next marathon I have on my schedule at this time, I’m contemplating an October/November marathon as part of my prep.

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Read my review of the race on Bibrave and review your races to help other runners choose which ones to run!

 

Race Recap: Race 13.1 Baltimore

On December 3rd, I finished my last race as a member of the 20-24 age group. Okay, so I’m not “competitive” in my age group but it is still a fun way to remember the race. In actuality, I almost didn’t even run this race. I wasn’t feeling confident due to a lack of a consistent running schedule and was dreading being up at 5 am to run in the cold! Like the Annapolis Running Classic, I hoped to do well in the back of my mind, but I really ran to have FUN.

The night before: I had a wonderful night out with my boyfriend (as well as my roommate and her BF) doing everything you probably shouldn’t do before a “race”. We enjoyed some Christmas lights, went square dancing and ordered gourmet french fries at 11 pm. I wasn’t in bed until 1 AM, and I was afraid I’d regret it in the morning. (I didn’t even do a Flat Sam!)

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Meet Jake!

Pre race: I was up at 4:50 to get dressed and head out the door. The race organizers offered race-morning bib pick up, which was great.  You were even allowed to change your race distance, which I almost did. I was slightly turned off by the fact that it was advertised to close at 6, which meant I had another 45 minutes to sit in my car and have my UCan before lining up. I met another runner to chat with, which was fun and took my mind off of the race. There were plenty of clean porta jons, and the start of the race was very organized.

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No flat Sam = car selfie

Miles 1-3: I started slightly behind the 2:15 pacer, figuring that if it was a really good day, maybe I could handle that. I’d try to run without walking, but if I had to add some in, I would. I felt sluggish and very slow during these miles, and was so nervous about covering the whole distance. I was pretty socked in for the first two miles, but the course opened up after that. I lost the pacer after about a mile, and never found her again. Splits: 1o:30, 10:09, 10:24 (no intervals).

Miles 4-7: After mile 3 we were on the Promenade, where I now run quite often. Even with the lack of confidence in myself, it was nice to know where I was and where the course would take me. I started feeling a little better and knew I could push a little harder so I sped up while also adding in a :30 walk break every .5 miles. It was just enough to compose myself and catch my breath a little. During this part we ran through the Under Armor World Headquarters – something I’ve been trying to do for a while but I could never figure out how to get there! Around mile 6 I knew a PR was in reach – I was feeling good and I was gaining speed. At the turn around at mile 7, I kicked my butt into gear. Splits: 10:19, 9:55, 9:34 (with a 20 second stop to refill my bottle), 9:34.

Miles 8-13: Things continued to go smoothly after the turnaround – the course was the same on the way back aside from the last mile (on the promenade instead of the road). I kept myself going by setting my sights on someone and passing them. I kept knocking them off and it felt freaking fantastic.  I didn’t gain any speed, but I stayed very steady. Around mile 10, I realized that not only a PR was in my reach, but so was a sub-2:10 if I could just hold on. I’d never felt so good in a half before, and I felt so energized with this possibility. The miles ticked by and I only checked my watch because it was a reminder that I WAS doing it. In the last mile I knew I would be so close to a 2:10. While in some races I get really emotional at the end, this time I was just so intensely focused. Splits: 9:35, 9:38, 9:38, 9:41, 9:43, 9:43.

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I couldn’t NOT buy this race photo. 

Mile 13 – 13.1 nubbin: :42. 7:47 pace, y’all. I had a kick! I didn’t get passed at the end! (Actually, I remember only one person passing me, and staying in front of me, in the last 3 miles.) At the end I wanted to jump. I wanted to scream. I wanted to cry happy tears. And really, I didn’t do anything. I was in complete shock at what I just did. Not only did I PR, I PR-ed by 6:30 and finished with my first sub-2:10 (also my best time of the year by 10 minutes).

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After getting my medal, stretching, and grabbing a bagel (from Panera) I headed to my car to leave, as I had commitments in the afternoon. Long story short – this part was horrific. I waited over an hour to get out of the lot, and paid $50 to park instead of $15. Not fun and so not cool.

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Aside from the parking situation (great getting in, horrible leaving), this race was wonderful. The start/finish area was well organized, the aid stations were full with friendly volunteers and entertainment, and the course is FLAT (which is rare for Baltimore). Knowing that this was Race 13.1’s first year, I look forward to see how they can grow in the future!

Check out my Bib Rave review of the race itself here!

Disclaimer: I won an entry to this race through a #Bibchat raffle on Twitter. As always, all opinions are my own. 

Have you ever run a race for fun and ended up with a PR? Do you count the people you pass/who pass you at the end of a race?

Four on the Fourth Race Recap

Last week, I was so excited to see that I didn’t have to work on the morning of the 4th of July. I definitely wanted to take advantage of the morning off and find a race. After weighing my options – I easily decided on the Four on the Fourth in Bridgton, Maine. It was the closest one to me, it had a large amount of runners (about 2,000), and I liked that it was four miles instead of a 5K. This was my first 4 miler, so it means I would earn an automatic PR!

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I put out my outfit the night before the race. Fun fact: I own very little red and blue. I even went to Wal Mart to buy a patriotic shirt and couldn’t find anything! I thought I bought a blue tank, but realized that it was actually purple when I got home (I kept it anyways). Knowing that it would be warm and humid the next day, I made sure to pack some Nuun! I got up at 5 the next morning, ate some frosted flakes and a clif bar, and was out the door and on my way!

 

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I left with plenty of time to get to Bridgton because I didn’t know where I was going. My garmin got me there with no problem and I was in the parking lot next to the start line by 6:45 (for an 8:00 start…). The hardest part was figuring out where the bib pickup was, because the website didn’t give an address, just that it was at a school. But after 20 minutes of walking in circles, I found some other runners who were able to send me in the right direction. I signed up too late for a free tshirt, and I was disappointed at the fact that while they were selling some, they were out of smalls! I’ll have to sign up earlier next year

After waiting out the rain in my car, I was ready to go! I stretched at my car for about 10 minutes and then went into the starting corral at the front of the 10:00/mi area. I had a game plan for this race and I wanted to stick to it. I knew that the second mile was super hilly, so I planned to take it easy on the first mile, make it up the hills, then make up time during the second half of the race and hopefully finish within 40:00.

The first mile was very crowded – I did a lot of weaving and kept getting stuck behind groups of kids who’d stop and yell at their friends. I hit the 1 mile mark at 10:13, which I was pleased with. As soon as my watch beeped, the uphill began. My thighs started burning and people everywhere started walking. I wasn’t going to walk though. Before I knew it, my watch beeped again for the second mile, 10:13. I couldn’t believe I held my pace for that hill.

After watching a course preview video, it seemed that after the halfway point, the course was all flat and/or downhill, so I started picking up the pace. I was surprised to encounter more hills, but I didn’t care. After the second mile, I don’t remember people passing me, but I kept passing people. I’d pick someone out and pass them. Thankfully, it started to sprinkle a little bit – it wasn’t so hot but man was it humid! My third mile split was 9:48. Better, but still not where I wanted to be.

 

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My face in the last mile sure was not pleasant. I was working hard to cross that finish line in under 40 minutes. At mile 3.75 we hit another hill. I just wanted to scream. Around then, people were on the streets cheering us on and I knew I couldn’t give up. Running up the last bend, I saw the clock read 40:00 but I knew it took over a minute for me to cross the starting line so I was feeling positive. Right before I crossed the finish line, my watch showed me my final mile time, 8:48. I finished in 39:05, 55 seconds faster than my goal!

I am thrilled that I rocked that last mile and met my goal. While I had heard great things about this race, I also heard about how hard the course was. I am also thankful for the rain, because the 4th of July around here is normally scorching hot!

Would I do this race again? Absolutely. In fact, I plan to sign up first thing next year so I can get a free shirt. I obviously plan on working on my speed, so I can’t wait to see my improvements in a year from now.

Was this race perfect? No. There could have been signs leading to the number pick up/finish area from the start. Also, it is great that a lot of young campers participate in this race, but they clogged up the course and were a bit annoying. Yes, we are all going the same place, but it’s a race and people do them for time. There’s no need to stop in the middle of the road and yell at the people running past you (silly kids.) There were also quite a few of race bandits. From my place in the middle of the pack (I came in 896 out of 1,960) I saw at least 20 with fake numbers. However, that can’t necessarily be helped. It was just aggravating!

Did you run a race on the 4th of July? How was it?