See You Down the Shore: NJ Half Marathon Race Report

It's becoming quite clear to me that I have a knack for picking race days that fall on terrible weather days. Last March's Rock 'n Roll Half Marathon: pouring rain the entire time. Last May's Superhero Half Marathon: first hot day in months; 80ยบ by like 7:30 a.m. and no days for hot-weather training beforehand. Last November's City of Oaks Marathon: overcast from the start and rain for the last 10k. This April's Cherry Blossom 10-Miler: 50 mph wind gusts resulting in the organizers all but fully cancelling the race. Adding to the list the latest, the New Jersey Half Marathon on Sunday: pouring rain the entire time.

Luckily for me, it turns out I also have a knack for having great races in the rain.
The Lead Up

I signed up for this race months and months ago, and was relieved when I realized I could talk my friend into joining me for our first race together. I made my plan for this race in conjunction with my plan for the rest of the year, and kept my goal challenging but conservative: Oust last March's 14-month-old half marathon PR, meaning I would have to finish in less than 2 hours, 8 minutes, 11 seconds with an average pace of 9:45 or better.

I used the Cherry Blossom as a test for this race, hoping I could keep goal pace there and use that confidence to motor me to this NJ Half finish line in good time. I accomplished my goal at Cherry Blossom, but I have to be fully honest that I did not properly prepare for this race. I only loosely followed my training plan, did not exceed 10 miles in training more than once and never on my own, and just kind of let a lot of things get in my way on the road to the start line. I told Tracy a few days before the race that I was going to be counting on grit and determination to take me to the finish, and she reminded me that that's kinda my thing. At least I felt mentally prepared and, even if undeservingly so, confident for this race.

The weather report changed a zillion times in the week before, finally dashing my hopes of some sun and calling for rain all day. Whatever, I'd done it before.

The Race Day

Shivering at the start line around 7 a.m. was nothing compared to the post-race shaking and convulsing. The rain was steady and constant, picking up a bit more in the last three miles. At least the wind wasn't too terrible, and the temperature stayed in the upper 40s or maybe even low 50s. And luckily when I'm in training the rain doesn't (usually) keep me inside, and I had survived Rock 'n Roll, so I just buckled down and began the long road to half marathon finish line #4, overall finish line #12.

My Race

This race was point to point, starting at the enormous Monmouth Park Raceway and finishing up on the boardwalk of one of our fair state's many, many shore towns. I started at the back of the pack to stick with my friend Christina until we could both start, so my first mile or so was a lot of weaving and just trying to break out of the 3-hour pack. As such, I ended up with a 9:14 mile 1, which for anyone keeping track at home, is way too fast. I tried to look at it as banked time and slow up for the second mile, which I did but not by too much. I was feeling good though, really good, and figured banking some time wasn't the worst thing I could do that day.

Around mile 3 I looked to my right and saw that a woman who practices at my studio, whose daughter was in my YTT class, had sidled up next to me! I was wondering if I would see her, and we exchanged hellos and ran together for a few moments before she told me to go on ahead. At this point we were running through shore-area suburbs but not quite on the coast yet. The hills were incredibly mild with inclines so much smaller than I'm used to, which isn't necessarily a good thing. I'm much more used to varied footfalls and stride sizes as I power up and down hills, but my lungs were happy with the less-intense terrain. By mile 5, the front muscles of my hips (iliopsoas) were slightly aching from the repetitive motion.

Some miles later, still with plenty of time in the bank, we crossed two bridges and were officially in shore turf. (I'd explain this more, but it's more of an intangible "you know it when you're there" type of thing us New Jerseyans just kind of understand about the shore.) As soon as we hit Long Branch and were by the beach, the rain kicked up and the wind followed suit. I had my slowest mile (Mile 10, 9:55) with the only real hill (a bridge) to speak of and didn't worry because I had all that banked time from so many of my early miles.
For most of the race, I felt incredibly strong. Even though my mile times fluctuated a bit, my effort stayed really consistent and I never questioned whether I could get to the finish. I wasn't even halfway through when I started thinking that PRing wouldn't even be a great challenge at this point. There was one split second where I thought this might be my sub-2 hour half marathon, but I talked myself out of that real quickly.

Mostly, I just really liked the course. There weren't a TON of people out, but you can't blame them for that considering the weather. There were a lot of signs and everyone who was out was cheering loudly and super motivating. As we ran from Asbury Park into Long Branch, my YTT classmate whose mom was behind me saw me from the sideline and screamed for me, which was a sweet surprise!

Finally, I turned onto the final stretch that would have the beach just to my right for the final two miles. And there was a huge shift in the wind and rain—oh. my. god. But I was so close and still feeling so mighty. I took the last half of mile 12 with some control and then started to open it all up on mile 13. When I saw the finish line I let it all go and overtook a few runners I had been pacing myself on to come in for a hands-up finish.
Honestly, all I wanted to do was scream "I just PRed!" but my friend was still racing and I didn't think anyone would consider me anything other than obnoxious if I had. So I snapchatted it instead and then tried to figure out how the hell to dry off and warm up. Spoiler alert: that didn't happen for more than an hour, not until Christina's fiance came and got us and I got a hot shower.

Watch: 13.27 miles, 2:06:20 (9:31 pace)
Chip: 13.1 miles, 2:06:13 (9:38 pace) – for the mathematically disinclined, that's a 2-minute PR!

I enjoyed this race so much. Partly because I just love this state so much. I loved running through shore towns, over the bay, onto the boardwalk. The finish line setup was really wonderful, and they did make sure we were well-fed and able to find some cover from the rain. I will definitely be back for at least the half, and maybe even the full marathon someday. Here's hoping for a dry race day next time!

Comments

  1. YAY!!! congrats on the PR and loving the race. for me the scenery makes a big difference which is why i can only run trails and not road.

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  2. CONGRATULATIONS!!!! Ahhh I miss crushing PRs! Maaaaaaybe we could do a half together while training for the full? Something to consider! :)

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  3. Look at you PR'ing!!!! Congrats!!!! I love that you felt so strong during the race and that you liked the course. It takes some courage just to get out in the rain, yet be out running in it for 2 hours and PRing! GO you!!!!!

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  4. Congrats on your PR girl!! I would have screamed LOL...way to go in running in those conditions! xo, Biana

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  5. Seriously these photos are like RnR deja vu, down to the outfit (with a change of shoes of course ;)), so for that reason alone I'm not at all surprised you crushed it! At this point I would do just about anything to feel strong for 6 minutes, let alone an additional 2 hours more, so equal parts pride and jealously over here ;) But really, I am so happy this race was everything you wanted and needed it to be and just so freaking proud of you going out and getting what was yours.
    I also got deja vu looking at the boardwalk photos because for a second I was like, is that Shamrock (with the lamp posts and the beach in the background and stuff)? So let's just say that this is now officially on my must-run list.

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  6. so proud of you! I still can't imagine running in such rainy weather for such a long period of time, but it's so awesome that you PRed and overall had such a strong race without letting the weather get to you! So proud of you!

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  7. yayyyyyyyyyyyy!!!!! LOVE the hands up finish!! and the PR. CONGRATS seriously! i am SO happy for you i am going to keep obnoxiously using CAPS :) but seriously! congrats. i lol'd at 'I had survived Rock 'n Roll' because seriously that is how i felt as well. come at me bro, i survived much worse!

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