Atlantic City Half Marathon - In Order To Win You Have To Play
This past summer I really, really wanted to start building up a good base again. The idea of the 3 x 13 Trailfest series scared me. The problem was that I really had no idea how to train for the back to back days plus add in the fact that my body was still being a jerk on some days.
I managed to be super consistent with some form of exercise. Biking became my go to if I thought I'd do more harm than good by running. And some of my results this summer were excellent -- PR on my summer 5k trail series.
I really wanted to see if all of my running in the summer heat and humidity had paid off. Mind you I did virtually NO speed or interval training other than my 5k series and the 5 mile race back at the beginning of August.
I ended up signing up for the Atlantic City Half Marathon against my better judgement. It's my local race but every time I've ever raced it in the past a major storm with 20-40 mph winds blows in.
By the time the race date had rolled around my training from mid August to mid October had been sub par and super light on mileage. One week I ran S-I-X miles. Ugh.
And then the ideal race weather that had been forecasted changed to forecast a storm blowing in on race day. Double ugh!
But I'm smarter than I used to be. I knew I had just managed to run 39 miles in 3 days and I'm fairly good at racing a half marathon. And weather can’t be changed.
What's the worst that could happen? I have to walk it in? BFD. I get to do this.
Sunday morning rolled around and the weather was still good. The weather app showed rain starting at 10:00 (2 hours after the start). Perfect.
I stretched and rolled. Drank my coffee and had some gluten free oatmeal with peanut butter.
Drove the 30 minutes to the start and arrived by 7:15. Found some meter parking 1 block from the start. Score!
Used the bathroom at Bally's Casino with success. Wahoo! LOL
Found a hallway by the front doors to do some more stretching. Finally at 7:45 I went out onto the boardwalk to line up. The starting corrals were in front of the next casino so we had to fight through the spectators to enter from the rear and then I had to weave up to get to where I wanted to start. Hmmmm....good question...where did I want to start??
My secret goal was that I wanted sub 1:54. A sub 1:54 would give me a qualifying time for NYCM. My qualifying time used to be a 1:49 which I was within 50 seconds of getting before my injury, but time marches on and I will have a new and improved AG for 2020.
I made it up to the 3:55 pacer -- an 8:58. I needed an 8:42 pace. I figured it would be a good place to start given my lack of speedwork.
The gun went off and we started down the boardwalk. Immediately someone caught their foot and went down. Running the boardwalk is akin to running on the trails. The boards are warped and not even, some were super soft and felt almost rotted and then there are the dreaded popped nails. Thankfully the dude tucked and rolled and got back up.
There was no easing into pace. The pacer immediately dropped into the 8s. I did my best to keep up but I was working and this was within the first 1/2 mile. I put my best poker face on and reminded myself that I'd warm up and things would get easier. We made a left and headed down onto the roads.
Speaking of warming up I was warm....already. I had decided to wear shorts, my green heavier tank and a thin windbreaker. I hate being cold, but I also know I get hot fast. In the pocket of my jacket I had 3 gels and in the back pocket I had my car key. Before we even hit the first mile I was unzipping the jacket and tying it around my waist. I know better. Ugh! Mile 1 - 8:36
By mile 2 I knew the pacer was going WAY too fast. Her watch chimed and she yelled out the pace is to fast! I look down at my watch and see 8:15. LOL
The pace group slowed, but I figured at this point I've pretty much shoved all of my chips in to the pot and it was too late to change my bet. Mile 2 for me chimed in at 8:28.
The race runs up onto an elevated highway before going down into a tunnel. My GPS signal was lost down in here and from that point on I'd hit the mile markers before my Garmin chimed.
We ran all along the north end of the island, behind casinos and around some townhomes. Cheering is minimal. Flop, flop, flop went those damn gels against my legs. I finally grabbed the pocket and shoved it into the front of my shorts. Miles 3-5 were 8:31, 8:26, and 8:14.
At some points you'd feel absolutely no wind to the point that your sunglasses fogged. Being as I run around here all the time I knew that meant as soon as we turned the wind was going to be full on in our faces. At around mile 6 I was running close to this little boy. He was 9 years old and crushing it. Solo, no parent.
Flop, flop, flop went the car key against the back of my leg. I shoved that into the back of my shorts. So I want to make sure you get the picture. Green shirt, yellow jacket tied around my waist with a pocket full of Gu shoved down the front of my shorts and another yellow pocket with car key shoved down the back of my shorts. I'm sure I'll be getting a call from RW to model soon. Ha!
I took a Gu at mile 6 and then walked through a water station to get a bit of fluid. I was definitely riding a line of how much longer I could keep up this pace. 8:39
At mile 7 we headed back towards the boardwalk. I mentally was talking to myself -- "when you get to the boardwalk you know all you have to do is a bit past the finish line and then run to the turnaround to head for the finish." Miles 7 & 8 -- 8:43, 8:33.
The Gu kicked in and I did feel a little better, At mile 9 we cruised past the finish line so I knew I had approximately 2 miles to run before I could turn around. So close, yet so far away!
You can do this!
No, I can't.
Yes, .... oh look there's my bike friend!!
My cycling friend always escorts one of the lead runners. Today he was leading this beautiful looking strong woman into the finish line! I yelled out to him but I don't think he heard me. Mile 9 - 8:31
I grabbed some water, gatorade and/or a gel from the aid station. I took I few bites of gel and sipped some water and willed myself to keep going. Mile 10 & 11 -- 8:37, 8:42
Finally the turnaround was just ahead. Thank the Lord! A guy behind me kept yelling, "Water! Where's the water?" I thought he was kidding because we had passed an aid station not too long ago. Apparently he wasn't. I think he had a full breakdown on those poor volunteers. I'm hoping he was running the half and not the full because if he was running the full he was in bad shape for 14 more miles. It was hot(ish) and humid(ish) so maybe that's why he was struggling?
As soon as I hit the turn around I was playing mental math -- if you run 10 minute miles that will give you a finish time of xx.... was the NYCM qualifying time a 1:54 or 1:55?? I just couldn't think.
My right quad was seizing up and we were now running into the wind. I was leap frogging a couple who were running and then walking. I did manage to pass them for good at some point.
Mile 12 -- “This is stupid. I hate racing. I'm never running another full because a half is so freaking hard!” 9:00
Just keep running and don't think. There's Bally's. You can stop when you get there. The 9 year old came flying by me into the finish. "Go, little dude!" Mile 13: 9:06
Oh my gosh the finish line!! Then I heard someone yell, "Go, Gwen!" I tried to figure out who it was but all I knew was it was a tall, thin man in a Boston jacket. My oxygen deprived head would not let me figure out who it was. According to Garmin my last .1 was at a 7:33 pace.
I couldn't believe it -- 1:52:46. I got it!
I staggered over to massage guy and had him massage my poor right quad. and then I grabbed all sorts of food. I came across tablets where you can check your time. Punched in my number and let out an audible gasp when I saw I came in 2nd out of 99 in my AG.
Oh my gosh! Sometimes you just have to roll the dice and give it a go.
Yep, awards were in the pouring rain. Didn't care one little bit!
(As for the guy who cheered for me at the finish it was the guy who leads the track workouts I have attended. Lol)
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