Tuesday, May 8, 2012

2012 New Jersey Marathon Race Report

The New Jersey Marathon was a training run. Yeah, saying that never feels natural. After Garmin Marathon in the Land of Oz (and a new PR) two weeks ago (race report here), I had Oklahoma City Marathon a week ago (race report here), and now I was going for 3 in 3 weeks with NJ Marathon.
My favorite picture of me at the New Jersey Marathon

I flew into Newark 2 pm on Saturday, picked up my rental car, and survived the Jersey turnpike and the Jersey folks' aversion to left hand turns on roads (I learned quick about Jughandles) for a 1 hour drive to get to the race expo before it closed at 6 pm. There was no race day packet pickup option. The overly hyped expo began to disappoint with the half hour wait to go a couple tenths of a mile to park in the parking lot. Ridiculous. Really truly ridiculous.

The race expo was where the start would be. A first for me, it was at a race track. Yes, like horse races. The Monmouth Race Track in Oceanport, NJ.

I finally got parked and followed the masses of horseracing fans and runners (odd mix) inside.

Once inside, it was kinda an icky place. Worn down, a puddle in one spot with one of those yellow folding Caution signs over it, a bathroom with leaky faucets, and a mishmash of expo booths and line for people placing bets for upcoming races. I never saw the promised expo speaker area for their big seminar series, and the vendors were all the usuals only, maybe like 15 booths. If you've been to one expo, you've seen it all before. Half the booths were for other races owned by the same race production company. Picking up the packet took two seconds. The race shirts were nice long sleeve tech shirts. Although I don't know that having the race map on the back was my favorite thing - it's not some amazing course on paper, it's an out-and-back along the shore.

Grumbly from all the out of the way traveling for the expo, I went to meet up with my friend Eva at the mall close by. The general expo traffic made that take forever too. Grr.

Eva and I hung out at Starbucks for a bit and then headed to dinner: Shore Cafe in Hazlet. Great Italian food. I had gnocchi with meat sauce and a meatball. Yum.

We said we'd see each other in the morning, and I checked in to my hotel. With plane travel and a long day, I had worked hard all day long to keep up the nutrition and hydration. And then I couldn't get to sleep because of how much water I'd been drinking, ha!

Race Day - Logistical Trade-Offs

It felt like a bad math problem.
The half marathon started at 6:50 am. There were 6,000 in the half marathon.
The marathon started at 8 am. There were 2,000 in the marathon.
We had one gigantic parking lot to park in. Our only parking directions were that we would be able to park at the race site.
It was a 20 minute drive from my hotel.
When would you get to the race site?

From one point of view, I can understand the discrepancy in the start times. We share most of the same course the first 10 miles. They probably wanted to get the thousands of half marathoners off the course before the marathoners ran.

However, I knew parking would be a mess as a result. It was either get there super early and hang out in the car or park quite a ways from the start, which would feel awesome with tired legs that just went 26.2 miles and had to walk to the shuttle from the finish line to the start line.

I got up at 5 am. Left the house at 5:40 am. And then at 6 am, I spent 20 minutes in a crawling line to park. URGH! And now I'm at the race site 1 hr 40 min early. Yawn.

Again, I get what were probably their motivations, but man, there's got to be a better way. I wonder if they could have designated a close lot as the "Marathoner Lot" so that, if anything, we would alleve early traffic for the half marathoners and be able to arrive just as the race was starting at 6:50 am for the half marathoners. Except I think they ran the half marathoners right through part of the parking area. Ack, I don't know the solution. Maybe they could have started the full marathon as the early one?

Settled and Ready to Run

Eva and I met up and cheered the start of the half marathon.
Fast half marathoners at the front!

We saw a man dressed in fully derby regalia (we are at a race track after all) and posed for a picture with him.

We were messaging with Melissa from Austin. She and I were around the same pace and had agreed to start together and then see where it went from there. No obligations but great company! Perfect arrangement!
Eva, Melissa, and Me

It was a beautiful race day. Overcast but not too humid. About 55 degrees. Later it would get up to the low 60s, the skies would clear except for some white puffy clouds, and the sun would beat down. But it was never very hot.

The First Eleven Miles

The gun goes off. As much as I was worried about my left knee, or right foot, or any other area of my body that morning, I felt good. I could not for the life of me slow to the pace I had planned, 12:45 min/mile, but I was enjoying the gorgeous day.

We wind around and around and around. Like truly, it is a windy course where many many times you can see part of the course coned off right by you on the other side of the intersection or a block away.

Melissa and I stick together. Eva does run/walk intervals so we leapfrog with her plenty of times. We chat with a woman who is a 50 state marathon club member who is working on her second set of 50 states. But then she says she was in the hospital for cardiac issues a week ago and someone is going to take her blood pressure at mile 11 and decide if she can officially continue ??? Whoa, makes me nervous, and I thought about her afterward and hoped she was okay.

Late in mile 10 we pass within a couple blocks of the finish area and encounter lots of half marathoners with their medals and their families walking around. Great to know we have to go back out for 16 more miles to get our darn medal. ;-)

Miles 9 to 11 we're taking some extra walk breaks on Melissa's request. No problem, this is a training run, I'm not in a big hurry. But around mile 11 the walks were starting to mess with my rhythm, and I told Melissa I needed to go on. I was sad to leave her, I enjoyed running with her so much, I wasn't looking forward to 15 miles alone, but it was what I needed to do.

Miles Eleven to the Turnaround at Mile 19

Now we're on the out-and-back, and I can see the very fastest runners coming in to the finish about mile 25. It's a great distraction to focus on the runners coming back.

At mile 13, we turn at the corner of an intersection where there is a large pretty church named St. Michael's. It's on the right side of this picture.

It seemed like mass was ending, and there's lots of bells and organ music and flute music. It was very calming.

We turn at the church to head around a cute little lake. I think it was called Lake Takanasee (I remember because when I saw the sign, it made me think of Tallahassee!).

Back on the straightaway for mile 14 and beyond. I leapfrog with an energetic fellow who sprints way ahead and then walks. He yells out to every Marathon Maniac on the out AND the back. He's so into it all that he almost misses one of our turns!

I come across some TNT coaches who are walking with and helping out a guy. I try to piece together the story and almost get the impression that he found this was going on and just jumped in at the start, and now he was at mile 15 and wondering when to jump out. Like he wasn't registered. Like he wasn't a runner. It was very bizarre.

At mile 17, we cross a bridge of a pretty inlet. Wonderful view. And can I mention how nice the breeze was through most of the race?

Another half mile down the course, around another nice body of water!

At mile 18, we get onto the Asbury Park boardwalk! I've been waiting for this. Finally, the beach. Finally, the ocean. On the Jersey shore. Each open air bar and Italian ice stand is blasting catchy music, and it keeps me moving. The wood of the boardwalk makes me nervous at first that I'll catch a toe and fall, but then I find instead that it gives me a little spring in my step and I'm moving well on it!

We go through an old ripped-apart-to-the-framework casino! Yes, we actually run through it! And the first step inside of this unusual tunnel is a slick beautiful old marble tiled floor. I slow down and ensure solid mid-foot landing through it.
We ran through this around mile 18.5

Onto an asphalt section next, and then around a cute little green park area framed by gingerbread trim two story houses.

Mile 19, and the turnaround on the out-and-back course

Once we're around the park, we've officially turned around. It's mile 19, and we're heading back north to that glorious finish line.

The Pain Plateau

While going around that park, I do a self-check of what's going on with my body, and I realize the pains that had started to become stronger around mile 12 (which felt really early and scared me) are not really getting stronger or worse. I think I'm approaching my pain plateau, that moment in an endurance race, in the absence of injury, where generally it's not going to get any more painful than it is. Now it's just about sitting in that pain and swimming up to your nose in it for another maybe hour and a half and not giving up or losing my mind.

There's a joy in realizing that I'm at that point.

Down On The Boardwalk! Miles 19 to 21

Back onto the boardwalk from whence we came until right at mile 20 when we hit a new stretch of boardwalk. We go through another tunnel of old eroded casino. These tunnels were refreshing and fun!
Mile 20, we actually run through here!

After going through the tunnel, I stop a random stranger who is walking down the boardwalk and ask him to take my picture. He's not as quick about it as I would love, but he's kind and nice, and I actually love the picture that turned out. I feel like I look so happy and relaxed. I love it so much that I started the post with it and include it midway here too! ;-)

Makin' The Call - Literally and Figuratively

Around mile 21, we've exited the boardwalk and are back on the street. And I've spent the last two miles doing math in my head. And let me tell you that even when you have a degree in mathematics like I do, it's hard to do even basic math at mile 20 of a race! I wasn't hear to race a marathon, but I'm 7 seconds per mile ahead of my pace for my marathon PR set 2 weeks before at Oz Marathon at this point. Do I slow down and take more walk breaks? I mean I've hit the pain plateau but that has no reflection on the pain after the finish line depending on how I run this race. Do I race it and go for the PR? And what if I go for the PR and don't get it? Now I've burned the energy, have no PR to show for it, and have an even harder recovery and two weeks of training before Jemez 50K!

After hemming and hawing for a quarter-mile, I pull out my phone and do something that will sound crazy. I call my coach Jeremy. I need someone objective to tell me what to do. To put emotion aside and think for me for the endgame, for the Chattanooga Stage Race that's 6 weeks away. What is best for that training?

Aaaannnnd he doesn't answer the phone. Well, crap. Now I have to decide. And I'm going for it!

Now It's Time to Race - Mile 22 to Mile 26

Well, the numbers say it all...

First 20 miles - pace - 12:16 min/mi
Last 6.38 miles - pace - 11:54 min/mi
I haul butt. Funny story though that about mile 23 I come up to a Marathon Maniac who I recognize had run my New Years Double race! I introduced myself and correctly remembered his name was Chris. So funny to go so far away and meet a participant from one of my events. A joy!

I watch my heart rate zone from time to time. I keep it in a low Zone 3. If I go to Zone 4, I'll go anaerobic, and even if that's for a short bit, and even though it's only a handful of beats per minute above where I'm running in low Zone 3, hitting Zone 4 could make my recovery, and how I felt while traveling the rest of the day, feel truly miserable.

I stay strong and pass a good deal of walking runners. The sun is out and I get the feeling this is hard for those who live in that area. But it's still in the 60s so this Texas girl is loving it!

The last 2 miles I have a mantra that rhythmically has gotten into my head. "PUSH. PUSH. POWER. POWER." over and over again.

Sprint It In

I always think I'm dying, but I'm proud that I've learned how to find that kick at the end of a race. Relax the stride, control the breathing, pick the right time to speed up, and get this race finished. And the Garmin showed it...

26.0 to 26.2 -  10:43 pace
26.2 to 26.38 - 9:27 pace

I cross the finish line, hit stop on the watch, look at it, and I'm sobbing.

A New Personal Record!

5:21:43. I've PRed again at my 3rd full in 3 weeks. 1 minute and 20 seconds off of my PR set two weeks ago! After a particularly painful marathon a week ago. After I came out for a training run at a no-racing-intended pace.

I accept my finisher medal from a military man in uniform. It's a nice medal, a spinner medal, but I'm not big on engraving my medals and I wish spinners would have a snazzy two sides instead of one side being awesome and the other being a blank box to engrave your time. But still a very pretty medal.

I pose for a finish picture, which I rarely ever do since I barely ever buy them. But I do because I'm so giddy happy that I just might buy these.

I can't even get out of the finish corral before I'm dialing my husband, Steve. I cut to the chase as soon as he picks up because I'm worried he'll freak out about the heaving cries inbetween words. I'm so beyond ecstatic.

The Aftermath

And then I have to hobble to the shuttle to take us back to the start line. Ugh. And it's a school bus with three monstrous steps to get on and off. Ugh. And then I'm back and have to walk a couple tenths of a mile through the parking lot to get to my car. Ugh. Then I drive my car to the portalets at the edge of the parking lot near the start and have to use a very well-used portapotty to change my clothes and clean up. Double ugh. I use a bazillion baby wipes to get all the salt off. I didn't sweat heavily during this race, my clothes aren't too drenched at all, but I am salty. More deodorant and a hope that I can pass for somewhat human until I get back to Dallas and finally get to shower at 11 pm tonight!

First priority - coffee. Nearby Starbucks gets the job done.

Then I must try the famed White Castle that New Englanders tell me about. If it was good enough for Harold and Kumar to go through so much to get some, then I must too! And luckily, there's one only a couple tenths of a mile from the Starbucks stop.
Almost at White Castle

I can't say that I would want the sliders often of course, but for a treat and something different, they were yummy. I bought half original sliders and half cheeseburgers and liked the ones with cheese better.
White Castle Cheeseburger
Then, the 45 minute drive back to Newark airport. 7:15 pm flight back to Dallas. And I arrived at my house at 10:30 pm. LONG DAY!

Next Up

Jemez 50K in 2 weeks in Los Alamos, New Mexico. Excited for a fun, challenging, beautiful race. And it will certainly be challenging. My first race at elevation (7000 feet) and THEN we climb a mountain to 10,440 feet. And then back down. A couple simple goals for this race and overall finish time is NOT among them.


Final Chip Time: 5:21:43
First Half Marathon Checkpoint - 2:41:03
Second Half Marathon Total - 2:40:46
First 20 miles - pace - 12:16 min/mi
Last 6.38 miles - pace - 11:54 min/mi

Mile 1 - 11:37
Mile 2 - 11:46
Mile 3 - 11:50
Mile 4 - 11:57
Mile 5 - 11:59
Mile 6 - 12:14
Mile 7 - 12:01
Mile 8 - 12:19
Mile 9 - 13:00
Mile 10 - 13:07
Mile 11 - 12:56
Mile 12 - 12:32
Mile 13 - 12:26
Mile 14 - 12:28
Mile 15 - 12:01
Mile 16 - 12:16
Mile 17 - 11:45
Mile 18 - 12:29
Mile 19 - 12:28
Mile 20 - 12:29
Mile 21 - 12:27
Mile 22 - 11:35
Mile 23 - 12:17
Mile 24 - 12:19
Mile 25 - 11:52
Mile 26 - 11:45
0.2 miles by my Garmin - 10:43 pace
Remaining 0.18 mi to the finish - 9:27 pace


  1. Found your blog through Twitter and read your race recap... then I realized that you live in Dallas too! I started running about two or three years ago and the 2011 Heels and Hills was my first half marathon last year and see that you have been on the committee as well as being active in the DFW running community. Hope to meet you at a local race sometime!

  2. Libby, you are one strong runner! I can see how much effort you're putting in your training and it's showing at every race that you do!! I'm so proud of you! I love all the pictures from this marathon!!

    Blanca G.

  3. Great job on your run! However, this convinces me not to run a NJ Marathon. :-) Not that I had ever considered it in the first place. I live in East Texas, and I'm looking forward to my 2nd marathon in Portland, OR in October. However, I'm NOT looking forward to training through the summer months here. I'm up at 5 AM to run to beat the heat, but it's still muggy. This Yankee isn't built for it. :-) Good luck in the Jemez 50k!

  4. Your racing schedule is insane! I'm really inspired to go sign up for some more races right now. Congrats on another well-run race!*

  5. Wow lady, you are a machine!

  6. I ran the NJ Marathon this year also. I actually loved it. I didn't face the same traffic problems at all. Very little traffic actually at both the expo and race morning. The course itself is flat and fast. The water stops were wonderful. I usually run really large races and thought this smaller race was wonderful. I can't wait to run it again next year.

    1. I enjoyed the race itself, and I hope you didn't take away that I didn't. The traffic issues may have been timing for when you went versus when I did. :-) Good luck at future races!

  7. I also ran the NJ Marathon with my daughter this year. I live 1 hour and 30 minutes north of Long Branch. I didn't find the traffic overly heavy. As said, the expo was typical for an expo. The morning of the race we left the hotel at 6:30 and was parked by 6:55. We saw the first runners of the half run by but was not impacted by them. We had a nice run and finished our first marathon ever. Overall, we had a great time! Good luck on your future runs!

    1. John, it may have just been the timing of when I was coming through. For the expo, I'm not from the area and may have just chosen the most popular route with the most traffic. Also, the expo was small compared to other races of its size and compared to the hype it had received, but similar size to smaller events. I noticed you came to the race much later than I did (even with the 20ish minute delay, I was parked by 6:10). I still had a wonderful race but logistically wish they would not make the expo required (i.e. have race day packet pickup) and would find a way to ensure close parking with no delays for marathoners. Thanks for reading the blog and good luck on your races too!

  8. Hi Libby, I was telling my wife about you today. I find it amazing that in a 24 - 36 hour period you can fly from Texas, run a marathon, and fly back to Texas. Awesome! You go girl! as my daughter would say. Thanks for the detailed run report. It did nicely summarize a big event in my daughter's, and my, life.