The Atlantic City Half Marathon Kicked My Butt For My Birthday

Nothing says, “I’ve got something to prove” like running a half marathon for your 40th birthday. What was I trying to prove and to whom? Good question…

Dan, the kids and I headed down to Ocean City, NJ to spend the weekend at the beach with my brother-in-law and sister-in-law, celebrate our milestone birthdays, and for us to run the Atlantic City Full Marathon (Dan) and Half Marathon (me).

Due to Dan’s back ailment, he had to defer his entry to next year, so I was running solo. This race, like the Ridgefield Half, was also a “tune up” race, as part of my taper to the NYC Marathon on November 4th. So nothing to go crazy with, but being that it’s fast, almost-flat course at the beach, and that it was my 40th birthday, I had something to prove to myself. Deep inside I wanted that Personal Record again.

The problem was, I had spent all week battling a cold and taking care of an ailing husband and daughter. I averaged about 5 hours sleep each night. I was congested and just plain dog tired. But I was going to run this thing. Just…keep…moving…forward…

We started in front of the Bally’s Casino on the Boardwalk.

marathon training long run

Blue skies are smilin’ at me.

The race had about 2500 entrants (full and half combined). It was a dry, cloudless, 50-degree fall day at the Jersey Shore. The port-a-potties were plentiful and the crowd was energized. Despite my lack of sleep, I think I fueled well. I ate clean-n-carby the night before (thanks to Karen, my S-I-L), and I stopped the fluids about 45 minutes before the race. Other than being in a zombie-like state, I was as ready as I could be.

Even though Dan didn’t run he was going to be my spectator. We left the kids in OC, so it was like a date, only with sweat and not actually being near each other for over 2 hours.

20121028-232722.jpg

I handed the camera to him. I wanted to give myself a break from taking photos during a run. Not long after the race started, I was kind of sorry I didn’t have it with me.

The gun went off, and since we were a little sardine-ish in the corrals, we do the shuffle-shuffle-shuffle-run! up to the start. The course ran up the Boardwalk for a couple of miles, then onto the streets of AC. I can appreciate how far AC has come in the past 30 years, but the presence of casinos against a backdrop of (some) lingering urban blight is just bizarre. Like at one point we were running behind the Borgata – one of the schwankiest in AC – and I spied with my little eye a disheveled woman in extremely short shorts of the not-running kind, walking barefoot, carrying stiletto heels and smoking a cigarette. The brain cannot reconcile such things easily – but a long race gives you time to ruminate on such things.

I would say the course was relatively flat. There were some small climbs from road ramps – at the top of one of the ramps I got a sweeping view of the back bay and the electric wind turbines. We ran about 1/2 mile in a tunnel that went under the AC Expressway (feelin’ hot! hot! hot!) that had a long climb out of it. There were times when racers were on ramps and above/below each other so you could randomly shout and wave to the other runners above/below you. Not that I did that. (Yes, I did.)

I felt surprisingly good for the first 7-8 miles. Dare I say it even felt “easy”. I found myself pacing with a 50-ish guy with a beard and a khaki cap. We had been within a few yards of each other since the beginning. When I would slow down to take a water, after I started up again I would look for Mr. Khaki Cap, and catch up to him. He would fall behind, then I would see him out of the corner of my eye, sneaking up on me again. We did this little game for about 9 miles. When you pace with someone that long without talking to other (or even looking at each other), it’s like a little game of tag. It’s another Jedi mind-trick to get you through the race.

After mile 8, things…just…started…to…slow…down. Mr. Khaki Cap pulled ahead of me and I had trouble tracking him. The course went back up on the boardwalk, and south past the start/finish line. The Half Marathoners continued about 2 miles south, then we were do to a complete 180 degree turnaround and head back north to the finish. There were no “lanes” to run in, so things got kind of wacky, as I found myself dodging tourists and spectators, and half marathoners coming from the opposite direction.

I did see Dan once around mile 10.

long run marathon training

I don’t want to know what the store behind me is advertising.

I got a smile and a wave and a cheer! That perked me up a bit (I was also happy to see Dan standing up at that point – I was worried that his back problem would make him go jelly-legged that morning.).

But after that, it just got hard. I can’t say that it was one specific part of my body that hurt, but my energy was tanking. I did my normal fueling of a gel and some nibbles of Clif bar. It helped, but I was still struggling. I stopped looking at my Garmin back at mile 11 – I didn’t want to know. I was afraid my perceived effort didn’t match my real pace. I don’t normally need a mantra to repeat unless I’m climbing a hill, but I started thinking about my birthday, and then I started thinking about how far I’ve come as a runner. I started running when I was 37, so for some unknown reason I just kept repeating the numbers 37, 38, 39, 40 over and over again, like a lame trance. The song “Unwritten” came on my ipod, and I just repeated 37…38…39…40 in my head like a broken record, in time with the music.

I don’t remember ever turning so far inward during a race before. Usually I’m with Mary, or I’m watching the crowds, soaking in the atmosphere. This was completely different. I tuned out everything around me, listened to my breath, felt every footstep. I passed Dan close to the finish without even seeing him.

long run marathon training

Not even a glance…

He said he was yelling for me, but I didn’t hear him. He said he almost didn’t recognize me because I had my “race face” on. I’m guessing he means this face:

marathon training atlantic city

Now that’s a race face.

I am known for my smiley face race photos. This was not a smiley-face moment.

Shortly thereafter, I crossed the finish line. I remembered to stop my Garmin (I often forget) and was shocked, shocked! to see 2:09:05 – a new Personal Record by about 45 seconds! I always try not to linger in the woulda-shoulda-couldas of my mind, but I admit I did briefly wonder what I could have done had I actually been rested that weekend.

I did prove something to myself that day – that I could push through the hard parts to get to the good parts. Maybe it’s a metaphor for turning 40…I’ve pushed through the hard parts of 20’s and 30’s, so that my 40’s will be even sweeter. Or maybe more tiring. I can’t tell which yet.

20121028-232701.jpg

Sporty Forty.

Advertisements

5 thoughts on “The Atlantic City Half Marathon Kicked My Butt For My Birthday

  1. Way to stick with it and push thru! So looking forward to hearing how the marathon goes for you! I agree with Jen: Stay safe! We’re thinking of you!

  2. Pingback: (Cape) May I Have Some More? | See Nancy Run.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s