Atlantic City Half Marathon
It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a runner in search of a fast finish time must be in want of a tailwind.
Yet somehow, defying all laws of meteorology and wind shifts or whatever, no matter which direction I go, I am always running into a headwind. How can this be?! (Okay, maybe not always. But definitely far more often than one would expect.)
Anyway, I had no expectations for this race at all; I was only doing it because I won an entry to it. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t pay good money for the privilege of waking up in the middle of the night and driving over two hours to run a race unless that particular event meant something special to me, and this one didn’t. Considering the fact that I’ve been dealing with ITBS for the past couple of months, my shin splints have resurfaced, I’m coming down with a cold, and holy crap it was windy… I guess the results are pretty decent. I would have liked to break 1:50, and I’m a little annoyed because I know that if my knee hadn’t been giving me so much trouble I probably could have eked out a PR, but whatever, I don’t really care.
Since it would take me about 2:15 to get to Atlantic City, and because I have the world’s worst sense of direction ever (even [or especially] with a GPS), I was up at 3 AM and out the door before 4 AM. For a race that started at 8 AM.
Can I just ask, what does the state of New Jersey have against streetlights?! It’s quite nerve-wracking to be driving along the Garden State Parkway without another vehicle in sight, nothing but blackness in your rearview mirror, and the little reflective road surface markings for a couple of hundred feet ahead of you… just until the road curves. And I spent about seventy miles on this lovely stretch.
Because I left so early, I naturally did not get lost. I arrived a little after 6.00, which meant that I was lucky enough to get a spot in Bally’s parking lot — as close to the start / finish as possible! I seriously considered setting an alarm on my phone and taking a half-hour nap, but instead I went in search of my bib, which I found in Caesar’s Palace Palladium Ballroom, sans packet. Supposedly that’s being mailed to me. I really hope so, because the shirt happens to be quite awesome — gender specific, tech, and long sleeves. Triple win.
Temperature-wise, the weather was fine, right around 60° — just where I like it. But it was close to 90% humidity, which isn’t appreciated by either my lungs or my pelvis… and it was really, really windy.
Unlike most races I’ve done, this one actually had pacers, but even if I were purposely gunning for a PR, they wouldn’t have helped me — I would have had to choose between 1:47 (3:35 marathon pacer) and 1:37 (3:25 marathon pacer). The former is too slow, and the latter is too fast. Plus, when we split from the full marathoners at the 11-mile mark, I was ahead of the 1:47 pacer, and it would have been really tough to make up that much time in only two miles. Better to rely on yourself, really.
I’d heard conflicting reports about the course — some said it was flat throughout, some said it was hilly in the first four or five miles. I guess that’s true, if you consider highway entry and exit ramps hills. I don’t. They’re not long, they’re really not that steep… it’s hilly relative to the rest of the course, but not relative to anything else in the world!
I don’t really feel like giving a mile-by-mile account, so here are the splits, and you can probably infer for yourself what happened.
I was pretty much on pace for sub-1:45 until the 10K mark; I know I was slowing down in miles 4 and 5, but that happened at Long Island too, so I wasn’t too worried about it. There was a tunnel somewhere in the second or third mile, which meant everyone lost satellite reception. I knew about this, so I wore my foot pod as a backup, but there was still a huge lag when all was said and done. The nice thing about the tunnel was that it blocked the wind! (I mean, there was hardly any air to breathe, but beggars can’t be choosers.)
It wasn’t much past the 10K point — we had just passed the timing mats — that I started to calculate and realized that because of the aforementioned time lag, I might not be on pace for sub-1:45 after all. My knee was really bothering me, and I made the executive decision to stop for it since I likely wasn’t going to PR anyway. And that’s mostly what happened for the next seven miles. My running pace would have gotten me a PR, but I kept having to stop and try to loosen up my idiotic knee, and that’s what killed me. (I may have berated myself quite harshly for running races at all and sworn I’d never do one again… you know, the usual.) I’m sure the headwind did not help matters, either! A little after the 8 mile mark, we hit the boardwalk; the half marathoners turned around at the 11 mile mark and headed back to the finish. There was a little tailwind on the way out; there was a massive headwind on the way back in. It almost felt like I was running backwards. I guess this is probably what happens when you run so close to the water.
I don’t know what I can say about the course, really — it’s old news that I tend to be oblivious to my surroundings when I run. Maybe it’s beautiful and picturesque… I notice things in bits and flashes, so that would mostly pass me by. It is a pretty flat course, but I wouldn’t necessarily say that translates into it being a fast course, because that would only be true if it wasn’t ridiculously windy. I’m not joking — even when there was a pack of us, nobody was blocking anybody else from the wind; it somehow made its way to all of us. I have no idea how this is even possible, but I assure you that it happened. Multiple times.
My Garmin measured the course so long that this is now the farthest I have ever run: 13.3 miles in 1:51:09, 8:21/mi.
Official results: 1:51:05, 8:28/mi. I can’t really figure out the official results, so until Athlinks does that for me… I think I placed 204/1252 runners, 51/729 females, and 15/205 in the F20-29 AG.
I also visited the med tent for the first time ever after a race, to get ice for my poor knee. Which is really, really not very happy right now. I’m at my wit’s end with it; the joke is over!
But I still maintain that it’s better than a fracture.