PR Race: 2017 AC April Fools Half Marathon

I’m doing my PR dance all over the place! (Yes, it’s just as awkward as you’re imagining.)

The Atlantic City April Fools Half Marathon holds a very special place in my heart for a multitude of reasons.

  1. I was born on April Fools Day! It was actually one of the reason I signed up for the inaugural race way, way back in 2012.
  2. I’ve run this race with many friends over the past 6 years! A birthday race calls for a birthday party, am I right? I’ve had friends from all over the country travel in to do this race with me and I’m forever grateful to every single one of them.
  3. For over the past year I trained the course with my lifelong pal, Chrissy!

Over the years this race has gone from great to phenomenal. The race director really pays attention to feedback and it shows.

What do runners want that this race provides? Great communication leading up to the race, multiple locations for packet pickup (this was added after I registered, I opted to do race morning pickup for a small fee), bag check, starting on time, flat/fast course, on course entertainment, free race pictures, wonderful volunteers, unique medals, costume contests, and yummy post-race snacks, and free beer. Yes, yes, and more yes! Much appreciated!

I live an hour from Atlantic City so I always opt to just drive the morning of the race.

Tiptoeing around my house before I left.

After fueling with a homemade nutrition bar and drinking Spark, I also brought water and an apple for just before the race began. I have a bad habit of not planning fuel well before races and I wanted to avoid that if possible.

The drive was uneventful (just how a drive should be) and parking at Resorts was free (just how I like it). I needed to get there early because packet pickup was from 6am – 7am so I arrived at 6:15 and quickly got set up with my race bib and bag. The bag contained the race shirt (blue – I love this year’s color, design, and fabric) and a few freebies – including saltwater taffy!

I planted myself in a lounge area and waited until closer to the start of the race to go outside. This was the most relaxed I’ve felt before I race ever and I was able to zone out for about a half hour. Having the option for bathrooms inside a casino rather than portapotties is always nice, too, and I stopped by before heading to the boardwalk.

Just after I checked my bag, I ran into longtime friend, Rob! I’d seen him at the Rowan 5k the day before and it was great to see a friendly face immediately. We spent the remaining minutes before the race chatting.

This was the first time I ran this race solo and I knew that I could achieve a PR, given my training and my familiarity with the course. I went in feeling very confident. The weather was fantastic (very different from last year!) and I knew that it could be my day.

I decided to run the first mile and then settle into 30:30 intervals. I wanted to play with my speed on the run intervals and I knew that with short bursts I would be able to keep a steady pace but also push when necessary.

The first 7 miles were fairly consistent. I felt good and strong while running, both on the boardwalk and when we turned onto the street.

I knew where the boards were a bit more springy, where the road slopes to the left, and where to put myself so that my feet were even and I felt secure. I know some people don’t like out and back courses; personally, I love that I had the opportunity to see my friends and cheer for them along the way.

Free race photos! Which is good because I hardly took any pictures during this event – I was on a mission.

Looking at my splits I’m sure it’s clear when I hit the turn-around and was slammed with headwind. Ooof!

Yep, that’s right… 7 and a half. This was also around the time that I started talking to myself. Out loud. With feeling.

“Meridith, you can do this. YOU CAN DO THIS. You can and you will! You need to stay strong and keep pushing for that PR. This is all a mental game and you know you can do this.Let’s go. Hustle!”

I made it my goal to stay under 13 minute miles. I was still a little scarred from my Philadelphia half but I knew this course. I trained on this course. And I was positive that I could stay under 13 minute miles and attain a huge PR.

My self pep talks continued throughout the last miles. The volunteers energy at the water stops was contagious and once I hit the main area of the boardwalk, I knew exactly what I needed to do.

I know this is totally cheesy but it was as though a montage was playing in my head. There were places along the way that reminded me of Chrissy and our training runs together. There were songs that reminded me of my children. The year we dresses as beauty queens and then the next year when we dressed as the Rockford Peaches flashed through my mind. Even though I was running this race alone, it didn’t feel that way.

I did my best and didn’t give up. When I saw the clock as I approached the finish line, I was elated! An 8 minute PR was mine!

I feel so, so good about this race. I knew that I would be able to do well and I’m really proud! I hit a lot of PRs last year but my half PR was a bittersweet because I didn’t have a good race experience. This is what I wanted my experience to be and what I wanted it to feel like and I could think of no better place to do it!

Immediately after I got my medal, my IG friend Angela found me! I don’t know if I conveyed just how grateful I was that she did that; I was so happy to see a familiar face! We were able to catch up for a few minutes and then parted ways. I also got to catch up with Hollie both before and after the race, which is always great!

I went along to grab a bagel, drink, and Johnson’s popcorn. There were other treats as well but I wanted to get my bag from bag check and my free beer at the bar! Priorities!

Happy, happy, happy! This race was everything that a PR race should be! I’ve already registered for lucky number 7, the Atlantic City April Fools half on April 15, 2018. Who’s with me?

Falling Into Fall Racing

What is it about fall that makes me want to run all the races?

Maybe it’s the lack of summer races (and ahem, summer training). Maybe it’s all this talk about PSL. Maybe it’s because these two handsome boys started school this week.

2nd and 6th graders in the house!

2nd and 6th graders in the house!

I’ll tell you what it’s not. It’s not the weather.

Because at the moment it is nearly 100 degrees. One zero zero. I’m making such a face right now, Mother Nature.

I’m working under the assumption that eventually Mother Nature will work things out and when she does, I’m going to be ready for fall racing! And in the meanwhile, I will try to remember my sunscreen.

acbeach5mile

At the beginning of this week, I was signed up for just two. Run the Bridge 10k and the Philly half marathon (which, by the way, is having a screaming deal TODAY ONLY 12pm-8pm with pricing from way back in April when registration opened. Use coupon codes PM16FULL or PM16HALF).

And now I’m up to four!

I’ll be doing a 5k at my son’s school to later this month and the 10k in Atlantic City next month. #cantstopwontstop

Using the City Fit Girls plan that we used in the winter/spring, my training buddy, Chrissy and I are preparing to tackle all the fall races (or at least the ones I can afford)!

We thought it would be cooler by the ocean. We thought wrong.

We thought it would be cooler by the ocean. We thought wrong.

The first run back after not running all that much was exactly what we expected it to be: awful. It wasn’t fun, it was hot, and I’m pretty sure I was dripping sweat all over the boardwalk.

That said, I’m so glad that we did it. There’s always going to be that first run back and more than likely, it’s not going to be great. But it’s behind us now and we can move forward!

2016 has been pretty good to me as far as being injury free and I’m pretty stoked about that fact because it’s been awhile since I’ve been able to say that. However, I do have some time goals that I would like to hit and I’m hoping that the fall is when I’m able to accomplish them.

Clear skies ahead!

Clear skies ahead!

What do you have planned for the fall? Any tips for me as I head into the longer runs?

How Do You Know I Did A Training Run?

Don’t worry, I’ll tell you!

Seriously though, I know that there are two camps of people.

  1. Those who want to hear all about my training, running, food, water intake, breathing.
  2. The rest of the world… who are probably not reading this blog post.

So, for those who fall into the first camp, it’s no secret that I’m training for the Atlantic City April Fools Half. I talk about it a lot because it consumes a lot of my free time. AND, for the first time in a long time, my body is actually behaving, feeling pretty darn good, and seems to be on board with this plan.

As such, it’s training time and I’m armed and ready. I’ve got my 12 week half marathon plan. Bonus? I actually started training 12 weeks ahead of time. That rarely has never happened before.

Thanks to City Fit Girls and Coach Marcy for this plan!

Thanks to City Fit Girls and Coach Marcy for this plan!

I’ve got my sneakers (and new GoPro camera – heyyyy!).

Wave Inspire 12s love the boardwalk.

Mizuno Wave Inspire 12s love the boardwalk.

And I’ve got my training partner in crime.

Chrissy and me, after our first training run.

Chrissy and me, after our first training run for the April race.

Usually I don’t have the opportunity to train with my race day buddies; the majority of them are scattered across the country. You might remember Chrissy from last year’s Broad Street 10 Miler and Philly half – she’s local-ish (and we’ve been friends for the better part of 30 years).

Just before the open strains of Auld Lang Syne, Chrissy and I were texting about our training plans for the April Fools half and we came up with our long run game plan.

While we both live in New Jersey, we’re about an hour and a half apart. However, Atlantic City is equidistant from both of us so we figured, wouldn’t it make sense to train on the course? Yes! Yes, it would.

We both got really excited by this plan. We texted more. We messaged on Facebook and Instagram (to cover all our bases). We talked about the distance we wanted to go our first run. And then?

Then we looked at the weather.

So you're saying New Jersey is cold in January?

So you’re saying New Jersey is cold in January?

We persevered! The excitement overrode the nervousness of the cold weather and we dressed appropriately.

And when I tell you it wasn’t that bad, it really wasn’t that bad! Once you start moving and enjoying the scenery, 5 miles goes fast!

5milestraining

5milestraining2

The following week, we had 6 miles on tap. Again we checked the weather and while it was supposed to be cold, it was also supposed to be windy. Really windy. Extreme winds.

We made the executive decision to take it to the treadmill and text throughout to hold each other accountable. No wimping out!

treadmill6

My basement =/= the beach

I watched Pretty Little Liars (I’m liking it again, for the record – the 5 year jump did it for me).

Did 2:1 intervals and we got it done.

Well, that was not so much fun.

Well, that was not so much fun.

Then I laid down on the belt for awhile and took a rest.

treadmillsixselfie

I started a little bit earlier than Chrissy so I was about 2 miles into the run when she started. While supine, I texted encouraging messages to her until she wrapped up and sent me her finished selfie!

chrissytreadmill

Look at that smile!

We were back out on the boards this week for our 7 mile run, with weather much like the first week of training. Hooray!

7milerun

We felt pretty ready to be done at 5 miles but we kept going, circling back around because we ran out of boardwalk.

boards7

We’re still figuring all of this out as we go but there are a few hard and fast rules of our training runs.

  1. We do what we want. For awhile we were doing 2:1 intervals but Chrissy has been doing 1:1 for about a year now. This past week, mid-run we decided to change back to 1:1. Why? Because it felt better. If we want to stop mid-run and take a picture in front of a sign, or the ocean, or the cool wall we found, we stop. Long slow distance, we take it to heart.
  2. If you hear music, you must dance. There are a few places on the (very empty) boardwalk that have speakers with music playing. There is ALWAYS dancing. And sometimes singing. I haven’t gotten a video of it yet but trust me, I’m sure one will show up on the Instagram.
  3. Stairs or escalator? No. There’s no or. See, that was a trick question. It’s always stairs. And if we’re feeling especially motivated we might run stairs after our run just for fun. (Okay, that only happened once so far.)
  4. Food. Eating is a key part of the training run regiment. We found a little place that makes breakfast sandwiches and man, is it amazing. Seriously.
  5. Ducks Fly Together! And when the roosters are crowing and the cows are spinning circles in the pasture? DUCKS FLY TOGETHER.

That last one is the most important. We stick together. And as long as we do that, by race day, we win no matter what.

Next week we have an 8 miler on tap and we’re really hoping that the impending blizzard doesn’t force us back to the treadmills. But if it does, I know I can do it because I’ve got my training partner in crime and together we can handle anything!

Are you training for a spring race? What’s the longest distance you’ve done on a treadmill? Do you try to run a local course before race day?

 

2014 AC Marathon Race Series 10k Recap

One of my tried and true, go-to race series that I return to repeatedly is the Atlantic City Marathon Series. Why? Well, it really boils down to these key points:

1. It’s in my state! New Jersey races for the win!

2. The value is phenomenal. If you sign up early with a finisher’s code, a 10k or half marathon can cost less than other single pricey 5k events.

3. Overall, it’s a really great smaller race series and I love supporting it.

Last year’s 10k was a bit on the soggy side, so I was very happy to see the weather forecast for this year’s race was sunny and clear skies. Especially considering that I’d been sick with a pretty horrible cold throughout the week.

Since I was still recovering, I decided that rather than doing Neptune’s Challenge (which was the 10k and half that I originally signed up for) I was only going to do the 10k. Spoiler alert: I made the right call!

Yes, please!

Yes, please!

In October, you never know what you’re going to get in terms of the weather, but we lucked out! And it’s a good thing because I had my cheer crew with me.

Little and Mom are in the house!

Little and Mom!

Usually I’m flying solo or with friends for races, but this time there was the added bonus of my mom and my youngest son who not only joined me for the expo but also the morning of the race.

Since I live within driving distance, we drove the hour back and forth on both Friday night (for the expo) and Saturday morning. Sadly, there was no day of race pick up – that would have shaved some travel time for us, as well as parking costs (although we got $5 vouchers at the expo). We made the best of our visits by getting treats at the candy shop on the boardwalk and wandering around.

2014ac10k4

Little was very excited that he was somewhere that his big brother had never been before. TWICE. It’s all about the competition when you’re five.

2014ac10k1

Really excited about this sign. The other side said, “I love you mom, because I love you.”

However, when you’re 37, it’s all about finishing the race and not hacking your lungs out on the boardwalk. Or, well, at least it was for me during this race. Because, let me tell you, this was not a fun race for me.

2014ac10k6

The race environment was awesome, as always. Running the boards always feels good because it has that extra give; I enjoyed the running aspect.

This particular race is an out and back – the first mile is on the populated “store area” of the boardwalk, then you run along a residential area. There is a 5k turn around and further down the 10k turn around.

The problem was that my lungs felt like they could never get quite enough air and when they finally did, I was coughing. I ran 2:1 intervals throughout and while I wasn’t feeling wonderful, I did appreciate the view.

2014ac10k7

I mean, how can you not?

By the last mile I was so ready to be done, which is a shame, because that’s usually my favorite part of this race. This time? Not so much. The last mile definitely felt like it had doubled in length but finally, I saw the finish line!

2014ac10k8

My mom snapped this.

I crossed the finish with a smile on my face, because, YAY! I WAS DONE! They said everyone’s name as we crossed the line, which I thought was a really nice touch and with a field of 950 participants, very doable.

I was immediately handed a medal and a bottle of water. I made my way over to the barrier where my mom and Little were cheering and Little immediately homed in on the water. “Oh, Momma, I’m SO thirsty.” Yes, he took my bottle of water.

Thankfully, in the finisher’s village I was able to snag a plethora of treats including Gatorade, Rita’s Water Ice, a banana, pretzels, bagel, and PowerBar. This was a welcome change from the end of the April Fool’s Half where the back of the pack missed out on most of the snacks. It’s always great when you know that race directors hear you!

After handing off my beer ticket, I met up with my family once more.

2014ac10k9

Little promptly took my bagel.

Was it my best race ever? No, it was not. But not for lack of effort on the AC Marathon Series’ part. Some races will just be better than others, due to circumstances beyond control. And hey, that’s okay. My greatest takeaway from this one is that I have the best cheering squad ever! Even if one of them takes all of my things. At least he let me wear the medal.

2014ac10k10

What fall race do you have coming up next? I’ll be at the Biggest Loser Run Walk at Six Flags Great Adventure for their 10k and kids race. Ever run a race while under the weather?

2014 Atlantic City April Fools half

We came, we ran and we were crowned, sashes and all. It was a true Scoot a Doot invasion of Atlantic City!

I had an incredible time Sunday at the Atlantic City April Fools Half Marathon and even came away with an unexpected prize – a new PR.

I’d been flirting with the idea of running this race for ages, as Meri has run it for three straight years and repeatedly raved about her experiences. So when she suggested a Scoot girls’ weekend centered around the half, I quickly agreed, registered and ultimately booked a flight.

Race morning, we arrived at the host casino Revel, which is at the far north end of the Atlantic City boardwalk. We were able to zip through the casino bathrooms and drop our bags at gear check without even waiting in any lines.

AC2The chicks and friends in a pre-race #SuperSelfie (Clockwise from midnight:Bec, Cam, Heather, Meri, me, Anne and Brooke)

As you may recall from last week’s Chick Chat, I had absolutely no race plan. But since the course was flat as a pancake, I decided to chase down that PR.

I went for it. And because I was a woman on a mission – I did it.

I lined up with Brooke as we decided to start off together. Once the race began, we both sprinted off, starting a wee bit too fast. We were excited, and a bit chilly, and we bolted. B and I had agreed to run our own races and to push it, so off I went.

That first mile was around an 8:30 min pace, which I knew I couldn’t sustain. So I pulled back to around 8:40-8:45, where I stayed for most of the race.

Much of those first three miles for me were focused on my surroundings and running along the boardwalk. I spotted the hotel where I’d stayed for a beach weekend back in the 90s and the spot where I went for a good friend’s bachelorette party a few years back.

And of course I spent many miles of the race thinking about the board game Monopoly. Park Place, Connecticut and Baltic avenues. Each road sign brought waves of childhood board game memories.

But I was overwhelmed with the need for a bathroom early in the race. So as I increased my speed, I also scanned the horizon for a well-placed bush or portajohn.

And there it was, just before the third mile marker. I ran down a ramp and off the boardwalk and hopped into a portajohn attached to a construction site. A quick in and out and I returned to the boards, sprinting to try to reclaim my lost place in the race.

I spotted Brooke as I ran and caught her. We chatted a bit and she told me that I looked strong and to keep going. Thanks for the vote of encouragement, B. It’s exactly what I needed to hear.

The first 4.5 miles of the out-and-back course were on the boardwalk. What a view! And yes, there was an occasional breeze.

We veered left and off the boards at Washington Avenue and spent the next few miles on Atlantic Avenue. Because of the nature of the course, runners heading south could watch the race leaders zip by as they headed back toward the finish.

I was closing in on mile six as my Oiselle teammate Hollie zipped by, dueling for the top women’s spot with another woman. I screamed out her name and yelled “Fly Birdie!” as we exchanged a mid-race high-five.

AC3Hollie and me after the race. She placed second overall with a PR of 1:23:23

I passed the iconic historical landmark Lucy the Elephant  as I ran south and soon reached the halfway mark and turnaround while still on that 8:45 pace. Once I started running north I spotted a slew of friendly faces, many of whom shouted out to me as I pushed through a nasty side-stitch that developed on the return leg.

I slowed a bit to 9-minute-miles for miles 9 through 12. I focused on my breathing and pacing with an awesome lady who told me she was running her first half and trying to keep pace with me. How fortunate!

I took off on mile 12, just near Caesar’s Palace. A drunk passerby said something about Botox or blow jobs, I really couldn’t tell which but it made me laugh and motivated me to move faster. I picked it up knowing that I was about to beat my best time, set last year in Rochester.

I nearly hurled after I crossed the finish line, a sign that I truly left it all on the course. (I didn’t, for the record.) My official time was 1:57:25, an 8:57 pace. I’m thrilled!

AC1My shiny new medal on the Atlantic City boardwalk

I had a fabulous time at this race, which is a super-fast course. We really couldn’t have had better race weather. And I had a wonderful time with the Scoot chicks and friends for a long overdue massive girls’ weekend. I cannot wait until the next one.

AC4Three bestie birds, all decked out in our matching feather trials hoodies.

Have you ever run a race on a boardwalk or along the beach? Where do you go on your girls’ weekends? What’s your beach of choice?

2014 Atlantic City April Fools half

We came, we ran and we were crowned, sashes and all. It was a true Scoot a Doot invasion of Atlantic City!

I had an incredible time Sunday at the Atlantic City April Fools Half Marathon and even came away with an unexpected prize – a new PR.

I’d been flirting with the idea of running this race for ages, as Meri has run it for three straight years and repeatedly raved about her experiences. So when she suggested a Scoot girls’ weekend centered around the half, I quickly agreed, registered and ultimately booked a flight.

Race morning, we arrived at the host casino Revel, which is at the far north end of the Atlantic City boardwalk. We were able to zip through the casino bathrooms and drop our bags at gear check without even waiting in any lines.

AC2The chicks and friends in a pre-race #SuperSelfie (Clockwise from midnight:Bec, Cam, Heather, Meri, me, Anne and Brooke)

As you may recall from last week’s Chick Chat, I had absolutely no race plan. But since the course was flat as a pancake, I decided to chase down that PR.

I went for it. And because I was a woman on a mission – I did it.

I lined up with Brooke as we decided to start off together. Once the race began, we both sprinted off, starting a wee bit too fast. We were excited, and a bit chilly, and we bolted. B and I had agreed to run our own races and to push it, so off I went.

That first mile was around an 8:30 min pace, which I knew I couldn’t sustain. So I pulled back to around 8:40-8:45, where I stayed for most of the race.

Much of those first three miles for me were focused on my surroundings and running along the boardwalk. I spotted the hotel where I’d stayed for a beach weekend back in the 90s and the spot where I went for a good friend’s bachelorette party a few years back.

And of course I spent many miles of the race thinking about the board game Monopoly. Park Place, Connecticut and Baltic avenues. Each road sign brought waves of childhood board game memories.

But I was overwhelmed with the need for a bathroom early in the race. So as I increased my speed, I also scanned the horizon for a well-placed bush or portajohn.

And there it was, just before the third mile marker. I ran down a ramp and off the boardwalk and hopped into a portajohn attached to a construction site. A quick in and out and I returned to the boards, sprinting to try to reclaim my lost place in the race.

I spotted Brooke as I ran and caught her. We chatted a bit and she told me that I looked strong and to keep going. Thanks for the vote of encouragement, B. It’s exactly what I needed to hear.

The first 4.5 miles of the out-and-back course were on the boardwalk. What a view! And yes, there was an occasional breeze.

We veered left and off the boards at Washington Avenue and spent the next few miles on Atlantic Avenue. Because of the nature of the course, runners heading south could watch the race leaders zip by as they headed back toward the finish.

I was closing in on mile six as my Oiselle teammate Hollie zipped by, dueling for the top women’s spot with another woman. I screamed out her name and yelled “Fly Birdie!” as we exchanged a mid-race high-five.

AC3Hollie and me after the race. She placed second overall with a PR of 1:23:23

I passed the iconic historical landmark Lucy the Elephant  as I ran south and soon reached the halfway mark and turnaround while still on that 8:45 pace. Once I started running north I spotted a slew of friendly faces, many of whom shouted out to me as I pushed through a nasty side-stitch that developed on the return leg.

I slowed a bit to 9-minute-miles for miles 9 through 12. I focused on my breathing and pacing with an awesome lady who told me she was running her first half and trying to keep pace with me. How fortunate!

I took off on mile 12, just near Caesar’s Palace. A drunk passerby said something about Botox or blow jobs, I really couldn’t tell which but it made me laugh and motivated me to move faster. I picked it up knowing that I was about to beat my best time, set last year in Rochester.

I nearly hurled after I crossed the finish line, a sign that I truly left it all on the course. (I didn’t, for the record.) My official time was 1:57:25, an 8:57 pace. I’m thrilled!

AC1My shiny new medal on the Atlantic City boardwalk

I had a fabulous time at this race, which is a super-fast course. We really couldn’t have had better race weather. And I had a wonderful time with the Scoot chicks and friends for a long overdue massive girls’ weekend. I cannot wait until the next one.

AC4Three bestie birds, all decked out in our matching feather trials hoodies.

Have you ever run a race on a boardwalk or along the beach? Where do you go on your girls’ weekends? What’s your beach of choice?

On the Boardwalk, Out in the Sun

A half marathon with a dash of pageantry, Starbucks, and shenanigans. This is the Atlantic City April Fools Half Marathon, in pictures.

startlineac

Miss Demeanor, Miss Chief, Miss Print, Miss Behavin', Miss Fit, Miss Creant, Miss Placed

Hands on hips, smiles on lips. Miss Demeanor, Miss Chief, Miss Print, Miss Behavin’, Miss Fit, Miss Creant, Miss Placed (not pictured – Miss Ing)

Anne and Bec

Anne and Bec

Vic and Brooke show off their pageant waves.

Vic and Brooke show off their pageant waves.

"Oh, we have to run? We thought we were here just to look pretty."

“Oh, we have to run? We thought we were here just to look pretty.”

selfiestart

And they're off!

And they’re off!

Selfies were texted.

Selfies were texted.

Who loves running? THIS GIRL.

Who loves running? THIS GIRL.

Blue skies! #blessed

Blue skies! #blessed

Meanwhile... in Starbucks and Shenanigans news, Bec and Jess were chatting.

Meanwhile… in Starbucks and Shenanigans news, Bec and Jess (Miss Ing) were chatting.

Mer bringing it back to the old school.

Mer bringing it back to the old school.

Cam putting the "fool" in April Fools.

Cam putting the “fool” in April Fools.

Anne finishing strong! (And then she ate 47 oranges.)

Anne finishing strong!

In true Atlantic City fashion, Cam's crowning was VERY dramatic.

In true Atlantic City fashion, Cam’s crowning was VERY dramatic.

Cam and Jess have an "in person" Chick Chat.

Cam and Jess have an “in person” Chick Chat.

There would be more words with this post, however... wine.

There would be more words with this post, however… wine.

What did YOU do this weekend? Did you win a crown? What would your pageant name be?

Chick Chat: Game Plans for the Atlantic City April Fools Half

acbeach

It all started last April… Mer ran the Atlantic City April Fool’s Half and mentioned that she planned to register for the 2014 race. From there, Chick after Chick (and honorary Chicks) decided that they wanted to run too!

Race weekend has finally arrived and we’re ready to tackle hug each other and tackle the half marathon distance.

brookenameplateI’m so excited to visit the Garden State this weekend! I hate to be away from my family, but I really am in need of some girlfriend time. When I can combine that with a race? Well, in the words of one of my favorite Jersey girls, “It’s a good thing.”

My plan for this weekend is to have the most fun ever and try not to complain about the cold. Running wise, I am going to treat the race as an easy training run because I have some shin pain and I don’t want to make it worse before the Nike half marathon at the end of the month.

camnameplateMy plan is to try my damnedest to keep up with the coolest gal I know, Miss Meri. I’m going to push myself, something I’m adamantly against. But I want see what I can do. Who knows, I might surprise myself.

meridithnameplate

It’s funny because when I think about this weekend, the half marathon is sort of tacked in. “I have six friends staying at my house. And, OH YEAH, we are running a half marathon on Sunday.” I’m more freaked about cleaning and making sure that everyone is comfortable than running 13.1 miles. That’s insanity right there.

Cam and I are sticking together for this race, which probably has her freaking out a bit because we have a time goal and she’s not one for time goals. Luckily, we’ll be together so we’ll be having fun, no matter what! A race with Cam is always a good time – she ran my first race ever with me and we’ve done many more together throughout the past three years.

Turn around bright eyes!

Turn around bright eyes!

We’ll be running intervals, 3 minutes running, 1 minute walking. Running on the boardwalk is one of my favorite things because it’s so forgiving (and flat, of course). I’m a little nervous about miles 5-9 because that’s when we switch to the street and I always get a little mentally drained at that point. My goal is that we are consistent and feeling good throughout the entire race!

victorianameplateI should have a better laid-out race plan than the one I’m thinking of just now (which is nonexistent) but this weekend isn’t about running a best time for me. It’s all about spending time with my best girls.

It is no secret that I haven’t trained as well as I should have in recent weeks. I’ve been sick with a hacking cough, work has been nutty and I’ve been traveling. And since the course is flat as a pancake, I know it should be the time to push it.

And I might. I might not.

Either way, I plan to run with Brooke (right B?) and to help to set up friend Kate as she aims for a sub-2 half. And I’m going to have an amazing time with the girls and celebrate Meri’s birthday and her pending marathon on the fall!

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My plan for the AC half is quite simple… to not die. I’m only half kidding. My training has definitely been about distance, not speed, so my plan is to not panic about how long it is taking me to finish, and keep reminding myself that I can do this.

I have a feeling that miles 7 through 9 are going to be tough. I’m also pretty sure I’m going to ugly cry and embarrass myself at the finish line.

Aside from getting to spend time with my friends, I’m most looking forward to the medal. I’ve never gotten a medal at a race before, and I want that hardware. I’ve had so many cheerleaders and supporters on this path that I’m really excited about having something tangible to show them.

heathernameplateAs some of the Chicks can tell you, I am A Type A Personality. I always have A Plan and when that plan gets derailed…it’s hard. This winter has been the winter of derailed. In November, I ran the Disney Wine and Dine Half Marathon. I had high hopes going in, some pretty solid training…and disaster struck at mile 8. I crested a hill, there was a sharp pain in my hip and it was game over. I limped my way through the next five miles and finished, but between the finish and the week being dragged through the park by non-runner people who just didn’t get it, my hip was in a bad way.

To compound that, my return from Florida came with a horrible cough that two and a half months later when I finally saw a doctor (I’m stubborn too) was diagnosed as a rather nasty case of bronchitis with a side of sinus infection. That was some news I did NOT want to hear going into Disney’s Glass Slipper Challenge in February. I finished the challenge (gory details here and here) but I was in a bad way by the end, emotionally and physically. I felt defeated by being sick and defeated by running. The pictures of me actually moving have it written all over it. I was doing a better job faking it mid race. I mean, castle! In the mist! It was a good moment.

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So what do I want for this coming weekend? Redemption. I want to prove to myself that I can still do this and that one rotten winter is not going to get me. I am trying to be realistic about my lack of long distances runs leading up to this race, and the fact that I’m not going to be beating my previous times. Probably not by a long shot. But I want to finish this race feeling strong and not like I need someone to carry me to the car. I want to enjoy breathing in the ocean air and the rhythm of all those feet on the boardwalk. Last time I was feeling down about running, like maybe we weren’t really made to be friends, a run on the beach brought me out of it. I’m not quite in that place this time, but I feel like that ocean air might just be the little piece of magic I need to really get back on track. A cool medal and a weekend with friends doesn’t hurt either.

Returning from an Injury: Atlantic City 10k

Let me start by saying, at the beginning of last week I wasn’t sure I was going to run this race.

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Exactly a month ago, I injured my right quadricep muscle, right near the knee. Since then I’ve done everything to move the healing process along. Rest. Ice. Compression. Elevation. I’ve worked with my trainer (mostly upper body). I’ve visited a doctor and gone to Physical Therapy for two weeks. I skipped last week’s scheduled 5k because I wasn’t sure I was ready for it. But given that my leg has been feeling really good and I need to get back into running for next month’s runDisney Wine and Dine, I decided that I was going to give the 10k at one of my favorite race series a go.

To say that I was extremely nervous about it would be a vast understatement. Originally I’d planned to drive down to AC solo. However as race day drew closer, I started dropping subtle hints that I thought I might want my husband to come along for the trip. And by subtle hints, I mean bribery.

“You could GAMBLE while I run! Won’t that be fun, Jay? And I get a beer at the end of the race and I’ll give that to you. I mean, granted, it will be 10 in the morning but I’m a very good sharer. Hey, you can even drive!” I know, those are very convincing arguments and ones that could not be denied. Once I solidified my mom’s babysitting services, he joined me for both the expo on Friday night and race Saturday morning.

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Just prior to the rain, we were having some entertainment.

The weather had been looking ominous the days leading up to the weekend. We were feeling the after effects of Tropical Storm Karen; the rain and wind had been bad in AC both Thursday and Friday and it wasn’t looking promising for Saturday’s race. And sure enough, soon after we arrived, the rain started. But as a wise woman always said to me, “You’re not made of sugar, you won’t melt.” Thanks for that, Gram.

Especially since the rain wouldn’t stop for the majority of the time we were running.

ac10k2I ran on these boards during the April Fools half in both 2012 and 2013 so it was comforting that I knew the route. Prior to running I’d decided to follow the Galloway method with 3:1 intervals – three minutes of running, one minute of walking. Considering I hadn’t actually run for a month, I really wasn’t sure what to expect.

If I was hurting, I knew I could walk or just turn around. I planned to listen to any cues that my body was sending. Sometimes I push through pain if it’s just a cranky hip or a tweaked knee, but if my quad even gave a little shout, I planned to call it quits.

ac10k4After the singing of the Star Spangled Banner and a quick countdown, we were off! Jay waved his “I’m so excited, I made a sign” sign and bid me farewell.

The rain was both a blessing and a curse. It forced me to put my phone in my SPIbelt and not be tempted to take pictures during the run, which I believe was a good thing. Jay was tracking my phone so he knew where I was at any given point in time, which was comforting. The curse, of course, was slick boards, wet glasses, wet clothes, and feeling like I was going to be blown away at certain parts of the race.

The out-and-back course is entirely along the boardwalk with the start at Bally’s casino. The rain really started pelting us about a half mile in. While the conditions weren’t ideal, I was just happy to be moving! I felt good and while I might have gone out a wee bit too fast (caught up in the excitement of the start and being able to actually run without pain), I soon fell into a comfortable pace with the intervals.

I “hung out” with my friends, Blue Pants Minnie Shoes, Pink Jacket, and Orange Hat the majority of the race; they were both doing intervals as well and we would catch up to each other throughout. I chatted a bit with them, mostly about the weather and Disney. Soon enough we were at the 5k turn around and a good amount of the runners peeled off, heading back to Bally’s.

I was totally jealous of those 5k runners, for the record.

Although, I suppose I shouldn’t have been TOO jealous. The wind was at our backs on the way out… the 10k turn around brought more wind and rain to the face.

Not so much fun.

I tried to curl a bit so that the top of my head was getting the majority of the wind, but it was difficult to run that way. The volunteers were out at the water stops with smiles and encouraging words. It helped to continue on and not just say “Screw this, Jay come get me.” That thought might have passed through my mind more than once. Also, I was singing “The rain in Spain falls mainly in the plain” repeatedly to the tune of whatever song was on my iPod.

The mile 5 marker had a clock indicating I was slightly under an hour, which was promising. Promising in that I had arrived at mile 5, there was only 1.2 left, and that I was going to finish in just about the same amount of time of my last 10k.

Right around that time, I spotted Orange Hat a bit ahead. Orange Hat reminded me of my friend, Moe, who I’d run the April Fools half with in the spring. I was missing Moe hard at that moment (I always miss Moe, but more so in that miserable rainy moment) so I caught up with Orange Hat and said, “Let’s get this done” and we fell into pace together.

I fell back at one point, then she did. But we kept meeting in the middle, pushing each other to the finish. And finally, I saw the glass walkway that indicated we nearly were at the end! She said, “I can hear the announcer!” We picked it up a bit and brought it home.

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You can see that I’ve spotted Jay and it’s the finish line and HOORAY, I can almost go inside and out of the rain. Because while I’m not made of sugar, my clothes were sticking to me and I couldn’t see very well (rain and glasses = muy mal), and oooh, I get a medal!

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I wore my SKORA Cores for this race – was afraid they might slip on on boards but they were awesome!

After getting our medals, I walked over to Orange Hat to thank her for motivating me throughout the race. I then found out that her name is Emily and she and her family are attempting to do a 10k in every state! Go Emily! (And seriously, if you’re reading this, thank you again! You really helped me, especially in that last mile.)

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Wore my Chicago Marathon hat as a shout out to Moe (who ran this weekend) and all the other marathoners!

I was able to maintain my 3:1 intervals the entire race and finished in 1:13. Given the disgusting weather and coming off an injury, I’m very content with that! If I can maintain that pace for the Wine and Dine half, I’ll be golden. I think doing the Galloway method helped me stay consistent throughout and that’s my goal for Wine and Dine too!

Tell me, have you come back from a “time out” from running? How did you get back into running? Do you do run/walk? Who will I see at Wine and Dine next month?

DO AC: 2013 April Fool’s half marathon

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Last year I ran the inaugural Atlantic City April Fool’s half marathon to ring in my 35th year. This year’s race wasn’t on my birthday (since April 1st was on a Monday) but when my friends started floating the idea of running, I jumped on board. After all, I almost view this race as “mine” since it’s an homage to my birthday and one that I’ll return to year after year.

Packet pick-up was quick and easy and laid-back.  In fact, this entire race is very laid-back with the added bonus of being extremely well-organized, two things that you don’t often see paired together when it comes to racing. There is no expo; the packet pick-up took place in the host resort, which was Revel this year.

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Dorothy and Jody warming up by the fire pit at Revel.

Revel is AC’s brand new resort and casino and is absolutely gorgeous, albeit a bit confusing to navigate. Thankfully they have staff everywhere to point you in the right direction so you don’t wander aimlessly for too long.

However, AC is still AC and most people there are in “party” mode, not “sleeping and running a race” mode. Which means the clientele of the resort included a drunk dude wandering the halls at 4am, knocking on doors and shouting for “Blair” on Friday night (hope you found her eventually, man) and the party people who decided to stay in and celebrate someone’s 30th birthday with shots and singing at the top at their lungs rather than paying $12 for drinks… until 3:30 in the morning.

Next year? I’m sleeping at home and driving the hour. Hold me to this, please. Early wake up is better than no waking up because I never actually slept.

Going into a half marathon on a small amount of sleep isn’t the best way to do things but alas, that’s how it played out. My suggestion to an AC hotel hosting runners for an event would be to put them all in the same area.

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We fueled with wheat bagel flats and almond butter/peanut butter, dressed, and joined the other runners (and partiers who apparently never went to sleep the night before) in the front vestibule.

Approximately 2,000 runners participated in the half marathon, with the 7k/11k races being held on Saturday morning. This was a change from the 2012 races, as all races were all held on the same day. Not going to lie, we were a bit bummed about the change but the race directors were very good at compensating the runners who were affected by the change. Jody ran the 7k on Saturday morning, while Moe, Dorothy and myself were ready to take on 13.1 miles.

We headed outside into the chilly morning air around 7:45, with the race beginning at 8am. At the start we were able to find our friends Rob, Brandi, and Sean – all of whom were running as well!

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Starting promptly, we were off, down the boards. After a quarter mile, I realized that in the pre-race excitement I’d forgotten to start my Garmin so I’d be flying solo on that level – I was upset for about a hot second but realized that I’d just have to let it go. Sidenote: I got a Garmin and Road ID tan on my arms during this race.  Time to break out the sunscreen!

It began to warm as we made our way down the boards and the smell of the ocean air was invigorating.  Moe and I fell into a nice comfortable pace, hanging out side by side and occasionally knocking into each other while dancing to our own iPods.

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Who has two thumbs and a flying ponytail? Moe!

Around mile 4 my feet started giving me issues with my toes curling a bit, which didn’t feel so fantastic so I walked a couple of seconds.  That didn’t help so I started running again.  This is also about the time that we saw the winner of the race headed back to the finish. Always impressive!

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And then, there are people like this.  These dudes ran like this for the entire race and ran the race in two hours.  More power to you, horse and horse rider! (Horse dude kept his head on the entire time.  Crazy!)

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See that little turn there – right before mile 5?  That’s when we took the streets.  And that’s when I knew I’d be hurting a bit.  WHERE IS MY BOARDWALK?  Couldn’t we have made it longer? However, I knew Lucy was ahead and I was very much looking forward to seeing the elephant.

“The elephant???” You might ask.  Oh yes, the elephant.

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What, this isn’t normally what you see when you race? (Check out other random things seen on runs at OliveToRun’s How Bizarre Photos!)

Eventually we hit the 7 mile mark which meant it was time to turn around and hit the reverse button! I swung around the flag (not literally) and off we went, back where we came from. The street seemed to expand and getting back to the boards took way longer than I anticipated. Finally Moe pulled to the side where she could look ahead and see the cones turn – we were nearly back on the boardwalk. Huzzah!

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Since I didn’t have my Garmin, I lost mile 9.  For all of mile 9, I thought I was in mile 10… Until I saw the flag marker that said 10 and nearly cried because I so desperately wanted it to say 11.  Alas, it did not.

This is why we can’t have nice things.

And right around then was when I felt the blister forming and I was just ready to be done.  3.1 miles to go – a 5k! Then I looked up and saw this…

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And remembered how blessed I was to be in that moment.

The water stations were phenomenal and it definitely makes up for the lack of crowd support because they are like a cheer station unto themselves. The volunteers are incredible with this race, always with a smile and making you laughing by fighting over whose water or Gatorade you’d take.

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There are also a couple of bands and DJs along the route as well,  so when I saw those I’d take my yurbuds out to jam with them for a couple of seconds.

The last two miles I was speed walking more than running and a one point Moe turned around to see where I was.  I waved her on and told her, “keep moving THAT way” and off she went. I could see her pink hat bopping along ahead and that gave me the motivation I needed to stay strong and keep moving toward the finish line.

I passed where the finish line was the previous year and was sad that it wasn’t actually there again this year because that would mean I’d be done.  At that point, there was a little over a mile left. The boardwalk started having more people milling around, which is difficult because at that point instead of bobbing and weaving around other runners, you’re moving around people who don’t have a clue that a race is going on. I just kept moving forward, alternating between a run/walk and pushing as much as possible.

And just like that, I saw the finish line in the distance. I heard cheers of people as I drew closer and I pushed myself to sprint those last few minutes, thanks to some very sweet ladies from Black Girls Run giving me some special cheers.

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I asked someone if I could borrow her sign so Dorothy and I could get a picture with it. Don’t believe it though – we’re definitely more like 3/4th crazy.

I crossed the finish line with a smile on my face, having attained a personal record! I’m not a fast runner and I may never BE a fast runner, but I bested myself on Sunday… and that felt damn good (even if my feet didn’t and don’t)!

I’m already looking to sign up for next year’s April Fool’s half.

Is there a race that you return to time and time again? What is it that keeps you coming back?