Race Recap: Atlantic City Bungalow Beach 5 Miler

I think I might have lost my mind.

As a rule, I don’t register for summer races. I just don’t. Occasionally I’ll do a July 4th run, if the urge hits but normally I am not a fan of summer racing.

AND YET… Just over a week ago I was in Atlantic City, running the Inaugural Bungalow Beach 5 Miler.

The Atlantic City Marathon Series hosts spring and fall events and I love participating in them. From my very second half marathon, the Inaugural April Fools Half in 2012 to their fall 10k I’ve done my fair share of Atlantic City races.

The Inaugural Bungalow Beach 5 Miler was the first summer event hosted by the race series and as soon as I heard about it, I knew that I’d be signing up. After all, the first 100 to sign up got this beach towel along with their early registration of $35 and you know I can’t pass up a deal like that!

As soon as the news of this race hit Facebook, I saw that many of my local friends were registered as well (the lure of a beach towel is great with NJ folks).

Along with the beach towel, other race swag included:

  • Custom Finisher Medals
  • Gender Specific Custom Tank for Female Participants and Custom T-Shirt for Male Participants
  • One FREE Beer at Bungalow Beach’s Post Race Party
  • Course Entertainment

There was a packet pickup the day before but also the morning of the race. I opted to do packet pickup race morning, saving myself toll and parking money. I parked in the Tropicana garage (cost $10).

I’m not sure if the tank option was listed when I registered because I ended up with a medium, which is what I usually get for the Atlantic City races but not if it’s a women’s cut. The tank is adorable, however it’s entirely see through and too small which is disappointing. I lost the race shirt lottery this go around.

However, they had shirts and towels for sale after the race. My friend purchased a men’s shirt and since they were priced at one for $15 or two for $20, she got one for me too (thanks Chrissy!).

Despite the recent sunny weather, the forecast for that morning was looking a bit on the dreary side with the potential for thunderstorms. I don’t mind running in the rain, but I didn’t know what they’d do if there was lightning. Thankfully Mother Nature was on our side this time and while it was overcast, that also meant that it wasn’t oppressively hot.

Run856 group picture – I ALWAYS miss these before races so I was excited to actually be in one!

Lifelong friend, Chrissy and I have done our fair share of Atlantic City running together. We do a lot of the races together and meet up to train there as well because it’s about an hour from each of us. We’d both not trained as much as we had planned for this race so we decided to stick together and just have fun.

I met Katie through Instagram originally and then she told me about the Sub-30 Club, we became friend friends (are you following this?) and finally met in person at this race! She said she’d like to stick with us through this race, which was awesome! We set the interval timer at 1:1 and lined up at the start.

Katie, Chrissy, and me – ready to run (we think!)

The course was what I’ve deemed: April Fools Half, lite. It’s actually very similar to what Chrissy and I do when we are running our training runs there, which made it comfortable for us.

I really loved the fundraising mission of this race:

In partnership with FACES 4 Autism, the Milton & Betty Katz JCC in Margate, NJ now offers Adaptive Swim Lessons, a specialized swim program designed to enhance the lives of children on the autism spectrum and to teach children with autism how to survive in the water.

The Adaptive Swim Lesson program includes individualized lessons based on each child’s level of ability with specially trained swim instructors. Additional pool support staff are often needed to help facilitate the lesson. 

Your support of the Bungalow Beach Run 5 will help provide funding for the additional resources needed to enable children on the autism spectrum participation in life – saving swim lessons.

Hollie (FueledbyLOLZ) heading back while we were still in mile 1!

After the singing of the National Anthem, we were off for our 5 mile jaunt. We fell into our 1:1 intervals and took it easy as we headed along the boardwalk. After the hotels and casinos it becomes more residential, with homes on one side and the beach/ocean on the other.

There was one portion of the race that kicked over onto the street (rather than staying on the boardwalk). I’m assuming this was for variety, it happens during the half course too. Thankfully we weren’t on the street too long because I’d rather run on the boards!

There was a radio station at the turns off and on the boardwalk but otherwise it was pretty quiet. The volunteers at each water station were very enthusiastic, as always, and since it’s an out and back they are plentiful.

The finish line was on the beach, making it a true BEACH RUN.

It was not easy. Beach running near the water with packed down sand is not easy. Beach running on wavy sand? Brutal!

When Chrissy, Katie, and I came around the corner a few choice words were said. I couldn’t help but laugh the entire time! Thankfully it was only about 100 yards until we crossed the finish line.

After we crossed the finish and got our medals there were tables set up with water, Gatorade, bananas, water ice, and other goodies. We grabbed a few and headed down near the water to take a few pictures and celebrate our 5 miles.

I absolutely LOVE the medal’s beach-y feel. Isn’t it awesome?

To wrap the race up right, there was a party at Bungalow Beach AC, which is where runners could get their free beer. This area was really cute and we got to cheer for all of race winners as they were announced.

All told, it was a great morning. Registering early helped keep the price low. I’ve used my new towel multiple times in the past week by my pool and I love all the perks that come along with running in Atlantic City. It’s always a race series that does it up right and I’m looking forward to returning for the 10k in October!

No races in July (look at me sticking to the no racing in summer rule…). In August I’ve got Vacation Races Elk Double, City Fit Girls Retreat, and the Philly 10k (just kidding about me sticking to the no racing in summer rule…).

Race Recap: Vacation Races Inaugural Shenandoah Half 2017

A race recap of the Inaugural Shenandoah half marathon, hosted by Vacation Races.

I’ve had my radar focused on Vacation Races for quite some time. Jenn is our resident Vacation Races ambassador and she swoons about their races.

Seriously.

She’s done multiple challenges, including their Rocky Mountain race and Yellowstone race. My plan is to eventually get out to Colorado to run with her. But in the meanwhile…

My local pal, Rachel, received a race entry for herself and a friend after a registration mix-up at the 2016 Yellowstone race. She reached out to me in February with a “What do you typically do over Labor Day weekend” message.

I responded with “Not a whole heck of a lot!”

So then she said, “Let’s take a road trip to Virginia, do this half marathon together, and have a blast!” Well, how could I say no to that? I was in!

Except the code they provided didn’t work! Agh, maybe I wasn’t in?

There was about a week of back and forth emails with a few people being looped in along the way. I’ll be honest, it was frustrating and we even questioned if it would be worth the time and effort (this was after a registration snafu for Rachel the first time around, so you can see why we were disappointed). I was given a few different codes to try before finally being manually entered into the system.

THEN I was officially in. Rachel and I were able to breathe easy once more and looked forward to our September trip.

As our trip grew closer, we ironed out travel details and of course, kept our eyes on the weather. Which wasn’t looking great. Rainy. However, the temperature was cooling considerably and I’d much rather run in 55 degrees than 80. We had high hopes that the rain wouldn’t be too bad.

Rachel drove to NJ from PA and our road trip, which we affectionately called “Meatball Road Trip 2k17 (if you watch Big Brother this season, you’ll understand where this originated) officially commenced.

We talked, sang and car danced all the way down through Delaware, Maryland, and into Virginia. The ride was about 4 hours and we went straight to the expo to grab our shirts and bibs.

Of course, it started to rain, which we were less than impressed with… but it was expected.

Shenandoah Half Marathon expo

Rachel’s face accurately captures our unimpressedness. Why do I look so happy?

The shirt reminds me of St. Patrick’s Day, which is probably when I’ll wear it. Sadly, green is not my color.

Shenandoah Half Shirt 2017

The expo was small but fun. I think we would have spent more time there had it not been raining but we decided to save up our rain time for the half.

Shenandoah Half Expo - Vacation Races

After learning how to turn a t-shirt into a bag (totally going to do this activity with our Cub Scout den), making s’mores, and finding our names on the inaugural Shenandoah design, we took some time to ask a few questions to announcer/race coordinator, Kaelee. She’d run the course in the morning so she was able to give us some pointers and let us know what to look forward to the next day.

We took the time to be tourists and visited Luray Caverns, which was pretty amazing (and of course we commented how cool it would be if we could run through it).

From the get-go we knew we wouldn’t be racing this half. Our mantra was “have fun and get it done.” This was going to be a “mullet crew” experience – as in, a party in the back! No shame! After a delicious dinner we decided to hit the sack, knowing we’d be waking up at 5am.

The race began at 7am and was a point to point race and almost entirely on road, save the first and last 10th of a mile. You could park at either the start or finish and they had school buses to shuttle runners from one point to the other. We decided we’d rather shuttle before the race than after; we parked at the finish and shuttled to the start.

As we made our way from the parking lot to where the shuttles were, it was before sunrise and I found myself wish that I had brought my Knuckle Lights, just to see where we were going. We shuffled to the shuttles and were able to grab the last two seats on the bus heading toward the starting area.

At the start, there was coffee and hot chocolate. They also offered bananas and things like Vaseline and thoughtful touches that runners might find useful.

Just as we got our beverages, huge raindrops started plopping on us. At first, neither of us could comprehend what was happening, our brains weren’t full awake yet! We quickly found shelter nearby and chatted with other runners as we did our best to stay dry. We both had plastic rain ponchos yet neither of us had them on when the rain had started. It caught us all by surprise!

Rain at the Shenandoah Half Marathon.

It’s raining, it’s pouring.

The rain tapered off just in time for the National Anthem and I really loved that this guy got to stand on top of the box truck and hold the flag.

Mother Nature couldn’t decide what she wanted to do – one minute it was drizzling, the next it wasn’t. Rachel and I kept muttering to each other “this is stupid” as we lined up near our pace sign. Seriously, sometimes I question my sanity. My socks were already wet and it was cold! I knew once I started moving I’d be fine, it’s just getting to that point.

There was a guy near the start that was telling us, “It’s just a really long 5k” which made us chuckle.

Sure enough, once we started moving, we were good to go. Actually, really good. Actually, really, really good. As in, we hit the mile marker and were shocked that we were already at a mile.

You guys, this continued for miles 2-8. We would come to a mile marker and be amazed that we got there as quickly as we did. Which, for the record, wasn’t quick; we were having conversational miles. But we were feeling good and powering up the uphills/taking advantage of the downhills.

Virginia was lovely, with lots of local flair that we northerns aren’t accustom to seeing on a daily basis.

Shenandoah Half Course

We saw llamas (or were they alpaca?), plenty of cows, and were graced with the presence of a kitten in the middle of the road near mile 7. This kitten sat smack in the middle of the road and got attention for each and every single runner that came through. He had life all figured out for such a little guy.

If the kitten didn’t have a collar on, I’m pretty sure that Rachel would have a third cat right now.

The aid stations were perfectly placed. Vacation Races is a cup free race, so they offer hydropouches or you can bring your own hydration system. I opted to get a pack (I’ve been considering it for awhile and this was the perfect reason) and ended up not needing to fill the bladder of it at all – it was the perfect amount for the half distance. They had Honey Stingers available at every aid station, as well as cut up bananas and orange slices at the later stations.

At the mile 3 aid station they even had a bin where runners could drop clothes that they’d then drive to the finish line of the race! I didn’t need to take advantage of that but they really seemed to think of everything.

The course was quiet, although it was on an open road so cars were allowed to drive along the course. In the early morning, there was not much traffic. We all looked out for each other, calling “CAR!” when there was a car either behind or coming toward us. Some runners had their earbuds in and couldn’t hear the warning until the cars were right behind them and honking. Yikes!

Locals sat on their porches, watching the spectacle. It was an endless parade of over 1,100 people streaming by. We waved to people as we passed.

The hills were alive with the sounds of music.

I think this was around the time we started singing “HandClap” by Fitz and The Tantrums. The first time. There were multiple times.

Mile 10 onward felt like a continuous uphill. I know that there was some downhill too but I don’t really remember much of that. It just felt like we were constantly climbing. Having looked at the elevation map ahead of time, we knew that it was coming but, whew, my hamstrings and glutes acted like they weren’t made aware of the situation!

You better believe we flew down that last hill!

We turned into Lake Arrowhead Park for the last stretch of the race. The support here was incredible with lots of finishers cheering us. Volunteers pointed us in the right direction since it was along grass and gravel. We turned for the last 10th of a mile and crossed the finish line with huge smiles on our faces!

Shenandoah Half Marathon finishers medals

We did it! Check out those AH-MAZING medals!

Immediately after crossing the finish line we were able to get our medals and our snack boxes that were filled with lots of delicious treats.

From start to finish, this getaway was an awesome! Despite some reservations at the beginning with registration, everything else was absolutely flawless. Vacation Races knows about hosting a quality event and they’ve zeroed in on the things that stand out to runners. I’m grateful to Rachel for inviting me to join her and I’m definitely impressed by Vacation Races!

Inaugural Shenandoah Half medal - Vacation Races #Shenandoahhalf

Next race for me is the Rock ‘n Roll Philadelphia half marathon on September 17th. Then in October I’ll be at Run the Vineyards, Enoteca 5k and Run Inspired 10k in DE (code BibRave saves 10%). Fall racing, you have arrived! What do you have on tap this fall?