The Long Branch Half Marathon is officially done! While it wasn’t the fastest race I’ve ever run, it felt great to finish and I had a blast with this race. This is largely due to the fact that I had a few friends also running, which was a first for me in a long race, and lots of friends and friends-of-friends were there to celebrate afterwards . Chris and his family were kind enough to host me the night before, as well as to have a lovely post-race brunch soiree. The spread was incredible – mimosas, bagels, cinnamon rolls, lots of pastries, biscuits, and fresh fruit – and all those carbs definitely hit the spot after a good run. Before heading over to Chris’s, I had the chance to spend some quality time with Jax and her sister Jaime (who also ran the 1/2) as we waited for their dad to finish the full marathon.
If you’ve read recent running updates, you already know that I was feeling a bit undertrained going into this one. My last long run was three weeks before race day, and it was only a 10-miler. I also started to get a bit flaky with my shorter runs over the past month, sometimes only getting in 1 or 2 workouts a week. For comparison’s sake, I was running 4 times a week and did 11-mile runs both weekends before the Surf City 1/2 in February.
Based on the above, I went into this race without a ton of expectations. I didn’t really have a goal time in mind, and instead decided I’d just run at whatever pace felt good. This is always easier said than done for me, especially given my competitive streak, but the fact that I forgot my watch at home turned out to be a huge help. It was a really crowded start, so by the time I crossed the mat, the clock was already at 9 minutes. I was still keeping mental tabs for the first 5 or 6 miles, so I’m pretty sure I was running just at or under 9-minute miles. Around mile 7 or 8, my time (as well as my ability to keep track of it) definitely started to fade. My legs, lungs, and heart were all feeling good, and mentally I was fine. Ultimately, it was the sun that got to me. I think it was’t much warmer than 65 degrees, but it was a bright, sunny day without a cloud in the sky, which can wipe you out pretty quickly, especially on a beach course without much shade. My brain (and my face, since the only sunscreen I had on was SPF 15 from my moisturizer) were fried. It sounds silly, but subtracting 9 minutes from each mile-marker time, then dividing that by x-amount of miles (where x is the mile marker) to figure out my pacing became an overly complicated task. I instead started focusing on how to split up the remaining 5 or 6 miles – mapping out which miles I’d dial back on; whether I’d hydrate with water, Gatorade, or both at each mile; and where would be the optimal point to take my ClifShot Gel. (Side note for other runners, I can’t recommend these gels enough. They always give me a boost, don’t cause stomaches, and the citrus, razz, and strawberry flavors are super palatable. I’d even go so far as to call them tasty.)
Ultimately, it was a good strategy which made the last few miles much more bearable. I *think* I crossed the finish line around 2:15 for a 2:06 race time. Official times aren’t posted yet, so I’m actually not sure, but if that’s the case, it’ll be my slowest 1/2 yet, with my average pace around 9:36. Despite feeling unprepared, my body held up pretty well and I made it through injury-free. (I’ve got a blister and my muscles are feeling pretty tight, but those are par for the course.) My spirits were high when I crossed the mat, the crowds along the course were some of the most enthusiastic and creative I’ve ever seen (Sprinklers to cool you off? Chuck Norris motivational quotes? Tailgating? Check, check, and check!), the last 2-miles had some gorgeous ocean-front views, and I was in the company of good friends.
Huge, giant shout outs to both Chris, who smoked his first 1/2 marathon with a finish time of 1:49, and Jax, who PR’d on today’s course. I also owe a ton of thanks to the whole Stipeck family for being such wonderful hosts, to Mikey B, Kirk, and Stacy for making the trek down to Long Branch to show their support, and to Alicia for Cop-sitting while I was away.
And now, I plan on spending the rest of the night stretching and feasting on the last of the Cornish hens. Who could ask for anything more?