half-marathon

Race Recap: Long Branch Half Marathon Relay

half marathon

Back from our spring running weekend of 2013—and I’d definitely say it was a success! Mal, Peter and I had an awesome time racing down the Jersey Shore, early Sunday morning.

Peter ran theВ Long Branch Half MarathonВ and Mal and I teamed up for theВ Half Marathon Relay; both events went simultaneously along one course, which wound throughВ Oceanport, Monmouth Beach and Long Branch. (The headlining event, the New Jersey Marathon, started about an hour later and went along the same route—just with 13.1 extra miles tacked on midway!)

This was my first relay, which made for an exciting but slightly nerve-racking experience, due to all the logistics. Here’s how it worked: Mal and I decided that she’d run the first leg (6.9 miles) and I’d run the second (6.2 miles). Early on Sunday morning (5:15 a.m.!), Mal, Peter and I went to the stating point at Monmouth Park. When it got close to race time, Mal and Peter headed to their corrals atВ starting line. Meanwhile, other second leg runners and I took a shuttle bus to the transition point, several miles away.

Once there, a volunteer explained the runner hand-off. A row of metal barriers divided the street down the middle. The half marathoners would be on the far side of the barriers. The first leg relayers would come down the section next to the sidewalk where we were gathered.В A volunteer farther down the course would radio in the last three digits of the approaching relay runner’s bib number. Then, the volunteer near us would call out that number and that runner would get on deck in preparation for his/her partner’s arrival. Once the two met, runner #1 would hand over the time chip belt, and runner #2 would be off!

While I waited for Mal, I tried to stay warm (it was freezing!), stretch and talk to my parents, who’d met me there. And not be too nervous. But it was also very exciting. All of us second leggers cheered as the super-fast half marathoners and relay runners came through the course. Soon after the stream of runners grew from a trickle to a pack, we caught Peter going by, looking as fresh-faced and smiley as this guy.

I knew Mal would be there shortly, so I took off my sweats—and all of a sudden, my mom shouted that she saw Mal! A few other relayers were arriving at the same time, so our number didn’t get called. Feeling frazzled, I ran over to Mal and fumbled to grab the belt from her and shove my headphones in my ears. The belt cinch snapped off as I tried to put it on, but I took off running while knotting it around my waist.

I felt pretty horrible for the entire run. I was freezing from standing outside for a good part of the morning, and it was a shock to run while so cold. Also, I’m not used to working out in the morning. And I’d been up since 4 a.m. Not my normal wake-up time.

But I tried to maintain a consistent clip because I didn’t want to drag us down. Mal and I had set a goal to finish in 1:55—and she’d completed her leg at that pace. I wasn’t going to be the reason we didn’t achieve our time! Luckily, I was among runners who were sticking to what felt like my goal pace, so I held steady with them.

I ran on, as the course meandered through various residential streets. Each time I completed a mile and saw a time clock, I vowed to try to reach the next one in 8-9 minutes. Finally, I was on the last mile, along the beach. Just seeing the ocean energized me, though it was sad to note where Sandy had destroyed part of the boardwalk.

As I approached the finish line, I did not feel great, like I did last year. I felt like I was going to die. (This year, my mom later told me, I definitely did not look like I was taking a walk in the park!) But after crossing the finish line, getting our medals, and finding Mal, I almost teared up with joy—I came in at 1:56:58, and knew that our chip time would put us around our goal.

Our official time was 1:54:08—and we placed 9th out of 95 all-female relay teams! We were thrilled with our results! And Peter finished in a crazy-fast time—1:45:48.

We celebrated with doughnuts back at our hotel, then went out to cheer on the marathoners who were finishing their (much longer) race on the boardwalk. I was completely zonked for the rest of the day but it was so worth it! It’s funny; I’ve run a half marathon and a faster 10K before, but this was probably the most gratifying race I’ve completed. I think it was the team aspect of it—not just working toward my own goal, but Mal’s as well.

We’re already looking for another relay to do this year. Anyone up for Ragnar?!

(The photo above is the only one I took at the race! I even ran with my phone because I was planning to take pics while waiting for my turn to run, but I didn’t snap a single one. I suppose sometimes you just have to live in the moment!)

Off to Run!

nj marathon

I’m off to the Jersey Shore and couldn’t be more excited! Tomorrow is the New Jersey Marathon, half-marathon and half-marathon relay, which goes through Ocean Port, Monmouth Beach and Long Branch. Mal and I will be running the relay and Peter will be running the full half.

This is my first relay, so I’m looking forward to seeing how that goes. I’m also curious to see what my time will be. I haven’t trained enough to have a solid idea of my pace; I figured it would be around 9:15/mile, which is what it was last year, but in my last two runs with Mal, we’ve been averaging about :45/mile faster. Running together has made us push each other, but we won’t be together during the actual race! I’m wondering whether I can get to that pace on my own. (Last year, I definitely didn’t push myself hard enough. After I crossed the finish line, my mom said I looked like I was strolling through the park—and I felt that way, too! I should have emptied the tank more.)

The organizers of the NJ Marathon have impressed me very much, so far. They’ve built in many great extras to make the race more socially conscious: They’ve given out virtual goody bags (an email with freebies and special offers) to cut down on waste, and they’re holding used sneakers and canned food drives at the pre-run expo. They’ve also created special “United We Run” shirts to support Boston, with a portion of the proceeds going to The One Fund, which benefits the bombing victims.

All this is coming from an area that’s still rebuilding after Hurricane Sandy.

Here’s to a wonderful weekend!

(Photo via the New Jersey Marathon’s Facebook page)

Spring 2013 Race: Long Branch Half Marathon Relay

nj marathon

Of all the weekend trips I took last year, one of my favorites was theВ Saint Michaels Running Festival, in Maryland. This was my first time making a mini-vacation out of a road race, but afterwards, I totally understood why people do. The running part was fun enough—I was proud of myself for running my first 10K in eight years, and thrilled to watch Mal and Peter cross the finish line after their first half marathons. And it was refreshing to celebrate all that in a new setting. Saint Michaels is a stately little town on the Chesapeake, and,В instead of booking hotel rooms, my family rentedВ an airy lake houseВ that served as our home base for the weekend. We chillaxed there after the race, and celebrated that evening with a dinner of crabs and beer.

So this spring, as we were slogging through the Long Slog, Mal and Peter found a road race for us to enter: The Long Branch Half MarathonВ at the Jersey Shore, on the first weekend in May. Well, Peter is running the half marathon. Mal and I are running the half marathon relay.

I haven’t run a relay before, so I’m super-excited to see how it goes. Plus, the fact that I’ll be on a team with my favorite person in the entire world makes it even more exciting!

I’ve also found that the 10K is the perfect distance for me. As lazy as it sounds, I don’t have to train a lot (just one or two runs a week), so I don’t have to give up any ballet classes for the gym. Because in all honesty, I like running, but I don’t love it. It’s refreshing to do once in a while, as long as it feels like a novelty. (Especially during the Long Slog, when I’m looking for anything to pass the time until summer!) A 10K is a long enough distance to be challenging, but not so lengthy that the training stops being fun and starts feeling like a chore.

I’m also looking forward to the race’s location. Parts of the course are along the beach—I’m hoping for a bright, sunny and not-too-hot May day!

PS – I’m updating my running playlist and could use some good suggestions! What songs always get you going when you work out?

(Photo via the New Jersey Marathon Facebook page)

A Running Weekend in Saint Michaels, Maryland

Last weekend, the fam and I met Mal and Peter in Saint Michaels, Maryland, to participate in the town’s first annual running festival,В featuring a half-marathon, 10K and 5K. We had a great time! Not only did we have perfect weather, but our races went well, too.

The 10K–my race–was first. The course wound through Saint Michael’s cute downtown, opened onto a road flanked by fields, then looped back through residential side streets and a small park. My favorite part was running through a little covered bridge close to the finish line.В Coming from the city, I thought the scenery was gorgeous. (Mal and Peter–now accustomed to seeing farmland everyday–later said they found the course a little monotonous.)

It had been six years since I ran a road race. Before, I never thought about strategy–I just went off and hoped to sustain an even pace. I always felt like I was going to die toward the end, though. This time, I aimed for a negative split. I ran my first mile at a steady jog. As a competitive person, I’ll admit that it was tough to see tons of people blow by me. But I just reminded myself that I’d be passing them later–and that turned out to be true. I stepped up my pace in the second mile and really increased my speed in the final miles. I was especially glad I took it slow in the beginning because the course, while “flat and fast,” was also hot–there was almost no shade and the temperature was in the 70s by the end of the race.

I felt great when I finished–so good, in fact, that I wondered whether I should have pushed myself more.

My time was 57:28, which equals about 9:16 a mile. That’s well behind my best 10K time of 53:31, but I was still happy with my results–not bad, considering I only restarted running 2 months ago! And now that I have a new base time, my goal is to keep running to chip away at it and try to beat my personal record.

Mal and Peter’s race–the half-marathon–started around the time I finished. So we hung around the finish line to watch the runners come in. I’m always wowed at how fast other people are. The top finisher clocked in at 1 hour, 12 minutes–not much longer than it took me to run less than half the distance.

Mal and Peter came in a little after the 2 hour mark. (They ran together the whole time–so cute!)

We rented a cottage for the weekend, which turned out to be way better than staying at a hotel. I felt more relaxed staying in an actual house and being able to make our own dinner and breakfast before the race. Plus, the aptly named River House, which I found via VRBO, was charming and in a gorgeous location. It had an expansive green yard complete with Adirondack chairs…

…sunny sitting areas…

…airy bedrooms…

…amazing views…

…and, best of all, a long wooden dock perfect for sunbathing and sipping drinks–which I promptly did the minute we got back.

The town of Saint Michaels is equally as charming. Boutiques, restaurants, mom and pop shops, a winery and brewery line the quaint main street. We had a great post-race meal atВ Ava’s,В a local pizzeria and wine bar. Their pies were fantastic–light and crispy with fresh toppings. (I hate to admit it, but they topped the pies I’d eaten a few days earlier atВ Forcella, a newish downtown NYC pizza place.) The previous day, we also had tasty sandwiches at the Big PickleВ and great cookies and doughnuts from Sweetie Bakery.

For our celebratory post-race dinner, we headed to the Crab Claw. To get there, we walked through part of the harbor, passing stately waterfront B&Bs along the way.

The Crab Claw is right over the water and has the perfect ambience for a summer meal. The tables are close to the edge of the pier and there are no ropes or guardrails. We joked about falling in–and then a little kid did, while we were eating! His mother and another patron fished him out. According to our waitress, it happens all the time–and the staffers usually have to jump in and rescue them!

Our waitress told us that due to the weather, the blue crabs they had that weekend weren’t the best. So we opted for snow crab. I was initially disappointed–until the snow crabs came out. They were fantastic and cooked perfectly–a great way to close a super-fun weekend.

Have you taken any running trips/vacations? I’d love to hear where–I’m already looking forward to planning another!

Off to Run!

St. Michaels Photos

I’m heading to Maryland this weekend, but I’m not going to my sister’s place, as usual. Instead, we’re meeting in Saint Michaels, a historic town on the Chesapeake. We rented a lake house, but won’t be chillaxin’ the whole time. Mal and Peter are running a half-marathonВ (so excited to cheer them on!). And I’m running a 10K.

I went through a 5-year running phase during my early to mid-20s. I ran a half-marathon, two 10Ks and a few shorter road races. But a couple years ago, I decided to restart ballet and couldn’t balance both activities. So I gave up running and didn’t miss it at all. Until recently. Mal and Peter’s half-marathon training motivated me to jog twice a week on non-ballet days. And I’ve been enjoying it way more than I remembered.

Some of the best runs I’ve had were during my recent weekend trips. I loved running along Chicago’s Lake Trail

В …and by the canal houses in my sister’s Maryland neighborhood…

Ocean Pines, Maryland

…and when I was in Boston, I was so happy to complete one of my all-time favorite runs: the loop from Harvard to MIT–especially the run over the Mass Ave. bridge. (That was the one nostalgic thing I managed to do that weekend–and good, too, to work off the calories I consumed!)

I’d originally planned to run a 5K this weekend. But I felt so good during those long runs that I signed up for the 10K.

The other day, I found my time for the last 10K I ran in–back in 2005. I finished in 53:31. I have no idea how I’ll do tomorrow, but I don’t think I’m going to be as fast. Overall, I feel like I’m in better shape now, but I’ve only been running for two months. The bulk of my exercise is ballet, which really is my first love. So I’m going to be proud of whatever time I get–though of course I’m hoping to come close to that old number!

Got any last-minute running advice for me? I’d love to hear your tips!

(Top photo via TripAdvisor)