new jersey

Off to a Beach House Weekend

beach

After spending practically every other summer weekend on the beach, for the two years Mal and Peter lived inВ Maryland, I kind of got used to that luxury! Instead of associating summer with steamy, NYC heat (which I do love), I found it synonymous with long days laying out in the sun and cooling off in the waves. (Which I love even more!)

So when Mal and PeterВ moved back to New YorkВ last year, I vowed to find a summer share so we could keep spending weekends on the beach.

That didn’t happen.

I got caught up with life (the new job, etc.). And before I knew it, summer was here. I had missed the summer share market by months.

As a consolation, I decided that the next best thing would be to rent a beach house for a weekend—and fill it with a lot of our friends. Luckily, our friends were game. The hardest part was finding an affordable rental!

The market is insane—especially if you start looking for a July rental in June. I spent a good two weeksВ speaking with realtors andВ scouring rental listings for every beach town in New York, New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland. (I’m not exaggerating! The places I looked at included Fire Island; Montauk; the Hamptons; Long Branch; Ocean Grove; Asbury Park; Lavalette; Long Beach Island; Avalon; Cape May; Ocean City, NJ and MD; Rehoboth Beach; Dewey Beach; Lewes Beach; Bethany Beach…and more.)

In the process, I learned:

  • No one rents for just the weekend in high season.В Unless you want to pay a ridiculous amount of money—as in, $3,000 for two nights for a house that sleeps eight.
  • Prices are crazy.В Everywhere I looked, most low-end rentals (small homes that slept six to eight people) generally started around $3,000, though most were at least $5,000—or more. Much more.
  • Most rentals are Saturday through Saturday.В I don’t understand that—because you don’t get a full weekend! One realtor I spoke to told me it’s because it’s hard to find people willing to clean the homes on Sundays. Um, ok.
  • Contrary to what I’d assumed, Sandy-affected areas were not offering steeply discounted rates.В In fact, a Long Beach Island relator told me that most owners aren’t lowering prices because they’re hoping to recoup some of their losses.
  • My new goal in life is to buy a beach house an hour away from the city.В Because it’s probably much more doable than buying an apartment in Manhattan. And it would be a great investment because I could always rent it out. And I’d never have to deal with the crazy rental market again.

I eventually found one home that was (miraculously) a Sunday to Sunday rental, available the dates we wanted to go. The price was low enough—shocking low, actually—that we were willing to sign a week’s lease, even though we’ll only be using it for four nights. (Hopefully, it’ll be in pretty good condition!) And it’s in Bethany Beach, Delaware—a town I loved visiting the past few summers, and home to our favorite blue crab restaurant.

But mostly, I’m looking forward to a few days on the beach surrounded by good friends.

Hooray for summer!

Weekend Trip: Long Branch, NJ

Two weekends ago, when Mal, Peter and I ran the Long Branch Half Marathon and Relay, we stayed one night in the beach town. Between picking up our race packets, going to bed and waking up super-early (at 9:30 p.m. and 4 a.m., respectively!), we didn’t have a ton of time to explore. But what I did see convinced me that Long Branch is a great, quick weekend destination from NYC. It’s less than an hour and a half away, by car, and New Jersey Transit runs there, as well. While it was too cold to go to the beach, the sand and surf looked very clean and pretty. And though part of the boardwalk remains under construction, post-Sandy, a good stretch of it is still standing. (Which is all the most reason to visit the town and help in its recovery!)

Some highlights from our quick trip:

The Bungalow

My parents, who came to cheer us on, booked our hotel for the weekend—and I’m glad they did. They spoiled us andВ selected the stylish, boutiqueВ Bungalow Hotel, located a block from the beach.

bungalow hotel lobby

We couldn’t have asked for a better place to relax before the race. Mal, Peter and I shared a Hang Loose/Junior SuiteВ which, at 575 square feet, was nearly bigger than my apartment. I slept on the (surprisingly comfy) sofa bed and especially loved the gas fireplace. We cranked it up, and it gave our room a nice, cozy vibe.

junior suite

The suite also had a kitchen nook that proved to be a superb extra. At 4:30 a.m. on race morning, we gathered there to fuel up on cereal, bananas and Greek yogurt.

junior suite 2

junior suite bathroom

My parents were in a Lil’ Pipeline/1 Bedroom Suite across the hall. Their accommodation was even larger, with two bathrooms and a more spacious sitting area. After we finished the race, we all went back to there to inhale doughnuts and celebrate our finish times.

living area

The Turning Point

turning point

Pier Village is a newish (opened in 2005) shopping/dining/living complex on the Long Branch boardwalk. It definitely has a commercial feel and is a sign of how the area has made itself more attractive to tourism. But I won’t deny how nice it is to have so many eating options right by the beach. (As opposed to boardwalk stretches in other shore towns where you’d be hard pressed to find anything other than fast food.)

The Turning Point is a New Jersey chainlet that specializes in breakfast and has an outpost in Pier Village. It clearly has a Long Branch following! After checking in to the Bungalow, we headed there for a bite and were told there was an hour wait inside theВ restaurant. Luckily, we were able to be seated right away, outside. Even though I would have liked to have been a tad warmer, I was glad to be out of the city, breathing beach air.

The service was excellent, as was my Popeye Skillet. The hearty dish contained spinach, eggs and cheese—and some of the best breakfast potatoes I’ve ever had.

Ciao Ristorante

ciao ristorante
You can’t tackle a race without having pasta the night before, right? We ate our pre-run dinner at Ciao Ristorante, a small, family-run Italian place with a strict reservation policy. (We saw them turn away several parties who hadn’t called in advance.) The atmosphere was homey—it seemed like all the regulars knew the servers and the chef.

Everything we ordered was delicious. The buffalo mozzarella and tomato appetizer was very fresh, and my scampi came with huge, perfectly cooked shrimp. I did have a bit of food envy when I tasted my mom’s pollo bruschetta, though. The chicken had nice, crispy breading and the tomato salad was bright and tasty. I also couldn’t resist getting the banana bread pudding for dessert. (Also fantastic, by the way.) I figured I’d run off the calories!

McLoone’s Pier House

mcloone's

After showering and celebrating, post-race, Mal, Peter and I headed back to the boardwalk to cheer on the marathoners as they approached the finish line. (We can do that for hours—it’s so much fun to encourage people as they’re completing such a physical feat!) It was nice and warm in the sun, and after a while, I only wanted one more thing: a beer in my hand. So we strolled to the outdoor section of McLoone’s Pier House, which wasВ perfectlyВ situated with the beach on one side and the runners on the other.

If only it was 20 degrees warmer—then it would have been perfect. The ocean breeze was chilly, but I was still psyched to have a beer and quesadilla by the beach. It was the perfect way to top off this year’s running weekend—and it left me excited for all the fun that lies ahead, this summer!

(Photos via the Bungalow Hotel Facebook page, The Turning Point Long Branch, Open Table and the Pier Village Facebook page)

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)

Runners for Boston

I still can’t believe what happened last week in Boston. The attack on the marathon was so pointless, shocking and sad, and the subsequent lockdown of the city was terrifying. I can’t help but get upset any time I’m reminded of it. And I haven’t lived in Boston in years.

But I do know the city well, and one thing I’m 100% sure of is that Boston, and everyone who lives there, will get through this tough time. I know the marathon will be back next year, and thousands of people will be out in the streets to support the runners and the city, and show that they’re stronger than this year’s tragedy.

I’ve also been heartened to see all the support the worldwide running community has shown Boston, in the aftermath. And it’s not a wonder—anyone who has the drive and dedication to train for these races certainly feels camaraderie with others who do the same. (Back when I lived in Boston, and running, not dancing, was my singular focus, I’d trade grim smiles with other crazies who’d be running through the snowy paths along the Charles in the dead of winter!)

At yesterday’s Salt Lake City Marathon, runners, were given bracelets with Boston Marathon colors
Salt Lake City Hosts Marathon Under Stepped Up Security Measures
…and a several runners from the Boston Marathon, dubbed the “4:09 Group” crossed the Salt Lake City finish line at that time—when the first bomb went off in Boston—in honor of those who were killed, injured or unable to finish the race. Thousands of Salt Lake City runners signed a giant banner to show their support.
Salt Lake City Hosts Marathon Under Stepped Up Security Measures
At today’s London Marathon, runners observed a moment of silence before the race…
london marathon moment of silence
…and, in various places across the country, this weekend, runners ran for Boston.

I’ll be doing the same, in a few weeks. On Friday, the New Jersey Marathon posted this message on its Facebook page:

In solidarity with the Boston running community we are encouraging every one to wear blue and yellow on race day – shorts, hat, socks, etc. Whatever works for you! Let’s show our support with a sea of blue and yellow on the Jersey Shore.

If you’d like to make a monetary contribution, The One Fund has been set up to help the people most affected by these tragic events.В http://www.onefundboston.org/

I am so excited to do so. It’s just a small gesture, but one that sends a strong message.

one fund

Have you come across other ways runners are showing their support?

(Salt Lake City photos by George Fray/Getty via theВ San Jose Mercury News; London Marathon photo by Luke Macgregor/ReutersВ via the NY Times; bottom photo via the NJ Marathon 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)

Off to Atlantic City!

atlantic city

I’m headed out of town for the first time in a few weeks—to Atlantic City for a friend’s bachelorette party. (Congrats, Lauren!!!)

AfterВ Hurricane Sandy hit, I’d heard the area suffered a lot of damage. The news kept showing scary images of flooded streets and a ravaged boardwalk. But since then, I’ve learned that while parts of the boardwalk and municipality were, sadly, destroyed, other areas escaped largely unscathed—including the main (i.e. touristy) part of the boardwalk and many hotels, like the Revel, where we’ll be staying.

But the area has taken a hit, financially. Atlantic City has lost an estimated $55 million in tourism from the hurricane, according to the Wall Street Journal, a combination of the casinos having to close during and after the storm, and from people canceling their plans to visit because they believed there was widespread destruction.

Now that I know the city isn’t in ruins, I’m excited to have a fun, celebratory weekend there—especially since it’ll really support the community. I know they could use it.

Have a wonderful weekend!

(Photo via Metro SHU)