Marathon number 21 was the New Jersey Marathon in Long Branch, NJ on 4 May 2008.
Rachael and I flew to Philadephia on the 3rd and drove to pick up our race packets in Long Branch. The pickup was great, but there was a long line to validate the timing chips. Some volunteers were saying that this was to "activate" the chips. It seemed unnecessary to us, so we skipped it and went to check in at the "Berkeley Oceanfront Hotel" in Asbury Park. We decided to run in NJ just a month before the race, so finding a hotel room was a bit difficult. The Berkeley listed as sold out on their web site, but there was room available on Orbitz. Previous experience at the Delaware marathon made me suspect of getting internet rooms on marathon weekend, but we gave it a shot anyway. At check in there seemed to be plenty of people arguing about whether or not they had a room, but we got ours with no problem. The room was very small, on the lowest guest room floor facing the roof of the ballroom and away from the ocean. The hotel had the ambiance of a flipper house, the rooms were cosmetically nice (good bed, ipod compatible radio, nice bathroom countertop) but not deeply corrected. The second floor ballrooms are fantastically beautiful. Overall it seemed like a piece out of The Shining. I remembered at 6 that it was Derby Day but the TV didn't work. I called the desk, which sent up maintenance. In the meantime deep diagnostics got the TV working. Maintenance arrived to prove that it worked, which actually didn't very well. The Derby lasts about a minute, but maintenance had to switch channels in the middle of the race to prove that the TV was working...
We went to dinner at Posillipo. When traveling to a marathon I usually dress down in a marathon tea shirt and jeans. Note to self, when Rachael is coming bring nicer clothes. Posillipo is a great restuarant. It is casual enough that I didn't feel altogether out of place, but the table next to us was clearly dressed for a major occasion. We walked to and from the Berkeley, it was great day.
Overall, the NJ marathon was remarkable for how everything went according to plan. The flight up was on time, checkin was a breeze, the hotel was ok, dinner was great. Parking for a race with 10,000 on a cramped beach is a problem, but we got to the start at 6:00 and had no trouble parking at Seven Presidents Oceanfront Park. If we had gotten there at 6:15 or 6:30 things looked much grimmer. We took car of business in the park facilities and sat in the car until 7, when we went to the start. The start area was too cramped for 8,000 runners and a few spectators, but everyone took it in good part and crowd helped hold off the early morning chill. It was overcast and about 50 degrees at the start. Here are photos at the start:
Rachael was running the half, I started with her, but when she stopped to drop her jacket and go to the car to replace her headphones, I headed off alone. I had not trained "marathon style" for this run (my longest training run was 18 miles, I did no speed work and never went above 45 miles a week), but the run went off great. I only ran once the week before the race, which made me pretty fresh at the start. The marathon had fluid stop every two miles, which was way too much. I had 3 gel packs during the run, the first at the half. The course was very nice and well organized. I was in pretty heavy traffic through the half and starting at the back let me focus on reeling people in. Through the third quarter the runners were thin, but at 22 miles we caught up with walkers in the half marathon so congestion through the finish was high. (The course is a double loop).
I ran more evenly than in any race to date and finished strong. The results are posted here. Clock time of 3:26:31 and chip time of 3:23:15. Based on the clock time, I finished 161 overall, 150/1001 men, 13/138 in my age group. I move up a couple of places in the age group on chip time. On the chip the first half was 1:41:11 and the second half was 1:42:04.
The splits are at dbontherun. I see my own life in the plot of my pace relative to the mean 7.7 mph shown below. One begins slowly, building confidence. After an initial burst of speed, one wonders at mile 9 were this is going, can one keep it together. One thinks; "what the hell I'll give it my shot." By mile 17, however, one is distracted, forgeting the big picture and letting small things get in the way. One makes a push to recover past glory. But one wonders at 19, is the wall coming? Have I burned my best? But, I feel fine, why not push it? At mile 23 one begins to feel the strain. But one is not dead yet and glory awaits. Someday the derivative at the end will keep going down, but not today.
Rachael met me at the finish, we cleaned up in the changing room at the park and headed back to Philly. We caught our 3 pm flight no problem and were home by 5. An excellent surgical strike. New Jersey comes in at #14 on the Spring 2008 ranking.
Rachael ran 2:24:52 chip and 2:28:08 clock in the half, which is not bad for going back to the car during the middle of the race.