02 May 2018

Norvo Nordisk New Jersey Half Marathon Race Report - 2:04:46

Hello there! Let's see, this is the first road race I've entered since the Army 10-Miler way back when. As I've mentioned in the past, I've been struggling finding motivation to run, since I just wasn't enjoying it very much. Alex paces the marathon every year, and I've been wanting to run the half each time, only I was never prepared. Finally, though, I was prepared enough this year.

A little backstory, if you will:

In December, a climbing friend asked Alex and I if we were interested in a 10-miler trail race in February. Instead of thinking I wouldn't have time to train, I decided to use it as an opportunity to return to running. All the while, this race was in the back of my mind. The trail race came and went (pro tip: walk the uphills of a trail race), and I hadn't yet registered for the half. My semester also picked up, and I used that, the cold, and early morning wake up times as an excuse to slack off. Yet, I knew I would be disappointed for putting it off once again.

Eventually, I finished up with three 10-mile runs, which should allow me to at least complete the race.

About the course:
The NJ half marathon features a decently flat course through the surrounding neighborhoods of Long Branch, finishing on the boardwalk of the beach. The only inclines are bridges, and maybe one or two slight uphills on the streets. There is water and Gatorade at every water stop, and they hand out Honey Stinger gels around mile 7-8. The only con is the construction along the first section of the boardwalk, resulting in some tight turns before heading onto the straightway of the boardwalk. Those condos gotta get built, though!

I'd definitely run the half again next year.

The weather was cool, slightly windy, and drizzling at the start, eventually warming up to a respectable temperature with no rain. The sun came out during the three hour mark of the marathon. By that point, though, I had finished and was wearing all four layers of clothing from my gear bag (pants, fleece top, Uberlayer, and rain jacket.)

Outfit report:

Energy gels: Boom Nutrition. The ingredients include actual fruit purees and are some of the best tasting gels I've ever used. My favorite is the apple cinnamon, though I like all of them, except the orange vanilla.

Shoes: New Balance Fresh Foam 1080v7 Brooklyn Half.
I got them on sale. I had been developing a hot spot on the inner side of my right foot almost each time I ran, unless I taped that spot up. The other downside is that they're not very cushioned, and I don't think I'd buy them again. I had considered wearing an old, comfortable pair of shoes for the race, but wasn't sure if that was a good idea. Nothing terrible happened to my legs in them, though I know I'd benefit from a softer shoe.

Socks: Wrightsock in size large (for a women's 9.5 shoe size). I bought these last minute at work. With the shoes mentioned above, the thicker socks I usually run in make my wide foot feel too squeezed. I really enjoyed these socks and would buy more.

Shorts: Patagonia Strider Running Shorts. My old Pearl Izumi racing shorts are too small and my Nike Tempos are blagh. These are very comfortable and include a small zippered pocket on the back. I'm gonna get the Strider Pro shorts next time because they have more pockets for gels and such. I wear a size small in these.

Watch: Garmin 230. Measurements always seem off from the course.

Top: An old Adidas top that doesn't chafe. It's a little long, and normally that's not a problem, except I wore a Nathan running belt underneath so that I had my phone with me after the race. The belt was too big and my shirt rode up the entire race.

Bra: Brooks Frontrunner in size small. This is a seriously flattering bra with good support for me. I have two of them and love it.

Hat: An old Brooks hat I picked up a while back.

Hair report:
Low pony.

Race details:

Watch time and distance: 2:04.47 - 13.43 miles

Despite what my training paces indicated, I thought I might have a chance to break two hours if I paced decently. I opted to start near the 2:00 pace group and see how I felt.

Mile 1 - 9:19.24
Decent. My "fastest" 10-miler had been with the half marathon's training group, with an average 9:20-ish pace. I felt comfortable here.

Mile 2 - 9:00.47
Seemed a bit fast, since a 2-hour half is a 9:09 pace. I felt okay, and figured the pacer would adjust eventually.

Mile 3 - 8:55.43
At this point, the pace group began pulling ahead of me. I immediately knew that trying to keep up would be futile, so I attempted to keep them within sight. Still feeling okay.

Mile 4 - 8:57.61
Still trying to figure out why the pacer kept pulling further and further ahead, but was not trying to catch up.

Mile 5 - 9:02.73
Beginning to realize that I'm out of practice regarding pacing, and I should have stuck to my own plan.

Mile 6 - 9:01.53
While I'm maintaining my pace, I'm beginning to feel tired, which isn't a good sign halfway in.

Mile 7 - 9:12.46
The slowdown begins. Had I paced correctly in the first half, this is the pace I should have sped up to by this point in the race, not slowed down to.

Mile 8 - 9:12.54
It wouldn't be the worst thing in the world to finish the race at this pace.

Mile 9 - 9:25.64
Unfortunately, I was just unable to maintain it. I was feeling worn down, my hips hurt, and I simply didn't have the base mileage to back up what I was trying to do.

Mile 10 - 9:30.09
There was really nothing I could do at this point other than to focus on my form and look at the restaurants through the downtown portion of the course. I was fortunate that this course is relatively flat.

Mile 11 - 9:29.22
I'm still relatively pleased that I hadn't slowed down more than my training paces, but, boy, was I struggling. I kept thinking about my last half, in Pittsburgh, where I mentally lost it the last two-three miles and walked. At this point, I knew a sub-2 wasn't happening, but I could at least finish the race running.

Mile 12 - 9:39.41

Mile 13 - 9:56.84
This is a pretty slow mile. I think it was part boardwalk congestion, partly the wind, partly that my body just would not speed up.

Mile .1 - 4:04.19
My watch measured every mile short by about two tenths. It's never fun, because whenever my watch signals a mile, I know I have to wait for the race markers to see what's actually happening. According to my watch, I averaged a 9:18 pace over 13.4x miles, but according to the race website, it's more of a 9:30 pace.

Clearly, and this has always been my issue, I have yet to learn the art of pacing. Regardless, I'm very pleased that I actually got myself together in time to run it.

My PR in the half is 1:51.xx, and I believe that with actual training, I can break 1:50, so that's going to be my goal for the fall. If not sub 1:50, then close to it.

Thanks for reading!

What was your first race back from an extended period of time off like? What would you have done differently in retrospect?
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