Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Race Report: Asbury Park Half Marathon

Being myself before the race...
After work on Friday, I headed out to New Jersey to stay at my aunt and uncle's place in nearby Oakhurst, to be in close proximity to the startline of the Asbury Park Half Marathon on Saturday morning, only 15 minutes away.  The trip down was about two hours from Manhattan, add to the fact that there was a boat that needed to pass underneath the drawbridge.  After a night out for dinner (and drinks, duh), we headed back to their home so I could get some rest for the early morning ahead.

The beautiful Asbury Park boardwalk
before the race
Saturday morning, bright and early, we headed off to Asbury Park for them to drop me off to meet my friends, Joe, Donna, and Ali, near the startline.  After a little traffic the closer we got to the boardwalk, I found them.  Ali, visiting from Georgia, and finishing her 37th state (and 89th half marathon!) had provided the three of us with some awesome sunglasses commemorating our accomplishment during this race, as well as an outline of the state of New Jersey to pin on ourselves along with some text describing where we were in our Fifty States journey.  We posed for a few pictures on this beautiful morning before walking up toward the Asbury Park Convention Hall along the boardwalk.

Pre-race with my awesome friends - (L-R) Donna, Ali, Joe, and me
(photo by Ali Levering)
A pre-race "ussie" with Joe and Donna
At 8:30, we were off.  Immediately, we saw we were crossing the start mats, which came as a surprise to us - apparently no big "gate" showcasing the start - oh well, we can't have it all.  We started running down Ocean Avenue, and about two minutes in, I run into a fellow member of my running club, Marcus!  He's a fast one, so once we exchanged hellos and some small talk, he was off... he'd later finish in 1:50!  The course turned right onto Asbury Avenue and then followed Cookman Avenue, one of the main drags of Asbury Park, up to Bond Street before hitting the mile 1 mark.  We turned left around the block to follow Lake Avenue, with Wesley Lake to our right.  Somewhere along this area there was a humongous dead rat in the middle of the road.  LOL!  We returned back to Ocean Avenue, but this time taking the road northward, always staying close to the boardwalk and the ocean.

As we continued northward, we would traverse bridges, like the one across Deal Lake, with concrete below our feet.  This would be a trend that continued all through the race - changing terrain, multiple times throughout the race.  We hit the 3 mile mark as we turned left, up into the villages of Loch Arbour, Allenhurst, and Deal, zigzagging back and forth on streets, passing some gorgeous oceanfront homes - many of which are probably millions of dollars in value.  We finally returned back to a straight shot on Ocean Avenue northward, doing a turnaround at Roosevelt Avenue, where we continued back where we came from on Ocean Avenue, but going southward.

Donna caught this photo of me on the out-and-back
on Ocean Avenue.  Definitely my most favorite race photo!
Around this time, I felt a tap on my shoulder, and had some fellow runners acknowledge my accomplishment of reaching my milestone 20th state (my New Jersey cutout was pinned to the back of my Camelbak, which I opted to use for this race, not knowing how the course hydration was going to be).  They were very complimentary, and really surprised to know I had only been at this for a little over a year.  I continued on and started doing some fartleks with "landmarks" along this long stretch of road, just to break up the monotony.  Soon, we'd hit mile 6 and mile 7, and then were at Deal Lake once again, but this time continuing along Ocean Avenue toward the water and to the boardwalk.

Now this is where things started to get a little hairy.  After over seven miles of mostly asphalt, here we were transitioning to wooden planks.  And... the temperature also started to rise.  We continued down the boardwalk, which was starting to get a little more busy with people, many of them cheering us on as we passed the finish line area, but headed south as we still had to go down to Bradley Beach and Avon-by-the-Sea.  Further down, we passed the old Asbury Park Casino, now sitting vacant, but remnants of its shell remain as we ran through the facility.  Beneath our feet - tile.  And then after that? Stone pavers.  We drew to the right a tiny bit and all of a sudden?  A 20-yard area of sand.  The constant changing of terrain was very difficult to get used to.  Luckily it was only a small area, which we would repeat later... but after that, we returned to asphalt, then concrete, then wooden planks yet again.  Then more stone pavers in a recently refurbished section of boardwalk that had been damaged by Hurricane Sandy. We ran for what seemed like forever, along the boardwalk, until we were finally directed to turn around just before Shark River Inlet.  And from there, we were sent along the asphalt and concrete of the sidewalks that lined the boardwalk.

Awesome post-race photo provided
by GameFace Media.  Did I mention how
hot it was?  See here I was photobombed
by someone needing medical attention...
We'd return along that long stretch of boardwalk, and have to go through that sandy patch yet again, back through the shell of the casino, and back to the boardwalk, where we saw the finish line in view. I crossed in 2:16:32, which at first, I was a little disappointed about because of how flat this course was compared to Raleigh the week before, which I had finished faster -- however, the constant change of terrain really messed with me this weekend.  The temperatures soared to an unseasonably warm 77ยบ on the boardwalk, with high humidity, too.  In fact -- check out my official finish photo, showing off my 2-0 for twenty states done... I actually get photobombed on the right side by a woman in a gurney requiring medical attention at the finish line.  But all in all, it was still a great race, and I got to race alongside some great friends and mark off yet another state in my list.  When we finished, we got together in the Convention Hall to claim our shirts and grab a quick bite to eat, then dipped our feet in the cold Atlantic Ocean waters, before heading out for a proper lunch in Keyport, closer to Joe's home, and then headed back on the next train into the city.

State 20, done and done!

Posing on the beach with Marcus, Joe, Donna, and Ali!
Found the fattest chihuahua I've ever seen, at the finish line.
Coco is THREE years old, and is OBESE.  She needs to go on a run.
A diet, then a run.

Victory headstand... on the boardwalk, no less.
With New Jersey on my crotch.

Parting shots.  And I'm twerking, yet again.

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