Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Race Report: Rutgers Unite Half Marathon

For once, I was staying close to home.  After finishing two weekends of crazy mileage (42.4 and 26.2, respectively) I was going to do an easy 13.1 in New Jersey at the Rutgers Unite Half Marathon, put on by CGI Racing, a race management group based out of the northeast - not to be confused by Competitor Group Inc that puts on the Rock 'n' Roll Series.  I had done the Philadelphia Love Run that they put on in March of 2015, which I thoroughly enjoyed, and loved that they included a coffee mug as part of the race swag - and one I continue to use to this day for my morning cup of coffee at the office!

I love my friends. And I met several of them because of this club.  A club
I am no longer in, and I left on my own accord. This is the original picture, before I
was so lovingly cropped out on the club's official Instagram page. I still love my friends.
And I'm pretty sure they love me back, and wouldn't crop me out of group photos.
Spite isn't cute. And that's that. (Original and uncropped photo by Pam Provencher)
Sparklers!!!
(Photo by Pam Provencher)
The weekend started on Saturday morning, when I got a chance to sleep in!  Family friends of mine from back home in Kansas (who now live in Chicago) were in town visiting, so I met up with them for the early afternoon at their hotel in midtown, then walked with them through Central Park, to the Upper West Side and the Natural History Museum (and a stop at Shake Shack!), before taking them down to Lincoln Center.  After parting ways, I waited for Donna to come pick me up with our friend Kimberly, who was in town from St. Louis to run a women's only half marathon in Central Park on Sunday, and we drove off to New Brunswick for dinner.

The crowded startline
Several of our friends, including the Carlsons and the Provenchers, were in New Jersey to do the Rutgers race, which was happening at the same time as the MORE/Shape Women's Half in Central Park, so we decided as a group to have a dinner get-together in downtown New Brunswick to catch up.  We had a great dinner which concluded with sparklers, before heading back to the city later that evening.  I had an early morning wake up call as I had to take the subway to catch the train at Penn Station for the one hour train ride to New Brunswick and arrive around 7am to catch a shuttle to the start line across the Raritan River at Rutgers' Busch Campus in Piscataway. I got to the start area with more than enough time, and at 8am, the race started!

The course runs through roads and paved paths all throughout Rutgers' campuses, but not on any main drags - it seemed like a lot of it was on side streets and the like.  The course was very flat, with any elevation inclines coming at a very gradual distance, nothing too steep until the very end, when we had to ascend the hardest hill in the entire race.

Livingston Campus in the distance
We started on Barthlomew Road, alongside the Sonny Werblin Recreation Center, heading northward until turning right onto Brett Road.  Brett Road curved around the perimeter of the campus, passing several of the Busch Campus dormitories, eventually turning into Bevier Road.  We then returned to Bartholomew Road, passing the main Busch Campus Center, before taking the overpass on Avenue E that bypassed New Jersey's Route 18. We then took Avenue E crossing into Rutgers' Livingston Campus, running on a straightaway with the modern architecture of the TEN Arquitectos-designed Rutgers Business School directly in front of us.  We continued down the Avenue E straight away, passing Livingston Campus' dormitories, before turning right onto roads that curved around the university's facilities, shops, and warehousing buildings, and past the university's salt storage silos.  Probably the course's least exciting stretch.

Brett Road heading back into Busch
We then ran up to Joyce Kilmer Avenue toward the newer area known as "The Plaza at Livingston," a small town concept for the campus that contains apartment residencies, a cinema, eateries, and stores, as well as the Louis Brown Athletic Center (where the Scarlet Knights basketball teams play), the Rutgers Livingston Student Center and Rutgers Business School Annex.  This was about 4.5 miles in, before we essentially took a return trip on the roads back toward Busch Campus over the next 3.5 miles.  While we were still on the Plaza on the out-and-back, I finally caught site of my friends for the first time - seeing the Provenchers as I was headed back toward Busch.  We actually passed the start line on Bartholomew Road, then ran to Frelinghuysen Road in front of the Werblin Recreation Center, where we ran a seemingly unnecessary 0.5 mile out and back before continuing out onto the rotunda onto Scarlet Knight Way, right alongside the HighPoint Solutions Stadium, the home of Rutgers Football.  Right around here is where I began to experience some stomach discomfort, feeling some bad midsection cramps, and nagging myself for not having drank more water the night before.

The East Coast Greenway path
With a lot of stops to walk and deal with my cramps, I continued on, taking Sutphen Road out to the East Coast Greenway, the pedestrian path that ran alongside Route 18.  We got to Johnson Road, where we were on a LONG out and back through the wide open Johnson Park, where the cramping got so bad that I was walking every two minutes.  Having run about 1:07 for the first 6.5 miles of the race, I was well on my way to getting around a 2:15 finish, but when these cramps kicked in, I knew that was a bust.  My mile pace began to deteriorate from 10 to 10:30 miles to 11:00 and 12:00 miles; even 14:00 miles as the race was ending.

The out and back on Johnson Road seemed endless, though it was only about a cumulative two miles.  I had finally seen the Carlsons as I ran on the back end of this route as they were going out, as well as the Provenchers again, and it seemed like we were all having issues.  The escalating heat wasn't helpful either!  We were at about mile 11.5 when we finally got off of the Johnson Road path, and then turned onto Landing Lane to cross the Raritan River over to George Street to finish off the last 1.6 miles.


Let this be a lesson.  No sweatpants.
Those last 1.6 miles were still tough. We took George Street, curving around on an incline, before heading into Buccleuch Park on yet ANOTHER out-and-back.  I'm not really crazy about out-and-backs, even though sometimes you see friends.  In any case, we ran through the park, ran around a gazebo, I saw the Provenchers again, and then finally came back out of the park, and back onto the main street, turning right onto a massive, massive hill.  This was College Avenue, and the dreaded last 1/4 mile of the race.  Of course, we had to work for it - a 52 foot climb, the steepest over the first hundred feet.  When it became a little more of a gradual climb, I picked up the pace, zipping right through the main drag of the College Avenue Campus, and finally crossing the finish line in 2:31:41.  My second 6.5 miles was a slow 1:24, but thankfully I finished after experiencing such terrible cramps.

I stuck around to watch the Provenchers and the Carlsons slug it out to the finish, and we posed for some flattering post race photos (sarcasm)  Then, the Provenchers and I went out for lunch before I headed back home on NJ Transit, feeling awfully exhausted, which translated to me getting pretty sick that evening and missing work the next day with a bad cold.  But I finished yet another half, and my second in the state of New Jersey.

The Provenchers finishing
 
The Carlsons finishing
Friends finished with another half!

Victory Headstand at Rutgers

King of the Castle with a (R)oyal piece of bling :)



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