I’m so excited to share with you my experience at the 2015 New Jersey Marathon. It’s all LOVE for this event. I apologize for the novel you are about to read (or scroll through).

The EXPO:

Mr. Sweat Out The Small Stuff and I went to the expo on Friday evening.

runNJ-expo-signWhen it comes to expos, Mr. SOTSS is more of the “run in, get race number, run out” kind of guy. He doesn’t get too excited about them. His whole running lifestyle is simple, practical and uncomplicated. But he loves how excited I get for expos that I love running so much that I love all the details that go into the race. He thinks I love preparing for a race as much as I love running them. What can I say. :) So the expo, the training, and all that happens from the moment I register for a race until the minute I cross the finish line (and even days after) is a big part of my life. It’s the reason I started blogging. OK sorry, I got off on a little tangent..

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The expo is at the race track which is also where the race starts

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I’m ready!

The expo was fairly simple. We didn’t stay for any of the seminars that were on tap, but we got a few samples and looked at some running gear and then grabbed our race bibs and shirts. I’ll say that the only part of this year’s NJ Marathon that I wasn’t in love with was the shirt. And guess what? I have so many running shirts at this point it’s really not a big deal. Especially since I signed up for the race a year beforehand at it’s lowest registration fee.

2015-njmarathon-shirtAll in all the expo was easy to get to, easy to navigate and quite empty. I’m sure Saturday was probably busier.

Since we went to the expo on Friday we had Saturday to relax without anything on the schedule.

A little aside about my state of mind on Saturday. I was A MESS! I was so nervous. I couldn’t even rely on the usual sayings like “the hay is in the barn” or “trust your training” because I really didn’t even have half of the training that I should have had. Plus, Friday brought me both major stomach distress combined with “girl issues” and cramping which left me in the bathroom all day. And then just to really mess with my mental state my old ankle tendonitis that plagued me for months last year started acting up. The only good thing was that my knee was feeling great—LOVE! In between trips to the bathroom and some afternoon fun at a local outoor fair/festival I spent plenty of time getting my gear ready. Since I wore my 2013 finishers shirt last year I decided to wear my 2014 finishers shirt this year. (of course next year this will end because I won’t be wearing the above mentioned 2015 shirt.). I opted for my standard Brooks “Essential” running capris and paired that with my Asics Cumulus kicks, a visor and sunglasses plus my SpiBelt with two phone pouches, one for my phone and the other for some fuel.

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Race morning:

Mr. SOTSS lives about 25 minutes from the start of the race but with the full and the half starting at the same time this year (7:30am) I knew there would be traffic getting there so we left at 6am. On our way down he realized he left his phone home. He was actually willing to sacrifice the phone knowing how I like to be early for races and he didn’t want me to get anxious—LOVE! But I couldn’t bear the thought of him not having it especially since he listens to podcasts while running and insisted we head back to get it—LOVE! Even with the detour we got to the parking lot at 7:10am. We met up with Jane, took a few pics and tossed our gear check bags and then looked for his cousin Kathy but it was getting close to 7:30 at this point so he decided to go to his corral up front while I went to mine toward the back and Jane seeded herself with the 4:25 pace group.

Me and Mr. SOTSS

Me and Mr. SOTSS

Me and Jane

Me and Jane

This might sound really corny but this was the first full marathon I have run since dating Mr. SOTSS so getting to share a little good luck hug and kiss just before heading to our corrals was extra special—LOVE! I actually bumped into his cousin after that and grabbed a quick selfie. She had a team of runners from the school she teaches at running the race. A big congrats to all of them! Yay Team Boro!

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Because of the traffic congestion they started the race about 5 minutes behind schedule. I have said this in prior posts about this race. Plan lots of time and expect that extra 25 minutes to get there. It’s not really a drawback if you plan accordingly. :) And don’t forget your phone! #yourwelcome

Next thing you knew they were starting the race with the iconic Bruce Springsteen song “Born to Run” (LOVE!) and sounding the bugles that are infamous with the Monmouth Race Track where the start is. I was super impressed with how quickly we were underway now that there were about 11,000 runners starting at one time rather than 3,000 last year when the full started after the half marathoners.

Oh, the port-a-potty lines were ridiculously long. i don’t remember that from last year. I wanted to go but since we didn’t have the time I skipped it. Lucky for me it wasn’t an issue. If I had to make a small criticism it would probably be this.

The weather was PERFECT! (LOVE!) No wind! Cooler temps and mostly sun with some clouds.

Miles 1-10
(splits: 10:05, 10:26, 10:27, 10:03, 10:10, 10:36, 10:40, 10:55, 10:49, 11:02)

I started out great. I was pounding out the miles effortlessly and really happy to be taking in the sights and sounds as the first half of the race goes mainly through the lovely neighborhoods of Monmouth and Oceanport.

sally2015-nj-marathon2My breathing was exceptionally good and that actually lasted for the entire race. I am an endurance runner there is no doubt about that! At mile 5 I was passed by the amazing Chris Benyo pushing his wife Denise who has ALS. They have been running this race for 4 years now. She was diagnosed just 6 months after their wedding back in 2010. Now if anyone can relate to the “in sickness and in health” vows it’s me. I gave Chris and his wife a big cheer and after they passed I read the back of his shirt….”I run for my wife always”. That’s true LOVE!

my-wife my-wife2This was the first of multiple times I cried (happy tears) during the race. It’s one of my most treasured aspects of distance races…there’s this thing that happens when you’re putting your body through such intense physical demands…it strips you down…it opens your mind and your heart….you can feel so much, you can think clearly, you can let go of all the “small stuff” that swallows you up most days. I think that’s why I’m addicted :)

After running this race 3 years I always look forward to the families who live along the course and play music for us or just cheer. And then there are the inspirational quote signs that are put up on the lawns of some of the houses you pass. LOVE!

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Fueling:I nursed some Honey Stinger chews at mile 4 and 8 (about 2/3 of a package) and had water at miles 4 and 8 as well.

Miles 11-21
(splits: 10:47, 10:58, 11:03, 11:02, 11:09, 12:34, 11:06, 12:02, 12:57, 12:12, 12:35)

Just past mile 11 the half and the full course split. I watch the halfers head toward their finish and I made the right turn onto Ocean Avenue for the next section of the course which runs parallel to the water. With the half and the full running together this year you really felt the difference once the two races split. All of a sudden it seemed a bit desolate with just a few other marathoners around. No more crowds. Runkeeper sent me an alert that Mr. SOTSS finished his half in 1:49 so i sent him a congratulatory text and read one he left for me that said simply “go Sally go! LOVE! I think I hit the half about 2:20. I actually remember seeing the 4:40 pacer pass me here. By mile 14 I was totally buzzing….the runner’s high kicked in and I started to cry again. I realized that sticking to the full and not dropping back was totally the right decision. And as I wiped my tears I turned down one of my favorite streets of the race. There’s something about these wildly twisted trees.

mile14ish-treelined-streetIt was so quiet and I just took a moment to be grateful. I turned the corner and right past the mile 15 mark my awesome family was waiting for me with Sweedish fish and a little bottle of water. I LOVE that my brother and sister-in-law, niece and her friend came (as they do every year) to see me and support me. Speaking of support I need to say that the volunteers at this race are UNBELIEVABLE! Not just friendly but downright encouraging and engaged. They didn’t just stand holding signs or a cup of water but they screamed out encouraging words, gave clear directions and even gave head’s ups to curbs, potholes and other little things that might be out of your line of sight. I felt like I had a team of people out there just for me.

saying hi to the family at mile 15ish

saying hi to the family at mile 15ish and grabbing hold of my power fuel….Sweedish fish!

Mile 17-20 take you through Asbury Park and Ocean Grove. This is a real gem of the full course and when I weighed my pros and cons trying to decide if I should stick with the full or drop to the half I thought long and hard about miles 17-20 and how I’d miss not running this part.

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Asbury Park boardwalk

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Running through the convention center in Asbury Park on the boardwalk.

asbury1 Ironically this is where I started to struggle. Well, not really ironically. Considering I only reached 16 miles in training I knew the last 8-10 miles of the race would be challenging. I didn’t know it would happen almost instantly at mile 18. Yup, I hit the wall! Up until this point the only split I had over 11 minutes was the mile I stopped for a solid minute or 2 to see my family. But mile 18 brought me to a screeching halt. I took a walk break and ate my sweedish fish-LOVE!. There was a police officer who could see I was struggling and he quietly said “Keep on going, you’re doing fine.” And guess what? Yep, I cried again. I then posted to Facebook and made the decision right there I needed to dig deep and fight the last 8 miles.

dig-deepI looked around me and honestly everyone was struggling. I saw runners with locked up muscles, I saw runners limping, I saw runners sitting on the curb stretching out a cramp or tying their shoes. I wasn’t alone. Frankly, I was doing better than most. My breathing was still fine. I felt like I fueled ok but my legs just felt tired and achy and my neck was hurting especially my shoulder where the torn rotator cuff is. And even though I hit the wall it still was nothing like my sucky 10 mile training run a week prior. So I got a little more focused on my mantra “stay in the mile your in” and took it one mile at a time allowing myself to walk a minute at each mile.

The route this year stayed on the boardwalk a little longer from mile 19-21 which was nice except this is where the 4:55 pacer passed me. :(

Fueling: I finished the last of the Honey Stinger chews at mile 12 and had water as well at mile 12 and 13ish. I started eating the sweedish fish from mile 18-20 eating a few at a time. I also dropped half a Nuun tablet into the small 8oz bottle of water I grabbed from the fam and drank that at mile 16 and 17.

Miles 22-26
(splits: 12:07, 12:00, 11:54, 11:40, 11:08, and the .2 was 10:05)

njm-cone

a cone without ice cream…..

My family was waiting for me again at mile 22 and honestly that really kept me going. When I stopped to see them my brother and I spoke about me being so close to finishing under 5 hours. I said it didn’t matter really what my time was and that I was just happy that I knew i would finish at that point but secretly I wanted that sub 5 time for no other reason than I wanted a goal that would keep me in the game.

sally2015-nj-marathon1These miles are a straight chute back up Ocean Avenue and then onto the boardwalk to the finish. I could see the last runner on the other side of Ocean Ave. He was at mile 15 and the sweep bus driving behind him. I don’t know if he was able to finish or not but he kept going and didn’t look back. I said a prayer for him and again I cried! I am inspired by the determination of runners of all levels. Elite runners are amazing but so are those that opt-in to a challenge knowing they’ll have to battle a whole lot more. I texted Mr. SOTSS at mile 24 just to let him know where I was. I wasn’t sure if I’d see him at the finish. He finished the half but had to take a shuttle bus back to the car since this was a point to point race and then went home to shower and let the dogs out and still had to drive back and find parking all while navigating around the road closures from the course. I started to choke up again….the finish line was just ahead!

Then,all of a sudden my watch flashed “low battery”! I wasn’t about to let 25 miles of splits disappear so I pushed with every last bit of energy I had and booked it toward that finish line. With just seconds before crossing I heard “Go Sally!”. It was Mr. SOTSS!  He made it! He was witnessing me complete a marathon, something he hadn’t yet seen me do (we met just 6 days after I finished running last year’s NJ Marathon).

I don’t know why it meant so much….ok yes I do. I started to cry and mouthed the words “love you” to him as I ran past. His smile from that moment is still etched in my mind—LOVE! And then seconds after that I heard my name again. This time it was Jane and her hubby Alex. I turned around and smiled when I realized they waited to see me too. Jane finished in 4:24! She crushed her PR by 15 minutes and reached that sub 4:25 goal she’s been chasing for 3 years. I’m so proud of her. I crossed the finish line in 4:57:44 with only hundreds of runners behind me rather than thousands the way it is at the NYC Marathon. I don’t really remember my fueling for these miles but am pretty sure I just had some water and or Gatorade here and there. 

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my hand is so wrinkly!

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I met up with Mr. SOTSS and even though I was a salty, sweaty, stinky mess and he was clean he hugged me tight and told me he was so proud of me and I cried again! LOVE! Running entered my life while I was grieving the loss of my husband….it carried me for 8 years while I crossed finish line after finish line without a significant other. And I loved each and everyone one of those finish line moments (well except for the 2014 NYC Half. LOL. Still hated running that day.) and never felt I was missing out on anything. But having my other half, my teammate, my love there to see me on Sunday brought it all full circle. 

And then as if the day couldn’t be any better I bumped into Joe, the race director on my way to meet up with Jane. He also hugged and congratulated me. Talk about LOVE. The LOVE this man has for his events and for the runners that participate. You’ll never meet a nicer, more dedicated man. And I’m not the only one who thinks that. Facebook was flooded with posts from runners sharing their enthusiasm.

I finally saw Jane and then my afternoon was complete. It was time for Mr. SOTSS and I to head back to his car and get me home to unstinkify (p.s. I soaked that shirt yesterday for 30 minutes in Super Washing Soda to hopefully rescue it and make it wearable again) so we could head to his cousin’s celebratory barbecue and refuel the right way!

NJ Marathon BFFS 3 years running =)

NJ Marathon BFFS 3 years running =)

His and Hers. This makes my heart swell =)

His and Hers. This makes my heart swell =)

Oh, and the most lovely moment of the whole day? When I realized that I didn’t have to take the shuttle bus back to the start because Mr. SOTSS’ car was only a couple of blocks away. He really, really loves me :)

P.S. As of this morning (about 40 hours later) my legs are very sore and my ankle tendonitis is there but seems to be milder than I remember from last year. I’ve been icing it and foam rolling my legs a lot and will do daily for the next 2 weeks to hopefully knock it out. The knee is still perfect. Go figure.

I told you this post would be more about love than it would be about PRs.

Tell me about the race that you love or the human that you love or the food that you love or the pet that you love? 

 

9 Comments

  1. Congratulations Sally!!!

    On your PR, on breaking 5 hours, on being treasured by Mr SOTSS, on inspiring all the love you receive back from the people in your life. (You’re receiving back what you so generously put out there, you know.)

    Go Sally Go!

  2. Well this recap made me tear up a few times! Congrats on such a wonderful run all around! This looks like a fantastic race and one I’ll have to add to my list!

  3. Sally, what a beautiful recap. Congratulations on a fabulous race!

  4. Congratulations on your race! I LOVE your recap! My last half was a tough one (I went in probably undertrained and definitely overtired), so seeing your recap where you chose to focus on the love was inspiring to me!

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