I went into this race half believing I could push through the heat — after all, my last two long distance races had been even warmer — and half believing it wouldn’t be my day. If you follow me on Instagram here, you know it was the latter.
Many have assured me of the fact that finishing is winning, don’t be too hard on yourself, yadda yadda (not making fun of your comments, I appreciate them all!). I had wanted to do this race since stopping in Ocean City on my way down to ZOOMA Annapolis three years ago (read about it here — that was one of my hottest — and worst — races — apparently Ocean City is a jinx for me! — but I still love it). In case you’re wondering, I did enjoy my race weekend.
Did I psych myself out? Read on and find out what I learned from this half marathon.
Compared to my last few long distance races this was actually a “large” race — which is to say there were more than just a few hundred runners. Packet pickup was easy, although just a little confusing because it was supposed to be at the Sneaker Shop when in reality it was at the Paint & Sip (not sure of the real name, and being a dry town, no sipping going on) adjacent to the sneaker shop. A sign would have been nice.
There’s an envelope with your tee and your bib and pins and that’s all she wrote.
No expo at all, but as I said, it does take place next to a small running shoe store — you might be able to find something if you’ve forgotten it.
Getting There & Hanging Out
We had, again, chosen a hotel within walking distance of the starting line. The Harris House Motel was a very serviceable hotel — nothing fancy, but clean, and met my requirements: able to walk to the starting line, a microwave and mini fridge. There was also a very nice pool, but alas, I never did manage to use it; the hotel was also quite close to the boardwalk and beaches.
I was able to use the bathroom in my hotel room, again avoiding portapotty lines, and run to the start (while Mr. Judy carried over my hydration vest for me). I took off my Skirt Sports bolero, which I no longer needed, donned the hydration vest, and sent Mr. Judy on his merry way to attempt to get photos of me at the beginning of the race.
If you do go, be aware that there is a Bike ride to benefit MS on Saturday, the day before the race. A little synchronicity as we’d stopped to have lunch with Mr. Judy’s cousin, who has MS, on the way down. A large bike ride. They close off half the bridge heading onto the island. It took way longer to get into Ocean City than we’d anticipated. I’d read, but not really noticed, this detail in the runner info. We’d actually driven most of the way down on Friday, but decided to stop about an hour and a half north of OCNJ to stay the night, which just added lots of frustration and time on Saturday.
The weather & dressing
The weather is what got me — or more specifically, the lack of clouds. My 18 mile race was actually warmer and more humid, but there was cloud cover almost the entire race — apparently I can do a hot race if it starts early, has cloud cover, or is a dry heat. I’m happy that I had the better weather for my 18 mile race.
This time there was zero chafing. Anywhere.
My Race Plan
I told Rachel @ Runningonhappy that I wanted a race plan (AP = actual pace & RP = race plan), which she provided, but unfortunately I could tell as soon as I started running that this would not be my day and the plan went out the window. The good news is I have one last half this year that I can use the same plan for.
So how’d that work for me?
- Mile 1: 11:01 AP/11:00 RP. The start was very narrow and congested and there was just no way to even weave. It did prevent me from going out too fast, because I definitely could have run this mile faster.
- Mile 2: 11:03 AP/10:55: RP. Mile 2 began to open up a little and I noted that there was actually shade (about the only shade on the course). I also had pretty much realized today was not going to be my day.
- Mile 3: 11:16 AP/10:55 RP. There is quite the bridge here, but I felt I dealt with it fairly well. Oddly my Garmin shows an elevation gain of 2 ft for the entire race. I’m quite certain I gained a lot more than 2 ft on this bridge — what’s up with that? Otherwise it is a totally flat race. On a cooler day that would have been kind to me.
- Mile 4: 10:57 AP/10:45 RP. I think this was where I sprinted to catch up with a woman wearing Skirt Sports to chat with her; you also come back over the bridge — the two things together gave me my fastest mile.
- Mile 5: 11:37 AP/10:45 RP. I was still in the race. Sort of.
- Mile 6: 11:47 AP/10:45 RP. I believe this is where we got onto the boardwalk, and I actually quite enjoyed running on the boardwalk. Although the smell of popcorn (and I love popcorn) was totally nauseating to me by this point.
- Mile 7: 11:49 AP/10:45 RP. I think this may have been where the first cooling station was — I was on the right, so stopped to grab a cold towel from them, but they weren’t ready, so I had to go over to the left.
- Mile 8: 11:57 AP/10:45 RP. I remember thinking that if I could just have an 11-something pace it wasn’t too bad . . .
- Mile 9: 12:29 AP/10:45 RP. . . . and then thinking that anything with a 12 in front of it wasn’t so bad . . . by now the wheels began to come off.
- Mile 10: 12:47 AP/10:45 RP. Although I was carrying my own water (and oddly I didn’t drink enough of it), I was stopping at every water stop to grab water and pour it over my head, the back of my neck, my wrists.
- Mile 11: 13:16 AP/10:35 RP. Flat. Forward is a pace. Seriously, that’s what I told myself. I think it was at this mile that I grabbed some ice and shoved it down my bra. I wish I could say it made me feel better.
- Mile 12: 14:12 AP/10:25 RP. Back on the boardwalk. Not only had the wheels come off, I couldn’t even find them anymore. I was walking most of this mile. Hey, for me a 14 mm while walking is a good pace.
- Mile 13: 13:59 AP/10:15 RP. Still mostly walking, but I managed to run a bit more. I absolutely hate it when I give up my run/walk intervals and mostly walk. It wasn’t really that it was a super hot day, but it was warm, relentlessly sunny, and by now it’s after 11 — believe me, there were plenty of unhappy runners walking all around me. See below.
- Last .18: 11:32 AP/All out sprint RP. Don’t ask me how I managed to pull myself together to sprint to the finish line.
2:40:47 — Official Time
12:14 Average Pace
22 out of 53 in 55-59F division
813 out of 1107 runners
A slower average pace than my 18 mile race! Not my best, not my worst. Overall solidly BOTP, but in my AG solidly MOTP. Actually one of my best hot races, so I can’t complain too much.
Was the race well run?
This is a relatively small town race (although quite a bit larger than the last couple of long races I ran), but it’s extremely well run. I had read nothing but good things about it and seriously they’re all true — my problem was with the weather, not the race — although starting a half marathon at 8:30 am when it’s sunny and warm is just way too late.
Weather at the end of September can swing in many directions: beautiful Fall days, hurricanes, cold, or quite hot. You know you’re in trouble, though, when the RD sends out an email the week before saying they’re adding cooling stations. They said they were adding two, but in fact I think they added four.
One of the reasons the race starts late, I was told, was that bikers like to bike on the boardwalk early (I personally think it could accommodate both). We spent quite a bit of time running on the boardwalk, which is not closed, but I never had to deal with people just walking in front of me — I’ve definitely dealt with that in races before.
The course was clearly marked with signs and also spray painted numbers (which for the most part I didn’t notice) on the boardwalk, and there were ample course marshals, too. Results were emailed to you the same day as the race. Although I didn’t need the aid stations to drink water, I used them to frequently grab water to pour over myself — they were always well stocked and the water was cold. Nothing worse than sipping warm water during a warm race. Plenty of cooling stations (where they handed out icy towels or even just ice) were available.
Food was also still plentiful when I finished, although there were runners who finished two hours after me! You get a goody bag with local treats — caramel popcorn, a soft pretzel, salt water taffy, orange slices — and pizza, bagels, fruit and I think it was monkey bread were also available at the finish — I think there may have been some other things available to grab, too, but I don’t remember. I didn’t see chocolate milk (not my thing anyway), but did see cartons of iced tea.
My one very tiny quibble with the food is put the napkins before the pizza (which I didn’t take, as I’m not ready to really chow down directly after the race, but who wants to pick up sticky monkey bread with their hands? It was tasty, though).
There were photographers along the course, although I didn’t notice all of them — which shows in my photos — the photos were up on the Website by the next Thursday (the race was Sunday). You do have to pay, but they also offered a 25% discount.
There’s also a bunch of pretty sweet prizes that are raffled off and sent to you if you’re not local. Darn it, I didn’t win anything.
- Staying at a hotel close enough to the start/finish to walk (and use the bathroom in my hotel room — again!)
- Also some real bathrooms near the start (although I didn’t use them)
- Running on the boardwalk
- Running near the ocean
- The cooling stations were so appreciated
- A very well organized race
- Never wondering when/where to turn
- Personalized bibs — and volunteers often encouraged you by name
- Great goody bag of local foods post race
- No chafing!
- The late start
- Too hot & no clouds/shade
- The race shirt is kind of meh but not bad (although it does run large)
- I only drank half the water in my hydration vest. Which is very unlike me and probably didn’t help my race, although I doubt it would have made a big difference, but I’m sure I would have felt better if I’d been better hydrated (and not had some cramping going on). I think I focused way too much on pouring water on myself to cool down and just forgot to drink.
What I learned
I thought I had conquered the whole heat thing. I’ve set PRs in some pretty hot (to me) races. So I learned that a late start with no cloud cover causes me to fade in the second half of the race. Maybe someday I’ll be able to overcome that, but for now I’m not really sure what I could have done differently.
I actually don’t think I went out too fast. In fact, I majorly adjusted my paces in the first half of the race from the plan, and my first half wasn’t too bad. Would starting even slower have prevented me from walking so much in the last two miles? I don’t think so, but I guess we’ll never know.
This is a great race and I highly recommend it — just be warned about how uncomfortable it can be on a hot day. I wouldn’t do the half again, but I think I’d enjoy the 10 mile race — I didn’t feel too bad until about mile 9 — and I really enjoy Ocean City, NJ: a great place to walk along the ocean, enjoy good food (or boardwalk food, if that’s your thing), some cool shops and really, just relaxing!