Wild Half Marathon Pre-Race:
It took 16 months but I finally ran this race. I originally registered in April 2011 for the then 2011 Wild Half Marathon. Unfortunately Hurricane Irene had similar plans for a weekend trip to Wildwood, NJ and decided to pay a visit on race day resulting in a cancellation of the race and our family weekend getaway. Fortunately all of the 2011 entrants were given a free entry into the 2012 race and our motel had a nice hurricane friendly deferment policy so we were all set for our in-state vacation this year.
In the interest of full disclosure, this was originally planned as a race weekend masquerading as family fun time (now wipe that look off your face, like none of you have ever done that). After waiting for almost a year and a half I can honestly say I was looking forward to the fun more than the running. This summer my schedule has been completely bonkers, sleep has been at a premium and I had fought a bad head cold all week so I needed some downtime. Add to that my oldest son is entering into his last year of High School so at this time next year we’ll be saying goodbye to him at some college campus. All of that made for a perfectly timed trip for all of us.
We drove down early on Friday afternoon. Part of the race package included free weekend admission to Morey’s Piers which are three large piers with rides and a waterpark. We arrived at the hotel, dropped off our bags, made a quick trip to the expo and then ‘hit the boards’. I don’t want to make this into a vacation report so I’ll try to sum up the non-race part quickly. The rides and waterpark were fun for all of us (even the teenagers), we had a blast. We also spent some time exploring the boardwalk and parts of that were fun too. On the downside, once you spend a couple of days in Wildwood you’ve seen pretty much seen everything. Also some of the boardwalk shops (and their clientele) were… how would my boys say it?… a bit ‘sketchy’. While we had fun I can honestly say we probably won’t return. There are plenty of better beaches, better rides and more family friendly towns in NJ to visit. Glad we went but been there, done that.
While the hurricane activity remained in the Gulf Coast region, this race weekend still had some eventful weather. We experienced the most intense lightning and torrential rain storm I’ve ever seen. Saturday night starting at about 8PM until about two the next morning was unreal. It sounded and felt like the strikes were hitting the motel sign outside our window. The thunder wasn’t making a ‘boom’ sound but instead a sharp, loud ‘CRACK’ along with a blinding light. We were honestly afraid to go too near the windows. Needless to say trying to get to sleep for a 7:30AM gun time was a bit challenging. Also having to reset the hotel alarm clock very 20 minutes or so due to the power going out kept me occupied between midnight and 2:30AM. Things eventually quieted down and I dosed off for what turned out to be a 3 hour nap.
Wild Half Marathon Race Day:
My loving, supportive wife got up with me at about 6AM and we walked to the start together (did I mention she was loving AND supportive). We knew better that to wake the dynamic duo so we slipped out quietly. First thing that hit me as I opened the hotel door was how thick the air was. High humidity and barely a cloud in the sky… lovely. Temps in the mid 70′s were of little comfort as I thought “Again! Really?!?!”
This race was put on by CGI Racing which holds a couple of Half’s and Tri’s in the NJ/PA area. This is a for-profit company and while I’ve done one other race with them I noticed more this time how frugal the race seemed. The expo had maybe six vendors if that and while some of you may see that as a good thing it felt a bit weird. There were plenty of volunteers and a good crowd at the start though as we lined up and the gun went off promptly at 7:30AM.
Start to Mile 2
The course takes you over the boardwalk for the first mile and a half. I was a bit concerned that morning about traction but it had rained so hard the night before that the boards had a decent grip to them. The biggest problem with that first part of the course was as you came off the boards and onto the street there was an ankle-deep, 20ft diameter puddle you had to run through. Made for a steeplechase feel for the next mile as the water drained from your shoes. What made this it even better was that we ran though that same puddle again around mile 9 (Woo Hoo!).
Around mile 3 I really started feeling the humidity and a pace that started out in the 6:30′s moved up to the 6:40′s. As I anticipated I was back in heat management mode as the weather made for the limiting factor on my pacing for the rest of the race.
The course was well marked with a good number of water stops (with Gatorade!). As I flew through one stop with the huge G-Bolt logo on my singlet I heard one of the volunteers call to one of his buddies “Oh Yeah! That guy’s taking the Gatorade!” Overall the course was fairly flat and puddle free. There were two bridges we crossed over twice on the out and back but the elevation was trivial.
Mile 11 to 13
By mile 11 I had passed the last runner in reach of me and I settled in on my pacing for the final two miles. There was one runner I saw up in the distance but I didn’t have any realistic chance of catching him, he had a good 30 seconds or more on me as we were approaching mile 12 and I wasn’t about to risk injury or increased recovery time in an attempt to catch him. In a ‘B’ race I was willing to just finish strong and keep runners off my tail.
With about 3/4 of a mile to go we turned into the final stretch where the course went over a cement bike path that wasn’t very runner friendly and that along with navigating around the back end of the 8k finishers made for a less than ideal finish. I did take note that the runner in front of me was getting a little closer. Then he did something you should never do, he looked back…several times. I really had no desire to try to catch him with less than a 1/2 mile to go but there was blood in the water and I felt myself unconsciously picking up the pace.
Coaching Tip: Resist as much as you can the urge to look behind you late in the race. While I’m guilty of this on occasion it results in giving the guy behind you a mental boost because it sends a signal that you’re in trouble or that you want to slow down. Either way you don’t want to give up a mental edge late in the race. Just tough it out and slam the pedal down and you won’t have to worry about who’s behind you.
The final 200 yards was over wet mushy sand which made for an unceremonious end to the race. I had closed the gap to about 8 secs but I ran out of course before I caught the runner in front of me and crossed the finish with a official time of 1:28:30. Good for 2nd place in my age group and 17th overall in the official results.
Wild Half Marathon Post Race:
Not the race performance I was hoping for but we all had a fun weekend and any time you bring home some age group hardware you really have no right to complain. So after downing my recovery beverage along with some serious post-race hydration, I received my award and we headed back to the hotel to hop in the car and head home. My wife made the obligatory stop to pickup a Christmas ornament on the way back to the car. Memento in hand, our weekend trip was now complete and it was time to head back to the realities of soccer practices, lesson plans and long weeks. So how many days are there until June 2013?