This race was the culmination of my late Winter and Early Spring training. I was aiming to PR and seek revenge on the half marathon that crushed me two weeks ago. After the weather had been announced for Atlantic City, I knew to adjust my time goal of PRing accordingly.
The weather at Shamrock was terrible: rainy, windy and cold. The weather for Atlantic City was a different kind of terrible: gusty, gusty and gusty. They forecasted 50 mph headwinds, and we got them.
Shamrock took away a lot of confidence in distance racing and left me with the question: had I PRed for the year at Carlsbad? Was I done?
The race also left me with a very tight hamstring that I noticeably felt for last two weeks. Even with a deep tissue massage, I skipped two weeks of workouts. It never hurt but was noticeably tight after about 10 miles.
I had to no idea to expect with the weather and my hamstring. I arrived to Atlantic City late Saturday evening. My husband and I hung out at the Resorts Casino before heading to bed around 9.
On Sunday morning, the race start was delayed due to traffic. Instead of being blown away, my father and law and I hung out in the casino. It was warm and we chatted with a few locals.
I didn’t fully believe I was about to run a half marathon. It’s like I hadn’t come to terms with racing. I was cold, wearing a thrift 90s sweater and about to blow away. Still the race horn blew, and we were off.
The first mile was hilarious at best. I saw the elite males take off and being blown around like a pinball machine. I found myself running near my friend Mike. We chatted and decided our goals were similar.
Luckily there was a cluster of dudes, and we hit the first mile in 6:27. It seemed like a lofty goal to maintain that pace. I didn’t know how my hamstring would react to the race, and the buildings hid most of the wind the first mile.
The second two miles were similar. The wind was whipping us around the boardwalk. It wasn’t a headwind or a tailwind; it was just wind from every direction.
Wind under my feet…
Wind over my feet…
There was problem wind going vertically too…
There were several points where sand blew into my eyes and into my contacts. We ran the second mile in 6:29 and the 3rd mile in 6:33. My ultimate goal was to run faster than Shamrock. I was happy with those splits. I had let go of a PR goal, but I wanted to redeem myself from Shamrock, and I wanted to win.
The winds were rougher in Atlantic City, but it wasn’t pouring rain. It was equally as cold though (The April Fools half was similar to running in Fort Story during Shamrock…just doing it the entire time).
We left the boardwalk and ran in the street of Ventnor City. It was a desolate no man’s land.
But why would the streets be crowded? It was cold, windy and unpleasant to be outside. I wouldn’t want to be cheering runners at 8:30 am. I was grateful the volunteers showed up.
I made my goal to get to the halfway and reevaluate how I felt. Mike said: “here we are fighting for a place or two, and some people are hoping to finish their first half marathon today.” It’s all about perspective. Mike is a machine who Pred at Shamrock two weeks ago and is running Boston in two more weeks.
We went through both mile 4 and 5 in 6:39. Those two miles were two of the windiest. Plus knowing we had a long way is always terrifying.
I hit the 10k in 40:51. I quickly calculated that it would be about 1:22 for 12.4 miles and probably on pace for a 1:26…something like that but mentally it gave me hope to hold on. I didn’t feel bad, but I knew the grit would be after 10 miles.
We made the halfway turn and went right back where we came from. I was feeling better than anticipated. I knew my hamstring wouldn’t act up until mile 10. I decided to press the pace and see what happened.
I ran mile 7 in 6:30. I began to think: I can do this. I can run fast. Then I realized, don’t be an idiot…it’s mile 7 of 13.1.
I began to see my friends running in the opposite direction. They cheered, and I cheered back. Seeing other people racers is motivating to me. I try to cheer for others when they cheer back. I’m a race talker at heart.
Mile 8 brought me my first confidence boost. I was paying so much attention to others; I had clicked through another mile without noticing. I was shocked to see 6:17.
I thought: alright 5 to go. Mile 9 went back onto the windy boardwalk. I found myself alone and the wind off the ocean was brutal.More sand blew in my eyes and face. Never the less, I hit mile 9 in 6:13 and mile 10 in 6:10. I couldn’t believe how strong I felt despite the wind. At one point, I thought someone had clipped me, but it was a crosswind under my feet.
My 10-mile split was exactly 1:05 and I made it my goal to finish under 1:25.
I remember the final 5k of the April Fools Half two years ago very well. A faster woman and I were running stride for stride until she broke me around mile 12. I remember depleting myself more than I ever had before in 2014.
This year, I focused on each mile, one at a time. The last 3 miles were also the unknown.
Would my hamstring hold up?
Would a woman come up from behind?
Why did I even want to win so badly?
Why was I having a conversation with myself instead of focusing on the race?
I now had a lead cyclist guiding me down the boardwalk.
I noticed I was approaching a male around mile 11. We were in the open wind with no buildings to block the cross wind. I was nearly blown over several times. I didn’t hear my watch go off for mile 11, but I ran a 6:20.
I keep thinking: Two miles to go. You can do it. I was still wearing my long sleeve sweater, and I decided to delayer it.
I never expected to run with it that long but the wind was so nasty, I didn’t want a repeat of shamrock and freezing at the end. I delayered the sweater around mile 12, and it was the last I saw of my favorite sweater.
The final mile was a blur. A police motorcycle joined the cyclist and me and was honking to indicate I was the first woman. It was an exciting moment. I focused on making it to the finish line and not fearing I would be outkicked again.
The mile markers had been off, so the distance between mile 12 and the finish was more like 1.35. Believe me; I felt every extra portion of the quarter of a mile.
I kept thinking the race end was just around the corner. Because of the high winds, they did not have the jumbo shoot out to see the finish line. There was a gathering of people blocking the boardwalk, so I assumed that was the finish line.
They announced my name as I crossed the finish line and I was greeted by mother and law as well as husband. I finished with a 6:09 final mile and crossed the line in 1:24.04.
This race was rejuvenating for me. Not because I won or because it was my third fastest half marathon in miserable conditions.
During Shamrock, I fell hard during the race. I let negative thoughts penetrate my mind and mentally gave up. During the April Fools half marathon, I focused on the positives of the race and pushed myself out of my comfort zone. I didn’t let the wind let me down. I negative split the race by about 2 minutes and finished feeling good.
Despite weather conditions, the April Fools half marathon is still one of my favorite races. It’s well put together and well organized and I had a great time.
I don’t think I mentioned, but my hamstring never affected me and two days after the race it hasn’t acted up. As I mentioned with my training log, I went to see Dr. Kemenosh and his team on Friday. They found some knots in my hips, similar to my bum butt injury after my marathon. I also went again on Tuesday, and they released smaller knots. I do believe tight hips and glutes were the sources of my hamstring problem. With that, I am healthy again.
I don’t have any major races until Broad Street 10 miler on May 1st. I’ll hop into a few local races, but I don’t have anything on my radar.