Day508 Atlantic City Marathon and TR3

Race Recap: NJ Marathon, 11th state. One last far away trip for this year. I ran surprising fast.

Maybe couple months ago, I heard of Atlantic City Marathon from Vanessa on SheRunsByTheSeashore. I got a promo code from the blog and signed up. New Jersey is a new state for me and it is also within my driving distance. I tried to save money recently of not flying to races after my trip to Michigan. My trip to Oklahoma was canceled due to cost. NJ seemed like a good replacement. I thought this was going to be an inexpensive marathon.

I was looking to cross off more states on my marathon list before the year ends. This year I had run in Minnesota and the Michigan. Minnesota was a planned race from the start but Michigan and New Jersey were not part of my original plan. Oklahoma was in the plan but plan changed. I knew of Ann Arbor race since last year from a local runner whom I met at the Laurel Highland race. Somehow things just worked out and I got to go there at the beginning of October, just a few weeks ago. The plan for New Jersey too fell in place at the last moment. I kind of kept it quiet since this was a last minute thing, I did not want to be too upset if I didn’t get do it.

One reason why I thought I was done for the year after the Michigan Marathon was I don’t like running in the cold. Winter (or late fall) marathons usually have to deal with the colder weather. We already had some cold morning here (35 F, near 0 C). I don’t like it.

Plot twist, I made a new friend during the race (Sanjay), and he asked if I will join him at the Philadelphia marathon (Nov 20) — I think he meant next year. I told him I will think about it. Anyway…I will think about it.

The forecast today for the race was 55-60F, with rain (50% chance) to start around 7 am and lasting for the whole day.

I could stand the temperature (it was warm and stayed steady) but the rain was a complication and made it hard to plan for what to wear. I could run in T-shirt and shorts like the day before.

However, I don’t like being wet. I could add a long sleeve on top. Still the rain could make that useless. I would be cold. I thought about wearing a thermo shirt –I have those thin nice ones from my hiking days– that could keep me warm even when wet. But I worried of being overheating. I could also throw in a rain jacket (I recently brought one of those super thin and light but durable wind and rain jackets for running/hiking) that hasn’t seen actions yet. I was afraid the rain jacket will definitely make me overheat. I still could get wet inside from my own sweat because I know, I wore a rain jacket while hiking and running before, and I would be wet from sweating. Basically, I was back to square one.

In the end, I decided to do layering. It did not take long for me to feel it was too warm, so I removed the outer layer and went with just a t-shirt and shorts. The race had not started yet. I thought I could drop off the extra clothes at the bag check-in, but I forgot to bring a bag to store my clothes.

I had assumed earlier they would provide us a clear plastic bag at the bag check-in. I didn’t know the bags they gave at the package pickup was for the bag check, because they were not the clear plastic bags normally used at a lot of other races – we had a black hangbag instead to put all our race stuff at the convention. Actually, they allowed us to use any kind of bags and I saw some checked in even backpacks and luggages — the airplane carry-ons (this was normally not allowed at other races for security or weight or storage reason).

Without having a bag, my option was to take the extra clothing back to my car or just donate them to charities by leaving them on the course. I don’t like littering but this is what other runners normally do at any races. They would leave their extra shirt and jacket at the starting corral, hoping the stuff would still be there later when they finish (or that someone will dispose it for them). It was a reason some even made temporary jacket out of a black 50 gallon trashbag so they could ditch them any time without remorse.

There was also the wind, because we were by the seashore, it was strong from time to time. It was around 15-mph (ish) and might be up to 25 mph or at least seemed so to me. They were not gentle breezes, but good gusts for flying kites. Mentioning this because the environment is what could ruin my enjoyment of a good marathon and a reason also I avoided running race set by the seashore in the past. Weather makes a race unpredictable. I just remembered my running friend David told me exactly this when he did it a few years ago but it went out my head until now that I finished it.

It was fine for me to take my clothes back to the car, because the walk wasn’t too far. I came almost 2 hours early to the race, so I was not going to be late. (Tip: park in Caesar’s Colosseum. Their spaces are wider than Bally’s).

It was good the start line was right in front of Bally’s and we could stay inside a building to stay warm.

I was familar with the area. I was there the day before. I arrived to New Jersey on Saturday afternoon after my morning training run for Stone Mill. I did about 20 miles during the training.

By the time I reached Alantic City, sun was about to set. I got my race package and decided to explore the boardwalk.

Hotels in Atlantic City were too expensive for me. I did not book early so it was expected, but even if I received the host hotel deal, still it was not something I would pay for. I am sure they were good rooms but I couldn’t afford 200+ for a night, plus all the resort and parking fees on top etc. I think $200 was the minimum. The average was maybe around $300 and up. Even the Days Inn there was too expensive for me (I don’t remember, but I think it was around $250). If I could affort the host hotel price, then the race would have been right at the front door. I ended up staying in Absecon, about 6 miles outside. The price was much more reasonable there.

Tolls on the highways were at another level – I think I spent over $100 on tolls going to NJ. In my state we don’t have many toll roads but this is starting to change. NJ has tolls for many years and I knew this, but still it was a surprise at how many times I needed to pay. I had an EZ Pass so I did not need to stop, and the fee was automatically deducted from my account. Yet, I know my trip was expensive.

Gas (petrol) I paid was probable near $200. I drive a truck. Over all, my transportation cost was higher than my entry fee. I felt I was robbed blind by NJ before even gotten to their casinos. So NJ took all my gambling money. I was not going to gamble, but still, it decided I didn’t want to give away any more of my money. If I have to redo — I might take a bus or train and it would have costed me less.

As about the whole casino scene, they built the whole city on the basis that people will come to gamble away their money. But with the pandemic and worsen economy, nobody goes there any more and their business model is in serious trouble. I think also because a shift in demographic. There is the online competition. The boardwalk was pretty empty even on a Saturday night to my surprise. It was not that fun when most people decided to stay away. Of course, I still enjoyed my race, but I had expected to have some fun the night before. Yet it felt like a ghost town.

About my race: The course was interesting, though some questioned about this. Looking at whole it was flat as a pancake. We had couple early climbs over overpasses. Everyone was running up the hills. I was so proud of them and it’s rare in marathons to run the hill. Of course, if you are trained for it, you could run it.

Everyone started together at 8:00 (half and the full). To me that is kind of late, but it gave me enough time to get ready. We went to the northern end of the boardwalk and then turned into the streets, looped around Borgata and other casinos there. Then we ran south to the end of the island. The half marathons turned around about halfway of the boardwalk to their finish back at Bally’s. The full marathoners continued on south on an out-and-back and we looped around city on the south side, probably Ventnor. Some think this was boring. For me, it was fine. I like looking at the seashore while on the boardwalk and at the casinos and condos. True, if I do this a second time, it is maybe a bit boring. Also I found it was interesting a lot of street names are familiar to me — because they were used in the Monopoly game.

What got to me, was how long the race was. I know 26.2 is always 26.2 but at times it seemed, I was not moving because the landmarks did not seem to change much. We have a few tall buildings and though I was moving fast, the scene seemed to change slowly. I finished around 4:21:05, strava said it was my 4th fastest marathon. Sure. I was happy with my time. For comparison, I finished in Michigan with 4:30 and in Minnesota with 4:19. In Newport News Virginia with 5:01. I forgot my time for Salisbury Maryland (4:52) These are marathons I ran this year.

AS: We had a lot aid stations. Course marshalls, and volunteers were especially fun and helpful. I found them more enthusiastic here than in many of my other races. They cracked jokes and all. Crowd support was good enough for me. This isn’t a New York Marathon, so I didn’t expect people to line along the roads for the whole way. We had bad weather, but a lot people still showed up. Maybe the course covered an area smaller than most marathons I ran (like the Newport News), so people were able to get to various points on the course easily. I think everything was within that 5-6 miles (we had a lot of loops and out-and-backs). Maybe this was a reason why some found the course a bit boring.

Something particular to this race was the boardwalk. Running on it mostly is like running on solid ground but occasionally, some boards might give way a bit and they squeak. It was just a little but it can be scary when the board shifts underneath. Of course, planks could become slippery when wet. There was that concern.

Lucky for me, I beat the rain at least the heavy portion. I had a few drops at times bit remained dry. For the 5 hours or later finishers, they ran in the real rain and it got a bit heavy. My friend finished a little after 6:00 and was drenched and he was cold, even though he wore wool cap and couple layers of shirts (exactly how I would have done). I was just lucky I did not have to suffer like him and others.

We had plenty of gels at selected aid stations. I know those were not cheap and was glad this race provided them (I have done race where gels were not given out or very little provided). Gels helped me through this race. I did not bring my own this time. I think I at least used them 3 times (like at Mile 6, 17, and 21).

Pace. I started out fast again (at 10:00 pace – min per mile) like my last marathon. I got a bit faster by 5-6 miles and until I passed the 4:10 pacer, so I was probably running at a 9:30 min mile pace. By mile 17 though, I was no longer keeping up the pace. By mile 21, the 4:20 pacer passed me back, and at this point my pace was down to 10:30 min mile. To me, it was fine. My goal was only to finish under 4:30:00. We had 5 more miles to go. The wind was strong at the time (storm was brewing). My legs were tired. This was probably not smart of me to have run 20 miles for training the day before. (Stone Mill training run, which I have been doing for the past few weeks)

Exactly, why did I do that? If I tapered I probably could run this faster, but I kind of wanted to pile on a lot of miles. I know Atlantic City Marathon was not the last race, since I have Stone Mill coming up and then Devil Dog. I need a lot of miles. So both Saturday 20 mile and the Sunday Marathon also served as a training run. A good training run. I called it the 3rd training run.

post race. I did not get my free beer (It was provided) but that was fine. We were at a casino so beer should be plentiful. There might not been much finisher food except a banana (I didn’t check out the Casino’s restaurant – the Yard, where they were directing people to go for finishing prizes). I was waiting for a friend and rain came down heavy. After he came in. We just went home because we were wet and cold. I was dry (because I changed my clothes while waiting) but cold nonetheless.

Lunch: The casinos around were pretty cool. I am amazed with buildings so definitely was a paradise for me. Everything speaks of luxury and money. There were some good restaurants around like Hell Kitchen at Caesars, but I wanted something cheaper and I was more for comfort food, so I wanted to travel outside to where the locals (real) people eat.

The rest of the afternoon was spent driving home (I left around 5 pm). I-95 is always crowded. It is the only north-south highway on the east coast. It was slow going. I ran into traffic going there and had traffic coming home. I didn’t have a good experience from my drive because I was mad at drivers of staying in the outside lanes and driving 15 mph below the limit. I think because of the speed camera or weather. There were other reasons too. I was keep getting brake checks by people whether intentionally or unintentionally who knows. I felt people did not know how to drive. I was having my road raging moment. Maybe it was the race mentality of needing to get to the finish fast. I was finally relieved when I got back to the DC area where people were driving more “normally” (leaving at that). They did say DC and NYC have the worse drivers in the country. I was happy to be out of NJ. I’m not admitting of being a bad driver.

I put this in because, the race itself was good, but many other things (at least for me) were not as enjoyable as my other races, such as my hotel was not as good (though the staff was friendly) and I liked my pillows. I did have a good night rest before the race. Matress, curtains, the carpet, and lighting were more to be desired. I guess it all comes down to money. I think that was the theme for this race. I paid to drive fast. Need to pay for a nicer hotel, etc. Need to pay to have fun. Need to pay to have good food. I could have stayed at a 5 star hotel versus a 2-star that is operating like a $50 motel. Same for a lot other things.

I have an axe to grind with NJ. I rarely traveled up to New Jersey and New York even though it was just a few hours away.

Bottom line: I enjoyed the race but other things were not so great. If I had more money, then yes, it would have been a blast but for me looking for a low key no frills race, I got what I paid for.

One response to “Day508 Atlantic City Marathon and TR3”

  1. […] races. There were too many for me to remember. I enjoyed going to Ann Arbor. And recently I went to Atlantic City. This reminded me that I should do a post, listing just all the marathons I did this year. I think […]

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