Short Version: Sometimes you want to quit but sometimes you want the taylor pork roll at the finish more.
Last year when this race was announced, I really wanted to do it. I have gone to Ocean City, NJ (about 10 miles from race) all my life in the summers (my Nana has a house there) and have fond memories of the jersey shore. To have the opportunity to race a big scale shore event would be an amazing experience. This was also the first east coast Challenge Race which also made it appealing. Many of us have seen pictures or video of Roth and was curious to race this super popular European Race Series. However, last year was only offered as a full distance and I was NOT prepared (and still not prepared) to do a full. So, i watched enviously as people raced last year on the boardwalk.
This year, I was SOOO excited to hear that they would have a half and even more excited when Rev3 and Challenge merged so I would be able to race Challenge 70.3 as a Challenge Team Member.... Perfection! So plans were quickly made for our family to have our week at the Shore coincide with this race. Thankful as always to a family that love and supports my extremely self focused hobby.
Flew into AC via ghetto spirit airlines. Was delayed about 90 minutes. Family (including 2 90+year old Nana's, my parents, my brother, his wife and newborn were all waiting for us. We had a quick breakfast with everyone and then went over to Bally's. The plan was get packet/visit expo, check into Bally's, take bike to Bader Field and then make it back for athlete meeting. This proved to be a lot to jam into a short period of time, but we were able to get it all done.
Was perfect size and in the conference area of the ballys where all the restaurants are. Nothing overwhelming/easy to navigate and loved that they utilized a conference check in area for the packets. Procedure was same as usual except we signed a USAT waiver on site which i can't recall doing before but no biggie.. same fine print we check off on the internet.. just on paper for you to read (or not read :) Hit up some of the vendors, picked up a C4 Challenge Family hoodie (always need another hoodie!) and then visited around and said hi to friends. Profile Design was hopping as they were demoing race wheels for free race day. Also grabbed our parking pass for Bader for the weekend ($10 for 3 days)
|Ready or Not!|
Since we were up at 4:30 for our flight, my body was actually ready for sleep. During the night a storm tore through the area and I just kept telling myself "at least it isn't race day and it will probably mean wetsuit legal!"
TIPS: If it is possible, get there Friday.. pick up your packet and do the athlete's meeting Friday so you can check that off. Saturday was too stressful for me with travel and then going back and forth. I think getting that stuff done friday would have made it less stressed and then Saturday would be more relaxing and also allowed me to get in for the practice swim (which i missed b/c we were flying in). Also, staying at a host hotel (or somewhere close to it that doesn't require driving makes your life easier. parking was only $5 for my entire stay and made the expo (one part of pre race planning proximal).
Woke up and could tell it rained a lot!
Swim: The swim was in the back bay in a protected area. The time trial moved smoothly with men going first and then ladies. I jumped off the dock and got into a groove quickly. I dare say I had no freakout nor major incident. A small victory. I got into a groove and found my usual go-to pace. I did my usual routine for the first 400 meters... singing church songs over and over until I settle. I knew the turn around was at the bridge and since we were going upstream, my goal was just to get to the turn and then let the current take me back down. This worked pretty well. I felt good and only had an issue with a wooden pole sticking in the water (had a sign on it for boats).. however, I obsessed over that thing for a good 5 minutes while i approached it..... was there a shallow area around it, what if there is moss, ewww... my fingers are going to touch said moss.. what if there are things living in this shallow area i am making up, what if i scrap my fingers and I start bleeding, what if a shark gets my scent?! Needless to say, i have issues but i was able to pass the pole with no incident :)
Found myself feeling alone for most of the swim but always found people at the turns.. funny how that happens. WHen i made the last 90 degree turn, i struggled getting back. the current felt strong or i was out of wind.. not sure which one. But i went toward that last buoy with a flag sticking out of it for a while until I made it to the dock. The dock set up was nice where they volunteers were ready and willing to help you get up. They asked you to push up and land on the dock and they basically did the rest. When I landed on the pier and they helped me... i couldnt help but yell FREE WILLY.
Bike: OK, this is where things started falling apart.
First, i will talk about the course itself and then add my experience (which feel free to skip if you don't want to hear my issues). The course was awesome. A few miles of expressway and then right into rural Jersey. Filled with awesome bike paths, nice paved roads and lots of farms. The roads were pretty empty for a Sunday morning and the cops were very attentive to the riders. There were a lot of busy intersections and the cops were on it and made sure to keep us safe. There were 2 aid stations (i think there should have been 3 aids (one was missing in the late 30's) but thankfully i had filled up my water bottles so was ok.))
Onto my dramatics.... About 10 miles into the race I started getting some stomach cramps.. bad. I will keep the details to a minimum but I stopped probably 8 times on the course (in portos and not). Many times it was for no benefit but man, my stomach was pissed at me. This made it so I couldn't really take nutrition and I rode upright b/c when i bent over in aero, the pain was much worse. Add this along with a flat (that I successfully fixed the first time... in 15 minutes) and then a mechanical... and I was on the bike forever! At some point before the cut off, i dropped my chain. No clue how it happened but I quickly clipped out and pulled to the side. There was a guy in his car waiting to pull out in front of where I stopped and he rolled down his window and said "I was pretty sure you were going to wipeout". My response "so was i". But I didn't.. another small victory! I looked at my chain and normally you can grab it and just put it back on but for some odd reason one of the little rivets in the chain was stuck inside the teeth of the cassette. I tried to pull it and push the cassette with no luck. Tried to used my tire spreaders and they weren't small enough. Luckily, I found a random bobby pin in my bike bag and was able to use that while pulling on the chain to free it and was off again .... after what felt like 30 minutes.. but probably closer to 15-20.
So, needless to say, my bike sucked and I was cursing the thing by the time I got off of it. The bike was 58 miles vs. 56 which I am told is within the parameters but man, I swore more times in my head (and maybe out loud) during those last 2 miles and was ready to throw my bike away when i got back.
T2: Chatted up with a few ladies.. Got on my run shoes and was off
Run: My legs were pretty dead but what affected me the most was just feeling very depleted from having so many stomach issues. I knew it was going to be a long 13.1. The course was on the boardwalk and definitely a unique experience for anyone. At the prerace meeting, I knew you did a few out and backs and I would be crossing the finish line a few times before i actually was able to run across it. I did a pathetic mostly walk with an occasional shuffle and just starting ticking away the miles. By the time I saw my family for the first time at mile 6ish, i was bawling..ready to be done... but i had "only 7 more miles to go" so i kept chugging... stopping at the bathrooms a bunch more times.
There was a SMALL section of sand near the finish line. When i hit it the first time.. a cute hispanic runner fake pushed me up it and then ended up falling over.. We had a good laugh and stuck together for a quarter mile. The aid stations were spread apart in good fashion with one bonus station on the residential side of the boards. When I hit Revel, I realized that my watch somehow was paused so was unsure exactly where I was. The volunteers told me I was going to the finish and I perked up at this point. I walked a little under some of the closed casinos awnings and a little lady who was running said "you headed to the finish"... i said, yes.. she said lets go. So this random lady pushed me for 2ish miles (one mile was 10:45 which was digging deep for me). She talked the entire time and told me about how she runs the boards everyday and the people watching doesn't get old. When i got to the finish, i was sprinting and the volunteer asked if it was my first or second time.. "First" .. ok, you have to go to another turn around past the finish and go back to Revel. "NOOO!" Such a fakeout and my fault! Lesson learned to know exactly where you will be going during a race. A simple close look at the map would have prepared me. But since I am in the back of the pack, i just get used to following people. I saw that turn around past Boardwalk hall before but it didn't register. With me always being in the back, i just follow people but totally psyched myself out.
|Remember this in the 90's PSYCH!|
So i had about 2 more miles to go. Looking back, I have NO idea how i thought I would be heading back to the finish the first time, Basic math and logic would have proved that not to be true but during the race and with the heat, basic logic was not present. So, I hit the sand two more times, got to the second to last turn around past the finish and went back to Revel one more time. My old lady friend had pushed me for 2.5 miles and then said goodbye and I had no gas in the tank. I think the split for that section was like 12 min miles which were the fastest of the day. I was seeing full-ers whiz by me looking so fit and amazing. Since I was going so slow, I didn't have issues weaving around the people and for the most part people moved out of the way minus a few kids that were oblivious along with their parents. I know the fast people did more bobbing around but since I was so slow, I think people had time to adjust :) I was offered beer, cotton candy, water, a water bottle from a guy selling them in his power scooter and people were very encouraging. I saw my husband under the walkway before the finish and saw a food stop there. It has kindof become my joke of buying food on the course and this race was going to be no exception.
|What's another 5 minutes ....|
I tried to buy a hot dog... they told me 5 minutes, a hamburger.. 5 minutes... Custard.. they were out and then i settled on fries. While we were there, I saw Delmo right there and grabbed a pic!
|.1 miles to go, Fries in hand, pic with the RD... all is good in the world.|
Crossed the finish to the announcer sharing some of my registration facts (i love pickle juice, scared I will be eaten by a shark). Was medaled and got my post race food (from a food truck!), finisher shirt and cool water/gatorade and towel. On a personal note, I ended up showering on the beach side showers near the sand run. Thankful to have my SBR travel size shampoo and conditioner. We were traveling to NYC that night and Scott would have died of embarrassment and my stink if i didn't wash off.
Thoughts for people thinking they want to race this next year:
- This is a great race for anyone in the back of the pack for a half. With the full running concurrently (like Challenge Cedar Point), it allows you to not be the only one out there. I heard some racers feeling disheartened by seeing full athletes but I personally welcomed it. It keeps the aid stations going, the course open and a sense that you aren't the only ones out there or people aren't waiting for you. I finished 1:20 slower that I have in the past and I needed to not feel alone on this race.
- If you think you can make the bike cut off but worried about the run, again this race is for you. As long as you make the bike cut off, you will have plenty of time to finish without people closing up shop. I have done races in the past where I have made cut offs but by the time I have gotten to the finish line, everything is torn down.. there wasn't water.. just felt empty. You won't feel like that for this race. Things will be pushing till midnight for a full so you being later than you expected is no big deal. A huge consideration for us slow-pokes.
- Remember there are Aquabike/Relay options for those wanting to experience the race but not all three disciplines.
- If family is interested in volunteering, then they can have the Monday AM breakfast along with you.
- Even if you are close, consider staying the night before the race at a hotel nearby.. either by Bader or at the host hotel near the finish. Makes for less stress, less worry for random traffic issues and a little more sleep before the race. If they do the same format next year, fast people will be able to shower in their hotel before check out. Also gives your family a home base.
- If you bring a family, plan a few things for them. Amusement park, movie, pool/beach. Have something on the agenda so you aren't aimlessly roaming the casinos. There is also a great outlet mall within walking distance. It closes down around 8 pm.
- Atlantic City has some seedy elements to it that aren't super nice to see. Being from Chicago, for good or bad, we are used to seeing the downsides of urban living. This might be something that isn't as common for others though. Be prepared for that and also be prepared to see people that maybe shouldn't be gambling.. gambling away their last pennies. If you want to avoid this, drive most places or stay on the boardwalk during daylight hours. Similar to Vegas, if you get off the beaten path.. you will find what hangs out off the beaten path.
- Have a food plan or stalk our restaurants before you go. We survived on subway by the greyhound station. Since we flew, we didn't have much food packed. Plan accordingly if you don't want to carbo load with funnel cakes.
- Speaking of carbo loading.. Challenge has a pasta dinner and celebration breakfast. Definitely put on your radar if you can make it happen.
- For the fast people, be prepared to do some dodging and weaving on the run. This is part of the fun of the race but also can be a legitimate frustration for some. Read race reports and come prepared to know what you are dealing with.
- There is a FB group set up for racers that the RD's are participants on. Most Challenge races have these and make large efforts to be able to communicate with the racers leading up to and during the race. It also also allows you to chat with other racers leading up to the event.... and as my husband says... "make internet friends" :) I think this goes above and beyond the usual "Contact Me" page at races that sometimes you hear from and sometimes don't.
- Definitely keep this on your radar... its is a great race and Challenge Family knows how to put on a race.
If you haven't finalized your race calendar, put a Challenge Family event on your radar. There are still a handful through the rest of the season (which includes: kids races, sprint, oly, half, full)