Thursday, May 18, 2017

On the Road with Jen

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Hello Down the Shore with Jen fans! I know it's been a while since I've posted here, and I just realized I probably should have directed you to my new online spots when I stopped updating the blog. Sorry about that.

But a lot has happened! I shifted my writing focus to fitness and running, and published a book about that. I sold my house and, very sadly, my dog died in January.

Now I'm heading out on a three-month road trip adventure. I'm going to guess if you liked this blog for the travel factor (and also the me writing about nonsense factor), you may enjoy reading along. I'm posting about it on the blog attached my main website.


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Friday, May 17, 2013

Friday Funday

Hey there! I have a few Shore things to share:

It's that time again: the Philadelphia Inquirer's annual Jersey Shore guide. I wrote about shore shopping.
Prince Harry visited the Jersey Shore earlier this week. For Philadelphia Magazine's website, I wrote a piece about where I thought he should go after his official duties were over.

I also have links about the New Jersey Marathon:

For the Philadelphia Inquirer, I wrote about what marathon training does to a person - some good and not so good.
For the New York Times, I wrote about the Hansons Marathon Method, which is how I trained.

And with that, I'm off to Alaska until after Memorial Day. Stay warm!

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Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Race Report: 2013 New Jersey Marathon

Oh HEY! What's up! If you're wondering what's been going on, take a peek here. I figured since this is a shore marathon and the blog is still around, I might as well post my New Jersey Marathon race report here. Warning: it's going to be a very runner nerd piece. If you don't care for that, feel free to click away, or look at the nice pictures from Ocean Grove, Asbury Park and Long Branch.

After the debacle that was the 2012 Chicago Marathon, I decided to run a spring marathon for 2013 so I'd be doing winter instead of spring training. I'd signed up for the 2010 New Jersey Marathon, but was too hurt to run the race. The 2013 race was held on May 5, about six months after Sandy hit, and the medal is a spinning New Jersey. Done.

I trained using the Hansons Marathon Method. I have a piece coming out in the New York Times about the training plan, so I can't say much about it here (I'm not sure when it'll run, but I'll throw in a link when it does). I'll also have something in Sunday's Philadelphia Inquirer about the rigors of marathon training - again, will post when it's online.

But I can say this: it wasn't easy. Six day a week of running including intervals and tempos every week. That was a huge jump up from how I'd trained before.

The Course

I drove the course in March with race director Joe Gigas for a New York Times story about how the course for this and the Long Branch half had to be altered after Sandy. Even though about 10% changed, the race is different. We still missed out on running through Convention Hall in Asbury Park and down the boardwalk, and running over the pedestrian bridges between Ocean Grove and Asbury Park did not make up for it - though I understand why the course was re-routed that way for this one year. Still, I didn't think it would be too challenging of a course since it's mostly flat and almost all on asphalt.

My big concern was the stretch through Deal that we'd do twice from about Mile 11.5 to 16.5 then again from about Mile 21 to 24. There is absolutely zero shade on Ocean Avenue, and even with a bump out into more residential and shaded streets before Mile 15, I knew this could be a problem. I trained hard and well, but I knew a hot, sunny day would affect my time. I'm glad I did that tour with Gigas, so at least I was prepared.

Lead Up to the Race
I was dealing with a few issues pre-race. After finally getting rid of shin splints in my right leg that forced me to miss a few runs in the last month of training, I turned my right ankle with two weeks to go, and I couldn't quite shake the ache away. I ran about half my scheduled mileage last week because it, and it hurt me leading up to race day.

I also had to go on antibiotics last week, one where you're not supposed to be in direct sunlight while taking it. I follow Stephen Stirling of The Star Ledger on Twitter, and he wanted that the UV index would be high on Sunday, so I had to do something I've never done in a race before: wear sunblock. More on that in the "Gear" section of this report.

Fortunately, the antibiotics didn't knock my flat. I told my doctor the race situation, and he prescribed me something that would both take care of the infection and hopefully have the least side effects - he prescribed well.

The Race
The Long Branch Half is run on the same day and on some of the same course as the New Jersey Marathon. They start at 6:50am and the marathoners start at 8:00am. Gigas said they do this because, when the order had been reversed, the lead runners in the half marathon were catching the back pack of the marathon.

The marathon starts at Monmouth Park in Oceanport. We were warned well in advance by race organizers that traffic was going to be bad both because it's been that way in years past, and because of extra security at the race start this year. Even though my race didn't start until 8:00am, Mom and I left our hotel in Asbury Park at 6:00am. We drove up Route 71 to Norwood Ave. to Broadway to Victor Ave., and encountered zero traffic. Monmouth Park has more than one entrance, and this route dropped me off at a non-race one, but it was an easy walk over to the start. Other roads coming into the race were backed up - so if you do this next year, keep my route in mind.

Since I was so early, I found a park bench and listened to some Guster to calm my nerves. I talked to people, watched the half start go off, and found this. Like

I'm glad I read updates on the New Jersey Marathon Facebook page. A guy named Bob (I know, I know, I should ask who this is) wrote often about his training on the page, and also wrote out a list of what he'd be packing that day. One item I wasn't going to bring: gloves. I couldn't imagine it being cold enough to require them. I ended up wearing them the entire race.

The weather was in the 40s with clouds before the start. I was shivering - uncomfortable, but a good feeling for a cold weather runners even though I knew the sun was going to burn away those clouds, and I wouldn't be cold for long.

After the Long Branch Half started, the crowd thinned out. There were no lines for port-a-potties, so I got to go right before the race. Bag check was easy (and yes I checked my phone and no, no one stole it). No complaints at all here - or about really anything about the race except the portion in Ocean Grove that's only in the race for this year, and the dodos who kept stopping in the middle of the road for the first half of the race (if you're fighting with your significant other during a race, could you please pull over to the side?)

My main goal was to PR, so I wanted to run faster than 4:35:31. I thought I could get under 4:25 if my legs held on.

Given the ankle and the later day sun, I decided to run a very conservative race: 10 minute miles for the first 20 miles, and then I'd turn on the gas. I've watched a few professional races and knew that the men and women who won didn't make their move until 20 miles or later. I went out too fast in both marathons I've run before, so why not do what the pros do? (albeit much MUCH slower)

I was in the last of four corrals, which was fine with me because I knew it would force me to slow down. Each corral was greeted with the "Bugle Call" - the same thing they play to get horses to the post, which was cheeky given we started at a race track - then Bruce Springsteen's "Born to Run."

I felt nervous waiting to go, but not like I did in Philadelphia or Chicago. I trusted my training, despite not doing a long run beyond 16 miles per my plan (more on that in the NYT story). So the last corral was called up, the bugle played, and The Boss kicked us off.

Even though I was in the last pack, I still had the urge to go out fast. I did not wear my Garmin, but I knew the group was too fast for me. So I let people pass, telling myself to run my race, no one else's. I soon found my groove and knocked out 10 minute mile after mile. I did have to pee soon into the race, but held out until about mile 11.

I mentally broke the race into six segments: Oceanport/Monmouth Beach/Long Branch, the first slog through Deal, Asbury Park and Ocean Grove (which also included the tiny towns of Allenhurst and Loch Haven), the second slog through Deal, and then the finish in Long Branch.

We had cloud cover for most of the first leg. My ankle stopped hurting at mile three. By mile nine, the sun turned on full blast, which is when I started taking two cups of water at every water stop: one to drink, and one to pour over my head.

I wish I could more about the first 18 miles, but I ran so smoothly and evenly there's really nothing to say except it was joyfully uneventful. I talked to a few people to break up the time (I took Colleen Tindall's advice that if you aren't comfortable enough to talk during the first part of the marathon, you're going to be in trouble), but otherwise, the race was was smooth sailing. I was surprised when I realized I was almost to Asbury Park, and that soon I'd be seeing my mom, who was stationed at about mile 19.5.

I hit my timing points exactly as planned, even though I could feel myself wanting to get on with it already. Still, I held back.

Here I am somewhere in Mile 18. All race photos by my mom, Mary Miller.

And here's me telling her to open up the Cliff Bar she had in her pocket for me:


The course took us through Ocean Grove then looped us back to where she was standing, so I passed her again at about mile 19.5. After I took a bite of the Cliff Bar, I told her that I'd see her in an hour. That meant faster than 10 minute miles for the finish of the race, but I knew somewhere in Asbury Park that unless something went very wrong, I could demolish my PR, and by Mile 20, I targeted breaking 4:20.

I'd started to pass people at the halfway mark, but after 20, I ate up the pack. I'm not saying I felt fantastic, but I was running strong with a lot of juice left in my legs, so I started to pick up the pace slightly. I played games with myself: wearing a tutu? I pass you. Wearing ruffles? You too. Walking? This is my chance. One after another, I kept moving past people who faded in the last six miles.

My hips started to ache at Mile 23, but I shoved down any temptation to walk. By Mile 24, my shoulders started to hurt. I closed my eyes, told myself to focus on what was wrong in my form, un-tensed my shoulders and moved on.

That last water stop beyond Mile 24 was tough. I took two too many walking steps to drink my water, and it would have been very easy to take a break. But I had that 4:20 in sight. When I hit Mile 25, the pain drained away with the excitement of knowing that I was about to do it. By the time I hit Pier Village, right before the Mile 26 marker, I knew I had it - so much so that I stopped to kiss a friend's baby on the sidelines. It was worth losing three seconds for that.

And then I was coming through the final .1 mile.

I mean...who the hell is that? I was a crying, bumbling mess in my first two marathons. Seriously:

Sweet, sweet, relief. Eighteen weeks of dedicating my life to running for this. I still can't believe I was smiling at the finish.

I ran a 4:19:07. That's a 16 minute, 24 second PR and 37 minutes, 10 seconds faster than I ran Chicago.

I threw my hands in the air at the finish. I didn't feel sick as I had with my other two marathons, so I got a soft pretzel and looked for my mom.

She's a great lady, isn't she? She's running her first 5k on Saturday, and I'll be wearing the COACH hat.

To show you the difference in this marathon experience, this is me after the 2011 Philadelphia Marathon. I barely touched that drink:

This is me on Sunday:

Same shirt. World of difference.

So did my legs hurt after the race? Of course. I limped my way to the car, and then into the Wonderbar for a Bloody Mary (which I drank in full) and some fries. After a shower and nap, Mom and I had dinner and more drinks at Tim McLoone's. I wasn't in fantastic shape, but I admit that I did feel like a BALLER.

After dinner, we played pinball at Silverball Museum on the Asbury Park boardwalk. Yes, I was still standing at 7:00pm that night.


We topped off the night with some ice cream, and I was out cold by 8:30pm.

No race is going to be perfect, but that's about as good as it's going to get. I'm not going to set the world on fire with that time, but a 16+ minute PR? I'll take it.

Now to get into the real run nerd stuff. I will not be offended if you click out - and thanks for reading!

The Gear

Repeating the picture so you don't need to scroll up. Also, pretty, right? THE BACKGROUND, not me. I don't do pretty in races. Please.

From the top down:

Headsweats Supervisor. Crucial with the sun.
Nike Miler Tank. Bought at the Nike Outlet in Atlantic City years ago. I can't find this exact style anymore.
Nike Tech Lightweight Running Gloves. I figured I'd toss them once the sun came out, but I left them on so I could wipe sweat from my face. Also, the sea breeze was COLD - great for the race, but cold enough that it could have bothered bare hands.
Moving Comfort Phoebe sports bra. I wear one cup size down (sorry gentleman, but this is important).
Timex Sport Ironman Watch. I train with a Garmin Forerunner 10, but I race with this, which is the same version of the watch I wore in high school. The Garmin can be inaccurate, and if you need to weave around people in the race, your distance won't match the mile markers. I paced so evenly in the first 20 miles that I could tell where I was by time. I didn't expect that, but I'm glad it happened.
Nike Women's Tech Short 8". I had the 2012 version, but both pairs virtually the same. The shorts have two pockets. The one on the left, which you can see here, is open, which makes grabbing fuel easy. The pocket on the right has a zip, which is where I kept $20 and an extra hair tie.
CEP Progressive+ Run Socks 2.0. Race day decision. I'd done a lot of tempo and interval runs in compression socks, and they sped up bruising on my toes. But given how my ankle felt going into the race, I figured I could use all the help I could get. The socks didn't bother my toes at all.
Mizuno Wave Musha 5. I wrote about shoe choice for this race here, so I won't repeat. My feet started hurting at Mile 23, but just about everything started hurting at Mile 23. They were perfect - and now retired and reassigned as walking shoes (I'm wearing them right now, in fact).
Coppertone Sport Continuous Spray SPF 30 Sunscreen. I wear an SPF 15 version of this on the beach, but I've never put it on in a race. Given the antibiotics and forecast, I didn't have a choice. I tested it on a run last week and had no problems. Mom sprayed it on me before we left for the race (a lungful of that stuff is not pleasant - we could have probably sprayed it on me somewhere other than a tiny hotel bathroom). I'm so very glad I wore this. I have some tan lines, but nothing major. It could have been a lot worse.

I don't want to get too much into fuel because it's different for everyone - I have whole milk before a race, which most people think is crazy. But I will share that carried a sleeve of Tropical Punch Cliff SHOT blocks, which is what I ate while training. I had one every four miles, and then a bite of a Cliff Bar at Mile 19.5. I'd also packed two granola bars in my race bag for after the race, but ate them an hour before because I was hungry. I didn't think I'd need the granola bars, or the Cliff Bar, or the gloves. I'm glad I overpacked.

I tested all of this stuff before the race. It looks exactly what I wore in the Ocean Drive 10 Miler in March. The shirt is the same. I usually wear Headsweats visors, but I bought the yellow one because the race organizers wanted us to wear blue and yellow for Boston. Still, I wore it on a few training runs and washed it to make sure it would be perfect for race day. The pants are a size smaller because I lost weight while training. I'm not writing that to brag, but to share the tip to pay attention to how your clothes fit or not while you train because things can...shift.

Which leads me to my PSA: I saw a lot of people who either didn't test gear before the race, or didn't realize it no longer fit right. One unfortunate runner burned the bottom of her butt cheeks because her shorts didn't stay in place. I saw another woman whose running skirt turned into a thong ensemble when the skirt moved in time with her running motion. PLEASE test this stuff right before a race, especially a marathon.

The Aftermath
Ow. This is the worst my legs have felt after a race, probably because I did not stop. I had a very hard time navigating yesterday, and stairs are still a bear.

Another weird thing? My hair is fried. I can't figure out why. Maybe it's because I kept putting a cup of water on my head every mile and my hair wet and dried over and over again. But I'm a beach girl and this happens all summer. Perhaps the saltwater makes a difference?

I mean, FRIED. Also, cool shirt, no?

I have no idea what's next except that I'm taking two weeks off entirely from running. Then I fly to Alaska for vacation will run some trails in the Anchorage area. I might do the Scott Coffee 8k, and most likely will run the Haddon Heights Firecracker 5k. I've started looking at fall half marathons, but I'm almost positive I'm not doing a fall marathon. This really took it out of me, and as I learned last year, I am not good at training in the heat. I did much better running through the snow and sleet and cold this winter, even if race day was warmer than training weather.

So that's that, friends. I've now run a marathon in New Jersey and own a spinning state medal for my trouble - and of course the knowledge that, yes, I can run a marathon without feeling like crud at the end. I still can't believe that smile.

Philadelphia runners - this race and the Long Branch Half are moving up to the last Sunday in April next year. They won't conflict with Broad Street as they have in the past, so add this to your "to consider" list. I can't say enough good things about it.

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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Down the Shore with Jen is Moving

Readers, I have some news.

"Down the Shore with Jen" is moving. But don't panic - this is good news!

"Down the Shore with Jen" is moving to, the online news site of WHYY. WHYY has been Philadelphia's long time NPR affiliate who bought what had been half of New Jersey's NJN stations.

In their efforts to bump up their NJ coverage, they recently launch a South Jersey page, and they asked me to come aboard to be their Jersey Shore writer.

If you love the Jersey Shore, this is a good thing. It means more shore coverage - a lot more, in fact.

And for me, this is an awesome thing because someone is going to pay me to write this blog.

I'm sure you noticed that I hadn't been posting much lately. It's not because I don't love writing about the shore, but I've been so overwhelmed with my other work that it was hard to carve out time for what was, for nearly five years, a volunteer effort. I couldn't invest the time into doing the Jersey Shore stories I really wanted to cover when I had X, Y and Z paying gigs that needed my attention.

No more. The Jersey Shore is now my beat. I can cover it like I've always wanted to cover it - as the lead person a news organization that will let me explore the strange, wonderful and wild about my favorite corner of the earth (and thanks guys for giving me that opportunity).

My first post went live this morning. I'll be writing in the blog space about three times a week, and publishing a feature every Friday. I might even get to do some radio reports, which makes me more than a little giddy.

I'm going to keep this site open, and may post some things here that don't work for WHYY (and, of course, if in the future we decide to part ways, I will come back to posting here). But for the most shore coverage from me, tune in now to

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Monday, February 13, 2012

Get married on Valentine's Day

Once again it's time for the Atlantic City Group Wedding, where over 100 couples will say "I do" at Boardwalk Hall at a ceremony officiated by the exceptionally cool and fun Jean Muchanic (seriously - if you can ever grab a half hour with her, she's awesome).

The ceremony will be on Tuesday at 2pm.

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Thursday, February 9, 2012

A different kind of spring training

I've been to Phillies Spring Training in Clearwater a couple of times (that's what happens when you go to college in Florida).

But the Phillies didn't always travel so far. In 1898, they got ready for the baseball season in Cape May.

Read all about it here.

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Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Coming Soon...

Hey everyone! Sorry again for the radio silence. I'll have an announcement to make here later in February. And believe me - it's a big one. Stay tuned!

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