Tuesday, October 26, 2010
Meet me tonight in Atlantic City, Part One
Atlantic City, NJ. The chosen site of my 2010 fall marathon.
This will be my sixth attempt in covering the 26.2 distance. Well, seven if you count that start in Hartford...
I say let's not. And since this is my blog, I get to do whatever I want. Na na, Na na, NAAA NAAAA.
My dear friend and excellent Vermont pacer, Ted, decided to get in on the fun as well. He registered for this marathon too. This time, though, he was running for himself...as he should. His marathon PR was 3:19 and he was looking to shatter it on this relatively flat course. Not only would I have company getting to the line, but I had company on the trip! My husband and our friends, Michelle and Dan, decided a weekend in Atlantic City might be fun. Of course, the running held no interest for them whatsoever, but the slot machines and boardwalk did. So, we booked our airfare and a hotel near the start/finish area. All the plans were in place. I just had to show up.
Oh, and run. That's a very important detail.
We flew out of Boston on 10/15. Ted wouldn't be flying in until Saturday morning, so it was just the four of us. From the time you take off until the time you land, it's a whopping 70 minutes. Not too shabby, eh? Spirit Air had ridiculously cheap fares, so we nixed the car and took to flying the friendly skies. Of course, it was AFTER the fact we realized that you had to pay for checked AND carry-on bags that didn't fit under the seat in front of you. Not so friendly, as it turns out. All in all, it was still short money and was much more time efficient than driving.
We landed in AC on schedule, got our luggage and took a taxi to Bally's Hotel. After waiting in a very long line to check in, we made our way to our respective hotel rooms and plotted where to have dinner. We decided to go here:
I opted to have my carb heavy meal on Friday night, as opposed to the night before. In the book "Marathoning Start to Finish" by Patti and Warren Finke, the authors recommend "a carbohydrate load for three days before the event accompanied by a period of reduced exercise. The first day of loading is the most important. That would be the day for the traditional pasta dinner." So, technically, I was still 24 hours late. "The plan is to taper off bulk and switch to more simple carbs as the days progress. The last major meal should be 12-15 hours before the race and should not include too much bulk. If you carb load effectively, you'll notice a 2-5 lb. weight gain over this time. As carbs are stored, water is also stored in the muscle leading to the weight gain."
Good thing the scale and I broke up long ago or else I might find this a tad bothersome.
I had the spaghetti and meatballs, which was frickin' awesome. Say what you want about New Jersey, but they have good food. After a nightcap, we said goodbye to our friends and retired for the evening. Traveling, not to mention standing in line for an exorbitant period of time, can make one weary, so it was off to la la land.
I had a 25-30 minute run with 5-6 10 second strides to do the next morning and wanted it as close to 8 a.m. as possible, since that would be the time we'd be racing on Sunday.
After a fitful sleep session (I don't get R.E.M. easily in hotels), I got up and dressed for a run. However, I knew this wasn't going to fly without my two favorite c's: caffeine and carbs. We met Michelle and Dan at the coffee/doughnut place in the hotel for a quick snack and beverage. Feeling somewhat energized, I waded through the smell of cigarette smoke and desperation via the casino to get to the boardwalk for my run. My pit crew opted to sightsee while I ran. To my surprise, I found running on the planks quite enjoyable. It sort of eradicated part of the unknown for Sunday's race, which was less than 24 hours away. As it normally does, the run just made me feel better, inside and out. I was ready for breakfast and a shower, in that order.
For the rest of the morning, we wandered about the boardwalk, indulging in some hardcore people watching. I was with two of the best watchers in the business, after all. Michelle and Dan have made an art form of this. They will fixate on a person or persons and, within mere minutes, have a clever backstory crafted as to who they are, where they come from and whether they're married, gay or straight. It's quite amazing. So, I enjoyed watching them weave tales of all the passersby they chose to single out.
We decided to have lunch in the Pickle Deli (hellooooo? New Jersey??) while we waited for Ted to arrive. He was arriving in AC, early afternoon. In addition, my cousin, his wife, and their two little ones were making the trip from North Jersey to hang out with us while we were in the Garden State. My inner Jew applauded as I noticed they had Matzoh Ball Soup on the menu. Lechayim!!! And it was yummy. Early in our lunch, I received a message that Ted had arrived. He was already in the hotel, so I told him to come and have lunch with us. (I think his inner Jew applauded too when he saw the soup). We decided to head off to packet pickup on the 6th floor together, after lunch, leaving the three non-runners to scope out more sights. No need to subject them to any of that annoying runner stuff.
The packet pickup area had two incredibly long lines. And about four people working the registration table. D'oh. This was going to take a while. Thankfully, we had cell phones and a nice woman behind us with a cute baby, which always serves as a welcome distraction. Eventually, we found ourselves at the front of the line. I was bib #519 and Ted was #507 which, we couldn't figure out, because we could have SWORN I registered first (the little things that boggle a runner's brain). There was no "EXPO" to speak of; only an adjacent booth where race shirts were being distributed. It would have been nice to have one, but we were probably better off, since we had other people to consider. They were such good sports to make the trip with us in the first place. I didn't want to get so caught up in the running aspect of the trip that I neglected to spend time with my friends and family who weren't toeing the line Sunday morning.
What can I say? I'm a humanitarian.
Ted and I dropped our race paraphernalia off in the hotel room and made our way back through the aforementioned cigarette smoke and desperation to the boardwalk. We reconnected with our posse and started to plot dinner. There was a complimentary pre-race dinner in the hotel for registered runners. Guests were also welcome provided you make a donation. It was a nice thought, but I figured a more neutral location would satisfy the masses.
Besides, they had long lines too.
We ended up making a reservation at The Reserve for seven adults and two children.
Alright, they get a plug as well: http://www.ballysac.com/casinos/ballys-atlantic-city/restaurants-dining/the-reserve-detail.html
Michelle and Dan waved the white flag and bowed out shortly before dinner, claiming they were still full from lunch. So, down two, we headed up to the restaurant. This place was nice....very nice...but probably not the most practical place we could have chosen. For one thing, it was pretty fancy. For another, they had NO kids menu. You can imagine the challenge that my cousin and his wife had in ordering food appropriate for a three year old. The trials and tribulations of parenthood, I suppose.
Ted had a challenging time selecting what to order. The more he runs, the less he eats, the finicky bugger (J/K Ted...I know you're reading this). I was not quite sure what the best dietary course of action would be either. I just knew it wouldn't be pasta. Finally, I decided on salmon with asparagus and baby potatoes. There were some carbs, but nothing too bulky. I enjoyed a glass of red wine with dinner. Ted opted to stick with water. My Vermont party animal had turned into a monk in less than five months, dammit. In all seriousness, I was okay with him abstaining. We all have to prepare as we see fit.
I'm just having a little fun at his expense (he can take it).
I did exercise some self-control, however, and passed on the second glass that was offered. I REALLY didn't feel like running 26.2 miles with a blinding hangover. And, I figured one would be enough. It might even help me sleep. Now THAT would be nice.
After dinner, we all parted company. Ted opted to go back to the boardwalk in the hopes of finding out where the race started/ended. Michael and I said our goodbyes to my cousin and his crew. We stopped at the Blue Martini for a nightcap. Well, my nightcap was club soda...although I did sneak a few sips of his Absolut Martini (shhhh, don't tell anyone). There was a woman next to me at the bar that was splitting her time between dancing and drinking. Judging by her condition, I would say that she spent a lot more time doing the latter than the former. All of a sudden, she leans into us and starts talking to me. It was like trying to understand Ozzy Osbourne without subtitles. I had NO idea what she was saying. She was LOADED. Pie eyed. Blitzed. Polluted.
Needless to say, that gave us an excuse to pay the bill and call it a night. We caught up with Ted back in the hotel room. When we booked this trip, I made sure to get a room with two beds in it so he wouldn't have to sleep on the floor again.
I'm a humanitarian, remember?
We chatted for a few moments and then declared lights out. I put my head down on the pillow, closed my eyes and waited for sleep to come.
And waited. And waited. And waited.
Sleep wasn't coming.
I tried deep breathing, positive affirmations and counting sheep. Nothing. Wide freaking awake.
I looked at the clock. 12:06 a.m.
Wide awake. But, so tired. And so fried.
Hearing the peaceful, sleepy breathing of my two roommates didn't exactly help either.
I got out of bed, walked over to the bathroom and sobbed. I was channeling my Arizona trip all over again with the sleep deprivation and the crankiness. This time, I didn't have to wear a pretty dress and hold a bouquet of flowers, however.
I had to run a MARATHON.
Not sleeping the night before a big race isn't a big deal. It's much more important that you get good sleep two nights before.
BUT, I DIDN'T SLEEP WELL THEN EITHER!!!!!!
Once I ran out of tears, I shuffled my way back to bed, hoping that the energy I expended sniffling and weeping would finally transport me to lala land. There was nothing else I could do. There was nothing else TO do.
8 a.m. was coming whether I liked it or not.
And when it did, I had to be race ready.