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New Jersey, the final state

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Joined: 28 Dec 2011
Posts: 30
Location: San Antonio

PostPosted: Wed Nov 02, 2016 2:36 am    Post subject: New Jersey, the final state Reply with quote

Whew, it's finally over. But it wasn't easy.

The logistics were very challenging, with multiple points of potential failure. Woke up at 4 AM to catch the 6 AM flight. Luckily there were no delays, and we had a very smooth on-time arrival in Philadelphia. Wisely purchased the fuel option so we would not have to find a gas station on the way back. Surprisingly pleasant and easy 90 minute drive through New Jersey to Lakehurst and the packet pick-up (consisting of a number and a long sleeve camo shirt). No maps and no last minute instructions, but the race organizers had been very diligent with emails. I had plenty of time to scope out the "start" (actually the military gate near the bus departure location) and test the drive from the hotel, a simple 10-minute drive.

Checked into the hotel, had a pasta dinner at Linda's Pizza, then back to the hotel where we met my friends John and Linda (no relation to the pizza place). It was great that they came, made it much easier to handle all the race arrangements the next day. Then to bed early for another 4 AM wakeup.

Met John in the lobby at 4:40. The race director wanted us there at 5:00 AM in order to catch the bus which was scheduled to leave at 5:30 to take everyone to the "Athlete's Village" on the McGuire AFB flight line. Many runners groused about that, as the race wasn't scheduled to start until 8:00. But the emails were adamant - no driving yourself to McGuire, bus transportation only. John and I would leave together, so the wives could stay behind and relax. It also provided us a guaranteed ride in the event of a snafu where possibly they wouldn't let our wives on base (we had to provide license numbers and DOBs to get them on the guest list).

We got to the Lakehurst Naval Air Station gate a bit before five, no problem getting through since I had a DoD CAC card. Then we were passed to the next line where they make you get out of your car, open all doors and compartments, and get the car searched, including a once-over by a German Shepherd. "Hey, this guy has a CAC, he doesn't need to go through this. Tell them to not send people with CACs over here." Too late for us though, we were stuck behind the guy in front of us who was getting the once-over. I didn't bother asking where to go next, I just followed the guy in front of me. Too bad he didn't know where he was going. Soon we joined a caravan of six vehicles that eventually parked in a nearby lot. No busses in sight. "I was just following you", "I think this is the wrong place", "yeah, it's supposed to be by the gym".

Someone has a map and gets us back on track. I halt at a stop sign with a security guard.
"We're running the marathon, where do we park?"
"You can park over there, I guess."

We enter and park in the empty lot. Someone runs over and yells "You can't park there!"

We move on to the next lot, right next to the Hindenburg hangar. We walk toward the two buses, where we are stopped for a body scan by a military policeman. The bus driver seems surprised to see us. It's a first time event, and nobody is sure of what exactly is going on. We are then directed to go into the gym. That's good, because it is cold, dark and rainy.

It is pleasant, uncrowded and warm inside. Despite the lack of announcement, word gets around that due to the heavy rain, we would not be departing until 7:00. Eventually they line us up, attach pink wrist bands, perform one more body scan, and we board the bus. Seems unlikely that we will make it by 8:00. About 30 minutes later we arrive at McGuire. The "Athlete's Village" is simply an open tent with some water cups and a few porta potties. The race director definitely made the right choice in leaving us at the gym. But uh-oh, there is yet another delay. The guy with the timing equipment for the start has not yet been allowed entry onto McGuire. Due to the weather, they suggest we wait on the bus. And wait. And wait. Finally we depart the bus, get last minute instructions under the tent, then trudge out on the flight line for the national anthem and a cannon blast start.

Once the race starts, it becomes all or nothing for me. I have a paid entry to the Atlantic City marathon tomorrow, but that was in the event I overslept, or missed the packet pickup, or was denied entry on base, or missed the bus. Having started to run, a failure today would be due to a physical breakdown and there will be no way I could run again tomorrow.

All my recent marathons are similar - feel good early, experience some weird pain/injury/discomfort, hit the wall, fall apart, and jog/walk in misery to the finish line. Yep, that's what happened again. Here are a few things that were memorable:

1. The first water stop (mile 2) was abandoned. Apparently the airmen were told to be there from 7 to 9. We started about 50 minutes late. They probably thought the race was cancelled. There were more abandoned stations later, but at least they left water and Gatorade on the tables.

2. Lots of military presence, especially on Fort Dix. If there was a possible road or dirt trail you could turn off, there were two armed guards to prevent you from making this mistake. So the course was easy to follow, even though it really thinned out and was lonesome at times. There were only 53 finishers.

3. Cold and wet the whole way. At the end it got really windy too.

4. Lots of gunfire all morning, sounded like thunder. That was pretty cool.

5. There were absolutely zero spectators, if you don't count the numerous military "volunteers".

6. There was no clock at the end, so I had no idea of my finish time. I was hoping to break five hours, but I felt very wiped out and didn't think I made it. This was a big decision point for me. If I didn't break five hours, then this would be my last marathon for certain. If I got under, it would keep the possibility open for running three more.

There was no announcement about the late start, so Barb and Linda must have been concerned about where we were. John came through in 4:32 and let them know the scoop. About 20 minutes later, my cold carcass plodded across the finish line. Eventually my time was confirmed at 4:52:40. I was happy about that, so I can tell I still want to run a few more marathons, with the goal of breaking five hours in every state (which leaves Arkansas, Wyoming, and West Virginia to be revisited - maybe - if I feel like it).

Back to the hotel for some rest and some beer. We followed up with a victory meal, again at Linda's Pizza. This time we were joined by John and Linda, and also my cousin Ronnie and his wife and children. Lots of fun. Good food, more beer, and an entertaining waitress. "Are you Linda?" "If I was Linda, do you think I would be waiting on you?" Also, the first time I ever had prosciutto on a pizza - delicious.

The next morning after breakfast, John and Linda headed out for their long drive back to Virginia. Meanwhile we drove up to Hope (in northern New Jersey), where we had lunch with Ronnie and his family, as well as my Uncle Lenny. It was really great seeing everybody - some funny stories and another good time.

Then it was time for the two hour drive to Philly, as I did not want to drive at night. The Jersey drive was once again pleasant and scenic. Once in Pennsylvania, we got on the turnpike (posted speed limit 65). I was doing 70. Which is apparently at least ten miles per hour too slow for the local drivers. Got somewhat lost in Philadelphia, but it wasn't bad. We got to see the Villanova college area, and eventually figured out how to get downtown and reach our hotel.

The next morning we had enough time to walk down to see the Liberty Bell (free) and the Ben Franklin Museum ($5 per adult, and well worth it). Didn't see a single gas station between the hotel and the airport, and we had driven a lot of miles. Thank you, Hertz pre-paid gas tank.

I was very nervous about this trip, but overall it was one of the best marathon experiences I have had.

It has been a very interesting and enjoyable journey, and I want to thank you all for keeping me inspired. I think if I hadn't told people I was doing this, it would have been very easy to quit. I especially must emphatically thank by dear wife Barbara. Without her perseverance, logistical abilities, nursing skills, and moral support, I would have NEVER been able to accomplish this.

I see there is not much action any more on this forum, but I wanted the closure!

The end?
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Joined: 23 Jun 2005
Posts: 396
Location: Omaha, Nebraska

PostPosted: Sat Nov 05, 2016 3:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for the race report, Darryl!

Everyone pretty much keeps in touch on facebook these days, but there's still a little life here, yet!
- Kevin Robinson

"Run Like You Stole Something!"
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Joined: 03 May 2006
Posts: 5743
Location: Deep Wells, TN

PostPosted: Wed Dec 14, 2016 12:36 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Nice work!!
We've got big hills.
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