Sunday, November 9, 2014

Advance Token to Board Walk - if you pass Go, collect $200...and a giant medal

Atlantic City...located on the Jersey Shore.  Famous for Miss America....The Boardwalk Empire.  Well, we are all aware of the reality....those Boardwalk Empire days are gone.  Casinos are slowly closing one by one.  The Showboat Casino...closed.  The Revel casino, which looked like it was built yesterday...closed.  Trump Plaza...closed.  What's left on the Boardwalk?  Ballys, Ceasar's, Taj Mahal, the Tropicana.  Will those slowly shut their doors as time goes on?  I blame Snooki, JWoww, Pauly D and "The Situation" for the downgrade Atlantic City has taken. And possibly for the downgrade of American society overall. ; )

Showboat... Closed
In my opinion, Atlantic City has a lot of potential.  Unfortunately, the city has a reputation of being run down, and a little sketchy.  But the boardwalk itself is well maintained, and even in the beginning of the off season, was still lively. But maybe that was because there was a giant Herbalife convention going on.  Shops were selling Herbalife shirts. Herbalife reps were everywhere. I'm pretty sure I had to weave through several of them when making my way to the finish line.

Any way, one part of town that was a little less lively was off the boardwalk between my hotel and a famous Atlantic City lighthouse.  I took a walk down Pacific Avenue to visit the Absecon Lighthouse (by the way, walking around Atlantic City is like walking around a real live version of Monopoly!) In hindsight, maybe walking from my hotel to the lighthouse might not have been the best idea.  The walk wasn't far, maybe 5 blocks or so, but it was pretty desolate, walking past the shuttered Showboat and Revel Casinos, and as a female traveling alone, not a good idea to be in desolate parts of town.   Any way, I made it safely to the lighthouse, which is the tallest in New Jersey, at 171 feet and one of the oldest, first lit in 1857.  The same weekend as the marathon and the Herbalife convention was also the Lighthouse Challenge, which is a two day event where people climb to the top of the state's 11 land based lighthouses.  Souvenirs were aplenty! Absecon Lighthouse has a lot of steps,  228 to be exact.  I think walking up them is not a good idea to do the day before running a marathon, but the muscle fatigue was well worth the view and the amazing breeze that hits you when you're up there (you really work up a sweat climbing 228 steps).  I even got a little card as proof that I made it to the top!

Taj Mahal
Surfer dude
Rather than walk past the shuttered casinos back to my hotel, I opted to walk down the boardwalk instead.   Much, much nicer.   I walked past the Taj Majal, which is still open (for now.)  I walked down to the beach where I caught part of a surf contest.  Very cool to watch.  And I'm always a sucker for the beach, especially on a warm, picture perfect day.  I mean, can you blame me?

All that walking made me hungry, so I stopped for lunch at Empire Burger on the boardwalk.  As in any place where there are casinos, you are guaranteed to encounter interesting people. One of these encounters occurred here.  There was a couple in front of me in line, and the wife was back a bit from the counter as there wasn't much space for her motorized cart.  So her husband was ordering for her. First she barked to him that she wanted a hamburger.   But then she barked that she would like a hot dog.  And then she wanted a hamburger, with fries.  Then without fries..then with fries, and she doesn't need a drink, but wait, she would like a diet pepsi, and did he order her the hot dog? Wow was all I could think. 

I continued down the boardwalk until I got to the last of the casinos and realized I had a long walk back to my hotel.  I always find myself doing too much walking the day before a race as I'm sightseeing.  I took a break on my way back to buy some salt water taffy.  How could I go to Atlantic City and not buy any? Seriously... Eating it brings to mind the days of beach vacations and families frolicking in the surf and sun along the board walk.  Some buildings are still reminiscent of this era, with turquoise seahorses and deep blue accents. Picture Beaches during the beginning of the movie when Bette Midler and Barbara Hersey are kids.  Great image, right?  Disturbingly, my mind then goes immediately to the horror of a giant man-eating shark terrorizing the beach.  My parents let me watch Jaws way too young. 

I went back to my hotel and relaxed a bit before heading away from the boardwalk for my pre-race dinner.  My pre-trip research led me to the Atlantic City Bottling Company's dining room, called The Iron Room, which is apparently a nod to the recently retired Monopoly game piece.  Did anyone else know the iron game piece was retired?! Me either, until I read the restaurant's website. (Wonder what is in the new Monopoly games?) This place has about every whisky, whiskey, or scotch you could imagine, a respectable beer list and several wines.  You can also dine at a table in the store area and drink what you buy, or buy what you drink...however you want to put it.   I popped in there to buy myself a post-race beer for the next day.  Food was also great, I had this amazing seared endive, romaine hearts and asparagus salad.  Whoever thought to sear some romaine lettuce is a genius. I also had a Korean BBQ hangar steak with sweet and sour brussels sprouts.  Also delish, although they could have eased up a bit on the sweet and sour sauce, I prefer my sprouts a little less saucy. 

So....I'm beginning to notice that these coastal races tend to be a bit blustery.  (revisit Providence post).  The wind gusts on race day were up to 30 mph.  If I haven't mentioned it before, I hate running in wind.  Actually hate isn't strong enough, despise is a better fit (revisit Providence post). Unless of course it's behind me.  Then I LOVE running in the wind.  Alas, this rarely seems to be the case.  (why is that?)  So it was windy, and it made me tired.  But I will say, it was a lot less painful than running 15 miles down a canyon!  The course wasn't too bad for one that was pretty much out and back.  You run out to some of the farther casinos, like Harrah's and Borgata, past some large elephant statue named Lucy, and you also run a fair chunk of the race on the boardwalk itself as that is where the start and finish were.  The bizarre thing it that it was still open to pedestrians as usual.  Not a big deal in the morning since not many people were out then, but you had to sort of weave around people on the way to the finish as there were more people out and it seemed to be lunch break time for the Herbalife convention. But overall, not a big inconvenience as the race itself was a small one.

View from the Shoppes at Ceasar's pier
So I finished the race,with not my best, but certainly not my worst time.  The finish had some pretty decent food, some hot clam chowder, chips, beer.  I always appreciate a post race party with more than bananas and plain, dry bagels.  And while the photo doesn't really provide much perspective, the medal is huge!

Sucker for the beach at sunset
For this race, I broke from tradition and did not have post-race oysters, although I seriously considered it.  Instead, I had the half price happy hour sushi at Nero's in the Ceasar's hotel and casino, which had a great view of the ocean. The staff was very friendly as well, and sushi was pretty good.  Although I didn't really feel completely full after eating some.  (Later, I ordered Papa John's delivery to my hotel) Yep, that's how it is when you've run a marathon and didn't really eat lunch.  You are disgusting and eat dinner, and THEN order pizza after that. of the first casinos on the boardwalk
After dinner numero uno, I walked back to my hotel along the beach since it was so quiet and serene.  And who doesn't love a beach at sunset?  I also knew that when I got back to Chicago, it would only be a matter of time before it was winter, and it would be a while before I could be on a beach, with an above freezing breeze in my face.

Sunday night on the boardwalk is pretty quiet.  But honestly, it was pretty nice just walking along, smelling the ocean air, and taking in some of the glitz of the casinos that are still hanging in there. 

So would I recommend this race to other runners?  Definitely yes.  Pass go. Collect $200... and your giant medal.