Today's race: grueling. It took an enormous amount of mental effort to get through this course. I even took a wrong turn early on, and tacked on an additional 1.7 miles as a result. But that wasn't anything compared to the 25 mph wind with gusts up to 45 mph throughout the race. Half of the time at your back... the other half in your face, all on the beach or the backside of sand dunes, totally exposed without the shelter of trees. Either direction, the loose sand also made the going slow.
I don't mean to paint a picture of misery here... I had a blast. It was a challenge and the scenery was beautiful. The people were also great. It's the kind of event I'll look back on with fondness since it was so tough.
Fortunately, I have a couple of good friends, Andy and Kris, who live on Cape Cod, and their house was just 20 minutes from the start. I drove down Friday afternoon in a nasty storm. Snow in Maine and New Hampshire, sleet in northern Mass, and as I approached Boston, a hard driving rain that had my wipers on full speed for quite some time. I still made it to the Cape in decent time, all things considered. We chowed down on some incredible pizza (a healthy variety) and soon afterwards I was off to bed.
A Mighty Wind
I woke up and arrived at Sandy Neck Beach about 45 minutes before the 7am start, chatting with a few runners until we were gathered on the beach, a line was drawn in the sand and we were off.
The course is a 15.7 mile figure-eight styled loop that is run twice. The first part of the figure eight loop is five miles and returns at the start/aid station. You then continue the rest on another loop.
We battled the first part of the loop into that gnarly headwind. It was insane. A group of four runners pulled ahead and I was alone as I pulled ahead of the rest of the pack. My plan, like last month, was not to really race this but treat it as a training run. However, I did like the fact that I was in fifth out of 20-something starters, and thought it'd be fun to try and hold that position. This along with what would happen in a few miles helped fuel a more competitive mindset than I had originally anticipated.
After about 2.5 miles, I was quite happy to round the corner of an estuary and run on the other side of the dunes with the wind at my back. Made good time back to the aid station, mowing down a banana and a packet of Gu and was off again.
Just after mile 7, I for some reason thought we were turning left at one junction. I saw some footprints and assumed it was the other runners who were ahead of me. The trail led back to the beach, and soon afterwards I realized my mistake. Crap! I used adult language quite profusely as I backtracked to where I was supposed to be and couldn't believe my stupid mistake. When I got back to the right trail, I wondered what the heck I was thinking. It was pretty obvious which direction to go, but I failed to see it. Oh well, not much I can do about it now, just move on.
I pushed on and passed a handful of runners over the next few miles. I had hoped I'd be able to regain some ground, but didn't want to put the pedal down too hard, as that is a futile line of thinking, especially after a blunder that is causing you to run longer. Made it to the left turn which would take us over the dunes and back on the beach, with that evil wind in our faces again.
At the beach, you could see for miles ahead of you, and I could make out eight other runners ahead of me. Somehow I managed to pass five, and catch up with the other three at the aid station. Battling the wind was enormously tough, and finding a path on the beach that minimized soft sand or giant patches of rocks was a challenge.
Now I was really spent, and was alternating running with walking more often. So were the other runners I saw though. I was looking forward to rounding that turn again to have the wind at my back.
Reached the turn and the wind at my back seemed to be of little help though, as I was quite tired. I even thought about calling it a day a few times when I reached the aid station. But fortunately, I was able to convince myself that finishing this off would make it memorable. That overrided any thoughts of ending early.
Reached the aid station and downed some really good soup, refilled my bottle with diluted Gatorade, and was off for the final 10.7 miles, with no bonus miles planned.
The sand on the backside of the dunes was more broken up now with the traffic, and much softer. I opted to walk these sections, and run the ones that were wet and packed down from last night's storm. All in all, I'd say half was soft sand and the other half of the easier to run variety.
After about five miles, made the turn to go over the dunes to reach the beach again. I had hoped the wind would have died down some by now. Wishful thinking. It seemed to have actually picked up.
It was with great relief when I reached the finish. I was spent. I came in seventh place (not a big deal when there were 20-something starters, and only about a dozen finished), and mused that I had probably only lost one or two spots as a result of the time lost from the wrong turn. All finishers were presented with a really cool hand painted quahog shell (see pic below).
The Cape Cod Ultra Society folks graciously invited me into their RV where the other half dozen finishers were hanging out. I sat and chatted with them for a bit while I enjoyed more of that soup. Good group of folks. I enjoyed the conversation, but had to leave after about 10 minutes to get back to my friends and then get on back to Maine.
Really good time!
Ran 33.1 miles @ 11:14/mile pace.
Total time: 6:12:12 (official time 6:06, not sure where the discrepancy came from, but I like the official time better)
Placing: 7 out of 15 finishers
AHR/MHR - N/A (I lost the elastic part of the strap to my HR monitor)
Beaches and sandy trails.
Mostly flat to slightly hilly.
40 degrees at start, upper 40s to end. Winds 25mph, with gusts to 45mph. Sunny.
Long pants, long sleeved shirt, short sleeves shirt, beanie, gloves.