Friday, April 3, 2015

Race Report : Ocean Drive Marathon - On The Way To Cape May..

Ocean Drive Marathon, a point to point road marathon held at the end of March from Cape May New Jersey to Sea Isle City New Jersey. The course is super flat minus a few minor bridge crossings. Not my forte for sure. I’m a 200 pound trail runner and not a lean and fast road runner. However I love a great marathon but I’ll be the first to admit that road marathons are hard. Running on flat roads for hours is a mental challenge and that’s precisely why I signed up for it. And it comes only a week after The Hat Run mauled me like a baby seal in shark infested waters.  So why run races and routes that I know I’m not good at or actually enjoy? Because it’s great ultra training, that’s why. Everything and everywhere I run this year is all solely for preparation for Oil Creek 100. Run races I’m not good at, do speedwork, run mountainous hilly as all hell trail races. Run in the rain run in the cold run in the snow..when I’m tired when I’m bored when I don’t feel like it. Run flat roads run hilly trails. I’m going to do it all. Leave no stone unturned. One target “A” race. One goal way off in the distance. Finish that 100 miler in October deep in the woods in Northwestern Pennsylvania. So Ocean Drive it is. It’s just  a super flat long run down the shore with seagulls, salt marshes, lapping waves and boardwalk oddities.  It turned out that I actually really enjoyed this low key marathon even though I suffered a bit.

Freezing Cold

The start time was 9:00 am and it was cold. It was below 30 degrees and the wind coming out of the north and off the water was frigid. The good thing was the sky was a perfect blue and the sun was strong since we are heading into April. I was running the race with my running buddy Kourtney and we huddled in the breezeway of some diner near the start. Ten minutes to nine we went to the start ask for a picture from a random runner got in line and off we went. We ran the first 10 miles with the folks who signed up for the 10 miler race. But even with them there couldn’t have been more then 800 runners. This is a very small local race. These are the races I enjoy. The big corporate races I don’t enjoy so much.

We were holding a tad over 9:00 min miles which honestly was a little aggressive, but it felt good to me so I didn’t really fight it. In my head I wanted to PR the distance and beat my Harrisburg marathon time of 4:32 which I ran three months prior in the late fall. That course was much hillier so I didn’t really feel I was stretching to beat it. We zigzagged along the streets of Cape May and the wind was seriously strong and it was coming at us. Up and over the causeway and into Wildwood we went. But first we passed through the salty low lying marshes for a bit. That smell of salt air and faint scent of rotting seaweed and shellfish is actually soothing. It reminds me of my childhood. It’s the Jersey Shore. It’s an East Coast institution. After the Nordic winter we had here it signaled summertime to my brain and I could not help but smile. Summertime down the shore. Oh yea!

We entered Wildwood holding a great pace. Block by block ticked off and the neighborhoods were really quiet since it’s the off season. There were a few locals out clapping and watching but no crowds that’s for sure. Then we hopped onto the Wildwood boardwalk and ran the full length. Past all the famous landmark’s on the boards. There were people out walking along and the runners were all spread out so it probably looked strange to some seeing all these runners dead quiet running along. Like some sort of pack animals all blowing snot rockets, spitting, and various other bodily functions. J Eh..That’s the way it is so you must embrace it. No shame here. But this is where we ditched the 10 mile folks, their day was done at the end of the boardwalk. Some were taking selfies completely oblivious that they were standing in the way of the marathon runners who had to keep going. That was slightly irritating, but I chalk it up to inexperience. 

Saying goodbye at mile 10

Once past this area it got really quiet and the amount of runners dropped off significantly. It was on for another 16 miles and frankly I was actually fixated on that for a bit. It was a stark reminder or more aptly a blunt reminder that voice saying “hey man you ain’t even half way”!  Ugh…Just brush it off and keep moving at your pace. We headed off this island, up and over the causeway and onto Stone Harbor we went. This was tough. I was running out of Tailwind and had hoped for GU or gels to be available sooner. My fault I should have planned a little better but I didn’t see my first GU until around mile 14 or so. Because of my poor planning I was starting to lose some gas and fatigue was creeping in. Granted a lot of it in hindsight I feel was mental fatigue or worrying about the lack of GU on the course. I should have not allowed that to bother me, but it did. Lesson learned for sure and duly noted. 

We entered Stone Harbor at mile 16 and quickly did a small out and back of several blocks. It was at this point I bid farewell to Kourtney as I walked thru a water station and she kept going. I then looked up at the street signs and we were at  122nd Street! We needed to go 122 blocks and pass through Avalon to get to Sea Isle and mile 24. Oh boy I wished I hadn’t done that. It was one of those OH SHIT moments. But  I did manage to smirk to myself. Time to dig deep cause it’s now officially sucking.  I needed to collect myself for the final push.  At this point I had no choice but to call some tunnage on my phone reserved for these situations. I switched to Judas Priest Live in Long Beach 1984. It usually works, and it did for awhile as it took my mind off block watching. But I still looked many many times..block 102..block 98..block 91 Jesus Christ who designed this god awful place!! Deep breaths…

Finally after what felt like a month or so I passed through Avalon and off the island heading into Sea Isle. Like some sick joke the street signs read 93rd street. It was like Groundhog Day. Didn’t I just do this? I can’t possibly do this again. I had to go another 50 blocks to the finish at 43rd street Promenade. Awesome!! Good Times! I was hurting at this point. I glanced at my Garmin and I was up on my worst case pace buddy time by 7:08 minutes and 0.75 mile. Once I realized that the burden to really push dropped. I began simply run/walking because I had PR’d already no matter what happened. So my last two miles were my worst because of that. Kinda bummed I looked. But I managed to run hard the last tenth of a mile for a strong finish and it was done. 4:19 a distance PR of 13 minutes from my Harrisburg time. I’ll take it and call it a day.

Charging to the Finish

I rather enjoyed this race. It was super low key and bare bones. Aid stations were a tad disappointing but I’m used to buffets during ultra’s so the aid at road marathons is always a slap. Glad I did it and would certainly recommend it.

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