Monday, October 24, 2011

Cape Cod 100 Miler - Race Report!

OK, I promise I wasn't lying when I said I was taking a break from running after the Spartathlon. In the three weeks after that race, I only ran three or four times (about 6 miles each) when the weather was too nice to pass up. Just as I was happily enjoying the life of a non-runner, and my body started showing its appreciation by adding about 5 lbs. of "let's look like a normal grown man" weight, an old friend sent me a surprise note.

About 10 days ago I received an email from my buddy (and 70 year-old ultra machine) Pete Stringer. He, and a group of his Cape Cod running friends were putting together a 100 mile run across the Cape the following weekend and wanted to know if I'd like to come up and run it with them. My normal response would have been, "No thanks, I'm taking a break from running", but my history of running across Cape Cod made me think about it a little more. The final 80 miles of Run 192 happened to also take place on the Cape, and with my parents living just a handful of miles from the course, I knew I'd also likely have some local support as well. Yes, this would be a super low-key race, but after the glitz and glamor (and disaster) in Greece three weeks earlier, running for the simple sake of running through a beautiful area in perfect fall weather sounded pretty good to me. ...I should also point out that Lizzy said I had to do it. She insisted. Really.

The idea behind this year's Inaugural 'Cape Cod 100' was for key people to run the route as a bit of a test before making it a bigger race next year. By running the course themselves this year, the organizers would be able to gather valuable info like split times to the various Aid Stations (and the best spots to add more), and to decide if any sections of the course needed to be rerouted for whatever reason. The geography of Cape Cod lends itself perfectly to hosting a 100 miler as you can see from the map below. There's something about running a natural point-to-point 100 miler that is so very appealing to me. It's like you're really "getting somewhere", as opposed to running loops, out-n-backs, etc.. Also, Provincetown is a pretty cool place to end up at the finish for many reasons!
(Not the actual route, but close enough!)
I made the drive from DC to MA in record time on Friday (thank you, NYC traffic for actually cooperating for once!), and after catching up with family for a bit over dinner, I headed down to fellow runner Greg Stone's house to spend the night just 5 miles from the starting line of the race in Woods Hole. With the 4 a.m. start time, I was more than happy to take Greg up on the offer to crash at his place and not have to wake up any earlier to drive to the start. Greg has a tremendously impressive running resume to his credit (including 2:30 marathons!), but had never attempted a 100 before. Our plan was to head out together running 9s and see how the day unfolded.

After gathering with the other runners in the dark chill of the morning (temps in the 40s), we walked over to the starting line which happens to also be the official start line for the world-famous Falmouth Road Race. It was pretty cool to start the race there considering all of the legends who have raced/won that contest over the course of its 39-year history (Bill Rodgers, Alberto Salazar, Rod Dixon, and a whole bunch of Kenyans who have headed down to grab all the prize money in the past 20 years!).

A few ticks after 4:00 a.m., we were off and running. Greg and I settled in quite nicely on the first 10.5 miles on the Shining Sea bike trail. What makes the Cape Cod 100 course fun for racing is the mix of flat bike paths (about 38 miles in total spread out in 3 sections over the race) and the relentlessly hilly road sections in between. Sure, there are no mountains to climb, but starting around mile 30 on the Service Road, the roller coaster ride of 100-300 ft. ups and downs begins!

After the first 10.5 miles of the race on the trail, and about another 10 on the winding roads, Greg and I hit the Canal bike path for 5+ miles of enjoyment. The 4 a.m. start time meant we missed the early morning views of the ocean and Martha's Vineyard along the previous trail, but it was definitely a treat to see the sun rise along the Canal.

Only runners and fisherman out to see the sunrise in the chill of a beautiful Fall morning...Lucky us!
As the conversation flowed freely, I almost didn't notice how effortless the first 26 miles were before we pulled up to the first Crew stop of the day. It was awesome to have not only my parents but also my Uncle Rich and Cousin Kate (who just ran her first marathon last weekend!!) there to cheer us on too!

The Sagamore Bridge arches over the canal as Greg and I cruise along
Hey, are those my Drymax USA Flag socks?! Yes indeedy! They deserved another chance to run after the disaster in Greece.
Uncle Rich (standing), joins my dad and Kate on the wind-protected side of the wall. Chilly morning for them, but ideal for running.
After refills and high-fives, we headed out to tackle the hilly roads of the next 26 miles or so. The roads on this course bring you through multiple little town centers, past historic buildings, cemeteries, etc.. Even though a couple miles were a little precarious when the sidewalks/shoulders disappeared and car-dodging became a bit of an art form, the point of running the race this year was to see which sections could be improved upon and altered to make for a better race in the future. By time the official route for next year is in place, I'm guessing this will be a near perfect course for runners. That said, aside from just a couple miles, I really enjoyed the whole course. If you think running sidewalks in some sections is boring, trust me when I say some of the historic "sidewalks" in the Sandwich/Barnstable/Yarmouth areas are just as twisty, rooty, and narrow as the singletrack of many mountain races! I really appreciated the change of terrain and had a blast running them!

Shady sidewalk fun with Greg as we make our way to the mile 48ish Aid Station
After hammering the Service Road hills, and a couple more Crew Stops, Greg and I were still cruising along running our 9s and enjoying the picture-perfect day (probably hit a high of 60 degrees at mid day with a nice breeze). About 2 or 3 miles before the mile 48 Aid Station, the sidewalk disappeared and the road got a little narrow for running. Since I was so focused on avoiding the cars, I didn't realize that Greg was having some issues behind me and fell off pace...and when I pulled up to the Aid Station a couple miles later I was shocked to see Greg already standing there! It turned out that he had to drop a couple miles earlier, and his brother picked him up and drove him ahead to the Aid Station. I was bummed to lose Greg's great company, but like everyone who runs these things knows, it's almost impossible to run an entire 100 miler with the same person before one issue or another pulls someone off the pace. I was very thankful (and fortunate) I had his company for the first half, and I know he'll be back to rock a great 100 mile finish soon enough!

I used the next 5.8 mile section to do a little 'systems check' and see what my plan would be for the second half of the race. I was feeling fresh and strong, and with all systems a "Go", I figured it might turn out to be a special day over the second half of the race. When I pulled up to my crew (which from this point until the finish consisted of my parents, Greg, and his brother Rich), I grabbed my headphones, filled up my Camelbak with a special shot of Ultragen, and started off on the 22 miles of the Cape Cod Rail Trail.

Pulling into the start of the 22-mile Cape Cod Rail Trail. A thoroughly enjoyable section of the course to run.
When I have a low point in a 100 miler, it's usually between miles 50-70; the reason being those miles usually coincide with the hottest part of the day. With the weather being so perfect on this day, however, I had no issues at all. When I started on the trail and used its mile markers to get a split time, my watch showed an exact 9:00. It had been a while since I was able to get an exact split, and the fact that I was still running 9-flats confirmed my thought that things could not be going more perfectly for me.

Over the next 20 miles of the rail trail I just kept the iPod rockin' and my legs rolling. Even though there were another tough 20+ miles of hills waiting for me at the end of this trail, I was feeling so fluid and strong I definitely had my sights set on running a negative split for the last half of the race. After all the months of hard work leading up to the Spartathlon, and of course the frustration of that race itself, it couldn't have felt better to finally be able to take advantage of the fitness I worked so hard to build up. It was finally time for me to have some fun and do what I do!

Rich, Steve, and Greg await the coming whiplash they'll feel as I blow by them on the trail.
What's that? I couldn't hear you over the sound of my legs kicking ass!
Coming in for a landing at the end of the 22 mile Rail Trail section (roughly mile 76 in the race). Yes, I was having fun out there!
At the end of the Rail Trail, I was pretty happy with how easily I ran every one of those 22 miles between 8:45 and 9:00 pace. I knew the last 24-ish miles of the race were pretty hilly, but things were going so smoothly for me I didn't bother to think about it too much and just took off to attack those ups and downs the same way I did the previous 22 miles. Sure enough, my Spartathlon training proved to have long-lasting benefits as I kept my miles right around 9s the rest of the way. 

Runner, crew, vampire...we all enjoy a good sunset!
With about 11 miles to go the sun was finally gone and I put on my headlamp and vest for the final stretch up Route 6 into Provincetown. The relentless hills were still there, but the joy of how smoothly I was still turning out my 9 minute miles made the climbs irrelevant. With about 4 miles to go, runners have the pleasure of turning the corner on Commerical Street in P-town and being greeted with the triumphant site of the Pilgrim Monument shining brightly in front of them (the Pilgrims landed here first before heading over to Plymouth).

No better sight to see for a 100 miler running to Provincetown!
The final miles of the race also take you down the narrow streets of town filled with restaurants and shops...and since I was running down them at 8pm, the crowds of tourists, date night couples, and street performers were a delight to pass by. Their clapping and energy had me running effortless 7 minute splits from miles 97 to 100. Sure it wasn't the spectacle of the finish line in Sparta, and runners from 34 nations weren't flanking me as I came into the finish, but it was running...and for the first time since my disappointment in Greece, I remembered just how much I love running, regardless of the surrounding circumstances. I'm a lucky, lucky man to be able to do what I do, and for 16 hours and 12 minutes this past Saturday, that's exactly what I did.

At the Provincetown Inn finish line. Best thing about finishing at 8:12 p.m.? Restaurants are still open!
Loads of thanks to pass along for helping me have so much fun in this one:

Thank you to my beautiful wife Lizzy (and our karate-kicking baby-to-be) for not only saying it was ok to leave her alone for the weekend, but for basically forcing me to run this race "You have to do it!". As always, she was right!

Thanks to Pete Stringer, Bob Jensen, Fred Murolo, Fiona, Greg, and everyone who had a hand in helping organize this race. (Congrats also go out to Bob and Fred who came in together for 2nd/3rd place!). With a couple minor tweaks, I'm certain this race will grow to be a favorite for 100 milers very quickly. There's lots of 100 mile gold to be mined along the Cape, and with hotels near the start and finish lines, it almost doesn't matter which route you take in between, it's a great time and place to run a race.

Thanks to my parents, yet again, for clearing their schedule to crew for me (and to my mom for taking all the photos!). Also thanks to my Uncle Rich and Cousin Kate for coming out in the chill to cheer me on as well, what a great surprise!

Special Thanks to Drymax for their awesome USA flag socks. I feel so bad for not giving them their proper plug by grabbing a top spot in Greece, but I'm comforted by the thought that I will run many more successful races with their patriotism powering my legs! ..and not that I have to say it again, but I will: My feet are in picture-perfect shape after 100 miles of pavement pounding thanks to my Max Pro socks. Thanks, guys!!

...and now, until my next surprise running adventure, I'm going back in to hibernation!


Casseday said...

Dan- congrats on a great run before a well-deserved hibernation. Time for the next great adventure . . . fatherhood!

TonyP said...

Great report and well done!

Gancho Slavov said...

Way to go Dan! There is nothing like bouncing back from a disappointment. Sorry to keep missing you at various races while I was still in WV. Now crossing paths would take a much bigger coincidence. But you never know...

Good luck with the adventures of fatherhood!

Dan Rose said...

Thanks, Guys!

...and Gancho, I'm sure we'll cross paths at some fun international race in the future (UTMB, 100k/24HR World Championship, etc etc). I hope the WV trails have trained you well for the UK ultra circuit!

Chris Roman said...

Great stuff my friend, well done indeed :)

Ric Munoz said...

Great report,Dan! Do you ever write anything less than a great report? Not possible! 16:12 -- wow -- congratulations!

I'm glad you got to use all that training for the Cape Code 100 - you definitely deserve a victory as you and Elizabeth prepare for the arrival of Baby Rose.

I look forward to running the Cape Code 100 next year, especially that final stretch into P-Town's main drag!

Dan Rose said...

I was actually thinking this course would be perfect for you while I was running out there on Saturday. Definitely some hills to work through, but with it all being paved, and on somewhat familiar Cape turf for you, I think you'll love it. Plus ending in P-town is obviously a treat: The motivation to finish while the crowds are still flowing in/out of the bars should get you a sub-22 hour finishing time!

Ric Munoz said...

And the more road 100-milers, the better -- it's like finding money in the street! -- there are so few of them. Trail race enthusiasts will always outnumber road fans like me, of course, but a handful of them (Keys 100, Badwater, NorthCoast, etc. and now Cape Cod) are better than none at all.

Thanks again for helping Pete to test the course -- he found the best of all testers in you!

Anonymous said...


Dan Rose said...

Shhhh! I like to keep my 'adventures' on the down low these days. AZ will be run 'off the couch' like the Cape was if I end up making it out there. It all depends on how Lizzy is feeling come December!

Amelia said...

Every time I see those socks, I love them a little more. Will you be wearing them in the delivery room? will Baby Rose get a pair?