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!)|
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!|
|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.|
|Shady sidewalk fun with Greg as we make our way to the mile 48ish Aid Station|
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.|
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!|
|Runner, crew, vampire...we all enjoy a good sunset!|
|No better sight to see for a 100 miler running to Provincetown!|
|At the Provincetown Inn finish line. Best thing about finishing at 8:12 p.m.? Restaurants are still open!|
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!