Dr. J on Running
39 Ocean Drive Marathon, Cape May, NJ30 March 2014
My journey to Cape May started Friday afternoon in Worcester, MA. After battling weekend rush hour traffic around Worcester, the Mass Pike, Hartford, New Haven, Stamford, White Plains and the Tappan Zee Bridge, I spent the night in Mahwah, NJ. I got up early in the morning, and resumed driving south. I learned that drivers may not pump gas into their cars – only gas station attendants may do so.
After a 30-mile detour around New York City that saved me 30 minutes, I reached Egg Harbor Township and located the Holiday Inn Express. I rehearsed the drive to Sea Isle City for race morning bus pick-up, then proceeded to packet pick-up in Wildwood. Residual damage from Hurricane Sandy explained the construction along the Garden State Parkway.
The weather forecast fluctuated dramatically during the week, dropping from sunny 66 degrees to steady heavy rain the entire weekend with temperatures in the forties. I lined up an array of dress options to cover a wide range of contingencies, including XL garbage bags, then drove to Outback for sirloin steak and sweet potato dinner.
It rained all night. Marathon morning ushered cloudy skies and 50 degrees. I drank a cup of coffee, and ate two boiled eggs, a banana and a Protein Plus Powerbar. I arrived early to the finish line area at Sea Isle City, and boarded the school bus to the start at Cape May. I chatted with Maniac Ed from CT, and found myself sitting in front Maniac Karen from Manlius NY. Ahead of us, Donna mumbled something about an early start.
We reached Cape May around 0740, and everyone marched into an old hotel near the beach. I used the bathroom, and sat on a couch in the lobby. I got up, and walked out to look for the start line. I asked the race director about the early start, and he answered me that we started in 9 minutes and asked me to sign a disclaimer that I would be disqualified if I finished faster than 4:45.
Ten runners started an hour early in dense fog, but otherwise ideal running weather. Peter and Donna led the pack, and I followed close behind. A local from Ramsey, Peter had run the Ocean Drive Marathon in past years, so we relied on him to keep us on course. I settled into a 4-and-4 breathing pattern, and upped my pace to keep the leaders in sight. I tossed my wind jacket, and ran light in shorts and a short-sleeve Maniacs T-shirt.
Volunteers readied early the water stations, and they cheered us on. Police cruisers were out in force to regulate traffic around us. I caught up with Donna and Peter after they made an early wrong turn, and I ran with them for a couple of ten-minute miles. I lost sight of them after I stopped at a port-a-potty, and ran pretty much alone for a while.
The course was marked poorly. Mile markers and aid stations provided spot checks, but turns and stretches were left unmarked. When I took a wrong turn, a police car chased me down, and the officer led me back onto the course. I passed Donna at Mile 7 when she walked, and took the lead from Peter when he made a wrong turn. My solo run in the lead of this race drew cheers from volunteers and spectators, but lasted barely a mile. Peter passed me around Mile 9, and I did not see him again until Mile 22 when he got ill.
The dense fog turned into a drizzle, and rendered the boardwalk and the concrete sidewalks very slick. I swapped my headband for my Air Force Marathon cap to keep the rain out of my eyes. Low visibility robbed us from the promised ocean view. I could hear the waves from the boardwalk, but I could not see the water. I felt good, and I ran comfortably.
I estimated that the real runners would catch me around 13 miles, and that they did. I passed the half in 2:15, on pace for disqualification if I finished under 4:45. I switched to walking half-a-mile and running half-a-mile, and enjoyed watching the race unfold around me. I loitered at the aid stations to thank the volunteers, and savored half a chocolate-glazed chocolate donut.
Maniac Kino passed me around Mile 16, and went on to finish in 3:28. Maniac Julie passed me around Mile 20 and finished in 3:46. I enjoyed seeing each of them for a few seconds. Julie looked cold, but her family came to the rescue and covered her with a jacket.
The calm weather of the first half turned stormy around Mile 18 with strong headwind, heavy rain and cold temperatures. I regretted tossing my wind jacket, and I shivered in the cold. I pulled my hand-socks up to my elbows, and resumed running. To my surprise, I managed to run the last 8 miles, save brief walks to loosen tight muscles. I crossed the finish line in 5:05:18, my ninth fastest marathon.
Bite-size macaroons dipped in chicken broth provided instant post-race energy. I shivered under a Mylar blanket as I walked back to the car. My frozen fingers could not exert enough torque to unlock the car. When I got finally inside the car, I blasted the heat to 80 degrees, and sat shivering. Within minutes of my finish, the skies opened up into a nasty hail storm, pounding the 200+ runners still out on the course, including Donna, Peter and Ed all of whom started early. Karen and Penny enjoyed an extra hour of weather misery.
Dr Kamal Jabbour got away with a second winter marathon in the Northeast in shorts and T-shirt to make it 39 marathons in 39 states. Dr. J's RUNNING Column appears in Cyberspace whenever endorphins call.