Marathons: Paul #58, Leah #48, State #40 : Ocean Drive Marathon 2015
29th March 2015, Cape May, New Jersey, USA
Finish Time = 3:53:47
We had read from previous years that headwind was a factor in this race, as it runs up the shore at a location on the Southern most tip of the State of New Jersey, right along the east coast. It’s all Atlantic ocean to your right side. We had also seen from previous years that the weather could be wet and rainy. Luckily for us the forecast was cold but sunny and on the day there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. For that we were very grateful. However, true to form there were going to be strong headwinds which created “feels like” temperatures of 17F / -9C!
Due to logistics we chose to pick up our race numbers the morning of the event. When we left our hotel is was cold, but nothing too bad. We drove the 30 minutes down to Cape May and when we arrived at the race and got out of the car to collect our packets we experienced the true effect of the wind chill. It cut right through you. Even in the few minutes it had taken to leave the car and collect our numbers, I couldn’t feel my hands.
We retreated back to the car and re-evaluated our clothing choices. We were there an hour before the race was due to start, but spent the next 40 minutes camped in the car out of the wind! After queuing for the toilets we then ran out of time to see if we could spot any of our friends that we knew would be there which was a shame.
The race started and it was off into the wind. I think this was one instance where people were happy to stay together in a group for a while to shield each other. The sun was out and the sky was blue, although the wind was ice cold I’ll take it over rain any day. We went past the first aid station, but it was too cold to stop for water. When we got to the second we took water cups from the volunteers but when we looked at them the water was yellow. We threw them to one side.
We carried on, running through interesting surroundings. Yacht clubs and brand new yachts all wrapped up for sale and a large boat yard(?).. not really sure what it’s referred to when they are stored on dry land. We read some of the inventive names people had given their boats, such as “Chief’s Mess”. We got to another aid station and the water was clear. We took a cup and I pulled off the ice lid that had formed on the surface of the water. Little did I know this was going to be my last drink for a long time.
After a while we started running across the Boardwalk with the sights of a roller coaster and fairground in the distance. The whole area was very quiet and empty, March in Cape May is very much the off-season and a lot of hotels and shops just simply weren’t open, with signs up saying “See you in the Spring”. You could tell it would be thriving in the summer and the huge beach probably would be crowded with people. The Boardwalk gave us a change of scenery and of surface, if you wanted to you could run on the side with wooden planks which were more forgiving than the paved surface. It was a very long promenade with shops and food outlets either side, very interesting to run down and shop-spot. There were even a few that were open for business, including a pop-corn stand that proclaimed “We ship popcorn anywhere in the world”. There was even a theater there on the promenade.
After we left that part, we ran through neighbourhoods looking at all the grand houses with multi-tiered balconies trying to peer over each other for sea views. What wasn’t so good was every aid station we passed had their usual choice of Gatorade or water, but the water was always yellow. We don’t drink Gatorade and personally, I don’t drink yellow water either. Leah was having to drink it as she needed hydration but I’m too stubborn for that, I’d rather collapse. She thought it was yellow because it had been stored in a container that had been used for Gatorade. At one station though, I went to throw an empty gel sachet into what I thought was a bin, as it was a big metal oil barrel by the table at the aid station. However when I got right up to it, it was full of liquid. I can only assume it was the source of the water they were scooping out into the cups. But I don’t know. Either way, that was me definitely off the water.
We got to 17 miles and I had still only had a single cup of water to drink the whole time. I never thought I’d have to run a marathon without drinking and didn’t really know how this would play out. I also never thought I would hear the following dialogue exchanged in a marathon, each time we ran by the aid stations:
Volunteers: “Water? Gatorade?”
Leah: “Is the water clear?”
Volunteers: “Errr, um no.. no it’s not”
She stopped and asked people at the aid stations if they knew why the water was yellow, no-one had an answer. At one aid station we stopped and looked at every cup and found one right on the corner that had clear water, the rest did not. This was even more strange… where did this one come from and why was it the only one? I didn’t care too much though at this point and was just glad to have a drink.
We carried on and ran over some bridges which gave us great views of the ocean, beaches and rugged areas that were being repaired or reconstructed that you wouldn’t normally have access to see.
As we got to around 20 miles a woman in her car was parked by the side of the road cheering on runners and had her hand stuck out of the window holding bottled water. We spotted it and Leah asked if it was for the runners. It was. I don’t know who this woman was and I know she’ll never read this blog but she has no idea how much of a saviour she was to us at that moment. She may as well have been handing it out in the desert the way we were treating it!
We rationed the bottle between us for the rest of the run, although we still checked at every aid station to see if there was any we could drink there, which there wasn’t. After coming down over a bridge we entered Sea Isle City, the finish location of this point-to-point course. A few miles of neighbourhoods and we were on the Sea Isle City Promenade with the sight of a golden arch in the far distance.
We wondered if it was the finish line (or a gigantic McDonald’s) and sure enough it turned out to be the finish line. You can see it from quite a way back. It was a good finish to the race and we ran by memorial benches facing the sea, reading the dedication written to them about the person they had been made for. Some were for older people that probably sat and watched the beach and sea for years, others for people who it sounded like had had their lives cut short long before their time. We ran through the yellow arch in 3:53, completing our 40th State and 33rd Sub 4 hour State.
We collected our medal, space blanket and a bottle of water (hooray), by which time it was 12:55pm. We knew the shuttles left every 30 minutes with the next one at 1pm. Leah was hurting but unfortunately we knew how tight our schedules were. A lot of the time on a Sunday we need to get somewhere to position ourselves for the work week ahead. We quickly grabbed our t-shirts and bags from the finishing tent and I got a cup of coffee. Then we walked briskly to the shuttle bus which started up it’s engines and began to leave. We ran (ouch!) and it stopped for us, we’d made it.
Coffee To Go … everywhere
The marathon shuttle was a yellow US school bus with the suspension of a tank, i.e. it had none. It probably didn’t help that we picked seats above the back wheels. We spent the whole journey trying to juggle my coffee so it wouldn’t go everywhere but it was near impossible. We tried to drink it but that just went all over my hands due to the constant potholes in the road. After a particularly vicious bump most of it ended up on the floor, followed closely by another coffee flying episode which saw a decent amount down my leg and on my shoes. In the end we just poured it into the water bottle to stop any further mess!
We got back to our car, drove to the hotel, quickly showered and changed and then had to high-tail it to New York to get the rental car back in time. The usual route was suffering from some serious traffic issues so I ended up having to drive through Midtown and Upper Manhattan. Something I would be very happy to not have to repeat ever again. We got the car back literally without a minute to spare and then had to make our way to the hotel we were staying in that night.
We got there by 8pm, by which point we hadn’t eaten since breakfast which would have been bad enough on a non-marathon day and we hadn’t even had time to stretch out our aching legs. I think by the time we sat down to eat in the hotel restaurant we probably looked like energyless ghosts. We definitely felt like it. Sometimes the logistics make everything so much harder.
We can’t believe that an idea and a challenge of completing 10 States to join the 50 States Marathon club for an eye-catching vest has now brought us into the 40s with only 10 to go. Although to achieve the 50 Sub 4 we will also have to complete a further 8 repeats.
Tips for running the Ocean Drive Marathon:
– Prepare for the headwind (both mentally and also with your clothing choices), it’s always going to be a factor
– Bring your own water. Unless you hear that this has been addressed in the future or don’t mind drinking yellow water I would suggest carrying your own
– I wouldn’t let the water thing put you off this race, it’s a great option for New Jersey and I would definitely do it again
Elevation Graph from my running watch:
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