Last weekend, I did my “scary” race of the year – Escape the Cape in Cape May, New Jersey. Every year, I like to do something that scares me. Last year, it was Augusta 70.3. This year, rather than tackle a new distance, I decided to go a different route and take on Escape the Cape.
This race has been tempting me for a while. Why? Because you start by jumping off the Cape May-Lewes Ferry. That is crazy. I’m not particularly afraid of heights, but I do have a healthy sense of self-preservation and jumping off of a perfectly good boat goes against that.
I admit, I didn’t pay much attention to anything in this race beyond “jump.” I knew it was an Olympic distance, but beyond that, I was focused on that jump and the swim. Most of my swims are freshwater, so this had me concerned for many reasons.
Then I started to hear more about the run course. I knew it went onto the sand and I knew that was going to be hard. Then the race director, known as DelMo, started putting out videos apologizing (sarcastically) about how hard he made the run course. The turn-by-turn run course came out and included steps such as “Curse DelMo,” “WTF, DelMo,” and “Find DelMo, Kill Him.”
So, you know, that was promising.
One thing I missed about the run course until the day before (when Kristin pointed it out) was that it was only 5 miles, not the 6.2 I was expecting. So that helped. I was so focused on the swim that I didn’t even look at the distances of the other legs. That’s quality race prep.
Race morning dawned bright and early and Kristin and I headed out to get setup in transition and get ready to board the ferry. We had to board the boat at 6, and my race didn’t start til 7 (and Kristin, who was doing the sprint, didn’t start til 7:45). So we had a lot of stuff to bring with us. I packed a little bag with an almost empty can of TriSlide (to help get my wetsuit on), some snacks, and some sunscreen squeezed into a tiny baggie so I could apply it while getting ready.
There was a lot of excitement and nervousness on the boat, and that hour went by very fast. I couldn’t believe it was already time to jump! As soon as the horn went off, some people raced across the timing mat and leapt in, including one guy who did a flip. No way was that happening. So I got in line and made my way up to the start. Standing there on the boat, I realized the jump wasn’t that bad. I think it was 12 feet. In my mind, I had it as high as the dive platforms at the pool. My pool has a 10m (33 feet) diving platform. So 12 feet was nothing.
There were four people directing people to jump. The current was incredibly fast, so when someone jumped, by the time they surfaced, they were already a number of feet away. Right before I jumped, I watched someone lose their goggles when they jumped, so the volunteer helping people in was warning all of us to hold on to their goggles.
Finally, the person before me jumped, and I was told to jump as soon as the person surfaced. I refused to think, just jumped.
The swim was amazing. The current was fast, but the adrenaline boost from the jump was so helpful. I didn’t feel any anxiety while swimming at all. The waves weren’t too bad, but there were enough that it was sometimes hard to see the buoys to sight. They had a ton of lifeguards out on boards though, so I just stayed near them when I couldn’t see the buoy, knowing that they were somewhere on the course. It was a straight line, so it couldn’t be that hard, after all!
Swim: 27:32 (see what I mean about the current?)
The distance to T1 was ridiculous. It was definitely a long trek, and not easy in bare feet. A guy in front of me had stashed a pair of flip flops along the way which was a genius move.
This bike course was about 24 miles, two 12 mile loops. The sprint athletes, who started 45 minutes after us, only had one loop to do, which meant that for my first loop, I was mainly racing with other olympic athletes. The course was flat and fast, aside from one bridge. I loved having a two loop course, because it gave me a good chance to understand the loop and then really let it go on the second loop. This was the first outdoor ride I’ve had all season where I could feel the results of all of my work over the winter. I felt like I was flying.
The second loop was a bit more crowded as the sprint athletes joined us, but it wasn’t too bad. Definitely no worse than some other races I’ve done.
On to the run. At least it was only going to be 5 miles. I could do anything for five miles, right? The majority of the run was along a street with some amazing spectators. Lots of people out on their porches and yards, enjoying the morning and watching the spectacle. I waved and called good morning to a lot of them. I absolutely love races that go through neighborhoods like this one. Seeing all the people out, hearing the cheers, having quick conversations, it makes the run go so much faster.
The olympic had a total of four sections through the sand – two on the way out and two on the way back. I’m not sure what I was expecting. People kept referring to these as “dunes,” but I would probably say “beach.” The word “dune” made me think I was going to have to climb up something. And I suppose entering and leaving the sandy area was bit of a climb, but nothing like what I feared.
Don’t get me wrong – that sand was not easy to run on, but I lost less time than I thought I would. I ran where I could, walked where I had to, and continued to collect sand in my shoes. I think the challenge made it even more fun than I expected. It was hard, but not impossible, and everyone out there was just so friendly that it was hard to not smile.
Total time: 3:14:10
I finished this race so incredibly happy. I felt so great about what I had just done, and I had such a great time. This was a great challenge and an amazing race. I definitely want to go back and race it again. I encourage everyone who is looking for something a little crazy to try it out.