Ok, ok – I know this post is quite late in it’s inception. Life’s been quite busy lately, with some very exciting upcoming changes and events and some issues related to sick pets. This, unfortunately, makes it hard to keep a tight handle on every aspect of my day to day activities, especially when I’m forced to prioritize the ones that aren’t nearly as much fun as writing.
The Ocean City Island to Island Half-Marathon took place on Saturday April 26, 2014. We left for the race after work on Friday night, excited for a weekend away at the beach for the first time since November.
I knew they were calling for some rain during our drive that evening. Having lived here long enough, I should have known better than to trust the weather forecast. I’ve never lived in an area where they 1) so consistently get things wrong and 2) make such a HUGE deal over major weather systems that would, in other geographical regions, be much less of a big deal. Four snowflakes fall from the sky and the schools close down. Even the threat of bad weather can cause people to cancel their appointments at work. The weather can be the top story on the news, surpassing all other major media events including actual natural disasters and much more interesting and important issues.
In any event, we didn’t just get “some rain” that Friday night – we wound up with a deluge on par with the flooding Noah must have deal with during his adventures on the ark.
We made it safe and sound despite the setback, and settled ourselves in with a relatively early bedtime in preparation for our 5:30am wake up call the following morning.
The race is named the “Island to Island” 1/2 marathon because the course runs pretty much a straight path from Ocean City to Assateague Island. In years past the route was alway from the boardwalk to the Island. This was the first year they decided to run it in reverse.
The half marathon was scheduled to begin at 7:30 AM, and the race coordinators were providing buses to Assateague from the boardwalk down along 1st street in Ocean City. I still needed to pick up my race packet over on the Island, so I planned to take a bus over at around 6am, giving myself plenty of time to get situated.
The morning broke cloudy and pretty much in the mid to high 40’s – which bode for nice race weather, but meant I was literally freezing while waiting for transportation. Apparently I was not the only one who figured on getting to the buses at 6am because once I arrived, there were easily 300-400 people waiting for a ride, with the lines being extended exponentially with every passing 5 minute increment.
We stood out in the cold, shivering and huddling for warmth as school buses arrived and were able to transport groups of about 60 over the to the island one at a time. I’m not sure how many buses they had running, but there were definitely NOT ENOUGH! I think I boarded the bus over at around 7 am, and it was a good 15 minute + drive over to Assateague, leaving me with a theoretical 10 minutes or so to register, drop my race bag off on the buses that would transport it back over to Ocean City, and find a bathroom (I’m a chronic race morning overactive bladder kind of girl…)
I’ve never been to Assateague before, so I was kind of excited at seeing the area. It’s best known for it’s resident population of feral horses, thought to be descendants from surviving horses from the shipwrecked Spanish galleons off the coast of Virginia. I anxiously awaited arriving on the island, while making small talk with the girl seated next to me, who was a 2 time veteran of the race. My anticipation grew as we made the left hand turn on to the road that would take us to the state park, and my eyes anxiously darted from side to side, searching for the horses.
It was then in a foggy, distant voice, I heard the chatty girl next to me then say, “There it is! There’s the bridge we have to run over!” and I looked straight ahead and saw this:
No – your eyes are not deceiving you and no, this is not a photoshopped picture. This is the Verrazano Bridge that leads one on and off the island. And our bus was about to cross over it, meaning my only way of getting back to Ocean City was to over and out. I took the intimidating site in, and then gave a silent prayer to the race gods, thanking them intensely for reversing the route of the race this year, because in all other years, this would be the site you had on your radar as you were coming towards the finish, after running 12+ miles…
I also saw two of the wild horses, hanging out on the beach. I didn’t have enough time to capture my own picture of them, but here’s a representative sample of what they looked like:
Here’s what I was hoping to have seen:
Ultimately, those in charge of the race figured out it was taking too long to ship everyone over, and must have organized additional buses and post-poned the start time for a good 15 minutes. Once again, I wound up very much towards the back of the starting group again, and really, really did not want to recapitulate my experience dodging people as I did in the Cherry Blossom 10 miler (see: https://drjintile.wordpress.com/2014/04/07/cherry-blossom-10-miler/)
Fortunately, the crowd was much smaller this time around, and well, I guess there’s just something about beach people that makes them much more laid back and less nutty, so I didn’t have much of a problem making my way through the crowd at a proper pace. Since I started so far back, I wasn’t able to run with my targeted pace group (1 hour 50 minutes), but I decided to try my best and just enjoy things. I still harbored concern the ol’ IT band was going to rear it’s ugly and inflamed head, so I took it easy and settled in.
The route was exceptionally boring – which was surprising as I thought running 13.1 along the beach would be a great sightseeing tour. Unfortunately, once we crossed over the monstrosity that was the Verrazano bridge, the race route pretty much consisted of a highway tour of the suburban beach towns connecting the start from the finish. We detoured twice into residential communities, and it was nice to dream of owning a home that close to the water one day, but over it seriously was one of the most boring runs I’ve ever had. Water stops were plenty, and there was a small, but enthusiastic crowd turn out for the majority of that portion of the race.
After about 11 miles or so, we turned right and headed back towards South Ocean City, and eventually, a little under 12 miles in, crossed over the Route 50 bridge and made our way to the boardwalk. The last mile or so of the race was actually an “out and back” stretch along the boardwalk, with much more crowd support. This of course was a catch-22: more people equals more cheering which is great, but more people equals a lot of clueless people who kind of just walk along the race path with absolute disregard for their surroundings.
During the last 1/4 mile or so, I had what I call my “race mirage”, where I envision what I see as the finish line from a distance, only to realize once I come within about 20 feet that the thing I am staring so intently at is actually NOT the finish line, but something that vaguely resembles a finish line. This time it was a large tire placed outside the Ripley’s Museum on the boardwalk that in my fatigued and dehydrated mind was translated into a 1/2 arch of black balloons indicating the race’s end.
It was then I dug deep and once again prayed to the race gods to give me the strength to finish and kept one thing on my mind to help me make it through:
I knew I could have an orange crush if I made it to the end!
Ultimately, I finished in a decent time of 1:46.46, which I’m happy with considering my training was definitely subpar and I’m still injured.
Following the finish, we headed over to the post-race party down at the inlet, where we were able to enjoy the sun and sand as well as pizza and beer, all before 9:30 am…
Which more than made up for the disorganized start, the freezing cold pre-dawn weather, and the boring race route!
The remainder of the weekend was spent relaxing and doing what we do best: eating and drinking far too much (which is part of the reason why I run so much) and welcoming our newest addition to the Beach Family, our new shark kite named Gawz (pronounced “Jaws”)
Looking forward to returning to Ocean City for Memorial Day weekend, to kick of the summer in the right fashion!