The Cape Cod 50K race website explicitly states, “This race is not for wussies!” Now that I’ve been there and done it for myself, I can wholeheartedly agree. Between the 35 mph winds, the loose sand and the snow drifts, these were definitely the most extreme weather and trail conditions that I have ever raced in! However, it was also one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever run in, and against all odds, I thoroughly enjoyed myself!
The race started at 7:15 a.m., and the air temperature was 30 degrees, which was quite balmy compared to the recent run of single digit highs we’ve been having in NH. However, the second we got out of the car at the beach we were blasted by a fierce, cold wind that had us hunkering in our down jackets and wondering what we had gotten ourselves into! I was glad that I had come prepared with a wind-resistant vest AND jacket just in case, and I put them both on as we lined up at the starting line.
The 50K course consists of two 15.5-mile figure-8 loops, with the start/finish right in the center of the figure-8. The first section of the race was right on the beach, then we ran back to the start on a marsh trail, then we continued away from the start on another marsh trail, then headed back to the start on the beach.
The first section on the beach was pretty easy running because the sand was frozen and firm, though you did have to pick your way through rocky areas at times. You can see how it’s mostly sandy in the above picture, and below–all small rocks.
Mercifully, while we were on the beach we were sheltered by the bluffs, so we had a brief reprieve from the wind. We ran on the beach for about 3 miles, then turned inland and headed back towards where we started on a trail through a marshy area. This part of the course had some snow on it, and it was windier, but it was still pretty easy-going for the most part. We only ran in the marsh for about a mile, then we cut back to the beach and back-tracked to our starting point. This loop was about 5 miles.
We checked in quickly at the aid station (they had a nice heated hut all set up with food and water for us), and then headed out of the parking lot and got onto another marsh trail. This one was much longer–I think we were on it for around 8 miles.
This was BY FAR the hardest part of the course! We started out in an area with lots of sand dunes, so the trail was covered with loose sand mixed with snow. Sometimes the snow/sand drifts were so deep that it was impossible to run through them. It was also very windy for pretty much this entire stretch.
Eventually we did get to a section that was much more run-able because it had been driven on, and the tire tracks were firm. Then there were some gravel-y sections that were also really nice to run on.
The sun peeked out approximately one time during the entire day. 🙂
Near the end of the marsh trail we went through a wooded section, that was much more sheltered, and the bright greens of the trees were so refreshing after seeing nothing by gray and white and brown for so long!
After about 8 miles, we cut back onto the beach and headed towards the aid station at the start/finish. This part of the beach was mostly easy to run on, too, but the big difference was in the wind. We were not nearly as sheltered along this stretch, and the wind was so strong that it was picking up loose sand from the dunes and sand-blasting us with it! There was one point where I had to stop and walk because I couldn’t keep my eyes open! I also experienced the strange sensation of literally having my feet blown out from under me with every step! It seemed to take a very long time to finally get back to the aid station, but I was still feeling pretty good when I got there, so I decided to head out for some more torture and attempt a second loop.
I wasn’t at all sure if my body would hold up for the full 50K–I had only done two long runs prior to this race, the longest one being 20 miles, and I am extremely injury-prone, especially if I don’t very gradually and carefully increase my mileage. So I knew going into this race that I couldn’t afford to force myself to finish at all costs. I had to be smart.
I ended up hitting the wall around mile 19, and by the time I had finished the first loop of the figure-8, I knew that I didn’t have the strength and energy I’d need to face the sand dunes again, so I called it quits at 21.5 miles. I felt pretty bad that I wasn’t able to do the whole thing, especially since I could have won this awesome prize if I had:
Oh well, I’m not sure what I would have done with a deer skull anyways. 🙂 Peter did go on to finish the 50K while Jaime and I sat in the hut and enjoyed our post-race meal (delicious turkey soup!) while talking to the other runners.
All three of us after the race, huddling in our down jackets again. 🙂
Our stats: Peter ended up finishing 3rd out of 20 overall in the 50K with a time of 5:09. I was the first overall woman, out of 8, in the 25K with a time of 2:46 and then went on to run 5 more miles before calling it a day. Jaime was the third overall woman in the 25K with a time 2:54. This is what Peter and I came away with: