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July 21, 2012

Race Report: The Cape Cod 5k Championship

The name of the race provides a level of hype that the event couldn't hope to live up to.  Still, the Cape Cod 5k Championship brought with it a lot of drama.  While it is essentially a library fundraiser, it would also prove to be (thus far) the race of my life.  No mere race recap could truly capture all the triumph, tragedy, elation and angst of my experiences with the race.

For the past 32 years, the tiny village of Osterville, MA has hosted a road race to benefit its "Free Library."

 My wife and I would take part in the 33rd event.  Don't know much about Osterville? According to Wikipedia,
"Osterville is one of the seven villages within the Town of Barnstable, Massachusetts. The village of Osterville is located on the south side of Barnstable on Nantucket Sound. Osterville is primarily a residential community that includes marshes, bays, ponds, a small lake, beaches,and a small business district.
Osterville was originally named Cotacheset, based on the native American name for the area. Over time it became a center for "oystering" (harvesting wild oysters) and was renamed Oysterville. Later a map misspelled the name as Osterville and the village became so."
So, that was interesting.  Of course, during the race, we did not encounter Osterville's most famous tax payer: Bob Vila.

I am neither a tax payer nor resident of Osterville.  In fact, I don't live on Cape Cod, nor in Massachusetts. So why were we running this race?

For the past 8 years, we have vacationed on the Cape.  For the previous 5 years, I have ran a race, and really enjoyed it as part of my vacation.  This year, we went about 2 weeks earlier, and I was worried my streak would end.  Instead, I found what seemed like an epic event: the Cape Cod 5k Championship.  It was only until reading more about the event that I realized the small scale of it.  Which to me, was great.

Since my last race, I had made it my goal to get faster.  I was going to run a sub-25 5k before I did anything else.  I ran exactly a 25:00 5k in my very first race, in 2005.  Since then, I had only felt slower until 2011.  Something was improving, and I got PRs and good times in nearly all the races I had run in the previous 12 months.  What I liked most about running on the Cape was that, usually, you got some cool breezes off the water.  This seemed like a great opportunity for me to PR, as it was an early morning race, along the water, on an advertised flat course (the entire course is nearly at sea level). Therefore, we both registered online for the race on July 2 (the day AFTER a registration included a free t-shirt).  Really, the only drawback was that we had to wake up at 5:45 on a Saturday, during our vacation, to get there with plenty of time before the race.

At least, that was the only foreseeable problem.

Little did we know, but issues began about 12 hours before the race began.  That was when dinner ended.  Things seemed to progress properly throughout the evening, as we both went to bed fairly early (by 10:15), and we thought we were ready.  Actually, it was a little weird.  Everyone in the house wished us luck, and they were all in bed by then...or so we thought.

I couldn't fall right to sleep.  My mind was racing, and I couldn't get comfortable. That wasn't the worst of it.

At about 10:45 was the first time I heard the footsteps in the hallway outside our door.  Then the light to the bathroom across the hall was on 5 minutes later.  Cabinets opened and closed in the kitchen.  This continued for the next hour and a half.  I couldn't sleep, despite the fact that my wife was out cold.  Then, things got weird.

The lights in the living room went on (I could see it from our room).  Then, I heard the front door open, the front light went on (the blinds and windows were open slightly, as it was a cool night), and then I saw my father-in-law (we share the house) get in his car and drive off.  My assumption, he couldn't sleep either.  Twenty-five minutes later, he came back.  I heard the front door close, but the light didn't go out.  Then, I heard cabinets opening in the kitchen, and what I thought was a freshly opened soda.  I was completely baffled by all of this, and the light was still on, so I pulled the pillow over my head, and willed myself to sleep.

I don't know when it came, but at 2, my wife was up, which meant I would be, too.
"It's kind of bright in here," she said.
"That's because the light is on outside."
"Why is it on?" she asked.
"Because your dad went out at 12:15, for some reason, drove around for half an hour, and came back.  When he got back, he left it on, and made a ruckus in the kitchen.  I don't think he could sleep.  I know I couldn't."
That's when she got up to go to the bathroom.  Since I was up again, I went, to go as well.  I waited in the hallway, and the lights in the living room we still on.  I went over to turn off the front light, and noticed the door was still ajar. She came out, puzzled.  We puzzled together.  What should we do?  This was unprecedented.  I decided, I was going back to bed.  I almost got to the door, when I heard the voice.  Her dad talking to her from the sun  room.  This was officially really weird.  Still, I got back to sleep, and she did not.

When the alarm went off, we got ready quickly.  Things were going smoothly until just before we were to leave.  I went to the bathroom, and I heard the baby cry.  We were NOT going to make a smooth getaway from the kids.  My father in law took the baby, since he was up...and we got the real story.  Apparently, mMiL wasn't feeling well, and couldn't sleep.  He went out for ginger ale and saltines.  Why he left the light on and door open is still a mystery.  Then we left for the race...

...and I immediately had to use the bathroom.  So, about halfway to the race, we stopped.  Then, we started to take some backroads (technically state highways, and main thoroughfares through the Cape villages) to the heart of the race.  About 5 miles from it, a cop pulled in behind me...on a road with a 25 mph speed limit.  I creaked to about 24.9...all the way to the race (INFURIATING).  We got to our destination, and the officer closed the road behind us; he was working the race.

Parking, however, was a breeze.  The Osterville Community Center had a nice little field, and everyone could park in it.  We ran off to get our packets with about 45 minutes until the race began, thinking there was plenty of time.

Stacey checked in, and they gave her her number.  I checked in...and they had nothing.  NOTHING.  No record of me existed for the Cape Cod 5k Championship, 2012.  So, calmly (at least in my head I was calm), I explained that I had registered online, in the same transaction as my wife's registration.  I was sent to one of the race directors.  She had me fill out a registration, and come back to her.  When I made it back, she wasn't at the table.  I had to wait 5 minutes before she returned, said "He's fine," and I got my race bib.  The entire registration "process" took about 25 minutes, and I frantically searched for a bathroom.  It was nearing start time.

I asked, and was told it was right around the corner, back in the community center building.  We walked around the corner to see a long line...of women.  YES!  First thing that went right! There were two lines, and the men's room line was predictably short.  It took about 10 minutes to go through, while women barely progressed.  By the time I got into the bathroom, I had ten minutes to the start.  Only the stall was open, so I took it.

I went to close the door, and it wouldn't.  The door was broken, and did not close, let alone lock.  So, in the brief amount of time I was in there, it led to several embarrassing exchanges. In under a minute, 3 strangers walked in on me.  One berated me for not locking the door.  I shouted back, "Hey buddy, it doesn't even close! Thanks for the advice!"  Then, when I got out, there was only one working sink, so it took me a few minutes to get my hands washed.  When I exited the community center, there were 5 minutes or so to the start.  Luckily, the kids 1 mile run was running late, and we got a few more minutes.

I kissed my wife goodbye, we took our places in line, and waited for the race to start.  Of course, 8:00 AM came and went, and the race did not start.  But, we were in the shade, and it was cool (around 62-63), and so I just tried to find somebody to pace off of.  I looked to my right, and saw two guys with mullet wigs, American flag fanny packs, and stars and stripes shorts.  They wouldn't do.  I looked to my left, and saw a father and his 9 year old daughter, and him telling her to just stay with him as long as she could.  They wouldn't do either.  Then, I spotted my mark.  About 55, perfectly trim and fit, about 6'2" of wiry muscle.  He was my perfect mark.  Despite all my angst leading up to the start, I had found the guy who would pace me to a long as I didn't have to go to the bathroom...again.

And BAM, before I fully understood that he was my mark, the race started.  No warning.  Rude.

I scrambled to start my iPod and get my earbuds in, and I did my best to remain calm at the start, and settle into a nice cadence just off the old man's inside shoulder.

What I noticed during the race was the town was idyllic New England/Cape Cod.  Really, every old house we passed could've been in a postcard.  The road was soft, flat, and stretched in a straight line for a long time.  There was a cool breeze.  It was a good day to run.  And my breathing was ragged.

Still, I kept my eyes on the prize, and followed the old man in his green headband and black t-shirt.  Before I knew it, we were rounding the 2nd turn, down by Nantucket Sound...which meant we had already run a mile plus.  There had not been a mile marker.  There had not been a water stop.  Nothing.  All I knew had been from mapping the route before hand.  And the man started to pull away.  My hopes of PRing were pulling away, so I just tried to keep up the pace I was running, and get myself in gear.

As we took the 3rd turn, I knew we were at the 2 mile mark, and I had not slowed down.  People passed me, and that was fine, but I had not slowed down.  We were starting the ascent (less than 50 vertical feet over more than a, not really a hill), and I had not slowed down.  People kept passing me, but I did not slow down.  Past a country club, and some beautiful homes, and on I ran, and ran, and decided, whatever the finish, even though my PR had slipped away, I was really enjoying the race.

Finally, I caught sight of the Community Center field in the distance, and thought: "Oh wait, I'm really close.  What's happening?!"  I checked my watch.  It hadn't been 22 minutes yet.  The little girl and her dad passed me, and I decided to go with them.

We approached the final turn, and as I came around, the finish line was right there.  I mean: it. was. right. there. And the clock I saw the clock tick from 23:59 to 24:00 as I rounded the corner.  The 9 year old girl was rapidly approaching the line, and I just booked it the last 150-200 meters (or, moved faster than I had).  What was happening?!

As I crossed the line, I saw 24:28 or 24:29, and absolutely could not believe it.  My only hope, since there were no chips, was that my time wouldn't get screwed some how.  It's sad.  This was my first thought.  Then I thought, WAIT, I DID IT...I ran faster than I had in my entire adult life, and I didn't even realize I was doing it.

Feeling proud of myself, I jogged back around the corner, to wait and watch my bride finish her race.  I was really proud of her.  She ran the whole thing.  Stace is a swimmer, and runs sparingly (even though she could be great [she is a MUCH better runner than I am a swimmer, that is for sure]).

I found her at the finish, congratulated her, and she asked how I did.

"I did it; 24:29, I think."

Officially, it was a 24:28, even if they spelled my last name wrong.  I was almost in the top 25% of racers. It was basically the exact opposite of the 100 degree day, I ran a "5k" as a training run as part of the X-Treme Scramble (Um, it was nearly 4 miles, after they changed the course to make it "easier" due to the heat wave, but they didn't adjust the timing/paces, because it happened so late), exactly one month prior to this race.

So, though this was a small race (442 finishers), in a village, it was pretty good.  It was by no means a Championship of any kind, but I like the way it hyped itself.  Seriously, by giving itself the name Cape Cod 5k Championship, this race had given itself some pro wrestling level hype.  The weather and course were perfect.  The organizers were helpful.  The post race food...well, it was 8:30 AM, and though I wanted a post-race burger and beer (my absolute favorite thing about Cape races are the BBQ atmosphere at all the finishes, thus far...from Falmouth, to the Brew Run, to the CCIP Race in Harwich) I knew it wasn't happening. However, the watermelon, bagel, and banana were delicious.

Honestly, the lost registration, lack of sleep, and constant need to go to the bathroom were annoying, but running my PR and the race conditions did everything to turn this into a race to remember.

...And THAT is what I did on my Summer Vacation.


S July 30, 2012 at 10:16 PM  

I still want to know why the door was open (stupid mysteries).

Also, if I ever create my own 5k, I think I'd like to name it something like "Exploding Universe 5k Fun Run Olympics." Because, you know, only 2 people would run it.

C July 30, 2012 at 11:22 PM  

Where can I sign up for that?!

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