Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Humble Pie and a Fat Lip

Humble pie and a fat lip - That’s what I got served at the 77th Annual Cape Ann 25k Road Race this past weekend.

The humble pie was on the menu due in large part to the difficulty of this course. In a word, this 25k is “relentless” - just constantly up or down. And, its only flat parts are highly exposed to the wind and the brutal late-summer sun. The fat lip portion of the day was due to the very untimely demise of a bee in my mouth. More on that later …

My goals for this race were pretty simple. Try to hold my marathon goal pace (6:50) for the entire 15.5 miles. If I was having a good day, I’d try to pick it up at half way and go for my course PR (6:45 pace) and if I was having a bad day I’d try to hold it together and limp in (7:00 pace). I’d run this race 4 times previously with varying degrees of success. My best effort was a 1:45 flat in 2004 and my worst run here was pathetic 2:03:09 in 2002.

The pre-race portion of this event was quite enjoyable. The ride from Nashua to Gloucester was a quick 55 minute affair – door to door. Number pick-up was a snap and I even got to enjoy a few moments with some old friends from my “North Shore Striders” days. Including good folks like: Mike Page, George Geis, Joe Shairs, Dave Sullivan, John Gillis, Mike Pelletier, Rich Tabbut, Neil Bernstein & John Ayers (who ended up having an excellent run himself).

The race that followed was somewhat less enjoyable. The first few miles started out OK, I guess. I just worked on rolling through the early hills and getting settled into 7:00 min/mile pace (or slightly faster). After mile three (and for the next 6 miles) the hills get a bit bigger and bit more frequent. My plan was to try and hold steady until the monster hill coming out of Rockport (Mile 9) then try to press on the accelerator from there on out.
Unfortunately, once I got to the top of the Mile 9 hill I couldn’t shift into top gear. Even though the course flattened a bit and headed back down towards the sea, my legs just weren’t turning over like I hoped they would at this point in the race. I tried hanging on to the runners I was with, but it was no use and I started to slip back a bit. Then, right about the time I was realizing that this wouldn’t be my day afterall , I got a little insult to go with my injured psyche.

Just before the Mile 12 water stop a bee came out of nowhere and stung me right on my upper lip. Actually, he landed in my mouth. But, a quick swipe of my hand saved me from a nastier sting on the tongue. Shocked at what had just happened, I nearly came to a complete stop. What the heck! I couldn’t believe a frigging bee had just stung me in my friggin lip! At the nearby water stop I tried to collect myself. Unfortunately this proved to be difficult, because my lip was already starting to swell to three times its normal size - to the point at which it was actually a challenge to drink a cup of water!

Later, when it felt as if half the field had passed me, I started running again. But, it was too late. I’d lost whatever trace of momentum I’d had and just mentally packed it in. So, the last 3.5 miles (in let’s just get this thing over with mode) were long and brutal. This part of the course runs through some of the grittier sections of Gloucester. And, what doesn’t smell like fish smells much, much worse. Additionally, there’s the little matter of the “wall” on Cherry Street. A short (but not too distant) cousin to its namesake on Mount Washington. Not quite hand over hand, but after 15 crappy miles, it certainly feels like it. After that, it was a semi-sprint to the tape and my day was thankfully over.

Splits – Cape Ann 25k: 6:53, 6:51, 6:56, 6:54, 6:50, 7:05, 6:42, 7:05, 7:04, 7:03, 6:51, 7:58 (bee), 7:15, 7:28, 7:35, 3:39 = 1:49:53 (7:05) The Final Results showed I was well short of my course PR (by almost 5 full minutes), I was 12th Master, and only managed to finish in 63rd place overall. A real north shore “bee”-ting! In reality, however, the bee sting wasn’t the reason I ran a bad race. In the moments before I got stung, I knew I wasn’t going to be able to run the kind of time I wanted and I was looking for an excuse to call it a day. And, for better or worse, the bee became just that.

The bottom line is that I survived Cape Ann. Unfortunately, I’d hoped (and expected) to do a heck of a lot more than just that here. I’d planned this race to be my marathon “dress rehearsal” and in the end, this emperor had little (to no) clothing. Hopefully, sometime within the next 3 weeks, I’ll be able to find something suitable to wear (and maybe find a little more mental toughness) before Clarence Demar. Otherwise it’s going to be a long, lonely road to Keene!

Complete results can be found on Coolrunning here.

And, some great photos of the race can be found here.


  1. Must.See.Fat.Lip. Laughing.My.Ass.Off!!!

    Sorry you didn't place well will BEE better next time.

  2. Tell me who you are and I'll e-mail you the pix. :)

  3. it's your sister...

  4. Duh. I guess the "bro" should have given that away. I've got the pictures that Jo took on the camera at home. I'll send them to you tonight.