SON OF A BEACH!

Posted: February 16, 2015 by smrtnsasy in Uncategorized
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Race Report:                                                                                                                                                                 Maysville to Macon 50-Mile                                                                                                                           February 7, 2015                                                                                                                                                 Maysville, NC

Another great looking Friday and another road trip to a race greeted me upon awakening on this Friday morning, February 6, 2015. I had a long drive ahead of me that would end in Maysville, NC which would be a little over eight hours away. Leaving on a Friday for a Saturday race is fairly common and usually no trouble. But, this one had a wrinkle in it.

This 50-miler would start at 12:01 a.m. on Saturday morning. That’s one minute after midnight, not the usual starting time of six to eight o’clock with the sunrise. So, I would have to leave very early on Friday morning in order to arrive in Maysville and take care of pre-race details. Very early in this case would be about 4:30 a.m.

I headed out Georgia State Road 138 in the darkness and headed east so I could run into Interstate 20. The interstate would take me to I-95. That would take me to some back roads in North Carolina as I snaked my way to Maysville. Now, I like back roads, and I thoroughly enjoyed finding my way to Maysville through the countryside. It was some more of America the beautiful.

Some organizational problems that were unique to this race because of the starting time added to the need of precision in my schedule. I had to arrive in Maysville and locate the Highway 55 Diner which was on highway 58. Their parking lot would be the starting line location. Next, a motel.

Google gave a motel location eight miles north of Maysville in Pollacksville. None in Maysville. The problem was that the motel in Pollacksville was gutted and not open for business. So, that sent me back to Maysville and on to Jacksonville…fifteen miles south of Maysville. Jacksonville is a significantly larger town, so finding a motel was no problem.

I checked in trying to explain that I may need an extension of the check-out time so I could get back from the finish, get cleaned up and head home. They gave me an hour. I took it. I didn’t think it would be enough. It wasn’t.

Next, I had to eat. That would be “the” meal before the race in about six hours. Also, I had to get gas. So, I put it together and made a trip for gas and food. Gas for $2.11 per gallon and a Big Mac for the meal. I was set.

Back at the motel, I got dressed for the race after checking the hourly temperature forecast. It was going to be cold. I decided to wear pants, windbreaker, and gloves. I would wear a headlamp over my cap.

I had to drive to Emerald Island to park and get a ride back to the start at the diner. The ride was arranged through the race management.   After finding the parking lot, I got my drop bag and climbed into the minivan. Karen Jackson was also there for a ride. She would be the only runner I knew in this race. I had met her in the Last Annual Vol-State Road Race last summer. She is one tough runner, and I figured this ride and time at the diner would be the only time I would see her. Once the race started, she would be gone.

The ride took me and five others to the diner in Maysville. We would wait there for the start. I had a grilled cheese sandwich and hot chocolate about seventy-five minutes before the race. I finalized my preparation for the race as the pre-race meeting told us the vital information we needed to know.

The moon was almost full and threw moonlight over the road as the seventeen entrants gathered in the parking lot for the start. We would run twenty-two miles on the road before we hit the beach. I was not looking forward to running in sand. And, we had about twenty-six miles of the stuff before we ended up running on the road again to the finish at Ft. Macon State Park.

I was last leaving Maysville but felt OK with my pace and effort. As the miles passed, I gradually moved up but still didn’t know my place and really wasn’t worried about it. I just wanted to run efficiently and have something left for the dreaded sand. It was going to be a lot harder to run in the sand than on the road. I was not looking forward to it. In fact, I dreaded it, and that made it a big problem…and I wasn’t even there yet. I tried to be more positive as we got closer to the beach, but it turned out that I just became more positive that I was going to hate it.

I felt good on the road running in my Hoka Cliftons which I was wearing for the first time in a race. And, somewhere up ahead was Karen Jackson running in her sandals. I was leap frogging a couple of runners as one would slow down and then speed back up and the other would intersperse walking breaks in his running. I could see runners up ahead with their headlamps turned on. In the darkness, I could see light circles on the road where the runners’ light beam hit the pavement. This served as a way to judge the distance to those runners, and I could gradually gain ground on them. It worked pretty well. I did not use my light because I could see well enough from the moonlight. Of course, it made me hard to see by the other runners.

We crossed the bridge that put us on Emerald Island. I had come up behind a couple of runners and followed them to the beach access. We entered the beach traversing a small sand dune. The access point was marked by a flashing red light.

The beach was wide and almost flat at this point. I saw this and thought that it was going to be better than I had envisioned. I was wrong. While running the three miles to the first beach checkpoint at which our drop bags were located, the running quickly became what I thought it would be…terrible.

I passed some runners by getting in and out of the aid station quickly. I continued running north on the beach trying to find some harder footing. Most of the time, I would sink into the sand and have to work harder to run slowly.

The sky was black and pinpointed with stars. It was windless. The workers at the previous station told me that it was six miles to the next station. For me, running on the beach made the miles seem twice as long. The six miles turned out to be wrong. It was seven and a half miles. And, it was the same to the next aid station. I was not having fun.

Even though I hated it, I was running OK so far. I was leapfrogging a couple of runners for most of the way. We had a beautiful sunrise as we ran. The headwind I was worried about did not exist. That was one good point.

With about five miles to go, I could feel myself crashing. I blamed the sand and the race director, the son-of-a-beach,…and anyone else I could think of at the moment. I put myself into a run-walk mode to finish this thing. The two runners I was leapfrogging earlier ran away to finish ahead of me. I blamed them also. One was Karen Jackson. I blamed her sandals.

I reached the northern point of the island which curved into a sound. This was Ft. Macon State Park. Naturally, the sand got deeper and softer. We had to punch our race numbers at two points in this area so we could prove that we ran this section on course. The finish was just to our left across the dunes, but we had to run the long way around. Thus, the two check points.

Running along the beach. Photo taken by Susan Scott.

Running along the beach. Photo taken by Susan Scott.

I was running slowly around the bend looking for the beach departure point. That would put me back on roads and make me a little happier. Still tired, still crashed, still burned, but still moving forward. I hit the pavement running, albeit very slowly. From there, it was one and six tenths miles to the finish. I felt like I could make it at that point. But, I still wasn’t sure.

I pushed it on in and ran into a parking lot at the fort. The time was a not-so-blazing 10:53:16.09 for seventh place overall. At that point, I would take it and be happy with it. I was just glad to have the beach behind me.

I sat in the nearest chair, received my unique finisher’s award and the shirt. The award was a fruit jar filled with samples of the surfaces we ran upon. They were layered starting with sand, dirt, and then chunks of asphalt on top. Like I said…unique. I drank a cup of Dr. Pepper, had some conversation, and then got my ride back to the parking lot where my truck was parked and I had started this adventure.

But, it wasn’t over. After arriving at the parking lot, I fished my key from my pocket to unlock the door. That’s when I found out I had a flat tire on the left rear. Just what I wanted after running 50-miles through the night and struggling for twenty-six miles of that in sand. Son-of-a-beach!

The flat tire was a reminder of last summer’s Last Annual Vol-State Road Race. I had finished that race of 314 miles and then walked back to the parking lot which was, maybe, three-quarters of a mile from the finish. At the truck, I found I had a flat tire. So, time and effort was spent changing the tire. Son-of-a-beach!

(Richard Westbrook)

Comments
  1. David Warady says:

    GREAT story!!!!! Richard, you wont believe it but Jesse Riley and I each drove 1000 miles to crew and support the RaceAcrossUSA 2015 group. 12 runners started, 8 are remaining. We met them in Springerville, AZ and started crewing on their stage at the AZ/NM border. We are out helping forr 5 days. You should come out and help too.

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