Badwater: Cape Fear 51 Miler
Badwater Cape Fear 2017
March 18, 2017
Bald Head Island, NC
Never Take a Red-eye before a race!
I had trouble sleeping on the red-eye flight because as soon as I would get into a deep slumber, there’d be some stupid pilot or flight attendant announcement. And, I was stuck in a middle seat. I couldn’t find a comfortable position. I tried sleeping upright. I tried slouching way down. I tried lying on my side. I tried laying my forehead down on the tray table. Nope. Wasn’t gonna work.
Anyway, I arrived in Charlotte at about six in the morning local time which was three AM California time. I sleepwalked to a store to buy some breakfast foods. Before I knew it, I was on the plane to Wilmington, North Carolina. I quickly picked up my rental car and made the 40 minute drive to the big parking lot to take the ferry over to Bald Head Island.
I called the management company to see if I could check in early and they were able to accommodate me. I arrived on the island around 11 am, feeling really out of sorts. As soon as I got to my cottage, I laid down under the covers as if it was nighttime. I had about four hours before the race check-in.
I was able to get some decent sleep and then a warm shower to clean off the grime from traveling. I jumped in the golf cart and enjoyed the nice but chilly ride to the check-in area. It was cool seeing so many familiar faces that I’ve seen at other Badwater races over the years. Most of us knew of each other but did not necessarily truly know each other personally.
The race director, Chris Kostman welcomed me with a nice hug and said ”It’s good to have you back Russ”. I took last year off from this race and the big Badwater. This year I would attack the Badwater Cup again. This meant I would do all three of the races in the series: Badwater: Cape Fear; Badwater: Salton Sea ending with the granddaddy Badwater Ultramarathon in July.
After check-in, I went to the social mixer at a shop down the road. I met some new friends and reconnected with some old ones. I then drove the golf cart down to MoJo’s where they were having a prerace pasta dinner. I ate too much of some delicious spaghetti and meatballs. I told myself to go easy for fear of possible problems during the race tomorrow. It was a challenge because the food tasted so darn good. I had dinner with a stud 51-year-old duathlete who actually was 10th in his age group at the World Duathlon championships last year. He was just taking the plunge into the world of ultramarathons. This race would be his first stab at an event longer than a marathon. He asked me a lot of questions and was absorbing everything I told him.
I then returned to my cottage, chilled out little bit then turned out the lights around 9:30 pm. Interestingly, I fell asleep easily but kept waking up. This cycle would continue until morning. I couldn’t tell if I was well-rested or if I was in an overtired shock state.
When it was time to get up and get moving, I actually felt pretty good. Mentally I was on fire and ready to attack the race. I stepped outside and noticed that it wasn’t as chilly as I expected. I was so relieved to not have to take warm clothing. After a small breakfast of a Power Bar, some yogurt, some nuts and a banana, I drove the golf cart the half-mile to the race start. I felt guilty driving such a short distance. I just knew I’d be happy to have the cart waiting for me after the race which would allow me not to have to walk as much after the 51 mile race.
I arrived around 30 minutes before the start. I found a spot in the front row. I looked forward to getting on our way. I sensed that I would have another solid race. Two years ago I crushed this course finishing in eight hours and 20 minutes which was way ahead of my expected time. As I’m always trying to improve myself, my goal this year was of course to beat that time.
Soon we were off. I settled into a very comfortable pace that I would say was around 8:30 per mile. I noticed that I was in eighth place cruising along virtually effortlessly until around mile 18. Then, I started feeling kinda rough. At the end of the first of four eight-mile “out and back” slogs, I was starting to drag a little bit. At the end of the second eight mile stretch, I was really hurting. It was here that I finally realized that I simply had not been eating enough and that I needed way more calories. Because it was so important, I actually sat down and took in about 1000 cal. Within about 30 minutes I was back to feeling strong again. I had mixed feelings: I was mad at myself for allowing me to get in this position. I had made a stupid rookie mistake. But, I was able to recognize my situation and make excellent in-race adjustments like a seasoned veteran. From mile 37 to mile 42, I was really cruising. We enjoyed a nice tailwind on the “out” sections. I knew though that on the return “back” section, I would have to fight a killer headwind. The coastal wind had really cranked up by this time of the afternoon. Sand was blowing across my feet. I called it “North Carolina snow.” Also, the tide was coming in forcing us to run on soft sand much of this section. It was hard to get into a groove.
Knowing that I was on the home stretch, I gave it my all! I re-passed a couple Badwater veterans that had passed me when I was feeling poorly. I told myself to “empty the tank.” I kept peeking at my watch, striving hard to finish under nine hours. I actually wasn’t too disappointed that I wouldn’t beat my time from two years ago. I knew that I was still going to finish very high in the standings. Though I’m sure it wasn’t the case, I felt as if I was doing sub eight minute miles for the last five miles.
I ended up in 19th place out of 105 starters. My time was eight hours and 53 minutes which was 34 minutes slower than my goal time. I felt very fresh after crossing the finish line. I didn’t know if that was a good thing or a bad thing. I was happy I felt so fresh but frustrated that perhaps I didn’t push myself as hard as I could’ve when I wasn’t feeling well earlier in the race.
Anyway, all in all I was very satisfied. There is no question that I felt the effects of having taken the red eye flight two nights before the race. As we all know, the sleep one gets two nights before race is way more important than the sleep one gets the night before the race.
I had a couple pieces of veggie pizza and mingled around watching other people come in. I considered running the 3 ½ miles back to my golf cart which was at the starting line. Because I was chilly, hungry and sleep deprived, I thought it probably wasn’t a good idea. I did want to take a chance on getting sick by overextending myself with these circumstances. I bummed a ride from some of my Badwater friends. In a funny twist, the battery in their golf cart died forcing me to have to get out and push the golf cart a little bit. I did have to run a little bit back to my cart and it felt really good to do so. My legs weren’t sore at all and I didn’t get winded.
Back at the cottage, I enjoyed a soothing 30 minute warm shower sitting down in the shower stall. I watched a little bit of the NCAA March madness basketball tournament. I then walked the quarter-mile down to MoJo’s for my celebratory post race dinner. Two years ago I had the most delicious 16 ounce rib eye steak of my life. I had been thinking about doing it again throughout the whole race.
I took a seat at the bar and ordered the exact same thing. The bartender brought me an amber ale and I guzzled about half of it because I was so thirsty. Almost immediately, I felt a whoosh of lightheaded buzz. I told myself,”Slowdown soldier!” I had to get some food in my stomach before I had anymore alcohol. I devoured a big Caesar salad. Two different parties of North Carolinians/locals sat down on each side of me. When they learned that I had done the race, they curiously peppered me with fun questions. They couldn’t believe that I had run 51 miles and in under nine hours. I really enjoyed talking to these people. I loved their Southern charm. The woman on my left married the son of the founder of a national underwear company. I could tell she was dripping with money. On my right, was the owner of a successful construction company who was on the island for a weekend of relaxation with his girlfriend. He was a former champion water skier of all things. He respected the discipline it takes to compete in ultramarathons.
My last steak at this place was the best I had ever had. But, today’s was even better. I savored every juicy bite. With food in my tummy, I had a second beer. By now I was feeling a little goosy. I was probably legally drunk. I said goodbye to my new friends then staggered back to my cottage. Good thing I didn’t drive the short distance or I would’ve risked getting a DUI while driving a golf cart! This had been a really, really fun day.
I watched some more college basketball then turned out the lights around 11 PM. I slept pretty well but of course woke up with a very uncomfortable headache. I guess this is what a hangover feels like I told myself.
I had breakfast in my cottage then took the 10:30 ferry back over to the mainland in Southport, NC. As the island shrunk in the distance, I realized I had now had two very positive experiences here. I was a little sad to leave but more so I was looking forward to getting back to be with my family.
Back at the airport I got some lunch then actually was able to catch about a 20 minute nap having arrived at the airport with plenty of time, before heading over to Charlotte then back to San Diego. Diane and the girls picked me up right on time and whisked me back to the homestead. What a wonderful few days I had. Now back to the grind…