Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The O.C. Challenge Part 2: "Too Hot (in the Hot Tub)

A view from the Ocean City inlet--the turnaround point to start heading north to the Delaware border.

With fresh legs from boardwalk running and the collective energy from the morning exercisers, reaching Ocean City's inlet was a milestone and literal turning point during the O.C. Challenge. I polished off the rest of my NUUN infused water and headed north along the road.

I stopped through the 7-11 as you come across the bridge leading you into Ocean City around 1st Street, where I grabbed a bottle of water and a Snickers Marathon bar (gotta go for the honey/almond flavor), which I ate in the shade in front of the store. Then it was onward, due north.

This may have been the quickest paced part of the trek. Music was cranking, energy was good and not yet sapped by the heat from above and emanating from the pavement, and I found myself counting miniature golf courses, Candy Kitchens, Dumsers Ice Cream joints, and Sunsations stores. Traffic is never dead at the beach and the breakfast crowd was out, but it wasn't the mid-day or evening throng yet.

If you've run at the beach, along Coastal Highway, you know it's as it seems--over-developed, on the grid of numbered streets, colorful, and noisy. My beach runs are generally 50 to 90 minutes, and the road comes after the beach, making me feel faster and push the pace. In this case, the conveniently numbered streets gave me a good sense for where I was on the quest, but also sapped momentum (hitting 70th Street from well south of 1st Street, only to realize you've got 76 more streets to go has its down side!).

As I reached 80th Street, I stopped through a Royal Farms store, grabbed another Snickers Marathon bar and a water that was too big to fit in my Nathan water bottle. Why? I took the remaining water and dumped it straight over my head, much to the amusement of those getting gas there and those at a nearby bus stop, who had seen me go in and out a sweaty wreck :)

I continued north at a respectable clip, though I noticed that I slowed at around 120th Street, just after passing the place we were staying. I knew I could have turned in there, having had a solid 14+ mile run and having run to the inlet and back. I also knew that wasn't the challenge I had set for myself and there was no way that was happening.

A run for the border... the Delaware state line was a welcome sight after running the length of Ocean City along Coastal Highway.

The next 26 or so blocks to Delaware were slow-going. When I hit the border, I was out of water and looked for a stand that had water in their window. It was full of people working, but no one would answer the walk-up window, so I turned and headed to the Fenwick Island beach, waterless, but not far from home, so not overly concerned (just thirsty!).

Hitting the sand again in my running shoes was tough--both physically and psychologically. My slow legs felt slower, the beach was more crowded, it was now solidly above 90 degrees, and I was overheated and thirsty. There was only one course of action as I saw it.

Back to the beach after too much time on the road. that a light at the end of the tunnel? :)

The shoes came off and I carried them in one hand with water bottle in the other the rest of the way, and I ran along the water, with the aftermath of each wave cooling my feet and body temperature and giving me a bit more energy.

Along this stretch of beach, two barefoot, fresh-legged runners passed me and said hello, and the ego in me wanted to pass them back, or at least tell them that if I hadn't already run 17 miles, I'd take em back to 116th, but that isn't too cool, and I sure didn't have the legs to back it up at that point!

I drunk-stumbled to the beach in front of our place, where I saw my cousin napping on the beach, with a line of beach chairs set up for the rest of the clan when they hit the beach. I unloaded belt, camera, ipod, shoes, shirt, hat, and ambled into the ocean, hoping I could withstand the waves. It was the most welcome dip in the ocean or probably any body of water I can recall.

The Ocean City Challenge was complete. The approach was run-about--take my time, refuel, enjoy as much as possible. The 18.29 mile distance doesn't even count as that long a run, but the considerable distance on sand and the heat combined to make it a worthy and difficult challenge. And I enjoy having circumnavigated Ocean City from beach to inlet to Delaware and back to the beach. Something I can enjoy having done as we go back on subsequent trips.

So that challenge is in the books. The beach challenge I really want to knock out though, is the Assateague Ultra. Maybe when it's cooler :)

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