I recently had the chance to run on Cape Cod for a week.
The hubs and I traveled there with our two youngest sons and their families to visit my sister and her family for her annual 4th of July bash.
We rented a house 100 yards away from the Cape Cod Canal in Bourne, Massachusetts, about a 10-minute drive from my sister’s house on Buzzards Bay in Pocasset.
The reason we chose this particular house was its proximity to the canal and the Cape Cod Canal Trail.
I have been visiting my sister on the Cape for years. For most of those years, I have searched for a good place to run.
My sister lives on an “island“. I put the word in quotes because the “island” hasn’t been an island for almost 100 years. A long-ago hurricane moved some sand around and turned the island into a peninsula but everyone who lives there still refers to it as an island.
There is a paved road that circles the island which is almost exactly one mile long. The road is lightly traveled and fairly flat, with beautiful water views for its entirety, but running the same one-mile loop over and over quickly gets boring.
There are many rolling country roads near Bourne that travel shaded paths through woods past picturesque ponds and bays with enough dips and turns to make them interesting running routes, but these roads have no shoulders, blind curves, and a fair amount of traffic. When I ran them in the past I felt as though I was in peril.
A few years ago, my brother-in-law suggested we run on the Cape Cod Canal Trail, a 6.5 mile paved path that follows the banks of the Cape Cod Canal. The path is scenic, flat, and easily accessed. Best of all, there is no motorized traffic. It begins at the railroad bridge in Bourne and ends 6.5 miles away in Sagamore.
When we searched for a rental house, I was surprised and pleased to find one that suited our family’s needs within sight of the trail terminus. Bill and I planned to run five of the six full days we were on Cape Cod.
We didn’t get to run on the first morning we were on the Cape. That meant we would have to run five consecutive days to meet our goal. Challenge accepted! I was excited about living so close to a great running location.
The scenery along the canal path is beautiful. There are woods on one side of the path, and views of the water with cormorants, terns, gulls, and ducks on the other. Boats floated by and fishermen (and women) cast their lines in hopes of snagging bluefish.
We began our running week with an easy four-mile out-and-back run on the Canal Trail. We tended to sleep a little bit later on vacation than we do at home, so by the time we ran, the sun was high in the sky. Due to the orientation of the trail, we had to run slightly over a mile before we found shade. We resolved to get up earlier the next day.
The second day we did get up earlier. Prior to traveling, we arranged our training plan so that we were not scheduled to do a long run on the Cape. We decided our longest run there would be six miles and since we got going early, this was the best day to do our six-miler.
At the end of the second run, I noticed that, in addition to the half-mile markers, there seemed to be tick marks painted on the path every quarter-mile. I said something to Bill to see if he noticed the same thing. He responded with a kinder, gentler version of “No kidding!”
The third day, we saw the same woods (again), the same cormorants, terns, gulls, and ducks (again), the same boats (again) and the same fishermen/women (again). In addition, I realized I was anticipating each quarter-mile marker, not a good mindset for a run. I asked Bill if he would mind limiting our run to three miles that day and he readily agreed.
The fourth day I balked at running. The repetitive out and back route was not appealing anymore and I rolled over in bed and tried to go back to sleep. Bill, however, encouraged me to get up and put my running shoes on. I reluctantly dragged myself out of bed and trudged down to the trail.
I dreaded watching for the mile markers, but could not stop myself. “How about a tempo run? ” I suggested. I figured if we were going to run, we may as well get it over with as quickly as possible. We did a quick three-mile tempo run and called it a day.
On our final running day, we needed four miles to achieve a 20-mile week, so I suggested that distance. My legs were tired from the tempo run the day before, the quarter-mile markers still taunted me, and the sun was baking us. I needed some walk breaks just to get through the short run.
I learned that too much of a good thing can still be too much. The Canal Trail was a beautiful place to run, but the repetitive out-and-back runs meant that we saw the same scenery over and over again, twice each morning. Combined with the lack of turns or changes in elevation to break up the monotony, I began dreading our daily run. I need diversity in my running routes and workouts.
I am very happy to be back in the rolling green farmland of Pennsylvania, where I have a variety of routes to choose from, all with different scenery. As it turns out, variety really is the spice of life – running life, that is!