Extra Points: There’s No Escaping This Year
If I want to escape the Cape this year, I'll have to use my car.
Race Director Steve Del Monte announced earlier this week that the eighth annual Escape the Cape Triathlon will not be held on Aug. 30 and will instead be moved to June 6, 2021.
It was the right move.
The event had already been postponed once, from June 14 to Aug. 30, due to coronavirus concerns. Squeezing 1,600 competitors onto the Cape May-Lewes Ferry simply was not possible.
A few days ago, Delmonte and his DelMo Sports team floated the idea of a hybrid race. Athletes who had not already deferred to next year or 2022 would have the option of solely jumping off the ferry and swimming ashore, or doing the swim and completing the bike and run legs virtually, meaning at home and at their own discretion.
Depending on the level of interest, DelMo planned to use one, two or three boats for the event with anywhere from 400 to 600 athletes aboard in accordance with the regulations.
Approximately 90 percent of the competitors decided against taking the leap, prompting Del Monte to cancel the event entirely and offering athletes the opportunity to defer to 2021 or 2022.
I was among those who opted out.
My nay vote had nothing to do with safety concerns. I have no doubt that DelMo Sports would have been able to pull off the swim safely, assuring that everyone maintaining social distance and wearing masks that would be discarded just before taking that 14-foot plunge into the Delaware Bay.
Well, I was mildly worried. Having done a few SUP sessions in the Bay this summer, I was well aware that as the water got warmer, the jellyfish population had increased. Although a wetsuit would help provide protection, my arms and face would be prime target for those tentacles.
But I voted no for other reasons.
Participating in the Escape the Cape - this would have been my sixth straight race - is about much more than jumping off the ferry. While the start of the race is certainly unique, it's other factors that make it such a special race for me.
The electric atmosphere is unmatched. It starts the day before the event, when you climb the stairs with athletes from all over the country inside the Ferry terminal to check in and receive your race packet, then scan the rows of bike racks to park your bike at your assigned spot.
Afterward, I always venture over the to the race expo, where vendors line the lawn offering everything from cool goggles to massages to beer. On the stage, a giant screen shows highlights of previous Escapes while music blares before Del Monte grabs the microphone to go over rules and regulation and to answer questions from newbies who are clearly nervous about making that jump.
Then there's race day.
Mine starts with a bagel and 20-ounce coffee from Wawa en route to the Ferry terminal at around 5 a.m., followed by parading on the red carpet onto the boat along with Ruth Brant, Edward Gibbons, Laura Nelson, Jehovanny Nunez and other friends.
Indeed, the swim is an awesome part of the event, but my favorite part is the bike leg. The route takes me past my son Kyle's and daughter-in-law Ashley's house along the canal, where grandsons Hampton and Graham are waiting to see Poppy pedal past them. One year they hung a giant sign that read, "Go Poppy!" prompting cheers from other cyclists and tears from yours truly.
And then there's the run, which includes three, calf-melting segments through soft sand. I usually walk those parts, breaking into a run only when the race photographer is nearby. The run also takes us past Harpoon's, where friends and family shout encouragement while enjoying a mimosas. My wife Karen is always waiting for me at the finish line with a hug, kiss and bottle of water.
Those are experiences that a hybrid or virtual race can't duplicate, which is why I chose to wait until next year in hopes the world will have some sense of normalcy.
In the meantime, I'm doing the Atlantic City Triathlon virtual race within the next two weeks in Cape
May, including a quarter-mile swim in the ocean.
Note to the people taking a dolphin/whale watching cruise in the next few days: that's not a dolphin or whale you're seeing; it's me in my wetsuit.