On Your Mark…
IN AN article last year, we referred to Cape May as exercise island, because you can barely throw a Frisbee in this town without hitting a biker/runner/speed walker/ person waiting for Hot Dog Tommy’s. (We’ve seen you jogging to get in line for potato tornadoes, so it counts). But this summer, that phrase takes on new meaning. We’ve had advertisements come across our desks for the usual suspects (turkey trots, turtle runs, glow runs, elementary school triathlons, the Cape May Point Five Miler, the Great Cape May Footrace, the Beachfront Run, the Ocean Drive Marathon), but also for some new, very wild events.
We’re referring, firstly, to the first-ever Escape the Cape, an umbrella term for the three competitions that took place last Sunday, when 827 people launched themselves from the Cape May Lewes Ferry into the Delaware Bay for the first leg of The Sprint Triathlon (a .35 mile swim, 10-mile bike, and 5k run), the International Triathlon (a one-mile swim, 20-mile bike, and five-mile run), or the International Aquabike (one-mile swim and 20-mile bike).
Event organizer Stephen Del Monte of DelMo Sports, Inc. says there was a 20 percent no-show rate — a standard for endurance events such as this, where registration happens far in advance and training often leads to injuries — but that everyone who made it on to the boats did take the leap. A surprising fact when you consider the drop (approximately 12 feet from ship to water), and a not-so-surprising fact when you consider Stephen had a certified sports psychologist on deck to help cold-footed athletes find their confidence.
“I had a vision in my head of how this event would go,” Stephen told us. “What it would look like as people arrived, as the boat pulled away, as the sun was shining… and it exceeded all of my expectations. This is the most successful inaugural event in triathlon history.”
The proof of this last point is in the surveys Stephen sent out to all participants at 6am the day following the race. By 2:30pm, 400 people had already responded. To the question ‘Would you do this race again?’ — with the possible answers being ‘absolutely,’ ‘maybe,’ ‘unlikely,’ or ‘hell no’ — 85 percent responded with absolutely, and 97 percent with absolutely or maybe.
“I believe that Lower Township will eventually be marketing its tourism for the year around this race,” Stephen said. “I know that sounds crazy, but we just had nearly a thousand people jump off a boat yesterday, and that sounded crazy at first, too. And why wouldn’t we do this in Lower Township? I believe we have more to offer here than anywhere else.”
It’s largely this enthusiasm — coupled with the troubleshooting of a very prepared staff — that has left so many of the athletes raving about their experience.
Among them is Joe Caruso, a local importer of wine and the guy who took first in his division — men aged 40-45 — and 20th overall in the International Triathalon. “Stephen had everything so tight,” he said. “Everything was just perfect.”
So perfect that when the boat needed repositioning several times because of troublesome currents, leaving some of the athletes onboard — and in the heat — for an hour-and-a-half longer than anticipated, the wait didn’t feel so bad. “Stephen thought to bring bins of ice onboard,” Joe said, “to pour down the backs of athletes’ necks before jumping into the water.”
But even more than the preparedness level, it was the energy at the starting line that has Joe thinking Escape the Cape will be a “bucket list” race for the country’s best athletes and “the most important race on the east coast” before too long. And he should know. He’s run 30 major races, including an Ironman (that’s a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike, and a marathon, for those of you non-superhuman Cape Mayans).
“It has all the elements,” Joe said. “The course is beautiful, and it does put you to the test. This kind of thing allows people to find courage they didn’t know they had. Escape from Alcatraz is a well-known race with a similar concept, but Escape the Cape involves a bigger boat, a bigger jump, even a greater threat of sharks, which I’m sure enters everyone’s minds at some point.”
As for how it feels to come out number one? “I’m an above average performer with average tools,” Joe said. “I wanted to make sure I won for the local community, and I’ve learned from it. I’ve learned that my goal — qualifying for the Kona Ironman in Hawaii one day — may not be such a pipe dream after all.”
Joe wasn’t the only big dreamer to cross the finish line this day. Enter 31-year-old Jason Malick, an Avalon-based Escape the Cape finisher who is planning to swim across the Delaware Bay at some point this summer.
He, along with three others and a support crew, tackled the feat in 2011 as a 10-year anniversary tribute to the victims of 9/11. Unfortunately, due to wicked currents and dehydration-related cramping, only Lelane Rossouw-Bancroft of Delaware made it, a triumph that took 10 hours. Last Saturday morning, the group was poised to try again, but strong winds made for too-choppy seas, and they had to postpone until a later date, to be determined based on weather and tides.
As the crow flies, the distance from Sunset Beach to Delaware is 11.4 miles, but the precise location of the finish line isn’t set, as currents will shift the swimmers. No matter the exact distance, this constitutes a marathon swim, and as such, participants will not be allowed to so much as touch the Coast Guard Auxiliary boats that will be part of their support crew en route without technical disqualification, or to wear any type of wetsuit. “It’s okay,” Jason told us, “I don’t tend to get cold. I’m 230 pounds; I’m not a little guy.”
It’s a feat that’s been accomplished before, first by a Philadelphia banker named Charles Durborow in 1912 then by Paul Timmons in 2007. So why would anyone else want to replicate it? “There’s something euphoric about being immersed in nature,” Jason said, “about being one with the elements.”
We’ll keep you posted on the swim, Cape May. In the meantime, be sure to check out shoreswim.com, which details the competitive swim around the Cape spearheaded by Jason that’s happening on September 14.
And no matter what kind of athletic goal you’ve set for yourself this summer, be grateful that you’re working toward it on Exercise, we mean Cape, Island.
IT MAY be the area’s least-listened to radio station. After all it’s on the AM band, a potpourri of tinny music from 50 years ago, yelling preachers, static, Radio Disney, Phillies games and signals from New York, Baltimore and far, far away after dark.
Cape May’s tourist information radio station, AM 1700-WQEL630, is about to return to the airwaves. It’s off the air until all repairs are completed on the Madison Avenue Water Tower.
What does the water tower have to do with a low-power radio station? Its antenna was once located there.
The station provides a repeating five-minute audio loop of events and activities in Cape May, as well as information about parking meters and beach tags. In the past, parades and the annual Halloween celebration were promoted on the station.
AM 1700 has been an on-and-off affair, according to City Manager Bruce MacLeod. Originally, the station was operated by staff at 98.7-The Coast from their former studios on Pacific Avenue in Wildwood.
Former Coastal Broadcasting owner Bill Huf was integral in putting AM 1700 on the air, said MacLeod, and his his dulcet tones will return when the transmitter is turned on once again.
AM 1700 went off the air when 98.7 and its sister station were sold to new owners and their studios moved to Rio Grande. A studio to transmitter phone line from Coastal Broadcasting’s Wildwood studio to a Wildwood Crest antenna was disconnected.
“It took us about 18 months to get Verizon to relocate that phone line to City Hall,” said MacLeod.
AM 1700 went off the air last fall when its antenna was removed from the water tower.
Plans call for the station to return to the airwaves no later than early July when the water tower project, including a paint job, is concluded.
Signs at all entrances to Cape May invite motorists to tune into AM 1700 for tourist information. The radio station is operated by a computer located in City Hall and does not have the capability of broadcasting live, according to MacLeod.
The station’s longest stretch of broadcasting was about 12 consecutive months. It was licensed in 2006 when Lou Corea was city manager.
In severe weather, tourist information on AM 1700 could be dropped in place of emergency information, said MacLeod.
The Federal Communications Commission allows tourist information stations to broadcast with a power of only 10 watts. The light bulb in your refrigerator probably uses more power.
However, placing the antenna on the water tower gives the station a signal that can be heard for approximately three miles from Cape May. Under the most ideal conditions, the signal may be heard as far away as Rio Grande, said MacLeod.
The city is not trying to unseat the king of AM Radio, Rush Limbaugh in the ratings. (Unfortunately.)
“There is a limited opportunity for those who are visitors here to observe the signs and pick up on the fact we have that radio station,” said MacLeod, who believes local residents also tuned into the station to hear updates on local events.
So if you’re bored while driving up and down the parkway, scan your radio from AM 1600 to 1700. You will find municipal radio stations on the air from Ocean City: AM 1620, Avalon: AM 1630, North Wildwood: AM 1640 and Stone Harbor: AM 1670.
The Doggie Nanny
IF YOU’VE ever witnessed a dog being dropped at a kennel, you’ve experienced the trauma — the shaking, the crying, the how-will-I-survive-without-you looks… and that’s often just from the owner.
Enter Michelle Kiernan, who became Cape Island’s Doggie Nanny — and great instiller of peace of mind — six years ago. “The idea blew up when people heard I’d come to their homes and sleep in bed with their Great Dane,” she told us. “Of course I will. I’ve always loved animals. As a little girl, Benji made me cry.”
Now, Michelle has a giant bag of house keys belonging to more clients than she can count (including the Exit Zero staff) some of whom call on her for dog walks daily, and some of whom need her for their one big vacation a year.
“It’s a seven-day-a-week job,” she told us. “I could probably write a book about the experiences.”
Like the time Michelle peered inside a little cat house, only to find herself nose to nose with a confused raccoon. “I spent the whole day shaking!” she said. Or the time she needed to throw on a pair of oven mitts in order to get one particularly mouthy puppy into a collar and leash. “I don’t give up,” she said. “That dog needed to pee!” Or the time Michelle cared for a bird who repeated her every move. “If I sniffled, he sniffled,” she said. “If I cleared my throat, he cleared his throat. Then he’d start laughing at me. I told him he was being fresh, and then I realized I was arguing with a bird.”
Over the last six years, Michelle has become as attached to her clients’ pets as she is to her own three dogs. “They become my family,” she said. “When one passes away, it crushes me. But doing this kind of work, there are so many emotions, because then I also get to look forward to the phone calls, a few months later, saying ‘We got a new puppy!’”
She also looks forward to sharing the pointers (as in tips, not English) she picks up along the way. Here are some of her best:
1. Mind the heat. “Early morning or evening is fine,” she said. “But people should not be dragging their dogs to the beach midday in the summer. I see so many people who leave them melting under an umbrella, while they’re drinking a beer!”
2. Use a crate the right way. “It can be a great tool for keeping your dog safe when you’re not home,” Michelle said. “But if you’re sticking your dog in it all day… I can’t stand that. While most everyone in Cape May treats their pets like royalty, I’ve had people ask me to check on their crated dogs once or twice over the course of a 24-hour period. That’s animal cruelty.”
3. Feed at the right time. “If you throw your dog’s food down before having to race out the door for work, they begin to associate their eating with your leaving,” Michelle said. “It’s better to have them eat while you’re sitting down with your morning cup of coffee.”
4. Finally, enjoy treating your pets well. “Some people think having a doggie nanny is spoiling your pets,” Michelle said. “But I had one client tell me that she doesn’t spoil them; she treats her pets the way they’re supposed to be treated. They love us unconditionally, and I learn from them everyday how to be more patient and compassionate. This is why I am so grateful to do what I do.”
If you’re in need of a doggie nanny, give Michelle a call at 609-675-6384, or shoot her an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. She’ll help your pets enjoy the dogs days of summer. (We had to.)