Saturday, December 15, 2001

RR Jacksonville Marathon

Race Report:
Jacksonville Marathon
Jacksonville, FL
12/15/01

Yeah, yeah, I know - this marathon was almost as much of a surprise to me as it is to you.After all - I'm supposed to be resting? But since my right hamstring/leg felt OK in the last two marathons I thought I could/should run one more to close out the year for the following reasons:a) it rounded off the number of marathons run this year to a nice even 20b) it increased my total to 189 and decreased by ONE the number I have to run next year to reach my next big goal of 200. I want/need to accomplish this goal next year because it is the 20th anniversary of my FIRST marathon -Reno, NV, Sept/82!c) Jacksonville is a short 4 hour drive and we only needed one night in a hotel so it was a cheap race to rund) I had nothing else to do this weekend anywaye) and of course I am crazyI couldn't come up with any reasons NOT to run the marathon - until the 11th mile of the race when my legs became heavy and very tired and my body started screaming at me "You stupid SOB - Are you f*#*ing crazy asking me to run hot, humid marathons on three consecutive weekends? - I'll get even with your sorry,stupid ass!"More about this derogatory discourse later on.Because of the unseasonably warm weather we are enjoying in FL, it was a warm 67 degrees at the 7am start with 100% humidity (fog). Fortunately the fog and overcast skies slowed the rise in temperature so that it was only 74 degrees when I finished. The course is a flat, scenic course through the southeast suburbs of Jacksonville along the St. John's River. I had planned to run slow and easy since I considered this marathon to be a 'junk' race or just another number to get me closer to my goal of 200. However I found myself charging out of the start with a fast pack and passing mile 4 under 32 minutes! I knew that pace would kill me in that heat and humidity so I slowed down immediately to an 8:30 pace. But it was already too late (or maybe it was too late when I showed up at the start?) as my legs started to feel lazy? By mile 11 my body began having that derogatory discourse with me but I decided to ignore it and hold the pace until the half and then recheck the status.As I crossed the half in 1:51 my body was again screaming at me "You try to run the second half in the same time and I'll make sure your sorry fat ass is dragging on the ground - if not worse". This time I did what I coach novice runners - I listened to my body! (Is it unusual or a healthy sign to have derogatory discourses with your body because I have them quite often and I must admit that they have probably saved my life a few times?)Anyway I decided to listen to my body and since it was only a junk race I figured that if I jogged the last half at a 9 to 10 minute pace I could still finish under four hours -and more importantly live to run another day! So I jogged the next 7 to 8 miles at an average 9:30 pace. However by mile 21 both knees started to hurt because my legs had stiffened up which caused me to alter my stride and put more stress on the knees. So after another more friendly chat/discourse with my body we decided that we had only two options:1) Stop and walk2) Pick up the pace which would force my legs to flex and resume my normal running strideOption 1 was not acceptable so I dug deep to see if the legs had recovered any from the easy pace of the last 8 miles and - fortunately they had! I was able to drop the pace down to 8:30 but watched my heart rate soar 15 to 20 beats/min. to gain that minute reduction in pace. But alas - it was not to last long. By mile 24 my legs were heavy and tired again. Time 3:34 (I should be finishing by now?)For some strange and inexplicable reason all-of-a-sudden it became important that I salvage some respect for myself and finish under 3:55 which meant I had to run at least a sub-9 minute pace for the last two miles. So I had to ignore the derogatory rants and screams coming from my body as I played mind games and tricks on myself and dug up every last ounce of energy I could find to push the legs on. The course did not make it easy either as the last 1/2 mile made several turns, crossed a soccer field and ran along some trails so that it could funnel us on to a school track for the finish line. As I emerged on to the track I managed to sprint the last 200 meters to finish in 3:54:47! A very pathetic performance and time that was even more embarrassing when a 72 year-old runner finished only 4 minutes behind me! (But 3:58 is a damn good time for a 72 year old runner!)But I had survived to run another day! No heat exhaustion - no further damage or injury to my right leg as far as I can tell.NOW I will definitely take some time off and rest my poor old body. I have three lonnnnnnggggggggggg weeks to rest and let my body and legs recover before we start the 2002 marathon season at the Disney Marathon on Jan 6/02.

Monday, December 10, 2001

TR Jamaica Marathon

Trip Report
Jamaica Marathon
Negril, Jamaica
12/5 to 12/10/01

We're baaaacccccckkkkkkkkkkkk! I can describe the trip and Jamaica in a few words "Hotter than Hades"!Very similar to midsummer Florida weather-temperatures in the high 80s and humidity to match. And y'all know that we leave FL in the summer because we can't stand that heat. It was impossible to go outside between 11am to 3pm unless you were playing in the water.We had decided ahead of time not to follow our usual routine of renting a car and exploring the whole island in one or two days and that turned out to be a fortunate/wise decision. We flew into Montego Bay and were picked up by a shuttle bus to drive us 50 miles south to Negril. Forty-five of those 50 miles were under construction and were in terrible condition. Add to that a kamikaze bus driver, pitch black darkness and several unmarked detours and we had an exciting ride for two hours. But as scary as it was, I was glad that someone else was driving as I would have never found my way. I could see lots of tin/wood shacks along the route, especially in the small villages we drove though and felt safer with a local driver at the wheel. Two hours later we were safely dropped off at our hotel located right on the beach in Negril and after check-in proceeded directly to the beach restaurant/bar for a late meal. It was a comfortable 80+ degrees as we ate our dinner outside and 5 feet from the Caribbean Sea at 10pm.On Thursday we decided to scout out our surroundings and the town of Negril. Negril is located on the westernmost tip of Jamaica and is considered to have two personalities: half is seven miles of sandy white beach framing the waters of Long Bay; the other half is where the beach gives way to steep, rugged cliffs west of the town center, known as the West End or the Cliffs. The town center is small -includes a bank (and the only ATM), a supermarket, post office and a few shops. The Cliffs have a few resorts and lots of restaurant/bars. The Beach area is lined with exclusive hotel resorts such as Sandals, Couples, etc. and bars, discos and restaurants. My biggest complaint was that there was no public transportation and you had to walk or take taxis everywhere - and they weren't cheap. They would try to charge $10 US to drive us just 2 1/2 miles into the town center but you could negotiate that price down to $4 or 5. On our first morning Nicole and I walked into town, had breakfast, did some shopping, bought supplies (water, cola, beer, etc) at the supermarket and hired a taxi to take us back to the hotel. That was the only taxi we took during our stay. We settled into a routine where we would get up and walk about 1 1/2 miles along the beach to a small restaurant that served breakfast to the locals and great Blue Mountain Coffee (a local gourmet coffee) for about half the price the hotel charged. If we needed more supplies or money from the ATM we would walk into town after breakfast and then walk back to the hotel - saved lots of money on taxis and got our daily exercise. And before the sun became unbearably hot we would get our sunbathing in on the hotel beach. The beach is supposed to be the nicest one in Jamaica but unfortunately Hurricane Michelle had taken most off it away this past summer. The Caribbean Sea was lapping at sand bags protecting the hotel dining patio from being washed away. Unlike Florida that spends $Millions each year to replenish our beaches the Jamaicans are praying/hoping the the next hurricane will bring the beach back?On our very first walk into town we met a fellow runner/colleague from Sweden that I have met at several international marathons. That evening the race organization held a 'welcome party' for the marathoners and we met up again with K G and his partner. The Reggae Marathon was an inaugural race and very well organized and sponsored for an initial event. The welcome party,sponsored by Appleton, the biggest rum distiller in Jamaica was held at a night club on the beach and included an open bar for two hours - all the rum, wine and Red stripe (local beer) you wanted to drink. Since the marathon was on Sat and we weren't taking it too seriously we accepted their hospitality and tried not to insult our hosts by drinking lots of rum/beer. Been a long time since I drank rum!On Friday the race organization held a pasta party at the Couples -Swept Away Resort (located next to our hotel). It was one of the best pasta feeds I have ever attended. I don't normally attend because the food is buffet and usually not great quality -but this was a pleasant exception. The chefs from various luxury resorts in Negril had set up kitchens on the grounds at Couples and cooked several types of pasta to order - and there were copious amounts of beer and wine to wash it down while listening to live reggae bands. And - all included in our registration fee!Saturday was M-Day! As I walked to the race start about 1/2 mile from our hotel at 5:15am the temperature was a cool 77 degrees and it was very dark. They had closed down the highway/road from Negril town center north to Green Island. The course ran 3 miles into Negril and then turned back north 13 miles to Green Island to the last turnaround and then a 10 mile straight stretch back to the start/finish line. The 5:15am start was sadly delayed by 15 minutes which meant 15 minutes less of darkness and cool temperatures. As I lined up at the start line with another 700 runners (350 in the marathon and 350 in the half) I bumped into a fellow '50 State Club member' in the dark - hadn't expected to meet him here- small world? Again the race organization impressed me with water and Gatorade bags at every mile. I ran the first 7 miles in darkness enjoying the cool 77 degrees. By mile 8 the sun started to rise and I still managed another 2 to 3 miles in shade before it crested the tree tops.I crossed mile 10 in 82 minutes-faster than planned but I figured that I had just taken advantage of the cool temperatures and that fast pace would fade quickly.I was right! By the half I was running an 8:30 pace and my shoes were soaked and heavy from the sweat cascading down my body. Time 1:50 - but I DID NOT have any silly illusions about running negative splits! I knew that the sun and heat were going to get very ugly in the 2nd half!As I crossed the half in a small impoverished village along the road/course the smell of ganja(marijuana) was so heavy and strong that I figured if I slowed down I had a good chance of getting a high? I was now taking two bags of water (no ganja) at every aid station - one in me and one on me- to cool down.By 16 miles I had slowed to an 8:45 pace and my heart monitor had soared to the high 150s (90% Max). I felt fine and my legs felt OK - I just figured the extra stress on the ticker was due to the heat and humidity. Push on Maddog!It was also around this point of the race that the local supporters became mean - JUST to me? They kept shouting/screaming at me "Go Pappy" "Go Grandpa"! Now isn't that mean? Especially since I don't even have grandkids?As I crossed mile 20 in 2:50 and did my gut check I still felt OK but was concerned that my heart monitor had climbed to 162 (94% Max) just to hold a 9 minute pace? I was now taking 3 water bags at each station - one in and two on - just trying to lower my body temperature. The air temperature was in the mid 80s but closer to 100 + degrees on the blacktop road. I decided to run strictly by the monitor and keep my heart rate between 160 to 165 and ignore the pace.At mile 24 the rate had climbed above 165 (96%) and my pace dropped to 10 minutes? I still felt OK and the legs still had some pep so I decided "screw this - I am going to pick up the pace and get this over with quicker"!My monitor started screaming/buzzing at me as I crossed mile 25 in 8:16 and it soared above 170 (98% Max)! Legs still OK - I'm hurting but mostly from heat exhaustion and feeling like a broiled lobster. Need to get this over with - pick up the pace Maddog!The monitor is now going crazy and I am both amazed and concerned that it has peaked and stayed at 174 (my maximum heart rate is 173?) during the final mile but I am rewarded with a 7:58-my fastest mile of the race. I continue on to cross the finish line in 3:47.My only thoughts are: "Don't stop - don't pass go -don't collect $200 -don't go to jail". Just grab some water, find my sports manager waiting at the finish line and walk directly back to the hotel, continue on to the beach, remove shoes and socks (wondered why later since they were soaked anyway)? and walk out into the Caribbean Sea until it is two feet over my head! Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh! It's so refreshing and a cool 80 degrees which feels about 100 degrees cooler than my body temperature. I only wished that I could breathe under water so that I didn't have to surface into that hellish sun ever again!After 10 minutes of cooling off I walked back to the beach, collapsed on to the hotel massage table under a palm tree and let the hotel masseuse beat and torture my muscles to flush out the toxins and lactic acid.I was beginning to feel alive (and not completely broiled) again. After a quick shower Nicole and I walked along the beach to a local jerk center. What's that - a jerk center and you weren't invited? Nah, jerk! It was the food type jerk.And what is jerk? Good question! Basically southern BBQ with a local BBQ sauce that is supposed to be spicy. I did find the jerk chicken and pork to be very tender and tasty but the jerk sauce was not all that spicy.That evening the race organization held a Reggae Marathon Victory Jam on the beach with live reggae bands and an open bar all night-again included in the registration fee. Unfortunately and strangely, alcohol didn't seem to taste as good as soda or water (thankfully not a long-lasting illness) and although we enjoyed the bands we left early. But they do know how to throw a good party in Jamaica.On Sunday I was wishing that I had rented a car so we could at least explore the nearby hills/mountains. There are some waterfalls and tropical forests only a few hours from Negril or we could have driven to the Blue Mountains. We also contemplated taking a taxi over to the Cliffs to snorkel and then enjoy a sunset at Rick's cafe - the local tourist spot/bar for sunsets. But it costs $30 to take a taxi to Rick's and back plus the sunset drink and I just figured a better option was to sit and watch NFL football at the hotel beach bar, watch the sunset and drink $30 worth of beer and rum? You can guess which option won?On Monday we were looking forward to returning to the cool climate of Sarasota - the lows here at least get down to the low 60s! The drive back to Montego Airport was not any better in broad daylight. I still would have got lost. And you could see the shanty towns and poverty much better? To summarize: the Reggae marathon is a well organized race and offers lots of socializing and a fast flat course-BUT the climate is brutal. I am not interested in returning to the marathon or Jamaica because there are many other islands in the Caribbean that are much nicer. But for those fanatics that MUST add another country to their running belt/list it is a good bet.

Sunday, December 02, 2001

RR Tampa Marathon

Race Report
Hops Marathon
Tampa, FL
12/2/01

First, I must thank everyone for their prayers, cants and voodoo verses. They worked because my right leg held up (except for some minor pain and stiffness between miles 16 to 20) and most importantly my team of pretty young lasses qualified for Boston!The weather, as expected, did not cooperate as the temperature was already 65 degrees at the 6am start. Fortunately a cloud cover kept it from getting too brutal until about mile 16 when the clouds burned off and it heated up quickly to the mid 70s.We lost a few critical minutes at the start because of the narrow congested streets and large crowd in front of us - 10 minutes for the first mile! But we quickly settled into a smooth and easy 8:30 pace by mile 3 and cruised through the first half in 1:53 - even with a pit stop and a few walks through some water stops to digest some GU (carbo gel). Everyone was feeling great at that point and I even had silly thoughts about maybe running a negative split on the second half to finish under 3:45.But at mile 16 the heat and a small twinge/stiffness in Linda's left hamstring started to slow us down. Amy and I took turns massaging and beating on Linda's hamstring while we continued running and Linda courageously forged on. I also was starting to experience minor pain and stiffness in my right hamstring but fortunately it never went beyond the 'minor discomfort' level.As we approached the 20-mile mark I asked for a 'gut check' from the team. Twenty miles is the moment of truth and decision for a marathoner.I once read an article by a renowned sports doctor who stated, "the human body was not built to run further than 20 miles". After 187 marathons I truly believe that statement/finding! If a runner is well trained the first 20 miles are usually easy. But no matter how well trained a runner is, how he/she will feel on the last 10K will depend on conditioning, how one feels that day, the weather - and if the moon is aligned with Jupiter and Mars? And a runner will always reach one of the following stages in the last 10K: Stage 1 - "this hurts!"; Stage 2 - "this really hurts!!"; Stage 3 -"this really fucking hurts!!!" (an inside joke/saying in the BBR but ALL runners and endurance athletes will fully understand the meaning).Stage 1 WILL be reached by all marathoners who run the last 10K. Stage 2 is also normally reached unless all of the above conditions (the Moon and Jupiter, etc) are in place. Stage 3 is usually only reached when a marathoner is trying to obtain a goal such as winning an age group (or the race) or trying to beat a time goal.Because all three stages can be avoided at any time by simply stopping! The reason for this brief side note/dissertation was to explain why I requested a 'gut check' from the team at 20 miles. Based on my 187 marathons of experience I have determined that a runner can normally tell what stage(s) he/she is about to encounter during the last 10K based on how he/she feels at 20 miles. I was hoping that I could tell from their responses and watching their strides what might lie ahead and then I could prepare a strategy to get them through the expected stages. I didn't know if Amy or Linda had ever experienced Stage 3 in a marathon and I had to be prepared to psyche or trick them through it.My concern started to increase when we passed mile 21 in 9:22 - we needed a 9 - minute pace and no slower over the last 10K to reach our goal which meant I had to to motivate, beat or beg the team to pick up the pace. I tried motivation/bribery first. "Think how proud you will be and how you can brag about qualifying for Boston". Then I resorted to embarrassment and ridicule (subtlety trying to get them angry and forget their pain/hurt). "How pissed off are you going to be at yourself if you miss qualifying by only 30 seconds?" "You going to waste 6 months of training just because you hurt for a few minutes?" I wanted to tell them they were wusses but that won't work with a girl - I should have thought that one out beforehand?The next tactic was trickery (it's not mean - I use this shit on myself in most races)."It's only one mile to the next marker - you only have to hurt for another 9 minutes". Finally we crossed the 24-mile mark in 3:30:30 - I started screaming/begging "we only have 19 1/2 minutes to reach our goal. I am not letting you give up at this point if I have to carry you across the damn finish line!" At that point I figured Linda had clearly crossed into Stage 3 and Amy was knocking at the door. But I am so very proud of my team! They did not give up! They rose to the challenge - dug deep - ignored the pain and struggled on with every last once of energy they didn't have left.By now I was throwing everything at them; motivation, ridicule, trickery - anything to take their mind off the pain. I tried to get them pissed off at me in hopes that anger would help them forget the pain.MILE 25 - 3:39 Eleven minutes to reach our goal and both Linda and Amy are in Stage 3! I know they are hurting (really fucking hurting!). Lots of motivation, trickery, threats and lies are needed as I tell them "we have it made, we're home - only 9 more minutes of pain -any runner can stand pain for that short time to brag about qualifying for Boston!"Again/still they rose to the challenge and we crossed the finish line in 3:50:11.I was actually a bit concerned because they needed a 3:50 to qualify but we got confirmation that 3:50 + any change up to 59 seconds is considered qualifying. So we cut it very close but that don't mean a damn thing now.The TEAM QUALIFIED and I am very, very proud of them.And I think that they achieved something just as important and significant as qualifying for Boston. They both reached Stage 3 and didn't give up! Because once you realize that you can do that, you can do it again -and again - and again - just like a Maddog!So again I thank you for your help as I was able to finish the race with only a little pain/discomfort in the hamstring and because I was running a smooth, easy pace (for me) I barely reached Stage 1. Thus I am much more confident that I can run the marathon in Jamaica next Saturday without hurting the leg further. But believe me, after that race I am resting the leg for a few weeks. I may try some cross training - I said cross TRAINING - not cross DRESSING which is something many of you do!

Saturday, November 17, 2001

RR Oklahoma Marathon

Trip Report
Oklahoma Marathon
Tulsa, OK
11/17/01


Before I start into a brief trip report I must first request that y'all take a moment to say a prayer, make a magical incantation or a chant a voodoo verse or whatever you do to help me heal my leg in the two short weeks that I have before my next marathon. Because I NEVER want to run another marathon where I START OUT INJURED!What an UGLY and PAINFUL race/experience that was!As I indicated last week before I left for Tulsa, OK I have been struggling for the past two months with a strained right hamstring. I have been trying to take as much time off as possible, run easy and visit a masseuse a least once each week to work on the leg.I thought that my strategy was working when I walked up to the start line and my leg felt the best it has in the past few weeks. At least it wasn't throbbing constantly!The course was a 6.5 mile stretch on a paved bike path along the Arkansas River. I don't like that kind of course because you have to run the course four times and it gets boring and you cross the Half at the start/finish line and sometimes you just feel like packing it in at that point! But the postive side is that you know the course well after the first loop and you get to see your fellow runners and competitors several times during the race.The weather was unsusally mild (59 degrees) at the 7:30am start but the skies were overcast and it never warmed up much past the mid 60s. I had decided to run smart which meant easy as I had attended the race/event mostly for the social aspect (more on that later) and had thus set an easy(?) goal of 3:45 to finish so as not to cause further injury to my leg.As I said the leg felt good for the first 8 to 10 miles and I was running a smooth and easy 8:15 pace. Around 10 miles the right hamstring started to tighten, the leg started to stiffen and I began to have difficulty bending my knee. Suddenly I was having difficulty holding a 8:30 pace?I still felt OK as I crossed the Half in 1:49 but I knew that if I was having problems running a 8:30 pace at that point that this could get very UGLY! By 16 miles my right leg was throbbing and had stiffened so badly that I could no longer bend it at all and it began to affect my normal running stride and I was having to expend much more energy just to run the 8:30 pace. It felt like I was having to drag a wooden peg/leg around that weighed about 100 pounds?By 20 miles I had altered my stride so much that my left leg was now hurting due to the additional stress and the right leg had gone completely numb? My pace had slowed to about 10 minutes/mile and my hear rate had zoomed to 155+. That heart rate normally equates to a sub- 8 minute pace for me so I knew that I was working my ass (or really my heart) off and getting nowhere!I seriously considered quitting and dropping out but since I had already made the final turn and was on the last leg (bad choice of words) of the race I decided to continue for another few miles to see if I could work the stiffness and pain out of my legs?The next three miles were some of the worst and most painful miles of my life so at 23 miles I decided that I either had to stop and walk in or force myself to go back to my normal running stride. So I clenched my teeth, focused on overcoming the pain and resistance in my right leg and forced my right knee to BEND! And it worked!Within minutes the pain eased, the knee started to flex a bit more and I began to feel like I was running smoother and easier. At mile 24 I glanced at my watch -3:26! I had less than 19 minutes left if I wanted to finish under 3:45.Energy wasn't a problem - I seemed to have lots of that since I had run so slowly. But I had to run sub 8:30s for the last two miles and my legs both felt like they were remote- unattached parts of my body that weighed a thousand pounds each! As I pushed harder and harder the pace dropped and the legs actually seemed to respond with more flexibilty and less pain - but my heart rate now zoomed to 165+ just to get the pace down to 8:25 on the last mile! It was one of the strangest, ugliest and happiest finishes I have ever experienced as I crossed the finish line in 3:44:34! But not one that I ever wish to repeat!Now for the happy part of the story! The marathon was a reunion and annual meeting for a new and second Marathon Club called the 50 States Marathon Club. (Won't go into the politics of why there is a second club). Most of the members are the same runners that I have run the states, continents and countries with and four of my running colleagues from London had traveled over for the race. So it was like an 'old boys' meeting and I got to visit and chat with a lot of running friends. We had a great pasta dinner and social gathering the night before the race and then I had dinner with some real close friends after the race.I also manged to meet and visit with some friends who live in Tulsa (Charbonneaus and Kurzs)and even had a surprise around the 10 mile mark of the race when someone shouted "Go Maddog". There could only be one person in Tulsa who knows that nickname - a former resident of Dallas and member of the BBR (my fellow BBR members should already have guessed - it was Jill). So other than the race which I would rather forget it was a pleasant trip. But I am glad to be home and have my two sons here for the Thanksgiving Holidays.However I am slightly concerned that I have registered (and am thus committed in my book) for two more marathons this year. The next one is Dec 2nd in Tampa. Fortunately my leg does not seem to have suffered any further damage from the race but I cannot say the same thing about my confidence that the leg will be healed or sound by then?Thus my opening request. And two weeks is a long time!

Tuesday, October 30, 2001

TR Slovenia Marathon

TRIP REPORT
CROATIA, SLOVENIA & LUXEMBOURG
10/23 – 10/30/01


Now where was I? Oh Yes! Leaving Zurich for Zagreb, Croatia. I explained one reason why we were flying into Zagreb instead of Ljubljana – ticket prices! A second reason was that I had visited Zagreb on a previous trip to the Balkans in 1999 and liked the city and wanted Nicole to have a look at it. As is always the case this trip was different because we arrived at the airport which is about 30 miles south of the city instead of the train station that is only a few blocks from the city center.

There was no information center at the airport but I quickly learned that Croatia Airlines ran a bus into the city bus station ($3). When we arrived at the bus station there was still no information center and very few people who spoke English. However I managed to find a kind travel agent who informed me that we were still about ten blocks from the city center and furthermore our hotel was NOT located downtown and in fact was on the outskirts of the city. So I decided to change that minor problem and had a taxi take us to the Hotel Dubrovnik, a 4-star hotel on Bana Josipa Jelacica Square. What a great location!
We could walk to all the tourist sites, restaurants, bars, etc. The only problem was running –lots of traffic and the locals looked at me like I was nuts running through the city square.

I finally made my way to the tourist information center located on the square to gather information on the city and country and here is what I learned. Croatia is about the same size as West Virginia and is bordered by Austria, Italy, Hungary, Slovenia, Montenegro, Serbia and Bosnia. It has a long coastline and several islands in the Adriatic Sea. The population is 4 Million and 800K live in the capital Zagreb. The country is predominantly (96%) Catholic. The principal language is Hrvatska (Croatian) although some of the people in the service industry (hotels and restaurants) speak English. Croatian is a complex mixture of Slavic and German and difficult to understand. But we learned the three basic food groups quickly: voda – water; pivo – beer; and vino –wine!
The currency is the Kuna (8 kuna/$US) and most things, other than hotels, are fairly cheap. A good dinner for two with wine will cost about $30 to $40.
Another example is the city tour -$30 for two people. And as often happens in the off season we were the only customers so we were provided with a private tour guide and drive and car to escort us around the city. Our guide knew the city and history very well and was able to spend extra time showing us the main tourist attractions: Jelacica Square, the Cathedral, St Marks Church, the Kaptol and Gradec sections in the Old City and Dolec Market. She recommended a restaurant located in the Gradec(Upper Village) overlooking the city where we had an excellent 5-course gourmet dinner with wine for $60!
Fortunately Zagreb is a nice city because I will have to return for the Zagreb Marathon some year. But I intend to plan for some time on the Adriatic Coast as I was told that the coast is very beautiful and inexpensive!

After two relaxing and interesting days in Zagreb it was time to move on to Slovenia. The border is only 35 Km west of Zagreb so the train had barely got moving when we stopped at the border. The border routine has not changed since my last trip. The train stops 100 meters from the border where the Croatian guards check your passport. Then it moves 100 meters across the border where the Slovenian guards check your passport. Only this time they didn’t seem to be as big and surly as they were in 1999.
The train passes through some very scenic and hilly country on the way to Ljubljana, Slovenia. The autumn leaves were in full color and 60% of Slovenia is covered with forests so there was lots of color to enjoy.
Actually I should keep the rest of the trip a secret because Slovenia is an undiscovered jewel and I would like to keep it undiscovered (selfish old me!)

Slovenia is a very small country sharing borders with Austria and the Alps on the north; Hungary on the east, Croatia on the east and south; Italy and the Alps and the Adriatic Sea on the west. In early summer you can ski in the Alps in the morning and then drive through thick forests on the way to the Adriatic Sea to swim in the afternoon!
There are only 2 Million inhabitants – 300K live in the capital Ljubljana. The principal language is Slovenian but most people speak English and a third language depending where they live e.g. those in the west also speak Italian. The currency is the Slovenian Tolar (250 SIT/ $US). The average salary is $400US/month! Other than hotels which are out-of-whack ($100/day for our 4-star hotel) and anything imported, the prices are very inexpensive. Pivo – 300 SIT for a ½ liter; dinner for two with vino -$25!

Ljubljana, the capital, is a small and compact city with a lot of interesting architecture and charm. The Ljubljanica River flows through the center of the city before it joins the Sava River that flows through Zagreb and eventually flows into the Danube at Belgrade.
The city is built on a site occupied by the Romans from 100 to 600 BC although Ljubljana was first mentioned in 1144. The city is overlooked by a grand castle called Ljubljanski Castle that was originally built in 1144 but the current castle dates from the 16th century. It has been restored and is used for concerts and other social events in the city. Because the city is so small and compact there is no city tour but the information center did provide us with a brochure for a self-guided walking tour.
Since we knew that we could do the tour easily in one day we decided to explore the countryside. Tourism has not been discovered or developed in Slovenia so it was difficult to find a tour that would take us out of the city.

On Friday morning I went for my last training run and it was so much better than Zagreb. There is a large public park, Tivoli Park, on the northern edge of the city that has miles of dirt trails running through forests and lots of challenging hills. I would have run for hours if I did not have a marathon in 2 days. After the run we explored the city by foot. We walked along the cobblestones of the old city while enjoying the buildings and views along the river and finished up with a tour of the castle. There was one strange thing we discovered. There are lots of ‘cafes’ in Ljubljana – essentially bars that serve booze and snacks – but very few restaurants? We ate several meals at the same restaurant because we couldn’t find other restaurants?
On Saturday we had booked a tour to the Lake Bled region – in the north at the base of the Austrian Alps. Again we lucked out – we were the only customers so the owner took us on a private tour. The owner was a young man who had worked at the front desk of the luxury hotel in town and had recognized the need for a tour operator and had started up his own business. He escorted us up to Lake Bled where we toured a magnificent castle overlooking the lake and the only island in the country. Believe me folks this is drop-dead, postcard scenery! And the real-life view is even prettier than you will see in the postcard. The 16th century castle has been restored and sits on a rock cliff 300 feet above the lake. We also took a unique paddleboat over to the island that is occupied by a 17th century church that sits on the same sight as the original church built in 400 BC. Because of the spectacular scenery the church is used mostly for weddings and has its own custom and legend. There are 99 steps from the lake up to the church and legend says that if the man cannot carry his bride-to-be all the way up the steps the marriage won’t last.
I asked Nicole if she wanted to carry me down – but she declined???

After the church our guide took us to a local restaurant for a snack of special local sausages, mushrooms and bread. He figured we needed the fuel for the next part of the tour – a one-mile hike into Skocjanske Park. The park is a steep canyon carved by the Sava River. The canyon walls rise so steeply from the river that they had to build wooden walkways into the sides of the cliffs. I have never seen water so crystal clear! But then it was time to return to the city and begin the look for a pasta dinner. No easy task in Ljubljana as we couldn’t find one Italian restaurant?

Sunday was M-Day! Our hotel was only one block from the start/finish in Kongresni Trg (Congress square). But it was a late start (11am) which makes it difficult for me – do I eat a breakfast or not? The weather was sunny and mild at the start and the course was a half-marathon loop that ran through the cobbled streets of Old Town for a few miles before heading north into the suburbs and country. I had not driven the course but the map indicated that it looped north along Tivoli Park so I assumed that it would be hilly. Thus I decided not to be foolish like Luxembourg and started slow and easy. When I had picked up my race bid I had wondered if the yellow bib I received had any significance. I didn’t understand the significance until the 17K mark when I was heading back into the city center and the half marathon mark and I started meeting the elite runners coming the other way on their second loop (25K). They all wore yellow bibs! They had seeded me with the elite runners! Thank goodness I hadn’t known that beforehand because I might have tried to live up to their billing! I was already discouraged because I started meeting runners in my age group which meant that they were running a SUB 3:00 hr race!
But I wisely stuck to my own pace and crossed the half in 1:48. It paid off in the second half as the hills started to take their toll on most of the runners. I felt OK all through the race and at 20 miles decided that I could pick up the pace. At 40K I decided that I could/should break 3:40. I tried my best which required hurting like hell for the last 2K so I was not disappointed when I crossed the line in 3:40:35. My 185th marathon and 50th country!
However I was surprised/shocked when I scanned the results list and discovered that two runners in my age group had run 2:49s! It is unusual to have one OLD FART run that fast – but TWO in the same race? I am not and never will be in their league!

After the race it was time for the standard hot bath and then we strolled through Old Town stopping for a few pivos and vinos while searching for a restaurant for our celebration dinner. Ljubljana is such a pleasant city to stroll around and we felt absolutely safe at all times!

The following day we ate breakfast at the hotel and caught an early train back to Zagreb. We had arranged for a taxi to meet us at the train station to take us to the airport where we had a light lunch while waiting for our flight to Zurich. In Zurich we enjoyed a snack and beer while waiting for our connection to Luxembourg. Finally – back in Luxembourg! We had booked a hotel at the airport since we had an early flight to London but decided to catch a local bus into the city center to enjoy a last gourmet dinner and stroll in Luxembourg before leaving Europe.

Fortunately our routing home was much better – Luxembourg to London Heathrow to Miami to Tampa. Ah! It’s always nice to be back home!
Time to rest up for the next trip! To where? Stay tuned!

Tuesday, October 23, 2001

TR Luxembourg Marathon

TRIP REPORT
LUXEMBOURG, GERMANY & SWITZERLAND
10/18 – 10/23/01


I had set this trip up in early summer in anticipation of reaching one of my major marathon goals – to run a marathon in my 50th country! To accomplish this goal I needed to run two marathons/countries and I preferred that they both be in Europe to work simultaneously on another goal – to complete all the countries in Europe! My research found marathons one week apart in late October in Luxembourg and Slovenia.
Unfortunately this period is still in the high season with regards to airfares so it became a challenge to find reasonable fares and it was further complicated by the distance between the two countries. After much research and fiddling around on the net I was able to book flights from Tampa to Luxembourg and ongoing flights from Luxembourg to Zagreb, Croatia. Why Zagreb? For some reason the fares seemed to be much cheaper into Zagreb vs. Ljubljana, Slovenia. And it is only a 2-½ hour train ride from Zagreb to Ljubljana at a return fare of $11. So our itinerary was booked!

But I did make one small error that I wish to warn you about. The international leg from Tampa to London included routing through NYC and changing airports in the Big Apple. Won’t do that again! The airlines do not transfer you or your luggage between airports in NYC. Thus you have to reclaim your baggage at the arrival airport (LaGuardia in our case) and haul it and yourself via bus or taxi to the departure airport (JFK) and check your luggage and go through security again. What a pain in the ass! I would not accept that routing again unless I was really saving big bucks!

But now on to the actual trip. We had to rise early on Oct 18th for the 1 1/4 hour drive to Tampa plus the extra time for security at the airport. Add on 4 hours in NYC to make the transfer and a 7-hour flight to London and we arrived at Heathrow at 6:30am or 1:30am body time. Unfortunately the ordeal was not over yet. We had to transfer between terminals at Heathrow and although we never left the secured transit area we had to go through security again at the next terminal – and again at the gate. I was almost ready to bitch but bit my tongue, as it is just a sign of the times. Finally we were on the next plane and arrived in Luxembourg City and our hotel at 12pm – exactly 24 hours after we left our house in Sarasota! Needless to say our bodies were not happy! But I have learned that the best and quickest way to overcome jet lag is to fight the desperate urge to lie down for a nap and stay awake until your regular bedtime that evening. So we walked over to the tourist center at the train station and started collecting information on the city and country and the best way to travel on to Echternach where the marathon was being run.

In case you are too lazy to look at your world atlas (or don’t have one –and I consider it to be as essential as a dictionary) here are some facts for you. The Grand Duchy of Luxembourg is a small country, 2500 sq Km bounded by Germany on the east, Belgium on the north and west and France on the south. The country is divided into five regions and is mostly rural – 1/3 is covered by forest. There are 400,000 inhabitants and 120,000 live in Luxembourg City. The inhabitants, called ‘Luxembourgeois’ speak three languages – Letzebuergesch (the national language) and French and German. Most also speak English but we found it was simpler just to speak French.

The information center advised us that there was a city tour every afternoon so we reserved seats since we find this the best way to get a quick overview and history of the city. After a quick lunch we boarded the tour bus for a 2-hour tour of the city.
Count Siegfried founded the city in 963 when he built a fortress called ‘Lucilinburhuc’ on the Bock promontory. This fortification was expanded over the next several hundred years to include 23 Km of tunnels called the ‘Casemates’ and Luxembourg came to be called the ‘Gibraltar of the North’. When the Treaty of London declared Luxembourg to be a neutral country in 1867 many of the tunnels and fortifications were destroyed. What remains were listed as world heritage by UNESCO in 1994 and can be toured today. The city is fairly compact and can be toured by foot except for a new section where several European institutions including the European Commission are located.

After the tour we struggled to stay awake and finally succumbed to an early dinner and bedtime. But after a solid 14 hours of sleep our bodies were adjusted to local time and we were ready to continue our explorations. We spent the morning walking around the city to explore some of the sights in more detail and then decided to move on to Echternach. Echternach is in the Mullerthal region also known as “La Petite Suisse” (Little Switzerland) because of the hills and landscape. We were fortunate to pick a ‘milk run’ bus to get us there because it passed through many small villages and a region that contained many unique and picturesque rock formations. This is a very popular hiking area.

Echternach is located 35km northeast of Luxembourg City and sits on the Sure River that forms the border with Germany. It was established in 698 when St Willibrod founded an abbey. The current cathedral sits on the same site. The cathedral was built in the 11th century but completely destroyed in WW II and rebuilt after the war. In fact the complete town, along with most of the neighboring towns, was destroyed by both German and Allied bombers during the war. One of the few buildings to remain intact was the city hall built in 1444. Echternach is a pleasant little town (pop. 4,000). The old main street has been converted into a pedestrian mall and ends in the original town square. We strolled around the town and watched and participated in an ‘apple festival’ in the town square. They were pressing apples to make apple juice and eventually cider and apple beer. Since I couldn’t find any Gatorade to hydrate with, I bought a liter of fresh-pressed apple juice. I figured there had to be more fructose in the juice and it tasted much better. After visiting the cathedral we strolled across a bridge into Echternacherbruck, a small village in Germany.

But now it was time to find and pick up my race package. No problem. Our hotel was located about 500 feet from the town sports center where the marathon started and finished and a small exhibition was set up. Upon viewing the registration list I noticed that I was the only runner NOT from Luxembourg or one of its neighboring countries. In fact they had me listed as being from the UK? I figured it wasn’t worth correcting and that decision provided some amusement later on.
Now that I had my race package it was time for the normal pasta dinner. Again no problem as there seemed to be a lot of Italian restaurants in Luxembourg. The prices in Ecternach were about 25% lower than the city where they were equivalent to US prices.

Sunday was M –Day! Logistics were not a problem since the race start was 500 feet from the hotel and it was a late start –9:30am. The weather was overcast and cool. The course was not very exciting as we ran two loops around the town and Lake Echternach and then headed north out of town on a narrow rural highway (closed to traffic). We passed by the sports center about five times during the race and each time I passed an announcer shouted out “ here comes Number 867 – John Wallace, an Englishman form Great Britain”. Does that make me an honorary Brit?
For some reason I found myself running with a group of runners who appeared to be in my age group so I decided to stay with them. BAD decision! We ran through the first half in 1:43, which is way too fast for me without speed training. But I still felt OK so foolishly decided to stay with them. Another BAD decision! I started to realize how bad around 17 miles as we came back through Echternach and my legs began to feel tired and heavy and I could no longer stay with the group. By 20 miles I had used up the two minute cushion from the first half (for a 3:30 marathon) and knew that a sub 3:30 marathon was not in the cards for that day! I decided to slow down and jog the last 10K. By 23 miles I was struggling just to keep my legs moving – I wanted to stop and walk. So I decided that I had two options 1) stop and walk or 2) pick up the pace to see if that would ease the pain in my legs. Pride would not let me choose #1 so I picked up the pace figuring that even if it hurt more at least I would finish faster?
Surprisingly it worked? By mile 24 I had dropped the pace to about 8:30s and decided that I needed to drop it even more if I wanted to break 3:40.
I was very pleased when I ran the last mile at an 8 minute pace to cross the finish line in 3:38:23. Marathon #184 and country #49 in the bag! Time for a quick soak in a hot bath and explore the lovely little town some more.

The following morning we took a bus over to the neighboring town of Diekirch to visit the National Museum of Military History. The museum is dedicated to the ‘Battle of the Bulge’ during the winter of 1944/45 and the crossing of the Saurer River to launch the land invasion of Germany – both of these events were centered around Diekirch. The museum contains a lot of WWII equipment and uniforms left behind by the Germans and Allies plus many gruesome pictures of the battles.

Now it was time to head back to the city and prepare to catch our flights on to Croatia. There was a small concern about the viability of out tickets. I had purchased tickets on Swissair – a government carrier and affiliated with AA. But only a few weeks earlier Swissair had almost declared bankruptcy and although the government had poured more money in, our flights had been changed and none of the competing airlines would accept the Swissair tickets. We were routed through Zurich and our original 2 hour transfer was changed to 4 hours – not long enough to consider leaving the airport to visit the city and too long to stay in an airport. The only thing that saved us was the free Internet terminals that were provided in the airport so that we could check and send emails.
Finally we did make it to Zagreb, Croatia - but that is the subject of the next report.
See you then!

Saturday, October 13, 2001

RR Hartford Marathon

Hartford Marathon
Hartford, CT
10/13/01

The trip started out early and ugly on Friday 10/12/01 since we had to get up at 3:30am to drive to Tampa by 5:30am for a 7:30am flight. But we did arrive on time in Hartord, CT and made our way to our friends, Drs. Dick and Sue in Hamden, CT. Dr Dick is a charter member of the BBR - that informal running group in Dallas that I have written about previously. Since Jason only has a one-bedroom apartment we decided to stay with Dick and Sue whom have a big empty house in Hamden - about 15 minutes from Jason's apt in New Haven. Jason met us at Dr Dick's and we all went out for our pasta feed since the marathon was on Saturday. On Saturday morning Dr Dick and I drove into Hartford for the start of the marathon at Bushnell Park. The weather was great; cloudy and unseasonably warm - 56 degrees at the 8am start and 73 degrees when we finished. The course starts at Bushnell Park and proceeds across the Connecticut River into East Hartford. Most of the first 20 miles are in the rural suburbs of E Hartford - flat with some rolling hills and lots of fall colors with the changing of the leaves. Dr Dick and I had decided to run the race together since he claimed that he was not in great shape ( he is younger and stronger than the Maddog). Since we were just doing a pleasant run we shot the breeze for the first 20 miles and caught each other up on the latest gossip. Thus we were surprised when the miles kept clicking off at an 8 minute/mile pace. We commented that this euphoria probably couldn't/wouldn't last and we were right! At 20 miles I did the customary gut check and decided that I would probably run into trouble on the last 10K if we maintained that 8 minute pace so I tried to back off. The problem was that Dr Dick was much stonger at that point and kept dragging my tired and sorry ass over the next 4 miles of rolling hills at a much faster pace that I wanted to or would have run had I been by myself. Finally at 24 miles, as we were turning back towards Bushnell Park I checked my watch (3:16) and commented to Dr Dick "Hell, I have decided that I will have to hurt a little more if we want to be sure to break 3:35"! So I dropped the pace to 8 minute- miles over the last 2 1/4 miles. And sure enough - it did hurt - but any fool can hurt for a mere 17 minutes! And besides, the pain faded quickly as we approached the finish line and saw/heard my sports manager and son cheering us on. Dr Dick crossed the finish line in 3:33:13 and I was 1 second behind. I was not surprised to learn that my time of 3:33:14 was not good enough to place in the age group on such a fast course.(5th place). I was happy with my time but somewhat surprised and disappointed that I had only run 30 seconds faster than my last race in Montana where the course was at least five times more difficult? And I felt much stronger and better all through the race in MT? I should have easily broke 3:30 on this course - but it obviously was not one of those 'feel good' days! But heck, the race was done and now it was time to enjoy the rest of the weekend. On Saturday evening, Dr Jason's girlfriend (another doctor) came up from NYC to join us and we all went out for dinner but then the tired old Maddog had to retire early to recuperate for the next day. On Sunday the four of us toured along the coast of CT enjoying the fall colors and coastline. Dr Jason was on call (pediatrics)so we could not venture too far from the hospital and much to his chagrin we got to see him in action as he had to respond to numerous pages/phone calls. So although the trip was a last-minute, unplanned visit we were very happy that we had squeezed it in as we really enjoyed the time with our son and our friends. But now we have to rush to prepare for the next trip - two weeks in Europe - 5 countries and two marathons. Fortunately I have only one trip/marathon planned in Nov as my right hamstring/leg is a tight bundle of knots and needs some rest?

Sunday, September 30, 2001

RR Lewis and Clark Marathon

Race Report
Lewis and Clark Marathon
Bozeman, MT
9/30/01

Trip Report/Update: We are back in Colorado for a few more days while we close up our summer home and prepare for the drive to Florida. We plan to route through Dallas to spend a few days with my brother Doug and his wife Darlene and visit some friends. We had a fun trip to Montana although it didn't start out much fun. We had an early (9am) flight out of DIA (Denver airport) last Thursday and arrived two hours early which meant leaving the house at 5:30am. Even with the two hour buffer we missed our flight by more than one hour. There was some kind of security threat at DIA and it took us one hour just to get to the Delta ticket agent and then another 1& 3/4 hours to get through security. We were rebooked on a 12pm flight which left 30 minutes late because the security line was over 3 hrs long by then? But finally we arrived in Bozeman, MT around 4pm and immdiately started gathering information about Yellowstone National Park. We planned to visit the Park on Friday. Unfortunately there was a huge forest fire raging out of control in Purdy, southwest of Bozeman which meant we had to detour through GoldWest Country (SW Montana). This added about 60 miles to our trip but we did get to visit Virginia City, MT - an old mining town. But it is not as big or as interesting as Virginia City, NV. We drove south along the Madison River which provided some spectacular views of the Madison Range and the Tobacco Root Mtns and entered the Park through the West Yellowstone entrance in Wyoming. I didn't realize the Park was so big - it's a two-hundred mile loop (at 45mph) through the Park to the North Entrance. We stopped at some of the geothermal areas to view the hot springs and mud pools but did not have time to stop and view the wildlife every time we saw some. We did see lots of bison, elk, deer and I damn near ran over a fox but we never did see any bears? Of course we made the obligatory stop at Old Faithful and had to wait around and explore the area for 45 minutes while we waited for the next eruption. I thought that the geothermal areas were not as spectacular nor colorful as those we saw in Iceland but Old faithful came through higher and longer than the Great Geysir in Iceland! We then continued the loop along Yellowstone Lake and Yellowstone River north to the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone with its two specatcular waterfalls. We were lucky to arrive at Artist's Point just as the sun was setting on the west horizon and shining brilliantly through the western portal of the Canyon. We were treated to a dazzling kalaidescope of colors as the light relected off the variuus mineral deposits on the sides of the steep canyon walls. To me, Old faithful and the Canyon were the highlights of the trip. We then continued north through Mammoth Hot Springs where we were delayed by elk meandering across the road while grazing on the manicured grass of the resort. Finally we made it out the North gate and another hour later were back in Bozeman. It took us a total of 10 hours to make the trip. I would strongly recommend that you spend at least 2 or 3 days in the Park to enjoy all the wildlife and scenery. You can stay in hotels outside the Park entrances or there are resorts inside the Park at Old Faithful and Mammoth Hot Springs. We might have returned to the Park on Saturday except for the hour-long drive just to get back to the North entrance. So we decided to explore Bozeman and the surrounding area instead. Bozeman is a small university city (30,000 pop.) nestled in a high valley or plateau between the Gallatin Mtns on the north and east and the Bridger Mtns on the west and south. It is kind of pretty but I think I am spoiled or biased because I didn't think Bozeman or any part of Montana was as pretty as Summit County, CO! As part of our exploration we decided to drive the marathon course to check it out. The course started in the Gallatin Mtns northeast of the city at 5500 feet and climbed to 6,000 feet over the first four miles. Only 4 or 5 miles of the course was paved roads, the rest was dirt roads and trails that followed some of the route used by Lewis and Clark during their expedition in 1805. Needless to say the course was very hilly. The first 16 miles ran up and down the Gallatin Mtns before turning back into the eastern suburbs of Bozeman and finally finishing south of the city. Sunday was M-Day and the weather was unseasonably warm - mid 40s at the start and low 70s by the time I crossed the finish line. I wasn't sure what kind of shape I was in so figured I should start out easy. Thus I was somewhat shocked when I hit the 10-mile mark in 80 minutes. I figured that was way too fast considering all the hills and the altitude. A series of steep nasty hills from 10 to 12 miles slowed my pace but again I was surprised when I crossed the half-marathon mark in 1:46 and change. Although I still felt good I was now very concerned that this race would turn very ugly - but I decided to forge ahead at my current (too-fast) pace and do a gut check at 20 miles. I almost got a lengthy and unwanted rest at 16 miles. The race director had warned us beforehand that there was a major rail crossing at 16 miles and not to try to beat any trains. As I was running along parallel to the tracks at 14 miles a train came by? At 15 miles it was still going by? I figured that if it were another 10 minutes long that I was going to have to wait. Fortunately as I approached the crossing the caboose went by and I was not delyed but there were about 15 pissed-off runners who had cooled their heels for about 10 minutes. See - it doesn't pay to be too fast in this race! At 16 miles we hit pavement again on the eastern suburbs of the city which lasted until 19 miles when the course was directed off into dirt trails that climbed a series of short steep hills in the foothills of the Gallatin Mtns. By mile 24 I was wondering if those damn trails and hills would ever end? Finally and gratefully I crested the final hill on the trail at 24.5 miles and was rewarded with a steep decline down to a paved road at 25 miles. I managed to gain enough speed and momentum going down that decline to hold a sub 8-minute pace over the last paved and flat mile(at 5,000 feet elevation)! I was very very pleased to cross the finish line in 3:33 - I had only slowed down by one minute over the second half! Only after I listened to all the other runners bitch and complain about the hills and how tough the course was and discovered that the winning time was only 3:02 did I realize that it must have been a tough course? Compared to the last two mountain trail marathons I had run this race seemed pretty easy? I can't wait to see how I do on a flat paved course at sea level? My time of 3:33 was good enough for 2nd place in spite of 10-year age groups (i.e. 50 to 59). Not surprisingly, two local young pups (both 51) won 1st and 3rd in my age group. Thankfully our return trip was much quicker, easier and non-eventful.

Monday, August 20, 2001

Race Report Pike's Peak

TRIP REPORT
PIKE’S PEAK, CO
August 19/01



Good News/Bad News (for Maddog)!Good News: I was happy to finish the Pike's Peak Marathon under my time goalof 6 hours and place 3rd in my age group.Bad News: I was disappointed and upset that I failed to win my division/agegroup title because of three bad falls on the descent.The weather turned out to be sunny and very HOT. This was good for the ascentbecause it was a balmy 60 degrees at the summit but we paid dearly on thedescent when the temperatures rose to a tortuous 85+ degrees when wereentered the tree line below 11,500 ft.I completed the ascent (all 7815 vertical ft to the summit at 14,100 ft over 13.3 miles) in 3:35 - 10minutes faster than my target time in spite of one minor fall on the steepand rocky trail around 13,000 ft. My target time for the descent was 2:15 butsince I was ahead of schedule and feeling good at the summit, I decided topush it hard on the descent to see if I could make it in 2 hours? I was doinggreat until the 18 mile mark when I had to jump down about 3 ft from a hugeboulder. The jarring impact when I landed caused my right hamstring to crampand lock up. I immediately collapsed onto the trail, and after a few minutesof stretches and massaging the muscle I was able to get up and start walking.I lost about 5 or 6 minutes before the hamstring relaxed enough that I couldrun again. Now I figured that I had to pick up the pace even more to make upfor the lost time. I began flying down the mountain - flying being a relativeterm because an 8 to 9-minute pace was as fast as I could safely manage whiletrying to avoid rocks, logs, tree roots and other hazards while running onbeat-up legs.Everything was going great again until 22 miles when I tried to round asevere switchback and my feet slipped on some gravel and flew out from underme. Fortunately I landed on my big soft butt but my damn hamstring locked upagain - this time tighter than a drum and no amount of stretches and massageswould relax it. I actually thought the race was over for me at that point andstarted walking down the trail stopping frequently to stretch and massage theleg. About 5 minutes later the hamstring did relax enough to allow me tostart running again. Now I was very concerned that I was going to miss my 6-hour goal due to all the lost time so I started hauling ass and takingchances on the trail. I was lucky until the final switchback at 24.5 miles!Again I slipped on some gravel and sprawled face-first down the trail. Onlyby getting my arms and hands out in front of me and sacrificing my hands tocuts and bruises from the gravel did I save myself from a full face plantonto the gravel trail. But the worst part was that the abrupt change inmomentum caused BOTH of my calves to cramp and lock up tighter than banjostrings. As I was laying in the trail screaming in agony a few runners passedby and asked if I was OK but did not stop to help. Unbeknownst to me two ofthose runners were in my age group (1st and 2nd place!). After a few minutesI was able to crawl to the side of the trail and use a tree to pull myself up- I couldn't stand up or bend to massage my calves without exasperating theproblem. After another few minutes I was able to walk and stretch the calvesand finally start running again.At that point I had no idea if I still had a chance to break 6 hours - but Iwas not giving up! So I ran as hard and as fast as I could on beat-up,pain-ridden legs! Only 1/2 mile later I reached the end of the trail andarrived at a paved road in Manitou Springs - 0.9 miles from the finish line!Time: 5:42! I now realized that I could walk or crawl to the finish line andstill make my goal.Since my body was extremely overheated, totally exhausted and beat up Idecided to ease off and jog to the finish line. Even so it still took everylast once of energy and willpower I had to keep my legs moving for that very,very long 0.9 miles but I struggled across the finish line in 5:52:23!Only later when I hobbled over to the results board did I discover that I hadmissed the age group title by FOUR minutes and 2nd place by ONE minute!But as upset as I was/am about the results I have decided that I will have tolive with it because I am not going back to do it again. This unique andchallenging race taught me two very important things about my body: 1) Mylegs either do not like or are not suited to trail running. In all threemountain trail marathons that I have run to date I have suffered severe legcramps and bad falls. In the first two races I blamed the mishaps on lack oftrail training and experience. BUT I trained very hard and smart for thisrace and yet I suffered more and worse problems? 2) 5:52:23 is the longesttime I have ever run full out and I have discovered that it is the maximumphysical limitation of my body. I have run two marathons (Brazil and Greece)where I crossed a finish line in worse 'medical' condition but never have Irun a marathon where I crossed the finish line as hot and physicallyexhausted as Pike's Peak!Now that I have hopefully piqued your interest in testing your physicalcapabilities against this challenging course, please feel free to ask me morequestions and details about the course and the race.

Monday, July 16, 2001

RR Bend Marathon

RACE REPORT
BEND, OR
7/13 – 7/16/01


We made it back from Oregon late Monday night - too late and tired to write a trip report.But I thought that I should send you a short report on the Central Oregon and Bend area which is quite nice and on the Bendistillery Marathon which is a fast course. It was a pleasant trip. We arrived in Portland late Friday afternoon and went to our friends' place in Vancouver, WA to wait for Chris. Unfortunately he had some problems at work and when he still hadn't left Seattle at 7pm we told him to cancel his plans to join us and we left for Bend around 8pm. It is a good 3 hour drive so we didn't arrive until after 11pm. I hate night-time driving, especially on two-lane mountain roads in the dark! Central Oregon was a hub-bub of activity and events last weekend - a summer festival and marathon in Bend, and a quilting convention in Sisters - so that there were no hotel rooms available within a 20-mile radius. We had to book a 2 BR condo at the Sun River Resort, a condominium resort 15 miles south of Bend. But it was a nice area.On Saturday morning we drove into Bend to pick up the race package and last minute details on the race. The summer festival was in full swing. Bend is a small city (50,000 people) situated on the Deschutes River, elevation about 3,500 feet and overlooked by several majestic peaks of the Cascade Mountains. The city had closed down the main street (Wall ST) which was filled with arts and craft booths and several band stages. We strolled around the booths and ended up buying four pictures for our new home in CO which meant we had to carry them back on the airplane.After our shopping spree, we decided to check out the marathon course and make sure we knew how to get to the start. I chose a bit more wisely this time - the course started at the top of Mt Bachelor and ran downhill on paved roads to finish in Shevlin Park on the west side of Bend. The start was located at the chairlifts (6500 ft) on Mt Bachelor (summit -9,000 ft) which fortunately was about the same distance from Sun River as Bend.After we drove the course and satisfied myself that it really was downhill we decided to visit the quilting convention in Sisters. Sisters is a small western town/village (910 people) located at the foot of the 'Three Sisters' - three majestic peaks in the Cascades. It is very quaint and the quilting convention was a huge surprise. It was outside! There were quilts hanging everywhere - on the fronts and sides of the stores on the main street- on tree limbs and poles erected on lawns of homes. It was very different and interesting. The Cascades region is scenic with lots of dense forests and majestic mountains but in my humble opinion it is not as pretty as Summit County. It is a high desert region and the lakes and rivers are smaller -- but it is warmer than Summit and about 6,000 feet lower in elevation so a lot easier to breathe. But it is too isolated for me - Portland is the closest large city and airport.Sunday was M-Day - very early Sunday! The race started at 6am so I woke at 4am to get ready and dragged my manager out of bed at 5am. She had to drop me off at the start up at the top of Mt Bachelor and pick me up later at the finish line in Bend since the course was point-to-point.It was still dark and quite chilly at the ski lodge at 5:30am! But the race started at 6am sharp and we warmed up quickly as we raced downhill for the first 4 miles. The course dropped a total of 2800 feet before it finished at Shevlin Park (3700 ft). About 70% of the course was downhill but the downhills were gradual so that you didn't have to brake all the time which kills the quads and calves. There were a dozen or so 'uphills', the longest and toughest at 10K and maybe 4 or 5 miles of flat stretches. On most of the downhill legs I was able to average a 7:30 pace with ease but the uphills and flats seem to negate that fast pace. I passed the half marathon mark in 1:41 and had bad memory flashes of Nagano, Japan. I did not want to suffer the painful experience of crashing again in the last 10K so I slowed down a bit. I passed 20 miles in 2:37 still feeling OK and had brief fantasies of breaking 3:25 if the course stayed downhill. NOT TO BE! The course got ugly (hilly) over the last 10K and my legs started to feel the effect of the fast pace and downhill pounding! There were some tough hills between miles 20 to 24. I hit mile 24 in 3:11 - I had only 19 minutes to finish the last 2 1/4 miles to break 3:30! I knew the last mile was downhill so I had to run mile 25 under 8:30 to have a chance - it was close - 8:34! I could smell that sub 3:30 now so I pushed with every last once of energy left in my body and legs even though my right hip and hamstring were screaming at me.I crossed the finish line in 3:29:17 and 2nd place in my age group (Old farts!)! I was very pleased with my effort and happy with my time - but I was diappointed that I had not been able to train harder and faster for this marathon because I should have been able to break 3:25 on this course.This is a great marathon course if you want to run a fast time or qualify for Boston.As I was limping back to the car with my manager she moaned about how difficult it had been to wake up and get out of bed that second time to meet me at the finish line. Give me a break please! I didn't offer any sympathy!But now we had to rush back to the condo, take a quick hot tub soak and shower and head back to Vancouver, WA. We enjoyed a very pleasant visit with our friends, Wayne and Karen Tucker. We got caught up on the gossip and news of old friends and colleagues from our Lynch/Reno days of the early 80s. As usual we raided Wayne's wine cellar to accompany the excellent salmon he grilled for dinner. I won't embarass ourselves by saying how many wine bottles(empty) we counted on the kitchen counter the next morning. And even more surprising was the fact that nobody felt bad. That is, if you don't consider my legs - it has been a long, long time since I have had difficulty climbing stairs the day after a marathon. Even today my quads and calves are still sore and tender - but there is an upside to this as always - since the quads and calves hurt like hell I don't feel the normal constant pain in my hamstring!But it was a great trip. I would love to do this marathon again when I am 100% healthy and could train properly. Heck - I think I could break 3:20 again!

Monday, June 25, 2001

TR Iceland

TRIP REPORT
ICELAND
6/17 – 6/25/01

Vio vonum ao pessi upplifum veroi per skemmtileg og gagnleg.
(We hope this experience/story will be fun and useful to you.)

If you will recall from my previous trip report from Liechtenstein that was part of this journey, we had just spent a week at my sister’s place in Windsor and are now on our way to Iceland.

Where is Iceland? Good question. Iceland is a volcanic island that lies about 1900 kms northwest of London, England and about 700 kms east of Greenland. The northernmost point of Iceland is just a few miles below the Arctic Circle. The island is 103,000 square miles with an average elevation of 500m above sea level. More than 60% of the island is wasteland that is uninhabitable and 11% of the island is covered by glaciers. Vatnajokull is the largest glacier in Europe covering 8,300 square kms.
Iceland has a population of 280,000 of which 175,000 live in the greater Reykjavik area and the remainder live in small towns and villages spread along the 4,970 kms of coastline. The language is Icelandic (Gooan Daginn – Good Morning; Bae – Bye) but most of the Icelanders speak excellent English and communications was not a problem.
The currency is the Icelandic Krona ( ISK). Fortunately for us the ISK had fallen more than 20% in value in the past six months and the exchange rate was approximately 100 ISK per $US. This made conversion and understanding how expensive everything was real easy but more about that later.

We flew into the international airport at Keflavik, which is located on a small peninsula, about 50 kms west of the capital city of Reykjavik. As we drove into the city my first impressions were: “this reminds me of Hawaii with all the lava flows and volcanic ash and at the same time of the Canadian Arctic because of the desolate and harsh terrain with very little vegetation”. After one week on the island this was still the best and simplest description. And as we approached the Reykjavik, the city reminded me of a larger version of Nanasivik on Baffin Island in the Canadian Arctic – and I wouldn’t want to live in either place! Unbeknownst to us it was Independence Day (June 17) in Iceland and there were lots of festivities going on in the big city. So after checking into our hotel –a nice 4-star Radisson a few blocks off the city center - we walked over to the city center to check out the action. The first thing that we discovered was that we had not packed properly! The locals were wearing overcoats and ski jackets and all we had were light summer jackets? The second thing we discovered was that we would have to live with it because everything is very, very expensive in Iceland. A few examples: hotels in Reykjavik- $200+ per night; in the smaller villages - only $140+ per night; meals – chicken entrĂ©e-$30, lamb -$35, beef - $40; the best bet was fish –from $15 for the fish of the day to $25 for salmon. Fortunately we love fish and they had lots of varieties, it was always fresh and they know how to cook it since it is the staple of the country. We only saw vegetables (except potatoes) once with a meal because they can only be grown in greenhouses and are too expensive. Anything that has to be imported is outrageously expensive. We went to a mall in Reykjavik to look for a light nylon sports jacket because I thought that I might need one for the marathon and had not packed one. I found one on sale for $70! Decided that I would just buy a large green garbage bag instead!
But we did find one small pleasant surprise on prices – beer and wine were cheaper than we had been told to expect. A beer cost $5 to $7 in a pub or restaurant and wine was $6 to $9 per glass. And remember these prices were 20% higher just six months ago!

But let’s get back to the city center and Independence Day. We had missed the parade and most of the festivities but there were still people milling around, playing arcade games and eating at food stalls set up in the square. As I mentioned before it was cold with a light drizzle so we found a pub and enjoyed our first ‘fish of the day’. Later we strolled around the city before heading back to the hotel around 9pm in broad daylight since it was summer in the Arctic. The following morning we planned to do a city tour so I woke early (6am) and set out for a run along the coast of the Atlantic Ocean. I was wearing shorts, long-sleeve T-shirt and gloves which brought some strange looks from the locals who were wearing jogging suits or ski jackets. I soon discovered why when the sunshine gave way to rain and then changed to sleet all in the matter of a few minutes. I was starting to worry about what to expect during the marathon that would be run at night?

Reykjavik is situated on a peninsula and the downtown area is small so it doesn’t take long to do a city tour but we did see the following tourist attractions. The Perlan or Pearl, a dome structure built on a hill overlooking the city contains six –one million-gallon tanks to store geothermal hot water to heat the city. Geothermal water averaging 185 degrees F is pumped to all the homes and buildings for heat and hot water. Some homes then use the water to heat their pools and also run it through pipes under their driveway to keep it snow and ice-free. The average home pays $300 per year for all the hot water and heat they need! The only thing in Iceland that is cheap! Then we went to the Laugardalur pool, the largest outdoor swimming pool in the city and country. It is of course heated with geothermal water and is open year round since the hot water is free. The pool is surrounded by hot tubs that the Icelanders use as social meeting places to discuss politics, work, etc. And Californians thought that this was their invention? We drove by the Hofoi House where Reagan and Gorbachev met to end the Cold War on our way to the Asmundur Sveinsson Museum. The museum is set up in the former home and studio of Iceland’s most famous artist and sculpture. There were a few more sites such as city hall and parliament but we easily covered the whole city in two hours.

What do we do now? We had planned to stay two days in Reykjavik and we have seen the city in the first morning? Off to the tourist/information center to determine what else we can see and do. They were very helpful as usual. One question we needed answered was “how long would it take to drive to Lake Myvatn on the southern route”. We wanted to drive to Lake Myvatn along the south coast and return along the north coast. The answer was “two days along the south route and one day along the north”. This fit our plans perfectly and still gave us two more days to explore the city and surrounding area. No problem since one of the most famous tours in Iceland is the ‘Golden Circle’ a 250km circle around Reykjavik that takes in several famous tourist sites. Normally this tour costs about $55 per person but we had rented a car from Hertz and they gave us a CD and map that allowed us to do the tour by ourselves at our own pace with narration and directions on the CD – a great idea. We visited Hverageroi, a ‘flowering’ town of greenhouses heated by geothermal energy where all the vegetables and flowers are grown for the island. Other sites on the tour were: Kerio, a huge volcanic crater with a beautiful lake; Skalholt, a small historic village that was once the religious and cultural center of Iceland; Faxi Falls, a small isolated water falls and Gullfoss, Iceland’s most famous and picturesque waterfall; Geysir, a geothermal area with several active geysirs, the two biggest are Strokkur and the Great Geysir; and Pingvellir National Park that contains the site used by Iceland’s Parliament from 930 through 1798. The park also contains Lake Pingvellir, Iceland’s largest lake and the Great Atlantic Rift that runs through Iceland where the North American and European Teutonic Plates collide. There were some interesting canyons that looked just like the earth was being torn apart. On the way back we stopped to see some Icelandic horses. They are descendants of horses imported by the Vikings thousands of years ago and have become indigent to Iceland and unique since it has been illegal to import horses for several hundreds of years.
Upon returning to Reykjavik we decided to visit the ‘Blue Lagoon’, another famous tourist and local attraction. The Blue lagoon is a unique wonder of nature, a pool of pure mineral-rich geothermal seawater in the middle of a lava field in the Reykjanes peninsula. An algae grows and dies in the hot (160 F) seawater that gives it a brilliant blue color and is supposed to be good for healing psoriasis and other skin ailments? For only $8 you can spend all day soaking in this huge hot tub!

After one more night and ‘fish of the day’ dinner in Reykjavik we are ready to depart on our journey around the island. There is only one national highway in Iceland – Hwy # 1 that follows the coastline completely around the country. It is a narrow two-lane road that is paved most of the way although there are several hundred kms that are unpaved. On the south coast it follows the Atlantic coastline on glacial or alluvial plains that range from zero to one mile in width. Since we are heading east the Atlantic Ocean is always on our right and volcanic mountains and Glaciers are on our left. The mountains typically rise sharply and there are hundreds of waterfalls cascading down to the ocean. After stopping and taking pictures of the first dozen or so I became immune to them except to note “there is another spectacular waterfall”! We also noted several old Icelandic houses on the south coast. Up until fifty years ago, the Icelanders lived in houses constructed of stone and sod with only a few pieces of driftwood since trees and wood are very scarce on the island. Now all the homes are built with concrete and there are only a few examples of the old homes left.
The alluvial plains along the south coast are mostly fertile and we did see some dairy cattle, horses and thousands of sheep. We passed through the tiny village of Vik, population 300, that is the southernmost village in Iceland. It is noted for its beautiful black sand beach. Although it was a sunny and balmy 68 F, I can’t imagine anyone ever wanting to swim there? Next we skirted for several hundred kms around Vatnajokull Glacier and passed many areas where the glacier almost reached the ocean. At one particular site called Jokulsarlon the glacier is calving into a glacial stream only a few hundred meters from the ocean and the icebergs are spectacular in color and form. Reminded me of Antarctica.
We then continued on to the small village of Hofn that represented the halfway point to Lake Myvatn. Hofn was located on a small peninsula that provided spectacular views of the Atlantic Ocean and Vatnajokull Glacier. But there were only two B&Bs and two cafes and it was only 4pm so we decided to forge on to Egilsstadir, the largest town in East Iceland. This turned out to be one of those good and bad decisions. The bad was that I had already driven for seven hours and had another three hours to Egilsstadir over some of the worst roads in Iceland. Hwy # 1 became a dirt road as it turned inland at Hofn and climbed up and over two mountain ranges. The roads up the mountains were steep, narrow, wet and had no guardrails. One mistake or slip and you wouldn’t stop for 2,000 feet! I was so concerned that I drove on the wrong side of the road and hugged the mountain all the way up – thankfully there was no traffic on the roads. As we crested the first volcanic mountain we found ourselves in a huge volcanic crater that stretched for over 50 kms. To make the road/highway they had just graded a path through the red volcanic dust. Talk about desolate! Fortunately I had lots of gas because I quickly learned not to let the gas get below half a tank. You could go for 100+ kms easily before finding civilization and gas again! As we descended the second mountain range towards Egilsstadir the terrain started to turn green with sparse vegetation and also lots of sheep. There were no fences in this area and as we would crest the many ‘blind haeds’ (blind hills) we would find sheep grazing on the side of the road or laying in the middle of the road. “Lean on the horn, slam on the breaks, swerve and hope you missed them”! I damn near killed a dozen sheep. Can’t understand why they are so expensive on the menu – there are millions of the damn animals and hundreds must get killed every day? But the good was that at about 7pm we reached Egilsstadir and had that boring and dangerous section of Hwy #1 behind us!

We overnighted in Egilsstadir, the largest town in East Iceland; population 1600. But it had three hotels and five cafes/restaurants. We ate at the hotel and enjoyed a fine ‘meal of the day’ – a three course dinner that included roast pork for only $22! The following morning we continued on towards Lake Myvatn. Since it was only a three-hour drive we detoured into Jokulsargljufur National Park to view Dettifoss, Europe’s most powerful waterfall, which measures 45m high and 100m across. Then we backtracked to Hwy #1 and continued on towards Lake Myvatn. The Lake Myvatn (pronounced mee –va) region offers a wide spectrum of geological formations since it lies on an active volcanic belt where eruptions are frequent, most recently in 1984. We stopped at Viti, a huge explosion crater with a lake near the volcano Mt. Krafla and again at Namafjall that has hot springs, boiling mud pools and hissing steam vents. I was going to throw Nicole into a boiling mud pool as a sacrifice to the lava gods but she promised to actually support me on the upcoming marathon so I decided to keep her around for a few days. We could always drive back after the marathon if she didn’t keep her promise.

Finally we arrived in Lake Myvatn. Lake Myvatn is the 4th largest lake in Iceland and frequent lava flows have left the lake very irregular in shape, with many islets and rock formations in it. There are only two small villages on the lake and the marathon host hotel was located in Reykjahlio. We checked into the hotel and then made our way to the tourist office that was located in the school for the summer. The lake region is a tourist attraction only for the summer months and offers some of the warmest weather in the country. My concerns about cold weather for the marathon were needless as the weather was sunny and a pleasant 68 F. At the tourist center we learned more details about the race and also that my buddy from London (the same one who ran Liechtenstein with me) had already arrived and was looking for us. When I discovered that the nearest government liquor/beer store was 100kms away, they helped me by asking a local hotel manager (who was also a sponsor of the marathon) to sell me a few bottles of beer. He agreed to do so even though it was illegal. Of course he charged me bar prices so it cost me $20 for four beer! But I state this as an example of how friendly the Icelandic people are. We also asked the information office if there was any place to access the Internet. There was not but they offered us access to their own computer and refused to accept any payment – nice people!

Next we hunted down our friend from London and then decided that the three of us should do some more sightseeing in the region. We visited the Grenjadarstadur Folk Museum in Laufas, an old stone and turf homestead that was built in 1876 and lived in until 1949. Boy those early Icelanders must have been tough because the only source of heat in the huge home was the kitchen that was located in a separate wing. The following morning the three of us drove to North Iceland to the small fishing village of Husavik, which is a picturesque village on the Denmark Strait/ Arctic Ocean. From there we headed east looking for Puffin nesting grounds in the cliffs on our way back to Jokulsargljufur National Park. We wanted to visit Asbyrgi, a natural horseshoe-shaped rock canyon with walls up to 100m high. We decided to take a shortcut back to Lake Myvatn via Detifoss and Namafjall over a road that was better suited to a 4X4 and made for an exciting ride for about 50kms. But we finally returned to Lake Myvatn in the mid-afternoon to allow us time to rest up for the marathon that evening/night. First we needed to pick up our race package and get any last minute details. And some interesting details they were! Such as: Lake Myvatn means ‘water of the midges’ because of the zillions of midges that infest the area in the summer. Midges are somewhat like a fly or mosquito. Some bite but mostly they just bother the hell out of you by buzzing around and flying into any open orifice. They get really bad in warm weather like we were enjoying and were worse around the lake. And the marathon course was a loop around the lake! We were advised to buy head nets to keep them away from our face during the race. I bought one but was not looking forward to running 26 miles with that thing on my head! Secondly the weather would still be sunny and warm at the 9pm start but it would cool off by the finish. Great –what the hell do we wear? Let’s wait till the start to make that decision. One other little wrinkle. Since the loop around the lake was only 36kms we would be bussed back 6kms from the finish line to the start line which meant waiting along the lake with all the midges. We also learned that there were only 42 runners and two foreigners not from Iceland. Yes, you guessed it. Tad and I were the token outsiders!
But now it was time for a short nap as I was going to be running at a time when I am normally sleeping.

8pm – Friday, June 22nd! Tad and I drive to the finish line to catch the bus back to the start line. The sun is still shining brightly and the temperature is in the low 50s and fortunately a strong wind has come up that keeps the midges at bay. We decide to wear shorts and T-shirt and carry gloves and our head net with us in case they are needed later in the race. At 9:05pm a gun goes off and we are away. With the strong head wind I decide to tuck in behind a young local runner and draft off him. He’s running faster than I want to run but I feel that I will save energy by drafting. By the time we cross the finish line for the first time the pecking order of the race has already been established! I continue to draft off the youngster until the course changes direction at 10kms and then I let him go. I run alone from that point although I can see at least 3 runners about ½ mile ahead of me. As I approach our hotel at the 27km mark at 11:15 pm I notice Nicole running out of the hotel to clap and cheer me on. Damn, that boiling mud pool is a really good incentive –but then again maybe not? Tad later informs me that when he went by twenty minutes later Nicole was nowhere to be seen – must have had her PJs on under her clothes? At 27kms I noticed that I was running close to an 8 minute pace and the gap between me and the three runners in front was narrowing. So I decided to try to draw them in. By 30km I had passed one runner and was drawing close to the other two. But they had noticed and decided to make it a difficult challenge. We ran our butts off for the next 10km and although we were all slowing everyone refused to give ground. Finally at 40km my legs started to hurt and I knew that I had not had enough hard training coming into the race to keep up the challenge and pace so I backed off and coasted the last 2km to cross the finish line in 3:34:12. I was quite pleased with my effort and time.
I waited at the finish line (in my head net) for Tad to finish. He crossed the line about twenty minutes later which was a great time for him. While I was waiting the sun set at 00:45am and rose again twenty-six minutes later as we were returning to our hotel. You have to experience this Arctic phenomenon to understand what this does to your body clock!

Back at the hotel I treated myself to my normal hot bath – no problem here with hot water- for about thirty minutes and then went to bed to try to sleep. I’m not sure what it is but I have experienced this reaction before – the sun set/sun rise trick, the bright daylight at 2am, or my body and mind being all-juiced up from the race- but I could not sleep! I counted Icelandic sheep crossing Hwy #1 for about two hours, then wrote this trip report in my mind for another two hours and finally at 6am I gave up and decided that we might as well have breakfast and leave early for the trip back to Reykjavik.

We departed about 8am on the infamous Hwy#1 that skirted around some fjords on the North Coast before turning inland to follow some glacial valleys. We stopped at Godafoss (Waterfall of the Gods) for a Kodak moment before traveling on and through Akureyri, the second largest city in Iceland – population 15,000! After Akureyri the trip was boring except for our encounters on the blind haeds with the sheep until we reached Borgarnes (population 1700), a small seaside village with some spectacular views. I probably would have fallen asleep in this stretch of the trip if it had not been for the challenging game of ‘miss the sheep’! Finally we arrived back at Reykjavik about 4pm which was much earlier than we had planned. We drove to Keflavik airport to see if we could get catch a flight back to London that evening instead of waiting for our morning flight the next day but no luck – no more flights that day. So we checked into our hotel near the airport and enjoyed our last ‘fish of the day’ dinner. Really, the fish in Iceland is excellent.

Sunday morning we flew back to Heathrow to be picked up by Mary Lou and Tim again to spend our last night in Windsor. I think Mary Lou and Tim were happy o learn that we just wanted to relax and repack for our journey home on Monday. The weather was unbelievably hot in England that day – mid 80s so we just sat out on their deck and enjoyed a few drinks and chatted about the trip.

So now we are back and enjoying God’s Country. Sorry this report is so long but I thought that I should either pique your interest in visiting Iceland or provide enough detail to save you a trip. Iceland is truly an interesting place to visit and as they advertise “It is a land of contrasts”!

Bae, Sjaumst seinna!

Sunday, June 17, 2001

TR Liechtenstein

TRIP REPORT
England – Liechtenstein – England
6/5/01 to 6/17/01


Planning for this trip started early last spring as I was searching the running magazines and web sites for marathons in Europe. I needed to run marathons in Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Latvia and Iceland to complete Northern Europe. I prefer to run at least two marathons in one trip to get more value out of the trip and reduce the number of trips and jet lag forced on my body. Luckily I found summer marathons scheduled for Liechtenstein and Iceland that were two weeks apart. Normally I don’t like to go for that long but since I have a sister living in London at this time I figured it would be a good opportunity to spend some time with her and her family in between races.
And as it turned out it was much cheaper to fly to London and use London as a base to fly to the marathons using discount flights out of London. After checking with my sister to make sure she would be home in June and wanted some guests, the trip was on.

The first race in Liechtenstein was scheduled for Saturday, June 9. This date presented a bit of dilemma because Jason’s graduation was scheduled for May 26 in Galveston, TX. Do we book flights out of Tampa, FL or Denver, CO? We finally decided to close up our home in Fl in May and drive to our summer home in Colorado via Galveston. But the schedule was tight and meant that we would only be in CO for one week before we had to leave for Europe. I have reported previously how tough it was to train for that one week at 10,000 feet. To make things worse Nicole had picked up a bad sinus cold at the graduation and although she was almost over it, she managed to pass it on to me the day before we left for London. It really is fun flying for 10+ hours with stuffed-up sinuses and wondering if you can get rid of the damn cold before the race?

But we departed on schedule on June 5th and arrived at London- Heathrow at 8:30 am June 6th where my sister Mary Lou and her husband Tim picked us up. They took us to their home in Windsor, helped us get settled in and then went to work for a few hours while we tried to nap and overcome the jet lag. That evening we unfortunately followed the normal Wallace tradition of partying and drinking too much and Tim and I were still in their pool drinking beer at 2am. We had a 9am flight out of Heathrow to Zurich, Switzerland that morning so with only three hours sleep, a massive hangover and a sinus head cold I got on the BA flight to Zurich. Believe me, if you ever want to know what it feels like to be dead (or wish you were), just get on a two-hour flight with a triple whammy: hangover, jet lag and sinus cold! And of course I got no sympathy from Nicole. She kept reminding me that one of the conditions was self-induced. But I got even! When we arrived in Zurich I was so sick that I laid down on a bench at the airport and made her go find the train station and make all the travel arrangements on to Liechtenstein.
We still had two trains and a bus to catch before we arrived at our final destination –Vaduz, Liechtenstein. The train ride offered spectacular scenery –what little I remember as I tried to sleep my hangover off! Finally we arrived in Sargans, Switzerland where we transferred to a bus that took us into Liechtenstein.

The weather was great, sunny and very warm. We should have spent the rest of that day sightseeing but in my sorry condition all I wanted to do was go to bed and sleep which is what we did. But I did come back to life by dinnertime and we explored the capital of Vaduz and enjoyed a fine dinner, which accelerated my recovery!

Now where are we? Liechtenstein? Where is that? The Principality of Liechtenstein is a small country (61 sq. miles) that lies between Switzerland and Austria. The total population is 32,000 people living in 11 villages. Liechtenstein is divided into the Lower Country along the Rhine River and the Upper Country in the Alps. Most of the villages or hamlets are along the river but there are a few villages in the Alps. Vaduz, the capital has a population of 5,000 and Malbun, a hamlet or ski resort in the Alps has a population of 500. The scenery is spectacular with the Swiss Alps on one side and the Austrian Alps on the opposite side. The country is affluent and meticulously groomed. We never saw a slum or poor home or building in the country. There is a public bus system ($5 for a one-week pass) that runs often and efficiently and can take you anywhere in the country. Lodging and restaurant prices are comparable to US prices, which is not bad for Europe. I checked prices on jewelry and watches – a Rolex watch cost about 50% of US price. Liechtenstein does not have its own currency. It accepts Swiss Francs, German DM and Austrian Shillings but the most common one used is the Swiss Franc. Most citizens speak German and English so language was not a problem. Tourism is one of the main economies so the people are very friendly and hospitable. However there are not many tourist attractions to see or visit other than the mountain scenery. If you are in to hiking, mountain biking, skiing, etc; then there is lots to do. But back to the trip.

After the fine dinner and a good night’s sleep the hangover was gone, the jetlag and sinus cold almost gone. “God, it’s great to be alive!” Now it’s time to explore the country. Only one small problem. The sunny, warm weather has been replaced with cloudy, overcast skies and a cold rain. We can’t even see the Alps! Not to be daunted, we find the tourist/information office, collect lots of brochures (in English) and set out on the public transportation (bus) system. We stop at each small village, explore for an hour or less and move on to the next one. We are able to visit the whole country in one day. Our last stop is Malbun, the only ski resort in the country. Malbun is located at the bottom of a bowl, elevation 5,000 feet, between Gamsgrat and Augstenberg Mountains (7500 feet). As we are traveling up the mountain on paved roads with 8 to 12 degree slopes I remarked that “this marathon is going to be a bitch”! I assumed that the course would follow the paved roads. Wrong! How nieve and stupid I was! As we were waiting for the bus to take us back down the mountain a friend from London got off the bus accompanied by four friends from the 100 Club in England (you must run 100 or more marathons to join). They soon advised me that most of the marathon was run on single-track trails. Oh Goody – I just love trails! At that point Nicole and I decided to travel to Nendeln at the other end of the country (10km away) to pick up the race package and more information.
The local runners confirmed the information about the trails and advised me to add 50% to my normal marathon time for this trail race! That would mean a 5:15 to 5:30 time for me but I decide that I am going to be aggressive and target for 5 hours or less.

Saturday is M-Day! It is still raining and the temperature is in the mid 40s as the race starts in Nendeln. I decide to wear just shorts, T-shirt and no gloves. The first 10Km are run on a flat and paved bike path along the Rhine River. I run an 8min/mile pace for this part of the course because it will be the fastest part of the course. At Vaduz the course changes direction, runs through the town square and heads up a dirt trail past Schloss Vaduz (Vaduz Castle) so the Prince can view his subjects and guests as they run past his front door. By 11Km the trail becomes so steep that I cannot continue a running pace and quickly realize that I am going to end up walking anyway so I might as well be smart and start NOW! I alternate between a running pace and a power walk and find that I can keep up with those runners who are trying to run all the time. The trails continue so steeply with no flats or downhill that I am only able to average about 14min/mile; that is, until Km 20 & 21 that are so steep that I struggle to average 16 min/mile. I struggle across 21Km (Half marathon) at 2:20. That means 50 minutes for the first 10Km and 90 minutes for the next 11Km! I only have 2:40 left to do the 2nd half to beat my target. No way in Hell if the course continues this steeply! Fortunately Kms 21 to 25 were mostly downhill as we traversed Gramsgat towards Augstenberg. Those 4Km saved my butt because I was finally able to stretch my stride out and alleviate the cramps from the constant climbing. Kms 25 to 32 presented a series of hills, mostly up but with a few downhills as we continued to traverse. Much of the trail was dirt that had turned to mud because of the rain. At many points we had to run through glacial streams that were rushing wildly because of the rains. And at one point the trail had washed out and narrowed down to a few feet with a 500-foot drop-off. I just closed my eyes and forged on. At 32Km we hit the hardest part of the course. It was so steep that I literally had to scramble up on my hands and feet for 2Km. I struggled to manage a 20 min/mile pace over those 2Km! Finally at 35Km, we reached a point on Augstenberg overlooking the village of Malbun. I could hear the cheers of the crowd at the finish line and hoped/assumed that we had an easy 5Km to the end. Right - only in my dreams! The sadistic race director ran the course up to the top of the ski bowl on Augstenberg and across three snowfields in the ski bowl. The snow was wet and slippery and the footing was very treacherous. I knew that if I slipped my legs did not have the flexibility or capability to recover so I just followed the trail made by the other runners and prayed that I did not slip. After traversing the ski bowl we hit the 40Km mark on the opposite side of Malbun and started our descent to the finish line. My time at that point was 4:34! I might even have a chance to break 4:45. I literally flew down that mountain even though the trail was a narrow single track covered with six inches of mud and water and crossed the finish line in 4:46:02.
Within seconds of crossing the finish line my legs (and even my arms) started to cramp due to fatigue and cold. I struggled over to the equipment tent to get my sports bag with my warm-ups. As I tried to put my warm-ups on my whole body started to cramp and spasm so much that I had to ask a race volunteer to help dress me. And where was my faithful companion and manager? Back at the warm hotel watching the French Open (Tennis). As the volunteer
was dressing me he advised me that I was the first and only American to ever run this race. And if y’all are as smart as I believe, you will heed this advice: “Don’t try to be the second”! After I warmed up I caught a bus back to Vaduz and a very relaxing hot bath before Nicole and I headed out for our customary celebration dinner. After dinner we enjoyed a free music concert in the Town Square but did not stay long because it was still raining and cold.

The following day we headed back to Zurich to catch our flight back to London. Still raining! At the train station in Sargans we met a German couple who had run the race this year and last year. They remarked that last year the weather had been beautiful and that the course is really beautiful and a lot of fun when you can enjoy the scenery. Right – I will take their word for it – I am not going back! But now it is time to return to London and enjoy our visit with Mary Lou, Tim and their kids, Kurtis and Kasey.

Back at my sister’s place in Windsor we decided that we just wanted to relax for a few days and then maybe drive to Land’s End at the end of the week. Mary Lou had obtained some invitations to a formal state reception where the Queen would receive or welcome the President of South Africa in Home Park near Windsor Castle. Although we are not ‘Monarchists’ we decided to go along and really enjoyed the pageantry and color of the ceremony. The Queen’s Royal Guards parade in full red dress on foot and horse and another horse guard pulls in the cannons/guns for a 21-gun salute. They have been doing this for hundreds of years so are very precise and good at it! The Queen and the President arrive in separate Rolls Royces, meet, exchange pleasantries and then depart in the Royal Carriages. I was a little upset that the Queen didn’t stop to chat with us though –see if I ever visit her again!
The next few days we just lazed around. Nicole met with some of her old staff and colleagues at Nortel in Maidenhead, which is only about 10 miles from Windsor. I explored the area around Windsor on my daily training runs such as a run through the city center, around the castle and along the Thames River; another down to the Castle and along the ‘Grand Walk’ and into the Great Windsor Park. This park is owned by the Queen and contains a few farms so much of it was still closed to the public because of the foot and mouth crises. On Wednesday, we rented a car and drove over to our old stomping grounds in Bishops Stortford. While Nicole went to dinner with an old NT colleague I went back to my running club and enjoyed a run through the countryside with my old running mates. It was almost like I had never left – the same old gang and the same old routine. Do a hard run and then return, shower, open the bar and drink lots of beer and ale! My only disappointment was that ‘Magic Fingers Sue’, the masseuse who tortured me (and kept me together) for the year I lived there, wasn’t doing the club massages any more.

The next day Tim left for Germany on a business trip so Mary Lou, Nicole and I took off for Cornwall and Land’s End which is the southern-most point in England. Land’s End is one of the few places in England that we had not visited during our year in England and Mary Lou had not visited yet either. It rained most of the way there but fortunately stopped as we passed through Plymouth. We decided to stop and explore St Ives, an old fishing and seaport on the Atlantic Ocean. It is a marvelous little village with some real sand beaches and an old fishing harbor that is still used after hundreds of years. It has been turned into a seaside/tourist resort with lots of great pubs, restaurants, shops and B&Bs. We considered staying there for the night but decided to move on towards Land’s End. As we were leaving St Ives I found myself trapped on a one-way street that was about 500 years old and had not changed since it was built for horses and carts. I was driving Tim’s car, a Landrover and we had less than one inch of clearance on each side of the car between the mirrors and stone houses! Only after I slowly inched our way down that city block did I remember that I could have collapsed the mirrors for more clearance! Oh well –just a quick refresher course in British driving. But it wasn’t over yet. I decided to take a short cut and use back roads to drive to Penzance. Those damn roads were so narrow with 8-foot hedges on both sides that I had to back up twice to allow oncoming vehicles to pass! And when we arrived in Penzance we discovered that it was a dump compared to St Ives. So back we went to St Ives (on the highway this time). But now it was after 6pm and most of the B&Bs were booked. We finally had to split up – Nicole and I got a double room in one B&B and Mary Lou a single room in a B&B across the street. Mary Lou had never stayed in a B&B before so she was a bit nervous but a good trooper. After we checked in, we strolled on down to the harbor and had a beer at the Sloop Inn, a pub established in 1312! We then continued our stroll along the harbor trying to select a restaurant for dinner. We had an excellent seafood dinner for half the price in London! After dinner we strolled back to our 300-year old B&Bs (built in 1730). St Ives is a wonderful little seaside resort and I strongly recommend a visit and stay there if you are in Cornwall.

The next morning, following our cholesterol-laden, but delicious full English breakfast we were off again to Penzance and Land’s End. We passed St Michael’s Mount; a scenic castle built on an island off the Cornish Coast but did not stop to visit. Finally we arrived at Land’s End. The tour guide and rumors had indicated that you have to pass through an amusement park to get to Land’s End, which turns some people off. But the ‘amusement park’, is a series of mini-theatres that show videos about the Atlantic Ocean and marine life in the area, etc. – NOT the American style rides and carnival we had pictured. And they are optional so the only cost to visit Land’s End is a 3-pound parking fee.
There are several walking paths along the cliffs at Land’s End and fortunately they had just reopened after being closed for months due to the foot & mouth crisis. Mary Lou and I walked and explored a few miles of them in spite of a very strong wind that tried to blow us off the cliffs. But Heh – “we’ve now been there, done that”. So it’s time to go home! On the way home we stopped at St Just, another small seaside resort where Mary Lou bought some home-baked goods and ‘Cornish clotted cream’. I had trouble understanding all the moans and groans and sighs coming from the back seat as Mary Lou and Nicole ate their way through pounds of scones and clotted cream? Our next stop was in the town of Bodmin so I could enjoy a Cornish pastie for lunch. NO – not the type you put on a breast and twirl – get your mind out of the gutter! This pastie is a pastry like a meat pie although it looks more like a calzone. It can be filled with meat, cheese or veggies or combinations – and is very delicious. For some reason the girls weren’t hungry and I couldn’t convince them to try a pastie? Now that we were full it was time to return to Windsor.

On our final day at Mary Lou’s (on this leg of the trip at least) we lazed around again. Nicole and I joined some old friends – from Ottawa but now living in England- for lunch. Then Mary Lou, Tim and we tossed around the idea of going into London to catch a musical in the West End. But we got lazy and didn’t want the hassle of catching a train, metro, etc so we decided to go to the Royal Windsor Theatre in Windsor and watch a play written by Richard Harris. Unfortunately I think that we all agreed that we would have been better to go to London!

But now it was time to get ready for the next leg of our journey –Iceland. But that will be the subject of my next trip report. Stay tuned!