Monday, February 16, 2009

TR - French Polynesia

TRIP REPORT
FRENCH POLYNESIA
Feb 1-12/09

Race results:
Tahiti-Moorea Marathon
Moorea, French Polynesia
Sat, Feb 7/09
Marathon # 316 – Country #100
4:14:27

TEN down – ZERO to go! Country #100 ** New World Record**

I DID IT! I accomplished my goal of breaking the World Record!

It seems like a long time ago (April 08) when I announced that I was going after the World Record of completing a marathon in 99 Countries. There were times when I thought Maddog was being too aggressive/obsessive in demanding that I accomplish this goal before I turned 65 (in March)!

I had initially wanted to run countries #99 and 100 in English-speaking countries but Maddog’s time table did not permit that option so I chose Tahiti as # 100 because it is a place I have always wanted to visit and I would have my Sports Manager and personal translator along for the trip. A good friend in Sarasota, Frank Ouseley, who I often referred to as ‘the only other sane person in the world’ (now nick-named the ‘Mad Monk’) decided to join us at the last moment. On Feb 1 we all left for the long trip to Papeete, Tahiti. Due to flight cancellations and schedule changes by Air Tahiti (before the start of the trip) we were scheduled to spend a few more days in the French Polynesia Islands than originally planned.

We arrived in Papeete on Sun night and had 2 days to explore the capital city and Tahiti. This was enough time to do our shopping for gifts/souvenirs, do some training runs to acclimate to the heat/humidity, explore the city and take a circular drive/tour of the island. On the first day we toured Papeete on foot while shopping and enjoying some Polynesian food and beer. The food was OK but not spectacular and the beer is not very good but everything is expensive! One can easily do a walking tour of the city in a ½ day to visit the Harbour, Place Vaiete, the Market, City Hall and the old military section of the city. On our final day we took a ½ day circular tour of Tahiti to visit the Maraa Grotto Caves, Faaurumai Waterfall, Paul Gaugin Museum and One Tree Hill (see photos). That evening we celebrated the Sports Manager’s birthday at a fancy French restaurant and she received a lovely black Tahitian pearl for a present!

The following day we took a short 10-minute flight to Moorea where the marathon was being run. We had booked beach bungalows near Hauru Point. The road around Moorea is 60 Km long – we were located at Km 28 – mid way around the island from the airport and Temae Beach where the marathon started/finished. There is no public transport on Moorea except-only busses that take tourists to/from the ferry terminal. The race had arranged for these busses to transport runners to/from the race activities. It took exactly 1 hour for the 30 Km ride no matter which direction the bus went and we ended up having a few circular island tours free of charge!

On Thu we enjoyed such a circular tour to travel to the finish area on Tamae Beach to register and pick up our race packets. I had requested Bib # 100 and was pleased that the race organization had granted my request. On Fri we had to return to Tamae Beach for the pasta party and Polynesian show. I had an opportunity to meet and talk to Horst Preisler from Germany. Horst had emailed me to let me know that he and another member of the ‘Country Club’, Stefan Schlett, would be running the race. Horst holds the World Record for marathons with 1604 marathons completed. We took advantage of the opportunity to pose for a photo – together we represented a total of 1920 marathons and 152 countries!

Sat was ‘M’ day! I was concerned about the weather. Before we left for Tahiti we had checked the forecast. It looked like a broken record- highs around 88 and lows around 78 F with showers – every day! It had rained hard both nights and early mornings before the race. I was actually hoping for rain since it might cool down the temps. No luck – the weather was nice on race morning with temps around 80 F at the 4:30 am start in the dark. We didn’t expect the race to start on time and were surprised as we walked up from the beach to a paved/lighted road to start the race. I was double-knotting my shoe laces a few hundred meters from the start line when the gun went off? I ran to catch up but wasn’t concerned because 26 miles provides lots of time to catch up. I had a special singlet printed for the race that read “Pays # 100” on the front and “John’s 100th Country” on the back so received a lot of comments as I caught up and passed most of the pack. My race strategy was to go out at a 3:45 pace for the 1st half during the dark (and cool) hours because I knew I would slow drastically when the sun came up. I reached 10 Km in 54:36 – right on pace – but my split for that Km had slowed to 5:45/km (9:12/mile). That was not good! I managed to lower the pace back down to 5:30s (8:40s/mile) until I passed 15 km in 1:23:18 and a split of 5:45 again. I had to struggle to hold that pace until I reached the Half in 1:58:04. I knew right then that a sub-4 hr finish was not going to happen! I was already struggling to keep the pace below 6:00/km (9:30/mile) and my heart rate was running about 10 to 15bpm faster than normal. I figured it was high because of the extra work needed to cool my body?

As the sun started to come up the heat/humidity soared and I wilted like a prize flower! By 30 Km (2:44:50) my pace had slowed above 6:00/Km and I was desperately trying NOT to walk! It became a very painful struggle and mind game. I tried to drink as much water as possible and poured water over my head and body at every water station. I was hoping to finish under 4:05 but when I passed 35 Km in 3:23:12 and a split of 6:39 (10:40) I knew that wasn’t possible but I became determined that I would finish under 4:15 and BQ (Boston Qualifying) time – or die trying! The latter might have been less painful. The last 2 Km were sheer Hell as my pace slipped above 7:00s/Km (11/mile). Those were the longest 2 Km I have ever ran (in slow motion) in my life. But finally I reached the entrance to the beach and crossed the finish line in 4:14:27 to lots of cheers. A photographer from Runner’s World (German issue) took a photo at the finish line for the running magazine. Hopefully one of my German friends will forward a copy if the photo does make the magazine?

After a few finish line photos I walked straight into the ocean in an effort to cool down. Boy – did that water feel good! A quick check of the results confirmed that I did not place in a tough Age Group (Veterans 55+) so we decided to take the first bus back to the hotels to shower and rest up. The MadMonk had registered for the marathon but wisely changed his mind during the race and completed the Half marathon instead. Otherwise he would have been out on the course – and in that heat/humidity for almost 6 hours!

We enjoyed a great dinner that night (washed down with lots of beer and wine) to celebrate a new World Record. 100 Countries!
The following day we took another plane on to Bora Bora for four days of R & R. Bora Bora is smaller and much prettier/scenic that the other islands visited but after one day we decided to change the name to Boring Boring! There was not much to do. None of us were beach people who could enjoy just laying on the beach in the sun. It was too damn HOT and the sun would burn you to a crisp in 30 minutes. So we sat on the patio of our beach bungalow (drank beer) and enjoyed the scenery. Both Maddog and MadMonk had to run very early (4 am to escape the heat) every day to prepare for our hometown marathon the next weekend when we returned home. But the rest of the day was boring- boring so we got desperate and rented a car to tour the island. The drive/tour took one hour. We used the remaining 23 hours of rental to visit the main village of Vaitape to shop for groceries, visit an internet café and later go to Bloody Mary’s for dinner. MadMonk scheduled a visit to the studio of Alain Despert – a world-renowned artist – to buy a painting.

On our final day on Bora Bora we took a boat tour around the island and snorkeled in the lagoons with stingrays and sharks. That was a pleasant and exciting tour/adventure. Although the FPI are beautiful and scenic and the people are friendly we were glad to be heading back home. It was so Damn HOT!

Now that we are back home what’s next on the agenda. First is my hometown marathon in Sarasota, FL. Hopefully the weather will be much cooler than Tahiti?

After that there are NO goals! Yes – you read that right! NO MORE GOALS! Whenever I set a goal it immediately becomes an OBSESSION for Maddog and he almost kills me getting it done!
I still want/plan to run a few more international marathons and countries but at a much slower rate – maybe 1 or 2 per year. I still plan to run domestic races but mostly home-state races in whichever state I am living in during the year. I am tired of airplanes and need a rest from travel.

So that is also Good news for y’all because you hopefully will get a rest form reading trip/race reports?

Stay tuned!

1 comment:

Frank said...

As far as having no more Goals. I believe that as much as George Bush was the best President and the fairy Godmother is going to shower me with Blond Bimbos. MM