Saturday, March 03, 2012

TR - Saipan

TRIP REPORT
Saipan, Northern Mariana Islands
02/27 - 03/05/12

Race Results
Sat, Mar 3/12
Saipan, Northern Mariana Islands
Saipan Marathon
5:03:02 – 5AG
Marathon #355 – Country # 113

The planning for this race started one year ago when I was running a marathon in Guam. Guam runners informed me that there was also a marathon in Saipan and I had just missed it. So I started looking for info and a contact in Saipan. It was not easy. There is not much information on the NET. The race is organized by a running club in Japan and 98% of the runners are from Japan. However there is a local contact in Saipan that works for the Saipan Tourist office and he was able to confirm the date and provide me with basic details and an entry form.

Air fares had risen steeply since I travelled to Guam so I cashed in award miles on Delta to save the $2300 fare to Saipan. The downside was that I had to extend my stay to get award seats and based on my time in Guam I didn’t expect there was much to see and do in Saipan?

I left home in FL at 7am on Mon and arrived in Saipan at 1:10 am on Wed. I missed Tue while on a 14-hr flight from Atlanta to Tokyo and a 4-hr nap on the floor of the airport in Tokyo? After I arrived at my hotel I crashed immediately and forced myself to get up at 8 am so I could get my body clock adjusted to local time. I quickly learned that you don’t go outside after 10 am – it is too friggin HOT! The main tourist area on Saipan is the small town of Garapan. There are two huge beach resorts and a small downtown area with shops and restaurants that can be explored totally in 1 hour? Most of the shops and restaurants display menus and prices in Japanese since 99% of the tourists are from Japan. The economy is in poor shape because of the problems in Japan. By mid-afternoon I had explored the whole town and was bored. Fortunately my body clock was so confused and tired that I crashed by 5 pm- skipped dinner and slept 12 hours!

On Thu morning I woke early and ran an easy 5 miles along the Philippine Sea to acclimate my body to the weather conditions during the race. I checked out ‘canned’ tours but the few that were offered were only in Japanese so I rented a car for two days to do my own self-drive tour of the island. Most of the tourist sites are in the north end of the island – mainly historical WWII sites such as the Last Japanese Command Post, the Japanese and Korean Peace Memorials and the Banzai and Suicide Cliffs where Japanese soldiers and their families jumped to their deaths rather than be captured by American forces (see photos on my photo website). There are a few natural sites such as the Grotto and Bird Island. I explored all of these sites in ½ day – now what was I supposed to do? I drove around the South end of the island but there is not much there except residential areas and the airport? The car sat at the hotel for most of the 2nd day although I did go back to the Cliffs for some better photos.
Just before I left FL I received an email from a friend and fellow Country Club member, Brent Weigner, informing me that he and his wife Sue would also be in Saipan. They arrived late Thu and we met at packet pickup on Fri.

The race started at 4:30am on Sat to take advantage of the cool weather during the final hours of morning darkness. It was a ‘cool’ 79F and 80% humidity as Brent & I lined up in the dark with 350 runners – 270 in the marathon & 80 in a 50K race. The race started in Garapan near the American Memorial Park. The 1st 10K was a gentle climb north into a pleasant headwind to the base of the Suicide Cliffs. I reached 10K in 1:01:41 and a 5K split of 31:50. Distance markers were only located every 5K which makes it difficult to adjust your pace. When I made the turn near 11K I noticed that Brent was about 4 minutes ahead of me. I pushed the pace for the next 10K back down the gentle hills (with a gentle tailwind) and passed 20K in 2:06:28 and a 5K split of 31:33. I had decided the ‘smart’ strategy would be to push the pace until the sun rose and then it would be necessary to slow down. By 20K the sun had risen and the heat index started to soar. I knew that the 2nd Half would be HOT and ugly and I would eventually have to walk. So I figured I would be smart and start walking early to let the legs rest and help keep my body temps down near normal. I started walking at 20K and at each water station I drank lots of cold water and took a sponge to cool down my head and face! At first I was able to ‘run’ a cycle of Walk 1-min/Run 10 –min. I passed 25K in 2:42:37 and a 5K split of 36:08. I had slowed significantly and I was starting to overheat. I took off my familiar headband that I always wear to allow my head to vent the heat. I continued this cycle and slow pace until I reached 30K in 3:19:04 and a split of 36:26. I met Brent coming in the opposite direction and he looked strong. I was starting to struggle and when I made the final turn near 32K I realized that Brent was about 15 min ahead of me! And my wheels started to fall off! I couldn’t vent the heat fast enough and I was overheated! I had to shorten my cycle to Walk 1-min/Run 5-min and walk through every water station so that I could drink lots of water and sponge my head and face down with cold water in a futile attempt to lower my body temp!

I kept looking (in desperation) for the 35K marker? At 40 min –still no marker so I figured I must have missed it? Imagine my agony when I finally reached the 35K marker – at a split of 50:08! That was not possible! That equated to an average 10min/Km or 16 min/mile! The marker had to be wrong! But it totally frustrated and discouraged me! I had no idea how slow I was running nor how far it was to the finish line? I started to take more time at the water stations to cool down. I started to feel nauseous and my primary goal became survival – not time. When I finally reached the 40K marker in 4:53:32 and a split of 44:19 I knew the markers were wrong but I was totally demoralized. I didn’t believe it was 2 more Km to the finish line but I wasn’t willing to push the pace to break 5 hrs (in case the marker was correct)! I walked a lot of that final ‘2K’ and crossed the finish line in 5:03:02 and a split of 9:28 for the final 2K? In hindsight I could have finished under 5 hrs but I didn’t really care. I had finished safely and healthy.

I completed marathon # 355 and country #113. And I had accomplished an important personal goal – to become the 1st person to complete a marathon in “All 50 Sates + DC + 4 US Territories”! There are four ‘unincorporated organized territories in the USA – Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands, Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands. There are also twelve unincorporated unorganized territories but most of those are uninhabited and none have official marathons!

After a hot shower and a short nap I enjoyed a wonderful massage to soothe the legs and then I joined Brent and Sue at the awards ceremony on the beach. Since Brent was not at the finish line I figured he had run a strong race – indeed – he finished in 4:10! It was a nice awards ceremony with entertainment and a BBQ but I couldn’t handle the sun and heat on the beach at 5pm so I retreated to a nice A/C restaurant for a quiet dinner. I am such a weather Wimp – I can’t stand Cold weather and now I have confirmed that I also can’t stand Hot weather! What am I going to do when we have to stay in FL for the summer?

The last two races have been very difficult and painful for me. I could use the excuse that I was sick or it was too hot but those are just excuses. The bottom line is that my times and performances have sucked for the past two years. I believe the injuries and health issues over the past two years have taken a large toll on my old bod and I am not sure that I can/will ever recover and return to the same level of performance that I was capable of a few years ago. And if that is truly the situation then maybe it is time to consider retiring from racing? I will decide by the end of this year!

Stay tuned!

2 comments:

Lani said...

AMAZING!! We are so looking forward to meeting you for the BlueSky Marathon in Samoa!! Can't wait for this great event to celebrate our 50th year of independence!!!

Lani said...

AMAZING!! We are so looking forward to meeting you for the BlueSky Marathon in Samoa!! Can't wait for this great event to celebrate our 50th year of independence!!!