Marathon #370 – Country # 120
A visit to Tanzania and Mt Kilimanjaro has always been on my bucket list. There were two items in the bucket list.
2) Climb Mt Kilimanjaro after the race.
Sadly with recent health issues – especially a heart that doesn’t seem to do well at high altitude anymore I had to forgo the 2nd item. But I could still accomplish two goals:
1) Run the Kilimanjaro Marathon & complete Country #120
2) Run my final country
I was not looking forward to the 30-hr journey to get to Kilimanjaro – especially in economy class – but I did arrive safely late Fri night. On the 45Km drive to our hotel in Moshi I met a few other runners including a member of the Country Club, Domitilia Dos Santos from NYC, that I had not met before. I didn’t even know she would be there? Most of us in the shuttle were being lodged at the Keys Hotel Annex that was located about 5 miles outside of Moshi and was not convenient to the town or race events. And the hotel was pretty rustic as the brochure had promised. A very poor and slow Wi-Fi was one of my many complaints about the hotel.
After a midnight beer to relax and unwind I enjoyed about 4 hrs. of sleep before I was wide awake and could not sleep anymore? Jet lag? At breakfast I met with my new friends and we decided to taxi into the main hotel in town to check out the race HQ. I was supposed to meet up with a photographer/cameraman who was making a documentary about the race and had requested an interview with Maddog about country #120. The documentary film will be broadcast throughout Africa and later be available on You-Tube. After a 15-min interview I joined my friends to continue into the shopping area of Moshi. I was able to find all of my mandatory souvenirs in a few hours and then we enjoyed a pizza for lunch. We quickly learned that Tanzania, like most 3rd world and hot countries, operates on a different time scale. Nobody is in a hurry!
I was supposed to meet other friends/CC members but I did not realize that I was being housed at the Annex and they looked for me at the main hotel and we never connected until the start of the race. I was not happy about the hotel arrangements and the fact that it was not made clear to me that I would be staying at the Annex! Because of the remote location I did not feel like taking a taxi into town for a pasta dinner and was forced to eat a terrible buffet pasta dinner at the Annex.
The race started at 6:30am in the Stadium in Moshi and the race package included transport to/from the stadium for the race. I asked for a 4am wake-up call knowing that it would never happen (it didn’t) so I woke up at midnight and every hour on the hour so that I would not miss the bus to the start line.
The temps were in the low 70s at the start but the humidity was low so it felt cool. Fortunately Domitilia and I were able to find the other 2 members of the Country Club and take a group photo at the start. One friend, Jay, who I ran with in Ecuador in 2007 was running his 30th country and qualified for the CC at the finish of the race.
My stomach and GI system were feeling better than my previous marathon so I hoped I wouldn’t have any problems or many pit stops? However when I hooked up my heart monitor a few minutes before the start I experienced the same strange problem as the previous race? My HR was only 32 bpm? When I reached 2 Km in 13:07 it had only climbed to 88 bpm but on the 3rd Km jumped suddenly to the normal range of 130 bpm. I felt less worried about my heart rate but was starting to suffer mild stomach cramps so I knew a pit stop would be needed before the Half. However the first few miles were along a route by our hotel and there were lots of spectators and few bushes and no port-o-potties? There weren’t any at the start either for more than 5,000 runners in the various races?
As I passed 8 Km in 53:49 and a split of 6:51 another new and strange thing happened? My HR dropped suddenly to 85 bpm and stayed there for the next 4 Km even though I was running a series of hills. How can my HR be 85 bpm when I am running hills? I started to worry again.
As I passed spectators they were shouting and cheering “Babu”, “Babu”. I confirmed with a fellow runner that word was Swahili for “grandpa”. How did they know I was a grandpa? At least they were cheering me on and not laughing at me! After the course made a turn-around at 10Km I started looking seriously for a bush or tree and managed to make a discreet pit stop near 12 Km. Ahhh! I felt much better and seemed to have more energy and my HR had surprisingly increased back to a normal range of 130 bpm. So I increased my pace and started to pull in two of my fellow CC members who had left me behind at the start. I passed Domitilia near 18 Km as we approached the stadium again. At 20Km the half marathoners returned to the stadium and the marathoners started a long 11Km climb up Kilimanjaro. The ascent wasn’t steep but it was constant and relentless. I passed the Half in 2:28:04 and a split of 7:21/Km but I knew the 2nd Half would be much slower because of the climb and the temps had now climbed into the 80s.
I passed another CC member, Klaus from Germany, near 23 KM and continued a slow methodical climb up the mountain. I was able to keep the old legs shuffling until 25 Km and then I had to start walking. I would take short walk breaks or walk short steep sections of the ascent but otherwise I tried to keep the old legs churning until I reached the top of the loop near 31Km in 3:51:29 and a split of 8:20. The next 9Km were back down the mountain. For the next 4Km I felt like I was flying down the descent but when I passed 35Km in 4:22:42 and a split of 7:45 my legs were totally trashed and I knew I had to slow my pace if I wanted to avoid a crash!
Around 37Km the cameraman came by on a motorbike and started filming and interviewing Maddog in action. What a bitch that was! I was trying to run a smooth easy pace, smile and look like I was having fun while I was pleading under my breath for him to screw off and let me die or at least walk in peace.
I was quite pleased with my time & performance. That was the hilliest and toughest course I had run in a long time. And it was very HOT when I crossed the finish line. After a mandatory finish line photo I went straight to the hospitality tent provided by the travel agency where food and drinks were available. I drank a coke and ate some chocolate to restore my blood sugar levels. However it was so hot that I couldn’t cool down so I took a shuttle bus back to the hotel. I wanted to take a hot shower to soothe my beat-up legs followed by a cold shower to cool down. There was no hot water in my building so I had to make do with a quick COLD shower. Suddenly I felt extremely tired and sleepy and laid down for a ‘short’ nap and woke up 2 hours later.
I was ready for a greasy snack and some local African beers brewed in Tanzania. My friends joined me for some beers and we swapped stories about the race. Everyone finished much slower than expected? I was looking forward to a nice (beef) steak dinner to replace protein and repair damaged muscle but the damn hotel was only offering a buffet again for Sun dinner. I was too tired to taxi into the city so I managed to talk the chef into cooking me a chicken steak with fries.
The service at the hotel had been so terrible that Domitilia found the owner and chewed out his butt. He agreed to let us stay in our rooms on Mon until we left for the airport at 7 pm and he also offered us a huge discount on a tour to a Maasai village on Mon. Since our flight didn’t depart until 10 pm we wanted to spend our last day seeing part of the country. We really enjoyed a 1-day tour of the Maasai village of Olpopongi. We learned a lot about their culture. They still live like they have for the past few hundred years. They herd cows, goats and sheep and do not use any modern conveniences – no electricity, no running water, no TV, no internet. Marriages are arranged and a man can have as many wives as he can afford – 5 to 10 cows for a wife! Ten to twenty wives and up to 100 kids is common for many men! Sounds good but each wife must have her own house/hut and divorce is not allowed. The Maasai explained that they don’t have any doctors and rely on herbs and natural medicine from local plants. I am thinking of spending a few weeks at their village to see if the witch doctor can cure my UC?
When we returned to the hotel to check out I was treated to a steak dinner – a real beef steak with fries – the best meal I enjoyed during my 4 days in Tanzania. But then it was off to the airport for the long, 31-hr journey home.
I am back home. The jet lag isn’t as bad this way and I am able to sleep most of the night.
I can start to prepare for my next race. And this where things get confusing. My next race is the Boston Marathon. It was supposed to be my 3rd goal and final marathon before hanging up my racing shoes? Kilimanjaro/Tanzania was Country #120 and my final country! BUT - a few days before leaving for Kilimanjaro that plan fell apart?
I completed a marathon in every country in Europe in Oct 2005. However in 2008 Kosovo declared independence and I have been trying (unsuccessfully) ever since then to organize a marathon in Kosovo. Well, I just recently discovered that I have finally been successful. I won’t go into details but I had a ‘one of’ opportunity to organize a marathon in Kosovo in May or lose the opportunity forever. I accepted the challenge and the ‘first-ever’ Kosovo Marathon is scheduled for May 25/14. That will be my final country and final marathon! I can’t think of any other opportunity that could entice me to postpone my ‘retirement’ once again.