Marathon # 373 – Country # 122
It has been so long since I last wrote a trip report that I may have forgotten how? One week after my last marathon and report in May 2014 I went into a hospital to have a pacemaker implanted. My cardiologists had convinced me that this treatment was the only chance I had to strengthen my weak heart muscle if I ever hoped to run marathons again. Eight months later and with lots of hindsight I now regret my decision to accept their advice. My heart & health has not improved after 8 months of pain and frustration!
So how did I get to this point and conclusion?
After the pacemaker was implanted it was a long slow struggle to try to get back into shape. The docs said that I should only walk for the 1st week after surgery but then I could run as far as I wanted. Right! I waited 3 days to start walking but when I tried to run 1 week later I couldn’t run 100 ft w/o becoming totally fatigued. I was not able to do any cross training such as biking/swimming/weights because my left shoulder was sore and I had to be careful not to extend the left arm for risk of dislodging the leads to the pacemaker. Back to square 0 – run 100 ft and then walk. Build up to run 200 ft and walk. After 2 weeks I was finally able to run about ¼ mile before becoming exhausted.
I continued this slow and frustrating process and we decided to spend July/August in Seattle to spend time with Chris, Ari & our new granddaughter Lauren. A few days each week I would take Lauren for a walk/run along Puget Sound. I enjoyed these ‘walks’ and wasn’t too concerned about the progress (or lack of) that I was making. Near the end of July I was starting to feel better and make some progress - I managed to run 1 whole mile before becoming fatigued and then - a big setback. While doing a simple stretch before a morning run I dislodged the LV lead and it started to fire/stimulate my diaphragm. We had to rush to ER to have the lead turned off. I decided to wait until we returned to FL to have the lead repaired. The lead was repaired in Oct which required basically the same surgery all over again – and thus the same healing and recovery process! However this time I quit feeling sorry for myself and pushed much harder and after 1 month I was able to run 5 miles before becoming fatigued. I was aggressive in building up the long runs to 13 miles and by the end of Nov I started thinking about running a marathon again? I could not run fast but at least I could run slow & long? I started looking for a marathon in Jan 2015 because I felt that I needed a few more months of training. I finally decided on a marathon in the Middle East and then quickly noted that there were two marathons 1 week apart in the Middle East. Why not try both?
I continued to train and build my long run up to 20 miles. But I was agonizingly slow and just couldn’t seem to improve my speed? Just before leaving for the 1st race I visited the cardiologist to complain about my HR seeming to be limited to a max of 130bpm? No matter how hard I tried to push I couldn’t get my HR above 130 bpm. An adjustment/tune up of the pacemaker corrected that problem (I was upset that this had not been mentioned earlier by the cardiologist?) I was curious to see if this ‘adjustment’ would enable me to run a bit faster?
The exciting/fun part of the adventure was that I would be joining nine other friends/members of the Country Club in Muscat to run the 1st marathon. It was like the ‘good old days’. It had been a long time since I had planned logistics for a race but I quickly determined that the cheapest way to travel to both races/countries was to book a cheap flight to Dubai and use Dubai as a base to fly back and forth to Oman & Bahrain. Soon it was time to depart! I did not have much confidence!
I flew 2 legs from FL to Dubai and arrived late Wed night. I overnighted in Dubai rather than continue on to Oman and arrive at 2 am. I was able to get a good night’s sleep/rest and continue on the next day. I was sharing a room at the host hotel (the Intercontinental) with my good friend Edson from NYC. I met up with many of my friends from the Country Club (CC) and we enjoyed a pasta dinner at the hotel after picking up our race packets. The RD had kindly reserved Bib # 122 for Maddog!
Friday was ‘M’ day – Fri is the start of the Muslim weekend and there is less traffic. The race started at 6 am at the back of the Intercontinental Hotel. The temps were in the mid-60s. The course was a Half –marathon loop through an exclusive neighborhood with many embassies and nice homes, then along a causeway on the Sea of Oman and finally through Al Qurm National Park that offered some shade. Sadly I started to struggle right out of the chute. Thankfully Edson stayed with me and dragged me through 10K in 1:12:43 – a 7min/km or 12min/mile pace. However at 16K I had to let Edson go as I struggled to reach the Half in 2:33:37. That was actually better than expected and it sort of gave me a boost and I felt good for the next 10K but then I started to struggle again as I approached 32K in 4:02:17. I had been walking through all the water stations but now it became a strategy of run 1 k and walk 1 min. When I reached 37 K in 4:45:54, it became a matter of making it to the finish line. I started to run 3 min and walk 1 min until I crossed the finish line in 5:32:26. It wasn’t pretty & it wasn’t fun but I finished Marathon #373 & Country #122. I had already realized by the 1st 10K that any hope/dream of running lots more marathons/countries wasn’t going to happen. I was hoping to run a marathon in Kenya in March but knew that there was no way my body/heart is capable of running a marathon with lots of hills at 7,000 ft elevation. That race was already scratched from my itinerary!
I managed to stumble across the finish line during the awards ceremony and in time to be presented with a special award for achieving a new World Record of 122 countries!
After a quick shower and snack I joined a few friends to enjoy a ‘hop on/hop off’ bus tour of Muscat. Muscat is quite modern and upscale – not at all what I imagined. We visited most of the tourist sites in Muscat – the National Opera, the Grand Mosque, Old souk, Marina, Parliament Bldgs, etc. (Photos on photo blog). Muscat is bordered on the North & East by the Sea of Oman and the Jabal Miraywah Mtns on the other sides. The topography reminded me on Reno, NV. Mostly the view is rugged/barren mtns. The only green is where irrigation exists.
On Sat another friend, Jurgen and I decided to rent a car and do a self-drive tour through the country side of Oman. We completed a 2-day, 500-mile loop from Muscat through the Al Jabal Al Akhdak Mtns that soar more than 10,000 ft above sea level. I was really surprised to find so many mtns. The topography is much like NV and NM – rugged & barren mtns with desert at the base of the mtns. We visited a lot of old forts on a route from Muscat through Bidbid, Izki & Nizwa to stay overnight in Jabreen. There is a network of forts and castles - some built over 1,000 years ago to protect the few rivers and oasis that exist in the mtns and desert. Many of the forts have been restored. On Sun we visited the Jabreen Castle and continued around the mtns (we were warned not to attempt to cross over the 10,000 ft mtns w/o a 4-wheel drive) to Irbi & Ar Rustaq. We visited a natural hot spring (Ayn Al Kasfah) in Ar Rustaq. The spring was fenced off but there were small bath houses (segregated of course) to bathe your feet in the hot springs? We did drive through some desert and past camels but the huge sand deserts are south of Muscat.
We enjoyed the trip and scenery and were surprised that the locals were so friendly and helpful. After we left the city English was not common but we were always able to find someone to help us when we got lost.
Oman was a very pleasant surprise and not at all what I expected.
However now it was time to head back to Dubai for a few days of sightseeing and rest. The story will continue in the next report.