Wednesday, November 18, 1998

TR Mexico

Trip Report
11/12 – 11/17/98


Cozumel Marathon
Cozumel, Mexico
Sun, Nov 15/98
Marathon # 132 – Country # 9

 A few weeks after the completion of the tests at the Baylor Sports Clinic in Dallas I met with my team of doctors to learn the results of their analysis and recommendations.

 First the good news. The tests indicated that my health and fitness were in the top 0.1% of athletes in my age group! My fitness and body age were equivalent to that of a male athlete aged 35 years old! (I was approaching my 55th birthday!)

And more good news. There was nothing wrong with me! There were no diseases or health issues!

 Then the bad news. I was “burned out”!

 What the Hell does that mean? Am I a piece of toast? Am I a piece of ‘burnt’ toast? They explained that because I was truly a ‘Maddog’ I had been overtraining and over-racing my body for the past few years and probably longer. I had been pushing my body beyond its limits too long and it was fighting for survival! The only way it could do this was to ‘shut down’ whenever I continued to ignore its cries and push it beyond its limits. It did this by literally shutting down – refusing to run or move. They described the symptoms and resulting actions that I had been suffering for the past year. In the early stages of the problem and symptoms whenever I suffered fatigue Maddog would blame it on lack of training and hard work and train harder. This became a vicious and predictable cycle. When my body started complaining I refused to listen to it and instead pushed it harder. After all exercise and more running will make my body stronger? Eventually something had to give or break. Usually these foolish actions resulted in an injury that would cause me to rest for months during which time the body could recover. But with no major injuries during the past few years I had essentially caused my body to break down!

 What was the solution?

 COMPLETE rest – NO running and NO exercise for one month! The team explained that if I were a normal person – a mere mortal – they would have allowed light exercise such as swimming and biking. However it was obvious that I was a ‘Maddog’ and if permitted to do those exercises I would probably swim 5 miles and bike 50 miles each day. Thus – NO exercise for one month! At the end of the month I MUST hire a professional coach to develop and supervise a ‘sensible’ training program that would slowly build up mileage and speed and include lots of ‘mandatory’ rest!

 I understood what the team was telling me – but I did not believe it! I could not accept it! I had been training and racing like this for years. I had friends/competitors who trained and raced harder than me and they weren’t ‘burned out’. I could not accept these results and recommendations!

 Instead I registered for another marathon. The marathon would be in a few weeks in Cozumel, Mexico.

I needed one more test/marathon to prove their results could not be true!

 So I booked a one-week vacation/marathon in Cozumel. Cozumel is an island in the Caribbean Sea off the eastern coast of Mexico's Yucat√°n Peninsula, opposite Playa del Carmen. That means that it is HOT and humid.

 The Sports Manager and I arrived a few days before the race to acclimate. My good friend Edson, from NYC, joined us for the race. Sun was ‘M’-day. It was HOT and humid as expected and the course was flat and fast. But not Maddog! The race and my performance were a disaster. I passed mile 5 in 47:47 and a split of 9:26/mile. I reached the Half in 2:01:48 and a split of 9:24. I knew that the 2nd Half would be much slower and I also knew that the Baylor medical team were right! I was ‘burned out’!

But being Maddog I still couldn’t quit so I struggled to reach 20 miles in 3:08:59 and a split of 9:43 and cross the finish line in 4:19:26. Not a PW but not a very good time or performance!

 By the time I struggled across the finish line I had accepted the truth as told by my medical team and vowed that I would follow their advice and recommendations. I started my 30 days of REST the second I crossed the finish line.

 I finished the remainder of our vacation and the year on ‘Rest’ sabbatical and contemplating what impact this terrible and significant prognosis and event would have on Maddog’s running life and indeed on the rest of my life. Little did I realize that there would be two even-more significant and important life-changing events arise early in the coming New Year?

 What were those events? They were significant enough to warrant their own report – and probably a chapter in Maddog’s book.

 Stay tuned!





Friday, September 04, 1998

TR Australia

Trip Report
8/26 – 9/2/98


Noosa Marathon
Noosa Heads, Australia
Sun, Aug 30/09
Marathon # 130 – Country # 9 – Continent # 7

 I needed one more continent to complete my goal of running a marathon in all seven continents. I had been trying –unsuccessfully – to find a marathon in Sydney. However the Sydney Marathon seemed to be held intermittently and it had been cancelled for this year. So I searched for another marathon in Australia. I don’t remember how I came up with a marathon in Noosa Heads? The Noosa Marathon was a small but popular race held along with a much bigger Half Marathon race in Noosa heads located near Noosa National Park in the Shire of Noosa on the  Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia approximately 136 Km (85 mi) north of Brisbane, the state's capital.

Fortunately Nicole was able to schedule ‘work’ meetings in Sydney the week after the race so we departed early for Brisbane. After arriving in Brisbane we rented a car and drove south along the Gold Coast to spend a few days in Surfer’s Paradise to acclimate and recover from jetlag. On Sat we headed north along the Gold Coast to Noosa Heads near Sunshine Beach on the Sunshine Coast.

I picked up my race packet on Sat and checked out the course. It was hilly but didn’t look too bad? The weather was HOT and humid as expected but it didn’t really matter. I had been struggling badly in training and races for the past four months and didn’t expect to run well? I had no injuries but I was struggling with fatigue and could barely break four hours in a marathon?

Sadly this race turned out as predicted. I reached 10 Km in 52:44 and a (5K) split of 16:13. When I reached 25 Km in 2:22:42 and a split of 6:43 I was totally fatigued and struggled to reach 30Km in 2:53:20 and a (5K) split of 19.01 where I hit the ‘wall’! I was finished! I had nothing left and struggled courageously (mostly walking) to cross the finish line in 4:12:46 – a PW (Personal Worst) for a marathon! I had completed marathon # 130 –Country # 9 and most importantly Continent # 7 but it was not a memorable way to accomplish such a significant goal!

After the race we drove back to Brisbane and flew on to Sydney so Nicole could attend her meetings while I played tourist and re-visited many of the sites in Sydney. Syndey is such a beautiful city with its spectacular Opera House, the Sydney Harbour Bridge, and the topless beauties on Bondi beach! In the evening we enjoyed visiting the Quay and Rocks for drinks and dinner.

But I was eager to get back home to visit my GP and other doctors to see if they could find out “what was wrong with me”? I underwent many, many tests over the next few weeks including every blood test known to mankind – and Nada – nothing! The docs could not find any problem to explain my symptoms of fatigue? Their only advice was ‘to stop running and rest”! That advice was not acceptable to Maddog!

One month later I tried to run a marathon in East Lyme, CT.  I started suffering fatigue at 10 miles and at 18 miles I became so dizzy and disoriented that I had to sit down on the road and cry because my body shut down and I could not move? I thought I had suffered a heart attack? Somehow I managed to get up and finish the race in a new PW. And I knew that I had a serious medical problem.

This time I contacted the Baylor Sports Clinic at the Baylor University Hospital in Dallas. They were renowned for working with pro and elite athletes to help them rehab and improve their performances. I was assigned a team of medical staff to work on my case. They reviewed all the medical tests that I had undergone in the past month. They reviewed my training/racing logs for the past three years. And they conducted their own battery of tests including two intensive sessions on a treadmill where I was connected to an EKG, breathing apparatus that looked like scuba gear and had IVs in my arms and legs so they could draw blood and muscle tissue while I was exercising on the treadmill. They tested and measured all the parameters of an endurance athlete.

When the tests were completed the team requested (advised?) that I take some time off from running and rest while they analyzed the data. That advice was still not acceptable to Maddog!



Sunday, May 10, 1998

TR Hong Kong

Trip Report
Hong Kong
03- 06 – 03- 09/98


China Coast Marathon
Hong Kong
Sun, Mar 8/98
Marathon # 124 – Country # 8 – Continent # 6

This race was the 2nd leg of our trip to Africa and Asia. And this will be a short report since I don’t remember much about the race except for the stress I was under!

 The Sports Manager and I routed through Hong Kong on the way home from Africa so that I could complete my 6th continent in my quest to run all seven continents. Since we had visited HK before we weren’t interested in spending more than a few days to run the race.

 I picked up my race packet on Sat, the day before the race, and spent a lot of time talking with race officials about the logistics of the race because I had a problem! There had been sparse info on the race and I had made a ‘potential’ error in my logistics planning. I had assumed that I could/would finish the race under 3:30 and if necessary could probably push myself to finish under 3:15? The race started at 8 am on Sun so I had booked a flight out of HK at 1 pm on Sun. In those days 1 ½ hours was plenty of time to check in, go through security and board a plane. It would be tight but I was Executive Platinum on AA and always received special and fast service when flying AA!

 However I wasn’t expecting the marathon course to be on the northern outskirts of the city and I didn’t know that it was a tough and hilly course! Now I had to take a taxi to the start line and more importantly after the race I would have to grab a taxi immediately after crossing the finish line, rush to the airport and check in. Hopefully I would have time for a quick shower in the AA Executive Lounge – or my colleagues on the flight would not be happy! To help speed up the process we decided that Nicole would go to the airport early and check us both in - you could do that in those days! The local runners and race volunteers cautioned me that the course was very tough and I shouldn’t expect to finish under 4 hours! If I took 4 hours I would not make our flight!

 The marathon course was a half-marathon loop in Sai Kung Country Park around the High Island Reservoir. It was scenic but indeed very hilly! I reached 10Km in 52:21 and a (5 K) split of 25:53. I was close to a 3:30 marathon pace. I could not slow down! I passed 20 Km in 1:44:24 and a (10K) split of 52:13. I was holding a consistent pace but it was not fast enough to finish under 3:30? I don’t know if the pressure/stress caused me to slow down (I think it was the 2nd loop of constant hills) but when I reached 35 Km in 3:07:49 and a (10K) split of 26:19 I knew I was NOT going to finish under 3:30 and that it would be tight to catch my flight! I crossed the finish line in 3:46:39 – grabbed a finisher’s medal and rushed to the entrance of the Park to catch a taxi. Luck was with me and I got a taxi right away and asked him to take me to the airport – FAST! When I arrived at the airport Nicole had already checked us in and had our boarding passes so we rushed through security. Heck – I even had time for a quick shower. We boarded the plane 10 minutes before departure time. Remember in those days - they didn’t close the aircraft doors until it was ready to depart.

 Shortly after we settled into our roomy seats In Business Class my legs started to tighten up. In hindsight I now realize how foolish I was to do such nonsense! Run a tough race and then immediately jump on a plane for a 12 hour flight? I am amazed that I didn’t suffer DVT more often?

 When I finished I was a wee bit disappointed in my performance and that I couldn’t break 3:30 until I discovered a few days later that I had  won 1st place in my AG (Vets 50+) and beat the female winner of the race by 1 min. All the times were slow so my finish time of 3:46 was actually very good!

 And more importantly I had finished Marathon # 124 – Country # 7 – Continent #6. Only one more continent to go!

 Stay tuned!                                                     

TR South Africa

Trip Report
South Africa
2/18 – 3/5/98


Cape Town Old Mutual Marathon,
Cape Town, South Africa
Sun, Feb 22/98
Marathon # 123 – Country # 7

 I had finished four continents and now it was time to make a ‘soft’ goal of completing all seven continents into a major goal! I planned a trip to complete 2 marathons/2 countries/2 continents in the same trip. Africa was the 1st leg.

 The Sports Manager and I arrived in Cape Town a few days before the race to acclimate and recover from jet lag. It was summer in SA and HOT! We explored Cape Town for a few days enjoying a cable car ride to the top of Table Mountain – 1086 m above sea level. It offered spectacular views of Cape Town, Robben Island, and the Peninsula. We visited Victoria Wharf often to sip cool wine & beer and enjoy cool breezes off the Atlantic Ocean. Did I mention it was HOT??

Sun was ‘M’-day. The race started and finished in the magnificent Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens on the eastern foot of Table Mountain. The race started at 10 am. Did I mention it was HOT??? Thankfully parts of the course were shaded. I passed 10 Km in 49:10 and a split of 4:50/km – too fast for the heat! I tried to slow down but still passed the Half in 1:43:11 and a split of 4:59/Km. I figured the 2nd Half would be much slower as it was now very HOT! When I reached 32Km in 2:46:15 my pace had slowed to 6:23/Km and I was struggling. Did I mention it was HOT?? I struggled through the last 10 Km to finish in 3:52:21 – my slowest time in years! But I had finished marathon #123- country # 7 and continent # 5! Now we could play tourist and enjoy ourselves for a while.

We rented a car and drove along the Atlantic Coast. The area is upscale and pretty and reminded me of California. We drove as far south as possible – to Cape Point and the Cape of Good Hope, the most southern point on the African continent. We had difficulty avoiding the Chacma baboons because they are very aggressive. There is a penguin colony on Cape Point. Then we drove north along the east coast of the Peninsula to Simonstown on False Bay where there is another penguin colony at Boulders Beach.

Then we headed east to the Stellenbosch and Franschhoek Valleys in Western Cape Province. These are wine valleys with many wineries. We quickly discovered that South African wines are great – and the wineries are small and informal and don’t charge for tasting! We stayed in the wine valleys for a few days enjoying the scenery and tastings and then headed south and along the coast of the Indian Ocean to Knysna which is part of the Garden Route. We drove along the Indian Ocean back to the Peninsula and Cape Town following the route of the Two Oceans Marathon. What a beautiful marathon course – but very hilly. And did I mention it was HOT??

Sadly it was time to move on to Johannesburg where a friend, Mike Howell, worked and lived. Before we visited Mike we enjoyed a 3-day safari in Kruger National Park. We stayed in a rustic lodge in the Park and saw many animals including the ‘Big Five’. I remember two important events. The 1st event occurred as we were entering the Park and the guide/ranger stopped to show us a black mamba (snake) sunning itself on the road. He explained that if that snake bites you, you only have 5 minutes to live! I immediately decided that I was not running in the Park. The fence around our camp might stop a lion but it wouldn’t stop a black mamba! The 2nd event occurred when we were stopped at a water hole to watch game and a lion had killed a gazelle. A bull elephant came to the hole for water and he became really pissed off that the lion had killed the gazelle. He charged the lion and when the lion retreated he was still enraged so he charged our van. Even the ranger was scared – and we also retreated to safety!

At the end of the safari we visited Mike. He lived in a walled compound (with barb wire on top) and 24 hour-armed security. He warned me NOT to leave the compound when running so I had restrict myself to a short 1-mile loop inside the compound. Mike showed us around JNB including Soweto. We enjoyed side trips to Pretoria, the capital and to Sun City – an African version of Las Vegas. Two days before we were to depart Nicole fell in Mike’s yard and broke her wrist. We took her to a Medical Clinic where they x-rayed the wrist and then set it in a cast that would allow for swelling on the plane. The treatment was 1st class and the total bill that I paid by Visa was $150! When we finally got back home and went to our orthoped he was impressed with how good the care had been!

But we weren’t ready to return home yet. We had to make a slight detour and stop on the way home to run a 2nd marathon/country/continent!

Stay tuned!