Sunday, December 12, 1999

TR Spain

Calvia Marathon
Mallorca, Spain
(11/30 –12/12/99)

I last left off on my way to Seville by train from Huelva. Upon arrival in Seville, I made my customary visit to the tourist office to find a hotel room. No $30 modern rooms here! But I did find a room in a 2-star hotel in old town ($50) just a few blocks from the Rio Guadalquivir that runs through the middle of the city. No English channels on TV and in fact no English-speaking desk clerks either. I found this to be the norm in Southern Spain and Portugal –very few people, even in the service industry, spoke English! My first chore was to get in delightful 8-mile training run along the Guadalquivir River. There is a great bike path along the river that passes many of the tourist attractions.
I really like Seville. It is a very old city and the streets are narrow and wind in all directions. I learned quickly not to-and I repeat- not to leave the hotel room without a map. A compass would also be helpful! The city is divided into sections such as Santa Cruz where the cathedral is. It is the third largest cathedral in the world. El Arenal has the bullring, one of the most famous bullrings in the world. Macarena has the only remaining section of the original defense wall and the Macarena Church that contains the Virgen de Macarena that they dress and parade through the streets each week. Triana, south of the river has many great shops and restaurants and is connected to the north side via some really strange architectural bridges. One thing I will note about Spain and Seville. They don’t seem to know what to do with things after they build them. They have several buildings that were built for the 1939 Trade Fair and the World Expo in 92 that are still sitting there. They are neat buildings but they are not being used for anything?
The city is place of such contrasts that I really liked it and would go back anytime. My last evening in Seville was very pleasant and memorable. As I was walking back to the hotel after an early (10pm) dinner I passed a small taverna or bar where a group of 10 local musicians had gathered to jam. They had guitars and other string instruments that I didn’t recognize plus a piece of hollowed-out wood that looked like a coconut that was beat with a piece of wood. The bar only held about 20 customers plus the musicians. I didn’t understand a word they said or sang but they were great! They played until 2am when they broke up because some had to work the next day? I learned that they had been doing this every Wednesday for the last ten years. I bought them a round about 1am and the bartender gave me a look like “crazy gringo”. I guess that is not the custom there but it only cost me $15 to listen to some great music for three hours!
But it was time to get some sleep and move on to Valencia. So I spent the next day touring around Seville and caught a night train to Valencia. I tried desperately to get a private sleeper cabin but was not successful. Nobody at the train station spoke a word of English but what pissed me off the most is that they wouldn’t even try to help me. As a result I got a bunk in a six-person couchette in 2nd class! There were only four of us and none of my roommates spoke English but two of them snored!
I arrived in Valencia at 6am and the city had not awakened yet. I found the bus to take me to the port but discovered even the ferry terminal didn’t open until 9am like the rest of the city and country! So I walked around until I found a taverna open and had a bacon bocadillo for breakfast. Then I made my way back to the ferry terminal where I booked a private first class cabin on the night ferry. It cost me $70 over the ferry ticket but at this point I wanted to make sure that I didn’t have to listen to someone snoring again! Then it was off to explore the city in one day –which is enough. Valencia is not a very pretty city. There are only a few old buildings remaining, the cathedral, a few palaces and some fortification towers. I took the metro out to the beach area that was actually very nice and had hoped to have good seafood dinner but alas, the restaurants were closed until 9pm and the ferry departed at 11pm. So I went back into town and found an Irish pub. Since I was wearing my Dublin Marathon shirt I got great service and an excellent bowl of Irish stew that was a great change from the terrible Spanish food. There were a few areas of Valencia that did impress me. One was the Turia riverbed. The Turia River used to flow through the middle of the city until 1956 when there was a very destructive flood. So they dammed the river off at both ends of the city and diverted it around the city. They left the old riverbed in its natural state and converted it to parkland through the city. No concrete. Just soccer fields, tennis courts and jogging paths. At the end closest to the sea they are building a new science and technology city. The buildings are very modern and unique, something like the Sydney Opera House. The Planetarium looks like a human eye and the Aquarium looks like a human skeleton. I would think that these buildings will become world-famous when they are completed. I found these more interesting than the chalice in the Cathedral that is supposedly from the Last Supper!
Finally it was time to catch the ferry and head back to Mallorca. What a wonderful sleep I had in my private cabin with the gentle rocking of the waves- and no snoring!

I arrived in Mallorca at 7am, which is of course too early to find anything open or anyone doing anything. So I had to sit in front of the rental car agency until 9am when the manager finally showed up. But a car was cheap in the off-season; $150 for nine days! I drove out to Palmanova, a seaside resort. Palmanova and Maguluf are the two major resort areas on Mallorca and they cater mostly to Brits and Germans. It was off-season so half the hotels and restaurants were closed. A one-bedroom hotel apartment cost $35/day! I did my final training run along the coast and then searched for the race HQ to pick up my race package. That evening as I went looking for dinner I was pleasantly surprised to find that 90% of the restaurants featured ‘British’ menus and food. Most of them even advertised that they were British owned. Steak and ale pie and fish and chips sounded mighty good after two weeks of Spanish food
The marathon was on Sunday morning and consisted of two half-marathon loops along the coast and into the hills of the interior. And believe me there are some nasty hills on Mallorca! When I crossed the half in 1:43 I wasn’t quite sure if I could continue that pace through the same hills again. But I decided to go for it! As I was cresting the final hill from miles 21 through 24 I did a ‘gut check’ to see if I was up to the effort required to beat 3:30. And for the first time in many years I found that not only did I have that extra tank of energy but more importantly I had the desire and the willpower necessary to overcome the pain and hurt to achieve the desire! When I crossed the line in 3:29:24 I felt that I had just produced my best effort in the last 3 to 4 years! I now have the confidence going forward that I can run any course and time I set my heart on! And I was proud that I had run three marathons in three weeks and qualified for Boston in all three!

But now it was time to clean up and meet my manager and my son Jason at the airport. Jason had flown from Galveston to Gatwick, met his mom at the airport and they both continued on to Mallorca. We spent the week touring around the island. The north and west sides are the prettiest, great sandy beaches and high mountains and coastal cliffs. The roads are fairly good on the island but some of the drives through the mountains were pretty scary. The east and south sides are not as pretty, mostly scrub land with a few hills.
The weather was OK but not great. Mid 60s. It was amusing to watch the various tourists. Some walking around in shorts and t-shirts; others in ski jackets, hats and gloves. Some were sun bathing and even a few idiots were swimming!
There was very little nightlife much to Jason’s dismay. But every night we would hear people screaming and shouting as they came out of the bars about 3am. So the final night Jason decided to check it out. He stayed up and went out at 1am. A few hours later he came back and woke us up to tell us a long animated story about how he had gone to several bars, had a drink in each one and then moved on to find the action. Needless to say he was feeling OK which led to such an animated story! But he claimed he never found the action!
Finally it was time to go home. It had been a very long trip for me. It only seemed so for Jason!

And I am finally finished this trip report –just in time to get ready for the next trip!

1 comment:

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