Monday, December 10, 2001

TR Jamaica Marathon

Trip Report
Jamaica Marathon
Negril, Jamaica
12/5 to 12/10/01

We're baaaacccccckkkkkkkkkkkk! I can describe the trip and Jamaica in a few words "Hotter than Hades"!Very similar to midsummer Florida weather-temperatures in the high 80s and humidity to match. And y'all know that we leave FL in the summer because we can't stand that heat. It was impossible to go outside between 11am to 3pm unless you were playing in the water.We had decided ahead of time not to follow our usual routine of renting a car and exploring the whole island in one or two days and that turned out to be a fortunate/wise decision. We flew into Montego Bay and were picked up by a shuttle bus to drive us 50 miles south to Negril. Forty-five of those 50 miles were under construction and were in terrible condition. Add to that a kamikaze bus driver, pitch black darkness and several unmarked detours and we had an exciting ride for two hours. But as scary as it was, I was glad that someone else was driving as I would have never found my way. I could see lots of tin/wood shacks along the route, especially in the small villages we drove though and felt safer with a local driver at the wheel. Two hours later we were safely dropped off at our hotel located right on the beach in Negril and after check-in proceeded directly to the beach restaurant/bar for a late meal. It was a comfortable 80+ degrees as we ate our dinner outside and 5 feet from the Caribbean Sea at 10pm.On Thursday we decided to scout out our surroundings and the town of Negril. Negril is located on the westernmost tip of Jamaica and is considered to have two personalities: half is seven miles of sandy white beach framing the waters of Long Bay; the other half is where the beach gives way to steep, rugged cliffs west of the town center, known as the West End or the Cliffs. The town center is small -includes a bank (and the only ATM), a supermarket, post office and a few shops. The Cliffs have a few resorts and lots of restaurant/bars. The Beach area is lined with exclusive hotel resorts such as Sandals, Couples, etc. and bars, discos and restaurants. My biggest complaint was that there was no public transportation and you had to walk or take taxis everywhere - and they weren't cheap. They would try to charge $10 US to drive us just 2 1/2 miles into the town center but you could negotiate that price down to $4 or 5. On our first morning Nicole and I walked into town, had breakfast, did some shopping, bought supplies (water, cola, beer, etc) at the supermarket and hired a taxi to take us back to the hotel. That was the only taxi we took during our stay. We settled into a routine where we would get up and walk about 1 1/2 miles along the beach to a small restaurant that served breakfast to the locals and great Blue Mountain Coffee (a local gourmet coffee) for about half the price the hotel charged. If we needed more supplies or money from the ATM we would walk into town after breakfast and then walk back to the hotel - saved lots of money on taxis and got our daily exercise. And before the sun became unbearably hot we would get our sunbathing in on the hotel beach. The beach is supposed to be the nicest one in Jamaica but unfortunately Hurricane Michelle had taken most off it away this past summer. The Caribbean Sea was lapping at sand bags protecting the hotel dining patio from being washed away. Unlike Florida that spends $Millions each year to replenish our beaches the Jamaicans are praying/hoping the the next hurricane will bring the beach back?On our very first walk into town we met a fellow runner/colleague from Sweden that I have met at several international marathons. That evening the race organization held a 'welcome party' for the marathoners and we met up again with K G and his partner. The Reggae Marathon was an inaugural race and very well organized and sponsored for an initial event. The welcome party,sponsored by Appleton, the biggest rum distiller in Jamaica was held at a night club on the beach and included an open bar for two hours - all the rum, wine and Red stripe (local beer) you wanted to drink. Since the marathon was on Sat and we weren't taking it too seriously we accepted their hospitality and tried not to insult our hosts by drinking lots of rum/beer. Been a long time since I drank rum!On Friday the race organization held a pasta party at the Couples -Swept Away Resort (located next to our hotel). It was one of the best pasta feeds I have ever attended. I don't normally attend because the food is buffet and usually not great quality -but this was a pleasant exception. The chefs from various luxury resorts in Negril had set up kitchens on the grounds at Couples and cooked several types of pasta to order - and there were copious amounts of beer and wine to wash it down while listening to live reggae bands. And - all included in our registration fee!Saturday was M-Day! As I walked to the race start about 1/2 mile from our hotel at 5:15am the temperature was a cool 77 degrees and it was very dark. They had closed down the highway/road from Negril town center north to Green Island. The course ran 3 miles into Negril and then turned back north 13 miles to Green Island to the last turnaround and then a 10 mile straight stretch back to the start/finish line. The 5:15am start was sadly delayed by 15 minutes which meant 15 minutes less of darkness and cool temperatures. As I lined up at the start line with another 700 runners (350 in the marathon and 350 in the half) I bumped into a fellow '50 State Club member' in the dark - hadn't expected to meet him here- small world? Again the race organization impressed me with water and Gatorade bags at every mile. I ran the first 7 miles in darkness enjoying the cool 77 degrees. By mile 8 the sun started to rise and I still managed another 2 to 3 miles in shade before it crested the tree tops.I crossed mile 10 in 82 minutes-faster than planned but I figured that I had just taken advantage of the cool temperatures and that fast pace would fade quickly.I was right! By the half I was running an 8:30 pace and my shoes were soaked and heavy from the sweat cascading down my body. Time 1:50 - but I DID NOT have any silly illusions about running negative splits! I knew that the sun and heat were going to get very ugly in the 2nd half!As I crossed the half in a small impoverished village along the road/course the smell of ganja(marijuana) was so heavy and strong that I figured if I slowed down I had a good chance of getting a high? I was now taking two bags of water (no ganja) at every aid station - one in me and one on me- to cool down.By 16 miles I had slowed to an 8:45 pace and my heart monitor had soared to the high 150s (90% Max). I felt fine and my legs felt OK - I just figured the extra stress on the ticker was due to the heat and humidity. Push on Maddog!It was also around this point of the race that the local supporters became mean - JUST to me? They kept shouting/screaming at me "Go Pappy" "Go Grandpa"! Now isn't that mean? Especially since I don't even have grandkids?As I crossed mile 20 in 2:50 and did my gut check I still felt OK but was concerned that my heart monitor had climbed to 162 (94% Max) just to hold a 9 minute pace? I was now taking 3 water bags at each station - one in and two on - just trying to lower my body temperature. The air temperature was in the mid 80s but closer to 100 + degrees on the blacktop road. I decided to run strictly by the monitor and keep my heart rate between 160 to 165 and ignore the pace.At mile 24 the rate had climbed above 165 (96%) and my pace dropped to 10 minutes? I still felt OK and the legs still had some pep so I decided "screw this - I am going to pick up the pace and get this over with quicker"!My monitor started screaming/buzzing at me as I crossed mile 25 in 8:16 and it soared above 170 (98% Max)! Legs still OK - I'm hurting but mostly from heat exhaustion and feeling like a broiled lobster. Need to get this over with - pick up the pace Maddog!The monitor is now going crazy and I am both amazed and concerned that it has peaked and stayed at 174 (my maximum heart rate is 173?) during the final mile but I am rewarded with a 7:58-my fastest mile of the race. I continue on to cross the finish line in 3:47.My only thoughts are: "Don't stop - don't pass go -don't collect $200 -don't go to jail". Just grab some water, find my sports manager waiting at the finish line and walk directly back to the hotel, continue on to the beach, remove shoes and socks (wondered why later since they were soaked anyway)? and walk out into the Caribbean Sea until it is two feet over my head! Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh! It's so refreshing and a cool 80 degrees which feels about 100 degrees cooler than my body temperature. I only wished that I could breathe under water so that I didn't have to surface into that hellish sun ever again!After 10 minutes of cooling off I walked back to the beach, collapsed on to the hotel massage table under a palm tree and let the hotel masseuse beat and torture my muscles to flush out the toxins and lactic acid.I was beginning to feel alive (and not completely broiled) again. After a quick shower Nicole and I walked along the beach to a local jerk center. What's that - a jerk center and you weren't invited? Nah, jerk! It was the food type jerk.And what is jerk? Good question! Basically southern BBQ with a local BBQ sauce that is supposed to be spicy. I did find the jerk chicken and pork to be very tender and tasty but the jerk sauce was not all that spicy.That evening the race organization held a Reggae Marathon Victory Jam on the beach with live reggae bands and an open bar all night-again included in the registration fee. Unfortunately and strangely, alcohol didn't seem to taste as good as soda or water (thankfully not a long-lasting illness) and although we enjoyed the bands we left early. But they do know how to throw a good party in Jamaica.On Sunday I was wishing that I had rented a car so we could at least explore the nearby hills/mountains. There are some waterfalls and tropical forests only a few hours from Negril or we could have driven to the Blue Mountains. We also contemplated taking a taxi over to the Cliffs to snorkel and then enjoy a sunset at Rick's cafe - the local tourist spot/bar for sunsets. But it costs $30 to take a taxi to Rick's and back plus the sunset drink and I just figured a better option was to sit and watch NFL football at the hotel beach bar, watch the sunset and drink $30 worth of beer and rum? You can guess which option won?On Monday we were looking forward to returning to the cool climate of Sarasota - the lows here at least get down to the low 60s! The drive back to Montego Airport was not any better in broad daylight. I still would have got lost. And you could see the shanty towns and poverty much better? To summarize: the Reggae marathon is a well organized race and offers lots of socializing and a fast flat course-BUT the climate is brutal. I am not interested in returning to the marathon or Jamaica because there are many other islands in the Caribbean that are much nicer. But for those fanatics that MUST add another country to their running belt/list it is a good bet.

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