Monday, December 02, 2002

TR Barbados Marathon

Trip Report
Barbados Marathon
Georgetown, Barbados

If you ever wondered how hot it might be in Hell I have a suggestion --- try racing/running a marathon in the Caribbean.The Barbados International Marathon started at 5am so I ran the first Half hard and fast to take advantage of the darkness and cool 78F temps and humidity in the low 80s. By 6:30am the sun started to rise along with my body temperature and heart rate. By 8:15am I was approaching 37Km and the sun was beating down mercilessly on the dark asphalt. The temps had risen into the low 80s, the humidity into the 90s, my body temp was 100+ and my heart monitor was beeping and flashing wildly and continuously? Thus I was forced to go into 'survival mode' for the last 5 Km and struggled across the finish line in 3:44:48.That time was good enough to win the Senior or ROF (Real Old Farts) division!I would like to think that was my last marathon in that heat but unfortunately I know of three other marathons in the Caribbean that I have not run and I hate to leave a challenge/goal unfinished?But it was my last marathon for this year - # 205 and my 58th country which is more significant because I have now run my age in countries. Isn't that similar to that goal in golf - 'to shoot your age'? Only this goal seems to be more difficult since I know of only two (maybe three?) other runners in the world who have accomplished this feat!

Sunday, November 10, 2002

RR Richmond Marathon

Race Report
Richmond Marathon
Richmond, VA

Hi from Richmond. Had great marathon weather on Sat, 11/9 for the race. Pretty fast course but I was concerned about a sore back and lack of training because of the back and all the travel/move issues over the past month. So I ran smart and SLOW to finish in 3:37:25 Although both my back and right leg tightened up around 15 miles I finished strong and healthy and successfully defended 'the tres amigos' championship with my running buddies from NYC and FL!Now we can continue to enjoy the weekend with Jason and his girlfriend and hopefully not think about all the problems waiting for us back in FL with the new house?

Tuesday, October 15, 2002

TR Croatia

10/07/02 – 10/14/02

Now where were we? Oh yes - on the Balkan Express riding from Bucharest to Budapest to Zagreb. After a 24-hour train ride we arrived in Zagreb at 11:30 pm – just two minor problems. A) We did not want to stay in Zagreb because we had been there before and had already explored the city so we wanted to travel on to the coast of the Adriatic Sea - but B) the next train to Split, Croatia didn’t leave until 6am. So we found a hotel across the street from the train station and managed to grab 5 hours of sleep before we had to board the train for Split.

The train ride was interesting and scenic for the first 100 miles as the train traveled along and through a coastal mountain range with lots of forests in their final stages of fall colors. But then the mountains became more sparse and desert-like and boring except for a few lush agricultural valleys. Finally eight hours later we emerged from the mountains and started dropping down to the Adriatic Sea. Split reminded me very much of a city in Greece – all the buildings are white stucco with red tile roofs. It is the second largest city in Croatia and is very modern.

After leaving the train we were faced with a bit of a quandary. We were flying by the seat of our pants because we had no reservations or set plans for this part of the journey – and it was a national holiday in Croatia. That meant that the tourist/information offices were closed along with most businesses. So I parked my sports manager at a seaside bar and ventured off to find a hotel. I was in luck – I only had to walk a few blocks along the harbor into the old city to find a hotel right on the harbor. We couldn’t have asked for a better location. The ‘old city’ of Split is established on a site built by the Emperor Diocletian in 300AD as a retirement palace. Many ruins and walls from the original palace still exist and some restoration has been completed. It sits right on the coast overlooking the current harbor and the Bay of Solin. There are several outdoor bars and cafes along the harbor and it really reminds me of a fishing village in Greece. It is a great place to eat, sip wine, etc and people-watch. And there was some great people-watching to be done – the women in Split are gorgeous –much more beautiful than the rest of the Balkans?

We bought a guidebook and conducted our own walking tour of the old city. A fortified city and walls were built around the palace site in the 12th to 14th centuries and most of that city still exists. The streets are very narrow – about 4 to 6 feet wide and lined with shops and cafes. Local residents occupy the upper stories so it is quite active and very interesting to visit. I finally got to enjoy a great seafood dinner at our hotel while overlooking the harbor and bay.

The following morning I decided it was time to check out the legs with an easy 10-mile run along the harbor and coast. The right hamstring was still tight and very sore and I knew that I was going to have to find a masseuse to work on it before the race in Zagreb.
But now it was time to move on to Dubrovnik which is further down the coast and everyone said was the prettiest city in Croatia. The only way to get there was by bus or ferry so we chose to take an afternoon bus. Before leaving Split I walked to the train station and reserved a private cabin on the night/sleeper train back to Zagreb on Friday night. Now we were ready to leave. It was a 5-hour bus ride along the coast. Fantastic scenery with a rugged coastline on one side and mountains on the other. About an hour from Dubrovnik we passed through a border/customs checkpoint? We didn’t understand what the border was until 20 miles later when we passed through another border and learned that we had just passed through Bosnia. I didn’t realize that Bosnia had negotiated a sliver of land cutting through Croatia so that they had access to the Adriatic Sea?

Finally we arrived in Dubrovnik. Since we were still flying by the seat of our pants and had no idea where the ‘old city’ or hotels were located I found a young taxi driver who spoke English and asked his advice. He advised me that the best hotels were located close to the old city so I asked him to take us to the best hotel located closest to the old city. He dropped us off at the Excelsior Hotel – a 5-star hotel with 5-star prices. But it sat on a cliff overlooking the Adriatic Sea and the old city and I decided “what the hell –we deserve a nice treat”! So I booked two nights. After we checked into our room and were taking an elevator back to the lobby a strange thing happened. We overheard three elderly ladies talking in the elevator and realized that they were Americans and struck up a conversation with them. Turns out that they are neighbors who live in the $multi-million condos on the beach across the road from our new home on Longboat Key. Small world?
Later that night we met them again in the hotel bar and traded travel stories. These ladies certainly are not paupers and do not travel on the same limited/cheap budget that we do. But they didn’t know that since we were all staying at the best hotel in the city. They were quite impressed with our travel experiences – maybe even a bit ticked off that I had run marathons in more countries than they had visited. I told Nicole that she would probably find that she had been added to the ‘elite/snob social calendar’ when we moved on to Longboat Key. I can’t express in words how she felt about that prospect.

That evening we explored the ‘old city’. The old city is a fortified and walled city built in the 12th century. It is in remarkable shape. The original walls and fortifications are still intact. Much of the original city was destroyed by an earthquake in 1667 and rebuilt but some of the original buildings still exist. It is still the center of city activity with several shops, bars and cafes located on the lower levels along the narrow cobbled streets. The upper levels are occupied by local residents. Dubrovnik is considered to be the cultural center of Croatia with many concerts, shows, etc taking place in the old city.
We found a nice seafood restaurant with outdoor seating and enjoyed the house specialty an ‘Adriatic Sea Platter’ – local fish, squid and mussels. Very good but not cheap!

The following morning I did an easy 10-mile run through the old city and along the Adriatic Sea. My right leg was telling me that I definitely needed some massage work. Since the hotel had a spa I checked with the in-house masseuse but she couldn’t fit me into her schedule. I decided to wait until I got to Zagreb and look for a masseuse there.
On our final morning in Dubrovnik we went back to the old city for a final stroll. Unfortunately the weather had turned nasty – raining and windy – but I decided to walk along the top of the entire fortified wall. It provided some spectacular views of the old city and the coastline. But now it was time to take the long bus ride back to Split to connect with the night train back to Zagreb. The train departed at 9 pm and again I was asleep within 30 minutes of our departure and woke up as we arrived in Zagreb at 6 am. I love night trains. They rock you to sleep like a baby in a cradle and you wake up and you are in a new city. And a private sleeper cabin costs less than a hotel room? But my sports manger is still not convinced?

Although we arrived in Zagreb very early we were fortunate that our hotel allowed us to check into our room at 7am. After a quick shower and breakfast we went looking for the host hotel for the marathon and the registration desk. The marathon started and finished in front of the Opera Hotel that was only a mile from our hotel. I had booked the Hotel Dubrovnik that is located right on Jelacica square – the main city square. We found the registration desk easily and I signed up and received the last-minute information and details. I was ready for the marathon – except that I still needed a massage. Luck was with me – our hotel had a masseuse in-house and she agreed to take me right away. She was not as good as my masseuses in FL and CO but she was much cheaper – only $20 for a 1-hour massage! Now I was ready!

Sunday was M-Day! The race started at 9 am. The weather was cloudy and cool (low 40s). Since I was concerned about the state of my right leg/hamstring I decided that I would be smart and run slow and easy with a goal of finishing as healthy as possible. There were about 200 runners in the marathon and another 300 in a 10K race. Both races started together but at least the 10K runners were adults and although the start was congested it was orderly. The course started with a 10K loop that ran from the city center to the north and back to the finish line. The streets were closed down or at least one lane was coned off for the entire course and traffic control was much better and safer than that debacle in Bucharest. About 5K into the race the course funneled down into a single narrow lane that followed the tracks for the city tram. I was so focused on watching out for the other runners that I tripped I on something and went flying through the air? As I was falling I was concerned about landing on the tracks and breaking something but fortunately I landed on the pavement and escaped with only minor cuts and abrasions on my hands and elbow. I looked back to see what I had tripped on – a huge metal brake shoe that had fallen off a tram. But that little mishap was probably a blessing because I decided that I needed to pay more attention to my footing and discovered that several sections of the course followed the tram tracks and there were many man-made holes with missing covers. It would have been easy to step in one of those holes and break an ankle!

The 10K loop turned back to pass the finish line where the 10K runners finished and the marathoners continued on a 22K loop to the southern section of the city. I crossed the Half in 1:51:05. My leg felt good and I felt excellent since I was running slow and easy. In fact my biggest challenge (other than trying to stay on my feet) was trying to keep the Maddog in check. With the cool weather and a flat, fast course he was frothing at the mouth to lower the hammer and go for a sub 3:30 marathon! But I kept him under control on that 2nd loop – even on a nice flat section of the course that passed through a park with no traffic to contend with. However as the course looped back towards the finish line and approached 30K the leg still felt OK and I decided to let the Maddog out of his cage. I was curious to see if I could run a negative split on the second half and finish under 3:40?
Maddog immediately lowered the pace to sub 8:00s and it felt good and easy? The course looped past the finish line at 32K and repeated the initial 10K loop for the final 10K of the race. No repeat of the trip and flying act on the second time around though. As I approached 40K the right leg started to tighten up and hurt like Hell. But Maddog wasn’t listening as the leg screamed at me to back off – he just ignored the pain and screams and pushed my sorry ass through the final 2K to finish the race in 3:39:36 and a negative split of 1:48:35. Although the leg was tight and sore at the finish it didn’t appear to have suffered any additional injury so I was quite pleased with my performance and time. I hung around for about 15 minutes on the hope that they would post some results but finally left for the hotel and my customary soak in a hot bath. Later found out on the web that I had missed the 3rd place award by one minute.

That evening my sports manager and I found a restaurant in Zagreb that also specialized in wild game. We had a great dinner - but not as good as the one in Bucharest and it cost three times as much? The following morning I treated myself to another massage at the hotel. The masseuse worked all the toxins and lactic acid out of the legs and my right leg felt so much better. Then it was off to the airport and our flight back to Zurich. Our flight connections required an overnight stay in Zurich and we didn’t really mind because we have been through Zurich several times but have never had the opportunity or time to explore the city. We checked into a hotel at the airport and took a train into the city. We explored the old city and the city center and enjoyed a great dinner in the old city. I wouldn’t want to live there though – the prices are similar to NYC prices – very expensive!

Finally it was time for the long flight home. And as always – even though we had enjoyed another marvelous marathon adventure/trip, we were looking forward to going home and sleeping in our own bed. Time to get back to regular schedules and rest up for the next adventure! Stay tuned.

Monday, October 07, 2002

TR Romania

10/02 – 10/06/02

The planning for this trip began only this past summer because of two major considerations:
1.0) I had already made a dry run of this trip back in 1999
2.0) Trying to get confirmation and registration for a marathon in the Balkans is an exasperating experience.

As some of you know I tried to run the Bucharest Marathon in the fall of 1999 when we were living in England. It had been scheduled for the weekend after the Budapest Marathon so I made travel plans to run both. However one week before the trip I was notified that the marathon had been cancelled due to lack of financing. Since I had already purchased a Balkan Rail Pass and made reservations I decided to explore Romania and some other Balkan countries after the Budapest Marathon.
I traveled to Bucharest by train and spent two days there before moving on to Constanta on the Black sea where I almost got mugged and robbed in broad daylight on the main street. So NO, I do not have fond memories of Romania. If you recall that trip report I called the country ‘a shit-hole’!

But if I wanted to achieve my goal of running a marathon in every country of Europe it meant that I had to go back to Bucharest to run the marathon. Besides my sports manager had not yet had the pleasure of seeing/visiting Romania. So after many attempts to contact someone in Romania to confirm if and when the marathon was taking place this year I finally hit pay dirt and got in contact with a sports journalist in Bucharest who was also a race volunteer. Now I had to find a second marathon in Europe scheduled within a week of Bucharest to spread the cost of the trip over two races. I was in luck. The Zagreb (Croatia) marathon was the following weekend. However getting confirmation of that race became a frustrating experience and I started to make plans on the hope/trust that Zagreb would really happen. I only received confirmation on Zagreb about a month before the trip!

Traveling to that part of the world from here is very expensive so I decided to cash in frequent flyer miles to reduce the expenses. It also made it easier to book an open-jaw trip; i.e. we would fly into Bucharest and out of Zagreb to give my lovely wife/sports manager the opportunity to experience train travel through the Balkans!
Now – on to the trip!

After a long flight from Denver to Dallas to Zurich, we finally arrived in Bucharest at midnight on Oct 3rd. Andrei, the journalist, met us at the airport to drive us to the hotel. Yes, he was a very kind and nice person – but he wasn’t doing this and the other arrangements he set up for free. He charged us for everything (only US dollars please) but I was happy to pay because it would have been very difficult and costly to do on my own. When he picked us up I wasn’t surprised to learn that the race organization had changed the host hotel at the last minute – another good reason/example of using Andrei to coordinate everything. He had a few more change announcements also. We had wanted to travel into the Carpathian Mountains for a few days to visit Dracula’s Castle – now it was only possible to do a day trip. Fortunately he had not yet booked our train tickets on to Zagreb so we decided on the spot to shorten our stay in Romania and travel on to Zagreb on Sunday night after the trip to the Castle. And one more little surprise (and travel advice for Romania). Andrei had stated up front that he wanted to be paid in cash in US dollars. No problem. Not wanting to carry a lot of cash in Romania or any other country I had taken a lot of travelers checks with me. Andrei would not accept the checks because the banks hold the checks for 45 days before crediting his account. Well, it turns out that travelers checks are almost useless in Romania – the hotels, not even most banks will cash them. I had to find a specific bank in Bucharest to cash them (for a hefty commission). But finally we got Andrei fixed up and some extra cash since everyone will gladly accept US dollars in cash!

Romania is not used to tourism and has no infrastructure set up to support it. There are no packaged tours or excursions of the city or country. Since I had blown most of Friday morning trying to cash travelers checks we only had a half-day to explore the city. I managed to find a local travel agent who was entrepreneurial enough to offer us a private tour of Bucharest in his own car (for $60). There really isn’t that much to see – some government buildings, the theatre, Revolution Square and of course the Parliament Palace. Parliament Palace is the former palace built by the communist dictator Nicolae Ceausecu in the 1980s. He never got to move into it. It is the second largest building in the world behind the Pentagon. Depending who you talk to, Ceausecu was either a villain or a hero. But he did tear down a large section of the old city to build his palace and forced several thousand residents to find other shelter. These residents were forced to turn their pets, mostly dogs, out into the streets to fend for themselves. You can guess what happened. When I was there three years ago there were thousands of stray dogs roaming the streets biting hundreds of people each day. Fortunately a new mayor was elected a few years ago and he has started to clean up the problem – there are now only hundreds of stray dogs but they are still evident all over the city. Not as many dog bites now although one runner did get bitten by a dog during the race.

Friday evening the race committee held a pasta party for the elite athletes and international runners. This was probably the best and only good thing I have to say about the whole event. It was evidently a ‘big affair’ for the local dignitaries. The committee had invited several of Romania’s Olympic gold-medal athletes from track and other sports. The star guest of the evening was Nadia Cominich who is a national hero in Romania. She certainly isn’t the little Nadia I remember on TV scoring her perfect 10! She is a very attractive and sophisticated woman now.

Saturday was M-day! The race started at 11am in the center of the city. The committee had a bus scheduled for the elite and international runners but it left the hotel at 9am for the start that was only a few miles from the hotel? So I decided to take a taxi on my own.
Thankfully the weather was warm so I didn’t have to worry about warm ups because I couldn’t find out any information about a bag drop? There were about 150 runners in the marathon – only 28 international runners and the rest were locals. Two runners from the US and one from the UK – I met both. There were about 3,000 runners (mostly kids) in a 5K race that was run at the same time. What a screw –up that was. They did cordon off a section at the front of the race for the marathoners but they started the race together (Nadia was the race starter). Within seconds we had 3,000 screaming kids charging by us. I had to use the old elbow technique to keep from being knocked down and trampled. Then after ½ mile they all ran out of gas and we had to fight our way through kids walking and jogging for the next 2 ½ miles. Fortunately a kind Romania male runner adopted me around one mile. He ran with me and shouted at the kids to get out of the way. He stayed with me until the 5K runners split off and although he didn’t speak a word of English we shook hands and I thanked him for his assistance as he split off also.
Now I was on my own but the marathoners were well spread out by then. For the first 5K they had closed down one side of a major city street but now we were down to one single lane of the boulevard that had been coned off for the marathoners. Unfortunately that only lasted for another 1K and then the cones disappeared? For the next 4K we had to run along a major boulevard that ran from the city center to the airport with cars zooming by at 50mph! At first I stayed behind some other runners thinking that there was safety in numbers. But as the cars passed by closer and closer (we were running with the traffic) I got scared and moved up to the sidewalk whenever there was one. All I could think was “I do not want to end up in a hospital (or morgue) in Romania”.

At 10K we turned off that boulevard into a large park – the first water stop in the race! I grabbed a bottle of water and started to drink. It was carbonated water! Yuk! I went back to the aid station and asked for still water. There was none – well, it’s either drink this crap or die of dehydration! Enjoy those little bubbles – wonder what they will do to my stomach? I had also hoped that the course would move off the road on to bike paths. No such luck. We were now running with traffic on narrow two lane roads. But at least there was less traffic and I didn’t feel so threatened. About 18K we exited the park back on to the major boulevard heading towards the airport again – but now there are no sidewalks and very little room on the side of the road. I was scared again but had no choice but stick close to a group of runners and pray for safety in numbers. Thankfully we turned off that major road again on to a small two-lane country road. At least I thought I was thankful. But now the road was very narrow and there seemed to be a lot of huge trucks on that road. After a few trucks zoomed by so close that their mirrors almost clipped me and the breeze almost knocked me over I quickly learned to tune my ears for the sound of a truck and move off to the side of the road.

I was very surprised as I crossed the Half in 1:44:38. I was running sub-8s even with all of the sidestepping, etc that I was having to do to stay alive. About 25K we turned into a residential area that offered some relief from the heavy truck traffic. That road eventually led us back to the large park. I had decided that I would not worry about my time (for safety reasons) but if I was still close to an 8-minute pace at 32K that I would then try to break 3:30. I reached 32K at 2:40:45 and decided to go for it. But as I lowered the pace my right leg/hamstring tightened immediately and started to hurt. I had to back off the pace for a few kilometers and massage the leg to reduce the pain but finally was able to get my pace back down to sub 8s. By then we left the park again and turned back on to that major boulevard to return into the city. I was back up on the sidewalks wherever possible. It became almost an impossible challenge – up and down the sidewalk and then the police started to disappear or leave their posts at the intersections and we had to be extra careful approaching intersections. Maddog was pushing my sorry and tired ass as hard and fast as it could go while I tried to watch the traffic and keep us alive. I caught up to a Romanian runner at 40K and stayed with her because now we were having difficulty trying to figure out where to go. The course finished at a stadium on the edge of downtown and the course was not marked. At one point she had to stop and find a cop (who was supposed to be directing traffic at the intersection) to ask directions. I wisely stayed with her until we made the final turn on to the street where the stadium was located. Then I left her as I made a final push to see if I could break 3:30. As I turned off that street on to the road into the stadium I was blocked by a massive crowd of kids leaving the stadium after the 5K awards. I shouted at them to get the hell out of the way but had to fight my way through them all the way to the entrance to the stadium and track.
As I entered the track I could see the finish line on the far side of the track – about 300m to go. I looked at my watch – it had just turned over 3:29! I could still do it if I sprinted the final 300m. Maddog dug deep and used everything we had to accelerate that last 300m. As I approached the finish line in 3:29:50 a race volunteer started shouting at me (in Romanian). I didn’t have a clue what he was saying but when he held up his hand with one finger showing I immediately and unfortunately understood. ONE MORE LAP!
I was completely demoralized and disgusted! So I jogged a final lap around the course and crossed the finish line in 3:31:56.

I was so disgusted and pissed off with the whole race- the organization (or lack of) and especially the course that I just grabbed a bottle of water (carbonated of course) and walked out of the stadium. Never to return again. It was a piece-of-shit race and the country is still a shit-hole. Now do you want to ask how I really feel about it?
Fortunately I found my sports manager on the way out of the stadium and we retuned to the hotel for my usual soak in a hot bath.

Later we headed into the center of town to enjoy a few cold drinks and look for one of the restaurants that our tour guide had recommended the day before. Unfortunately both restaurants had been booked for private wedding parties and we had to make another choice. Even that turned out to be a bad meal – not my day I guess!

The following morning we were scheduled to travel to Transylvania to visit the Bran Castle. Andrei had arranged for an English-speaking friend to tour us in her private car. I now understood why we couldn’t go for two days – she was just moonlighting and couldn’t take the time off work. But we were fortunate to have her because I would not drive in Romania. The roads are crawling with cops who stop everyone and expect a bribe to continue your journey. If you are a foreign driver you don’t stand a chance.
Otherwise it was a pleasant trip. Ban is about 120 miles north of Bucharest in the Carpathian Mountains. The leaves were changing and provided a kaleidoscope of fall colors. The Bran Castle or Dracula’s Castle was built in 1212 and has been restored very well. The Castle was owned by Vlad Tepes, the Prince of Wallachia and son of Vlad Cracul. He ruled the region from 1456 to 1462 and used to sign himself Draculea (Devil’s son), a name which was distorted into Dracula. He was known as the Impaler because impaling was his favorite punishment for thieves and criminals.
After touring the castle we enjoyed a great lunch of local fare in Bran including a local liqueur called ‘palinka’ that smelled and tasted like kerosene. Believe me if you drink that stuff Dracula is sure to stay away and leave you alone.

Upon returning to Bucharest we decided to go back to the restaurant recommended by our guide since we had to kill three hours before the night train left. The Burebista restaurant is known as the ‘Hunter’s’ restaurant because the menu is completely comprised of wild game. We had an excellent 4-course dinner with wine and cocktails for $25 – the most expensive meal I have ever eaten in Romania.

Now it was time to catch the night train to Zagreb. My sports manger, having led a very sheltered life, had never taken a night or sleeper train so I thought that she should enjoy the experience. We had booked a private compartment and I was sleeping within one hour of our departure. The train took 24 hours to travel from Bucharest to Zagreb via Budapest. There was a 3-hour stop in Budapest so we left the train and went into the city for a nice dinner before continuing the journey on to Zagreb. I don’t believe my sports manger has the same enthusiasm for night trains that I do.

But we were now in Zagreb, Croatia – another country and another trip report so stay tuned.

Monday, September 16, 2002

Race Report - Denver Marathon

Race Report
Mile High City Marathon
Denver, CO
Sept 15/02

This was one of the ugliest and strangest race (performances) that I have ever run! Started out that way right at the start line. Since it is a small race - only 500 runners in the marathon - I found myself right on the start line at 8am staring at the TV cameras. Originally my race strategy was to run an easy first half (8:15 to 8:30 pace) and then to try to run a negative split in the second half - just a nice easy training run since I had no important goals or challenges to accomplish in this race. However when I found myself staring at the camera truck when the gun went off I decided that I needed to go out fast to stay out of the way of the leaders. So I led the whole race for the first few hundred yards. Must have really frightened/confused some of those young bucks behind me? After a few hundred yards (and sucking air) I stepped aside to let the lead pack pass me but that DAMN Maddog decided to tuck in behind the lead pack and stay with them! When I passed the 10K mark in 46:19 (my Half Marathon race pace) I knew that this race was going to get ugly!Of course I now had to change my race strategy to "blaze the first half and then slow down and try to hang on for the second half?" Thus I continued to push the pace and was upset that a lot of the mile markers seemed to be wrong? The course was almost the same as the 'Jesus Marathon' that I ran in June and the markers had been screwed up in that race too. I know I was pushing well below an 8-minute pace but many of my splits in the first half were 8:10 to 8:15? Didn' t make sense? But I was still surprised/disappointed when I crossed the Half in 1:44 - should have been much faster? And I knew right then that I had neither the energy nor the motivation/willpower to push the pace that fast in the second half.At 14 miles my legs were already heavy and tired so I wisely decided to accept the the new strategy and slowed down to a 9-minute pace. I was prepared to jog that 9-minute pace to the finish line or until my legs started to feel alive again. Fortunately by mile 17 they seemed to recover and feel OK so I dropped the pace back to the low 8:00s and held that pace until mile 21. But then disaster struck! I started to suffer stabbing pains shooting from my right hip down the leg along the hamstring and ITL Band - the same problem I had last winter! All I could think of was "OH NO - I don't want this problem/injury back now that I am just getting back into good shape!" So I stopped and walked for a few minutes while massaging some key pressure points on the hamstring and ITL Band until the stabbing pains faded. By then I had reached the 22 mile mark (3:01) and finally had some motivation for the first time in the race. I needed to get this torture/ordeal over with asap to minimize the risk of further injury/damage to my right leg. And that required sucking it up, ignoring all pain and pushing the pace as hard as I could for the last 4 miles. I figured that if I could lower the pace back to 8 minutes that I could just finish under 3:35 which would give me some respect back?I could immediately tell from my increased heart rate and laboring that I had dropped the pace well below 8 minutes but my split at mile 23 was 6:49? Then back to 8:19 at mile 24? Boy these markers have got to be really screwed up? But I was not prepared nor did I believe my split at mile 25 - 6:30! Not even the Maddog can run that fast at this stage of a marathon while hurting like Hell! So I expected the last mile to be very lonnnnnngggggggg to make up for some short mile markers? Thus I was very, very surprised when I rounded a corner in downtown Denver about 4 minutes (or about 1/2 mile) later to see the finish line only a bit more than 1/4 mile away? A quick glance at my watch showed that I could finish this race under 3:30 if I picked up the pace more. I didn' t believe it but decided that now was not the time to argue about the correctness of the course -"just get your lazy, tired ass in gear and sprint!"So I crossed the finish line in 3:27:22! But I am still having trouble believing it?There can only be two plausible explanations: 1) the course was short - but it was certified? or 2) the first Half was about .5 to .75 miles long and the second Half accordingly short. In some ways this might make sense since I would have run about 1:40 or less in the first Half which I think I did and then slowed down by 7 minutes in the second half.But I know how much effort (and pain) it takes to run a sub 3:30 marathon and I just don't feel like I did that today? However after I confirm my time on the official web site I intend to log 3:27 in my log book if that is what it was? Heck - it's not often these days that I get to run two sub 3:30 marathons back-to-back. Used to be common when I had my previous (younger) body - but not anymore. So I will graciously accept it if I have to? What upsets me the most is that if I had known the course was so screwed up I WOULD have gladly endured more pain to push the pace in the 2nd Half. I could have finished that course/race under 3:20 if I had been willing to accept more pain! But then I fear that my right leg might have been truly injured. As it is I am going to take some extra time off and get a good massage this week to try to head off any long-lasting injury!

Thursday, August 29, 2002

TR Reno Marathon

August 23 –28, 2002

Before you start this report I need you to do me (and you) a favor. Go to your bar or wherever you keep your booze and pour yourself a tall, cool drink. Got the drink? Good! Now take a good stiff drink and settle into your favorite chair. Comfy? OK let’s get started.

You need to relax and set the correct atmosphere/mood because I am going to ask you to start by going back in time. Pretend this is a Hollywood script. Your favorite chair is a time machine that not only moves you in time but also can move you to any location in the world. Have another drink and you will get the hang of it! Ready? Now push that time lever --- gently!!----because you only want to go back 20 years in time – precisely to Sunday, September 19, 1982. And set the location to Reno, NV or more precisely the Bower Mansion on Washoe Lake, about 20 miles south of Reno on Hwy 395. Are you there? No? Have another drink and try again!

Good! You finally made it. In front of you are many runners approaching the start line of a race --- ummm, let’s see – the banner says ‘ Silver State Marathon’. Try to pick out that middle-aged male runner over there on the right side of the start line – the one with blonde hair wearing a ‘Silver State Strider’ singlet with race number 324 pinned to the front. Got him? Good! Now we can begin Scene 1.


The runner is a young 38 years old and looks fit. He appears nervous. He doesn’t know anyone at the start line and what’s probably more frightening is that he doesn’t know anything about running a marathon. It’s his first marathon and in his hometown. He only started running a few years ago to lose the weight he gained when he quit smoking. Running is just a recreational exercise to be done only in good weather a few days a week. Sure, he has run a few local short races in Reno –5 and 10Ks – but got discouraged with those short distances/races when his oldest son –only 11 years old and with no training – whomped his butt in a recent ‘Fathers and Sons’ 5-mile race! Perhaps he should concentrate on long distances? After all, he always feels his best and most comfortable when he does those long 8 to 10 mile runs on the weekend. There seems to be something relaxing and wonderful that kicks in after 4 or 5 miles?

But does that really explain what he is doing at the start line of a marathon? Is it destiny or just a manifestation of a mid-life crisis – trying to prove that 38 is not the end of his life (or manhood)? Surely running a marathon will prove to him and the world that he is still young and strong? Able to compete with the young bucks! Maybe that explains why all-of-a sudden he had announced to his family and friends only a few months earlier “I think I will run a marathon”. He had absolutely no idea how to train or indeed that special training was needed to run a marathon? So his training included increasing the number of daily runs and weekly mileage to 40 miles per week. Heck – he even ran two long runs of 18 miles! So now he is ready and standing at the start line for this new and great challenge in his life! He had either read or heard somewhere that a 3:30 marathon (8-minute pace) was recognized as a challenging/important target for most marathoners so that became his goal.

6am! The race starts– the adrenaline is flowing! The runner has decided to go out at a 7:30 pace to give himself lots of margin – after all, he does expect to slow down a bit in the last 10K! Due to inexperience he gets sucked into following the lead group and runs the first mile at a sub 7-minute pace but quickly realizes that he cannot stay with those runners and backs off. He crosses the Half in 1:38 – he is really doing great – right on schedule and still feeling OK. But he already recognizes that he might not be able to hold this pace to the finish so decides to back off to an 8-minute pace. By mile 18 the legs are beginning to feel rubbery and very heavy? It becomes a struggle and it is starting to hurt just to run an 8-minute pace? By mile 20 his legs feel like they weigh 1,000 pounds each and he can’t believe how much it hurts just to keep his legs moving at an unbelievably slow 9-minute pace? But he is tough and can handle this for another 6 miles!

However he is not prepared for the SOB who built an 8-foot high, 8-foot wide solid brick wall across the marathon course at 22 miles! And he runs smack-dab straight into it! This is his first experience with the ‘WALL’! It is not pleasant!
His body feels like it has been hit with a giant sledgehammer. He picks himself up and tries to continue. He must climb over that wall! He must finish! Quitting is not an option. His family is waiting for him at the finish line! His manhood is on the line! He tries to run again – not possible- his body shuts down and refuses to move! He tries to walk and run but the pain is excruciating and the fatigue unbearable! So he starts cursing and screaming at himself – “how could you do something so painful and stupid”. He tries to move his legs forward but it hurts too much. He is not a very religious person but he looks up to the skies and prays, “please, please God, just help me finish this race – ‘ALIVE’- and I promise that I will never do anything so stupid ever again”! He begins to walk – his body finally allows this simple motion without unbearable pain. Then he tries to run again but this only results in more excruciating pain and prayers. So goes the next few miles – take a step –scream a curse and say a prayer. Finally around 24 miles his body recovers enough that he can begin to walk and run – still lots of pain and curses with each step but prayers no longer needed. At 25 miles he realizes that if he can just manage to jog the last mile he can still finish under that ridiculous goal of 3:30. Why is that so important? More prayers and lots of curses are needed but he finally crosses the finish line in 3:28:34 to the loud and exuberant cheers of his family. His first comment after he passes through the finish chute is “ I will NEVER, EVER run another marathon as long as I live!”

He and his family enjoy the post-race activities. No award for such a slow time in the 30s age group but he does get to talk to a few experienced marathoners and listen to their conversations about ‘fartleks’, ‘tempo runs’, ‘track work’, etc. What are these strange words. He has never heard of these training activities? But those runners must plant some kind of inquisitive or competitive seed. For about two weeks later the runner is sitting at dinner with his family and he is probably more shocked/surprised than his about-to-become sports manager when he looks her straight in the eyes and these incredulous words come out of his mouth “ YOU KNOW, I THINK IF I TRAINED HARDER AND SMARTER I COULD RUN A MARATHON FASTER?”

OK readers – time to ease back on that time lever and return to the present in your favorite time chair/machine.


Go back to the bar and pour another long, tall drink. I’ll give you a few minutes to get ready. Take another long hard pull on that drink. Comfy? Relaxed? Good? Time for Scene 2.


Give that time lever just a slight tap because you only need to go back one week – to Sunday, August 25, 2002 – and the same location – Bower’s Mansion in Washoe Valley.
Look - there’s a group of runners approaching the start line of the ‘21st Silver State Marathon’. Can you spot our runner over there on the right side of the start line again? You know - the one with the blonde hair – only this time he is wearing a singlet with ’50 States Finisher’ on the back and race number 200 pinned to the front. Good – you have spotted him? By now you have guessed whom ‘the runner’ is and therefore I am going to switch my story telling to first person-present tense to better describe the action.

Yes, that is ‘moi’ standing at the same start line – but 20 years has passed since I first stood at this line. A lot has changed in those 20 years! Unlike you in your favorite time machine – I have aged 20 years! The hair is still blond but not as thick and plentiful. I am still in fairly good shape and, at 144 pounds, weigh 14 pounds less than I did at that first marathon. My face and body have a lot more wrinkles due to the 20 years and my body has acquired many scars and nagging aches and pains due to running injuries suffered over those 20 years. But the biggest changes are not visible or apparent. They are the psychological and physiological changes that have occurred within my body and mind. I am no longer that nervous and frightened novice runner. I have run another 198 marathons and countless shorter races since that first naive/inexperienced marathon. Today I am running marathon # 200 – I know what to do and what to expect!

But why am I here? After running marathons in all the states, all the provinces, all the continents and 55 countries – why did I come back to Reno for #200? Because of a few unique and special circumstances! As fate would have it, my 200th marathon is happening exactly 20 years after I ran that first marathon in Reno. Since I believe that those 20 years and 200 marathons have now brought me to a stage in life where the effects of age and associated physiological changes on the human body cause such a rapid degradation in physical and athletic limits/capabilities, I want/need to test or confirm where I am on that scale of life. To do a realistic and fair test I need to return to the place where it all started 20 years ago i.e. run the same marathon on the same course and hopefully under the same conditions.

To be honest I was not very confident that I would be able to match or beat my time in that first marathon. I had not announced this goal or ‘dream’ to anyone for fear that it would cause me to put too much stress and pressure on myself. All I would admit is that I wanted to run as close as possible to my original time. But as you know I trained very, very hard for this challenge/test. I am lucky to live in the mountains in the summer because that provides altitude training every day – but I ran ‘Fourteeners’ just for extra hill work and altitude training.

Thus when I walked up to that start line on Sunday morning I knew that I had trained as hard and as smart as I could for this challenge. The other main factors affecting the outcome of this race/challenge would be the course and the weather. Fortunately the ‘Weather Gods’ are kind to us and the temperature is a chilly 37 degrees at the 6am start – and there is no wind! The only potential problem is the course. It has changed slightly from the original course that I ran 20 years ago. My sports manager, a running friend (Edson, who had flown out from NYC just to run the race and help me celebrate my 200th) and I had driven the course on Saturday - or at least we tried to! The original course had followed a paved road around Washoe Lake – the new course follows the same road but the race director has taken about 6 to 7 miles off road. I overheard a local runner say that the off-road sections were dirt trails. That should be OK?

As I stand at the start line with Edson I decide that if I want to achieve my secret or dream goal that I will have to go out as hard as I can and run right on the edge of my physical limits until I either cross the finish line or crash and burn in flames – whichever comes first. This is no time to be conservative!

6am. Bower’s Mansion (elevation 5,050 ft). The race starts. I go out behind the lead pack and they drag me through the first 3 miles –uphill- in 23.04. (7:41 pace) Miles 4 and 5 are flat and fast but then we hit the first off-road section – OH DAMN! There are two miles of sand trails running along the lake and anyone who has run along a beach knows how difficult it is to run on sand. Because my feet sink into the sand and I cannot get good traction I continue to expend the same amount of energy but my pace slows to 8 minutes/mile. At 7 miles the course emerges back on to the pavement and my pace drops back down to the 7:40s until mile 11 when the course turns off-road again. We are now faced with 4 torturous miles of sand trails and roads and my pace slows to 8:05s and 8:10s and I am pushing as hard as I can! This really sucks! I pass the Half in 1:41 and change. In spite of the torturous, sucking sand my overall pace is OK. But I know that I cannot run this same time in the second Half.

Finally we emerge back on to wonderful, black pavement at mile 15. Because I know that the toughest hill on the course is located at Mile 20 and that will certainly cost me time, I feel that I must push the pace through the next 5 miles to bank some more minutes. I know it is risky but I push the pace back down to 7:40s and 7:50s and I catch 3 runners over the next 5 miles. As I pass mile 20 in 2:37:25 I close in on another runner who looks like he might be in my age group and we use each other to push ourselves up that hill. The hill climbs 200 vertical feet over the next mile to the highest point of the course (5,250ft) but it feels like Mt Everest. We crest the hill at Mile 21 in 8:31 – my slowest mile split! Thank goodness that there is a water/aid station at the top of that hill because it gives me an excuse/opportunity to slow down while I swallow another carbo gel and wash it down with some water. I try to let my body recover as we enjoy a short downhill before attacking the last hill – a small one- at mile 22. My age group competitor cannot recover and I pass him on that final uphill and reach mile 22 in 2:54:08. A quick calculation determines that if I can run an 8-minute pace to the finish line that I will just barely beat my original time. But can I do that? My body is crying out in pain and fatigue – it wants to slow down!

That is not acceptable – the margin is too close! I therefore decide to take a huge risk that I would seldom ever take at this point in a marathon – I decide to make an all-out push over the last 4 miles to the finish line! My hear rate soars to 93% Max as I lower the pace to 7:36 over the next mile – my fastest mile split so far. My body is now screaming at me in pain but I must ignore it for 3 more miles so I continue to push --- until we hit a final ½ mile of sand trail! I am so pissed at the race director. Why would he do this crap at this point in a marathon? “Quit whining - everyone else has to run the same crap”! But not everyone is trying to achieve my goal!

Finally I emerge from that soft, sucking sand from Hell at Mile 24 on to a paved road that runs straight and flat to the finish line. I ignore the screams and pleas coming from my exhausted and pain–ridden body and drop the pace back down to 7:50s. I can smell the finish line and I will not be denied! I reach mile 25 in 3:16:56 – one more mile to go! But my body is now telling me that it has used up all readily available energy and there is nothing left. That means that it has to break down fat and muscle tissue for energy but that process is slow and therefore it cannot support a fast pace and I must slow down. No! No! No! That is not acceptable. I have come too far, endured too much pain and I am too close to success. I cannot – I WILL NOT be denied! I WILL NOT concede defeat and slow down!

But what can I do? In desperation I send an urgent plea to ----- the Maddog! HELP ME!
Maddog comes immediately to my rescue and begins screaming his favorite motivational speech “PAIN IS ONLY TEMPORARY – MEMORIES ARE FOREVER”! “ Now get your lazy, tired ass moving”! I will never truly understand how Maddog did it but I believe he used a special mixture of willpower, adrenaline and energy fumes to bump my heart rate up to 97% Max and push my pain-ridden, totally exhausted, old body through the final mile in 7:31 – my fastest mile of the race. But it was without a doubt the longest and most painful mile that I have ever raced in my entire life. However when I reach mile 26 in 3:24:27 and can see the finish line and the finish clock the excitement and exhilaration of sweet success completely overwhelm the pain and fatigue and my mind and body seem to slip into another zone or ‘dream dimension’ and ‘float’ along the final corridor of 285 yards. Now I can read the finish clock –3:25 and something. My mind thinks “Gee that is such a nice sounding number - 3:25 – that has to be our finish time”. Somehow that ‘dream mind’ forces the ‘dream body’ to accelerate into sprint mode and we all continue to float the final 100 yards and cross the finish line together in 3:25:57!

Then – BANG! The dream dimension suddenly vanishes and reality returns instantly. I find myself about three feet across the finish line with a body racked in pain and no energy to move. Not one single step more. In fact if breathing weren’t involuntary that function would stop also! Fortunately a race volunteer recognizes that I am in trouble and grabs and supports me through the finish chute. When we reach the end of the chute and another volunteer puts the finisher’s medal around my neck there is another immediate transformation. The pain and fatigue begin to fade rapidly to be replaced by a sweet memory. Life /fate had presented me with a golden opportunity – with a special set of circumstances to come full circle in my running life/career and test the capabilities and experience of my old bod and mind against the performance of that same body when it was 20 years younger. And I had responded successfully with one of the best running performances of my life! Yesirrrreeeeeeeeee – the Maddog was right. I will cherish this sweet memory forever!

But now it is time to get some recovery fluids into me and go back to the finish line and wait for my friend Edson. I expect Edson to finish under 4 hours but he runs into problems and wisely decides to take it easy and jog across the finish line in 4:13.
We then decide to check the results board. I am surprised but not disappointed to learn that I only place 3rd in my age group (50 –59). There are lots of good runners from the Bay area and Sacramento running the marathon and two youngsters (50 and 53 years old) from the Bay area place 1st and 2nd. The age group awards are solid silver medallions minted at the Nevada City Mint so I decide that I will wait around for my award. I plan to put together a special memento of the race and want to include the medallion.

So #200 is now history and happily a sweet memory.

But unfortunately this is still not the end of this report. For I would be remiss (and in a lot of trouble) if I forgot to report and emphasize that there was a more important event happening during this trip – our 35th wedding anniversary on Aug 26th! So my lovely bride/sports manager and I traveled up to Lake Tahoe for a few days after the marathon to relax and celebrate our anniversary. No details on that part of the trip except for the following comments on Reno and Tahoe. Reno has grown and changed significantly (for the worse) but fortunately Tahoe seems to be in a time warp and has changed very little in the 23 years since we first visited there.

Now you will be happy to hear:


John aka Maddog

P.S. Thanks for taking this trip down memory lane with me.

Monday, August 05, 2002

RR Alaska

Trip Report
Juneau, Alaska
Aug 1-4, 2002

I mentioned at the end of my last marathon report (Denver- June 9th) that I was still trying to decide where marathon #199 would be. Since #200 was cast in concrete for Reno, NV on Aug 25th I needed a race in early August. I wanted/needed a road race to tune the old bod a few weeks before #200. There were a few marathons in CO in late July but they were trail races and they are not the same as a road race. So it came down to two possible marathons – my first choice was Nuuk, Greenland on Aug 3rd. However we had left it too late and when I tried to make reservations with the tour agency the only flights available required a one-week stay in Greenland. Sorry – ‘been there, done that’!
My sports manager and I spent 5 lonnnnnnnggggggggg days in Nanisivik on Baffin Island (500 miles above the Arctic Circle in Canada) in 1997. That four-day tour was lengthened to 5 days due to weather and those 5 days felt like 5 MONTHS by the time the plane finally lifted off the ground. No way we were going to spend a week in Greenland! So I asked the travel agent to put us on the wait list for next year and to book a 3-day trip only!

Plan B or 2nd choice was the Frank Maier Marathon in Juneau, Alaska also on Aug 3rd.
This choice provided a number of benefits: a) I needed a second marathon in Alaska as I make my way around the 50 states for the second time b) I still had enough air miles in an old Alaska Air account from business days for a free ticket and c) I was able to schedule a layover in Seattle on the return trip to spend some time with our son Chris.

So Alaska it was for #199! Unfortunately my sports manager was not able to accompany me because I only had enough miles for one free ticket. But we had already visited Juneau on an Alaska cruise in 93 and for anyone who has been to Juneau, you know that there is not a lot to visit? I had obviously forgotten that fact myself as I arrived in Juneau on Thursday afternoon – 2 days before the race! I rented a car on Friday to check out the city and area. Juneau is the state capitol and is a land-locked harbor. The only way in and out is by plane or ferry! There is a highway that runs from Thane, about 5 miles south of the city to Echo Cove, about 40 miles north of the city. It dead-ends at both locations and there are no roads /highways going east to Canada because that region is blocked by the Juneau Icefield that covers more than 5,000 square miles!

To the west of Juneau lies Douglas Island across a very narrow Gastineau Channel. This region is all part of the ‘Inside Passage’ and the Alexander Archipelago that is frequented by the cruise ships. The scenery is quite spectacular since the region is a temperate rain forest with 90+ inches of rain per year and mountains rise almost straight out of the seas/oceans to heights of 6,000 feet. And then there is the Juneau Icefield with more than 140 valley glaciers flowing down from it. One of the larger and more accessible glaciers is the Mendenhall Glacier, only a few miles from Juneau.

After I had driven all 45 miles of paved highway I crossed over to Douglas Island and drove all 15 miles of paved road there – of which the marathon course used 13.1 miles for an out-and-back route. In all, with the city streets and the road to the Mendenhall Glacier there may be 100 miles of roads in Juneau and the surrounding area. But there are more than 260 miles of trails for hiking/biking etc so at least they have their priorities straight. But what to do now? I had driven almost every inch of paved road? I drove downtown, parked and set out to explore on foot.

One hour later I had covered every major street downtown and visited every tourist shop on the two main shopping streets. The only thing I remembered from our previous trip was the ‘Red Dog Saloon’ – an old saloon that sits strategically on the edge of downtown and is the first bar the cruise passengers see when approaching the shops. Juneau gets 4 or 5 cruise ships each day that drop off 5000+ passengers to spend money. And the prices reflect that easy economy. I noticed mountain-type items that we had purchased here in Summit County to furnish our home – they were marked up an additional 100% over the high prices we pay in the High Country! Needless to say I bought nothing except for my customary souvenir postcards. And I had had enough of those crazy cruise passengers/tourists!

I left the city and drove out to the Mendenhall Glacier. On our cruise we had taken an optional helicopter tour to the Glacier where we landed on the Glacier and then our kamikaze, ex-Vietnam copter pilot pretended he was ‘Luke Skywalker’ and buzzed down and between the crevasses in the Glacier. Some of the crevasses are 800 feet deep and very narrow so it was a very terrifying but thrilling ride. I still have a video of that exciting tour! But now I had only my feet so I hiked about 2 miles into the Glacier from the Visitor’s Center. Alaska was experiencing a heat wave with temperatures in the mid 70s and the locals were swimming in Mendenhall Lake at the foot of the Glacier to escape from the heat? And they actually looked like they were enjoying it and having fun as icebergs floated by? BBBBRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I was wishing that I had brought shorts but there was no way in Hell that I would have even put a toe in that water!

But now it was time for the usual pasta dinner and a good night’s sleep for an early race. I was upset and disappointed that I could not enjoy an all-you-can-eat Halibut and Crab Feast that a local restaurant was holding! Damn – I love halibut and crab!

Saturday was M-Day. The race started at 7am at Sandy Beach on Douglas Island. As I stated earlier the course was an out-and-back route than ran to the north end of the island and back. The road was very hilly and ran along the Gastineau Channel and overlooked the city and eventually the Mendenhall Glacier. There were only 30 runners in the Marathon (20 from out-of-state) and about 100 runners in the Half. The weather was cloudy and 50 degrees. All the locals were telling us how lucky we were this year – last year it poured for the whole race! Since the race was so small there were no age group awards – just Open and Masters Divisions. I figured that I had virtually no chance for an award but still wanted to place well in my age group.

At 7am we were off – all 30 of us since the Half started later. The race started at sea level and since I had driven the course the day before I figured the highest hill/point was no more than 200 feet above sea level – but there were a LOT of hills! There were maybe 6 miles of flat and 20 miles of hills! I took off with the lead pack and tried to stay with them because I thought that there were at least two runners in that pack that were in my age group. At the end of the first mile (uphill) they were running about a 7:45 pace and I knew I couldn’t hold that pace for 26 miles of hills so I backed off to an 8-minute pace and just tried to keep them in sight. At the 10-mile mark I was right on an 8-minute pace and I noticed that one of my age-group competitors had started to fall back from the lead pack. I managed to close in on him by 12 miles and passed him going up a hill to the turn-around point at 13 miles. I passed the Half a few seconds under 1:45 but I didn’t believe that I could hold that pace through those hills again on the second half?

And as I was running back down that hill my competitor/soon-to-be-friend passed me back! It didn’t take long for both of us to realize that the race was turning into a friendly but serious competition between the two of us. Might as well get acquainted! Andy was 53, had lived in Juneau for over 20 years, retired from a government job a year ago and started a part-time bike repair business so that he would have more time to ski in the winter and bike, hike, run and fish in the summer! My kind of guy – had his priorities straight! We continued this back-and- forth lead – I would pass him on the uphills and he would pass me on the downhills – for the next 5 miles. At mile 18 Andy made his move and surged ahead. I decided it was too early in the race to lower the hammer – heck the race doesn’t even start until 20 miles! Reluctantly I had to let him go but I did pick up the pace enough to keep him in sight.

As I passed the 20-mile mark I had slowed to about an 8:15 pace but still felt OK. At that point we also reached the turn-around point for the Half Marathon race. That race had started at 9am so now the Half-marathon runners who were running a 7 to 8-minute pace were reaching their turn-around point. I found this situation to be very confusing and discouraging because we now had several runners coming at us and then blowing by us. I am struggling to hold an 8:15 pace and runners are blowing by so fast that I have to look at my feet to see if they are still moving? However it seemed to have a positive effect on Andy. Unfortunately he seemed to get invigorated by the faster runners and picked up the pace. At that point I figured that there was no way I would ever be able to catch him.
However by mile 22, I noticed that I was closing the gap and I had not picked up the pace – yet! He had to be tiring and slowing down. Now I did pick up the pace! By mile 23, I had drawn within a few hundred feet and we had both passed the other runner in our age group that had been in the lead pack. By my recollection we were now competing for 1st place in our age group.

But I had to be smart. I knew that if and when I passed him he would respond and it would become a battle to the finish line. Fortunately I knew the course. Mile 24 was a slight uphill and mile 25 was a long difficult uphill followed by a fast downhill mile to the finish line. I decided to pick up the pace just enough on mile 24 to close within 10 feet of Andy as we approached the bottom of the hill to start mile 25. Then I surged and charged up that hill in 7:57. As I crested the hill I was too scared to waste time looking back – I knew that Andy would be coming! So I asked the Maddog to draw on every once of energy left in the old bod and I continued to push on that last downhill. The old bod came through with the fastest mile of the race –a 7:37 and I crossed the finish line in 3:32:53. As soon as I had handed in my race tag and collected my finisher’s medal I returned to the finish chute to greet my new friend and congratulate and thank him for a great race! He was very gracious and conceded that when I blew by him on that last uphill he had tried to respond but couldn’t and had to coast in. We were both surprised and pleased to learn that only one youngster (43 years old) in the Masters Group had preceded us so that we both had placed and trophied.

There was lots of food including a BBQ after the race but I can’t look at food for several hours and the awards were supposed to be presented at a post-race party at a pizza joint that evening so I decided to return to the hotel for a hot bath. I did attend the party that evening to meet some more of the runners and enjoy some of the great local microbrews.
One of the race volunteers had taken hundreds of pictures throughout the race and these were offered to all the runners. Turned out that they had presented the awards at the finish line but a volunteer drove home to get my award for me. I was happy and pleased with the organization and hospitality of the local running club and its members. They even recommended a great restaurant where I went that evening to finally enjoy my feast of Halibut before leaving Alaska.

On Sunday I caught an early flight home via Seattle. Chris picked me up at the airport in Seattle and we went for breakfast. He is somewhat down in the dumps because he broke his left shoulder a few weeks back during a 100-mile bike race and now he has been relegated to ‘couch potato’ status. I can easily understand his frustration but fortunately he is still young and can rehabilitate quickly. It was great spending some time with him.

But now it is back to more hills and probably at least one more run up a 14er to get ready for #200 in three weeks. Stay tuned for the next report.

Saturday, June 29, 2002

RR Aspen Grove Trail Half

Race Report
Aspen Grove Trail Race
Aspen, CO
13.1 miles
June 29/02

As I had informed y'all in earlier reports I decided to run this race just to stay in shape for my upcoming 199th marathon. The race offered both a Half and full Marathon but I was limited to the Half; otherwise it would mess up my marathon schedule.My sports manager and I left Summit County early Friday morning so that we would arrive in Aspen early afternoon which would give us some time to explore the resort town. We took the short cut via Leadville and up over Independence Pass. This is a very pretty but scary drive!The road over Independence Pass is a narrow, two-lane road that twists and turns with many switchbacks - and no guard rails - as it climbs more than 4,000 feet to the top of the pass at 12,000+ feet. The scenery is spectacular but the drive is scary. One little mistake and the car would not stop rolling or flipping for about 2,000 feet! We made it safely and in fact I didn't seem to be as scared as the last trip over the pass. Maybe all these trail and mountain runs are helping me overcome my fear of heights?The drive down into Aspen is not as spectacular and soon we were in the resort village. We had spent an afternoon in Aspen a few years back but had never really explored the resort town so now was our opportunity. It didn't take us long to determine that we did not like it! It is a nice town, very picturesque, clean and meticulously groomed but there is a haughty, snaughty attitude that permeates everything. Example - there are only two gas stations in the town - both built to blend in with the old Victorian architecture of the town. Maybe that is why gas cost $2/gal? Gimme a break! I thought we were being screwed in Summit County paying $1.35/gal? A hotel in town costs $200+ per night - I had to search on the net to find a hotel on the edge of town for $125. As we were passing one of the many art galleries in town I noticed a Marc Chagell in the window - I didn't go in to ask the price! And finally real estate - from what I could determine our Summit townhome is worth about $1.5 Million in Aspen! Sorry - even if I had the money I wouldn't enjoy living in Aspen!But then we weren't there to buy a home - but to run a race. I also had a second agenda. I was hoping to run one or two of the 14ers that are close to Aspen. So I visited one of the mountaineer shops in town to gather information on the Maroon Bells. There are two peaks: the Maroon Peak (14,156ft) and the North Maroon Peak (14,014 ft). I was hoping to run both on Sunday if my legs and body were not too beat up by the race on Saturday? Well the manger of the store, an experienced climber who had climbed both peaks many times, cured me of that silly notion quickly. He warned/advised me that the saddle between the two peaks was extremely difficult and dangerous and that I should not attempt it without climbing gear and experience! But he did feel that I could run/climb the Maroon Peak and showed me the safest and esaiest way up. Later that day Nicole and I drove out to the park and trailhead for the Maroon Peaks and I must admit - they are awesome and INTIMIDATING! The last 1,000 vertical feet are ragged rock cliffs that seem to go straight up? I would have to wait and see how my legs felt after the race - I definitely was not going to attempt that run/climb on tired legs!Now back to the purpose of the trip and report - The Aspen Grove Trail Race. After treating my sports manager to a Happy Hour drink and the usual pasta dinner we found the race registration and packet pick up. I confirmed, after talking to a few runners, that the race was indeed challenging as advertised and that there were only three aid/water stations which meant I needed to carry water with me. The start time had changed from 8:30 am to 9am which would make it harder for those of us with early check-out times at the hotel. The race director kind of worried me when he advised all runners to purchase 'National Park Rescue Insurance' that provided for helicopter rescue and extraction from the mountains? But I figured since I had survived the Pike's Peak and Breckenridge Crest Marathons that I could make it out on my own?Saturday - Race day! I lined up at the start with another 130 runners (only 15 in the marathon). The course was a half-marathon loop - the marathoners got to do it twice. I was already thankful that I had been forced to register only for the Half! The race started about 10 minutes late. I already had a time crunch. Check-out at the hotel was 11am but I had asked for a one-hour extension. I needed to run this race under 2:30 to get back to the hotel in time? Wer'e off! The course started at the Aspen Art Museum (7900 ft) and immediately turned on to the Hunter Creek Trail - and proceeded to climb 900 feet over the next two miles on a rocky, treacherous single-track trail. It was impossible to run all of this section because of the steep grades and rocks. I followed the tail end of the lead pack and reached the two-mile mark in 26 minutes! The course then flattened out at 8,800 feet out for about 1/2 mile as it crossed the meadows of the Hunter Creek Valley. I almost got lost along this section as I missed a turn. The course/trail was marked with pink ribbons - there were no support staff nor mile markers to direct the runners. Fortunately a female runner behind me shouted at me and I back-tracked to follow her.I continued to follow her as the course climbed 1,500 feet over the next 2 1/2 miles to 10,300 feet to the Four Corners region on Red Mountain overlooking Aspen on one side and the Maroon Bells on the other.That female runner was a good trail runner. She ran that whole 2 1/2 mile climb without walking once! I had to resort to my usual power walk/run technique but I somehow manged to stay with her. When we crested that trail/hill the course turned on to a 4X4 logging road that traversed Red Mountain. 2nd water stop - about 5 miles into the race. I thought that I would overtake my female guide/runner on that dirt road but she would not let me pass her. And then we turned on to another single track trail that ran through a few miles of Aspen groves (hence the name of the race). It was very pretty but I was only able to steal a few glances because I was too afraid to take my eyes off the trail. There were too may rocks, stumps and roots waiting to trip one up if you didn't focus constantly on where your feet were. It was impossible to pass her on that trail so I decided just to continue to follow her.However the trail then started to drop and it almost seemed like magic, but POOF- she was gone! I couldn't believe that she had left my sorry old ass behind so quickly. I became concerned that I had missed another turn in the trail - surely I should be able to catch a glimpse of her ahead? Finally after about 1/2 mile I saw another pink ribbon which meant I was on the correct trail. I had to face the fact/truth - she had left my sorry old ass in the dust as soon as the trail has started downhill because she was a much better trail runner than I am (or ever will be!).Soon the trail emerged from the Aspens and began the truly horrendous descent that we had been warned about. The trail dropped more than 2,000 feet over the next two miles - on single track trail that was rocky and covered with layers of dry, slippery dirt/dust. I was actually afraid! I had my quads on full brake force and I was still losing control on some of the switchbacks! Every once in awhile there would be a short section that looked manageable and I would let my stride lenghten out to take the stress off the quads but I would soon be out of control and screaming at myself to slow down! I finally decided that I had to stop and walk -downhill- at certain times just to maintain control and relieve the stress/pain from my quads! About half-way down that section of the course I had to move aside and let some other runners blow on by. They were going hell-bent-for-leather and completely out of control. At that point I concluded that you must pass two important tests to become a GOOD trail runner:1) You must be CRAZY - I pass that test with flying colors2) You must have absolutely no fear or concern for your health or safety - Unfortunately I fail that test.Having been forced to recognize and accept my weakness I continued to slowly and SAFELY wind my way down off that terrifying trail/mountain. Finally I reached the last water stop (11 miles) that was supposed to be close to where the trail merged on to a paved bike path. I had made it without falling!Yeah! Right STUPID! Counting your chickens before they are hatched! As I grabbed a bottle of water and continued running down the last of that trail I was also patting myself on the back for making it safely down that descent - AND for completing my first-ever trail race WITHOUT falling when POOF again! I found myself flying through the air?I can so vividly recall what I saw and thought in those few terrifying milliseconds! My water bottle went flying out of my hands to land about twenty feet down the trail. I was flying through the air horizontally - BUT the trail dropped at about a 20 degree angle - how and where was I going to land on that trail to minimize the pain and injury that was surely about to happen? I manged to get my arms out to cushion the impact and twist my body to the left. I think that my left foot must have caught a rock or root to start this horrifying/exciting air flight? I landed on my left side in a soft pile of thick black dirt/dust and slid about five feet down the trail leaving some skin and blood along the way before I was able to push myself back up and regain control of my momentum. I didn't/couldn't stop moving downhill so I surveyed the damage as I struggled to maintain control of my momemetum. My left side and front were covered in a thick layer of black dust ( looked like I had attended a coal miner's convention?) and blood was oozing through the dirt in several places. From the severe stinging I was experiencing I knew that I had lost skin on my arm, hip and leg but I couldn't see any cuts or abrasions because of the dirt? I thought that I should try to wash off the dirt but I had already passed the water bottle and besides I figured that the dirt was coagulating the blood and slowing the flow? So I continued on down the trail to the bike path - ONLY 50 feet! I was so pissed off that I had only 50 more feet of trail to navigate to complete my first trail race without falling! Oh well! I kept my record intact - four trail races and I've fallen in all four! Back to the race. I was now on the paved bike path with 1 3/4 miles left to the finish line. The time was 2:20. All I could think of (besides the stinging going on all down my left side) was that I needed to finish this damn race in 10 more minutes to get back to the hotel! At least I was now on my turf - pavement- so I pushed the old bod as hard as it would go. I even managed to catch and pass some of those young jocks that blew by me on the terrifying downhill. There were several people using the bike path and I got numerous strange looks and comments such as " You look terrible. What happened to you? Are you OK?" in those last few miles. Finally I crossed the finish line in 2:35:52 and the race director commented "You look like shit! Are you OK?" I ignored his compliment and question and proceeded directly to the water table and tried to clean myself up. BIG MISTAKE! HURT! PAIN! HURT! PAIN! The water was just washing more dirt into the wounds. So I gave up that Nurse Nightingale shit and decided to go back to the hotel to clean up.When I entered the room my Sports Manager exclaimed "You look terrible! What happened? Are you OK?" I was getting kind of tired of these comments/questions - I thought it was pretty obvious what happened? But she did give me some good news. She had requested another hour for check-out which meant I didn't need to rush my shower. So I headed straight into a scalding hot shower. After much screaming and cursing as first the dirt and then the soap washed out my cuts and abrasions I was finally able to asses the damage. Not bad! A few minor cuts and abrasions on the left elbow, hip and knee. Only one cut on the elbow refused to quit bleeding. Most had already formed scabs thanks to the dirt. I would live for another day and another trail race! And mark my words - there WILL BE another trail race! As much as I hate them I will not retire/quit until I run at least one trail race -WITHOUT FALLING!But now I had a more immediate desion to make. Actually I had already made it on that terrifying downhill section when my quads were screaming at me. Should I stay over till Sunday and run Maroon Peak? NO! Even the MADDOG is not crazy enough to tackle that mountain on sore and tired legs. Go home Stupid!The wisdom of that decision was confirmed on Sunday morning when I ran a slow, easy 7 miles along Lake Dillon. My legs were very sore and tired! So you see - even crazy people can make smart decisions once in awhile!

Monday, June 10, 2002

RR Denver

RR Denver

Race Report
Jesus Run Marathon
Denver, CO
June 9/02

This was marathon # 198! I would have preferred to run a marathon at the end of June to space out numbers 198 and 199 more evenly to provide better training in preparation for # 200 in late August.However a fellow 50 State member and good running friend, Edson from NYC, was running the Jesus Run in Denver and I promised to do it with him. Edson is one of the 'three musketeers'. Edson, Marty (FL) and myself all met during the the early 90s when we were trying to complete the 50 states. We would run into each other at the start line of marathons across the US and since we were fairly evenly matched we would compete throughout the races and thus became good friends. After we all finished the 50 states we stayed in touch at various races around the world and finally last January at the Walt Disney Marathon we all came together again for the first time in eight years! And as usual we competed unofficially to beat each other - Marty won that race! However I have since beat both Edson and Marty in marathons and have claimed myself the champion of the three musketeers. Furthermore I have made up a 'trophy' or medal that is to be held by the champion. It can only be won (or lost) by defeating the current champ directly in a marathon. Thus I was defending my title against Edson in Denver!However I had a big advantage! Edson had just returned from the Great Wall Marathon in China and his body was still screwed up from jet lag. I might have had some sympathy until he told me he was leaving for South Africa on Wed to run the Comrades Ultra ( a 56 mile race). Also he was going up 5,000 feet in elevation from NYC and I was comimg down 4,000 feet from Summit County (or 9,000 ft if you consider my race last weekend up Mt Evans?). So maybe it wasn't fair - but who said life was fair?So now the scenario is set up. The marathon - the Jesus Run - not surprisingly is a race set up by a religious organization to raise funds. Most runners solicit donations from their family/friends for Jesus. Aren't you glad I didn't hit you up? It is run in the city of Denver. The course starts and ends at City Park and runs through residential streets as well as downtown. It is not an exciting or pretty course. Some of the residential areas were OK and the course did run through Cheesman and Washington Parks. There were very few spectators even in downtown Denver. Then again there were very few runners! Only 200 in the Half and about 200 in the marathon including the relay teams. Much of the course looped back on itself to use the same streets but they still had about 15 miles of Denver streets coned off and closed down with police support at every intersection. I don't know how they can afford the budget with so few runners?The course is fairly flat, elevation 5,300 feet with only a few rolling hills. I was not impressed with the race course/organization. Almost every mile marker was screwed up/incorrect. I ran mile 1 in 6:45, mile 2 in 6:51 and mile 3 in 11:56? In the first Half my mile paces ranged from 5:46 to 11:56! There is no way that you can adjust your pace and settle in to a smooth pace with crap like that! Only at the Half mark where they had mats for the electronic chips to record the official Half time did I trust the marker. And I crossed that in 1:45:21 - an 8 minute pace which was way too fast for my training and that altitude! I knew at that point that this was either going to be a great day or get very ugly!The other big problem on the course was water or lack of water. There was supposed to be water or aid stations every three miles. Well, they seemed to be very sporadic and not often enough. In the first half I drank one-4 oz cup at every stop. In the second half I was drinking two-4 oz cups at every stop and within a mile my mouth was bone dry? I was quite concerned about dehydration. And when I finally made a pit stop (for a pee) at mile 16 I knew that I was headed for trouble? I normally make two or three pit stops in a race when I am well-hydrated.I still felt good at 19 miles but then the wheels started to fall off - quickly! By 20 miles ( a 9:52 pace) and 21 miles (a 10.20 pace) - if you could believe the mile markers - my legs felt like rubber and I had no energy! I decided to just keep moving and struggling since I only had 5 more miles to go. At mile 22 I encountered the last hill on the course but it felt like a damn mountain at that point! But the upside was that when I finally crested the hill the flat course felt so much easier and I was able to pick up the pace.I was so looking forward to mile 23 because once I reach that point it is normally easy to convince myself that it is only another 5K to go. But on this course I passed a bank at mile 23 and the outside thermometer sign indicated that the temperature was now 79 degrees F (vs the 63 F at the start). Immediately the two sides of my brain went into conflict. Ever see those ads with the devil on one side and an angel on the other?Well the evil/dark side wanted to quit at that point and the good/ 'force is with you' side wanted to keep running. So here is a brief exerpt of the discourse that I had to put up with.Evil/dark side: Holy shit! Look at that temperature! 79F!Your legs fell like shit. You are dehydrated. Be smart. Quit! Stop or at least walk! This race isn't important.Good side: Only 5K to go! You have run under worse conditions lots of times. Don't be a wimp! Think how mad you will be at yourself if you quit. Quitting is not an option. If you walk it will take much longer to finish and you will only suffer longer! Edson is closing on you. If you walk he will beat you. Pick up the pace! Let's get this over with quicker! The force is with you!Fortunately the good side won and I actually picked up the pace in spite of rubbery legs that seemed to weigh about 1000 pounds each. Finally I reentered City Park at mile 25 and could see the finish line - across the lake. God - if only I could run across water! Keep struggling - keep the legs moving - you are almost there! As I approached the end of the park I could still see the finish line but there was no mile marker for mile 26 and I began to fear that I might have to do another loop or leave the park and come back? Please, please NO - my legs are finished. So I desperately watched a runner about 500 feet in front of me to see where he went! Oh thank God - he turned on to a bike path and headed for the finish line. Time to draw on the 'force' and every last once of energy I can find to sprint the final few hundred yards to cross the finish line in 3:40:27.I was actually pleased with that time because my pre-race goal/expectation had been to run a 3:40 to 3:45. But I had not run a smart race due to the screwed-up mile markers and had paid for it dearly during the last 10K. I could have run the same time with much less pain and agony. Oh well - I'll live to try it again.I waited around to cheer Edson across the finish line as he had to sprint to finish a few seconds under 4 hours! We didn't even wait for the awards ceremony even though I was pretty sure that I had won my age group.After a quick shower Edson and I enjoyed a victory lunch and discussed our planned schedules to see where we might meet again. My sports manager had not accompanied me on this trip since I planned to share Edson's room with him on Saturday night to save a long, early drive into Denver on Sunday morning.So #198 is in the bag and a distant memory already. After much deliberation I have finally narrowed three choices for #199 down to the final one. The date is August 3rd but I will leave the destination for another story. My concern now is the eight week gap between now and #199. Obviously I can't run a 'practice' marathon because that will screw up my numbers - so I have decided to run some of the local 10Ks and Half Marathons (at 10,000 ft) to stay in shape. This will also give me an opportunity to work on my speed and meet some local runners. So stay tuned!

Monday, May 27, 2002

RR Wyoming

Trip Report –Wyoming

Race Report
Wyoming Marathon
Cheyenne, WY
May 26/02

Wer'e back from our weekend trip/adventure. We had a great time.It's only a short 3 to 4-hour drive up to Cheyenne, WY from Summit County so after picking up our friends, the Grubers, we arrived in Cheyenne about 2pm on Saturday. Checked into the hotel and then proceeded to check out Cheyenne since none of us had ever been there. Not much to check out. There is a small downtown area that has an old train depot built in 1886 that is being restored and turned in to a shopping mall. The architecture is quite nice and there are also several old mansions in the downtown area that have been restored plus the state capital building - but that is it.We were glad that we had only booked the hotel for one night!The Wyoming Marathon is a small, low key race so I wasn' t too surprised when I had problems finding the registration desk. The race director had changed the location of the registration and pasta party but had not informed any runners who were not staying at the host hotel. However I and a few other runners were able to deduce that we should head to the host hotel where we found the registration desk and picked up our race packages.The marathon started at 6am at the Lincoln Monument on I 80 between Cheyenne and Laramie. Unfortunately it was much closer to Laramie which meant that we had a 45 minute drive Sunday morning to get to the start. The start was right beside the monument which was built in 1960 on the highest point on the interstate from coast to coast at an elevation of 8878 feet. The skies were sunny and it was a brisk 39 degrees (F) at the 6am start. After dropping me off my sports manager had to head back to Cheyenne to pick up the rest of the Maddog Support Team (who wanted to sleep in?) since Connie and Gerry planned to join me around 21 miles and run/walk the last 5 miles of the course.At 6am the race started and the runners headed east into the Medicine Bow National Forest. The first 4 miles of the course dropped steeply on a dirt road into the forest. At 4 miles I was averaging a 7:30 pace because of the steep decline. That was much too fast for that altitude and my training. I commented to myself " This is going to be an absolute bitch when we have to run back up these final 4 miles of hills on the return leg!"At 4.5 miles we encounterd the toughest uphill of the first half - a 3 mile constant climb. As I was struggling to reach the crest of that BAH (Big Ass Hill) at an 11:30 pace, I almost gave into my urge to walk. But pride would not allow me to walk that early in the race so I sucked it up (while I was sucking for air at 8,000+ feet) and struggled to the top. At 8 miles we turned east again on to a paved service road of I 80. During the next two miles over gentle rolling hils I realized that we had a strong tailwind pushing us along. Oh Shit! That means a strong headwind on the return leg!At 10.5 miles we turn north off the paved service road on to another dirt road into the National Forest. The scenery on this part of the course was spectacular! Rugged rock formations jut up above the pine forests. I am so awed by the scenerey that I didn't realize that we were running down a steep hill to reach the Half Marathon point. Elevation 8,000 feet! Time - 1:56:43. A nine-minute pace.Believe me. I was under no silly illusions of running negative splits! The return leg was 13.1 miles uphill at 8,000+ feet altitude (except for the backside of the BAH) and into a strong headwind! I figured that I would be doing well to average a pace one minute/mile slower on the second half: i.e. 13 minutes slower! If I could do that I should be able to finish under 4:10 instead of my original goal of 4:15 to 4:30. So I adjusted my finish target and started back!And the course immediately began to kick the shit out of me! The next two miles were sheer torture. I hadn't realized how steep that section of the course had been on the down leg. I struggled to hold a 12 minute pace up that damn hill to mile 15! But I managed to keep the legs churning (if you can consider a 12-minute pace churning?)Soon I was back on the paved service road running west into a strong headwind. Fortunately that only lasted a few miles before we turned back into the National Forest - about mile 19. I had expected to meet my support team at this point but I was about 15 minutes ahead of schedule. I stopped at an aid station to fill up my water bottle. There were only three aid stations on the course - about every 4.5 miles.Since that is not enough water for me I carried a water bottle so that I could drink whenever I needed and just filled my water bottle at the aid stations. This worked fine but cost me time to stop and fill the bottle.Still no support team so I forged on! As I was running down the backside of the BAH around 21.5 miles the support team caught up. Connie and Gerry jumped out of the car. Gerry planned to walk in and Connie planned to run in with me. Although I was only running a 9:30 pace it was still very difficult for Connie to adjust to that pace at 8,000+ feet from a cold start. So I had to leave her behind by mile 22 as I wanted to continue pushing as long as I felt OK! I thought that she would catch me as I was approaching the 4 mile climb back to the finish/start line and I figured that I would end up walking?At that point I started a psyche job on myself because I knew it would be necessary to get up that final 4 miles of hills. My first promise to myself was that if I could just continue running until at least mile 24 then I would allow myself to start walking at that point. Surprisingly I was able to hold a 10 to 10:30 pace up those first two miles of hills. At mile 24 I rewarded myself with a brief walk while I swallowed my last carbo gel and washed it down with the last of my water. Time to start running again! The old bod struggled valiantly to run an 11:25 on mile 25! But at mile 25 the hill/mountain seemed to rise at an impossibly steep grade and the heart, willpower and legs just weren't capable of running up that grade. So I started doing a combination of a power walk, then run, power walk, then run. I was on the verge of making the power walk longer than the run when I noticed another runner ahead of me. I had thought that I had no chance of catching him but he had been beaten down to just walking and I was gaining!Push the old bod harder! As we approached mile 26 I closed to within 100 feet but he heard the footsteps and responded accordingly. He beat his dead horse/legs and started running again and I was already pushing as hard as I could and I could not respond. So I followed him across the finish line about 30 seconds later for a time of 4:09:51! I was very pleased with both my time and my performance. I had run a smart race and finished much faster than predicted - and although my legs were tired I was not really beaten up and recovered quickly.However when I glanced at the results board I was disappointed to learn that the runner I had failed to catch was in my age group and thus took first place in the Senior Division! In hindsight I am not sure that I could have done anything about it in the last mile even if I had known - I would have had to make a move sooner?As I waited at the finish line for my support team I was surprised to see Gerry finish first? He had run the last 5 miles of that tough course and he hadn't run in over a year because of foot problems. Connie soon followed and we headed back to Cheyenne.After breakfast we decided to head to Laramie to check it out. Nicole and I had stayed in Laramie during my last Wyoming Marathon in 94 and thought that we remembered it to be more exciting than Cheyenne? But after a quick drive-by tour of downtown and the University of Wyoming, we decided to travel on to Steamboat Springs, CO. We were looking for a nice charming place to overnight and have a good dinner. None of us had been to Steamboat even though it is only 90 miles north of Silverthorne. We drove across the back country of Wyoming and northern Colorado and were treated to some spectacular scenery. The last 30 miles into Steamboat on Hwy 40 were very scenic but I don't think that I would want to drive over Rabbit Ears Pass in the winter. However it was spectacular scenery at this time of the year!Steamboat Springs is a very charming resort village. We immediately decided to stay overnight and enjoyed a great celebration dinner at a restaurant overlooking the Yampa River. Steamboat is at an elevation of 6,600 feet and thus was 15 degrees warmer than Summit and spring was many weeks ahead of ours. The main street is lined with fruit trees that were in full bloom. It is a very nice village but the major drawback in my opinion is that it is too remote and isolated. Denver is the nearest major city/airport and it is a 180 mile trip over a narrow two lane highway through the Rockies! Too isolated for me to consider living there. But a great place to visit. I discovered that the Steamboat Springs Marathon is being run next weekend. I would go back and run it but that would mess up my marathon schedule/plan to run my 200th in August. But I do plan to run it next year!

Thursday, April 11, 2002

TR Bali

3/31 – 4/10/02

Now that have filled ourselves with some American food in Hong Kong we are off to Bali on Sunday morning. I forgot to mention that the weather was cool in HK – low 70s which was a nice change from the stifling heat of Thailand and Cambodia.

Using the itinerary of a travel agency in California as a guide I had booked the first 5 days in Nusa Dua and the next 4 days in Candi Dasa. Nusa Dua is on a small peninsula on the southwest part of Bali. It is an exclusive tourist area that reminds me of the Lahaina area on Maui. There are about a dozen 5-star luxury resorts spread along the beach and the whole region is immaculately landscaped and maintained. There were two small villages on the edge of the region. The prices in the hotels were what you would expect in a resort but you could walk into one of the villages and eat a great dinner for $4 (including a beer) vs $20 to $25 at a resort. Since we had cashed in Sheraton points for 5 free days at a Sheraton resort, meals were not included and you can rightfully assume that we walked into the villages for all our meals.

We both wanted to take some time off from the hectic ‘got-to-tour every day’ mentality so Nicole laid on the beach while I took a PADI Open Water Course to earn my dive certificate. I have always wanted to get my dive card but just never seemed to have enough time. The PADI office was located at the Sheraton so it made it real easy. We did our confined dive in the Sheraton pool and four open water dives in the Indian Ocean. There was some coral and lots of fish variety so the dives were fun and interesting.
But we did want to see some of the interesting sights in that region so we hired a car and driver one evening to take us to Mengwi to visit the magnificent royal family temple of Taman Ayun (17th century) and then on to Tonah Lot. This temple was built on a promontory offshore and is one of the most beautiful settings in Bali for watching sunsets.

On Friday we had to move to Candi Dasa located on the south east coast where the marathon was being staged. Instead of paying a taxi $20 just to take us there we hired a car and driver for the day for $30 and had him take us on a day tour and drop us off in Candi Dasa at the end of the day. Our first stop was a cultural center in Batubulan to watch a colorful and exciting Barong Dance. The next stop was the Goa Gajah (Elephant Cave) which dates back to the 11th century. Hewn out of the rocks, the cave entrance is fantastically carved and depicts entangled leaves, animals, ocean waves and demonic human shapes. Then it was on to the town of Kintamani which sits on the edge of a volcanic crater overlooking Mt. Batur and Lake Batur. Mt Batur is still an active volcano and last erupted in 1999. We had lunch in a restaurant overlooking the mountain and lake while enjoying the cool respite – the temperature at the top of thee rim was only in the low 70s. In the afternoon we descended the mountain past lots of scenic terraced rice fields back into the unbearable heat and humidity to the city of Klungkung to visit the Kerta Gosa (the Hall of Justice) which dates from the 18th century. The ceilings of the hall are painted with classical paintings depicting visions of heaven and hell.
Soon we were driving along the coast again and made a final stop at the Goa Lawah (Bat Cave). The walls of the cave are homes to millions of fruit bats (very smelly) and the cave is considered a holy shrine because it supposedly connects to the Besakih Temple, the Mother Temple of Bali, located on Mt Agung. Last stop was Candi Dasa a small, laid-back village located on a beautiful beach on the Indian Ocean.

Other runners from around the world were beginning to arrive also. I recognized a few runners from the ‘fifty states club’ and was looking forward to a reunion with a running buddy from London. On Saturday I got my race package and then we decided to hire a car to take us to Tenganan Village. It is an original or traditional village surviving from the pre-Hindu period that strictly adheres to the traditional life of ritual and ceremony. The people are famous for producing the sacred hand woven Geringsing or double ikat cloth. The rest of the day was spent resting on the beach or escaping the heat by staying in our air-conditioned room. That night the race committee held a pasta or carbo load party at the host hotel. The cost of the party was included in the entry fee but I had to pay $12 extra for my sports manager. It was not worth it! For $3 to $4 we could have eaten a much better meal in the hotel restaurant. But I did meet up with my friend from London and we had an opportunity to discuss possible future races.

Sunday was M –Day! The marathon started in front of our hotel at 5:30am. I knew that was too late because it would only give us 45 minutes of darkness before the killer sun started to rise. There were only 35 runners in the full marathon and about 60 in the Half. The first 3Km ran along the coast at sea level and there was enough light from the street lamps to see. At 3 Km the course turned and started to climb Mt Agung – the highest volcano/mountain on Bali (3142m). There was a BAH (Big Ass Hill) from 4 to 7Km and then downhill to about 10.5Km which was the turn-around point for the Half. I had run with the half marathon runners up to that point but once they made the turn I was completely alone. And I stayed alone until 38Km! At 10.5Km the course also started a relentless climb up the volcano. It wasn’t steep but it just kept climbing and climbing and climbing! I pushed as hard as I could and all I could manage was 9:30 min/mile pace. And all I could think about was that friggin Duracell bunny that keeps going and going?
There were some spectacular views of Mt Agung and terraced rice fields along the course. However there was no traffic control and no shoulders on the road so we had to very cautious with all the bikes, motorbikes and trucks passing us. And similar to my two previous runs there were too many damned dogs that wanted to have fun chasing us. I had to stop a few times to make them back off!
Finally I reached the turn at 21Km in a very slow 1:58. Surely I could make up some time on the return downhill leg – maybe even run negative splits? Yeh, right – and the Duracell bunny was going to pace me too!

I did manage to drop the pace to about 8:15s until 32Km (20 miles). But then the wheels started to fall off! I knew I was tiring – my legs were beat from the hills – and my body temp was well over 100F! I had forgotten to bring some sugar candy and was concerned that I would suffer from low blood sugar. But I forged on until I hit that BAH again and then it was all over. There was absolutely nobody near me as I had run alone since 10.5Km and without a challenge I could not muster up the willpower or motivation to push and hurt myself. I decided to walk and jog up the BAH. It quickly became mostly walking although I did chew myself out at the top and made myself run down the other side. But as soon as I reached the coast again about 3Km from the finish line I had nothing left and began walking again. At that point a female runner passed me and I couldn’t respond – and didn’t care. There was no shade on that part of the road and the sun and humidity had become unbearable. I started to feel numbness and tingling in my hands and knew what was happening so I switched to SURVIVAL mode and walked most of that final 3Km. With only 500 meters left I heard footsteps coming from behind me? Oh SHIT! – it’s two male runners trying to pass me before the finish line. NO FRIGGIN WAY! So I dug deep and found just enough energy to hold them off and I crossed the finish line in 4:08. But I was not in good shape.

Fortunately they had a bucket of ice water at the finish line and a kind volunteer began to sponge bath me with the ice-cold water. He thought it was funny when steam came off my head as he poured cold water over me? But he did get my body temp back down to around 100F. Now I needed another miraculous coke or other source of sugar. Thankfully my sports manager was waiting for me at the finish line. We walked back to the hotel and while I jumped into the pool to continue my cool down she got me a cold coke. As usual I felt much better within five minutes of drinking that coke?
Then I rewarded myself with an hour-long massage with one of the Masseuses at the poolside. I thought that some of my muscles would be sore but the only thing that hurt was my toes when he grabbed them. I had damaged/jammed three toes on the downhill legs and will lose those toenails within a few weeks.

Now it was time for a short nap as my head still felt woozy (heat exhaustion?) and then some lunch. That evening there was a ’gala awards banquet’. I don’t normally go to those events but I wanted to see the race results and spend some more time with my friend from London. Turns out that I placed first in the Senior Division (males 50+) and won a very nice hand-carved wooden sculpture.

The following day was to be our last full day in Bali so we again hired a car and driver for the day and had him take us on a tour of the east coast. We visited the ruins of an old floating palace and the palace of Puri Agung Karangasem (The Great Palace). Then we went snorkeling on a black sand beach at Amed. Finally our driver took us over some mountain roads along the coast that are not usually seen by tourists. And we figured out why quickly! You needed a 4X4 to travel them. Several miles of the roads had been washed out by landslides. Fortunately he had an SUV with lots of road clearance but even with that he bottomed many times. But we did get to see where and how the natives lived.

Now it was time to transfer back to Kuta near the airport for an early morning flight to LA via HK. It was a long, long trip, even in first class. To make matters worse I think that I had picked up a flu bug just before we left Bali and I got to enjoy/suffer all the flu symptoms during the long journey home.

But we had a great time and we would do it again. For you runners, Bali is a tough course. The heat is unbearable and the dogs and traffic are a nuisance. But the race organizers and volunteers were friendly and supportive. There are water stops and cold sponges every 3Km to help you get through the heat. Just don’t plan on setting a PR.