Wednesday, January 23, 2002

TR Bermuda Marathon

1/17 –23/02

I had wanted to run the Bermuda Marathon for years but didn’t see any sense in going there unless we could stay for a week and enjoy the island. Now that we are retired, time is no longer a hindrance. However money could be as the island is very, VERY expensive. We had visited Bermuda in 1993 on a combined pleasure/business trip but I must have forgotten how expensive it was? I got my first clue when I tried to book a hotel room – they ranged from $200 to 400 in OFFSEASON! Fortunately I was able to book a one-bedroom apartment in a guesthouse located on the South Shore (near the pink sandy beaches and next to all the luxury hotels) for only $100/day. We were on our way!

Even with a transfer in Atlanta it is only a 4-½ hour trip to Bermuda from Florida. After we arrived at our guesthouse we walked over to a supermarket to stock up on some of the essential food groups (beer, wine, water, pop and snack food) and received our second price shock. A 2-liter bottle of Coke - $3.49, potato chips that were marked at $1.49 for sale in the US were marked up to $3.12? And hold on to your seat –tenderloin steak -$19.95/lb. Since the Bermudian dollar is on par with the US dollar and interchangeable on the island, I don’t know how the locals can afford to live there? I naively thought that we could eat in pubs instead of restaurants to save money. Yeah right! First of all it is not like Merry Old England with a pub on every corner. The only pubs are located in Hamilton and a few hamlets/villages on the island. And pub food such as fish & chips or shepherd’s pie cost $15 to 20? Hell I could get good pub food in England for 5 or 6 pounds ($8 to 10 US). But that was still much cheaper than the restaurants where you would be lucky to feed a couple for $100 excluding booze! My next bitch (I’ll get all the money bitches unloaded first and then tell you the good things about the island so you’ll remember them last) was transportation. Tourists can’t rent cars – only a moped- so we had to take taxis or use public transportation. Our guesthouse was approximately 1-½ miles from Hamilton. A taxi was $10, a bus $3 – each way! Fortunately we were able to buy a multiple-day pass that provided unlimited travel on the buses and ferries for about $8/day which was very reasonable. And just in case I have you all excited about moving there –WAIT – there is a rule that non-Bermudians can only purchase homes that generate a specific level of rental income that equates to a home valued at a minimum of $2Million! That is about the price that homes located on the water start at. Still packing your stuff?

Now that I have my money bitches out of my system I can start to tell you about some of the good/nice things about the island. It is beautiful and very scenic. The beaches really do have pink sand that is fine as salt. Most of the good beaches are located on the south shore. The rest of the coastline is rocky and rugged and there are numerous secluded coves and inlets that are postcard pretty. There are lots of hills and most of the island is covered in tropical vegetation. The roads are narrow and most have no sidewalks or shoulders so driving (left side like the UK) and walking can be somewhat unnerving and dangerous but it adds to the charm. All the houses are constructed of concrete and stucco with white limestone roofs that are used as catchments for rainwater (the only source of water for each home). However the houses are painted every shade of pastel color that you can imagine which gives a lot of color and charm to the island. The Bermudians are very friendly and since it was off-season most assumed that we were residents when they struck up conversations with us. Crime is almost non-existent and we felt safe and comfortable everywhere we went.

The total population of the island is only 60,000. There are few high rises so most of the residents live in houses and condos spread over the 21 square miles of the island. The island is very quiet – not much nightlife.

So what did we do? After paying our ransom for food supplies we decided to explore the island using our bus passes. On Friday we ventured into Hamilton to pick up my race package and then we took a ferry across the inner harbor to the Royal Naval Dockyards. We strolled around the dockyards, had lunch at a pub, and bought a beautiful original watercolor of a Bermuda scene for our art collection. Then we took a bus back along the south shore to our apartment before proceeding into Hamilton again to watch some of the race activities. The weekend was advertised as ‘International Race Weekend’ with an Elite One Mile Race on Friday night, a 10K on Saturday and a Half and Full Marathon on Sunday. Elite runners had been invited from around the world for all three races with prize money offered. Leonard Mucheru from Kenya won the mile in a course record 4:02 on a tough course along Front Street with two 180-degree turns in the course. We were standing about 100 feet from the finish line and believe me that boy was flying each time he passed us!

On Saturday we skipped the 10K in favor of exploring the east end of the island. We took a bus along the south shore to the town of St. George established in 1612. Much of the town has been restored. We arrived just in time to catch the end of a funeral ceremony in the town park for a Bermudian who had been killed in the WTC. The funeral ended with a ceremonial dance by Bermuda’s Gombey Dancers in their colorful costumes. Then we proceeded over to King’s Square where the Town Crier was preparing a trial for bad wives/women. I ordered Nicole to go on trial for being disobedient and talking back but true to form she disobeyed me and refused. So they tried a local lass for being disobedient and nagging and proceeded with the ancient punishment of the ‘ducking stool’ and ducked her into the bay. I can’t understand why we males ever allowed that custom to vanish?
I was hungry after the ducking so we went to the local pub and in a moment of weakness ordered the ‘English’ fish & chips (for $20!). They sucked!

After spending the day exploring St George we caught a bus into Hamilton via the north shore for a pasta dinner. Our host had recommended an Italian restaurant that turned out to be great – some of the best spaghetti Bolognese I have eaten.

Sunday was M-Day! The weatherman had forecasted warm weather with overcast skies and gale-force winds. He got one right – gale force winds. It was a warm 69 degrees, 90% humidity and sunny at the 8am start on Front street in Hamilton. The wind was blowing about 35mph with gusts up to 50mph! The course was a scenic but hilly half- marathon loop that started on Front street, ran east along the South Shore Rd for about 5 miles. There was a big, bad-assed hill at 4 miles (and again at 17 miles). The gale force winds were at our back for the first 5 miles but then we cut across the island and headed back west along the North Shore Rd. Seven miles directly into the wind before we cut back in to Front Street. On the first loop I was able to hide behind and draft off the half-marathoners to save energy. My right leg/hip started to hurt around 5 miles but I figured it was the IT band and discovered that if I applied pressure to a few points along the band while running the pain would disappear. I crossed the half in 1:53 but knew that the second loop would not be so quick and easy. By the time I crested the BAH (big-ass hill) for the second time there were only a few runners in front of me. I passed the last runner (who appeared to be in my age group) around mile 20 and was completely alone for the next 5 ½ miles. There were 400 runners in the marathon – where was everybody?
Boy – talk about lonely and tough miles! Running directly into gale force winds – nobody to draft behind, nobody to catch to motivate me, my right hip is now throbbing constantly and the pressure point strategy doesn’t work anymore. I almost went off course once before a kind volunteer caught up and redirected me. And to make matters worse they had reopened the roads to traffic. On the first loop they had closed down the left lane of the narrow roads so we only had to worry about oncoming traffic in the right lane. But on the second loop (marathoners are more sacrificial that half-marathoners?) they reopened the left lane so now we had to worry about traffic coming up behind us. I almost got clipped a few times by car mirrors. I later learned that one runner did get clipped and knocked down by a car but thankfully was not seriously hurt.
But when you are fighting fatigue, boredom and 45mph headwinds the last thing you need to worry about is damn cars running you down! By mile 23 I was struggling to hold a 9:15 pace and not really caring all that much. On top of that the local spectators were starting to annoy me with their insults! They kept shouting: “Good job Pops” “Well done Pappy”! What to Hell is this? An Island insult only used in Atlantic Ocean Islands (remember Jamaica?) After all I was beating 90% of the marathon runners, most of whom were much younger than me and they weren’t shouting insults at them?
I figured that there was no point in trying to pick up the pace because it wasn’t going to change my place in the race. Finally around 25 ½ miles I spotted another runner ahead and that motivated me enough to chase and catch him at 26 miles. I continued to sprint across the finish line in 3:51:52.
Not a great time but I couldn’t be disappointed considering the problems with my leg and the weather conditions. I was actually excited and pleased that my leg had hurt so little compared to the Disney marathon.

After the race while I was cooling down, the runner whom I had passed around 20 miles approached me and confirmed that he was indeed in my age group and he thought that he had been in third place until I passed him? Nicole and I waited around for about 30 minutes in the hope that they would post some interim results so I could determine my age group place but they never did post any so we left. Back to the apartment for a hot bath, some ice on the leg, beer and watch the football playoffs – in that order! I don’t normally go to awards ceremonies but we decided to go into Hamilton for the awards at 7pm to see who had won the marathon and what my time and place were. (I had screwed up my watch at the end and could not tell what my actual time was?) We sat through all the awards for the Mile, 10k, Half and Marathon and never did find out what my place or time was. I definitely did not finish in the top three (no award) and they never did post any results. I had to wait until I got home to find out on the website that I finished in 3:51:52 which was 4th place in my age group and 26th overall.

On Monday, our final full day in Bermuda, we decided to visit Fort Hamilton, a fort built in 1870 that has been restored, to explore the fort and enjoy the ‘Skirling Ceremony’ - a band of Scottish pipers marching and playing the bagpipes. Then we took a bus out to Somerset in the West End to enjoy a beer and lunch at a pub that came very close to making me believe that I was back in England. On the way back to the apartment we stopped at some of the more famous beaches to explore and enjoy the beautiful scenery.
Tuesday morning I made my final training run on the ‘Railway Trail’ – a trail that runs 20 miles along the old Bermuda Rail route. If you want to walk or run while in Bermuda that is the place to go. No traffic to fight and a nice soft dirt trail.

So to sum it all up I rate Bermuda very high on scenery, charm and people but negative on price. I rate the marathon low because of the poor traffic control and poor race organization. I am not going back for either!

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