Wednesday, December 10, 2003

TR - Cayman Islands

Cayman Islands
12/05 to 12/08/03

If you recall my last international trip report (Montenegro) indicated that there wasn’t supposed to be another international trip or marathon until India in Jan 2004.

Well, this trip was a surprise to me also! When I returned from Europe I had two more races planned – Maryland and Florida. But I decided that I needed to run one more race in Dec to keep the old bod tuned up for marathons. I wanted to go to Kiawah Island, SC in mid –Dec but that race had reached its limit and wouldn’t accept any more entries. What to do and where to go now? As I scanned the race calendars I was trying to choose between Jacksonville, FL and Dallas, TX. Jacksonville would be easy and cheap to get to but the course is boring. I have run White Rock in Dallas many times but at least I could run the marathon with some old running buddies from Dallas and visit my brother in Fort Worth?

Then a race caught my eye. The Cayman Islands Marathon on Dec7/03! I didn’t even know that there was a marathon in the Cayman Islands? A quick search for airfares sealed the decision. I found a special/cheap airfare for $239! Heck, it was cheaper to fly to the Caymans than Dallas! And I would need to run the Caymans eventually to complete a ‘soft’ goal of running every country in North America! Might as well do it now because many of these races don’t stay around too long? I asked my sports manager if she wanted to go? She thought about it for 30 seconds and replied “NO”! I was a wee bit surprised since the Caymans are at least a step up from the Balkans. I guess she is serious about not going to any more international marathons?

As the day approached to depart I was very happy about the choice I had made. The weather forecast was calling for another cold front blowing through Florida that weekend (thanks to those damn Canucks in Tundraland). I would miss it!
I arrived in Georgetown – the capital of the Cayman Islands – on Friday afternoon. The race director had sent an email out earlier that week stating that they would provide transportation from the airport to the hotels and to the race for international runners. I accepted their offer because it saved me more than $30 in taxis fares. It was a nice touch/service that isn’t normally provided by a race.

There are three islands in the Caymans: Grand Cayman, Little Cayman and Cayman Brac. Grand Cayman is the largest island where the capital and all the businesses and banks are located. There is very little development on the sister islands. My hotel was located on the south end of the famous Seven Mile Beach about 1-½ miles from the center of Georgetown so I was able to walk to most of the shops, restaurants and pubs. I had arrived late afternoon on Friday and quickly determined that the Caymans are like most Caribbean islands – the shops and businesses do not keep long hours. The shops close at 5pm on weekdays, noon on Sat and don’t open on Sunday. Nobody is going to die from work stress in the Caribbean!

I had wanted to do a few dives on Sat because the Caymans are famous for great diving but I was concerned about picking up my race package on Sat and I also wanted to shop for my typical souvenirs. So I had to pass on the dive packages/tours on Sat. At race registration I met the race director and learned that it was a very small race/event. There were three races – a marathon, marathon relay and a half marathon. A total of 200 runners in all three races – only 20 ‘crazies’ running the full marathon! All three races started together in the center of Georgetown at 5am on Sunday. The course ran south from town 6.5 miles then looped back to the start/finish line. The crazies would have to run the loop twice! The weather was forecast to be stormy and windy due to a tropical storm in the Caribbean.

By Sat afternoon I had completed all my chores and toured much of the island on foot. It did not take long to determine that there is not much to do or see in the Caymans other than diving. And the Caymans are very expensive like most of the Caribbean. Restaurants and bars charge big city/US prices. The Cayman dollar is worth $1.25 US so that makes things even more expensive! Instead of eating at the hotels and tourist restaurants I was able to find a few local shacks/diners where the food was great and much more reasonable. I don’t normally eat the pasta dinners provided by the race but decided to join my fellow runners at the host Marriott Hotel for the pre-race pasta dinner on Sat night. As expected it was not very good but I did meet a few runners including a runner from Sweden. He knew a mutual friend of ours from Sweden that I expected to see there but learned that he is injured.

Sunday was M –day! Woke up at 3:30am to catch the 4:15am bus to the start line. I had already established my race strategy – start out at an 8-minute pace to take advantage of the cool temps in the dark, early morning and then just try to hang on and survive when the sun came up! At the 5am start it was dark and the weather was a cool 75F, 100% humidity and windy! We had a few rain sprinkles during the first 5K that seemed to cool us down. There were distance markers and aid/water stations at every mile. The streets in the center of Georgetown had been closed down but after we left town the roads were open to traffic and there was only traffic control at the intersections. However there was very little traffic and the few vehicles using the road were friendly and courteous so there were no problems. Part of the course had streetlights but there were also sections that were so dark that I couldn’t even see the road or my feet! I reached mile 5 in 39:53 – right on schedule. However when we made the turn at 6.5 miles we were running back into a very strong headwind from the north and it got tough especially where there was no protection from the wind!

As expected in such a small race I ran the whole race by myself because I couldn’t find anyone to follow or draft behind. My only consolation was that we were all in the same boat! By mile 8 (1:03:20) my socks and shoes were already soaked and sloshing from sweat and my hear rate was averaging 10bps higher than normal. I ignored the higher rate since I knew it was due to the extra workload on the old ticker trying to keep the old bod cooled down! I reached mile 10 in 1:19:22. By then I had started pouring a bottle of water OVER my body at each water stop to try to cool it down. I passed the finish line for the Half-marathon in 1:44:58. Can’t get much closer than that to an 8-minute pace?
But I already knew that I couldn’t/wouldn’t be able to hold that pace on the second loop. The second loop was even lonelier since there were no longer half-marathoners. As I approached the final turn-around near 20 miles I started counting the marathoners coming back towards the finish line. I counted FOUR! Number 4 was a gent with a head of silver/gray hair and I figured he might be in my age group. But he had at least a ½ mile or 4 to 5 minutes lead on me and he was still running smooth and easy and I didn’t believe I could catch him unless he crashed on the final 10K?

I passed 20 miles in 2:40:38. But as I headed back into town and directly into that fierce headwind from the North I started to slow down. By mile 23 the sun had burned through the clouds. Again I couldn’t really complain as we had been lucky. I had expected the sun much sooner. But the heat of the sun, humidity and wind all combined were making it very tough and I started to struggle. I couldn’t see any runners in front or behind me and there was just no motivation/incentive to hurt like Hell! I t would not change my position/place in the race. I considered slowing down to a jog and cruising the last 5K. But OH NO! The Maddog wasn’t haven’t any of that wimpish/loser attitude or talk! He demanded that I push harder or at least hold the pace to train the old bod how to run through pain and exhaustion. So I tried to hold the pace – 8:40s by now and I couldn’t believe how much it could hurt to run so slow? Finally I turned back into the center of Georgetown and crossed the finish line in 3:33:43.

As I passed through the finish chute I noticed that there was no line at the massage tables so I walked straight over to a table and asked a pretty young masseuse to work on my quads and my right plantar fascia. The plantar had really started to hurt over the last 10K but again I couldn’t complain since I shouldn’t have run the race in the first place. The plantar has been bugging me ever since Europe and it ‘Needs A Rest’ in order to heal! After my wonderful massage I found the race results and discovered that I did know how to count. I had indeed finished in 5th place overall in the marathon. I had only finished one minute behind #4 (Mr. Gray Hair) so he must have faded badly over the last 10K also. He was 50 years old but the age groups were very strange – 55 to 64 – so I had also finished 1st in my age group! Not a bad day?

Since the award ceremony wasn’t being held until 11am I had a volunteer drive me back to the hotel to soak my legs and have a shower. I returned to watch the awards and check the final results. The only disappointment or criticism I have of the race and organization came at this event. The web site initially advertised or stated that there would be age group awards. That is where I noted the strange age groups. But at the award ceremony they only gave out awards/prizes for the first 3 places overall in each race. I overheard many of the runners stating that they were disappointed/upset that no age group awards had been provided as originally advertised on the website? I assume the unannounced change was due to the small number of runners (or lack of sponsors)?

After the race I did consider doing an afternoon dive but decided I was too sore and stiff to dive. Unfortunately the seas were too rough for snorkeling because of the high winds so I was forced to sit around the pool bar and drink strawberry daiquiris all afternoon while watching NFL games. My gosh – those daiquiris were good! Usually after a race I crave red meat and protein but decided that I should eat a nice dinner indigent to the Caymans so I found a lovely restaurant on the beach and enjoyed a great dinner of sea turtle steak and lobster.

I returned home to discover that the weather had been very cool/cold while I was gone. So the only regret that I have about the trip is that I did not schedule enough time to make a few dives.

Now I am going to do something very unusual for me and I don’t care what the Maddog says. I am going to take a week – maybe two - off from running and rest the plantar and a few other minor aches. I need to get healthy again so that I can start serious speed work to get ready for Boston in 2004! Stay tuned!

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