Sunday, January 25, 2004

RR Tampa Marathon

Race report:
Hops Marathon
Tampa, FL
Jan 25/04

As expected the race was very ugly and painful. After running a total of 49 miles (including the Mumbai marathon) in the past 3 weeks what else could I expect?
I did not have much confidence that I could finish the race without hitting 'the wall'. I started out a bit too fast at an 8:30 pace. After crossing the Half in 1:52 I already knew that it was going to get ugly - my legs were tired and trashed. I slowed the pace down to 9 min but by mile 16 I was struggling to run a 9:15 pace. By mile 18 I was hurting and struggling to hold a 9:45 pace. I crossed mile 20 at 2:58 and momentarily had some silly notion that I could hold a 10 min pace for the last 10K and finish under 4 hrs? But that was all it was - a silly notion/illusion! By mile 23 I was running a 10:30 pace and my legs hurt like Hell and my right foot was sending lightning bolts of pain up my leg with every foot plant. I decided to go into 'survival' mode and try to avoid or at least delay the enevitable crash. It did not help much as I ran smack-dab into 'The WALL' at mile 24. After I picked my sorry and sore ass up I had to walk and jog the next mile. I fully intended to walk the last mile too until a pretty young lass ran by me at mile 25. She must know the Maddog because she shouted at me "C'mon you can hurt and do anything for one mile"! She was right unfortunately so I started running and caught up to her. I ran the last mile with her as she encouraged me and dragged my sorry, tired, hurtin old ass across the finish line in 4:08:35.
Without her I would never have finished under 4:10! It was a painful and humbling experience/race but I was not embarassed as I got what I deserved and expected. It is very clear that all the rest during the past 6 weeks due to the foot injury and the trip to India has seriously and negativley affected my marathon conditioning.There is only one solution and about 75 days to get my old, out-of-shape ass back into shape if I want to be competitive at Boston in April. Thus I have asked Maddog to prepare another 'Kick ass and take no names boot camp' to beat my sorry old ass back into shape.It starts tomorrow! I believe it is possible if my foot will hold up to the stress and speedwork? Only time will tell.

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

TR India

Trip Report
01/04 – 01/24/04


Mumbai Marathon
Mumbai, India
Tue, Jan 13/04
Marathon # 218 – Country # 65

 When our youngest son, Jason, and his fiancĂ©e Ami asked if it was OK if they got married in India we were excited and overjoyed! Although Ami was born and raised in Houston, TX her parents emigrated from Ahmadabad, India and still had most of their family there. Thus they wanted the kids to get married in India so they could share the wedding with their family. We agreed after the kids agreed that we would have another (2nd) wedding in Houston for their friends and family that could not go to India.

The wedding was planned for early Jan.

 We figured if we were going to go that far for the wedding and since we had never been to India that we should spend at least a few weeks exploring India before and after the wedding. And of course Maddog immediately started scouting for the possibility of running a marathon while there? What luck? An inaugural marathon was scheduled in Mumbai the weekend before the wedding!

 Our oldest son Chris was to be best man at his brother’s wedding. Since Jason and Ami had to travel on a different schedule to be there for the final wedding plans we invited Chris to join us for a one week tour of the ‘Golden Triangle’ the week before the wedding. The Golden Triangle is a tourist circuit which includes: Delhi, Agra, and Jaipur. We were concerned about travel and illness so we booked a tour with a private guide and driver and luxury hotels.

 We cashed in ALL our combined Delta air miles to book 1st class seats!  When we arrived in Delhi our guide and driver picked us up and took us to our hotel to rest and recover from jet lag. The tour would start the next day. That evening as we walked around Delhi near our hotel we were shocked to find people - lots of people - conducting their private duties in the street. That was disgusting! When I woke early the next day to get a short run in before the tour started I encountered the same problem. There were so many people defecating in the street that it was difficult to avoid them and the ‘landmines’ or mess they left behind. They would squat in the street and pull their costume/dress around them and when they stood up and walked away they left a steaming landmine behind. I gave up on trying to do a short run and returned to the hotel.

 Our tour started after breakfast. The first thing our guide explained was that we would be harassed by beggars constantly. We should not talk to them, give them anything and avoid any eye contact. Many of the beggars were pros who were purposely maimed or disfigured to solicit more pity – and money. This tour and visit is off to such a good start?

We began our ‘Golden Triangle’ tour with a tour of Delhi - sightseeing of Old and New Delhi, one city with two distinctive features and culmination of tradition with contemporary. The Old Delhi tour included a visit to the Red Fort or Lal Quila. The fort is a massive construction and an architecture marvel with Diwani Aam and Diwani Khash. Started in 1638 by Shah jahan and completed in the year 1648 it had been part of the Indian history since then. Next stop was Jama Masjid – a typical Mughal architecture, built by Muhammad Ali Shah and is on the western side of the Hussainabad Imambara. The tour of Old Delhi included a visit to Mahatma Gandhi’s memorial site the Raj Ghat. The tour continued with New Delhi and a visit to Humayun’s Tomb, one of the earliest Mughal architecture in Delhi. Qutub Minar is one of the focuses in the Delhi tour as it the world’s tallest brick minaret with 72.5 meters in height. Then we drove along the Rajpath past India Gate, Parliament House, President’s Residence and the Diplomatic enclave to finish with a visit to the Lotus Temple before returning to the hotel for the night.  The third day started with an early morning breakfast (I skipped any attempt to run around steaming landmines) and then we departed by car for the renowned city Agra to visit the Taj Mahal. It is difficult to find words to describe this magnificent and breath-taking beautiful structure! The white marble tomb that has found its place in the Seven Wonders of the World was built by Shah Jahan in 1631-1648 for his wife Mamtaz Mahal. The mausoleum is an architecture marvel and the Turkish and Persian influences are eminent in the building. Next we moved on to the Agra Fort, which is situated on the north western side of the Taj Mahal and the white pristine marble building can be seen from one part of the fort, where Shah Jahan spent his old age. In the evening we attempted to go for a pleasant walk near the hotel but they had landmines in Agra too? The next morning we continued on to Jaipur. But before going to the Pink City we stopped at Keoladeo National Park a UNESCO's World Heritage Site, and a former duck-hunting reserve of the Maharajas that is one of the major wintering areas for large numbers of aquatic birds. I thought about doing a short run in the Park since the only landmines there were left by birds. However we continued on to Jaipur for an overnight stay at a hotel in the Pink City. Up to now the meals had been good. Our guide took us to high-end restaurants mainly in luxury hotels so the food was good and safe. But it was mostly Indian food and vegetarian. I needed a steak! But that was hard to find except in a western hotel so I had to make do with chicken! The next day we started the tour of the Pink City with a visit to the Amber Fort. Built in 1592 by Raja Mann Singh and completed by Swai Jai Singh it is a perfect example of the blending of Rajathani architecture with Mughal art. Set on the hugged hills, this red sand stone and white marble fort is something that should be seen. Then we continued on to the City Palace in the heart of the Pink City with Hawa Mahal, Jantar Mantar and Sheesh Mahal. We enjoyed one more night in Jaipur. By then we had learned not to venture outside the hotel without our guide and driver.

The next day we returned to Delhi and flew to Mumbai to begin the next leg of our adventure.
Did I mention that one week before we left for India I received an email from the race director of the Mumbai Marathon informing me that the race had been postponed two weeks? I responded that I had a wedding to attend – I would be there on the original scheduled date and I expected to run a marathon! I could not delay my trip – and the wedding - by two weeks!

We planned to stay in Mumbai for a few days to run the marathon and then continue on to Ahmadabad. We also planned to meet up with Jason and Ami and Ami’s family in Mumbai to shop for a sari and other items needed for the wedding. We had booked a hotel south of downtown and on the Arabian Sea. I had assumed that I would be able to run along the beach or coast. Wrong! When I went out for a morning run – my first since I had not yet found any place safe from landmines – I tried to run along the beach. The beach was totally occupied by locals doing their morning duties – and leaving behind landmines! Others would walk into the Sea to deposit their landmines. It was disgusting! I returned to the hotel! I guess the actual marathon would be my only run in India? If there was a marathon?

While Nicole joined Ami and her family to shop for a sari I visited the Race Director. I was fortunate to meet with him and Hugh Jones who they had hired to certify the course. I explained that I was there now and could not come back in two weeks. I was going to run the marathon and hopefully the official course with or without their support. Thankfully Hugh was on my side and recommended that they support me. And we compromised on a solution. That evening they were holding an official press conference for the marathon. They requested that I attend the conference and after the conference finished they would provide a team of volunteers and a vehicle to guide and support me to run the official marathon course solo starting at 3 am!

It actually turned out to be a strange and fun(ny) affair. I was invited to the podium along with the governor of the province, the mayor of Mumbai and other dignitaries. I was asked to give a short speech where I thanked the Race director and the city, etc for allowing and supporting me to run the official marathon course later that night. After the conference ended there was pandemonium as TV and newspaper reports descended on Maddog for a story. I spent over two hours giving interviews to the press and TV. The RD provided a room for me at the hotel where the press conference was held. We planned to start the marathon at 3 am. I got to bed at 11:00 pm and a TV station woke me up at 11:30 pm and requested that I go downstairs and run sprints up and down the street in front of the hotel for their camera crew?
I finally got back to bed at midnight and woke up at 2:30 am to get ready for the marathon.
At 3 am I appeared at the front of the hotel. I was besieged again by reporters and a TV film crew. They were going to accompany me on my marathon adventure – the ‘entire’ adventure!  A taxi took the RD and me to the start line where I was joined by two young race volunteers on a moped. They would guide me through the course and provide any support needed such as water and carbo gels. It was a circus. I was followed for the entire marathon by a taxi full of newspaper reporters and photographers who would jump ahead and wait to ask questions and take photos. At the same time a pickup truck with a TV film crew followed me and filmed most of the marathon! I was afraid to stop for a potty break because I was sure they would film it!

My two friends/support team and I developed a friendship and pattern as I ran the entire marathon – on the official course – without a potty break to finish in 3:50:55! Once again there were interviews and finally I was left alone! I returned to the hotel room provided by the race for a short nap. I woke to find my face and the story of Maddog plastered all over the morning TV shows and on the front page of the Mumbai newspaper. You have to admit – Maddog sure knows how to make an entrance!

Now that the marathon # 219 and country #65 was completed I could relax and play tourist and get ready for the wedding. I convinced Nicole to give up shopping for a day to join Chris and I on a tour of the city. The tour started at the Gate to India, one of Mumbai’s most unique landmarks. The colossal structure, constructed in 1924 at the tip of Apollo Bunder, overlooks Mumbai harbor. It was constructed to commemorate the visit of King George V and Queen Mary to Bombay (Mumbai).

We took a ferry from the Gate of India to Elephanta Island to visit the Elephanta Caves where there are mythical stories of Lord Shiva carved out in the rocks of the caves. The caves are a collection of different rock cut mythical figures of Shiva, shrines, ancient Indian architecture, statues of many Hindu Gods and Goddesses carved out of the rocks.

We returned to the Gate of India to tour downtown Mumbai and then drove past the movie studios of Bollywood and along Marine Drive to Kamala Nehru Park that is located at the top of Mumbai's Malabar Hill. It is named after Kamala Nehru, the wife of India's first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. From this garden, one can enjoy the spectacular sight of the Chowpatty Beach and also Marine Drive (Queen's Necklace). Kamala Nehru Park is a shoe-shaped structure, with widespread lush greenery and is famous for a unique structure, called the Old Women's Shoe or Boot House that famously attracts kids.
Our last stop, the Haji Ali Dargah is a mosque and dargah (tomb) located on an islet off the coast of Worli in the Southern part of Mumbai. Near the heart of the city proper, the dargah is one of the most recognizable landmarks of Mumbai. An exquisite example of Indo-Islamic Architecture, associated with legends about doomed lovers, the dargah contains the tomb of Sayed Peer Haji Ali Shah Bukhari.

It was time to move on to the main event – the wedding! We flew to Ahmadabad where we were met by Ami’s family. We were provided accommodations at a wedding compound along with members of Ami’s family. No other Wallace family attended because of the distance and cost. And remember we were planning a 2nd wedding in TX.

An Indian wedding is quite an experience. It goes on for days and days! There are traditional ceremonies that have to be completed in a specific order. A member of Ami’s family was assigned to babysit us and to explain the ceremonies and culture and to make sure we were in the right place at the right time and what to do and expect.  I don’t remember all the ceremonies but I did make notes on some and of course took hundreds of photos of all the activities. I will try to explain some of the more important ceremonies that can been seen on my photo website.

Sangeet Sanhya: Indian wedding dances that are held the night before the wedding

Haldi ceremony: This ceremony takes place two or three days before the wedding. During Haldi, a paste made of turmeric, gram flour, curd, sandalwood and rose water are applied on the hands, feet and face of the bride and the groom. The yellow color of the paste is believed to brighten the skin color before the wedding ceremony and bring good luck to the bride and the groom.

Mehndi Ceremony: The bride and all of her close family members get the palms of their hands and feet decorated by a professional henna artist. The henna is believed to enhance the bride’s beauty. This ceremony usually takes place a day before the wedding

 Grah Shanti:  A brief ceremony where Lord Ganesh is invited to remove all obstacles from the couple and to bring them happiness and prosperity.

Ganesha Puja: Before the ceremony begins, a Ganesh Puja is performed for good luck. This is important as Ganesh is the destroyer of all obstacles. The ceremony generally involves both the bride’s and the groom's primary family members.

Our hosts and all their family and guests treated us very kindly. The wedding was a fantastic and fun experience. In the USA such an elegant wedding would have cost $250,000 or more. I assume it was much, much less in India. One downside to the wedding was there was no booze and most of the meals were vegetarian! However there is always a way. Our babysitter took us to a ‘special’ store where we could buy beer (that we only drank in our room). The area was ‘dry’ – no booze in hotels or restaurants yet many of the locals seem to have beer in their home? He also snuck us out to a western hotel a few time for a carnivore fix!

I apologize for any important omissions I made in describing this wonderful wedding. One reason I was afraid to write this report was that I didn’t want to hurt any feelings. But now -11 years later- I believe I can write the report and nobody will care if I missed something? Hopefully!

When the wedding was over and the newly married couple left for a honeymoon in the Maldives we thanked our gracious hosts and returned home with a 2-day layover in Singapore. This report is already too long so I won’t bore you with details of Singapore. I will be going back – I need to run a marathon there!