Tuesday, December 19, 2006

RR Jacksonville Marathon

Jacksonville Marathon
Jacksonville, FL
Sun, Dec 17/06
3:44:02 – 5th AG

My 26th and final marathon of 2006! This marathon was on my original race calendar but it was supposed to be marathon #30 for the year. How quickly things can change. I dropped out of one marathon in June because of a flu bug and then the DVT calamity happened in Oct causing me to drop out of the Breakers Marathon and skip two more races. However after I survived the Marabana Marathon five weeks later I had enough confidence to resume my original schedule and close out the year with the Jacksonville Marathon.

The Sports Manager decided to go along for the 5-hr boring drive to Jacksonville because she wanted to buy some cold weather and waterproof running gear at the Sports Expo. There aren’t any good running stores in Sarasota but I was sure that there would be some gear at discounted prices at the Expo. She needed some rain gear for our visit to Seattle over the Xmas Holidays. So we set off early and arrived at the registration and expo in time to pick up my race packet and buy her a Gortex running jacket.

We had arranged to meet my good friend and mentor Wally Herman for pasta dinner. Wally is 81 years young and has run 687 marathons and holds the world record with 99 countries. Maddog is a distant second with 80 countries. As usual we had a fun time during dinner trading ‘war’ stories from various countries around the world.

Sun. was M – day! The weather was good – foggy with a temp of 58 F and no wind as I lined up for the 7am start with 2500 runners. There were 1000 runners in the marathon and 1500 in the Half.
I had only two goals:
1) finish ALIVE
2) finish between 3:45 and 3:50
I didn’t want to start too fast so I lined up about 10 rows back from the start line. Didn’t work – the fast starters pulled me through Mile 2 in 16:05. Way too fast! As I was trying to slow down I passed an old fart who had to be a local runner since many spectators were shouting his name (Frank). I slowed some more and ran with him. He was in my age group and we both agreed we were going out too fast! We decided to slow down and run together. I knew a friend who was running the race and would break 3:30 and he said another local runner in our age group would also break 3:30 so that meant that we were competing for 3rd place at best? By Mile 5 (40:45) we had settled into a smooth/easy 8:20/8:30 pace and decided to hold that pace through the 1st Half.
We passed the Half in 1:48:53! Too fast! We knew the 2nd Half would not be as fast because we had started too fast and the temps had already climbed into the 70s! But we decided to hold the 8:30 pace as long as possible.

At Mile 14 I hit a ‘lull’ – a short period where you feel tired and out of energy and I watched Frank leave me behind. At mile 16 I passed Wally who had started one hour early. That lifted my spirits and got the juices flowing again and I was able to lower the pace to 8:15 and I passed Frank around Mile 18 (2:30:10). He couldn’t respond and I never saw him again. That burst of energy didn’t last long. When I reached Mile 20 in 2:47:30 I was already struggling to run an 8:45 pace. A quick calculation determined that if I slowed down to a 9:00 min pace over the last 10Km I could still beat 3:45 so I wisely slowed the pace to 9min/mile and tried to hang on. When I passed Mile 23 (3:14:49) in 9:04 I knew a 3:45 was in the bag as long as I kept the old legs moving. But I was hurting like Hell and had to result to ‘mind’ games. Runners know what I mean. I kept telling myself “just one foot in front of the other”; “just get to the next ¼ mile in 2:15”; “only another ½ mile to the next mile marker” and so on!

When I passed Mile 25 in 3:33:03 I figured I could crawl to the finish line in 12 minutes? At the same time I noticed the Sports Manager ahead and walking the last mile of the course? I had a gut feeling that for some strange reason she was walking the Half? I shouted encouragement and gave her a friendly pat on the butt as I ran by. I thought about stopping and walking with her but decided I was too close to achieving my goals so I pushed on. Soon I turned into the school stadium and on to the track for a final lap before crossing the finish line in 3:44:02. It wasn’t a pretty finish but I had achieved both goals!

About 10 minutes later the Sports Manager finished the Half. I congratulated her and told her she should be proud of herself. All I heard was cuss words and phrases like “I’m tired”! “ My feet hurt”! “That was a stupid thing to do”! “I will never do that again”!
I told her I was proud of her accomplishment and reminded her that I said the same things – 25 years and 278 marathons ago!

By then the results had been posted and I learned that my time of 3:44 was not even good enough to place in my Age Group! I had placed 5th/ 30 runners. A strange and humbling experience for Maddog but I was happy with both my time and performance. I had taken 13 minutes or 30 secs/mile off my previous time of 3:57 at West Palm Beach. I had accomplished both goals and more importantly had gained confidence that the worst of the DVT problems/fear were behind me and I am ready to start speed work in my training and push the pace in my next race.

After quick showers (and no need to go back to the awards ceremony) we headed back to Sarasota. We made a short detour through St Augustine to check out the oldest city in America. It was interesting and might be worth a weekend visit to explore?

Now I am eager to resume my training and start speed work so that I can get in better shape and be competitive in the upcoming race schedule in 2007.

Stay tuned for the next report!

Monday, December 04, 2006

RR Palm Beach Marathon

Race Report
Marathon of the Palm Beaches
West Palm Beach
Sun, Dec 3/06
Marathon # 277
3:57:05 - 2 AG

This marathon had been in my 2006 schedule before the DVT problem struck in Oct. Then all bets/plans were off. But after I finished the Marabana Marathon ‘ALIVE’ and with no problems with the leg I figured it should be OK to resume my running/training. One of the best ways to train for marathons is to run a marathon so I registered a few days before the race and on Sat drove the ‘red rocket’ or Allante down to West Palm Beach. I went alone since the Sports Manager’s brother was visiting and they didn’t want to go?

I used to visit this area frequently during my work life but had not been there in 10 years? What a change! It has grown significantly. I found the registration and expo in CityPlace shortly after my arrival on Sat afternoon. I was not impressed. The registration was not organized well and the prices at the expo were indicative of West Palm Beach – expensive!!

I called my friend and mentor Wally Herman (81 years young – 684 marathons and the world record holder with 99 countries) who lives in Lake Worth and invited he and his wife to pasta dinner. We had a nice time reminiscing since I hadn’t seen Wally since last spring. We had to retire early since the race started at 6:30 am.

As forecast the weather was ugly – it was hot (78 F) and humid as I lined up with 4,000 runners – 1000 in the Marathon and 3000 in the Half. Both races started at 6:30 am in front of the Meyer Amphitheatre in downtown West Palm Beach. The course was flat and headed south for 6.5 miles before turning around and finishing the Half at the Amphitheatre. The marathon course continued north to Riviera Beach where it turned around at 17 miles and headed back past the finish line (again) at mile 21 and did another short loop south of the city before finally returning to the finish line.

I had 3 goals:
1) finish ALIVE
2) run the entire race
3) finish under 4 hrs

I started out at an 8:30 pace to take advantage of the ‘cool’ weather. I reached 10 miles in 1.25.07 so I was right on pace. But the sun had risen and the temps were already soaring into the mid 80s and my pace slowed to 8:45s. I passed the Half in 1:52:31 but I knew that the 2nd Half would not be as fast and would more likely be a game of ‘Survival’. I decided to slow my pace to 9:00 min. When I passed mile 15 in 2:09:48 my body/legs had slowed the pace to 9:15s. I decided to listen toy body and let it set the pace. With very little training and the high temps sapping our strength I wisely decided not to push the pace. By mile 20 (2:57:08) the heat was brutal and I was struggling to hold a 9:40 pace. A quick calculation determined that a 10 min pace would get me across the finish line under 4 hrs so I just had to keep the old legs running – no walking! An old fart passed me at mile 21 but I couldn’t respond – my legs were dead! I decided to keep him in sight and hope for a 2nd wind? I followed him through mile 23 in 3:26:57 – a 10:32 mile – my slowest mile of the race! I really, really wanted/needed to walk!

OK! That was enough of that nonsense and feeling sorry for myself because it was hot and I had little training! It was time to call on Maddog! He would know what to do!
He immediately reminded me that to get back into good marathon shape it was necessary to push the old bod and teach it how to cope with pain. He lowered the pace to 9:15 and passed the old fart around mile 25 and to make sure he didn’t respond lowered the pace to 9:00 min for the final mile. I crossed the finish line in 3:57:05! I had nothing left and was overheated but ALIVE! I had achieved my 3 goals so I was happy.

I had to return to the hotel for a quick shower and check out and then returned to the finish area for a finish line photo and to check the results. I didn’t really expect to win in a race that big (and with that slow time) but hoped to place? I confirmed that I had placed 2nd which was OK considering my poor shape and lack of training. The race did confirm that I still have an endurance base but no speed. I need to do speed work but am still concerned (afraid?) to push the old bod too hard until I get confirmation that the blood clot has dissolved or solidified? That may still be a month away so I guess I need to start some speed work but not make it too intense or too long?

I will probably run another Florida marathon in a few weeks to help improve my endurance base and capability to hold a faster pace. I have to beat the old bod back into good marathon shape before the winter/spring marathon schedule starts in Florida in Jan!

Stay tuned.

Monday, November 27, 2006

TR - Cuba

11-15 to 11-24/06

Race Report
Marabana Marathon
Sun, Nov19/06
Havana, Cuba
Marathon # 276 – Country # 80
4:02:27 -  1 AG

 The planning for this trip began more than one year ago. I planned to run Greenland and Cuba in 2006 to complete a marathon in every country in North America (that had an official marathon). I thought the logistics for Greenland were difficult until I started planning this trip.

 The first obstacle I had to overcome was the regulation that prevented Americans from traveling to Cuba. To do that the Sports Manager and I renewed our Canadian passports so that we could officially travel as Canucks. Next we had to plan a route to Cuba and we decided to go through the Bahamas. While I was working on the travel logistics I contacted the race organization for information and was advised to work through their ‘travel’ agency in Cuba. After several emails went unanswered I began to suspect that the US Government was blocking emails to Cuba? So I sent an email to Nicole’s sister (Marie) in Canada and asked her to cut and paste it into an email from her address. Miraculously/strangely she received a response almost immediately and I was copied. After that I was able to communicate directly with the Agency in Cuba? Is Big Brother watching and censoring our mail?

 I received the necessary information and started the process to pay for the registration and a race package that included hotels and guides/assistance in Cuba. However there was a problem paying for it. Because of the American embargo Cuba cannot accept payment in US dollars or from any credit card or bank in the US. So I got Marie to wire funds from her account in Canada. The first wire was rejected because we sent US funds. Finally we succeeded by sending Canadian funds and the package was finally booked. I then spent months trying to get a receipt and an itinerary for the trip?

 During the next year we renewed our Canadian passports (that is much more difficult than a US passport) and tried to book our trip/flights to Cuba via Nassau. Many more problems/obstacles followed. Only one airline (Cubana) flies into Havana from Nassau and I was advised that they wouldn’t confirm a reservation without a hotel confirmation in Cuba. I couldn’t get any response from the agency in Cuba in spite of several emails.

Finally in late summer (after I returned from the trip to Greenland in August) the Agency in Cuba replied to me! The agent had been sick and off work for months and nobody else cared to pick up her work/customers for her? I finally received a hotel confirmation in Sept. I tried to book the flights. The schedule and prices for Nov travel had not been determined yet? I booked the connecting flights and hotels to/from Nassau from FL and waited. Finally in Oct I was able to book the flights from Nassau to Havana. I was billed in Euros through a bank in Paris – and they weren’t cheap! $600 to fly about 100 miles but there isn’t any competition! The flights on this trip cost more than $1000.00 – just to fly from FL to Havana?

 We decided to stay over in Nassau on both sides of the trip to reduce any risk of American immigration figuring out that we were passing through Nassau to Cuba. The Sports Manager had never been to the Bahamas so I figured I could show her around Nassau. By the time all the logistics had been figured out, booked and paid for I knew that this trip would be one of those “Been There- Done That- Ain’t Ever Going Back” trips! And then another major problem/disaster happened! Upon returning from a trip to South America in mid-Oct where I ran three marathons in one week I was diagnosed with DVT (blood clot) in the right leg. The leg was so sore/painful that I couldn’t run and the doctors told me to take at least three months off from running! No way! I went through too many problems setting up this trip – the trip was paid for and we were going – and I would complete the marathon if I had to crawl! I spent the next three weeks cross training in a pool at the YMCA and in the last week before the trip attempted a few training runs where I was able to run and walk without much pain. I had confidence that I would be able to run and walk the marathon?

 Now it was time to start the marathon trip and it is also time to start the actual race report.

We had learned on the Net that Cuba levied a 20% tax on US dollars so we exchanged $US for Euros in Miami en route to Nassau. We spent one night in Nassau on the outward leg. Our hotel was located on Cable Beach, about three miles from downtown Nassau so we had time to explore the town for our return trip. The following day we departed Nassau as Canucks and arrived shortly in Havana. The Agency was supposed to meet us at the airport but no rep? After wandering around the airport for 30 minutes I finally found the rep (who spoke no English) and he drove us to our hotel. We stayed in the Hotel Plaza, a magnificent old Colonial hotel on the edge of the City Square and Old Havana. The lobby was beautiful but the rooms were in desperate need of remodeling (only $120/night for this luxury). We decided to explore the old city near the hotel. It was very sad and depressing! The beautiful old Colonial buildings are decaying and crumbling due to lack of upkeep. And people live in these buildings! Most of the stores have been abandoned and boarded up due to lack of merchandise. The few stores that were open had people lined up for hours to buy the few pieces of merchandise (shoes, clothing, etc) that the stores still had in stock.

 When we walked a few blocks to a restaurant for dinner we noticed that there were no streetlights – they were turned off because there is not enough electricity. It was kind of eerie and scary at first but the locals considered it normal and we did not feel unsafe. There are restaurants and good food available for tourists and those who can afford it and the meals are cheap (chateaubriand for two with wine - $30). The following day (Fri) we took a city tour to learn the layout of the city and see the main tourist/historical sites – the Castillo de los Tres Reyes del Morro and the Malceon (sea wall) along the Atlantic Ocean; the Castillo de la Real Fuerza, le Cathedral de la Habana, Plaza Viejo and the Capitol Building in La Habana Vieja (Old Havana); the Plaza de la Revolucion and the Mirmar district. All sections of the city except Mirmar are decrepit and run down. Mirmar is the section that contained the mansions owned by foreigners. The mansions were confiscated by the government and sold to embassies and given to the elite in government. The area is still maintained nicely and there are military guards located at every intersection. After the tour we stayed in the old city for most of our visit.

 By Sat I had still not heard from the ‘travel’ agency. No reps called or met with us and I began to worry about picking up my race packet. Fortunately I had a contact number and bribed a desk clerk to call the number and track down a rep for information. Thankfully she was able to learn the location of the race registration and she also informed me that the travel agency was in fact the Sports Dept. of the Communist Government! No wonder I couldn’t get any service or response! I walked over to the location at the start/finish line and was able to pick up my race packet. The ‘travel agent’ whom I had communicated with for the past year was there and she did help me but ignored my comments about poor/no service! The race package had included registration for both of us and they refused to give us a discount for a non-runner so the sports manager registered for the Half and picked up a race T-shirt. We declined to go to the pre-race pasta dinner (served at noon) but I did accept the course tour that was part of the package. The only people interested were foreign runners and there were enough to fill one bus. We were given a military/police escort through the city and were whisked through all intersections and red lights as we toured the half marathon loop. Got to admit – the Communists can be efficient when the military is involved! The course started in front of the Capitol Building (a model of the US capitol), ran down to the Ocean and along the Malceon, through the Vedada past the Plaza de la Revolucion and back to the capitol Bldg. The first 9 Km were flat but the next 8 Km had several hills. I didn’t think the course would affect my race strategy. Because of the DVT and lack of training I planned to run 10 min and walk 1 min for the entire race.

While I was taking the course tour the Sports Manager tried to find an Internet Café. Internet is only available at the tourist hotels and each hotel is assigned a certain number of cards (or minutes of internet access). Our hotel was out of cards and she had to go to another hotel. Locals are not allowed access to the Internet! Later we were able to get a pasta dinner at our hotel.

 Sun was M –day! I joined about 1000 runners as we lined up at the start line for the 7am start. It was dark and the weather was warm and humid with temps in the high 60s. There were about 300 runners in the marathon – mostly foreign runners from Europe. There were large contingents from Norway, Denmark and Germany. Many local runners approached me and asked/begged for my shoes after the race (a few wanted them for the race). Most were running bare foot. I wish I had known about the scarcity of shoes so I could have taken a few pairs of old shoes with me. The races were better organized than the rest of the trip. There were lots of police/military along the course and the roads were closed down so there were no problems with traffic. There were distance markers every Km and water stations every 2 Km. I had specifically asked before the race and was advised that there would be bottled water so I was upset and concerned when I reached the 1st water stop and saw them filling small plastic bags with water from a water truck? Oh well  - I decided I had no choice but to drink the water to prevent severe dehydration. I drank lots of water at every station to reduce the risk of further complications with the DVT. I expected to suffer from side (or bottom) effects after the race but luckily had no problems?

 I stuck religiously to my pre-race plan of run 10 min and walk 1 min and was pleasantly surprised when I completed the 1st Half Marathon loop in 2:00:20? As I started the 2nd loop I figured I could break 4 hrs if I was willing to abandon my run/walk strategy but I was too concerned about increasing the risk of complications/re-occurrence of DVT. Instead I stretched the run interval to 20 min during the 2nd Half. I started to pass a lot of other old farts – mostly Europeans who had succumbed to the heat and humidity. When I passed 32 Km in 3:03 I figured I still had a chance but my legs were starting to tire and the quads were starting to hurt due to the lack of training. When I passed 37 Km in 3:30:48 I realized that I would have to push the pace and accept pain to finish under 4 hrs but I wisely decided not to risk it and instead slowed down and cruised to the finish line in 4:02:27. This was much faster/better than expected/planned and I was quite pleased. And more importantly I was still ALIVE!

 Not surprisingly there were no results posted at the finish line so the sports manager and I went back to the hotel and returned to the finish line later. Still no results! It took a few weeks of bugging the race director after I got home to learn that my official finish time was 4:02:27 and I had surprisingly won my age group. That was great news! Icing on the cake so-to-speak. I had persevered and ran/walked the marathon with a constant fear/concern about the DVT and had still won my age group! Of course I never expect to see the award?

 After the marathon it was time to get out of Havana. We had booked two days at a beach resort on the Playas Del Estes about 20 miles east of Havana. On Mon morning a rep actually showed up (almost on time) to transfer us to the beach resort. What a difference! Even though the resort was an older resort it was modern with all the expected amenities – beach, pool, health spa, etc. It was all-inclusive with food and booze. However after one day of lying in the sun by the pool we were both bored. And the weather turned cool so we couldn’t even lay by the pool. I went for a 10-mile run into a small village and the locals looked at me like I was crazy? We discovered that there was no Internet access at the resort. “Internet is only available in Havana” we were advised?

 Mercifully Wed arrived and we were transferred to the airport for our flight back to Nassau. We were glad that we had arranged three days in the Bahamas on the tail end. It was nice to enjoy the luxury and comforts of the Bahamas! We played tourist and visited many of the sites and enjoyed some great meals – even turkey on Thanksgiving Day!

 It was an interesting trip. I completed my 80th country. And yes we confirmed “Been There- Done That –Ain’t Ever Going Back”!

 However there will be more marathons and more countries and more stories to tell. So stay tuned!

Thursday, October 26, 2006

TR -Patagonia/Argentina

Oct 11-16/06

Race Result
Sun, Oct 15/06
Maraton Tres Cuidades Patagonicas
Gaiman, Patagonia, Argentina
Marathon # 275
3:30:46 – 1st AG

The previous report on our S. American trip concluded with Francisco, the Sports Manager and I flying from Uruguay to Patagonia. Patagonia is a large region in Argentina that stretches south of Buenos Aires to the tip of S. America and from Chile to the Atlantic Ocean. It comprises 9 of the 23 provinces in Argentina. Francisco and I had spent many hours in a cold tent in the Himalayas talking about a ‘neat’ marathon in Patagonia. The Maraton Tres Cuidades Patagonicas ran between three Welsh cities in Patagonia. Welsh cities? Yes! Francisco had explained how many settlers had emigrated from Wales in the 18th century and settled in a valley along the Rio Chubut. Because that area of Patagonia is so desolate and isolated the Welsh settlers maintained their Welsh heritage and language up to today. In fact Francisco related a story about the 1980s when Wales decided to reintroduce the Welsh language into their schools but couldn’t find any teachers who spoke the old, traditional Welsh. So they traveled to Patagonia and hired teachers in the Welsh cities to go to Wales to teach their teachers how to speak/teach the old language! I found that story very interesting and decided that I would definitely visit and run the Patagonia Marathon.

As we were flying from BA to Trelew the Sports manager and I realized we had been there before! We stopped at that airport on our way to Ushuaia in Tierra Del Fuego on our way to run the Antarctica Marathon in 1997. We remembered our comments/thoughts at that time: “Who would be crazy enough to get off here”? Us obviously! Most of that region is high desert plateau and very desolate – looks a lot like NV and NM. Fortunately Francisco had booked us into a hotel in Puerto Madryn located about 70 Km north of Trelew and on the Atlantic Coast. It was a pretty city that served both as a major port for the region and a tourist gateway for the beach and a National Park located about 80 Km north. However the city is 1500 Km south of BA and only 1200 Km north of Antarctica so it doesn’t exactly enjoy a lot of good beach weather!

We enjoyed a great seafood dinner that night and the following morning set out for the Park. There is a huge National Park located on Valdes Peninsula that is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean and the Golfo Nuevo and Golfo San Jose. The Park and both Gulfs are land and marine reserves with abundant wildlife. We drove to Puerto Piramides on Golfo Nuevo where several boats offer whale tours. Golfo Nuevo is a marine reserve that protects several species of whales that migrate there each year to calf. We saw lots of whales - mostly Northern Right Whales (Ballena Franca Austral) and also a rare baby white whale that played with the boat and spectators. After the whale tour we had to drive another 100 Km through the Park to the Atlantic Coast. However there had been an unusual heavy rain in that section of the Park and the dirt/clay roads had turned to mud! It was a nightmare to drive! I told our driver (Francisco) that it seemed similar to driving in 12 in of snow – “don’t stop and don’t change direction or momentum suddenly”! He was stressed out and tired when we arrived at the Coast to check out a colony of Magellan Penguins. A few miles down the road we found several colonies of sea lions and sea elephants. The bad roads had delayed us and I had a 7 pm appointment back in Puerto Madryn for a massage and had given up hope of making it. But Francisco drove like a maniacal rally driver through the desert mud – I think we saw some wild lamas and emus along the road but can’t be sure – and we were only 10 minutes late after a very exciting ride!

Later that night we decided to enjoy a carnivorous dinner at a Padilla – an Argentinean restaurant that grills or BBQs several varieties of meat. It was delicious! The next day we drove back to Trelew to pick up our race packets and drive the 2nd half of the course from Trelew to Rawson. That section of the course was flat. That evening I wanted to eat Chinese food as I normally do two nights before a race but there was a slight problem – there were no Chinese restaurants in Puerto Madryn. I told Francisco we had found a business opportunity for him to retire in Puerto Madryn? We selected a close alternative – a seafood paella (lots of rice).

On Sat we left Puerto Madryn for Gaiman. The marathon started in Gaiman and ran through Trelew to Rawson. All three cities were founded by Welsh immigrants but Gaiman is the city with the strongest Welsh heritage remaining. There are several Welsh teahouses that attract tourists to the city and our B&B was one of the most popular Welsh teahouses in Gaiman. We explored Gaiman both on foot and by car as we visited some of the teahouses and many of the churches and old buildings built by the original settlers. One of the teahouses advertised heavily that Princess Di had enjoyed tea and cakes there on a visit in 1995. We really liked Gaiman - it was small and very quaint with a lot of history. We also visited a neighboring Welsh town called Dolovan. It was not as nice as Gaiman but had an old grain mill that was interesting. The mill equipment and building had been manufactured in KY and shipped there in 1880. The owner gave us a tour and turned the mill on to show us that it still operated. There is only one other similar mill in existence – in a museum in IL!

Sun was M-day! The race started in the city center of Gaiman. On Sat we had driven the course from Trelew to Gaiman and learned that there were two nasty/steep BAHs (Bad Ass Hills) – one at 5 Km and another at 9 KM. The rest of the course was flat. The course ran West to East and normally the prevailing winds blow in that direction. Thankfully the Weather Gods were smiling down on us. The temp was in the high 40s F at the 7 am start and the winds were blowing 20 to 30 mph –West to East- so we would have a strong tailwind for most of the race! My strategy was to run the first 10 Km at an easy 5:20/Km (8:30/mile) pace until I got through the BAHs and then push the pace. As we looped around the streets of Gaiman at the start Francisco passed me at 2 Km? He wasn’t even going to run the marathon but I convinced him he could do it since he had run an ultra only 4 weeks before. I passed 3 km in 14:56 and then started to climb the BAH out of Gaiman up to the desert plateau. I reached 5 Km and the main 2-lane highway to Trelew in 25:21. And became totally shocked and then amused with the crazy zoo/bedlam I encountered. The marathon course followed a major 2-lane highway that ran from the Atlantic Ocean to the Andes Mountains. One lane had been reserved for the runners. However every runner had an entourage of family/friends accompanying them on every type of vehicle – bike, motorcycle, car, truck, ATV, etc. Typically there would be one or more vehicles on each side of a runner so that any vehicles trying to use the highway were forced to drive in the ditches beside the highway! There were all types of vehicles going in every which direction – all at the same time! This crazy bedlam lasted throughout the whole race with no concern or control by the police? Francisco later told me that this is the only race in Argentina with such crazy bedlam. I quickly learned how to cope. As long as you stayed on course and ran straight ahead the vehicles would adjust to you. But if you foolishly made a sudden sideways move your life could be in danger!

I tried to slow down and follow a group of local runners through the 2nd BAH but I still passed 10 Km in 49:43. I decided that since we were enjoying a 20 mph tailwind I might as well take advantage of it and push the pace. I soon caught up with a group of local runners that included a female runner and a huge entourage. She had 4 male runners pacing her, and a bike, motorcycle and car on each side of the group. I figured I would be safer staying with that group and ran with them until 15 Km (1:14:49). There was a big advantage of being with a group because the cars blocked off any side winds, etc and all the supporters offered us water, Gatorade, etc. and protected us from other vehicles!

But at 15 Km I felt a strange burst of energy and decided to surge ahead on my own as I dropped my pace to 4:50s. We approached Trelew around 18 Km and ran about 6 Km through the city. I passed the Half in 1:44:49 and saw Francisco on a short section that looped back on itself. He was about ½ Km ahead and I figured I would never catch him unless he faded because I was pushing the pace as hard as I could. As I left Trelew around 25 Km the female runner and her entourage caught up to me and I realized that they were running a smooth/easy pace and it would be smarter to join and stay with them. I thought that she might be one of the lead women but then I heard a fan tell her she was in 5th place overall. I joined her group of pacers and took my turn pacing her at 5.00/Km.
We continued to hold that pace until we passed 30 Km in 2:29:20 and then a few of her male pacers including another old fart tired and dropped behind. When we passed 35 Km in 2:53:59 there was only her and I left in the group – but we still had numerous support vehicles! I was starting to tire but was determined to stay with her since we were on pace to finish the race in sub 3:30! She couldn’t speak/understand English so there wasn’t any communication but we had developed a silent bond to support and push each other to the finish line. Or so I thought? However when I slowed down at a water station at 37 KM to swallow my last carbo gel and wash it down with water she continued to push ahead and I was soon 100m behind her. I tried desperately to catch back up and lowered my pace to 4:50s over the next 3 Km but I could not catch her. When I passed 40 Km in 3:18:58 I figured a sub 3:30 was in the bag? But then disaster hit suddenly! My right calf started to cramp and at 40 ½ Km it cramped severely and locked up! The pain was so excruciating that I had to slow down and even stopped once to stretch it in the hope of getting it to release. It wouldn’t release but the pain decreased enough that I was able to jog and limp the final mile to cross the finish line in 3:30:46. That damn cramp cost me a sub 3:30 marathon!

After crossing the finish line I tried everything – massage, stretching, etc- to get the calf to release and relax but it was all in vain because it stayed hard as a rock and very painful. So I found Francisco and congratulated him on beating me by 3 minutes and asked the Sports Manager to take a finish line photo so I could retreat to a hot bath/shower. We had wisely booked a small hotel near the finish line in Rawson for a few hours so that we could enjoy a shower after the race. Unfortunately there was no tub so I couldn’t enjoy a much-needed HOT soak but the hot shower seemed to help a little. We then walked to the finish area to check for the results but were advised that the results would only be available at the awards ceremony in Trelew at 5 pm. Plan B – drive to Trelew and find some food and beer while we waited for the awards.

At 5 pm we arrived for the awards and (not surprisingly) they were not ready? We had a 7:45 pm flight back to BA. At 6 pm I told Francisco to skip the awards and go to the airport. He wanted to wait because he was sure I had at least placed in my Age Group. They started the female awards at 6:15 pm and finished at 6:30 pm. By then I was concerned that we would miss our flight and wanted to leave. They started the male awards at 6:30 pm and thankfully started with the oldest age group. My name was called to go to the podium to collect the 1st Place trophy for my age group. The trophy was HUGE – so huge that I figured that there was no way the airlines would let me take it on a plane? A few minutes later Francisco collected a similar trophy for 2nd Place in his age group and we threw them into the car and rushed to the airport. We made the flight and even more surprising was that they let us carry the trophies on to the plane! When we arrived in BA Mercedes was waiting at the airport and I gave her my trophy and asked her to keep it or donate it to a Charity for kids.

Mon was our last day in BA as we waited for an evening/red-eye flight home. We met our gracious hosts/friends Francisco and Mercedes for a farewell lunch in Recoleta to thank them for their hospitality and invite them to visit us in CO and /or FL. I do believe that Francisco was relieved and happy to be finished with his ‘babysitting’ duties? We spent the final afternoon in Buenos Aires sight seeing and completing last minute shopping for (more) souvenirs and finally we were on the long red-eye flight home.

It was a great trip! Three marathons and two countries in 8 days. We met a lot of new friends in both countries and saw a lot of interesting things/places.


It is usually at this point that I say, “Stay tuned for the next report”! But as most of my friends/readers know I left S. America with a ‘bum’ leg/calf. I didn’t think I had suffered a serious injury – just a minor strain that could be fixed with a good massage. After two massages and a week of rest I attempted to run the Breakers Marathon in RI but was forced to drop out of the race after two miles because of the pain in my leg. Then the nightmare truly began. I visited my orthoped on Tue morning believing that I might have a torn calf muscle or stress fracture in the tibia? An X-ray didn't show any problems with the leg as expected. So we scheduled a MRI because we both felt that there was a strong possibility of a stress fracture in the tibia?
After I left his office he called to ask me to play along with a hunch and go for a Venous Ultrasound Scan on the leg. I was totally shocked (as was the technician) to discover a DVT (Deep Vein Thrombosis) or blood clot in the lower right leg! I was ordered to proceed directly to the Emergency Room of a local hospital to begin treatments with anticoagulants and blood thinners! The doctors in the ER did not provide very good service or any information so I was eager to meet my GP the next day and ask a lot of questions.
Got answers to most of my questions but nobody can tell/guess what caused this problem/big surprise? I was aware of the risk of DVT and flying and was religious and cautious in my efforts to stretch and exercise on long flights to reduce the risk. I can only guess that the combination of 3 marathons in one week and the long flight to BA was the cause? Now that I know about that problem I am hoping that it is the sole reason for ALL the pain and I don't have a stress fracture? I can recover much quicker from the DVT. Will take another week before I meet with the orthoped again for the final results from the MRI.
At first I was feeling down/depressed about the whole injury thing but I had a long talk with Maddog. He reminded me that "Shit Happens" and that "this problem is just another speed bump on the road of life"! We will recover and continue on down the road at full speed!
My GP and many friends have advised/recommended that I "stop running"! That ain't going to happen - EVER! To 'stop running' or 'stop exercising' would be worse than a death sentence to Maddog! Sitting around on my fat ass and doing nothing just so I can continue to breathe (and be depressed and unhappy) for another 20 years does not appeal to me. Not my idea of a 'good life'!
So I will continue to run and write race reports and interesting stories as long as I can breathe and move my old legs!

So – Stay tuned for the next report!

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

TR - Uruguay

Oct 9 – 11/06

Race Results
Oct 10/06
Colonia Marathon
Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay

Where were we after running the ‘Underground BA Marathon’? Oh Yeah. Francisco, the Sports Manager and I were catching a fast ferry from Buenos Aires to Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay. Colonia is on the other side of the Rio de la Plata (Plata River) – a wide river that separates Argentina and Uruguay. The fast ferry makes the 50 Km crossing in one hour so we arrived in Colonia in time for lunch. We had visited Colonia 10 years ago. Like many tourists we crossed the river to enjoy a lunch in Uruguay and explore Colonia for an afternoon. It is a small rural city of 15,000 and was founded in the 17th century by the Portuguese. The Portuguese and Spanish fought over the city and port for 100 years and it became known as the ‘apple of discord’. The ‘old town’ is designated a UNESCO heritage site and has many historic buildings. What amazed me 10 years ago was the large number of old/classic American and European cars parked along the old cobblestone streets. There didn’t seem to be as many this time but there were still several to be seen. And these are NOT restored cars - they are original cars that are still used for everyday transportation!

Our 300-year old hotel, located in the old town square had been restored and updated and was probably the nicest hotel we stayed in during the trip. We were able to park the car and walk to all the pubs and shops in the old town. Francisco had made contact with an athlete in Colonia who promised to help us and we arranged to meet him at the local Athletic Club. Adriano was one of the top athletes in Uruguay – an adventure racer/triathlete and a local boy so he was well known and very popular in Colonia. He informed us that the 1st marathon had just been held in Colonia this past July (their winter) and since he had been involved in the race organization he would show us the actual course and support us to run it! We drove the course with Adriano. It was a point-to-point course that started west of the city in Anchorena National Park in the San Juan Hills and ran 42 Km to finish in old town. The course was very hilly! The start line and first 4 Km of the official marathon course were on the grounds of the summer Presidential Residence in the Park and despite Adriano’s fame and popularity (and even Maddog’s fame?) the Colonel in charge of the military security would not permit us to start our marathon on the Presidential grounds. So we adjusted our course by starting at the 4Km mark outside the grounds and adding a 4 Km loop at the end of the marathon.

After driving the course I felt I could run it easily under 4 hrs and that became my goal. Adriano jokingly referred to me as ‘Forest Gump’ and asked if I would agree to an interview with a local TV station. Thus Francisco, Adriano and Maddog appeared on the evening and late news/sports. The following morning Francisco and I picked Adriano up at his house on the way to the start line. Adriano ran and biked the whole marathon with me. Since the course was marked every 1Km and very hilly I decided to wear my heart monitor to ensure that I did not get carried away and push too hard. I wanted to save some energy for the Patagonia Marathon on Sun! Because of our interview on TV there were many locals out along the course to cheer us on! I passed the Half in 1:55 and felt OK but the temps had already warmed up into the high 60s. By the time I approached the city at 25 Km and climbed a short steep hill it was HOT and when I passed the 100-year old Bull Ring at 30 Km I decided I wasn’t having fun anymore. Fortunately Francisco joined me and ran the last 12 Km. The 4 Km loop we had to add at the end was painful – I wanted the marathon to be over! But finally we crossed the finish line in 3:51:39 to the cheers and congratulations of some locals and members of the Athletic Club. Country # 79 finished!

Then it was time for a shower and a walk around the old town for more exploring and a few beers! Adriano had called a marathon report into the local radio station so that when we were walking around and shopping many of the locals approached me to congratulate me on the marathon? The local residents sure were friendly! Later that day Adriano brought his wife and kids around to the hotel to meet us and say goodbye. Of course I thanked him again for all his help and support. Then I treated Francisco and the Sports Manager to a great celebration dinner (steak and wine again) in old town. Meals are even cheaper in Uruguay than Argentina.

The following morning we had to drive to the capital city Montevideo to catch a flight to BA and on to Patagonia. The reason for this is important tourist information. Domestic airfares inside Argentina are double for foreigners unless they fly to Argentina on the National Airline (Aerolineas). We had not so to get around that expense/robbery it was cheaper to fly to BA from Montevideo on Aerolineas which qualified us for the cheaper airfares to Patagonia? Would never had known that without Francisco. Plus it was a pleasant 2-hr drive through rural/farming country until we reached Montevideo. We left early so we could spend a few hours exploring Montevideo. We saw most of the tourist sites: the gate to the old city, the old city and the old market place. Even though Montevideo has a spectacular location on a peninsula bordered by the Plata River and the Atlantic Ocean it is not as beautiful as Buenos Aires.

After our quick visit we were soon on our way back to BA and on to Patagonia.

Stay tuned!


Not many people in Colonia speak English. It would have been very difficult to make the arrangements and run the marathon w/o Francisco’s help.
The marathon course is hilly but scenic. I was told that they would change the date in 2007 to April if anyone is interested?

Monday, October 23, 2006

TR Argentina

Oct 6-9/06

Race Results
Underground BA Marathon
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Oct 8/06
Marathon #273 – Country # 78

The idea for this trip/marathon began in a tent at 16,000 ft in the Himalayas last fall. My tent mate during the Everest Marathon was a runner from Buenos Aires, Argentina and we invited each other to visit our home country to run a marathon. Francisco informed me that there was a marathon in Buenos Aires as well as one he liked even better in the Patagonia region. When I returned home I started emailing him for more information and dates and soon a plan started to form. I could run the BA Marathon, then travel to Uruguay to run another marathon and country and finish with the Patagonia Marathon – all in one week in Oct!

Francisco offered to host and to travel with us (the sports manager and I). He also organized all the logistics (travel and hotels) necessary to run the three marathons. It would have been very difficult without his help. We flew to BA on Fri. so that we could have a few days to visit BA and recover from jet lag. There is only a one-hour time difference between FL and BA but all the AA flights are red-eyes and are 8 + hours long so you are very tired when you arrive in BA. Francisco met us at the airport and drove us to our hotel in downtown BA. Thankfully the hotel let us check in at 11 am so that we could nap for a few hours to prepare for a late night on the town. Francisco and his partner Mercedes invited us to a Tango Show. Even though we were tired, Fri night was the best night to go since the marathon was on Sun.

We ate a late dinner followed by a very entertaining show with many pairs of tango dancers and singers. The show finished at 1 am with a heart-wrenching rendition of “Don’t cry for me Argentina”. With difficulty we rose early to do a city tour in the morning. We had visited BA 10 years ago during our trip to Antarctica but wanted to familiarize ourselves again with the layout of the city. The tour visited the oldest and major sections of the city near the city center and included all the important tourist sites: Plaza de Mayo with the Pink house where Eva Peron excited the crowds from the balcony, La Boca – the old Italian section, Recoleta where all the mansions and embassies are located and Puerto Madero – the old port area along the Rio de la Plata (Plata River) where the old whare houses have been restored to modern shops and restaurants. After the tour we had our bearings of the city again and were able to explore on foot. Our hotel was conveniently located near Florida Street – one of the main shopping areas with lots of shops and restaurants so we could walk everywhere.

Sun Oct 8/06 had been the originally scheduled date for the BA Marathon. However the date was changed about two months before the race because of a schedule conflict with a soccer game (and everyone knows that soccer rules supreme in Argentina!). Both events planned to use the soccer stadium so the marathon was forced to postpone the date by three weeks. This change left many runners in a quandary. Francisco informed me that another international runner from Madrid, Spain was also arriving in BA for the original date so he and some fellow runners were organizing the ‘Underground BA Marathon’. It would be run on the originally scheduled date and on the actual marathon course and would be supported by the local runners.

Thus Francisco picked me up at 6:30 am on Sun and drove us to a park in Palmero near the stadium. The plan was to start at the 5 Km mark in the Park – run back to the start line at the stadium and then turn around and run the actual course. This would get us around the problem of trying to start and finish at the stadium with thousands of fans and cars trying to get to the stadium for the soccer game. As we drove into the park I noticed many ‘working’ girls on the sides of the roads displaying their merchandise at 6:30 am? Francisco explained that it was the final hours of their working night. I was hoping they would stay to cheer the race? There were about 20 runners waiting at the start line – Javier from Madrid and I were the only international runners – the rest were local runners. The runners presented Javier and I with running shirts for the race. We split into three groups at the start – the ‘fast’ group with Javier planned to run a 5min/Km (8 min/mile) pace so I joined a slower group running a 5:30 pace. Damn – the working girls had already departed so I didn’t get any offers to quit the race and do something more exciting!

Thankfully Mercedes ran the 1st Half with me because she was the only local runner in my group who spoke English. We followed the actual route of the BA marathon that took us through downtown BA. Each group had about 6 runners, a guide on a bike and a support car. I was concerned about traffic but it was light and our biker/guide (Walter) just parked his bike in the middle of the intersections and stopped the traffic – and they stopped? We passed the Half in 1:55 and I was happy because I just wanted to finish under 4 hours since we weren’t competing. Mercedes dropped out at that point and there wasn’t much conversation after that since nobody in my group spoke much English. Up to that point I had been mentally adding 5 Km to each distance marker to determine where we were in the marathon. Around 17 Km (of the actual route) they had decided to bypass about 5 Km of the actual route that went through Boca because of traffic concerns. However nobody informed me and when I next saw a distance marker it was 27 Km and I became confused? I was still adding 5Km to my distance but it didn’t make any sense with the overall time? I had no idea where I was and how much further I needed to run? Mercedes joined me again about 3:20 into the run and I was finally able to ask how much farther? She wasn’t sure because they had changed the finish line. I later realized that the distance markers after 27 Km were pretty close to the actual distance because we had bypassed 5 Km. But it sure messed with my mind during that run. When we passed 40Km in 3:45+ I began to worry if I would break 4 hours? But finally Mercedes told me that the finish line was close and I started to push to reach the finish line where several local runners had gathered to cheer us across the finish in 3:53:23.
Francisco and the local runners presented Javier and I with a special award that read “1st Maraton Clandestino de la Republica Argetina”. Javier said that he would cherish that award and marathon more than any of the ‘official’ marathons he had run because the logistics were harder and the memories were more pleasant because of all the wonderful support and friendship we received.

After a quick shower at the finish line the sports manager and I explored the beautiful city of Buenos Aires some more and enjoyed a great steak dinner in Puerto Madero – a steak dinner including appetizers and wine cost about $30 US! We still weren’t used to eating late – the restaurants don’t open for dinner until 8:30/9 pm so we would go to bed on a full stomach at 11pm. And we had to meet Francisco early Mon morning for the next stage of the trip – a ferry to Uruguay!

Stay tuned!


Buenos Aires is a beautiful city that reminds you very much of a European city. It is safe and cheap to visit and the people are very friendly.
Since I ran most of the actual marathon course I can comment that it is a fast, flat course that passes most of the important tourist sites in the city. There is an active running community in BA.

Friday, September 29, 2006

RR Omaha

Race Report
Omaha Marathon
Omaha, NE
Sun, Sept 24/06
#272 – State # 45 (2nd loop)
3:40:39 – 1 AG - 1st Senior Masters

Where did I leave off in my last report? Oh Yes! I was hurting at mile 23 of the Crested Butte Marathon and worried about my legs recovering for this marathon! I knew I would be running the Omaha Marathon the following weekend because I wanted/needed to run Nebraska to scratch State #45 off my list as I complete the 50 States for the 2nd time.

Thus we left our summer home in the High Country of Colorado on Fri in a snowstorm to begin our drive home to Florida for the winter. We arrived in Omaha Fri night so that we could rest and explore the city on Sat. After picking up my race packet we decided to take a free bus tour of the course. I had researched the Net to learn that the winning time in my age group last year was 4:12? That seemed very slow so I needed to check out the course. It was described as “hilly and tough” but surely it wasn’t that difficult?

The course started at the Civic Center in downtown Omaha and ran east to the Missouri River and past the Lewis and Clark Landing. The first two miles were downhill and/or flat as they ran along the river and through the ConAgra campus (an agriculture and food conglomerate). Then began nine miles of hills including four nasty/BAHs (Bad Ass Hills) as the course headed south through the Henry Doorly Zoo to a turn-around point about 7 miles and then back past the Rosenblatt Stadium (home of the College World Series) before it looped back to the initial course through ConAgra and back to the Civic Center. The Half finished in the Civic Center while those lucky/crazy enough to run the full marathon got to run a 2nd half marathon loop north of the city. That loop ran north through a depressed/dilapidated section of the city to Carter Park and along Carter Lake that separates Nebraska from Iowa. At 20 miles the course climbed out of the Park into an old/poor neighborhood to a turn-around point at 21 miles. From there it was a straight and boring 5-mile shot back to the Civic Center. The 2nd Half was relatively flat except for the BAH at mile 20! I was glad we had taken the bus tour because I realized that the 1st Half would beat the crap out of our legs and I would have to run SMART!

Thus I finalized my goals:
1) Win my Age Group
2) Finish at least under 4 hours and hopefully under 3:45

The rest of the day we spent exploring the city and the Old Market – an old section of the city with warehouses that have been converted to shops, pubs and lofts.

Sun was ‘M’ day. I lined up at the start line with another 1500 runners – 350 in the marathon – the rest in the Half and 10K. The weather was good – cloudy and temps in the low 50s. The wind was the only concern since it was 10/15 mph? The sports manager waited at the start line to collect my warm-up clothes (perhaps she read that report from Stowe?) Since the first 2 miles were downhill/flat I passed mile 2 in 15:41. Then the hills and pain began. At mile 3 an old fart passed me. He was wearing a ’50 State’ T-shirt with the name ‘Rick’ on it. A ‘Rick’ from FL had emailed before the race asking to share a room so I asked if he was Rick from FL? Yes! We started running together and I told him I planned to run ‘smart and easy’ (an 8:30/9:00 min pace) through the hills so that I would have something left for the 2nd Half! But somehow we started pushing each other and I felt we were pushing too hard/fast through the hills? When we crested the final BAH at mile 10 in 1:23:06 I was concerned that we had used up too much energy in the hills. When Rick decided to make a pit stop I continued on and expected that I would not see him again? I followed some Half-marathoners to the Civic Center and passed the Half in 1:48:31 – about 5 minutes faster than planned?

I slowed my pace a wee bit to let the legs rest but that didn’t last long! As I turned a corner at mile 14 I glanced to my right and saw Rick closing on me - fast! Soon we were back together and pushing the pace again. I became concerned. We were in the same age group and I really didn’t want to run the whole race with a competitor. What would happen when we approached the finish line? How serious and painful would the pissing match be? I didn’t want to find out so I played a mean game. I figured Rick had to be hurting more than me because he had to play catch up so I lowered the pace to 8 min/mile. He stayed with me until mile 16 and then started to complain about a side stitch and slowed down. I continued on to the turn-around point at 18 miles in Carter Park (2:30:19) where I was able to confirm that I had built up about a ¼ mile lead on Rick. I slowed my pace again until I reached the BAH at mile 20 and charged up the BAH to gain more lead! I passed mile 20 in 2:47:10 and reached the final turn-around point at mile 21 where I noted that my lead had increased to about ½ mile and Rick was still having problems with his side stitch.

I knew that we were 1st and 2nd in our Age Group and figured Rick would fade/slow on the last 5 miles so it was decision time. Should I slow and coast to the finish line - OR? The race provided the answer! At that point I could see about one dozen runners spread out over the next mile in front of me. I decided to use this as an opportunity to teach the old bod how to cope with pain while pushing the pace to pull all those runners in! I passed 12 younger runners – the final runner on a short steep hill up to the Civic Center at mile 26! When I passed mile 25 in 3:30:26 I struggled desperately to finish under 3:40 but that last short hill felt like a friggin mountain and slowed me down so that I entered the Civic Center and crossed the finish line in 3:40:39!

I was expecting cheers and a nice hug from the Sports Manager – but NO sports manager? I had told her I expected to finish between 3:45 and 4:00 and she wasn’t there – I was too early? But to be fair and to give her credit she had left to bring the car closer to the finish line so that I wouldn’t have to walk too far to the car. So she was forgiven!
After the required finish line photos we headed to the hotel for a quick shower and late check out and then returned to the Civic Center to check the results. My official finish time of 3:40:39 was good enough to win my Age Group and also collect an additional award for the 1st Senior Master to cross the finish line.

No time to celebrate – we had to continue our drive back to Florida – 3 more days and 9 more states to drive across before we finally arrived back in Florida.

Now that I have had time to reflect I am pleased that I achieved both goals on a tough course. Even Maddog seems pleased that I ran 4 marathons in the past 3 weeks and won my age group in all four! He is giving me this weekend off from racing so that I can rest up for our international trip next week to South America – 3 marathons and 2 countries in one week!

Stay tuned for the trip reports!

Monday, September 18, 2006

RR Crested Butte

Race Report
Mountain Air Marathon
Crested Butte, CO
Sun, Sept 17/06
3:52:43 9th OA – 3rd Male – 1st AG

Why did I run this marathon? I seriously asked myself that question when I lined up on the start line on Sun morning. It was not on my race calendar. It was a last minute decision based on a good race the previous weekend in Vermont and a personal goal/desire to run every marathon in Colorado. The Mountain Air Marathon was held in Crested Butte, CO which is a pretty area in southwest CO and close to Black Canyon National Park that we wanted to visit. So I registered on Tue and then watched the weather forecast become very ugly! It called for a deep freeze to hit the Rocky Mtns over the weekend with snow and temps plunging into the 20s. Oh Goody!

Thus we left Summit County on Sat morning in a blizzard – the 1st snowstorm of the season to reach down into the valley – and a definite sign that it is time for us to return to Florida! As we drove south we escaped the snowstorm but noticed that the peaks were covered with a nice new blanket of white powder. And the temps continued to plunge! We arrived in Gunnison, CO in time for lunch and picked up my race packet before exploring Crested Butte and Gunnison. It was the end of the tourist season but we didn’t expect the towns to be completely ‘dead’. We had planned to stay two nights but decided one night would be enough. We would visit the Park on the way home on Sun. We drove the marathon course to check it out. It was a point-to-point course starting in Crested Butte (8880 ft) and ended at the Mountaineer Bowl at Western State College in Gunnison (7700 ft). The first 20 miles was along the paved shoulder of Hwy 135 from Crested Butte to Gunnison. There were several rolling hills but no nasty hills (no BAHs). At 20 miles the course finally left the Hwy and turned on to a side road for the final 10K into Gunnison and the finish line in the stadium. It seemed to be a relatively easy course except for the altitude?

After our traditional pasta dinner on Sat we checked the weather channel. The news was BAD/UGLY! The temps were forecast to plunge into the low 20s and the marathon started at 7am in Crested Butte so it was going to be very COLD! I prayed that the 20 to 30 mph winds that had prevailed all day Sat would stop? I had wisely packed cold-weather running gear but was still not eager to run this race.

It was bitterly cold when we left the hotel in Gunnison at 6am for the drive to the start line – temp was 19F! When we arrived at the start line in Crested Butte the temp had soared to a balmy 21 F. I refused to get out of the car until a few minutes before the start – I was not too enthused about running this race and kept asking myself that opening question: “what am I doing here”? I asked the sports manager if she would take my place? Her response “I’m not crazy – maybe I am – because I should be in a warm bed”!

I wore polypro tights and top with a 2nd layer (T-shirt) on top plus a green garbage bag to trap my body heat. Of course I wore gloves and for only the 2nd race in my life I wore a hat/tuque to keep my body heat from escaping through my head. We were lucky – the winds had calmed to 5/10 mph so the wind chill was only 15 F! Fifty runners had registered for the marathon but only 35 ‘crazies’ showed up at the start line. Sissies!

I tried to take off with the lead pack but my legs were cold and stiff and my lungs were burning from the cold, thin air and all I could manage was a 9-min pace for the first 2 miles? I finally started to warm up and lowered the pace to 8:30s. When I reached mile 5 in 42:38 the sun started to rise and the temps warmed up quickly to the mid 20s and I discarded the garbage bag and tuque. By that point the race positions had already been established. I had lost sight of the lead pack already but there were 6 runners about ½ mile in front of me. I felt confident that I could/would pass all of them before the end of the race. I passed four of them before I reached the Half in 1:51:44. When I passed mile 16 in 2:17:00 I realized that I had slowed to a 9-min pace and the two runners in front were leaving me behind. I was alone and there wasn’t much motivation to push the pace - and hurt. I tried to push the pace just to reach the 20-mile marker and get off the Hwy but the old legs refused to go faster than 9min/mile? I wasn’t sure if it was the altitude or the marathons the previous two weekends (or both) but my legs were wasted?

I finally passed mile 20 in 2:53:34 and turned off the Hwy on to the side road. I couldn’t see any runners in front or behind me. The race was just starting and I was hurting! I repeated the opening question many times to myself! I knew that I was winning my age group and decided that my finish time was not important (as long as it was under 4 hours). I calculated that a 10-min pace would get me to the finish line under 4 hrs so I decided to let my tired/wasted old legs set a pace that they felt comfortable with. That strategy/relief only lasted for 1 mile! At mile 21 I could see two runners in front of me again – they were about ½ mile ahead and slowing. I decided to pull them in. I tried to push the pace but all the push that was left was a 9:15 pace. I passed the 1st runner as he walked up a short steep hill at mile 23. When I crested the hill I couldn’t see the other runner which meant I was not going to catch him/her (turned out to be a her) and I reverted back to my previous strategy. I was now more concerned about my wasted old legs recovering for a marathon next week in Nebraska. I switched to ‘survival’ mode and slowed my pace to 9:45s for the last 5 Km. As I struggled up the final short steep hill into the Mountaineer Bowl I finally removed my 2nd layer T-shirt (it was a toasty 35F at the finish) so they could see my race number as I crossed the finish line in 3:52:43!

After a few finish line photos we returned to the hotel for a long HOT soak in the tub. It was soooooooooooooooo wonderful. Not only did it soothe my tired/wasted legs but I was WARM for the first time that day! We returned to the stadium to check the results and arrived just as my name was being announced – I assumed for 1st in Age Group? Surprise! I had indeed won my age group and I also was the 3rd male finisher! Notice that I did not say 3rd Overall as one would expect? Confused? So was I until I looked at the results. The top three and top 6 out of 8 finishers were females! I was the 3rd male across the finish line and 9th place Overall! In 271 marathons I have never seen a race with results like this? The women handed the men their asses on a silver platter in this race! I asked the race director who the ‘fast’ ladies were? There is a group of very good female athletes/ runners/triathletes/skiers in Crested Butte. I am convinced! No need for any of my single friends to move there – you would never be able to catch any of the females!

After collecting another beer mug for all my painful efforts we left for Black Canyon National Park located 60 miles west of Gunnison. It is a canyon that has been cut into the Rocky Mtns by the Gunnison River over the past 20 million years. It is 50 miles long with steep/sheer walls over 2700 ft and very narrow – ¼ mile from rim to rim at its narrowest point! The rugged views are spectacular but the visit is not for those with acrophobia or any problems with heights because the trails and viewpoints are perilously close to the edges of the canyon. But it is well worth a visit! We visited the south rim that has the most spectacular views.

We then drove home through the back roads of western Colorado. This lengthened the journey but we saw a lot of CO that we had not visited before. When we arrived home we immediately turned the furnace up and the fireplace on, opened a bottle of wine and toasted our feet and bods in front of the fire! I may stay there until we leave on Fri?

Although the race did take a toll on my old legs I am hoping that if I reduce my training miles this week and taper that they can recover enough to carry me through a good race at the Omaha Marathon next weekend? We plan to leave the High Country on Sept 22 and drive a northern route across the US through Nebraska so that I can run the Omaha Marathon on Sun and complete my 45th State (2nd loop).

Stay tuned for the race report (from sunny and WARM Florida).

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

RR Stowe Marathon

Race Report
Stowe Marathon
Stowe, VT
Sun, Sept 10/06
#270 – State # 44 (2nd loop)
3:39:29 14 OA - 1 AG

The main purpose of this race/trip was to complete a marathon in State # 44 in my quest to complete all 50 states for a 2nd time. The 50 State Club rules require that you run a different marathon each time so I selected Stowe since I had never been there.
I also decided that since my sister Carole Anne lived in NY State I would make a long weekend of it and visit her and her family in Burnt Hills, NY.

Thus I flew into Albany, NY on Fri where my brother-in-law Joe picked me up at the airport and we spent the night at their home. On Sat we left early for Stowe traveling the back roads of Vermont. It took much longer but we saw parts of VT that they had never seen in the 36 years they lived there. We crossed the Green Mountains and approached Stowe from the south just in time for lunch. After lunch I picked up my race packet and then we explored Stowe and the area. Stowe is a typical ski village but smaller than I expected. We toured Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream Factory (not being a B & J’s fan I didn’t even know it was located in VT?) visited the Trapp Family Lodge (the Von Trapps from ‘Sound of Music’) and stopped at a Maple farm to buy some delicious maple syrup directly from the farmer! During our touring we drove about 75% of the marathon course which provided a good look at the course – especially the nasty BAH (Bad Ass Hill) in the middle of the course.

The course started at the Topnotch Resort near the base of Stowe Ski Resort on Mount Mansfield – VT’s highest mountain (4393 ft). The course started at 840 ft elevation and dropped 130 ft over the first 4 miles and then climbed gently to the base of the BAH on Trapp Hill Rd at mile 9.5. Then the nightmare began as the BAH climbed relentlessly for 600 ft at a 10% grade for 2 miles to top out at 1360 ft in front of the Trapp Lodge. It then dropped 700 ft over 2 miles of dirt road before climbing another 100 ft over the next 2 miles. The course then looped back (and declined) over that 2-mile hill before climbing 200 ft over the final 8 miles back to the finish line at the Topnotch Resort! Sounds like fun huh? Actually the course was relatively easy except for that BAH! But I was glad I had seen that BAH because I knew what to expect on race day!

After our tour it was time to enjoy a great pasta dinner and then watch Ohio State whomp Texas. What a great day!

Sun was M- Day! I had two goals for this race:
1) I had researched the results and discovered that a friend who is a very good runner had won our age group last year in a 3:43. I wanted to run sub 3:40 or at least beat his time for bragging rights
2) Win my Age Group

The race started at 8:15 am. The skies were cloudy/overcast with a temp of 46 F and no wind. The sun later broke through the clouds but the temps never rose above the low 60s – great race weather! There were about 110 runners at the start. I knew that the BAH was going to add several minutes to the race and if I wanted to achieve my time goal I figured I needed to start out fast and deposit some time in the bank. I followed a lead pack of young female runners and let them pull me down the mountain on a paved bike path at a sub 8-min pace. We passed an old fart at 3 miles and another old fart at 7 miles. He responded by passing me back but I wasn’t ready to play any games so early in the race and especially before we got to the BAH! So I stayed behind my bevy of young beauties and let them pull me through mile 9 in 1:11:19.
I decided to slow the pace for the next ½ mile to let my legs rest before assaulting the BAH. Smart move because the pain/agony soon began and continued relentlessly for 2 miles!

I climbed the first mile of the BAH in 9:30 and passed the old fart. The 2nd mile was really tough and many runners were forced to walk. I was determined to run the entire BAH and kept my legs churning by reminding myself that this BAH was no worse than my ‘favorite’ hill loop in the High Country and in fact should be easier because it was 8,000 ft lower in altitude! I passed many runners including two of my female pacers. I got close enough to the 3rd female to joke with her. I told her that I had been chasing her for 11 miles and now that I was close to catching her I didn’t know what to do with her?
She laughed and quickly left my tired old ass in the dust! (She was half my age –31- and finished 3rd overall for females!) I climbed that 2nd mile of the BAH in a painfully slow 10:30 but finally I was at the Trapp Lodge and began the steep descent on the dirt road.
I stretched my stride to let gravity pull me down the BAH at a 7:30 pace with my quads screaming at me because they had to ‘brake’ all the way down that steep 10% grade to control my speed and momentum!

As I passed the Half in 1:47:03 I commented to a fellow runner “Our quads are not going to be happy with us tomorrow”! It didn’t take that long! When I reached the bottom of the BAH and turned on to a paved road to begin a 2-mile loop up a gentle hill my quads were already tight and sore and my legs felt like they had been beaten with a 2 X 4 instead of a 4-mile BAH! Out of necessity (but I would like to convince you it was smart strategy) I decided to slow the pace for the next 2 miles to let my wasted old legs rest and recover. Whatever – the strategy worked as the soreness disappeared and some ‘zip’ even returned to the old legs and I was able to lower the pace back to sub 8s for the next few miles. However that fast pace didn’t last long.

When I passed mile 18 in 2:28:55 near Moscow, VT I recognized that I was starting to labor/struggle to hold an 8-min pace and I knew that I couldn’t hold that pace for the final 8 miles – uphill! And I had another problem. My pretty female pacer had increased her lead to about ¼ mile and I could only see her on straight sections. There was nobody in sight behind me – I was running alone! I had noted and counted runners on the 2-mile loop. I was 1st in my Age Group and about 15th Overall – thus there was not much motivation to continue pushing the pace – and hurting! But then I remembered my GOALS – I really wanted to finish under 3:43 and win those bragging rights! A quick calculation determined that an 8:30 pace would get me across the finish line under 3:40! That became my sole focus/purpose in life for the next 8 miles! I decided the best/easiest way to accomplish this task was to do it in chunks. The 1st chunk was to get to 20 miles. I reached 20 miles in 2:46:01. I was still on target. But as most marathoners know/understand the race was now just starting – and the final 10K was uphill – and I was hurting! I needed to play mind games!

The 1st mind game was to block everything out – the entire outside world and all distractions! Then I used every ounce of will power to conjure up a dense fog in my mind and a monster named ‘Mr. Pain’ who was hiding in the fog and trying to find a way out of the fog to destroy me. I ran the next 4 miles in the fog trying to evade Mr. Pain and clicking off 8:30s! I reached mile 24 in 3:20:32 - less that 20 minutes left to achieve my goal. Time to change mind games! I let Mr. Pain through the fog because now Pain was GOOD! The worse the PAIN the better because it was motivation to push harder/faster – the faster I ran the sooner I would get to the finish line and the sooner the PAIN would stop. I just needed to get to mile 25! When I reached mile 25 in 3:29:17 I knew my goal was in the bag! The sweet smell of success/victory provided the necessary excitement/exhilaration for the old bod to produce one final jolt of adrenaline and endorphins! And what a jolt! The self-induced drugs created a euphoric bubble that ‘floated’ me through the final mile!

When I approached the finish line and saw the finish clock reading “3:38 + change” I had to dig deep and sprint the final few hundred yards to cross the finish line in 3:39:29! The instant - measured in nano-seconds- that I crossed the finish line the euphoric bubble burst and I was left with a wasted old bod drained of all drugs and energy. There wasn’t enough energy left to move – if breathing weren’t involuntary that would have stopped too! But just as quickly the excitement/exhilaration of sweet success/victory got the ‘juices’ flowing again and I was able to stumble through the finish chute to the arms of my support team. And what a wonderful support team! They had driven me to the start line and waited to take my warm-up clothes just before the start so I wouldn’t get cold. Then they drove to several locations along the course to cheer me on and take pictures and there they were cheering me at the finish line. Should I dare mention to my ‘regular’ sports manager that this is the way it is supposed to be done – and the way she used to do it - 250 marathons ago? Nahhhhhhhh – I don’t think that would be a wise move!

After some finish line photos we rushed back to the hotel for a quick shower and late check out and then returned to the finish area to check the results. I confirmed that my official finish time was 3:39:29 – good enough for 14th place Overall and 1st in my Age Group! Since I had achieved both of my goals I was quite pleased/happy with my time and performance. The awards were not very nice or worthwhile waiting around for so we left immediately. We decided to drive back through Burlington. I ran the Burlington Marathon 11 years ago but couldn’t remember the race or the city so we stopped to visit the downtown area and eat lunch. Burlington is a pretty city with the Green Mountains to the East and Lake Champlain to the West. We took a ferry across Lake Champlain to NY State but alas – no sightings of Champy – the legendary lake monster (a kin of Nessie?).
Once we reached NY it was a pleasant 2-hr drive back home. Although some trees were beginning to change color I unfortunately missed the autumn Technicolor show by a few weeks.

But it was a good trip. I achieved my race goals and got to spend a lot of ‘Q’ time with my sister and her family. And strangely my quads and legs were not as sore as expected on Mon morning? Thus I have decided to sneak another (unplanned) marathon into my schedule this weekend. It will be my last high altitude marathon of the season – the Mountain Air Marathon in Crested Butte, CO.

Stay tuned for the race report!

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

RR Colorado Springs

Race Report
American Discovery Trail Marathon
Colorado Springs, CO
Mon, Sept 4/06
Marathon # 269
3:45:59 37 OA - 1 AG

This is the 3rd straight year I have run this marathon and I had a few goals:
1) I wanted to defend my Senior Title and win my Age Group for the 3rd straight year
2) I wanted to run under 3:40 – maybe even 3:35 and set a new course PR

Both previous years I had not shown up to the start line in good health or shape but this year I was healthy and (I thought) in good shape. I had to take some extra time off the week before the race to rest an injured left knee but I didn’t think it would affect my performance?

The sports manager decided not to accompany me to Colorado Springs since she had gone the two previous years. So I drove down to Colorado Springs on Sun night in time to pick up my race packet and enjoy a traditional pasta dinner.

The race started at 6:30am on Labor Day at Confluence Park – now ‘America the Beautiful Park’ – in downtown CO Springs. The course started at the Park @ 6200 ft and followed paved and dirt bike trails along Monument and Fountain Creeks to a turn-around point near the Air Force Academy at mile 16. The first 5 miles were flat and then there were a series of small rolling hills until mile 14. Miles 14 to 18 were a series of tough BAHs (Bad Ass Hills) that rose 300 ft in elevation! The final 8 miles dropped gently over rolling hills back to the finish line in the Park.

It was great running weather, sunny and 50 F, at the start and never warmed up above the low 60s. There were 200 runners in the Marathon. I decided to start smart – and slow – to let the knee warm/loosen up and passed through mile 2 in 16:45. The knee felt OK so I lowered to pace to 8min/mile over the next 3 miles. By mile 5 however I was starting to struggle to hold the 8 min pace which was not a good sign. I knew I couldn’t hold that pace for another 21 miles so I slowed the pace to 8:30s that felt smooth and comfortable.
I revised my strategy to hold that pace through mile 14 and the BAHs and then try to lower the pace to sub 8s for the last 8 miles!

That strategy worked OK through the 1st Half (1:51:07) but I struggled to run an 8:45/9:00 min pace through the 4 miles of BAHs. And when I finally emerged from the BAHs I tried to push the pace down to sub 8s – but there just wasn’t any ‘push’ left in the old legs. I was struggling to run 8:30/8:45s when I passed mile 20 in 2:51:37! I realized that I was paying the price for no speed work since my European trip. No surprise – if you don’t push in training it is difficult to push in a race! I knew that sub 8s weren’t going to happen and I also knew that I was in 1st place in my age group and thus there was not much motivation to push and hurt! So it was time for revision #2 to the strategy. It was based on some advice that a friend gave me before the race: “Find some nice tight buns (hopefully belonging to a female) and follow them for motivation and to take your mind off the pain”.

Fortunately there were 2 young female runners (half my age) in front of me so I pushed the pace until I closed right behind them and followed my friend’s advice (and the buns). Good scenery and good motivation! When those ‘tight buns’ tired and slowed I was able to pass and pick up another set in front to focus on! I followed the final set of ‘tight’ buns until mile 25 and then Maddog insisted that I pass her before the finish line.

I crossed the finish line in 3:45:59. I was not happy/pleased with that time and I was really upset with my inability to push the pace to sub 8s when needed! Obviously I need to do some serious speed work and push the old bod through some severe pain to get some speed back!

I had to rush back to the hotel for a quick shower and to check out. When I returned to the finish area I learned that I had indeed won my age group – and collected my third beer mug. I had finished 37th Overall (187 runners) and 1st AG (6 runners).

When I returned home and checked my race reports I discovered that my PR for that course is 3:44:15 so I guess I didn’t do as badly as I thought. However I am convinced that I should be able to run a sub 3:40 (even 3:35) on that course. Maybe next year?

Unfortunately I don’t have time to do any speed work before my marathon in Stowe, VT next weekend so I am hoping that this marathon will serve at least as a fast training run in preparation for that race. I will need to run much better/faster in VT if I hope to win my age group!

Stay tuned!

Saturday, August 26, 2006

14er Report - La Plata Peak

14er Report
La Plata Peak – 14,336 ft
Aug 25/06

Since Fri was scheduled as a ‘rest’ day from running I figured it would be a good day to climb a 14er and hopefully assist my effort to re-acclimate to the high altitudes upon my return from the latest marathon trip to Europe. But what 14er to climb?

I decided on La Plata Peak – the 5th highest peak in Colorado at 14,336 ft – because my son Chris and I had tried to climb that peak last fall and sadly had to turn back at 13,600 ft when we ran into a severe sleet/snow storm. I remembered how steep and treacherous the trail had been so I consulted my ‘14er Guide’ and chose an alternate route described as the ‘easiest’ route up Plata Peak.

I woke at 4:30 am to get an early start since La Plata Peak is located in the Sawatch Range between Leadville and Buena Vista and the West Winfield Trailhead is located 15 miles in the remote wilderness of the Sawatch Range. I arrived at the trailhead before 7am and luckily (in hindsight) as I was leaving the trailhead at 7am I met another hiker from Denver and we agreed to team up for the climb. The ‘easy’ trail starts at 10,380 ft and climbs 3960 ft over 5 miles to the summit of La Plata Peak (14,336 ft)! The first 2 miles were easy as described in the Guide – we climbed about 1,900 ft to the tree line. But then the lies/misinformation began! The trail climbed about 200 ft over 1 mile through an Alpine Swamp/Marsh. This section of Hell was not described in the Guide? Brushes covering the trail were wet from a rain on Thu night and soaked our clothes from head to foot while the trail was ankle-deep mud that tried to suck the trail shoes off my feet! And as we tried to get through this miserable section of trail the skies started to cloud over and darken. We were not sure and concerned if the weather would hold out. However when we finally got through the marsh the sun burned through the clouds and started to dry out our clothes as we approached a couloir that ascended steeply about 800 vertical ft to a ridge. We could barely see a huge mountain peak through the clouds above the ridge and assumed that had to be La Plata Peak?

We climbed a very steep dirt trail up the couloir to the ridge at 13,200 ft. I was not looking forward to the descent back down that couloir! The Guide said that we had to hike about one mile along the ridge and up a gentle slope to the summit. Bullshit! When we reached the base of the mountain we were faced with a 1,000 ft ascent across scree/rocks and no trail. We had to pick our way up the scree using Cairns (man-made rock piles) as our only guide to the summit. I estimated that we would reach the summit about 10:30am. I was close – it was10:40am when we reached the summit. However we were surprised to discover it was a ‘false’ summit – another summit that was 300 ft higher lay about another ½ mile to the North? That must be La Plata Peak? But there was a wee problem – we had to descend 300 ft into a saddle and then ascend another 600 ft to that next summit – all down and up more scree/rock with no defined trail!

As we crested that next summit about 40 minutes later I was again surprised/dismayed to see 3 hikers descending yet another summit about 100 ft higher and another 500 ft North. We were on our 2nd ‘false’ peak – neither of which was described in the 14er Guide? Fortunately it was a short hike (across more scree) to the true summit of La Plata Peak. It was 11:30 am – 4 ½ hours to climb 5 miles and 4000 ft – and half of it scree – and that was the ‘easy’ route! As we were unpacking our lunch a 3rd hiker joined us on the summit. He and his dog had hiked up the ‘difficult’ route (the same one Chris and I had used) in 2 ½ hours! I contemplated asking him if I could hike back down the ‘difficult’ route with him and hitch a ride back to my car. But then I had an even better idea as my friend called his wife from the summit. I asked her to send a helicopter because we didn’t want to hike back down either route! However that silly notion vanished quickly as we noticed some dark/ominous clouds approaching from the west. A thunderstorm was approaching rapidly – time to get our asses off the mountain!

We didn’t think that we would have enough time to descend back down the ‘easy’ route before the storm struck so we had to hope that the storm would skirt north or south of La Plata Peak? We made it back down the saddle and had begun our ascent up the 1st false peak when the sky darkened, the temps plummeted 30 degrees and it started to sleet. – the 2nd time this mountain had greeted me with sleet? It was cold and the sleet stung every piece of exposed flesh but we were happy that there was no thunder/lightning. As we crested the summit of that false peak and began our descent across the scree the winds increased to 40 mph driving the sleet into every inch of exposed flesh. It also limited our visibility and covered the scree/rocks with sleet and ice. Shit – can it get any worse? The answer unfortunately came too soon – about half way down the descent with a FLASH –KABOOM! The center of the storm was passing directly over the mountain and the lightning was flashing all around us! We were fully exposed on a rocky mountain at 13,500 ft in the center of a violent thunder/electrical storm! We looked at each other with concern and thought, “Our chances of getting off this mountain alive are not looking too good! We had no choice but to hasten our pace/descent and increase our risk of a fall/injury on the slippery rocks covered with sleet/ice!

When we reached the bottom of that summit and the ridge at 13,000 ft the storm was still directly over us so we ran the entire ½ mile flat section of trail along the ridge to the top of the couloir. When we reached the couloir the sleet stopped. We thought things were finally looking up - until we looked down! That steep dirt trail down the couloir was covered in sleet and ice! “No way in Hell am I going down that!” I thought. But Mother Nature had a different opinion as she hurled another bolt of lightning into the mountain followed by an-almost simultaneous boom of thunder that proclaimed a bold and clear message “Move your ass or I will fry it with a million volts of electricity”!

Fear is a great motivator! I threw myself off the edge of the ridge/cliff down into the couloir! With the help of my hiking poles – those ‘blessed’ poles - and using a strange fluid motion that I thought might work – a combination of jogging and sliding – I was able to maintain my balance and managed to make that frightening 800-ft descent down that couloir in less than 20 minutes! I was so thankful that I had carried my poles because I would never have made it (safely) down that couloir without them! While I waited at the bottom for my friend the weather started to change in our favor. The storm center had passed over us and was now on the east slopes of the mountain. We could still see the lightning and hear the thunder so we knew there was still an extreme risk/danger from the lightning. I told my friend that I was going to run the entire 1-mile section of trail across the Alpine Marsh and would not stop until I reached the safety of the tree line!
I took off. He followed but did not have the stamina to keep up. However I kept my promise as I hauled ass through the wet brushes and ankle-deep sucking mud and did not stop until I reached the tree line where I finally waited for my friend! By the time he arrived at the tree line the weather had improved significantly. The storm had moved off to the east of the Sawatch Range and the sun was breaking through the clouds and it was warming up!

We finally felt relatively safe so we relaxed and changed out of our cold/wet clothes and completed the final 2 miles and 2,000 ft of descent at a more leisurely pace. When we arrived at our cars we looked at each other and nodded in silent agreement. We were sooooooooooo lucky to get off that mountain ALIVE and we were grateful that we had teamed up because each other’s company had provided a feeling of comfort and safety on that terrifying descent down the mountain!

It had taken 3 hours for the hasty/frightening descent for a total of 7 ½ hours for the trip – on the ‘easy’ route. You have probably already guessed that I have a strong recommendation for anyone planning to climb La Plata Peak:

DO NOT – under any circumstance believe that untrustworthy and lying sack-of-shit- author of the 14er Guide and - take the ‘EASY’ route! Instead – take the ‘difficult’ route. It is much easier, quicker and safer!

I also have 2nd recommendation that I am going to follow myself:

I plan to buy a new toy – a lightning detector that can detect lightning 75 miles away and track the direction of the storm. It can probably also tell you (right before you die) when your ass is going to be hit by lightning!

In spite of some scary moments I still consider the climb to be a successful adventure with many positive benefits:
a) I managed to complete an alternate workout on my rest day that was interesting- challenging- exciting – almost electrifying!
b) I had no difficulty with altitude as I climbed 3 peaks above 14,000 ft and ran faster than lightning along a ridge at 13,000 ft. Thus I am confident that I am re-acclimated to altitude.
And most importantly
c) I survived a violent thunderstorm at 14,00 ft and am alive to tell this story to my loyal readers!

I hope y’all appreciate all the effort/pain/risk/peril that Maddog submits his old bod to just to bring you these interesting stories and introduce some excitement into your boring work lives and hopefully motivate you to quit those boring/useless jobs and retire to join Maddog in future adventures. I can promise you adventures that are challenging/interesting/exciting – and maybe even electrifying! In fact I plan to climb a few more 14ers next week if anyone cares to join me!

Stay tuned for the next report!

P.S. I am sorry that I did not take any photos on the mountain during the storm with lightning/sleet/ice etc, but I was a little preoccupied. I will try to make a better effort the next time.

Friday, August 11, 2006

TR Greenland

Trip Report – Sweden and Greenland – Part 2

TR Greenland
Nuuk Marathon
Nuuk, Greenland
Sat, Aug 5/06
Marathon # 268 - Country # 77
3:34:06 10 OA - 3 AG

Now where did we leave off in Part 1? Oh Yes – I had finally departed Copenhagen, Denmark for Greenland – a 5 hour flight West to Kangerlussuaq. Why are most of the flight connections to Greenland from Denmark? Because Greenland, which is the largest island in the world, is an independent country with a home-rule government under Danish rule. The small population of 55,000 and economy dependent on fishing is not self- sufficient and must be subsidized by Denmark. Although many Europeans believe that Greenland is thus part of Europe it is considered to be geographically part of N. America! (thus not included in my list of European countries!)

As we crossed Greenland from East to West I was amazed at the size of the Polar Ice Cap. It is 2500 Km long (N to S) and 1000 Km wide (E to W) and 3500 m thick at its highest point! It covers 85% of the country and represents 10% of the world’s total fresh water supply! We flew into Kangerlussuaq (about 200 Km above the Arctic Circle) situated at the head of the Sondre Stromfjord which is Danish for Kangerlussuaq meaning ‘Big Fjord’. It is one of the longest fjords in the world. Kangerlussuaq is a former USAF Base called Bluie West Eight that was built in 1941 to ferry airplanes from the USA to Europe for WW II. After the Cold war the US turned the Base over to Denmark in 1992 and it serves as the international gateway to Greenland.

I arrived in Kangerlussuaq at 10 am on Wed morning. I had booked 2 days there because it is only 30 Km from the Polar Ice Cap and offers tours to the Ice Cap. I immediately booked a tour for that afternoon and then checked into my hotel. Because I was too cheap to pay $200 for a room in the new 3-star hotel attached to the airport terminal I was assigned a room on the former Base on the opposite side of the airport. That ‘hotel’ was a former barracks for enlisted men and had not been updated since it was built 60 years ago? However the room was clean, had a TV with 3 channels (one in Inuit, one in Danish and Discovery Channel with 50% of the programs in English so I ‘discovered’ a lot of information during my 2-day stay) and a common bathroom at the end of the hall. All of that luxury for a mere $130/night!

The tour to the Ice Cap started at 1 pm and lasted 5 hours. We drove in a huge all-terrain vehicle on a dirt 4X4 road that had been built by the US and is now used solely to take tourists to the Ice Cap. The road follows the Watson River that originates at the Polar Ice Cap and flows into the Fjord. Along the route we stopped to explore some of the terrain and wild flowers including the Niviarsiaq – the national flower of Greenland. The terrain reminded me of a mixture of the Canadian Arctic and the Faroe Islands. We also passed the only 18-hole golf course in Greenland that is built on a glacial/alluvial plain of silt /sand deposited by the Ice Cap and the Watson River. Words cannot do it justice so I took some pictures to explain.

The road ended about 30 Km south of Kangerlussuaq at the Polar Ice Cap where we walked about 1 mile out on the Ice Cap to explore. The ice is rough in the summer and easy to walk on without slipping and falling. It was quite cool with temps about –2 C!
I spent considerable time talking to our Inuit guide about the Polar Ice Cap and global warming. I also talked to several other Inuits and residents during my 5 days in Greenland to derive a conclusion about global warming? I mentioned that scientific research had concluded that there were 32 ‘Ice Quakes’ (caused by water melting and running under the ice resulting in the ice sliding/moving faster and causing quakes) in the 1st 10 months of 2005 vs. a total of 10 in 1995? The guide replied that there were some glaciers that were melting faster than normal but the Ice Cap was stable and in fact was increasing in size and depth each year! He acknowledged that the weather was warming but stated that there had been many such patterns or cycles in Greenland over the past generations as told by his elders. He did not believe in ‘global warming’ as warned by the scientists and believed that they were only raising an alarm to win more grants and salary. This same opinion was reiterated by many other Inuits and residents during my visit? So you draw your own conclusion. I have mine that I will share in person but not in my newsletter. The only conclusion I am willing to share is that I confirmed what I already knew “Al Gore is an IDIOT”!!!

After freezing my butt off for an hour on the Ice Cap we returned to Kangerlussuaq and I ate dinner at the hotel restaurant. However when I left the hotel to return to my luxury room I discovered that the bus quit running at 7 pm and I had to walk 2 km around the airport and back to my room. Actually it was a refreshing walk and there was lots of light since the sun only set for 2 hours and even then there was still light. When I woke at 3 am to make the long walk down the hall to the bathroom I looked out the window and was surprised to see the local kids riding their bikes up and down the street? I tried to sleep in on Thu to make the day shorter since there is nothing to do in Kangerlussuaq but the light and jet lag didn’t help! So I got up and went back to the hotel for breakfast and then I walked 2 miles on the 4X4 road to the golf course to take better photos. By then I was really bored and decided to do an easy 10-mile run using every road in town. That evening I joined a businessman from Nuuk for dinner and spent a lot of time learning about Greenland and Nuuk. I was happy to hear that his assessment of Kangerlussuaq agreed with mine “It is a shithole’!

On Fri morning I took an early 1–hr flight to Nuuk. Nuuk or Godthab (Good Hope) is located at the mouth of the Nuuk Fjord. It was founded in 1728 by the Danish missionary Hans Egede and is the capital and largest city in Greenland with a population of 15,000. After checking into my hotel (I had splurged and booked the best hotel in Nuuk) I picked up my race package at the Katuaq Cultural Center. Then I decided I should do my shopping for souvenirs, etc because I figured that I wouldn’t have time on Sat and the shops would be closed on Sun. It only took a few hours to find all four souvenir shops and buy the gifts I needed.

On Fri evening the local running club offered a ‘free’ pasta party at the Katuaq that I attended since it was cheaper than eating in a restaurant. The food was surprisingly good and plentiful and I got the opportunity to meet with the race director and some local runners. I learned that there were about 50 runners in the marathon and more than a dozen of them were in the M50 age group. I asked why there was no M60 group and found out that I was the only runner over 60 in the race! The race director offered to make a new age group but since there were no age group awards offered I declined the offer. Then he informed me that the club had two male runners in their early 50s that could run in the low 3 hrs! And after he described how difficult the course was I knew that I would be lucky to compete for 3rd place in the M50 age group. The course was a half marathon loop using every road in Nuuk and included several BAHs (Bad Ass Hills). The marathoners got to run it twice! One of the club members offered to drive me around the course but I had seen some of the course on the taxi ride to the hotel so didn’t think it was necessary. I figured a goal/target of 3:40 should be realistic and my strategy was to run the 1st half smart – slow and easy to gage the course and then push the 2nd half?

On Sat I woke and ate an early breakfast to assure that it would be digested before the 12 pm start and I wouldn’t suffer the same intestinal problems/cramps that I had in Sweden!
I kept checking the weather outside and the forecast. It was cool/nippy with a temp of 4 C and it wasn’t expected to warm up much during the day. I decided to wear running tights and a long sleeve T-shirt. I felt comfortable when I lined up with about 400 other runners at the 12 pm start. There were 3 races – a marathon, Half and a 3.4 Km Mini Marathon for the kids and families. The race was one of the biggest social events of the year in Nuuk! I took off with the Big Dogs and ran the 1st 5 Km (with 3 hills) in 24:45. At that point I realized that a) I had over dressed; b) I was over heated and c) I had started too fast! I couldn’t do much about a) & b) but I slowed down immediately. I let some Half Marathoners pass me who looked like they were running just a wee bit slower than 5 min/Km and dropped in behind them. I soon discovered that the nastiest BAHs were located at 9 Km and 14 Km (30 and 35 Km on the 2nd loop). By the time I crested the BAH at 14 Km I was engaged in a one-way duel with another old fart. I say ‘one-way’ because I had looked at his race number and guessed he was running the Half so it was not important to me how he ran. But he must have thought I was running the Half and kept passing me so I played a mean game with him. I let him lead until the final BAH at 20 Km and then I surged up the hill and passed him. Once I crested the hill I slowed down and let him catch me just before the finish line for the Half. He was pushing and hurting as he sprinted past me to win the M50 age group for the Half. As I went by him at the finish line (1:49:39) I slapped him on the back and congratulated him on a nice kick to the finish – and continued on the 2nd loop!

But now I had a big problem/dilemma! I was all alone! There were no runners in front of me for the 2nd half! I hadn’t paid much attention to all the twists and turns in the 1st half because I had lots of runners to follow. I wasn’t sure if I knew the course? Fortunately when I reached the 1st turn near 22 Km I looked left and saw two runners about ½ mile ahead of me. I decided I needed to push my pace and follow them. I passed the closest runner around 25 Km but the other runner seemed to be picking up his pace and I had to push harder to stay close. We started passing runners around 30 Km but I had slipped into a comfortable and easy groove following the young runner and decided to stay with him as long as I could. I missed the markers at 25 and 30 Km and when I finally reached 35 Km in 2:57 I was surprised that we were averaging an 8-min pace on the 2nd loop?
I stayed with that young runner/course guide until the BAH at 41 Km where I passed him and another runner as I charged to the top. At the top I decided to cruise the last 1 Km to the finish line in 3:34:06. I was surprised that I had run a negative split through those BAHs on the 2nd loop so needless to say I was pleased with both my time and performance.

There were no results posted at the finish line or later at the post race party so I didn’t learn until I returned to Copenhagen that the two youngsters in the M 50 group had whipped my butt as expected but I had managed to place 3rd in the age group and 10th place overall. I am pleased with my results.

The running club held a great post-race party that evening at a local discothèque where they provided a nice buffet but no booze since beer cost $7/pint. Awards were presented to the top 3 winners but no awards were given for age groups?

On sun I had hoped to take a boat tour on the harbor/fjord to watch whales or see the coast from the water but the weather was miserable. It rained all day with a temp of 2 C and I wasn’t willing to pay $100 to freeze my butt off on the water. Instead I did a self-guided walking tour of Nuuk visiting the old city established in 1728 and the Harbor where the cruise ships docked. On sun evening I enjoyed a great dinner of musk ox. And No – it does not taste like chicken. It tastes like beef with a ‘wild’ taste.

On Mon morning I flew back to Copenhagen via Kangerlussuaq and arrived in time for another pleasant dinner at an outdoor café. On Tue morning I did a final 10-mile training run around the tourist sites of CPH and Christiania before taking a boat tour on the harbor and canals of CPH. I finished my last day in CPH with a gourmet dinner of braised rabbit and beer at an outdoor café while enjoying the magnificent scenery that passed by on foot and bike.

Finally – Wed – time to go home. But there was one last surprise for Maddog. After I checked in at the airport and my gate a Delta rep announced that today was a special day for Delta and the flight from CPH to Atlanta. It was the 100th flight for that new service and to celebrate Delta was going to present a special award to the 100th passenger who checked in at the gate! And that lucky passenger was seated in 26F – it was Maddog!
They gave me a bottle of good French champagne and a box of Belgian chocolates. I was wearing my Nuuk Marathon shirt and questions followed and soon I was asked to interview and pose for publicity photos for a local CPH trade journal. Somehow it seems difficult for Maddog to stay low-key and invisible??

In hindsight (after the news the next day about the terrorists) I was lucky that I had returned home on Wed. I am not looking forward to my next international marathon trip – to S. America in Oct.

Stay tuned!