Thursday, November 01, 2007

TR - Ecuador

Oct 1 -8/07

Guayaquil Marathon
Guayaquil, Ecuador
Sun, Oct 7/07
Marathon #290 – Country #85

Sorry for the 3-week delay in writing this report but there has just been too many (exciting) activities and things to do since I returned from Ecuador – had to close up the home in CO, pack the car, drive to TX for a family reunion and finally arrived back in FL in mid-Oct. Then we had to open up the home in FL, fix the A/C and hot tub, see another doctor for the foot and leave almost immediately for another marathon!

So where do I start? At the end of the last report – the ADT Marathon in CO Springs – I had limped home with a serious injury to my right foot. Unfortunately X-rays and a MRI revealed that I had suffered a severe (60%) tear in the plantar fascia. The doctor advised me not to run for 6 to 9 months in case I ruptured the tendon. I believed his advice since it had taken 1 year to heal the other plantar fascia when I ruptured it completely in 1991. But this time the advice was not acceptable to Maddog!
I tried desperately to get a better prognosis and treatment for the injury but there is not much you can do to treat a tear in the plantar fascia. I certainly had a dilemma! After following other doctor’s advice to take the summer off from racing to let other injuries heal I had expected to be healthy and in good shape for the fall/winter racing seasons and had scheduled 10 marathons over the next 5 months!

I needed to complete those marathons to accomplish my goal of running Marathon #300 at my home town race in March 08! And not only had I scheduled and registered for all those races – I had prepaid most of the travel expenses! Thus I had to try to complete the races – either by walking/crawling – whatever it took! And the most immediate problem was that the next marathon/trip - only one month away - was in Ecuador!

I had booked this trip in May before I left FL. I had a lot of problems booking the race and a tour of Ecuador because of language difficulties. I finally managed to contact an English-speaking volunteer for the race and completed all the details just before I suffered the injury. It was too late to cancel the trip. I had to go even if I didn’t run the race! Since I couldn’t run or even walk without pain, I cross trained at the Rec Center in Silverthorne, CO for 3 weeks before I left for the trip. I tried one 5-mile training run a few days before leaving and that aggravated the injury and made the foot very sore so I could only hope that one week of touring around Ecuador and resting the foot would let it heal enough to run the race?

I arrived in Quito on Mon evening. A tour guide met me at the airport and drove me to my hotel. On Tue we started the tour and my education of the country and its cultures. Ecuador is one of the smallest countries in S. America and lies right on the Equator. The population is 13 million – and very few of them speak English! There is not much infrastructure in place for tourism (except for the Galapagos Islands). There are three distinct regions and cultures – the Coast, the Amazon and the Highlands with inhabitants dating back to 8800 BC.

Quito or Quitsa-to, the original name, means ‘middle of the earth’ in the ancient ‘tsafiqui’ language. Quito is the only site on the planet where the Equator crosses over highlands. Quito lies at 9,184 ft and is surrounded by active volcanoes – Pichincha (15,000 ft) to the west; Antisana (18,700 ft) to the east and Cayambe (18,725 ft) to the northeast. When the Incas invaded in the 15th century they destroyed the city and then the Spanish conquered the city in 1534 and destroyed it yet again. The old part of the city dates back to the Spanish period and Quito has been designated a ‘World Cultural Heritage Site’. We toured all the main tourist attractions in the old city – the Government Palace, the Cathedral. Plaza de la Independencia, and la Virgen De Quito on the summit of El Panecillo overlooking the city. And in a country where the average wage is $250/mth we visited the Iglesia de La Compania dating back to the 15th century where the interior is completely decorated in gold leaf?

In the afternoon we visited the Mitad del Mundo and Museo de Sitio Intan-Nan, a museum/attraction built on the Equator – Latitude 0’0’0’. The guide showed me some neat physical anomalies that occur only on the Equator – you weigh 2.2 Kgs less; water drains straight down and does not swirl clockwise (or counter-clockwise) like it does north and south of the Equator and the strangest one – you have more strength on the Equator?? Don’t understand the physics of the last one but I saw it with my own eyes?

On Wed I departed on an early flight to Cuenca, the 3rd largest city in the country located in the Southern Highlands. Cuenca was built on the ruins of Tomebamba, a city built by the Incas after they destroyed Guapondelig, a city built by the indigenous people called the ‘Canari’. At the Ruins of Todos Los Santos you can see ruins of Canari, Inca and Spanish constructions. Cuenca is at 8,315 ft and surrounded by 16,000 to 18,000 ft mountains and has four rivers flowing through it. It was the former Northern Capital of the Inca Empire. After touring the city with a private guide I invited him to join me for dinner and a local delicacy – guinea pig! It was quite tasty – and NO – it does not taste like chicken. It tastes like pork. The guide was the only person I met in the Southern Highlands who spoke English!

The following day my guide took me to the Inca ruins at Ingapirca north of Cuenca. It is the most significant archaeological site in Ecuador. The Canari used the area as a ceremonial and administrative center until the Inca conquered them and rebuilt the site. The ruins include a circular Temple of the Sun and the knowledge the Incas had of the sun and the solaces was remarkable! The guide drove to Ingapirca over some back roads through the Andes Mtns where we passed many indigenous Canari people. They still live and dress as they have for the past 500 years! We passed women washing their clothes in the river and men ploughing the fields with a wooden plough pulled by two bulls. I thought: “ This would be a neat and cheap place to retire. The Sports Manager could make lots of friends while washing our clothes in the river with the other women and I could have a beer with the men after ploughing the fields all day”! Yep – a nice, cheap place to retire!
On the way back to Cuenca we stopped in Biblian to visit a Cathedral – the Sanctuary of the Virgin of the Rock - that is built into the side of a mountain. The guide claimed that 50% of the male residents in Biblian had moved (illegally) to the USA and send back money to build new homes in the town. Half the homes in the town were new – and empty! I guess the illegal aliens don’t want to move back to their new homes?

On Fri I flew to Guayaquil, the largest city in Ecuador, located on the Pacific Coast. It is the main port for the country and the financial capital. The city was founded by the Spanish on Santa Ana Hill in 1534 and was burned down many times by pirates! The city had a reputation for crime, clutter and being unsightly/dirty but the city government has made significant improvements in the past few years to restore and clean up the city. I was impressed with the changes that had been made. They completely restored Santa Ana Hill and gave the restored homes back to the poor people who lived there! They demolished the old harbor and rebuilt Malceon 2000 – a 5km pedestrian walk along the Rio Guayas. It is a pleasant area to walk along and enjoy a drink while watching the locals. The city is currently restoring another old neighborhood along the river called Las Perlas. The downtown financial area is very modern! I spent all afternoon walking around the downtown area and along Malceon 2000 exploring many of the tourist attractions such as the Cathedral, the Morrish Clock Tower and Hemicicio de la Rotunda – a historical monument commemorating the meeting of two Latin American liberators; Simon Bolivar and San Martin when it was decided that Guayaquil be annexed to the Gran Colombia. In spite of the very hot (85 F + 80 % humidity) weather I walked up the 444 steps to the top of Cerro Santa Ana. Near the end of my long walking tour I noticed that the new orthotics I had custom built to help the plantar fascia had caused a huge blister to develop on the bottom of the big toe on the right (injured) foot. When I returned to the hotel I had to switch the new orthotics to an old pair of cushioned insoles to relieve the pressure on the blister. Oh Goody – now I had another problem to deal with during the race!

On Sat I found the registration office at the old airport. Registration and packet pick up were not as well organized as we are used to. Runners had to line up while two volunteers checked and entered everyone into a computer. Took about an hour to get my packet but the race director was kind enough to introduce himself and welcome me to his race and the city.

Sun was M- Day! The race started at 5 am because the weather is tropical (hot & humid)! The race started at the Puente 5 de Junio (5th of June Bridge). I took a taxi since I didn’t want to aggravate the foot (and the new blister) with a 1-mile walk before the race. I had decided to forget the new orthotics and run with my old insoles. I lined up with about 600 runners. The weather was hot (temps in the 80s) and humid (80+ %) as expected. I went straight to the back of the crowd since I intended to walk most of the race! I was surprised to find a runner back there wearing a ’50 States’ T-shirt? He was from MN and experiencing problems similar to mine. He was healing from a stress fracture in his tibia and wasn’t sure if he could ‘run’ the entire race? We started out together – running – and the foot felt OK so we ran the first 8 km at a 10-min pace. The first half of the course was interesting and scenic as it wound through the downtown area, along Malceon 2000, through a tunnel under Santa Ana Hill and back to the bridge. My foot still felt OK at 8Km but I was concerned about how it would feel at 30 Km so I wished my new friend ‘good luck’ and let him leave me. I started to walk! Since there were water stations every 2 Km I decided that I would stop and walk at every 2nd station and drink lots of water to prevent dehydration. I passed 15Km in 1:34:09 and reached the Half back at the bridge in 2:20:27. I was happy with that time until I realized that the cheers from the spectators were not for me - the lead marathon runners were crossing the finish line at the same time! Damn – they were finishing the marathon and I was just starting the 2nd Half! Pretty demoralizing!

The 2nd half of the course was not near as interesting. It wound through some industrial and poor sections of the city. I became frustrated! My engine (cardiovascular system) felt good but the foot and legs could not keep up with it and the blister was starting to bother me. Maybe that was good? I became more concerned about the blister than the plantar fascia? I passed 32 Km in 3:37:16. I should be finishing by now! Thankfully the skies were still overcast which kept the sun from heating up the roads. My foot started to hurt and the blister started to grow bigger and hurt and I thought “I need to push the pace to get this over with sooner”! I tried but quickly realized there was no ‘push’ in the old legs. They were tired and starting to hurt due to the lack of actual ‘running’ in my training the past month! Cross training may keep the engine fit but it doesn’t do anything to keep your legs in shape! I started to struggle! When I finally passed 37 Km in 4:12:06 I decided I needed to suck it up – ignore the pain – and run the final 5 Km to get the misery over with. I somehow managed to get the pace back down to a blazing 7 min/km and crossed the finish line in 4:47:28. That was my PW (personal worst) for a road marathon (other than when I helped a friend through Boston after his quadruple bypass)! And I didn’t care!

I had finished my 290th marathon and 85th country! And my foot hadn’t fallen off or exploded/ruptured which was a good indication that I might be able to pull off the other nine marathons in my race schedule? The foot did hurt like Hell the next day as I headed off to the airport to catch the flight back to the US but I was still optimistic that I could continue to walk/run the other marathons?

Stay tuned!

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