Wednesday, December 07, 2011

TR - Curacao

Trip Report
12/2 – 12/5/11

Race results:
Sun, Dec 4/11
HBN Law Marathon
Willemstad, Curacao
5:43:23 – 1 AG
Marathon #351 – Country # 112

I scheduled and booked this race in the spring when I was feeling OK and in good shape. It is only held every two years and this was the 1st marathon in Curacao since it became an independent country in Oct 2010. Thus I figured I should run it this year because there was no telling what might happen two years from now? Am I fortune teller?

As mentioned in my previous report I ran the Space Coast Marathon last weekend just to confirm that I could “go the distance’ before wasting money on a trip to Curacao. These days I have wisely learned to buy trip insurance because I can no longer be certain that I will be healthy or capable of running a marathon in 6 months let alone 6 days!

Since we have visited Curacao a few times I decided to go just for the weekend – run the race – and return home. I arrived late Fri night and Sat morning set out to explore Willemstad and find the start/finish area. The race website did not provide much detail – no course maps, etc. However the race director Erwin was very friendly and supportive as we communicated by email and he suggested a great hotel and provided directions to the start line.

After I felt comfortable how to find my way at 3 am in the dark so I could pick up my race packet and be ready for a 4am start on Sun, I spent the rest of Sat exploring Punda – the main downtown area of Willemstad. I quickly discovered that Curacao – like most Caribbean Islands is expensive! Don’t know how the locals can afford to eat and drink where the tourists go?

I enjoyed a nice pasta dinner overlooking the ocean and retired early for a 2:30 am wake-up call. I wanted to arrive by 3 am thinking that there would be a line-up for race packets? They were just setting up the start line and packet pick up so I talked to Erwin and a few local runners. It was definitely a small, local and low-key race with only 14 runners – all males! The entry fee was 25 Fl ($14 US). There was no race T-shirt, no finisher’s medal or certificate and even the race bib was ‘on loan’ (it had to be returned at the end of the race). Erwin had been kind enough to make up a bib #112 to commemorate Country #112.

It was 79F and 100% humidity (a light drizzle) as we waited in the dark. We were provided with two red strobe lights to attach to our arms so that cars could see us. Erwin explained that there were no course or distance markers, no traffic control and no water stations! Instead of water stations there were 6 bikers/cyclists roaming the course with plastic bags of water and Gatorade for runners. Since I was the only non-resident in the race and had no idea of the course I was provided a dedicated biker (Arthur) who would accompany me throughout the entire race. I offered my apologies to Arthur since he would be out on the course for a very long time!

A local runner told me that the course was tough with a lot of hills and the worst hill was at the start as the course climbed through the back streets of Otrabanda and climbed a fixed-span bridge that soared 200 ft above St Anna Bay. The race started on time and I followed the group of runners as we climbed the 1st mile to the top of the bridge. I tried to keep the runners in sight but could not run the entire mile up the bridge. I became fatigued after ½ mile (thanks to UC) and had to walk. I was in last place when I crested the bridge but was able to run the next mile down the bridge and pass one runner. Maddog was determined NOT to finish last!

Even at 4 am there was lots of traffic on the bridge so there was police support to control the traffic on the bridge. Once we descended and left the bridge there was no more traffic control. Each runner had to watch for cars and make their own way across intersections.
Thank goodness for Arthur! I would have been lost by mile 3 because there were lots of turns and no course markers! Thankfully I had worn my Garmin GPS and could read distance (whenever I could find a street light) to give me an idea how far I had run. The 1st 10K was on major city streets and there were sufficient lights to see the road and course but after the course entered the outskirts lights were scarce and often I could not even see my feet! I passed 6 Miles in 1:11:27 (close to my now standard 12-min race pace). I had hoped to run a cycle of Run-10 min & Walk -1min but there were too many hills. The ‘run’ cycle varied between 7 to 10 min and on some really tough hills I had to walk up the hill and run down the other side.

Arthur missed at turn near 10 miles and luckily a motorcycle cop came by and redirected us back on course (added an extra ¼ mile to my race). While we were stopped and discussing directions the last place runner caught up to us (he missed the turn too or was following us?). I became a wee bit discouraged and allowed that runner to take off and leave me in last place! But Maddog chewed my ass out and I picked up the pace and lengthened the run cycle to R-10 min and passed him again before I reached the Half in 2:40. The sun had risen and I became concerned about how brutal the sun and heat would get during the 2nd half?

I had been drinking 1 sack (about 4 oz) of water every 20 min and taking a GU carbo gel every 40 min with another sack. But now I felt that I was starting to dehydrate so I increased my water intake to 2 sacks every 20 min. I passed mile 16 in 3:18:34. I figured the best I could do over the final 10 miles was a 13-min pace so I would be lucky to finish in 5:30? We lucked in with the weather – the skies stayed overcast and we enjoyed a light drizzle that kept the heat down in the low 80s! Still – when I passed Mile 20 in 4:13:27 my body temp was on fire. Although I was sweating like crazy I could not vent the heat fast enough to keep my body temp near normal. As we turned on to a major road that headed back into town and the finish line I stopped and dug $10 out of my emergency funds and asked Arthur to find a mini mart and buy four 1-liter bottles of ice cold water.

He soon caught back up to me and I poured 1 liter of cold water over my head, neck and body. It felt shockingly and wonderfully COLD and provided the desired effect of lowering my body temp back to normal. As I started to drink the ice cold water I realized that I had become slightly dehydrated and drank the entire bottle. I felt much better. However during my lengthy water stop the last place runner had closed within sight. Fortunately I was able to get my pace back below 13 min/mile and extend the Run cycle to 10 min and quickly leave him behind. When I reached Mile 23 in 4:57:49 my pace had slowed to 15 min/mile. I would be lucky to finish under 5:45? I stopped for a 2nd and final water break – 1 liter on the body and 1 liter in the body. I felt much better again. I couldn’t pick the pace up much but I was able to keep the Run cycle at R-10 min & W -1 min.

As I approached mile 25 I spotted another runner walking ahead and decided to catch him. However when he saw me closing he dug deep and started running. I chased him through the final mile w/o walking but much to his credit he refused to let me catch him. I crossed the finish line in 5:43:23.

There were many runners at the finish line – about 200 runners in a Half and 10K that started at 6am – waiting for the award ceremony. Erwin announced my finish and my running accomplishments so many of the local runners introduced themselves and asked questions. I was awarded a trophy for 1st AG (oldest runner in the race) and for my 112th country.

Again I discovered that a positive upside/benefit to running/walking so slow is that nothing hurts at the end of the marathon – except my pride!

After walking back to the hotel and enjoying a long, hot shower I decided to walk over to Punda for some greasy food and a beer. As I was crossing the Queen Emma bridge (a floating bridge declared a World Heritage Site) and taking photos to share with my readers I struck my head on a Christmas decoration that had been hung too low – but just the right height to peel about one inch of scalp of the top of my head! I was bleeding like a stuck pig! Luckily some kind tourists went to a restaurant for some paper napkins to use as a compress to stop the bleeding. A doctor/tourist proclaimed that I could probably get by w/o stitches. A cop called an ambulance who wanted to charge me $500 to take me to Emergency. I told them what to do with their ambulance. I walked back to the hotel to wash out the wound and my ‘red’ hair. I managed to stop the bleeding and soon returned to Punda for my beers! Brought home an unwanted/undesired souvenir the next day.

Now that I am back home – “What’s next”?

I had a lot of time – almost 6 hrs to contemplate that question during the marathon on Curacao. It is so maddening and frustrating for Maddog to be forced to run and walk a race so slowly! What’s the point in racing if you can’t be competitive and run at a level you are capable of? I am willing to accept the frustration for a bigger goal and for a short term but not for a long time or permanent basis.

I have scheduled and booked 4 international marathons/countries in 2012 that represent the completion of significant goals (world records). I am willing to do whatever it takes to complete those marathons and goals but if the health issues with the UC still continue after the final race – I will hang up my racing shoes! I will quit running marathons and all races!
I would probably still run a few miles each day to stay in shape and enjoy my daily endorphin fix – but No More Races!

I have known that this decision would come eventually. But I expected it to be the result of an injury and hoped that I could switch to biking or swimming as alternative exercises. But this nasty disease has robbed me of that option. I can’t do any exercise which requires anaerobic or fast aerobic effort!

But the fat lady ain’t singing yet! There is still about 9 months for the GI docs to figure out a combination of drugs that might force this disease into remission and let me get my (running) life back?

Stay tuned!

Health update: 1/5/12

I need to apologize to the UC. Even though it is a nasty disease and has greatly impacted my health and running for the past year I falsely blamed it for all my woes during the past few months. The symptoms of fatigue and shortness of breath that I suffered for the past few months are typical of UC and ones I had suffered each time the UC flared up. So I falsely believed all my problems were due to UC and the GI doc was aggressively treating the UC with new drugs and combinations of drugs. When no improvement was seen and in fact the symptoms and my running seem to get worse over the past few races I decided that I should make an appointment with my GP to see if there might be other reasons for the problems?
A few days after I returned from Curacao feeling tired and depressed I met with my GP. Five minutes after checking my heart and doing an EKG in his office I was ordered “to go directly – do not go home or collect $200” to the Cardiac Unit of the Sarasota Hospital! My heart rate was hovering in the low 30s and my heart was experiencing A-Fib (Atrial Fibrillation).
Both the GP and cardiologist were convinced that I needed a pacemaker – immediately!
Needless to say I was in shock. However I did insist that we slow the rush/process down and explore other options. I was not excited about getting a pacemaker!

Fortunately it was decided that a cardio version should be tried to shock the heart back into rhythm and it was successful. I was released from the hospital after a few days and a stress test later that week confirmed that my heart was still in rhythm and the muscle and arteries were in good shape. I started running again and for the first time in months I was able to run w/o suffering fatigue and shortness of breath. I was even able to run at a sub-10 min pace again!
I stopped taking all additional drugs for the UC other than the main one that I must stay on and all the other ‘crappy’ symptoms of that nasty disease quickly disappeared! It is the best I have felt in months – both physically and mentally.

I just completed a 2-week cruise through the Panama Canal over the Christmas Holidays where I truly rested and relaxed for the first time in many years – no running. However I am now ready to resume my normal training program (and lose the 10 lbs gained on the cruise) and get back into ‘marathon’ shape for the 2012 racing season!

Stay tuned!

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

RR - Space Coast Marathon

Race Report
Sun, Nov 27/11
Space Coast Marathon
Cocoa, FL
Marathon #350

This will be another brief report since I was still suffering bad effects of that nasty disease UC and my performance and time is not worth wasting a lot of time writing about! I would have cancelled the race except I was scheduled to run an international marathon one week later and I needed to see if I could “go the distance’ before wasting money on a trip to South America? Also I planned to stay with old friends – the Grubers- in their new home in Cocoa that was conveniently located one block from the start/finish of the race. In retrospect I am now very glad that I did get to spend time with my friends as they received some bad news a few days later (discussed later in the report).

Nicole and I had been spending the Thanksgiving holidays in Kyle, TX with our son Jason, Ami & our precious grandkids. Chris & Ari flew in from Seattle so the whole family was together for Thanksgiving. I ran a few days in Kyle and found I had to struggle just to run a cycle of Run -5 min & Walk – 1 min. That was not a good sign for the upcoming race?

Nevertheless I left TX on Sat morning and arrived in Cocoa later that day. Grube had been kind enough to pick up my race packet which saved a lot of time and allowed me a short rest before we walked to a fine Italian restaurant for pasta dinner. Grubette (Connie) explained that she had been sick with pleurisy for a few weeks and was scheduled for a scan and biopsy on some tumors that had been discovered on her lungs?

Sun was ‘M’ day. I ran the race in 2010 and enjoyed the course along the Indian River. The race started at 6:15 am. I almost missed the start because the alarm clock did not wake me until 5:50 am and I had to rush to the start line that was fortunately only a few blocks away. I did not have enough time to ‘empty’ my system either at the Grubes or at the start so I expected that I would have to make a pit stop early in the race. The weather was hotter than forecast with temps in the low 70s at the start and increased into the low 80s by the finish! Most of the finish times were much slower than normal.

My strategy was to start out with a cycle of R-5 min & W-1 min. After a few cycles I realized that I was having a ‘bad’ UC day and decided to stick to that cycle through the entire race if necessary to finish. By mile Three I was looking for a bush along the Indian River for a pit stop. I reached Mile 5 in 1:00:34 and Mile 10 in 1:59:34 – averaging a 12-min pace in spite of all the walking I was forced to do. When I reached the Half back in downtown Cocoa I took advantage of the many portable toilets at the start line to make another (2nd) major pit stop! I hoped that would ‘empty’ my system and be the final pit stop?

The 2nd half headed south along the Indian River and we met many Half Marathoners on the return loop to the finish line. When I passed 20 M in 4:02:29 I was surprised/frustrated that I needed a 3rd major pit stop - a new record for me! My pace slowed to an average 13-min over the next 5 Km and then slowed more again to a 14-min pace over the final 5 Km as I struggled to keep the tired old legs shuffling to the finish line in 5:24:22. I was determined not to give up and quit even though I was totally fatigued and frustrated with how slow I was ‘running’!

The Grubes had decided to do a 40-mile bike ride while I was running so I wasn’t sure if they would be at the finish line or not. When I couldn’t see them I decided to take the mandatory finish line photo and return to their place. The only positive thing I can see about ‘running’ so slow is that nothing hurts when the race is finished – except your pride!

The Grubes returned shortly after I had a hot shower. Connie was not feeling well after the bike ride so we decided to stay home and watch football and rest. Grube was gracious enough to grill us an excellent steak even after Tebow won the Denver game in overtime (he hates Tebow!).

I left at noon on Mon to pick up Nicole at the Tampa airport as she returned from TX. Connie still was not feeling well and we all hoped that the medical appointments she had that week would provide some answers. Unfortunately the answers were not good! The tumors were cancerous! The doctors still haven’t determined where the cancer originates or how they are going to treat it. We were shocked and sad with the bad news! Our prayers and good wishes are with her through this battle.

The Grubes and I had discussed the frailty and uncertainty of old age and illness during my visit. Little did we realize the significance of our thoughts and opinions? After returning home I had another treatment of the new meds for my UC and then met with the GI doc. I explained that I was disappointed that I had not enjoyed a ‘super’ boost or improvement on the new drugs. He tried to convince me that a 68-year old man with UC should not be running marathons. You can imagine what Maddog’s response was to that advice!

Since I had finished Space Coast w/o dying I figured I could survive my next international marathon in Curacao although I understood it would be harder because of the tropical heat and humidity. And I had a few more days for the new meds to perform a miracle. Did they?

Stay tuned!

Monday, October 24, 2011

TR - Netherlands

Isle of Jersey & Netherlands
9/30 – 10/11/11

Race Results:
Sun, Oct 9/11
Soest, Netherlands
Pijnenburg Bosmarathon
Marathon #349

As I stated at the end of the last report I was on my way to Amsterdam from Jersey to keep a promise made to a friend – “to join him for his 100th marathon”!

I met Jaap Van de Berg in the Faroe Islands. He is a fellow member of the Country Club and a good friend. When he initially invited me to join him in his hometown of Soest I was excited to do so since I was going to be in the neighborhood (Europe) at the time and I expected to be healthy!

I planned to stay one day in Amsterdam to re-visit that city. After taking a train into the Central Station and finding my hotel near Dam Square I explored the city. I quickly discovered that Amsterdam is very expensive! In the evening I walked around the ‘Red Light’ district to window shop. The prostitutes stand in front of glass doors/windows displaying their ass(ets) in bra & panties (or less). Anyone interested in ‘buying’ knocks on the door and negotiates a price! It is quite entertaining – even if you don’t buy anything!

On Wed, Jaap was a kind host and picked me up at the hotel to drive me to Soest. Soest is about 30Km south of Amsterdam. The surrounding area is agricultural – flat and green – so much nicer than the noise and hustle of Amsterdam! The weather had turned miserable – cloudy, cool and rain – not great for touring so I stayed close to my hotel that was located close to the Running Club where the race started/finished. On Thu Jaap had arranged for a friend, a retired military officer – to give us a tour of an air base that had been abandoned by the USA. We were shown a memorial to 33 Dutch citizens who had been shot at that site by Nazis for refusing to work. What shocked me was that Jaap has lived in Soest all his life and had never seen the memorial because the area is prohibited to the public? His friend also gave us a personal, guided tour of the Soest Museum that was closed that day. Then Jaap showed me around his hometown that he is very proud of. Later that evening Jaap and his new bride Mea invited me to their home for a lovely traditional Dutch dinner washed down (of course) with Heineken!

On Sat it rained again for most of the day. I was beginning to worry that the course which was dirt trails through the forest would be wet and muddy and even more worried that it would rain during the race?
On sat evening I was invited to a pasta party at the Running Club who were hosting runners from their sister city of Soest, Germany. A friend, Wolfgang and his wife Giselle, had driven up from Dusseldorf to make a presentation the Club on the Sahara Marathon.

Sun was ‘M’ Day. The race started at 10:30am. It was dry for the start but the trails were a mess. Jaap and I had lots of posing and interviews to make for the local press before the start. The course was a 10.5Km loop though the forests – no roads or streets to cross. Again I started out with a Run/walk strategy. The race had a time limit of 5 ½ hours which could be difficult with the condition of the trails?
I started with a cycle of R-5min & W-1 min. After 5 Km I was in LAST place and increased the cycle to R-1Km & W-1 min. When I completed the 1st loop in 1:15 I was still in LAST place so I decided to increase the cycle to R-2 Km & W-1 min. I finished the 2nd loop in 2:31 and I was still in LAST place!

Around 23Km I finally passed a runner. A race volunteer, (Peter) who had accompanied me throughout the race on a bike informed me that he would have to drop back and follow that runner. Alas – 2 Km later he caught back up to me with the bad news. That runner had dropped out of the race and I was once again in LAST place! To make matters worse (?) it started to rain! At that point I was wondering if Jaap might lap me since I was on schedule to complete the 3rd loop in 3:45? No sooner did I think that when Jaap flew by me. I figured he would finish close to 3:30 – he did finish in 3:29:44 – a great race for him!

When I completed the 3rd loop in 3:50 it was raining hard and my legs were starting to tire. I informed Peter that I was going to reduce the cycle back to R-1Km & W-1 min. for the final loop. Surprisingly I passed another runner around 35 Km. He was suffering severe leg cramps and I tried to encourage and convince him to tough it out and finish (so I wouldn’t be LAST)! Alas- Peter caught up to me about 2 Km later with more bad news. That runner had dropped out and I was in LAST place again! He asked me if I was going to make it (I think he hinted that he was hoping I might quit) but I informed him that ‘quit’ was not in Maddog’s vocabulary! As we passed volunteers along the course for the final time I thanked each and every one for staying there in the cold and rain and suggested they go home for a hot bath and cold beer. All of them knew my name (from pre-race publicity with Jaap) and had cheered me through all 4 laps! Although I was getting close to the cut-off time I kept moving the tired old legs and crossed the finish line in 5:23:55. Jaap was waiting at the finish line to hang a finisher’s medal around my neck and Wolfgang was there to take the photo.

We retreated to the Club house for a beer but suddenly the cold and wet clothes started to bother me so I requested a ride back to the hotel for a hot shower. I think I stayed under that shower for at least 30 min? Jaap had arranged for a friend to drive me back to Amsterdam and to a hotel near the airport since I had an early morning flight home. Jaap and Mea came to the hotel to say bye and thank me for coming. I was glad that I had kept my promise!

I am back home and slowly recovering from the UC flare-up. The leg injuries seem to be behind me so hopefully I will be able to resume my normal training soon and begin the long, slow process of getting back into ‘marathon’ shape.

Stay tuned!

TR - Isle of Jersey

Isle of Jersey & Netherlands
9/30 – 10/11/11

Race Results:
Sun, Oct 2/11
St Helier, Isle of Jersey
Jersey Marathon
Marathon #348 – Country #111

I almost didn’t write this trip report! I was so frustrated and bummed out with the poor performances and health issues that I didn’t want to bore anyone with the ongoing saga. However one of my friends suggested I should still write a brief report and I do need to thank friends for their support and hospitality at both races so here goes.

If the races and trip had not been international (i.e. one new country to add to my list) and paid for I would have cancelled the trip at the last minute because of a major flare-up with the UC. I literally met with my GI doc a few hours before flight time to get some additional meds to take with me in the hopes it would help control the UC?

When I arrived in Jersey I was pleasantly surprised to find my friend Tony Hancock waiting for me in ‘Arrivals’. I met Tony during the Inca Trail Marathon (Peru) and we keep in touch. Tony lives near London and has a girl friend (Sue) in Jersey. Tony was kind enough to accompany me on the bus into the Central Bus station in St Helier. Race registration and packet pick-up were located one block from the station so I was able to pick up my race packet on the way to the hotel. The Jersey Evening Post had published a supplement for the race that included a nice article on Maddog so I was asked to sign a few autographs during packet pick-up. Later that evening I joined Tony, Sue and her daughter Jen for a lovely pasta dinner.

Sun was ‘M’ Day. The race started and finished in Liberation Square in St Helier. Europe was experiencing record temps for Oct and the forecast was for HOT temps – in the 80s! It was sunny and warm at the 9 am start. Because of injury and health issues I was forced (yet again) to adopt a run/walk race strategy with a primary goal of finishing. I started with a cycle of Run-5 min & Walk-1 min. However by mile 5 I realized I was in LAST place and that was not acceptable to Maddog so I increased the cycle to R-1 Mile & W-1 min. I passed a few runners before reaching the Half in 2:31 and that made me feel better. But I knew the 2nd Half would be even slower because it was getting hotter! There were several relay teams and the relay race started 30 min later so runners kept passing me throughout the race and that was frustrating – except when pretty young ladies ran by me and shouted “well done John/Maddog”. They recognized me from the article in the race supplement. The sad news was that I was in such bad shape that I couldn’t stay with them to chat! As I approached Mile 20 in 3:56 I was staring to wilt from the heat. Fortunately much of the course was on dirt bike trails that were shaded and the next two miles of shade provided some relief and I was able to struggle across the finish line in 5:19:55.

After a brief interview with the local paper I joined Tony, Sue & Jen for a cold beer at the finish line. Then I crawled back to the hotel for a long hot shower before returning to the finish area to join a friend, Jack Brooks, and other fellow members of the 100 Marathon Club (UK) for more beer and a celebration dinner. One member had completed his 100th marathon at the race!

The weather continued to be sunny and warm on Mon so I joined a group to tour the entire island and enjoy the typical tourist sites – the German bunkers at Noirmont Point, Corbiere Point, St Brelade’s Bay, Gorey and Mont Orgueil Castle, etc (see photos). Jersey is a pretty island and there seems to be a lot of money since the houses were huge and I didn’t see any slums?

On Tue the weather returned to normal – cloudy & cool – and I walked around St Helier to buy the required souvenirs, take more photos and enjoy a pleasant seafood dinner at the Fisherman’s Market.

On Wed I had to catch a cab to the airport for a very early morning flight back to Gatwick and on to Amsterdam. I still wasn’t feeling well and would have cancelled that portion of the trip if I had not promised a friend, Jaap, that I would join him to run his 100th marathon in his hometown of Soest, Netherlands! Maybe the UC would calm down and I would feel better by the weekend?

Stay tuned!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

TR -Isle of Man

8/10 – 8/16/11

Race Results
Sun, Aug 14/11
Ramsey, Isle of Man
Isle of Man Marathon
Marathon #347 – Country # 110

Where and how to start this report? There were a number of events that occurred leading up to this race that are important to better understand the story. So I am including a prologue or background section to fill in this information.


Planning for this race began about one year ago after the Country Club reversed a decision that the Isle of Man and other Channel Islands were not considered ‘countries’. Some Brits and European members protested that decision and submitted data to support their claim. The most significant criteria was data provided by Wikipedia that stated that these British colonies were not part of the UK or EU and competed against the UK in the Commonwealth games. One of the fundamental rules of the Country Club is that if a ‘nation’ is recognized as a country by an International Sports Organization such as the IOC, FIFA or the Commonwealth Games then it is accepted as a ‘country’ by the Country Club.
This decision reversal was good & bad news for Maddog. He now had to run 3 additional countries in Europe to maintain his claim that he had completed every country in Europe – but at least the countries were easy to get to! IOM was the first marathon in the Channel Islands scheduled for 2011.

Since I had not been back to Europe for 5 years I decided to arrange my trip through London and stay over for a few days to visit friends I had not seen for a few years. When I used to travel through London I always stayed with a good friend, Tad Lancucki, and he graciously offered to host me again. Another friend, Roger Biggs, offered to join me to run the marathon and help set up the travel/hotels etc in IOM. Everything was going smoothly until March when I received the shocking and tragic news that Tad had died suddenly and unexpectently of a heart attack! We were all saddened by this terrible news! Our one consolation was that Tad knew he had bad genes and had retired at the age of 44 (same age his father died of a heart attack) and enjoyed 17 years of adventure and fun before his bad genes got the best of him. There is a moral or lesson in this sad news that needs to be heeded by many readers of this blog!

After we let the shock of the tragic news pass Roger jumped to the rescue and scrambled to rearrange the logistics of the trip for the time we were to spend at Tad’s. Then I thought “everything is fine”?
Until early April when an orthoped informed me that I had a stress fracture in my left fibula and needed to take 6 to 8 weeks off from running. As most of you know that ‘rest’ seriously hampered my training and marathons I had planned before IOM. After running/walking the next 3 marathons and moving to our summer home at 9,000 ft in the Rockies I was finally starting to get back in shape. Three weeks before the IOM marathon I was able to run 13 miles at 9,000 ft w/o walking! I felt encouraged that with 3 more weeks of training I would be able to run close to 4 hrs in IOM. Until late July when some friends who were staying with us asked me to join them to run the Vail Half Marathon. It is a tough trail course and I thought it would be a good training run. I was worried about an injury and decided to run easy and not take any risks? However 8 miles and 3,500 vertical feet into the race I heard and felt a ‘pop’ in my right calf. As I was carried off the mountain on an ATV I kept asking “what have I done to myself and the IOM marathon”? I had torn the calf muscle and to complicate matters we were scheduled to leave 2 days later for a family wedding in Canada and thus I was not able to schedule any PT (physical therapy).
I could barely walk during our visit and when I returned to Colorado I immediately scheduled PT in the hope that it might expedite the healing process. I also forced myself to walk every day and started to include short runs. At first I couldn’t run longer than 30 to 60 secs but one week later (and 4 PT sessions) I had built up to 10 miles with a cycle of Run 5 min & Walk 1 min. That equated to a 13-min pace which would be good enough to finish the IOM marathon under the 6-hr limit! My biggest concern was “would the injured calf hang together for 26 miles”? But I had no option other than hope as I departed Colorado for London.

And now the race story begins.

Race Story:

I arrived at LHR in the early morning and was greeted by a smiley and cheerful Roger. It was 2 am –my body time – so I was not smiling. We drove around London on the M 25 to the village of Copthorne that is close to Gatwick airport where we were to depart early the next morning for IOM. We stayed with John Gilbert and Pam Story – 2 ultra marathoners and members of the 100 Marathon Club (UK). Gil & Pam are also included in the ‘Messengers’ book but I had not met them before. Nobody seemed to mind when I slipped away to sleep for 4 hrs. Later we enjoyed a pleasant stroll through Copthorne and a nice feed of fish & chips at a local pub. I slept 11 hrs before we headed to Gatwick and departed for IOM.

Roger had booked a rental car for 2 pm. We arrived at 1 pm and the rental agency would not let us have the car until 2 pm? I bit my tongue so I wouldn’t appear to be ‘an ugly American’ – Roger said it wouldn’t do any good? Finally we got a car and drove into Douglas to find our B & B. I was glad that Roger was driving. The country and roads reminded me of Ireland. Everything is green and the roads are very narrow with hedges and rock walls along both sides! The island is not that big – 572 sq Km and a population of 80,000. The cities and towns are quite small.

After checking in we decided to leave the car parked and explore the capital city on foot. High Street was only a few blocks from the hotel and within 2 blocks and 30 min I had collected all ‘required’ souvenirs – postcards, teaspoon and silver charm. That is a record – it often takes me 2 to 3 days to collect all the required souvenirs. We enjoyed another good feed of fish & chips at a chippy shop.
Another friend and Country Club member, Edson Sanches, was supposed to arrive that evening so I left a message that we planned to tour the island on Sat morning.

The weather looked like it might cooperate on Sat with cloudy skies and no rain as Roger and I ( couldn’t find Edson) drove north to Laxey to check out the Great Laxey Wheel – a giant wheel with a diameter of 72.5 ft built in 1854 to pump water out of the lead and zinc mines in Laxey. We planned to take an electric train from Laxey to the summit of Snaefell Mtn but we figured it was too overcast and we wouldn’t see much so we continued on to Ramsey where the race would start/finish. We saw part of the race course as we drove over to the Atlantic Coast and south to the town of Peel. There we visited the Peel Castle and the House of Manannan. (Lots of photos posted to my photo website). Then we continued on to Castletown, the ancient capital of IOM. We strolled by Rushen Castle, the Old House of Keys and along the town center before heading back to Douglas. As we approached Douglas the sun had burned off the clouds and we decided to drive back to Laxey to take the electric train to the summit of Snaefell Mtn (2036 ft). It was an interesting ride and I couldn’t help but notice the similarity to the terrain and environment of the Rocky Mtns even though the mtn is only 2036 ft. The tree line ended around 1200 ft and alpine meadows climbed to the summit. And it was much colder – about 20 degrees – at the summit. We could see Scotland and England from the summit but Wales was obscured by clouds. We had toured the whole island in one day. Back in Douglas we finally found Edson at his hotel and enjoyed a nice pasta dinner on High St.

Sun was M-day. The race started at 9 am so we ate a light breakfast and then picked up Edson for the drive to Ramsey. Packet pick up was at the start line in Ballacloan Stadium in Ramsey. My only complaint about the pre-race logistics was the lack of toilets – only 4 toilets in the club house - for more than 300 runners. I had to find a bush near the stadium! The weather was nice – sunny and temps in the low 50s at the start. The marathon started at 9 am and the Half at 9:30 am. I had decided to wear a compression sock on my right leg in the hopes that it would help to hold the injured calf together? Since the leg felt OK my race strategy was to go out at a cycle of Run 5 min & Walk 1 min. The course was a half-marathon loop with the first 5 miles being hilly and the highest point at 5 miles (259 ft). Edson was suffering from a hip injury and figured he would run a 5-hr race. We started together but he would leave me behind each time I walked and then I would catch up again during my run cycle. When we passed mile 3 in 32:24 I was quite pleased – averaging an 11-min pace. The next two miles included the BAH. When I reached mile 6 in 1:05:08 and a split of 10:36 the leg still felt OK and I decided to increase the cycle by 1 min each cycle until I reached a cycle of Run 10 min & Walk 1 min. I was a wee bit discouraged when the Half Marathon leaders blew by me around 7 miles – they were running twice as fast as my pace! I caught Edson at 10 miles (1:47:25) and we ran together to the Half. The compression sock seemed to be helping the injured calf but by 10 miles I could feel a blister starting to form on my big toe. By the time we passed the Half in 2:19:05 I was concerned that the blister would get worse so I stopped and took off the compression sock to check for a blister. Thankfully there was no blister but the toe was red and raw so I rubbed Vaseline on my toes and only put the double-layer sock back on. The foot felt much better!

Edson had continued on and by the time I reached the top of the BAH for the 2nd time at Mile 17 in 3:06:45 I couldn’t see him? Those hills seemed to be much harder the 2nd time around? I guessed that he might have made a pit stop and was behind me? Since the leg still felt OK I increased the cycle to Run 2 Miles & Walk 1 min. Edson caught me at Mile 19 in 3:30:01. We had 90 min to run the final 7 miles – a 13-min pace – to break 5 hrs! Edson declared that he was going to stay with me and drag my sorry ass across the finish line under 5 hrs! We (read I) did OK until Mile 23 (4:16:00) and then I ran out of gas. It is difficult to maintain the required level of aerobic conditioning to run 26 miles w/o being able to train. We had 44 min to cross the finish line and I knew we could do that even if we slowed down. I told Edson to go on ahead but he refused! He nagged/pulled/pushed me to hold the pace. I didn’t care if I finished in 4:59:59 but Edson said that was not acceptable. I finally told him to f%*k off and leave me alone – but he refused! When we reached Mile 25 in 4:40:37 and a split of 12:41 I told him that I was going to walk 2 min so I could run to the finish line. Thank goodness the final mile was a gentle decline so all I had to do was lift my feet and let gravity drag me to the finish line. At Mile 26 Edson stopped and told me to go across the finish line first. Maddog wasn’t willing to accept that! I grabbed his hand and we crossed the finish line together in 4:55:13!

I was in bad shape. I was totally exhausted and felt nauseous! From previous experience I knew that I was suffering from low blood sugar - that happens when I push the old bod beyond its limits. I stumbled into the clubhouse looking for sugar – preferably a coke. However pop and beer had to be purchased at a bar. I wasn’t sure if I could find my warm-up bag and money before puking or passing out? Luckily Roger was in the club house. He had finished in 4:09 – and already had a shower and lunch. I asked him to buy me a coke while I wolfed down two large pieces of chocolate cake covered in icing and then washed them down with the coke. Within a few minutes I could feel the sugar coursing through my system and I felt much better and recovered quickly.

We stayed in the stadium for the awards. Maddog received an award for completing Country #110.
Then we drove back to the hotel over the IOM TT course – where the annual TT motorcycle race is held.
After a hot shower and another coke I felt much better and walked down to the Promenade to take more photos of Douglas. Later we met a bunch of friends/members of the 100 Marathon Club for a few beers and dinner.

Roger and I had an early afternoon flight back to Gatwick so we explored more of the city on foot to take more photos. We arrived at Gatwick in the late afternoon and drove around London on the M25 to St Albans – north of the city. We joined another good friend, Jack Brooks, who was hosting us for the night for a great pub dinner and lots of English ale – maybe too much ale (although a few were hoisted to our fallen comrade Tad) because I was not too eager to wake up at 5am for the drive to LHR. It was a lonnngggg flight home!

I am back home in Colorado. After a 12-hr sleep to adjust the body clock from GMT to MT I went for an easy 10-mile run. The leg felt OK so imagine my disappointment when the PT dug her fingers into the scar tissue in the calf – and I jumped two feet off the table in pain? We quickly surmised that many more PT sessions are needed before the calf is ready for hard/fast training.

Fortunately I have 6 weeks before my next adventure and two international marathons – back in the Channel Islands and Europe!

Stay tuned!

Thursday, June 30, 2011

TR - Philippines

East Timor & Philippines
6/14 – 6/28/11
Part #2

Sun, Jun 26/11
Manila, Philippines
Manila International Marathon
Marathon # 346 – Country # 109

Now where was I? Oh yes – on a plane from Singapore to Manila for the next marathon/adventure of this trip. I arrived early afternoon on Wed and my first experience in the Philippines was a wild/exciting taxi ride to my hotel. It quickly became clear as my fingers dug into the dash and my foot was trying to push an imaginary brake through the floor that the only rule for driving in Manila was “there were no rules”! The driver laughed and explained “the marked lanes on the roads and traffic lights are only suggestions – nobody pays any attention to them”! But we did make it to the hotel safely.

After checking in I explored the area close to the hotel on foot to get my bearings. The hotel was in downtown Manila – an area called Malate where the marathon started/finished. This is the business, tourist and ‘red light’ district of Manila. I quickly discovered the 3 ‘H’s – hawkers/homeless/hookers!
The street hawkers were hawking many products and typically in this order:
1) Money exchange. This is typically a scam where they short change the tourist.
2) Viagra and Cialis at bargain rates. I was advised by a hooker that these products were fake.
3) Fake Rolex watches – but at least you knew they were fake.
4) A ‘pretty lady’. Many had an 8x10 sheet of photos of the available stable.
5) If all the above products failed then the really good hawkers would offer a ‘pretty boy’?
I am sure that the offerings/products didn’t end there. I believe you can buy anything you want in Manila?

Next were the homeless –hundreds of them sleeping and begging in the streets. I ignored them and refused to give them any money. A few times they tried to pick my pocket and grab my watch and I would have to shout a stern “NO” and slap their hands! However whenever I ate a meal I would leave some and have it packed in a doggy bag (or homeless bag) and give it to a kid on the way back to the hotel.

Lastly but not least were the hookers – thousands of them! Many were selling on the street and many from shops or bars that advertised a basic rate of 930 pesos ($22 US). At first it was amusing – but quickly became annoying! I avoided going into any hooker bars because hookers would swarm all over the customers and a scam warned in the guide book was that they would drop drugs into a customer’s drink and they would wake up later in alley w/o money/watch/passport, etc. I tried to find a regular bar to enjoy a cool beer but even there I was harassed by hookers. But at least the bar served my beer with a napkin stuffed into and wrapped around the neck of the bottle so that no drugs could be placed in to the beer. I held that beer closely and never let it out of my sight! And I never returned to another bar – I either bought beer at a convenience store and drank it in my room or used the bar in the hotel.

The good hotels had security at the entrance that kept the 3 Hs out of the hotel. Luxury hotels had security and metal detectors but that was like going through an airport every time you entered the hotel. Another option I soon discovered was a huge modern shopping mall (Robinsons) a few blocks from the hotel. It also had security at every entrance to prohibit the 3 Hs. There were many fast food restaurants and a few good restaurants inside the mall and I am almost embarrassed to admit that I ate most of my meals there because of the safe and hassle-free environment.

I managed to shop and buy many of my ‘required’ country souvenirs at that mall which was convenient. The one item I couldn’t find was a silver charm for Nicole’s charm bracelet. After checking several souvenirs shops in Malate I still came up blank and I realized this item was going to be difficult to find? After dinner (at the mall) it was raining hard when I returned to the hotel. On Thu I planned to run a few easy miles but it was still raining hard and blowing like crazy? I asked the desk clerk for the weather forecast. I was informed that a typhoon was approaching the Philippines and would be slamming the country for the next 3 or 4 days! Oh! Oh! How would that affect the marathon? I called Dino, the race director, who advised me that the race would go on – ‘rain or shine’. He wanted to meet me at the hotel to personally deliver the race packet but I asked him to wait till my friend, Edson arrived from NYC to join me.

I thought about running in the rain but realized that a huge blister I had developed on my left heel during the Dili Marathon was bothering me? I visited a few pharmacies trying to find a special band aid called a blister patch or ‘2nd skin’ to cushion the heel but those products were not available in Manila. Out of desperation I visited a Chinese Pharmacy – they have been healing blisters for thousands of years with herbs, etc? I described my problem to a young clerk who translated to a little old Chinese lady who mixed me up a special salve. I asked what was in the salve but she wouldn’t tell me? So I told the clerk that I would use it but if my left foot fell off I was coming back to complain! She translated that to the little old Chinese lady who must have thought that was funny because she was laughing hysterically as I left the shop? The salve did work and my foot never fell off!

Later that afternoon Typhoon Falcon slammed into Manila and the winds and rain were torrential! At dinner time the typhoon was raging and the streets were flooded and I wisely refused to leave the hotel. I ate dinner in the hotel – it was convenient and dry – but the food was mediocre. I was again worried about the marathon and also about Edson making it to Manila? On Fri morning the winds and rain let up for a few hours – long enough so that Edson’s flight from Hong Kong arrived safely. I joined him at the Hyatt Hotel – one of those luxury hotels I was talking about. I thought it was overpriced and on top of that they wanted to nickel and dime us for every added item. I refused to pay $20/day for internet access (it was free at my previous hotel where the hotel rate was half the Hyatt).

By dinner time Typhoon Falcon was raging again and the streets were flooded again. Now we were really worried about the race. I tried to phone Dino but couldn’t get an answer? On Sat morning the winds and rain let up again and it actually looked like the weather was clearing up? Friends of Edson’s had left a phone message that their flight from the US to Manila had been diverted to Malaysia on Fri. and they were returning to the US? I finally managed to reach Dino and was not ready for the BAD news! The race committee had met Fri night during the height of the typhoon and decided to cancel the race – actually postpone it until Sept 18/11. We were stunned initially and then I explained very emphatically to Dino that we had paid a lot of money to come to Manila to run a marathon – and we were going to run a marathon – ‘no matter what’!

Dino apologized, said that he understood our position and offered to provide any help he could. We agreed to meet at 4 pm to discuss the situation. In the meantime the weather did improve. The wind and rain stopped so Edson and I decided to walk over to the start/finish line and check out part of the marathon course. Our thoughts were that we should try to use as much of the official course as possible to create our own route/course. The official course ran along Manila Bay – a 10.5 Km loop out and back that had to be completed twice. We walked a section of the course along Bayfront Walk – a pedestrian walk that was about 2 miles long. We figured the worse case was run that 2-mile loop 13 times? By circumstance Dino’s running shop was located near the Bayfront Walk so we visited the store to check the list of runners. There were 5 runners from the USA (two had notified us that they were returning to the US) but maybe we could get the other American and foreign runners to join us? The shop was full of runners picking up their race packets and being informed that the race was cancelled! I made an announcement in the store that we had travelled all the way from the USA at great expense and we were not going home w/o running the marathon! I invited the local runners to join us at the start line at the official start time of 4am. A few indicated that they would join us. We were optimistic that we might get 8 to 10 runners to join us to run the marathon?

Later we met Dino. He delivered our race packets with Bib #s and race T-shirt. He had kindly reserved Bib #109 for me to commemorate Country # 109! We discussed the race. I believe that Dino was already regretting the decision of the Committee to cancel because the weather had cleared up and it looked like it would be nice on Sun? We told him about our plan and asked how much of the official course we could run ‘safely’. He offered to drive us over the course and we confirmed that if we stayed on the bay side of the road we could safely run the entire course. There was one section from 9 to 10.5 Km that was along a major road but there was a narrow sidewalk we could use. While we were driving the course many runners called to ask and then complain about the race being cancelled and Dino informed them of our plan and invited them to join us. The next problem was water? Because the route would have lots of people using it we couldn’t leave or hide water because it would probably be stolen. We couldn’t carry enough water to last 5 hrs? Dino offered to provide a support van to follow us and provide water and any other support needed. He also offered to provide a local runner to guide/pace us through the course. We were satisfied – the race was on!

Edson and I enjoyed a nice pasta dinner, retired early and arrived at the start line about 10 minutes before start time. We had purchased several bottles of water to place in the support van. Thankfully Dino was there as promised. We were joined by another foreign runner from Korea, a pacer and 14 local runners! We explained to Dino and our pacer that our goal was to finish under the official course time limit of 5 hrs! We started promptly at 4 am. The temp was 77 F and it was humid after all the rain!
I felt sorry for the pacer because I asked him what his normal time was for a marathon – sub 2:50. I know how difficult – and painful – it can be to slow your pace down that much! But he was a trooper and stayed with us and shouted out major distance markers as we passed them. We were lucky and appreciative that Dino was supporting us because the Baywalk was full of homeless people sleeping. We could not have left any water along that section of the course! And it was more difficult than expected at our informal water stops. The van had to find a place to stop and we had to open doors, get our water, drink, return the water, etc. A typical water stop wasted 2 to 3 minutes! We passed 5Km in 34:29 and 10Km in 1:08:35. The section we assumed would be difficult was OK on the 1st loop since there was not much traffic but we still sucked in a lot of exhaust fumes from cars and buses. The rest of the course was fairly safe since it was used by local runners and bikers as their usual training routes. We couldn’t believe how many people we had to share the course with at 5 am? But it made us feel safer. We finished the 1st loop and Half in 2:20:20. I knew the 2nd half would not be that fast because of the heat and humidity but I figured if we ran/slowed to 2:30 we would still beat the time limit. I told Edson that I wanted to stick to a more regimented run/walk cycle in the 2nd Half: run – 20 min and walk-1min. We were surprised and a little upset when the Korean dropped out at that point. We had stopped and walked a few times to let him catch up since we figured that he was going to stay with us for the entire marathon? Our pacer also dropped out but he was replaced by another pacer on a bike. He carried our water on the bike and this made for smoother and quicker water stops. By the time we reached the ‘difficult’ section at 31Km I was overheating and my old bod was having difficulty venting heat to cool down. I started to struggle during that brief loop along the major road and we reached 34Km in 4:00:48. We had 1 hour to finish the final 8 Km. Edson started to worry about beating the 5-hr time limit but I knew that we would be OK as long as we stuck to a regimented run/walk cycle. My legs were fading because of the heat and humidity and I told Edson that I was going to reduce the cycle to run-15 min and walk-1min. He was worried about the time limit and started to push the pace. I had no push left in my tired old legs and sadly let him go ahead. But I managed to keep him in sight. I asked the pacer to let me know when we had 5 Km and 3 Km left so that I could be sure to beat the time limit. When I reached 39Km with 30 min left I finally was confident that sub-5 hrs was in the bag and I let myself relax and cruise to the finish line in 4:51:16. Edson finished in 4:48:13.

Dino was waiting for us at the finish line. After some finish line photos and a brief rest to cool down Dino awarded Edson and I with finisher certificates and medals from the official marathon. Everyone was happy with the outcome. The locals had run the race as a training run and planned to run the race again in Sept. We walked back to our hotel for a long hot soak and shower. The typhoon had prevented me from exploring the city and countryside but now I was determined to do both before I left Manila. Thus I joined a group of tourists for a city tour on Sun afternoon while Edson rested and slept.

The city tour started with a visit to Makati, the financial district of Manila. It is modern, clean – no 3 Hs to contend with! We passed several luxurious, gated communities where expats and rich locals live. We visited the American Memorial Cemetery where 17,000 Americans from WW II are buried. The tour then passed through Pasay City and Malate to stop at Rizal Park – a National Park in the center of the city that is dedicated to the Philippine national hero Dr Jose Rizal. Rizal Park contains a monument to Rizal and a huge relief map of the Philippines. The final stop was Intramuros – the old city- settled by the Spanish in 1572. We visited the Manila Cathedral and Fort Santiago – built by the Spanish in 1572 to protect the city. The tour provided us with a brief overview of Manila and its history. Unfortunately – stops at a few souvenir shops still didn’t produce the much-needed charm for Nicole’s bracelet.

That evening Edson and I enjoyed a celebration and farewell dinner before departing on Mon. Edson had an early flight back to the US and since I had an evening flight I booked a tour to Tagaytay to get out of the city and explore the countryside. Tagaytay is located 60Kms south of Manila in the Cavite province. It is located on a ridge overlooking Lake Taal and the Taal Volcano. On the way to Tagaytay we stopped in Las Pinas to visit the San Jose Church that houses a bamboo organ built in 1816. The organ and sound is so unique and special that a Bamboo Organ Festival is held every year and top organists around the world are invited to visit and play the organ.

After leaving the church we visited a Jeepney factory. The guide introduced me to the owner who claimed he used to run marathons until his knees gave out. When he heard that I came to Manila just to run a marathon he gave me a personal tour of his factory. It was interesting. The original Jeepneys were built from surplus Jeeps left by the Americans after WW II. The chassis was cut and extended much like stretch limos in the US. Today each Jeepney is built by hand from scratch. The engines and transmission are Isuzu from Japan. The chassis and length is custom built to specs requested by each buyer. There are no electronics. The entire vehicle is strictly mechanical so that it can be easily repaired and maintained by anyone with basic mechanical skills.

We arrived in Tagaytay in time to enjoy lunch in a nice restaurant overlooking Lake Taal and the Taal Volcano. The lake and volcano lie within a massive prehistoric volcano crater. Taal Volcano is an island in the middle of the lake formed by an eruption in 1911. It is no longer active but recently has started spewing sulphur fumes so trekking tours to the island and volcano have been cancelled. I enjoyed the best meal I ate in the Philippines – a whole grouper grilled over charcoal and washed down with a few San Miguel beers while enjoying the fantastic views of Lake Taal and the Taal Volcano! On the way back to Manila we passed through an agricultural valley (pineapples on sale for 5 pesos or 12 cents) and an industrial section of Manila with many auto plants. It was a nice trip and day out of Manila. I told the guide about my search for a charm and he made a slight detour to the largest souvenir shop in the city. They didn’t have a charm that represented Manila (I would have liked a Jeepney) but they did have a charm that would work. Success finally!

When I returned to the hotel I still had a few hours to kill before going to the airport. I decided a massage would be nice and useful to prevent problems with DVT on the long journey home. But the problem was where to find a legitimate massage? There are hundreds of massage shops in Manila but most of them offered ‘Happy’ massages as I call them. I remembered passing a Spa near the Italian restaurant so returned there and spoke to the manager and masseuse. Yes – they only offered legit massages and the masseuse was qualified to provide a deep-tissue massage. I booked 2 hrs for $20!
The masseuse was tiny – maybe 4 ft 10 in and 90 pounds max – but she had fingers of steel! It didn’t take her long to find and fix a lot of aches and pains I didn’t even know I had. I left feeling good – not ‘Happy’ – and asking the question: “Why can’t I get rates like this back home”? I would get a massage every day!

After another exciting taxi ride to the airport I was on my way back to Singapore. I had a 10-hr layover in Singapore and had wisely booked a room for 9 hrs in the transit hotel inside the airport. After a good sleep, shower and breakfast I was ready for the 30 hrs of flights and airports home. And with a good massage – no DVT!

I am back home and suffering severe jet lag. I stay up as late as possible – go to bed – sleep two hrs and then at midnight I am wide awake and can’t sleep. My old bod still thinks it is 8 am in East Timor and wants to get up?

On top of that I need to resume training for my next international marathon in 6 weeks. I had just acclimated to the high altitude before I left for this trip and have now lost all that advantage and have to start all over again! Based on my performances in the past two races I am still not in shape to run an entire marathon so I have lots of work to do!

Stay tuned!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

TR - East Timor

East Timor & Philippines
6/14 – 6/28/11
Part #1

Sat, Jun 18/11
Dili Peace Marathon
Dili, East Timor, Oceania
Marathon #345 – Country # 108

Before I even start this report I am sure I need to answer the question “Where is East Timor”? East Timor or ‘Timor-Leste’ is located in the South Pacific – about 400Km north of Darwin, Australia. As I soon discovered it is difficult to get to – daily flights from Darwin or a few flights each week from Singapore.
Since this trip started out with the purpose of running a marathon in Manila and the Dili Marathon only got added when I realized it was one week before Manila – I was locked into flying to/from East Timor via Singapore. Adding the marathon and the destination really increased the complications and cost of the trip – but I figured I could average the costs over two races.

I had such a difficult time trying to book flights that I finally contacted a travel agent in Canada who was an authorized agent of Air Timor. He booked the entire journey for me which required multiple layovers in Singapore since we booked Singapore Air for the rest of the trip. On the outgoing leg I reached Singapore 35 hrs after leaving home in CO. I was faced with a 6-hr layover in Singapore. I had initially been informed that I would have to leave the airport (through immigration and customs) and then return to get a boarding pass and check bags with Air Timor. Thus I did not bother trying to book a ‘nap’ room at the transit hotel in the airport. Fortunately I managed to get Singapore Air to check my bags straight through to East Timor and did not have to leave the airport. Unfortunately I now had 6 hrs to kill in the airport – and all ‘nap’ rooms were full! I was so tired and in need of lying down horizontally that I slept 4 hrs on the airport floor. Finally 41 hrs after leaving home I arrived in Dili.

On the flight to Dili I sat next to a lovely young lady (Crissy) from NYC who worked for the NY Runner’s Club. She had been working with the East Timor Sports Federation to help put together programs to teach the ET youth to run. She planned to provide on-site assistance and training during the marathon and would remain for a few days after to visit schools in ET. Thankfully her driver showed up at the airport and she offered to drop me off at my hotel. She was also met by a race volunteer who provided us with a lot of details about the race. The USS Cleveland – an amphibious transport ship - was anchored in the Dili harbor and the ship had volunteered to provide medical staff for the race.

The hotel I booked was on the east side of Dili – the undeveloped area of Dili. It looked like a UN compound. 80% of the guests were UN staff and police. Everyone was carrying a gun? I felt very safe!
Independence and peace (obtained in 2002 after several years of war) are still fragile and the UN force is needed to stabilize the peace and help the country get back on its feet. There is very little infrastructure and NO tourist infrastructure! ET has not been discovered by tourists yet. It is the poorest country in Asia. The locals are very poor and live in slums w/o plumbing, AC, electricity, etc. Only the UN and embassy staffs and foreign workers (mostly from Australia) have money. Hotels are cheap ($50/night) but most are dumps. There are no American fast food restaurants and much to my surprise no Italian restaurant in the country! There are no hospitals in ET – there are some medical clinics operated by charities that offer basic medical treatment to the poor. The guide book strongly recommended that a visitor purchase trip/medical insurance because any serious illness/injury might require a med-vac to Australia or home! I also followed recommendations to update all vacinations and take medicione for malaria prevention.

I desperately tried to stay awake long enough to enjoy a nice seafood dinner on the beach across from the hotel before crashing early. I had been up for 48 hrs! On Fri morning I decided to run an ‘easy’ 5 miles along the beach road even though it was the day before the marathon. I had not run all week and needed to loosen the legs up! After breakfast it was time to explore the city and find the marathon expo at the President’s Palace. I quickly had to learn to become proficient at negotiating with the taxi drivers.
Dili is not big but it is spread out along the Timor Sea and it is too hot to walk far so taxis are the only mode of transportation. The standard fare is $1 (US) for a short ride but of course the taxi drivers try to screw all foreigners by charging double or triple. I found it to be a hassle and walked most places until the sun got too hot and then I was glad to pay almost any price to ride!

After a $3 taxi ride to the President’s Palace (located far out in the west end) I found the race expo and Melanie – the race volunteer whom I had interfaced with on the Net. She had kindly reserved Bib #1108 for me to commemorate Country #108. (marathon #s started at 1000 so #108 was not possible). There were three races – marathon, Half and 7Km. Each race had distinctive bib colors and numbers so runners could recognize competitors. There were about 100 runners in the marathon, 400 in the Half and 7,000 (mostly local kids) in the 7 Km. I didn’t recognize any runners in the marathon and I was the only American who had travelled from the USA specifically for the race. There were a few Americans who were UN staff. Melanie requested that I do an interview for a documentary being filmed on the race by an Australian crew. Most of the professionals in the country are from Australia (not a big surprise because of the ties and proximity).

I asked Melanie and the Aussies about an Italian restaurant for pasta – there is no Italian restaurant in the country but fortunately many restaurants do serve pizza and pasta. On the way back to the hotel I stopped at a tour agency to enquire about tours. I already knew that I wanted to get ‘out of town’ after the race. As I said there is no tourist infrastructure and no ‘canned’ tours. The agency could customize any tour for a fee of $180/day. Too expensive! Luckily a young Swiss couple walked in at the very same time with the same request and same comment. We huddled and decided to share the cost of a 2-day tour to the eastern regions of ET.

My next challenge was to find the ‘typical’ souvenirs that I purchase in each country –postcards, a souvenir teaspoon and a silver charm for Nicole’s charm bracelet. I knew it was going to be a BIG challenge. There are no tourist shops. There is a Tais market that sells local handicraft and tais (a special woven fabric) and local carvings but no cards and no spoons? I found postcards in a gift shop at the best hotel in town and lucked in at the same gift shop with a silver charm. The cards were $2.50 – each! There is no mail delivery in ET. I had to go to the only Post Office in the city to buy stamps ($1/card) and return later to personally hand the cards to a postal clerk! No mail drop! Any bets on whether they ever make it to the US?

A souvenir teaspoon was the biggest challenge. After 3 days of searching I accepted the conclusion that they don’t exist in ET. I remembered what my solution was in Moldova – the poorest country in Europe – where they also didn’t exist. The few jewelry stores didn’t have a real silver teaspoon so I went to the largest supermarket in Dili – a local version of a Super Wal-Mart – and bought a stainless teaspoon and had it engraved with “East Timor”! Maddog can be resourceful when needed.

After a basic pasta dinner at my hotel restaurant I retired early. The race started at 6:30 am – a little late I thought for such warm climes. The official reason was that they had to wait for daylight because there were few street lights (and they didn’t work) and the roads were full of potholes. Fortunately my hotel was only 1 mile from the start line because taxis don’t operate during night/dark hours because of safety concerns. I needed to walk/jog to the start line anyways to get my muscles warmed and loosened up. On the short jog along the beach road at 5:45 am (in the dark) I was joined by two local runners who were running the Half. I didn’t know what the temp was – there are no local TV stations because locals can’t afford a TV but I guess the temps were in the high 70s for the 6:30 am start. Surprisingly the race started very close to the official time!

I didn’t believe that I was in good enough shape (yet) to run the entire marathon. Since there were water stations located every 3 Km my race strategy was to run between stations and then walk for 1 min through each station. The course was a Half marathon loop that started and ended in front of the Governor’s Palace. The marathon and Half started together so I had lots of company for the 1st loop. I reached the 2nd water stop at 6km in 36:13 and a split of 5:49/Km. I was averaging just under a 10 min/mile pace. Surprisingly there were a lot of spectators along the course. Around 10Km I was running behind a lovely young Aussie lass who was running the Half. I had curiously noted as we passed through groups of spectators that many of them were laughing? At first I thought it was because the Aussie lass was wearing spandex shorts? But as we separated some distance I realized that they were laughing at Maddog? And then I started listening to the comments such as “get a shovel and dig a hole”? Life expectancy in ET for males is 64 years – they were shocked to see an ‘old man’ – a man who should be dead – running a marathon! The laughs and jeers continued for the entire 1st loop but I soon learned to ignore then.

I passed 15 Km in 1:31:49 and a split of 6:12/km. It was 8am and getting HOT. As I finished the 1st loop in 2:11:37 and a split of 6:15 I was pleased with my time but knew the 2nd loop would not be as fast. It reminded me of the recent marathon in Guam when the temps became brutal in the 2nd Half! And suddenly I was alone. I didn’t start passing runners until about 27Km when the temps had reached the high 80s! And the laughs and jeers from the spectators started to change to applause and cheers as the old fart/dead man started to pass local runners half his age! By 30KM -3:13:03 and a split of 7:19 I was overheated and my pace was slowing drastically. I threw water over my head and neck in an effort to cool down. My legs were fading because of the heat and I decided to shorten the cycle to run 2Km –walk 1 min and then run to a water station and walk 1 min again. I was able to hold that cycle and average about 11:30/mile. A sag wagon/ambulance followed me for the final 7 Km. It unnerved me because I was afraid they might try to pull me off the course even though I was staying behind two young local runners who were half my age. By the time I reached 40Km in 4:30:22 and a split of 8:05/Km I had an ambulance and 4 motorcycle cops following me? I couldn’t understand why? I couldn’t be in last place?
I had passed several runners in the final 10Km who had succumbed to the heat – surely they had to be behind me and in more trouble than I?

I was determined to keep the wasted old legs shuffling and not walk again until I crossed the finish line in 4:47:15. A pretty nurse from the USS Cleveland latched on to me and insisted on staying with me until I recovered and felt better. She applied ice packs to my head and neck to lower my body temp and mixed me a recovery drink to replace electrolytes. It took about 10 min for my body temp to lower and to feel normal again – but very tired! When I finally dragged my sore legs and tired ass over to the finish line for the mandatory finish line photo the course and finish line had been closed down? Was I the last runner to finish? I didn’t find out till the results were posted two days later. Thankfully I didn’t win that dubious honor! One male runner finished in last place – 6 min behind me! I wondered what happened to all the runners I passed in the final 15Km until I learned that 115 runners started the marathon and only 41 finished! I did finish in 4th and last place in my AG – 50+. That didn’t bother me since I was the oldest runner in the race!

Before grabbing a taxi back to the hotel I stopped at the tour agency to confirm that –‘Yes”- the 2-day tour to the eastern regions of ET was confirmed and they would pick me up at 8 am on Sun.

Back to the hotel for a hot shower and a few beer. For dinner I walked across the road to a small restaurant on the beach and enjoyed a delicious whole red snapper grilled over an open fire (washed down with beer of course) for $17! The fish cost $7 and 2 (large) beer cost $10. That’s less than it cost to send 5 postcards?

I was eager to ‘get out of town’ and explore the countryside so went to bed early. I waited in the hotel lobby at 8am for a tour guide – and waited- and waited! The tour agency was closed on Sun so I had no way to contact them but I understood at 10am that there wasn’t going to be any tour! I wasn’t surprised but I was disappointed. I had already checked out of the hotel so I decided to move to a different hotel on the west side of Dili – more hotels, bars and restaurants in that area. The tour agency did track me down there to inform me that the guide was sick and could they reschedule the tour to start on Mon. Unfortunately NO since I was leaving ET on Tue. Bummer – I would have to spend another 2 days in Dili and not get to explore the countryside!

Those final 2 days were long and boring. I walked around to take some more photos of the city and tried to find a teaspoon until I eventually accepted the solution described earlier. Since I had lots of spare time I was able to start my trip report while details were still fresh in my mind. I treated myself to a 2-hr deep tissue Thai massage for $30! Wish I could get those prices back home. Finally Tue arrived and my flight left in the afternoon for Singapore.

I had a 15-hr overnight layover in Singapore and had booked a hotel near Clarke Quay. What a difference! Singapore is so modern and pristine clean! And much more expensive. A delightful seafood dinner and beer cost three times the price I had been paying in ET. The next leg of my journey was a 3-hr flight to Manila on Wed morning. And a good place to end this part of the story.

To be continued – stay tuned!

RR - Estes Park Marathon

Race Report
Sun, Jun 12/11
Estes Park Marathon
Estes Park, CO
Marathon # 344

This will be a hard report to write since a month and two races have elapsed since I finished this race.
And I already posted the more recent reports because they were international races and I felt my readers were more interested in reading them. But I need to write this report for record purposes and there were some interesting and challenging circumstances leading up to this race.

If you recall the last race/report was Guam at the end of Mar. When I returned home my left leg was hurting? The first test confirmed no DVT but a 2nd test unfortunately confirmed a stress fracture in the left fibula. Actually it was a ‘stress reaction’ but the orthoped strongly emphasized that it needed to be treated like a fracture – no running or exercise that would stress or impact the leg for six weeks! That was a big problem since I was registered for Boston in 3 weeks and two international races in mid –Jun.
I reluctantly cancelled Boston for the 2nd year in a row began a 6-week program of cross training at the YMCA. I tried weight machines for the upper body, an exercise bike and swimming. The bike seemed to cause stress/pain on the leg so it was quickly dropped. I cross trained with weights and pool faithfully for 6 weeks. At times I felt like I was growing gills after swimming for 1 hr every day? Finally in mid-May I decided to test the leg. I began with very short distances- 3 miles of run & walk and quickly built up to 8 miles. By the time we left for our summer home in the mountains on May 24 I was running/walking 10 miles in FL!

Our summer home is located at 9,000 ft in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. The 1st week of training in the mtns is always tough but this year was the worst I experienced in all the years we have lived here! The high altitude combined with my poor conditioning just plain kicked my ass! I couldn’t run more than 3 min w/o sucking desperately for air and if I tried to stretch the time out to 5 min I would become totally fatigued? Once again I confirmed and warn all my (running) friends that cross training may help maintain a basic level of aerobic conditioning – but it doesn’t do shit to help train for running. Only running can train you for running! It was like I had to start all over again!

I was concerned about the two international races I had scheduled – and paid for- in mid –Jun. I only had 3 weeks to train for them! I figured in the worst case scenario I could run/walk the races so I started training with that strategy in mind. I started with a cycle of run 5 min and walk 1 min. By the end of my 1st week in the mtns (when I normally run 10 miles) I was struggling to complete 8 miles with a cycle of run 10 min & walk 1 min. I was very disappointed and discouraged. The 2nd week I decided to go back to a shorter cycle of run 5 min & walk 1 min. I was hoping to build up to 13 miles and gain enough confidence to register for the Steamboat Marathon. I wanted to run/walk one marathon before travelling to the South Pacific to verify that I could do it? By the end of the week I did succeed in finishing a 13-mile run – however Steamboat was full and I couldn’t get into the race! Plan B was to attempt the Estes Park Marathon one week later and only a few days before leaving for the S. Pacific.

The final week in the mtns I managed to complete another 13-mile run with cycle of run 15 min & walk 1 min. I was ready for Estes Park! Sure I was! Estes Park is the highest paved marathon in the USA and is a tough race with much of the course above 8,000 ft and many, many BAHs (Bad Ass Hills). I wouldn’t even have considered that race if it weren’t so close and I could drive to it. Also Nicole and I like to visit the town of Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park.

So I registered and we drove over to Estes Park on Sat morning to pick up my race packet. This year the weather was great – sunny and mid 70s as we strolled around town and enjoyed pasta dinner at Mama Roses. The race started at 7am on Sun at the high school. It was sunny and a cool 40F as I lined up with about 300 runners. My initial race strategy was to run 5 min & walk 1 min. That strategy lasted less than 5 min! The race started at 7500 ft and the 1st half mile was uphill. I was sucking desperately for air about 3 min into the race! I changed the strategy to “do whatever is necessary to finish the race”! I soon learned that the best I could accomplish on the uphills was run 3 min & walk 1 min. On downhills I was able to run as long as 10 min before walking. I reached Mile 3 in 34:00 – not too bad? Then a long 3-mile climb began to the highest point of the course (8150 ft) at mile 6. What a bitch that was! I reached mile 6 in 1:14:09 and a split of 14:12 before stopping for a scenic photo of Lake Mary to share with my readers. I was still on a 12-min/mile pace and I figured if I could hold that pace for the entire race I would be happy. My goal was actually to run a sub 5:30. The next 4 miles dropped back down to Estes Park and I reached Mile 10 in 1:56:01 and a split of 9:50 – my only split under 10 min! And I was averaging less than a 12-min pace!

I reached the Half along Lake Estes in 2:32:11 and a split of 11:21. I already knew that the 2nd half wouldn’t be that fast. I was struggling to maintain a cycle of run 5 min & walk 1 min on the flat sections along the lake. And the 2nd half of the course has a lot more BAHs! As I slowly climbed a BAH at mile 15 I met Nicole who was walking from the hotel to the finish line. She asked for the car keys. I was happy to stop for a rest on that BAH and give her the keys. I reached mile 15 in 2:56:07 and a split of 12:41. I stopped again near mile 16 for more photos to share with my readers and to give myself a rest before starting the toughest BAH in the course. The course climbs relentlessly from mile 17 to mile 20 back above 8,000 ft. I sucked it up and forced myself to hold a minimum cycle of run 4min & walk 1 min up that BAH as I passed a lot of runners. I reached Mile 20 in 4:00:31 and a split of 14:28!

The next two miles were rolling hills and I walked the uphills and jogged the downhills to reach mile 23 in 4:36:12 and a split of 11:52. The final 3 miles were downhill back to Lake Estes and then flat to the finish line at the high school track. But my legs were trashed and very tired! I managed to keep them running/shuffling until I reached the final 2 miles of flat section along the lake. Then all I could manage was a cycle of run 3 min & walk 1 min! I just wanted the agony and pain to end!

Finally I approached the high school and entered the track at 26 mile (5:12:23). I would like to lie and say I sprinted the final 200m – but all I could do was just jog the final 200 m to cross the finish line in 5:14:41! It was a PW (Personal Worst) for a road marathon but I didn’t care! I had finished (ALIVE) and proved to myself that I could run/walk a marathon even in my pitiful shape. Hopefully it would be a bit easier at sea level for my next two races?

After a long, hot soak and shower Nicole and I visited the Estes Park Brewery for some greasy food and a few great microbrews. We have enjoyed good meals at some of the better restaurants in EP and tried to decide where to go for dinner. This year we opted for a ’view’ and selected the Shores Restaurant overlooking Lake Estes. Great views but unfortunately the food was mediocre at best.

On Mon morning we enjoyed a pleasant drive back home through RMNP. Colorado and RMNP enjoyed record snow this past winter. There were still 18ft snow banks in many areas of the park. Unfortunately there was not as much wild life as usual up in the alpine meadows since they were still covered in snow but there were lots of elk in the low lands near the park entrances.

I posted photos of the marathon and RMNP to my website weeks ago.

Thankfully I had already scheduled a massage on Mon afternoon with Pegi de Sade to flush my legs and prepare them for the 41 –hrs of flights and airports that I would have to begin on Tue morning.

I can’t say my usual “stay tuned” at this point since those trip reports have already been posted.


Saturday, April 02, 2011

TR - Guam

Trip Report
3/22 -3/29/11

Sun, Mar 27/11
40th Guam Marathon
Agat, Guam, Oceania
4:36:11 – 1 AG
Marathon # 343 – Country # 107

There was supposed to be two race reports preceding this one but one race didn’t happen and I didn’t finish the other. Thus I had difficulty figuring out how to organize and tell this story and I decided to present it in three sections:

Prologue – Bad News:

Many of my friends and readers are familiar with the problems/issues I have experienced during the past few months but let me recap for those who are not. I was recovering quite well from the UC (ulcerative colitis) in the early part of the year but in Feb I started to suffer some setbacks. In late Feb I missed the A1A Marathon in Fort Lauderdale because of severe symptoms related to this nasty disease. While I was working with a team of doctors to explore those problems I continued to train and started to experience problems with my left leg.
The UC problems eased – no thanks to doctors who had no idea what was causing them. I stopped taking Lialda, a drug used to control UC – and two weeks later the nasty symptoms ceased. A caution to others using this drug – it has some nasty side effects!
Meanwhile the problem with my leg also seemed to ease and I decided to run the Snickers Marathon in early Mar. I ran a fast 1st Half (sub 3:50 pace) but the left leg started to tighten at mile 14 and at mile 17 the hamstring cramped and seized up and I had to drop out at mile 18!
The leg would not heal and I was forced to stop running and cross train with weights and swimming while trying to fix the leg with massages, physical therapy and lots of hot tub time. I only had three weeks to heal before the Guam Marathon. I had already paid for the trip and I was going no matter what!

After a few massages and one PT session we determined that the root cause of the problems was probably the piriformis and sciatica nerve and not the hamstring.
When the leg would start to feel better I would attempt to run/walk a 5 or 10-mile trial run to test it. The runs were not successful and each time I would limp back to the pool for cross training and the masseuse for more damage control. One week before the Guam Marathon I managed to run/walk a 13-mile trial run with only minor discomfort/pain and I was encouraged that if the leg could stay that ‘healthy’ I could finish a marathon. However the next day I tried an easy 10-mile run and the leg fell apart again. I did not have much confidence as I boarded the plane for the long trip to Guam.

Now the story begins.

The Story – Good News:

I arrived in Guam on Tue evening. After checking in to the hotel and eating a light dinner I went to bed and slept 10 hrs to adjust my body to local time. I woke early and decided to try an easy 5-mile run to test the leg. DISASTER! I couldn’t even run a mile w/o walking and by mile 4 the hamstring was so tight and sore that I had to walk back to the hotel. I was very frustrated and discouraged! I knew that I couldn’t run the marathon with that leg and wasn’t sure if I could walk a marathon in the 6-hr time limit.

Before I left for Guam my good friend and mentor, Wally Herman, had called to give me the name and number of a runner whom he had met while running an Ultra in Guam. Lou had run the marathon for Guam in the 1988 Olympics – at the young age of 48! I called Lou and she offered to pick me up at the hotel and give me a tour of the island. I asked her to find the name of a good masseuse or PT in Guam because I was in desperate need of help!
Lou picked me up and we began our tour with a drive along a one-mile stretch on Tumon Bay. This ‘plastic’ mile is the tourist area crowded with luxury hotels and shops.

During our tour Lou educated me on the geography, economy, politics and culture of Guam. Guam is an unincorporated territory of the USA. The island is 30 miles long and 4 to 8 miles wide. The population is 173,000 – 37% Chamorro (indigenous), 26% Filipino and only 6% Caucasian. The languages are Chamorro and English. I was under the misconception that Guam was mainly military bases? There are two bases – Anderson Air Force Base in the North and Apra Harbor Naval base in the South. During my week on Guam I saw very few military uniforms? Lou said that the military people stick to the bases and do not enjoy the benefits of her beautiful island. I also thought that the military was the main economy. Wrong! It is tourism and mostly Japanese who stay and spend on ‘plastic’ row!

Leaving Tumon we drove up to Two Lovers Point where legend says two ill-fated lovers who had been forbidden to marry tied their hair together and jumped off the 378-ft cliff. Lou then offered to drive the marathon course as we toured the south part of the island.
We drove across the island to Mangilao on the East (Pacific) coast to the start at the University of Guam. After two loops around the university the course headed south for a few miles before turning east across the island through the capital of Hagatna. There were hills during the first 7 miles but the course was mostly flat after it reached the West coast (Philippine Sea) and headed south along the coast. At mile 14 the course turned right on to a causeway for a 2-mile loop out and back to the industrial sea port. At mile 18 it returns to the main hwy and heads south along the coast to finish in Agat.

At first I felt excited because the course was mostly flat and scenic and would be fast. But wait – my left leg is totally screwed up and I will be lucky to finish. Bummer!
Lou and I enjoyed at nice seafood lunch at JanZee’s at the finish line before proceeding on our tour around the south part of the island. Lou stopped and pointed out many of the tourist sites along the coast (see my photo website) as we drove through many villages. The villages are quaint but small since few people live in the south. It contains high volcanic mountains in the center covered with tropical rain forests and lots of waterfalls if you know where to look. It is more scenic than the north part of the island. We completed the tour in about 4 hrs.

Lou had informed me that her masseuse was on vacation so I called a runner/race volunteer and thankfully she gave me the name of a good PT. I called Elen and made an appointment for the next morning. Elen turned out to be as good as advertised. She quickly found the problem and triggers points and had me screaming in (good) pain. I was sore when I left her office but the leg felt much better!

After the torture session I visited Tumon to buy my required souvenirs and revisited Two Lovers Point for more photos. I had rented a car since it is difficult to get around Guam w/o a car.
On Sat I decided to do another drive tour of the South because I wanted to visit more sites and take photos. The first stop was Talofofo Falls high up in the central mountains. Located near the falls is a cave where a Japanese soldier lived and hid from civilization for 28 years after the end of WW II. As I was hiking into the cave my left hamstring started to protest/hurt. That was not a good sign? Next stop was a Chamorro Village in Inarajan to learn how the Chamorro lived. As I continued the loop around the south part of the island I made stops at quaint villages and at the site where Magellan landed in 1521. It was a pleasant drive.

I enjoyed an early pasta dinner in Tumon and retired early. The race started at 4am and a race volunteer was picking me up at 3 am! I woke at 2 am so that I could do a double stretch routine to loosen up my legs and back. When I stepped outside at 3 am the heat hit me like a blast furnace! It was 80 F and 100% humidity (a light mist)! No need for warm-up clothes or a garbage bag. Elaine dropped me off at the field house at the University of Guam at 3:30 am. There were only 90 runners in the marathon so packet pickup was scheduled at the start.

My race strategy had been decided by default weeks before. With the injury problems I had no choice but to run and walk. Water stations were located every 1.5 to 2 miles so my strategy/hope was that I could run between stations and then walk through each station to let the leg rest. I planned to stop every 4 miles to stretch in the hopes of preventing or delaying the onset of tight muscles and cramps? After I picked up my bib and made final preparations I walked/jogged 1 mile and did another stretch routine before the start of the race. My leg actually felt pretty good?

It was dark – and I mean DARK – at the 4 am start. There were very little street lights around the university as we ran two loops around the campus. I just followed the blinking red lights that runners were given so that cars could see us. I was pleasantly surprised when I was able to run the two loops and passed 2 miles in 20:32. I walked through the 1st water station and enjoyed a light mist that seemed to cool down the 80 F temp! We exited the university and headed south along Rt 10. I noticed that I was following a husband/wife team that were running a smooth/easy 10-min pace and stopping at each water station. I decided to stay with them and let them provide the discipline needed to run a ‘smart’ race and stick to my race strategy! I was again surprised when we finished the hills and reached Mile 7 in 1:11:29 and a split of 10:04. The leg still felt good? When we reached the West coast at Mile 10 in 1:43:09 and a split of 10:22 I was amazed! The leg still felt good- no problems yet? Maddog started to become impatient – he wanted to lower the hammer and take off. I urged him to be patient and smart and stay with the pacing team at least till the Half. The sun was not yet up but there was enough light to see the Philippine Sea. We passed the Half in 2:15:40 and a split of 10:03.

I was elated! I was way ahead of what I expected my pace/time would be – I had lots of energy because of the slow pace – and my leg had not protested once during the 1st Half! Maddog and I had a very heated argument. He insisted on lowering the hammer and running negative splits. I figured my strategy - slow pace, walks and stretches - had worked to get me through the 1st Half w/o any problems – why mess with success? We reached a compromise. We would continue with the current pace and strategy to 18 miles and if we still felt good we would hammer the final 8 miles! Now most runners know that no matter how slow/easy you start a marathon you still slow down during the final 10K. But Maddog is basically raw power and determination and he bought my story.

My pace team started to fade and slow down so I had to leave them and continue on alone. When I reached mile 14 and made the turn on to the causeway out to the sea port the sun was just starting to come up. I could already feel the heat rising. When I made the turn-around at mile 16 and headed back east into the sun it was starting to burn through the clouds and I could actually feel the heat index soaring! And my heart rate soared! I had been closely monitoring my heart monitor. Because of the slow pace my heart rate had been averaging about 5 bpm lower than my normal marathon rate. It immediately soared 15 bpm! I attributed the increase to the extra work load on the old ticker trying to keep the body cool? This conclusion was confirmed when I reached a water station at mile 17 and poured a bottle of ice-cold water over my head and neck. My heart rate dropped 15 bpm? I realized at that moment that the final 9 miles was going to be tough. My split had slowed to 10:58 and I remember thinking that the injured leg had probably saved me a lot of pain and agony in the 2nd Half? Had I been healthy I would have started out fast to take advantage of the dark and cool (80 F) temps and I would have been paying the price at 17 miles – like many other runners! I still had lots of energy and felt good because of the slow pace and yet my pace was slowing down because of the heat!

When I reached mile 18 in 3:07:18 and a split of 10:27 there were no more thoughts about lowering the hammer – even Maddog realized that would be suicidal in that heat! I stopped and did a double stretch routine. With only 8 miles to go I wanted to make sure that my leg did not tighten up on the final 10K. I started to pass a lot of runners who had gone out too fast and succumbed to the heat. I was able to hold my pace and reach Mile 22 in 3:50:55 and a split of 10:42. For the first time in the race I was confident that I might actually finish the race w/o any problems? I stopped for a final stretch routine and hoped that it would get me to the finish line. Everything was going fine – I felt good, the leg felt good and we were blessed with a brief rain shower over the next mile to help cool us down. Then disaster almost struck – the leg started talking to me and began to tighten. I stopped immediately and performed another double stretch routine and walk to loosen it up. I was in the middle of a stretch where I bend down on the bad knee/leg and extend the other leg out behind me, then raise my arms and try to reach back and touch the extended foot behind me to open up the hip flexor and piriformis. A runner ran by and commented that “he needed to join me to pray to the Gods to finish the race”! I laughed and replied “I am praying to my hamstring to finish the race”! But it worked and I was able to run the final 5K w/o any more walks or stretches and crossed the finish line in 4:36:11!

I was happy! No - I was ecstatic! I can’t ever remember being happy about a 4:36 finish but I was that day! My best expectations were that the leg would last 16 miles and the final 10 miles would be ugly/painful and mostly walking. I was in disbelief that it had held together for the entire race! And I finally finished marathon #343 (on the 3rd attempt) and country #107! Lou was at the finish line to cheer me in and she informed me that I was 1st AG. That was totally unexpected and icing on the cake!

Lou kindly offered to drive me back to the hotel and asked me to join her and hubby Bob for breakfast. After a quick shower I joined them for breakfast but politely declined the spam & eggs – an island favorite. Bob had been a well-respected official in the Guam government before he retired and several politicians stopped at our table to discuss local politics. I had a brief and interesting lesson in local politics during breakfast.

After breakfast I drove to Tumon for an awards ceremony and banquet that was held at a luxury resort. It was an eloquent banquet for a race and it soon became evident that Guam has a strong and close-knit running community. My only disappointment was that there were no AG awards. I would have liked to bring home an artistic award that represented Guam. After a long ceremony and a few beers I couldn’t get up from the table? My leg had finally fallen apart! It was stiff and sore from the hamstring down below the knee and I couldn’t bend my knee. I limped to the car and called Elen to request an emergency torture session on Mon. I couldn’t face the 30-hr trip home with a leg hurting that much!

Thankfully Elen was able to fix both legs and after the torture session I joined Lou at a favorite restaurant for a typical Chamorro lunch – spicy BBQ and red rice. It was delicious! After lunch we said our goodbyes. I thanked Lou for their wonderful hospitality and support. I hope to see them again when they visit FL. I then toured the north end of the island. The loop is shorter and there is not much to see.

The long trip home was uneventful thanks to Elen’s good work on the leg. I arrived home in the early evening, unpacked and went to bed for 10 hrs of sleep to adjust back to FL time. On Wed morning I decided to run an easy 5 miles to loosen the legs. It wasn’t easy! I couldn’t run 10 ft before my left calf collapsed in severe pain? No matter what I tried – walk, stretch, etc – the moment I tried to run resulted in immediate and severe pain in the calf. I gave up and walked home.

Epilogue – more Bad News:

I decided to rest the leg for a day and try again on Thu. Same result. Instant and severe pain in the left calf! The pain and symptoms seemed similar to those I experienced about 5 years ago when I developed a blood clot/DVT in the right leg. And the same circumstances – screwed up my leg in a race and then got on a plane for a long flight home. I started to worry – even become paranoid about another blood clot? When I suffered the same results on Fri I decided action was needed. I can stand running through pain if I know what the risk is. But the risk with a blood clot is too high. I called my GP and requested an ultrasound that day. Thankfully the results were negative – NO blood clot! Still don’t know what the problem is and I still can’t run w/o severe pain. I have scheduled an appointment with my orthoped next week to see if he can find the problem? Until then it looks like I go back to the rec center for more cross training?

It seems that I have been suffering a continuous series of illness and injury the past few years (can’t be Old Age) and it is beginning to chip away at Maddog’s fortitude and determination! I am beginning to wear down – or is it wear out? Maybe it is time to hang up the running shoes and play twiddly winks? But not until I complete my current commitments! I have booked and paid for 4 more international races this year – but my immediate concern is the Boston Marathon in 2 weeks! That may require another miracle and gutty performance to complete?

Who knows?

Stay tuned!