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!


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