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.