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!