Tuesday, June 12, 2012

TR Samoa

Samoa & New Zealand
05/28 – 06/07/12

Race Results
Sat, Jun 2/12
Apia, Samoa
BlueSky Marathon
Marathon # 358 – Country #114

 When a good friend and fellow Country Club member from Germany informed me of this race about one year ago I was immediately interested. When I learned that the race was being held during Samoa’s 50th Anniversary for Independence that was icing on the cake.

It was difficult to get any info that far in advance but I did find a travel agency in NZ who was putting travel packages together for the race and decided that was the easiest way to travel and enter the race.

I used the last of my air miles for a ‘free’ award ticket on United to Auckland, NZ and booked the race pkg from Auckland to Samoa.

 My friend Dieter and I agreed to share a room to lower the costs. About two weeks before the race I informed another German friend - Corinna who I had met in Bhutan – about the race and that crazy gal decided to run the Samoa Marathon at the very last minute. It couldn’t have been easy getting flights to Samoa at that late date?

 A month before the race I was excited about my prospects of running a good race. However those plans blew up along with my right hamstring at a final ‘training’ marathon in Denver two weeks before Samoa. And as you may recall in that race report that injury/disaster was followed by a lot of ‘minor’ health issues in the final two weeks before I left. The surgeries messed with my psyche and the hamstring was still not healed when I began the long trip to Samoa.

I arrived in Samoa late Wed night and while waiting for baggage met another runner – a lovely young Kiwi lass (Ayesha) from Wellington, NZ who had booked the same race pkg. When we got to the hotel it was 11 pm. Our driver informed us that the restaurants and bars closed at midnight! By the time I found an ATM to get local currency I only had time for one beer and had to go to bed hungry!

On Thu morning I learned that the city and country would close down on Fri for a 5-day National Holiday to celebrate the 50th Anniversary. Thus if I wanted to buy my typical souvenirs I had to complete my shopping on Thu. Fortunately Apia is a small capital city and I finished all my shopping in the morning. In the afternoon I visited the home/museum of Robert Louis Stevenson. I also picked up my race packet from the running store that organized the race. The race director Mark was very friendly and provided all the needed info about race start, course, water stops, etc.

Friday was ‘Flag Day’ and opening ceremonies for the Independence celebrations. I soon realized that Samoan time is like Mexican time or anywhere in the tropics. There is no rush and nothing happens on time. The flag raising ceremony was supposed to start at 7 am – the flag finally got raised about 8:30am and by then the poor Samoan residents were dropping like flies from heat exhaustion. I stayed for some of the parade past the official review stand but by 9am it was too HOT even in the shade so I escaped to a bar and broke a rule – not to drink beer the day before a race! I knew that I was already in trouble so a beer wasn’t going to hurt much more! At 9am it was brutally HOT and since the race started at 5 am I might still have another hour to go on race day? I ventured back out into the morning sun/heat to watch the preliminary heats for the 42-man war canoe races. All the walking had caused the hamstring to tighten and it was sore so I managed to find a masseuse at a spa in a luxury resort to work on it and get it to relax. It did not look good for the race?

Dieter finally arrived on Fri afternoon and after an early pasta dinner we headed out to the UB 40 concert. It started at 7 pm but UB 40 didn’t come on till 8:30pm and the weather was OK by then. However we had to leave early because of the 5am start for the race on Sat. I enjoyed the concert and actually recognized many of the songs?

The marathon started at 5am. It was already hot & humid as 13 runners lined up for the start – and I knew 25% of them!  My initial strategy had been to run the 1st half fast to take advantage of the dark and COOL temps, then slow down (even walk?) in the heat during the 2nd half. However the hamstring was a big unknown? I decided to go out at a 10-min pace to test it. After a few miles a pretty young lass from Australia who had been running behind me caught up and we decided to run together. Mace was a lawyer living and working in Samoa on the auspice of the Australian government. It was her 1st marathon. We clicked off pretty steady 10-min miles in the dark. After we left Apia and were running along the North coast it was so dark we couldn’t see our feet. It could have been a serious problem because the road was not in good shape. However since we were in LAST place a sag wagon/ambulance followed us and lit up the road. The 2nd problem was dogs. There are lots of stray dogs in Samoa and they run in packs! Thankfully there was a biker/volunteer riding along and ahead of us to chase away the dogs. Mace informed me that the biker was her boyfriend. I asked her to give him a special reward after the race for keeping us safe from the dogs!

There were water stops located every 5 K (approx). That was it for distance markers except for a few markings on the road – one at the 10K turn-around, the Half turn and the marathon turn. That was all we had to judge our pace and make corrections. I couldn’t trust the hamstring – it would feel OK for a few miles and then feel tight and sore for the next few miles? Mace & I held the 10-min pace and reached the Half in 2:10:43. At that point my legs were starting to tire and the hamstring was becoming tight so I slowed my pace and sadly watched as Mace left my sore, OLD ass behind. I was definitely in LAST place. And I didn’t really care – and there wasn’t anything I could do if I did care!

My priority was to finish! I figured I would run a cycle of Run 2 miles and Walk 1 min for the 2nd Half to give my hamstring a chance to rest and loosen up and to prevent overheating? The ambulance continued to follow me. At my 1st walk break they must have thought I was in trouble because a young volunteer jumped out of the ambulance and ran up to me with an ice pack. I gladly accepted the ice pack and it felt wonderful to rub my neck and head with ice. By the time I passed 16 miles the hamstring was tight and sore and I had to stop and request an ice pack to ice the leg. The routine became every 10 to 15 min a volunteer would join me from the ambulance with an ice pack and I would use it to cool my body down and ice my hamstring. They kept me together until I reached the 10K turn point in 4:15.

At that point I could smell the finish line and knew the hamstring would hold together so I decided to run the final 5Km to make sure I finished under 5 hrs. That finish line was sure a pretty sight as I crossed it in 4:51:05. My performance wasn’t pretty – and it wasn’t fast – but I finished! Marathon #358 and Country # 114. And it also signified the completion of a marathon in every country in Oceania.

As I cooled down I tried to take some finish line photos but my damn (point & shoot) camera that I had carried all through the race wouldn’t work. Too much jostling in the case? I had to walk/limp to the hotel to retrieve my digital SLR to take the photos. Ayesha finished in 1st place OA and Corinna in 2nd place OA. They both earned $$$ for their great finish. Maddog finished in LAST place OA !

Later in the day Mark joined Dieter and I at the hotel to present us with an award and certificate of achievement. We offered some comments on how to improve the race. But I can’t say enough about  the efforts and hospitality of the race volunteers. That 2nd Half would have been much uglier and more painful w/o their help!

We had been advised that the city would close down on Sun and they were right. Nothing was open!

Luckily our pkg included a guided tour of the island on Sun that took all day. It was overcast and rainy much of the day (why couldn’t the weather be like that on race day?) so the tour was good – otherwise we would have been stuck in the hotel. And I couldn’t do much walking! My hamstring was tight and very sore and I had a huge blister on my left heel – probably from overcompensating to take the stress off my right leg? We toured the whole island. Lots of beaches and villages including some that had been completely destroyed by the Tsunami. There are lots of volcanic mtns and waterfalls. The Samoan fale or house is one open room with no windows or doors. There are few ‘western’ homes and although nobody starves in Samoa there is not much money! The nicest buildings in the country are government buildings and churches – ALL built and paid by foreign countries!

That evening we were shocked to find that ALL restaurants were closed? We had to taxi to some luxury resorts across the harbour to get something to eat and drink? Thus we were not too disappointed when it came time to leave on Mon. Ayesha, Dieter and I flew to Auckland on the same flight and parted ways in Auckland.

My pkg included a nice hotel on Queen St close to the harbor where many of the pubs are located. The weather on Tue was really nasty – rain and high winds. When I visited the top of the Sky Tower it was swaying so much I thought I was on a boat? But it did offer spectacular views that I share with everyone on my photo website. Thankfully the weather was better on Wed – my final day- and the hamstring and blister felt good enough so that I could enjoy an endorphin fix with a 1-hr run along Auckland Harbour.

After my morning run I toured the city to take photos to share with my readers. We visited Auckland about 25 years ago but I didn’t remember much? It is a pretty city but VERY expensive! I don’t know how people can afford to live there?

On Wed night I started my long journey back home. It is HOT & humid in FL – just like Samoa. I have been sleeping in late and starting my runs around 8 am. And paying for it! It is brutally HOT & humid! Thankfully we leave for the Rocky Mtns of CO at the end of this week. The weather will be cool and nice.

The blister is healed and the hamstring feels better but I am not sure what my plans or goals are? Every time I get to a point where I feel optimistic Mother Nature swats me back down with an injury or health issue. I am getting tired of getting back up. So I think I will take it easy for a few weeks or even a month  and then re-evaluate. Thank goodness I have only committed to one more race – in Aug! I don’t plan to make any commitments beyond that race/date!

Stay tuned!

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