Tuesday, April 11, 2017

TR Palau

Apr 5 - 10/17


Palau Marathon
Koror, Palau
Sat, Apr 8, 2017
Marathon # 383
Country # 132

 Some of my readers may recall that there seems to be a trip report missing?


 My announced plans called for a marathon in the Seychelles at the end of Feb.

 Never happened for Maddog!

 A few days after the previous marathon in St Lucia in early Feb, I noticed that I was struggling just to run a few miles? At first I thought I was just tired from the tough marathon in the tropical heat. However, after a few more days I realized that it was more than that. I couldn’t run more than a few minutes before becoming totally fatigued and short-of-breath. I had a good idea what the problem was but preferred to go into denial and keep thinking that “I was tired”. Finally, I had to come out of denial, and call my cardiologist, and tell him that I believed my heart was in A-fib again. He asked me to come into the office that day and an EKG quickly conformed that I was right – unfortunately!

 I was supposed to depart that weekend for Africa but I knew that wasn’t going to happen. Instead I had to go to the hospital for another cardio version! The cardiologist jump started my heart back into rhythm and advised me NOT to go to the Seychelles and NOT to run the marathon. For one of the few times in my life, I decided to follow his advice and reluctantly cancelled the trip.

 A few days after the procedure, I felt much better and was able to run again without suffering fatigue, etc.  Since the next marathon wasn’t scheduled until early April, I figured I should be OK to run that race? To increase my chances and reduce stress on the heart, I even stopped drinking alcohol and resolved to stay ‘on the wagon’ until I completed my next marathon. That race was important to me, and I didn’t want to miss it!

 My health and conditioning improved quickly, and I was confident I would be able to run the marathon in Palau. I never ran a training run longer than 12 miles because I didn’t want to stress my heart. I figured this would eventually impact my performance in the marathon but I would deal with that on race day.

 So I kept my plans and departed for Palau on Wed, Apr 5/17. I selected the fastest route from Tampa but it required 4 flights- TPA/IAH/HNL/GUM/ROR.  Unbeknownst to me UA uses old/crappy planes on this route and the service is terrible! No meals on 7 & 8 hr flights, and entertainment is available only on personal devices – or UA will rent you a tablet for $15 on each flight? What a rip off! Avoid UA and these flights if you run Palau!

 However, I did arrive safely and on time 25 hrs after leaving Tampa. When I departed the airport in Palau at 9pm, it felt like I was walking into a steam bath! Oh joy! This race was going to be so much fun!

Since Palau is 13hrs ahead of EST/Sarasota time, my body clock was totally messed up, and I was wide awake when I tried to sleep at 11pm. I got up and went for a walk in the steam bath, and discovered that Koror was a ghost town at midnight? Koror is very small – one short main street – with a population of 11,000 people. Palau only has a total population of 20,000 people, and there is nothing to see or do other than diving and snorkeling.

 After a few hours of sleep and rest I finally got up at 7am and ate an early breakfast. The sun was up and it was HOT! Oh goody – I should be on the final 10K of the marathon about this time. Since shops don’t open until 10am, I had to go back to bed and wait to do the shopping for my mandatory souvenirs. I was actually surprised that I was able to find everything. Now I was bored and there was nothing to do – and it was too HOT to go outside!

 My friends and fellow Country Club members had arrived in the wee hours of the morning so they slept most of the day and we got together later that day. We went for an early dinner and then I went to bed and slept for 5 hrs since we had to meet at packet pick-up at 12:30am on Sat. The Race Director arranged for a car to pick us up and drive us to the pick-up point located at the 20-mile point of the marathon and start line of the 10K race.

 There were 10 runners in the marathon and 5 of those were CC members! There were no local runners in the marathon. After picking up our race bibs, marathoners were driven 20 miles north into the country on Babeldaob Island. It was isolated with few houses and lights. The course was hilly with several BAHs (Bad Ass Hills) and it was dark. Thankfully I had brought a headlamp. Without one it would have been difficult and dangerous to run.

 After taking a group photo of the CC members, the marathon started on time at 2am. Instead of water stations there were 4 support vehicles that cruised the course, and provided water and support. There was no traffic other than the support vehicles so that part of the course was safe. One minor complaint was that were no distance markers, and none of the volunteers had any idea of distances along the course. The only markers were the Shell gas station (packet pick-up at 20 miles), and the finish line!

 Although it was HOT – about 80F at the start – the humidity was lower than expected so we didn’t feel too hot or overheated at the start.  But we felt the hills right from the start. There were several hills. My pre-race strategy was to use a cycle of run 7 min/walk 2 min. However, the hills rendered that strategy useless! So I changed my strategy to run 2 min/walk 2min on the uphills, and run 10min/walk2min on the downhills.

I became frustrated when I couldn’t determine what my pace was and how far it was to the Shell station (20M).  When I reached what I figured was the Half I asked a few volunteers,”how far to the gas station”.  One answered “about 10miles” and another answered “about 5 miles”. Great! And that point, that I later learned was the start of mile 13, was the start of the baddest BAH on the course! That BAH climbed relentlessly for over 1 mile. I thought it would never end? Thankfully, we were rewarded with a long gradual decline on the other side where I ran my fastest mile of the race.

 The sun rose at 6am, and I turned off my headlamp. I still had no idea how far it was to the gas station but I was hoping to reach it by 6:30am? At 6:30am I still couldn’t see the station, and one volunteer told me it was still about 3 miles away. I hope not because I am starting to tire, and if the 20M mark is still 3 more miles, the final 10K is going to be UGLY!

I finally reached the station (20M) in 4:50 (6:50am). And my legs were done!
After passing the Shell station, I had to cross the Japan/Palau Friendship Bridge, and causeway connecting Babeldaob Island to Koror Island. I hit the ’Wall’ at the top of the bridge. My legs were completely dead due to the lack of long training runs. I hoped to shorten the run cycle to ‘run 2 min/walk2 min’, but on the causeway my back tightened and locked up. I was in severe pain! Around 22 miles the pain became so severe that I could not run! l laid on the side of the road, and asked a volunteer to help me stretch my back to see if I could get it to relax and loosen up. However, that stretch caused my left adductor to cramp and lock up. I was screwed! Now I couldn’t even walk without pain. I would have to walk/crawl the final 4 miles because dropping out was not an option!

By mile 23, the back pain was so severe that I could barely walk. Luckily a support vehicle was following me and I asked for an ice pack. The volunteers made an ice pack from a latex medical glove filled with ice cubes, and strapped it to my back. The back cramp still wouldn’t release but the ice did decrease the pain enough so that I could walk again. By now I was walking down the Main Street of Koror with lots of traffic, and no traffic control. It was HOT – mid 80s, the humidity was high, and there was no shade from the sun! And I still had 3 miles of absolute misery and agony to go!

The improvised ice packs helped to keep me struggling/crawling along. Mile 25 was an absolute bitch! One mile up a steep BAH (Bad Ass Hill). At the top of the BAH I had nothing left, and I asked the volunteers to lie to me and tell me the finish line was close. So they did lie to me! They told me I had “less than 1 mile to the finish line”. It was the longest, most painful ‘less than 1 mile’ I ever struggled through. But finally, I could see the Palau Pacific Resort. I stopped and thanked my support team. Without their support and ice packs I would never have made it through the final 5K! I struggled across the finish line in 7:01 – a new PW (Personal Worst). And I didn’t care!

I finished Country # 132 – a new WR and country # 9 in Oceania – another WR. I shared the old WR of 8 countries with my good friend and mentor Wally Herman for many years.
I waited with other CC members for the last CC member to finish. Sadly, Klaus was suffering from a groin injury from his previous marathon and it flared up, and he had to drop out. That really sucked – to spend so much money to travel all the way to Palau and get a DNF!

The race organization had a nice award ceremony and breakfast after the race. Many runners enjoyed the private beach at the Pacific Resort. I preferred to return to my hotel for a hot shower, and then go next door for a massage. $25 for a 1-hr massage, and the masseuse was able to get my back to release and relax. The pain was finally gone!

That evening the Track and Field Federation in Palau invited the CC members to dinner, and treated us to a nice dinner and drinks (I finally had a beer after 1 month on the wagon). We had some good discussions and learned a lot about Palau. Regis Akitaya, the President of the Track Federation, and also a Senator in the government, indicated that he would take us on a tour on Sun.
On Sun morning a driver picked Klaus and I up, and we met with Regis for a nice lunch and a few beers.  We discussed the race, and how to improve and make it larger. Regis also gave us some interesting facts about the economy and politics of Palau. Then he had a driver drive us around the big island of Babeldaob.

We retraced the first 20 miles of the course so we could see the BAHs in daylight. The BAH at mile 13 looked as bad as it felt the day before. We continued on the road to the Capital Building. What a sight and what a boondoggle! The government built a new Capital Building in the boonies and moved the capital from Koror. It is probably the nicest building in the country – looks a bit like the US capital. The plan/hope was that a new town would develop around the new Capital, but 10 years later the Capital still sits all by itself! The only community near the Capital is a small native village (200 people) that has been located on the coast nearby for more than 100 years!
We continued on around the big island for about another 25 miles past the airport, and completed the loop back at the Shell station and Friendship Bridge. It was an interesting tour. We saw the capital and visited a few of the old local villages. But the only civilization and development of Babeldaob are the Capital, the airport and a few native villages with a total population of a few thousand people?  The town of Koror wants the Track Federation to move the marathon out of Koror (only the final 10K is actually in Koror). They could hold the entire race on the big island where there is less/no traffic except near the airport?

After a nice dinner Klaus and I slept for a few hours since our flights departed after midnight. We were ready to leave.
The locals and the officials of the Track Federation were friendly and hospitable. We were treated graciously – but we were ready to leave!

After two PWs in a row, I believe it is time to take a long rest/sabbatical from running and marathons. I do not want to train through the hot Florida summer. I will evaluate my plans for running and marathon goals later this year!
Photos of the marathon and Palau can be viewed in an album titled ‘Palau’ on Maddog’s photo website.


Wednesday, February 08, 2017

TR St Lucia

St Lucia
Jan 31 – Feb 4/17

Race Results:
Thu, Feb 2, 2017
Pitons Peak Marathon
Castries, St Lucia
Marathon # 382 – Country # 131

 This would be my 2nd attempt at running a marathon on one of the Caribbean Cruise Adventure tours organized by my friend Ziyad Rahim of Z Adventures.

 I participated in the 1st WCC (Western Caribbean Cruise) two years ago and sadly did not finish (DNF) in Honduras. I had health issues during that race and knew I could not finish in time to make the ship departure so I wisely withdrew from the race. This time, I decided to fly to St Lucia and join the tour group to run the race. This would allow me as much time as needed to finish the marathon.

 Since the ‘retired’ Sports Manager - aka Nicole’s - birthday was on Feb 3, I invited her to come along so we could run a marathon, celebrate her birthday and explore St Lucia. I was pleasantly surprised when she agreed to go along?

 We arrived in St Lucia on Jan 31. Hewanorra Airport is located near Vieux Fort on the southern tip of the island. Our hotel was located in Rodney Bay near the northern tip of St Lucia. It is only 70 Km but the roads are narrow, 2-lane and in poor shape. And cars drive on the left (wrong) side of the road! The max speed limit on the island is 40mph and it is difficult to reach that limit due to the condition of the roads and the many curves and hills. The entire island is mountainous with only a few areas/villages located on flat sections.

 We reached the capital city, Castries, in 90 minutes and 15 minutes later arrived at the Bay Garden Hotel in Rodney Bay. Rodney Bay has many upscale/luxury houses/condos and lots of good restaurants & shops and the only luxury Mall on the island. Even though the marathon was held in Castries I figured (luckily & wisely) that we would enjoy staying in Rodney Bay more. Castries is dirty, congested and just not nice!

 After checking in, we walked to the Mall to buy water/beer/wine/soda etc. and then explored the area around the hotel. Since it was dark and we were tired, we enjoyed Happy Hour and dinner at the hotel.

 On Wed. I drove into Castries to find the start line for the race. Most of the runners were on the cruise ship, and would be shuttled from the cruise terminal to the start line. The marathon course was an 800m loop located on a flat road next to the runway of the city airport. It was a dead-end road with not much traffic. An out-and-back loop measured 1.6Km or 1 mile and that meant 26 loops! After checking out the course I drove over to the cruise terminal to shop for my mandatory souvenirs. At least that part was easy, and I found all souvenirs within one hour. It’s usually not that easy or quick.

 After returning to the hotel, Nicole and I decided to check out the Garden Bay Beach Resort located on the beach in Rodney Bay. As part of our hotel group, we had access to the Beach Resort and its beach/restaurants/bars/spa. They even provided a shuttle to the resort which was about 1 mile from the hotel. The Beach resort was nice but not worth the price – twice the cost of the hotel and if you include an all-inclusive package it was four times the price of our hotel! We checked out the restaurants at the resort, and nearby, for a nice birthday dinner later in the week. We found a small Italian restaurant for a nice/quiet pasta dinner to prepare for the race.

 Thursday was ‘M’ day. An unusual day for a marathon – but then again the cruise members would run 6 marathons in 7 days – one marathon at each port where the ship stopped! Thankfully, I left the hotel early to make sure I would arrive with lots of time for last-minute preparations for the race. It took 45 minutes to drive 5 miles into Castries in the morning rush hour! I only had about 15 minutes to get ready before the runners from the cruise ship arrived by shuttle. Another friend, Rich, from NC had also flown into St Lucia and he was already at the start line.

 Of course we had to take photos of the Country Club members (there were 8 members) and other runners, etc. and finally the race started at 9am. It was HOT!

 Normally, a marathon in the Caribbean will start at 4 or 5am to take advantage of the dark and cooler temps. But the SCC is limited by the ship schedule. Since the ship arrives in most ports around 7/8 am the race must start at 8/9am which means everyone must run in the hottest part of the day. It was brutal!

Since I did not have to worry about a time limit like the cruise members who had to be back on the ship by 4pm, I decided I would run slow & easy. I started with a strategy of ‘run 7min/walk 1min’ that allowed me to complete a (1 mile) loop in 13/14 min. Since we all had to run 26+ loops (or 52 laps of the 800m loop) we had a benefit of meeting/greeting each other often. I even managed to run/walk a few loops with my friends from the Country Club. However, after a few hours in the heat, the conversations and cheers started to diminish? Thank goodness half of the 800m loop was shaded. There was no shade at each end and that part of the course was like running in a sauna.
Z had organized the race with help from the St Lucia Tourist Bureau who provided police support (for traffic), Red Cross (thankfully not needed), and there was one water table set up at the start/finish line.

 By the time I reached the Half in 2:56:40 my loop interval had increased to 15 minutes. I had already been lapped by most of the runners – but I didn’t care! At 16 miles my loop interval had slowed to 17 min/mile. My legs were shot due to a lack of training because of a nasty cold I picked up on the way home from Qatar in Dec. Apparently, many of my friends had suffered the same cold with the same symptoms and results – a lack of energy to train/run.  My cycle dropped to ‘run 5min/walk 2min’ and I hoped I could maintain that cycle until 20 miles, and then I could walk the final 10Km if necessary?

 When I passed 20 miles in 5:01:16, my loop interval had slowed to 19 min/mile and I was struggling to hold that! The heat was brutal. Most of my friends and other runners had already finished the race. There were only about five of us left on the course! I tried to run/walk but now there was more running than walking. At that point I no longer cared – I just wanted to finish!

 At 24 miles my left abductor started to cramp, and I was concerned about it locking up which would mean a painful final 2 miles, so I stopped to massage and stretch the abductor to get it to relax. I decided I would walk the final 2 miles to prevent the leg from cramping. When I returned to the start line at 25 miles, the last of the cruise members were departing for the ship. They felt bad that they had to leave me alone on the course, but I told them to go since I would have to walk the final mile, and that would take about 20 minutes.

 Fortunately, there was still a local race volunteer who was accompanying me on a bike, and he stayed with me until I crossed the finish line in 6:51:08. A new PW (Personal Worst) for me for a road marathon! I am not sure how much longer (or how many marathons) I can (or want to) run if this is going to become the norm?

But at least I finished marathon # 382 and country #131!  And I completed a marathon for my 36th consecutive year!
I returned to the hotel for a cool shower. I figured a cold beer would be good but it tasted terrible.  I felt really bad. I had not eaten all day but couldn’t stand the thought of food. There was a free ‘rum punch’ party at the hotel before dinner. I drank one. It tasted terrible! And I still felt crappy, so I went to bed without dinner or any food that day – and slept 12 hours! I felt alive again in the morning, and enjoyed a huge breakfast.

 Nicole and I decided to explore the island. We drove to the northern tip passing through Gris Islet where the locals live. A stark contrast to Rodney Bay. Then we drove to Soufriere on the southwest coast. Soufriere is a small fishing village nestled at the foot of the Piton Peaks. Outside of town there is a Nature Reserve with a Botanical Garden with waterfalls – and a volcano. It is a very scenic area of the island – but a bitch to get to! The roads are in terrible shape with potholes large enough to lose a car. There is no flat coastline so the roads go up/down/over/around Mountains. Nicole became so car sick that when we arrived in Soufriere she was unable to eat lunch at the Petit Peak Restaurant. We did walk around Soufriere for a few minutes, and then decided to skip the Nature Reserve and head back to our hotel to rest and prepare for dinner.

 The drive back didn’t seem to be as bad, so Nicole was able to recover, and enjoy a nice birthday dinner at a French restaurant (Jacques) overlooking the Rodney Bay Marina.

 On Sat (our last day), we enjoyed another great breakfast and then headed south again to the airport on the east coast. We figured we should give ourselves lots of time for the drive, and we could drive past the airport to explore Vieux Port, and enjoy a nice lunch before arriving at the airport. Vieux Port was a surprise and disappointment! It is a small, poor village strictly for locals. We were certainly out of place but nobody bothered us. However, we quickly retreated back towards the airport to find a nice restaurant located on a beach, and enjoyed a leisurely lunch and a few beers.

 We were glad we had stopped at that restaurant. The airport was a zoo with four airplanes departing for the USA between 3 to 4pm? There was no room to sit at the gates, and no seats available at the two bars/restaurants! But we made it on our plane and landed in Tampa at midnight. Arrived home at 2am knowing that we were hosting a Super Bowl party later that day!

 I have two more marathons booked – one more in Feb and another in April. Both in tropical (HOT) climates! I hope they go better than this last one? I have no plans for another marathon after April!

 Photos of the marathon and St Lucia can be viewed in an album titled St Lucia on Maddog's photo website.