Friday, January 13, 2017

Bahrain Cross Island Run

     My dear readers I present to you Bahrain’s Cross Island Run. A most challenging and unique 16 km off-road desert adventure of breathtaking views in the company of friendly runners and his highness. Having last competed over two years ago and zero training this would surely be an epic run; yes, one of uncertainty and my only saving grace is to set a new personal record. That is to run across an entire country in one race.
     Awakened from sleep by the Muslim call to dawn prayers; the sounding was unbeknown to me when choosing a flat that a local minaret houses the loudspeakers on the corner lot. The melodic passages penetrate through the mid-rise’s sliding glass door as the sun prepares to give birth to another communal Friday. The view will soon unveil the ivory and golden cream dwellings whose roof tops are marked with satellite dishes and water tanks. Beyond, is the ever-calm iridescent blue water of the Arabian Gulf and the country’s vast mid-section desert.  To the South from the nation’s capital of Manama is where today’s race takes place, a barren land removed from the city bustle. For now, lying here resting and thinking it won’t be long and the smart phone will sing out “Wake Me Up,” by Avicii. Fast forward a few minutes and I find myself asking the local barista of the Costa Coffee for a double espresso for my shipmate and driving host, Andy, and a small americano to open my arteries. The cup of mocha is the capstone of a well-honed fueling ritual I developed over the years to have ready energy stores. The tradition is what I call - b o b o j – (banana, oatmeal bagel and orange juice).

     Within minutes of a few light stretches a set of headlights appear and John, another shipmate and race aficionado hops out offering the front seat. It’s a forty-five-minute drive to the Bahrain Sailing Club in Zallaq on smooth roads, Andy knows exactly where to go and is an excellent driver. We arrive and I head off to get my timing chip and bib number at the other end of the lot from the race organizer who is setup in a weathered tent lined with oriental rugs and several makeshift tables. The Bahrain Road Runners are the host and premier running club in this small island country. First though, they call me in on their photo taking, a good sign, right? With my number “128” pinned on my singlet and race chip strapped to my ankle a little more pre-race bantering, and a port-a-john visit, it was time to board the 7:00 a.m. transport bus to the other side of the island.  Our driving host, Andy, is also off, to get in a bike-swim block in preparing for the upcoming Iron Man 70.3 Triathlon in Dubai.
   
Endurance Riders training their Arabian Horses
While John and I were separated during the bus travel it gave us a good opportunity to chat it up with other expats and native runners and their experience with the race. “Don’t worry, you’ll be fine, just go easy in the beginning, “in response to essential questions. Concerns like, what’s the best way to cross the oil and gas pipe lines, how about preventing sand from in your shoes, are there distance markers, hills, surface condition, and water stops.  Our caravan arrives on the east coast, for the start of  a westward trek on foot.  The weather was evident being mid-60s with a 25-knot headwind and full sun. In preparation, I am thankful in remembering to carry an Ultimate 20-ounce water bottle as I may need all of it, and hope for a refill on the course. One final check made to double knot my Adidas Super Nova 9 running shoes and it's race time.

     It’s now 8:00 a.m., “Okay everyone over here we are about to start!” shouts the race director. “wait, make room for his highness,” as the runners moved aside, Bahraini royal Sheikh Salman bin Ibrahim al-Khalifa, strolls right up next to us on the start line, then it’s all smiles for the pre-race photo by the Gulf Daily News. Soon after the RD yells “GET SET, GO!” to start the epic adventure.

     Within the first kilometer, we come across the largest pipeline obstacle. Being conservative I elected a get on hands and knees approach to crawl underneath. I now feel the talc-like sand covering my hands and hear my heart pounding and lungs searing as my body tries to recall days when systems worked much more smoothly. From here on the other pipelines come in different sizes and numbers; all taken with caution not to twist an ankle and get hurt as help would be a long time coming out in the barren landscape.

     Can you imagine there are mountains on this flat desert island country? I don’t know how they found these hills but they are very challenging. One incline is so steep I felt my balance teeter and feared going over backwards! A course monitor was reaching out to help as I slowly leaned forward, recovering from a near backwards fall. While mostly a sand course it varies between soft and packed with plenty of ankle twisting stones requiring nimble navigation and perfect foot placement.
     Coincidence would have it my only walk, a super steep section, a photographer is taking pictures. Know the feeling? About two kilometers later, just after the second water stop a gradual drop in elevation brings us to the sea. On the other side of the country!  The surface is partially paved for the last three kilometers allowing a chance to get in the marathon shuffle. This is a relaxed running style having low knee lift while focusing on conservation of energy until sight of the finish line. Some runners call it “putting time in the bank,” or “miles under your belt.” A bit further along the race goes past the Bahrain International Endurance Village which is home to the Royal Equestrian and Endurance Federation. Rounding the corral my thoughts drift to the earlier sighting of a half dozen riders galloping Arabian horses across the desert at the break of dawn.

     With the finish line in sight it’s time to keep the head up, good running form and pump the arms a bit for the last couple hundred meters. Yay! Having the coveted finishers medals around our necks we spread good will amongst each other in trading our personal race experience. While awaiting the award ceremony, John and I take on lifeguarding duty as Andy gets in an open ocean swim. I couldn’t help the temptation of the refreshing sight of the surf after longing for it well before the race finished.  So, I went in for a swim myself, sans wetsuit. A bit chilly at first but quickly acclimatized and truly looked to take advantage of the cool salty water to help in recovery. Getting in a relaxing swim was just the answer. Nice and refreshing.


     The post-race fare included bananas, orange slices, water, hot chocolate and some kind of middle eastern spicy chickpea soup. John finished first in his age group so I snapped a few photos of him receiving a trophy from his highness and a podium shot. My finishing place was 6th in age group, 66th overall for a time of 1:31:34. The pace calculator processes this to be a 9:09 pace/mile. The race has a $40 entry fee and if needing a timing chip it will cost $20. Oh, goodness gracious where has the fitness gone? It’s remarkably inspiring how performance measurement can lead to motivation in better conditioning. I’ll be evaluating and self-assessing in pulling a better performance in upcoming events.

    We stopped at a shawarma on the way back for lunch. Shawarama is a Levantine meat preparation that is very popular here serving the predominant Arab and Asian population. I chose a chicken meal with rice and vegetables.

   
Having no preparation, mentally and physically, the event, organizers and friends, made Bahrain’s Cross Island Run an epic experience. Highly recommended!

Thursday, January 07, 2016

Running Quote of NYC and Boston Marathoner

"Somewhere, someone in the world is training when you are not. When you race him, he will win."

-Tom Fleming's Boston Marathon training sign on his wall


Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Not Often

Posting more often could renew life to this blog. . . let's start with this brutally hot loop course marathon.


Sweltering Summer Marathon (BURCS) - Aug 9 - Pittsfield, MA
Mark Bell, 48 of Sudbury MA, earned a close victory at the 2014 Sweltering Summer Marathon. Bell finished in 3:14:12, just ahead of Gregory McCullough, 51 of Springvale ME, who finished in 3:14:31. Taking third was Andy Richardt, 43 of Acton MA, in 3:19:09.
Jennifer Bell, 48 of Dalton MA, ran away with the women's title. Bell finished in 4:12:31, nearly 20 minutes ahead of the field. Cami Breen, 51 of Hull MA, was the runner-up in 4:21:48. Caroline Posiadlo, 35 of Pointe Claire QC Canada, took third in 4:26:11.
Complete Searchable Results Here!
http://www.marathonguide.com/

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

National Veterans Day Run

National Veterans Day Run 11K - ARNWR 47:00:52, 6:51/mile Nice to have sun shine high 40 degrees F and very little wind. Felt fine throughout with several hills slowing the pace. The downhill from the fire tower is steep causing over braking.

Monday, November 04, 2013

sub-7:00for20 then avgd 9:00last10K

very cold and windy, flurries during number pickup, hilly, GI issues mile 23, will not run this race again, uuggh

Sunday, October 13, 2013

9,5M Groton Trail Race

http://www.grotontftr.freeservers.com/

Exciting race with a group of four pressing the pace, banking turns, and scrambling hills. The weather held out being in the 50s with gray skies.

Finish was in 1:08:19 good for 4th in the age group and 10th overall.

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

30K Masters PR: Nahant 30K

The Nahant 30K hills are relentless! Runners experience a vast number of turns, up, down, out and back until a final two mile reprieve to the, oh so flat, causeway. The last two miles are without an easy stride as a pummeling battle had erupted on the legs and body.

Wondering why I stopped running on the course? I wish it was to admire the beautiful views! Both shoes tied too tight, especially the left. After 10+ miles of racing hills it became unbearable. Too bad as this was after several real good miles of smooth pacing with a stalwart BAA masters, oh well.

The road to continuing endurance lives as this race served a survival testament without glaring residual damage. Thank goodness!

B.A.A. race report: http://www.baa.org/programs/running-club/about-the-running-club/news/2013/september/womens-open-mens-masters-team-take-titles-at-usatf-new-england-30k-championship.aspx

Classic Look: Really had enough of this race!
 
 Race Video (I'll need to run faster): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M3bLyifnM1E

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

10K Masters PR: Lone Gull


 Good times y'all competing with some of New England's fastest in a USATF-NE Grand Prix tradition on an early September Sunday morning. Based in Gloucester’s Good Harbor’s Beach parking lot, the Lone Gull race proves earning its place in the series.

 I really like how the keyhole course, whose small rolling hills and balance of turns, help keep your focus on this challenging race distance. Not one for being a fast 10K runner, plan was to break 40 minutes and check on overall conditioning. Placement would land where it will pending who shows, weather, etc.

 Result is a 39:30 net time, lost 7 seconds on gun time, average pace of 6:20/mile, 35/126 of Masters. McMillan’s calculator projects this out to a 3:05 marathon. I can accept that considering no recent race experience.  Credit may best be conditioning on a steady improvement via speed-strength circuits and keeping mileage low to prevent over training injuries.

Can this be the year of actually completing a fall marathon?
photo courtesy of KrissyK
 



 
photos (2) courtesy of http://jimrhoades.com/13/lonegull/index.html

Saturday, August 03, 2013

LM Preview a Bust

Early wake up biking and navigating got interrupted by a flat tire. After determining location and closest metro station I was fortunate for a fellow biker to loan me a repair kit. Bought Lewis a tea and croissant and I was on the road again. A couple more underground stations, train travel, short walk with more Google Maps to get to the start line in Greenwich Park. A cloudy start led to the Thames, recommended first skipping six miles, a bit of touring and the famous bridge was in sight. To cut this short the run was also cutoff at two hours due to congestion, sun and heat resorting to a walking tour and return bike.