A few months ago, a fam trip came up which included a trip to the Bahamas and entry to the Bahamas Marathon. I actually saw this last year, but H.U.R.T. 100 is the same weekend so I was a little busy. This year, it fit into my schedule. When I signed up back in October, I thought this would be a good opportunity to re-learn how to run fast again. I haven't done an actual road marathon since Boston almost 2 years ago. Doing ultramarathons since then has been at a much slower pace, so I thought I'll do some speedwork for a few months and nail this thing, then I'll start the season with a new found speed to go with my endurance... Well, that plan went in the crapper.
It started off fine enough in November, I was picking up the pace on my runs and planning to do much more, but then disaster struck. Well not really, I was just being lazy and not putting the effort in. It was still on my to-do list though, but then I got a wicked sinus infection for the first 3 weeks of December and I couldn't run, felt like crap the whole time. Then along came Christmas and holidays..... the sun was in my eyes.... the dog ate my homework..... I'm on my period..... etc. How many excuses am I allowed to use? It's my own fault, I just couldn't get myself up for this one, plus I was still enjoying my break after Oil Creek 100 in October. So, then along came January. I'd run a little here and there through Dec and Jan, but only about 10k per week! I am indeed the King of Training Wrong...
Snow's a Comin', Let's Get Outta Here...
I went to the airport Thursday morning to meet the group. I relaxed in a chair and started re-read 'Born to Run', the book I'd read almost 2 yrs ago before doing my first 50 miler. I have a big race coming up in August, there's a portion of this book where they're running it also, so I thought I'd read it again now that I'm signed up, more on that later.
At the gate I met our organizer Annie and the 13 other runners. Annie said to me 'So you're our marathoner'.... Huh? It turned out I was the only one running the marathon! Most of the others were doing a 5k, I guess they really did want a cheap trip! Why didn't I think of that? Annie was running a half marathon, plus Diane was walking the half, the others were doing 5k. One of the 5k runners (Sue) convinced 3 more runners to get together and do the marathon as a relay instead. Jose, Carole and Danielle all agreed so Annie would contact the race organizers and have them switched to the relay instead later. Annie handed out our race shirts, we were sponsoring Yellowbird to raise money for a school in Exuma, Bahamas. They were bright yellow cotton shir.... wait, cotton? Better remember to put band-aids over my nipples before the race...
Flight was great, had an empty seat beside me and I slept the whole way. First time on Westjet, they were very friendly and I have no complaints. Except for no free beer. And $5.99 to watch a movie. And no free food. Ahhh, those are more like observations, not complaints. I actually just wanted to sleep anyway.
Pre-Race Nutrition and Training:
Leading up to the race, nutrition consisted of beer. Training consisted of getting up to go order a beer if there wasn't anyone else around to do it. Oh yeah, I'm gonna rock this race. We stayed at the Sheraton, had a nice dinner hosted by the hotel on Thursday night. I hit the casino later on, I left after raking in about $15. Friday, we flew to Great Exuma for the day to visit Sandals. We were supposed to do an island tour, but that was cancelled so we arranged to go snorkelling instead. Had a blast, great weather, lots of drinks (sticking to my pre-race nutrition plan). We flew back to Nassau that evening, then that night a bunch of us went out to Senor Frogs' for late dinner and dancing (I still don't know what the Dougie is). Got right back on the nutrition plan, ordering beers by the bucket!
Saturday, we went to visit Atlantis for breakfast and a tour. I slept in while the 5k suckers had to be in the lobby by 5am for a ride to their race! Wait, that will be me on Sunday... Turns out they messed up the start time and went an hour early! Atlantis was huge, the tour took us over 2 days (2hrs, felt like 2 days). Apparently they cut it short, it was even longer last year. One girl got to skip out because she was going scuba diving... I always knew if I'd learned to scuba dive it would come in handy someday, dammit!
Saturday night we had a dinner hosted by the Hilton. Normally I'd be happy to have a buffet meal the night before a race, but it was seafood night! I didn't want to eat anything funky and have stomach issues in the morning, so I stuck to some noodles... and beer. Normally I don't have any alcohol the night before a race, but this thing was shot anyway, so what the hell. Only had a few.
When we got back to the hotel at about 10pm, I still hadn't got around to getting any food for breakfast in the morning. Gotta have my Mr. Noodles! Jose needed something too, so we took take a taxi to the nearest grocery store. $20 round trip (Jose talked her down from $25), so we each paid 10 bucks and I got my 59 cent Mr. Noodles....
Back in my room by 1030pm to get a decent sleep before the race, but I couldn't sleep. I haven't had a full work week since before Christmas, I'm still used to going to bed late so I was messed up. Finally turned off the TV at 1230am, then dozed off a bit after that...
Up at 3:45am after a 3hr nap, good plan. Had a coffee, granola bar and banana, then ate my Mr. Noodles while sitting in the tub soaking my legs in hot water to loosen them up. Got dressed and taped up my shins, not even sure if I need to anymore but it helps keep the calf cramps at bay longer. Met in the lobby at 5am for our ride to the start. Annie and Diane were doing the half, plus Sue and Carole who were doing the first 2 legs of the relay all jumped on the bus. There were a lot of other runners in the lobby waiting for a shuttle, but our group had our own private driver Bubba all weekend (picture what you think a guy named Bubba would look like, and you're correct). Ok, so we're at the start by 5:15am, I think we left early enough to avoid any Bahamian traffic jams. It was a little chilly, so we hung out in the lobby of the Hilton a few blocks away to stay warm. Just before 6am, we headed over to the start.
Now that I'm about to start a marathon, let's just recap what's going on here: I haven't trained since, well, October really. I haven't run a road race since last June. I'm wearing new shoes I haven't worn in yet. I'm carrying some extra 'body insulation' from my lazy winter, not really necessary in the Bahamas! I've been hitting the beers way too much over the last few days, including last night. I slept 3 hrs last night. What am I even doing here?... Oh yeah, it was a cheap trip.
And We're Off!
6am, go! I just kept a steady pace in the crowd for the first while. We start downtown, then head over a bridge to Paradise island, then back across another bridge. We then head east for a bit, before turning back west, passing though downtown and then following the north shore heading westward. I passed by one of our relay runners Carole, she was waiting for Sue to arrive so she could go. There were barely any aid stations for the first while, but really they weren't needed yet. I wore my smaller belt with 2 small bottles filled with Eload, also brought along Powerbar gels, some Clif Shot Blocks and as usual my salt and electrolyte pills. Without training, cramping up would be inevitable but I was doing everything I could to delay it. Flat ground or explosive movements seem to set off my calf cramps. I can run a hilly course for 35hrs without cramping, but can't get through a 1.5hr soccer game without them seizing up. Or a marathon for that matter! I was feeling pretty good at this point....
The sun came up behind us just after we left downtown. It was a beautiful morning running beside the ocean. We had a big wind pushing us from behind, this was not going to be fun on the way back! My quads were already getting sore and I still had a few hours to go. A little while later I passed by Danielle, she was waiting for Carole to arrive. The long, straight, flat runs were getting to me, I'm so used to twisting and turning trails. I'm also used to chatting with fellow runners and knowing the aid station people, marathons are different as it's basically a huge group of people running in silence. So, I started to liven things up a bit, I'd say hello to runners I passed, or I'd give words of encouragement to people who passed me. I started saying good morning to spectators, they always seemed to be caught off guard and surprised. "Look, they can talk!"
I got to the halfway point at 1hr 45min, this is right about where I thought I'd be. Heading out toward the turnaround, I passed the final relay runner Jose, then passed him again after we turned around. This meant I had about 12k to the finish, I'll just keep plugging along. Shortly after that I passed Danielle heading the other way, she was looking strong on her way to Jose. My pace had slowed a bit, now I noticed I was really getting hungry. I'm used to the aid stations at ultras which are stocked with lots of solid food, but here there was just some gels! I hadn't though of this ahead of time, otherwise I would have packed some munchies. The closest thing I had to food was a pack of Clif Shot Blocks (basically big square gummie bears), so I ate that but it didn't help.
Things were starting to go downhill now (not literally, I wish). Headwind was strong, flat roads went on forever and I was really hungry. My forearms had cramped up and legs were twitching getting ready to cramp. Food would reeeeealy help right now. If I see a kid on the side eating a candy bar, I'm taking it. I put my head down to avoid looking way, way down the road and just kept going. This wasn't a problem, I've been though mental challenges on a run a thousand times tougher than this, but I just wasn't enjoying myself.
Cheer Up Dummy
Then, I looked up and saw the light blue ocean beside me and I put things in perspective. I'm in the friggin' Bahamas! It's a beautiful day, sun is shining, there's no snow. I get to go for a leisurely run along the shore. The people at all of the aid stations were so friendly and supportive, they made it a great atmosphere. I've tanked the race before it began, so there's no pressure here, just have fun. Well, at least keep it under 4hrs dumbass, this ain't a birdwatching stroll.
As I neared the finish, I though I'd pick up the pace with a few hundred meters to go and.... d'oh!....Both calves cramped up! I had to stop and stretch them for a minute to get them moving again. Ok, let's just trot to the finish then. I rounded the last corner and and just kept a slow pace to the finish. I always do a full out sprint for the last 100 metres or so, but not gonna happen this day. I was busy waving back to my fellow Yellowbird supports, I didn't even notice passing a guy with about 50 metres to go, apparently he did because he turned it on and shot past me right before the finish. Glad to help, buddy... I finished in 3hrs 52min, under my self imposed 4hr cutoff. Not exactly scorching, but I'll take it...
Jose and I at the finish
What To Do After a Marathon?
Go on another hotel site inspection of course! We got back to the Sheraton just before 11:30am, we had to be back in the lobby at 12:30 to walk to another hotel for a tour and lunch! It was Breezes which is just down the street, not a problem but my quads were not very happy. Hotel was nice, great location and great beach. This is actually where the fam stayed last year. The tour was quick, then it was time for a very welcome buffet lunch! Plus more beer.
That afternoon, it was time relax. Some of us walked along the beach on the way back, the sand felt nicer than walking on any more concrete! A few of us spent the afternoon with drinks by the pool, followed by drinks on the beach. I didn't leave time for a nap, I had to go change as we were off to visit another hotel for.... wait for it..... a site inspection! This one was welcome, it was at Sandals Royal Bahamian, a beautiful property and not too big so tour was brief. We then sat down for a great dinner on a covered patio. After dinner, they said we were welcome to spend the evening at Sandals and enjoy ourselves. A few of us went to the piano bar for awhile. Let me tell you, if you've never got hammered and joined in on some tunes at a piano bar, I highly recommend it! From what I recall, my singing was spot on... Jose on the other hand.... I don't even know how to describe the sounds he was making, I think he was trying to bring back the Fat Boys.
We seranaded all of the Sandals guests until midnight when the piano bar closed. What was that? Another bar on the property is open until 3am? On we go... We ordered more food and many beers. We had a great time joking with staff all night, maybe they found it refreshing to have a fun drunk group around instead of just couples (who were all in bed by midnight, we may have kept them up though). Eventually, even the staff left. We attempted to leave the property with our beverages at 3am, but the guard at the gate stopped us, busted! Then he said 'Let me put those in plastic cups for you!' Great! We then wandered back down the street to our hotel. Our Bubba back to the airport was at 1030am the next morning, thank goodness got to sleep in.
Trip was great, company was great, got to meet a lot of good people and had a great time. The fam was very well organized, good job Annie! Bahamas was beautiful, I plan to go back again and see more of the island and less hotels next time. Lots of new hotels popping up soon, lots of development going on...
Glad I got that out of the way, you won't find me on a road again anytime soon! I'll do another post shortly with my plans for 2012, but it basically revolves around Leadville 100 Mile Trail Race, aka 'The Race Across the Sky'. It's in the Colorado Rockies, starts at an elevation of 10,200 feet. It's not until August, so until then I'll do the usual Ontario Ultra Series races and fit another 100 miler in before then to get ready, likely Mohican 100 in June.
To all of my fellow runners from the Bahamas, good job! It was great to meet you all, I hope you all enjoyed yourself as much as I did!