Nothing or Nobody’s Perfect
This being our fourth trip across the Atlantic can only be classified as goofed up. I have no one to blame but myself since I do all the logistics. Coming off 27 years at UPS where that is big brown’s forte. Not I, on this trip.
This excursion was to last 30 days and from the onset of the planning process it was one miss step after another. One thing I have never wanted to happen was to show up at the airport and be told my flight left yesterday but we came pretty damn close.
Not sure if I was getting battle fatigue from all the planning or just lack a discipline, but for whatever reason my flights did not match up with my hotels at all.
The mere fact that this trip was to take us from destination 87 thru 95 can not be used as an excuse. The majority of the scheduling screw ups were self induced but I did have some help from those folks that operate the airplanes.
It started out great with those friendly words at the gate prior to departure, over the PA, requesting you bring your boarding documents up to the gate agent.
She had a big smile as we approached and uttered my 6 favorite words.
“I have good news for you.” I replied that the last time I heard that I was very happy. Her response was, “you are going to be very very happy.” It turns out they had changed planes and needed our seats and since they had a few extra up front we once again got upgraded. That was the second time heading eastbound across the Atlantic this had happened in 4 trips. I like those odds.
So far so good some might say. Actually, to do it justice, I will hold off on the description of each screw up as they happen. The trip to the hotel left a lot to be desired and in retrospect we should have caught the bus into town but after a long flight over the ocean the last thing I want to do is try to navigate in a brand new country. The taxi should have been 15 minutes but instead was over an hour. Watching the meter keep roll off as we sat in heavy traffic was excruciating. Turns out they had a train strike so everyone was in their cars. Also there was a fatal traffic accident, truck meets cyclist so that did not help matters.
As usual we all meet up in the local pub with our new best friends for the next week with Marathon Tours. I can not speak more highly of these group of professionals that organize these trips. Kelly is our favorite tour guide and you will see why as this trip develops.
I will do anything for a free beer
So where are we you might ask. This trip has us start out in Dublin Ireland with a marathon there and then on to Galway and Ennis Ireland. The Marathon was a bit cold and wet but that did not stop all the locals from coming out and cheering us on. We are back of the pack runners that take walk breaks but even in the sometimes hard rain they were still out in droves, even the we ones, as children are often called there. Prior to the Marathon they had a friendship breakfast run. It was a 2 miler that ended up at the coliseum for breakfast. There they had everything from soup to nuts and plenty of singing and dancing. People were asked to dress up so this is what I was able to throw together.
Kelly is on the left
Borrowed Kelly’s hat
Little did I know that Dublin was the home of Guinness beer so that was my first introduction to this fine liquid. There is a two step process to pouring guinness. First you fill the glass to the when the head of the beer touches the top of the glass and then wait for a minute. There is an interesting story as to why and you can google it if interested. Then you fill the glass. There is also a process to how you are to drink Guinness. Much like you would do with my first love, Kilkenny. You are to take several swallows and not sip it to get all the flavor of the foam head.
It was only fitting that I have a cold one at the finish of the marathon.
Needles to say the Rasta Dread Lock top was a big hit both for the adoring fans and to keep my head warm in the cold rain. The long day ended with a banquet style meal at one of the oldest and highest, in elevation, pups in Dublin called Earlsfort Terrace, for more music and dancing.
The next day we were off by bus for our next destination of Galway Ireland with plenty of sightseeing along the way. We spent two nights there with Guinness for everyone.
The most memorable was our trip to Ennis Ireland where we stopped along the way to see the Atlantic ocean from Ireland at The Cliffs of Moher, that were carved out back at the ice age.
Look Mom no railing
We arrived in Ennis at the Grand hotel and this is where screw up number one thru 5 took place. It all started with an email a few months back letting me know that our trip from Dublin to Porto had a misconnect in Madrid. I had picked this routing because it was only a two stopper as opposed to a three stopper. Well British Airways/Iberia decided to move the flight out of Madrid 2 hours earlier so now we would not make our flight and the only alternative was back to the flight that had 3 stops. I did not notice that the date had also changed so now I was going to be in Dublin for an extra night. The good folks at Marathon Tours did notice when I sent them my flight information so then I only had two alternatives. Change the flight back to the original day of stay a day longer. I keep saying, Dublin, but back then I did not notice that we actually were going to be in Ennis which is clear on the other side of Ireland.
Time had past since the first change so now I had to pay a change fee and the cost difference of the new flight. No big deal but that was only the beginning. Sent my new flight information to Marathon tours and they happily pointed out that my flight were from Dublin and we were not going back there. They did not exactly say where we were going to be since I had a schedule and should have been able to figure it out for myself. All this was going on as I was trying to get back from the Kona debacle so one could say I was not paying very close attention to the details.
Since I was paying extra for flights I thought it would be a great idea to send some more money Delta’s way since British Airways was how we were routed home and I was getting really close to making Diamond status for next year. $1500 dollars later we were now on Delta from Madrid to Istanbul and Istanbul back to Atlanta and the elusive Diamond status was in site. Turns out that was not necessary since recently I hit a spending threshold and they tossed 15K miles in my account. All is not lost. I can transfer those miles to Catherine and we can both enjoy the top shelf status next year.
I sent Kelly a quick email and asked her for a price of a private car transfer from what I thought was to be Galway back to the Dublin airport. With a noon departure from the airport, 730 car was agreed upon all for a mere 300 bucks. Close but no cigar. I had met some folks in the group and they pointed out that they had found another bus line for $18 a piece since the first one I had tried was full. Not so fast, it was then pointed out that noon was my original flight time and 9am was now the time for our flight. No problem. Cancel the car, bought a ticket on a 430 bus and off we go. Some might think, but as we were on the bus to Galway, Kelly pointed out that we were going to be in Ennis and I had bought tickets out of Galway.
It was my lucky day since 4 others had made the same mistake and had flights out of Dublin and she had not cancelled the car. Low and behold we split the cost and off we went at 430 am for a two and half cab ride across Ireland. After that a three change of planes for us to get to Porto, Portugal 12 hours later. What could go wrong. Not a damn thing I might add. I should have played the lottery.
A bit tight on the leg room, nothing’s perfect
The last meal in Ireland was spent at the Bunratty Castle where Catherine and I were designated as the King and Queen for the night with crowns and all. The daughter of a family we had met on this trip, Emma, was also designated a princess. There was a head piece they had found for her to wear and when asked what was her favorite color her reply was a resounding rainbow. Pink was what they had and she was very happy anyhow.
More Mead for everyone
Off with his head
It is a small world after all, and in this case it turns out that another designated role for this dinner was for someone to be sent to the dungeon by me. At the time I did not know it but the individual turns out is a Face Book friend of mine. We share a common interest with a running cruise group that we have gone on several trips with. I was able to come to that conclusion when I noticed a picture of him at the cliffs the same day as us and when I messaged him about his picturei he thanked me for sending him to the dungeon.
After Ireland we spent 4 very relaxing nights in Porto and it is on my list of places I would like to come back to for several reasons. Everything is rather inexpensive there and I mean everything. The hotel backs up to a huge mall with great restaurants and movie theater. Easy access to the metro and across the street from the famous Porto soccer stadium, Estadio DO Dragao. It is so big I could not get it all in one picture. The team did play while we were there but the game was off site and not even at the competitors field. Oh well you can’t do and see it all. I’ll be back. We were able to get a 7 mile run in along the bay in Porto out to the Atlantic Ocean and back. I had hoped to top it off with at a pub that served Kilkenny the night before but they were closed. Once again you can’t do it all. We did get a coupon from the tram operators for a taste of wine so all was not lost.
Big mug of Super Bock is nothing to complain about.
Ran to the Atlantic Ocean in Porto
Those are not all our glasses
Not a bad brew
No game while we were there, but I will be back
Presently on one of the best train rides I have ever had. Assigned seat in the comfort car. Internet, power charger, someone to give out magazines and news papers, lunch and at your seat bar service. All for 57 Euro on our 2 and 1/2 hour trip from Porto to Lisbon Portugal where we will be for the next 5 nights.
Failed to mention that Porto is famous for their Port wine. You might have heard of Tawny Port but their are different varieties with Ruby being my favorite.
Thank you in Portuguese
Good thing I rested up. In Lisbon or Lisboa it was non stop. Got in a great run near the water and then on it was walking either up or down to see the sites and I mean straight up or down. I would never do a marathon here even though there was one here a few weeks before we arrived. Can’t do or see it all, but we tried our best. We stayed at the very stylish Fontecruz Lissboa, Autograph Collection which is a Marriott brand hotel in Lisbon. I had actually stayed there before a few years back when my oldest Son, Aaron and I came to meet my Daughter, Mariah when she was touring Europe for a year after college. When I say stylist it is more iconic. Big red wing back chairs meet you along with their darkened tones thru out the hotel with mood style lighting.
On the down side there were plenty of opportunities for people to ask you for money. On the high end with their Gucci stores, then working there way down to trinket style stores, guys trying to sell you anything and everything, folks roasting chestnuts, to the panhandler walking or lying along the sidewalks. The secret there is to never make eye contact, with for me easy since I could simply look straight ahead over their heads. There was even one guy that had two small dogs tied to a fire hydrant. One bowl of water and one filled with food and a little straw hat for donations. He sat across the street, in the park, to keep an eye on the hat, I am sure.
The food was great and not very expensive so a meal for around 50 bucks for two included the bottle of wine. A must see while there is the São Jorge Castle. Built back in the 2nd century BC and have had many uses over the years. Now, for 8 euros you can take in the great views of the city below and get in a good work out on the way up but be careful if the stones are wet on the way down.
View from the Castle
Portugal is noted for their tiles along the side of the houses and the trillions of stones that line the streets and sidewalks. You can google for that interesting story but I must admit makes for a pretty dangerous run if you are not careful. One, because they are very slick if wet and two, because some stones are missing and will not be replaced, ever.
So it is now Friday night and one might ask what should one do in Lisbon. There is only one answer and that is to go walk the streets in Bairro Alto. Once again it is a hike up the hills but well worth it. The entire area is not more than one square mile but it is always filled with people pouring in and out of the 100’s of bars and restaurants jammed into the area. They are famous for the drink called, Morangoska. It is basically crushed strawberries with Vodka and brown sugar and it is deadly. I did manage to also find an Irish pub there made me want to pause and decide.
Guinness or Kilkenny?
So I had one of each
I was determined to find the bar that I had been to with the kids where legend has it that a tall, basketball player looking man, fell into the lap of the guitar player without spilling a drop of his Moranogoska. Legend goes on, if I remember correctly, that was the first time that this experienced drinker had to leave that very drink behind before entry into a club after a short taxi ride. All without spilling or drinking a drop. It was good to get back on the horse that had thrown off him/me before. It was a fun night with some dancing, drinking and meeting some new best friends along the way.
All good things must come to an end.
We probably did not take the shortest distance back to the hotel since my phone died and I had to navigate on my own.
Little know fact
You can get directions on your phone using wifi, which most bars and restaurants in Europe, have then when out of range it will still give turn by turn. The only catch is that you must make the correct turns since the rerouted feature will not be available without wifi or cellular data. Also does not work if your phone dies.
Saturday turned into a rest day with breakfast just before it closed up at 11. Can’t pass up an included meal.
Some people watching while eating dinner near one of the many squares and early to bed for our flight the next day to Madrid. They do it right at the Lisbon airport. They toss a lot of folks at every step of the process. We did not wait in line for anything. Boarded the flight almost an hour before departure, taxied out 15 minutes early and landed over 20 minutes prior to scheduled arrival time. Wish all our travel days could be like this. Since the trip to Madrid was so smooth decided to use the Metro from the airport to another AC Hotel brand Marriott. 5 minute wait for the Airport Metro to the city. 4 stops and short walk with another 4 minute wait and with 12 stops later we ended up only a short walk to the hotel. Smooth as silk. Maybe somethings are perfect.
At the hotel there was a note posted about how there was traffic problems today due to the Madrid Marathon that morning. I do remember deciding not to participate with another Marathon in Istanbul the next week and just coming off the Dublin Marathon there weeks prior. Might have to come back to Madrid sometime in the future to run the marathon but I doubt it since I already have Spain and there are over 190 countries that have marathons. It is a big world and so little time. But I must admit I did enjoy the city. I had been there once before to check on Mariah when she was on her Europe tour. Tried to go back all the sites I saw then and added a few more along the way.
Then and now
Stayed this time at a different AC Hotel. It was near one of the biggest parks in Madrid, if not the biggest. Parquet Del Buen Retiro, it had it all and thousands of people were there doing everything from running, biking, skateboarding, roller-skating, walking and rowing small boats in the lake outside the Monumento al rey Alfonso XII. That was one impressive monument. Also there were entertainers in all shapes and sizes thru out the park. We were able to get in a nice 4 mile run, the last one, prior to the Marathon in 6 days. The park is so big you could easily hold a half marathon inside its gates.
The Arch call Puerta de Alcala was right outside one entrance on Plaza Independencia.
One of my favorite buildings I have seen on my trips so far is Palacio de Communicaclones. It is a must see while here but not sure a picture can do it justice.
You have to see it for yourself
Of course there was also the world famous Museo del Prado. Did not go inside but got some great pictures of the outside and the beautiful church next to it. With only three nights there I was unable to see and do it all. I think it is a very good chance I will return, now that I think of it. Went by the hotel I stayed at the other time with Mariah and got a great picture of the main train station nearby.
Church next to Prado, Left and Train Station, right
Madrid also has a very dense bar and restaurant district, Cortes, along with a huge square where there were thousands of people just milling around. No outstanding building, monument or fountain to look at, just a lot of folks.
The last full day was spent in a very unusual way. First the back story and the lesson learned. Due to my artificial heart aortic valve that was replaced back in June 2014, I have to take a blood thinner and there is also a need to test my blood once a week to make sure it is thin enough to keep from causing blood clots around the value and not too thin to cause excessive bleeding. I have a test unit and with a drop of blood on a test strip in the hand held machine in a few minutes I know how my blood is doing. Well to make a long story even longer. Sometimes when my blood gets out of whack I have to test more often. Everything was rocking along and I left the states with plenty of strips, so I thought. Low and behold it got of whack and now I found myself in Europe running low on strips.
No problem my old company is the best at logistic and I am sure they could get me what I needed in plenty of time. I was going to be in Lisbon for 6 days so I had them sent to me at the hotel. Big brown made a wrong turn right off the bat when they sent the package back and forth to PHL twice. I use to be responsible for all the pilots flying out of PHL so I know the interworking of the Sort there and know that sometimes things do end up in the wrong place or on the wrong plane. No big deal, still plenty of time. Package finally left PHL headed in the right direction to CGN, Cologne Germany.
I have flown that route many times and know that in few days my slight problem would be solved.
Not so fast. This is where it got interesting. Tracking the package it showed it was now in Portugal on Tuesday with onetime delivery for Wednesday. I was not leaving until Sunday so I was now a happy man. The next day it was still in a sort facility about 100 miles away from Lisbon but still showing on time. The next day at 4am I woke up and checked UPS trusty tracking site and my blood drained out of my head. What the hell is my strips doing in Hong Kong. No more sleep for me. After phone calls and emails that day, turns out that my package never really made it to Portugal but instead was mis sorted once again and was sent on a big shinny 747-400 or MD11 to Hong Kong.
Don’t think it is going to make it to me by Sunday. I then decided to have the package sent back to the US so I could retrieve it when I got back on the 20th. Easier said than done. I was told that it had to go to Portugal first then it could go back to the sender but only if requested by the sender, who in this case was a UPS store. It gets crazier from there but I needed to move on with how to test my blood. I have the machine so all I need was some strips that I am sure can be bought anywhere. Not true, the company that makes the machine says they are only sold to individuals if I could produce a prescription from my doctor and the bigger problem they don’t send them out of the US. I am not surprised.
I still have a week to solve this riddle but with only a few days in Madrid and then on to Istanbul so my best bet is to set something up in Madrid. The good old world wide web had plenty of numbers and website of companies that solve problems like this everyday. I couple of keystrokes later I had a name of clinic that does blood tests, so they say. This is where we go back to how part of our last full day in Madrid was spent.
In the room there was an info sheet on the desk table that had everything from where to eat to the closest hospital. No word from the clinic and this hospital was only 1.5 miles away. Nice brisk walk I could get there in 30 minutes. A few hours there and 30 minute walk back I would be able to kill two birds with one stone. 3 mile brisk walk and blood test. What could go wrong. Much has so far on this trip so crossed my fingers and laced off my shoes and off we went.
Got to tour a new part of town and in some cases there was someone asking for money at every corner. I was on a mission so no time to slow down. Walked right in and up to the info counter and then the road blocks began. Going to jump back for a minute on my overall impression of Madrid. So far everything is easy to figure out, everyone speaks english and the city is really easy to get around. Things headed south quick here at the hospital. The first lady did not speak English, the second lady did not speak English but I refused to give up. They found a young security guard that knew some so I am now home free.
He directed me to where I need to go and after a few minutes I was in the patient registration area. I only knew that because the translation app I have has a feature where you can take a picture of words and it would translate it for you. Highly recommended, translate by google. You do need wifi or cellular data to operate. I have a 100 MB service with Verizon for 25 bucks a month and I turn it on and off as needed and usually lasts the month but if not they will simply dumb another 100MB into your account for another $25.
Inside, however, I hit another road block. No english spoken here. She used here translate app on her computer and I typed in my answer on my phone. Her head kept shaking no but after a few phone calls the security guard was back to my rescue, along with the first info lady. After a lot of conversation which I pretended I understood I was now heading to the emergency room. As I entered and saw all the people sitting around I quickly knew that this was going to take a lot longer than 2 hours. The first nurse said I could use her machine which we figured was for diabetics. Another nurse suggested that I go to a pharmacy but then again it was decided was only good for diabetics. Back to the first nurse and she suggested that I take a number and after paying $180 Euros I might get it done today but doubted it because of all the people ahead of me.
The strangest thing then happened. The security guard said that he knew a great doctor and maybe he could help but I needed to keep it on the down low, my words, not his. Low and behold a doctor came out. I gave a lady my ID she gave me an ID bracelet and was then told not to put it on. The Doctor directed me back to where they draw blood. In a minute they had their tube of blood and was told to sit quietly for an hour for the results. 90 minutes later he handed me the perfect results, by my standards, and two hours after we arrived we were enjoying our brisk walk back to the hotel. Tried to find the security guard on our way out but was able to find his buddy that asked how things went. I gave him two thumbs up with a big smile even though he asked the question in Spanish and I don’t speak the language.
Had a great meal at a very nice restaurant and enjoyed the walk around the city. Tomorrow is travel day so early to bed. Had to share this one last picture of Madrid. This bar is adjacent to the restaurant.
So much to choose from and so little time
Lessons learned, take twice the number of test trips out of the country that I might need and forget about getting anything from the states to me if I am out of the country. That pretty much throws being an expat out the window. As I left this morning I checked the trusty dusty UPS tracking site and as of 10am the package finally arrived in Lisbon one week late. Doubt if they will ever catch up with me.
Off to Istanbul Turkey to meet up with our fine folks at Marathon Tours. There I will do my 8th Marathon for the year, 62 total and the 17th country I have done a race in. This will be our 92 destination in 327 days. Granted some of these places, like ATL, we have visited many times, but that is still unpacking our bags every 3.5 days. I tell people when asked, “how long do I plan on doing this”, “5-7 years”, is my routine answer. I really can’t imagine staying in one place right now. Probably moving forward I will need to plan on staying somewhere different more like every 5-7 days since airfare is one of our biggest expenses.
2016 is shaping up to be as busy with most of it already planned out. Not as many full Marathons but probably the same number of races with them being half marathons. Not sure of the exact words but read somewhere, something to the effect, remember when you meet someone with an accent that only means they know more than one language. That is so true. I am often asked, especially by my linguistic daughter, “why don’t I learn another language?” I have three not so good answers. First I am somewhat, dyslexic, which make learning another language very difficult. I travel to so many places so which one to choose. The one, which I am often told, especially by my daughter, “is so typical american.” “I have the money and if they want my money they will speak English.” Unfortunately or fortunately has proven mostly correct. I try to learn how to say thank you but mostly point myself around the world.
My package is back in the states and I ordered some more test strips just in case.
We have so far enjoyed two days of touring Istanbul but since our hotel is right in the middle of it all we did most of it by foot. So much information that I can no longer the birthday of my eldest. As a unrelated but fitting with the theme of this blog entry, only one of our three bags arrived with us.
Non stop, one leg flight from Madrid. Got to the airport 2.5 hours early and even paid the extra fee for the third bag and there we waited for our bags. One came down the belt right away and after the belt stopped that sinking feeling set in. Off to the lost bag and within a few minutes the very nice lady indicated that those bags did not get on the plane and will be on the same flight tomorrow. No big deal, bought a T-shirt, pair of underwear and socks and all set for tours the next day.
Bags arrived before bed the next day and one could only think, what could go wrong on this trip now. I have to put all this in perspective as we woke up to multiple CNN reports of the tragic events in Paris this morning. So surreal as we are here in Istanbul where the majority of folks are Muslims and hearing about the fact that ISIS brought down a jet a few weeks ago and now taking credit for the carnage in Paris. I realize that, one is not in the same, but I think all will get might point.
Turns out that for this Marathon we will be bussed to the Asia side of Istanbul and will run across the Bogaxic Bridge that spans Bosphorus. So if you are trying to get all 7 continents you can run this Marathon and get either Asia of Europe checked off your list but not both. Already have both so not sure why I am not doing the 15K race here.
Who knows what I was thinking at the time. Have not changed races or dropped out of any that I started so why start now.
The first day of our walking tour consisted of the Basilica Cistern, underground water system built over 1500 years ago. The Hippodrome, where chariot races were held. The Blue Mosque, which is actually has a deep blue glow of the tiles in sunlight. The Ayasofya, (Hagia Sophia}, an incredible church built back in 6th century A.D. which is now a museum. It is listed as the fourth largest building constructed as a church in a world and I must say is truly unbelievable when you think how long ago it was built. We finished off the day with a visit to the Grand Bazaar. I must admit that it was simply BAZAAR and pictures do not do it just but after only a few minutes I had to get out of there. We usually don’t buy anything on our trips so all the goods, everywhere was overwhelming.
1500 year old column in the Cistern left, water fountain in the Hippodrome, right
Blue Mosque inside above, outside during the day left and at night during dinner, right
Inside the Hagia Sophia. I could not get a good picture of the outside since it was so huge.
We were there, glad we went but never going back, did not get the T-shirt
The second day consisted of a tour of the Topkapi Palace, which was home of the Ottoman Sultans who once ruled across three continents. It is a museum today and home of the famous Harem. It took several hours to tour this massive complex and ended the day with a trip to the Marathon Packet Pickup. But first we did make a stop at the spice market where I had my first major purchase of our trip. Nuts, dried fruit and tea. As I always say, “if we can’t eat it or drink it we don’t buy it.”
Spice Market major purchase
Day prior to the Marathon was a rest day. We barely made it to the included breakfast prior to the 11am cutoff and have spent the day with my legs up the entire day. Endless CNN on the Paris bombing on the TV and every few hours chanting from the nearby Mosque on the loud speakers.
BTW during the night here you pass on the street Syrian refugees begging. All this unfolding in front of my eyes. Much to think about while running the Marathon tomorrow.
Plan on giving them a run for the money, NOT!!!
Nothing or Nobody’s Perfect comes to mind once again when it comes to running the 37th Istanbul Marathon. You would think it was their first time. The expo was lack luster and we were in and out in a matter of minutes. Not much to see or buy and had to go for an off brand when it came to finding supplements for the run. We are die hard GU users so the only thing they had was written in a foreign language but did have the words Chia and Moco so what could go wrong.
We had our own private charter bus to the start and since the roads were being closed early that day we had to leave at the crack of dawn for the 9am start. No complaints, since we took the extra time to go up into the hills of the Asia side to see the great views at sunrise.
20K of our closes friends
The bag drop and the start itself was a bit of a gaggle since it was mostly first come first serve and I ended up doing something out of character for us since there was a 5 and 1/2 hour time limit for this marathon. The way it was stated it gave the impression that you could still finish if it took you longer but you just had to move to the sidewalks since they were going to open the streets back up. That was the furthest from the truth as you will see later but I was not taking any chances so up as close to the start time we went.
All was going well but then a rush of folks stated to weave in and out of our group of marathoners and that was the group of really fast folks that were running the 10K that started 10 minutes behind us. That did not seem to make much since, but I just tried not have any of them run me over. The 10K finish came and went and off we were for a short out and back and then the 15K split. This is where it got ugly really quick.
You know how your mind plays trick on you! This was a prime example. I really did not want to do the marathon. I already had Asia and Europe and any distance in Turkey would have been okay. The 10K and 15K folks really looked like they were having more fun and it was beginning to get warm. The only saving grace, was that it was going to be Catherine and I’s 50 marathon together so I put my head down and kept moving forward.
The only problem to face at the time was the temperature rise, increase in humitiy and the mile long hill. So far so good but the wheels were all coming off at the same time.
Last but not least, was the fact, that I noticed only water at all the stops. No power aid or gator aid and at this point some off brand would have been okay. I was about out of what I had brought from the Dublin Marathon, which they handed out all during the race and at the end of the race and I was starting to worry. Here again my mind played another dirty trick and I started to ration what I had and with out me know dehydration started to set in.
Going back to the begining of the Marathon craze people were dropping like flies due to drinking too much water and having their cells explode and death. So at the water stops I was only pouring it over my head and rinsing out my mouth. I did bring one tablet to put in some water so around 20K I split it with Catherine but the damage was already done. The only saving grace for us was our other new best friend, Elayne, we could see off in the distance. We had seen her several times and some of the out and backs so far. I like to keep an eye on the folks headed in our direction both when we are behind them or when we are ahead of them. I shout out encouragement to those I know and those that really look like they need it. I also try to pull strength from the faster ones and take it from those that no longer need it, because it is very clear they are simply waiting for the sag wagon to pick them up and take them back to the finish.
The term, my new best, is one I have coined during our trips. Some ask if we miss our friends back home and I always say, “not really since we will have new best friends on this trip.” Catherine and I are very out going type people and can strike up a conversation with anyone. Even if english is not their native language or they don’t speak English at all. So on this of 35 or so Marathon Tours group members, Sarah and Elayne were selected as our new best friends for the next 10 days. As an extra bonus they both lived in ATL which is our base of operation.
As the Kilometers came and went we started to catch up with Elayne and could see she was starting to slow down clearly since we were not getting any faster. By this time I had incorporated the Jeff Galloway run walk technique. We had run several races with Jeff over the years and as some of you might know, he is an olympic runner and has a vast following on the Marathon circuit. He just finished his 100th marathon at the age of 70 and qualified for Boston using this run walk technique he has perfected. The thought process is why only use one set of muscles by running the whole time. Use them all by taking walk breaks and finish strong. We have been using it for the last two years and it helps a lot and especially after races. We have little timers we wear on our hips and it vibrates when it is time to run for 3 minutes and then walk for a minute. You can set it for any time intervals and Jeff uses and 30 sec run and 10 sec walk which for me might drive me batty but worked for him on his qualification marathon. The trick is you have to run fast while running and walk pretty fast while walking.
As we caught up with Elayne we offered some words of encouragement and we walked along side during our minute walk break. I remembered telling her a few days before the marathon that if we caught up with her we would help get her to the finish so this was not time to renege on that statement. I mentioned what our plan was to make it to the finish before they pulled up the mats and at that time our buzzers went off and asked to join us. I guess she figured, what did she have to lose, since it was clear we were getting near the back of the pack.
We would say when it was time to run and when it was time to walk and it seemed to help all of us to take our minds of the most boring part of this out and back. The cheering crowds had all gone home and the folks at the water, I repeat water only stops, were busy on their cell phones texting away. We could see the empty boxes of Bananas and power gells and I was starting to have this sinking felling that this was going to be my first, DNF, DID NOT FINISH. With 61 marathons and 100’ of other length races under my feet, I have always showed up and finished every race I have signed up for but now my mind was playing one last devilish trick. That of doubt.
Nothing or Nobody’s perfect so this is when I did some calculation and issued the word of warning to Catherine and Elayne. “At this pace we are not going to make it.” I figured with a 5:30 cut off and 10 minutes to get everyone in marathon off and running we better get to the finish by 5:40 gun time.
I always tell folks that during the last part of a marathon that when trying to figure out how much longer, my mind would always have problems to figure it out. Each mile is slower than the last near the end and by the time I figure it out I only come up with the answer, TUESDAY. The plan was to walk faster during the walk breaks and we each took our last power gels and off we went. Then the unthinkable happened to me. The ladies were now determined to make it to the finish and I was now getting into oxygen debt. I had not experienced that in several years and panic started to set in. They kept looking over their shoulders’ and now to keep up I had to run longer while they were still able to take their one minute walk breaks. I wanted to tell them to go ahead but I knew that if that was going to happen, I would never make it. 35 K was off in the distance and I could see a crew working on the Mats. As we got closer it was clear they were rolling them up and I yelled for them to wait and the man looked up and said in broken English. “It is over.” The only thought that came to mind was HELL NO. My plan now was to beat him to the 40K and get back on track. Some more unbelieaveable mental calculation I gave the rest of our team mates what we needed to do and off we went. I knew that that finish was in the old city and we had two steep but not so long hills to climb and that worried me but my plan was to deal with that when we got there.
As we approached the 40K marker there was that damn truck again and this time we were only 10 seconds behind the man as he started rolling up the damn MAT. I offered some encouragement but that took much needed oxygen so not much else was said. Small incline and our walk buzzer went off then a left turn into the park with a steep hill ahead. Buzzer once again went off and I said. “We are not running up this hill.” With no complaints. At the top the buzzer letting us know we could now walk I gave the command to run and off we went thru the now crowed park. We had to dodge everyone as they shouted out and clapped and it was down hill so we rode it for all it was worth. One last hill to go and I knew running up it was out of the question.
You hear so many stories of people dropping dead at the finish and that is not how I wanted my life to end and as we turned the corner and looked straight up crowds cheering on both side I simply said, “We will walk to the top.” Everyone was telling us to run and I just yelled back pumping my fists but once again I realized that was using much need oxygen but at this point who caries. Made it to the top and there was a small group of Marathon Tour members yelling and clapping and the three of us grabbed hands as we started to make the turn to the finish. Little did I know there were two turns to the finish so we dropped our hands, clapped to the crowds of folks on die hards that stayed to cheer on the final few. I only had one last thing to say to my fellow team mates and that was the clock was still counting and we could slow down.
With a few steps to go we grabbed hands once again for what we thought was going to be a fantastic photo finish but the strangest thing then happened. There was a guy on his knees rolling up one of the four mats at the finish and he was directly in front of me. We were still holding hands and we were all looking for the photographers which not longer existed and I found myself headed right for this guy. He kept rolling up the Mat and I tripped over his leg, tripped Catherine who went down and luckly Elayne was able to go around without a scratch. I get the worst cramp ever in my leg and can now barely walk, two guys are carrying Catherine off to the medical tent and now my focus was on did I hear a beep, as was we crosse the other three mats and where is my DAMN medal. I asked everyone I could find since I could not find the usual line of folks that usually put them over your head and was pointed to a guy standing behind the back of a truck. I rushed to him, peaked in to see if Catherine was okay in the medical tent. Did not see any blood, which I have seen in the past so back to getting our medals. He handed me a bag and demanded to know where our medals were and he pointed to inside the bag. I indicated I needed another one as I pointed to the medical tent and was given one for Catherine. Rushed over to check on her and they were finishing up taking her blood pressure, which was reading normal and she kept trying to tell them she did not faint she was tripped.
Nothing of Nobody is perfect but this was the worst Marathon I have ever run. Reflecting back several days it was one of the most memorable and glad I did it but all the missteps on the organizers part makes it one that I do not recommend, if you are like me, that run them from the back of the pack and try to enjoy yourself, if that is at all possible. After it is all over I can understand part of their thought process. I told you 5 1/2 hours, we have roads to open so our tourist can get back to seeing all the sights we have to offer and if someone wants to hold a marathon in our city, I suggest if they are not a 4 hour runner, they do the 15 or 10K instead.
For me and Catherine it did not really matter if we hit the mat prior to the 530 cut off or not. I saw 540 and change on the clock, I heard the beep of of at least one of the mats and I had a medal. I was told later that you had to cross every mat to get a finishing time and low and behold when I went to check our times I last recorded time was at 30K. It did matter for Elayne since this was to be her Marathon for Europe and her plan was to get one in all Seven Continents and was not planning on doing Europe ever again. I figured that was only the live stats times and that after a few days we would all get the official times. To make matters just a bit worst. Not only did they not have people to put the medals around your neck as I have had done at all races where they have medals they had the same medal for all the races. Don’t figure.
We all met for dinner at the Han restaurant where we sat on the floor for some great turkish food and licked our wounds and swapped the great stories. There was a small group of 10 or so that had done the Athens Marathon the week prior and they even had two medals around their necks. We did Athens back in 2010, which was the 2500 year anniversary of when Phillipities ran from Marathon to Athens back in 490 BC. There, as you remember he died when he got there. We also did back to back marathons in 2012 when Paris and London were a week apart. We even did two marathons a day apart back in 2005 while training for a 50 miler but Dave was not impressed.
Dave was another of our new best friends. We met him at the airport in Istanbul. He was also on the tour with us but stayed at a different hotel. As us marathoners all do and like most pilots when we first meet and some might even say dogs. We figure out the hiearchy. How many marathons have you run, where, when and all the states. We did the same when I use to fly. How many hours do you have, what type airplanes, were you in the service. In Dave’s case this was going to be his 300th marathon and is going back to the states to run his second time around all 50 states. I am not worthy. I figured he runs one every 6 or so days. Sounds to much like work to me. On top of that he still has a full time job. I am sure we all know how dogs do it.
The next day it was where most headed back to the States but there was the 8 of us that were now headed to Cappadocia. It is actually spelled several different ways but I will not go into them all now. The tour guide, Ali, that we had for the last few days, was now going to lead us on the very magical part of Turkey. I usually sign up for all the extensions. I figure since I am here I might as well experience all that is offered unless it conflicts with something else I already have planned or is a budget buster. Going back to my premise in an earlier blog. You can’t do or see it all. Remember most are on vacation, however this is our lifestyle.
I can’t give all the facts and figures, as Ali, he was a fountain of knowledge on the area but I will try my best to give some of the highlights. It first started off with Ali asking, if we were going to do a morning ballon ride or not. I have done one in the past so it was not high on my list. It was close to being a budget buster, it was early in the morning, which meant Catherine might not get here usual 9 hours of sleep and it was pointed out that it was going to be about 30F at lift off. First I said no but on the ride to the airport Sarah and Elayne were signed up and I really did not want to hear about what I had missed. I quick phone call by Ali and we were now all set for a 520am van pick up the next morning, OUCH.
After the great Flight on Turkish Air we were now in a 12 passenger van, for a very comfortable tour of the Cappadocia. All the facts and figures rolled of Ali’s tongue in rapid fire. A bit much for me to all take in but I must admit most of the time I was just listening and looking with my mouth wide open. We did visit numerous churches in their elaborate system of caves and some of them were still being used but most were abandoned back in the 50’s. There was also a jaw dropping under ground city which was 8 levels, 5 stories below ground. It was home for over 3,000 people and dates back to 400bc where they could stay for 6 months at a time. Traps with slabs and holes to drop spears on invaders was throughout. Their smoke was routed far away so they had time to prepare if invaded and looked like for their time period had all the comforts of home. Even one section where they made their wine.
We checked into our new home for the next three nights at the Yunak Evler, Cave hotel.
That is correct our hotel was made out of a cave as so many in the area are. The only thing that was missing was Fred, Wilma, and Bam Bam.
We were on the second floor
The hot air ballon ride was the highlight of our trip and was nothing like I had expected. I was thinking we get in a ballon take off fly around for an hour and land. Have a glass of Champagne and freeze our buns off in the process. After the short van ride we had a great breakfast and we waited for others to arrive and for the red flags on their maps to turn green to let us know that the weather was good for flight today. Right as we finished up our Turkish Tea and olives we were off for another short ride to the launch area for what turned out to be over 50 balloons to take flight. With the different wind direction at different altitudes there we were able to dip down and get up close and personal with all the different caves and mountains in the area. Truly magical. It turns out there was another couple that we referred to as a much younger version of ourselves. They were in their mid 20’s and had worked and saved for a few years after college. Quit their jobs and were traveling the world for the next 18 months. The plan was to go back to work after that and starting their chosen career fields.
I understand that is the new trend. Unlike Mariah that did it right after college, or those that are trust funds kids that will do it the rest of their lives or like us that travel extensively after retirement. They figure that this experience is something extra to go on their resumes when it is time to reenter the job market. Flawless touch down and the usual Champange toast at the conclusion with and added benefit of medal put around our necks by the Captain, who was also the Chief Pilot of Royal Tours. Highly recommend if you are ever in the area.
Champagne Celebration after the ballon ride
It was hard to top that but Ali did his best with a some more tours of the area, great lunch at a local family restaurant. We were the only ones being served that day and there most have been 6 different courses. After that we went for a leisurely 90 minute hike thru some more caves and were given detailed descriptions along the way. Ali had also arranged dinner that evening at another of his favorite restaurants I could honestly say I was falling in Love with the area. Most folks were very friendly and spoke very understandable English and with Ali’s connections made you feel like family. We did visit a place where they made rugs and were given a very informative demonstration of the entire process which ended with some soft selling as they unrolled rug after rug. Since we don’t have a home it was easy for us to walk away. I did consider buying one for the Motor Home but thought better of it. Half the group did make some great purchases. Not a bad closer rate with some of the rugs going for several thousands of dollars each. The one I had my eye on was of 50K.
Tool on the left to grind grain and pigeon holes below
The last day consisted of seeing more cave churches and dwellings with the mountain range off in the distance including the second tallest mountain in turkey, Uludoruk. We stopped off to see Einstein or the best look alike at a pottery shop. He is third generation with over 5O years at the kick wheel. He now has three daughters so the male dominated profession will now have his daughter to best on the tradition and he also selects ten woman around the world to come and be trained by him. The selection process is a bit odd with the woman want to enter the lottery system they must send him a lock of their hair.
He is in the Guinness book of world records for the tallest jug
Some more soft sales at the end but once again no home so no sale. Here the sales ratio had dropped to 25%.
After that we went to another familyrun restaurant where here we had 8 different courses and the first desert was number four. They felt that having something sweet half way thru the meal helped clean the palette. It was all good and ended with a short cooking demonstration. There cooking classes is their main source of income and has had some pretty notable names attend their classes. With a full belly the only thing left to do was to go for and more strenuous hike than the day prior but only for an hour this time.
The last planned event is at best, hard to describe, so I will simply cut and paste.
The Sema (Whirling Dervish Ceremony) represents the mystical journey of man’s spiritual ascent through love, finding the truth and arriving to be “Perfect”. Then he returns from this spiritual journey as a man who has reached maturity and a greater perfection, so as to love and to be of service to all of creation, to all creatures without discriminating in regard to belief, class, or race.
I can easily say that I have now seen it all
Dinner was not required so some of us met around the outdoor fire pit with Ali to reminisce all that had occurred for the last 10 days. Maybe there was a bottle or two of fine Cappadocia wine for us to all share. Last but not least a quick check of the race stats before bed and low and behold it was official. Catherine and I had run our 50th marathon together, my DNF less streak was alive and well and our new best friend Elayne does not have to repeat Europe.
Short flight back to Istanbul the next day where, btw, they have an unusual security procedure. Both in Istanbul and the two different airport for the Cappadocia area they screen all items as soon as you enter the doors of the airport. That is the first screening of our items. Another one takes place just prior to the gate area. Another security measure I had never seen before was when we entered the lobby area of the Renaissance, Marriott brand hotel in Istanbul. Bag scan and metal detector.
There we stayed the afternoon and evening before our predawn departure back to the states the next day.
This was the last on our list of Nothing or Nobody’s perfect.
When planning this 29 day trip I once again failed to noticed exactly when and where we needed to be prior to heading back to ATL. Thanks to my helpful folks at Marathon Tours it was pointed out that my flight was leaving on the 19th prior to our arrival from Cappadocia so after a quick look at our alternatives and 30K points later I booked us at the Renassance hotel. Upon check in the kind lady pointed out that we were given, in her opinion, the best room in the hotel. Top floor and a view to die for. I did see the presidential suite down the hall but since I have no idea what that looks like I was good with her opinion. Their slogan is live life to discover. Very fitting under the circumstances.
Instead of the usual 500 points, their welcome gift is a small bottle of wine with cheese and nuts
Very nice park out back so we were able to get a 6 mile walk in prior to another great sun set and happy hour.
View of our hotel from the Park
Of course I would
Somewhat uneventful flight back to ATL. For the first time we were in the middle seats on 4 across. Catherine might not agree since she was next to a double wide.
“How long is this flight to ATL”