Running all over the world is not for the faint of heart
You can look at this in two different ways. The first being it does take a pretty strong heart to do all the running that we do in a year and the second being the world is not as safe as it once was. In some cases people would tend to disagree since there were times when millions were killed in some war or conflict around the world.
With the internet there seems to be an heighten awareness of all the turmoil around the world and now we tend to react negatively to these reports. During our travels we have heard of bombings and shoot outs in or around the time we visited these places.
Recovering here in Acapulco after the Boston Marathon which was one of the hardest marathon’s I have run to date. The course is tough and the late start and heat made it particularly hard for me. Running in the heat puts a strain on me in particular and trying to get some running in while here was not easy.
We did manage to get in two runs, one on the beach and one on the road. 85 degrees on loose sand was probably not the best of ideas but as they say all that does not kill you makes you stronger. Going back to faint of heart. Since my operation I have a pretty good sense of how I feel and I must say I did push my limits.
For some reason I don’t sweat as much as the typical person and the humidity did not help. The good thing is that did have a very nice pool to cool off in afterwards and was even able to get in some laps on the days we did not run.
This two month trip had us starting out in Acapulco Mexico. Below is the trip advisor review to give you a sense of what I am talking about. While we were there I got a Face Book message from one of our RunningCruise.com running buddies about the shoot out that took place on the Sunday of our stay. Turns out some drug lords were not happy of the recent arrest of one their king pin’s so they decided to take the vengeance to the streets.
Thriller had to get into the act
Is the upgrade worth the 2 1/2 hour sales job
Upon check-in at the Grand Mayan Acapulco we were sent to see another lady for our actual room key. I knew what was coming next. This week was acquired through an Interval Travel special deal. This was an opportunity to see the property and the room they had been a one bedroom without a kitchen. The lady mentioned that the room they had for me was one of their very small rooms and for an upgrade to a suite all I needed to do was listen to a 90 minute sales presentation of their property.
Since time is not of an essence for us I figured it was worth the upgrade. The room they gave us was very nice. It did not have a view of the beach but the patio was a very nice size and included a plunge/cool pool with two lounge chairs. The suite includes a full kitchen with a large shower in the bathroom area and a whirlpool bath in the bedroom area. Two separate sinks one double sink in the bathroom area and another one near the kitchen area.
The property was in pretty good shape and there were people everywhere watering and sprucing up all day long. The Mayan theme was throughout with large structures so you eyes really don’t focus in on some of the slight short falls as you go from place to place.
They have a huge pool out back and also a lazy river next to it. The beach area was rather nice but there was some problems if you choose to lay out under some of their thatch roof covered lounge chairs. Since it is a public area many a vendor would walk by asking you to buy their wares or offering massages.
The plus and minus that was of the most concern was the nearby guys offering horse rides. It seems like a great idea at first but as we all know horses go where horses go. They seem to do a good job picking up behind them but as you walk the beach you can clearly see that in some cases not so much. Horse remnants can be found all along the beach and that does not make for a very pleasurable swim in the water knowing that fact.
The sand is a dirty brown so I could only bring myself to put my toes in the water. There are plenty of pool chairs and loungers and made it hard to believe that this place it 80% full as told by the sales lady since not even half the chairs were being used. Also you really don’t see many people anywhere. The entire complex included 4 different properties that covered several miles so maybe the 80% were staying in the other properties.
The sales presentation started over breakfast with numerous questions concerning the Time Share we currently owned. The lady seemed nice enough and has been doing this for the last 10 years. She seemed very knowledgeable and tried her best to assure us that she was simply going to show us how her company has moved away from the timeshare concept to a property ownership program.
After breakfast we moved on to a tour of some of the type of rooms available both here and in many of their properties in Mexico and South America. A new property will be opening up in Argentina next year. She kept mentioning that this was a very new concept and that all companies will be moving in this direction over the next year.
Right now even though we own a week at the Marriott property we have to pay maintenance fee and taxes each year. They are more of a pay as you go once you own instead of the yearly fee each year.
They offered to buy our property, they get a tax write-off by the Mexican government and then give us credit off the purchase price for a week at their properties. They started running numbers and tried their best to get us to write a check. When the lady finally gave up she had her manager come in to sign us off, as they put it, but he gave it one more try.
I really was not interested but he did not give up without a fight. His final try was to give us a monthly amount for their lowest end unit with no money down. Finally was able to sign our names saying we were not interested and was then sent to see the man who was going to authorize our 10% discount off all purchase during our stay.
Little did I know that this one more sales job for a new product they had for people like us. It was a three-year plan for a very low-cost just so we could get our toes in the water. Still shaking our heads, no, he also gave up and asked some questions about the people we met and how the presentation went.
Going back 6-7 years Acapulco was the place to go but now it is still trying to recover from the travel slump caused by the drug wars taking place on the other side of mountain. They even had a shoot out near a local police station during our stay. Turns out the State Department does not allow their employees to travel here. Very sad since we felt very safe in and around the Grand Mayan. We even went for several runs along the beach and nearby golf course. That would explain why we had to go thru Mexico city to get here. Simple not enough traffic to justify non-stop flights from Atlanta, etc. This is a very popular for the nationals that can drive in from Mexico city 4 hours away.
Don’t get me wrong. This is a very nice property and the upgrade is worth the 2 1/2 hour sales presentation. The trained eye could find small things, but none would be classified as eye sores. The building it is 9 years old as was told that they are always working on the building since the nationals typically come in groups of 8-10 and so put a lot of wear and tear on the property. Right now it is listed as their off-season which would explain how we were able to get to stay here at such a low rate and get the upgrade so easily.
WiFi is available throughout all of their buildings and was very reliable and the $54 weekly price was very reasonable. There were a few bars in our building and near the pool but the restaurant situation was a bit confusing. One was being repaired and the two other main restaurants would have specials and on some days would be closed all together. They had various themed buffets and one outdoor buffet the day before we left. Prices to eat and drink were reasonable and the entire staff were both friendly and very helpful.
Back to reality
After 18 hours in ATL it was off to Fort Collins CO to check Colorado off Catherine’s listed of states needed to complete a race in all 50 states. It started out for her to complete a Marathon in all 50 states but we have decided that just one more marathon next week in Prague and we are going to cut back to only doing half marathons for the next 4 years.
We are so glad we made the switch since when we got to Fort Collins the temperature had dropped from the 60’s to the 30’s. The race start was at 6:30 with a 5am bus departure to the start. There we stood out in the cold for an hour in light snow. Needles to say we froze waiting for the start and I broke down and put on someone else’s discarded warm up bottoms.
It really is snowing and not for the faint of heart
Catherine was layered but for some reason really did not adjust to the cold weather. The folks that did the full started at the same time but 13 miles further up the mountain so I can only imagine what that must have been like. During the race we kept telling each other how glad we were that we were not doing the full.
Fort Collins was a very nice city to visit and the organizers put on a great race. It was nice to have the expo inside our hotel and the busses left from the hotel front door. The race ended in the town square with beer and some entertainment so I was happy but since Catherine was still shivering we caught the hotel shuttle back for the much-needed hot showers.
Shivering and not for the faint of heart
27 hours on the ground in ATL then we were off to Prague, Czech Republic for our final Marathon for four years. Being a numbers man I did a 50 miler at 50, ran 55 miles in two days at 55 and finished my 60th marathon at 60 so since Prague will be number 64 for me, I decided to wait until I was 65 to do marathon number 65.
We met up with our Marathon Tours and Travel folks in Prague and reunited with Jen Ryder, our Marathon Tours representative once again. She was on our third tour with them 4 years ago in Stockholm for their 100 year anniversary marathon. The marathon course was the same one used for the olympics back then. We even finished with a lap around the stadium track which was the same finish for them.
The flight was not bad on the way over but I must admit that I don’t like flying with Delta’s alliance partner, Air France, as much as I do as Delta, themselves. Their computer systems don’t always line up together and neither does their level of service. Nothing major but since we have been flying just about everywhere we go the small things do matter.
We flew into Paris Charles De Gaul airport, my least favorite, and with a two-hour layover then another Air France flight to Prague. At the Air France lounge we ran into Dave, who we had met on a tour in Istanbul. When we saw him before, last November, he was working on his 3rd year in a row of doing a marathon in all 50 states. This time he is recovering from some injuries and this was only he third marathon for the year. With almost 400 marathons under his feet, I a not surprised on the injury part.
With a welcome reception that evening at the hotel we decided to push through and stay up during the few hours in-between our arrival at the hotel and the reception. With only a few hours of sleep on the plane we usually crash out for a few more hours of sleep as soon as we get to the hotel.
Turned out that worked pretty good since we both slept like babies and transitioned our body clocks being 6 hours off better than ever before. The next day was a walking tour of the city where we were able to take in all the nearby sites.
We were able to see Old town, New Town, Lesser Quarter and the Castle Town. We got to walk across the famous Charles bridge and go up the 250 steps to get to Prague Castle and Saint Vitus’ Cathedral. We did not get to go inside since the lines wrapped around the building. Turns out the Marathon start was in Old town square and ran back across the Charles Bridge early on in the race.
View from Prague Castle, yes that is a replica of the Eiffel Tower, 1/10 the size but the same height since it is on top of a mountain
On the Charles bridge they say it is good luck if you touch the left side first then the right. Best of luck to me since I can touch both.
I can fly
The race itself was very memorable. With a 9 am start and 7 hours time to finish it made for a very relaxing day. The start finish was only 1/4 mile away from the hotel so it was easy peasy as logistics to and from race starts and finishes goes. Since we are so slow we were in corral L and that was another 1/2 mile from the start. Since our plan was to start at the very back we just waited near the start line and when every one had gone by we jumped right in and were the very last to cross the start line. The added advantage was that we were able to watch the 79 elite runners take off. Turns out this was one of the last qualifying marathons for the Rio Olympics.
The Elite Runners
Something I had never done before and still not sure why I decided not to wear a watch. I guess I wanted to try something different and also being my last one in a while and the 7 hour time limit I thought it should be a good idea. At the time of the decision I did not realize how strange that was going to be. To make matters more interesting they did not even have a clock anywhere on the course. I did break down at the half way mark and pulled out my cell phone to get the time so I could figure how slow we were going. At that point we were pretty much on pace for our usual 5 hours 30 to 5 hours 45 typical marathon times. Shortly after that the wheels came off of Catherine’s wagon. It did not help matters since she was still fighting the cold she got while in Fort Collins.
The second half was not pretty but we got it done and were able to finish, once again, holding hands and all smiles. The race reminded me of Rome, which I did not much like. People everywhere going from major tourist site to the next and only a few that were actually cheering you on. Also, like Rome, there were cobble stones everywhere. Catherine almost went down tripping on one section but somehow managed to stay on her feet.
I tried to stay motivated by giving out high and low fives as often as possible and the decision to hang this up for a while was looking better and better. During our limited discussions during the race Catherine pointed out that actually she wants to do two more marathons. One for my 65 and one for her to have 80 marathons. Unlike me she counts the marathon distance in the 50 miler and the marathon distance in the run portion of the Iron Man.
We are currently on a leisurely 5 hours bus ride from Prague to Vienna. This is what is known as the Marathon Tour extension. The original group was 45 but now 18 of us are going to tour Vienna for 3 nights and Budapest for 3 nights. After that we venture on our own to Helsinki for 4 nights and Amsterdam for 5 nights.
Holding hands at the finish, Marathon #51, together
Before and After, all smiles
Our new best friend, from Marathon Tours, Jen Ryder
Never thought I would ever do this but a couple on the tour with us found a local chapter of the Hash House Harriers group and they are having a run a few hours after we arrive. Sounds like fun so why not.
The Hash House Harriers (abbreviated to HHH or H3, or referred to simply as hashing) is an international group of non-competitive running social clubs. An event organized by a club is known as a hash or hash run, with participants calling themselves hashers or hares and hounds.
At a hash, one or more members (“hares”) lay a trail, which is then followed by the remainder of the group (the “pack” or “hounds”). Sawdust, flour, chalk, and toilet paper are used to mark the trail. The trail periodically ends at a “check” and the pack must find where it begins again; often the trail includes false trails, short cuts, dead ends, back checks, and splits. These features are designed to keep the pack together despite differences in fitness level or running speed, as front-runners are forced to slow down to find the “true” trail, allowing stragglers to catch up.
Members often describe their group as “a drinking club with a running problem,” indicating that the social element of an event is as important, if not more so, than any athleticism involved. Beer remains an integral part of a hash, though the balance between running and drinking differs between chapters, with some groups placing more focus on socializing and others on running.
Generally, hash events are open to the public and require no reservation or membership, but most require a small fee, referred to as “hash cash”, to cover the costs incurred, such as food or drink.
The end of a trail is an opportunity to socialize, have a drink and observe any traditions of the individual chapter. When the hash officially ends, many members may continue socializing at an “on-after”, “on-down”, “on-on-on”, “apres”, or “hash bash”, an event held at a nearby house, pub, or restaurant.
Well all the elements of our hash as mentioned above was included. Easy 4 mile run through some trails and the traditional circle up provided for some great entertainment. These folks did have some strict rules. You can only point with your elbow. You must have a cup or can of beer held over your head when you want to speak and no caps, etc on your head while you are inside the circle.
Since we were visiting they did give us plenty of opportunities to chug a few cups of beer while we were in the circle itself. They love their somewhat lewd sing alongs and finished up with a group picture. We did join them for an on-after at a nearby pizza joint and laughed all the way back to the hotel reliving the adventure. A couple in the group were going back near our hotel so they helped us use public transportation.
Jen getting some drinking pointers from the fearless leader
Not sure who won or lost but Jen loves beer and Catherine hates it.
Not for the faint at heart
Big Brown is everywhere
The next day we had a guided city tour and it was pointed out that circle road started near our hotel and basically went around in a circle for 4 miles that went by some very impressive statues, museums, churches and structures. They had both a very nice walking/running and bike lanes. We were a bit too busy to partake in a run but it would be good to do when we come back in the future.
During the tour we learned that Vienna had been voted the healthiest city in the world for numerous years. They have the best quality water in the world. We got the tour the St Stephen’s Cathedral, The Homburg, Imperial Apartments and the Sisi Museum.
Yes I did and so did she
Turns out they have a half and full marathon in the end of April so looks like it would fit right into our schedule next year. The Hilton hotel, where we stayed, is across the street to the train station, mall and grocery store. Trains leave often to the airport from there. We were able to find a few Irish pubs and even an English and Australian pub to round out the nights out on the town. We ate at one restaurant that the name was so long they just called it 12A which is the number of the building. When we arrived we were not sure we were in the right place since it was completely empty. We went three levels down into the cellar where they were noted for their fine wines. It was packed when we left and enjoyed a typical Austria meal consisting of Beef Goulash, Boiled Beef and one of the best Champagnes I have had. It was so good that we bought an extra bottle for our boat trip to Bratislava the next day. A high-speed Catamaran goes there several times a day and within 75 minutes we were in the country of Slovakia.
While we were there we took a 1 hours little red bus tour of the city. We got some great views from the Bratislava Castle and low and behold found another Irish Pub for lunch and Kilkenny/Guinness since I can never decide which one I like best. Plenty of shops in the old Town area but since we usually don’t buy anything but to eat or drink after a few hours we were ready for our boat ride back down the Danube to Vienna.
During our three-day visit we were only able to scratch the surface of Vienna. We will probably spend a week or more when we visit next year. I have noticed that the price of food was a bit high in both Prague and Vienna but they are also both very clean cities and the people seem friendly enough.
Keeping our average of 3.5 days per destination in tact we are now on our way by bus to Budapest. I have flown in and out of their many times with UPS and was here three years ago for a river cruise with our running buddies at runningcruise.com. We started in Budapest and ended up near Munich Germany.
My daughter, Mariah was touring Europe for a year after college and was in the area so we hooked up and she joined us for that Cruise. Just like other cruises with them every time the boat stopped about 100 of us would get off and go for a run/race together. During one stop we were given bikes and continued our trip down the Danube using pedal power. Shortly after we set off our ship passed us as it was on its way to the next stop.
At one point we passed some bikers going in the opposite direction following behind their ship. I wish I still had the photo of the two ships crossing each other while we were on a rest break. That would have been a great photo-op with the two of them on top of my head. I will keep that in mind since we will be doing another one in October from Marseilles to Lyon France.
Our home while in the area three years ago, AMA Waterways
Turns out looking back over some old pictures we had actually Hashed with that group before when we were on the river cruise and had actually been to Bratislava before. Small word. I wish I had remembered it before now since it would have been a hoot to had mentioned that during the hash circle. I knew the leader looked familiar
Getting our instruction for the Hash three years ago, fearless leader on the right back then
The grand wizard left and John Bingham middle and Jenny Hadfield right, three years ago
The location where our hotel, Novotel Budapest City was not the best but unlike everyone else I really did not mind. We went for a 5 mile run in the rain up to the Royal Castle area and mass transit was pretty good. Our hotel was located across the street from a nice mall with a few great restaurants and grocery store.
The next day we went on a guided bus tour of the St. Stephen’s Basilica and view of Hero’s Square, Kodaly Circle and finished off with outside views of the Royal Castle area. There you had great views of the Danube River and the surrounding residential area.
The Ultimate Photo Bomb
Inside St. Stephen’s Basilica on top and view of the Budapest V. Kerulet bottom
During our last full day there we went on a lunch cruise of the Danube and had one of the best meals so far on this trip. While traveling up and down the river we enjoyed a buffet style lunch which included two drinks plus we purchased an extra bottle of champagne. Even though it rained during the cruise it was worth the fare.
After the cruise we stopped by the Intercontinental Hotel so that Jen could see if it would be appropriate for them to use next year. I am sure they will easily have over 100 people next year. Prague use to be on their calendar, a few years back, so this was their first time back since then. Overall I will say that everyone was pleased with the total package. For us it was one of the best trips we have been on.
The next day was our travel day to Helsinki. Since our flight did not leave until 9pm the hotel gave us a very reasonable half day rate of 25 USD which worked out great. We were able to get a run in at the gym and still have time for dinner across the street at the mall. We went back to the Paulaner for final drink in Budapest.
Thriller was getting thirsty
After the late night flight to Helsinki and the time change where we lost another hour we made it to bed around 2am local. The sun was up at 5am and the black out blinds did a fair job especially since it rose right outside our window. Sunset is not until 10pm so we got plenty of sunshine while we are here.
We were able to get in two 6 mile runs and really enjoyed the mild temperatures, in the 50’s. Great views from our room and the executive lounge. Since we kind of went over budget for the first part of this trip we ate all our meals in the Lounge. We did not have to sacrifice since they really had great meals each day.
Our View during dinner at the Hilton Helsinki
Of course we had to find and try some of the local Irish Pubs and was not disappointed. We were also able to enjoy the sauna in the hotel. That is one of the things Helsinki is noted for. They have more of them per capita than any other city. Saunas can be found in college dorms and just about every apartment has one. There is a nearby island that are full of them. We really did not do much else while here. We had to recover from our Marathon Tours portion of this trip earlier. So the bottom line, no tours or pictures of some old church etc.
I know what you are thinking, not another picture of a glass of beer and you are right
Today is our travel day to Amsterdam and woke up to another example of “not for the faint of heart.” Egyptair flight from Paris to Cairo is missing. We were on a similar route from Paris to Tele Aviva back in February. I remember the fact that when we entered Egyptian airspace we had to all remain seated for some unknown reason. Don’t really think about aircraft crashes as we run all over the world but stuff does happen.
Some words of wisdom that I have received so far on this trip.
If you think you can, you are right
If you think you can’t, you are also right
Happy hour only lasts and hour
That beer is not going to drink itself
Trust but verify
Love is traveling the world together
Our overall impression of Helsinki was very positive. The people speak perfect English and are very helpful. Even though we usually stay at Marriott’s and they do not have one there. The Hilton did a great job of making us feel right at home. The temperature was perfect for running but a tad colder than I would like. I bet this place is great in the summer time.
We caught the bus back to the airport and the stop was right across the street and 45 minutes later we were at the airport. You would think there would be a nonstop flight to Amsterdam but we actually had to connect in Copenhagen. Catherine has been giving me gentle hints that she would like to go back there. Maybe next year or the year after.
We are going to catch the train to about a half a mile from the hotel so we should see how that works out. Might have to stop for some fluids on the way. Still have not found the Egyptair flight so I guess CNN will be talking about that for the last few days of our trip.
After 5 nights here we are back in ATL for 3 days then off to Charleston SC for my middle child’s, Shawn, wedding to his college sweetheart. All the family is flying in so it will be good to see everyone together once again.
The day after the wedding we are off to Santiago Chili and then on to Easter Island to run a half marathon. We will be meeting up with one of our favorite Marathon Tour guides, Jacqui on this trip and after the run we are back to Santiago and on to Lima Peru and the famous Machu Picchu. Really looking forward to that adventure. Turns out Trip Advisor listed it as the Number 1 landmark in the world.
We were suppose to have spent a few days in San Paulo where Catherine’s older brother, Larry lives but he won’t be there. Him and his wife will be attending their youngest daughter’s graduation from a school in California. We changed our flights to spend less time there and more time in Rio but for the first time we had a conflict with a doctor appointment for Catherine.
She has been accepted into a clinical trail for a new drug. It is called the Mind Set study and I will be writing a separate blog on that topic in a few weeks so I won’t bore you here. We are very hopeful and glad we are doing our part. It is all good since the Zika virus was of concern so skipping that part of South America is no big deal. Can’t see and do it all, as I once said in a blog a few months back.
I am sure we will also run into a few Marathon Tours Alumni on this trip. The half marathon you run around the Island once and for the full you do it twice. I pity the fools that have to run around the island twice in the heat. As I said earlier I don’t do heat very well so I plan on taking my time and enjoying myself.
I often tell Catherine that if this was easy anyone could do it. Two things that I have noticed is that we have no run into anyone else doing this and also no one that we talk to seem interested in doing it themselves. They all comment on how they like the idea but don’t see it fitting into their lifestyle.
Another one in the faint of heart file is the fact that we both seem to catch a cold every two to three months. We wipe down our seats on the airplane with sanitizer and do the same for the hotel rooms and use sanitizer on our hands all the time.
This time around I am sure it did not help to go from Mexico to Boston back to Mexico and then to Colorado and on to various parts of Europe. I have read books on travel and talking about this phenomenon. Now I am starting to understand why pilots call in sick so much.
Some would say I was not a true commercial pilot since I spent most of my career in management and got to pick and choose when I wanted to fly and where. It was more of a ends to a means instead of the other way around.
The walk to the hotel from the train station was easy enough. Would have been easier if I came out the right door but instead we had to walk all the way around the train station to get headed in the right direction.
We were here just about a year ago and then we stayed in an apartment that we found on homeaway.com. The Renaissance is in a very nice location and easy walk to anything you might want or need in Amsterdam.
When I say everything I mean everything. The only thing we could not find were the police. We walked around all of the happening spots of Amsterdam yesterday and today and only saw one on a bike and one in a car. I guess they figure who needs them if you make everything legal. More research needs to be done.
Found a very nice park about a mile from the hotel and for some reason refuse to learn my lesson that you can not go back a different way and not expect to get lost. So many canals and so me streets going off on angles makes it impossible to just use your sense of direction to get you back to where you can come from.
National monument Area
Kind of feel bad since we have only eaten at the hotel’s lounge since we have been here but we are on a budget even if it does sound a bit crazy when you all add it up. Actually it does help in another way. There is so many places to eat and it would be so difficult to decide where to eat.
Kind of bummed out, raining hard on our last day in Amsterdam. My plan was to run back to the park we found yesterday and get in a nice run before heading back to the states. I must say that my impression of Amsterdam is unlike anywhere else. Some for obvious reasons but others not so obvious. I have mentioned some earlier but the one that boggles my mind is the amount of money being spent here.
There are people shopping everywhere and looks like everything. It is not because the prices are that good either. The shops are full and so are the streets outside of them. Even in the rain the placed is packed even on Sunday. Both for things that are legal everywhere and also for those things you can only buy here. We have been places where the sales staff is out on the street trying to get people to come in to shop. Not here, so many people in each store that the sales staff is busy ringing up the sales. The only downside is that it is a rather dirty city. We have been places where you could eat off the sidewalks whereas here I would hate to even touch the sidewalks.
Some final views of Amsterdam
Last year left and this year below