Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Race Report - ING Miami Marathon - Jan 27, 2013

Never in a million years did I ever think I would run let alone TRAIN for a full marathon. Fact is, I got on the whole endurance training kick when I decided to raise $ in honor of my Uncle Robert & good friend & co-worker Skot Bradford. I completed the NYC TRI in their memories, overcoming a huge obstacle in my life as I never really learned how to swim before. When I sent the fundraising email out, I learned that a good friend Coco from Wesleyan had recently been diagnosed with Lymphoma and that was who I was running in honor of for what would be my first ever half or full marathon in the city that will always have a special place in my heart… Miami.

They say “nothing new on race day.” Well circumstances beyond my control did not allow for that though I did not expect them to have such a profound effect on me. These included: flying from Hong Kong to Miami two days before the race, taking a sleeping pill on the plane ride so I could quickly get back onto Eastern Standard Time and sleep during the night (which I had never taken before), running in the 70 degree weather when I had trained in 30-40 degrees, and I imagine a number of other things.

I had a GREAT training season, read every email that our coach had send out about pacing, race plan, nutrition before/during race, how often to drink… literally EVERY email and handout, and a couple times over again at that! Nothing could prepare me for my toughest day ever…

I ran with my buddy Josh Cunningham who was running in Vibrams. We were set to start out at a 9:45min pace and hopefully move up. The 1st half was awesome. I was high-fiving spectators in South Beach and even did an honorary cartwheel in front of 1200 Ocean Drive saluting my old pad. Other than a right foot blister that developed early on from my shoes getting soaked at the water stations… I was feeling fine. I even helped pace a fellow TNT-er thru miles 9 to 12. I ran the half in 2:06 which was great for me. But after the half it was a different story…

I started hurting after mile 14… I don’t know what happened as I had run distances of 16, 18, and 20 two times during training. I experienced quad and calf muscle cramps for the first time and I had to slow my pace down considerably and sadly watch as the 9:33, 9:55, and 10:15 pace groups passed on by.

At that point I made the decision to forget about time and focus on finishing. I also made a personal pact to only walk while at water stations as I gulped down massive quantities of agua. Josh had to fall back around mile 18. We saw our Miami friends at 17 and 19 which was amazingly refreshing and energizing. I had the music going but at that point it was step by step… very slow going. My legs started hurting and my nipples began chafing even though I applied generous amounts of lubricant before the race (and during the race too as I passed a couple of shocked cheerleaders… oh well, no one said this race was going to be pretty.)

Finally I had to walk while turning onto the Rickenbacker. I got sponge doused which felt great, as we all were running directly into the sun at that point in the now 75-80 degree weather.  When I hit the Mile 23 water station I was not feeling well at all. I stopped at the AID Station to see if someone there could tell me if something was actually wrong with me. There were these two non-medic ladies there whose only job was to apply bengay apparently. They called a real medic for me but after 5min of waiting I decided to sit down and rest my legs. That’s when it hit me. The not-so-proverbial “wall” came up and smacked me in my face. I felt dizzy and nauseous and the lady told me I was extremely pale with fingers, lips, and gums that were blue!

I looked up and happened to see my buddy Josh run by so I called out and stopped him. He said all the right things… “your health is what’s most important” and “if you want we can finish the last bit another day” he was awesome. FINALLY after what felt like hours later which was probably only 30-45min later the ambulance arrived.

They carried me in and laid me down, elevating my feet. They took my blood pressure and looked at each other when they told me it was 80 over 60. That apparently is really bad. I began shaking uncontrollably due to the A/C and sweat on my body. They pumped me with 700cc of saline and offered to take me to the hospital. I told them I’d like to finish if they thought that was ok. Two of them said no way but the head guy said let’s wait and see how I felt after the IV drip.

Again it seemed to take forever but was probably about 30min before my blood pressure finally started to go up. They allowed me to walk around outside with my IV still in my left arm and I was carrying the bag myself. I then signed a waiver basically saying if I keel over and die after leaving them that it wasn’t their fault. All I wanted to do was be in the sun. I was still shivering very violently. They pulled the IV out and I was on my way!

I started feeling a little better but I knew I was so close and Josh was down to walk with me to the finish line.  I was crawling at first but eventually we got up to a brisk walk.  At mile 24 Coach Michael found us and walked with us. The other coaches and him got us to 25.5 miles and then let Josh and I run the home stretch. I started sprinting when I saw the finish line. As I came down the pipeline I raised my IV-bandaged arm up for the crowd. A cheer rose and a sense of euphoria washed away the encroaching dizziness.

It felt amazing to cross the finish line partly to defy the odds (Coach Mike told me he had people finish and people not finish and go to the hospital but no one in TNT history had got an IV and still finished) but mainly I was ecstatic that it was over.

I don’t know if I will ever do another full marathon again, but the people in TNT who I met along the journey, the people that donated to my cause, the people that were in Miami cheering me on, and my friends and family who believed in me… they all truly made this one of my ultimate life experiences. And I am grateful for it all…

P.S. Enjoy the video below... apparently I have the wettest arse that Danny has ever touched!

Sprint to the finish!

"breaking the tape"

Crossing the Half Marathon marker... still got WAY more to go!

Danny & Cassy providing power up!


Cassy, Josh, Michael, Dani, Danny, Kevin, Lydia

Didn't even see this sign on the course!

Holding up the IV!


Everyone got a gold medal that day :)
Link to more pics:

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Lima: The End of the Road

We finished our trip in Lima. Here we met up with out two separate groups of Israeli travel partners. We did a lot of Bolivia with Idan and Nofar. Idan was in Lima but had recently met up with his girlfriend so was not with us during our day-touring. We also met up with Hen and Hadas, who had done Machu Pichu and Cuzco with us. In the picture below, you see Yoav, Nofar, Hadas, me, and Hen.

We went to the Museo de la Nacion, the Polvos Azules market, the main square called the Plaza de Armas where the Cathedral is located, as well as the Monasterio de San Francisco (where we saw the underground catacombs). We also went out dancing. It was great to be in a city at the end of our trip, and we stayed in a great hostal called Loki. Yoav had to go to Starbucks because I guess it had been a while for him, and there they misspelled his name which was very common throughout our trip (hence the photo below).

Peru and Bolivia are magical places that I recommend anyone and everyone to go and check out. The trip had a great balance of both outdoor activities / beautiful landscapes as well as touristy towns and cities to do museums, sites, etc. in. It was a great journey and we met great people along the way. Double thumbs up for all of BORU!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Sand... so soft

So after the Nazca Lines, we hopped on a bus and went to the town of Ica. This town is situated in the middle of a desert as well, but not a desert full of rocks but of huge soft sand dunes. We stayed in an oasis, a little area called Huachachina that was basically a bunch of hostals and restaurants around a lagoon.

The thing to do there is: sandboarding. It's supposed to be just like snow boarding, but guess what, it's not. Instead of boarding ON top of the snow you are now boarding IN the sand. Standing up was VERY difficult, and practically impossible, but I'm sure professional sandboarders, if there are such people, can do it with ease. The other way of going down was on your stomach and that was fantastic! We went down 2 monstrous sand dunes and just flew down, no brakes mom!

We rode in something called an "arenero." It is basically a dune buggy. In Spanish the word for "sand" is arena. So it would make sense that a vehicle that drives on sand is called an "arenero." And that is one of the reasons why I love Spanish people. So sencillo.

After getting tons of sand for breakfast we then went to wash it down with some local wine and pisco. We visited a couple wineries and places where they make pisco (Peru's version of tequila - its national origin is something that is forever being debated between Chile and Peru). One of our guides at the winery was wearing a shirt that says "I Love Med Students" so naturally Yoav was thrilled.

Here are some photos from our sandy experience.

Up up and away!

After romping through Machu Pichuh and then Cuzco, we suddenly found that we had a couple days to peel off before we were due in to Lima. We decided to take the 15 hour overnight bus ride to Nazca. (Mind you we paid top dollar for Cruz del Sur which was a bus that felt more like an ocean liner, complete with pillows, blankets, food service, a Keanu Reeves flick I had never heard of as well as the animated film "Flushed Away," bathroom, and seats that went all the way back and turned into a bed, for those who know spanish, it wasn't a semi-cama, this was full-cama all the way.

We arrived to Nazca and booked a 3 seat-er plane for a 25 minute journey through the skies above the Nazca desert where we saw the famous and mysterious Nazca Lines from above. These are symbols, usually in the design of animals, that were supposedly constructed from 200 AD to 700 AD by the Nazca people. They basically removed red rocks to uncover white land, in such a way, that when viewed from above they form objects and/or animals. Some are over 200 meters long, which is roughly the size of two football fields.

In all honesty, it was hard to gain perspective from way above, and though they stood out from a sea of rocky desert, it was hard to really imagine how big they were, unless you were on the ground, and seeing the aligned rocks go on for hundreds of feet. But obviously they do not let people get to close to them, lest they disturb the formations. It was very neat indeed to go up in such a small plane, and the pilot liked us so he did a couple drops and hard turns, etc. (which I personally could have done without) but the actual viewing of the Nazca Lines may have been a bit anti-climatic for me. For those traveling to Peru in the future, it definitely may NOT be the highlight of your trip...

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Splitting those pants!

The quick funny story is that we climbed to the top of Huaynu Pichu which is the monstrosity of a mountain in the background of all the machu pichu famous postcard shots. We got to the top and were talking and sharing ¨mate¨(a type of argentinian tea) with these three pretty argentine girls when Yoav thought it would be a great idea for me to do a ¨jump.¨ Now what i mean by this is quite simple, whenever we would get to a nice lookout point, etc, and/or great scenery, i.e. desert, mountain in background, etc., we would do these jumps where it more or less looks like we are flying. There are many of these photos on Yoav´s Facebook page. Look him up.

So I said, sure, why not. Mind you there were about 30 or so people relaxing on a large rock under 10 feet away sharing snacks and just taking in the view. So I did a couple small pre-jumps so Yoav could adjust the frame accordingly and make sure to catch me. Then, it was time. I counted to three, and jumped up, spread my legs, doing the toe-touch that I have been accustomed to doing at this point, jumping as high and sticking my legs as far out as possible when suddenly FWACATA! An intensely loud sound erupted from the bottom of my pants and I was shocked. I came down, and grabbed the back of my shorts, in utter embarrassment, and made loud noises to add audio to the visual state of disbelief I was in. The entire crowd watching (including the 3 Argentine girls not 3 feet away from me) stood pretty motionless and noise-less as no one was pretty sure if I had just let the biggest one rip, OR I had just split my shorts in front of everyone. Luckily, I think, the latter is what happened. I lost it, laughing hysterically at the situation, as did Yoav, and within about 10 seconds so did the rest of the crowd. Pictures to come... because well.... Yoav got the whole thing on still motion. Another day in the life... on top of Machu Pichu no less... oy veh....

Saturday, February 21, 2009

The Road to Machu Pichu

Anybody got a light? Because I just finished the climax of our trip. We just got back from Machu Pichu and for all the hype and for allt he high expectations it was... amazing. We took a four day Inca Jungle Trail where we went mountain biking downhill on dirt roads on the first day, hiked along cliffs and on parts of the famous Inca Trail on the second day, hiked yet again through the jungle and on supposedly defunct railroad tracks on the third day, and then hiked up Machu Pichu at 430am on the 4th day. All in all, it was an unreal trip and I had a fantastic tour group of 12 that I was with.

Highlights included:
1) Day One, getting sick in the van on the twisting curving roads that lead us to our mountain bike drop off point. Then biking super fast downhill in torrential rains and biking through massive puddles formed by th waterfalls all around us. (Thank you Josh Kroo for those pantalones impermeables, they proved to be indispensable indeed!)

2) Day Two was a perfect day for hiking. Lots of cloud cover but no rain so a great day to hike 3 miles straight up mountains from the river bed (definitely a wake up call for all of us - hello! you are hiking the inca trail now!) we all neded a break and what a better place than a little hut in the middle of the jungle with pet guinea pigs (that they would later eat), badgers, gophers, and of course a MONKEY! Everyone knows all men really want is a pet monkey (or so says Dane Cook) so we had a lot of fun playing with Martin (pronounced Marteen) as pictured to on the right.

3) The video here is me singing Free Fallin on the Inca Trail where we were once at the riverbed and now walking along scintillating acantilados (thats´s spanish for cliffs). Later that day we went to the thermal hot springs which was a much-needed relaxation point after a long hard day.

4) On day 3 we were not as lucky to have cloud cover and got beat up by the sun for the majority of the day. Never had so much sun screen, sweat, and water all over my body all at the same time. The end of our hike was 3 hours on railroad tracks that were the only way into Aguas Calientes, the tourist town at the foot of Machu Pichu. Lonely Planet says they were defunct i.e. no longer in use, but Yoav and I quickly found out, leading the group at the time, that every now and then there was a single train car that would come by, probably switching out the real trains on another track below. There were definitely a couple of ¨stand by me¨ moments where we had to jump off the tracks in order to not get hit by the quickly moving steam engine bearing down on us. I love it when life imitates the movies.

5) I was 16 years old and hiking up Masada in Israel at 330am all over again when this time I was 29 and it was 430am and I was hiking up to Machu Pichu. Time flies when you are getting old. Hiking in the dark is always a blasty blast. Got to the top, headed straight to Huayna Pichu (the big mountain in the background of all the famous Machu Pichu shots) to get our entry tickets, cuz they only allow 400 per day to hike that mountain, and then started our tour with our guide. Machu Pichu is amazing if not for anything but the fact that the Spanish Conquistadors never found it and therefore were never able to obliterate it and/or build on top of it. So what you see is really how it was left for hundreds of years. The only devastation was caused by over growth of the land. The fact is a lot of Machu Pichu is still being discovered today and since there is no written history that the Incans themselves kept, there is a lot of guess work as to what was what, etc. But walking thu the ruins and just as importantly the steep 1 hour climb to the top of Huayna Pichu are moment that I will never forget, and luckily I as able to video and photo the experience graciously to help put me back in that place that I just left. One highlight of the day was getting yelled at by guards, again, for dancing and being silly on camera with a great view of the ruins behind me. Hopefully I was able to get some footage before the whistle-blowing began.

I recommend to anyone and to everyone to go check out this impressive site. Every part of the trek was incredible and the view from the top is one that will stay with you forever. Looking forward to exploring more of Cuzco and then on to Nazca, Ica, and finally Lima!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Best Name for a Lake EVER

Don't pretend you don't remember giggling every time you heard that South American lake's name in Social Studies class growing up. C'mon... titicaca. What's better than that? Well after years of dreaming of one daying seeing the lake that gave me and my immature friends such amusement back in the day... my dream came true. Lake Titicaca was a dream in itself. Being the higest navigable lake in the world, doing the hike on the Isla del Sol (Sun Island) was pretty breath-taking... wait for it... that's right... literally!

We bussed from La Paz to Copacabana (NOT the barry manilow one, that's in New York City, ya know, north of Havana). We hopped on a tiny boat and took 4 hours to get to the Sun Island. The horizon in the distance was nothing but lake and clouds. It seemed that we were above the clouds actually. We saw the Roca Sagrada (Sacred Rock) where it is believed the two ancient Incan gods came out of. We also saw an amazing laberynth of ruins as well as a sacrificial rock. Yoav and I would run every now and then, and we could not go more than 10 feet without huffing and puffing - due to the altitude of course. We had a great hike with some unimagineable views, pictures posted!

At night, we had dinner at the 20 hut town where we were staying at. We met Chileans, Argentinians, Canadians, you name it. We had dinner with 2 Argentinian ladies and 2 Chilean ladies which was an experience in and of itself. Speaking in Spanish the entire time, Yoav and I held our own and had very interesting conversations. It's these moments when I get some insight into the lives of other travellers from other countries around the world, that make these trips for me. Seeing the differences and more importantly the similiarities in our cultures is what makes the backpacker's journey so addicting. On an island in a lake on top of the world, much laughter was had as many drinks and stories were shared.