G'Day Mates from the land down under! I just got finished Skyping with my wife and kids before they go to bed on Monday night... this was after I had a long breakfast here in Australia on Tuesday morning. Until I moved to the Central time zone about 10 years ago, I really never thought much at all about time zones. Having grown up in the same time zone as New York and Washington, DC, which pretty much fancy themselves to be the center of the Universe, an ad for a TV show that said "9/8 Central" was the sole reminder that life exists outside of what I've often heard referred to as "real time". Having lived one hour behind Eastern time for the past 10 years has given me some appreciation for an "other" perception of time, but now that I've been 14 time zones ahead for the past couple days in Hong Kong and Australia, I get a real feeling for the relativity of "time"... don't worry, this isn't headed for a discussion of Einstein or Quantum Physics- but it may tiptoe around the edges just a bit!
In normal daily life, most things seem to exist in 2 or 3 dimensions. We read the newspaper, watch TV, and conduct our normal routines looking front and back, side to side, and taking a lot of things for granted. The 777 Quest is, for me, really a 4 or 5 dimensional journey that continually forces me to conceive of the immensity of the world and my own smallness within it in so many ways. The interplay of the effects of the spherical Earth's rotation on a tilted axis, circling the sun, with all the subsequent weather and societal variations, on any one fragile human, can't be fully appreciated from home in Kentucky. The effect of all these macro, celestial facts on tiny little me as I prepare to challenge them toe-to-toe for the next week, has really impacted me pretty profoundly, and helped confirm to me that success in the Triple 7 Quest is grounded far more in Providence than in my puny physical capabilities. Sure, I have the 2-dimensional task of being able to run 183.4 miles in less than 162 hours, and that is something I am mostly in control of. However, the 20,000 miles of travel across nearly all of the Earth's time zones, in all climates, on all hemispheres, mostly chasing the setting sun, puts me at the mercy of something much larger. Add to that all of the human factors, outside of my control, from airport security and customs officials, to fellow racers in the marathons and the spectators, to pilots and air controllers, to drivers between the hotels and race venues... I have to let go of my "I'm in control of my own destiny" paradigm and exchange it for faith. That is a big leap for a highly self-confident, "set big goals and achieve them" dude like me to make. However, the further this journey progresses toward the ultimate goal of 7 Marathons on 7 Continents in 7 Days for a World Record, the more I realize that I only have true self-determination in my own thoughts and actions, but nothing more. Success in this Quest will not be defined by numbers like 777 or 162 hours, but instead, by my ability to keep the faith that the broad ocean of possibilities, upon which I am a tiny spec, a haplessly floating vessel, will deliver me to the end which I am destined to achieve. So, armed with this new perspective, and prayer that my chosen goal will closely align with God's overriding plan, I'll bring you up to speed on the comings and goings between my last post in Chicago and this, the last post before the first race begins tomorrow morning at 6am (or about dinner time on Tuesday where most of you live).
There have been quite a few wake-up calls that have brought me to the above metaphysical musings. The first was early Sunday morning when I discovered that my iPhone, which is to keep me tethered to Social Media, Skype with the family, email, etc... was gone! That's right, I was in Hong Kong, one of the most densely populated places on Earth, and my phone was MIA. Before I get into the details of this near-tragedy, I need to rewind. My 14 1/2 hour Cathay Pacific flight, halfway around the world, was basically uneventful and pretty comfortable since I had a bulkhead seat in "Premium Economy" that had nearly unlimited leg room. I slept most of the way, so the time flew by. Upon arrival in Hong Kong, my cousin Travis was there to pick me up. Travis has lived in Hong Kong for about 5 years and we haven't seen each other in nearly 10. He guided me, like a knowing shepherd, out of the airport, onto a train bound for downtown Hong Kong, and directly into the hustle and bustle of this massive Asian metropolis. We walked around Causeway Bay, he told me about Junk Boat excursions which are summer drinking cruises around the island popular among Millennial expats in Hong Kong, then I got to actually see one making its way across the dark bay waters. With its illuminated red sails, it looked like some kind of ghost ship from the 1500's. We then went to eat at a pretty cool spot and were serenaded by an Asian Elvis. At that place, Travis' beautiful friend Poe joined us and we moved up the longest series of escalators in the world to a high point on the island where Travis' friend Alun has a top floor (42nd story) penthouse and a rooftop patio, complete with a panoramic view of the whole city- astounding! What layover tourist who has never been to Asia gets that kind of introduction to Hong Kong? ...This guy! We spent the evening playing games like 'Cards Against Humanity' and 'Werewolf' then snapped a picture of the group on the rooftop and parted ways. Poe and Travis told the cab driver where to find my hotel (cab drivers are about the only people in the city who aren't proficient in English) and I was off to sleep off the night's entertainment.
I awoke in the morning with a double case of confusion, borne out of jet lag and... dehydration... When I reached for my phone to check the local time and try to contact Travis to get me back to the airport, I discovered my most utilitarian possession was missing. Not to bore you with details, I quickly determined that it was not left in the apartment where I had spent the previous evening and that meant it was likely in one of the thousands of anonymous taxi cabs in this foreign city... uh oh. I mentally began to prepare for completing 777 Quest without it and began to alternately panic and mourn. I initiated a "Find my iPhone" ping and lockdown that I thought had about as much of a chance of success as me giving birth to triplets and naming them all 'Seven'. However, within a few minutes, the taxi driver contacted me at my hotel and, in very broken English, agreed to bring the phone to me! A half hour later, I was in possession of my prodigal iPhone and even had enough time to get lunch with my cousin before catching the train to the airport... call it what you want, I consider that sequence of events nothing short of miraculous.
When I printed out my boarding pass to Perth, Australia, I discovered another bigtime bonus of Providence- I had been upgraded to Business/First Class! Score!! This meant I had a little pod which allowed me access to a 30" screen TV, blankets, socks, toiletry kit, pillows, and best of all- a seat that converted to a lay-flat bed! I was given a hot towel and a glass of champagne and we were off for a 7 1/2 hour flight to Australia. I again slept for the majority of the flight with the exception of some pretty gourmet food and drink, and was in Perth before I knew it.
Since I was in the front of the plane and didn't have any checked baggage, I was first through Customs/Immigration and into the main arrivals area of the airport in just a few minutes. Steve, the organizer of the Triple 7 Quest was there to pick me up and we boarded his rented cab-over van, complete with right-side driving cockpit, for the short drive to our hotel. Upon arrival, I Skyped with my family, marveling over the fact that I was in the future, then headed downstairs at about 1am to get something to eat. Turns out, I just missed the operating hours of the hotel restaurant and Perth isn't full of a lot of food options on a Sunday night/Monday morning at 1am. That put me on a 5 mile self-guided hike across Perth to Chinatown which had a few restaurants open until 4am. I had some more "real" Chinese food, similar to that I'd had in Hong Kong, though I wasn't as capable of ordering as Travis, so it wasn't nearly as good.
Yesterday I had breakfast in the hotel with Steve and got to know him better. He had a full day of transporting people to and from the airport, so I went back upstairs and Skyped with Kristin and the girls before they went to bed. Then I walked down to the riverfront and on about an 8 mile hike around the city. I had "Bangers and Mash" (sausage, sauerkraut, mashed potatoes, and gravy) at the 'Brass Monkey' and people-watched from a sidewalk table. I saw some legit Aborigines and a lot of other funky folk you don't find in Kentucky. Also had a snack and a drink at 'The Globe' and they gave me 2 interesting items. In order to start a tab I needed to exchange my credit card for a number... guess which one? That's right, they gave me a little ticket with the number 7. Then, when I ordered the food, they gave me a table number, and that was?... What's 7 squared? That's right, 49. So, I was issued Triple 7's at The Globe and that made me feel like I was really on the right track.
After my big journey around the city, in what would have been the middle of the night back home, I went back to the hotel and caught a 90 minute nap, then another 45 minute nap and met up with Steve and 2 other Triple 7 Questers, Lisa and Jakjit. I already knew Lisa from when we met a few weeks ago in Mississippi and Alabama, but this was my first introduction to Jakjit. He is originally from India but has lived in Great Britain for many years. We went to a little local fresh burger place and chatted until about midnight then returned back to the hotel.
This morning, I did a Bible study and headed down to breakfast. There, I was able to meet most of the Triple 7 Questers, both half and full marathoners. Steve, Lisa, and Jakjit were there, but so were some new faces. Dan from Harrisburg, PA, Tsao from Kansas City, Julie from San Francisco, and another Steve (who I threatened to call George to reduce confusion) from Canada. We all discussed any manner of things, from accommodations in Antarctica to charities, to our respective world views. The group is very diverse, coming at this quest from some extremely different perspectives. I'm excited to get to know them all better, a process that is inevitable as we run and talk our way around the globe. There are still 2 more folks yet to join us. A guy, not sure of his name, maybe Joe, is due in at 6:30pm tonight and a woman named Kris was admitted to the hospital in Hong Kong enroute to Perth with a 104+ degree temperature. She was evidently released from the hospital today, booked another flight to Perth and is still planning on meeting us tonight!
At midday today, we all gathered again to head out to the race start for tomorrow. While there, we recorded videos about who we are and why we are doing the 777 Quest. Then, a couple of us went to do a load of laundry. While at the 'Laundrobar' we discovered that Bruce Springsteen is in Perth right now and playing shows every other night- 1/23, 1/25, 1/27. I immediately Followed him on Twitter and asked him to come to our race tomorrow. Could there possibly be anything cooler than the Boss starting off our race with 'Born to Run'?? We'll see if that works! Now I'm off to the pre-race briefing and dinner, after which I'll try to get some sleep and be ready for a 4:45am departure to the start of the biggest adventure of my life. I'm definitely the biggest among the participants and have never approached the average sub-4 hour finish time of 1 or 2 of the other guys in this Quest, and then there's Lisa who is also easily faster than me. I will have to worry about that when we get to Antarctica. But until then, I will be actively attempting to go as slowly as I possibly can and enjoy the people and the places I'm about to briefly visit day by day in this literal marathon journey around planet Earth. My next blog will be from Singapore!