As noted in the last post, my blogging habit is starting to really cost me the most precious finite commodity I’ve got on this journey- sleep. Ok, I’d rather have health than sleep, but those 2 can also go hand in hand. This one isn’t going to be chapter length… until I rewrite it later. So, after blogging last night until about 2am in the airport hotel in Amsterdam; I had to be dressed, packed, and downstairs to drop off my packed bags before breakfast by 6. We had to check out of our rooms and consolidate to 2 rooms which would have a 3pm checkout before a 5:10pm flight departure. That meant taking my stuff to Steve H’s room so I would have it when we returned from the marathon where the 3 slower guys would shower and dress in 1 room and the girls in another. As typical, I was 15 minutes late, but that only cut into my food time... hence, I engaged the two-hand shovel method and consumed an obscene amount of calories in a prodigious timeframe. Everything from a softball-sized stack of smoked salmon to a half-dozen scrambled eggs, ½ pound of sausage, fruit, and waffles with syrup were chased down my gullet by liters of fresh juices… what calorie deficit?? My belly was beyond full as we went to the van, but, with training, my system has learned to clear it quickly enough to be ready for the race. As we exited into the parking garage, Chau tripped over a short barricade post and face planted into the concrete. You know that sound of a head hitting the floor, road, or sidewalk? I heard it right behind me and turned around to see 70-year-old Chau face down. She immediately got up on a knee, then accepted help to get up to her feet. Evidently, it hurt her right knee and her upper lip but she claimed to be basically ok. We all tried to help her any way we could on the way to the van, but I felt terrible for her. Her upper lip began to swell and discolor immediately, but I never heard her complain about it or anything else ever again- chick is tough as nails!
The van ride was short and we were soon at another pre-dawn race start, this time at a big square rowing lake in the middle of a forest, or “Bos”, about 10 km outside of town. The Race Director greeted us and escorted us to bib pickup. It was right about 32 degrees in the dark and I was feeling ok but some of the others were cold. We started the race at 8:00am with a short out and back through the forest and across some system of aqueducts before beginning 8 loops on the trail around the perfectly rectangular rowing pond. The trail was about 5k around, so the pond was about 2k long and 500m wide. As the sun came up, I saw some various water birds along the shore and people began to come out to use the pond for its winter purpose, ice skating, which is evidently Holland’s national sport. The ice wasn’t as strong on the side of the pond with the Finish line and loop checkpoint/aid station as it was on the other side, so people were using only half of the pond, cut long-wise, but there were a lot of them spanning 2 kilometers x about 500 meters. As you would probably guess, I couldn’t resist heading out on the ice at one point during the race… I mean, it was there and therefore needed to be experienced- it’s just what I do.
Given all of the food I ate for breakfast and the consumption of massive amounts of Gatorade and other endurance sports nutrition over the past few days, it probably isn’t surprising that my stomach didn’t feel well in the first 10 miles of the race or so. But, after Steve P turned me on to the hot Ginger Tea at the aid station, I straightened up. The aid station ladies were notably wonderful and had a smorgasbord of goodies that we all killed throughout the day then kept talking about on the way back to the hotel afterward. When my belly ache dissipated, I was able to pick up a little speed and was back to having my sore feet and concrete legs as my limiter- at least this was expected and familiar territory if not comfortable. Again, I could not get my heart rate up above 150 regardless of how hard I ran, and even to get there was a struggle.
Around the loop were pictures of Sri Chimnoy with extraordinary quotes. If you don’t know who Sri Chimnoy is, that’s ok. I had heard his name but didn’t really know much about him either, so I had to look him up. While our base religious beliefs don't necessarily jive, he was, quite clearly, on a very similar trip to me when it came to running but far further advanced. Some quotes on these signs seemed like just much more eloquent and wise versions of the themes I’ve been playing with when discussing 'why I run' in this blog. The wisdom he expressed when talking about running as both an analogy and a parallel for Spiritual growth are difficult to wrap your mind around if you haven't experienced ultr-distance. Check out this site for a taste of some of that brand of wisdom: http://www.srichinmoyquotes.com/quotes-running/
Then, if you ever want to do something really insane, go run the Sri Chimnoy Self-Transcendence Race that starts in June each year and covers 3100 miles on a few city blocks in New York City. Participants have 52 days to finish. This means you must be able to go about 60 miles per day for nearly 2 months in order to finish! That takes not only physical and extreme mental endurance, but also a time commitment I simply cannot afford with my young family right now… but maybe someday...
Today, Sri Chimnoy’s maxim that “Enthusiasm is Energy” was true for me as I crossed over the halfway point of the 777Quest. When one's capacity to produce energy from merely burning calories has been fully depleted, the energy to keep moving forward must be found elsewhere. A spirit of enthusiasm is an endless source of energy that can be tapped over-and-over to cross distant finish lines in races and elsewhere in life. The opposite is also true, bad attitude and negativity diminish one's ability to make it through the tough times and, therefore, need to be driven out and replaced with enthusiasm and positivity each time they start to seep in. I was fortunate enough to share the occasion of making it halfway to 777 with Lisa out on the course. She and I were able to celebrate together since I just so happened to catch up to her right at mile 13. We stopped at 13.1 of marathon 4 which signified that we were, at long last, half way there, and took a selfie.
Though I know some of the pain, injuries, and sleep deprivation are cumulative and that we still have to successfully get into Antarctica at the first available time in order to be under 7 days, the good news for me is that there shouldn’t be any more hot weather and that’s a really good thing, given my generous blubber layer! I’m cool with the cold. So much so that after the race, I took off my running tights and got into a hole in the ice and soaked my poor swollen feet and aching legs for a few minutes. The people standing around bundled up in their coats and blankets marveled at this big guy who just hopped into a pond that people were ice skating upon and brought his legs up under the ice shelf to press his feet on the underside of it. They obviously didn’t have feet and legs that hurt like mine did. After the initial shock, the numbing was glorious reprieve from the perpetual pain my feet have endured since Singapore and I reveled in it as runners continued to run by.
Julie actually got 3rd place in the half marathon and won a trophy- it now sticks out the top of her backpack as we pass through airports. I did not win anything but the props from other runners. I had a 30-something come by and just say “respect” and give me the “okay” sign. That’s gratifying. Others were calling us heroes. There were quite a few bite-sized inquiries from other runners, usually asking about facts like. “Is this the last one?” or “Where do you go next?”. A few others did chat for a bit before moving on, but they all seemed to be pretty serious about racing, not socializing. This is not to say they were rude or anything like that- they were all very friendly but focused on their race. The ladies at the checkpoint aid station, on the other hand, were extremely engaging and wonderful people. They made tea however you wanted, and when I said I really liked these little waffle things on the table, they told me they were the national cookie, Stroopwafels, (so now I know the national cookie and sport) and wanted to give me some to take home. By the time I finished, they were gone and I figured the cookies were too. But, when I got back to our room to shower, Dan (who ran a 3:45ish marathon) gave me a whole package of them that they gave to him to give to me. Those babies are wrapped in plastic and stuck in a shoe in my bag- they were really delicious!
By the time we got back to the hotel, it was 3:05 and our late checkout was at 3. We had to meet Steve H at 3:30. That meant 3 grown men, including one who wears a turban and has never cut his beard or hair, had to unpack, shower in 1 shower, and repack in 25 mins. We were 15 minutes late… imagine that. Then it was off to the gate for the flight to New York, upon which I have written most of the last and all of this blog. I’m done now and gonna try to use the remaining 2 ½ hours to sleep so when I get to NY and see my wife who is there waiting on me, I may be able to be more talkative than “Hi honey, missed you for the past 10 days, thanks for coming to NY. Where’s the bed? Goodnight.”