FROM NAGARKOT TO NEGRIL

11.09.2018

I’m sure you have all been wondering ‘Where can Dan the Blogger be???’. A couple of you? Nobody?

Well, I will tell you. I have been traveling on a trip of a lifetime kind of adventure with my dear wife of 50 years. The trip was a celebration of those 50 years, which technically and officially tallied up back in August. However, at that time the area we were going to would be experiencing the monsoon season, so we put off travel until October/November. No blog posting for the simple reason that there just wasn’t time to get down to it and do it properly.

Charlie putting the (surprise) move on Grandad!

We met up with all the kids and grandkids and in-law spouses in Victoria for the Victoria Marathon Weekend where I ran for the third time in the Victoria 8K with grandson Charlie and umpteenth time with his mom Danielle (Half Marathon). I expected Charlie to beat me (hoped he would – it is time) and he took off like the proverbial ‘scalded cat’, but a minor injury he has been suffering brought him back down to earth about 4K and I caught him at 6K. We finished together, except that I think he took me way too seriously when I said he was ready to beat me. Sore paw or not, he took off with about 100m to go and caught the old guy by surprise! I tried to turn it on and catch up, but he had me and did indeed cross the line looking a lot better than he actually felt, with me in hot pursuit. The one good thing about his surprise move is that our son, Cam caught us in full flight and ME getting air with less than 100m left in a race!  THAT never happens anymore! Thanks, Charlie/Cam!

What can I say? If you are going to pick one photo to represent a trip to India, I guess it has to be the Taj Mahal

No sooner was that celebration weekend over with, than we (Judi and I) were on a plane to India. I mean literally, as in later the same week, we were headed for India and Nepal (which is where Nagarkot – see title – actually is). We just got back a couple of days ago and I am planning the next trip – to Negril for the Reggae Marathon, Half Marathon and 10K. But, I am getting ahead of myself. Don’t worry though. I am not going to recount every moment of three and a half weeks in India and Nepal. Unless, you want me to……………..??? No. I thought not.

Since this is about running, I guess we should start with my possibly unrealistic goals in that area. We lived in Malaysia for nearly two years and I ran something like 5 days a week. In other words, running in warm steamy places (including the last seven years at Reggae Marathon in Negril, JA) is not new to me. What I didn’t count on was the packed agenda of our trip and location of our hotels (where places to run were few and far between). Never mind.

My hope was to add two more countries to my list of 23 where I have run at least a bit. I also planned on adding one more country to my list of places where I have raced (much less impressive, at 5 countries). The first thing that happened was that just before leaving I was trying to sign my wife up to walk the 5K in the Run for Unity and Success (Oct 31 – in Delhi), when I discovered a conflict over dates. It appeared the race was either Oct 31 or Oct 28. The 28th was Sunday, which made more sense to this North American runner/racer, but the original date, including the date I had registered for, was October 31 (Wednesday). Long story short, when it finally got sorted out, they had to change dates and we were going to be nowhere near the race venue on October 28. Scratch the race in India. Very sad. They had a shirt and medal and everything. THAT would have truly enhanced my collection!

Just finished a very short, but very real run in Jaipur, India

From running as often as I could, I went to “I have to get a run in SOMEWHERE!”. That I did. It happened in Jaipur where there was a perfect place just outside our hotel. There was a promenade directly across the road along a lakeshore that was about 1km end to end and held no danger of getting lost on unfamiliar streets. So, that was where I added India to the list of countries where I have run. I suppose I could have run at the Ranthambore Tiger Reserve, but while ‘running with the bulls’ is a thing, ‘running with the tigers’ doesn’t usually work out that well for the human. I passed on that even though there were great roads/trails and the air was clear. I raise the latter point, because that was not always the case and truth be told, had the race actually happened as originally scheduled on Oct. 31, I am not at all sure I would have taken part anyway. The air conditions in Delhi had gone from pretty darn good when we arrived, to awful.

Sagarmatha from our Buddha Air flight

The trip was everything we hoped for and much, much more. Nepal offered its own wonders, like this mountain we went to see, taking a special flight that goes right by the Himalayas and its star, Mount Everest, or as it is known to the people, Sagarmatha. This is also where the place in the title, Nagarkot, comes in. We traveled up (almost 7,000ft) from Kathmandu to stay at a hotel where we could watch the sun rise over the Himalayas.

Sunrise view from observation deck at Club Himalaya, Nagarkot, Nepal

Everest made an appearance there too, but you had to know where to look and have a very sharp eye as the mountain range tails away from the view point and Everest is way in the distance (far to the right of this photo), unlike our flight on Buddha Air (yes, that’s right…………..Buddha Air). And also, unlike most flights you will ever take, while our plane had two seats on each side of the aisle, only the window seats were booked. The flight goes one way with the mountains to the left, turns around and gives the right side passengers the bird’s eye view going back. As we were near Everest, every passenger was invited to come to the cockpit and get some pilot’s eye views. Amazing, but no running! OK, except to get my turn in the cockpit.

Sadly, just as with India, no running in Nepal either. Same general reasons. I guess anybody with a Fitbit or similar was getting great numbers because we walked and walked and walked and very little of it was flat! So, there’s that.

OK, lets get back to talking about actual running and racing!

Nothing like a barefoot run on the beach, to start the day

Negril and the Reggae Marathon looms. Three weeks from this moment, as I write, I expect to be jogging along either Norman Manley Blvd or the Negril Seven Mile Beach, with my friend, Chris Morales. This will be my 8th year in a row in Negril and Chris’ 10th! The Four Amigos, Chris, Larry, Navin and Dan, will be raising a total of 34 fingers in our traditional and annual group photo, to indicate the total races we have done in Negril.

Four Amigos ride (run) again for a total of 30 Reggae Marathon events.

As much as I wanted to take on the Half Marathon one more time, unless I walk it start to finish, that just isn’t realistic. 2018 has been one awful year for my running. I won’t bore you with the details (already done that a few times, I think). Add the lack of ability to run while on our big trip and my decision that it will be the 10K this time, just makes sense. Besides, you get back for the beach party that much sooner!

While the memories of our India trip will be with us for the rest of our lives, I have some wonderful memories of Negril and as the reality of that trip coming in less than three weeks looms (depart on the red-eye to Toronto on Nov 28, for connection to Montego Bay), Jamaica is very much in the forefront of things.

Rise up in the mornin’

I have my room booked (as usual) at Rondel Village and already looking forward to early morning runs on the beach, followed by a breakfast of ackee and salt fish. I’m already wishing I could stay longer, for a bit more of that sort of thing, but the truth is that I am lucky to be going at all. The race has moved to Sunday this year as a matter of improved logistics. We’ll see how that works. For racers it probably doesn’t matter since once you are on Jamaica Time, things just have their own rhythm and the only important thing is to keep your departure date straight. OH! And the start time of the Reggae Marathon, because it will go off with military precision at 5:15am on December 2nd.

Negril River and fishing boats (what I saw for the first time on race morning).

There is nothing I have ever experienced to compare to that race start in the dark, feeling the air (kind of silky at that hour) and moving through the morning with a happy crowd of runners/walkers with absolutely nothing else to do for the next while, other than enjoy the moment of whichever event they may be doing. At my pace of the last number of years, by the time we reach the 5K turnaround at the Negril round-about, the sky is lightening. It isn’t dawn yet, but the sky isn’t fully dark. On the way back to the finish line (for the 10K) the dawn will begin. The sky will begin to change and colours will begin to paint the sky. For all but the very slowest, the finish will come before the sun actually rises. It is a magical time and that turn back to the finish chute is a great feeling.

Post-race, sunrise at Reggae Marathon. No winter jackets even if it is December!

As you cross the line and get your medal (new design this year!), the Caribbean beckons. Reggae music is already playing and the fresh coconuts are being chopped open to yield refreshing coconut water to replenish you. Oh, and if you are ready at such an early hour, the cold Red Stripe is waiting too!

Let’s not forget the Half Marathoners (and Marathoners). As the 10K people turn back to the finish (you have to pass the finish area by just a bit to get in the full 10K distance), the longer distance runners continue into the rising sun. Of course, the faster ones will be seeing that lightening sky and dawn AFTER passing the start/finish area. Actually, some of the really fast Half Marathoners will be finishing about the same time I finish the 10K, so there’s that. The route continues along Norman Manley Blvd to just where the Negril Beach ends, just pass the RIU properties, where it turns back toward the finish and the first run through Bob’s Mile. As the Half Marathoners happily pull off to their reward, the truly gritty Marathoners begin the whole thing again.

Marathon finisher bringing it home. Wait! It is Navin, one of the Four Amigos!

Now, I’m not going to lie and tell you that those gritty, dedicated runners aren’t going to experience a change of conditions. At the start, the temperature can be as low as 21C and up to 25C or so. But, it doesn’t change until the sun is up. When it DOES rise, so do air temperatures and the feeling of being hot is magnified by the fact that the sun is now shining directly onto you. This is when the smart running has to happen. The negative split is the goal of most distance runners. However, the Reggae Marathon is one race where ‘banking’ time makes sense. Running conditions are so much better prior to sunrise than after, that it makes sense to take advantage (if time matters). Once you are running in full sun, you need to be very strategic. The good news is how much support there is with both water and electrolyte solution available every mile. And, they are in handy plastic pouches that allow you to carry them with you rather than gulp down what you can and run on to the next aid station. Personally, I tend to drink the electrolyte and pour the water over myself for cooling. I have remarked before that this also serves as an early warning system for your well-being. The first time you mistakenly pour the electrolyte over your head is probably an accident – one you are unlikely to repeat – but the second time should be a warning that you aren’t quite on your game!!

It’s a Reggae Party!

Regardless of your chosen distance, the finish is kind of the same. Medal, music, coconut, beach, beer and PARTY. There are also misting tents and cold cloths for those who have really pumped it out. They look after us very well.

So, the final planning begins and arrangements are being made for meeting up and doing lots of fun stuff in and around the race. Four Amigos notwithstanding, every year there are more and more friends to greet. Expect more on this. I’m back and ready to roll on to my final race of the year and without doubt the one that is the most fun. Believe it or not, I also find it spiritually uplifting. Jamaica/Negril, I think I have said more than once over the years, is my ‘happy place’.