Saturday, January 21, 2012

Spartathlon Race Report

Arrived in Athens on Mon and spent the next 2 days roaming the cafes, shops,
and monuments. I visited the Acropolis, which is a large rock hill, that is
the site of many ancient temples, and points of historic importance. It is
spectacular both day and night.

On Wednesday, I transferred to Glyfada, a suburb south of Athens, along the
seashore Mediterranean. Besides being a home to the 2004 Olympic Games,
Glyfada is also the host site for the Spartathletes. I checked in to the
Hotel London and met 3 room-mates who also were in the race.

Daniel Ernst, from Holland, a 2 time finisher, Oz Pearlman and Michael
Arnstein both of NYC and first time starters like myself. We made quick
aquaintenances and tried to stuff our gear bags into a room built
comfortable for 2.

Most of the athletes arrived on the same day, and checked in to the host
hotel. We had to wait out the next 2 days, spending time at the beach or in
the city markets.

On Friday, busses collected us all and delivered us to the Acropolis for the
start. We met up with Dan Rose, also from the USA, as well as my friends
Rob&Susie Sargent , and Liz Codding. We took some pictures, and mingled with
the field of International runners.

At 7 we started down the cobbled stone road, and I found one of my other new
friends from Finland, Ari. We ran along the narrow streets, thru traffic
intersections and passed by many beautifully made-up Greek Policewomen. It
became a habit for me to blow them kisses in appreciation of support during
the run out of town, at the morning rush hour. Many horns were blown and
there was a small bit of shouting, either for the runners or for the delays
caused by blocked streets.

The first 10 miles were quick, but not very interesting or appealing. I also
stopped at several service stations along the way, for dihireha . Very
unpleasant and stressful! My concern relieved with a Mylanta, which I took
as a precaution.

Soon the roads cleared of heavy traffic as we continued running
northwesterly towards Elyfsis. The view was Ocean on the left and hillside
community on the right. We passed thru Check Points ( aid stations ) every
few kilometers, There are a total of 79 on the course. They have water, a
Greek sport juice, Pepsi, pretzel ,chips, chocolate, and figs. However the
did not have ice or gels.

The roads were consistent along the coastline, and contained rolling hills
similiar to the one I run on Bryant Road in NE OKC. One thing also that was
consistent was the amount of trash on the roads before the start of the
race. this was a very littered course, at least until we left the check
point for 50 miles, in the City of Corinth.

The course then became more rural and agricultural. We ran thru Vineyard of
Grapes, Olive Groves, acres of Lime trees, and perhaps pistachio trees. The
Check Points were now located in the villages between each large growing
area. Sometimes the CP would be at a village Tavern in the village square.
The spectators cheered, offered us refreshments and sometimes asked for an
autograph in return.

I completed nearly 65 miles as the sun set. The hills got longer and
steeper, but the temperature was cooling for a pleasant evening run. I
picked up Gels and Ibuprofen at a CP bag drop that I prepared in advance. I
felt like a new runner, and made many good running miles until I reached the
village of Cappellini. The distance to this point is 93 miles or so, and I
was feeling really good about my running, despite the truth that I was
running too fast, without the gel support I've relied upon to this point.

The road out of Capellini is very steep 9 km climb of winding switchbacks.
Fatigue and sleepiness battled w me. I was sleepwalking, and dealing with an
internal "committee" session. Also, I vomited several times during this
section. The one good thing about this section is that it leads to the base
camp CP at 159 km. It is a drop bag site that I'd planned for w Gel, pks and
a jacket w hat and gloves. All of the ite s were necessary for the next 2 km
climb which is the hardest, steepest, rockiest, most dangerous section of
the course.

It was very well marked, and went straight up the side of Sangas Mountain.
When I started the ascent, a Greek runner joined me and was determined to
lead the way up in a very swift pace. The struggle was over soon. we reached
the top of the pass and CP 48. The gusty winds made it cold and
inhospitable. My Greek comrade and I quickly descended the wider mountain
road leading to CP 49. When I arrived, I was a wreck. My legs needed
recovery and my stomach needed food. I took a 5 min break to raise my feet,
rest my back and eat soup.

After 5 min I left the CP with only a few minutes ahead of the cutoffs. I
forced my self to run on, in fear of missing a CP , and again vomited the
food. I wasted many minutes on the side of the road, but finally started a
slow walk towards mile 103. I reached the CP, but made a bad decision to sit
down and eat. I gave into the desire for rest for a few minutes, until the
CP Captain told me the station was closing and asked if I was forfeiting. I
said NO, and I returned to the course, walking slowly ahead as the sun rose
over the eastern mountains. Without food and water I knew I could not
continue. A race official drove past so I flagged him to stop. I did not
know how I would get back to Sparta without the race being open, so I
declared my intention to stop at the next site of a CP a few more km ahead.

When I arrived, the station volunteers were disassembling the area, but took
my bib and timing chip and made arrangements for me to have a bus ride from
Tegea to Sparta. I did not know that runners often continue thru a closed
CP, and make up time before reaching the subsequent CP. This is very
valuable information for runners, if they are willing to continue forward
toward the finish line. So that was the end of my competition. I got on a
bus a rode to Sparta. A few stops along the road the same bus collected
Michael. He completed 180 km before retiring due to slow pace and soreness
in the feet.

We checked into the hotel, and found Oz there also. He had dropped at 124 km
from violent vomiting and dehydration. Soon we showered, and made our way to
the finish line to celebrate with the runners and supports that were still
running. Many of our new friends were completing the course with cheers, and
escorts.

My feelings were mixed with disappointment for myself and joy for the other
runners.

1 comment:

Halman Freud said...

Men, Athens must be great. I would love to go there. I have seen some pictures that a friend of mine sent me from there. I had to whats up download in order to speak with him. He is vert happy with the city.