Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Friends Forever

      The day following the marathon the group had a trip to Saxon Switzerland not to be confused with Switzerland the nation. The sandstone mountains where the building materials for many of the structures in Dresden came from. We went by train from Dresden to the ferry across the Elbe to the little town of Pirna. We took in the scenery which included the town hall and parish church built in the sixteenth century. Then we began the hike up the mountain that turned out to be like one of those adventure team building exercises. The trail became single track and to the edge of the river valley we discovered Gloria had a fear of heights. Here came the team building and a new trusting friendship as I got behind her on the steep parts and beside her on the edges holding her hands or hips encouraging her on. Many laughs were shared as we trekked our way over the trail. Jim our eighty three year old member of the Ambassadors was with us also members of the team took turn assisting him over the trail though he was at the back he was never alone. The views from the top were breath taking and easy to understand why this was called the fortress of the Saxon Valley. Many rulers used it as refuge in times of war back to the fifteenth century and the castle across the river served as a high security jail 1870-71 and both world wars. American and British officers were held there in the second world war.
      We ended with lunch back down at the river sharing laughs and memories of the marathon and the days events. Part of the group headed onto the castle and Gloria, her host Peter and myself headed back to Dresden. I made it home to my host family and we went out for dinner to Neustadt (new town) the part of the city that completely burnt down in 1685 and was rebuilt in a Victorian style square. Many numerous "in" bars and trendy restaurants were here which made it a popular place with the students. We toured the Art Passage then went to an Indian restaurant a bittersweet memory as this was my last night with my "family" I have to say I was perfectly matched and made friends for a lifetime. Andreas and I stayed for a couple more drinks at on of the bars then headed home as I had an early flight.
     This trip truly was an ambassadorship between two sister cities, a cultural exchange by a group of runners that became bonded with memories. I have to say this was more than I expected and expanded my expectations of things to do. I want to share this experience with many and take my family back to share in person. Running is truly a gift from God that has become my way to see the world and inspire people to be all they can be. I came to run a marathon left with new friends and experiences that will change my life and hopefully others. Call it your bucket list, I call it your limits they are set by you and should be changed to unlimited. This year I have run a one hundred mile race, an international marathon and who knows what is next. I saw a shirt that said " My running shoes have more miles than your car" I need one that says " My running shoes took me around the world and gained me many friends"

Monday, October 29, 2012

Dresden Marathon - Race Day

      I was up early pumped with excitement for my first international marathon, representing Columbus marathon, the city and all my local runners. On Saturday my host Andreas had signed up for the marathon he had not trained since spring but had spent all summer on his race bike. Ines drove us down to the start line and dropped us off and would come back with the kids on bike to cheer us and take pictures. The support was totally unexpected but greatly appreciated made this like a hometown race with people cheering me by name. The group from Columbus group was charged with energy taking pictures with the Mayor of Dresden doing O-H-I-O it almost took the chill off the 40* F morning.
      This was a relatively small race but very competitive in Germany they have not caught the running and fitness craze. People were here to race, all three distances started together so I tried to stage myself behind the 10k, half marathon elites and the Kenyons of course. The start was very tight and I would say of all my race starts this was one of the roughest. People pushed and elbowed for position and stepped in front of you without warning. I settled into my own race very quickly not knowing anyone was a disadvantage but by feel and my Garmin I found 6:30 pace first mile. I hit the 5k marker at twenty minutes and the first water stop I was ahead of pace but feeling good. The 10k mark I was still with a large group not a lot of change of position but I could see the front pack had pulled away 42:00 minutes was still ahead of my target. 20k the half marathon runners split off for the finish and I could start to pick out runners to pace with I was at a 7:17/mile pace and feeling good I took my second Gel and water at all of the stations. 1:26:00 was a perfect split for my goal 2:54:00 finish I knew I needed to stay relaxed and finish strong to make my goal. The sections through town were a little slow but the path along the river my pace went sub seven minutes / mile and I was being challenged by a few runners and stayed with them to pass people ahead of me. Mile eighteen brought the wall my pace slowed to 8:00/mile I felt like I could hold this comfortably and hopefully recover. I did just that maintained until mile 22 water stop that I decided to walk through and at the end I had a German runner who had passed me at the water stop motion me to run with him my mile 23 split was 8:59 but with him pacing me my pace was back down to 8:00 he got a cramp as we went up the hill to go to the bike path he told me to go on. I pushed it knowing with only a couple miles to go I would still have a good finish. Coming up on the Augustus Bridge ( Augustusbrucke) I came up on a young man struggling gave him a pat on the back and told him to come on together we pushed to the finish. The camaraderie among runners is an international language we looped around to the finish and at the 41k sign I said 1200 meters to go that we had this he agreed and said every step was one closer to the finish. I lost him as I pushed out the last 800 meters with everything I had. My Garmin had at a 7:12 pace but it felt like 5:00 when they announced my name coming into the finish I put a great race behind me. Greeted by my teammates who had run the half I broke down with tears of joy and exhaustion. My host finished behind me making his goal of faster than 3:30 @ 3:26:32. My finish was 3:22:42     235/1145 men 42/227 age group for a course with a record of 2:13:03 I will take that as a success for my first international race.

Ambassadorship Part 1

      You read about it, see pictures of it but until you experience it and live it you can't really appreciate this planet we live on. This started as a simple trip to go run a marathon in Dresden Germany in a sister city exchange with the Columbus Marathon. What it turned out to be was a life changing experience that will take several pages to describe the experience. The history, culture, natural beauty and new friendships that I will take through the rest of my life.
      Take a step out of the small world of your hometown community and find out what lies beyond the horizon. This year I raced on both coast of the United States of America then to step on a plane to a country with one thousand years of history. A new perspective came to my life that there is so much out there and to seize every opportunity to make a friend. I headed to the airport to begin this adventure really not knowing what to expect but a little nervous. Nerves didn't get any better when my connecting flight from Columbus to Charlotte was delayed a hour. Hustling through the airport I made it with a few minutes to spare and was on board the Airbus 330 to Frankfurt Germany. Started to relax but not totally because I was not able to sleep as planned. I think part of that was nervous energy turning into excitement, the trip of my lifetime was starting, the transfer at Frankfurt was smooth. Landed in Dresden greeted by the smiling faces of Ines and Romy they recognized me from my Dailymile picture and they had a sign with my name. This was to be the first experience of my cultural exchange as I learned 3:00 is coffee and cake in Germany. Met Erik when he came home from school and Andreas got home from work and we went on a family bike ride along the river and into the city. The scenery was amazing and the fall colors accented the beauty of this historical city. I got the nickel tour of the Altstadt (West Bank) which I would come back Thursday and tour on my own and a guided tour Friday. Then we stopped for dinner and got my introduction to German beer and cuisine, wonderful time spent getting to know my host family.
      Thursday morning on German time I was up with my normal routine of up early and get my run in followed the streets down to the river and back. I was very fortunate my host had great coffee and even their own espresso machine. Fresh bread from the neighborhood bakery and coffee got my day started as I headed off to explore the city. The house was a block from the Tram stop which took me directly to the historical part of the city. The public transportation was very clean and the most efficient way to get around the city. I walked the city taking in all the historical buildings had lunch at local brewers pub and discovered that Pilsner (Pils) was what the region is best known for. After lunch I toured the "Johanneum" Royal Stables which was turned into the transport museum. The history of the automobiles, trains and trolleys kept me captivated for a couple hours.
      I headed back to the house and spent the rest of the afternoon with my host family took Romy to gymnastics then to the transit authority where Andreas is the finance administrator. I took a tour of the facility and they had a collection of historical trams and equipment as well as a display of how it looked when it was East Germany. Then home for dinner before going to play indoor soccer with Andreas and a group of his friends. Well conditioned for running but not soccer I was one sore puppy that evening and even into the next day.
      Friday was an early morning starting with a very easy run to loosen the legs before spending the day walking the city with the group from Columbus. I rode the tram down to meet the group for a guided tour of the city. The history was astonishing and put a new perspective on how young our country is to be in a city over one thousand years old. We had lunch as a group, the relationships built with the other ambassadors made this trip even more rewarding. The tram ride from downtown to the Sports School was kept exciting when part of the group missed the tram. I was familiar with the tram route so I ran back to collect our stragglers, all together we went to a reception with the Mayor of Dresden. We toured the sports school and the dormitories where students specialize in one of seventeen sports. This school had produced Olympic medalist dating back to the 1968 Olympics to 2012 had two students on the German rowing team. Very impressive how the East German system has been integrated into the unified Germany. The evening was wrapped up with dinner at a friend of my host they spoke English and had actually lived in Texas for a couple years. I was shown so much hospitality and felt like part of the family.

      Saturday morning Andreas and Erik took me on a tour of the city by tram and sky rail the views over the top of the city were spectacular. I could see many of the city's architectural landmarks including a great view of the "Blue Bridge". From there we went to meet the rest of the family at the stadium for a professional soccer game. My first time to a European Football game had expected intensity but the energy in that stadium could power a small city. The home fan section for the Dresden Dynamo was one end of the stadium with no seats 20 - 25,000 fans standing/jumping and singing and chanting. The fans were almost as entertaining as the plays on the field.
      We went home to relax and rest for race day finishing the evening with a traditional pasta dinner.

To be continued....