tisdag 28 april 2009

A tough day after run and presidential election

9.23 km, 45 min 15 sec, including a fairly tough round in the park, 3.75 km in 16 min 9 sec.

Legs felt better than expected after yesterdays 30 km run- thats a good sign. Next weekend I will try 25+25, i.e run 25 km on Saturday and 25 km on Sunday. If that works, I will go 30+30 the weekend after, a good exercise in order to get used to the long distances without actually going out for a crazy 50 or 60 km run.

This week will be very interesting, with presidential election coming up on Sunday. I will not go into details about what I think about the candidates, since there are laws in Panama that basically can get me locked in if I "insult" an official person. Since my view on the politics and the politicians here is quite, shall we say, firm, I would not want to risk that.

The arguments and rethorics is getting lower and lower, and while PRD picture Martinelli et al as evil "sculls" in TV, Martinelli claims that with PRD, you get into politics clean/goood but you leave (politics) as millonare (if you are in the ruling party).

It is easy just to look at the bad parts of the politics here, the power families that rules the country, the rumours that a vote a week before the election cost 50 USD and closer to the election will rise to 150 USD, or other bad parts. But I can not help but being impressed by a country that have gone from a long history of dictatorships to a fairly ok democracy in only 20 years! I am pretty convinced, that within 20 more years we will see a good democracy here in Panama!

Now it is time to help my son with the physics homework while I still can keep my eyes open.

söndag 26 april 2009

Rent a cop..?

29.8 km, 3 h 8 min 32 sec, Nice pace with great company.

The week started bad from a training plan point of view. Off to Kingston Jamaica on Monday morning. Kingston Jamaica, a could be 2 hour flight with Copa. But since Copa do not fly on Mondays, I had no other choice to chose the airline company that have set a new standard to being delayed, never apologise and overall treating their customers like dirt- American Airlines.

Except for trying to cross Avenida Balboa in Panama City by foot, probably the safest way to get killed is to show your white face in down town Kingston. This means that running in Kingston, for me, is limited to a small park with a 500 meter running track.

Because of the safety, the running track is more croweded than Calle 50 the day after salary payout, which means good training of reaction, creativity and side stepping. It was a bit entertaining looking at this rasta-dude, running in a good 4:30 min/km pace in jeans, dreadlocks and cool sunglasses.

A few km on Tuesday morning, some more Wednesday morning and a bit more normal at the end of the week.

On Sunday morning, I met up with a bunch of very nice runners from the local club. 6 am and a nice 21 km run was their plan, and I teamed up with a very nice guy at 5 am to get closer to 30 k in total.

Running on the road, with jungle on both sides is fantastic! Howler monkeys to the left screaming, Tucans flying pass, and when I crossed the bridge back from Gamboa, there was a huge splash 100 meters to the left- crocodile..?

During the run, we did some planning for my ocean to ocean run. One thing that I have not thought much about is security. The first part of the run will go through some neighborhoods that are bit more rough. They are probably ok, but I do not really blend in- 187 cm tall and white as snow!

The answer: rent a cop!
"Eeh, like, paying him under the table..?"
"No no, it is perfectly legal. You can rent a guy with a motorcycle, or a patrol car.."

Actually, it is a splendid idea! Less risk for being hit by some crazy driver, and more safe for my wife driving the car along me with the food, drink and other support I will need.

I wonder if you could rent-a-cop for other tasks as well...?

söndag 19 april 2009

An early morning, 37 km and beautiful red flowers

37.37 km, 3 h 37 min 21 sec, 5:49 min/km. Longest since the Marathon in August and a pretty good pace.

The alarm clock went off at 3:20 am, and it took one lap just to wake up, 3.75 km. Still heavy legs, which is not so strange when I look at the weekly summary- almost 90 km this week, more than 20 km more than any other week.

Did the 25/5 today again, running 25 min, walking 5 min and so on, but kept the running on a much faster pace than I will do on the Ocean to Ocean. 5:49 min/km in average, means that I was running around 5:30 min/km while running. This, and the fact that every lap means around 55 meter in height differences adds a total of 550 meter in height difference, resulted in a pretty good run today.

Also, the 5:49 is faster than the time I did on the Marathon, and I would have had no problem today continuing for one or two more laps! Well, if it wasnt for the heat of course. On the last lap, the temperature rose above 30 C, which in the sun became even more- not a favourite temperature for someone from the far north..

A few hundred meter into the park, my eyes got caught of a tree- a completely bare, grey and dead (?) tree, a big one touching the skye. But in the tree, high up, were these fantastic red flowers. In the dead grey, they were so much more beautiful!

lördag 18 april 2009

Frustration and chaos

17.63 km, 1 h 29 min 21 sec. A really hard run with a lot of frustration that needed out.

A bad start on the day. Off to school for the third day in a row. In some ways, the school is really good. In other ways, it has... room for improvement? It has a high academic standard, but sort of forget, in some grades, that the students actually might need more than just academic qualification- fundamental social skills for example...

Continued with that we had to cancel a workshop at work, where we had put a lot of effort to bring the right people here, flying in from 7 timezones away, preparing presentations etc. The people that had been pushing for us to arrange this didnt even bother to answer the invitation. Tack för kaffet, as we say in swedish.

And to round off, there were yet some more prepared meetings, flight tickets and hotels that needed to be cancelled last minute.

Oh, and I am looking forward to 6-7 hours at Miami airport on Monday when flying to Jamaica. Thank you, American Useless Airlines. At least I can fly with the directflight back, COPA.

Everything built up to a terrible run, much too fast. Three very fast laps, around 5 min/km, which is fast on this track with all ups and downs, around 55-60 meter each lap (3.75 km). Came home completely exhausted, close to falling in the stairs.

Oh, and it is easy to see that it is presidential election in a few weeks. Not only the increased heat in the debate and slogans on the posters (more on that later), but the ruling party tries to fix things, to show that something happens when they are in power. Now they were fixing some more lights in the park, probably for the first time in a year. Well, at least something is happening the last three weeks out of five years in power..

torsdag 16 april 2009

A dark park and lazy (?) guards

18.75 km, 1 h 44 min 31 sec, 5:35 min/km, an early morning run on heavy legs.

Legs still felt heavy after the intervals a few days earlier. Tried to keep the pace up to end up at 5:30 min/km, but the legs were protesting and all the ups and downs in the park slowed the pace. Pretty good in the end though, but maybe a resting day on Thursday would be good.

03:15 am- pip pip pip, alarm clock goes off. If someone would have told me two years ago, that I would go up 3:15 in the morning for a morning run, I would have thought that this person was crazy! Well, some would probably argue that it actually is crazy, but I do not listen on that ear.. Now it is just a normal part of my training.

The park opens at 4 am, and I was actually a bit early, came there 3:50 and realized that I was not the first one. Two other cars were waiting for the park to open.

Out of the car, turn on the headlamp. Headlamp is necessary, not only for me to get used to, I will need it on my ocean to ocean run, but also since the lights in the park are really poor. The first lap, I calculated how many broken (or at least dark) lamps there were.
Out of approximately 240 lights, around 100 was working.. In one place, there is a 200 meter stretch that is completely dark.

Luckily, there are guards in the park. Only problem is, that when it is dark, the guards are hiding in their small guard houses. When the sun comes up, the guards start to walk or bicycle around. They are probably needed more when it is dark! The protector of the park is the first lady here. Maybe I should through her an email..?

But maybe there is some strange logic here I do not understund.
Maybe the bad guys are afraid of the dark?
Or the guards have some super-duper remote dark vision watch system, enabling them to monitor the whole park from their guard houses.
Or the guards are just...lazy..?

I am not the one to judge, but I feel sorry for everyone that do not dare to go to the park when it is dark. When the sun is up, it is too hot for running and even walking very long. Several of my friends dont go to the park after dark, not alone.

But if Balbina wins the election in a few weeks, will it be the "first dude" that is the protector? Now it looks like Martinelli will be the winner, I better check up who then will be the first lady.

onsdag 15 april 2009

Warmup for stretching and Albert Einstein

3.20 km, 17 min 35 sec, 5:30 min/km. Warm up for stretching.

Had to run to the banking machine to take out money. Salary for the empleada, our fantastic Señora Lily, and also paying the schoolbus. The salary is a story in itself. To pay seguro social, you need the patience of a turtel and the intelect of Albert Einstein. But that is a story for another day. Now it is time for some trigonometry- schoolwork :-)

tisdag 14 april 2009

Intervalls, panamanian traffic and an overheated office

Intervalls, long and short, 12.67 km, 1 h 2 min 4 sec, 4:54 min/km.

Two tough laps in the park, around 7.5 km of intervals. Started with longer intervals, but fast, around 4:15 min/km. Finished with shorter (around 400 m), also fast. The feeling of running fast is fantastic- it feels like flying. High, long strides with a wonderful flow. That is how it feels like at least, maybe it looks slightly different...

I do not do intervals very often, mainly because they are so painful. But again, the feeling of running fast gives me an adrenalin kick. Hopefully, it also gives me some more speed for the shorter competitions, 5-10 km races.

Running from work starts already in the morning. Since I will run from work, I need to walk to work. Not too far, around 30 minutes of walking. But the temperature makes it impossible to walk without getting sweaty.

To walk in Panama means, again, trying not to get hit by a car, bus or a taxi. It is a shooting arena on an amusement park, where the cars are the guns and I am the target. But so far, they have missed.. :-). I can also put it in another way. There is some room for improvement when it comes to cardrivers being considerate with people walking.
After avoiding also the holes in the ground, I reach work- sweaty! Necessary to change shirt and some other clothes.

This particular day, as many other days, the AC did not work. Now I know, that without the AC, the temperature stabilize around 35 C in the office. Slightly too warm to my taste...

After work, I run off to the park. Not many parks to chose between, but the one we have is very nice. Parque Omar, named after the "friendly dictator" Omar Torijos. As all dictators, señor Torijos did a lot of things that were not so good. But, as I understand, he also did a lot of good things, like social reforms and finalizing the treaty that gave the canal back to Panama at the millenium shift.

Parque Omar has a nice run of around 3.75 km, with a lot of ups and downs (in total around 55 meter up and down in one lap). Doing intervals here is tough, but gives a lot. Only drawback is that people tend to walk beside eachother, taking up all space. And it is not in the culture to step aside for other people, except for ladies in the elevators (I am sorry, my panamanian friends, but that is how I perceive it...). Good excercise for Midnattsloppet in Stockholm next time..:-)

måndag 13 april 2009

Resting day... almost....

8 km, 47:50 min, 5:59 min/km, low pulse. Resting day..

A nice, slow run in the gym, mainly to stretch my legs and my mind. 5 km is normally enough to warm up for a good stretch, but my mind required a few more km today. Close to 68 km this week, and close to where I should be the next few weeks.

The pulse was no problem today, but Pomodoro was. Pomodoro is a very nice pasta restaurant a few blocks from home. Actually, it was our favourite restaurant our first five weeks in Panama, when we stayed at the, shall we say, cost efficient "hotel" Las Huacas. Back to Las Huacas in a while.

Pomodoro serves good pasta to decent prices in a very nice environment. Sounds good, eh? Only issue is that around 50 % of the countries cream production is used by the kitchen in Pomodoro. At least, that is how it feels, and it is probably not far from the truth. Taste good, but fat as Zlatan Ibrahimovichs bank account.

Las Huacas. I will never complain about any other hotel I stay in. Not even the 2 GBP a night B&B 1993, in the north western isolated part of Ireland with electricity two hours every evening and a dampness that makes Panama feel like a desert in comparison.

Actually, it was pretty ok, Las Huacas. But with two kids in school, and only one place with decent light it was a bit tricky with the enormus amount of schoolwork they got. In particular since the only place with decent light was the toilet.
The also claimed to have WiFi, which was slightly true. If I was sitting on the floor just by the entrance, I could actually get a signal and a connection fully in class with the 28.8 kbps modems used at my university years (which was not yesterday). Five weeks in Las Huacas felt like an eternity, but we survived that too. And again, it was not that bad..

Now I am looking forward to one week at home in Panama and some build up in training with good continuity. If I only can digest the pasta from Pomodoro...

söndag 12 april 2009

Panamanian hospital and a change of plans

You can turn 40 in many different ways. You can throw a big party. You can travel to avoid all the excitement. You can spend it with dear friends and family. Or you can test the quality of a Panamanian hospital and try communication with poor Spanish..

The preparations for my big run was going very well indeed. The weekend before I turned 40, three weeks ago, I tested the so called 25/5 method for my weekly long run. Run for 25 minutes, walk for 5 minutes, then run again and so on. It was my friend Sebastian that gave me the tip. The idea is for my body to recover during those 5 minutes, to be able to withstand the really long runs. And it worked perfect! Three hours of running, and I still had a lot of energy left! Thank you, Sebastian!

Sunday came, and I didn't feel excellent. Monday was a kick off at work, but I had to go home after lunch. My stomach really hurt by now, and I was glad to know that my appendix was already removed in a surgery a few years ago- it couldn't be that at least.

On Wednesday the 25th it was worse, with fever and evil pain-attacks that kept me awake throughout the night. One day before my birthday, the only option was to go and try out a Panamanian hospital. The experience turned out to be a surprise. Well, maybe not a big surprise, since my wife Ida had tested it the day before with excellent result. The effectiveness, the hospitality and friendliness left the Swedish hospitals way behind.

Also, I got a big (but painful) laugh when my wife Ida remarked, after they have pushed me in a wheelchair through the corridor in the hospital, “this is how it is to turn 40..”.

The Panama International Half marathon on Sunday the 29th was just to forget, and despite the excellent health care at the hospital and medicine, the evil bacterias kept their grip on me for more than two long weeks.

A friend of mine commented that it might be a good idea to move my ocean to ocean race a few weeks because of the interruption in my preparations. So, mid May became early June. And why not? The first Saturday of June is the 6th- the Swedish national holiday. Is there a better way to celebrate this than to run from one ocean to another?

11/4: 15 km, two dogs and a fence

5:20 am, 14.92 km. 1 h 14 min. Fairly fast pace, 5:25 min/km.

Started fairly early in order to finish the run before 7 am. After 7, the heat starts to raise, and a comfortable 25 C during the early morning hours turns to 29-30 C between 7:30 and 8 am, way too much for me. Since Ida had the car, I run from home to the park and did two laps there, and then back again.

I held a pretty fast pace (for me), a little less than 5:30 min/km, mainly because I didn't have a plan for this exercise. Yesterday, I did a fast 5 km and the day before that a long slow 30 km run, and I can feel the effect of more than two weeks without running.

On the first lap, I saw two happy dogs. Their tails where propellers, the black female dog and the white male dog had really found each other. Between them was a fence with barbwire on the top. No way around it, no way above it, no way under it.

The black dog was pretty quick to understand that, but when I came back on the second lap, the white dog was still wandering back and forth. It was really heart breaking. Two different dogs, two different philosophies, two different views on life.

After the second lap I gave myself a reward. Fresh juice made by oranges and carrots. The fruit here is fantastic, and when we move back to Sweden in the future, I will really miss the variety of fresh fruit.

torsdag 9 april 2009

An idea is born

I run my first marathon last year. The experience was fantastic- and terrible. In a way I was glad that a tropical rain flooded the streets the last kilometers- no one could see my tears, they were not only for happiness of finishing my first marathon. I believe this picture from the finishline show some of the feelings I had, http://www.marathonpanama.com/irr08/Photos/100_2510.jpg.

Now, I am not a complete rookie, and I have actually run an ultra a few years ago. A 50 k race in Stockholm, Sörmlands Ultra as well as the (in Sweden) famous Lidingöloppet, a 30 k race.
(Note: an ultra is basically any race longer than an ordinary marathon, 42 k.)
But the marathon here, with slightly different temperature and humidity compared to Sweden, was a bit of a test.

The idea was born two years ago. After a surgery, I was doing a terribly boring rehab and was thinking of some interesting goal to set. Rehab is always really really boring, and with a compelling goal I can gather the energy to get through with it. I was then working with Latin America, based in Stockholm. A colleague of mine got a position in LatAm, and asked me to join his team.

The alternatives were Costa Rica or Panama. "Panama? Where the heck is that..?" In the end, I didnt get to chose- Panama it was. When I did some investigation, and looked at the map, something "clicked" inside my head. "Wait a minute- thats a pretty short distance between the Atlantic and the Pacific. Wouldnt it be possible to...?".

Google Earth is the saviour here, but it was not so easy to see if there were any roads between Colon on the Atlantic side and Panama City on the Pacific side. I realized it must be, and measured the distance to somewhere between 60 and 80 km. The path I will take will be approximately 70 k. A bit long perhaps, but possible.

As always, the preparations have gone up and down. A lot of travelling, a lot of work and a climate that makes it practically impossible to run between 8 am and 5 pm because of the heat have been a true challenge.

I have managed not to get hit by the crazy panamanian taxi drivers, the crazy bus drivers or falling down in the 2 meter deep holes that are everywhere on the sidewalks, straight down to the sewers. I have "enjoyed" 2 hour runs on the treadmill, almost as boring as rehab.

But now I am there. 8 weeks left. The 6th of June, the swedish national holiday, I will do my run. I still have a few weeks to do the long runs to prepare, and to test different strategies for food, clothes, shoes and everything else that has to work perfect. Anything works on a 10 k race. Everything counts on a 70 k run.

Now I just have to figure out how to manage my 60-70 km weeks with the truckload of travelling that lies ahead..