Monday, June 25, 2018

Riding Horseback in Paradise

Back on Monday May 28th; (Memorial Day in the USA), three days after we ran the Bermuda Marathon Derby.  Sherry, Paula (my sister-in-laws), Tanya and I woke up at sunrise to drive to Warwick, Bermuda. We were headed to the Watson's Stables.  The trails and the surf awaited us Bermuda Cowgirls and Cowboys!  The anticipation was reeling Tanya and I hadn't ridden in years! Possibly the last time we rode together was in Bermuda over 10 years ago. Sherry is a regular at Watson's Stables and Paula; I don't think has ever ridden a horse in her life! We were in for a blast!

I am always amazed at what you can find tucked away in Bermuda, when we turned off of middle road, it looked like we were turning into a residential neighbor hood. As we climbed a short incline the road narrowed and off to the left what looked like a former small Bermuda rock quarry; there was the stable. It was perfectly sunken from the road and nestled away, if you didn't know it was there you would easily pass by.

Tanya her sisters and Mike went way back, no introductions necessary, but not I; so we made fast friends and got ready to ride. Come to find out Mike Watson is a former Bermuda Marathon Derby Champion in 84',85',87',and 91'. He also represented Bermuda in the 1988 Olympics Summer games in Seoul Korea! Awesome!

Mike was very efficient and ordered, within minutes he had five horses quickly saddled and rigged. Before we new it we were each in the saddle walking around the ring getting acquainted with our new horse friends. Paula mounted her horse like a real pro, after a few minutes of coaching from Mike and told what to expect we were ready to hit the trails. The sun was shining, the birds were chirping and the waves were waiting, giddy up! Let's hit those trails!

 The majority of the ride would take place on the Bermuda Railway Trails and Tribe Roads. Mikes knowledge of this trail system; and the history of it was impressive. If I had the opportunity it would be great to just sit and talk to him about Bermuda history. Seeing the landscape on horse back was amazing, being seven feet or more in the air on horseback changes the perspective. I had a constant feeling of awe and slight anxiety. Though the reins give you the feeling of control you are on the back of a large amazing and incredibly strong thinking independent animal. They deserve our respect.

In those 2 hours we climbed up trails, down trails, through abandoned overgrown bridle paths dating back to 1800's and old historic homes. The climax was reaching and riding out on Warwick Long Beach. I was just something about the beautiful blue water, the pink sand beach and trotting on horseback through the waves. It was fairy tale like, an incredible majestic experience.

A day to remember, sharing this experience with Tanya and my sister-in-laws was a bonding experience; I won't soon forget. If you want to make memories that last, not only visit Bermuda; but while there look up Watson's Stables you won't be disappointed.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Bermuda Day Marathon Derby 2018

It was that time of year again for Tanya and I to make our annual pilgrimage to Bermuda to run the Bermuda Day Marathon Derby; well almost an annual pilgrimage. We didn't run in 2017. For over 100 years the race which is actually a half marathon was run on the 24th of May, but starting this year, the race will be run on the Friday or I assume the Monday that is closest to the actual day. Allowing for a 3 day weekend. If you haven't visited Bermuda, going at this time of the year will give you a great experience of what Bermuda is about. The atmosphere is electric, the entire Island come out to support the cyclist and the runners; which is followed by a parade through Hamilton with representatives from all of the parishes Gombey's group dances, traditional Bermuda bands, dance trucks, musicians, floats, pageant queens, community groups. Color, food, music, and fun!

 The race always finishes in Hamilton but switches starting locations between Sandy's parish and St. George each year. This year began in Sandy's. We decided to take the ferry to the start line this year, in years past family usually takes us to the start. We love riding the island ferry's to various locations such as Dockyard, Hamilton, and St George; so we decided lets give it a try this year. The ride was awesome, all traffic was avoided, and the family was able to begin post race festivities setup early, so plus's all the way around. We were joined on the ferry by our nephew Coolidge who also is a annual participant.

Coming from California I am always concerned with the the islands humidity. I am accustomed to running in heat; but heat and high humidity adds a challenging element. We knew we were in for one of those days because as race time approached it was already sunny, warm and sticky!  

Race preparation and always time for a selfie.

Tanya and I decided to run the race together this year and just have fun interacting with the crowd; Tanya seeing and even stopping to hugs friends along the race route. But we also said if one was having a better day it was okay to split, just let our legs decide.  

The race started right on time at 9:00 am sharp! That was the last time we saw Coolidge for the rest of the race. He is a fast starter. Tanya and I tend to cruise the first few miles with the intention of running a negative split. I'm not sure but the race entrants seemed to be much lower than past runs. Usually there is an ocean of people leaving from the start, but not this year. I wonder if changing the run date had anything to do with? 

As I have stated in the past, of all the races and places I have run; this one is my favorite. Not only because it takes place on one of the most beautiful islands and places on earth; but because! No disrespect to my caucasian brothers and sisters, but seeing so many brown and black faces running and lining the course cheering their hearts out is so uplifting to me! I just LOVE it!  

First mile down in 9:15:00 on track to run a sub two hour time. That was today's objective  cruise have fun, but have a finishing goal in mind. As time and the miles passed the temperature began to rise and so did the humidity. The first half of the race went by fast; we both felt strong and had a good rhythm going each taking turns setting the pace.  We saw family, friends and the energy of the crowd made the miles just flow; it was great!  But Harbor Road can be a drag and around mile 8 I started falling off the pace and feeling just plainly uncomfortable. I hung on for another mile hoping to push through it, but by mile 9 just before Lovers Lane a said to Tanya "Roll on baby", I wasn't feeling it. I wanted her to finish strong and maybe reel back in that sub 2 hour goal. We had fallen off pace.  I slowed my pace, walked through a water stop at Aberfeldy Nursery drank a few cups of water ate some sour gummy bears and just like that the energy came back. Time to finish strong! The crowds on Front Street will energize the weakest of runners and that they did! Just awesome. But the finish is no walk in the park; you still have,  short but steep hills to go over through Hamilton; enough to drain the energy of the strongest runner. But one step at a time and soon you will be crossing the finish line in Bernard Park. But not until we get our last burst of energy from the family who are set up on Marsh Folly Road just under a half mile to the finish. It is like a party when we come around that corner! Cheers, screams, horns, mayhem, pure energy! If your feeling down, not for long they are going to pick you up and help you finish strong!  Tanya crossed the line in 2:06:00 and I in 2:09:00; big props to Coolidge who crossed in 1:59:00 just getting under that two hour mark. 

Sporting our Medals

Family Support always helps!

The Francis Sisters

Time to get cleaned up then head to the family tent to enjoy the parade, festivities, and family fun. If you get a chance, visit Bermuda! Its a special place. 
Cool Runnings. MJ