Nick, Eleanor and I arrived in Berlin mid-day on Wednesday the 12th, 4-ish days before the Berlin Marathon. Despite drinking water at seemingly every opportunity on the flights from Portland to Amsterdam to Berlin, we felt dehydrated and road-weary upon our arrival. We waited for our baggage to arrive and from across luggage carousel Nick and I recognized Valentijn Trouw, Eliud Kipchoge’s manager. As an avid Kipchoge fan, it took a lot of energy to not walk up to him and say “You’re Valentijn Trouw, Eliud Kipchoge’s manager” and stare blankly at him until he slowly walks away. We arrive in Berlin city center at two in the afternoon and wait in a cafe below the apartment we rented until the “landlord’s friend” finishes cleaning the unit. We check in, pretend to stretch some, and hit the streets for a 30 minute shakeout. We jokingly hedge that we can run at 9 minute mile pace based on how loopy we are and surprisingly slip into 7:30 pace around Berlin’s historic Tiergarten.
We wander around for dinner after and find some very tasty Indonesian food; Berlin surprises in its diversity and consequently its delicious foodstuffs.
The following day, I wander to the Olympic stadium west of the city, as I am to meet a physical therapist there to take a look at my Achilles. This PT is a friend of a friend of a colleague and I’m hoping they can straighten out my body after the flight. I’ve been dealing with some Tenosynovitis on the left side for the past few weeks and despite the effort of everyone in my support system to tell me I haven’t lost much fitness, I am a little bummed that I am coming into the race without crossing all the t’s and dotting all the i’s. There is a bit of comfort for me in knowing that I am in my best shape before racing and this time I don’t have that luxury. I am just going to have to deal with it. Also, I wouldn’t be able to even think about starting the race without the help from Karl at Rose City Physical Therapy, who saw me every-other-day for two weeks leading up to the travel.
The rest of the pre-race includes walking around the city while trying to keep my feet up a respectable amount, making coffee, and jogging in the park. In a certain way, the international trip forces us to relax more than say traveling down from Portland to Sacramento, where you can work on a Friday and race on Sunday. We’re on vacation and despite my best efforts to add stress to the equation, we are going to have some fun, damn it.
Humans and other oddities:
We visit the expo wade through the sea of humanity, some of which are there exclusively to pick up their bibs, while others are buying jogging hats, trying all assortment of gels and ointments, and even indulging in a mid-day beer. I tend to identify with the prior group. We take the U-bahn back to our rental and start planning our Maurten bottle strategy, gel situation, and ensure that we didn’t leave any race gear in Portland. Nick has sights on the Olympic Trials Qualifier time of 2:19, but mostly to see where his fitness will lead him. I’m in a similar boat, using mantras of “let the pace find you” and “measure your energy in the second half,” which is very fine advice, although I prefer the more concrete directives of “run 5:35s, you’re fit enough.
In a strange way, maybe this experience will be good for me. At CIM in 2016, I checked all the boxes before the race and knew I was ready for a big PB. I ran a time of 2:26:47 but came off the race knowing I had more in the tank for the next one. Berlin 2018 will be my fourth marathon and I’m learning to deal with the cards I have in my hand and being grateful for the opportunity to work hard. I’ve jokingly told inquirers of my time goal, “I’m just here for the transcendence.” But with any self-defeating joke-deflection, there’s usually a bit of truth involved. I love to turn myself inside-out on asphalt and if that means running 2:25 or 2:35 or 2:45, yeah, I’m just here for the transcendence.