Friday, February 15, 2008

Costa Rica Day 1

First of all I want to thank graciously each and every one of you who sent us all shout outs. Toby and I are back in Colorado and have taken a few days to recover (mostly sleeping heavily and eating). We were very inspired by all the words that were sent to us, many brought tears to our eyes.

Costa Rica was amazing and the views were stunning.. It was fun to practice our spanish, as broken as it may have been, with the local "Ticos". We found we knew their language a lot better than we thought we did. Toby did the first stage of the race but was forced to sit out the next day due to a huge blister on his heel. To make matters worse, he then stepped barefoot on a tent stake that night benching him from the race. He was very disappointed but found he enjoyed being my sherpa much more than having to run. (I think his yell of pain was more of a "thank GOD!") He was a great asset to the camp: helping exhausted runners set up their tents and hammocks at the end of the day, chatting it up with the chefs (two hilarious brothers who would tease the runners about serving dog instead of beef), bringing back coconuts and Costa Rican history facts from the locals, loading up the action packers full of runner's gear into the truck to go from one camp to the next, and many other things. My mornings were less hectic due to his help, I don't think I could have finished this race without him. I am going to try to recount each day as brief as I can.

There were teams and individuals from all over the world. There was a male team from Spain who were often heard laughing hysterically and kept most of us up at night with their heavy drinking and boisterous chattering. Bless their little hearts. There was a woman from Germany, a three person team from Austria (who I tended to run next to a lot), a man from France, a couple of local Ticos, a military team from the UK, a man from Singapore, a female and male team from Canada, and a bunch of us good 'ol Americans. It was neat to hear all the different languages. I ran mostly with an ER nurse.

The first stage was 21km (as stated on our useless maps however, we found out later from a runner with a GPS unit that most of our days were between 3-6km longer than the race directors told us). We ran from La Fortuna to a self-sustaining ranch called Rancho Margot. The first day was one of the best in my memories as it was filled with anticipation, beautiful scenery, and probably the only day I had a full gas tank of energy in my body. After a crazy fast and twisty 3 hour bus ride (involving puking runners) from the city of San Jose to the quaint town of La Fortuna, we began the race that led us through the streets and onto a long dirt road where we began our ascent up a large volcanic mountain. At a total elevation climb of 1200 it was quite the climb. Right in the beginning I got chased by a wild dog, go figure. The dog came out of no where towards Stephanie (the ER nurse). We both froze in panic. And then I though WWJD? ( As in What Would Jinx Do?) and I immediately without really thinking squeeked my voice up real high, sweet, and girly. I congratulated the mangly snarling mutt as if it just pooped in the potty all by itself, wiped, and flushed. A lot of "good girl! good girl! Who's a good girl? You're a good girl! (girl? boy? had no idea and didn't care)". The dog's legs instantly buckled as if I was this big towering dominant giant and it looked like it was going to pee on itself. It's tail wagged madly and ears drooped in submission. It wiggled it's butt frantically to please me. It was hilarious! Stephanie, still frozen, was looking at me like she was having second thoughts about being my friend. "Just go with it" I told her "I have a dog. We just showed the dog we were alpha, don't ask me how". Needless to say, she stayed my friend and running partner til the end. We never discussed the dog thing again.

As we got higher and higher up the volcano it started to mist lightly. It felt refreshing and cool on my hot face. Fog would roll in and out in front of me. It was beautiful. the trail gave way to steep rooted "steps" and a ways up you could see a thick wall of green. The jungle was right in front of our eyes yet you couldn't see into it. It was so dense! The path looked like it stopped right in front of the wall of jungle but, like the movie Labyrinth or Secret Garden, right when you got up close you saw there was a little turn into the forest. Literally one step into the jungle and you were clothed in greeness. It was amazing! I felt as if I stepped right into the Discovery Channel. The pics say it all. You had to look closely for the trail as it was covered in thick flat leaves and vines. We were warned at our pre-registration meeting to always look before grabbing a branch as Costa Rica was home to 7 of the deadliest snakes in the world. Niiiiiice. I was very careful to keep my hands close to my body and only grab out after a thorough inspection. The air was damp and earthy. And still we climbed......hand on thigh type of climb- leverage anywhere you could find it to pull yourself up to the next step.

Once we got to the top it was hard to see through the jungle down below. And then came the most exciting down climb ever. Stephanie and I took off from the rest of the pack who were slowly and carefully picking their way down so as not to roll an ankle or catch a root. It was really really muddy and slippery. We were like two little kids with no fear. We whoooped and hollared all the way down. We grabbed branches and swung from them, leaping and bouncing from one root to another. We were crazy fast and not caring. Our eyes felt like they were on speed scanning ten feet ahead of our next leap. Making mental notes to adjust our bodies just so in order to land gracefully into the next bounding leap. I had never felt so free before. We easily gained an hour ahead of the pack we had been climbing up with. When we broke from the jungle we were met with rolling plains and farmland and we took off at a good marathon running pace and stuffing our faces with fresh juicy pineapple and melon at our checkpoint stations. We saw a coati which is similar to the US racoon. Actually more like a mix with a racoon and an anteater! Silly looking things. May I make note here that the pineapple in Costa Rica is the most delicious thing I ever ate. Maybe it was the 20+ miles talking but the pineapple was so sweet and dripping down your elbow juicy. Nothing like the states. You don't get fresher than this. It was my favorite thing to eat at the checkpoint stations. I had to be careful because once I ate so much I gave myself a sour stomach running on it.

We had one more big climb (really big) on a dirt one lane road and then a horribly muddy down climb before we hit camp for the day. 4 1/2 hrs from the start and I was pooped! Camp was cool although I was so tired that I didn't even know it was a sustainable farm. I wished now I had gotten a better look around as Toby did the next day. Toby had not gotten back yet to camp. As the girls and I had climbed the first hike to the jungle we had been joking around whether or not I would be left with a boyfriend at the end of the sixth day or not. I had not anticipated this strenuous of a trail and was worried how he was taking it. When I got back to camp I wanted to set up the tent for Toby (it was now raining) that I didn't eat right away and therefore my brain was not working properly to inform my hands how to set the super easy tent up! It took me a good while and even then I found out later I set up the rain fly backwards. Note to self: eat first tasks later. brain needs glucose! Toby finally came in and (surprise!) with a smile on his face! He was so exhausted but still in good spirits. This night we started a nice tradition of a real coca cola...yes real with real sugar not that high fructose crap. We both took ice (and I mean gasping for breath ice) cold showers and trucked our gear through the saturated fields to our tent. After dinner we fell into a deep deep slumber until our alarms woke us at 0410 am.

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