Friday, February 15, 2008

Costa Rica Day 2

Day 2:

Bright and early rise....whew I could hardly stuff anything down for breakfast. I had been sore all night, tossing and turning to keep me off my sore hips and bony prominences. Toby was amazing- when I woke up he had all my clothes for the day laid out, breakfast in the tent, my footcare, gu packets and electrolytes together, my running bag packed and water to go. I just had to choke down some food and get dressed (no easy task). Morning meals consisted of black beans and rice (this was a Costa Rican staple for all meals) and eggs. Toby some how found some coffee. I had horrid thoughts of what beans would do to me while on this long run for the day (31km with three river crossings and a handful more stream crossings) but I stuffed a few down just to get some fiber and protein in my system.

Now, real quick, lemme just mention one thing. Very very important. Those that can visualize these kilometers in their head and are thinking...31km? That ain't nothin. I got something to say. A 5k on these muddy, torturous, steep volcanos is absolutely nothing like running a road race. A road race is smooth and simple. One foot in front of the other, don't really have to think about running. You can let your mind wander to solve the nagging problems of the day while you run. Smooth, fast, and competitive. A trail race, especially this one in Costa Rica, is a completely different ball game. You let your mind wander and your teeth will be permanently implanted into the side of a tree. You start making a grocery list and your forehead will get up close and personal with a large boulder. You can't hit the pace and speed of a road race- near impossible. Your feet don't glide, they stomp and stagger. No fluid continuous motion here, muscles you never ever ever knew you had are utilized to keep your balance and stride. So. A 5k that normally takes under half an hour on the road can easily take an hour here. Now I will continue......

0615, no sun yet, and we were off running. Almost immediately we slammed into the first river. A rope was strung across to help with footing since the currants were so fierce. I had worn my Keen sandals and SealSkinz sock, and slathered my feet in vaseline to waterproof them well through the rivers then I planned to switch to my sneakers that I had strapped to my back after the water. Surprisingly the river crossings were tons of fun and the coolness felt good on my muscles. After the third river crossing we started running again and hit total swamp lands. It was crazy! Mud sucking at your feet up to your mid calf at times. We hit a dry patch and I considered for a minute putting on my shoes. Heck no....we then slam damn ran into pure grade-A spa quality muddy clay. This stuff was thick like quicksand and deep...past my knees! I ended up running half the race in my sandals- which I ended up getting sucked off my feet twice. At one point I had to run in my socks because my shoes were more of a mud trap. It felt cool squishing between my toes and spongy under my heels. I lost one of my shoes so bad I had to dig for it up past my elbow to retrieve it! It was so insane Stephanie and I were laughing madly so as not to crack. We had mud stuck in every crevice and smeared across our may have thought we were attempting to camouflage. We climbed up and up again. Part of the trail made you feel like you were in a canyon, the walls sloped up a good 8 feet above your head and it was a single track trail- no passing.

Finally we reached the top of the mountain where it was so windy! Gusts and gusts; we had to tuck ourselves in a rock alcove just to hear each other. We stopped and removed our socks, dried our feet and removed the mud to the best of our ability, revaselined and powdered our feet, and put on dry socks/shoes. It was the best feeling that I didn't care it took ten minutes out of our run. We set off again at a good pace. I got a bit nervous because an hour prior to the checkpoint I ran out of water. With the humidity and heat I was parched and trying to stay on top of my electrolytes. Previously I had lent some of my water to a struggling guy who was running out of water. Stephanie lent me some of her water as we ran and I made it just fine to the checkpoint to refill my camelbak and feast on pineapple.

This stage of the race was a "timed trial". Those that didn't make the cutoff at Checkpoint 2 would automatically be dropped to the Adventure category. Stephanie and I agreed that although we felt we were more Adventure category material (neither of us had done an ultra run before) we wanted to make the cutoff so that we could make that decision ourselves:) So, we ran and ran...through hills and valley, and through these tangly weeded fields to the final climb to CP2. We made it! We made the cut off and "gracefully declined" to continue to the rest of the 26km (total 57km) Expedition race. Seven hours and twenty minutes and we were beat. Cashed in- as we say it. I propped my feet straight up to get down the edema that had started to collect in my toes and calves as I ate pineapple and little peanut butter sandwiches.

We were shuttled to camp where I took yet another frozen shower, found I had a severe case of sports bra burn, and applied a product (which was lent to us by another "friendly" runner) called NuSkin over the angry wound. Stephanie had thigh rub- angry oozing mess and also applied the NuSkin. Now, the nice runner said it would sting "a little". HOLY CRAP. I couldn't catch my breath I was in so much pain and then came the belted out screams...yes screams, from the both of us as our breaths came back. It was as if acid had been poured over my chest. Slowly, ever so very slowly, the pain subsided and I was left with a nice rubbery layer of skin over my wound. I could then apply Glide over the fake skin and the rub was no more. Unfortunately, we also found out that showering the next day promptly turned the skin into a series of little rubbery gooey balls that were a mess. So came the rubbing to get it off and then the reapplication of the Nuskin....along with the screams and prancing. Definitely not something I will ever forget.

Now to end the night, I decided (since I could barely move and my calves had seized to be flexible and willing) to splurge a little and for $20 get a message. These Ticos were Licensed Physical Therapist, not just massage therapists. They meant serious business, no fluffy stuff here. I heard yells and moans of agony coming from the barrier put up to shield the public from the horror of "the massage". Another runner came limping out of the tent. Go, he told me, it hurts like hell but you will be able to walk afterwards and it'll feel better tomorrow. I can't believe I am doing this to myself, I thought, as I paid my money and climbed onto the ice saturated table. This woman was a man in disguise. She had to be...she made me squeal like a little piggie. My god! She hit every single one of my pressure points that had a knot in them; from my gluteous maximus, to my neck muscles. She would tell me "ok, this is going to hurt worse than the last one", a young boy would translate for me, and she was right! Soon enough I learned it in english was necessary to tell me this was gonna hurt like hell. Toby was so worried about the screams he was hearing that he came behind the screen to hold my hand. The therapists were trying hard not to giggle at all us screaming and crying with each stroke of their hands. I had to stuff my shirt in my mouth to muffle my agony. When it was done I had to admit. It hurt, but it hurt good. I was able to get off the table by myself and my first few steps, albeit shaky, were functional and accurate. I limped back to camp and fell into a deep sleep again, my voice hoarse from all the screaming done today. Alarm clock was set for the bright and early time of 0600. Yes, folks, I paid to be tortured like this.

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