Friday, February 15, 2008

Costa Rica Day 4

I forgot to mention that yesterday while I was in the hammock, Simi had awakened and gotten us a bunch of coconuts. It was so much fun! We had many different coconuts of all ages, it was like a wine tasting but for coconuts. There were young coconuts filled with milk and "jelly"- my favorite. There were mature coconuts with more meat and less juice, and then there was a coconut that was spongy inside, no juice. It had a funny texture for me- like a styrofoam ball. Simi said this was like bread to his people in Tonga.

Anyways, Day four, again the crack of dawn....By this time our night time preparation was down to a science. All the running gear and clothes were prepared and laid out in sequence, all ready to go. Minimal thinking for a not-so-morning person was essential. This is the morning where I discovered Costa Rican yogurt. Yum it was a creamy smoothie with little bits of fruit. Very satisfying for someone who doesn't like eggs and beans every morning. I managed to nibble a few eggs just for their protein to repair my muscles, but was not enjoying them. Toby hunted down more "cafe con leche y adzuka" for liquid gold. He was my hero. He had even bought a large thermal mug off the locals in one of the towns while I was on trail so that my morning coffee was the main course instead of the little espresso type cardboard cups they provided.

One of the experimental foot care things I did was toe caps. They were these silicon little covering for each of my smaller toes. With my previous running experience I knew I always got blisters on the tops of my toes. I believe as I run I tend to curl my toes a little leading to friction only on the tips of my piggies. These toe caps came highly recommended in my book (thanks Dad) so I decided to give it a try. One of the local Costa Rican volunteers witnessed my foot care ritual one morning and asked me, "are you putting condoms on your toes?" "Yes "I replied. "It is safer this way." I left him to wonder:) Crazy americans.

The race began at 0545 all heading uphill (again) for a big start. It was incredibly rocky! I was feeling very spirited and energetic today and powered past Stephanie who's feet were hurting her today. She gave me the ok sign and I left her with the power walkers, knowing full well I would eventually see her down the road. She was very much like me in that her competitive nature sprang her to life in moments of struggle. My goal today was to truck through this trail and get back to camp asap. I did not want to be out in the open fields and tops of volcanos when the hot arid sun reached its peak. The volcano runs were one of my favorite next to the jungle. As we ran across the tops of the volcanos you could feel your body rumble and it sounded like distant thunder. These volcanoes were inactive that we were running on but you could feel and hear the rumbling from the active ones right near by! I learned through the stream crossings (new to me before this race) that Gortex shoes hold in the water, although are good for light rain. Today I ran with my gaitors and non-gortex Solomons (love these shoes and have become a huge advocate for gaitors). I had had a very large fear of getting my feet wet before this race. I had read and heard horror stories on how water and sweat are the worst things for long runs. Your feet get pruny and create more friction leading to big deep tunneling blisters, think stage III ulcers. Through this race I adapted and learned great lessons: fear not the water in your shoes. The non-gortex shoes drained quickly and with every pounding step my feet squeezed out the water from my soles. My favorite socks : Injinji running toe socks were my savior, I shall never run in anything else, as they kept my toes from rubbing against each other and wicked away the sweat. It was neat to learn all these things. I felt like a "real" runner:)

I kept stride with the Austria team and then passed them along with the German girl. CP1 was a quick fill up and more pineapple then on to a cement road. By this time Rachel and Stephanie caught up to me as I had dallied at the CP1 eating way too much pineapple. Stephanie said, "passed me a German back there". I had to smile. There was a non-verbal competition between the two of us and two other girls. The German girl had been gnawing our nerves the last few days that we made it a point every day to finish before her. The other girl we had benched because she pushed too hard to try to beat us and hurt her knee. She had made it a point to say to my face that she just wanted to beat me. As us runners say "you have to run your own race." Bless her heart.

High fives and we were off running again. The three of us spent the next few miles running and chatting about personal training. We milked Rachel's brain for advice as Stephanie just got her license as a personal trainer. As we were talking, I reached up to my left ear tip and went to itch it. It felt funny, like a slug on my ear. All of a sudden I pulled my hand back as I heard a pop and came back with a saturated hand and a large blob of gray goo in my palm. I threw my hand down to get rid of it and it fell with a splat on the cement. A stinging pain spread throughout my ear. I guess because we were constantly running with the sun on one side of us, my ear had suffered a severe sunburn and blistered up. The gray goo was a pile of dead goopy skin. GROSS! New motivation to run faster: I was afraid of getting additional sunburn on top of this now open raw ear. See ya later ladies.

Through town and onto my last very rocky and dirty trail, Stephanie caught up to me again with the slowed movements over the rocks. I had to pee so bad, my ear stung, and my legs were beginning to feel like jello. Stephanie and I took turns giving each other inspirational pep talks. I finally gave into my bladder and pulled down my shorts to pee (we were alone....well if you don't count the cows), however my legs failed to respond to my needs. Try as I might I couldn't get my quads to cooperate to squat so as not to pee all over myself! I finally hobbled over to a tree with willowy type of branches. I swear there was a bright light surrounding the tree with angels singing. I grabbed a branch and slowly lowered myself into a squatting position and did the duty. Stephanie was howling with laughter...nice friend. I then tried to pull up my shorts which was very difficult to do given the amount of perspiration soaked into the fabric, my thighs were sticky from the heat, and my muscles were so fatigued. I started running til Stephanie pointed out my butt cheek was still hanging out of my shorts. "keep running" she said, "the people at camp will be so tired they probably won't even notice". I fixed myself and we finished strong at just over three hours. That was the fastest day with the most motivation!

I laid in a hammock to recover and wait for our shuttle to take us to camp. I suddenly became cold, shaky, and nauseated. When we got back to camp I had a coke and some snacks and eventually felt better. I was emptying out my running pack and counted out my Gu packets. I realized that I had somehow skipped an hour during my run (every hour I would nibble on something). At least that explained the horrible feeling I had at the end. Toby had my stuff ready and I took the first good shower of the race. The water was still cold but bearable and a bit more refreshing. I laid down and took a very hot and sweaty nap after getting my ear mended by the nurse practitioner on staff. I found out today that she was an NP not a medical director as she had been telling everyone. She lacked supplies and had no antiseptic!! It said a lot to me when I carried more medical supplies and meds than she did. There was also a male podiatrist and a woman MD doctor from the UK- although they were considered volunteers, not active doctors at the race. Toby and I were given nasty looks when we asked to be seen by the doctor instead of the NP, however, the doc was much more prepared than the NP was and the NP had her way paid! When I woke up I went back to the doc instead of the NP and asked her to fix my ear. The NP had put a simple bandaid (ouch!) over my ear and it was too small. "See" said Joe the UK doc in her great english accent "this is what you nurses to do each other. You look ridiculous!" Douggie, the podiatrist and my new bestest friend ever, chuckled at me. People had been calling me Spock:(
Joe used my supplies and mended my ear better, although I still looked absolutely silly. I had at least five people come up to me and ask if they could take a picture. Make fun of the injured girl, I see how it is!
Last laugh was on them, however, because by the end of the next day four more girls had ear bandages on just like mine! HA! I'm the leader of this club!

This was also the day that I discovered one of my toes was severely infected. I had noticed a big blister on the tip yesterday. The toe cap, unfortunately, was not breathable and had let water into the tip. My toe suffered the pruning effect and turned into a large bubbling blister. Each slam of my foot pushed more fluid towards the tips of my toes and created a monster in my second toe. My toe looked like a grape and had raised the nail up off the nail bed. My nail was literally floating on top of a large water bubble. I had asked Douggie to tape it after he let some of the fluid out for comfort yesterday. He taped it good but a full day of running had made the bubble bigger and now there was a yellow-white pus pocket at the base of the nailbed. Joe luckily had brought a supply of antibiotics in which she gave me a weeks supply. Toby, again, stepped up to the plate and made sure twice a day I had a yogurt to drink with my pills. He had connections with the staff- way to network! I had thought my sunburn on my legs and inflammation of my leg muscles were the cause of my feverish spells, but now I wonder if it was the toe that was the source....or all three.

Tonight was the best dinner ever. They had lightly dusted tilapia (the cooks laughing told us it was gold fish) and then pan fried it til golden. It was light and delightful. Climbed a small bouldered area and watched the sunset with Toby. Breathtaking. Headed to bed only to find a tarantula near our tent! Told by the Ticos that they are harmless, just really hairy. Slept really well regardless of the spider.

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