Friday, February 15, 2008

Costa Rica Day 3

The biggest thing I remember from this day is #1 not wanting to run today, and #2 rocking gently in a hammock with my feet propped and sucking down coconuts because I am a stubborn mule and ran today.

The morning started out windy and rainy. I was so sore and feverish that I was trying to convince myself that I shouldn't run today. It took every effort to grab my thermarest mattress for leverage to turn my body over at night. Toby arrived at the doorstop of the tent breakfast in hand with my favorite liquid gold, used a little reverse psychology on me (totally took advantage of my competitive nature), and I was dressed, ready to run. I did my special "soopah stah" pose and I was off.

The coarse was 24km today of jungle and rocky dirt trails, they threw in a few surprise stream crossing (now to be a regular occurance on the next stages) without telling us. We first crossed through a "wind farm". This was a long stretch of land at the top of a mountain that held many many wind mills. Great white structures looking as if they came straight from NASA. The wind was so powerful! You had to lean sideways against the wind as it gusted so you didn't get knocked over. Then suddenly the gust would cease and you would stumble from keeping your body braced so tight. It was like that for a good 2-3 miles. Stephanie and I ran together again, keeping a good pace. Almost from the beginning my heels started to rub and I could feel a hot spot forming. I had read extensively on blister prevention since running this distance was new to me. Rule #1 from book: Don't ever experiment the day of the race; know what your feet can tolerate ahead of time. No new products. Okay, that rule was totally thrown out the window as everything I was doing was experimental. I was secretly ashamed of myself for being so silly as to think I could pull of acting like I knew what I was doing. I was among elitist and people that ate up miles like candy. Stephanie and I stopped and took a few precious minutes to carefully apply moleskin and duct tape to my heels. It was a little sad seeing everyone passing us as we sat on the side of the road doing foot care but I knew from reading that if you let the hotspots go even a few seconds longer the hotspots would be severe blisters that could lead to my DNF (did not finish) of this race. I wasn't going to let that happen. As we got back on the trail we reached a branch in the road. The orange flags marking our way curved off to the right so we headed right. All of a sudden we see a cluster of runners coming from the left branch towards us. We were bewildered for a moment as these were the hares of the race. The runners that you have never seen before except at camp because they left before you and arrived back an hour later. A runner caught up to us and explained that the entire race group had turned the wrong way not seeing the markers. All the runners behind them just followed the leaders and went the wrong way too. They went a good 5k out of their way until they hit a dead end and some farmers looking quite puzzled. Hurray! For once in the entire race Stephanie and I were in the lead!!!! At least for a few seconds.

The jungle was just as beautiful as I remember and just as mucky. We heard many howler monkeys but didn't see any in the trees. The jungle opened up to fields and pastures. The cows here are really quite cute. They have long hound dog looking ears that hang down, saggy skin, big sad doe eyes, and long noses. Toby said they were Brahma Cows like they have in India. They were cute. I was so focused on the cows (see...never lose focus on a trail run) that I never saw the snake I was just about to run over. I caught movement from the corner of my eye and looked down. Right between my legs, in mid stride, was a very long, very big green snake. It's head was right under me. Startled, my gait changed, and my back leg swung through my stride and nailed the snake right in the noggin'. "Snake!" I yelled to the girls lagging behind me. They screamed big girly screams and pranced trying to see where the snake was. I had burst out laughing at the site of these big elite runners transformed into little girls in pig tails screaming and holding their shorts. Stephanie was behind me and was trying to figure out how to get around the snake. "Go around the tail end silly," I told her, "not the head. I think I knocked the thing out so it may be now!"
We continued to run and saw one more snake that slithered in front of me. It was a bit creepy as you ran, the leaves on the side of the trail would rustle, indicating something was disturbed by our presence. Sometimes the trail was so rocky and dusty that the safest place to run without twisting an ankle was the shoulder. I kept recalling how I saw on Discovery Channel that snakes can strike from yards away. Run quicker became my motto for the day.

Some of the race I ran completely alone. It was peaceful and I was able to do some life reflection for a few miles. The last leg was on a highway where I felt my life was more in danger than with the snake.

I finished the day just at four hours. It was a fast four hours as the trails were decently flat. I came chugging up the trail to camp where Toby met me holding pineapple out and keeping pace with me for encouragement to the finish line. Snacks were mashed black beans with garlic in a homemade tortilla. Yum! The camp was actually a schoolhouse which resembled a large barn. Showers were again icy, however this time for added pleasure, the shower was shared with a toilet (no seat) with a black tarp separating the two. The "showers" were a garden hose draped over a ledge. I had to hold onto the frame of the door (no actual door...just burlap) to pee as my quads were shredded so bad I couldn't squat. Refer back to the NuSkin episode....repeat x1.

The rest of the evening was spent relaxing and contemplation. We had met a couple that Toby had befriended while setting up camp. The woman, Rachel, was a runner in the race and her husband was her Sherpa, setting camp and being her motivator. They were both personal trainers and Simi (the husband) was from Tonga (near Fiji) and a pro body builder. He was huge! but also a very big teddy bear. As I hung out in the hammock, Simi and Rachel laid out on their blanket taking a nap with "Tica". I guess this is where I realize I forgot to tell you about "Tica".
This story makes me tear up.....on day one at La Fortuna there were a bunch of wild dogs running around. A few of them were biting and picking on this little white dog. As we started out the race a small little white dog, looking like a cross between a terrier, spots like a dalmation, and wiener dog began running alongside us. That little dog ran the entire 21km across Costa Rica. She hung out with us at the camp, spent the night and woke up with the racers early in the morning. The next day she ran again with us. She jumped right into the rivers, started to get swept away with the current and was scooped out by the top runners on the other side. She ran the entire second day! This little power ball had more in her than I did. She instantly became glued to Simi...this massive dark skinned, intimidating looking man. She wouldn't leave his side. She would run around camp, get little scraps from the runners and head back to Simi licking his face in excitement. Later, we found out that Simi had been begging Rachel for a "little white dog" for the past 2 years. For the rest of the race, Simi transported this little dog with him in the bus to the next camp. So now, named "Tica" by Simi, the three of them lay snoozing (Tica squashed contently between the two) on their blanket. We joked with them that now they had to adopt the stray and take him back to San Francisco.

Dinner was good today. Ziti with marinara. I had two helpings. Off to bed for a wake up at 0430.

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