The dust has settled on another year at FUEGO Y AGUA NICARAGUA and my third trip to the island of Ometepe is complete. Now settled comfortably back in the United States in a smog filled Salt Lake City I can take the time to reflect on FUEGO Y AGUA NICARAGUA. Each year has been a different journey for me and this year I spent most of the trip observing others and learned several lessons from watching and listening, coupled with past experience, I bring you these 5 lessons should you choose to take on FYA in the future.
Lesson 1 – BE HUMBLE
Humility will get you far in all FUEGO Y AGUA ENDURANCE events. No matter the location these events are unlike your typical (fill in the blank) races. Sitting around before SURVIVAL RUN NICARAGUA I listened to many athletes expound upon past glories, and already plotting out their finish for this year’s race.
When I look at who some of the most vocal people were going into the race to where they finished. Many either didn’t achieve the first medal, quit or got cut on a time hack within the first two challenges.
On the flip side, I listened to Dylan Morgan, Curtis Pote, Helene Dumais, and others speak of the race in a different tone. All competitors of course wanted to finish but knew you can’t assume anything. Morgan (who would tie for the win) kept saying all week he had no expectation of finishing and was just happy to be part of it all. Even during the race, he was in disbelief of his placing.
Everyone who finished the SURVIVAL RUN NICARAGUA and those as well who finished the FUEGO Y AGUA NICARAGUA TRAIL RUNS 50K and 100K all had to put their egos aside in order to succeed.
Lesson 2 – BE CONSISTENT
In both the trail runs and SURVIVAL RUN, the key to success was often not who was the fastest but who was the most consistent. Since coming back home, several people have asked about SURVIVAL RUN NICARAGUA and asked about who finishes the race.
In the first few years of the race it was the seemingly super humans who finished the event, but as the years have gone on a different story has emerged. Not all people who finish SURVIVAL RUN NICARAGUA are fast, but they all are consistent.
None of them waste time relaxing between challenges or break along the way all finishers move forward and never stop moving until they reach the finish line or get timed out.
Lesson 3 – BE GRATEFUL
Each trip to Ometepe reminds us to be grateful for all we have in our everyday lives. A week plus living without hot water (at times no water), consistent wifi, and more is always grounding. Each time I come home, I remember most of my problems are 1st world problems.
For example this year, Sidney, who has worked on the race since it’s inception was robbed of her tutition money on the way to pay for her university only weeks before the race. Many generous racers pooled some resources to help fund her schooling for the semester. The cost for her schooling for the semester – $200.00 – an amount many in first world countries will spend on a night out or a good dinner. She works all year to make the money to pay for school.
A week abroad to a developing country reminds you to be grateful for all we have and take for granted in developed countries, including a functioning infrastructure.
Lesson 4 – OBEY THE 72-HOUR RULE
Races like SURVIVAL RUN NICARAGUA can bring on a lot of emotions in the competitors. From personal experience as well as observation, adhering to the 72-hour rule is important. The 72-hour rule refers to the amount of time you should let pass before critiquing and criticizing a race.
As I waited for racers to fill into checkpoints 16-, 18-, and 20-hours into SURVIVAL RUN NICARAGUA I had some moments to check out Facebook. To see people critiquing the race before it was over was a bummer. The race hadn’t yet finished and already people were Monday morning quarterbacking.
From experience and making the mistake myself, obey the 72-hour rule. Refain from the quarterbacking for 3 days after the race ends before sharing. By all means check in with loved ones and family, tell them you are alive, share that much online, but give the race a few days to sink in before criticizing it. At the very least let the racers who are running finish before critizing it, give those who are still competing that much.
Lesson 5 – ENJOY THE EXPERIENCE
Running races like SURVIVAL RUN NICARAGUA and FUEGO Y AGUA NICARAGUA TRAIL RUNS is as much taking in the culture as it is running a race. It’s easy to get wrapped up in the racing and forget you are in an entirely different culture.
Over the years, I have learned to interact with the locals more, even in my broken Spanish. This year, I spent hours at Los Ramos aid station interacting with the locals (mostly through smiles and gestures) and with the local nurse Ruth whom I tried my best to use all the Spanish I could muster. Even without fully speaking the language I got more out of those moments trying to talk about our lives than anything a tour could possibly give me.
While this trip was almost all work, I am constantly reminded how important it is to take in all the little aspects of life and to enjoy truly the full experience.
For those looking to head to FUEGO Y AGUA ENDURANCE events in the future, those are my small pearls of wisdom gleaned from three years in Nicaragua and one Hunter Gatherer.