Since arriving on the island of Ometepe on Tuesday afternoon the island has been a buzz with excitement over the races here this weekend. We have it all the hometown hero trying to tackle the Survival Run, some of the best in the ultra community ready to duke it out, plus two time World’s Toughest Mudder winner versus three time Death Race winner. Right now Nicaragua is an exciting place to be.
Over the last two days we have spent much of the time talking shop, exploring the island, prepping for the race and of course running. Wednesday morning I set off with Ian Sharman, Sean Meissner, Eric Orton, Jamil and Nick Coury for our first attempt to try to climb the taller of the two volcanos on the island. We figured we would try to follow the markers for the 25K course. Although our trek was set off with good intentions we never made it actually up the volcano, instead we found ourselves hiking around the base of the volcano. As we went along Ian talked of races in the Alps. Sean spoke of races all over the United States. Eric talked about living in Jackson Hole and his latest endeavors and upcoming book. Jamil walked quietly among the group taking in much of the natural scenery. I listened as Nick talked with the others about 100 mile races much in the way many would talk about a local 5k. As someone new to the ultra community it was a fascinating to listen to the stories and learn of new events to aspire to.
However, over seven and a half miles into the hike we still had not started our ascent. We knew we had made a folly and turned around. The trek back added a little extra to our day with a slight detour. Almost five hours after we left for our hike I returned back to the hotel, clocking in just over sixteen miles and a wealth of new stories. Shortly thereafter we headed down for a swim in the lake which surrounds the island. The cool water felt fantastic after the hot sun baking down. Then we ate an incredible dinner catering to the diet du jour, vegan among many of the runners. I was introduced to tree spinach, which is more similar to kale than spinach. However, off-putting the name sounded the dish was delicious!
During this dinner the topic of the beer mile popped up. I had never heard nor participated in a beer mile. Over the dinner I learned not only was it mile race but also was for fun but at the same time serious. While at dinner the guys talked about running it (along with drinking four beers) in around six minutes. I was floored but knew this was something that would be worth trying on Thursday. I went to bed with visions of beer miles dancing in my head.
Thursday morning we began our day with a clean-up of the town for a few hours. All the runners currently on the island gathered together than broke up into teams tackling the trash on the sides of the road. Sometimes a race week can be more than just a race. It was another opportunity for the growing number of racers to mingle and help out the local community at the same time. As the bags piled up everyone went their separate ways, trying to find the volcano top again, searching out the mineral springs, or simply enjoying the island culture and warm weather.
Thursday afternoon was when the infamous beer mile began. The rules were simple, drink a beer as fast as you can, run a quarter of a mile, repeat four times. The course map was GPS’d about ten to fifteen of us gathered to tackle this race. I learned right before the start if you puked during a lap you added a penalty lap to you race. As we stood on the starting line I could feel this possibly not being the best idea but thought why not try it. At least I would leave with a good story.
As we started into our first beers and I was the last one still trying to finish my first beer I was definitely behind the guys. I had been the only woman to attempt it solo and was therefore with the guys on this one. As I have in running races I think as each lap was completed and the next beer was opened my speed quickened. Patrick Sweeney would be the champion of the Ometepe Beer Mile finishing just under six minutes and thirty seconds (he admitted this was a slow effort on his part). I would finish with about four guys behind me and above those that dropped out after a beer or two. My finishing time would be under eleven and a half minutes. As quickly as the beer entered my body I was happy to expel it after the race was completed.
Normally, I would be one to stray away from that type of event but it’s hard not to get caught up in the fun of it all on the island. As much as everyone is here to race, they are here to enjoy the company, seek some adventure, and have a fun time. Our evenings have been filled with group type dinners and more story telling. One could sit and listen for days to all the stories each participant in the Survival Run, 100K, 50K and 25K bring to the table. Races like this bring runners together and tighten the bound and bridge the gap between all the different running options in the world. It’s been a great time introducing ultrarunners to the world of obstacle racing and the obstacle racers to the world of ultrarunning. I know I am walking away with new friends and connections all before the race has even begun.