Fuego y Agua 2013 – Part 2
As I ran down the trail solo, said hello to more locals, at one point I reached a gate not knowing if I had gone off course or not I ran back, found a farmer and he thankfully confirmed I had been going the right way. I turned around and kept going. This was the first real stretch were I just was able to run. The sun beat down as I ran along the road. The temperatures had soared into the nineties. I reached my next step where I found large logs and cut up watermelon and pineapple. As I repeated MUCHO GUSTO to the Nica woman for the fruit, I received my instructions from an Australian volunteer. I was to bring the log down to the beach and make it to the next station. My log was about four feet long and a foot wide, probably weighing closer to 60lbs or more.
I got it down to the water, took my shoes off attached them to my pack, tied the log onto a rope and rolled it into the water. The water was refreshing. As I walked knee to waist deep in the water along the shoreline, Daft Punks epic beats radiating in my head I moved forward, often stumbling on the lava rock hidden under sandy water. At one point I looked up and saw a man in tattered pants, and well-worn sneakers, carrying a bundle of wood replicating what I had just down a few hours earlier. In this moment it all clicked and made sense. We not only were racing but also experiencing a slice of island life. It was a profound moment, looking at Volcano Maderas in front of me and this man to my side. A moment that will last for me and will be fondly remembered.
After about a mile or two down the beach, we reached the next challenge. The volunteer Dave pointed out a rock and said to dig down about three and a half feet to find my next piece of my medal. Two guys were there digging and I had caught back up to Lani and Shelley (who continued unofficially). I quickly surveyed the area and saw an empty three-liter bottle of Coke; I grabbed it and pulled out my knife, cutting open the bottle creating a shovel. Quickly got to work digging the whole. As I lay on my stomach sweaty and sandy, I reached my arm into the pail and pulled out the second piece of the medal “I”. I filled back in my hole, reset the rock and was given my next task.
I grabbed the white bag full of empty bottles and took off down the beach. I had been instructed to follow the shoreline staying along the rocks until I got to a cement dock on the other side of the point, miles away. I set off on a jog down the beach looking to make up lost time. As I jumped from slippery rock to slippery rock I watched each footing. Along the way rolling an ankle (which is common for me) but continued passing Lani and Shelley. Eventually we traversed much of the rock together. As I arrived at the dock I was handed a fresh coconut and sipped the water out of it, I am so thankful to Peter for that coconut it was perfect timing. I headed up the stone steps back to the trail, dropped the bag and was back running again. I was feeling good and in high spirits, my nemesis the hot weather was in check. I was on a mission.
Reaching the next station, another successful memorization, filled my water, ate some food, and was ready for the next task. I was instructed to turn the corner and pick up a bamboo pole. As I rounded the corner I saw this “pole” was over twenty feet long and weighed over 40lbs. Leslie, an injured racer turned volunteer told me to head up the mountain (Volcano Maderas) a little while and get to the next station. Still feeling great I headed up the mountain, learning quickly how to best maneuver the pole from shoulder to should while climbing the sometimes-rocky single track trail. I knew I had to hustle and the first soft time cut off was approaching.
I reached the next challenge between 12:30 and before 1:00pm. Time was running out and this obstacle was a challenging one. I was instructed to put my pole against the tree then climb up it and retrieve the third wristband for the day. The volunteer gave me some tips on how people succeeded throughout the day. I watched fellow racer Shannon Hulme make his attempt, and successfully getting the band. Then it was my turn. As I climbed up the pole from underneath and was up against the tree, I attempted unsuccessfully to get my body back around and up the last few feet, dropping over ten plus feet to the ground. I made a second attempt, this time getting on top of the pole but then not able to make the last few feet of climbing. I slid off the pole hard, and scraping the side of my leg and ripping my tights. The frustration started to kick in. I paused as Lani had caught up and successfully completed the obstacle. She took off and I was still there trying. On the third attempt I felt my calf seize up, making the muscle feel like a baseball. Frustration kicked in and I lost it. I found myself letting out a loud scream, and then began to cry. I felt the race slipping away before my eyes. A race I started in the middle of the night not caring about the outcome had changed along the way into something I really wanted. I would attempt it three more times, failing each one and dropping each time over ten feet. After the sixth exhausting attempt, it became apparent that I would not only miss the next time cutoff but also would also not make this obstacle. In an emotional state I realized my race had come to an end. It had been great but I could not get past this roadblock and with another tree just up the trail, any glimmer of catching up past the time cut-off was gone.
I attempted to climb up the trail a little more after being given an option to short course. As I tried hiking up, knew I had to turn around. My calf was locked up like I had never felt it before and it was time to turn around go back down the mountain to the aid station and call it a race. I descended slowly down the mountain trying to accept this bitter DNF passing over fifteen racers on my way down. I had worked my way from last place up to about 11th or 12th and 3rd for women in the ten hours of racing. It was an emotional descent as I passed racer after racer, each offering kind words and congratulations on what I had accomplished. I got to the aid station joined up with other racers who missed the soft time cut-off and were held back. My race was in the books and would make my way to the finish line then ultimately the hotel over the next seven hours.