Hola a todos!
Returning home 2 weeks ago from an adventurous February in Central America, I can say has been quite an adjustment. My mind is still lost somewhere on Island Ometepe in Nicaragua.
My adventure began when a close friend confirmed she was moving to Belize for a year. Working for the YMCA in Belize City, Dimity’s work is like a tapestry: she is training staff, marketing, preparing programs for underprivileged children; anything that she can see needs doing, she attacks. Check out the YMCA Facebook page:
We decided to compete in a race somewhere in Central America. Our heart was set on the Caballo Blanco ultramarathon in Mexico. Unfortunately the timing didn’t work thankfully Fuego Y Agua ultra on the 8th of February suited both of us. I had intended to compete in the 100km, then decided on the 50km but after suffering an injury (during the Two Bays Trail run (my own stubborn fault) I reluctantly moved down distances and landed at the 25km. Dimity had also had her own physical struggles leading up to the event. So we were in it together.
Slightly dazed after a long haul to Managua (Capital of Nicaragua) I met Dim at the airport. We stayed one night, then travelled the rest of the way on public buses and via a dishelleved wooden boat that leaned heavily to one side. I still have visions of tarpoline sealing the entire right side of the lower level. This was to reduce the amount of water flowing into the boat. A local man pulled down a corner of the tarpoline for us to see the two magical Volcanes greeting us in the distance. Volcan Maderas (dormant) at 1,394 metres was waiting for us to ascend the next day. We arrived in Moyogalpa, the main town on Island Ometepe and quickly made our way to registration.
Our accomodation was off the beaten track. We were the only people staying in the establishment. I took the blame for this one as it was the only place I could find in a last minute dash. Our kind tuk tuk driver “Frankie” arrived at 4am the next morning to take us to the 25km race start at Playa Santo Domingo.
The race kicked off at 6 am. I was set with my nutrition that consisted of mashed bananas in a plastic bag (the Nicaraguan bananas taste so good – even better when the skin is brown) and a couple of oranges. Fruit keeps my engine going and I was expecting to be out there along time. My mashed banana bolged out of my camel backpack and made Dim laugh. DIY nutrition!
Off we went, 4 km of sand and road running. I ran favouring my left leg for the first couple of kms with Dim before I succumbed to the fact that I would have to walk. The pain in my right leg became too intense. So I said goodbye to Dim and walked on. By the time I reached the start of the climb I was dead last with the sweeper behind me. I took a deep breathe. “SUCK IT UP”, I said to myself. I figured that I’m very privileged to be able to travel and participate in such a great event. The longer I am out here the more I can absorb and take in. I was content with bringing up the rear.
The climb began (10.5km) and I continued chipping away through the coffee plantations. I could see a couple of people in the distance. They began to get larger and I knew I was catching them. The dry, dusty and rocky path began to get muddy and slippery. The course is covered in tree roots, rocks, hanging branches and lush vegetation. Attacking the climb I rapidly made my way through the field. “Hola! Con permiso! Gracias!” were fixed in my vocabulary.
The front guys flew past me. Rapido! They were incredible. They do not have breaks. Unbenownst to Dim and I, we would be partying with these amazing athletes at a local Nicaraguan club that night. The beauty of travel…
I had said to Dim that I would turn around when she passed me coming back down the mountain, if I felt I couldn’t complete the distance. But, out of nowhere, I turned a corner and there she was still ascending in front of me. I was so excited to see her. The temperature did drop as we continued up to a wonderfully atmospheric cloud forest. Every hour I had some of my mashed banana or a piece of orange washed down with water. Dim and I both felt great. My right leg was great climbing but I was still unsure while descending. We reached the Maderas Crater. On any other day I would have been all for taking a dip in the crater’s lake. Declining I made a dash for the peanut butter sandwiches on offer instead! Peanut butter is heaven.
Having some stomach issues Dim took a pit stop whilst I decided to start my descent. It was slow going as the extra weight took a toll on my injury. I modified my technique to alleviate the pain and got into a rhythm. The steep descent was extremely slippery and dangerous. You really need to be alert. This is where being tired, dehydrated or having poor nutrition can cause serious injuries. Both Dim and I have plenty of experience in long endurance events, so we were focussed on reaching the finish line safely. The local “Toña” beer was waiting for us, so we had our priorties in order.
Dim caught up with me half way down. One of us was bound to tumble and unfortunately Dim had a bad fall twisting her knees. We regrouped for 5 minutes. Making sure she had movement in both knees and couldcontinue.
The temperature began to warm as we got closer to Lake Ometepe. Unfortunately we followed a runner just head of us who took us off course. The pink markers were not evenly spaced so this easily could have happened throughout the race. Luckily he realised and shouted back at us, so after back-tracking a kilometer, we found the correct path.
Ascending you really don’t get to see the view on offer. But descending you can get glimpses of the distance covered and view of the fresh water lake. We came to a look-out point and took some time to absorb the view. I got snap happy (Tristan would be so proud) before heading to the rocky, dry, obstacle course like path that leads to the main road.
Hitting the road I decided to try a slight jog as I wanted to get to the finish as soon as possible. I think I looked like an awkward olympic race walker (I‘m being kind). We hit the flat 2 km sandy stretch towards the finish arch. Thank god it was in sight but it took so long to get there.
A large crowd of competitors, locals and the event organisers greeted us when we stepped under the finish arch. It was such a delight to have experienced this amazing place and event with a great friend. We had no idea that we would start and finish together (placing 16th and 17th out of 35 females in a time of 6:30:53 not too shabby).
I would encourage everyone to try something different; it doesn’t have to be competing in a foreign country or racing crazy distances. Getting out of your comfort zone and challenging yourself is the most rewarding thing you can do. It might just be a small goal. If you don’t try you will never know.
I hope you enjoyed my small story from my time competing in Nicaragua. I cannot wait to return to see the great friends we made and race the ultra. Gracias!
A big thanks to all my training partners at Run Like Crazy. Your support was really appreciated. Especially coach Tristan and Donna – you guys are such an inspiration – Bec & Kev for keeping me on my toes, Deb, Ivy and everyone. I can’t wait to be back at training!
Tired, muddy and ecstatic.