Fuego Y Agua

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Saturday, February 6, 2016. Day 340 (OMG OMG so close to one year!)  I signed up for a 25K hosted by Fuego Y Agua! They offer 25 K, 50 K, 100 K and a survival run. They also aren’t exclusively in Nicaragua. Always open to travel and experience new things, I decided to sign up and kill 2 birds with one stone. Up until this point, I had never been to Ometepe and had never participated in a marathon. It has always been on my bucket list. I traveled 8 hours and an hour boat ride (including sea sickness) to the island of Ometepe. The race was on Playa Santo Domingo on Isla de Ometepe, Nicaragua. Although advertised as a 25 K race, they later informed us it was actually 33 K race. Up until the race, I had no formal training. I used the walk to one of my rural schools as a gauge. My school is 8K one way and I was able to do the 16 K walking in 2 hours. So I felt a 25 K would be a challenge but doable. The day before the race, receiving the information about the additional 13 K was a big scary but there was nothing I could do. On the day of the race, I started with two other volunteers with me. One volunteer and I had agreed to walk the entire thing. The other volunteer said she would run a bit. We lined up under the Gatorade advertised start/finish line and raised our right hand as dictated by the announcer then repeated something I can’t remember that ended with, “and if I get lost, it’s my own damn fault.”

Then we were off. The pack ran, quickly leaving me behind but I was not deterred. I wouldn’t leave my friend and I would walk this. We joined an old man named Tim. He said he had done a 25 K before and had bad knees but enjoyed biking so the uphills would be easy for him as long as he walked the downhills. He proved to be in very good shape, leaving me behind but giving me enough motivation to not lose sight of him. My friend (who didn’t train at all, had the wrong shoes on and no hat) quickly got left behind. I was walking too fast for him.

I got to the first aid station at 6 K, and ran into the other volunteer (the one who was jogging). She was hydrated about to take off. I told her to go ahead without me. The aid stations have food, Gatorade and water. I didn’t know how I would feel if I ate too much or drank too much so I had only a little, figuring my body would tell me when I need more. I went to use the bathroom provided and ran into the volunteer I left behind walking. I took off into the woods without him, as he wanted to take a break and… got lost. The second part of the race is going into the jungle of the volcano and I couldn’t see which way to go. I got scared and turned back. Thankfully I ran into the volunteer I left behind and we together found the way. Along the way, I noticed the bright pink outfit of my running friend. I called her name, she answered, I asked if she was lost and she said yes. Considering we were on the right path, we called her over and continued on together. She had picked up a running friend and so the four of us ventured forward. I was in the front, with the shortest leg span and looking out for the rocks with chalk-drawn arrows. The rest behind me had the task of finding race tape put in the foliage, usually somewhere above my head. We worked out a system of calling out “arrow” or “flag” to make sure we were continuing on in the right direction. The path was a winding, uphill battle and often there were several feet without an arrow or a flag. Still, we persevered. Since it was very steep and big rocks where we couldn’t run. We walked and eventually hit the second aid station at 10.5 K. At the second aid station, I was ready to take off running. The path kept going uphill. But on the bright side, it offered beautiful views. The third aid station came once we were out of the jungle at 20K. I was hurting going downhill, so bad I and another volunteer grabbed some walking sticks along the way. I really felt like an old lady but thankfully we were on flat land again! We rested much longer at this aid station. Sitting and eating potatoes with salt. They were out of Gatorade so we drank water, ate watermelon and rinsed off with ice cold water. Ii felt very dirty and sandy.

Again, we split up. The joggers getting together and jogging off and me walking faster than the other voluteer, who was walking. We only had 8 hours to finish this and we knew we would be cutting it close. Still we winded on, eventually passing by the first aid station which counted as our fourth and was at 28K mark. The roads weren’t marked and not knowing how far or close we were was frustrating. By 29K, I started to feel all the pain, everywhere. I didn’t know how far we had to go and to make matters worst, the walking volunteer I left behind sent me a text to say he quit and was taking a bus back. I started feeling the pain in my knees. It got to the point where I started calling on Jesus. I just kept saying it over and over. My friend asked me why I was doing that and I told her, “you know there’s power in the name.” At about 30 K, I was tearing up because I wasn’t sure how far we had to go. So I started quoting scripture. I can do all things through Christ. I’m fearfully and wonderfully made.
The trail wasn’t marked and it seemed an endless road of pain. Eventually, I caught up to my jogging friend. I asked her why she was alone and she said her head was hurting so she started walking. Together we helped each other with encouraging words and reminders to sip water. Although the sun was bearing down on us and our entire bodies hurt, we continued on. Sporadically, natives sitting outside their house would clap for us or tell us to keep going. An hour later, that same  Fuego y Agua truck that picked up our friend, stopped and asked up do we think we can make it to the end. Although I felt like quitting and I knew my friend did too I spoke up and asserted, “yes. We can go on and we’ll finish.” He said ok and drove away. My friend five minutes later thanked me for not letting her quit. We walked in companionable silence, with moans and groans intermitted. Going downhill on pain riddled knees is the worst and I felt like crying. Literally, my throat was tight and I was trying hard to hold it together. My friend told me, cry when you see the beach. Just as I was on the cusp of quitting the turn off for the beach appeared. As if by magic, we were literally afraid to believe it. But there it was. So we stripped our shoes and socks and started the last few kilometers to the finish line. We could see it as a small orange dot from where we were. I took to the water, to cool my pained feet. I could see the blistered formed and feel some scars burning on my ankles. I was wearing capris and in the jungle, there were plenty of wild foliage that cut and scraped my pants and legs. The scars were bleeding but I wouldn’t stop. The sun was going down causing the finish line to look like a bobbing light, never closer or farther. They didn’t have any big lights marking the finish line so I just kept holding out, hoping I was going in the right direction. Then suddenly the finish line was right there. I could distinguish people and I was revitalized with energy. I took off running and burst into tears as I crossed the finish line. It took 8 hours and 15 seconds but I did it. I got my medal and I screamed encouragement to my friend who came 5 minutes later. We did it and that’s all that matters. In total, we did 33.97 K. A marathon is 42.195 Kilometers. I did 9 less than a full marathon.  I didn’t quit (like one of the guys who was with me did.) I didn’t cheat and catch a ride. I didn’t give up, I kept saying don’t quit. Even if I was moving no faster than a snail, I wouldn’t stop. It was a real experience going through that but I learned something. I learned that I can. That’s all. I. Can. Whatever comes at the end of that statement will come to fruition. I can: finish. I can: succeed. I can: have patience. I can: love. I can. That was my first and probably last marathon. Running has never intrigued me and walking wasn’t much better. But I’m happy with myself, despite being sunburnt so bad I’m peeling on my forehead, nose and shoulders, the tan my glasses left that makes me look like I have two black eyes or the blisters on my feet.

 

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