Tuesday, February 19, 2013 - , , , 0 comments

24th Birthday Fun!

Wow, I've completed 2 out of 3 birthdays in Nicaragua! This Peace Corps thing is really happening SO fast! To think this week marks the fact that I'm officially halfway done with my 27 month service is CRAZY!

When I got my invitation to Nicaragua, I was big into running races. I had just completed my first half marathon in Denver and had two more scheduled before I left in January. So, naturally, I went to Google and see if Nicaragua had any foot races. Turned out they had a fairly new one called "Fuego Y Agua" (Fire and Water) on the island of Ometepe in the department of Rivas on Lake Nicaragua (Lago Cocibolca). "Fuego Y Agua" is a series of several different running events: 25km, 50km and 100km and as of this year, a 70km "Survival Run" (like "Tough Mudder" but about 4 times longer). Since I was in Pre-Service Training this time last year, I was unable to register, but I was determined to do it this year. And I did!

Leading up to leaving for Ometepe, I celebrated my birthday in Jalapa with other volunteers by going on a hike during the day and having a nice dinner with some Nicas (my host profe, Marvin and some of my Zumba ladies!), in which I was gifted with a shirt, necklace and 3 desserts!

The next morning, my friend and I made the first leg of our trip to the island by making it to Carazo, where we had our training! She visited her family for a little bit and the two of us stayed at my family's house, where we were greeted with lots of new puppy kisses. He is a Pekingese named Tirano ("Bullet") and the family is very excited to have the little lovebug!

I woke up with a mosquito bite on my eyelid and didn't want to scare anyone with my puffy eye, hence the sunglasses. Lucky the swelling went down and my eye was back to normal by the afternoon!

My friend and I met up with some other PCVs running the race in Rivas and we all arrived to the island on Friday afternoon. 

Looking at Isla de Ometepe from the port. Volcan Concepción (active volcano) on the left, Volcan Maderas (dormant volcano) on the right. The 25km runners had to go up and down Concepción.

After getting settled into our hostel and having the best sandwich I’ve had in who knows how long, we got our race packets, including wrist bands, bibs and commemorative tee shirts. We all knew that this was becoming real.

Race direction signs, with Concepción blowing off steam in the background.

We had a bus that took all of the racers to this wonderful eco-lodge called Charco Verde. All of us PCVs rushed to get on first and get a seat (habit, I guess!), but then we realized it was the most calm entering/exiting of people on a bus since we've been in this country. It was quite funny to see a Nicaraguan chicken bus PACKED with a bunch of gringos.

View of Concepción on the ride to Charco Verde

We got to the ecolodge and they definitely didn’t skimp on every carb-loaders dream: a heaping plate of spaghetti with red sauce with meat or white sauce with chicken (I got both!), some tomatoes and olives and two pieces of bread. Oh my delicious! I couldn’t eat all of my plate, but luckily one of the volunteers who was running the 50k in the morning was happy to fix that problem. After doing a quick review and last minute information, we all packed back on to the buses to go back to the hostel and sleep. Tomorrow is going to be a very long day.

My alarm went off at 5:30 and from that point on, it was game time. All the PCVs were getting their bibs on, blister-areas bandaged, and chaffing areas baby powdered and at 6:30 we walked to the start of the race. Surprisingly I didn’t have as many jitters as I normally do before such a big event. I was calm, a little nervous, but was as ready as I could be.

2/3rds of DDT are ready to race!

Our PCV group of runners!

The countdown from 10 was shouted among everyone and just like that we were off! I lost all of the PCVs real quick, but knew that I would see them at the finish line and sent good vibes that they’d all have a great race. The beginning of the race was dirt and paved roads, then after the first aid station, we started to scale the volcano. I was climbing over tree stumps, using branches to heave me over, trudging thru mud and even getting on my hands and knees on a few points to maneuver Concepción. I had to remember to take a pause here and there to really look out and appreciate the beautiful views and to realize how high up I was.

Trackers from my running watch. QUITE the climb if you ask me!

Going down the volcano was just as intense, but a lot much of a steeper, slicker terrain. There were a lot of loose rocks, causing me to fall a couple of times (nothing serious! Thank goodness by butt provides good cushioning!). 

After I was able to get to a comfortable terrain to jog again, I picked up the walking pace and said "Good job!" and "Bien hecho!" to everyone I passed. The road got more flat and started angling down and I knew that we were getting closer to the city, getting me closer to the finish line. A herd of cows slowed my pace and I had to walk briskly around them, but as soon as I did, some locals were cheering me on and pointing me in the direction to go.  A la izquierda! A la derecha!” then, whaddya know, I saw the Race HQ and the finish line! I heard my name being called by other PCVs that had already finished (I was the last one from our group to finish) and saw one of my friends waiting for me with a high five and a cold beer…I pushed whatever energy I had left out and burst thru that finish line with nothing to lose. There wasn’t anyone in front of me and the next person to finish after me came in at least 4 or 5 minutes later.


The rest of the weekend was spent in hammacks...

Spirit animals!

...on the beach... 

Clouds covering Concepción (l) and Maderas (r)

Medal, Flor de Caña and Concepción

...and with wonderful company.

PCVs enjoying the beach!

Some of my best friends

Girls from Nica 58!

My friend also won 3rd place in the female finishers, winning a custom made chicken mask. I'm so proud of her! This was her first long distance race and she did amazingly!

The mask has now been dubbed the "Travelling Gallo"...where will he go next?

As for me, I have another half marathon coming up in less than 2 weeks in the department of Jinotega! It's the coolest department in Nicaragua, so I'm very excited that I won't have to race against the heat this next time around. Wish me luck!


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