Fuego Y Agua 25K 2016

Race morning came quickly with only one real day to relax and enjoy the island. The day prior was spent exploring the island on scooters, packet pickup and a group bbq. I was racing the 25K (closer to a 33K) so the start time was a late start at 10am. I opted to not go watch the beginning of the 100K/50K race because it began at 5am. Which meant I would have had to catch the 4am shuttle from our hotel. Extra sleep sounded much better before I toed the line of the hot grueling race I was about to partake in.

I woke up at 7:45am and headed to the restaurant area for breakfast. I ordered coffee and the “healthy” fruit only selection off the menu, fresh local organic fruit from the island. I drenched every piece of fruit with local honey making it extra delicious. This may have been my first mistake. I don’t eat like that before races or period and why I choose to order it I still don’t know. After eating I went back to my room to pack my Orange Mud HydraQuiver pack and lube up with Bodyglide before the 9am group ride. After riding in the back of a pickup to the start line we were gathered for another briefing about the course and heat conditions. Before we could start there was also a role call of bib numbers. This was to help keep track of every runner on the course. Luckily my number was a lower number for the race because the coffee just kicked in…second mistake. The coffee on the island is amazing and strong but it ran through my body faster than molasses every time. So I yelled here and rushed off to find a bathroom at the hotel. I made it back to the race start in time to get a decent front spot for the count down. Time for the race I have been waiting for since December!One of two things will happen: Crash and burn or balls to the wall (or volcano wall). The race is off and I shoot out the start with the top 15 runners. The first mile was fast since it was on the beach with compacted sand. The next 3 to 4 miles was on the road to the town of Balgue. Coming up to the first aid station we turned the corner of a baseball field. Since it was a Saturday, we got some cheers from the kids playing in a little game. Feeling great, I stopped only for one glass of Gatorade…this was my third mistake! After this aid station we began the first climb on crazy single track through the jungle. I still felt good so I continued to run at a decent pace. Running through a section of a plantain grove that seemed to be holding all the heat making it a scorcher. The temp on the beach was around 95 degrees with a breeze. That grove felt like 150 plus! Coming out of the grove is where I felt my body starting to break down. Getting to the second aid station was my primary focus.

At the second aid station I chugged two gatorades, filled up both my OM bottles and ate some watermelon. But there was no salt…my fourth mistake. My salt tabs were sitting in my van back in California. So I didn’t have salt with me during one of the most humid races in the world. I could tell it was going to hit me hard and fast. I ran out the aid station with a group of four runners. Two of the runners were for sure the top females so I stuck close for the push. Talking with them a bit as we ran down hill helped easy the pain that was creeping in slowly. Crap! About a half mile later down the trail we realized there were no course marking flags! We quickly doubled back to the last time we noticed ribbon. That climb back up took everything out of me. It was around this time my body was telling me to slow down. As much as I didn’t want to listen I started to power hike knowing I should find some shade soon to cool down. I didn’t feel like dying in the jungle, on a volcano, in Nicaragua (though running would be how I’d want to go).It was at this point a came to a guy sitting on a rock wobbling. I asked if he was good? Not really responding he got up and started to jog some with me. I told him it was hot and we needed shade. He replied something in Spanish. I pointed to the sun saying hot, then point to the shade saying bueno. He nodded and we both sat under the tree laughing at our misery.

Ernest was his name. Ernest and I had no clue what was being said by one another but our bond of pain was obvious. Not sitting long we drank some water and had a snack then we began to power hike up the volcano. The suffer fest was real at this point. Ernest and I kept each other going anxiously waiting for the third aid station to appear. Running low on water and the aid station no where in sight we sat down under a shady plantain tree where there was a breeze. I pulled out my phone to figure out how far we had roughly gone. Only 12.5’ish miles of the 22 miles were done. About this time a guy came up the trail wearing Fuego y Agua gear. He was remarking the course since it seemed someone messed with the ribbons. The course marker told us we were only 2K from the aid station. Ernest and I perked up and followed the dude up the trail. Talk about the longest 2K jog of my life! With every knee lift I was on the verge of cramping.

Finally! The aid station was like a mirage in a little village. First thing I noticed was a bag of ice so I took off my buff and filled it full. Put it around my neck and began to forage the food. SALT and potatoes! My favorite for long distance. I ate about four salt covered potatoes, chugged a couple gatorades and filled my bottles of water. Before leaving the station I grabbed Ernest pointed to the ice and his towel. I motioned for him to fill it up to wrap around his neck.
The rest the race was pretty uneventful. Majority of it was on a flat gravel road with a few hills leading back to Balgue. This was not the most scenic area. It led us through several little villages. Runners were allowed to buy random things from the local village stores. A runner just outside the third aid station was buying a fudge ice cream bar from a man with a ice cream cart. Some of the locals along the course were charging for a spray down with their water hose. One thing I did envy were the stray dogs that just lay in the sun baking. As well as the random livestock that wildly roamed the island not seeming to be effected by the heat. The road was exposed with not much shade so brutal is to say the least! Ernest and I continued to flip flop as we would run, walk past each other laughing.Cut to the final aid station with 6K left to run! The final aid station was also the first. The volunteers here were awesome! I sat down and they got everything I needed. The final stretch was on the road to the beach then to the finish. A lady from the group ride from the hotel had caught up to me or I caught up to her, Ruthmaria. She helped push me through to the finish with her story. She had knee surgery the previous year and was out crushing this race! We swapped stories and encouragement. Once we got to the beach it was a struggle to lift the legs. Ruthmaria and I separated for the final mile so I could change the battery on my new Pivothead video glasses. After changing the battery I pushed on for that mile.Man oh man did it feel good to cross that finish line! That 33K was seriously harder then my 50 mile race!

Thank you again to all the volunteers and to Josue for putting on a crazy tough race.

Thank you Orange Mud for making an awesome pack! The easy access bottles are so much easier for the volunteers to help refill and get me out of the station quickly.

I don’t normally hold grudges but Fuego Y Agua might have to be a redemption race in 2017!

4 comments

  1. chelsey · February 19, 2016

    I feel like I was right next to you during your race, amazing job describing your trip Joel!

    Like

  2. shestherun · February 20, 2016

    I laughed out loud at your first interaction with Ernest! “Bueno”! That’s what running and traveling are all about!

    Liked by 1 person

    • JAdRunning · February 20, 2016

      My limited Spanish didn’t hold that back the fact we were both dying…haha. It was a great experience!

      Like

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