Thursday, February 23, 2012

Nicaragua (Part 4)

Continued from Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.


The 50K race that Rob was running involved approximately 20 miles on the road from Moyogalpa to El Porvenir and then hiking up and down Volcan Maderas (4000 ft elevation).  My plan for race morning was to leave the Hacienda by 5:30am and run out to El Porvenir, which was only about 7 or 8 km from Mérida.  That way I could see Rob right before he began to climb the volcano.



Course map from Fuego y Agua

William was not pleased when I roused him from bed shortly after 5am and took him up to the kitchen.  I kissed him and handed him over to Al himself, hoping that Will would go back to sleep until the nannies arrived.

I took off down the road.  It was light enough to see, but the sun had not yet risen.  Rob would have been running now for an hour and a half already, using a headlamp to light his way.  It was harder than I remembered, to run along the volcanic road.  Rocks are everywhere-- you have to watch each and every step.  I got into a rhythm after a while and it felt good.  I was carrying a Clif bar and banana in case Rob needed these things, a bottle of water, my phone, and a camera.

I had plenty of time to make it to Porvenir, so I stopped to take a few photos once it was light enough.


Sandanista support is strong throughout the region


If Concepción starts erupting, head towards Maderas


The bus coming from Tichina, heading to Altagracia



I arrived at Porvenir just before 6:30, and a few minutes later the first runner came through.  It was a Nicaraguan guy named Johnson.  He won the race last year.  He didn't even slow down as he turned to head up the volcano.



A few other runners came through, and at about 6:50, I caught site of Rob approaching.  He was the 6th person to arrive.


Rob is on the left. Is he with Benjamin here?  (The winner of the 100k?)

He looked strong and seemed to be in good spirits.  I had been expecting him to just give me a wave as he kept right on running up the volcano, but instead, he halted to a walk and asked me if I wanted to come with him for a while.  I did.

I asked him if he wanted the banana or the Clif bar I had brought with me, also expecting him to decline both of these things (I always bring food for him during races, but he never needs it).  He eyed the banana for a second and said he thought he would try it.  I handed it over, very glad that I had bought these bananas from Clara yesterday and that I had brought one of them with me.  He started eating the banana and said it tasted very good (it is true, Clara's bananas were delicious).


"Oh, so that's what I look like eating a banana," Rob said afterwards, when he saw this photo.

As we walked up the path, he told me that there was a section on the course where the markers had gotten blown away and he and another runner had gone down the wrong path for a while.  He didn't seem too upset about it though, he just seemed very calm and tranquilo.  Happy, even.

We got up to the Porvenir aid station and he sat down in a chair.  He was having a sock issue that had started causing a blister to form.  At least 3 volunteers hovered around him, putting ointment and bandaids over the area.  I was uneasy about the ground he still had left to cover with a raw toe (that was only likely to get worse), but he said he thought it was going to be okay.



He got some food, water, and energy drink and then retreived his drop bag, which had his trekking poles in it.  He moved quickly but did not seem to be in a hurry.  I had thought maybe he would just grab a drink and then take off barreling up the mountain, so I was really proud of him for making sure he had what he needed and that he was running a smart race.  An extra few minutes of rest at the aid station might save him an hour up on the mountain.  You never want to push it too early in a race like this because the time you bank always ends up being time you lose.


When he was ready to leave, he gave me a hug and kiss and then turned to head up the mountain.  He looked strong, and I felt very confident for him.  It was right at 7am, and I thought, he'll be done by 11am or noon unless he runs into difficulty on the volcano.


I stayed at the aid station for a couple minutes, talking with a really nice runner named Matt, from Utah.  He had a little video camera with him and he was so excited to be here that he was filming everything.  I wished Matt well and then headed back down to the road.  I met several runners coming up, and I cheered for them.  I actually wished I could stay up there for a while and keep cheering on runners, but I knew that I needed to get back to Will.

I took off towards the field station in Mérida and arrived by 8am.  Siméon was there and I gave him a full report of how Rob was doing.  When I told him that I had run a little bit up the volcano with Rob, he threw his head back and laughed.

I had been worried about Will, but he was completely oblivious to me.  He was too busy rifling through Itzel's toy box to even give me a second glance. "He never stopped running," Reyna told me in Spanish, looking a little bit tired.  She'd been taking care of Itzel and William since she arrived around 6am.  "He did not eat anything," she added, which was not much of a surprise to me.  Reyna seemed very concerned about Will's refusal to eat breakfast.  I don't think most Nicaraguan children turn down food when it is offered to them; they have to eat when they can.

I quickly showered and then came back out to order some gallo pinto, hoping that I could entice Will to eat some of that. I realized how hungry I was too-- I'd been up since before 5am and run 14-15km without even thinking about eating anything.  When my breakfast arrived, I guess the women in the kitchen had decided to spruce it up a little bit.  Instead of being just a plate of rice and beans, they also included a heaping mound of scrambled eggs cooked with onions and peppers, and some fresh baked bread.

I've been más o menos vegan since 2008, and I generally find eggs to be repugnant, but I thought, you know what?  I am going to eat these eggs.  They probably came from the hens freely ranging about the yard, or maybe Al bought them from the Mennonite man (with the Nicaraguan wife) who used to ride his bike along the road-- selling eggs out of the crate strapped to the back of the bike.  So I ate those eggs, and they were delicious.  Not like the sad eggs you can buy in the supermarket here.

Unfortunately, Will would not share the eggs or the gallo pinto with me.  I couldn't get him to eat even one bite of food.  People are always telling me, "Oh, kids won't let themselves starve to death. They'll eat when they're hungry."  But I don't think these people have ever met any kids who were hyperemesis babies.  How Will survives on what little he eats is a mystery to me.

After I gave up trying to get Will to eat something, Eduardo showed up at the field station on his bike.  I hadn't been expecting him and I was so glad to see him.  We talked some more, and he gave me a necklace that he said he had bought for me in Santo Domingo.  "Es torquesa," he said proudly.  I gave him a hug as my eyes filled with tears.

He said that he was happy here but he reiterated again how much he wants to come to the US.  I told him that I would do whatever I could to help him (and I really mean that).  I told him that he must stay in school and keep studying English, and he nodded, giving me a sad little smile like he knew that.  But I also knew that staying in school wasn't necessarily his choice--when he was 13 and sent to go work in the plantain fields, I doubt that was really what he wanted to do.

He was interested in the race (and even said he wished he could run it next year!) and asked me when I expected Rob to finish.  I said by 11 or 12 if he stayed strong.  Eduardo told me that he had to go but he would return at that time to wait with me for Rob.  I hugged him, and he rode away on his bike.  He didn't come back-- maybe because he hadn't understood what time I told him, or maybe because there was something else he ended up having to do-- but I did not seem him again.

William was frantic and tired by this point (having been up since 5am), but he refused to nap.  I tried to swing him in a hammock beside the finish line, but he didn't fall asleep.  Finally I had this boy Darwin (who works at the field station and is the same age as Eduardo) help me get Will strapped into the Ergo on my back.  Will struggled a little bit, but eventually he at least rested his eyes for a half an hour or so.


In the hammock with non-sleeping William.  You can see the turquoise necklace Eduardo gave me.



The winner of the 50K had finished before 9:30am-- it was the Nicaraguan guy (Johnson) who I had seen way out in the lead at El Porvenir.  Johnson stayed around for a little bit and then took off to go running again-- just for fun.  I was glad that a Nicaraguan won the race.  He's from the island, but I'm not sure where.


By about 11am, I knew I needed to stay by the finish line and be alert for Rob to appear at any moment.  I started talking to a woman named Amy (or Aimee?) whose husband was doing the 100K.

11 o'clock came and went.  By this time at least 9 runners had come in (though some where heading back out to finish the 100K), so I knew that Rob must have fallen behind a little.  I wasn't terribly concerned yet, but still, talking to Amy helped keep me calm.

I lost count of the number of runners who came in.  Things were starting to look bad.  It was fast approaching noon, which I realized was my cut-off point for when to begin real, actual worrying.

At 11:55, he finished.


He was on his two feet; I saw no blood or visibly broken bones.  But he seemed a little bit disoriented and honestly, looked about as beat up as I've ever seen him in any race he's done.


I was a little bit overwhelmed: I was texting my mom, my aunt, Rob's parents, while also trying to take pictures, Tweet, and Facebook.  Not to mention keeping track of Will, who had since wriggled out of the Ergo and was running around the field station.  When Will saw Rob come across the finish line, he shouted, YOU DID IT, ROB!


Rob didn't want anything to eat, and he didn't seem to be able to say much.  Finally what he managed to tell me was, "I survived.  It was intense."

I was a little bit concerned that a trip to the Moyogalpa hospital for an IV was on our horizon, but eventually, Rob was able to eat some platanos with salt, and he seemed to start feeling a little better.  Then, just like that, the shuttle was ready to take us back to Moyogalpa, and I had to gather up William and rush to catch it.  There was no time to say goodbye to anybody.  But maybe it was better that way, to just disappear without any of the crying that surely would have resulted if we'd been able to drag this out.  I've never been good at saying goodbye anyway.


Continue to Part 5


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

WOW!!!!!!!! I feel almost like I was there with you!! What a wonderful 'report' ,, Your grama florence would have been SOOOO happy to read all about it! and the texting, tweeting, facebooking, picture taking, WAS ALL SOOOOOOO important to those of us BACK here BEING TWITCHY, waiting to hear !!!! Thanks sooo much for keeping us all INFORMED as quickly as you did!!! LOVED THE PHOTOS>>>>>>>>> very primitive indeed~~~, I marvel at HOW Runners could KEEP on the RIGHT 'path' , looks very difficult!!!!! amazing HOW the NICA RUNNER didn't even HAVE A SPOT of SWEAT OR DIRT ON HIM!!! What an amazing race for Rob, and to QUOTE precious LITTLE WILLIAM," YOU DID IT ROB"!!!!!! of course by the end of your story, I was crying , just thinking of the 'HURRIED' departure. with NO goodbyes........ maybe THE next time down to visit, WILL and Rob can RUN the race together!!!!! think of that!!!>:) hugs to all, luv you, mama