Fuego Y Agua Nicaragua 25km-Ish Trail Run – Race Recap (The Gollum Edition)
“Wake up. Wake up. Wake up, sleepies. We must go, yeeees, we must go at once”.
Last year I took off shortly after the Survival Run (right after the Beer Mile, to be exact) – I needed some time to decompress, and, while it was the right call at the time, I missed being part of the fun for the ultra races on Saturday. I promised myself to run the 25k in 2016 (if my body was feeling up to it after the Survival Run, of course).
Registering for the 25k was a last minute decision, as I finally signed my name on a dotted line sometime on Friday afternoon. My body was still a bit sore from the race on Wednesday, but it wasn’t anything I couldn’t handle. In fact, I figured I’d feel better with a bit of running (active recovery, baby!). Waking up on Saturday, I knew I made the right call – legs felt awesome. Ready to go!
Did I mention that all Fuego races are only approximately the distance they claim to be? And it’s never less. It’s always more. Underpromise, overdeliver for the win.
The 25k course was 32k. You know… almost the same. As the race director said: “There IS a 25k IN IT, so it’s all good”. I was a little nervous running a distance just 10k shy of a marathon only few days after the Survival Run, although most of my hesitation was the fear of pavement. I could run on technical trails for days.
Start to the first aid station – run along the beach (so far, so good), cut to the road, and keep going. First aid station came quickly, so I stuffed a piece of fruit in my mouth and kept going.
From first aid station to the second one – we continued into the woods at the base of Maderas volcano – narrow path, and many fences to squeeze through. This is where paying attention to the course markers started being important. I also started to feel a weird tingling in my fngertips. Hmmm… Hit another aid station – we are 10.5km in. Woot! That went by pretty quickly. Rice and beans scooped up by hand and shoved into face makes for a perfect fuel. Who knew.
From the second aid station to the third – do not believe the trail. Just because the big obvious trail is going towards the road, does not mean that’s where you are going. You’ll be going away from the road, up and up. Along the narrows paths in the corn fields. My fingers continue to tingle, and as I look down, I realize they resemble Italian sausages. I barely have time to take my ring off and slide it in my back pocket. I am now Michelin man. Sexy. I know enough to know that I am probably not dying, but that salt pills (in addition to the water I was guzzling) will be helpful right about now.
From the third aid station to the fourth – BLUR. This entire section takes place on a dusty dirt road. I feel like my brain is pulsating in my head, and pushing against my skull from the heat. Every single cell in my body is overheating. I still manage to run for the most part, with an occasional walking break. A local guy with a hose, watering some plants, takes pity on me and hands me the hose – I douse myself in water, dumping a generous amount inside my hat before putting it back on my head. There must be steam coming off my body. I go from boiling fucking unbearable hot to just boiling hot.
From the fourth aid station to the finish – I almost do not stop here, knowing that the finish is only 4-5km away. I even run past the station, then turn around and walk back. Few pieces of fruit. Pause, breathe. I do not bother refilling my bladder, and regret that decision about 1.5km later. I do manage to pass few more racers, dying of heat. One is limping heavily. I pass another, surrounded by medical stuff, as he is cramping heavily – splayed out on pavement. Last stretch on the beach – the finish line cannot come soon enough. There is a female in front of me, but I do not have anything to give. We finish 200m apart. Sigh…
At the finish line, I managed not to fall over, but rather walk off to the side, and accept a Gatorade a friend offered, and another. And another. (Thanks, JT and Tina.)
When I had enough liquid in me to continue sustaining vital organ functioning, I walked into the lake, collapsed into a heap, and let the water wash over my entire body, as I cried in relief.
The rock and pool, is nice and cool, so juicy sweet. Our only wish, to catch a fish, so juicy sweet.
My fingers return to their normal size within 15 minutes. Crazy. It’s almost as if water is really important.
Now looking back, I believe that doing well in this race came down to three factors:
1 – SKILL ON MODERATELY TECHNICAL TERRAIN
“Sneaky little hobbitses. Wicked, tricksy, false!”
You think that rock is solid? Um, no. It rolls under your foot, and slams into your shin. I loved that part. 🙂 Obviously. Given the amount of flat ground we had to cover, I think I made the right decision to wear road-to-trail style Salomons, but I did miss my Speeds and their crazy tread.
Middle third of the race was mostly like this: rolling hills, some ups and some downs, with roots and rocks. Some tree trunks to be climbed over. Some fences to squeeze by. Fast foot work and landing light would give you a great advantage.
2 – PAYING ATTENTION
“Where iss it, where iss it: my Precious, my Precious? It’s ours, it is, and we wants it. The thieves, the thieves, the filthy little thieves. Where are they with my Precious? Curse them! We hates them.”
That’s how I felt about the course markers at times during this race – chalk arrows on pavement and rocks, as well as pieces of tape, hanging off branches. I got lost four times, however, each time it only resulted in 100-200m detour. Some racers weren’t as lucky (or attentive?) missing big chunks of the course, and getting lost for 30-45 minutes.
Look for those chalk arrows! Simply following along the trail without actively looking for the next course marker cost some racers their race.
3 – WILLINGNESS TO SUFFER
Not fair! not fair! It isn’t fair, my precious, is it, to ask us to run in such heat in the middle of the day?
The race started at 10am. In Nicaragua. Nuff said.
I believe that the tail end of the race was determined by sheer willingness to go from very hot to very very VERY hot, and stay there, as you JOGGED, not walked, the last never-ending miles. [And I like to suffer, perhaps, a wee bit more than your average Joe].
That said… It was one motherfucking hot race.
As much as I enjoyed the race in retrospect (and would absolutely recommend it to others), even I feel like 10am start is indefensible. I have talked to some race officials to try and find out whether there was a reason to start the race so late that I was simply not privvy to. While some (pretty good) reasons were identified (e.g. coordinating volunteer shifts, and allowing some people to arrive the morning of the race, instead of the day before), I feel like the cons here clearly outweigh the pros.
There is simply no reason good enough to be running in the hottest part of the day, unless your goal was attrition and heat stroke.
No! No! It’s too risky. It’s too risky.
Given that the 50k and 100k runners take off at 5am, a 6am or even 7am start for the 25k would give the runners the few cooler hours necessary to cover most of the distance, and still experience the heat that is Nicaragua.
Master betrayed us. Wicked. Tricksy, False. We ought to wring his filthy little neck. Kill him! Kill him! Kill them both! And then we take the precious… and we be the master!
I’m very pleased with how my body held up (for the most part) in the heat – top 10 for women – WOOT! (Too bad the results were adjusted to display my full name – up until recently it was listed as SOLO :)).