Day 5 started a bit earlier than normal as we had a pretty cool transport to our race start... We hopped on a bus around 5:00am to be dropped off at a riverside that looked promisingly full of gators.. It was muddy, branches floated by and it snaked by with a dangerous look is its eye.. or ripples. Beeeeeeh!
Looking forward we saw a rinky dink barge that was supposed to be carrying us across.. we had heard there was a boat to take us to the next race start.. and I guess there was.. the minuscule little blue boat that was powered by possible a 15 horse power engine that a local was sitting on.. yes folks, this was the engine for the barge. We had to maneuver across this river filled with small islands of grass, miscellaneous debris and who knows what else. The little engine that could!
By some stroke of luck, we made it across the river uneaten and unscathed. We then took a little 100m stroll to the race starting line to an uphill start up a gravel road. The count down started and the race began! Joel and I sported our, "Running 4 Those Who Can't" headbands we wore to support one of our running friends, Raul Vasquez from Hollywood, CA. We took it to heart and began uphill relentlessly. Power hiking those parts too steep to walk to preserve energy with the others and running the flatter sections. I don't know how it is hot at 6am in the morning, but it already is!
We knew there was a long gravel road section, but it felt longer than we thought. We started out very strong, but after what felt like ages, Joel started to feel the angst of running on the dirt road. His adhd kicked in.. lol kidding! aka he got bored and frustrated and uninspired to continue. So he had a little chit chat with himself and had to remind himself why we were here: for his mama. Relieved by an aid station which was 16km in (the longest we had ever ran without an aid station) and new determination continue he bounced back and continued on. Fortunately, the road morphed into something we like a little more.. shade, forest and single track. Yes to all three please!
This is where we zoom-zoomed faster than a humming bird on Red Bull. Whiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiissssss! (That's the sound of us flying) It was a challenging section with some hills that seemed to be relentless. It was like the Energizer Bunny.. it kept going and going.. but it wasn't even the long distance that was too bad, it was mostly the grade. The steepness caused tons of muscle burning and a little voice in your head to chirp in and say.. let's just take a break! But we knew we wanted to do our best and being lazy wasn't an option. We thought that if WE were having a hard time on these, then the others might be havin an even harder time, meaning we could use it to our advantage to power up them.
Finally we made the summit and began to descend. Hitting another aid station we discovered there was even less distance than we had been told to the next aid station (and end of the race for us!!) Filled with spirit and hope we took flight at a new cracking pace! Splashing through mud puddles, running beside mangroves, being hit in the face with palm leaves and banana trees we began to pass other runners with fierce determination.. and cheers and laughs in other words! Yeeeehaw!
The trail opened up into a open meadow with one of the tallest trees we have ever seen and a burning heat that soon began to overheat us. It stole our momentum for a while as running into the heat was like running into a brick wall. A few km later, our bodies adjusted and we met two volunteers from an upcoming aid station that told us there was only 500m left until the end of the race for us!!
Crack the champagne!! Cue the confetti! Release the doves!
Hahaha, okay, maybe they didn't have those, but they did have water and fruit and happy smiles as they cheered us into the aid station! We finished 1st again with a time we were proud of and only one fall by Shannon! That was the first and only fall of the race for us! Greivin and Nayib took amazing care of us again and put up with us being stranded there for several hours.. 4 hours to be exact.
4 hours, you ask? They sent a shuttle after about 2 and a half hours to come and get us (us being Joel and I and other Adventure Category runners who finished after us).. that was driven by an over enthusiastic driver who went off an embankment and got the SUV stuck. Fail.
Eventually, After Luciano, Greivin and Nayib spent an hour or two trying to get reception by walkin up the road and texted(as they couldn't even call due to the poor reception) repeatedly to organizers to get a car there for us. Why didn't the organizers already have a car there for us as they KNEW this was the end of the race for adventure racers.. Anyways, After so many hours, Greivin offered to take us back in the back of his pickup truck.. which had previously said no to due to safety measures. He saw how agitated and uncomfortable we were getting and felt so bad that he was going to push him self out of his comfort zone to help us, but luckily two trucks came to shuttle us just as we had got into the back of the truck and thank goodness they did!! The road was INSANELY DAMAGED!! There were divots in the road that could swallow a motorcycle whole, super steep sections, rickety looking bridges that our driver didnt even trust to go on and drove around through a river instead and rocks everywhere. It was the worst road I have ever seen.
Lady luck was with us and we made it safely back to camp. If we had known it was going to be a 4 hours and more wait with the ride in (about 5 hours total) we would have just walked the 16km back to camp as all the other Expedition runners that we had cheered on were already back at camp and fed by the time we got in. This was a major fail on the organizers part. I have a diaper rash. Yes. That's what happens when they leave sweaty, wet runners to wait in soggy gear to get picked up in. One girl even had to get stitches on her hand at the aid station after falling on course. She also had to wait the same amount of time as us to get back to camp. We were very disappointed as were the other Adventure racers as we felt we have been cast aside and forgotten. That amount of time for a wait is completely unacceptable and unsafe. By this point, it was 3 in the afternoon, the last real meal we had was breakfast at 4am and we just ran 32km. Not cool.
Anyways, we survived and set up camp at Drake Bay that was a very nice place to stay. There was lots of showers and toilets, a nice grassy field to pitch our tents on and beautiful beach below. Off to the beach, we went of to stretch and roll and forget about what happened. We felt confident with our race times and were looking forward to the next and final day of the race! We were happy again and ready to enjoy ourselves the next day!
Shanny and Joel