The Fuego Y Agua "Survival Race" is the hardest, most dangerous, most unforgettable race I have done to date. This race is hard to write about because some of the moments were so unreal I feel I don't have adequate words to describe them. The thing is I can't stop reliving the moments in my head, I have to get it out, and people want to know the stories. I know every athlete out there had a different experience. Some got lost a lot, some got lost a little, some never gave up, some pushed their bodies to exhaustion, many were pulled and missed cut offs, most did not finish, only 2 did. This is how the race went for me.
|Our hotel was pretty lovely :)|
My alarm went off at 3am and almost immediately the race day adrenaline started. I dressed, assembled my camelback, pinned on my number, ate a couple plantains and headed to the starting line. I stood and talked to others as the pre race jitters and excitement grew. We took pictures, looking so clean and unbroken, with no idea of what would come. The survival runners were called to the start before the other runners and we were given a puzzle to memorize. We had to memorize the colors of the blocks (not the name of the color that was written) in order to get aid at the next aid station.
Once each of us had a chance to look at the puzzle we were told to get in line to get a chicken. What???? A chicken!! My mind started working and I pulled out two of my buffs and used them to wrap my chicken in. I have actually never carried a chicken before but thought if you kept them covered they seemed to stay calmer (and at least that way she couldn't peck at me). 38 of us lined up at the start, chickens in hand, and we were off. Off on a dark road which led to a dusty trail and seemed to wind through the backyards of some houses. I held my little chicken like a football and seemed to be making good time. The chicken was hot and we both seemed to be sweating.
It was now near 6am and the sun was coming up. I ran down a trail and came to the "third obstacle" and saw some of the other racers for the first time since the start. They stood next to a gigantic pile of sticks and each was assembling their own pile. My handcuffs were clipped and I was told to make a 40lb pile of sticks. Some of the sticks were very light and it took me 3 attempts to get my weight to 40. My first pile was 15 (so off!!), next pile was 24, and my final weight was 40.9lbs. I'm guessing my pile consisted of about 15-20 sticks that I had each tied individually then wrapped the entire pile with my paracord. I tied the knots very securely and took great care to make a tight bundle. I then took my thicker piece of cord and threaded it through the paracord wrap, leaving two ends out which acted as backpack straps. I leaned back on my pile, strapped it to my back and started down the trail.
I hiked with my pile of sticks for at least an hour and what I later found out was 5 miles. The trail wound through a creek bed and dirt road, through banana farms, and peoples backyards. I tucked my buff's under each "backpack strap" for some extra padding and found a child's sweater on the side of the road that I jammed between my back and the pile. Despite these "comforts", this was no easy task. Pieces of the pile dug into my kidneys, shoulders, and back. The sun blazed. Each mile seemed like the longest mile ever until I came to a familiar site - the oasis!
|Morgan has a flawless climb up the tree!|
|Adam (HERO!!!) carries his log down the beach|
Our next obstacle was a log carry. Three of us reached the logs together and the volunteer picked out which logs we would carry. The carry was on the beach and we were given the option to carry, roll, or float the log in the water until the next check point. I had a 4 foot by 1 foot log and chose to carry it on my shoulders. This seemed to be a good strategy and I made quick time down the beach. (2 miles?)
I dumped the log and was told to start digging under a blue flag. I was looking for a bucket that was supposedly 5 feet down and had a medal in it to grab. I dug for what seemed like 20 minutes and was never ending. With each scoop of sand I pulled out of my hole the wind blew in what seemed like tons more. The sides of my hole started collapsing and It was frustrating and physically difficult. I flung sand everywhere and used my long saw/knife to poke down and find the bucket. Finally the white edge was revealed and I reached in and grabbed my medal. I covered the bucket back up and looked up for my next task, accidentally leaving my knife in the sand in the excitement.
|Survival runners Morgan and Dennis Dig for their buckets|
With good spirits from seeing my mom and completing the obstacles I continued the trek up the mountain. It was long, and grew steeper and more slippery with each step. About 1 hour in I ran out of water and began to worry. I began asking anyone I saw for water. One local gave me a half an orange which I very graciously accepted and a couple tourists gave me about a liter of water. An hour later I was still hiking and out of water again.
I was led to a tree with a blue ribbon tied around it and started hacking away at it. I had never cut down a tree before so my strategy was horrible but the volunteer directed me to make diagonal chops to the trunk. I was totally exhausted. My mom and Leslie's Mom Mary were there watching and I wanted to make them proud. I chopped with all my might, taking many breaks in between. At about 8 minutes before the 5pm cutuff my tree fell and I held up the ax in the air with so much pride! I had made the cutoff and would be going back up the volcano.........
|Exaustion as the clock ticked towards 5pm|
|Jason and I after we had cut our trees and just slid in before 5pm.|
|Using my knife I bought to cut open a coconut after we made the cutoff.|