Wednesday, July 9, 2008

How I Learned to Ski in Pinamar

I just got back from running the Merrell Adventure Race in Pinamar, Argentina. The course was 27 kilometers of running along the beach, through woods, up and over some gigantic hills (and I mean gigantic), and along a golf course. I’m just going to go ahead and tell you right now – it was awesome.

I am still in shock that I even ran this race for a couple of reasons. One, it was one of the hardest races I’ve ever ran – ever – and I’ve been a runner for about 15 years. I would go as far as to call it extremely challenging. Not only does it have the above mentioned gigantic hills, but 95% is run over sand. At the same time, it was also one of the prettiest race courses I’ve ever seen. I’m talking breathtaking…absolutely gorgeous…like something you would see in a movie.

Let me tell you all about it.

I arrived in Pinamar a little after 12 on Saturday, the day before the race, just in time to meet up with some friends for lunch and then head over to the Merrell Race expo to pick up our timing chips. After getting everything we needed, and checking out all the cool stuff they had, we headed back to the house we had rented to get some rest before going out to dinner.

That night about 10 people from our group ate at a local restaurant. As I was listening to everyone who had run the race before talk about their experiences, I started getting a little nervous. I realized that I felt extremely under prepared. I never train on hills – really, never – and I knew that I was in store for some pretty killer hills the next day. Also, I felt like I didn’t know very much about the course. After taking with a couple of my running friends and scribbling some race strategy ideas on a piece of paper, I thankfully started to feel a little better.

The morning of the race came and we headed to the race area ahead of time in order to eat breakfast. A little later, more members of our group came and we all warmed up together and headed over to the starting line.

I hadn’t run in about 5 days, so when the race finally started, I felt this sense of relief, like the thing I had been waiting for was finally here. I don’t know if any of you can relate to this, but it was a great feeling.

The first part of the race was about 5k along the beach. This was when I first starting noticing how pretty the course was. As I was running, I looked ahead to see the sun in front of me. In a long line, snaked up against the edge of the water in order to find better footing, I could see the outlines of all the runners that were running ahead of me, everyone with their red t-shirts on. When the water would rush in, the runners of that section of the line would quickly move away from the water (sometimes by jumping) in order to not get their feet wet. It was really a sight from a movie – beautiful.

The next part was through some woods. Again, it was just gorgeous. The footing was a little better here, but in general, we were still running in sand.

The next part of the race, I think I will remember for the rest of my life. We ran up some gigantic sandy-covered hills – Do I need to say it again? gigantic - so much so that for a few of them I had to stop and walk up them.

I remember one in particular, that I wouldn’t actually call a hill, I would call it a steep incline on the front side, and on the back side it was more like a cliff. The “cliff-side” was so steep that you couldn’t run down it. I think I probably looked like a cartoon character when I saw this side of the hill because I think my eyes popped out of my head in disbelief. After saying a couple of swear words, I had this brilliant idea. I kind of did this interesting thing where I would jump forward and then ski down the sandy cliff with my running shoes acting as skis. Amazing! This part was really an adventure that I will never forget.

During the next part we entered the woods again. I was a little worried that I was going to roll my ankle because I was so interested in looking around. At the end of this section, there was a couple cheering on the runners who had brought out some speakers and was blasting some music. I was really thankful for them, because I was feeling really tired at this point. I gave them a couple of pumps of my fist in the air and yelled “¡Gracias!” with a big smile and continued on to the next section that was along a golf course.

At this point, I didn’t know what place I was in, I was guessing about 4th, but it was hard to tell because there were some mixed teams of men and women that made it a little confusing. During this section of the race we were running on grass and I started to think about making up some ground to catch some of the women runners that were ahead of me.

As we entered the next section, along a road (finally over pavement!), I knew that we were almost finished and the very last part was along the beach, so I decided to kick it up a notch. Within a couple of minutes I spotted a couple of females, so I started running faster to catch them. I have a lot of speed, so I knew I could do it, but I was really tired and I was breathing really heavily. I must of sounded like a crazy person because a couple of runners looked back to see where in the world the noise was coming from. (-:

As we finished the last part on the pavement and rounded our way to the beach I caught one female and then as I was running along the final leg of the beach I caught another.

I was so glad to see the finish line, I almost started crying. I, thankfully, did not, as that would have been pretty embarrassing to be blubbering as I ran it in. (I hate crying in public. I have a really ugly face when I cry.)

I finished with a time of 2:27:34 in second place overall for females.

As I sit here, eating chocolate, resting (I didn’t run today), and writing this, I think about what I am most proud of. It’s really not my time, or the place I finished, because I always try to run my own race, to challenge myself.

What I am most proud of is that I feel like I conquered the beast – the beast of the Merrell Adventure Race in Pinamar. To be more specific, I conquered those gigantic sandy-covered hills that I was in awe of when I saw them. Not only that, but I was able to finish the race after running them (or skiing them!). I know this might sound a little strange, but I feel like my self-esteem is a little higher after being able to do something so difficult. This usually doesn’t happen to me after a race.

I’ve always called myself more of a road runner and not a cross-country runner, but this race was truly spectacular and something I will never forget.


And as I think about it a little more…

I might just start...

planning my training for next year’s race!

If you’re interested, check out my pics from the weekend.


No comments: