Sunday, January 17, 2016

Racing in Trinidad

"The contents of this [blog] are personal and do not reflect any position of the US government or the Peace Corps."

I am current lounging out in the sun outside waiting for a ferry to Tobago. I came here for the marathon but I'll come back for the mountains and ocean.

My trip started with a stay at fellow Peace Corps volunteer, Barry's, apartment. We went out for a few beers during which he regaled me with stories of amazing adventures and experiences around the world. This is his second stint with Peace Corps and he also worked with the UN and Doctors Without Borders. There seems to be very few places that he hasn't been. Definitely a great resource when planning my last trip when I finish my time in Guyana before heading back to the States.

I had to be at the airport the next morning at 4am so I woke up at three to catch a taxi over to the airport. An easy check in, where amazingly I could take my water on without anyone thinking it was a bomb. Imagine: a flight when I'm not dehydrated! The flight from Guyana to Trinidad took less than 80 minutes with absolutely no waiting to be queued up for take off. It was great. I arrived and breezed through immigration with a short stop at customs.

Customs Officer: You work for Peace Corps?
Danny: Yes. I'm a volunteer in Guyana.
Customs Officer: A gun holding Peace Corps member?
Danny: (laughing) haha no. Peace Corps[emphasis on Peace
Customs Officer: The UN Peace Keepers have guns.
Danny: oooh. Yes well I guess you're right. No I don't have a gun.

And that was that. Off I went. I was staying with a fellow runner who I had briefly met at the Guyana Trail marathon and reconnected with through the great website, He was great about letting me stay stating as long as I didn't mind sleeping on a couch. Which I didn't. He also gave me great advice about getting to his place.

If as I left the departures gate, I got a taxi it would cost me about 120TT to get to his house. However, walking about 100 feet to my right I could take a shared taxi to Aruca junction and then take a maxi(a mini-bus) to the road he lived off of. I could take another mini-bus or walk. All told, It cost me 9TT to get to his house. And with the remaining 111TT, I was able to buy myself dinner and food for the next two days of meals. And still had about 20TT left off.

Note about Departures: I had only ever seen this at Costa Rica before but I guess it's pretty common down here to charge a departure tax. It's about $15 to leave Guyana and 100TT to leave Trinidad. Not expensive, just wanna make sure you budget that.

So I arrived to his house but had missed his email saying that he wouldn't be home til around 1:30p. It was 9:30am when I got there. Which could have been super annoying except that he has two couches on his shaded porch. I was able to finish the book I was reading, John Updike's Gertrude and Claudius, his pre-sequel to Hamlet. After finishing it, I then took a nice, albeit somewhat sweaty, nap.

When I awoke, Cleve had arrived home. He welcomed me in, gave me a key and told me to make myself at home. He wasn't feeling great so he took a nap while I walked around the neighborhood and bought myself lunch as well as food for the next few days. I arrived home and he was still sleeping so I just hung out for the evening and went to bed probably around 9pm. I was awoken to a knock on my door around 11pm and he was wondering if I wanted to go out. I declined.
New friends
That's the only bad thing about traveling for marathons, you're more likely to decline spontaneous invitations to go to a midnight show during Carnaval. The next day when I was asked if I wanted to go for a hike to a few waterfalls, I definitely did not decline even when thinking back to my awful marathon the day after rock climbing while in Alaska. Cleve, two of his friends and I hiked to not one but two waterfalls one with a great 15 foot cliff to jump into the pool of crystal clear stream.

 I was so happy to go and see a part of Trinidad I definitely wouldn't have if I stayed in a hotel by the ocean. I would go back just for the mountains and clear streams they have. The hiking there is pretty amazing with so many opportunities. If you get a chance to go to Trinidad, you've got to check out Island Hikers who organizes weekly hikes. We didn't go on one of their hikes, but Cleve goes almost every weekend and supposedly never does the same hike twice. Anyway, definitely a better way to spend the day then holed up inside.
Danny jumping off the cliff

Race day started early. I mean really early. I awoke at 12:45am for the marathon. My home stay was running the early start at 3:30am and I wanted to ride in with him since I had no idea how to get there and I didn’t mind a longer time to digest and warm-up. After dropping off a car at the finish and heading to the start(it’s a point to point run which I love), we arrived around 2:30am. Looking back at marathons that I have done poorly at(other than being ill-prepared), the number one factor was bathroom issues. I had been preparing for this marathon pretty much since my huge fail in Suriname so I wanted everything to go perfectly. So I had coffee right when I woke up with 2 pieces of toast with just a smidge of peanut butter. This is very atypical. I am known to eat Dunkin Donut’s sausage sandwiches before races. Anyway, I didn’t want that to be my downfall.

This race doesn’t have many participants but it is fairly star-studded with several 2:20 something finishes each year usually from Columbian and Kenyan runners drawn in for the prize money. Additionally, Kelvin Johnson one of Guyana’s best runners(30 10K guy), was there so I was thinking I would be well off the back of the lead pack. Buuuuuuuuut. It would be nice to make some money. So in the far back of my mind I was eying the competition and as the gun went off tried to keep track of where they all were. Which was bit tricky because there were also several fast relay teams that took off at the same time.

When the first Kenyan girl passed me, I slid in behind her , thinking that she would be a good person to pace off of. And boy was I right. We probably were in 15 and 16th place at mile one and over the next 18 miles we had pulled ourselves to 6-7th. We ran side by side for the entirety of those miles unless the wind picked up in which case we alternated breaking the wind for the other. We weren’t going super fast, but the hope was that if other people started to fall off, I might even be able to jump to 4th or 5th.

Side-Note on Super-fast: We were consistently averaging between 6:30-6:44s for all those miles which was comfortably hard for me. When I spoke with her after the race, she was talking about how easy she had to take it because her calf was on the edge of cramping. So her easy was my comfortably hard. Hmmmm.

Anyway, where was I? Oh yeah, counting my chickens before they were hatched. After bonking hard at Suriname most likely due to dehydration, I went into this race with a different approach. Carry Gatorade with added electrolyte mix I put in, sip it as well as take water at EVERY aide station. Whether it was the Gatorade or the electrolyte mix, around mile 18 or 19 it started disagreeing. At first just enough to slow me to around 7s but I was still in 7th(she had pulled away a bit).  I was hoping that I could just muscle through the last few miles and get the 6th place prize money. But that didn’t happen, soon those little disagreements turned into an all-out brawl. As I continued running(now at a considerably slower pace), I frantically searched for a porta-potty or at least somewhere somewhat public. But unfortunately by now we were in Port of Spain and no privacy and (the ONLY negative of this race) there were no porta-potties. So I jogged in the last 4 miles getting passed by two runners to finish in 8th place with a time of 3:03. In those miles I gave up over 5 minutes on my Kenyan friend who finished in either 2:57  or 2:58.
Well I finished without walking(actually it ended with a sprint to the nearest finish line porta-potty), enjoyed seeing 26.2 miles of Trinidad, and am now waiting to board a ferry to Tobago. I’ll leave you here for now.

Until next time,


1 comment:

  1. Congratulations Danny, For such a tough effort you get a free metal detector from Jim Johnson NH runners metal detecting company. It's just Jim being Jim. Contact him and mention "Ike" and Jim will ship it out FAST.