Off we went, on the beach, under millions of shining stars in a moonless night. What a way to start a great adventure!
After 3km on the beach we hit a paved road and… my foot hurt like hell!
I knew it wasn’t healed up but I was hoping that a week of no running would had lessen the pain. Nope. Moreover I had made a risky choice by picking up new shoes the evening before the race –Never do this!- They were old shoes that Sebastien, a Canadian friend, had brought to the island to give them away to kids. I tried them on and my swollen foot felt better in them, so I decided last minute to wear them. That’s how desperate I was…
So here I was, 3km in… 97km to go –with a painful injured foot… Awesome! 🙂 –
But I choose to don’t give voice to the pain so I never mentioned it to Miguel and he knew he wasn’t supposed to ask about it. That been said, I knew I was lucky in a way as it was “only” pain management and as long as I would keep a proper running form I would not damage any joints. Superficial flesh wounds are quick to recover from unlike joint damages –I learnt this the hard way in the past, never grind through a joint pain on a long run- The only thing I had in mind was:
Just keep moving.
After another 3km of paved road we turned right and started our 1st climb of the day +1,300m.
We picked up few racers who had started faster than us and then choose to follow the pace of Marco Bedar and Sebastien Dion –our favorite Canadians!- The best company we could have asked for that 1st ascent of the volcano Maderas.
What a climb! Really quickly we were in the misty jungle, having to constantly watch our footing between rocks and roots covered with slippery mud but also try to don’t bang our heads on the branches hanging at head height –being short helped a lot ;)-
After few hours on that epic climb we went down the crater to find a familiar face, Gerhart who checked us in. He informed us that only two other racers had passed that point before our group. He pointed us towards the right direction and wished us luck.
The mist was now extremely thick and we could not further than 5m away. The course marking was every 10m… We struggled to orientate ourselves running in that sort of swamp covered with spongy vegetation. Our little group stopped to pee and then we realized we could not see any marking anymore…oh-oh. Only mist in every directions!
Then I saw one mark in the distance!
“That way!” I proudly shouted. Off we went. After 5 minutes in that direction we saw a headlamp coming towards us. Not a good sign…
Seb who had loaded the route in his watch promptly checked it.
“Boys… We’re going in the wrong direction!” Oups… I had sent our group backward hahahahaha ;D #fail
Back running towards the finish line, I took the lead and was relieved to find the way out of the crater back to the jungle.
It was time to play!
That was the most technical jungle descent of the race and despite the pain in my foot and my overused shoes I was going to make the most of it. The magical 30 minutes that followed will stay with me forever.
With Miguel we felt like we were animals moving through our habitat. We instinctively dodged branches or used them to propel ourselves with or swing from one to another to avoid failing. –looking back at this maybe we were actually in a constant fall that we barely managed to control all the way down-
We were dancing, not to the beats of a music but dancing with the features of the forest. The best way I can think of to describe those moments would be to picture yourself having a lucid dream where you are in the skin of an animal running as fast as you can through your forest. Maybe you are a jaguar, a monkey, a deer ect you are not even sure, it doesn’t matter anyway. You just follow your instinct who is dictating all your movements. No thoughts in your mind, you are immersed in the present moment, you’re in a total flow state.
After that incredible experience we arrived at to the shore of the lake for our 1st aid station stop.
Time to eat.