The Roller Coastal Of Emotions Challenge: 6 Days of Heaven In Hell

I‘ve realized that the races I’ve been signing up for lately are the kind that will challenge my weaknesses and hopefully, but usually not with any certainty, play to my strengths. This unfortunately has led to a lot of uncompleted journeys and with that, feelings of failure. Each and every time it happens, I second guess my abilities and if I should even be doing this. Nothing has convinced me more than this attempt that I’m doing exactly what I should be to become a stronger person, runner and coach. You won’t grow very much if you’re constantly choosing the easy path that leads to only success.  

I went into The Coastal Challenge with a satisfying training block and an attitude of whatever happens, happens. I had no idea the wild ride my mind and body would take and how quickly my will would be broken.

I don’t like to quit and I never go into anything I’ve worked hard for with that even being an option. Most of the time, I’m not aware of my limits until they are smacking me in the face saying “why in the fuck are you doing this right now” and the newly added hilarious thought of “please just let something…anything bite me so that I can just die out here.”

…because for some reason that’s a more welcoming thought than getting to an aid station and admitting you {don’t want to/feel like you can’t} keep going anymore.

By Stage 2, 7 miles in to the 24 miles we had on the docket that day, I was already broken down to these thoughts. The heat of the exposed sun of the neverending fire roads we had ran for 20 miles the day prior was horrible but tolerable compared to the way the humidity washed over me in the jungle. Every enclosed section of trail, a terrain that I very much enjoy, immediately suffocated me with claustrophobia and turned my already zombie-like shuffle into a snail crawl. Hills that I’d normally be running, I was walking at 2 mph. I had this beautiful Costa Rican forrest surrounding me and I was staring at my feet just waiting for the suffering to turn into even just a slight appreciation for where I was at. I knew this was going to be hard, but the heat was there to tell me, “this is going to be hard AND I’m not going to let you enjoy a single moment with me by your side”. Water crossings were quick refreshers and gave me new legs and spunk for what seemed like only a minute. I was drinking plenty of water, eating plenty of food but my energy was ZAPPED.

I showed up at mile 7, ready to say I’M DONE and crumple into a pile of goo to be stomped on by the next person to walk by or eaten by whatever woodland creature that wanted my pathetic carcass. I stayed there for what felt like hours (but was closer to 20 minutes), as I watched my new friend Maddy soldier on and the doctor there took my vitals, gave me electrolytes, said a bunch of things to me I couldn’t comprehend except for the words “you’re medically fine to continue”. Then why do I no longer have the will to live, is what I wanted to scream at her…but instead, after way too many pointless tears that weren’t seeming to convince the doctor to tell me I was dying like I felt, I put my pack on and walked away from salvation to continue on the course with the encouragement from everyone there. I had no control over my actions that were completely betraying my internal scream of “WHAT ARE YOU DOING, GO BACK YOU CRAZY PERSON!!”

I didn’t want to give up yet…because no one except my slowly decaying mental capacity was giving me a valid reason to stop…and I was hoping that in the next 7 miles, my attitude would turn around and I could convince myself to keep going. Well, that’s not what happened. I slogged along as the sweeping team behind me reminded me with their proximity that I would just have to keep moving forward or else have them witness me hyperventilate tears like a maniac while hobbling down a hill for apparently no medically valid reason.. (should have slid that doctor a $20). Well, sadly they got to experience that anyway and we will all forever have those memories of me at my worst (you’re welcome Kara and Mark).

One of the many things I had to let go of on this adventure; my pride (I didn’t have a whole lot left to begin with), my modesty (sorry for everyone who had to see my white ass from peeing and changing in the open), my comfort (never have I been so sticky and sweaty for such long periods of time with no escape, not even at night with my head on a pillow), my already pretty nonexistent cooties aversion (sharing camp sites and tents and multiple stinky days with friends and strangers really bonds you on a level you just can’t manufacture in any other way) and a sliver of my soul that got left at every camp site because it slowly melted out of my body when there was nothing else left to sweat out.

You’ve probably guessed that when I got to that mile 14 aid station, I gave into my mind’s desires and admitted, it just wasn’t going to happen for me. I believe that I was on the cusp of, if not already being affected by, heat exhaustion…but I never thought that I would be officially knocked out of the race only 34 miles in to the 140 total we all had to do that week. The hardest part was KNOWING that my training would have taken me way farther than that if I hadn’t been combatting against the fiery furnace of Costa Rican hell. Pura Vida!!

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End of Stage 1- Finally get to sit in the water for an unlimited amount of time
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End of Stage 2- Much more unexpected time on the beach

Post DNF

Even though my racing journey was over, I decided to try and let go of the normal defeating thoughts and enjoy the rest of my time in this beautiful place with the friends I came with and the new ones I made along the way.

I conquered my fear of swimming in the ocean, with the help of Sherry, and spent my last 3 days in there whenever it was an option. I’m not going to say I’m fully fearless in it now, but I DID jump off a boat in the deep sea and stay in for about 5 total seconds before scrambling back up the ladder…so like, you could say I’m pretty awesome, I’d allow it.

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I conquered many things on this trip

On the course, I only got to see the tail end of a monkey (literally) and zero other creatures (not even when I was begging for one to kill me). On my first day of not running, I ended up getting to see a full tree of howler monkeys with their babies and it was unbelievable! It’s very possible I could have missed that if I had been out there running and I really only agreed to do this race to see all the animals. Maybe I should just go on relaxing vacations in the future? Nahhhh….

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Stage 3: Spending time with Sherry and not running, was actually pretty damn easy

Even though it would seem that if I wasn’t going out there and running every day, the rest of my time in Costa Rica would be fairly relaxing…trust me there were still plenty of moments of suffering. A lot of our days were spent waiting around in the relentless beating sun for a bus to come get us to take us to the next camp site. Once we got there it was the game of planting our tent in the best shade with the least amount of bugs and then finding the quickest way to cool off. Campsite 4 was the most miserable for me. The only water around us was full of crocodiles so this lead to just having to take numerous outdoor showers and finding a tree somewhere to crumple up and die under until the sun went down. I moped around like such a loser that day and it was probably the hardest night of sleep as it felt the most humid. Luckily, they weren’t all like that though and I internally gave that place the big ole finger as we sauntered off to Drake’s Bay.

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This happened on our 3 hour bus ride to Drake’s Bay. What would have taken 2 hours to figure out how to fix in America, took these badasses a mere 5 minutes. They may drive like maniacs in CR but they also know what the fuck they’re doing

On day 6 I got to be a part of implementing Kristy’s boyfriend’s plan to propose to her by convincing her to run the last Stage with me, for funsies, so that he could do it at the waterfall that was about 2.5 miles in. Even though I only knew about the plan for one day, it totally revived my spirit to run that last leg to be able to see it all go down and it also happened to be the best course I had experienced thus far. 

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Seriously the coolest proposal story ever

There were gigantic blue butterflies and gorgeous single track trails along a beautiful beach. I was fully refreshed from the first few miles of river wading and was actually able to do a lot more running in the heat than I was expecting and crossed the “finish” line with a big smile on my face.

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Didn’t ever think I would be able to experience happiness on the trails in Costa Rica, but I did!

It didn’t hurt things that instead of spending the last night in a tent camping like we were originally going to, we got invited to join the happy couples adventure with them to an air conditioned hotel that evening and a deep sea fishing adventure the next day! After a full night’s rest having showered in a REAL shower and sleeping in clean sheets, we were all completely delirious with glee laughing at just how awesome the trip ended up turning out. On the boat we spent 10 hours catching no more than one fish and zero amounts of Urkel style sunscreen applying stopped my body from burning like a lobster (seriously, even my feet are burnt).

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“The Full Urkel”

It was absolutely worth it to see approximately one thousand dolphins swimming and jumping right next to us multiple times and to see a smile on everyone’s face after such a long, grueling week.

F°R°I°E°N°D°S

I am so glad that I got to meet another insta friend Maddy and see her absolutely crush the rest of the stages like a boss, even if it wasn’t in the way she originally imagined. Seeing her fortitude in waking up every day and forging into the unknown was inspiring and I hope to one day inhabit her brave spirit when I need it the most.

I shared a tent with my good friend Kristy every single night and watched her push through unbelievable pain and continue for as long as she could until we merged into a pile of broken people together on the third day. She is one of the strongest people I know and it was really hard to see the disappointment she felt even though I know she went until she couldn’t any longer. The fact that we are still great friends after 6 days together in a humid tent with all our stinky gear speaks volumes.

Sherry was supposed to run this race with us but got diagnosed with a fibia stress fracture the same week we were going to be flying out together. She decided to still come and try and enjoy the experience and I’m so glad she did. We both did a bit of suffering in our own ways and showed up for each other when the other one was struggling. Not to mention that on the days that we were racing, she set up our camp sites for us like a sweet amazing angel as Kristy and I had no way of expecting just how wrecked we would be coming in each day. The act of putting up our tent for us was a priceless hug of pure friendship. I’m so bummed for her that she didn’t get to experience the race with us and had to tackle her own feelings of disappointment each day but I’m lucky and grateful I had her there to help us pick up the pieces and get to have fun and share lots of laughter our remaining days at camp.

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These people right here will be forever bonded in ways no one will ever understand

Bye Forever

There will never be a way to entirely describe this 6 day adventure I had in words and honestly even attempting it feels pretty cheap. There will be some memories that will just be mine and my friends forever. I can’t possibly detail just how hard that first and second stage was; personally for me or for anyone else. Pushing relentlessly forward against a wall of heat that was ten times worse than I ever imagined (in fact, it was actually confirmed as being an unusually hot week and subsequently lead to the most DNFs the race has had–90 degrees with 60% humidity on most of the days). I truly believe that in order to understand, you have to experience it for yourself but at the same time I would never recommend it to you (I’m looking at you Kim Jacobs, you sadistic son of a bitch). The amount of mental will you have to have on top of how physically in shape you need to be on top of being able to spend long days in the heat only to come back to a camp that is just as hot and gives you no break for recovery while you toss and turn in a stinky, sweaty tent while ants eat you alive and you try to convince yourself you should actually wake up and do it all again at 4am in the morning…it’s just insane. My hat goes off to everyone that finished the race this year under the conditons we had throughout the chaotic disorganization of the actual race itself (there were some amazing people on the crew that I’ll never forget for their kindness and support but the race definitely has some pretty big kinks to work out).

To Luke, who sprained his ankle on Stage 3 and continued on to finish every single last stage after having only ran up to a 5k a mere 12 weeks ago, you’re an idiot but way to fucking crush your goal with a smile on your face.

To the person who finished on a high tide beach after having had their boat sunk across crocodile infested waters; you’re an animal, thank Zeus you’re alive and I will forever be amazed by you, nameless stranger.

To Sheri (different one) who got her leg punctured by a large stick on Stage 3, got fixed up and then ran the last Stage; holy cow, you’re a boss and have reinvented the word badass.

To Jodi, who got sidelined by heat stroke on Stage 4 and still got up and tried the next day even though it wouldn’t be official; man, I knew you were a beast but to witness that in person was incredible. If I ever find a genie, one of my wishes will be to steal your attitude and physical prowess. Yup, steal it. It’ll be MINE.

To Matt, who literally finished each day looking absolutely refreshed and untainted by what I knew you were running against; fuck you…just kidding, you’re crazy and I really hope I never have to run from you as a zombie in the apocalypse.

To all the other amazing runners out there that I didn’t get the chance to meet or hear your story, whether you officially finished or not, I have the upmost respect for you and whatever drives your spirit and mind to do these crazy things. We all suffered out there, some more than others, but we all got out there and fucking tried and I think that’s something to be incredibly proud of ourselves for.

I wish you all the best in your future endeavors and may we never see another plate of rice and beans again! GALLO PINTO!

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