Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Trinidad Race Diary

Day One

Flew to Trinidad with a layover in Houston.  The trip took all day. 

Day Two

I woke up and hit a wall of heat and humidity as soon as I left my room with my roommate Ariana Fisher.  After breakfast, the team walked about 1k to the large grassy park where the cross country race will be held.  We got familiar with the course, run a few miles with some pick-ups and strides, met some kids on a local track team, and headed home.

After lunch, the coaches organized a bus to bring us to the beach.  We drove along a curving road up and down a mountain to get to the beach.  We stopped at a couple points along the way, and at one of the stops, there was a food stand.  Although I promised myself I’d stay away from street vending until after the meet, I tried mango chow (mango slices covered in cilantro, garlic, pepper, and lime) and tamarind balls (some kind of fruit covered with pepper flakes and sugar).  I loved the mango chow, but I (and the other runners on the trip who tasted it) would not recommend tamarind balls high on the list of Trinidadian foods you should try.

It was raining when we got to the beach, so we all huddled for a while in a Shark and Bake stand.  Eventually, I explored the ocean, and it felt so warm, I put on my bathing suit and jumped in.  The waves had a really strong undertow, and while most the time I was having fun trying to body serf, I was reminded of the power of Mother Nature when I was slammed to the ground on more than one occasion.

Day Three

Hanging out.  Reading.  Listening to the ipod.  Eating chicken, rice and steamed veggies.

Day Four – Race Day!

Our race did not start until 4:00 in the afternoon, so we had a long morning of waiting around, until we go onto the bus at 2:00 to take us over to the course.  When we got to the course, we were greeted by a hot and humid afternoon with full sun and, thankfully, a bit of a breeze.  The course had a festive atmosphere with coconut vendors selling from the street, loud music playing, and athletes hanging out in their countries’ tent.  The announcer completed the package of making the race seem like a fun day in the sun on “the most beautiful island in the world”.  He encouraged us to drink the coconuts because, “they are guaranteed to be refreshing and revitalizing.  And they are also an aphrodisiac” (It turns out that the other two items being sold by vendors, icees and a Trinidadian drink, were also aphrodisiacs, according to the announcer).  He encouraged visitors to ask Trinidadians about their culture, and entreated us to look at the exquisite mansion of Brian Lara, world record holder in Cricket, which over-looked the course.  I never got the chance to ask anyone how he was a world record holder.  I don’t know much about cricket, but I thought it was a team sport…

The race went out at a solid pace.  The course was flat, except for one dramatic downhill and a very steep uphill once each lap.  A woman from Guatemala took the race out hard, and there was some excitement as she seemed to get confused by the course and cut across our pack of Americans to go outside the course.  I tucked in behind Americans Liz Costello and Laura Thweatt for the first two laps.  At the end of our second lap we felt the presence of a Trinidadian woman.  With one 2k lap to go, the three of them picked up the pace a bit, and I wasn’t able to respond.  Liz won the race, followed by the Trinidadian woman.  Laura was third, and I held onto fourth place.  Hillary Orf, our American teammate was fifth.  Since they scored the top four finishers, we easily won the race as a team!

To celebrate, the senior women’s team was able to get a ride over to the 5-star Hyatt hotel, where boyfriends, family, and coaches, who were able to make the trip, were staying.  I sat on a patio overlooking the ocean, listening to live reggae music, drinking a guava daiquiri and mango mojito, and relaxing with the other women and Liz Costello’s parents.  What a perfect way to end the trip!

Day Five

Woke up at 4:00 am to fly home.  Another long day of traveling!

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