“bye Gringa!”


I don’t think it was because I am white, necessarily, because I am actually quite tanned (despite my efforts with sunscreen). I think it was more because I was beet red. I ran a half marathon yesterday. Closer to the end of the race, I heard lots of random English words directed at me, including my favourite, “bye Gringa!”. Despite my hat, which was pulled low over my eyes, I stood out.

My body just does not handle the heat well.

For the most part, it was just like any race at home… except for a few things which made it so great. There were eight thousand participants (the Vancouver First Half has two thousand). The start of the race included the Colombian national anthem, fireworks (at 9:30 in the morning) and confetti cannons, sprinkling massive flakes of silvery confetti over the start line. Twenty or so reps from a pasta company, also running in the race, wore matching shirts and had choreographed a song and dance routine to entertain participants.

At the 6km point, I heard someone squawking loudly like a chicken. It was a man on a tiny old bicycle, warning runners about the first-place wheelchair participant, bolting up through the masses from behind. At the 16km mark, a man on the back of a parked pick-up truck, music blaring, led about a dozen spectators in a salsa dance. Further down, another support group handed out little cups of watered-down maracuya (passion fruit juice). We left before the closing ceremonies and awards, but I expect that it was equally cool, if not more so. I did see some pretty fancy looking, costumed dance groups getting organized to do something. By that point, however, I was ready to head home and pass out.

It was HOT. I mean, I knew it would be and have been training in the heat for a month now, but I wasn’t really prepared for this (maybe because I usually head out a 8am and the race didn’t get going till 9:30?). My hands and lower legs swelled up (gross right?) and I felt like I was carrying weights on each limb. My head pounded. I forced myself to take water every two kilometres and ended up dumping half of it on my head and body…. so I was pretty much wet for the entire race (there were water stations every kilometre, with small “bolsas”, or sealed bags of water). My soaking-wet race number fell off. The irritating part was that my legs and breathing felt fine, so I knew I had the power and lung capacity to run the distance and do well. I just felt depleted in a totally different sort of way. I even napped when I got home!

Don’t get me wrong, I am not upset at all… I just have a wee training challenge to deal with. And get this: the winning females were three minutes faster than the winning girls at home! How do they do it??

I have run four half-marathons (not including trail races) and have always run at a consistent pace, finishing within the same 3-4 minute time frame. This time, I was a good ten minutes slower. The altitude could also play a role here (Palmira is a thousand metres above sea level), but really, I think it was the heat that killed me.

The very best part was that my babies came to watch. For a long time, my running has been an escape, an outlet from the chaos of raising babies. I have never really thought to invite them along, as it is the ultimate in ‘me’ time. Usually AZ takes them on an adventure of some sort, while I focus on food, stretching and mental preparation. This time, they came! We woke them at 5:45am and had them in the car by six. They were the best cheerleaders ever and showered me with love and attention for the whole day!! Yes, the love continued into the afternoon. I even got flowers.

I am glad to be running here, despite the challenges. My routes are all concrete (not even asphalt), I haven’t found a group to run intervals with yet and I haven’t worked up the guts to run in the park by myself, but I feel strong and fit, so that’s good. There are always more things to do… weight training, swimming, yoga… I’ll make time for it one day. But for now, I’m enjoying the cultural experience, figuring out what clothes to wear (shorts chafe, btw… spandex maybe?) and adjusting to this nutty heat!


One Response to ““bye Gringa!””

  1. Woo hoo, gringa! Way to go. Sounds like it was a great race, despite the heat challenges. Love the photo AZ got of you low-fiving the girls. Not sure I’m up for a hot South American half, but maybe somewhere in between? xo

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