Marathon training update:
With only three weeks remaining before the Easter Island Marathon, it’s finally setting in that I am about to fly to one of the most isolated places on the planet to race 26.2 miles!
My training for this race has been going incredibly well so far. My classes are less demanding than the classes I usually take back at Michigan Tech, so I’ve been able to devote a lot of time into making sure that I am training and recovering properly. The biggest difference is that I actually sleep a healthy amount of hours here- every night! This was a foreign concept during some my previous semesters, in the midst of 19 credit hour engineering suffer-fests. I really miss being able to train with my teammates, and have had to do the majority of my runs alone. It really isn’t the worst though, the views are generally great and the ocean is calming. Just like with any other training plan, there are some days where I really would rather just sit in my bed and eat Nutella, but I never have regretted lacing up my Brooks Adrenalines for a run here in Valparaiso. If I time it right, the sun sets during my weekday runs, turning the sky all kinds of pink-orange colors. I’ve had several successful weekend long runs, culminating in my 20 miler last weekend.
Remaining dedicated to this training has meant that I’ve had to make some sacrifices, such as keeping a balanced diet and not going out at night too often with my friends. It is starting to pay off though, because I am feeling strong and am really excited to see what I can do on Easter Island, which will be my second full marathon. People that know me well remember that I ran my first marathon with a bone tumor on my left femur, which was discovered about half way though my training for the 2013 Bayshore Marathon. This time will be different, since I won’t have a problem like that working against me before I even cross the start line. I also had a lot of fun racing at the Salomon X Trail 21k, which I inserted into my training plan as a warm up race. This race really exceeded my expectations in many ways. First, it was one of the most organized events I have ever experienced in South America. There was a nicely coordinated packet pickup, plenty of gear vendors at the race, ample medical support, and a pasta lunch after the race. Despite the impressive organization of this event, I didn’t know what I was getting myself into when I signed up for what I thought would be a moderately challenging trail half marathon. When the runners who approached the start line were outfitted in top of the line trail gear- including trekking poles for some- I started to second guess how challenging the course would be. Challenging it was, indeed. 3 miles of running through deep sand, followed by ascending several steep cerros (a word that in this case describes something taller than a hill but too small to be considered a mountain), parts that were so steep going downhill that we had to grab trees and down climb, four river crossings, and finished with a few more miles of deep sand. I made it thought the race relatively unscathed, with just some minor bruises and blood running down my leg.
Unrelated to marathon training life update:
Recently, I went on a day trip with my host family and our local parish to El Santuario de Auco. This is a sacred sanctuary located in the town of Los Andes, just over an hour inland from our home here in Valparaiso. It is huge church, shrine, and nature area dedicated to St. Teresa de Los Andes, a Carmelite nun who died of typhus at the young age of 20. She is the first saint of Chile, and thousands of people make pilgrimages to visit this sanctuary every year, especially to pray to for the healing of loved ones affected by illnesses. The day that I went with my host family was no exception- it was a random Friday and the place was absolutely packed. People bring so many flower arrangements to this place that there is a staff dedicated to making sure that the pile of flowers doesn’t get too big above the shrine where St. Teresa’s body is buried.
Finally, today I was able to participate in something incredibly important to the local culture here in Valparasio- street art. I went with a group of Chileans and international students to paint a mural and two staircases. This endeavor was led by the host mother of one my friends, who has been painting staircases bright colors around Valparaiso for the last five years. When I asked her where she got the idea, she told me that a good friend of hers is an artist, taught her the basics, and encouraged her to spread joy and color into the less touristy neighborhoods of the city. A local family, who lives near the staircases we painted, opened their home to our group. Not only did they help us paint, but they offered us lunch and snacks. All around, it was an amazing way to leave my mark in this city that I have grown to love so much.