Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Tortola 13.1

Since moving to our new neighborhood on the island, my boyfriend and I have bumped into the same neighbor and her sister several times while out jogging in the morning.  We formally met them at a BBQ that one of our mutual friends was hosting back in August, and since then they have invited us over to their place for football on Sundays, birthday parties, Thanksgiving dinner, etc.  One of the sisters even invited us to join her on her softball team that plays on Thursday nights.  All this considered, it was no surprise when 6 or 7 weeks ago they invited us to join them, to run a mini-marathon in Tortola.  After all, we mainly became familiar with them because we saw them running in the neighborhood on a weekly basis. 
While they seemed cavalier about this type of daunting commitment, I struggled with the idea of having to add a long run into my weekend schedule in order to prepare for such a feat.  If we committed to doing this, then that meant we would have to eliminate some fun, late nights on the weekends and long, beautiful hikes on St. John.  Of course, let’s not forget the exhaustion that’s involved with running straight for an hour, an hour and a half, or two hours at the break of dawn as to avoid the heat.  In addition, I was on crutches for 6 weeks after the last 13.1 miler I did, so the answer seemed pretty clear.  No…I will not put myself through all that again!
On the flip side, I thought it would be a fun weekend to bond with our friendly neighbors.  They just bought a boat, which we could take over to Tortola and use for the rest of the weekend to island hop and hang out together.  Also, I had never been to Tortola, and I’ve been anxious to explore some of the other islands.  Somehow boating and making new friends far outweighed the sacrifices and commitment that goes into a half marathon.  After some discussion with my boyfriend, we agreed to join them.
So, for the last 6 weeks or so we have been getting up at 5:30 a.m. every Saturday morning to ride down to town where the land is flat and we could run for long stretches of time.  We would start where all the cruise ships dock, jog through the main town, pass all the tourist shops and jewelers, run along the water by the seaplanes, cross into Frenchtown where there are some great restaurants, over to Crown Bay where the bigger cruise ships dock and on to the airport.  We would then turn around and do some variation of the same course back to our car which was always parked outside of a local diner, called the Delly Deck, where we would have breakfast after cooling down.  Then, we would spend the rest of the day hydrating and laying around on the beach, recovering.
As the weekend of the mini-marathon approached, I was feeling prepared.  I had run 11 miles the weekend before and felt strong.  To keep me going for this 2 hour excursion I had downloaded my favorite podcast, This American Life, and a new playlist – thank you Rihanna and Coldplay.  Of course, trash-talk began between us and our neighbors as to who would win the race.  And, arrangements had been made for where we were staying while in Road Town, Tortola.
Friday evening we all met at the dock and took off across the water to Tortola.  Being a boating amateur, I sat in the front of the boat for the entire rocky ride over and felt as though my back was going to give out before I could get this damn run in.  Relieved, we arrived at Customs (Tortola is British), gave them our paperwork and went to check into our hotel.  We spent the rest of the evening asking several questionable people directions for where we needed to go to register for the race.  After registering we then proceeded to carb-load and hydrate before going to bed early.
The next morning we woke up at about 5:00 am, had a quick bite to eat, drank some coffee and headed off to meet the other 60 people that would also be running with us.  Yes…only 60 people ran this race, yet my bib number was 91.  Curious.
Of course, I’m used to mobs of people at these things, where the runners don’t break up until several miles into the course and you take off in heats, while listening to music like the Blackeyed Peas “Let’s Get It Started” blasting out of giant speakers.  Conversely, all 60 of us were verbally told to go to the start line where some general announcements were made and the people from St. Thomas were personally welcomed.  Then we were told to ‘go’ and we all took off at once. 
The course was flat and the path was straight out and straight back on the same relatively shaded road with a short loop in the beginning to add some distance.  Once we ran through Road Town, we met the ocean.  Since the race started at 6:00 am, the sun was coming up over the islands in the distance and a nice breeze came up off the water.  It was a cooler morning and the island seemed quiet.  I started to loosen up after about 3 miles and felt the perfect runner’s high on miles 6 and 7 where I proceeded to have some water and eat my gummy bears.  I then turned up my playlist and started counting down the rest of the miles.  It was a pleasant run and I had paced myself well.  I finished in 1 hour and 55 minutes and 34 seconds – 10th overall in the women’s division and well under my goal.  Yup, I was a big fish in a very little pond.  However, I felt accomplished and satisfied.

Kevin and I - post race.
Kevin and I with our neighbors, Ashley and Leslie, at the finish line.

Our crew joined back up at the finish line where we congratulated each other, since everyone ran better than they had hoped.  After cooling down, eating a homemade breakfast of bangers and eggs and showering, we were ready to switch gears. 
We piled into the boat for a full day of exploring different beaches and islands.  We had lunch on Scrub Island at a nice resort, where we took advantage of their pool bar before moving on to another island called Marina Cay to hang out at an isolated beach side bar, called Pussers.  This was by all accounts the most perfect beach bar I’ve been to.  It was close to the water, had great rum drinks and as you looked out over the ocean from your bar stool, you could see the sun sparkling on the sea in the forefront, the silhouette of sailboats floating in the water, and plush islands in the backdrop.  I could have stayed there the rest of the day, but we moved on to Beef Island where there was a strip of beach bars with huge hammocks in front of them where several people could literally ‘hang’ out.  After visiting some shops and a bar, we decided it was time to head back to Tortola for dinner and some live music.  Needless to say, the fun didn’t stop until the early morning and we were exhausted the next day. 
Since we had lived life to the absolute fullest the day before, we took it easy on Sunday.  After breakfast we hopped into the boat and went to Jost Van Dyke before heading back to St. Thomas late in the afternoon.  It had been an incredibly fun weekend, and I was glad that we had agreed to go with our new found friends to spend some time together.  Of course, I’ve spent the last couple of days resting and fighting off a bit of a cold, but we made some good memories over the weekend.  No doubt, a good time was had by all.

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