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Countdown to Ultra Caballo Blanco in the Copper Canyons

Travel Day 3: Urique, Mex: Pre-Race Hike

We woke up with the sun and it was so nice to have slept in the tent again! It truly felt like home. I forgot where I was until I woke up completely and hear the sounds of rural Mexico (roosters, water splashing etc).

Shelley and I took an early morning walk around town and watched the sun hit the tops of the mountains as the rest of the fam was still sleeping. When we came back we had some Soylent for breakfast and it hit the spot.

We hung out in the street in front of our house and met Silverio again who had set his backpack down in front of our house. We chatted with him and then his father arrived and we got to know each other.

Then all of a sudden a huge group of gringos showed up and were all hanging out right outside our house. Our house location was definitely THE happening spot right outside of the main plaza.

The gringos and foreigners were all dressed like they were going for a run so we inquired and indeed they were going for a hike that was organized trough the group Más Locos. They invited us along for the hike, but we needed our own pick up truck because the group was too large to all fit in the one truck they had.

We hopped into a truck and drove about 30 minutes to a bridge and hiked up 3 miles to Los Alisos (Próspero’s house and small farm). The hike up was at a quick clip and it was quite hot. The first part of the hike was at a very steep grade. This whole hike was part of the 50 mile course that Robbie would be running. Yikes!

It mellowed out a bit for the second half of the hike up, but I was working.

When we got to Los Alisos and chilled I instantly cooled off. We were quite a bit higher in elevation and we were in significant shade. There was a beautiful grapefruit orchard that was FILLED with ripe grapefruit. They were the juiciest grapefruit I’ve ever had and didn’t taste as bitter as I’m used to . They were much more yellow/light in color as well. It was absolutely divine! I hung out with a little kid for a while and he got so excited when he saw goats or cows in the mountains and wanted to show them to me.

The little sand flies were biting us quite a bit. Prósepero told a story to the group about the history of the race and how he and Micah True became friends and that Micah would always stop at his house and take breaks during his runs. He helped support Micah in his vision to organize a race for the Tarahumara when the other town wouldn’t give him support. He played a big role in helping with the logistics and support needed to start the race. After the story we were anxious to get moving away from the biting flies.

We hiked back down much faster. I ran parts of the downhills. The view was so spectacular on the way back.

I was so hot though. I realized the race on Sunday was going to be a suffer fest in this kind of heat (in the 90s).

I could see the river for a while as I came down the mountainside. I couldn’t wait to jump in and cool off. We jumped in and the river and it was quite a bit colder than I expected. It was SO refreshing though. I was starting to feel quite hungry at this point. I ate a bar on the way down (Thunderbird brand pineapple, mango, papaya, SO GOOD!) but it was 2:00 pm and the cars weren’t coming to pick us up until 3:00 pm. We were under the impression we would be back by 1:00 pm to help sort medals for the kids race, so I didn’t bring very much food. Lesson learned - bring more food next time because you never really know how long you’ll be on an adventure!

There was a little bit fusion about the transportation, but it ended up working out. Our driver, Victor, had told us about his 17 year old son who was running the marathon distance this weekend so on the way back he brought his son (Victor jr.) so we could meet him. He got 7th place in the 42 km last year after only training for two weeks. This year he trained for 3 months and feels stronger. He said he will try to win. We asked if he carries anything (fuel or water) and he said no, he just relies on what is on the course and doesn’t usually train with water anyway. WOW!

After the hike, we walked up to Entre Amigos, a beautiful camping area with gardens and cool hang out spots. I loved it, and it certainly seemed like an awesome place to stay, but it was nice having our spot so centrally located for ease of popping in and out of the house to get food/drink or use the bathroom while still being right in the middle of all the action.

When we arrived back to the main plaza we saw some kids had a game set up and it only cost 5 pesos to play the game. They had a bunch of snacks set out and three embroidery hoops to throw to try and win a snack. Jamie Stone went first and missed all three rings. He decided to play again and this time the girls moved the starting stick a few feet closer for him and were showing him how to throw the hoops. He was dying laughing. The last hoop he threw landed partially on one of the prizes and it happened to be a cigarette! The girls conferred and decided that yes, indeed, he won, even though the hoop wasn’t fully around the cigarette. haha.

We then all decided to play. Shelley won some cookie snack. Shelley and Jamie then decided to donate their prizes back to the girl’s game. I asked them what they were raising money for. They said they were trying to buy traditional Mexican dresses for a dance performance they were presenting at the end of April for Semana Santa (Easter). I asked them if they could show us part of their dance routine and they hemmed and hawed because they didn’t have their music or their panuelos with them, but they made do and did a tiny mini performance for us.

They then told us they wanted to perform the next day at 4:30, same spot and they would have their music and props with them tomorrow.

We had a TON of fun bonding with the girls and getting to know them, their names, and their big personalities.

We then watched a presentation and the commencement of a celebration in honor of Mama Tita. Her daughter and granddaughter gave a Spanish/English speech which was a very thorough and beautiful tribute to Mama Tita and her work with Micah True to help support him during the inception of the marathon with the Tarahumara.

Afterward we went to another restaurant down the street on a second story where we ate beans, rice, nopales (cactus) and chips and salsa. At the table next to us was a Tarahumara young woman named Lorena with her family. She was slated to win last year, ran very fast but I’m not sure if she did win. Either way we talked but she was so shy.

We then went home to crash but the music was blaring SO LOUD from the fiesta at Mama Tita’s that Jamie went inside where it was a little more quiet. My sisters and I braved it outside in our tents though and ear plugs helped. There were a few very loud cars throughout the night and some confused roosters, but for the most part we got lucky that it quieted down at a reasonable hour. We caught wind that the party out at Entre Amigos didn’t quiet down until about 1:00 pm. We were definitely all shifting to be on schedule with the sun, so glad to go to bed on the earlier side.

Travel Day 4: The Kids Race & An Engagement!

We woke up early (at 5:15 am) to be at our volunteer post by 6:00 am to help with the kids race. Jamie and my sisters and I made our way to the basketball courts where we helped make sandwiches for the kids. We worked with the Norwegian couple (Julie and Per) and chatted while we made sandwiches in an assembly line. The kid’s race was supposed to start at 7:00 am, so we worked until about 6:50 so we could walk back over and be at the start for the kids race. When we got to the start area we helped pass out T-Shirts and headbands to the kids until just about every child was decorated and ready to go. We took some photos and mingled with the children before their start to get them excited about running their race. It became quite clear that there was no way the race would be starting on time (or even close).

At about 8:30 am they were doing a warm up on stage, Zumba style, and all the kids were in the audience following along with the moves. Orlando, the race director motioned for John and I to go up to the stage and join in the fun. We had so much fun up there participating int he dance party warm up for the kids. The sun finally came out over the mountains and blasted us on stage. It instantly warmed up about 20-30 degrees and we went from wearing puffy jackets to T-shirts and sweating.

Finally the kids race started at 9:00 am with the 14-16 year old girls running 3 km. It was so exciting to see the girls flying to the finish! First place won 1,000 pesos, 2nd place: 500 pesos, and 3rd place: 200 pesos. Pretty incredible that they gave money prizes for this age group. We then watched the boys of the same age group finish. The age groups continued, divided by gender, giving each group of children their moment to shine and race against their peers. They were all having so much fun and running SO HARD!

The children’s race lasted until about 12:00 pm. It was so much fun, but we had been on our feet since 5:30 am and I needed a break. We had a staggered lunch at Mama Tita’s where we consumed copious amounts of hearty guacamole in fresh corn tortillas along with plates of beans and rice. After that feast I needed to pass out. The whole gang pretty much went back for a siesta. The heat totally baked me like an oven in my tent and felt so zapped after my nap. The heat from my tent just drained all of my energy and I could barely move.

My dad and I went to pick up our bibs from packet pick up and buy some Gatorade. Luckily there was Gatorade at the “mini super” across the street. After downing the sugar and electrolytes I felt like I was back in the land of the living.

Shelley and I then bought some beautiful embroidered shirts right outside of our house. We then all assembled our race gear, nutrition and clothes, pinned bibs and filled our packs with water and electrolytes. I messed with my pack for a while as I hadn’t really loaded it down so much and was trying to figure out how to stow my poles. On the hike yesterday I decided I might feel a little more comfortable with poles out there for the race. After all, poles now feel like extensions of my body after the AT.

4:30 pm came and we all went outside to the courtyard area where the group of girls were from the day before. They were going to perform their dance for us and we didn’t want to be late. Due to all the kids race festivities and activities they were all spread about and didn’t have their music yet so we tentatively said they might perform it later if they could figure it out. We then meandered up the road to a taco shack where we ate fresh gorditas and burritos. I had nopales and frijoles burritos x3 for dinner and it totally hit the spot.

A fragment of the group had walked back to Mama Tita’s for dinner and so Shelley and I walked back towards Mama Tita’s after out burritos. On our way back we ran into Robbie. Shell and Robbie were chatting and so I just sort of wandered off and eventually found the group at Mama Tita’s. When I went back out to the street I greeted my parents, Jamie, and John and we say Shelley and Robbie were walking back towards us. When Shelley arrived she showed us her hand and she had a SPARKLING DIAMOND RING ON HER FINGER! Robbie had taken her over to the suspension bridge and proposed to her over the river!!!!! We were all SO SURPRISED and elated for them!

We then all celebrated at Mama Tita’s as more people joined our group, N (daughter of Mama Tita) brought them each a tequila shot for good luck and a forever lasting marriage, and mariachis showed up and sang some celebratory songs for them.

Afterwards we went back to our house for an early-is night as the race was at 6:00 am the next morning. I helped my dad make sure he had enough nutrition and water carrying capacity. We went and bought more Gatorade for him to carry two Gatorade bottles and Jamie Stone had extra chews to spare so we loaded him up with nutrition for the race. We hit the tents/beds at like 8:15 pm as we were all so exhausted, but the ballad singing next door was LOUD and we had to shout to one another just to talk from our tents (about 10 feet away from each other). Eventually it quieted down and we got some rest before RACE DAY!

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