Caren Ware's Blog

May 14, 2012

COME TO THE GALAPAGOS MARATHON

Filed under: Uncategorized — Caren Ware @ 3:39 pm

Not just a marathon on every continent, but a quest to find the remotest ones dealing with the remote  people.  What are their issues, struggles, rewards, gratifications? How do they live and against what odds, or oddly enough, am I to find they have a better place…a better pace? Am I doing so because I have tumbled through a divorce making me among the outcast, a person no longer with a home, a place to be from.  Or am I doing it because I live daily with the struggle of óur mexican´boys who are now graduating from college, but still cannot get papers in the USA to work? And, am I wondering what roads I have sent my own young adult children to trod on? Or, do I just have a restlessness that needs to make sure I venture to enough of the unknown to produce a life lived?  All of the above.  It will take me some time to put into words the wonderful discovery of the Galapagos, that this place was not like the striven or stricken cities.  COME really meant COME.  We invite you to join us.  We like it here and so will we make you.  THANK YOU, Rick and Bere for the marathon, the connections.  Everyone visit  www.cometogalapagos.com.

A Saturday night in South America means loud music.  I think I was still trying to figure out how to sleep through pulsating walls when the 3:45am alarm went off. The instructions were clear; do not miss the bus to the start.  It was shrouded in fog and a heavy mist was falling at ‘the top’.  After bouncing up and down hills for near an hour, we were dropped off at an arch over the road supported by a loud generator.  Two holes had been dug in the ground with three sides of plywood leaned against stakes.  This was Galapagos Islands’ rendition of a porta potty.  ESPN was busy capturing the start.  Most of the allotted 200 entrants had opted to run the half marathon.  I kept hearing ‘muy difficuc…42 kilometers aqui.’ 

The Galapagos Island Marathon is everything a remote island marathon should be…and that makes it a little frighteningly intimidating.  You don’t know what to expect.  Is the fog going to lift too soon?  Will the extra miles out of town be found in cow pastures, lava trails, dirt roads, daunting up hills, and sheer down hills? Will we run on hot black top near the death zone of the last miles? Yes, to all of the above. But yes, to kilometers.  They go by faster.  There was a little sign propped by a lava rock and every .62 miles you could measure progress.  And every few kilometers there were young navy dressed guys holding out baggies of water and baggies of Gatorade.  This actually worked well.  You could tear the tiniest hole with your teeth and sip away as you ran.  They asked us to drop the little baggies in the middle of the road so they could easily be gleaned. Since parts of the course are out and backs like wings on a grasshopper, I strategically left a few protein bars by the kilometer signs.  I have no idea what happened to them because they were nowhere to be found on the return loops.  Dogs?  Who knows?  Trash pickup?  So I had to rely on that sweet Gatorade to fuel and a handful of gummy Powerbar gels I had. I currently have no desire to taste sugary anythings for a long time.

The forest was inviting.  The hills and crawling through the farms was downright work.  But the view that opened up of the town we were rapidly dropping down to was so awing anyone would be ashamed to complain. Thrill. The expansive Pacific Ocean rolled off the horizon.  We entered town and ran past casual by standers all saying “bravo, bravo.” What a tease.  We had almost 12 more kilometers to go. Waves crashing against the shore made it durable until we ran all the way out to the airport and beyond.  This was on the dreaded black top with the morning sun directly atop our heads.  And we baked into blurry thoughts of “why did I make my son take piano lessons” and “God bless you, again, coughing sea lion.” A long, cruel hill on this black top dropped to a lone beach that we all knew we would have to return back up.  Then back through town where everyone taking a Sunday stroll would care freely comment, “good job.  Keep going.”  Wonder if they really know what this feels like.  I am vowed to run, but it more resembles a scuffle.  The hill climbs and fast descents were havoc to any legs, trained or not.  And then the finish line and a cheering crowd and interviews with ESPN.  The overall winner surprised everyone, being a Danish women of 48 years old.  For me, I was just glad to survive it and concluded why my body was better suited for track.  But thrilled am I.  A week ago I could hardly keep my head lifted upon itself.  What a mircaculous thing exploration and rest can do.  What a sad statement of how I tend to myself in the states, thinking that doing all things, for all people, all the time, at an incredously pace is virtuous when it is downright flawed and unhealthy.  I plunge into Pacific Ocean to cool off.  Whew. I have to smile.  I am thrilled about this place and what I have internally learned here.

 

 

 

 

ISLAND TIME

Filed under: Uncategorized — Caren Ware @ 10:09 am

“There is nothing inherently wrong or unhealthy about high standards in various arenas of life.  However, striving for perfection is a demoralizing and guaranteed formula for failure.  Striving for excellence, on the other hand, is motivating because reaching it is attainable.”

The Disease to Please

Harriet B. Brailer, Ph.d

Isla Isabella was better for my body than any timed released iron pill combined with a women’s one a day vitamin. But combination of both put gas in my engines just in time to fly back to San Cristobal for the marathon.  Here’s what an airport looks like that only has one 6 seater airplane.  I get to seat next to the pilot.  It appears the duck tape job is holding.  Buzz..buzz and burr for an hour and the pilot is deftly bringing the faithful plane down onto Cristobal’s runway.  Rubber squeals.  Bounce. Skip.  Skid.  Putt putt to the airport building…which is locked.  We get our own luggage and Rick is waiting with his quad runner.  How does he keep track of even the 200 of us coming for the marathon?

The town is a hub bub of excitement surrounding the marathon, which, by the way, a “marathon” in south America seems to mean any running event.  You then have to clarify the distance.  42 Kilometers and they all hmmm with respect.  ESPN is here with their camera crews They are  taking footage and interviews and that makes the hub bub even more elevated.  Rick and his wife Bere are racing around.  A gorgeous, gracious triathlete looking lady is setting up her timing table, computer, and mats.  She said when she couldn’t get papers for her toddler to return to the USA she started producing and timing events.  She and her husband started a clothing line and a little store.  They are excited about all the positive work they have…and potentials, but overwhelmed by the cost of the timing equipment.  We share business.  We relate.

May 11, 2012

Lava flowing

Filed under: Uncategorized — Caren Ware @ 9:40 pm

Isabela is the largest of the Galapagos Islands.  It is 95 percent National Park with one town, Puerta Villamil, occupying a very unobtrusive corner.  Until 2005, there were only fisherman, farmers, and their families here. In 2005, so quiet to the world and even the fisherman and farmers, one of the six volcanoes , on the island, Sierra Negra, erupted. So did the curiosity of scientists and tourists.  Now, a few tourists are coming and the islanders are excited with the hub and ‘dinero’ this all brings.  Things are changing, the naturalist tells us as we hike 18 kilometers across the rim of the still steaming volcano. He had to go to school and out test 300 other applicants to get the 60 esteemed slots to be a naturalist on his island..s.  He adds an ‘s’ to the end of islands, vegatations, steams, and says “I tells you” in front of each story.  He talks with the same excitement the boy did on the boat.  It says thank you for this new opportunity you have given me on my island.

Two very relieving things happened today.  It got misty, hiding the baking sun.  And I got some rev. Was it because I ate TWO dinners last night?  I ate a dinner of fresh chicken in a coca cola sauce with mashed potatoes and vegetables.  Then I turned around and ordered an entire mini pizza…and ate all of both!  I also got seven hours sleep which was two more than I was able to get traveling all this week and four more a night than timing last weekend.  And oddly, I feel like all the walking got things pumping.  Somehow, I refilled my confidence. I feel that my body is in enough shape to get me through 26.2 miles of adventure. Why the change? My lack of confidence came from the reality that I was out of breathe just walking and dizzy when I bent over to tie a shoe; exhausted if presented with a flight of stairs.  That is unnerving when you already have purchased tickets to go run a marathon. For the first time all week I am interested in the challenge instead of fearful.  Someone told me once that eight hours sleep is the difference between hope and despair.  I hope to get 8 hours sleep tonight. I fly off tomorrow.  When do I leave?  Good question.  I am told to go to the little air strip and when everyone arrives, including the pilot, we will leave tomorrow…sometime. I think I will eat a second meal again tonight.

I am told that THE MARATHON is having its challenges.  ESPN announced that it wanted to film the event only one week ago.  That took a lot of scrambling to accommodate an entire film crew.  I was told that the sawing and pounding I heard at Casa de Nelly’s in San Cristobal was for me…that they were building a new room for me so the crew could have the penthouse view .  Their deadline to get the room finished was obviously before I returned from Isabella.  I also heard that the land owner at the start of the race…way up in the highlands where the windmills for electricity were stationed decided to hold the marathon start hostage.  He told Rick just a few days ago if he did not give him 50 sacks of concrete that they could not have the start there.  Since this was an annual event, Rick and crew decided to not give into a bribe and are out changing the course which will have some added hills now, and…like the airport, we will know where the start is when we all assemble there.  Te gusta la Galapagos mucho.”

Happy we are on Isla Isabela

Filed under: Uncategorized — Caren Ware @ 5:50 pm

Galapagos Islands has a ‘s’ so Rick sent me on the smallest of planes to another Island.  4 of us crawled through the window and sat behind the pilot who was putting duck tape on an instrument panel made around WW11.  We bumped through rain and clouds to finally soar over the open ocean in this prop plane. It was thrilling. The pilot and plane seemed experienced at this. Out of the clouds and onto a postage stamp runway, an hour later I was on another more amazing, more remote island.  Isabela has one town.  Dirt roads were lined with a few open air nooky restaurants that lead to the hotel that was right on the beach.  Albemarle was surprisingly pristine, charming, with large rooms that opened to palm trees, soft sand, and the most inviting opaque blue ocean.  The breeze was pleasant.  The sun solid. The sound of crashing waves just enough.

As I pulled the doors open to let the beach in, two sentences. “I wish I wasn’t alone.  It’s good to be alone.”

The gal at the front desk gave me the run down that most tours had already left for the day, but I could stroll without a guide down this mile stretch of beach and over 3 miles out along a national park road to other playas, lava tunnels, cactus groves, and tortoise waddling grounds. I got to spend the morning totally by myself plodding through bath water warm surf.  Red crabs must have good eye sight.  Long before I could reach them they would bop into their sand holes.  I don’t feel good today.  Not sick.  Just tired.  From all those days of no sleep and the travel.  I find some shade from a bush over hanging some tide pools.  I rarely afford the opportunity for a nap, but my body is giving me no choice.  I heed the warnings because, for the first time in a long time, I can.  Five minutes into the ‘rest’ an iguana jumps down from his hidden perch and runs across my leg.  That is hard to sleep through.  Ten minutes into my attempt to remove lactic acid from my limbs, a pelican dives down snatches a fish from the lagoon.  Liking the location, he proceeds to take a long, splashy, noisy, luxurious bath.  When a little black crab bit my toe, I gave up.  I’m in the Galapagos.

There’s a little boat port 10 minutes walk out of town.  I was told I could get a boat ride out to the brim of the port and see penguins??? Johan, a handsome teen, was willing to take me in his dingy for $20 bucks.  I rented a mask and snorkel for $5.  I was trying to sense if he  really was that excited about the animals and his island or if he was doing so to entertain me…the tourist.  I think a little of both. “Look, Look…a baby manta ray.  He will be big someday.  Look. Look.  Look.  A turtle.  He will take another breathe.  Picture. Picture.  And look.  The penguins.  They are happy. So very happy.” A couple of penguins are mating on a rock.  He explains his world to me in half Spanish with a few English words.  I respond back with my few Spanish words mixed with English…and we communicate.  He throws an anchor out and motions for me to get ready to snorkel.  He lashes a huge diver’s knife to his calf. Catching my eyes, he assures it is only in case a shark approaches.  Galapagos sharks…the ones that are not suppose to molest. Hmmmm again.

After viewing fish, Johan laughingly motions to the boat.  The anchor had freed loose.  We swim after the boat.  Once aboard, he gets a serious tone and proceeds to tell me how tourism has come to their island and made everything good. “Mucho dineros”.  He looks at my left hand without a ring and says I could find a Galapagian to marry and then build a big house on the beach…and be happy, happy…like the penguins.

“Oh, look, look.  There’s a blue footed Boobie.”

I finally felt the furry of the solid sun as I trodded on the dirt road back to the village. After being out and about all day, the baking on my back let me know I better respect this near the equator sun.  When the wind stopped, and the clouds moved, it had a demon effect.  I could tell it could do fast damage.  How much faster could this damage be during a marathon?  Didn’t 4,300 drop out of Boston this year because they feared what the unexpected heat would do to them?  And here I am…on purpose.

May 10, 2012

PERFECTO DIA

Filed under: Uncategorized — Caren Ware @ 8:57 pm

There isn’t a wrong way to spend a day in the Galapagos Islands, but I am sure I picked the ‘right..est’ way.  It was a ‘perfecto dia”. I am on the Island of San Cristobal. I took an all day boat excursion to gibraltar looking rocks sticking out of the sea.  Dolphins frolicked around the boat, spouting and unabashed, not in a hurry nor harried by our presence.  We jumped in the deep, dark waters and swam to the sheer faced, towering rocks.  There was a narrow opening that opted a chance to follow what they call Eagle Rays through it. This school of spotted sting rays just happened to be flapping in synchronized slow motion through the same shadowy waters.    The current became too strong and the snorkel/naturalist had us return to the boat and approach the crevasse from the other side.  As very typical of me, I was yakking out some story and didn’t notice the snorkel pod had jumped in and was approaching the new entrance.  I grabbed a hold of my mask and plunged in after them feeling like I was trying to make up distance in a triathlon. The dark sea reminded me of the bleak, see-nothing ocean swim during the St. Croix Half Ironman until something even darker than the sea darted by the tiny view of my mask. And then another. My head didn’t need to guess what my heart pounded out.  What is there about the presence of a predator that we so instinctly give elevated heart rate to?  Sh….Sharks! It sounded like “SPIII…EK…AR..K…SAW out the end of the snorkel, but the shriek got the attention of all the other snorkelers who were now furiously swimming toward me because they WANTED to see a shark.  Galapagos sharks, I am told.  “They don’t seem to disturb snorkelers.  ”  Hmmm.  We move on to  emerald glimmering bays, to  sandy solo beaches with lines drawn in the sand that lead me to the Iguana tails that made them.  The rocks, bays, and beaches are presented to me in Spanish.  I don’t take the effort to properly remember or even pronounce. Their names aren’t what I want to store in my over jammed brain cells.  I saw God’s amazing creations today…whether He gave them the ability to adapt or made them that way…doesn’t matter.  They were amazing and I choose to attribute them to an equally awing Creator. I just can’t ignore in all the travels I have been privileged to do, that there is something greater and grander than us…and deserving of our reverence.  The One that makes the sun set and rise.  The one we tend to ignore His precepts. I feel awed by Him today.

I saw Blue foot Boobies, a bird found only here.  Their oversized webbed feet turn blue when they hit adulthood. I got to see Marine Iguanas that swim and feed underwater and Land Iguanas as black as the lava rocks they hide on.  They desalinize sea water in their bodies and spit out the left over salt water. There were Frigate birds that were choosing mates by blowing up huge red balloons from their throats and sea turtles bobbing for breathe. Fish and fish and fish, fertile feeding grounds for anything that need to eat fish.  No wonder there is a carpet of coughing sea lions all over the islands.  Clearing their throats sounds so human you want to say “God bless you” all day long.  And I did just that.  At the end of the evening, after a very pleasant dish of coconut prawns on the porch of THE PLAYA, I could hear a Wednesday evening church service singing worship songs.  They sang in Spanish and my heart sang in English. I wasn’t even aware that I was breathing…it came slow and natural.  Ps.  Big God that made this all, help me through this marathon.  It´s as big and looming to me as those rocks.  Can I really do it?

May 9, 2012

“COME to the Galapagos”

Filed under: Uncategorized — Caren Ware @ 8:28 pm

 On the flight I sat next to a lady with a radiating smile that carried youthful genes and showed me fun pictures of her time in the Galapagos with her husband. She was careered and educated.  She shared pictures of her very attractive children. She told me what I had read.  That Ecuador had a history of vacillating leaders, but was currently under direction of an okay and strong president .Yet this current president was taxing the rich and pouring programs into the poor at too harsh of a pace.  She shared there was an election coming up and since there was no opposition, the president’s own brother, who abhorred him, was running against him.  She described a modern day Cain and Able.

experienced rigid ‘nos’ in Japan, I was pleasanted by all the yes’s in South America.  Yes, we will find a room for you.  Yes, we will call the tour guide though late in the evening.  Yes, we can make color copies for you and turn the internet computers back on just for you.

Graciously, my one day, too early of an arrival was humored. Aerogal gave me an open first class seat to fly to the Galapagos.  I flew right over the dingy industry and shanties of Guayaquil and out over the Pacific.  I could feel the Galapagos was a world away from the Ecuadorian mainland. I felt the cleanliness of the airport, plane, and the attentive airline crew.  I felt the relaxed, meandering spirit of the residents that were boarding.  I already felt I would be safely welcomed.  This kind of welcome is hard to express in words. And it is hard to find, especially in a society like bills burdened American. The Galapagos is not a place that lives beyond its means. It has time and space. I take a deep solid breath for the first time in…?

I couldn’t have a wider, internal smile. I get to disembark out of the small, pleasant plane and walk across the runway “so island” movie-scene like. A great breeze swirled the ovened air as I met Rick from Come to the Galapagos.  He was the gentle, friendly handshake I already knew he would be just by his emails and how he writes. His tour company, by design, links touring souls with local themed Galapagos, not a fabricated ‘Wally world week’ our modern appetite for packaged and predictable vacations is producing. A dog sniffs efficiently through our luggage for shark fins and sea cucumbers, Rick whispers.  “They discovered they were being snuck through pretend tourists who then sold them to the Chinese.”  Rick had me side saddle his quad runner with my luggage riding Toto style in his front basket.  He spends lunch at his home to orientate and thank each new arrival for ‘coming to the Galapagos’ he is ready to share with them.  His young son chopped and played ‘construction man’ on the porch as we chatted.

I spent the rest of the day trotting out to a beach, getting the seals to bare their teeth at me, watching a sunset, and smiling at the tracks the waddling seals leave in the sand.  I am staying on a roof top studio at Casa De Nelly overlooking the bay. The pleasant mom-type “Nelly” asked what time I would like her to make my breakfast.  I stroll into town, book a day of snorkeling, and am told that Roscia is a great place to eat.  Still smiling inside, my grilled shrimp atop marinated pasta is served just as all the lights in the entire island go out.  Not an ounce of urgency.  Candles are lit. A battery backup light weakly illuminates the eating patio.  No one is concerned that it might take hours to come back on.  I try to follow suit.  Another unforced deep breath freely fills my lungs.

I am now at an internet…slash… ice cream place…slash… coffee place and I am able to send these pictures for the price of a piece of homemade chocolate cake. (Ps.  The electric almost unnoticeable came back on.) Internet access here sure beats the trouble I encountered in the Australian Outback where it had cost $25 for five minutes that never went through.  A cup of coffee or a piece of cake works for me.  PPS.  I am still very concerned about my body’s ability to do this marathon.  I had a ham string cramp up on me today and I am winded at the least of hills??

May 7, 2012

Being in the right place at the right time

Filed under: Uncategorized — Caren Ware @ 11:20 pm

Not quite the Galapagos, but  Jackson Hole, Wyoming with the Grand Tetons looming.  This is the 1st of May and they are  still dressed in winter white.  I went up there just a week ago for a feasibility study.  Is it feasible to  fly to Salt Lake City, Utah, get a  rental car , drive through a late season snow flurry to  Jackson, Wyoming and than get back and to California in a weekend?  My daughter and I passed the test. 

I tried to run my last long training run there, but was buffeted by winds below 30 degrees and an instant elevation of 6,500 feet.  My lips and fingers made me turn back at only seven miles .I wish I didn’t have to admit it was more the huffing from the elevation that caved me in.

 I am sure the temperatures here in Guayaquil and beyond will be a pendulum swing from that.  So here I am in a town the email instructions told me to stay in only long enough to catch the next flight out.  You have to love traveling.  You have to carry extra cash, extra days, extra caution, and extra patience…and go with the plan Bs, Cs, and Ds of foreign connections.

There is no one holding up a Sheraton placard with my name on it as the emailed instructions said would happen. I have passed through the crowd and am now at the curb’s side.  I am reminded of the summer my daughter was 14 and declared she was going to help in orphanages in Peru.  We put her on an airplane with two college students.  They were held off the plane at the passport check in Los Angeles because their passports would expire a month after they were to return from that country.  My independent daughter got on the plane without them and landed in LIMA, PERU at midnight.  A blond, young girl with a lot of luggage moved with the crowd out to the street and the gates to the airport were rolled shut and locked up for the night.  She was on the streets in an overcrowded city that has 50 percent unemployment… in the middle of the night.  It took 45 tense minutes of calls to the American Embassy and the college to get someone to pick her up.

So, big girl me in my forties has found a shuttle to the hotel and am in the lobby of the Sheraton at 1am trying to get the last remaining room .  I will deal with how to fly out of here tomorrow.  Somehow, we got the dates askew and I am here one day earlier than all my reservations and connector flights.  Like day light savings, I just gained an extra day in life.

It’s a pretty consistent theme. Running Ragged.

Filed under: Uncategorized — Caren Ware @ 3:23 pm

I disappeared off this blog, so out of breath, out of pace. Help.  I am in Miami eating Cuban food from an airport stand, charging my netbook computer and phone and hoping I can get a message off to you all that I am on my way to the Galapagos Islands.  I am embrassing one of those remote Marathons I so proposed to run, as remote as I can get on each continent.  In the pace of timing 6 events eachweekend this month and celebrating great new improvements to how PRIME TIME times, I failed to keep you updated on this blog.I even failed to keep myself updated.  I sincerely had an hour to pack after returning from four straight days of expos and runs.  I am reading that Ecuador converted to the US dollar to their demise and have no coins, and no change for hundreds, and no ability to accept foreign atm cards.  So I will be on the budget of the cash I carry.  And I am reading so many great ,expansive, remote things about the islands, the race, and the reason the race director is hosting this marathon limited to the first 200.  Here I go.   Venture with me…if I find internet access.  I dropped weight this week.  Cramped up on the shortest of runs. I am dyhyrated even before leaving for an equator humidified heat, and possibly struggling with low levels of iron.  HELP.

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