First Race in Guatemala

I ran a 10k race yesterday here in Xela, along with my friends Zach and Will. It was a great time, but was quite different from races I’ve run in the US. First, here’s the map (change it to satellite to really see the route):

Second, about the differences: I expected some of them, but others definitely surprised me. Maybe they shouldn’t have but they did. Here’s a list:

  • The race started 20 minutes late. This was certainly not surprising, but for some reason I was much less patient for the race start then I am for other Guatemalan patience-testers. For instance, when I’m waiting for a bus to leave I’m perfectly happy to just chill out and relax for however long it takes. We went for a warmup jog before the race was supposed to start, and then ended up standing around for a while while the Guatemalans warmed up. They were all just doing laps of Parque Central, which I thought was kind of funny. We ended up doing a few too.
  • The race was definitely short. And not just a little bit. My GPS, which admittedly has error, measured it at 8.94 kilometers. So there’s that. This happens in the states sometimes too, but the quality of the field here was so much higher than a typical US race that I expected it would be well measured.
  • The quality of the field: it’s not that Guatemala has faster runners than the US, it’s just that the only people running are those who take it seriously. So we finished solidly middle of the pack with times that would have put us towards the front in any big US race. A strange, and humbling, experience. Good to get the real perspective. I’m faster than the 95% of people who don’t run, whoop-de-doo!
  • People cheated. A lot. For some reason this surprised me. There was an out and back section where people were just turning around whenever they felt like it. Weird. There wasn’t even a cone or anything to mark the end, at least not that I could see, so maybe everybody was turning WAY early and that’s why the race was short. But some people were cutting big sections of the course off here. Towards the end of the race one guy who Zach and I had just passed suddenly appeared in front of us. He had run through a park while we stayed on the street. We passed him in the final stretch, though, so all’s well. 🙂
  • We paid 25Q (approx $3 US) in order to participate. This included water and a tech t-shirt. Why they had medium and large t-shirts for the almost exclusively (much-)smaller-than-me Guatemalans is a question that remains unanswered. I got a medium and it’s too big for me.

To sum up, it was a great experience. See splits at RunningAhead.

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We Kayaked Around Lago Atitlán… and Survived!

Two and half weeks ago, my friend Juan Manuel mentioned that he wanted to kayak around the entirety of Lago Atitlán. The lake is big. Naturally, I thought this sounded like a wonderful idea and agreed to join him in his craziness. We wrote a story about our trip, and here it is:

June 12th, 2009, 4:00 PM – Two courageous adventurers begin what will become one of the most fantastic trips of their lives. After an uneventful afternoon bus ride from Xela, they successfully rent kayaks in San Pedro La Laguna and set off in the direction of Santiago Atitlán, where they spend the night. The kayak man watches somewhat fearfully as the two gringos locos paddle off into the waning light. Little does he know that the two who have just rented his kayaks have a total of approximately 4 hours kayaking experience in their lives.

7 km / 2 hrs / tired, but optimistic

June 13th, 2009, 5:30 AM – At sunrise they set out from Santiago. The lake is calm for the first few hours, but they are fated to spend nearly 12 hours in their tiny boats on this day. Around noon they rest for an hour in San Lucas Tolimán, devouring local dishes at the edge of the lake. They are tempted to spend the afternoon in this tranquil town, but nobly choose to suffer onward. Three miserable, windy, sun-filled hours are immediately followed by three more hours spent fighting a rainstorm and waves pushed against them by the unexplained phenomenon of the Xocomil. Arrival in Panajachel is a bittersweet reward. Our sunburned heroes are forced to carry their kayaks and belongings up the hill to an overpriced hotel. After sating their gigantic appetites with fried chicken and tacos, they both collapse into their beds at 8 PM and sleep solidly through the night.

28 km / 10 hrs / exhausted, covered in second degree burns, and happy that the journey is “almost over”

June 14th, 2009, 6:30 AM – The last push. Only 14 short kilometers lie between the somewhat refreshed kayakers and their goal. The lake cooperates and the beautiful scenery slides by quickly. Two days on the water has created, if not expert kayakers, at least proficient ones. Lanchas pass throughout the morning, crowded with waving tourists and curious locals. As San Pedro draws ever closer, they begin to taste the sweetness of success. A final effort sees them cross the blue deeps of the lake and reach the final shore. Hasta nunca, kayak!

14 km / 4 hrs / almost unable to walk or lift their arms, but thrilled to have completed the adventure

As we have described it here, our trip sounds quite terrible. In reality, we were able to spend a weekend looking at one of the most beautiful landscapes in the world. Throughout the journey we were happy with what we were doing. In fact, we’re going to do it again in a couple of weeks, this time in four days rather than three.  49 kilometers and 16 hours of kayaking are too much for three days. Also, we’re going to take more sunblock the next time.

Necessities: Sunblock, rain jacket, hat, water, snacks.
Costs: We spent 400Q each for the whole weekend.

So that’s the story. We submitted it to the local english-language magazine here in Quetzaltenango, XelaWho, and I think it’s going to be published in the July issue.

It got published: San Pedro Day Tripper: We Kayaked Around Lago Atitlán… And Survived!

Also: I made a map!


View Around the Lake by Kayak in a larger map

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Guatemala: day thirty-one

Estoy todavia en Xela. Pienso que podría quedarme aqui durante un rato. Trato de encontrar un trabajo, porque necesitaré dinero en el verano. Yo querría enseñar inglés, pero si no puedo encontrar un trabajo de maestro, que probablemente buscaré un trabajo en un restaurante o una barra. O no. ¿Quien sabe?

Mi amiga Astrid regresará a Xela hoy. Ella estaba en Suiza por seis meses, aprendiendo alemán suizo y “disfrutando” de la nieve. En sus palabras “¡Suiza es una grande bola de nieve!” Espero con ansia escuchar sus historias.

Tambien, espero cuando ella mostrará su ciudad. Yo exploré la ciudad un poco mientras estaba corriendo, pero es seguro los conocimientos de mi amiga son mucho mejor.

He corrido estas dos semanas en Xela. La altitud es un poco difícil, pero he empesado a ajustarme. Miren mi runningahead.com pagina por más detalles (¡y mapas!).

Más temprano esta semana escribí un texto para tarea. Sin embargo, me gusta ese texto bastante que querría publicarlo aqui. Es simple y corto pero tiene un fin sorpresa. Espero que les guste a ustedes.

Cada dia entre semana, Ricardo caminaba a la escuela. Usualmente, no hacĂ­a nada interesante. Sin embargo, un dia fue especial. Este dia, un martes, Ricardo pensaba Ă©l ganaba la loterĂ­a, porque mientras caminaba Ă©l encontrĂł un maletin lleno de dinero.

¡Ahora él era rico! Comerá en restaurantes buenos. Comprará todas las cosas que quiere. Antes, no tenía dinero suficiente para ir al cine, pero ahora iría siempre. Antes, no podía visitar otros ciudades o paises, pero ahora podría.

¡Que lástima! El dinero era de Zimbabwe y así no valía mucho. Él compró un helado.

El Fin.

Hasta luego.

En Inglés:

I’m still in Xela. I think that I will stay here for a while. I’m trying to find a job because I will need some money in the summer. I’d like to teach English, but if I can’t find a job as a teacher then I’ll probably look in restaurants and bars. Or not. Who knows?

My friend Astrid is returning to Xela today. She was in Switzerland for six months, learning Swiss-German and “enjoying” the snow. In her words, “Switzerland is a giant snowball!” I look forward to hearing her stories.

Also, I look forward to when she will show me her city. I have explored the city a little while I’m running, but surely her knowledge is much better.

I have been running these two weeks in Xela. The altitude is a little bit difficult, but I have begun to adjust. Look at my runningahead.com page for more details (and maps!).

Earlier this week I wrote a text for homework. However, I liked it so much that I wanted to post it here. It’s simple and short, but has a surprise ending.

Each weekday, Ricardo walked to school. Usually, nothing interesting happened. However, one day was special. This day, a Tuesday, Ricardo thought that he had won the lottery because while he was walking he found a briefcase full of money.

Now he was rich! He would eat at good restaurants. He would buy all the things that he wanted. Before, he did not have enough money to go the movies, but now he could always go. Before, he could not visit other cities or countries, but now he could.

What a pity! The money was from Zimbabwe, and thus not worth much. He bought an ice cream.

The end.

Later.

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Guatemala: day twenty-three

Jenny requested that I post in Spanish. Seems like good practice to me, so here it goes. It’s pretty simple, sorry. English follows.

Estoy in Quetzaltenango, se llama Xela. El nombre de la ciudad en la lengua de Quiche es XelajĂş, pero para abreviar, “Xela”. Yo vino aqui del Lago Atitlan el lunes pasado. Xela parece una grand ciudad, pero yo pienso que es más pequeña que Portland, Oregon. La ciudad es la segunda ciudad en Guatemala.

Cinco dias por semana, más o menos, yo estudio con mi maestra, Alejandra, usualmente por tres horas. Por la noche, yo hago las tareas y a veces encuentro algunos amigos con quienes suelo estar.

Desde ayer, yo vivo con una familia. La madre de casa, Eluvia, cocina esayuno, almuerzo, y cena cada dia. La comida es simple pero buena.

También, yo tengo un numero del telefono aqui: +502 4082 5795.

En Inglés:

I’m in Quetzaltengo, called Xela. In the Quiche language, it’s called XelajĂş, but Xela for short. Xela seems like a big city, but I think that it’s smaller than Portland, Oregon. Xela is the second biggest city in Guatemala.

Five days per week, more or less, I study with my teacher, Alejandra, usually for three hours. At night, I do my homework and sometimes meet some friends to hang out.

Since yesterday, I live with a family. The mother of the house, Eluvia, cooks breakfast, lunch, and dinner each day. The food is simple but good.

Also, I have a telephone number here: +502 4082 5795. (to dial from the states or canada it’s 01150240825795 or send text messages.)

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