raised for the American Liver
Foundation! -- Thank You!
4 hours 58 minutes:
Mile run/walk | 3
Mile hike | 5
The Rest of the Story.....
February 9th dawned cloudy on
Bocas del Toro, but as the day
went by, the sun shone brightly
and the temperature was in the
high 80's and the humidity almost
that high. As my roommate, Doreen,
and I walked toward Dos Palmas
Hotel for the start, I spied a
$1 bill lying in the middle of
the muddy street. I put it in
my pocket for good luck.
9 AM, the triathlon began with
21 participants, ranging in age
from mid-twenties to late fifties.
I was the only woman over 50 amongst
the group. The full run was 8.5
miles and the mini option allowed
the participants to be shuttled
to the five mile point. Three
of us choose this option, but
we got out of the taxi 6 miles
from the end and started walking.
At 5 miles out, I began to run
along the road next to the beach
and kept a slow but steady pace
most of the way, stopping twice
to walk for short distances. The
rest station at the end was a
welcome sight with fruit, energy
bars and electrolyte charged water.
time from the start line, including
the time in the taxi was 1hr
was briefed on the 3 mile hike
and given a whistle, told there
would be someone coming through
after the last person went in.
They said it would probably take
about 1.5 to 2.5 hours to complete.
The terrain was tropical rainforest.
The sun had now come out and the
temperature was around 85 degrees
with 70+ humidity (not the dry
AZ heat, this gal is used to).
As I began the hike through a
meadow, the ground turned muddy.
The trail had been marked with
bright pink spray paint every
50-60 feet, so there was no confusing
how to go. Our briefing had included
the information about the various
snakes-none aggressive-but several
poisonous. We were advised not
to step on them!
trail continued to gain in elevation.
I went through the first of seven
gates. I passed a thatched roof
house on the top of a hill. Soon
it began to look like something
Indiana Jones might be found traversing.....a
very narrow trail, steep hills
up & down (200-300 ft at about
an 80 degree angle) and MUD everywhere.
took out the note in my pocket
with the following names: Nancy
Brooks, Clementine Jones, Frank
Halpen, John Hudson, Judy Taisch,
Holly Riley, David A. Arthur,
Nanette Carr Fitzgerald, Randy
were all folks related to someone
who pledged money who have died
or been afflicted with liver disease.
I said a short prayer to ask their
spirits to help me along the way
because it was becoming clear
this was not going to be your
proverbial walk in the park!
the next bend, I saw another primitive
house and a couple of small Indian
kids came out. I said "Ola"
and was greeted by them with the
same and then a barrage of other
words in Spanish I could not understand.
In my halting Spanish I explained
I only spoke "pocito"
Spanish and asked then if they
spoke Inglaise-to which they replied
no. So, we walked along in silence
with the boy who was about 7 or
8 and the girl who was about 4
or 5 keeping me between them.
They were barefoot and traversed
the trail like little mountain
goats, scurrying easily through
the mud and up and down the hills.
In my crosstrainer shoes, I was
sliding pretty badly. I noticed
the boy was using a walking stick
and realized that could help with
the balance thing, so I found
one for myself. I was beginning
to realize I'd been sent some
the next half an hour, we walked
mostly in silence. At one point
the little girl asked me a question
and the only word I could understand
was plata. Thinking this
to mean "silver", I
tried to figure out what she was
trying to communicate and thought
maybe she was asking me for coins....I
remembered the $1 in my pocket
and said, "dinero?"
She and her brother looked weirdly
at me and said no, but I pulled
out my dollar and the boy took
it. I said,"por dos"
meaning for him to share with
his sister and he nodded.
continued to follow them and then
we went up a long hill that had
a house on the top. The kids were
greeted by an older girl (about
9 or 10) and scooted under the
fence. I looked around for the
pink arrows and to my dismay,
saw them going through the pasture
about 200-300 feet from where
I was. I guess I had followed
I took off down the hill to get
myself back on the trail and said
goodbye. The trail continued through
hilly terrain and soon I cam upon
a church-3 open walls and one
wall with an altar and lectern.
There we three rows on wooden
benches on each side. I stopped
and laid down. I was not sure
if I was going to make it. I thought
I'd probably been walking for
over an hour. After the 6 mile
run and this exertion, my heart
rate was high, I was hot and miserable
and wanted nothing more than to
say..."Oh, well, I tried."
but it dawned on me that, though
the race support team said they'd
rescue us if we couldn't make
it...there was no way out except
to trek...I could do it now or
I could do it later, but stopping
and getting a ride was not an
option. The terrain was to difficult
for Jim's motorbike. So it was
time for self-care and to take
a break. As I lie there, I heard
something. As I looked up I saw
the boy and the older girl enter
the structure and sit across from
me and smile.
had electrolyte charged orange
drink that I had put in my Camelpak
at the last rest stop before the
hike and an energy bar. I shared
with them both. They were at first
hesitant about sucking on the
Camelpak but tried it and smiled.
We sat for 10 minutes or so until
I felt ready to go on and then
I bid them goodbye.
my surprise, when I began to walk,
they accompanied me. As we came
through another gate (the 2nd
of 7-oh my how far had I yet to
go?) and neared the next set of
radical hills, the boy found me
a walking stick (I'd left the
other at the church). We trekked
up and down, through the mud.
U did fall once, but was trying
to be careful not to get mud all
over me (if I had only known what
the mud gods had in store, I might
have given up my semblance of
control and merrily slid down
the hills). They would scurry
up the hills in their bare feet
and then look back and be patient
with me, needing to stop a few
times to make it up the hills.
I definitely was not having fun!
was not sure I could make it,
but took the advice I give my
coaching clients when they are
stuck...to just stay in action
and keep taking baby steps in
the direction of the goal. I thought
it might take all day, but I decided
to just keep moving forward. It
was disheartening a couple of
times when I had finally made
it to what I thought was the top
of the hill, only to see the trail
curved and there was more to go.
We went through a couple of more
gates, finally, but I had lost
track at that point. I heard a
voice shouting Ola and
recognized it as Doreens. I thought
that I wasn't last and she was
ok. I responded and she said something
about the wrong way, but I assured
her I was on the right path because
I had pink arrows! She said later
she worried I was seeing "white
light" as well, not understanding
the pink arrow reference being
about the trail markers.
we trekked on. Finally we went
through a gate and there was a
road.....it was really a jeep
trail, but I realized this was
the end of the hike...the kids
went no further. They stopped
as we went through. The older
girl said something in Spanish
and I told her yes I was ok and
thank you and they disappeared
back into the jungle the way we
had come. I did ask Doreen later
if she saw them.....and she assured
me they were real. I am certain,
though, they were angels sent
as per my request for help.
time in the rainforest was 1
hr 47 minutes-maybe the
LONGEST 1 hr and 47 minutes of
rest station was a few hundred
feet up the road. I had some fruit,
more water and rested a bit. The
next segment involved going through
a cave where we were promised
a "surprise". They said
it was just up ahead, take a right
and then it was on the left. The
nurse that was supporting the
event, Heather, and her 6 year
old daughter, Evita, decided they
wanted to go to the cave also,
so we set out together, chatting
and walking. I assumed they'd
been there and did not pay any
attention to following pink arrows.
At one point, Evita said the cave
is very far....thinking, again,
she knew, I was cursing the race
planners for duping us into thinking
the cave was right there. We hiked
and it was almost like being back
on the rainforest trail- muddy
and up hill. Finally after about
20 minutes, we came to the end
of the trail and a fence. An Indian
told us we could go no further.
There were no pink arrows....we
had just trekked way out of the
we turned around and headed back.
I rudely walked off, not waiting
for them, trying to get back on
the right course. It was the second
time that day, I had blithely
followed others without having
sufficient awareness of whether
I was on the right track or not!
Finally close to the beginning
I saw on the ground an arrow indicating
a sharp turn and saw the cave.
In our briefing we had been told
there were places the water would
be thigh deep and there were bats
in the cave but that the cold
water should feel good on our
I entered the cave and the world
turn pitch black I heard some
noises that sounded, not unlike
rattlesnakes rattling. Figuring
this must be the bats, I went
forward, gingerly, not appreciating
the cold water as a relief, but
rather as a pretty scary environment.
As my eyes adjusted, I saw a few
candles flickering in the distance
and made my way forward VERY SLOWLY.
Soon I saw a figure perched on
a rock ledge and said hello. This
was our surprise-one of the Outward
Bound staff was there with a present
of a stone carved frog on a necklace.
He handed me the frog and told
me it symbolized fertility-not
just in the manner of having children
but in bring forth ideas and projects.
In creativity. He said our walk
through the cave and it's cold
water allowed us to drop our burdens
(and refresh ourselves from the
work thus far) and go newly into
the world creating freely. It
was a very neat experience and
stopped the chatter in my mind
and allowed me to redirect my
thoughts at the future. Leaving
the cave, I was ready for the
bike! He asked how many were behind
me and I said Heather and her
daughter and, oh, yes, Doreen.
He said Doreen and Richard had
just come through. That meant
to me I was now last.
was a choice at this point to
do a 15 mile ride or a 5 mile
ride. There was no question in
my mind that 5 miles would be
sufficient for me to feel I had
"stretched" myself (after
all, I had just hiked an addition
1.5 mi or so!), so I got on the
bike, thinking it would be be
mostly down hill. I also thought
if I rode fast I could catch up
to Doreen. Ah, assumptions can
lead to disappointment....
too far along the route, I encountered
a pretty steep hill that I had
to dismount and walk the bike
up. Although I was tired and had
been exerting myself for over
4 hours now, the prospect of finishing
was motivating. There were some
ups and downs and mud was in ruts
from the previous night's rain.
I came to the top of a hill and
could see some mud and ruts ahead,
but it appeared to be packed by
the tire tracks and so I let the
bike fly down the hill and when
I hit the first rut, the bike
came to an abrupt halt, while
I continued forward into the mud,
head first. It was soft and I
was not hurt but covered in about
2 inches of clay. This gave new
meaning to "mud pak"
spa treatments! My glasses were
covered, my hair and ear were
caked, I couldn't find a place
on my shorts or shirt to wipe
off. As I struggled to get
up, the mud sucked my feet and
shoes deeper and my balance was
wobbly. A truck came round the
bend, wanting to go through the
dip and waited while I realized
I need to move the bike, so he
could pass. Finally after pulling
my shoes off, I could move without
the mud cementing me in place
and got myself and the bike out
of his way.
found a puddle that had enough
water in it, I could clean my
glasses but they still had a filter
of dirt and I had nothing to wipe
them clean with. There had been
a jeep coming the other way, which
now pulled up beside me and Sherry,
another triathlon participant
came around the hill, looking
very overheated. She looked at
me and asked if I had any electrolytes....I
did in the "Camelpak"
but the mouthpiece was covered
with mud, which I showed her and
shook my head. Then she asked
the folks in the jeep, who looked
at her a bit perplexed. She rode
few others came by, including
4 tourist girls, and several asked
if I was ok....I was bleeding
slightly on my arm and leg but
not badly. It took about 10 minutes
to quite feeling dazed and make
the decision I WOULD FINISH THE
RACE! I checked the bike and it
seemed to be fine, so I walked
it to the top of the hill and
began to ride again. After about
2 more miles, the trail dropped
down to beside the ocean and I
stopped to rinse some of the mud
off....Several more participants
came by and waved. My friend Marcia
didn't see me until I yelled "Hi
honey" to her and she said
"Hi" as she went by
and later told others I had stopped
to cool myself by putting mud
all over me!
cleaned a bit, I resumed the race
to the finish line. As I rode
through town, I got some strange
looks, being still pretty muddy
and I though about stopping at
the hotel to take a shower (though
cold water was all we had) but
decided the mud was just one more
badge of courage to take in with
me. Pulling up to the finish at
the Dos Palmas hotel, there were
cheers from the folks that had
already finished. I got couple
pictures taken and then Doreen
took me back to the dock and sprayed
me off with the hose until most
of the mud was washed off!
The bike time for 5 miles was
1 hr 24
it was an awesome day!
you to those who have
donated and sent energy!!!!!!!
Ross & Byron Van Arsdale
National Title of Tucson
Mortgage Corp of CA
WCR State Chapter
FL WCR Chapter