Thursday, December 13, 2007

Maratón Guadalupano

Date: Saturday 8th December, 2007.
Place: Playa Caleta, Acapulco, Guerrero, Mexico.
Event: 49th Maratón Guadalupano, 1Km.

It was about 10:45 in the morning, sun was shining bright, we alighted the bus at Playa Caleta (playa: beach) stop on Costera street in Acapulco. There was an ocean of people on the beach, most of them in swimming costumes, some wearing the event T-shirt, there were stalls selling swimming costumes, announcement stalls, blue colored beach umbrellas had crowded the place. It was the first day of the 49th Maratón Guadalupano, the beach swimming marathon. On first day it 1 km swimming event from Isla Roqueta (isla: island) to Playa Caleta. Interested few can click on the map.

I reached the announcement stall and asked the person where was my team "Ciudad Deportiva, Monterrey". He shouted in the mike stating that a person is looking for Ciudad Deportiva and he asked me to wait. I waited for 10 minutes, no one from my team appeared. I asked him to announce once again and he did so, but to my dismay no one appeared. I then started searching my team by myself, in the stall I saw few familiar faces whom I had met in the Monterrey airport. I asked them what was I supposed to do and he guided me rightly. I went to a stall, an official one with authorities of the event. I handed over my bank voucher, he checked my name and came back with the chip and the T-shirt.

Deepa helped me to find my team and I was glad to meet my team members Wendy, Saloman and Saul there. Saloman helped me to get the number inscribed on my body, it was 61, and Saul smeared vaseline on my back for protecting against water insects. It was almost 11:30 and my event was at 12. We reached the embankment and boarded the boat, it sailed us to Isla Roqueta.

We did a few calisthenics, few stretches and assembled in the beach. The mike pumped out brief instructions regarding the red guide buoys and immediately followed a loud horn. Like a herd of zebras in water chased by tiger, we were chaotically alternating between wading and swimming, hitting the neighbouring swimmer, shoving ourselves without being able to see anything. It was highly a helter-skelter of first order, but within few meters of swimming we were separated a bit and as we progressed we became more orderly and calm.

I swam with all the might I had, but as expected, it was a lot more difficult to swim in the sea than in the pool. First of all the salt water gives a nasty taste, secondly the currents and the waves make it a lot more resistive and hard and finally it's not as pleasant as swimming in the blue waters of the pool, it's kinda filthy water where in you see just darkness underneath. The other hard part is to maintain the direction, you cant just put your head down and keep swimming like you do in the pool, every now and then you need to raise your head up, watch out for the buoys and be sure that you're not off the track and swim ahead. Add to this is the current which slowly and constantly, without your cognizance, tries to take you off the track. It took about 19m26s for me to reach Playa Caleta. I had to run a few steps to the point where the chip is read, after I finished. I was tired, though it was not a great timing. My shoulder muscles were exhausted. I was given a finisher's medal. I guess that was the very first medal I had ever won in my life. I felt great.

Our team members congratulated me, I responded back. We got photographed (thanks Ajit and Lokesh), got massaged and dispersed.

Date: Sunday 9th December, 2007.
Place: Playa Caleta, Acapulco, Guerrero, Mexico.
Event: 49th Maratón Guadalupano, 4.2Km

At 7 in the morning I was in Playa Caleta with Jasmine. There were not many people at that time, but in no time the place got crowded. It was a lot tougher marathon: 4.2Km swimming in the choppy Pacific was something which I was not confident, given the fact that I was tired and couldn't catch a good sleep due to nervousness. I was consoled by the sight of rescue boats which were waiting for the event to start. My team members started pouring in and like the previous day, we stretched, applied vaseline and raised each other's spirits. At about 7:45, we hit the beach and got ourselves wet, the water was slightly chill. I was sort of tensed, sort of relaxed. The crowd was applauding for a feel of elation and exhilaration. No directions were given unlike yesterday, out of the blue the horn was blown.

Just like the previous day, the beginning was chaotic, wading and swimming alternatively, hitting neighbours, shoving in every small gap of water, gasping and trying to forge ahead. We were supposed to encircle a hill which, I guess, spanned about 2Km. The sun was shining bright, rescue boats on either sides, I could see plethora of colorful heads floating in the vast sea. Most part I swam free style, but when I got tired or my muscles got sore, I switched between back stroke and breast stroke. But after sometime, sun became so harsh that I could not do back stroke. I could sense some insect bites every now and then, despite smearing vaseline profusely, it gave an acute bearable itch. It was a mixed feeling, a feeling of despair to see swimmers far ahead of me and a feeling of satisfaction to see others a lot behind me. By the time I rounded the mountain bend, the panoramic vista of Acapulco, with building and mountains and vehicles, was visible. It was a nice sight, but a far fetched one, I still had more than 2Km to swim.

The beach got expanded and the rougher waves made it slightly more tough to swim. I swam without checking direction for about quite sometime and I raise my head, the sight was despairing, not that I lost my way, but the buildings never got closer. I swam for some more time but no luck, the buildings seemed never to come closer. My shoulders started paining, every stroke of hand started becoming heavier and heavier, I stared using legs more than hands. I started seeing very few people around, about 5-6 in front of me scattered, I didn't bother about turning back and seeing the others. The buildings seemed to be much closer now, and rescue boats were still beside us. I thought I was bit off the track, but soon I realized I was doing good. The waters started getting more choppier, I saw few rocks underneath but shore was still far. I swam breast stroke for about 3 minutes, which gave some energy for continuing with free style but on the flip side, it made me lose some time. But right from beginning I had in mind not to give so much importance to time, since I was not very confident of finishing, my aim was to finish...just bloody finish!

I was almost there, the sand bed started appearing, I still kept swimming until the water was knee deep. I then landed my feet. I started running to the finish line which was few feet away from the water. The guy there was screaming "Felicidades" (congrats) and someone gave me a packet of water which was much needed. It was the longest time in my life that my feet didn't touch the ground. It was 1h44m10s when I reached the finish line. Again not a great feat worth bragging, but the experience was truly exciting, demanding and tiring. There were not any medals left, they noted my number and told me that I'll receive it from my team later.

I met my team members and we mutually congratulated. People of much older age than me had finished before me which was truly motivating.

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