I am a huge proponent of accepting challenges. If you’re offered to participate in something awesome, and it scares the crap out of you, the answer is always “yes” first and you figure out how to actually do it later. So when our USAC resident director, Renato, asked if anyone wanted to compete in a 62 km (38.5 miles) adventure race around an enormous salt water lagoon here on this beautiful Brazilian island, I of course signed up to try out for a spot. Tryouts were simple. Everyone interested would meet and run 6 km (3.73 miles) and the best 8 times would get a spot on the team. I barely squeaked by in the 8th spot and I am incredibly glad that I did.
The 62 km of the race are divided up into 8 pieces and it can be run in various team sizes which include octeto (8-people), quarteto (4-people), dupla (2-people), and insane (single person). Believe me, running as an 8 person group is hard enough. Renato, our resident director and defacto coach, exemplifies the sort of crazy person an event like this draws. Due to an unfortunate bicycling accident two days before the race, he literally broke a bone in his right arm and still ran the longest part of the race at a great time. This race was filled with people like this. They simply love running and competing more than pain bothers them. Here’s Renato in action:
The 8 parts of the race are of various lengths and elevations around the Lagoa de Conceição, a massive salt water lagoon on the island of Florianópolis. This provides for really stunning views, if you’re able to catch your breath and appreciate them during your run.
You run through forests, beaches, dunes, clay, rocks, and water traps in a manner seemingly arranged for maximum fun and / or pain.
The real experience of the race for me, was the interactions you have along the way. Getting between each posto, or place where you hand off between runners, is an adventure in itself. None of us here have cars so you end up making friends with other runners or teams who do. The Brazilians welcomed us wholeheartedly, paying no attention to the mud and sand we tracked in their vehicles, and they offered us snacks, beverages, and advice about cool places to check out on the island between stops. Also Florianópolis is full of stray dogs, which are all kept well fed and in good health by the locals, who show a special kindness to them as if they were collective pets. One of the fun stories of the race was that one dog in particular decided to do the trail with us. It happily trotted along, keeping various runners and teams company, and it literally ran the race from start to finish. Here is a shot of her with one of our teammates, Cole:
The race was organized by a group called Mountain Do who put on amazing trail runs all over South America. I had never participated in an event like this before but I am eager to try more now that I’ve had such an amazing experience. Our team placed 17th overall and 4th in the octeto (8-man) group. I would like to say a special thanks to USAC and to the USAC Florianopolis site team composed of Renato Carvalho, Laura Baltazar, and Helena Cherem. In a new place, you have to push yourself to do new things. Get out there!
Finally, so that you can get a better feel for the event, here is a video created by Helena Cherem: