We woke up at 6:00am to eat a bit and catch a bus to the starting line. The last bus was scheduled to leave at 7:00, so at 6:56, when we were still in route to catch the bus, I worried we may miss it. No need to worry, the bus didn't leave until 7:30. We arrived at the starting line just before 8:00am, an hour before the race was scheduled to start. On the way, John repeated something our coach said, "don't be late. The race starts at 9:00, so make sure you're there by 9:10, 9:20 at the latest." Welcome to South American time.
When we arrived to the starting line, it was about 30 degrees and still dark outside. We stayed on the bus to keep warm. Most runners got off the bus, ran around and warmed up for the race. Several runners started a brush fire on the side of the road to keep warm. Think: dry winter morning, rural road, a few hundred people milling around. John and I laughed and then laughed harder when we saw people pulling huge, dry tumbleweeds to add to the fire. This would not happen in the U.S.! I tell you what, though, when we finally deboarded the bus at 8:50 that fire felt good!
Just after 9:00 the gun went off. John and I were walking toward the starting line not worrying too much about our running performance. We told ourselves to enjoy the run and the scenery. The sun had risen, illuminating vineyards on either side of the road and the snow-covered Andes in the distance, including Mount Aconcagua, the highest point in South America. The race route snaked through fields, rolling hills and a few small towns. As we approached Mendoza, the smell of diesel replaced the fresh mountain air, and we passed a couple of desperately poor neigborhoods - what I would call shantytowns.
Before I knew it, I only had six miles remaining. I felt great, which was surprising because three days prior I was laid out in bed with food poisoning. Since John finished before me, he cheered me on as I neared the finish line. I ran a 1:45 and felt strong the whole time. It was a lot of fun!
Tiny picture (from facebook) of some of the Nike Mendoza Running Team. John & I are far right.