Tag Archives: Costa Rica

Exiled in Paradise, and I Shall Have No Pi

The running gods either love me, or hate me.

A week ago last Thursday, my wife, DD #2 and I flew to Costa Rica. They came for fun and sightseeing. So did I, with the side effect of having to work at our office starting last Monday. (Yes, the company I work for has an office in Costa Rica. Deal with it.)

Costa Rica - Rachel with Macaw - 2We all had a blast over the first weekend, despite a lost passport that had to be replaced, and the ladies departed for home on Wednesday. I was to stay until Friday, then fly home to run the Pi Day race with daughter on Saturday.

What was the Pi Day race, you may ask? Well, as we all learned in school, “pi” is the mysterious number that expresses the relationship between the circumference of a circle and its diameter: (C = D * pi), more commonly known as 3.14159, etc. etc. to infinity.

From USA Today: amazing pi recitation feats. Because, apparently, all of the world's other problems have been solved.

From USA Today: amazing pi recitation feats. Because, apparently, all of the world’s other problems have been solved.

Saturday was March 14 (3-14), thereby the moniker “Pi Day”. Add in that it’s 2015, and it’s 3-14-15 – a once-per-century event. So Epic Races in Ann Arbor organized a little race: 3.14 miles on 3-14-15 at 9:26:53 a.m., thereby snatching the first 10 digits! And to top it off, there was pie (the food kind) at the finish line. Both of us being nerds (she a late bloomer) we signed up right away.

But the running gods had other plans for me.

Volcano eruption - Costa Rica

Thursday afternoon, one of Costa Rica’s slumbering volcanoes decided it was time for a little fun. The ashfall was light and no real damage was done, but they had to close the airport until they could clear it. Which led to incoming flights being diverted, which led to return flights being cancelled, mine being among them. “The earliest I can get you home,” the airline agent said when I called, “is Monday.”

So my part in the Pi Day race was scuttled, and I was forced to spend another weekend in Costa Rica. “Just so you know,” one of my coworkers helpfully told me, “no one here feels sorry for you.”

Well, si la vida te trata limones, haz limonada, I always say. The enforced additional layover allowed me to catch up on some things that I’ve been putting off due to a hectic schedule. Back home, I’d have run the race, then crashed for the weekend, or done stuff around the house. With none of those distractions here, I was free to focus on my backlog. And I got some more running in.

What is this "snow" you speak of.

What is this “snow” you speak of.

My runs have been short here – the longest has been 10K – but it’s included a lot of hill work (inescapable), and I climb six flights to my room several times a day. Plus it doesn’t take much heat to wear me out right now, as I’m still acclimated to below-freezing weather. But I hear it’s already much warmer at home, and spring trail races are coming up. Gotta stay in shape!

Heading home tomorrow – and there’s big news in my running life to share next time. Stay tuned!

Green Swamp, Red Can, Black Goodness

DWD Green Swamp - Start-Finish Line with Deer

I’m in not-so-sunny Florida today, resting up for my first ultra of the year – Saturday’s Dances with Dirt Green Swamp 50K in Dade City. This morning I was out at Withlacoochee Park to help set up. I love volunteering at Running Fit races; the events crew is laid back and the pace is unhurried, yet everything comes together on schedule. And after an intense week of being audited and traveling (Costa Rica – yes, it was rough), it was great to hang out with fellow runners and decompress.

It was cloudy and chilly all day, and the Michigan contingent wasn’t too pleased. But race day promises to be sunny and warmer, starting in the 40s and warming up to the low 70s. Excellent for running an ultra. Can’t wait to hit that trail. I will have to watch my step, however, and not just for roots.

Watch your step! Fire ant nests are everywhere - including the starting chute.

Fire ant nests everywhere, even the starting chute.

More about Costa Rica with my race recap next time. For now I will address a subject as dear as running to my heart, and equally important to civilization and the future of humanity. I’m speaking, of course, about coffee.

Cafe Britt - Dark Roast 2

Grocery-store stuff in Costa Rica, but good.

Costa Rica has a deserved reputation for excellent coffee; the Doka Estate’s French Roast remains my favorite. Trouble is, there’s also a lot of cheap, poorer stuff and/or bad preparation; the outstanding hotel I stayed at unfortunately served coffee I found undrinkable. So I went to their gift shop and got a dark roast to make in my room. Their only size bag was much more than I needed, but it was quite good, and I packed the rest for my trip home.

So today, as I helped set up the registration and awards area, I was asked to wash the coffee maker – a vital piece of equipment at 4:30 a.m. Saturday as the crew begins race day activities (such as sending off the 50-milers at 5:30). And in the box of coffee supplies I came across the dreaded RCOD (*).

Does anyone else see the irony here?

Does anyone else see the irony here?

Now runners love coffee as much or more than anyone else, and with all the attention serious runners pay to what else goes into their bodies, you’d think they’d be just as discriminating about their choice of coffee. Apparently not. “We’re on a budget,” I was told. “And at 4:30 we just need something hot.”

Clearly, an intervention was needed. These folks would never try to save money buying $40.00 sneakers to run their marathons in. They needed to see that drinking nasty coffee to save a few bucks per pound was just as nutty.

Synchronicity! I had the Costa Rica coffee in my running bag in the car. I retrieved it and donated it to their cause. I’ll let you know what happens, but if at least one more person awakens to what real coffee is, it’ll be more than worth it to me.

READ MORE: How to drink better coffee, and support those who care about quality, without busting your budget


(*) RCOD = Red Can of Death. Refers to a certain distinctive red can which contains a bad-smelling, worse-tasting substance marketed as coffee. I don’t know if it actually contains floor sweepings, but many cheap brands do, according to the BBC.

The Perils of Paradise

LOOKS LIKE RAIN as I head out in the morning for a weekend bike ride, which reminds me of rain forests, which reminds me of my March trip to Costa Rica. It was for an audit, not a pleasure trip (ah, the burdens of work life), but I managed to get a couple of good runs in while I was there.

In Costa Rica, year-round you can roll out of bed at 6:30 a.m., toss on a shirt and shorts, and go running. The sun is already up and many people are already on the road, either heading to work or getting in morning exercise. Based on the number of other runners and cyclists I saw, I could have been back in Ann Arbor. (Except for the tropical plants and volcanoes. And the whole Spanish language thing.)

View from my hotel room.

View from my hotel room. (Not that I had time to enjoy it. No. None at all.)

That said, there are a few caveats. The roads can be narrow and uneven in quality, and traffic laws are often interpreted as well-meaning annoyances. I was riding with a workmate one day and after stopping at a full red light, he proceeded to drive on through. “Why did you do that?” I asked. He replied that such things were okay on Sundays, which I might have accepted had it not been a Monday.

Running in Costa Rica requires you to keep one eye on what’s ahead of you, one eye on where your feet are landing, and one eye on what may be coming at you from any particular direction. As that is one eye more than most of us have, this presents something of a problem.

I think a few photos will illustrate the situation well.

Better keep that head up and eyes ahead!

Better keep that head up and eyes ahead.

Better Look Down

But better watch where you’re stepping!

Heads up!

Heads up!

Or maybe not...

Or maybe not…

Yet even keeping all this in mind, it is possible for “stuff to happen”. The final morning I was there, I got in a quick six-miler before heading to the office. For most of the run, all was well, and I almost managed not to get lost. But when in unfamiliar territory in Costa Rica, there is a rule for finding your way back: if you are heading uphill, go downhill, and vice versa. So I headed downhill and got back on track. I was el hombre! And then a school bus turned onto the street ahead of me.

Oh yeah, better watch the traffic, too.

Oh yeah, better watch the traffic, too.

As the road was narrow with no sidewalk, I jogged to the other side of the road to get out of the way. But as I was watching the bus, I took my eyes off the road. Sensing its opportunity, the curb leaped up and grabbed my foot, and I took a rather nasty spill. I jumped to my feet to show that I was (mostly) okay, but I’m sure the kids on the bus had a pretty good laugh.

But things turned out okay. When I got back to the hotel, scraped up and bleeding a bit, I found out that our ISO auditor is also a trained first responder. And no non-conformances in his report, either. Can’t ask for much better than that.