Isla de Ometepe's Extreme Ultra-Marathon Returns


Article by Christopher Haley Ultramaratón Fuego y Agua Isla de Ometepe, Nicaragua February 18, 2012 [caption id="attachment_695" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Volcan Concepcion rises above the Port town of Moyogalpa"][/caption]The third running of Ultramaratón Fuego Y Agua, featuring 100 km, 50 km, and 25 km trail races, will take place February 18, 2012 after a one-year hiatus. The race is held on Ometepe, an island known for its astonishing biodiversity, prehistoric rock carvings, and vibrant local culture. The twin volcanic cones of Ometepe, one still active, rise out of Lake Nicaragua, which is the largest lake in Central America, and located in the southeast corner of the Republic of Nicaragua. Ometepe is the world's largest volcanic island in a fresh water lake, and in 2010, was made a UNESCO biosphere preserve to promote sustainable development of agriculture and ecotourism to protect the island's unique ecology for generations to come. [caption id="attachment_690" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="sunrise over Volcan Maderas "][/caption]The stunning scenery and relaxed, paradisiacal atmosphere of Ometepe belies, however, the challenging course that race director, Josue Stephens, has laid out to test thoroughly the endurance and will power of all entrants. The course takes runners on a grand tour of the island, confronting runners with dramatic changes in climate and elevation, from tropical beaches and jungles to dry tropics and cloud forests. The vast changes in geography ensure runners face all elements: hot sun, strong winds, high humidity, rain showers, and a lot of mud. Temperatures in a single day can range from mid-50s on a volcano peak to upper 90s in low-lying forests. The toughest sections of the course are the steep climbs (with no switchbacks) that head straight up over the two volcanoes, gaining approximately 3000 feet over Maderas and 4300 feet over Concepción. Not to be overlooked in the cloud forests on Maderas are the notorious tree root systems of an unique species, Ardisia ometepensis, found only on the island. These roots [caption id="attachment_692" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="the aptly named Jungle Gym challenges even the most experienced runner"][/caption]form the challenge of the aptly termed, “jungle gym” section, taking what is ostensibly an ultra marathon, and transforming it at times into an obstacle course. New for 2012, the rugged beauty of Ometepe and its remote location has qualified Fuego Y Agua to join the Lost Worlds Trail Series, becoming its prologue event. Traveling to Ometepe is convenient and inexpensive. From Nicaragua's international airport in the capital city of Managua, it is a 2.5 hour bus ride to the Port of San Jorge on Lake Nicaragua. From the port, visitors catch a ferryboat for a one hour trip to the town of Moyogalpa on the island. Moyogalpa has excellent and reasonably priced lodgings, and serves as the start and finish of all races. The 100k and 50k races will begin at 4 am with a hot sun rising shortly after 6 am. Runners attempting the 100k have 24 hours to complete the race, while the 50k has 12 hours, and the 25k, six hours. In order to minimize the ecological impact of the race, Fuego Y Agua has a cap of 200 total participants in all three races: one hundred will be allowed to run in the 100k and 50k, and one hundred in the 25k. During the race, five certified guides will monitor the course, while medical support is being provided by the Nicaraguan Red Cross. Seven well- stocked aid stations line the course, with drop-bag access at key locations. [caption id="attachment_697" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Over 350 children participated in the 5k the day after the ultras!"][/caption]Fuego Y Agua is seeking sponsors of the race and volunteers to man aid stations and help manage the race course. Fuego Y Agua is a not-for-profit race, and, as in previous years, the proceeds will benefit the mission of Natural Doctors International, a NGO dedicated to providing medical care for the residents of Ometepe. A portion of the proceeds will also finance the Calzado 5k race, held the day after the race for the children of Ometepe, to promote health and fitness. For more detailed information about travel arrangements and lodging, to fill-out an online race entry form, or to learn about volunteer and sponsorship opportunities, visit www.fuegoyagua.org.

Christopher Haley haley.cw@gmail.com 12/6/2011