Survival Run: Nicaragua 2014 - Director's Report


Feb 4-5, 2014 - Survival Run: Nicaragua (2nd Annual)
41 starters, 4 official finishers

  1. Nickademus Hollon
  2. Benedict Slow
  3. Johnson Cruz Barrios
  4. Paco Raptor Manzanares

3 Runners went on to complete the 100k for the Devil’s Double! 

  1. Nickademus Hollon
  2. Johnson Cruz Barrios
  3. Paco Raptor Manzanares

Many more photos of Survival Run 2014 HERE

Survival Run was born and bred on Isla de Ometepe, Nicaragua. The inspiration for Survival Run comes from the harsh reality of daily primitive survival, something most people no longer experience. We have grown so comfortable and even our training many times is only an emulation of difficulty.  

On Isla de Ometepe it is not uncommon to see a 60+ year old man or woman carrying a bundle of firewood or log well over 50lbs, it is common to see young children in the village of Los Ramos carrying 5 gallon containers of water several miles from the well to their home. We get so caught up in our training, many times becoming obsessed with posting our achievements and feeling "bad-ass" for being so tough. 

How tough are we really? How would we fare if we had to go out on the trails daily to hunt for our food, haul water, chop firewood, climb trees for coconuts, herd and care for animals and much more? While Survival Run cannot emulate 100% what it is like to truly live in primitive situations, it challenges the status quo athlete to "adapt or die." 

The objective of Survival Run is not to mentally torture or break the athletes, Survival Run does not have race officials on the course harassing athletes military-style. Survival Run is all about the athlete vs the course, it is about adaptability and the willingness to think outside of the box. How will an athlete react if the course refuses to make them look good? What does an athlete do when the race does not meet their expectations? 

 Survival Run is evolving and growing up. Survival Run: Nicaragua 2014 was a course none of the 41 starters will ever forget. Only 4 finished, but for those who did not finish, the reasons are all over the board.  

Tuesday, Feb 4, 3:30pm 
Packet Pickup for Survival Run is never ordinary, the bibs are not given out for nothing. This is a type of pre-screening just before the race, a sort of "are you sure about this?" moment before fully commiting. 

Athletes showed up for Packet Pickup with 100% of their gear, they were told after a gear check that nothing could be added or removed for race morning. What some suspected was that the race was going to start right then, instead of the advertised 4:00am Wednesday morning start. Those who suspected it were probably much more prepared than the others. After receiving a raw egg with their bib # written on it, a gear check and a short set of instructions, the athletes were off to "bird shit island" to get their bibs. 

The following is a short description of the challenges on the course. The course was 70km give or take a few. The route included both the Volcan Maderas and Volcan Concepcion ascent/descent. 

A raw egg with a number written on it was given to the athletes before packet pickup. This egg had their bib number and was to be exchanged unbroken on the island for their actual bib. This egg would be seen again for some when the runners came full circle at the end of the route to retrieve the egg once more. The raw egg is a big part of the Survival Run in Nicaragua as it is inspired from the Birdman Race (Tangata Manu) of Easter Island, a traditional ritual race event where the young islanders raced to a bird island and returned with an unbroken egg, many dying on the way from shark attacks, falling off of the cliffs, drowning and more. The egg represents fragility. 

Athletes ran north on the beach about 3km to Finca San Juan then swam to a small island 1/2 mile out. They exchanged their unbroken egg for their bib number, then returned to the Start/Finish, this is where their race began. - Swimming is an integral part of survival and of life on Isla de Ometepe. The ferry workers sometimes have to jump into treacherous waters with a rope and swim to the dock to anchor the ferry in when the water is too rough to get the ferries close. 

After being told the race began, the athletes continued along several miles of rough and rocky coastline to Punta Delirio and Finca Feliz. The Finca is owned by Claudio, a French Canadian who has turned the place into a gorgeous permaculture and edible jungle landscape. He was more than tickled to use his farm for the second year in the Survival Run. This year athletes climbed up and dove into an above ground water cistern, where they dove about 12 feet to retrieve a painted rock from the bottom. This rock was to be kept until the next checkpoint as verification. The athletes then were directed to a hilltop with large circles drawn on the ground. Their task was to fill the circle with rocks from the bottom of the hill. The rocks are going to be used to make a building on the land. 

From Finca Feliz, the athletes went along dirt and some paved road up to Finca El Porvenir. This part was a telling point in the event, and a game changer for many. Men were instructed to carry 5, and women 3, gallons of water up the brutal 7.5km Volcan Maderas trail at night. They were told they had until midnight to make a cutoff for the first medal. - Since some places on Ometepe do not have running water, carrying it by hand, horse or even bicycle is a reality of island life. This might be one of the least desirable tasks, but still essential to life. The water in this case was to be used for the Aid Station three days later at the 25k, 50k and 100k.

When athletes arrived in the crater with their water, they were instructed to stash it in the jungle. From there they were told to swim across the lagoon to retrieve another egg and to keep the egg safe. - They were then told to stay put until 3am, where the second stage of the race would begin. - Most everyone followed the instructions on the gear list and had an emergency blanket, some suffered more than others. - If successful with their water carry and swim, the first medal, “FAIL”, was awarded. - The time of arrival was recorded and the clock stopped until 3am, when runners were instructed to descend the volcano on the Merida side, the most treacherous part of the course. - Survival is about learning to adapt and stay alive, this is what the night in the crater was about. It also took the general concept racing and dumped it on its head, some people don’t like that. 

After the long descent of Volcan Maderas, which included the jungle gym, the athletes arrived at Rancho Merida. They were instructed to pick up a long bamboo and to head down the road toward the isthmus. - After a few kilometers, the athletes arrived at a set of mango trees, where they were instructed to climb into the trees to retrieve colored wristbands. - There was a section of 6.5km along the shore, mostly in water, where the athletes had to climb into a total of 8 trees. The wristbands they retrieved here would get them their second medal, to read "I Fail"

After leaving their bamboo at Santa Teresa beach, the athletes headed up a dirt road along the coast to Tesoro del Pirata, where an old rusty pier sits out on the water. - They swam/waded out to the pier then were instructed to dive down under the pier to retrieve two different colored wristbands. - Once they had their wristbands, they were directed back to the beach then up and over the steep Mirador del Diablo climb. 

After several miles of tough trail and some hot road, the remaining athletes arrived at the Los Ramos trailhead, where the Volcan Concepcion Climb began. This is the steepest and the toughest known trail on Volcan Concepcion, followed by a treacherous 600 meter traverse across the crater to the La Sabana trailhead, where the athletes were to descend. The cutoffs before this traverse were set aggressively to ensure no one crossed in the darkness. - Only 4 athletes made this traverse, two others almost made it up on time but were cut off. - On the descent, the athletes were told to harvest 15 Manicata leaves. These leaves are very large, sometimes up to 6ft wide. However, they grow like weeds and only at about 800 to 1300 meters. They are constantly being chopped back by the guides to keep the trail open. 

After the steep descent and Manicata leaf harvest, the athletes arrived at the base of Volcan Concepcion, where they could trade their two wristbands and manicata leaves for their 3rd medal, "I DID FAIL”. - From there they were instructed to run a few kms to Finca San Juan, where they were to swim once more to bird shit island for their egg. The egg was to remain unbroken until the finish line. 

After the swim, the athletes were instructed to collect and tie a bundle of firewood (50lbs men, 30lbs women). From there they were instructed to run with the firewood to the finish line along the coast, also with their egg. Four made it to the finish line, three made the last swim and received all four medals, “ I DID NOT FAIL”. 

Congratulations to everyone who participated in the event, it was not easy to toe that line.

Special thanks to our sponsors, Canal 8, Claro, INTUR, CITI, Merrell, Alcaldia de Altagracia, Cerveza Toña, Fuente Pura and all other supporters. Special thanks to a wonderful team of volunteers and organization team, Sean Meehan, Zac Wessler, Alberto & Tania Campos, Peter Marston, Margaret Schlachter, Johnny Waite, Penny Light, many more, too many to name them all!

Survival Run will always adapt, innovate and outrun, because Survival Run is not static or stuck in the mud. 

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