Saturday, August 28, 2010

Mālō Mātou (Part 1)

Yesterday was the 2nd annual Perimeter Relay Race, which started at Sinalei Resort on the south side of Upolu and wraps around the rolling terrain of the island’s east coast, over the mountains of the Mafa Pass, in and out of the inlets in the northeast, and finishes 64.1 miles (104.7 km) later in downtown Apia. The distance is separated into 24 legs, run in a 6-person rotation, with varying lengths depending on elevation change; i.e. the more the climb, the shorter the leg.

The Peace Corps fielded 2 teams this year, for whatever reason separated by sex. The boys’ team consisted of Ben from 80; Joey, Dan, AJ, and me from 81; and Kyle from 82. The girls’ team was Erin from 81; and Corinna, Dana, Kaelin, Lily, and Rachel from 82. Because of the nature of the race, we didn’t see the girls’ team for most of the day, but there was a shared camaraderie.

In any case, the boys’ team gathered at Chris 81’s house Friday night to carbo-load, strategize, and sleep. There was already a rotation at that point: a couple guys standing in the kitchen keeping an eye on the pasta, someone showering, someone reading over the list of race legs, and 3 other guys sitting in the living room passing the time.

We weighed in with our leg preferences, but in the end, team Captain Joey 81 came up with the following order:
  1. AJ 81;
  2. Dan 81;
  3. Joey 81;
  4. Kyle 82;
  5. Ben 80; and
  6. Matt 81.
Rinse. Repeat.

When we registered for the race we had to estimate our finish time because the race’s organizing committee, the US Veteran’s of Samoa, staggers the starting times of each team with the idea that everyone will finish together. Based on these predictions, we were the top seed.

I admit I was a little disappointed by this. Last year we were seeded second, and the team that won beat us by an hour. There was no chance of our being able to win, which meant we could relax in our second-place glory and have a good time with the day. This whole first-ranked business brought a competitive edge to the day.

Being top seed has another implication: we had to start last. In order to get everyone to finish together, the teams expected to have the longest finish time start earlier (In this case, one team started at 10:30 p.m. Friday so they would finish at 3:30 p.m. Friday) and the teams expected to have the shortest finish time start later.

We headed over the mountain this morning, bleary-eyed and tense, watching the sky slowly brighten. We rolled into Sinalei early enough to see the second-seeded team start the race. We were allowed to start up to 30 minutes before our allotted time. So 16 minutes after our nearest competitor left—we used the bathrooms, signed waiver forms, pinned on our bibs, did some awkward stretching—AJ sauntered up to the starting line, and we were off.

Part 2 tomorrow. I hope you’re well. Pictures below.

Dan and AJ standing over the stove making pasta. That's also Dan receiving the baton from AJ above the fold.

Kyle and Ben sitting in the back of the van in the Sinalei parking lot.

Dan proudly rocked his short shorts.

Me in the foreground getting ready to receiving the baton from Ben. That's Joey on the side of road watching. You can also see the police escort, which stayed with our team's runner the entire day.

Joey, Chris, and AJ at the exchange point in Saleapaga.

Our team's van, sponsored by Country Director Dale, at the exchange point at the rock quarry outside Lalomanu.

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