January 1, 2016

Cubarathon – Day 1

Welcome to my little playground :)

Miles for the day : 12

With my body constantly getting better and my fitness almost back where I want it to be, thanks to an unbelievable autumn and early winter that were the mildest on record, I decided to make my Cuban vacation a personal winter training camp. I brought three times more running gear than standard clothes and enough gels and bars to run a hundred mile race. Actually, if everything goes well, I should pull off about that distance if I streak and remain constant... Hell if it goes better than planned, I might run more than that. But let's not get ahead of ourselves.

I got here yesterday night, eager to start a week of running and relaxing in the sun. I'm on my own, which has a lot of advantages. I do what I want, when I want, I can sleep, eat or simply be contemplative to my heart's content.

My hotel is indescribably crappy, with chipped walls, rotten doorways and terrible mattresses, but I find it has a lot of charm for some reason. I don't know if it's because my Spanish has become so much better, but the personnel is super friendly and even random people I met on my run today were open, helpful and smiley. That makes me happy, because my previous Cuban experiences have never been too great, socially speaking.

I woke up at my own rhythm this morning, after a night of watching my TV's only channel, which plays back-to-back episodes of Anthony Bourdain's series. I sorta knew who the guy was, but I'd never really watched the show. I really enjoyed watching him travel through China, then Vietnam, then Thailand, making friends and trying all sorts of exquisite foods and alcohols. He's got nothing on my friend Dan, but it was fun to follow his gastronomic adventures.

As soon as I pulled the curtain, my room got flooded in the gorgeous yellow light of a sunny day, and I marveled at the blue expense that spreads from my window to the horizon. I made my way down to the restaurant, which is 7 flights of stairs each time I go to or from my room. I figured that's part of the training.

Most of you probably don't know Cuba (although that's about to change really soon), so you might not know that it's infamous for its food. Being economically choked by the world's strongest superpower for more than 60 years is sure to leave a trace, so the country relies pretty exclusively on basic staple foods it produces. Add to this fact that I chose the lowest possible grade of accommodation because I'm a dirtbag, and you've got the right ingredients for terrible buffet-style dining... So much so that I've only eaten fruits and white rice so far, and I don't plan to change my diet much if I want to keep a straight stomach.

So after a plateful of decent fresh fruits like guavas, bananas, pineapple slices and something that looked and tasted like a mix of of a lime and an orange (yes, it was delicious), I filled my running vest's bladder and took off.

I didn't have the first idea where to go, so I thought I'd just follow my hotel's street until the miles pile up. It turned out to be a good plan, since I happen to live on one of the longest streets in the peninsula, it seems. I crossed little markets, shops, smiley little kids playing outside and old ladies going about their daily chores. It felt great to see the ordinary, everyday Cuban life, as most resorts are so remote from anything local that you hardly ever have contact with anyone when you come here on an all-inclusive plan. Some people even smiled or waved at me, and I felt perfectly comfortable to wander around on my own two feet.

After about an hour, I made a stop to fiddle with my Luna Origen ATS laces, which rub in-between my big and second toes. I'd specifically brought a roll of Band-Aid tape, expecting this would happen. I took two bits of it, wrapped my second toes and put the sandals back on, with a slight adjustment of the laces. Perfect.

When I finally reached the end of my street, I looked up and decided to veer in the direction of the ocean. Mid-day was coming and the heat here is extremely humid, which makes it a little harder for me to withstand. Add the fact that my skin hasn't pretty much seen a single sun ray since the Copper Canyons, and you'll probably understand why I started to aim for some shade.

I thought I would soon reach some shaded areas by the beach, but instead ended up on the Autopista, a crappy highway filled with exhaust-spewing 50-year-old trucks and cars your grandpa used to drive (they do look amazing, on the other hand). I wasn't very happy with my predicament, and it took a while before I spotted a posh-looking resort and decided to head that way. I'd just walk in and head for the beach, I thought, and run from there back to my point of origin.

I got to the beach, took off my sandals and grinned wide at the idea of a long barefoot run in the sand, but my smile faded pretty quickly when I realized the hotel was built on some cove, blocked on two sides by extremely jagged rock formations. Dammit.

I turned back and followed the directions a nice dude from the hotel gave me. A little while later, after inhaling the black highway fumes for the second time, I finally found a little pathway that lead directly to the beach. It is probably the longest ongoing strip of sand I've ever seen; it took me straight back to my hotel, some 7 miles away. And it keeps going as far as my eyes can see!

The only not-so-great part is that the beach has a sizable slant, which means I can't run anywhere that's flat. After some time coming back, my left hip started to feel the burn. My feet are doing great, however, thanks in part to the barefoot running I've been doing on treadmills this fall. And both my knees feel perfect.

My plan for tomorrow? I'll try to wake up early and get my run early in the morning so I don't get beaten down too much by the sun. I'll run the other direction on the beach, so if my hip starts to hurt, I'll turn around and use the slant to my advantage. And who knows, if I can get some decent mileage, a good nap and a decent mid-day meal, maybe I can go on a sunset run later in the day?

Life is good.


  1. Lire le blogue d'un coureur pourrait paraître maso pour un gars comme moi mais tu as le tour de rendre ça intéressant. Je suis heureux d'apprendre que ton espagnol c'est amélioré au point de comprendre celui des Cubains. - Stephen Pilotte

    1. Mec, on partage la passion des voyages et de l'aventure :)