Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Fall 2014

It’s fall, only a few aspen are clinging to their golden leaves.  The farmers market is finished, and frosts and snows have ended the growing season.  Summer was a flurry; a near miss wildfire, gardening, end of life issues and healing.  Through it all both Gary and I kept remembering the Ultra Caballo; people, food, the river.  The event even permeated our dreams, we dream in Spanish, we are back in Urique, the other night I dreamt there was a race and watched people; Tony, Gary and Patrick run past- ‘I should be running too’ I told myself and sure enough there I was coming around the corner.

The occasion stirred memories we had left abandoned; the beauty of simplicity, the kindness of strangers, simple food, korima (although we hadn’t named it when we were young).  People came to market to congratulate Gary, and then strangers started bringing me baby blankets for the Raramuri children.  The man who wrote a fabulous article about Gary started running, the client who ordered a cherry table started running.  We both decided that we would try to return to the Caballo Blanco Ultra.  The logistics are sketchy but that isn’t new. 

Last week my sister and her husband were here and they encouraged me to start up the blog again, so here goes.    We will keep you posted!
The remuda has begun!  Who knew there would really be 500 children running in the race of the Caballitos?  My goal this year- a pony for each bag of school supplies! Current count 47, 453 to go...

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Ultra Caballo Blanco 2014

This is it, the day.  The race begins early...6:00 mas o menos as they say.  It is dark the runners are crowded into the main street.  They wear little microchips on their shoes which look pretty crazy tied onto the sandals that the Raramuiri (and a number of other folks wear).  The runners start off as one, blurred, entity.  There is a drone hovering over the starting line and below is a speed bump that trips up a number of runners.  Helpful hands reach out to pick up the fallen and before long the street is quiet again, except for the folks stocking the aid station with Cliff bars, water, bananas, oranges, & pinole.

So off we went Bob and I trotted on down the road both amazed to be there. On over the bridge lined with cheering people towards Guadalupe Church and the first wristband then around the church for good measure. Back to the bridge and on toward El Naranjo, down river on the road and up the trail marked by the white paint and thru the woods and creek bottoms. Switchbacks up onto El Naranjo a mesa top with the next band and pinole, Bob and I meet again and head down the road. We come back thru Urique and Celeste lets out and scream of joy, we pick up more food and water and jog on toward Los Alizos. This first section in the sand along the river was reminding me of snow deep and unpredictable footing, but I felt fine. In Guapalyna the people sat by road clapping and cheering runners down the track high fives from grinning kids and bottles of water offered.

 On across the cable bridge on the Urique River, up and up we go through switch backs and rock walls a whole lot of  people moving through this space and so many smiling , throwing high-fives as we run past each other. The faces of so many types of folks; Raramuiri quiet and focused,Mexicans determined and  intent, Anglos, and crazy Sean with his feathered Marti Gras mask.

At Los Alizos waits Mary and Julie who hand out more pinole and grapefruit right from the tree we're under. Naomi is sitting down in the chair 'Gary don't let me sit here too long'. Naomi is in a leopard print running dress and a fully stocked running vest. Sitting is good but we gotta go, so down the trail for the last leg. Thru Urique in the evening light grab a hug from Celeste and on to Guadalupe again, we reach the church as dark is coming on.We're some of the last it seems, grab an orange, water,
sit and just take a moment to look at the sky. 'We got to go Gary and get that buckle' Naomi said.

On into the dark and pass woman who says she's afraid of the dark. So I give her my headlamp and go on. Farther on we slow due to the DARK and the next thing I know a truck pulls up looking for a woman without a light, we tell the story and they hand us a headlamp, what goes around comes around or in the valley 'Korima'. We trot across the bridge and head up the road to Urique, around the bend we run into a White Horse walking to us on the road . We both  have  ideas of how amazing a thing to happen at the end of such a run as the Caballo Blanco.On past Entree Amigos on to the pavement and the finish line ,Celeste was beaming and Naomi and I got ' that buckle '.

Day Five the Race of the Caballitos

We have been moved to the main kitchen due to my arm, Maria is very kind to share her space.  Maria is one of the race organizers and is up from dawn to late at night meeting with people and doing all the last minute things that come with organizing an event like this.  I feel like I am imposing but she won't hear of it.

There is also an ER Doctor staying at Entres Amigos for to run in the race, she starts with a disclaimer but assures me the arm is broken in two places and will require surgery.  BUT, she tells me, most doctors will wait a week for that type of surgery.  It makes the decision easier, we will be back in Wyoming in a week or so, so why leave? To be honest the pain was not horrible and I want to see Gary run.  The young racers give me kudos for being strong...HA.  Those kids are incredible.

We head into town to watch the children's race only to find it has already started. There are 500 kids,  and numerous adults barreling towards us, most sporting the lime green t-shirts donated for the race.  We had been told that the kids would give the runners a 'run for their money' and we were not disappointed.  They sprinted around the course like thoroughbreds.  The race was almost done before it started.  There were mothers with young children, some running with babies on their backs.  I felt humbled that the children's school supplies they would receive were so paltry- although i don't know if that was the incentive or if they ran for the fun of it.  I would put a pitch in here to donate to the race for next year (http://www.ultracb.com/caballitos/).  The kids all got t-shirts, medals and a pack with school supplies.

The rest of the day people, prepare for tomorrow THE RACE DAY.  Most people are quiet and resting, packing their 'drop bags', packs full of supplies to be left at a strategic location.  I feel like I was in an indigenous camp watching men prepare for battle.  Most of the jovial mood is gone; people are serious and attentive.  AND quiet.  Gary asks about what to pack and people are very open to let him know what works for them.  He is packing one of the pairs of the blue wool socks I had made for him until we see Flint frowning.  'are these a bad idea?'  he frowns again 'well i don't think you should wear them.'  His French accent comes out when he is worried 'you will get what we call old man feet'.  I feel the urge to point out that at 60 Gary has old man feet already, but I refrain.  'Old man feet' apparently are pruney, wet feet that are vulnerable to blisters.  Gary packs some techy socks that Bob has given him.

The other thing that is noticeable is that people are chowing like crazy.  Guacamole is a constant fixture at the table and at any given time there is a group eating... again with their secret diet...bacon, pasta, veggies.  I think you could have done a study on diets that day.  Beer was at a minimum.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Day 4

Mary and Bob walked up to church; Gary and I took a walk together.  I had been reluctant to head out with the crew because everyone was so svelte, not that they would have discouraged me.  And some of the trails made deer trails look like flat superhighways so it was nice to meander with Gary. The kids run everywhere and the realization of how sedentary we and children in America are becomes painfully obvious.  There are men building adobe bricks, they stop to chat with us.  We learn the weather is perfect for the bricks, not to hot not too cold.  They use the gray soil from the river to form a barrier that keeps the fresh bricks from blending back into the soil they came from.  Telling this makes me realize how patient the people were with, explaining things in simple terms and overlooking our total lack of correct verb use. They were happy to take some time to talk.

There is a smiling man coming down the trail with a load of firewood that dwarfs him.  ‘I have seen him everyday’ Gary tells me.  Today he has three young boys in tow, each with a large branch balanced on their shoulder.  When I take a photo of the man the boys strike a pose as well.  Farther up the road we see two young girls in the river, dancing away when they see us, like a pair of startled deer.

That evening we, as in the racers and volunteers, are invited to the Raramuri camp for dinner.  It is across the river via a 200-meter suspension bridge, I make a mental note that I should cross back over before it got too dark.  Food is being prepared in huge cauldrons; beef, cabbage, potatoes and beans.  It is a bit awkward as the people wanted to feed the racers, but were so shy they were uncomfortable serving.  Gary ate everything, the racers talked excitedly, the Raramuri sat on the outskirts watching.

As I start to leave I manage to get in a bottleneck between a stonewall and a brick cooking unit.  In the darkness I fail to notice some gnarly firewood stacked between them.  I fall.  Like a 5 year old. Unfortunately I no longer have the bones of a child.  I biff my nose on the bricks and land on my right arm.  I know it was broken. 

There is a crowd around me almost instantaneously: wide-eyed Raramuri boys, the race directors, Gary…I try hard to act like it is nothing but they don't buy it.  Julie, from our camp, is an ER nurse and independent thinker.  She finds a dished piece of wood and splints my arm, Flint calls the nurse with the clinic and a few racers empty the bridge and spot me as I cross, walking stride for stride to keep the rocking to a minimum.  It was that bridge crossing that had me most worried and what a relief to have such a good crew to help.

Lucy, the nurse, is waiting on the other side.  She drives with me to the clinic, opens it up, splints my arm, gives me meds, wipes away my tears and kisses my forehead.  When I ask ‘how much?’ she brushes it away, ‘de nada’.  Mary has come with me and Lucy explanes it is fractured in at least one, maybe two, places.  I don’t know what to do.

Day 3

Day 3
By now we have settled into Entre Amigos, I help with the registration packets for the racers at the school, Gary goes to the Micah True memorial at Los Alizos, which is also one of the legs of the race.  He meets Prospero and his wife who tend the shrine.  They are gracious, quiet people who feed everyone fresh grapefruit, beans and fresh tortillas. 

I stay at Entres to help Meruca, the manager, with food preparation for the dinner to be served in conjunction with a premier of a movie about Micah tonight.  Meruca is awesome, she is an observant, unobtrusive woman who comes in every morning with Thomas, her brother in law.  They clean the place and she cooks; this day she was making tortillas, carne, beans, pollo, kale chips, and making it look like a piece of cake.  Flint, the French-Canadian with a quick smile and an eye for details, is there too.  He is an easy man to like, open and intelligent.  When he leaves to get the hikers and deliver school supplies, he invites me along.  He is in love with this place and the trip is filled with stories and warm greetings with the locals who watch the influx of strangers with curiosity.  I learn that you drive with windows down so people can see who is in the car, a subtle acknowledgement that this place is not without its troubles.

We find the racers at the river, like a pile of colorful confetti. Gary is there swimming in the Urique river.  The crew has turned into a group of kids, swimming, laughing, and shimmying up rocks to bask in the sun.  Years are falling off Gary like so much unnecessary baggage.  He is alive with excitement about the race.  His pulled muscles are still there but lost in the festivities.

We go to the first school, where the kids are waiting for us.  Gary and I talk with Flint who suggests we not photograph the kids, the Raramuri are shy people, but before long we take a few photos.  The kids are poor, heartbreakingly so.  Some of them have traditional clothes, some in t-shirts with logos like ‘Big Yeti’s Winter Camp’.  Many are barefoot, others wear the huaraches famous in this area.  Flint tells me many walk miles to get here.  I hand out the origami horses to the shyer children, others crowd around folks with soccer balls and slap bracelets.  Maria and Naomi lead a crew in some Spanish song.  But Sweeny takes center stage.  He has brought a box of stuffed animals and as he pulls each one out it comes to life; they wiggle, slither, roar, hiss and bark.  His enthusiasm is contagious; a huge group gathers round him eyes wide and squealing in delight.  It ends too quickly and we head back to camp.

We get back, working on a few details for dinner; Tony, Tyler and Sam are working on huge salads from the garden and Nicole and Benedict are making more Kale chips.  What is with the Kale chips?  I avoided those things in Laramie but now, like the Dr. Seuss character with his green eggs, I find that like them!  Before long our friends from Colorado, Mary and Bob, have found their way to the camp.  We help them find their campsite, then off to help serve dinner.  Keith had expected about 30-40 people but there was more like 100.  Meruca deals with the discrepancy nonplussed and the meal comes off without a hitch.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Day Two

The night had been relatively restful except the crazy roosters that began crowing at 3 a.m.  We went back to the kitchen and began learning peoples names; Lorna &Steve from Durango, Tyler handsome wary and a chef from Winter Park, Tony with enough jet black hair for three scalps, Sam a beauty from Las Vegas, Jack & Shawn a father/son team from England and Nicole a sweet beauty who was in the canyon to study indigenous culture. They worked together in the kitchen like old friends or family silently assessing all newcomers. Gary decided to check out the Guadalupe loop along the river and across the bridge and up river to town.  Celeste put on her big girl pants and walked to town alone, finding her worry for naught as she mimed Spanish to a woman with the biggest   poinsettia she had seen. Later in the day we packed school supplies with a group of Mas Locos in the Presidencia all working and laughing with each other. Meeting the guys from Luna sandals sponsors of the race. There are really over 400 kids in the kids’ race so the origami horses will be handed out at the schools with the supplies. Over to Mama Tita’s for a plate of beans and rice.  We have learned she serves vegetarian food and has sliding scale especially when Papa Tita is running till.