Last week I signed up to participate in the 2015 Coffee Trail run. Many on island were surprised that I had never done it before but I guess I just missed it my first time around in Saipan. (I was off island at the time)
I would consider the Coffee Trail run the only sole trail running race on the island (which is surprising since I feel like the opportunities to do trail running in here in Saipan are pretty good). There are two choices — a 10 km option and a (approximately) 20 km option. Both are a challenge as they start off with a 3 mile uphill run.
This run was definitely a challenge for me but after a good night’s sleep after the race — I see it is a great experience in my ‘running’ armament of experiences. It was mentally challenging as well as physically challenging and I came in last :) I was starting to get very overheated by the end despite the recently cool winter breezes and started pouring water on myself at each of the last few water stations. Thank you volunteers for all your encouragement and copious amounts of water!!! That being said, coming in last in Saipan never makes me feel bad since I know I’m up against a stacked field (well, stacked against me — amongst Saipan level contestants.. it’s all relative!). There were only 24 or 25 of us doing the 20k, all of which are veteran runners — even though perhaps some of them have taken a hiatus recently. I consider this the start of the prepatory season for the upcoming triathlons — up next, Tinain triathlon (I’ll be in Taiwan unfortunately), Tagaman triathlon, XTERRA triathlon, the Festival of Runs (aka the Saipan marathon), the PIC color run 5k, and the Escape from Managaha.
So, let me share a bit about the race. It is sponsored by the Marianas Coffee Company (they produce local coffee here and we ran through their coffee plantation area), Marianas Visitors Authority, KFC Triathlon Club of Japan, and Team PDI. It started at American Memorial Park at 6:30 AM with registration beforehand.
As usual, I don’t have many pictures of the actual run although if I ever do the 20k race, I will plan to run it slowly and take pictures. (That way I can justify being last with at least a handful of gorgeous gorgeous pictures of Saipan).
At the start, there was registration where we picked up our numbers/bibs and heard a bit about the course. I liked their hand-drawn map of the course! Maybe next year I’ll give them my GPS signal overlaid map!
Yes, it’s drawn on lined paper…. but actually very accurate and informative!
You can see the areas marked ‘coffee’ where we ran through areas with coffee planted.
Here’s a coffee plant with shiny leaves with slightly scalloped edges. It apparently is just the end of the coffee season so now the harvest is being roasted and being produced. I missed out on drinking the coffee at registration — apparently the owner’s of Marianas Coffee Co. had roasted and made coffee with Saipan grown Kona coffee beans! Chuck Jordan, owner of Marianas Coffee Co., told us about some seeds he got from Hawaii about 10 years ago that have just recently started producing Saipan grown Kona. They only have 20 plants currently so were only able to make 11 lbs of roasted beans (aka, there’s no way they will be selling these!) — I’m sad I missed it!
As usual, one of the best parts about these events is that you get to know everyone. It’s the same wonderful little running community of people and even at the start when I already started drifting behind, if we passed someone or someone passed you, it was always a quick word of encouragement by name. I don’t think in any race in the States this could happen (unless you had your name written on your shirt somewhere).
Here’s the course per my GPS watch. Let me get the painful part over with — I ran on this for 3 hrs and 20 minutes. Yeah, the last few miles were REALLY tough as the sun had started beating down on a straight stretch with no shade.
So, that is the elevation map. As you can see, a lot of uphill. Many parts of this trail followed the XTERRA biking route so those runners that were very familiar with the XTERRA mountain biking trail perhaps had a slight advantage because they knew what to expect. As I was running at around the 5-6 mile point, I looked down at my watch and realized — I am barely at the halfway point! I must say, this 20k felt really long. I included this picture of the area without the overlying course because it’s easier to see the ‘densely’ populated Garapan area on the west side of the picture and the densely green area that we ended up running in.
This area is by far the prettiest place I have run in Saipan. I hope to go up there again (with a car to the point where I can’t drive anymore!) and just take some pictures. We passed by a place called the ‘Sound of Music’ that is a beautiful area with hills of waving green grass. It was just about an hour after sunrise by the time we were up in that area and the morning sun on the hill was breathtaking.
You can see how much of the island we actually covered on this trail. (And refer to the handdrawn map above — see how it looks almost exactly the same!)
As you got to the top loop, you got to look out over the East Bay of the island. The sun was just peeking through the clouds and I definitely took pictures into my memory of the area. It was definitely a worthy consolation prize for running this race!
We finished at the start line and there were still people there cheering (thanks!) actually because the last two of us came in just a few minutes apart.
To clarify, while there are a few portions of this race that are on asphalt, the majority is on a combination of dirt roads, but also a large portion of trail. The trail is not always present there actually — it’s cleared starting around now through the end of the triathlon ‘season’ here. Someone has to go through the jungle and clear all this trail so I applaud those people who I think are usually volunteers! It has been quite rainy all week here so I knew to expect mud — and it was there. It was part of the fun though…. but cleaning up afterwards was not so fun!
These were my shoes when I went to scrub them — suffice it to say, they will never be completely clean and I’m okay with that.
There was then a break and we reconvened in the afternoon at 1:00 for a banquet and prizes.
This is Chuck Jordan on the microphone standing next to Perry Tenorio, managing director of the Marianas Visitors Authority. I do like how they make these events associated with the tourism agency here — I like to think this kind of tourism for sporting events is an awesome way to go and show off the island.
Here we are chowing down! They then handed out prizes to the fastest male and female runners of the 10 k and 20 k races in age divisions and also the top finishers male and female. (Don’t be surprised if you’re on this island and finish last but still get a prize because of the lack of numbers of participants in each category — but alas, nothing for me today). Part of these events usually also includes raffle prizes and there were some great raffle prizes to restaurants and hotels on island that were given out.
Perry Tenorio with the youngest runner, an adorable 7 year old who ran the 10k distance! Thanks to all the sponsors for preparing the race!
(and … sunset yesterday)