Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Running...Puerto Vallarta Style!

One of the things I hadn't done in my previous two international trips -- to Cancun in 2012 and Italy in 2013 -- was to go for some runs and take in some sights. Plus, because I'm kind of dorky like this, I just think it would be cool to add foreign countries to places I've run.

So on our vacation this week to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, I decided to make sure getting a few runs in was a priority -- not to mention a necessary way to burn off the food and margaritas -- and I got my first run in on Monday. I don't know if I can call it an actual training run, though, more like a sightseeing run. I stopped several times for pictures and stuff, and did a little bit of walking in the middle.

I'll post a few pictures here, but you can see the full gallery on my Facebook page.

The weather was spectacular, as it has been since we arrived on Saturday. It was close to 80 degrees and there wasn't a cloud in the sky. There was a part of me that was a bit concerned about running in that kind of heat given I hadn't in a few months, but I figured since I was going to take it easy and stop frequently it would be no big deal.

I left the hotel and headed south, more towards the older part of PV. I have to say, I've run in some big cities, but there were a lot of challenges that I hadn't experienced before, like really high curbs, uneven sidewalks and crazy traffic. There are so many cars in such a small area down here that many of the rules of the road we follow at home don't apply. You really have to have your senses on high alert around here!

Our hotel is just a few blocks from an area of little shops and restaurants, so I caught that area first. Even though it was noon there really wasn't a lot of activity going on there, I guess things pick up as the afternoon goes on. They did have a nice little Christmas display over the street, though.

One of the things I wanted to check out was the track stadium, which was about 1.5 miles from our hotel. I was hoping that sometime this week it would be open and maybe I could do some speedwork there.

When I got to the track it was all locked up. In the infield of the track is a big stage setup for some sort of music festival that looks like it runs every night this week. Bummer. That probably means that the track will be closed the entire time. Hopefully by Friday. I may check out one of the concerts this week, when we drove by there on Sunday night it looked like a pretty good show.

The track itself looks pretty nice. It also has a set of concrete grandstands, which I pictured to be full on nights when they have local track meets.

What I didn't know was that the track stadium was a part of a large park/sports complex. It was pretty massive, it had playgrounds, basketball courts, soccer fields, a kind of "indoor" soccer field that looked about the size of a hockey rink and was covered with green indoor/outdoor carpeting, and of course, several baseball fields. It even had a boxing ring.

Honestly I was kind of humbled by it. Most of the soccer fields were bare, and many of the other facilities had cracks or chipped paint or were in need of other types of repair. The only exception was the baseball field which was pristine. Which was not a surprise given the way Mexicans love their baseball. I walked in the outfield for a while and the grass felt like
a sponge beneath my feet. I would've loved to have played on that diamond.

Here is a photo of some guys playing on the small soccer field. There were actually a couple of Americans playing (like the dude in the red shirt in the photo) and I think they might have been Mormon missionaries because they were wearing name tags. Notice the paint on the walls and the way the carpet
it starting to come up.

Again, humbling. In our country we pour so many resources into our facilities in hopes that they produce good athletes and teams. But I would venture to guess that many of the world's greatest athletes -- especially in baseball, basketball and soccer -- grew up playing in places like this. It's not about money, it's about talent and love.
I doubt Miguel Cabrera, Yasiel Puig or Jorge Soler ever swung a $400 metal bat when they were kids, but they can still flat-out hit. If you love a sport, have the talent to succeed in it, and work and work and
work, they will find you. Don't get me wrong, I love playing sports in nice facilities, but I've played in some really crappy places, too, and wherever you go, the game is the same. It's the love that counts.

After walking around the park for about 30 minutes, I headed back. The whole run was such a neat introduction to an interesting culture. It was an experience for all of my senses, I especially loved the smell of the food at the small restaurants!

And there were some funny sights too, like the guy who was standing with two other people carrying on a conversation while holding a machete in his hand! That dude would definitely have gotten a different reaction if he'd been doing that on the streets of Chicago!

When I got back near my hotel, I followed a little path that took me to the beach, where I finished my run. As fun as it is to run along a beach, it's really difficult to do here because the sand is fine and grainy, and your feet pretty much sink in, even when you are on the wet sand that has been packed down a bit by the surf. So no beach running on this trip.

Still, I was able to cool off my feet in the water and take a picture of me with the water and mountains in the background.

I'm guessing I ran about 3.5 miles or so, and with walking put in around four, so it was a good chance to work up a sweat. I think later on this week I'm going to go the Malecon, a place more in the center of town that has some running paths and such. I was there on Sunday night and it was a really neat place, and Darcy went there on Monday during the day and said there were lots of runners out there.

Let the adventure continue!

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