I had a little bit of drama the morning I left for Haiti. I had to get up at 3:30 AM and catch the bus to the airport for an early morning flight. It had snowed and the roads were sheets of ice!
At the Denver airport, I met Dan Baas. The race was being covered by a production company who will have their own set of channels on Mevio, set to launch in a couple of months. They will have several episodes about Haiti on their endurance channel. Dan was one of the videographers and I was glad to have him with me on the trip to Haiti. It was fun to learn a bit about him. I found out he works in the movie/tv industry and is a cameraman for Breaking Bad and has filmed various movies. Not only that, but he has a great sense of humor AND has ascended some crazy mountains in Nepal making films with Don Bowie. Don had come to Boulder a few days before my departure for some filming. Don is a very accomplished and ultra badass mountaineer with several first ascents under his belt on some of the most intimidating mountains in the world. I also found out that he is a deep thinker and I enjoyed chatting with him. He followed me on one of my training hikes before my departure. I admit to feeling a little embarrassed hiking with such a badass guy who could probably do backflips up the side of the mountain as I labored up the hiking trail!
After Dan and I somehow missed some airline drama (our flight was late and we would have missed our flight to Haiti had the next flight not been delayed too!)
Before I knew it, we were landing in Port Au Prince. I looked out the window and was surprised. I heard Haiti had mountains, but there were a lot more than I expected. Mountains on the Caribbean? I’ll take it.
Dan and I got off the plane and were greeted with live music!
Getting through customs was a breeze. When we got to the baggage claim, there were tons of guys in red hats and badges who were asking for our luggage tags. I didn’t really know what to do, so I gave them my tag. They were all working and grabbed your luggage off the bag claim and brought it to you for a tip. It was kind of nice not having to deal with grabbing my bike, which made it by the way!
We were greeted by James with the race organization and loaded into a bus with a few other racers that had arrived.
The streets were busy and what I was expecting! There’s not a lot of organization with traffic in developing countries. I also saw the bright colored trucks. Robert (another racer who had been to Haiti post earthquake to help start a school) told me they were called “tap-taps” and is the public transportation system. I saw a lot of tap-taps over the course of the week I was there. They all had different brightly colored paintings on them varying from religious icons to basketball players.
Port Au Prince
We arrived at the hotel which felt like walking into another world. It was very modern and much fancier than I expected! That night, we had our first racer meeting. I got to meet some of the other folks racing and I got my number plate.
I always love pics of number plates on my bike before a race. There’s so many different experiences to be had with each new number plate I tie to my bike, and even more experiences without a number plate!
The first two days of the race were “eco-building” days. We piled into a bus and went to an art gallery where Laurel True taught us how to create our own mosaics. I struggle with art, so I was excited to participate in something I could actually do. It was very therapeutic! Laurel has her own global program where she teaches people all over the world to create mosaics. In Jacmel, Haiti, mosaics are going up everywhere. We were tasked to create a 6’x6′ mosaic of the MTB Ayiti logo that would be installed on a wall in Jacmel before the race was over. We also created several 8″x10″ trail markers to be installed on some of the singletrack with the end goal of eventually marking tons of Haitian singletrack for people to come ride!
Laurel and her Haitian team
Trail Mosaic marker. SO FUN! I want to make my own for my house.
Group shot of the large mosaic.
We also got to see Sharona’s art gallery with tons of different pieces by Haitian artists. I noted vibrant colors, jungle animals, people carrying things, and landscapes.
I also saw a lot of wooden masks.
We had a racer meeting that night. Rick Sutton (the creator and long time organizer of Sea Otter) was the head honcho for the race. I was extremely impressed with the entire operation. It was very organized and timely.
I got to meet and race with legend, Marla Streb. Laurel brought a local adult beverage that Marla and I had to sample. This was sort of eggnog flavored with the Haitian version of everclear. YUM. I loved Marla because we just got along. She’s so laid back and fun with a great sense of humor!
We also had a very great wellness team at the race. They had reflexology, massage, and yoga. Thank you to Jill, creator of Wellfit Institute. I met Jill at breakfast. I took an immediate liking to her warm nature, inspiring energy, and enthusiasm. I also found out she used to live in Colorado and is a very accomplished rock climber to add to her long list of talents.
I also got to meet and spend time with pro triathlete and long time model, Jenny Fletcher. It was really fun to get to know her. She is a brave soul. She had never mountain biked before, went once, and then flew to Haiti to race.
After 4 days in Port Au Prince, it was getting down to the wire. Race day… To be continued….