Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Caribbean Running Cruise Day 7 - Haiti Relays

Today was a GREAT day.

We could have slept in ... of course, getting so much sleep yesterday meant I woke up bright and early... and surprisingly bushy tailed.

We went upstairs to grab breakfast, but discovered this scene by the pool:

It seems the housekeeping staff got very busy (and advertised their towel animal class for the following day) by decorating the pool deck with dozens and dozens of towel animals.

We took advantage of the quiet morning to take some pictures of the pool area:

We especially loved the "H20Zone" -- the kids' splash area, which was usually empty, and was a great "post race" destination to cool off in.

We also made a stop in the hot tubs after breakfast -- did I mention that they're cantilevered off the edge of the ship?

Our briefing was at 9 -- but in a dining room, which made it difficult to hear and difficult to fit in the space. John was told he couldn't have a microphone -- so that we didn't disturb people dining on the other levels... so we *might* have made sure to CHEER LOUDLY on occasion....

It also meant it was a little rough to get off the boat early, and we crammed in with hoi polloi for 15 minutes or so.

We arrived in Labadee -- Royal Caribbean's "private paradise" on a small peninsula in Haiti.

Today we would be running a relay -- 2-4 miles each in teams of 2 ... but, more importantly, today we would be helping a great charity called Street Hearts.

photo by Jenny Hadfield

We found our meeting place, took our big group photo, and met Linsey, the founder of Street Hearts. She told us about how she moved to Haiti several years ago, and met young boys living on the street.

She encouraged them to run with her, and if they did a certain number of runs, they could "buy" things from her. It has since grown into a large charity, helping hundreds of boys. We had brought shoes and clothes and toiletries for the boys, and had been told that if we could raise $5000, we could help them buy another house so they could help more kids.

Today eight of her boys came to meet us in Labadee to run with us and spend the day with us. It's making me tear up just typing this -- but it was so great to watch these amazing kids take so much pleasure in the day. A bunch of us brought shoes and gear and other items for the boys... and Justin really went above and beyond to bring enough toiletries and supplies to 50 boys. So awesome.

photo by Brook D
(Love seeing that gear go to good use!)

The run was pretty simple -- a half mile out, a half mile back. One runner holds the watch, the other runs. When the first runner comes in, he takes the watch while the other person runs. Sort of a reverse baton.

The lead runners lined up ...

And then took off. Look at the StreetHearts boys -- you can tell they've been training for this!

photo by Jenny Hadfield

The day was hot hot hot and crazy humid. Wil went out for his leg while I stayed behind and cheered. When it was my turn, I ran out through the "town", along the main drag, dodging shuttles and tourists, past the art market, through the "artists village", and out to the far beach to the turnaround. By the time I came back in, my shirt was soaked, my fingers were tingling, and I felt woozy. OOF. I chatted with John and said I might want to make a race-day decision to cut it off at two miles each, rather than four.

Linsey had made a sign for each of the boys, so we took turns holding them so they'd see them when they came in.

photo by Jenny Hadfield
photo by Jenny Hadfield

Wil came back from his leg 2, and I headed out again. I needed to walk a bit this leg -- up the little hill both ways. Still, it was great to be able to see everyone ... including the StreetHearts boys ... running their hearts out, cheering for each other.

I came back in and said to Wil, "How about we stop now?" -- but he wouldn't hear of it... and went out for his third leg. Luckily (ha) the heat was getting to him too... so I had a little more time to rest before it was my turn to run again. This time I walked even more, but I certainly wasn't alone. Still, I ran it in for the end of my leg 3. Wil proposed we walk ... together ... for our final mile. That seemed like a pretty good compromise, so we headed out together, Wil plying me with water (aah!). We walked out to the turnaround and back, running the last little bit. We managed not to actually capture our time. Oops.

We stood and cheered for a little longer, but I was in pretty desperate need of liquid so we went to our "private party" site. Soon I had some water and a Diet Coke in my hand, and felt much better. I also managed to try the famous "Labadoozie", which was amusing because the bartender made it by pouring rum in a glass and then scooping pink slush out of a cooler.

We also had lunch, the boys sang a song, and we got to watch the boys get their first ever buffet lunch. We also celebrated everyone completing the staged marathon / half marathon.

photo by Jenny Hadfield
photo by Jenny Hadfield
photo by Jenny Hadfield
Eventually Wil and I decided to go for a swim -- first just walking in to the water at the closest beach, then changing into our suits and walking out to the far beach (by the run turnaround). We also stopped at one of the art markets and I picked up a Labadee Christmas ornament. (Note to Royal Caribbean: if you had sold an "Independence of the Seas" ornament, sticker, charm, badge, postcard, etc., I would have bought them. Seriously.)

We spent an hour or so in the water and lounging on the beach, but we were pretty much done. Even finding ourselves with Wil Wheaton (ha ha) didn't hold much allure.

(Spotting Wil Wheaton, who was one of the featured speakers/entertainers on the JoCo Cruise, because a running gag with our group... )

We headed back to the ship, marveling at the "little" ship that had also come into Labadee ... and how tiny it looked next to our behemoth:

We got cleaned up, had a nap (hooray!), relaxed on the balcony, did some reading and writing, and spent a little more time poking around the ship -- we couldn't believe our week was almost over.

Every time I think about those sweet boys it just makes me smile. Huge thanks to John and Jenny for introducing us to Linsey and her boys and arranging this wonderful day.

photo by Jenny Hadfield

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