He is at it again.
Ben LaVigueur decided to enter a 100-kilometer (62 miles) ultramarathon in Nicaragua last month, the “Ultramaratón Fuego y Agua,” and ended up winning it with a time of 13 hours, 8 minutes.
LaVigueur, who has struggled in the past with drug problems, has turned his life around in recent years by turning to a life of endurance races, and he has been quite successful with it, winning races such as the Little Su 50-K in 2010 and 2011.
In an email, LaVigueur described the journey he took with his brother, Gabe, that found them bicycling from Cancun, Mexico, last October, along the Caribbean coast. They biked through the countries of Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Costa Rica.
“While researching the trip I began looking for some kind of event to take part in such as a marathon or adventure race,” LaVigueur wrote. “I ended up finding the Ultramaratón Fuego y Agua 100k race. It would be my first 100k and would take lots of training I thought, but sure why not.
“Hey, I figured riding a bicycle everyday for over 1,000 miles ought to be good cross training, so I signed up.”
By the end of November, the brothers made it to San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua. After Gabe returned to Maui, his home, Ben continued on.
“After 1,200 miles I finally made it to Isla de Omotepe in the middle of Lake Nicaragua (Lago de Cocibolca),” he wrote. “This would be my home for the next two months.”
Ben trained hard, running 60 to 105 miles each week in preparation. He ran the race course, which climbs to the summit of Volcan Maderas, multiple times, and prepared by running in the heat of the sweltering, humid days.
Because LaVigueur is accustomed to running in races during the Alaska winters, the toll this race would take on his body would be a much different type of stress.
“This was going to be my first 100k event in a location completely foreign to me and in weather conditions I am totally uncomfortable in, I knew it would take everything I had,” LaVigueur wrote. “After my 2 months of training on the volcanoes of Omotepe I finished out my bike tour with another week long 200 mile to San Jose, Costa Rica where I met my wife Michelle at the airport after 3 months of not seeing each other and we spent the next month in the mountains above San Isidro in the foothills of Mount Chirripo.”
After some needed rest the night before the race, LaVigueur writes that he was concerned about a muscle strain from the day before, but other than that, he was “comfortably numb.” The race started in the early hours of the morning, before the sunrise.
“The first couple of hours were in the dark on cow trails winding along the edge of pasture land,” he wrote. “After about 10 miles into the race the sun started rising and I finally began to feel warmed up so I started picking up the pace. I ran with a couple of other guys on my way to the base of Maderas volcano and into the Porvenir aide station at mile 20.
“This was the first time I got to see Michelle as she was working this station and it really lifted my spirits.”
Since LaVigueur was the only 100-kilometer runner with considerable experience on the volcano, he was able to catch the lead runner.
The trail climbed straight up for six miles and 5,000 feet through bean and plantain fields before entering a thick, cloudy forest where it became so foggy and wet that visibility was greatly reduced, he writes.
“This is some of the most technical and muddy terrain imaginable up into the crater, around the crater lake and down through what is called the “Jungle Gym” where runners are reduced to hand-over-hand maneuvers through trees and roots so thick you are 3-4 feet off the ground at certain points, climbing down embankments with ropes,” he wrote.
LaVigueur writes that after 31 miles, he had never felt better. Even with the sun in full effect at midday, LaVigueur was able to endure the heat and take in enough water and calories to keep up the pace he was running at.
Being such a long race, any runner will likely feel the effects, and LaVigueur was feeling them.
However, with the thoughts of his wife, Michelle, in his head, he was able to make his way to the finish, where she was waiting for him.
“This has by far been the most challenging race I have ever participated in but also one of the most gratifying,” LaVigueur writes. “I trained so hard for it and was able to have my wife with me.
“Three weeks after the race we had our wedding on the beach in Dominical, Costa Rica.”
With the victory, LaVigueur writes that he plans on taking most of the coming year off from running.
Come next February, however, he plans to run in the Susitna 100, and will be looking for local sponsorship to help him succeed. Those who are interested will be able to contact him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
He is at it again.