Guatibiri del Otoao, Puerto Rico 21K
The Guatibiri del Otoao is a 21K, or half marathon, in Utuado, Puerto Rico. This year Dave and I were among the 390 participants who took part in the 19th annual race on April 24th. We signed up back in December, and at $25 per person it included a dri-fit shirt and finisher's medal.
On both the shirt and medal is an image of Puerto Rican icon Jorge "Peco" Gonzalez. Peco is a hometown hero who is from Utuado and still lives there today. He is best known for coming in 1st place in the Marathon at the Pan American games in 1983 in Caracas, Venezuela as well as many other notable events.
We arrived in Puerto Rico on Saturday April 23rd and drove the hour and 15 minutes to Utuado from San Juan. After checking into our hotel, Casa Grande Mountain Retreat, we drove into the town to attend the pre-race festivities. This was an all day event that consisted of music, arts and crafts where you can purchase locally crafted items, as well as "living art". We purchased a framed map of Puerto Rico made out of leather.
It was at this festival that Dave had his picture taken with Peco. Peco used to run with the Police Athletic League that Dave belonged to as a kid growing up in Utuado.
The race started at 4pm the next day at the sports stadium. We were able to pick up our shirt and bib at 9am. The road closures began at 2pm and there was another pre-race fiesta with food, music and bounce houses at that location. We didn't plan our meals well and ended up just grabbing a sub from Subway. We were lucky enough to park at Dave's godfather's house which was conveniently located about a half mile from the starting line.
The wheelchair racers started first, there were 2 of them, and then shortly after the runners and walkers began. We started off running though a local road where people were cheering us on and taking pictures and video. It seemed like the whole town came out for this event, even camping out a few hours prior to the start of the race.
Around mile 2 we encountered "el caracol", or the snail. It is a twisty road on an extremely steep incline. After that it was still up hill from there as we continued up the highway. Every year the race committee is trying to make this race bigger and more popular. One of the things they did this year was ensure that it was fully marked with every kilometer. This was something different for us as we are used to seeing the mile markers. So, instead of 13 miles it went up to 21 kilometers.
It wasn't until about halfway through that we started to run on a decline. Again, we ran through local neighborhoods where people were broadcasting the race on a loud speakers. We ran by two different houses where the people were kind enough to spray the runners down with water as we passed.
Water stops were approximately every 2 miles with Gatorade only at the finish. To our surprise there were no porta-potties at any of the stops. And, to more of a surprise I didn't need to go!
The funniest point in the race came around mile 10 when we ran past a funeral home. There was a large group of people in the front cheering on the runners. When Dave made eye contact with someone in the crowd who yelled out in Spanish, "No, No Papo, don't look over here. This is a funeral home, if you look here you stay here"!
As we ran down the home stretch it was like entering a block party. There were people in the street drinking, eating, dancing and kids riding their bicycles. Everyone was rooting us on. When we crossed the finish line we were presented with our medals. The ribbon had the year 2020 on it since it had been cancelled that year due to the pandemic.
Another spray from the hose as we walked through the gauntlet and a little kid gave us a ziplock with some cut up fruit to recover.
There were some photographers that took pictures of the runners and posted them on the race Facebook page for everyone to view.
There were many factors that definitely made this race a challenge. The high elevation and hilly terrain, the heat as well as the 4pm start were all obstacles that we overcame. The course support and home town feel was very refreshing to be a part of. The Guatibiri del Otoao 21K was the event of the weekend in Utuado. Whether you ran it, volunteered on the race committee or supported the runners throughout the course, it seemed like the whole town participated.
Until the next one!