Monday, December 21, 2009

Rodeo 50K, an elvish experience..

The last adventure of the year… The PCTR Rodeo Beach 50K.

Fabric $7.00
Tights $3.50
Running 50K in an elf costume- Priceless

A year ago we ran the Muir beach 50K, in that particular race a friend. (Fred Ecks) decided to run as Santa. Janet and I told him that if he was up to, we wanted to be his elves next year (this year). He moved away to Colorado (poor guy), and well, we decided to do it anyway…

Fred Ecks, I mean Santa running Muir Beach 50K last year.

Of course we did not want to spent lots of money on costumes, so we searched for an affordable costume idea.. I found one and we decided to go for it.
The weekend before, Janet and I decided to go for a double Dip Sea trail run. It was her first long run in a while and it was my return to the trails. I had been training for the Ironman in flat easy courses, so needless to say the experience was a little painful. OMG, after we were done with the dipsea trail, we were in pain. And for the whole week following the run I was very sore…. It was laughable, really. We used to train in this trail all the time and now… well obviously we are out of shape.

The day of the double dipsea run, we drove to the fabric store, parked the car and the minute I got out, I realized how much my poor legs ached. I was limping and laughing at the same time, Janet was in the same condition. We found the fabric and bought enough for the costumes and left. Jon Burg and Kim Evanson joined in the festivities. And all of the sudden we were about to have a host of elves running this 50K. Lazy elf (me), Sleepy Elf (Janet) Finisher Elf (Jon), Doctor Elf (Kim), Honorary Elf (nicole). Jon being a Costume making expert managed a really “aerodynamic” and more professionally made attire than ours

Just when we got there.. we look like dorks huh?

The day of the race we got there early, put our costume on and left the car. I have never dressed up for a race, and I don’t think Janet also. Jon on the other hand is always looking for excuses to dress up… We got lots of smiles from the fellow competitors, lined up at the start and waited for the GO from Wendell.. It was a fun start; people kept giving us compliments and looks of disbelief since we were planning to run the 50K "on that".

At the startting line.. from left to right, Finisher Elf, Lazy Elf, Sleepy Elf and Doctor (Cool) Elf.

The best thing of all is dressing up and running a great race with friends. Honorary Elf (Nicole) was doing her first 50K on this race, one of her goals for this year. She had no idea that she was going to be embarrassed by a host of crazy elves.. She did not have a good start but managed to hang on.Her stomach was not collaborating. We, being magical creatures and all, were bouncing along the trail having a great time. We even managed to find Santa. He was riding a horse (not a raindeer), and was wearing a bike helmet…. Obviously NOT the real Santa. We took a picture of him anyway.

The weather was perfect, although a little windy on the ridges, but for the most part it was an amazing day. Perfect weather conditions for running. The best thing of the whole race, people and the fact that we were there to have fun and nothing else.

Look at this sight... What an amazing day it was.

Finisher Elf tackling the stairs..

Taking a little break, what a beautiful day it was..

The lost Elf... Sabrina a member of my running group.

A funny thing happened, we were at the finish line, after the first loop so we needed to get out and do another smaller loop to finish the 50K. As we were getting ready to leave, the first male (Nathan Yanko) came in breaking the course record. WTF? He finished in the 50K in the same time it took us to finish 30K and he wasn’t wearing an elf costume nor was he a magical creature. We laughed and went back to finish the race. Nicole was feeling a lot better then, we talked, we laughed, we talked some more, we laughed some more and then we had less than two miles left. So we picked up the pace… Didn’t want Nicole to believe that all 50K’s were this easy, well it didn’t work, she finished ahead of us and with a big smile in her face. She is officially an ultrarunner now. Welcome to the dark side of running Nicole.. I hope to see you on the trails for more fun and I promise you, they get better and harder too, I wonder what your goal is for 2010?

This is the spot where Nicole became an official ultra runner.. At mile 26 or so... yay Nicole..

After the finish, she holding her "not longer a 50K virgin" coaster from PCTR.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Ironman Arizona

Well, So I drove 12 hours from San Mateo to Tempe AZ . I was not looking forward to the return, but I knew it was going to be just as great. You see, I had to make a decision a while back, drive or fly. I always wanted to go on a road trip and since I signed for this IM, I decided I wanted to drive, fast forward a year later and BAM I was in my way to AZ and after a grueling 12 hour drive I got there… But that is what I wanted huh?
The trip was uneventful, left home around 6:00 am in the morning and did the mandatory pee stops, food stops and gas stops, but other than that I was moving all the time. I was afraid that LA traffic was going to slow me down, but it didn’t. It was moving quite well and in fact with all of those cars in the highway I was moving pretty fast. I kept looking at people for signs of other triathletes making the pilgrimage to Tempe, but found none.

I really liked the road by Pismo Beach. The weather was perfect and I wanted to stop and take pictures, but I knew that I was on the clock so I had to just keep going. I took some “moving” pictures though.

I had plenty to think about while driving there.. It was me myself and I… and Jessica packed really nice and comfortable in the trunk. I was listening to my Ipod and song after song I kept thinking how much of this I can actually stand. No play list was long enough, so I switched to shuffle… and MY GOD… what an experience. I have all sorts of music there, but I started to listen to the actual words of many of the songs I have…. And… well needless to say many were so freaking pathetic. It reminded me of a “this American Life” episode from NPR about breakup songs. They all have that theme, that sorry ass theme… you know what I am talking about. The “you don’t have to love me”, and “please don’t go” theme. And the most pathetic of them all, “I’ll do anything”, and I was thinking, WTF? But then, just like breakups, in the middle of the shuffle came this song that was about to become my personal anthem. I heard it before, but now I know it by memory, Guru Josh project, Infinity. It goes something like this.

Here's my Key Philosophy A freak like me Just needs infinity

I played that song again and again and again, and the more I played it the more I like it, and before I knew it I was in LA.

Driving through LA was very interesting, and made me more aggressive driver. Crap, I was not going to give any room between me and the car ahead. I know, drafting is illegal, in triathlon that is, but in LA traffic is a necessity, or is it called tailgating. I don’t think I will be able to live in such city with such traffic, I will probably cut my veins pretty fast and then I was there…. Found my hotel and checked in, took a shower, grabbed a bite to eat and hit the sack…. Ahhh… felt so good..

The next morning I went to the swim, just before departing my hotel room, I thought, I should go early so I can stop at a coffee shop and get myself something to drink/eat. I had no idea that Tempe is so freaking confusing (for me at least). I could not figure out where I was supposed to go, and then I could not find a parking spot. Well, I made it finally to the swim area, I had just enough time to get on my wetsuit and take a dip on the lake. And OMFG, have you had brain freeze? Well that is how I felt when I hit the water. Water was so damn cold and my feet and head were hurting. As soon as I started swimming, things got better, blood started to flow and then I was OK. But the initial shock was a little hard. Another interesting fact about this swim is that the course is straight in a wavy canal. So If I want to stay to the shore, I will have to swim the extra yardage. Most likely I will be in the middle and hopefully will draft somebody and find my way around…

The practice swim, God the water was freezing.

After I froze my butt in the water... :(

After the swim, my friend Dolores and I went to check in. Checking in at an Ironman is pretty good experience, most volunteers are in awe that you are going to put yourself through that kind of pain. And the first question usually is, is this your first? The second question, did you bring your family? The answer to those questions for me was the same, no and no. It is not my first, and I was there by myself, most people bring loved ones to share this moment. The IM race is kind of a big deal, and I was there on my own. It made me realize that the three IM’s I have done I have gone on my own, and it made me a little jealous and sad. But Hey, not time to be sad now, I have to get ready to do an Ironman damn it.

I don’t really know how the rest of the days went through; on Friday evening we had athlete’s dinner and mandatory meeting. It is here where they try to pump you up for the pain that is ahead. It is here where you learn of the amazing people doing this race with you, it is here where you feel the energy of the IM event.. It is pretty awesome. I was sitting next to Joe, a great friend of mine from Texas. We were chatting away and then, Mike Raily said please stand up if you lost weight getting ready for this race. My friend from Houston stood up, Mike said, remain standing if you lost more than 20 lbs, 30 lbs, 40 lbs all the way to 80lbs. There were only three people standing including Joe, they were called to the stage and were asked how much weight they lost preparing for this race. Joe had lost over 100 lbs, it was pretty cool. The next group of people called to the state was the oldest and the youngest IM participants. The youngest was 16, the oldest 70somehting. He was such a funny guy. He took the microphone and gave us a really good pep talk. He said, I love doing this, specially because half of my friends are dead, of the ones still alive ¾’s are in assisted living and or don’t remember who they are. It was hilarious and very inspiring as well. Finally they introduced Rudy Garcia-Tolsen. The first above the knee double amputee to attempt the race, he did not made the cutoff in Kona, and he was going to try to become an Ironman in Tempe… Amazing young guy, more on him later.

The day before the race I took my swim to bike and bike to run bags. In these bags you pack everything you need for those events. I was like, “what am I forgetting?” I see people walking around with these bags and they seem to be pretty full, mine were pretty minimal. I kept thinking, “what am I forgetting?” Happy to report that I did not forget anything, I guess people were adding more stuff than needed. Fuck, I could not remember for the life of me what else to put in there. I actually put two pairs of socks in my bike to run bag just because I wanted to have the feeling that I put something there. It was hilarious.

And then it was race day…. Wooohooo!!!

I woke up early, ate my usual thing, (bagel, cereal) and drove to the race start. I had plenty of time and I knew where to go this time. Arrived there with plenty of time and went to check on Jessica. She was there all pretty, I check her tires’ pressure, and loaded her with my nutrition bottles. I took a picture of her and told her to take care of me this day, I told her “please what ever you do, do not get a flat today”. A couple of guys looked at me like I was crazy, talking to my bike… and I thought.. “sheesh, beginners”

Jessica in good company with over 2500 other bikes..

My bike..

I put my wetsuit on, turned in my dry clothes and went to the starting line. I could feel the energy, and of course the fear of the IM virgins and experienced. And the funny thing is that I was anxious, just like the first time. I knew what to expect, but still it was nerve wrecking. Got into the water and or course it was damn cold. Just like the first time I got into the water, I felt like my brain had instantly froze and my feet, oh my poor feet. They started to hurt, like I was being slapped with a sack of needles. I could not wait to start the swim; I knew it was going to get better once I started the swim.

Then, a massive release of adrenaline as the cannon goes off and everybody starts to swim, and just before I turned horizontal to start the swim, I felt this kick right on my groin. It was painful and I just stayed there unable to start the swim. People in the back kept hitting me and pushed me and I realize that this was not going to get any better anytime soon, so I started to swim, forward, but slightly to the right, toward the edge. I grabbed a boat/surfer/something and my goggles were wet, tears were coming down my eyes.. I was in real pain and the race just had begun. I don’t know how long I was there it could had not been more than a couple of minutes, but then I felt better or the pain went away miraculously, and I started to swim. And then before I knew it… it was over. Got out of the water and went to the strippers or peelers what ever you call them, I went down and they pulled my wetsuit off.

The transition in an Ironman is something amazing, they have millions of volunteers and they are there to help you. Most of them are triatheltes themselves so they know what to do. As soon as my wetsuit was off, a volunteer guided me to get my swim to bike bag; he helped me to empty the contents and made sure I did not forget anything, from sunglasses, to my little salt pills, and helmet. I was out of the changing tent in no time and then I was greeted by the “sunscreeners” another set of volunteers whose only job is to make sure you get plenty of sunscreen. And then I was off biking for a mere 112 miles, not bad.

The bike is a three loop affair, in the way up we battled the wind some, and in the way back, I had the tail wind and I am sure I was cruising pretty fast. The fist lap was a pretty happy one. Lots of people and even though some were drafting or blocking, the majority were good sports. I had one incident, this guy passed me and as soon as he passed me he slows down. I was like WTF? If you are going to pass me, you are going to continue with the same passing pace, I got pissed so I passed him again. And then he did the same thing, so I told him to take a hike. To either pass me and keep going or let me go. So he let me go, never saw him again. I was drinking plenty and of course I got a need to pee, there were toilets in every single aid station, and in all of them there was a line. So I did what I had to, I stood up in my bike relaxed the muscles and just went, it felt good, I had to do it a couple of more times again. In my head I had my anthem and keep saying

“Relax Take your time The time goes by So naturally you'll receive Infinity”

And before I knew it the bike leg was over. I only stopped once, at the special needs bag, to exchange my nutrition bottles. Did the turnaround to start the last loop got ready to battle the wind again. It wasn’t as bad and was looking forward to the final turnaround so I could cruise and as soon as I made the turnaround I noticed that the wind had change directions. Now I had a headwind, not what I needed or wanted. But needless to say, I had a great bike leg. Unknown to me how much my swim or my bike timing was since I decided to go out naked (no electronics). I had my watch but the only thing I was monitoring was my nutrition, every 15 minutes I would take a sip, chased it down with water and repeat. It worked well. When we were passing mile 99 I was like.. OMG, it is almost over. And I was feeling great, so I hammered the rest of the way. Getting into town was awesome, lots and lots of people cheering and having fun. It was great.

As soon as I got to the dismount line, a volunteer took my bike away and I went to the changing tent again. Another volunteer had my bike to run bag and just like the first one, helped me to change and get ready for the run. I left the changing tent and got more sunscreen (too much I think) and I was on my way to run a marathon. I was happy and I ran the first two miles sub 8 (I started my stop watch when I left transition), and I thought OK Luis “Relax, take your time”. So I slowed down and settled in a pretty good pace. After all this is my event right? When running a marathon you know that you have a risk to hit the wall at mile 20, at the ironman you start with the wall. Soon I realized that I was pretty tired and my legs were not moving as fast as I wanted them to move. I maintained a pretty good pace and then the sun started to go down and my run was minimized to a shuffle and finally to a fast walk. I wanted to walk at the aid stations, which I did, but now I was walking in between them too. Not good, then two things happened, first Pam Reed caught me, Pam Reed is an incredible ultra marathoner. She had just finished IMFL two weeks before and there she was. I started to run with her and chatted some and at that moment I was inspired. I picked up my pace and did not stop running until I crossed the finish line.

I was running through a sea of liars, they kept shouting “Hey you, Looking good”. Are you kidding me? That is a lie, it is funny no matter in what state you are in a race, spectators always tell you “looking good” Is that a question or an affirmation? If their comment annoys the hell out of you, you probably ARE NOT looking good and you are about to pass out. They have no idea that somebody replaced your shoes with bricks, or somehow your shorts turned into sandpaper “down there” and your pee is of the color of coke by now. They don’t know that the blisters in your feet are about to pop, they don’t know that your whole body hurts like hell with every step, Looking good? I don’t think so, feeling good? Hardly! It will be great if instead of saying looking good they will say something like “You are awesome and even though you feel like $hit right now, it will feel good in the morning, and I am in awe for your awesomeness, I do want to have your babies (if she is hot), you are a freaking Superstar” or something like that.

During my run I saw a couple of friends Joe (the biggest loser) and Dolores. And then I saw that I had 2 miles left so I picked up the pace, and I ran pretty fast the last mile, as soon as I went into the last stretch, there was this guy who was coming from behind in an all out sprint so I took him on. We sprinted like bats out of hell until the end, the bastard bit me, but it added some emotion to the finish. This is my third IM and I not once I have heard Mike Riley say “Luis Velasquez, you are an Ironman”. He does it, but I guess I am too busy and emotional to hear him.


And then it was over, the rest was the standard end of the race thing. Here is your finisher medal, you shirt and hat. Lets take an overpriced finisher picture and then to the food tent. In there, I just could not eat anything. Waited for a massage, got my massage and then called my friend TJ. She came looking for me, I went to pick up my bike, put her in the car and then came back to see other people finish. The finish at an IM is very emotional, it is amazing. Love to see people crying in disbelief, it is amazing how we can push our bodies and still have plenty to sprint to the finish line. My friend TJ drove us to a food place where I got some real food and then back to the hotel and went to bed with a big smile in my face.

The end..

Finishing the IM triathlon has given me the most amazing feeling of accomplishment, again. It is very inspiring and most importantly, very satisfying. It is something amazing, but not impossible; we are stronger that we think we are. And not matter what is your physical condition if doing an Ironman triathlon is what you set your mind to do and are willing to do the work, you too can do it. Wanna try? Drop me a line, give me a call and we can talk it over.
I have decided that I am going to do one triathlon a year, and I hope I can do an Ironman a Year until I am 90. In the meantime, I will keep doing what I think comes natural to most of us, running that is. You put on your shoes and get out the door and you come back with a satisfying sense of accomplishment, it is effortless and it is fun.
Ironman Arizona was a great experience, seeing Rudy on the bike was very inspiring. He was all the way to the right, like as if he was not in the race and my GOD Rudy, you are an Ironman. (See Rudy Ironman Story here). I recommend to read this with paper tissue at hand, it will make you cry. I heard that he stopped at a red light, can you believe it?. He is an amazing person which really puts a reality to the old saying “I was sad because I had no shoes, until I saw a man who had no legs”. And now we can add, “And this man completed a freaking Ironman triathlon” How does that make you feel? I tell you how made me feel, it made feel inspired, it made me feel blessed.

Check Rudy on the course... Go Rudy, Go..

What I love about endurance sports is the sense of accomplishment that they give you. Our bodies are amazing machines that respond to stress, the more you stress them the more efficient they become. We are natural runners, our ancestors used to run their pray down. And now, I am going to get my brand new running shoes, open the box peel back the tissue paper, look at those amazing pristine shoes lift the box to my face and take in that smell deeply. Can you smell the potential, the toxins or the insanity? I smell potential; definitely potential. Yay!! Got to go running now..

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Crossfit and Running

So I have been doing CrossFit for almost a year now and it really has changed my fitness level. It even has changed the way I look at myself and how I train. In the past I had to have some sort of training schedule to complete and a race to train for. That was my motivation and that was what kept me going.

Last year, I did Mount Diablo 50 miler and then IM Cour D’Alene. After that I was pretty beaten, and had horrible
plantar fasciatis and my IT band was killing me. I also was not very motivated to run anymore. So I took CrossFit as an alternative, as a recovery period. God, what difference has made.

Me and Tony Doing handstand pushups... A year Ago I could never had been able to do this..

I learned about CrossFit first from my friend Q (Jeff) , he was doing CrossFit and his times on the run were going down, significantly. A couple of friends from my running club started CrossFit and invited me along. I have seen them run and after they started CrossFit, they got stronger. So I went, and when I got there I barely could do 5 consecutive pull-ups. It took me a while to get going but once I got going, I could start to see the differences in my body and the way I was feeling. Yes, you still have to work specially if you are an endurance athlete, but having CrossFit has definitely made me a better runner and a fitter person, that is for sure.

When I started Crossfit, I could barely do a couple of pullups.. I can do Angie now, 100 pullups followed by 100 pushups, 100 squats and 100 Situps..

How it works physiologically? don’t ask me. .. Check the website (, or come to Maddawg fitness in Redwood City, all I know is that it works. It has do to something with Increasing VO2 max, metabolizing fat, building muscle, getting stronger, and getting faster because you are getting stronger. . Therefore, performing more work in less time will increase your strength, fitness, and overall health! Who would have thought that a 4 minute Fran can make a difference.

Check out Fran, this is a great workout. It is amazing and grueling.

Just recently another friend, Haley, a marathon runner/triathtlete started CrossFit a few months ago. This past weekend she ran a marathon with very minimum running training and PR’d by 18 minutes… I know this thing works, it is amazing.

Check out Haley, isn't this low?

Personally, as a runner I have become stronger. At the end of 2008, I did 4 ultras in 4 consecutive weekends and I PR’d each one of them. And just recently I did Headlands Hundred and I never though I could finish in under 28 hours, and I posted a 25 hour and change time. I could have done faster, but there were other issues besides fitness that came into play. And now that I am training for an Ironman, I realize that I am stronger not only on the run but on the bike and the swim as well. Last year prior to IronMan Cour d’Alene at this stage of my training I had swum almost ¼ million yards and I barely broke 1 hour 15 minutes for the whole 2.4 mile swim. This time I have only swum 34,000 yards and I posted a 1 hour 9 minute 2.4 mile swim a couple of days ago. I am freaking elated.

Having found Maddawg Fitness in Redwood City, basically changed how I train. My perspective is now becoming stronger fitter person overall, rather than posting a PR in a race. All CrossFitters are amazing people and the most encouraging people you’ll ever know. I often hear people say they are intimidated by the thought of training at a CrossFit gym. Most of them believe it is a gym that it just involves lots of weightlifting and grunting. It is not a traditional gym, believe me. In this gym there are not TV’s, no Magazines, definitely not people in uniforms cleaning after your sweat or guys trying to pick up girls. Everybody sweats, everybody grunts and everybody gets fitter. The secret? One small class going at any given time. Each class is lead by a trainer who coordinates the warmup, skill development and workout. And the best thing of all, is the camaraderie between members. We all come from all different walks of life, different ages and different fitness levels. And they all encourage each other all the time. Oh, and here is another reason why do you want to avoid regular gyms.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Plate to Plate 5K

The controversy:

Do you remember the Nike Woman’s marathon last year where one of the regular people finished way ahead of the elite runners by chip time, but her gun time she was slower. Nike didn’t want to acknowledge her at first because she was not in the elite group which to me makes no sense whatsoever. You go and run your race and if you win you win, I don’t think that the position in the field should have any merit on the results, period.

Interestingly, when we were looking at our results on line, some of my buddies noticed that their chip time was the same as their gun time. This did not make much sense since they were way back at the start of the race. Well apparently they “placed” in their age group, but because of this particular rule if you place in the race your chip time is overruled simply because if you knew you were that good, you should have gone to the front and battle it with the other folks that placed too. For my buddies and myself that does not make a difference, most of us are just looking to go have fun and have the best race we can, but if somebody place in their age group, they should have the recognition they deserve.. right?

I have to say that this particular race there so many people >3000, and all runners lined up at the start whichever way they could. Some of them went to the front and others, like me, wanted to get to the front but could not, and some like my other friends, they stayed back. The point is that I think that if there is not money involved, everybody should have their chip time reported, after all that is their real time, right? if money is going to be involved, then the people battling for the money can go to the front and gun time applies, Right?

Just after the race and before going to a "fun" ball game.. From left to right, Fred, Me, Joe, Calvin and Michelle in the front.

The Fun

This race was a fun one; I belong to two different groups, one eating club and one drinking club, both with a running problem. The Mid Peninsula running club and the Top Shelf Runners in San Carlos. Both are great and I love being able to run twice a week with my friends and then we go eat or drink depending on the day and the running partners.

This past Sunday, my Top Shelf Runners and I went to San Francisco to run the plate to plate 5K. I got to say I was skeptical abut this race since it is relatively short and relatively expensive too. Needless to say it took some convincing, but once I got into it I was eager and happy to be able to go do it. But it did not help that I had a couple of friends visiting from Houston so the night before I went to bed really late… but it is only 3.1 miles right? how bad can it be?

We met at the ATT stadium and had enough time to go for a little warm up run, and then it was time to go to the starting line. I was not counting that there were going to be so many people. I could not get to the front and I had to stay behind. The gun went off and everybody started moving slowly towards the front. When I finally reached the front it took me a whole lot to navigate through the mass of people, I knew right then that it would be impossible for me to PR this one.. I finished in 21:14 or so, not my best time, but I had a great time in this race nevertheless.

After the race we all congregated in a corner and cheer for the rest of our team members, once we were all accounted for, we went to get something to eat. No luck, all restaurants had an incredible waiting time and provided that our party was very large there is no way they were going to be able to sit us. So we decided to go to the ball park and eat ball-park food. I had an overpriced vegetarian burger, it was decent.

And finally we went to see the Giants beat the Rockies. And being the BB fan that I am, I was rooting very hard for someone to win, please no Extra Innings. I just wanted this to be over with so I could go home. Finally after an exciting game (I was told it was very exciting), it was time to go home. And that is how it ended.

In my way to the home plate and a 21:14 5K run..

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Headlands Hundred

Oh crap… this has been the hardest thing I have done… Oh wait, I said that before, good thing I have bad memory. Well, it is done; the Headlands Hundred endurance run for 2009 is in the history books and I did better than expected.. OMG what a feeling.

The Headlands Hundred is an elite event put together by Pacific Coast Trail Runs an incredible organization. The course is too complicated to describe, better see for yourself. For a flyover of the course click here. But I have to tell you, it is amazing. I enjoyed it a whole lot although it was also very challenging. It has over 20,000 feet of elevation gain and consist of 4 25 mile loops. You go in one direction (clockwise) and then, you do the loop in counter clock wise direction. Very scenic and as I said, challenging. Check out the elevation profile Click on the profile below to see in full scale.

Let’s see, for starters I knew some people at the race. So I was looking forward to see them in the course. Sarah Spelt is an amazing person and I cannot tell you how lucky we were that she was there with her welcoming smile. She made the day for many of us..

For the longest time I debated even registering for this event, I even tried very hard not to think about it. But being the dork that I am, I was ready to sign up right when I knew I could do 50 miles on that course. I did a training run there with Mark and after that day I decided to register. That was a few weeks ago and then the week of the race was upon us. And just a few days before the race I got an email from my Pacer, Janet. She said she could not do it because she had fallen ill. And I started to panic, so I called a few friends and finally found Suki Martin. She agreed to pace me from mile 50 until the finish. That was amazing to think that somebody would just run with you for 50 miles. I am really thankful and I hope I can return the favor somehow.

Suki Martin and I after the end.. She was an amazing pacer.

The day of the race, met with Mark Thiedens at 5:30 am in the morning. I did not want to have issues with my alarm clock like I did during Miwok 100K. So I asked him to give me a call early in the morning. He did, and I had plenty of time to get ready and eat lots. Mark was very cool about driving, I knew that driving back might be an issue, but he did not mind. Joe Kelso was following him as well. Joe completed the 50miles in record time; he is a star in my book. But in any event, we drove to Rodeo Beach and once we were there I realized that we were about to run 100 miles.. Can you believe it?

Mark Thiedens and Myself before the Race

I met Kim Evanson, my doctor friend, the one that told me about a toenail necklace. Which by the way it will be three toenails richer in few days. I saw many other runners, too many to mention here. But the truth is I was in good company, I was in crazy good company, yay..

Kim Evanson prior to the race.. :)

Kim and I just before the start..

And we were off…

The weather was perfect, perfect running weather if you ask me. It could had been very hot up there or windy, but it was none of those things. In fact, I really believe that the running Gods were with us for most of the way. It was a little overcast and the windy was very mild. During one of my training runs in the course, the wind almost knocked me over. So I was afraid that it was going to be an issue, especially at night. But it was not, the wind God was asleep.

Kim, Mark and I settled in a good pace for the first few miles, we chatted a lot and we had plenty in the tank. Kim and Mark actually met before so we had plenty to talk about and we did. We talked about the weather , we talked about the infamous toenail necklace and other oddities. It was great conversation for a good few miles. We ran together until mile 15 or so, then Kim stayed behind and Mark and I pressed on. We kept looking back to see if she would catch up, but she did not.

The freaking volunteers were amazing; I really think they also need a coaster or a medal or something. Some of them were for the entire time that the race went on. I am amazed that people will actually take some of their free time to go spend it filling bottles, cutting up bananas, making peanut butter sandwiches, and giving encouragement to runners. Can you believe it? I think that it was harder to volunteer than actually run the race. I mean, mentally you got to be crazy enough to do that.

Anyway, back to the race, Mark told me that he wanted to use the bathroom, we were going for the first time close to the YMCA and there was a bathroom there. However, it was occupied. He said we will go to the next one and I just could not wait any longer. I peeled the banana and went right there. That was the first of only three times I went to the bathroom. Yes, I only peed three times during the entire race. Call me crazy, but I thought I was shutting down. I kept drinking water; in fact I drank a lot. But I guess I was sweating a lot too and the fact that I was not peeing made me think about kidney shutdown. You see, I took a preemptive Tylenol dosage, I took 4 Tylenols right after the first time I went to the bathroom. Mark asked me, “what is it hurting?” and I said “nothing really”. The fact is that I wanted to have some pain medication in my system, just in case. But anyway, I peed two more times, and for the entire second 50 miles I did not go to the bathroom at all. I was worried, but I kept drinking water, in fact I drank a whole lot, I was simply just not going. Thank God I did not have any issues, I guess I was drinking but not enough, or I was sweating a lot or something.

When I came back for the first 50 miles, Mark and I were still running together. We changed out socks, changed our clothes and I grabbed my flashlight, Suki was waiting for me and then we were off. Unfortunately I did not check my flashlight prior to the race, and for some reason I decided to check it after we climbed the first hill. Then I saw it, I realized that the batteries in my flashlight were spent. I panicked and Suki told me, ok, let’s go back. Mark said, “I am going to continue, I’ll see you later”. We started the trek back to the starting line and a fellow runner offered me a light he had at the next aid station. So I took his offer and decided NOT to go back and just pick up my light at mile 75. We got to the next station (Tennessee Valley) and I went looking for the runners bag, we found the flashlight and I was happy. Unfortunately, his battery only lasted a few hours and by the time I really needed the lamp the battery was done. Suki and I shared her flashlight which was a little difficult during the single track portion of the trail. She had to somehow light my way and her way, not an easy task. She even twisted her ankle, yet she was strong enough to get me through the finish line.

And then, I developed a big freaking blister on my left foot. I changed socks at mile 50 and my feet were OK then. Then I just remember that I got some sand in my left shoe, some sand that I did not take care of right away. Well I should have, at mile 70’somehting I knew I had a blister. I could feel it, I had no idea how big it was and it became very painful to run so I started to limp. Well, after a while my hip was hurting and then my right ankle started to hurt as well because my stride had changed considerably. After we reached an aid station I asked if they had any tape, I cleaned my foot well and put some tape on it. I knew it was going to hurt whenever I was going to take it off, but I had no other choice. After I taped my blister it felt better and started to jog once again. Just a little faster, but not fast enough to make up the time I had lost.

The Sun was coming up again and once I reached Tennessee Valley (the last station before the finish line) I knew it was the end. Suki started to run and I tried to keep up… we made it to the finish line in 25 hours and 30something minutes. I could not believe it, I was so freaking happy I finished yet alone finished such time, in such course. I thought I was under trained, I guess I underestimated myself. I told some friends that I was going to make it sometime between 28-30 hours, and here I was going almost 3 hours faster than my prediction. I was happy and I knew that if I could have taken care of my feet, drink more water and remember my flashlight batteries I could have done it under 24 hours. The truth is, I will never know. But there is always next time.
Suki and I finishing the race... yay!!

As I finish writing this report, I think about the feat that I just completed. It makes me freaking happy to know that I can push my body to those limits. And I am so looking forward to the next one, Western States 100 Perhaps.. I am also trying to understand myself better, what did I learn from this experience? Besides the obvious, take care of my feet, drink more water and bring extra batteries with me, I learned that I am stronger than I think I am and I love that feeling…

My running buddy, Mark...

From left to right, Me, Joe, Farina and Rujeco, Mark in the front.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Ironman vs Trail Running... Oh Crap!!

So I have been asked by my triathlon friends.. Aren’t you supposed to be training for an Ironman in a few months? Don’t you know that there is biking and swimming involved in that one?.. I guess I know that.. I just don’t have the motivation to do the other two… no yet at least..

Ok.. so for those interested, I am going to do the IM in Arizona, but my focus will be different. I just want to do better than last year, I don’t want to go speedy fast on the bike, I just want to finish the bike and I’ll take care of the run, really.
I really want to do well on this race (100 mile in about three weeks), when I am back from it, I’ll start biking and swimming. If I quite remember, there were a couple of friends (Jess) who did this last year. She did awesome on the bike and I don’t think she trained for long. So, that is what I will do and I will conquer, I hope..

For those trail running buddies of mine, here is a little something I got out yesterday. I did go out to train in the Marin Headlands 100 course. It is going to be brutal and I can see myself finishing like in 36 hours or so, J. My buddy Janet will be pacing me after the 50 miler and I will, of course finish.

So back to yesterday, the Marin Headlands are beautiful. The truth is that I cannot believe how hard the course is going to be. Of course, that does really not matter since we are going to be blown away by the views and the beautiful sites. Make sure you even stop to smell the flowers and appreciate the whole view. So to all of those ultra runners out there, come and join the party, I promise you it will be a great run (equal amount of ups and down, not much flat at all). He, he…

Look at this view... Is not this amazing?

This is another great view Rodeo Beach..

This is the first time I actually ran that far without a friend of some sort. I did not like it at all, although there was no pressure to finish, I rather run with friends. I kept trying to go slower, but my feet were trying to move faster and at the end I was on time for a 24 hour finish.. If you know what I mean?, I did the first 25 miles in 6 hours, so all I need is to keep that pace for another 18 hours and I am set.. (joke of course). It will be beautiful and most likely very challenging for most of us.

So back to the ironman thingy… I believe that life gives us choices and it is important that we chose what ever makes us happy at the time. I don’t think that triathlons are a big part of my life anymore; therefore I will stay away from them for a while. Maybe I will change my mind, but for the moment I am not worrying about my time in Arizona. I will show up, I will compete and I will finish. That is all.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009


So Janet and I went to the dipsea trail to run it a few times. She is in the process of training for Western States 100 so decided to do a training run up there. The dipsea trail is beautiful; it is got amazing views and an insane elevation gain and drop. It is one of those trails that no matter how hard it is, I want to go back and run it as many times as possible… or whenever I can.

I picked up Janet early in the morning and went to pick up two more friends of hers. The day seems to be promising, the weather was beautiful and most importantly we were soooo looking forward to do this. In fact I had been having secret wishes that we would be able to do a octo-dipsea. I even dreamed of a customized license plate 8XDPSEA.

Arrived at the location, prepared our stuff and took off.. The first pass was uneventful; Janet’s friends were really nice to let us set the pace since we were going to be there most of the day. I am sure they could have gone faster, but decided to stay with which was greatly appreciated. We got to the beach for the first time, refilled our water bottles and started the treck back.. yay, 2X down.

Came back to the car and ate our usual, pickles, tortilla chips, pretzels, bananas, PJ sandwiches, coke and other indulgencies. We said our goodbyes and Janet’s friends left. Janet and I refilled our bottles and started the next pass. Since this coming weekend is the double dipsea race, there were a number of people training there displaying their dipsea trail apparel. When we got to the beach this one was really packed, the sun was high and it was getting really hot. We started the run back to Mill Valley once again and when we got there I was particularly thirsty and hungry. Before going to the car I stopped at the bathroom and tried, unsuccessfully, to empty my stomach. At this time I was not feeling that good…

We sat down, ate and refilled our bottles; we started the long trek back for the 5th pass. Just before cardiac hill I started to feel really bad. My stomach was not happy and for the first time in a very long time, my legs started to cramp. I told Janet so and she was nice enough to slow down for me, but the harder I tried the more I realized that I was not going to be able to keep up. So I told her, at the top of cardiac hill, I am going to sit down and take a breather. You go to the beach and when I feel better I will go find you. Easy right? She agreed and went on her own.

I went to find a nice place to sit-down, but before that I had to negotiate with my stomach and my legs. They were not collaborating.. oh Crap. So when I finally was able to sit-down, I actually was so tired that I fell asleep. When I woke up, I kind of had an idea of how long I had been sleeping so I decided to wait a little bit more before I went to find Janet. Well I miscalculated the time… fuck..

I got up, felt a lot better and started to run towards the beach. Not realizing that Janet had already gone to the beach came back and she was in her way to Mill Valley and to the car. When she passed through Cardiac Hill I was out, so she was running toward Mill Valley and I was running toward Stinson Beach.

As I was running I was getting scared by the minute since I was not finding Janet anywhere.. It was like where is she? Where did she go? When I got to the beach I asked a few of the fellows there and they did not see her at all. At this time it was already beginning to get dark, so I decided to go back to Mill Valley and brave the darkness. Darkness fell in no time and I was not even close to Mill Valley and I started to have thoughts of mountain lion attacks and stuff like that. It was funny…

Meanwhile in Mill Valley, Janet found herself wondering where I was. She waited for a while and then decided to go to the fire station and report his missing friend. The fire department sprung into action and they were about to deploy the search and rescue team. She got scared for me and I was scared for her too..

I finally made it back to Mill Valley after a few near falls, I actually made it out of the trials OK. As I got to my car my heart sank, there were police there. I thought, Fuck what happened to Janet. As I approached they asked me “is this your car?” and I said yes sir it is, and added. Where is Janet, what happened to her. I thought something bad had happened. They explained that Janet was OK and she gotten worried about me and decided to report me missing. She came back and we hugged and were happy to see each other.. yay!! The End!!

Now we have another excuse to go back and do it all over again…

Friday, June 05, 2009

Runner's Story

I have been asked many times when did you start running? Every runner has a story, here is mine:

It was 2003; I was diagnosed with a brain tumor on October 9th. My ex-wife and I were scheduled to go to Chicago that particular weekend for the wedding of a good friend of ours. It was a Friday afternoon hen my doctor called home (how often a doctor calls your house with good news huh?). He said, we found a mass in your brain (after an MRI taken that morning), thus you have an appointment to see a neurosurgeon Monday morning. I was like, What the FUcK!! A mass in my brain? What did that mean? A tumor? OMG.. My ex-wife started to cry like crazy and I just went in shock, I could not believe it. It is one of those things that might happen to everybody else, but you really don’t realize what it really means until it happens to you.

So that particular Friday we decided to go to Chicago anyway. There wasn’t anything we could do for the weekend and staying home would have been horrible, so we went. We drove to Chicago from Midland Michigan (where we used to live) and made it to the rehearsal dinner. My ex was obviously very distressed and I, well I was sad and afraid, very scared. The very next day (Saturday) we went to the wedding, and we tried to have a good time. In fact I danced the night away and we laughed and tried to forget the fact that I had a fucking abnormal mass in the middle of my head. But the night went well, after the wedding we went back to our hotel and went to sleep.

The next morning, we woke up and I knew that the Chicago Marathon was being run that particular day and I asked my ex to go and see the marathon. We went to the finish area and it was amazing to see the elite runners finishing in amazing time. As the hours went by more and more people started to cross the finish line. I could see people crying and becoming all emotional as they crossed the finish line. I noticed that many runners had little signs in their shirts. “Cancer survivor”, “survivor”, “breast cancer survivor”, etc, etc. It was inspirational, so I turned to my ex and I told her, “Hey, look at that” pointing at the people wearing those signs and I added “Next year I want to run this marathon”. She started to sob and said, “Oh My God, you don’t even know if you are going to be alive next year, what are you saying is crazy?”. I replied, “Yes next year I want to run this marathon and you are running it with me”. She looked at me like I was crazy, and then a sparkle illuminated her eyes and she said “it is a deal, lets do it”.

After two brain surgeries, an incredible amount of physical therapy to relearn basic skills such as the ability to drive, write, even pee, we started training. For me was a very painful journey. I had never run more than 5 miles let alone a full marathon. But we stuck to our promise and we started to train, and on October 10th 2004, I and my ex-wife were among 40,000 other runners to start the Chicago marathon.

That day, my first marathon, was the beginning of a new life for me, the beginning of my life as a runner wannabe.  I survived my tumor, my marriage did not. And then came to California and discovered PCTR and the great smile of Sarah, and of course my best running buddy, Janet, and the rest is history.

So that was my story, what is yours?

Monday, May 11, 2009

Redwood 50K

Elevation profile of the Redwood 50K, not bad huh?

Yesterday, Sunday the 10th, I went with a bunch of other runners to celebrate mothers’ day by running the Redwood trails in Oakland, Ca. This is another event put together by PCTrailruns. Sarah, the glue of the organization, was there to welcome all runners as we were making our way to register. This time, Rujeco and Sabrina came with me to do this race. Janet, my running buddy, was out of town. Met Kim Evanson at the starting line and we exchanged a few words. She had a friend visiting from the Midwest and she was going to run this one with her.

And we were off, this time I knew I was going to go slow since I really was not sure what was I thinking when I signed up for this race. I guess all I wanted was to go have fun and that was the goal. The day was glorious, it was sunny and warm, totally opposite from the run last weekend. The Miwok 100k was twice as long, twice as hard, twice as miserable and twice as lonely. It was great to be in familiar territory, everybody knows my name here, I love it.

The trail in Oakland is just beautiful.

As soon as we started I took off fast. Little did I know that the day was going to be a little longer, and humbling. I wanted to do well, but in the process, I soon realized that I was not in a position to push it. My legs were still hurting from last Sunday and my feet were still a hamburger. I settled in a steady pace and plow the miles away, when I got to the first aid station I got my usual, coke and coke. I also drank some coke and chased it with coke, man I love that stuff on a hot day. Running through the hills of Oakland I soon started to realize two things, everybody there seems to have a dog and everybody seems to be nice about picking up the dog poop, put it in a bag and leave it by the side of the road for the poop fairy to come and pick it up. What the hell!!, what am I missing. Is there somebody that actually comes and picks up the shit away, why just leave it there?. Leaving that crap in a plastic bag is not good, unless there is something I am missing. And the other thing that was funny, people talk to their dogs like they understood. They do not understand!! They are dogs. As I was running, this dog came in front of me, the owner says, “Fido you did it again, you keep getting in front of people”. It happened twice and I was cracking up, dogs do not understand, but a little apology would have been great. Anyway, I thought it was funny.

Pick up the crap!! Sheeshh!!

As I finished the first lap, I was still feeling OK. I ate some and then started the second lap (10K). This particular lap is a hard one; the hills are very steep and hard. There is no way you could actually run them, not me at least. So I walked them as fast as I could, and these 10K were the longest 10K I had run in a while. A guy came from behind and we started to talk. It was fun to have some company for a change. I was wearing my miwok shirt, and that shit was giving me some major nipple chaffing, so I took it off. It was hot and nice so it felt good to run without a shirt. I am a little self conscious about doing that, but yesterday I felt I had no choice. It was either that or bleed to death, so I took it off. As the hours and the miles went by I thought about quitting. I made my mind, I was going to quit after the 10K loop and just do 30K. My legs were already screaming, my feet were hurting and every step was a pain. So with that in mind I had nothing left but to “finish”. I picked up the pace and got to the finish line. As I was talking to the volunteers about finishing up, they kept telling me, “Come On Luis, you need just one more loop, you can walk those 20K”, and I was peer pressured to go on. So I did…. I ran in front of the finish line, to save face, and once I got to the beginning of the first hill I questioned my decision. However, there was not way in the world I was going to go back…. So I kept going.. and going… and going… I soon realized that I was not feeling as bad as I though I was. I run the flats and walked the hills, and I made it to the end. I was done..

Rujeco and Sabrina, this was Rujeco's first trail run.

As I was finishing and contently eating all the goodies at the finish line, I became aware that if there is one thing I treasure, is friends. It is great to be in company of such a group of amazing individuals. Sarah from PCTRAILRUNS is an amazing mentor and cheerleader. Janet my running buddy was not here today and I missed her a lot, Rujeco and Sabrina, what a pair. This was Rujeco’s first trail run and she did awesome. Kim and her friend were out there still when I finished, and I am sure they were having a blast, it is great to run these things with friends.. I truly believe that life gives us what we need when we need it. There are times that seem insurmountable, but we need to rely on friends to make it through the end. Things are the hardest when we decide to do it alone, and today was one of those days for me. I realize how lucky I am to have found such an amazing running partner in Janet.. Yay!! What is next? I truly don’t know yet…

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Miwok 100K

First, for the love of God if you are going to go anywhere early in the morning…
a) have 4, not three, but 4 alarm clocks in case you miss the first three.
b) have an awesome running partner that will call you when she is waiting outside her house wondering what happened to her ride
c) Do not have plans to PR if you get up late.

For some ungodly reason I missed the first three alarms, I woke up when my phone rang. Thank God I had my phone on and all I hear was the voice of Janet to realize that I should have been by her place at that moment. So I got up like a motherfucker and got dressed as fast as I could and got in my car and drove away. Now, you have to realize that I have a routine when I go to a race. Well, this time the routine went out the window. I forgot to go the bathroom, shower and make my bed (I do this all the time). I even forgot my drop off bag. Crap, oh well.

Janet was laughing hard when I got to her house, she got in the car and drove to the starting place. One thing that was good about this, there was not car line to the parking lot and the bathrooms were deserted. We checked in and we were ready to go for that little run we were talking about for a long time, a 100 K little run.

Janet and I were late, I never saw any of the runners, they were already in the trail. As we started to run, all of the family members and spectators were coming back to their cars. I have no idea how late we were, but oh well. The run starts in the beach and it picks up the trails pretty fast. We started slow, walking the inclines and jogging the flats and the downhills. I was happy to be there, I knew it was going to be a long day, but hey that is why we were there, right? It was going to be a long day, but we really did not know what we were against.

A picture of Janet in the rain, she still smiling.

For the last few years, I was told, the weather has been benign for this particular race. This year, however, the Raining and Wind Gods were out in full force all day long. It was simply ridiculous. As I mentioned before, I forgot my drop off bag, so I did not have socks, shoes, jacket or anything except what I had on. As we started to make our way up the mountain I was getting cold and started to move a little faster. Janet decided to take it easy since she will have an awesome adventure in the next few days, so I sped ahead. This is the first time that we actually ran separated since we started to run together more than a year go.

As the day went by and the day and my legs grew tired and I slowed down a bit, I got colder and all of the sudden I was shivering. My teeth were shattering and my hands were cold, I could not even open a freaking cliff bar. It was ridiculous and painful. The temperature was cold and the wind was amazingly strong. The rain kept coming down and I was hungry as hell.

How do you like the trail... nice huh? Wanna come and play with us?
Pic courtesy of Brian Harvey

This year, according to many, has been one of the toughest. There were a lot of no-shows, and I don’t blame them. But not us, Janet and I were going to run it regardless of who show up; rain or shine we were going to do it. But I was definitely not prepared for what it came next. I heard people dropped because they got too cold to the point of getting hypothermia, and I thought I was going to be one of them. I kept checking my fingers to see if they turned blue or something. Especially in the way from Bolinas Ridge to the turnournd at Randall, the weather in this section got really bad and there was not hiding from it. You see, the Bolinas ridge section is a single track on the mountain. The wind was incredible and I saw a couple of runners being knocked out by the wind to the side of the mountain. I have never experience a run such as this, it was challenging beyond my wildest imagination.

Can you see the Golden Gate Bridge?
Pic courtesy of Brian Harvey

I got the chance to see people in their way back and nobody made me smile more than Caitlin Smith. That girl is amazing and that smile never leaves her face. She is definitely a fucking rockstar. As I made it to the turnaround and started the long back, I saw Janet and Brian Harvey. Both were having a good day regardless of the conditions of the day, and all I could think was, I cannot wait to get to the finish line, change some clothes and get in my car. That was my motivation that kept me going. For a moment, it appeared that the weather was going to change for the better, but it was just a fluke, it got rainy and windy and cold again.

But what made this race fun is the company. Ultramarathoners are really cool people. I talked to Catra Corbett for a little while, Anil Rao and Brian Harvey among others. I also met Linda from Seattle. The distance was tough, the weather was tough, but it was so much fun. Loved it, it was a great day. And then my poor feet.. :)

I know this is nasty, don't tempt me to post my black toenails..

At the end we did it.. It was a long day, but my GOD it was an amazing day. As I was getting to the end I could hear the commotion down below. I could not see anybody because the fog was thick, but I could hear people cheering. that kept me going and when I got to the finish line I just wanted to find out who was the person screaming and it turns out it was a volunteer using a megaphone. What a great idea... :)

Happy kids displaying the finishers medals.. :)

Sometimes we think about what we are going through at this very moment in our lives. And yes, it might be tough; it might be cold and miserable. But if we stay the course and have a goal in mind the finish line is glorious. This reminds me of a really cool quote I heard once; “When quiting is no longer an option, you’re half way there” Which applies to most of us in most situations, not just racing. And the truth is, we are stronger than we think, when we think we cannot longer go, we actually can. So, what I learned in this race, I might not be able to stop the rain, or the wind or the cold, but they also are not going to stop me.