Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Mount Diablo Marathon

Mount Diablo marathon…

Mount Diablo… this is the mountain that started it all for me. It was here where I did my first trail run not knowing what I was getting myself into. I remember, I had run marathons before and I thought I was ready… Well I was not really. At the end of the day I had cried, had cursed the mountain and myself for having signed up for this race.. It was indeed the hardest thing I had ever done…..

Last year I did the 50 miler, it was awesome but coming from Moab 100 I was not sure if I was up for the 50 Miler. I entertained the idea, but the closer I got the race day, the more I thought about just doing the marathon and nothing else.

Just about to get started.. yay!!

Race started at 7 am, so I got up pretty early and drove to SF to pick up Janet and Kim. It is great when you do things like this with friends. Time goes by rather quickly and most importantly it is much more fun, really. It is. I picked them up around 5am and with my earl grey tea steaming and a big smile we took the bay bridge to cross into the East Bay and find our way to Concord where Mount Diablo is located. Now if you never heard of Mount Diablo it is a great place. The view from the top of Mt, Diablo is second only to Africa’s Mt Kilimanjaro it total visible land area. On a clear day, you can see the up to 90 miles in any direction. The view is spectacular… simply amazing..

Look at the runners.. this moutain is amazing.. woohoo!!

Had to go to the summit twice.. second time around was harder, but once we got there things went all right..

This is one of the few “elite” endurance sports put together by Sara Wendell and Aaron, the first family of ultrarunning. Along the marathon there is also a 50 miler taken place at the same time. Last year we did it and it was just as amazing. This year, however, decided not to do it since I figure I am still bitten from Moab 100 miler and too close to Miwok 100K. So I took it as a training run (well, that is what I like to think).

But in any event, Janet, Kim and I got to the starting line got registered and went back to the car to get ready. I decided to go to the bathroom and I had an unpleasant surprise, there was a line to get to the man’s bathroom. What the hell, I had to go so I had to wait. When I finally was done there it was time to get to the starting line. I rushed to the car and finish getting my stuff… as I was running back to the car I was forming this mental picture in my head of the things I needed to take with me. Salt pills, water bottles, power gels, cliff bars, iboprufin, and sun screen. The sun was already out and I knew it was going to get hot… as hot as last year…. Then, we were off.. I love to see the start of these races, a bunch of crazies running for hours.. I love it.

The three amigos at the summit... yay!! Beautiful sights.. amazing... Go there I promise you won't be disappointed.

Kim, Janet and Myself stayed together for most of the race. We walked when we had to and ran when we could Now you have to consider that Mount Diablo is one of the hardest races in the west coast. The elevation gain is insane and the trails are technical, specially coming down the mountain. The race starts with a constant climb all the way to the summit.. and when I say a climb it is really a climb. Janet, Kim and I made to the summit and of course it was already hot. I was drenched in sweat and as soon as I got to the aid station at the summit I went for the coke… and… the ice. I put some Ice in my hat to cool me down, and ate a ton of food. I knew I was burning more energy than usual because of the hot conditions so I needed to get more nutrition in. A bunch of cookies, watermelon, peanut butter sandwiches and of course cliff blocks did the trick.. oh yea, and some pretzels and potatoes too.

Then the descent started and this descent is as painful as the ascent simply because it is straight down, it can be really cruel on your quads and your toes if you are not wearing the right shoes. You should have seen my toes last year, I lost my 10 toenails after Mount Diablo last year. This year, it was just as hot and brutal. In our way down we saw the leaders cruising in the way up to the summit once again, and holy COW, they were cruising. It always amazes me how easy these runners make the course look. I am going to start running 150 miles a week, maybe I’ll get faster.. (ha ha… in my dreams I will).

We were running so fast that not even the camera could keep up with us..

I guess we slowed down a lot here.. :)

We reached the summit a second time and we knew it was going to be a long way back to the finish line. At this time the three of us were still together, and the last stretch home started. Janet took off and I tried to stay on her heels, she just left us in the dust. I tried to keep up, but all day long my IT band was giving me trouble so I just could not keep up, and NO I am NOT making excuses. I caught about 5 people in the last stretch of the run and when I got to the finish line I was just two minutes behind Janet. As I crossed the finish line I found a table and lie down for a little while. Janet came to ask me if I was OK and I was, I was just tired hot, dehydrated and mighty hungry. Sara had some strawberries that tasted like heaven, so I went at them and satisfied my hunger. We saw Kim finish and then we were done… Ah!! Great run, loved it.

After the run I had to sit down and just take my breath. It was sooooooo damn hot..

Mount Diablo is beautiful, I love that mountain and I know that whenever I am going there to run I am going to have a great time despite the fact that it will be miserable too. At the end of the day what matters to me the most is the fact that I am doing what I love to do. My life has been a blessing and I love the fact that I can do these things. It is one of those things that really make me soooo freaking happy. Running with friends in these beautiful California mountains is something that I am really thankful for.

What is next… Miwok 100K. on May second. Stay tuned..

Thursday, April 02, 2009


So here I am post Moab… my ankles are a little inflamed, I am going to lose two toenails for sure, my heart is happy and I feel like a million bucks…

How did it go? you may ask… the whole experience can be resumed in one word… just one word.. Fucking Amazing.. OK.. That is two words, but hey who is counting?

See the scenery... amazing

Leading to this race I was not nervous at all, I was excited. Janet and I have been exchanging emails and texts and getting more and more excited about it, and now it is here.. Two more days and we were about to embark in what would be the longest run I have ever done. For her, it is second nature. And now that I did it, she owes me an Ironman. Her first triathlon will be an Ironman, that was our deal and I am putting this here in writing for all to see. The pressure is ON! He he.

So I arrived in Grand Junction Co at around 10am and luck might have it that I got a work message in my way there. Grand Junction CO airport has free wifi so I was able to deal with work. I was not happy, but I had a few hours to kill before Janet arrived. She arrived just past one. I had already picked up the car and put my crap in it. Came back to the airport and when I saw that big smile coming out of the terminal I thought… we are ON.. yay! We hugged and were ready to hit the road.

First stop: Grocery store.. We looked for a grocery stop and we bought a bunch of food. 4 Tostitos bags, bananas, bread, peanut butter, jelly, nuts, oranges, pretzels, smoothies, coke, pickles and god knows what else I am forgetting. We loaded up the pt cruiser (I hate these cars), and headed to REI to buy myself a fleece. We knew it was going to get cold there and I am so glad I bought a fleece…

Our little shopping spree.. Some people will eat this in a week...

Second Stop: Food. We drove to Moab, about 1:30 hrs from Grand Junction and looked for a decent restaurant. We found this Italian place and we ordered tons of food. I ordered a bowl of minestrone soup, the big pasta dinner and cheese cake.

Third stop; the Hotel. We checked in our hotel and and went directly to our room. We started to put our shit together and realize that I did not bring with me another running shirt. So I venture out and went out looking for a running store. I did not find any; Moab has three types of establishments only. Jeep rentals, bike rentals, motorcycle rentals and that is it, nothing more. If you like to spend some money on renting a car or doing something “fun” like that, Moab is the place to be. I found a climbing store and they were selling some running shirts of a marathon that happened 2 years ago, so I bought two and went back to the hotel. I have been trouble sleeping, but this time I passed out really quick. In most cases I am usually awake most of the night thinking of the race. This time I was out, completely, the last thing I remember was…. I don’t even remember. Ha ha.

The next day Janet woke me up and I said, “the alarm clock did not go off”. And she said, “yes it did.. You turned it off”…. I was like … “I did?” I am usually a light sleeper, but this time I was out completely..

Janet made some coffee and drinking felt so good, I needed to caffeine and the warm feeling since I knew it was going to be cold. We wanted some desert heat, but that did not happened that early in the morning. We were fucking cold, we picked our bib numbers and set up our little aid station thing. We met some new friends, David Crocket an ultra crazy man (he won this race last year). We also met people that I wish I could remember their names. I had brain surgery, remember, so I am bad with names. I will remember their faces though. We unloaded the car with all of our supplies and when I took the jar of pickled cucumbers, I laughed. We went back to the car to warm up a little and then to the pre-race meeting. Lined up at the start and then we went off.. wohooo!!!

This is base camp... The people in the aid stations were awsome. Specially cuz they had ramen noodles with potatoes at night.. yuummmyy!!

Our own little aid station.. at the beginning of the race.. bags full of food..

The first 5 miles were amazing… I could not believe how beautiful that place is…. It is just unbelievable. Wow... I felt blessed to be running there and even happier that Janet was there with me. We kept saying, OMG look at that, look there, over there, see those cliffs… holy shit.. Amazing. And I kept thinking… wow I wonder how this would have been a couple of million years ago. It was just breathtaking.. Janet laughed every times I would say, I wish I would know what this place looked like a couple of million years ago. And all of the sudden I realize that by tomorrow morning I would probably be still running here, but we were ON and there was not stopping.

Morning in Moab, pictures do not make any justice of how beautiful this is.

The freaking course was beautiful, but there were things we or I was not used to it. I hate running on pavement, and this area has an amazing amount of sheath rock which is basically pavement. A million years ago this place had some sort of eruptions and you could see the lava flow which eventually hardened and became huge sheath rocks. So needless to say, but mile 20 my poor IT bands were feeling it already. I thought to myself.. holy F*^K, I am not going to like this for the next 80 miles or so. But somehow I managed to ignore the pain and kept on going. Of course thank God for ibuprofen, It was great to look forward to the next two stops and take our ibuprofen fix. That was a treat indeed.

Just before the race, as the sun was coming up in the horizon.

Janet burning the course... you see the concrete, well it is not concrete but might as well be called concrete. Sheath rock is hard and miserable on my IT bands.

Just me and the mountain..

Janet and I, like always, talked about everything and nothing in particular. We also met bunch of other runners and talk with them while they were passing us or while we were passing them. It was great. The first lap was cold, the sun was rising and it looked awesome in the distance. We thought, it is going to get warm pretty fast and it did. When we got to the aid station for the first time we shed our layers and I was running on shorts and shirt..

The first 54 miles were uneventful; we ran a very consistent pace. Not a big deal, our goal was to finish the first 50miles while it was still light and we did better than that. The sun was still out, the temperature was still nice and our feet were still in pretty good shape. Then the sun went down and the temperature dropped like crazy. All of the sudden I realized that I needed more clothes. I put on my running tights and went out for a lap with running tights and a light shirt. I thought my poor balls were going to fall off, the cold was getting to me really bad. It was painful, but managed and when I came back to base camp I put my shorts on top of my tights. What a difference that made.

At night we had a little issue: You see I think that many of the glowsticks they had were a) either too old or simply too cheap. They did not stay on for long. Janet and I reached that point where really we did not know where to go. So I suggested to go in different directions, I took the left and she took the right and see if we could find any familiar marks. I was afraid that we were going to get separated and lost, so I kept checking where she was until I could not longer see her. Then something happened, I saw a light in the distance, I was off course and started to walk toward Janet’s direction. She found a glow stick and we finally were on course once again. A volunteer was replacing the sticks, but from the on we tried and succeeded to concentrate on finding the glowsticks before moving on.

Now the funny and most demoralizing part of the race is that when you reach the finish line you are at about 97 miles or so… We needed to go back in the course for a “quick” 3 mile. So when everybody is already there happy we needed to get up and run to the cone for the last 3 miles. I think those 3 miles were the ones that messed up my poor ankles. Man I still hurt, my right ankle is really in pain 4 days after the fact.

At the end of the race people were waiting for us, they gave us our medals and they gave Janet her Champion Medal. She won first woman… that was insane.. Happy for her.. yay!! I finished 5th in 27:01 out of 45 starters and Janet finished 1st in the women’s category… yay!!

The famous pickled cucumbers... yay!! Loved them.

I have a new respect for pickled cucumbers.. OMG.. They are awesome. When Janet suggested getting them I was skeptical, but it took one bite in the middle of the day and I was sold. Thank God we did not have any, ANY stomach issues except the fact that I was farting for a long time. 

Happy kids after 27:01 hours of running and 100 miles. A few centimeters shorter I was told, swollen ankles, blistered feet, but happy... yay!!

I could not drive all the way to the hotel, I was way too tired. Janet took control of the wheel and took us there. We went to the room lie in bed removed my shoes and passed out. I woke up and took a shower, just bending down to clean my feet was painful, but the water felt sooo great. Cleaned well and treated my feet, popped the blisters and added disinfectant. We ordered food, ate and went back to sleep until the next day.. yay!!

As I was flying back I kept thinking, does this make me any different? In my flight from South Lake City to SF a blind man sat next to me. We starting to talk and learned that his name was Harry Cordellos. Nothing there really and as the conversation went on, we started talking about running. He told me that he has run over 150 marathons, several ultras, he is also a competitive water skier and he was flying from Colorado after a week in the slopes. The man is blind, totally blind. I was WTF. Came home and googled his name and he is indeed a remarkable individual. And here I am feeling like a million dollars because I ran 100 miles when this man totally blind has done amazing things. So am I special? , hell not. But I am blessed that I can do this. We were talking about life in general and how we humans tend to take things for granted, we take life for granted, we take our loved ones for granted, we take friends for granted, and we take sight for granted. We take the opportunities that are given to us for granted, we take love for granted. And my god, nothing is guaranteed in this world and as long as I have what I have, I’ll always be thankful. I will always treasure my health, my friends, my family, the fact that I can run and the fact that I smile even in my darkest moments. He said something that really made me almost cry, he said ‘Luis, most people know that there is a God, You and I KNOW God”.

And I cannot wait to start my new adventure.. yay!!