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.