Friday, June 11, 2010

Mount Diablo 50K

So last Friday I was making plans to have a mellow weekend.. I thought.. a nice easy ride on Saturday, probably a 12 mile run on Sunday but other than that it was going to be an easy mellow weekend… or so I thought..

I got a Facebook invitation from Janet to run Mount Diablo 50K with her and Abe.. Abe is Janet’s friend currently training for Western States 100. I saw the wall post and I had my mind made up…huh… thank you.. but no thank you.. I just have reconnected with some friends from elementary school and junior high. Some of them my age are already grandparents… I mentioned to this “friend” that was trying to get me to run Diablo with her. S he said…. "Well prove you are not a grampa… come run with us"… and that is all it took. All of the sudden I was frantically trying to sign up on line, I got a friendly reminder from Sara saying that registration had been closed, but I could still sign up on site.. I went home and found my running gear. All I needed now was a good night of sleep and some carbo-loading. Friday afternoon was beautiful so I thought.. I should go somewhere I can sit outside and enjoy the fine sunny afternoon. I joined Rujeko in Redwood City and we went to the only place that it had available outside sitting outside, Milagros a Mexican restaurant. Now… bear in mind, I was trying to carbo-load for a long run the following day… I ended up eating lots of avocado, chips and salsa, corn and beans and other Mexican delights.. NOT necessarily a good pre-race meal.

The day of the race I woke up early… the sun was already up and I couldn’t help but smile of the crazy thing I was about to do.. I dressed; put Vaseline in “certain” locations to make sure I was not going to chafe, and I even had enough time to put a load of laundry. For breakfast, a banana, a power bar and a glass of orange juice was on the menu, and I was on my way to pick up my running buddy.

We drove to Mount Diablo, it had been a while since we saw each other so we had time to chat about the new developments in our very sedentary lives. And then I could feel my stomach doing something that it shouldn’t be doing, not on race day anyway. Just before arriving to Mount Diablo Janet spotted a Peet’s caffee and I made a really fast turn to get in there… it was a relief to have found that place, not necessarily for the coffee or tea but for its “facilities” . Thank you Peet’s coffee.

The start, picture by Alan Geraldi

We arrived at the race start and it was great to see all of the ultra peeps. I met Janet’s friend, Abe. He is training for WS100. And of course it was great to see Sara from PCTR. Like always, in every ultra, everybody was smiling and feeling optimistic about the day which by the way it promised to deliver a nice warm weather for us. Mount Diablo did not disappoint. I haven’t run a single Mount Diablo when it isn’t hot. I mean, is that why they call it Mount Diablo, cuz it is always hot?

Janet and I just before the start of the race.

After listening to the instructions we were off. We knew it was going to be a long steady day so we stay at the very back of the pack… a Million people passed us and we were totally unconcerned about “racing”, we just were happy to be there and running that mountain. The morning was already hot and humid and I just coulnd’t imagine how much hotter it was going to get. I started taking in water pretty fast and took salt pills with earnest. I knew I was going to need them if I wanted to have a good day in the mountain. My tummy was making noises and I was afraid that eventually that Mexican food I had for dinner the day before was going to catch up with me… thankfully it didn’t at all.s the day went by I completely forgot about it.

Now going up in Mount Diablo is not easy, there are places where even footing is a challenge. Running is Not an option in many sections as it is very steep and very technical with many loose rocks and…. well… it is very steep.. I said that before right?. Abe caught up with us and we ran together until the first aid station. We stopped, we drank, and we ate, we chatted and continued our run toward the top. The day was already very hot and Janet and I were overheating. We remember that there was an aid station at the top; however this aid station was missing. This is the first time we do the 50K, so it is possible that the aid station at the top there only on the day of the 50Miler. Thank God there was a water fountain where we could actually refill our water bottles and be on our way once again.

We reached the aid station at Juniper campground where we made another quick stop and put our hands on that delicious fruit they had there. Watermelon and melon dipped in salt never tasted so good, and bananas too.. And of course, the coke… what a life saver coke on race days is. I never drink cola except on race days, it is awesome. Heather Van Ness managed to pour cold water on us and that was a nice touch. We said our goodbyes and we were on our way… As soon as we reached Mitchell Canyon Road which is the flat section of the run, we kept seeing people walking and some had children. So we kept assuming that the finish line was just around the corner… but it wasn’t. We finally made it to the end. We ate and drank some and we were back for seconds..
Janet and I finishing the first 25K

Now running in this mountain is always something special, the views are amazing. Unfortunately I did not bring my camera this time so I did not have many pictures, so I’m “stealing” some from different places and friends that took them on that day. The second loop was obviously slower, hotter and harder. However, I was in good company and we knew it was going to be a long hard day.

What is next… I don’t even know.. It could be another 50K… or a ride or something. One thing is for sure, I am so blessed to be able to do this and most importantly to have friends that challenge me all the time. As people, our lives are influenced and shaped by a bunch of factors... and relationships are definitely at the top of the list. I have been influenced by my parents, brothers and sisters, teachers, friends etc. My values habits, behaviors, passions and attitudes are definitely learned through association with others. I am so glad to have found great friends that inspire and encourage me… for that.. I am very thankful.
Happy kids... the start of the second loop...

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Miwok 100K

A quick recap of last year… the weather was horrible, I missed the starting line and it was cold, it was wet and it was windy… with all that I did better than this year.. What gives?

I could go on and blame it on my crew? Oopss.. I didn’t have one… Or I could say that I slept through my alarm Opps.. I woke up and I got a friendly call from my ride.. Or I could say it was my nutrition or perhaps the shoes… I could blame it on the weather… nope that will not go neither since it was a glorious day.. Damn it... Then what went wrong? LOL..

Look at the views.. aren't they amazing?

I got an early wakeup call from my ride, Amy an awesome friend who was coming to volunteer for the first time. I did everything right the day before.. I even went to bed early. When she called me I got out of bed jumped in the shower did my regular pre-race routine with plenty of time to spare. We drove to the starting line, got checked in and took a little nap before the start.

Check the profile... it is over 10,000 feet of elevation gain.. And the downhills are just brutal.

I woke up a couple of minutes before the start, got rid of most of my clothes as it promised to be a gorgeous warm day. I kept my arm warmers and my San Carlos CrossFit shirt... I made it to the starting line said hi to a couple of friends and we were off. The morning was glorious; the smell of the ocean was intoxicating and the views… OMG.. I cannot describe how beautiful was that morning… I could tell that we were going to have great weather it wasn’t cold or windy. It was just perfect for a nice 100K run…. And we were off….. And we were stuck. The race starts at the beach and then it goes into the trails pretty fast and there is not enough room to accommodate all the runners at the same time.. So unless you are a top dog you just have to wait and wait until all runners get on a single file and start the climb right away.
Check out another view.. this climb was long...

It was a great start for me and I was afraid to get sand in my shoes. I had that happen when I ran Headlands 100 with some very unpleasant consequences. I managed to avoid that which was a blessing. As the day went by I soon realize that I was going a little bit too fast. I tried to maintain a pace that definitely was a bit too fast for me… You know you are in trouble when you start seeing little rainbows in dry weather, and or you feel a bit dizzy…. That is how I felt just as I was passing the Bolinas Ridge aid station. All I wanted was some Sugar something that will lift me up. I knew right away that I was going to be in trouble and I wasn’t even half way there..

I ran a bit with Erika Lindland and then she left me in the dust, then I ran a bit with Victoria Folks and she also left me in the dust, ran with Catra Corbett and her bad ass self left me in the dust as well, and then my buddy Brian Harvey also left me in the dust. All I wanted to do was to sit down and never get up. Somehow I found the motivation to keep going.. I knew I was going to finish I just didn’t know how long was going to take and The ONLY time that I seriously consider quitting was on the return at the Tennessee valley aid station.. Good thing Amy was there cuz she motivated me to keep on going… and MY GOD I was spent by then. I was kind of dizzy then…

I tried to hang with Catra, I coudn't.
Remember pain is weakness leaving the body and you left a lot at Miwok (Catra Corbett)

But back to the race… starting in Rodeo Beach we go to Tennessee Valley via some trails I have never been on, they seemed different this year.. or perhaps was just the change of weather. The views were amazing not matter the time, no matter in which direction you look. It was a glorious day indeed… what a difference from a year ago when the weather conditions were totally different. Some days are magical and some days are just miserable, and this one was beginning to seem like the former… it terms of weather that is.. But definitely miserable in terms of how I felt. I remember that infamous time when I got lost in Mount Diablo and it took me almost 8 hours to complete a marathon… even then I wasn’t feeling like I was feeling on Sunday. By far, this is the worst I have felt in a long, long time.

Coming back from Randall aid station, into Bolinas Ridge aid station, runners would usually pick their pacers there.. And I could totally see the difference between those of us running solo and those with pacers. All of the sudden I was being passed by all runners and their pacers, I even tried to shadow a couple, at not avail. I was spent and no matter how much effort I was going to put, I wasn’t going to get any faster so I decided to suck it up and just survive the rest of the way. I knew I was going to be slow, the only question was how much slower than last year?
After what seemed like forever I reached the Tennessee Valley aid station, my lowest point in the race, but somehow I found to motivation to keep moving and so I was on my way with Amy’s blessing. The last climb was hard and then the very last part of the race was the hardest.. This one is a bunch of stairs and loose rocks going down steeply and then there is this damn paved bike trail that seems never to end. UGH!! At this moment every single step was painful and I just wanted it to be over with. I could see the finish line from the ridge, but I could also see the paved road ahead and I hated it, I hated every single step of that damn pavement. Then it was the final stretch… a hiker started to scream when she read the back of my shirt (San Carlos CrossFit), and she said that is where I am from. I hobble to the end, got my medal and my finisher’s bag… said hi to a few people but what I really wanted is to sit down and just pass out. After I picked up my swag met my ride and we left the site to grab a bite to eat. I ate and then I just crashed in the car, apparently there was a big traffic problem, I never saw it. The next time I opened my eyes I was already in front of my house. Took a shower and went to bed, the day was done..

This is the very last paved descent ugh.. brutal, I just couldn't run anymore and even walking was painful.

When I think of this day I think of an amazing lesson I learned. I learned that we all have wonderful days and sometimes things do not go the way we envision them to go. Some days are great, some days aren’t, and sometimes I will do great, others I won’t. However not matter who shows up (a great day or a miserable one) I am in control of how I react to them. Today might be a bad day, but there will be a sunrise and a sunset the next day, life goes on and so will I.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Solvang Double Century Bike Ride

“Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving” (Albert Einstein)

The city of Solvang CA, pretty nice town.. Didn't have much time to check it out..

Last year when planning my running schedule for 2010, I thought I would like to become a better biker.. Well, the only way to get better at biking is to get on the bike and ride… so with that thought and the encouragement of Janet I signed up for two major biking events this year… The Solvang double century and the Death Ride.. This is the race report of the Solvang Double century…
Check out the elevation profile....

And let me tell you something about training for a double century… My God it is hard. Not much on your legs but on your buttocks and on the time you get to do something else. So I after I did my share of riding I finally felt ready… Going into tapering I was nervous but I was also excited.

On Friday before the race I drove south to Solvang… Janet, my training buddy, had to work so she was going to meet me in Solvang that night. I did not go to work on Friday so I could drive slow and take my time.. So I packed the night before and on Friday I left aiming to get to Solvang by 6pm. I was excited but also a little nervous. This was the first time I was going to ride for so long and also ride at night, I did not know what to expect.
Bikes all nice and secured on the roof of my car to take the 5+ hour ride to Solvang.

My commitment to become a better rider meant that I needed to step out of my comfort zone and actually embrace the challenge. And I did, I spent long hours on the bike, climbed lots of hills and became comfortable to be able to get out on my bike at any given day and ride lots. Interestingly when I signed up for this race I didn’t know what to expect, thus I was stressed and afraid. But, I really tried to use the fear in my training, Fear is our biggest enemy, and “Each time we face our fear, we gain strength, courage, and confidence in the doing” After I put the time on the saddle in training I thought, well I am ready, and I hope I will get to the finish line.

The drive was uneventful, I stopped at the outlet mall in Gilroy and got myself a few essentials, a new pair of shorts and a new biking jacket.. I arrived to the host hotel and checked us in, got our bib numbers and checked out their merchandise. The mood was pretty relaxed; it reminded me of the ultra marathon culture. Everybody is just relaxed and it seemed that everybody had done more than one double century… And here I am doing my first one, and did not know what to expect the next day.

After checking in, I drove to the grocery store and found myself some breakfast food. Stopped at a local Italian restaurant and order some carbs, drove to the hotel put our bikes in the room, inflated the tires, and sat down to enjoyed the rest of the evening…

Ride day..
We got up around 4:30 am… checked our bikes one more time, checked tire pressure, food etc. As soon as I stepped out of the room I thought to myself… Damn it is cold. I didn’t know how cold it was, but I sure felt it. Drove to the start, parked the car, checked in and we were on our way… First things first, I turned on up my lamp and Janet asked… “so you got the extra battery right?” I am like.. “What extra battery?” Luckily I had an extra flash light, a head lamp which actually worked well. But man it was cold and dark too. My poor hands and my feet were in pain not to mention my face as well. I wasn’t prepared for this kind of cold.. I couldn’t wait for the sun to show up and warm us up. We settled in a good rhythm, not too fast, not too slow, just consistent.. Then we hit the wind and OMG it was brutal, Janet and a couple of other people were a bit ahead of me and I could see them tilting over a bit, was a funny sight. And I am sure I was doing the same, a lady passed us and told us that we were riding funny, and I thought to myself, so this is what crosswinds feel like.. ugh!!

So then the sun started to warm up and I can feel my extremities come back to life. It felt good until I felt a sharp pain on the side of my leg, my IT band was starting to flare up and we were not even half way there. I got really scared, I could not pedal without pain and I felt absolutely horrible. We reached the second rest stop at mile 86 or so and I tried to stretch a little and took some ibuprofen and we were in our way. The funny thing about all of this that I remember me riding, but I truly don’t remember what was going through my head at that moment. I just remember I was in pain and it was a miserable time. We left the second rest stop and after a while the pain subsided (Thank God for Ibuprofen) and I felt strong again. I kept eating my newly discovered home made energy bars. They were good and filling and obviously were working. Janet had to remind me to eat as I tend to forget that…

One of the aid stations....

This is new to me... I never park my bike like that... ;)

The rest of the ride just got better and better. I think that the first century was harder than the second century. Once I passed the 120 mile mark which has been my longest ride ever, it was uncharted territory from there. But I felt stronger as the day went on… It was great.. We stopped for lunch and all they had was Subway sandwiches all with meat, I asked for vegetarian and of course they didn’t have any. I am glad I brought my own food including a can of goods which I almost forgot at the rest station. Thankfully Janet casually reminded me “are these your nuts?” A guy looked at us and started to laugh, he said “if you had that on video that would had been a great funny one”. We talked about that incident throughout the rest of the ride.
Are these your nuts?

No bad incidents to report, Thank God… except Janet got a Flat tire. She got a flat coming down on a very steep downhill.. She managed to get to the bottom of the hill. We changed her tire, took a well deserved break and we were in our way once again. I think, for me, this particular forced break was a blessing. Yes, we were coming out of a downhill, but I was really tired by now. We rode through some really nice areas including Morro Bay, along the beach in Pismo Beach, and by San Luis Obispo. All sights in this entire ride were freaking awesome, I was thinking that it was really a great day for a ride.
Janet chewing something or something.. :)

At mile 176 or so we had our last rest stop. It was here where we changed to our warm clothes once again. I put on my tights, arm warmers and jacket as the temperature was beginning to drop once again. We also got our flashlights ready for the night to come, ate some, and we were in our way for the last effort. Well as soon as we left the aid station we were welcomed to a very steep climb. The Drum Canyon climb, the road was very rough and then it got night and really dark. We managed to leave a few people behind as we were motivated to finish. We saw some people walking their bikes, but after a grueling day with more that 170 miles on the saddle there is no shame on that. The road was very rough and after we reached the summit we had to go down which was a challenge as it was steep, dark and the asphalt very rough. We managed to get down in one piece, and then it was just a few more miles to the finish line. Those were happy moments, we kept thinking.. WE DID IT.. Wow… I was happy and the best thing of all is that we finished in one piece, within the time limit and we finished strong.
Happy kids the day after.. :) We did it... Woohoo!!

I keep thinking.. Man I am such a lucky man. I am healthy, I got amazing friends including some as crazy as I am that will actually do this with me, and I feel blessed.