Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Journey To Belen (Bethlehem)

Last sunday a group of us decided for our Epic long run be a religious journey or pilgrimage.  We would start at Old Town Albuquerque and run along the river to Belen; which is about 35 miles south of Albuquerque.  We had planned this right about our other Epic long run, and the time finally came.  Now, this being the Christmas season and all, and Belen translated from spanish to english means Bethlehem, we thought it was a good idea.

Well, there were four of us this time. The usual trio which includes myself, Kris and Dana.  But this trip gathered another unfortunate soul- Juan Ortega, a UNM graduate and pretty damn good runner.  Although he has never ran more than 18 miles for a long run; this would prove to be quite the journey.  Once we got out of morning mass at old town, we left at a very slow pace.  There are many crazy runners out there that do this once a week, but those guys are ultramarathoners.  This was more of a combination of our traditional epic runs and a religious thing as well.  And it was an out of body experience, due to the fatigue and tiredness we felt.  Once we got to around 12 we ran into a small river crossing/ditch.  It was about 20 feet across and who knows how deep.  I suggested we turn around and run back to the nearest crossing, but Kris and Dana were jazzed about crossing the damn thing.  So once Kris striped down naked so he wouldn't get his clothes wet and crossed it, we all followed, but not naked.  Luckily it wasn't that deep, and just cold enough for it to be refreshing.  

Once that ordeal was over, we found ourselves on train tracks heading further south towards Belen.  At around 17 miles; which is about halfway, we took a wrong turn which lead us being devoured by a forest of 15 foot high branches.  We figured there would be a trail that paralleled the old trail, and after navigating through the dense forest we emerged to find the train tracks in front of us.  So after a few more miles on the tracks we find the trail and continue south on the soft terrain, which is comforting after running on train track beams and loose rock.

We are at around mile 24 or so and Kris watches our pace increase.  Unfortunately Dana has already dropped off pace and I start to notice myself laboring.  Kris and Juan look pretty good and maintain for a bit.  Mile after mile I start to fall apart. I've already taken in two clif bars and some clif blocks with sportea, but thats not enough.  The trail sits up against the dead trees of the New Mexican winter to my left and barren land to my right.  To the horizon in front of me I see is a red spec which is Juan and further in front of him is Kris as a black spec.  I turn to see if Dana is anywhere in sight, but I can't see him.  I feel like falling over to die, but the tightness in my hips can't even allow me to do that.  I have no idea where I am, or where I am going to be in the projected time of 2 hours till I finish.....if I finish.

We looked at maps and figured we could cover that amount of ground in under 5 hours.  As I look at my watch, I see its been just a little over 3 hours.  I have no idea how I can continue this torture for hopefully 2 more hours.  I finally past by some civilization, which consists of a few run down homes and some kids fishing.  One kid is wearing a Belen Elementary school sweater and asks me if I'm from Albuquerque.  I tell him yeah and ask him how far is it to Belen.  To my disappointment and confusion he says its "16 or 17 miles".  In the seclusion of my mind I have a mental break down and freak out!!!  I also start to think that he is completely wrong and maybe he's out of his mind!  I look at him as if i've been lost in the desert, then he says my buddy just pasted a few minutes ago.  Thats a good sign, so I thank him and take off, with a new sense of energy and direction.

After about a mile I see Juan talking to some guy by his truck on the trail and his kids fishing.  Of course they're fishing, what else is there to do but wait for the fish to bite and for random runners from Albuquerque to pass by?  The look on Juan's face tells me he is in pain and his body has already hit the wall.  I feel the same way, but the guy tells us that Belen is about 6 or 7 miles away on that trail.  Since there are 3 trails that seem to be heading off in the same direction, but he clarifies that we should take the one he tells us.  He also tells us that Kris pasted by about 10 minutes ago down the trail he specified, so we thank him and follow in pursuit.

Moments later Juan and I discuss how we are in dire need for water and finally find a house to approach and ask for some water.  We knock on the door and before the gentlemen can say hello, Juan tells him our story and asks for some water.  After a quick glance at our running attire he tells us that he'll grab us some bottle water.  As we thank him and ask him if we are on the right road/trail, he calmly tells us to keep following it south and we will run into the town.  That was music to our ears, and we head out.  Juan starts to fade and he tells me to continue on without him.  I disagree, and stay with him for a bit, but as he stops he continues to tell me to go on without him.  I finally comply and start to pick up the pace.  I look down on the ground, and since I am moving so slow I start to make out the foot prints and notice they are Kris' shoes in the dirt.  Its hard to keep the momentum but I start to think about random stuff.  I start to say things out loud over and over again.  At some points I start to curse out loud, but I notice that my pace is getting faster.  It might be the water finally getting in my system.  So I take that momentum and start to fight that feeling I had many miles ago.  Minutes start to past and the clock is ticking towards 5 hours.  It has been a long five hours, but I haven't seen any sign of a city or more realistically a town.

Its more than a feeling to finally see a road cut across the trail and cars coming and going.  My pace seems faster than a race, but I know I am merely cruising along.  I stop at the end of the trail and draw an arrow for Juan to turn right and head into town towards the train station.  I recollect myself and start running on the road.  It might have been a mile to the station, but I just kept sprinting and striding out on the hard asphalt.  I had no idea where Kris would be, I had no idea how far it was, I had no idea! I just figured if I pick up the pace maybe it would be over soon.  After nearly 5 minutes of this pace I see Kris in the distance walking around aimlessly by the only bridge in town.  I start to yell while laboring at this pace, and once I get his attention I run up to him and towards the station.  After a few strides past Kris I stop, and realize its all over.

Kris finished the 35 mile journey in 4:48, I finished in 5:08 and Juan was a couple minutes back where he finished at a burger joint.  Dana came in at 6:07, just two weeks after racing a marathon!  This was another journey that none of us will ever forget.  The distance felt longer than it actually was, and its always easier said than done.  Kris and I brought some money, so we got some food and change for a pay phone.  After 30 minutes Kris' father-in-law picked us up and we were shuttled to a huge Christmas party with all sorts of food!  It was a feast of recovering and eating, and it was great!  We started the run just as the sun colored the sky with an array of redish purple clouds, and when we left the party the sky was pillowed again with the same beautiful colors.  A perfect ending to another Epic adventure.    

Monday, December 8, 2008

A.R.T. and the Dukes Track Club

So I was referred to an A.R.T. specialist for my planter fasciitis.  A.R.T. mean Active Release Treatment.  It seems to work.  Kris has been talking about it for a couple of years, and last Thursday was the first time I went.  It is pretty interesting, just a combination of breaking down scar tissue while creating a range of motion.  Of course it was painful, but tolerable.  After last weeks session, i felt a huge improvement later than evening on my run with the guys.  Speaking of which, last Thursday was an official team meeting for the newest track/running club in Albuquerque.

The Dukes Track Club!  Right now we have 11 guys that are very interested in training together and having fun.  We have been organizing for a couple of months now, but last Thursday was an exciting time for everyone.  One of the guys on the team (Tristan Willey, who helps out with Flotrack) got a new video camera and did some filming and interview about the Dukes.  You can find the video here.  Its funny and interesting, which parallels who we are and why we train together, its all about having fun!  Soon we will have a website and that will be posted here as well.   

Thursday, November 20, 2008

San Antonio 1/2 Marathon - New PR

What a great trip to a far off place called Texas..... San Antonio to be exact.  I haven't posted in a very long time, so I'll try to make this entertaining for the lack of updates.  This is another Rock 'n Roll event and I find myself excited and a bit nervous.  I was mainly worried about getting to San Antonio too early Saturday afternoon, waiting around for Kris, Dana and Lauren to show up.  Fortunately and unfortunately, my connection flight to Denver was delayed and I missed my flight to San Antonio.  My new flight came 5 hours later, with a food voucher to spend at DIA (Denver International Airport) and a $100 plane voucher, so I can't really complain.  I was now getting into San Antonio after the gang, and they would pick me up.  Once I arrived to San Antonio, Kris, and car packed with fun loving people left for our hotel that Dana arranged for us.  We got in an easy 30 minute run through the outskirts of some sketchy area, and some strides at a local elementary school soccer field.  Once that was over, we all piled in the car (6 total) and headed off on a scavenger hunt for restaurants.  After we coordinated a group of about 13 family members and friends at Olive Garden, we all ate and enjoyed a wonderful meal and conversation of the most random things possible.  It was Great!

Race day!  Dana, Lauren and I woke up to about 15 different alarm clocks/wake up calls at 5am to get in an early morning shake out run.  What I really wanted was to sleep through those alarm clocks and even the race! Oh well, Dana and I get in a short run and the temperature didn't seem too bad outside of the hotel; but once we got back and met up with Kris to leave, it seemed as if the temperature kept dropping.  As we leave the hotel, and a car now packed with 7 lovely people, we drive aimlessly towards the race.  Mercilessly, Kris gets the car within 10 feet of the starting line, which is not allowed, but whatever we're just going with the flow as we always do.  New Mexican rag tag style.

Once we got our race bibs and a late warm up in we head over to the starting line.  We mingle with some of the other runners and see Brain Sell (USA olympic marathoner - 2008) doing some strides with his Brooks-Hanson's teammates.  We get to listen to the National Anthem and then group up on the starting line for the race.  Kris is on the far left of the field, and I position myself on the right of all the Brooks-Hanson's guys.  The starting gun fires and everyone dashes off.  Two Hanson's guys go out pretty hard (Nick and Brian) and I stay back and run with Kris and the other Hanson's guy. 

As we come up to the first mile we hit 5:00.  We have a decent little group of three guys and the two leaders are increasing their lead.  The second mile winds us through downtown and past the Alamo; which is surprisingly small, but we come through two miles in 4:51 and keep pushing on.  The crowds in downtown were very cheerful and that helped out a bit going into mile three, which was hit in 4:56 (5k-15:17).  At around this time, Kris and the other Hansons guy faded a little bit.  I was a little concerned to be running on my own, but I could see Nick
way up in front, and I thought if I kept visual in him maybe I could run a good time.  I think I cam through mile four in 4:57.  I wasn't thinking of much at this moment.  Now the course takes up hill through a nice neighborhood and a water station, where I grab some cold water.  Mile five is hit in 5:08, and off the down hill I start to pick it up to catch up to Nick.  I hit mile six in 4:42, because of the downhill.  At around this point I see Lauren (Dana's fiance) and Kris' mom cheering from a nearby park.  It was nice to have some support along the course, not only from all the bands and random people, but from people who you actually know.  Mile seven, eight, nine and ten are hit in: 4:58, 4:55, 4:57 and 4:57.  I come through 10 miles in a personal best time of 49:26.  Those four miles were kind of a blur.  I was just focusing on catching Nick and thinking of random stuff.  I remember thinking about the Sandia mountain run, and how the three of us journeyed to a state of mind that could never be replicated.

Images kept coming to mind of that epic run and how beautiful those mountains look at sunset.  Being at peace with nature can be pretty hard to do when you're tired and feeling the pain of exertion.  But if the scenery can out weigh the tiredness, then it seems worth it.  Thats what I felt on the Sandias, a sense of peace, and earth beneath my feet.  But in San Antonio, there was only violent pounding on the hard asphalt in order to finish the race, with the best effort possible.

Another thing I kept thinking about was the training we've done.  For some reason I kept visualizing a Rocky video montage of our training.  Especially from Rocky III and IV!  Those awesome training montages are amazing and inspiring.  I know its kind of corky to think about this stuff, but I couldn't get these images out of my mind.  The underdog; Rocky, training like a mad man with the most rudimentary training techniques and no outside support while his competitor had a sea of trainers and high tech equipment.  This is what kept me motivated.  It kept me thinking about all these other guys out there, with the most expensive coaches, access to great facilities, and a plethora of gear at their disposal.  While guys like Brain Sell, one of America's greatest long distance runners, rises through the ranks and makes an olympic team, has only the bear essentials for training and winning!  With our little group in Albuquerque, mentored by a legend; Henry Rono, it's hard not to try and prove ourselves that we can run with the best Americans.  I finally caught Nick at around mile 11, and he urged me on to a 4:55 mile.  The next two miles were pretty hard.  I kept thinking to myself, after mile 10, that it was a 5k race to the finish.  But after that mile it was hard to push onward.  With my calves now on fire as if they were going to burn off and rip out of my skin,  I come through mile 12 in 5:05.  I wasn't really paying attention to my total time, but I had a feeling that I was going to run a PR. But I had to finish strong.  This mile seemed pretty tough, as I was all alone in the streets of San Antonio.  There were some rolling hills in and out and here and there.  I saw the huge Alamodome in the distance; which is were the finish line was and where the San Antonio Spurs play, and I had a great feeling that I was almost there.

Mile 13 was on a uphill and I could see the clock tick away to 1:04:30.  At that point I knew I wasn't going to break 65 minutes, but as I turned the corner the finish seemed a lot closer than I expected.  I started to get up on my toes to kick as hard as I could.  The clock was approaching 65 minutes, but I was lucky enough to just dip under that time with an official time of 1:04:55.  As I gather my thoughts and take some deep breaths of air, Brian Sell is waiting for his teammates.  I was fortunate enough to talk to him briefly about running and random stuff.  Once his teammates finish, and I congratulate them, they all walk off.  I wait around for Dana and Kris to finish, at that moment I see Lauren and Kris' mom on the other side of the fence cheering with excitement.  Dana and Kris finish together, and Dana runs a huge personal best.  Kris had a little stomach problem and had run into a hotel to use the bathroom and decided to pace Dana to a PR.  

After the race we grab a bunch of free food, t-shirts, free bags, and all sorts of free crap.  At times, we are like vultures running around grabbing everything we can get our hands on.
Once thats over with had to hurry to the hotel and check out and get to the airport for our
 flights.  I felt like things were moving faster than the race, as we rushed to get a cool down in and then to the car.  As we leave, I get a phone call
 from Omar to head back to the VIP section for some quick interviews.  I just wanted to get the
 heck out of there, but everyone in the car (all 6 of them) told me it would be fine and it would be fun.  So we went back, grabbed some more free food, did the interviews, said thanks to everyone and then we were off.  It was Great!

This was another great 1/2 marathon, and it could not have happened without the support and love from my friends and family.  It seemed like everything was taken care of for me. Transportation, food, hotel, everything!  I was not worried about anything, I had a good feeling about the race, and as long as the three of use were at the start, thats all that mattered.  Our preparation leading up to this race was more than I could ask for, and the moments before and after the race are more important than the race itself.  Being with loved ones, joking around and enjoying the moment at hand could out weigh any performance that day.  I was just blessed to have everything line up for me.  I am very proud of that time, but I am more impressed with the relationships I've gained here in New Mexico. I am also blessed to have a better relationship with God.  As I was preparing for this race; the following tuesday and wednesday, I was preparing to receive first holy Communion and Confirmation.  I am very grateful for all that I have received, and I hope to give inspiration to my friends as they have fueled my inspiration.  There is no point to receive all these gifts if you have no one to share it with.  To everybody, thank you for sharing these moments with me!

Mile Splits: [5:00, 4:51, 4:56 (5k-15:17), 4:57, 5:08, 4:42, 4:58, 4:55, 4:57, 4:57 (10 miles-49:26), 4:55, 5:05, 5:03] 1:04:55

A few more pictures:
Before the Start

Brooks-Hanson's Team



Three Amigos!

After the Race

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Yes We Can!

The outcome of this election brings faith to many Americans.  Just as Obama said:

 "If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible, who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time, who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer... It's the answer spoken by young and old, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican, black, white, Latino, Asian, Native American, gay, straight, disabled and not disabled - Americans who sent a message to the world that we have never been a collection of Red States and Blue States: we are, and always be, the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA."

Those words sent a chill down my spine.  It is a sign of change and hope.  I actually felt good about the outcome, and feel that things are going to get "better".  I know its not going to happen over night, but with optimism on our side, maybe thats all we really need...   

Thursday, October 30, 2008

To Heaven and Back - Running over the Sandia's

It has been three months in the making, and we (Kris, Dana and I) finally ran the most Epic Adventure run of our lives.  Since the creation of our little 3 man group; which we call the Trifecta, it has been very interesting.  We have planned out races, mingled with Kenyan runners, met beautiful women, discovered insanity, and embraced this sport of distance running even more than ever!  Every month or so, we embark on some kind of epic run.  The first of which was up the Sandia Mountains to the Tram (18 miles-3:17:54).  The second was up La Luz trail to the Tram and back (22 miles-3:52:23).  Now it was time to test our limits and run something truly epic.  We have planned to accomplish this run together after the San Jose half marathon, and roughly 3 weeks out from our San Antonio half marathon.  This past sunday, October 26 was a perfect weekend to do it.  

Many friends soon learned we were doing this and wanted in on the action.  Running on the most iconic image in Albuquerque, a span of 28 miles starting from 5500' just at the base up to 10500' and back, something so epic as this was bound to gain allure, and who wouldn't want to be in on this?  We started to tally up, and soon reached a total of 8 runners by the week of the run.  The Trifecta would soon be eclipsed and a whole bunch of us would be doing something amazing...

As D-Day approached, we started to lose soldiers.  One by one, each runner had something come up and could not partake in the experience.  Just looking at the Mountains can be enough to detour anyone away.  But as Sunday finally came, the numbers were at 3.  We would start the run late in the morning, parking one car (my lovely truck) at the north end on the trail head, and take Dana's car to the south end.  The name of the trail where we start is called Three Gun Springs.  Ironic, that only 3 of us will be gunning up this mountain.  We have run this trail before to South Peak, so we know the terrain.  Once we reach South Peak in record time, we take a short break to absorb to view.  It is truly amazing up there, and has changed so much since the last time we ran it in August.  No picture can express the beauty and serenity up there.  But of course I have a few pictures:

Looking West over the City:

Group Picture:

Looking north from south peak.  The end of the run is still beyond that north peak:

After some quick R&R, we head back on the crest trail to the Tram and towards Goldilocks.  We are now within 2 miles of the Tram and I start to feel sluggish, tired and fatigued.  Dana and Kris are at a fork in the road and wait for me.  We now have 1.2 miles to the Tram and more water.  We already finished our fluids, and I have some Clif Blocks and a Bar, but at this point its too late, water is pretty much what I need.  We are also at around 10000' approaching the last assent to the Tram.  Kris took off and Dana stayed behind to make sure I didn't die or anything.  Which I guess thats how I looked, stumbling up the trail, bobbing my head around with my eyes and mouth wide open gasping for air.  All I hear is Dana chanting, "Don't worry man, we're there, we're there.  You can refuel at the Tram, just make it to the Tram!"  Holy shit! He must have said that a hundred times, because we weren't even close to the Tram.  
After what seems like forever; we reach the Tram house 30 minutes faster than the last time we ran this, and its just a few flights of old wooden stairs to the water fountain and some serious rest.  I lean up against the sheet metal of the Tram house, as tourist, again look at me like I'm an idiot.  I can't help but laugh about it now, but at the moment I felt pretty messed up laying there while family members all trying to enjoy their sunday afternoon on the Sandia.  Hell, I was enjoying myself laying there on the ground.  

Dana and Kris venture inside to get me some water, but I soon recoup and get up to follow them inside.  I grab a seat and try to focus on the Football game on the TV...Lo and behold, its my beloved San Diego Chargers playing the Saints.  About a minute 40 left and they are getting pounded on a crucial play to tie up the game.  At that moment Kris eagerly and comically asks if I'm ready to go.  "No...... let me just watch the Chargers tie up the game and win."  
At least, thats what I was hoping for.  Their fate of winning the game was as likely as me feeling like a champ at that moment.  So, as the Saints intercept the ball and totally make a mockery out of the Chargers, I'm ready to get the hell out of there.  We fill up our water bottles, finish up our Clif Bars and head out.  Now, it must be some kind of conspiracy or amazement or something, but someone always comments on how crazy we are right when we leave.  This time a gentlemen bluntly says, "You guys are crazy."  I can agree.

The last part of the run is about 10 miles and mostly downhill, or rather down-mountain.  It is beautiful, shady, rocky and a long 10 miles back.  Oh, did I mention it was rocky?!  Miles after miles and hours later we are in uncharted territory.  I feel much better and the sun has gone from the east side of the mountain to nearly the western horizon.  We approach another sheer cliff that curves its way far enough out that we can see the trail head where my truck is parked.  We are a couple thousand feet directly above the trail head and Goldilocks, but we don't know how the hell we are going to make it down there.  A little jump off would be the easiest way to finally rest and get off our feet, but we follow the trail further away.  We are still going down, just in far, far opposite direction.  
We kind of already knew this might happen, but we are pissed at how the trail can tease us.  As my watch creeps up to 5 hours, I start to pick it up, hoping that maybe we are close.  We are definitely at a lower altitude, and I can feel that we are almost there.  Dana and I turn a corner and I see Goldilocks parked all by herself.  "There it is!" I shout to Dana, and we start sprinting home.  

We finally made it to the Truck....... DEAD!  With a time of 5:02:18, we gather some food and discuss the odd muscles that are in pain, sore, or whatever term you want to use that describes that sensation after a 5 hour mountain run. 
 Even our heads were hurting, but it was a good feeling.  The whole experience was amazing, and I really believe that it was a life changing experience.  I always see those mountains everyday.  No matter where you are in Albuquerque you can always see the Sandia Mountains. We now know what it feels like to run on the edge of the earth and take a glimpse of heaven.  We have run point to point, end to end, and have touched the sky.  It is a feeling like no other and I still can't believe we did it.  Thanks for everything you guys.                 

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Raining in New Mexico

It is now cold and wet in Albuquerque.  The weather has changed, and will be changing as the frigid winter approaches.  It should be fun, compared to California where the winters are a mild 60 degrees, layering up with only a long sleeve.  No, New Mexico shall bring snow, wind and I've been told hail.  Well, at least I have some winter gear. I may need to invest in some running gloves since my fingers are already freezing in October!

These next few months should be very interesting.  I have one more 1/2 marathon next month, then I will be preparing for the USA 1/2 Marathon Championships in Houston.  That race will be my first chance in qualifying for the 2012 Olympic Trials Marathon.  If I can run under 1:05:00 for the 1/2 then I will be in.  Another thing, if for some reason I am really fit and run under 1:04:00 then that puts me in contention to qualify for a US team. Most likely the World Half Marathon Team.  Its a long, long shot and possibly years of preparation, but anything is possible.  It would truly be a dream come true to represent my country at the international level.  Faith and Hope are what have been inspiring me throughout these past months and years.  And with these two gifts, I know I can accomplish something truly amazing.  Runners are breaking through some barriers that seemed impossible at first, but now tangible.  It is just a matter how much we believe, how much faith and dedication we have.  We are all inspired by something greater, we all have hope and we all have faith.  It is just a matter of how much.  So much support has been given to me from my parents, family members and friends, you guys are what inspire me and help me keep the faith.  I really want to thank everyone for all you've done.  Thanks for reading and your support.

This weekend is a marathon relay that 5 of us are doing for fun.  Next sunday will be another Epic Long run.  This long run will be 28 miles and will start from the South base of the Sandia mountains and continue up and over the Sandias to the North end.  I will try and bring a camera to post some truly Heavenly pictures.       

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

San Jose 1/2 Marathon - New PR

What a great experience, again!  The weather was amazing and it seemed like the weeks leading up to the event were quality workouts and miles.  I got into San Jose on saturday went for a second run,  had some dinner at Old Spaghetti Factory, hopped some fences to get into BevMo! for some water, relaxed and slept great on my buddy Chris O'Neal's couch.  Once I woke up at 5:30am, we went on a little shake out run to the local high school and back, just a mile or so, nothing crazy, but just enough to wake up the body.  We got ready, made a makeshift bib number for Chris and drove to the race. Once we parked I got a phone call from Kris Houghton asking us where we were so we could get a warm up in. I looked at my watch and saw that we only had an hour before the race. So we ran over to the VIP section to get my bib and warm up with Kris. But lo and behold he was gone with some of the Moroccans. Typical of Kris, so Chris O'Neal and I went for an easy run around the streets.

Its amazing seeing all these people walking around, warming up, chatting to friends and family. This sport is truly blowing up! I love it!  So, I get in about 17 minutes, its a lucky number of mine, and start stretching by the VIP tent. I didn't want to go in and get my stuff, since there were just too many runners and other elites in there. Adam Goucher, Josh Rohantinsky, Bolota Asmeron, and number of 1:01:00 Kenyans & Moroccans. I finally see Kris and we talk about race strategies. As we run over to the starting line with the other elites, Kris and I agree that we are going to go out conservative. I'm thinking 5:05-5:10 per mile, for at least the first 4 should be conservative.  So we get in a couple of strides and drills in, a brief chit-chat with fellow runners like Brooks-Hanson's Nick Arciniaga on what pace they are going to go out in. He was aiming for a sub 1:04 half marathon time. A little too quick for me.

So we are finally corralled over to the start. I was fortunate enough to find one photo thus far from the race. I am tucked away like a dear in headlights behind Rohantinsky and Bolota
was to his right.  Once the gun went off, everyone took off like a bat out of hell.  The first group already established themselves with about 15 guys including the 3 top Americans.  Kris and I were behind in another group of about 7 guys.  It seemed like a good place to be.  Three runners that come to mine in our chase pack were: Charlie Serrano (a McMillan elite runner), Miguel Nuci (a 2:15 marathoner) and Cristian Hesch.  All top caliber runners.  So I just figured I should stay with these guys and I might get a PR.  Our first mile was 4:57. Not bad, a little worried that we might have gone out too fast, but oh well, its too late to slow down now.  
As we come up to mile two I click off my watch and its 4:59. Ok, thats good. Now the first water station is coming up, not too many runners went for water or the Cytomax they had. But this being my third marathon I figure I better get some and "practice" my fuel intake...again.  So we come up to mile three and Hesch runs off the course and heads for the bathroom. That doesn't surprise me, since Hesch does all sorts of crazy things.  Three miles comes up pretty quick and we hit it in 4:56, and the 5k in 15:26.  Wow, if I keep this up I am sure to PR.  Now I just have to keep this pace, or I could even drop back to 5:10s and still PR. This is all going through my head as we pass tons of spectators and bands jamming at 8:15 in the morning.  The course now takes us back through the start and a whole crowd of people cheering their brains out.  Its really a great sensation, nothing like the previous two halves I've done.

So by mile four I hit 5:02, which is now expected of me to fade a little, as well as the other runners in our pack.  Its now myself, Nuci and Serrano pressing on.  Mile five comes in 4:55. Nuci holds pace while the next mile is hit in 5:10.  Serrano and I are trying to maintain pace and keep Nuci in our sights.  Now, Nuci runs 200 miles a week three times a day, and tapers down to 140 mpw.  I am told he doesn't have a job, except for running.  He is a 2:15 marathoner and I know I can stick with him!  But he is creeping away as I press forward. Mile six is hit in 5:10...now I know why and how he got away, we also go through the 10k in 30:51.  I like the pace we are at, it isn't the most comfortable pace in the world but it feels rhythmic.  Mile seven is hit in 4:54, the fastest mile yet. And now Serrano has a lead on me but starts to veer to his right and stops.  I pass by him calling his name to follow me, but he just looks at me with his hands on his head and a sign of pain from his side.  At this point in the neighborhood an older women cheers me on and comments on how she likes my shoes!  I immediately think to myself, "hell yeah! I love these shoes!".  They are the adidas adizero pro, but the significantly bright blue and red heel cup are what gets the attention. 

Mile eight comes up in 5:01, and within 800 meters there is one of many 90 degree turns. But this turn has a quaint little family on the corner and a small girl yells with her 9 year old voice "I love your shoes!"  As I turn the corner I look back to make eye contact and pump my fist with a smile in agreement. The whole family looks happy and cheerful at that point, and I will soon feel that way once I get to the finish line with hopefully a new PR.  Mile nine comes a little slower than the rest in 5:12, followed by ten miles in 5:10 (50:21).  Mile ten....just 5k to go. I seem to always think of it as a long 5k, which it tends to be.  No one is around me, and Kenyans and Moroccans are finally fading back due to the insanely fast pace they started off at. 

5k to go, 5k to go. Anything can happen in the next few miles.  My watch read 50:21 for ten miles. I need to run 15:38 or faster to break 1:06:00.  I never thought I would be in the vicinity of 1:06:00, but now its in my hands to push through the pain or stay at a comfortable pace.
Comfortable pace....at this point I didn't even know what that meant. Mile eleven was hit in 5:00. Ok, that's right on pace. It seems as if Nuci was coming back on me, but he wasn't.  Mile twelve comes up at the slowest time of the day - 5:14.  Oh man, "its over", thats what I was thinking.  But there was still hope, I was still pressing forward around the long turn.  Then as I make eye contact with one of the spectators, he yells at me, "COME ON! ADAM IS RIGHT THERE!"  Holy shit! Adam Goucher is right there?!?! I started pressing even more around that long turn and once it straighten out I saw Adam about 300 or 400 meters away. Dude, there is no way I can catch him, or is there? I just start breathing and start pumping my arms and legs. Thirteen miles comes up in 4:54, and Adam already finished. With about 100 meters to go I see the clock tick away from 1:05:55 inching its way closer to 1:06 and I finish in 1:06:06.

I could not be happier with that time and that performance. The crowds were amazing, and the bands helped out in soo many ways.  If anyone is considering doing an event like this, I highly suggest it!  And the medal was pretty cool too!
One last picture with all the Moroccans including Khalid Khannouchi.   

Splits: [4:57, 4:59, 4:56 (5k-15:26) 5:02, 4:55, 5:10 (10k-30:51) 4:54, 5:01, 5:12, 5:10 (10miles-50:21) 5:00, 5:14, 4:54 (.1-35sec)] Total time: 1:06:06 

Monday, September 29, 2008

The Little Emperor Does it Again - 2:03:59

This is truly amazing!  Halie Gebreselassie does it again in Berlin, running a new marathon world record of 2:03:59. Very dramatic just creeping under the 2:04 mark, and still inspirational.  I think he ran his first half in 1:02:04, then came back like a mad man.  I can't even image running a half marathon in that time. Most Americans can't even do that! But it still gives me hope to improve my times and push the limits of human capabilities.  Truly, truly amazing!  It is a great time to be a runner and a part of this running movement or running boom or golden age of running, or whatever term they are calling it now...

Sunday, September 21, 2008

La Luz Trail Run

After a grueling 3 hours and 52 minutes of running one of the most difficult trails in New Mexico, I feel that it is in order to reflect on this monstrosity of a run.  It is by far the longest time I have ever spent running, and it could be the longest distance, totaling 22 miles, of which half that distance was at a 12% ascend (and the other half a 12% decent).  The La Luz Trail is supposedly a world famous trail and the La Luz Trail Run is considered the "12 Most Grueling Trail Races in North America" by the fall 2001 issue of Trail Runner Magazine.  Yeah, its tough I guess!

We (Kris, Dana and myself) started at 10:30am.  This time of year in new mexico is a beautiful time since the weather is changing and the colors are starting to take change with fall approaching. Its also been said that hiking La Luz is "gorgeous this time of year", whoever said that, was definitely hiking and not running the damn trail. Nevertheless, I was excited beforehand, and we trotted up the paved road 2 miles before the trailhead. The trail itself is 7.2 miles straight up!

This is where we started, at my little truck. The paved road lead us up the 2 miles to the trailhead, which is basically at the base of those Mountains in the foreground. Then its up, up, up the trail. There were some points where the views were amazing. Damn, I should have brought my camera. Or maybe we should have brought some water.  At least we were half smart enough to bring some Cliff bars, on this 3 plus hour excursion.

So, while running up the mountain we experienced all sorts of hikers troting along. You could also hear the wind howling through the ponderosa pines and blue spruce trees. It almost sounded like running water or maybe 50 foot waterfalls. At least that's what I was dreaming of....water!  So nearly 2 hours later we crested the trail and ended at the peak, where a quaint little gift shop at 10,678 ft seems to be very practical. So after meeting Kris at the top of the crest, all I could think of was some water.  As I staggered over, tripping over rocks here and there, a young couple were asking us if we ran the whole trail.  With a delusional look on my face, and halfway out of breath I told them "yeah.... in about an hour fifty".  They were impressed and thankfully gave us a water bottle with some water; most likely out of pity and the stupidity of us not being prepared.  Once Dana made it up, I was ready to charge into the gift shop and fill up our bottles. Without a moment too soon, Kris told me "they don't have any water in there." And I came back with a remark along the lines of "WTF?!?!!? How can they not have any water in there!"  Apparently the only water they had was for sell, to all the tourist that drove up from the back side of the mountain! The lady was kind enough to inform us that 2 miles south on the crest trail was the tram and the restaurant. No shit! That's what I was afraid of..... 2 miles there and 2 miles back just to get some water!  "Well, lets do it!"

After we crawled into the tramway station to gaze upon onlookers in amazement, I quoted Dumb and Dumber, "We're there!"  Oh, water never tasted soo good!  A quick pit stop and rummaging through trash cans looking for water bottles, we filled up and headed home.  I remember hearing one women state, "I am inspired by your insanity!" Yes, that's exactly what I was thinking, we are insane... 

Now, getting down was entirely different. We had water, we finished our Cliff bars and it was a rocky down hill for the first half. Not as dramatic as climbing up, but still a journey.  Drinking on the go, seemed soo much better than burning our legs up the trail.  Kris took off after a few miles, and Dana stopped with only 3 miles to go.  I was running
 alone for the last 3, and once I hit the paved road, all I wanted was to see my truck.  I started to pick up the pace down the hill and became a little more delusional.  Laughing in my head, and sometimes out loud. Once I saw the truck and Kris laying in the bed with his feet sticking up I knew it was over. I took a breather in the middle of the road and then grabbed some water/tea. Dana appeared a few moments later and collapsed on the hood of his car.

All in all, it was a great experience! The run was Epic and I am sure we shall do it again, but until then I am just going to take it easy for a day or two.  San Jose is in two weeks, so this should be good!  La Luz trail is a run I shall never forget, I am ever so glad of the experience and the safety we all had.

One last picture:

After the run looking down upon the rain over Albuquerque.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Burn After Reading

What a very cynical movie.  Sure it was funny, with Brad Pitt acting like a workout junky; which many of us runners can relate to, and George Clooney's character portraying a total sleazeball of a husband. Their anecdotes definitely made the movie funny in more ways than one. I just can't believe these actors nowadays, they are really good! I didn't really know what to expect from this movie, just the fact that it was good and a Coen brothers movie, and it had some dark humor. Nevertheless, it was a great movie. I recommended this one, and I can't wait to see some more of their stuff.      

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Chips and Salsa 1/2 Marathon

My second ever half marathon, and it was in Albuquerque, so its a New Mexico style race. Which means it is very unorganized; running on the street for part of the race, then through a construction zone and then through some dirt, and finally on a bike path...yes a bike path. I can't believe these people pay to run these makeshift races, but lucky for me I got a comp entry. 

So as for the race, there was prize money involved, so whenever that happens in New Mexico all the Kenyans come out aiming to bring home some dough. It started off at what seemed like a pedestrian, but at the first sign of a mile marker; which was the 2nd mile marker, we hit it at 10:23.  Pretty good, I guess. At that point we had a good little pack of 6-7 Kenyans, 1 Korean stud, a Moroccan, Kris, and myself.  I knew before the race that I was going to have fun and practice my fuel intake. Which I did, and it went pretty well. I didn't get much water/gatorade out of the cups, since I spilled most of the liquid, but it was a good experience.

At around mile 4 some of the Kenyans started dropping off, so I was somewhere in the neighborhood of  7th place. Kris was right there with me, but backed off a little with another Kenyan/friend of ours.  I didn't really know what to think, so I just focused on the next guy in front. I finally caught him and passed him and worked on a few more guys.  Once we passed some shady dirt area near mile 7, I was in 4th place.  Seeing 3rd place a few seconds in front, I thought, why not go for 3rd and take home some cash while your at it? So, as Forest Gump would say, "I just kept runnin", and I caught 3rd. Once that happened Kris and Jay Young (the 2:10 marathoner Korean) came up on me. Now I was thinking, "oh great, I'm going to die now and crawl into the finish after these guys smoke me". But, I made a little surge and gaped them. Apparently, Kris dropped off the bike path and took a dumb; so that dropped him back a bit.  

From mile 9 to 10 we were now approaching the 10k runners on the same course. Damn New Mexico style road races. Once mile 10 came up, I just figured I had to hold off anyone for the next 5k. Its only a 5k... Well, that seemed like a long 5k, as the race volunteers directed us through a maze of residential streets, finally to come out on the last 2.5k of the 10k course. Crazy, I know. Well, from here on home Jay and I were battling quite a bit. I let him take the lead for a bit to gauge where he was at. At a few points he would surge a little, so I had to stick with him. The last 400m or so I took over the lead he had on me and just kicked it in. Dodging countless 10k finishers at the same time to finish in 68:49 for 3rd and a little prize money.

Overall, it was a great race, despite the organization. One of my buddies got lost, and once he finished he was cussing up a storm about how poorly the course was marked, which it was. But having this race as my 2nd 1/2 marathon, and a relative close PR, I was extremely happy. After the race, I spoke with many of the Kenyans and they are very impressed with my performance. It would be nice to train with them and learn a few things from them. Hopefully in the weeks and months to come I can learn some good stuff from them.

I plan on racing the San Jose 1/2 marathon next month, and hopefully run a personal best! It would also be nice to have a fun filled weekend like this one, with corny t-shirts and finishers medals...

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Land of Enchantment

Another great week has pasted here in New Mexico. I am really enjoying myself in the Land of Enchantment, even though I have not ventured out of Albuquerque since I moved here. Although what I remember of Taos and Santa Fe is pure amazement.  This week, I got some good mileage in running at different places. Kris and I ran at Bullhead park over by the airport/military hospital.  It was a typical park with large grass fields and some good dirt trails for a fartlek workout, which we did. After the workout [2 sets of 5-4-3-2-1 with half rest] we did a cool down with Peter Koech, who was running easy to loosen his calf.  
Another great thing that happened was the Salsa Festival here in Old Town. Great live music, open air and of course salsa dancing.  It was nice to be out and about.
I also started working part-time at a local running shop, so its fun just to mingle with other runners and talk shop. One of the guys that works at our shop is John Bednarski, a great old english chap who ran for UTEP and finished 4th to Pre and Gerry Lindgren at the 1969 ncaa xc championships.  
This blog seems to idolize many runners, but its just the environment here in New Mexico.  It's as if everything is being set up for me and all these great positive people are everywhere. A new one every week.  I have no complaints and only wish others could experience these little moments that make life so fulfilling.      


mon: easy [8]
tue: am foothills [8]
pm easy [4]
wed: am fartlek [10]
  pm easy [4]
thur: easy [10]
fri: easy [11]
sat: 6 mile cont tempo + warm up/cool down [11]
sun: long run [18]
total: 85

Monday, August 18, 2008

Running with Hendrick Ramaala

A week ago a few of us got to train with 3 time Olympian from South Africa Hendrick Ramaala. A quick bio of him can be found at the bottom of this article. So anyways, we met him on the track talking to our coach Henry Rono about running of course. He was set on running his traditional tune up workout for Beijing of 3 x 2000m on the track at around 70 second quarters. We were ecstatic at the opportunity to pace him for as many quarters as we could. So after a grueling workout we started our cool down and conversation about American distance runners. 

It was great to pick at his brain and observe his outlook on running. He has a "do or die" approach, with so much charism.  The Africans are very positive and approachable.  When listening to him talk, he gives the impression that anything is possible. It was truly a great experience.

The following week, we met with him and his family twice and jumped into another workout. The rewarding part of meeting this remarkable man and his family was the openness and inspiration they gave.  I will definitely be cheering for him to run a successful race at the Olympics. Good Luck Hendrick!    


Moving to New Mexico

This is the first time I have moved out of California. I arrived in New Mexico on the 1st of August and so far I am enjoying myself. I came out here for two reasons: Graduate school and running. I think I will try to keep a running log on this thing.