Sunday, March 9, 2014

Emotional Decisions

Why do we make decisions that may not be wise? Emotions?
My recovery after last weeks run was not going well both emotionally and physically. Besides my body giving me signals by way of weak legs, creaky joints and my heart twitching (which is nothing new for me after hard efforts), I was second guessing my decision to DNF at the Nueces 50 last week. I shared my physical condition with a good friend who advised me not to run the 10 mile Prickly Pear race I was contemplating. Maybe I should wait another few days to run.
Showing up at the race site Saturday to volunteer, I met with many in our group for what I thought would be 5 hours of cheering fellow runners on at the 50K and 10 mile event. As we were setting up and greeting the lead 50K runners, another friend shows up with his race packet and says, " I thought you were running the 10 miler Tony."
Telling him I decided not to, someone says, "Go ahead and run Tony, We have enough help here." Others, were also encouraging as the first guy winked his eye at me. "We can run easy and coast without blowing up." He said. I did not have running shorts with me and stated that only to be offered shorts by someone who had a pair in their car. "OK" I said. " You talked me into it.".
At the start line I talked and laughed with friends wondering how I should run this race. I run because I enjoy the feeling it gives me but the competitive spirit lives in us all. As runners we want to compete with ourselves as well as others. Most of us do. That's why we toe the line. In my mind I was thinking I would start easy but when the gun goes off the machine starts churning.
Early on my legs felt weak and rubbery. Talking with Sandy was calming as we ran the first mile on smooth asphalt only to separate as we reached the rocky nature trails. Less than 2 miles in and the trail for the rest of the race is smooth dirt with very short, very slight inclines now and then. I had covered two miles in just over 16 minutes. At about mile 4 my legs were now warmed up and feeling strong but I was beginning to feel a little tired. A girl I had been leap frogging with was now ahead of me so I locked my sight on to her feet and fed off her pace. This was great until mile 6 where she was about to go off course. I yelled, "Hey, Hey!" she stopped and turned back around as I now took the lead with her in tow. I began passing people which only gave me more energy. Reaching the 7.5 mile aid station to cheers from the Rockhopper group I drank two cups of gatorade and received hugs and encouragement. I was surprised that I was running so well and felt good. From the beginning I was listening to my heart, and cognizant of my back which was also an issue the prior week.
With 2 1/2 miles to go the thought of placing in my age group crossed my mind. Why not? I've got to go for it. I may be well off but I don't remember too many, if any, old guys ahead of me and feeling as well as I did I decided I'd run as fast as possible with out "Blowing up." Setting my eyes on a runner up ahead I picked up the pace, catching her just before reaching the 9 mile mark. Again I locked in on her pace. Suddenly I heard breathing behind me. As I turned I saw a grey haired dude about my age! No way! Can't let this guy catch or pass me. Wait, He's not trying. He's biding his time. I'll watch him.
Come on, who doesn't feel this way? No matter your skill level. At P.E. in the elementary school yard, didn't you want to beat the kid running next to you?
Thinking I'd turn it on after we come out of the wooded trails and into the clearing I wondered if I still had enough energy in the tank. The girl in front of me was moving well and the dude behind me was now literally breathing down my neck. After coming out into the clearing the finish line is about 100 yards up the trail with a narrowing between two boulders half way there. Ten yards from those boulders I sprinted around the girl and through the gap giving it all I had. Surprisingly I still had fuel in the tank. More surprisingly the other old guy did too! I heard him right behind me! I crossed the finish line with him four seconds back at 1:25:34. Turns out I was in his age group! Later as I was awarded the first place mug and he the second place, he would say to me, "That's the first time that has ever happened to me. Damn it!" All in fun of course.!
Was it wise for me to push this hard after what I was experiencing this past week? Maybe not.  But it felt good crossing a finish line. Emotionally I'm in a better state. 24 hours later, my legs and heart have not rebelled.
At the finish line table I thanked the girl ahead of me for the ride. She thanked me for the push, and the other girl I was feeding off earlier came in and thanked me for getting her back on course. Most runners are cool people. Cool? That's old dude speak.


Monday, March 3, 2014

Nueces 50. but 39 for me

"I'm sure glad you're not going back out. I wanted to ask you not to, but I don't like to say anything."
So said the nice lady as I sat at  the Texas Aid station Saturday. At mile 35 I realized I had bit off more than I could chew. So I walked to the mile 39 aid station and called it a day. My race was over.

I was fortunate enough to have some company driving up to the headwaters of the Nueces River. Angela was here from Montana to visit her coach, my good friend Liza, and to run the Nueces 50 miler. We had a good time chatting on the two hour drive up from San Antonio. I described the course to Angela forgetting how really rocky it actually is. It had been four years since I last ran this course.
Our Rockhopper group was well represented at this years race. We had about four cabins reserved. David from Albuquerque and I hung out and visited with folks before retiring to our 15 bed cabin. It's fun sharing a cabin with friends. You have to be careful with your normal bodily functions though. Restroom visits at night are common with me as with others, I found out. Someone did ask that the very loud air hand dryer not be used. As usual I was the first one to fall asleep and the first one up.
The 50 miler started before sunrise at 6 A.M. Early on in the dark, I chatted with Jean, Angela and Elizabeth. later I would run into Ben. My plan was to run easy and and take it as it comes. Not much of a plan huh? I had no expectations in the weeks leading up to the race but a couple of days before I wondered if I could break 12 hours. Maybe even get close to 11 hours! I decided I'd walk every incline no matter how short. That was working well for the first 17 mile loop. At the start of the second loop I thought I was still in good shape and not running too fast. The climbs seemed a bit more challenging and the day was getting hot. Earlier I had been running with my friend Fumi but now she was long gone ahead of me and moving very well. It turned into a windy clear day after a very cool morning. These type of days in the beautiful Texas Hill Country remind me of  my youth vacationing with my family, my boy scout days camping and fishing, and later as a teen attending church retreats in these hills. Fond memories.
I must have been daydreaming too much, and getting tired when I fell at about mile 25. Going down hard I must have made some noise because a runner about 30 yards ahead turned and ran back to me. I told him it felt good laying on the ground. "no, you need to get up." he said. Jerry helped me up and faded off into the woods. At this point my back began to ache as did the soles of my feet. Running on the solid rock of the dry creek bed was no help. Out of the creek, the rocks on the trail felt sharper on this second loop. After ascending the toughest climb which I would guess is over a mile long and maybe 600 feet (I wore no Garmin) the downhill going into the aid station at mile 30 did a number on my back. I've never experienced back aches on a run like I did on this day. Leaving the aid station on my way to completing loop two, my buddy Tom caught up with me on his way to finishing up his 50K. I told Tom I need to change into my Hoka running shoes to help with the beating my back, feet, and legs were taking. Tom and I chatted as we ran along the river before he ran ahead to his finish.
Arriving at the start/finish after completing two loops and 33+ miles our great group of friends tended to me as though I was leading the race. Rachel and Liza helped me to the aid station table, Tom had let the gang know I wanted a change of shoes. At our Rockhopper Aid camp, Michele and Jason changed my shoes, Kelli cut open my avocado, Jeanie peeled a tangelo for me. It was like I was in a NASCAR race and they were my pit crew. I did not tell them how much I hurt. I couldn't.
Leaving the aid station to cheers I ran through the chute and into the woods. From this point to the Texas aid station, 5 1/2 miles, I stopped three times. I was feeling dizzy (and realized later that I was not sweating). At one point my heart was beating very fast. I found some shade and sat on a rock waiting for my heart to slow down. I thought I was drinking enough. I had tried drinking more. To the point where the water was sloshing around in my stomach. Bad feeling when you're trying to run.
Arriving at the Texas aid station Mike helped me sit down. He filled my water bottles and gave me stuff to eat. Others helped by asking how I was. The nice lady smiled at me. Jean came in and asked how I was before she left with Mike pacing her. "I'm through having fun for today." I said. With a sympathetic voice, Jean asked if the heat was what got to me. I nodded but thought to myself, I don't know if it was just the heat or my body just breaking down today.
I did not want to quit but why torture myself. I thought about Ralph Macchio's character Daniel in The Karate Kid movie when he asks Miyagi to heal him so he can complete the tournament and find "balance." Miyagi responded, "win or lose, no matter." That's right Miyagi!
Dropping from this race will not define me. I have "balance" in my life.
I had fun. Making a new friend driving up, hanging out with old friends, and running with them through the beautiful Hills. As Joyce kneeled in front of me to ask how I was before driving me back to the start I said, "I'm OK, and you know, It's like Joe says, Its just a f***ing run,"
My friends still love me (Several checked in on me later that night and the next day to make sure I was OK). My wife Ron and I had a laugh when I got home as I told her she's been right all along, I'm not superman. My dog ran to me too! He offered comfort and lifted the pout off my face.

Friday, February 21, 2014


What trait is most important to you in a friend? That is the question that came up recently at a gathering with friends. I said this Dr. Seuss quote came to my mind, "Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind."
I've said some pretty dumb things. Sometimes I'm just trying to be funny and other times it's knee jerk reactions. Many times it's just who I am. Those who may not agree with my thoughts but forgive me and stick around are friends worth keeping. I like to think that I also look beyond a friends comments or thoughts I may not agree with. If I feel they are truly genuine sincere caring human beings, they are and will always be my friends.
Speaking of friends. My friend Tony up in Colorado sent me an email a couple of months ago and suggested I run a half marathon near his home. He's registered. At 2800 feet of elevation gain, The half marathon is billed as the toughest race in the Rocky Mountain front range. For the past two years I have gone up to Colorado to run a 50 miler and a 50k. I fly in, crash at Tony's, run MY race and head back home. This time I am VISITING with Tony, running with him, and visiting some more before I return home. He's my friend. Best part of it is my niece Adrie, Tony's niece from the other side of her family, is coming with me. I leave all the traveling arrangements and hassles to her!
But up next is the Nueces 50 miler. I crammed all my serious training into the last two weeks. last week I ran 45 miles. this week I hope to get near 20. It's taper time. My old knees have been creaking but I think I'll be OK. At work today I walked up and down two flights of stairs about ten times. That's good training!
A question we did not get to address at our gathering, "If you live to be 100, would you rather have a sound mind or a fit body?"

Monday, February 10, 2014

I'm Young! In my mind.

Today I heard something very interesting, Mike Greer's 11 points of healthy ageless living.
Besides the obvious eat well and exercise points, what I found interesting was the advice to not hold grudges. I agree wholeheartedly. To harbor Ill feelings towards another person, no matter what the reason may be, only eats at us inside. It is better to let it go. No matter if "they drew first blood" Rambo.
We don't know what goes on in another's mind. What their story is. Everybody has a story.
My mother in Law put it best, "Every person is a different world."
The other point I agree with, and what helps me is to be part of something bigger than yourself. Belong to a social group or network. I manage our running groups email list. Sometimes it is over whelming but I make people happy by including them and it makes me smile. I smile when I meet new people and interact with these folks.
The point that I liked most was the "Mythical age." If you didn't know when you were born what would you say is your age?
I often tell people I feel I am 16!
Forget all that nonsense about getting old I've written about. I'm 16!

Sunday, February 9, 2014


"Se tienen que conocer mijo." That is what my mother would say to me in regards to knowing and staying in contact with family. "you have to get to know each other son."
My mom is one of 13 siblings! They were a very close and loving family. Their parents, my grandparents, were very loving. That love was passed on down to all in the family. We have always been a family that shares genuine hugs and kisses. But with such a large family it can be difficult to know everyone and stay in touch. "You have to try." Mom would say.
I remember my cousin Angie visiting us when she was about six years old and I was twelve. She was cute and had a funny west Texas accent. My mom's little sister Hope (Angie's mom) and her family live in Denver City Texas, way out in the Texas panhandle. Needless to say, we did not see them too often.
Many years passed before I saw Angie again. It was as adults 32 years later at my mom's funeral. As we said goodbye after the funeral, I said to Angie, "we need to stay in touch and get together." Another cousin said, "Yeah, that's what we all say, but it never happens." I vowed to make sure it would happen. It has. I call Angie now and then. Angie drives through San Antonio on her way to visit her Mom and every time she is in the area we get together.
This past weekend I visited with Angie at her home north of Houston,  I was in the east Texas area to help at the Rocky Raccoon 50 mile trail run at Huntsville State park.
As much as I love running trail races, I also love supporting friends and fellow trail runners reach their trail running goals.  I also enjoy hanging out with trail runner friends who enjoy the same. Sharing hugs, kisses, and love. They're  family too.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

San Gabriel Mountains revisited

I ran into this report of my first mountain race. written before I started my blog.
Thought you might enjoy it. One thing I left out was how they ran out of water at the finish. It was really hot that day too. I had to settle for canned tea.
I returned to these trail in 2013 when I paced Lalo at Angeles Crest

Mt Disappointment 50K  Endurance RunMt. Wilson, CA
11 August 2007

by Tony Maldonado
It was a cool crisp morning on Mt Wilson in the Angeles National Forest north of L.A. The temperature was 62 degrees with a slight breeze. The beautiful sight of  downtown Los Angeles  down below was short lived  as clouds moved in and blanketed the city.

At the starting line I talked to some of the other runners. George from San Diego was attempting his first 50 miler, Mike from Huntington Beach, and  Rennee from Santa Monica were there for the fun. Barefoot Ted was also there.

The race began with a 3 mile descent on a paved road before hitting the trails. The southern California area has had only 3 inches of rain all year, thus the trails were dry and dusty. The dust being kicked up by the runners  rivaled the smog of L.A. I was wishing for the mud I had become accustomed to in San Antonio.

At mile 4 a runner pulled of to the side holding his right hamstring. I asked if he was OK. He said “yes, it’s only a cramp”. Not a good sign at mile 4.

As I reached the first checkpoint I decided not to stop since I felt good and still had enough water. The trail became shady and more wooded at this point.

I met another local runner and we talked and paced each other for the next 10 miles. He asked about Sunmart, but lost interest after I told him the course is flat.

At the second checkpoint it was time to refill my two bottles and take in some fuel. The first climb followed.

Barefoot Ted passed us on the approach to the third checkpoint at the top of the climb. His feet were fine he said, but he was having stomach problems.

By this time the temperature had risen and  I was beginning to feel the effects of the heat. Although it was getting hot, there was no humidity. Here in Texas I am reminded to drink by the perspiration caused by our high humidity. With no humidity it is easy to forget to drink.

 The trail now became more difficult as it wound around the mountains. There were long stretches where the trail was only about 12 to 18 inches wide with tight switchbacks. It was very dry and Sandy in some parts. I found myself leaning into the mountain side. There were drops of several hundred feet with nothing to hold on to if you were to slide off the trail. A tree about 4 feet in diameter and 40 feet long had fallen across the trail. I watched as runners ahead of me stepped on a knot on the tree and pushed themselves over. Me? I straddled that puppy and slid over to the other side. The trail widened again and ahead some mountain bikers were taking a break. One of them noticed my shirt and yelled out, “ all right Hill Country.” “Are you near Bandera?”

“yes” I replied “right down the road”

 “great place “ he said.

Approaching the fourth checkpoint at mile 21 I was not feeling good. My legs were strong but my heart and lungs were not providing help. Was it poor training? Was it the great L.A. Mexican food I had been eating the past two days? Or was it the elevation? Yeah, that’s it! It’s the elevation.

I drank plenty of water, ate peanut butter on crackers, oranges and watermelon. Filled my two bottles and looked forward to the next 5 downhill miles.

I found the downhill not as pleasant as I had hoped. Some sections were very steep. Not knowing the trail I was being cautious and my quads and mid back were taking a beating. At 5 hrs 10 min. I had covered 26 miles. Not bad I thought, only five to go.  Little did I know, the last 5 miles would take 2 hrs 14 minutes to complete.

At the last checkpoint a runner had decided he had had enough and dropped. Others sat to contemplate the final ascent. 5 miles and 2600 ft to go. Again I drank plenty of water and took in some fuel, filled up my bottles with water and headed out for the final climb to the finish.

The climb was gradual for the next two miles, then it seemed to go straight up. Again there were very narrow stretches and tight switchbacks. Now my legs did not want to play anymore. The good thing though was the shade provided by the tall pines. I don’t mind being passed, but it seemed like I was being caught and passed by the whole field. In some spots it was difficult to let runners get by, so I had to move faster than I wanted to. Two runners (walkers at this point) ahead were struggling and were low on water, as was I. The guy with the camelback was completely out! He took a drink from the others bottle. They decided to rest. I couldn’t. I was afraid it would be more difficult to start again. Help was sent to these guys from a finisher who had noticed them struggling.

With ? mile to go and the trail still ascending sharply, I ran out of water. A runner/walker passed me and we began talking as he paced me up the mountain. I thanked him as we finally reached the top. But wait! The finish line was still 50 yards up to the visitors center. One more climb, just to make sure.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014


Today a coworker asked, "hey, how are you?"
"ah, besides being nuts I'm OK." I responded.
"I know you're nuts." she said.
I said I was nuts because on my mind as she asked, was the Nueces 50 miler which is a month away. And I signed up! why? Because I love nature trails and how it makes me feel when I immerse myself in them.
Running on trails makes me feel connected to and a part of this beautiful earth.
25K may be too short. 50K is long but may leave me wanting just a little bit more. Besides, I want to prove to myself that I can still do it. Plus, my good friend Lalo tells not to let my age stand in the way.
I've said it hurts to run long distances and it may be taking it's toll on my body but I can't seem to quit running in them. It's like a drug, and I am addicted.
What may have prompted me to sign up this time was seeing some relatives at a family gathering this past weekend. Mario will be 67 yrs. old this year. He looks good! Mario has always been active playing softball well into his 50's, walking, traveling, and engaging in many carpentry projects at home. He's had health issues but has been able to manage them well with little to no medication.
Luciano on the other hand did not look as well. Younger than Mario and not as active.
I do not know details about his lifestyle now but my thoughts were, I want to be in a better condition than that in ten years. Am I vain? Maybe. Do I want to live forever? No. But I do want to feel good as long as I am alive. Will running ultras on trails extend my life? Probably not but they'll make me feel good while I am alive.
Yes, I am vain. I don't want to look old as I get old, but it's inevitable. In my mind I am still 17. I guess I can still think I look 17. Or maybe 15! Like when I was hanging out with these guys.

We got together recently after so many years of being apart. It was fun to recall our childhood antics. We had so much fun being nuts growing up together. We hope to make our group gathering larger and make it a regular happening. We are old (er) but we can still think young.
Now there is work to be done. Training! I lost over a week of training recently due to a cough and congestion. Dang that Hill Country Mountain Cedar pollen!