Friday, February 25, 2011

ViVa La Mexico Prelude to the Copper Canyons Ultra Marathon

Quote from Caballo Blanco
 (CCUM Race director)

"While they are at war, we come together at the bottom of a deep canyon in Northern Mexico to create peace. That is all we can do. Run Free!"

I have never been to Ireland.  I don't care to much for cold wet weather.  My life I have lived in the sunshine near the beach of the southern Californian .  To classify myself as Irish because of my namesake (Sweeney) I find absurd.  I have always considered myself to be much closer to being Mexican than an Irishman.   Plus I always thought Mexico got screwed in the treaty of Guadalupe. 

This Saturday I enbark on a 12 day journey to Participate in the Copper Canyons Ultra Marathon and
 run with Tarhumara.

In a perfect world my training would be at it's peak right now.  Never have I been so excited for a race yet alone a cultural experience.  Because of injuries I am not as prepared as I would like to be. Mentally it drives me crazy not to get the miles in I desire.  To make matters worse last Thursday while playing Disc Golf barefoot I dragged my frozen toe across a concrete tee pad.  

My foot was numb at the time and what felt like a little scratch 
was actally a big chunk of skin

Sorry about the gresome pic.  (A few more gorry details  about the wound in this paragraph and then I promise nothing but positivity for  the rest of the blog post.)  The wound was pretty deep I wanted to tear the dead skin off but decided to push it back on (after all it is a perfect form fitting band aid) Well the dead skin is still there it has sealed it's way most of the way on  with a little bit of blood trickling out here and there.  I have had to postpone my 3 favorite hobbies for the last week  No disc golf, running, or sauna. I've been spinning on the bike and my ass is getting sore from the seat 

Currently It looks like my big toe is wearing a hat

Enough about the stupid things I do to my body. 

Mexico is calling my name and once again it's time to strap on my Sandal's and hit the trail.  I've got a new pair of Luna's awaiting me with grip of  Leadville the leather of a Equus and enough lacing to tie a cinder block to my foot perhaps even  a double knot on the bottom. :)

Luna Sandal Factory

Saturday I leave LAX on a plane ride to El Paso where I all will meet of with "EL Mono" himself  Barefoot Ted and a few other Lunatic's from the factory.

I think there will be at least 4 Gringo's wearing sandals in the race hopefully more. 

 From El Paso I think 13 of us are jumping in some sort of vehicle and driving for a day or two down to the Barancas

Do I have any clue really where were going, staying, or sense of when we will get there?
I presume we will be heading south but even that I am not entirely sure of

Perhaps I should have looked at a map of Copper Canyons before 5 minutes ago.

Theres a certain excitement about not knowing what lies around the corner.  My attitude towards racing is no different.  I Love running a trail Ultra without ever stepping foot on the course until race day.  
Bewilderment is what I seek.  It doesn't really count as exploration if you already know what you will encounter.

I have always loved Mexico and it's people.  In no way do I fear for my safety or my possessions (their aint much to take and I aint very safe anyway). 

I don't believe in boarders
when I'm President the the fence will come down.

 As a kid (maybe 18) I once tried to walk home to Los Angeles from  Tijuana (Possibly climbing the boarder fence along the way) that night is kind of a blur.  What I do remember are all the smiles and strange looks I got from the Mexican people walking home their country as I stumbled back to L.A.  

Since then I have made numerous trip s to Baja California with nothing but positive experiences.

It's been a couple years since my last trip to Mexico which was probably my memorable. After my pops passed away my step mom and I went down past Puerto Vallarta near Manzanillo to go visit some old friend who live down their.

The lagoon was full of gators and ends just steps from the ocean and the cities commerce. 

The dangers were very real.
While my friend was out of town his dog took it's last sip of water at this very spot

I was not gonna let that happen to me. I drank all my water in the form of beer just to be on the safe side.

I met some lovely ladies

  picked some wild tomatoes straight off the vine.

and even found myself herding cattle for a few miles as running down a trail, just minutes after stopping to let a 6 foot python cross my path.

But mostly
I was there to gorge myself on guacamole, drink cerveza and relax on the beach

Me after a week in Mexico

It was awesome trip  and I'm sure this journey will be even better.

I feel very privileged to have this opportunity.  I am prepared to embrace whatever happens and really have no clue what to expect. Some might classify this as a once in life time journey but why limit the ones scope of experiences.  

I look forward to meeting  learning from the RarĂ¡muri especially Manual Luna whom inspired Ted to start his sandal company.  I have a lot of admiration for the Tarhumarian way of life and feel extremely fortunate to have this chance to show my gratitude.

ViVa La Mexico

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

San Dieguito: The things I will do for a free Beer.

Looks like a nice place for a race.

The San Dieguito half marathon has been on my mind for the past 6 months. It was near the top of list of local races I wanted to run in 2011.  Not only does it only cost $35 (if you sign up way in advance) the course is very  scenic, you receive an awesome dri-fit shirt,  finishers medal 

and most importantly 

(Unlike that Michelob Ultra  crap at Redondo)

I first learned about this event at  AFC half marathon (which was pretty lame in my opinion) I almost everyone I talked to said that San Dieguito was the race to run.  The distance would be no problem 13 miles is nothing but  my body is just starting to come together and pushing myself at top speed might not be the best decision at this present time.   The winning times in prior years for the half marathon were within reach if the stars alligned but getting caught up trying to run someone else's pace could prove dangerous for my body. Copper Canyons Ultramarthon  (80km) is just 3 weeks away  and that is what is what should be important to me right now.

A week before the race I got an email from "Stone" offering me a free entry into the San Dieguito 5k or half marathon.  5k Huh?  I didn't even know they had a shorter distance,  surely I could  go 3.1 miles on beer farts alone (sorry about the juvenile humor).  How could I resist? Time to weigh my options either do the half marathon to satisfy the ego and risk injury or do the 5k and stay healthy and get to the beer Garden an hour earlier (8:30 a.m.)

Some people have light bulbs turn on in their brain
(I have something different)

It really wasn't that hard of a  decision, but I would need a designated driver?

My sister did not have her kids that weekend and she kindly agreed to go with me.  I tried to convince her to run the half marathon and told her I would even pay for her entry.  She wasn't that amped on it but after a bunch pestering she decided to run, unfortuetly she decided one day after online registration had closed. (Doh).  She was not that disappointed and was still excited about the trip.

The starting line was 102 miles from my house.  The entry form warned that parking may be a problem.  I set my alarm for 4:00 a.m. but I was up by 3:00 a.m.  We hit the road at 4:45 a.m. and made pretty good time  arriving at the to the starting line by about 6:30 a.m.  We found a great parking spot and everything was going smooth.

The Sunrise looked almost exactly as it did on the flyer

The air was crisp, and when we left my car the thermometer read in the 40's.  The sun was coming out and I was prepared for a great day.  Registration went smooth, I picked up a pretty nice dri-fit long sleeve and my bib.

 I laced up my Luna Sandals and was ready to go

. The 5k runners had green numbers on their bibs while the half marathoner wore orange.  I like to think of myself as a distance runner yet on this day the green number made me feel more like I was doing the little kiddie race.

 my priorities lie in the future.

It was about a half mile walk down a beautiful trail to the starting line. As the elevation dropped so did the temperature.  Both my feets and my sisters (who was also wearing sandals) turned numb.

After climbing to the bottom of the hill to find the starting line we climbed back up a little ways to find some sunshine and thaw out while waiting for the race to start.


While we warmed up I met up with fellow Luna Sandal wearer aka a "Lunatic" Ngoc Bui.  he's been a facebook friend for awhile and it was great to finally meet the guy.    He was doing the half marathon and hoped to finish in 1:33:11 (you will find out later if he did it). I wanted to see him finish the race but that would depend if I could escape the beer garden
(not likely)

Ngoc sent me a link to this video to analyze his downhill form.  It looked pretty good but he seemed a bit reserved.  My advice was not to hold back, be like water and go the speed your body wants to flow.
(Tao Te Ching is one of my favorite books)

Ngoc didn't have time to chat for very long it was about 7:55 and the Half started at 8:00 . As for myself  my race ran on the same course but did not start for another 15 to 20 minutes.  Up on the hill away from the starting line my feet had mostly thawed out and I was ready to go. I just needed to shed some clothing.


At the last second I decided to ditch the shirt for the first time in 4 races. I decided to race with my USTAF hat, Black XS Moeben Sleeves, Garmin 310xt, WS CEP Calf Sleeves and my Traditional Luna sandals with Leather laces.

Starting line

When I arrived at the staring the race announcer said on the microphone "Looks like someones read Born to Run." You think he could be talking about me? He then proceeded to ask if anyone had ran the course before?  The kid next to me raised his hand.  I had no clue what the topography would be like so i tried to get some info out him.  He told me that the course was  basically straight down this big hill, run a few steps and come right back.  Sounds good, Thanks kid. 
(I found out later he won his division)

Scoping the results from the prior 5 or so years I noticed that each year the same two people were running first and second finishing in about 15:00 to 15:30.  After last weeks 17:20 that I ran (Boo) I didn't expect that big of an improvement although in theory it was not completely out of reach.  It looked like there were a few good runners and I quickly pegged out the two who I thought would be toughest to beat.  Nobody is a given to win or lose and I was gonna do my best to come out ahead.

Ready,  Set,Go

We started so fast it blurred the camera
(not really)

The race starts off with a sloping down hill section that increases in steepness pretty quick.  I expected the seasoned track runners to jump out at a 4 minute pace (people who actually know how to run). Surprisingly I came out the gates going faster than anyone else.  I didn't feel like I was pushing to hard as I let gravity do most of the work.   My legs were spinning pretty fast and when I glimpsed down at my watch about a half mile in, I was doing a 4:30 pace.  The terrain began to flatten and my pace slowed down when I hit the bottom of the hill a few steps later.

My right foot felt a little awkward? I thought maybe this was do to numbness from the cold?  But as I progressed near the end of the first mile on flat ground I realized I had committed a big time rookie mistake. I had forgot to check the knots on the bottom of my sandals.  You see, when you run in huarache sandals the lace that goes between big toe and the little piggie that stayed home (does the second toe have a name I wonder?) gets tied off on the bottom of the sole in a knot.  The knot will wear out over time and when it does you simply pull some more lace through and tie a new one.  It's an easy fix while training or in longer race but in in a 5k this would cost me some valuable time. Now my sandals are about 8 months old and I was still using the original knots.  As the leather wore in  I presumed that the friction with the ground would fuse the leather in the knot together. I figured that the leather right above the knot would give out first and I checked it's integrity before the race but failed to check the knot itself, a costly mistake.(dumbass). 

Amazinly the sandal was still staying on my foot.  I now had three choices. 1. Stop running assess the situation take the sandal off, push the lace back through, tie a knot and continue racing sacrificing anywhere from what I guess would be 1 to 2.5 minutes.  2.  I could completely unlace the whole sandal carry it and run the race with one foot barefoot sacrificing around 30 to 90 seconds.  3. Change my stride a little bit lifting my foot higher off the ground and hope the whole sandal doesn't rip apart and I trip over it, sacrificing maybe 30 seconds to  a possible DNF but I could revert back to option 1 or 2 if need be.

What the hell.

lets  see what happens if I keep the damn thing on.  When I  got to flat ground I was still in first place but that didn't last long.  In an instant the 2 dudes I expected to beat me sailed past. I was running decent all things considered and finished the first mile in 5:02.   

Just after the first mile I noticed table full of free beer compliments of Stone! Should I? I really wanted to but at this point it wasn't worth adding 10 seconds to my time to drink a beer.  After all it was only 8:20 in the morning and I could wait another 20 minutes before drinking. (who says I don't have will power only a drunk would drink before 8:30 a.m. I could wait till  8:45 a.m.)

The second mile went okay I could handle running on flat ground with my sandal flopping off my foot but I knew the climb up the hill at the end would be difficult.  I was still in third place but I could feel a few other runners breathing down my back as I finished the second mile in 5:34

Just before I got to the climb of the last mile I was passed by a group of three runners. Normally I would be excited about a hill climb.  This is where I would plan on making a charge but that was not the case today. I had to lift my right leg about 8 inches higher off the ground than I would like and it was costing me valuable time
 "Shit happens"

Wardrobe malfunction

On the inside I was laughing maniacally at my own stupidity, while I still set forth to finish the race the best I could.  I finished my 3rd mile in 5:54 and then crossed the finish line in 17:16 6th place overall.
Surprisingly faster than last weeks time

Live and Learn

I'd be lying if I said I wasn't disappointed with the results.  Were all human and we make mistakes, some more than others  (PAUSE from typing to point both my thumbs at myself).  I received my medal for finishing a 5k (yes a medal for finishing a 5k) posed for this picture then took the medal off along with my sandals and tape.  At this point I did not know if the knot had ripped off or came undone upon inspection I got my answer.  I think from now on I may tie a new knot for every race.

"C'est la vie"

By now about 5 minutes had passed since since I stopped running.  Free beer awaited and not just any beer 
It was some of the finest beer known to man.

Somehow my sister and I took  a wrong turn on our way back up the trail, it cost us about 5 minutes of drinking time (I was devastated j/k)

1st to the beer garden 3 races in row

Less than a half hour after the race had began I had Stone Arrogant Bastard in my hand and all seemed right In the world. :)

Tittle sponsors

Stone Brewing Company was not the only Kick ass sponsor.  The San Diego branch of the Hash House Harriers cooked  up some good grub for everyone while while they helped serve and and enjoy Stone's libations.

.  I had heard of the Hash House Harriers before but have never participated in a Hash.

What is a hash you ask?

Basically a bunch of Runners  (cough, Drunks) meet at an established spot.  Prior to their meeting one runner (the Hare) sets up a trail for them to follow often with many fake paths to throw off the speedy runners.  Eventually, all runners reach the pot at the end of the rainbow (beer) and everybody gets drunk.

I believe this is my Destiny
I may need to join or start a South Bay Chapter.

I was having a great time making friends right and left I ended up chatting with a few Hashers from San Diego

Vegi Stew

They had like 8 types of soup available after the race. with 4 of them being Vegan.  I think I had bowl of eggplant black bean.  By this point the Arrogant Bastard at 7.2 ABV was doing a spectacular job and even top ramen would have tasted gourmet.

Time passed by quickly, before I new it the Beer Garden became packed as the half marathoners flowed in.  I didn't make it it to see Ngoc finish but I latter learned he finished in 1:32:56 ahead of his goal and a new PR for him.  
Good job Dude.

It seems contradictory that this t-shirt suggests not wearing a shirt, never the less I had my beer goggles on mentally checked off off both suggestions.  

New friends

The weather was beautiful, by now it was about 75 degrees and I found a nice spot on grass to catch some rays.  I looked over to me side and heard this girl talking about how excited she was  that Stone was a sponsor.  Her and her boyfriend came all the way out from Yuma AZ to run in the race.  In California you can by Stone at almost any liquor store or nicer market but in Yuma it's hard to find. I can't remember either of their names (what a surprise) but they are both running the Great Wall of China Marathon. and somehow I'm going to figure out a way to track their progress.  It  turns out that she also ate a vegan diet. I told them that next year they should extend their stay and hit up The Stone Brewery for the brewery tour (Free Beer) and a Meatless Monday lunch or dinner at their Bistro.

Other Cool Cats

Out of the blue I ended up chatting with these three misfits for quite sometime.  They were supper cool and I found out we shared a bunch of common friends. Somehow I even ended up with a rose. 

9 Beers in

My poor, poor sister. Most people get sick of me in about 10 minutes or less (and thats when I'm not drinking) Lucky for her the kegs ran dry after about 9 beers.  My sister remained sober and was stuck in a beer garden with about 400 drunk runners.  Surprisingly she stayed pretty upbeat and even more surprisingly I din't commit any hanus acts towards her.(at least none that I can remember)  We ended up leaving by about 12:30 I presume. I could have stayed all day but that would not be fair to her.  Thanks sis for being there for me yet again and I promise to sign you up for the 1/2 marathon next year the first day I receive the entry form.   (I'll need a driver :)

(I also got a nice long sleeve sweatshirt for finishing second in my age group)

I take an average of about 2 naps a year. When I got home early in the afternoon I could feel no pain, my eyes grew heavy very fast as I fell into slumberland for a few hours.  When I awoke I wanted to go hit the gym but figuring my BOC was still probably still well over 1.0, I decided to rehydrate myself and relax at home for the rest of the evening

It was a great day  overall and I was very pleased that I had decided to run i n the race.  Thank you to Stone Brewing Company for sponsoring both me and the event.  I would also like to thank all the other sponsors and volunteers that made this race possible, it is a top notch event that I highly recommend to everyone.