I started running ultras last year (2010) in March to be exact when I ran the Chicago Lake Front 50K in 5:32 I believe. This year I PR the 50K at 5:01 so I really wanted to know what I was going to be able to do at Ice Age 50 miler this year. Last year IA50 was my first 50 miler ever (technically my only one until last week). I ran IA50 in 2010 in 11:32 so going into 2011, I really wanted to see how much I had improved over one year of running ultras. So far in 2011 I have run the following:
Windburn 6 Hours (01/29/11) - I ran 27.86 miles in deep snow
Iron Horse 100 (02/19/11) - completed 1st 100 in 25:39:08
Lake Front 50K (03/2011) - PR 05:01
I went into Ice Age 50 as excited as I have ever been to run an ultra. I told everyone that would listen to me that my goal was to run it in 10:30 so that would be an hour faster than last year. But guess what? I was just kidding,in reality my goal all along was to run it in 10 hours. I thought I had the strenght, determination and speed to be able to do it.
We drove in the morning at 4 am to the Ice Age trails (Michele, Joy, Anastasia and I), yes I know I am a lucky guy, always have gorgeous, awesome runners around me ;0) I had only slept 3.5 hours but that is usually the case before a big race so no big deal. The beautiful Michele Hartwig got us there with plenty of time so we had time to go use the restroom and put on our clothes because you know we have to look good baby... and get our packets... I was ready to go, excited, determined and feeling great.
The week leading to the race, I had talked to several of my ultra friends and I had decided that I was actually going to have a strategy for the 50 miles. The strategy was simple, start nice and slow and my goal was to average a 12 minute mile for the first 35 miles and after that, well I am the fricken Machine, I was going to run the last 15 like a possesed runner. I was going to day dream that imigration was chasing me while crossing the Rio Grande... LMAO OK I just made that up... But that was the strategy, it made sense and I thought I could handle it. Well, we headed to the start and I started high fiving a bunch of people that I only knew from facebook. I loved it, finally able to meet people in person... I took a picture with my BFF and I gave her a hug and I went to line up with the beautiful Joy.
The great thing about IA50 is that it starts and finishes on the same place. We sang the National Anthem which is always awesome and exciting to me and there we went. We started with the first section which is a moderetaly easy 9 mile loop, it is a wide trail so you don't have to worry about single track or anything dangerous, right? Well wrong!!! In those first 9 miles, I actually rolled over my left ankle 2 times. The same fricken ankle that still has bothered me since Iron Horse. The ankle was hurting but I will be honest, it never prevented me from running. It did slowed me down a few times but I was supposed to start slow anyway so I wasn't too worry. I got back to the 9 mile loop start about 4 minutes ahead of pace (remember I was supposed to be doing 12 minute miles). Well from mile 2 on, I really wanted to go numero 2 (bathroom) so I held it for 7 miles and I really felt uncomfortable the entire time running. When I got back to the start/finish which marks the end of the 9 mile loop, my BFF was there waiting for me a little worry. What happend?, she asked... You are the last one from our group!! She said... and I said, nothing happened!!! I am starting slow... Well I grabbed a PB&J sandwich and reloaded my water and went fast to the bathroom. Well, it was one of those that goes on and on and on and on and on... and fricken 6 minutes later I was finally done, sorry trying to give you the step by step or more like push by push!!!
So finally, I went on with my run a couple of pounds lighter and a couple of minutes behind my pace. I picked up the pace because I wanted to get back into my 12 minute a mile pace so quickly I ran the next mile in about 9 minutes and got back on track. We went into the 2nd section which is out to Rice Lake. Once you pass the famous Confusion corner, you are on the Ice Age trails (yeah buddy, time to have some fun, yeah whatevere loser!!!) I know, I am talking to myself (crazy Mexican). Here is where we switch to single track with rocks and roots and uphills and downhills... fun, fun, fun... As you cross highway H, you find yourself running through several miles of pine forest (this is my favorite time), do you ever wonder what Heaven would look like? I do and this is the part that makes me realized how wonderful life is and how much God gives us to enjoy. At this point I was crusing along and confident that I would start catching people after 20 to 25 miles. I ran for a little while with the wonderful Tara and Amanda and it was nice to see people I knew. It was great to run and see so many people I knew and getting the occasional Go Machine and high fives. I got to the turn around and I was feeling fine, I probably spent a minute there and I started running back. I got to see my wonderful and beautiful BFF again, oh yeah and Robin ;0) and that gave me some energy to keep pushing.
I got to see so many people cheering for us: Brian, Kelly, Frank, Holly, Sharen, BFF, Robin, I had seen the wonderful Michele Hartwig earlier... and all these people kept giving me the energy to keep pushing forward but as the miles kep accumulating, I started to noticed that my muscles were getting extremely tight and honestly at this point I had pee only once, when I made my 6 minute stop (remember that? I know yuck!)I had a really sharp pain on my stomach and that was very umcomfortable but I kept pushing and keeping my 12 minute pace.
I finally arrived to the famous Confusion corner again which I think is mile 32 and a little angel was waiting for me there, YES you guessed it right my BFF. She was ready to run with me, she wasn't pacing me ( because there is no pacing at IA50) but how well does she know me that she noticed earlier that something wasn't right with me. Thanks Anastasia, you are an angel from heaven and my best friend too. Well quickly, we picked up the pace and we took off fast I would say at a nice 10 minute per mile pace and at that point I figured, this is what you been waiting for... Time to show yourself what you are made of and honestly I live to challenge myself. I don't care who is in from or behind me, I care about how much am I going to push myself and I said " God give me the strenght ". We went on with section 3 which is out to the Emma Carlin trails and I have no idea who this Emma lady is but I thought "lady this shit is hard!!!". I told Anastasia that I was having a really bad pain on my stomach and of course she asked have you peed? I said not in the last 4 + hours and she said well pee moron (she didn't say moron but I wish she had) so I stopped to try and to my surprised I did... As soon as I started running again it was the beginning of the end for my smooth 12 minute per mile pace. I got my first cramp on my left hamstring, I stopped running instantly and started walking holding on to me hamstring... Well the rest of the last 15 miles were just like that so I just started slowing down, my dream of pushing hard like I was crossing el Rio Grande were gone and it was time to be a machine and not give up... It was miller time, Oh no that was later!!! Here is a little picture of how great I was feeling:
We got to the turn around time and I was feeling the miles and the hamstrings, at this point it was both but I just wanted to keep going and I did... My goal had become to still PR (old time 11:32) and try to finish under 11 hours!!! Never mind just finishing under cut off, I had to push myself still no matter what. As I was passing somebody with 5 miles to go and he saw me holding on to my hamstring, he said "you know you can just walk it now and you can make it way under the cut off" and I said, thank you sir very much but I want to PR and finish under 11... He just gave me a funny look probably saying "este boy is mucho LOCO"... As we approach Confusion corner again, I knew I had the shot at under 11 but my legs were gone, my hamstring were trashed and I was cramping up left and right. we got back to the Nordic trail and made a right to the finish line which I think is a mile to go and who was waiting for me there? No other than the one and only Prince Kamil... So he started telling me in his very cute accent, Go Machine one mile and you have 10 or 11 minutes to finish uder 11 and my BFF telling me the samething. SO I started kind of running but I think I look like a mummy trying to keep my legs straight because the craps were just there and pushing... and Kamil was like look Juan I am doing the Mexican wave, like they do in soccer and my face was like what to fuck is this guy doing??? but inside I wanted to crack up. I love Kamil, so both Kamil and Anastasia got me to the finish line.
Yes, I crossed the finish line at 10:58:42 I got my PR by 34 minutes, I finished under 11 hours but more importantly God allowed me to finish the race despite all the issues I had today... Thanks be to God!!! As people were cheering me on and hugging me and kissing (Ok there were no kisses!!! darn it.) I was having a hard time keeping my balance, thank you Joy for keeping me up and grabbing me when I was about to go down. It was obvious to me that I had pushed myself so I was happy despite of not running the 10 hours I had in mind. I know next year, I will get my 10 hour Ice Age 50.
Lastly, sorry for the book. But I do know what mistakes I made leading to the race. I changed my diet, the entire week I ate a lot of proteins and only the last day Friday I ate carbs. Also I didn't drink as much water as I usually do but I did drink too much coffee... hello!!! Moron!!! So, as we always say, every race we should be able to learn something and I did... Now time to get ready for Kettle 100 on June 4th. 100 miles for my 40th birthday and my bff has given me my marketing name "Birthday Boy Machine".
Thanks my brother and sisters and see you on the trails, roads, bars and dacing clubs of America!!!