Monday, October 29, 2012

Balancing act

It’s been a while since my last post. The past months have been very busy for me. Although I am now slowly able to manage my time more efficiently, there are still a lot of things I haven’t picked up. For one, I missed going here to talk about my trail runs, races, and other random stuffs.

I haven’t mentioned it, at least not in this blog, but early this year we were blessed with another addition to our family. I kept this topic out of discussion mainly because it’s not related to the subject of my blog. As much as I also wanted to keep it private, I can't deny the fact that this is the reason why I've been out of the loop for some time now.

Like any family experiencing the wonders of having a newborn. It is both difficult and sweet. What make ours different is that our baby was born extremely premature. Baby Kiko weighs less than two pounds at birth and needed to stay at the NICU for a very long time.

Baby Kiko was less than 2 lbs when born 
He's home with us right now. Although he's still on oxygen 24/7 and on NG tube feeding, generally he's doing well. I say this with optimism because he's been through a lot. From being intubated to series of blood transfusion to surgery. He really has made a lot of improvement. This I credit to the loving people at the NICU which also became our second home the whole time when Kiko was there for six months.
 It was a difficult adjustment for our family but it helps that we're used to dividing tasks at home (at least we try). We don't have any help so between me and Janet, we alternated on “shifts” every three hours.

In terms of running, I resisted in the beginning to change my training schedule. I go to work with little or no sleep then hit the trails with the same mileage and intensity. There was completely zero recovery. As a result, I felt crappy the whole day, irritable at work, extremely stressed at home, and just overall, I felt like a person that I don’t want to be.

Running as a way of life has been one of the many tools that I use to give me a sense of direction. My current situation should not be an exemption. If I am to move forward and be the person that I wanted to be, I needed to find balance. That means giving up some things to make way for the others. If doing this means giving up my training plans and race schedules so I can have more time to enjoy the life of being a father again, I think it's a reasonable trade-off.

This settled, I took two months off from work, stopped training and tried to straighten things out. Believe me it's been a lot easier since then.

I am back to work now and baby Kiko has improved a lot since then. Fingers crossed, we hope to wean him off the oxygen before the year ends. He's so far been cleared by different specialists and some we're still working on.

I still run, but I do it in no terms but simply because I have the time and I wanted to. Although I have more restrictions now. Like I cannot got to remote trails where there's no cell phone signal. So, I pretty much stay local. Regular run for me needs to be planned days ahead; long runs, weeks in advance. I also don't go "all-out" when running, I make sure to save my reserve at home just in case I needed to stay-up all night with Kiko.

Looking back, I thought that I have to take extreme measures to begin this process. That I have to completely cut off myself from the things that I love like running. As it turned out, things have a way of resolving itself. It was hard in the beginning, sitting at home to watch summer pass by and the opportunity of heat training lost. I skipped couple of important races. My training log, pathetic. But things eventually settled down after a few months that I am now able to run on a regular basis.

I still have one distance race, 50 K trail, in the calendar before the year ends. With the way things are moving on, I am hopeful to attend it but I'll not push it if not possible. I'm planning to take a long break at distance events after this and most likely move to short ones. I have serious competition at home anyway with my boy placing at local races.

Baby Kiko now at 9 months, w/ my other daughter, Gabriela, also a premie.
For now, I'm glad to just end each day hopeful on a lot of things especially with our baby Kiko. My stinky feet maybe a little restless for not going out often but I'm sure its thankful that we're at least able to move forward, a little less crappy, a little less stressed, both feet moving in sync, balanced (at least for now).    

Thursday, March 15, 2012

proud dad

That's my boy in the picture, Léan (lee-yan). This was taken in front of the Alex Theater after we crossed the finish line at the 2012 Glendale Dash where he won first place in his division, 1-12 yo male. He ran the course 23:22.3 at 7:31 min/mi pace and almost beat me.

Looking at him in this picture I noticed how tall he's become. Whew! another parental moment... either I'm getting really old, or he's growing too fast. But he seems to be enjoying running. Although I think we may have to do more races together while I can still beat him (ha ha) because pretty soon I may have a hard time doing it.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

snow and sapporo

Rattlesnake Trail
Last Sunday, we drove up to one of the highest peaks (7000’ elev) in the Angeles National Forest and hit the backcountry for a 13-mi high altitude run.

The timing was just perfect because the high winds subsided the night before and although there’s plenty of snow in the trails, the forecast was not too cold which means we can run light and enjoy the trails without having to worry too much of the elements.

The route we took follows the AC100 route from Cloud Burst Summit to Eagle's Roost Point. We saw human tracks on the snow along the Cooper Canyon campground but past this area there were none but ours except for the occasional animal tracks here and there. There were a couple of times when we have to circle back to find our way because the snow literally covered all the outlines of the trail.

I’d be easily lost lost if I were to do this alone but since I was running from behind, I just followed the snow foot prints of those running ahead of me. There’s comfort when you’re with the company of devout trail runners. They’ve been here many times and knew the place like the back of their hands. I say this because I'm no stranger to getting lost in the trails and for all the troubles I made they're always there to look out after  me.

Little Rock Creek
The notion of getting lost was probably due to the movie Gray that I watched the night before. It helps however to be up-to-date on the news because the lone wolf we have in the state crossed the border back to Oregon a few days ago.

The trail we were climbing parallel to the creek became too slippery at one point. While some in our group run right through it without any problems, I was a bit tentative since I wasn’t wearing spikes or ice cleats. Also, its a narrow trail with a good fifty feet fall down the rocky creek.

Then just like that Jose, who was running in front of me, slipped and landed on his back. He lost his footing again trying to get up; and with this balancing act was how he managed to make it across safely. Now, me and Harry were ready to turn around and call it day because we thought it was too risky to continue and there are probably more slippery trails ahead. But the guys who've done this many times showed us how to lean on the mountain side and to step on the fresh snow for traction. It worked.

We made slow progress on the trails because in some areas the snow is about a foot deep making it difficult to run. Still, every step is a workout considering also that at this altitude the air is thin so I was breathing more heavily.

We got off the trail at the Little Jimmy campground and took the road until we reach the tunnel. We then turn around for another 6 mi run along the Angeles Crest highway to the Cloudburst Summit where we started. As usual, I was the last to arrive and the guys are already enjoying our post run meal courtesy of Adan – beer and Mexican tostadas.

Believe it or not but this outing is part of our training for the LA Marathon. I am baffled myself at the choices of our training locations and can't help but wonder sometimes if we're doing this to prepare for the marathon or to simply just make our runs more exciting by visiting different trail locations (I made an earlier post about this, read here) . Regardless of the reason, the ideal training for me is the one that I enjoy and the one that makes me happy. And outings like this score high in the enjoyment and happiness scale.

So, while we were busy talking about the upcoming LA Marathon, Abel, out of nowhere offered me a challenge. He'll buy me a pack of Sapporo if I beat or even if I'm within 10 mins behind of his finish time at the LA Marathon. Otherwise, I have to buy it for him. Abel is 20 years older than me so the answer should be easy, right? But this 58-year-old in our last run at the Santa Clarita Marathon, clocked at 3:23:55 and won 1st place in his division. He was ahead of me by 20 mins. That means I have to improve my time by 10 mins if I were to beat him. He did his math well. But I know his intention was to simply encourage me to run my best, otherwise he would have offered a different challenge or at least get the beer of his choice, Tecate. Obviously, my chances of winning is almost zero to none but I appreciate the gesture. Abel knew how hard I've been training for this race. It took me a while to answer but I happily accepted it. If anything else, win or lose, me and my stinky feet will still get to enjoy our favorite beer.

Here's a small clip of our run that day:

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Bandit Trail Runs 2012 - Upgraded!

Bandit Trail Run never fails to impress me. After I did my first ever 50K event here last year, again, I was treated to a wonderful trail run experience. Scenic views, well-organized support, helpful volunteers and just the overall feel was awesome. And the medal, definitely a first class upgrade. Wearing it left no doubt about my gruesome ultra race finish. I am wearing it now as I do this, yeah, baby!

Medals compared. 2011 medal (top) and this years' first class upgrade.
Having ran the course in the past really helped a lot. I paced accordingly and managed to stay on target even on the most difficult portions of the trail. The course was physically taxing nonetheless. On the first climb, my Achilles tendons were about ready to burst (20% grade incline from mile 2 to 2.4, whew!). Las Llajas Canyon was all mental with what it felt like a never-ending ascent. And right about when you thought you've reached the top, there you'll see another quarter of a mile of nasty uphill.
At the start line, photo courtesy of Rowell Ramos

Since Rocky Peak is at the heart of this race, the surface of the terrain was the main challenge. I couldn't imagine myself tripping down on those rocks. I'll sure bust my knee (or face) if I wasn't careful. So, I was cautious but this didn't stop me from doing one of my favorites on the trails - down hills. And like the way I do it on any of my trail runs - I holler, yell and shout my heart out before I roll and plunge down hill. 

I improved my time by about 40 mins from last year. This I credit for having a positive mental outlook throughout the race. I greeted each runner I passed and the ones that overtook me. I offered the same courtesy to other trail users who were not part of the race greeting them "Good Morning" even when it was probably past noon (took me 6 hours to finish). I chatted with some of the volunteers manning the aid stations though briefly. I never got bored and was humming a lot of my favorite tunes. I was tired in the end but I felt strong. I even managed to do a movie night with my family when I got back home after the race; and the next day went back to work just like any other day (now I'm bragging). Overall, another very positive Bandit Trail Run for me and this race is definitely on schedule again next year. Click the link below for full result:

Thursday, February 2, 2012

goal this year - to be a better person

January is now gone and I haven't done my recap for last year. To sum, it's safe to say I made good progress in 2011. I broke my personal best in different distances from 5K to 50K. I ventured into a new distance, 50K, and fell in love with it. I trained consistently throughout the year averaging 25 to 30 miles a week. My kids got involved in youth cross-country. And on a personal level, I became more disciplined in training. Having said all these, there are still a lot of things that I need to work on if I want to be a better runner, and more importantly, if I want to be a better person.

View from top of Verdugo Mts at dusk. First 2012 run.
I'll make my goals simple this year and try to focus more on the transformative values of running. I admit, sometimes I get distracted by mundane things and tend to forget the reasons that motivated me to pick-up this sport. I concentrate more on the time of my race, whether I broke my PR, or how much mileage I logged. When really, running to me has evolved to more than just the numbers and distance but as a way of life.

Running has made me stronger not only physically but mentally. It led me not only to a healthier lifestyle but also to a healthier view of personal relationships. Yes, the long runs made me durable on the road, but it also trained me how to be more patient, how to measure up to my weaknesses, and how to harness my last reserve when needed. These are just some of the transformative values that comes with running that we often forget to consider when assessing the success or failure of our goals. Running really has a lot of potential that can transform us into a better person. 

I'll try my best to focus on these things as I try to accomplish each of my race goals this year. If I didn't PR, missed the cut-off time, DNF, or got sidelined by an injury. I know better how to take it because each time I raise the bar to become a better person, I know that I transform myself into a better runner. Belated Happy New Year to all!

Here are some of my goals this year: 
  • weekly core training "with love"
  • completed at least one 50 mi "fun run" race
  • focused speed work and "community development work"
  • transitioned to minimalist shoe and "pocket"
  • mapped-out local trails and "joints"
  • more local races and "picnic at the park"
  • volunteer local XC and PTA
  • yoga class and "cooking class"
  • logged a thousand miles and "smiles"