Reaching My Breaking Point – Guest Author Alberto V.

Posted on 21/05/2016. Filed under: Fitness | Tags: , , |

This is coming from my husband Alberto regarding his recent MMT 100.

Mile 96.8

  Mile 96.8 and still smiling

For many years now I have planned on doing an ultra in every state, preferably a 100.

Lately I’ve been calling my events Demo day. This is recalling my first 50 miler, JFK, which, so far, has been the most painful. Since then I have been doing longer runs. Doing MMT 100, I was afraid of the challenge, more specifically the pain that is always inflicted on my ankles and feet by the rocky terrain. I guess it’s a good thing to train and be in the best possible physical shape, it pushes you. As I started prepping for Massanutten I started having phantom pains which is usual for me. I have been looking forward to run this event for years and finally it all worked out for me to be able to train. I came to the start and didn’t have a strategy other than having a conservative pace of a 15 minute mile through to the halfway point.

My crew for this event consisted of my wife Allie and two of my sisters. They saw me off at the start. Since my sisters are inexperienced, I told them to go back and rest and then meet me at mile 33, Elizabeth Furnace. A couple of minutes after the start I briefly wondered when I would reach my breaking point. On some of the events my body wants to stop because I’m so tired or am in such pain that I don’t want to continue. This is when I start to rely on other factors such as my wife to keep me going. I always promise her the finisher swag for all her crewing efforts. Then I focused on the moment and enjoyed the scenery.
On entering mile 33, Elizabeth Furnace I was promptly greeted by Gary Knipling who as everyone probably knows is a lively person who bestows his energy upon you. He asked me how I was doing and told me I had a good pace. I told Allie and my sisters that I was feeling good and I continued on after refueling. At mile 38, Shawl Gap, I saw them again and had nothing to report. I asked them if they had eaten and I knew they would have about 4 hours until meeting me at mile 54, so I suggested they get something to eat. I also asked my wife to pick up some Gatorade in a flavor I liked.

At mile 54 I still felt good and my sisters and wife took care of my feet and provided me with fresh clothes. From mile 54 to 61 I was revitalized by the fresh clothes, good food, and the Gatorade that my wife provided. For the next 7 miles I felt empowered and I ran fast, almost a 12 minute mile. At the top of the ridge I passed Rob, who I just met at this event. I felt like I was flying and I kept the pace for about an hour and arrived at the next station just minutes after twilight. I surprised my wife that I arrived a half hour earlier than expected. As they cared for me, I expressed my latest thoughts about giving them the night off because I still felt in great shape. I put on a long sleeve shirt and my wind shirt and after a few minutes and a kiss to my wife I was on my way.

Little did I know, the fun part was about to start. If I had known, I would have asked her to see me on the next aid station. The next seven miles from camp Roosevelt to Gap Creek were tough, filled with rocks, water and mud. Mostly water, which did a number on my feet. So I arrived to the next aid station and the guys were nice enough to get me moving before I spent any real time at the fire pit. If my family had been there I would have asked for new shoes and fresh socks, but of course they weren’t so this was where the fun began. Still strong, and in good spirits, though my pace was slower as predicted because it was dark and the exhaustion was beginning to set in.
I climbed to the ridge at a slow pace, barely attempting to run. I was going so slow that I couldn’t get my blood going and my eyes began feeling heavy. At the summit I started traversing the ridge and my eyelids felt heavier than ever. You’ve heard about people falling asleep and hallucinating, I never made it to that point, but close enough. I was drowsing, like when you start falling asleep at the wheel. Every stumble would bring my eyes open for a moment. At one point I ran into a shrub, waking up and trying to find the trail or markers! My big mistake was not taking any caffeine as my wife suggested earlier. Several times I sat on a rock for a minute to rest my legs and close my eyes, making sure to remember which direction I was heading. The last time I sat down, I was woken by a light coming towards me and it was a fellow runner who found herself going in the wrong direction. Lucky for us some runners were behind me who confirmed we were on the right path. After that I pushed through to the next aid station.

It was during this section that I was by myself most of the time. The thoughts came across my mind of telling my wife that this would be my last 100 miler. I was tired, but still felt strong. It wasn’t a decision because I wouldn’t be able to finish the run, because I still had plenty of time. It was based on the thought that I spend so many hours running on weekends, when we could have more time as a couple. Plus, she has to put up with as much sleep deprivation as I do when she is crewing at these events. Also, I’m not a great athlete and recovery doesn’t come easy to me.

I arrived at the Visitors Center aid station, mile 78.1. The smiling faces were there as at all of the stations. They offered me some well-needed coffee and to help me replace my batteries since my fingers were numb. As I was changing my batteries I heard a runner turning in his number. It is usually at this point where the exhaustion sets in, it is still dark, and you’ve just had enough for one day. I’ve been there myself, but it wasn’t going to be me. I sat down by the fire pit, wishing my wife was there, under the vigilant eye of a volunteer who reminded me not to stay too long.

It was 3.5 more miles to Bird Knob (I don’t remember Bird Knob, maybe I skipped it or I was still asleep), then 6.5 more to the Picnic area. I would be seeing my wife pretty soon. I have always been very accurate with the times I have given her, but I would be late this time, by almost an hour and a half. I felt bad because she and my sisters could have slept longer. I made it to mile 88, the sun was up, and my wife and sisters were there. I mentioned my thoughts about this being my last 100, but she brushed it off (uh, huh, ok.). After a little bit of coffee and new socks I was on my way again.

I had a steady pace, well within the time limit. By the time I reached 96.8 I knew I was going to finish. I greeted my wife and one of my sisters massaged my calves while I had some chicken soup. I made sure I had enough food for the next section. I even sprinted for a few yards just to show my state of mind. I got on the gravel road, made a left onto a fire road going uphill, feeling strong. I even sped up a little on the hills and I kept going like that for a half an hour. Wait, half an hour? I haven’t seen any markers, I thought I should have turned by now. I remember reaching the top last night in half an hour. Time to retrace my route. A lot of things crossed my mind. You know you have to go back. I think it over and over, why does this road look familiar? It cannot look familiar because I did it at night. I don’t want to run back. What if I’m right? But I had to go back till I found the last marker. Once again, I saw Rob in the distance, getting ahead of me, making the turn that I just missed. I was glad that I wasn’t really lost, but I lost my enthusiasm to finish strong. From there it was a lot of uphill and I kept looking for the downhill. Some runners caught up with me, I passed Rob briefly and then he passed me again. I tried to keep up with him to no avail. I wasn’t thirsty or hungry, but I kept drinking and eating anyway, knowing I should. When I reached the camp I finally picked up my pace and I looked at the river and the log bridge and as I crossed someone behind me told me “that’s it, you made it”. Just before I stepped off the bridge my wife cheered for me. That came as a nice surprise because I’m always looking forward into the distance trying to catch sight of her and I hadn’t seen her until the last second. She gave me instructions to follow the ‘victory lap’ and then I felt like all the eyes were on me when listening to the crowd and the race director announcing my name. This is the best feeling of all. I’m not one who likes to draw attention, but these people cheering for me was very moving. As I crossed the finish I was congratulated by Kevin Sayers and then kissed by my wife who didn’t mind how gross I looked or how I smelled.

I told my wife at the end of the event this is the last one. She said just wait one week and we’ll talk about it. I replied “this is not because I don’t want to, I love these events, these distances. It’s just time consuming and physically demanding for both of us.”

I finished the event tired but still in one piece, or so I thought. It’s been a week now, and I realize how this event brought me down. It was somewhere in the dark that I came to the decision that I was sacrificing too much, not seeing my wife because I spend so much time training. I haven’t forgotten about the pain. I was hoping to be broken to the point where I didn’t want to continue anymore. That didn’t happen, but somewhere around mile 75 my mind had made a decision that I’m starting to regret. So I guess my mind and body weren’t one. I’m glad to say that the MMT 100 lived up to my expectations and really broke me.

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More on the Leadville 100

Posted on 18/06/2010. Filed under: Fitness |

This is a continuation of my Colorado Trip and Leadville 100 Trail Run post.

I left off at the Fish Hatchery aid station.  Alberto was ‘running’ rather slowly into the aid station and although he looked tired, he also looked strangely energized.  He had arrived later than he wanted, but there was still enough time to get him a change of socks and shoes.  I was more alert than I had expected to be, due to the nap I had in our rental car.  Alberto said that he did not think he would make the cut-off for the May Queen aid station, which I had incorrectly told him was 6:00 AM.  I told him that not only could he make it, but that he would make it.  As soon as he was on his way again I stowed our gear in the car and headed towards May Queen.

Finding parking at May Queen was much easier than the first time I had been there since the runners (and thus, their crew) were more spread out.  That said, I still had to park almost a mile away from the aid station.  After parking I emptied and re-packed my backpack, removing the things I knew Alberto would not need and replacing the things he had taken at the last aid station.  It is always hard to tell what someone might need when crewing, so the best bet is to have at least a little of everything.  Once that was done, I started walking to the aid station even though Alberto would not arrive for at least another hour and a half.  I did not want to run the risk of falling asleep in the car and missing him.  On long runs like this,  it is crucial to the runners that the crew is at the last several aid stations.  The air was rather cold, and many of us were huddled around the gas heaters scattered around the aid station.  I was exhausted, but there was no way I could lay down and sleep.  Instead I wound up sitting cross-legged on one of my puzzle books with my backpack between my legs.  I leaned forward and used my backpack as a pillow.  It is amazing what positions you can sleep in when you are stretched to your limit.

After napping a short time I woke up stiff and cold.  I wandered over to one of the heaters and stood there, slowly rotating to thaw myself out.  It was almost 6 AM and Alberto hadn’t come through yet.  I was getting a little worried since I had thought Alberto would be there between 5 and 5:30 AM.  I was talking to other crew about our runners and mentioned the 6 AM cut-off and they told me it was actually a 6:30 AM cut-off.  By that time it was exactly 6 AM and while I was relieved that the cut-off was a little later, Alberto still wasn’t there.  Finally five minutes later he came into the aid station.  He looked frustrated and disappointed.  The first thing he said was “I am too late.  Some people were going slow in front of me for the last twenty minutes, and the trail was too narrow for me to pass them.”  I told him that I had gotten the cut-off time wrong and that he still had time.  He looked startled at first and then he told me the things he needed and asked me to help him through the aid station tent.  I did my best to get him back on the trail as quickly as possible.  Just before he got on the trail he asked me to please meet him at the last aid station.  I promised him that I would.

I hadn’t written down the directions during the briefing since we thought we would skip that aid station.  Fortunately I found someone who told me how to get there.  It was a long, slow drive, and I wasn’t sure I would make it in time.  As soon as I arrived I asked someone if they had seen Alberto.  Thankfully he hadn’t been through yet.  By my reckoning, the latest time he would arrive would be in twenty minutes.  Finally about fifteen minutes later I saw him.  He was holding onto the stick he had picked up after the half-way point like it was a lifeline.  He handed me everything he didn’t need and then I gave him a quick kiss and sent him on his way.

I arrived at the finish line about an hour and a half before the end of the event.  I was jittery from the combination of little food, too much caffeine and exhaustion.  I changed into a new shirt and started packing our bags, knowing we wouldn’t have much time to pack when we got back to the hotel.  I had been having problems with headaches and shortness of breath since about mid-day the day before.  As I was putting some things in the trunk of the car I felt suddenly so dizzy I though I might pass out.  I took some Sudafed and Motrin and laid down in the back seat.  I knew I couldn’t lay down long, because it was less than an hour to the end of the race, and Alberto would be there soon.  I was worried about my dizzy spell, but I got up and walked to the finish line anyway.

I waited up near the end for a while, but as I became more anxious, I walked several blocks down the final stretch of the course.  Finally about twenty minutes before the race end I saw Alberto coming down the hill.  I went to join him and at first I was walking faster than he was ‘running’.  Then he said “let’s alternate between running and walking”.  I agreed, and at first it was ok, but the more we did that, the more out of breath I was.  We were about 100 yards from the end when Alberto said “let’s keep running to the finish!” I tried to keep up with him, but before we reached the finish line he was practically pulling me.  Right after they gave him his medal for finishing he draped it around my neck.  I was feeling dizzy, nauseous, and light-headed and as soon as we got to a open patch of grass I sat down (although it was more like collapsing than consciously sitting).  One of the race officials came up and asked me if I had checked in yet.  I had my pacer number on and with the medal around my neck they though I was the runner!  I quickly told them Alberto was the runner and gave him back his medal.  Alberto had finished the course with just twelve minutes to spare.

We were unable to stay for the closing ceremony, since it was 10:00 AM and we had to check out of our hotel at noon plus the hotel was almost an hour away.  I don’t think I have ever showered and packed as fast as we did that day.  Alberto was hobbling like a little old man, but surprisingly enough I think he only had two blisters after running 100 miles in less than 30 hours.  In less than two days Alberto was walking normally again, although he was still sleeping a little more than usual.  It amazes me how quickly he bounces back!

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Colorado trip and Leadville 100 mile Trail Run

Posted on 25/08/2009. Filed under: Fitness |

Last Monday (Aug 17th) we flew into Denver and drove over to Grand Junction to spend a few days with my family.  The drive on I-70 was pleasant and the views were spectacular.  Colorado is  a beautiful state.  I loved the transition from the pines and aspens in the mountains outside of Denver to the sandstone canyons on the Grand Mesa.  Grand Junction was a really cool town, full of interesting sculptures down the main street in town.  For a small town it has quite a bit to offer.  The elevation there is 4,597 ft above sea level, just a *bit* of a change from the 460 ft above sea level that we live at in Timonium.  Alberto did fine with the elevation changes, but I was not quite so lucky, having to deal with an almost constant headache for the entire trip.  Thankfully some Sudafed and Motrin really helped with that.

My dad took us on a tour of the town and also took us up the Little Bookcliffs as well.  The view from the Little Bookcliffs was amazing.  From that vantage point we were able to look down over the valley, seeing Grand Junction and Fruita, and out to the Grand Mesa.  It is hard to describe exactly how breathtaking the views were.  Even though I have seen many photos of the area before, they don’t give you the sense of awe and wonder that you have by looking up at the mountains from the valley, or out from the mountains and down into the valley.

Early Friday morning we left Grand Junction to head out to Leadville.  It was hard getting up at 4 AM, but we had to be at race check-in between 8 AM and 10 AM for the medical check and race briefing.  There was a bit of a change to the course, because a Black Hawk helicopter crashed a couple of days before near the course line and the military was still in the process of cleaning the crash site.  During the briefing, as they were talking about the changeable weather, lightning was mentioned.  The person giving the briefing told everyone that if they felt their hair stand on end that they should get down low… then he said “if you see my hair stand on end, then you’d better grab your bible and cram for finals.” (he was bald.)

While Alberto was going through the medical check I picked up a crew shirt.  On the front, it said Leadville 100 crew and on the back it said “I’m not here for a good time I’m here for a LONG time”.  Completely irresistible!  After the check-in we wandered the town while waiting for the briefing.  It’s a quaint town, and had some really cool shops.  We grabbed a bite to eat at Proving Ground Coffee – a fantastic bakery and coffee shop.  We also picked up a few little souvenirs to take home with us.  Once we were done with the briefing we headed to our hotel in Dillon, CO (the Super 8 there).  The staff there was fantastic, and very helpful in extending our checkout time, and recommending a good place to eat.  It was hard to get to sleep that night, partially because we had to go to bed early (we still weren’t on Colorado time), and partially from the excitement.  We got up at 1:45 AM so we would arrive on time for the race-day check-in.  The race started at 4 AM, and as soon as the runners were off, I headed out to the second aid station ( we had decided that I would meet him at the major aid stations and skip the minor ones).

Alberto wanted me to nap as much as possible once I was at the aid stations so I would be more rested, both for the duration of the event and for the drive back to the airport.  I was too *awake* from the coffee (thank you Proving Grounds for a delicious 2nd cup!) and excitement.  Also, there wasn’t a lot of time from when I arrived at the parking areas, grabbed his gear, walked to the aid station and when he came through… at least not for the first 40 or so miles.

Whenever I crew, I always try to bring books or puzzles to keep me alert, but sometimes my brain just won’t focus on things like that.  This time I brought some supplies to make necklaces, and I’m glad I did.  It was the perfect thing to keep me busy without taxing my brain or keeping me from talking to other people or watching for Alberto.  I even got to share some supplies with a very bored girl, which was nice for her mom too *grins*.

Alberto was making very good time (though he believed that he was not pacing himself well and was going too fast at first).  His predictions of when he would arrive at the next aid station were right on the money, up until the Twin Lakes aid station.  When he didn’t arrive on time, I knew there might be a problem.   A few miles before the aid station he got hit with a massive cramp in his right calf.  Thankfully a couple of runners were nice enough to stop and massage the heck out of it for him. (He said it hurt like….. and he really screamed, but that it was good they did it.) Cramps have been a bit of a problem for him this year, but we think we’ve figured out the cause (low electrolytes – especially calcium).  After having a massive cramp like that his speed slowed considerably.  He made the Winfield aid station about 45 minutes later than he expected.

He told me that he didn’t think he’d make the cutoff time for the Twin Lakes aid station, but I told him I thought that he could – and to just do his best.  Once I arrived at Twin Lakes I took a bit of a nap, first lying down using the backpack as a pillow, then sitting cross-legged and leaning forward over the backpack.  When you are tired you can sleep anywhere!   He made it in just before the cutoff (9:30), looking very tired, and was out of there just in time.  He had found a stick big enough to use as a walking stick on the way and said it saved him.  Again, he said he didn’t think he would make the cutoff time for the next aid station.  I told him that I knew he could, to do his best and I would see him there.  When he arrived at Fish Hatchery he was hobbling, and looked like an odd cross between exhausted and energized.

I will continue this post later, as time permits.

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Posted on 02/11/2007. Filed under: Books & Writing, Fitness, Relationships |

My oldest son was living with me for a while this year, waiting on finding a better apartment. It was supposed to only last for about a month, but it turned out to be much longer than that. This past Sunday he finally moved out and since then I have been getting my apartment back in order. There is a certain amount of freedom you can enjoy when you are the only person in an apartment. I have to admit it took me a little bit to realize that I no longer had to bring a change of clothes into the bathroom when I would shower *laughs* Yes Allie you can walk around naked in your apartment now! *WHEEE*

So here I am with no one living with me and not really ‘seeing’ anyone. Aside from work I don’t really have anything major consuming my time. So, lately I’ve been doing 4 to 7 mile walks, trying to get in shape (a 4 mile walk now takes me roughly 45 minutes, which isn’t too shabby I guess). The only other thing that’s truly taking up any of my time is my writing. As of last night I am now at almost 30,000 words in the story I am working on. Just two weeks ago I was at 26,000 words. I’m not sure how good 4,000 words in two weeks is compared to professional writers, but I feel good about it. At this rate I may reach my goal of 120,000 words within a year. *crosses fingers*

I am still rather apathetic about dating in general. I’m not interested in just ‘hooking up’ and that seems to be what a lot of people are looking for – something almost like ‘friends with benefits’ – and honestly I feel that’s something best left to 20 somethings. That said, I’m not looking for a ‘relationship’ either… so that leaves me in limbo. In past years I was always quick to get back to dating, but now when I have offers to date I often find some excuse not to. I have always enjoyed sharing things with someone special and even yearned for it, but for now I’m content either way.

Ultimately I’m generally happy with life and that’s really what matters 🙂

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