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Posts Tagged ‘high elevation’

I know I’m very late on posting my end result.  Before I left to Maui, I was working about 12 hour days just to make sure I had everything done before my seven day vacation. Once I arrived to Maui, I did not have access to a computer.  After the vacation, I have been working non-stop until yesterday and today which are my first days off.  So now it’s here, the end of my journey. But really, it feels like the beginning of my new life because of what I have accomplished.

We arrived in Maui on Wednesday September 12 early noon. Maui is simply gorgeous and breathtaking. William and I were surrounded by beauty.  Everything was green, clean, and radiant.  It’s a beautiful island to visit.  Prior to the vacation, I had one of the most busiest months at work and was only able to get some quick runs here and there. However I was not as nervous anymore. I knew that no matter what, I was going to finish the marathon even it took me many hours to finish it.

Once in Maui, we had until Sunday to get excited for the marathon. There was one morning where we ran in the sand for probably two miles. Mostly every day we were active with something, either snorkeling, hiking, walking, or eating.  Saturday evening, we made sure to go to bed early since we had to be at the bus line at 3:00am. The marathon was scheduled to start at 5:30am on Sunday.  We woke up at about 2:00am and got ready.  I made myself eat some cereal as well. We walked to bus line walk awake. It was very early and I began to get tired.  I slept most of the bus ride to our starting area.  We arrived at the starting line at about 4:00am.  William and I ate a muffin and a banana for some fuel.  That’s when I decided to pay my first visit to the bathroom which was good because I did not want to go once I started running.  We then stretched and did some warm up routines with the crowd. It was pretty funny watching everyone do the same warm up routine.  Right before the marathon was going to start, I had to go to the bathroom again. So I took advantage of the opportunity and went again. Once I was finished, everyone had walked already to the starting line. William was the only one waiting for me. Lucky for us the marathon did not seem over crowded. I heard from somebody that the maximum count would be 2,000 runners.

We were now at the starting line waiting for the gun to shoot. I will still not nervous and was feeling pretty happy.  The sky was still was night and there was a slight breeze. Once the gun shot was heard, the crowds started to move and spread apart from each other.  William stayed near me the whole time. The plan was to start slow and easy and not run too much the first half of the marathon which is when we were going to get all the hills. I wanted to save energy for the end of the marathon. I felt confident and I told William that I wanted to finish the marathon in 5.5 hours.  I did not know if that was realistic but I was feeling good about it.

The first few miles went by quickly. We were running through the city and the residences.  At about the third or fourth mile, the sky was turning gray and there were some clouds in the sky. It was nice to run this early and watch the sky transform.  We walked some of the time but mostly kept a steady running pace.  I started to look around at the runners to see who we can possibly run by.  There were couples, seniors, a lot of Japanese runners (the marathon was sponsored by Japan Travel Bureau) and not a lot of young people. Most runners looked like they were in their thirties.  There was a loud annoying couple that we kept passing by that did not seem to get along, there was a girl with a lot of curly hair that looked like it was her first time running, and there were some fast walkers.  A nice range of runners I would say.  My left leg was very tight. My hamstrings had not been stretched out properly so I was running with a lot of tightness on my left leg.

At the 6th mile I was still feeling good except for the left leg. We stopped a few times to stretch it out hoping it would help.  William and I found a fast walker who we over heard saying that he usually finished his marathons in about five hours, at the latest five and a half. So we decided to run around him so we wouldn’t fall behind. It seemed to work. Anytime he started to creep up behind us, we began to run and once we were ahead of him, we would walk a bit. I did not want to get tired early in the race. William and I were both very excited to be running with each other.  I think it was one of our most exciting moments. We talked about all kinds of things during the run and I think it was good for us.  I’m one lucky gal to have him around!

At about the tenth mile we started to slow down. I started to get hungry and I wanted a piece of a banana but none of the stations had bananas, they had oranges.  I knew that if I had a piece of orange, I would probably go to the bathroom again. After the 12th mile, there was a water station with bananas, yay!  I had a piece and felt better.  We finished half of the marathon in two hours and 37 minutes.  Not bad since I had done my Montecito half marathon right under 2.5 hours. We were not so behind but I knew that my legs were getting tired.  The muscles on my left leg were no longer tight but now it was about endurance.  I knew that I was going into the hard part, the part I had not really trained for.  After the 13th mile, my bowels were moving again and had to go to the bathroom bad. There were porta potties at each water station and I finally saw one that did not have a line at about the 14th mile.  It was so disgusting in there.  It looked like there had been some accidents in there from previous runners.  I did my business not fast enough and I started to gag because of the smell. It was also very hot in there and it seemed I started to take a shower in my own sweat. This was probably the only bad experience of the marathon-using the potta potties. So gross.

Once that experience was over, William and I ran a bit more. We had lost our fast walker that we were supposed to pace it with.  Once we reached the 15th mile, I had to walk. At this point, we were walking and running right by the ocean. It was a beautiful view but it just started to get very hot. We made sure we drank water and Powerade at each station.  After the 15th mile, the marathon was becoming more difficult to run and we had to walk more. The sun was beating down our necks and the feet were becoming numb.  I did not know what I was feeling in my legs but just knew that I did not want to stop.  I was disappointed in myself for walking but William reminded me that it was not about the time, it was about finishing.  He reminded me that this was more than just a marathon, it was about not quitting and proving that you can do anything you want in life.  This helped my attitude. We passed through more miles and I felt like I started moving slower. Once we reached about 20 miles, I was beat.  I couldn’t get myself to run again so we tried to walk fast.  My goal of 5.5 half hours was turning to 6 hours.  My miles went from averaging 10 minutes, to 15 minutes, to now about 20 minute miles. We finally reached Front Street and only had about four miles left to go. We passed by the Banyan trees and the shopping strip that we had previously visited. People were cheering us on and yelling “you can do it!” I felt like saying to them Why don’t you try it? I know I was just being cranky because I wanted to finish. It was the longest and slowest four miles to go.  I would say that this part was the hardest part because your body does not have anything else to give and now it’s just up to your mind to keep you going.

We started to see our destination two miles away. I was not excited yet. I was not going to be excited until I crossed the finish line. The finish line was at the Westin Hotel, our neighbor hotel to where we were staying at the Hyatt Regency.  About less than a mile to go and we were almost there. We started to see runners that were already done and leaving and were still cheering us on. We got closer and started to see the finish line so out of nowhere we began to run together holding hands. I don’t know where I got the strength to run but we did and ran the last portion before we crossed the finish line.  We got laid by seashells and got our medal, finally!!!

I don’t know if I have ever experience something this hard. There have been some beastly mountain hikes I have taken but this was different. It was a great victory that I thought I never could possibly accomplish. I never thought myself as a runner and here I was, crossing my first marathon finish line with the love of my life.  Running this marathon is the start of a new chapter in my life.  Since I have read Born to Run and finished this race, I have decided to make some changes in my life in the way I eat and live. I want to live simple, eat less and better, and continue running.  I want to continue being physically active with new obstacles and run another marathon someday.  I have new positive perceptions in life and I want to continue inspiring people to push themselves to their limits. It’s a great outcome.

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In the beginning of May I decided to add hikes to my calendar to mix it up a little and not get so bored of running. Plus, hikes will help build strength when I have to run up hills.  When I go hiking, I usually go to the mountains where the elevation can get up to 8,000, sometimes even more.  So in May, William and I planned two hikes for the month with my brother Ray.  The first hike took place at Mt. Baldy on May 12th.  Mt. Baldy happens to be the highest in the San Gabriel Mountains or the highest in Los Angeles County reaching an elevation of 10,064.

We started our day by waking up very early in the morning and met up with Ray at Duarte.  We rode to the mountains and started our hike at 8:57am.  The weather was neither hot or cold, the skies were clear blue and the pine trees and chipmunks were waiting for us.

The beginning of the hike, about 6,000 ft elevation

At the start of the hike my body felt good. My heart started pumping right away and I felt the burn on my butt as I took each step.  At one point we stopped for a second to drink some water and I was able to feel my heart pumping out of my shirt!  It was a great feeling because I did not feel tired. I was very excited to be surrounded by the mountains.

We only had a total of two backpacks between the three of us.

They consisted of the essentials for a hike: lots of water, food, snacks, and some miscelleneous items.  Just from William’s backpack, he was carrying four liters of Smart water, two Vitamin waters, six meat lovers sandwiches (that I made at the crack of dawn), and trail mix.  I did not get to carry a backpack but I know I eventually will have to. It’s a pain but I know it’s necessary if I will want to do more hikes.

As we hiked, the switchbacks increased and the steepness did as well.  

The views just got better too. As you can see from the above photo,  we were in the middle of magnificence.  There is no better place than to be with nature. It is such a great feeling to be away from the every day life and city. It’s peaceful and tranquil, just what everyone needs to decompress from the hardships of our every day lives.

If you see in the background, there is a man who was trailing behind us who had his skis with him!  We were so curious of where he was going to use his skis. The only areas of snow were ice patches that were scattered in random places where they were melting.  It was not enough to ski but we thought it was funny that this man was hiking with his skis.

As you can see from the above caption, there is no place to ski!

Our resting point was going to be at about 8,000 ft of elevation where there is a small green house located in the middle of some trees.

The little green house

The little house was closed but there were some benches and tables to take a rest. Conveniently there was an outhouse right behind it.  We stopped to enjoy a lunch.  We had already hiked more than hour, probably two hours by now. The hike up to the house had not been easy but we managed.  I know that if I had not been running before this, we would have taken longer and maybe not even had made it this far.  I have to mention the satisfaction of eating during the hike. Food does not taste any better than when eating it at a hike.  Every bite is delicious and savory.  Those sandwiches that were trapped in the backpack since early morning tasted like the best sandwiches ever on the planet.  They were simple too. They had three kinds of meats: peppered turkey, roast beef, and ham. They each had one slice of cheese with Veganaise and mustard.  Simple but the best!  Food just tastes different when you have been hiking non-stop for a couple of hours. It’s a great feeling.

Once we rested, we gathered our belongings to continue to the summit of Mt. Baldy.  We were high up in the mountains close to the clouds and navy sky.

I forgot how beautiful it is to be that high in altitude, where the sky is darker and you feel you are close to the outer universe.

Off we went to the peak and everything got difficult.  We were in the 8,000 ft of elevation or probably higher by now and the breathing began to change.  It was harder to catch my breath and difficult to hike.  The inclination was almost a flat wall and somehow we were climbing this wall that was no longer a trail but instead loose rocks everywhere.

Almost seems we were climbing the wall to Mt. Baldy’s summit

I don’t know if I had gone this high before. The highest I have hiked was a few years ago was in the San Gorgonio wilderness in the mountains of San Bernardino where we hiked about six miles up from 6,00o ft in elevation to 9,000 ft in elevation.  It reminded me of a hike like that but Mt. Baldy was worse because we were getting up to 10,000 ft in elevation in less than two miles.  It was a beast!  It was a hiker’s high I guess. It was a thrill where the end results was a satisfaction feeling that cannot be described.

Once we reached the summit, I made sure to take a picture of the evidence that we made it!

Highest point in Los Angeles County

It was quite an accomplishment and it felt good to be up there.  We did it!

Everywhere we turned we saw beauty.

On top of the world

A great moment that will not be forgotten.

At peace

A moment of happiness.

We stayed at the peak for a while and enjoyed the 360 views.  We scoped out the areas and found an area where it looked like someone had skied in a patch of snow. Minutes after we saw the same man with skis going up the snow. We had lost this man when we reached the green house. It looks like he took another trail and found the his snow. This was so funny.  This man hiked up Mt. Baldy in the left over snow. Here he is resting after he reached the summit.

The man with the skis

Good for him!

Once we absorbed the greatness of the summit, we decided to hike back down.  A minute into the hike down the summit, my legs were trembling. It had not occurred to me how much more difficult and strenuous the hike would be on the way down. By this time, the legs were tired but we were using different muscles to hike down but it didn’t matter.

Going down very slowly

I wasn’t able to feel my legs and I couldn’t control the trembling and weakness they felt! It was awful, very awful. I fell about four times because my legs gave out, or maybe I was just slipping easier because I had no more strength to give. It seemed to take forever to go down.  I was the slowest of the pack. The trails looked so different going down.  I kept asking how we managed to get up!  This trail all of a sudden seemed impossible!  All my steps were slow and careful. I was trying to use the surrounding rocks to hold on to for balance.  It seemed there was never a break.

Rocky finish

We rested a few times a long the way but it never got better.  I had not experienced this kind of work to my legs before.  No matter how many breaks we took, my legs were not recovering and I knew there weren’t going to anymore for the rest of the hike. There was no room to quit either.  I just had to tough it out and pace my steps. Every single step was closer to our destination.  Even when reaching the 7,000 ft and 6,000 ft elevation where it wasn’t as steep, I was still having a hard time.  I wondered if this was the way I was going to feel for the marathon.  At least I was catching glimpses of the reality of the marathon.

At last, we reached the bottom of the mountain.

I couldn’t be any happier to reach the end of trail. If you click here, you can view the recording of me reaching the end. I was not exaggerating when I said I was slow. Even it seemed flat, it was still difficult. By the finish point, I had spaghetti legs. We finished the day with a total of about ten miles.  It was an amazing experience and I can’t wait to do more!

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