Posts tagged Running
'Kórima' means 'sharing' in the language of the Tarahumara, the tribe most of us have come to know from the pages of Christopher McDougall’s Born to Run. But it means more than just ‘I’ll give you half of my orange,’ Kórima signifies a commitment to mutual assistance and support within the community. When I first read Born to Run four years ago I was not a runner – but the story that McDougall wove in those pages placed a longing in me –not just to run, but to able to run pain free, to be able to run an ultra, to run THE ultra – the Copper Canyon Ultra Marathon, and to experience the Kórima that seemed to exist in the crazy ultra-running community, especially by the ones that made the pilgrimage to the Copper Canyons to race with the Tarahumara, the ones Caballo Blanco, founder of the race appropriately named, “Mas Locos.” This March I was finally able to live out that dream – the only thing that was unfulfilled was meeting The White Horse himself – Micah True, who died on March 27th of 2012, eleven months before I was able to make it to the Canyons to run the race that is now named for him: Ultra Marathon Caballo Blanco.
Manuel Luna and Barefoot Ted, Urique, 2013.
¿Quien es Mas Loco? Caballo was fond of saying, “Who is crazier?” According to my wife and many of my friends and colleagues over the last four years, the answer would be: me. When I read Born to Run Valerie was pregnant with our second child, I was in my early 40s and had never run more than three miles without severe back pain, but was desperate for a time efficient way to stay in shape with the looming reality of two young boys, full time work, and a yard and chickens to take care of. The seemingly miraculous stories of Barefoot Ted and Chris McDougall transforming themselves into runners in their 40s, despite lifelong histories of running injuries sounded too good to be true, but I was desperate and hopeful enough to go online and buy a pair of Five Fingers. For most people buying a pair of Vibrams and being able to run in local 10k races may have been enough, but I tend to jump in with both feet sometimes – this time it was full on baptism by immersion. I contacted Barefoot Ted and attended his barefoot running clinic and thirteen months later ran my first ultra with Ted. Most of my friends put up with my crazy smelly toe shoes well enough, but the day I came home a year and a half ago and told my wife I was leaving my secure job at Seattle University to make huaraches with Barefoot Ted she essentially said, “ARE YOU CRAZY?!” I was one step closer to being a Mas Loco…
I’m goal driven, and for the past four years all of my goals have been stepping stones toward my One Goal – meeting Caballo Blanco in the canyons and running 50 miles with the Tarahumara. I lost part of that opportunity after Caballo wandered into the Gila Wilderness and never returned. But – I could still run the race, and I was determined to do it this year in honor of Micah and all he did to inspire me. I traveled with Ted, Bookis, and Scott, my coworkers at Luna Sandals. We met up in Mazatlan with several Mas Locos, including Luis Escobar, the central California ultra-runner and photographer who was also in the book Born to Run, and began the twenty-one hour road trip by every conceivable means of public transportation Mexico has to offer into the town of Urique at the bottom of the Copper Canyon. We arrived several days before the race. This allowed us to hike, swim, eat great food, adapt to the heat, and begin to get to know the 120 international runners and 300 Tarhumara runners we would be racing with the following Sunday.
On Thursday about eighty of us gathered for an early morning hike to one of Micah’s favorite spots, a small farm called Los Alisos. The day was unusually cool, and after three miles we reached our destination and relaxed, joked with new friends, and ate sweet grapefruit from the trees overhead. Maria Walton, ‘La Mariposa’ Micah’s soul mate and one of this year’s co race directors gathered us into a circle and read a story to us that Micah had written about the couple that had lived there. “The first time they made love was under the giant tree on his property” the story began. It went on to tell of their love and life together, the joy of the times they had welcomed him into their home, and how when they died a few years before, both in their 80’s, they were buried under the same tree, the one we were standing under now. Before she started reading, she pulled out Micah’s ashes and passed them around the circle, that we all might have a moment with him. Also as she read, Micah’s friend Flint started a small fire. After the reading Maria placed the story, and a special Copper Canyon race shirt with a white horse that had been given to her into the fire, and scattered Micah’s ashes around the base of the tree. She was followed closely by Guadajuko, Micah’s faithful dog.
The race began at 6am on Sunday. It would be my first 50 miler, and training in Seattle all winter did little to prepare me for the nearly one hundred degree weather I’d be running in all day. Unlike more than half the starters of the race, I did finish, but not without vomiting, weeping like a baby, and death marching across the finish line fourth from last. After training for four years specifically so I could run this race, I’d love to tell you that it was hard, but I persevered and finished because of my amazing will power and great training program, but I can’t. I finished because when I got back into Urique with ten miles to go and had already decided to quit, Luis Escobar saw me sit down on the sidewalk, ran up to me and asked me if I wanted to finish. “I want to finish so badly” was all I remember saying, and burst into tears. Luis then gave me the pep talk of the century. “I’ve been in WAY worse shape than this a hundred times!” Dehydration had caused severe stomach distress so that I had not been able to eat more than two tortillas or swallow more than a few drops of water at a time over the last fifteen miles. “You’ll feel better in ten minutes” Luis said, “Just sit here and take LITTLE sips, only LITTLE sips. If you quit now, what are you going to DO?! Lay in your bed? If you do you’ll feel better in fifteen minutes and beat yourself up for NOT finishing!”
“But I’m not going to make the cut off!” I wept.
“This is MEXICO, what do you think they are going to DO?!” He said. Then he took the yellow Buff off his head, soaked it with water and put it on my head. “I won the HURT 100 in this Buff, I’ve run Badwater three times in it, Western States seven times, NO ONE HAS EVER QUIT WHILE WEARING THAT BUFF, AND YOU ARE NOT GOING TO BE THE FIRST.” At the same moment I looked up and saw Scott and Bookis – Scott had his finisher’s medal on, and I did not want to go home without one. Luis asked if anyone would pace me through the last ten miles and Bookis, who had not run the race said, “Absolutely.” As we walked those last ten miles, and the sun began to set behind the canyon walls and the most beautiful night sky I’ve ever seen emerged, I vomited every last calorie I had left in me. Without Bookis there to laugh with me about how this was so much like the dramatic endings in all those awesome race documentaries we love to watch, I again would have quit. When I finally stumbled across the finish line, two hours after the official cut off time, but was still greeted by all my friends cheering for me, and Mariposa throwing her arms around me and a finisher’s medal around my neck, I was overwhelmed with joy, not the joy of the ‘personal accomplishment’ of completing a goal four years in the making, but the joy of experiencing the Kórima of this Mas Loco community.
This is a longer version of a piece that was originally published in the June 2013 issue of Trail Runner Magazine.
Note: Tom is the Sales Monkey (and so much more) here at Luna.
Majestic Oak trees were scattered across the rolling hills of dry grass around us. The marine layer was burning off and the morning sun was greeting us as we finished breakfast and lounged around camp. After some frisbee, a game of whiffle ball developed quickly as more people wanted to join the fun. There were no rules or teams, or maybe the rules and teams were made up and changed for each individual at every new moment of the game. Sometimes first base was at the porta-potties, sometimes there were no bases, sometimes you could throw the ball at someone to get them out, sometimes you could bat 5 times in a row, sometimes it turned into tag, and sometimes you had someone blowing bubbles behind you while you bat. We all were smiling, running around, and deeply engulfed in one of the best sessions of full on child-like play I have been in in a long time. It felt good. The game went on for hours. I couldn’t imagine a better way to kick off what was to be an amazing weekend of play, running, partying, and all kinds of shennanigans at the 2013 Born to Run Ultras.
The Born to Run Ultras are put on by the one and only Luis Escobar; Mas Loco, ultra-runner, and photographer extrordinaire. Located in Santa Barbara County, California, the BTR Ultras are among beautiful rolling grassy hills on a 4000 (?) acre private ranch. Participants are encouraged to camp on the ranch right at the starting line for the entire weekend of festivities including races of distances of 10 miles, 50k, 100k, and 100 miles. There was also Tarahumara style bola races, an unofficial beer mile, live music, a giant bonfire, blasting mariachi, delicious food, and much more. The course was basically a figure-8 of two different ten mile loops. After each loop every runner would be coming through camp and the start.
After whiffle ball on friday morning I began setting up the Luna Sandals booth where I would be selling Lunas. More and more people were arriving throughout the day. The first (unofficial) event of the day was the Beer Mile at 4pm hosted by Luna-tic, and beer mile champ, Patrick Sweeney. A beer mile consists of running a mile and drinking 4 beers. Drink a beer, run a quarter mile, and repeat until a mile and 4 beers are complete. People were excited for the beer mile. They gathered their beer (or root beer for a few) and lined up at the starting line of the quarter mile out and back as Sweeney explained the rules. Luis started the race with the shotgun. Patrick was first out of the gates. I sat out and took pictures and cheered on the runners. At this point I was noticing there was a lot of people in Lunas. It was really exciting for me to see so many people in them. The beer mile was fun to witness and looked like a blast for the participants unless you were one of the unlucky to puke on the course and have to run an extra quarter mile. Sweeney, of course, came out the winner.
After the beer mile was the Tarahumara style Bola races. Luis brought wooden balls from the Copper Canyons. It would be 10 or so heats of 5 participants racing a quarter mile-ish each kicking a wooden ball. Luna was donating a pair of sandals to the winner of each heat and all the proceeds (10$ each runner) went directly to Norawas, the non-profit that benefits the Tarahumara. Since Luna was sponsoring the Bola races I was handing out gift certificates to the winners and starting each heat with the shotgun. For me shooting the shotgun for each heat was just as fun as participating. Mariachi music blarred from the speakers, people raced, and people cheered. It was a great time.
After the Bola Races people hung around the camp and bonfire. A couple live bands played on the stage. People were dancing and hoola-hooping into the night. I manned the Luna Booth, sold some sandals, and met some great people. The night ended early so that we all could get up early the next morning for the start of the race.
At 4:15am our wake up call was 5 shotgun blasts followed by loud Mariachi music filling the dark campground. The race had sold out for a total of 450 people signed up to run that day. People lined up at the start, Luis made some course announcements, and I had the shotgun ready to start the race.
3. 2. 1… Bang! We were off. I handed Luis the shotgun, grabbed my water bottle and was off running down the dirt road in the crowd of runners. The course is a mix of dirt roads, two track, and some single track. It is a relatively easy course with about 1100 feet of elevation gain per 10 mile loop and not too technical. It is a very runnable course. I was running the 50k and I was excited to push my limits a bit at that distance.
I ran with so many friends, old and new. The Luna Tribe was strong and in full force. So many people were wearing Lunas out there. I felt so honored and special to be part of such a great group of people. As well as the usual suspects of Mas Loco Luna-tics and others, there was also a lot of Luna-tics who have been customers and supporters for a long time that I finally got to meet in person. It was exciting. I’m so grateful for all you!
The miles flew by as the sun slowly rose above the horizon. The course was beautiful. On the second loop there is an awesome section of single track atop a long ridge with great views all around. I was feeling really good. Towards the end of the second loop my hamstrings started to get a little crampy for whatever reason. I made sure to eat some salt and drink water but my legs stayed crampy off and on throughout the race. But it wasn’t bad and I felt very strong otherwise. By the third loop the sun was getting higher and it was starting to get hot. It probably hit about 90 degrees. In the last 2 or 3 miles there is a big gradual downhill so I let it loose and ran my fastest miles of the race. I came through the start/finish at mile 30 and just had a 1/2 mile out and back to be done. I ran it in and got my amulet finishers necklace made by Hawaiian ultra runner AcaBill. I crossed the finish line in 5 hours and 35 minutes which was my new personal record by a long shot. I was very happy with that. I was finally feeling like I could push my pace at the 50k and 50 mile distances instead of just trying to survive. It felt good to be noticing progress.
I was curious to see how others did and were doing. It turned out that Patrick Sweeney won the 50k again in 3 hours and 49 minutes. Team Luna runner Gregorio Ponce placed 2nd in the 10 miler in 1 hour even. Congrats guys! That made Pat the triple crown winner; he won the beer mile, his heat of the bola races, and the 50k. We grabbed some food and lounged around cheering on all the runners as they came through. That evening was a fun evening of hanging by the bonfire, watching Anthony shoot the pinata with the shotgun, push up acrobatics, human pyramids, and watching all the runners come through. I really wanted to stay up and watch all the runners come in but got tired and went to sleep. I was bummed I missed Tyler coming into the finish for his first 100 mile finish in 23 and half hours! Congrats Tyler, you’re a beast. James Bonnet ended up winning the 100 miler in 15 hours and some change and took home the surf board prize. Congrats to Jess on the 100k and to Dawn Marie on her first ultra. Congrats to Jim on his first 100 miler and so many others that ran strong and had fun.
What really makes this event special is the great community of people involved. I came away from the weekend feeling like I had just participated in something very special and unique. The feeling and vibe at the event really only reminds me of the vibe of one other event I’ve been a part of and that is the Caballo Blanco Ultramarathon. It is hard to describe the vibe of these two events. I’m not going to try anymore here. Go do them, you won’t regret it.
Thank you everyone involved!!! Thanks to all the Lunatics out there for your support. Thanks to Sweeney for driving and letting me stay at your house. Thanks to all the volunteers and wonderful people cooking those delicious burritos. Congratulations Luis on putting on such an amazing event! I will definitely be back next year!