Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Lost California Runner Wishes She Had Done Some Things Differently

This CNN article describes some of the mistakes the lost California runner made prior to leaving for her fateful run.

By Ashley Fantz
(CNN) -- The California runner who was lost in a forest for three days without water had barely a few hours to go before she would have died, her doctor said Thursday.

Runner Maria "Gina" Natero-Armenta, 36, survived for three days without water in a California forest.

Maria "Gina" Natero-Armento, 36, not only survived 72 hours with only a slice of apple in her stomach and a little bit of water for nourishment, she also has only one functioning kidney, Dr. Derrick Hong said.

He spoke with CNN on Thursday afternoon, along with Natero-Armento and her husband, Armando Armento, in a conference call interview from her room at Mission Hospital in Mission Viejo, California.

Natero-Armento is no amateur when it comes to distance or mountain running. She's one of the top female finishers in a San Diego 100-mile race and an experienced ultrarunner with top times in other 100-mile and 50-mile races. Her body was unusually strong to begin with, but she also has one kidney -- the other doesn't function because of a congenital disorder.

"This is extraordinary," Hung said.

She said she had planned a simple eight-mile run, a small fraction of what the ultrarunner usually tackles in a sport that challenges competitors to run at least farther than a 26.2-mile marathon. She is among the majority of ultrarunners who like doing 100-mile races.

She set out from her Oceanside home at 5:30 a.m. Sunday to meet Fidel Diaz, her running partner and brother-in-law, who is also a serious ultrarunner. They planned to run along a trail in the the Cleveland National Forest near San Diego.

She brought along two water bottles and wore a Camelpak, a backpack that can be filled with water. That was plenty of water for an eight-mile outing. She didn't bring food with her, but Natero-Armento said she ate a piece of apple before she started, and that was the only food in her stomach.

Natero-Armento said she did several things that were out of character that day, and she wishes she had been more prepared.

"I am very careful usually, but that particular day, I was not," she said. "I normally, the night before the long runs, I have everything ready. And this night, I had nothing ready, and it was just a mistake."

She usually wears a Garmin GPS watch, a sophisticated device that runners use to find out where they are, the distance they have traveled, calories burned and altitude.

"I didn't have my Garmin and wasn't wearing a watch," she said. "I don't know. I always carry food with me, and I didn't have nearly enough."

"I always carry my phone with me, and I didn't have my phone with me, and that really was a big mistake," she said. Feeling antsy to just get on the trail and run, she wasn't thinking deliberately. "I just wanted to get going that day; get some fresh air and go for a run. I hurried up."

Natero-Armento and Diaz began running about 6:30 a.m. Sunday, she said. She lost track of as much as eight hours, she said, as she and Diaz became lost. By then, she was dehydrated and disoriented.

And Natero-Armento said she also made another, more serious bad decision. At some point in the run, Diaz had become ill. Ultrarunning is a sport in which some participants sometimes push themselves way too hard.

"[He was] pretty much beside me or in front of me, but I do know that I was insisting on keeping going since I was OK," she said. "He doesn't eat or drink much ever [when out on runs], so I know he can handle that."

She said that she kept going because she'd seen him run hard while sick -- also not uncommon in 50- and 100-mile races -- and that she figured he could handle it if she pushed him.

She said they became separated as they two were going over a rugged hill.

"We had separated because we were going through a hill quite a while and had to go through brush, and that's how I have a lot of scrapes. So that was very difficult," she said. "[We] crawl under and break branches, and that was the only way we were going to get out of there, according to Fidel. So I don't think he was able to see that I was not there anymore."

She said that Diaz was in front of her. He would shout to her so they knew the other one was close by: He shouted to her, and she shouted back. Then, at one point, she couldn't hear him anymore.

"When I called him and he didn't answer, at this point, I lost a little bit of control," she said.

Night turned into day. She had no water or food, and she didn't try to eat anything. She became disoriented but had the wherewithal to know that she was completely out of fuel. She didn't have the strength to keep walking, so she climbed into a ravine, believing that would be the safest place.

Diaz was not available for an interview Thursday.

He was found Wednesday several hours before she was. It's not clear why he was lost for so long and where, for days, he had traveled in the forest.

Rather than ask for water, law enforcement said, Diaz asked how Natero-Armento was doing and if someone had found her.

"I really had to, from the beginning, accept that I was not capable of getting out of there, there was no where to go," she said, recalling her hours in the ravine, thinking about her husband and her family. She told herself she would live.

"I knew what I had to do."

The experience has not scared her away from distance running on trails. When her kidney is strong again, she will be back, running

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Search for the Lost California Runner

Video of the search for the lost California runner Maria “Gina” Natera-Armenta:

Monday, September 28, 2009

California Trail Runner Lost...and Found!

A California trail runner was lost in the mountains for more than 3 days. She was recently found and rescued and is now recovering in a California hospital. Many lessons can be learned from this incident about trail running safety.

Ultrarunner tells Register she was prepared to die
Woman lost for days in forest was severely dehydrated when found
The Orange County Register

CLEVELAND NATIONAL FOREST – After three days in the rugged Cleveland National Forest, veteran ultrarunner Maria “Gina” Natera-Armenta said she was prepared to die after becoming separated from her running partner and becoming stuck in a steep, rocky area with no way out – and no food or water in temperatures that soared past 100.

In an exclusive interview with The Orange County Register in her hospital room Wednesday afternoon, Natera-Armenta detailed her ordeal, which began around 7 a.m. Sunday morning during a routine mountain run with her brother-in-law, and ended when she was spotted from the air by searchers Wednesday afternoon.

Her sometime running partner, Fidel Diaz, 53, was found early Wednesday morning, wandering around the Lazy W Ranch looking for her – shaken and dazed, but coherent and not suffering any serious injuries.

But it wasn’t until hours later that Natera-Armenta showed up – after a helicopter spotted her in a remote, rocky section by a waterfall, where steep slopes prevented her from climbing out.

More than a dozen of her trail-running friends had joined search-and-rescue teams scouring the mountains for her – never giving up hope they would find a runner known for her tenacious, never-die spirit.

The sound of a sheriff’s helicopter hovering above her about 1:30 p.m. Wednesday compelled the desperately weak Natera-Armenta out from under some large boulders she had been using to shield herself from the heat and the sun.

Severely dehydrated, she had her last sip of water at 2 p.m. Sunday – and her last bit of food, a piece of peanut-butter sandwich, at 4 p.m. that day.

Natera-Armenta, 36, waved her arms as the blades of the chopper roared.

“The sound was right on top of me,” she recalled, sipping iced water from a straw in her bed at Mission Hospital in Mission Viejo as electrolytes were pumped into her veins. Her skin was darkened and her cheeks were hollow.

“I thought, ‘Where did that come from? They can see me. There’s no way.’”

Natera-Armenta’s kidneys were failing. Her blood was becoming too concentrated, rushing to her brain and away from her skin and muscles – reducing her to a feeble state.

She had suffered severe diarrhea for at least two days, and while stranded had started her menstrual cycle – further depleting her weakening body.

Doctors at Mission Hospital said the endurance athlete, who has been a serious trail runner for about three years, wouldn’t have survived another day in the forest without food or water.

When rescued, her dehydration level was 10 percent to 15 percent, said her physician, Dr. Mike Ritter.

Fifteen percent is considered fatal.

Other than scratches and abrasions that mostly were on her legs, she suffered no other injuries and is expected to fully recover.

“I thought I was going to die, but I was prepared,” Natera-Armenta said.

She had already started to say her goodbyes, she told a Register reporter.

“I said goodbye to everybody,” she said. “I kept thinking, ‘I hope I don’t make them too sad.’”

When her husband, Armando Armenta, walked into her hospital room, he kissed her on the forehead.

“I love you,” he told her.

“What happened?” she asked.

“You tell me. What did you do for three days in the mountains?”

It started off as a routine run, she explained – in the Lazy W Ranch off Ortega Highway where single-track trails snake up unforgiving ridges. Natera-Armenta has raced distances up to 100 miles in remote, punishing mountain trails.

She had eaten a snack at 5 a.m. at her Oceanside home before driving up to San Juan Capistrano to car-pool into the trailhead with Diaz.

Not having slept well in recent days, and not feeling her best, Natera-Armenta said she had planned to run for only about two hours – 10 or so miles, at her typical pace.

She carried with her two hand-held bottles of water – a total of more than 40 ounces – and about 30 ounces on her back in a hydration pack.

Soon into the run, she and Diaz got separated, she said.

He had started off running fast and got well ahead of her, but soon he started vomiting, and she eventually passed him.

Diaz and Natera-Armenta, although very familiar with the two main trails in the area, the Los PiƱos and San Juan trails, was heading up the rugged and steep Hot Springs trail.

She said she had never been on that trail. It is unclear how familiar Diaz is with it. He was not immediately available for an interview. Also unclear is why Diaz was not able to summon help earlier. He told authorities he had gotten lost after the two separated at around 4 p.m. Sunday.

At one point, Natera-Armenta said she lost a water bottle as she climbed up a steep section. The bottle fell down a ravine and she thought it would be unsafe to try to retrieve it.

She kept climbing – not wanting to retrace her steps because the trail, she said, was a “mess.”

Eventually, she found herself near a dry waterfall, surrounded by steep slopes teeming with thick, dry brush.

“I got myself in trouble,” she said.

She was too weak to climb out, she said. She found shade under rocks and trees.

Not having much of a choice, she decided to stay put – and pray she’d be found.

“I knew I couldn’t get back the same way,” she said. “I just knew I had to stay strong.”

Night came. She struggled to sleep. She fell in and out of dreams.

The next day came, and then the next.

Natera-Armenta said she had three different spots where she would rest under the shade of rocks.

She concentrated on conserving her energy.

“I asked myself, ‘Am I going to die today, or try to save as much energy as possible?’”

Day 4 came – Wednesday

Still alone.

Natera-Armento said she mostly thought of her husband a lot – and inconsequential things like favorite TV shows.

About two dozen of her running friends joined search-and-rescue teams at daybreak Wednesday to look for her.

Although her husband had reported her missing Monday night, the car she and Diaz had used was not found until late Tuesday afternoon.

At some point while stuck in the mountains, Natera-Armenta took off her soiled blue running shorts.

Strong winds blew them away, silently sending them down a slope.

She was too weak to retrieve them.

When rescuers found her, Natera-Armenta was wearing only her running shirt, shoes and socks.

She said that by Wednesday – hours before she was found -- she had given up hope of surviving.

She had toyed, for a moment, with the thought of jumping off a boulder to her death – not believing she could survive another night.

But she hung tough.

The sound of chopper blades slicing through the hot air brought her to her feet.

She waved at her rescuers.

Soon, she was recovering in the hospital – her fingernails thick with dirt, but her smile intact.

During her bedside interview, Natera-Armenta was animated at times, but felt dizzy and weak at other times.

She repeatedly said “I’m sorry” to visiting relatives, and even managed to crack a few jokes.

“I just feel like I’m always a troublemaker,” she said to a sister, Alma, of Garden Grove.

“Oh my God. My sister, my little sister,” Alma said after hugging her. “You have a nice tan.”

“I’m so stinky,” Natera-Armenta said. “I feel so bad.”

“Don’t worry,” Alma told her. “You’ll get pretty again.”

When a nurse asked Natera-Armenta what she wanted to eat, she said, “coconut water.”

The hospital, the nurse politely told her, didn’t have that.

When a nurse brought Natera-Armenta a plate of food, her husband lifted a fork to her mouth and gave his wife the first food she had had in 72 hours.

A forkful of salmon.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Friday, September 18, 2009

Could Barefoot Running Save Your Knees?

Great article from Paul Scott on

Could barefoot running save the knee?

By Paul Scott

Several years ago, during a grateful stretch of employment after the birth of my first child, I got an assignment from a glossy and hip national magazine to review trail running shoes. I had reviewed cologne and grooming supplies, but had never before reviewed high-end sports footwear.

I was promptly shipped more a dozen pairs of high-performance shoes, really gorgeous stuff, the very best brands, retailing $60 to $120 a pair. My closet was suddenly ridiculous, and I took the job very seriously, lacing up every pair and heading out to test the shoes through snow and rain and mud.

Eventually I picked out a best of the batch, and did my best to justify the call in print, but when it was all said and done I had a hard time knowing why. I think I chose one shoe over another because of the way the shoe performed, but I may have also really liked the way it looked. Part of me wondered if the whole thing wasn’t a bunch of b.s.
Maybe I wasn't cut out for shoe reviewing (they never called again). Then again, maybe I wasright. A revolt over whether we should wear running shoes has taken on momentum lately. It first began in the late 1980s, when a study found that the more your shoes cost, the higher the injury rate. That could mean a lot of things, of course -- maybe people who pay more for their running shoes run more aggressively, and thus get injured more, for example. But another study published during that time suggested barefoot runners get injured less because their arches adapted to better deflect impact forces.

A lack of evidence
Lately, nothing less than the great running-shoe value system has come under question. You know that advice you get in the shoe store -- that to prevent injury, people whose feet turn from side to side, or pronate, should wear "stabilizing" shoes, while everyone else should wear "cushioning" shoes? It turns out no one has ever proven that notion, according to a survey of the literature recently published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

That study was highlighted in a recent article in the New York Times on the phenomenon of shoeless running, a trend that has given rise to shoes (such as Vibram FiveFingers) specifically designed for shoeless runners. (What’s next, guitars for playing air-guitar? Umm, skip that ... .) "Born to Run," a new book by magazine writer and runner Christopher McDougall, examines the question in even greater depth.

The proponents of shoeless running argue that it helps protect injuries to the foot, lower leg and ankle, but given that the entire leg from the foot through the hip is a linked system, I’m hoping it won’t be long until they discover that shoeless running has benefits for the region home to the most vexing of running injuries, the knee.

Irene Davis, PhD, a researcher at the University of Delaware, past president of the American Society of Biomechanics, and newly converted barefoot runner, has measured impact forces with and without running shoes. Though anecdotal observations are many, she says, "unfortunately there’s not a lot of concrete evidence that suggests that when you run barefoot you get injured less."

A question of landings
Davis says it's possible that barefoot running is smarter, however, and the issue comes down to the biomechanics of how runners land. Most runners (80 percent) run with a rear-foot strike pattern, landing on their heels and rolling through to push off from the balls of their feet. She says running shoes cushion the heels during this pattern, "but you have a quick rise to impact peak" running heel-first. In runners with a forefoot or mid-foot strike pattern, on the other hand, "[their] peak becomes attenuated," Davis says. We all have a pattern we are born with, but necessity requires barefoot runners to change to a mid-foot pattern. "When you barefoot run you can’t land on your heel," she says. "It hurts. Go out and try it."

Davis doesn’t know whether barefoot running will protect the knees, but says it would appear to reduce the forces on the tibia, and "that’s probably going to be good for the knee." Diabetics and people with arthritic conditions need to keep their running shoes on, she says. Others can take off their shoes, but need to start small. "I did it slowly," she says. "I started at a quarter of a mile, then moved it up to a third of a mile, and then a half a mile."

'A natural pumice stone'
She says her feet have actually become softer in the process. "I’m a girl," she says, "so my worry was I didn’t want calluses. The pavement serves as a natural pumice stone."

Ironically, grass is more dangerous for shoeless runners than paved paths. "The problem with grass is you don’t know what’s underneath it." Pavement resembles hard-packed natural running surfaces in places like Copper Canyon, Mexico. More important, pavement is hard, and in terms of biomechanical re-education a hard surface is the whole point of taking the pillows off your feet in the first place. Hard surfaces force you to land even smarter than you would on grass. "When you run on pavement you’ve got to cushion more." With your body.

Freelancer Paul Scott, of Rochester, writes frequently about health and fitness for various media. Susan Perry is on vacation.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

New Trail for the Boundary Waters

The Superior National Forest is developing a new trail in the Boundary Waters area that will link into the renowned Kekekabic Trail. The new trail will create a loop route off of the Kekekabic Trail that will loop back to Round Lake before entering the wilderness area. USFS crews used explosives Thursday (9/10/09)to help clear the new portion of the new Centennial Trail. From the Forest Service:

The Gunflint Ranger District is creating a new hiking trail this year. It’s just one of the many ways we’re celebrating the 100th anniversary of President Theodore Roosevelt proclaiming 644,114 acres in northeastern Minnesota as part of the national forest system effectively giving birth to the Superior National Forest.

The Centennial Trail will be a loop trail of 3.3 miles. It will incorporate 1.2 miles of the Kekekabic Trail and a new section, currently under construction, which will connect to the Port Arthur Railroad bed built in the early 1890's. After the Ham Lake Fire, several of the old mine pits and railroad beds were exposed and that's how Tom Kaffine, Forestry Technician and wilderness guru, came up with the idea of this historical trail.

The Centennial Trail will have some beautiful overlooks. Clearing the area has already begun and the Smokejumper Trail Association will be here to help complete the task.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Great Trail Running Commercial from Timberland

Here's a great commercial from Timberland for their new line of trail running shoes.

"If you're not fast...You're food!"

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Colorado Trail Running Video

Video of a great trail running trip on the Colorado Trail.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Midwest Trail Running Overlooked?

As trail and ultramarathon runners based in the Upper Midwest, it seems that our region is often overlooked. Both the right and left coasts and the Rocky Mountains seem to get most of the attention when it comes to trail running and ultrarunning. There are many big races on both coasts and in the mountain states and if you look at any of the major trail running or ultrarunning teams, they are almost exclusively runners from the left and right coast and mountain states.

Take a look at the relatively large La Sportiva Mountain Running team and you'll see that there isn't one runner from the Midwest (o.k. so we don't have "mountains" in the Midwest, but there are runners in the Midwest that could compete with many of the runners on the La Sportiva team in a mountain race and there are many great ambassadors of the sport of trail running here in the Midwest as well, and a few people might even wear La Sportivas around here). Montrail, another large team of trail and ultrarunners, also doesn't have a single Midwest runner on their list of sponsored athletes. It appears, that of the major trail running teams, that only Inov-8 (with 2 out of another relatively large team) and Patagonia with Mark Godale from Ohio have a runner from Midwest on their team. The new Vasque trail running team does include one member from the Midwest as well.

Why would the major players in trail and ultramarathon running ignore a large portion of the country by not including an ambassador or team member from the Midwest? Could it be that there aren't very many trail or ultramarathon races in the Midwest? Looking at what's out there, this wouldn't seem to be the case. The Midwest offers a large slate of very popular and longstanding trail and ultramarathon races. The Ice Age 50 miler in Southern Wisconsin is one of the largest and oldest trail ultramarathons in the nation. The 31 year old 7 mile Living History Farms Cross-Country Race in Iowa (essentially a trail running race) is the largest off-road trail race in North America with a race limit of 7,500 runners. Large metropolitan areas around Chicago, Milwaukee, Minneapolis and St. Louis have large and vibrant ultramarathon and trail running communities. While the Western region (essentially the Rocky Mountains west - a huge area) does boast the greatest number of trail runners according to the 2006 Outdoor Industry Foundation Outdoor Recreation Participation Study, the Upper Midwest has essentially the same number of trail running participants as other regions of the country.

While the Midwest may not have the number of trails that the Western region has, there are a number of great long-distance trails as well as regional trails. Among the long trails, the Midwest boasts the Superior Hiking Trail, the Ice Age Trail, the Ozark Highlands Trail, the Ozark Trail, the Buckeye Trail, the Centennial Trail, the Maah Daah Hey Trail, and the Michigan Shore-to-Shore Trail among others. There are also very good trail systems in and around many Midwestern communities. Duluth, MN was named one of the top trail towns the first year that TrailRunner magazine named their top trail towns and Marquette, MI was also named a top trail town last year. Both communities have an amazing amount of beautiful trails with splendid views and lots of hills right out their backdoor (literally).

The Midwest has also produced some very good runners that can compete in the larger trail races throughout the country. It seems that these teams would want to see their colors at races located in the Midwest. Having a runner wearing a team uniform at some Midwest races would seem to be a way for these companies that support trail running teams to reach out to an entire market segment or area that is relatively untapped. A company that recruits a couple of
Midwest runners that will run more races in the region and know the people in the area running communities would likely claim a foothold in the Midwest market that the other teams ignoring the region might not be able to make. From a business standpoint, including a couple of Midwest runners on the major trail running teams would seem to make sense.

There's absolutely nothing like running in the Western mountains, through the Sierra Nevada, along the Pacific Coast, among the Cascades or through the Rocky Mountains. The Appalachians and the mountains of the East are also unparalelled in their beauty and uniqueness. But, the
Midwest is also home to many trail and ultra runners and has it's own special beauty from the "Sawtooth Mountains" overlooking the largest freshwater lake in the world, to the many lakes and pine needle covered trails of the Boundary Waters country, to the bluffs and ridges overlooking the Mighty Mississippi River, and the prairies and badlands of the plains. The Midwest
has a lot to offer trail runners and those that support trail runners. There beautiful places to run trails everywhere you look on this continent and there are trail runners in every nook and cranny as well. Come on over and check it out. You might like what you see!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

This Trail Running Video is REALLY Good

This will be the last video I post of the Ultra Tour du Mont Blanc, but this one is REALLY good! As a trail runner, if this video doesn't make you want to run this race someday, I don't know what will. Breathtaking!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Another Inspiring Trail Running Video

Here's another inspiring trail running video from Matt Hart set in the Cascade Mountains of the Pacific Northwest. Watch it, and then get out there on the trails for a run!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

More Videos of UTMB Course

Here are a couple of nice video clips from the Ultra Tour du Mont Blanc that show some of the terrain that the course covers. You'll see some of the leaders in these clips as well.