So two weeks later, the 49-year-old signed up for a 25K. And later, a 30K race. By July, he was running a half-marathon in San Francisco. Ordaz completed that in an hour and 51 minutes, an average of seven minutes per mile. In November, he finished a 100K race (roughly 62.1 miles) in 15 hours, 49 minutes.
The running bug propelled him to the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah, home of the Salt Flats 100 Mile Endurance Run in April – one of the nation’s most grueling events. Runners are awake and moving for 24 hours or more, and conditions can fluctuate from the low-80s and sunny to the 20s and snowing. Many succumb to exhaustion and drop out of the race.
“I can try it,” Ordaz thought. “If I don’t make it, I’m not going to be the first one.”
Ordaz’s focus wasn’t on the clock – all he wanted was to endure through the full 100 miles. And he succeeded, finishing 28th out of 41 runners (and one dog), with a time of 29 hours, 1 minute, 31 seconds. It was Ordaz’s second 100-mile endurance race; his first was a cycling competition at the Sea Otter Classic in Monterey. He said his experience as a cyclist gave him the strength and stamina to withstand long runs.
While many 100-mile combatants encounter serious pain, Ordaz said his legs didn’t hurt much for most of the run. One thing he didn’t expect, however, was that his mind would toy with him. The final three miles were especially grueling. He felt like he was running backward, and struggled to see the finish line.
Despite every bodily instinct telling him to quit, Ordaz kept chugging along, impelled by the encouragement of his wife, kids, friends and relatives. He had already fought sun and wind, finishing 97 miles – what’s three more?
“It seemed to me like it was 10 miles, not three,” Ordaz said. “It’s all mental. I didn’t feel anything in my body, like I was weak or sick. I felt OK, but I was thinking: it’s not worth it for me, with just three miles left, to not go forward.”
Ordaz’s desire to run came late in life. A couple years ago, he was cycling in Livermore when he saw a pack of runners on the road. He asked one what they were doing, and the runner explained that they were training for a race. Ordaz, primarily a cyclist, gave running a try in the 2010 Mt. Diablo 8K. He finished 10th – a result that fueled the fire.
He now prefers running to cycling, which he said is more dangerous – and expensive, as the bike requires maintenance.
Ordaz isn’t intimidated by the ordeal of ultra-marathon running; he relishes it. To prepare for these grueling excursions, he runs for two hours every day on the treadmill and eight to 10 hours each weekend on the hilly terrain of Contra Loma Regional Park in Antioch.
“I wanted to challenge myself to see if I can make it,” Ordaz said. “I want to go farther and add more distance.”
The crazy thing is, Ordaz isn’t done. In June, he’s heading down south for the San Diego 100-mile Endurance Run. After that, he doesn’t see himself stopping at 100 miles. The next distance up? 125.
Experience the Salt Flats 100 Mile Endurance Run through the photos of a distance blogger at http://tinyurl.com/ceug6g8.
Visit the official website of the Salt Flats 100 Mile Endurance Run for more information: http://www.saltflats100.com.