Stride by stride, minute by minute, Ramiro “Curly” Guillen is pushing himself into the top tier of U.S. marathon runners. The Goleta native took a big step last Sunday, finishing 18th in the Los Angeles Marathon. His time of 2 hours, 25 minutes, and 33 seconds was a new personal best by almost two minutes.
Guillen is not yet where he wants to be. He needs a 2:18 clocking to guarantee himself a place in the 2016 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials next February in L.A. He’ll pursue it later this year on a flat course. Sunday’s race from Dodger Stadium to the Santa Monica waterfront was not conducive to fast times. Even though the start was moved up 30 minutes to 6:55 a.m., the temperature was already in the 70s, uncomfortable for many runners.
“I’d see fast runners pull off to the side and drop out, even some Kenyans,” Guillen said. “I was getting excited knowing my place would be higher.”
Guillen was well prepared for the heat. “I bought a gallon of Gatorade and diluted it with water,” he said. “I drank a gallon on Friday and a gallon on Saturday.” He fortified himself with liquids and energy gels all along the course. “I never felt the heat,” he said Monday. “It’s the best I’ve felt during and after a marathon.”
He was ripping off miles at a 5:24 pace in the first half of the race, but frequent hills broke up his rhythm. “I knew my time was slipping, and I focused on being competitive,” he said. His coach, Terry Howell, was on San Vicente Boulevard, a few miles from the finish. “He told me to stretch it out and open up my stride,” Guillen said. As he turned onto Ocean Avenue, there were two runners ahead of him: Luke Humphrey, a 2:14 marathoner from Michigan, and Blake Russell, heading for third place in the women’s division (the women started 10 minutes ahead of the men). “I kicked with everything I had and passed [Humphrey] and caught up to Blake at the finish line,” Guillen said. “That got me some TV time.”
Guillen was the 13th-fastest American out of thousands. The race was designated as the U.S.A. Track and Field (USATF) Marathon Championship with prize money for the top 15. Guillen was due to collect $450. Winner Jared Ward, a former BYU track standout who finished third overall in 2:12:56, hit the jackpot of $25,000.
Guillen, 32, is in the fourth year of a second running career. He competed at Dos Pueblos High, SBCC, and UCSB and then adopted a more typical American male lifestyle. He had to shed 50 pounds to become a serious runner again. He also had to find a way to run 90 miles a week while working two jobs — as a TSA agent at the airport and a nighttime disc jockey — and being the father of two children.
He saw himself in the movie McFarland, USA. “When the coach [in the film] told the kids what made them tougher than other runners, that resonated with me,” Guillen said. His own coach testifies to his grit. “Curly has a level of toughness that is unbelievable,” Howell said. “In the three years he and I have been working together, never once has he complained. Because of his jobs, he does 95 percent of his training by himself. Athletes are always looking for shortcuts — new shoes, technical clothes, this product or that product — but the foundational factor is hard work. That’s what Curly puts in.”
WHAT PAIN? “I feel amazing,” Jessica Douglas said after whacking almost nine minutes off her previous best time for 26.2 miles, finishing the L.A. Marathon as the 25th fastest woman in 2:51:00. “Every marathon I run gets easier and easier. It’s almost like the body is learning to take in that pain. I look back to my first marathon [Santa Barbara in 2009]; I ran 4:35, and my body was wracked.”
Douglas, 33, grew up in Santa Ynez. “I didn’t do any sports,” she said. When she graduated from UCSB in 2009, she decided to pursue another milestone of running a marathon. She became good enough at it to run the Boston Marathon twice. But she felt disjointed after the 2013 Boston race, the one jolted by bombs. “I couldn’t feel joy,” she said. “Something had to change in my life.”
She found direction from Sylvia Mosqueda, a running coach in Las Vegas who convinced her she could not only run faster but find fulfillment in it. “She’s like a mommy to me,” said Douglas, a home caregiver in Santa Barbara. She is looking to chase the women’s Olympic qualifying standard of 2:43 this year.
FAST MASTERS: Veteran runners from the South Coast left their footprints all over the U.S.A. Masters Cross Country Championships on February 7 in Boulder, Colorado. Representing the older generation were John Brennand, 78, and Larry Brooks, 73, of the Santa Barbara Athletic Association, who finished first in their respective age groups on the eight-kilometer course. The young forty-somethings of the Santa Barbara Running and Racing Team claimed third place in the team scoring. Rusty Snow, Todd Booth, and Marcelo Mejia Perez led the way.
Two weeks later, the same trio paced Santa Barbara to second place in the U.S.A. Masters 8K Road Championships in Brea, and the women’s team (Cindy Abrami, Monica DeVreese, and Deanna Odell) took third. The team’s most decorated runner was 65-year-old Ignacio “Nash” Jimenez, who finished second in his age division at Boulder and raced to the top in Brea.
Jimenez grew up in downtown Goleta in the ’50s. “Our feet were the only means of transportation,” he said. “We’d run away from the older kids. If they caught you, they’d beat you up.” He took up competitive running in his forties in Tennessee, where he was a minor-league ballpark groundskeeper. He was working at the Dodgers-White Sox spring training complex in Arizona when Joe DeVreese brought him back to Santa Barbara four years ago to help with the S.B. Running Company.
TRACK AND FIELD: The 77th annual Santa Barbara Easter Relays are coming to SBCC’s La Playa Stadium ― the community college meet this Friday, March 20, and the high school competition on Saturday, March 28. Westmont College is hosting the Jim Klein Invitational Decathlon and Heptathlon on Thursday and Friday (March 19-20), and the Westmont Collegiate Classic will take place on Saturday. San Marcos High is hosting 10 high school teams in the inaugural Royal Classic on Saturday.
Athletes of the Week
Veronika Gulvin and Chad Visser
Veronika Gulvin pitched a perfect game and a no-hitter for Dos Pueblos. Gulvin threw a perfect game against Pacifica, striking out 17 of 21 hitters in a 3-0 victory. Later in the week, she bounced back from a loss to Ventura and fired a no-hitter at Alemany, 5-0, at the Manlet Tournament in Simi Valley. She struck out 12 and walked only one.
Chad Visser has been the low scorer for San Marcos in three straight golf matches. Visser has earned medalist honors in all three San Marcos boys golf team victories this season. He shot a one-over par 72 in a Channel League win over Buena at Rancho San Marcos.
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