At age 36, rabbitPRO Ramiro "Curly" Guillen is running some of the fastest times in his life as he prepares for the California International Marathon on December 2nd in Sacramento, California. The race is again serving as the USA Marathon Championships and Curly hopes to improve upon his 2017 performance that saw him finish 24th in 2:17:33, snagging him his first Olympic Trials Qualifying time for the 2020 Games.
This past weekend, Curly lined up at his alma mater's home cross-country meet, battling a field of 50+ runners all approximately half his age from UCSB, Cal Poly and Cal State Fullerton. He came away with a 10th place finish, despite his focused endurance preparations for the marathon.
Another top ten in a NCAA Division 1 XC race - how does that feel? Which number top ten finish is this for you here?
I first competed in this race in 2002 when I was a 3rd year transfer to UCSB from SBCC. I was coming off a stress fracture in my foot so I didn’t race well in that one. I have raced it the last 7 years in a row and I believe I have had 5 top 10 finishes with my highest placing being 3rd back in 2014. My fastest time on this course came in 2016 when I ran 24:48. It feels good to be able to still compete at the same level all these years later. The win keeps eluding me, but I will keep going for it until I can’t keep up anymore with these young bucks.
Curly at the 2017 UCSB Lagoon 8k where he also finished 10th
It's clear you're running some of your fastest times in your entire life, RIGHT NOW, in your mid, moving into your late 30s - what are some key factors that you believe you can attribute all of this success too?
The key to my success is all the miles I have been able to consistently put in over the last 7 years, plus the “muscle memory” of previously being an accomplished athlete at the junior college level and being an NCAA D-1 athlete. I ran some pretty quick times in college so as I made my return to running after taking almost 8 years off completely, I had something to shoot for. Another reason I have been able to continue to get faster as I get older is the fact that I didn’t run for nearly 8 years. I feel that my legs feel “fresh” because of this.
There is something about running 80-100 mile weeks with long runs of 18+ miles that really builds up the mental toughness. Especially being able to grind it out after not getting enough sleep (editor's note: which Curly often does working two jobs and raising two young children).
I see a sports chiropractor (Ernie Ferrel) 1-2 times a week and I do cryotherapy plus the Normatec recovery boots a couple times a month at The Lab. I run twice a day when I can and this helps lighten the workload at the end of the week. Believe it or not I do not stretch or foam roll, nor do I do any drills or weight lifting, mostly due to time constraints. I do strides a couple times a week. I use Maurten sports drink before workouts and races, GU energy gels before/during long runs and marathons, and Endurox for my recovery drink. I drink a gallon of water every day. I generally eat pretty well but I definitely reward myself a couple times a week by eating out. I can’t forget to mention my coach Terry Howell for being flexible with me and adjusting daily mileage or workouts to accommodate my hectic life.
Age is certainly nothing but a number. I do not feel my age at all. I refuse to believe I will slow down anytime soon when we have people like Abdi, Meb or Lagat that continue to run fast in their 40s.
Never afraid to push the pace, Curly is the consummate professional
CIM is just a few months out, how does a fast 8k like today's UCSB Lagoon race factor into this week's training plan? And from a bigger picture, how important is keeping up speed like this for running another PR in December?
I am pleased with my performance at last weekend’s race because I was in the middle of a 90 mile week and I had 2 hard workouts that went very well. I went into the race on tired legs. Of course I was hoping for a better result but I can’t beat myself up to bad over it. Last year at the Lagoon race I ran 5:15 pace for 8k and a few months later I ran that pace at CIM for 26.2 miles. This last weekend my 8k pace was 5:07 which is my goal marathon pace for CIM in December. I have to remember that everything I am doing is to prepare me to run sub 5:10 pace for the marathon. It is important to have speed in the shorter distances because it makes the pace in the longer races feel much more comfortable.
Grinding out a win at the Vintners 5 Miler earlier this year
You've done the Lagoon race eight times now, arguably not only one of the most challenging around, but scenic as well - what personally keeps bringing you back to the event?
I keep coming back to this race because I like mixing it up with the college kids in a shorter race that is out of my comfort zone. I really want to win it one of these years too!
It's cool to see the respect the college kids all have for you both pre, during and post race. Do you feel you are helping to inspire a younger generation of runners in some way?
A lot athletes quit the sport once they graduate. I hope that I can inspire some of them to stick with it and keep chasing after other goals. My goal in college was to always qualify for the Olympic Trials. I lost sight of that goal when I quit running for several years. But then I dusted off that far-fetched dream and went for it. I am happy to have earned my spot on the starting line of the 2020 Olympic Trials Marathon. I hope that some of these runners I have crossed paths with will be inspired to dream big, anything is possible.
Sunset doubles along the beach near his home in Goleta, one of his favorites