Tuesday, December 25, 2007


Zuni, New Mexico
November, 2007

This fall I traveled to Zuni, New Mexico. An Indian Reservation located just 150 miles west of Albuquerque. I was invited to be the guest speaker for the Zuni High School fall sports banquet. The experience was quite unique.

As soon as I arrived to Zuni, some members of the Cross Country team were already waiting for me to go for a 12 mile run. Luckily, they had it all planned out. The run was going to be made into a relay. For the first 4 miles I ran with a few of the girls, then a couple of guys joined me and took me to the 8 mile mark. Finally, I met with the last group that would take me back to the school. The scenery was beautiful. The surface was so soft; I could hardly feel the pounding on my legs. While running we had the opportunity to get to know each other. It was quite motivating to hear how pure all of the athletes talked about their running. After the run we stretched, elevated legs, took some pictures and I rushed to “The Inn at Halona” to get ready for the banquet.

To my surprise, at the banquet there were approximately 300 people. It was very rewarding to be able to share my experience not only to the athletes, but to some of their parents and relatives. One thing that I noticed and really impressed me was the fact that Zuni people really cherish their culture and tradition. They spoke Zuni and English during the banquet. According to a couple of the students, the Zuni were and are a peaceful, traditional people who live by the sale of traditional handmade crafts. As far as I know, some Zuni still live in the old style houses. If you ever have a chance to be in New Mexico, I will totally recommend coming to Zuni Pueblo.

The following morning, me and a few of the runners met at 7:00 a.m. to run up to the killer. The “killer” is the name athletes gave to a very steep, sandy hill that leads you up to the top of one of many enchanting mesas (mountains) that surrounds Zuni. The team uses the killer as one of their training runs during Cross Country season to get physically and mentally ready for race day. I have to say that running up the killer was quite challenging. I could feel my legs burning and my heart working at a zillion beats per minute. I have no idea how I survived the test, but I did. It was the best feeling in the world when we finally made it to the TOP! The view was beautiful. The scenery was spectacular. I have never seen or experience something like that before.

After the run, I rushed to the Inn at Halona for a warm shower and homemade blue corn pancakes. Although, my stay in Zuni Pueblo was very short, I really enjoyed every minute of it. I thank everyone for their warm welcoming and for making my visit to Zuni Pueblo a pleasant one.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007


Osaka, Japan
September 2007

Throughout this blog you will understand that my experience at the World Championship was a life changing event. Although I may sound over-the-top with appreciation, I hope that everyone who reads this will see that the joy in my heart spilled over into these lines.
From my flight to Osaka to my return to Alamosa, Colorado everything I experienced was phenomenal, a dream come true and a tremendous blessing. During my 12 hour flight to Osaka, I could hardly believe I was on my way to the second major event in athletics “The World Championships” I kept thinking about all the sequence of events that had brought me here. I felt happy, excited and very honor to represent our country for the very first time. During my 10 day stay in Japan I was able to experience a new culture, dine, and compete with the best athletes in the world.

• Japan is a very industrial, clean and organized country. The transportation system, temples, and shopping centers are just out of this world. Japanese people are very kind, friendly and lovely. They would go out their way to give you a hand and make you feel at home.

• Being part of the best team in the world “Team USA” was a dream come true. Dining with all the world’s best athletes was indeed an honor. A couple of months ago, I had watched some of them perform on TV. Being around all the athletes gave me a close perspective on what it takes to become a world class athlete. It was obvious that training, stretching, taking ice baths, napping, eating, and sleeping were essential tasks in their daily routines. Massages and visits to the chiropractor were a must. By the last day of the championships some of us (USA athletes and staff) gathered at the stadium to cheer on our teammates that were still competing. That night Bernard Lagat won the 5000m race and the sprinters both men and women killed everyone in the relays.

• Warming up and racing against the best marathoners in the world was an experience of a lifetime. Once again, I have seen something similar on TV before, but actually being there was just a complete different story. To be honest there were times I wished someone could come up and pinch me to make sure I was not dreaming.

My favorite day of the trip was by far Sep 2nd, the last day of the championships and the day I competed. Ann Alyanak (my roommate) and I got up a 4:00 a.m to get ready for our race. As I am putting the USA uniform on I recalled an e-mail Amory Rowe had send to me a couple of days ago:

“Just think: there are 302 million people in the United States and more than half of those are women. That means that of over 150 million women, you have earned the honor to represent the US in the marathon. We’ll be supporting you and cheering you on (along with all of your family and friends) from a few thousand miles away. And enjoy that red, white and blue uniform, an enormously well-deserved and inspiring honor.”

Having that in my heart and mind I was ready to go, enjoy, and give my best. Wearing the USA uniform had a very significant and special meaning to me. It meant this was the result of endless hours of training and many choices I had to make during this journey. The happiness and satisfaction I felt as I was wearing the USA uniform has no price and I would make the same choices again and gain just to put on that uniform for a second time. It was obvious to me that hard work, patience and perseverance really pays off.

Going into the race I decided to leave everything up to God. I had done all the work and preparation possible for this race. It was time to relax, practice patience, get ready to roll and compete. My teammates Ann Alyanak, Dana Coons, Samia Akbar and I ended up running together for the first 25 kilometers. We encouraged and helped each other as the race progressed. Personally, I would say that this was not my best nor my worst marathon yet. In fact, I was please with the results 35th place overall, 2nd American, and we finished 6th as a team. During the race, at 25km I felt something shaky on my left knee (a sharp pain). The plan was to roll and leave it all out there after the 30km mark. When I reached that point I was feeling great, but I was very conscious about my knee, so I decided to keep the same rhythm. Still without hammering my last 10km I was able to pass a few runners and move up. The crowds were exceptional; I could hear people yelling my last name. That is when I realized there is something more to the sport other than to run a personal best. We were there to entertain, inspire people, touch their hearts and possibly bring some hope to their lives through our gestures, strides, fatigue, etc.

Inside Nagai Stadium, 300 meters to go, I could hardly believe the race was almost over. Once again, the crowd mesmerized me. I enjoyed every step I took on the track. As I was approaching the finish line I felt like I was floating on air, I was very conscious of my surroundings. I am so happy and I have nothing else in mind other than a deep and sincere “Thank you God” for such a World Championship Experience!

Saturday, November 10, 2007


Houston, TX
August 22nd, 2007

After New York Half my coach Damon Martin and I had decided I was going to spend a few days in Houston TX prior to heading to Osaka, Japan for the World Championships. The purpose of this trip was to get acclimatized to heat and humidity. This was the first time in my running career I left Alamosa to train somewhere else.
While in Houston I had the chance not only to train, but to talk and spend some time with a couple of high school cross country teams. I honor all the runners that train in hot and humid conditions. My body and mind were in shock for the first 3 days. I could not believe how much I was sweating after a just 20 minutes warm up.
Something I clearly comprehended while in Houston was that in order to make it to the next level we always need to be ready to make adjustments, make the best out of the circumstances, and always remain focus on our main goal. Also, I felt very fortunate to have the support of numerous people. I can honestly say that no matter where we are there is always going to be someone willing to help out and give you a hand. I truly believe God manifest himself in so many ways through people. I sincerely thank Nicole Mericle and her family, Coach Jim Beven, Marissa Daniels and roommates, the training staff at Rice University, and Dr. Chris Zaino and Whitney Zaino for all their support.


New York City
August 5th, 2007

It’s 4:30 a.m. in New York City when all of the sudden the alarm comes off. Madai Perez (Mexican marathon record holder) and I wake up and realize its time to get up and get ready for the New York Half. This is actually the first time I room with Madai. I can honestly say that we clicked since day 1. We had a blast. It was like we knew each other from long time ago. We laugh, we shared so many experiences, and we supported each other the best we could. In terms of racing, my race went very well; I ended up finishing 7th with a time of 1:13:49. Honestly, this was by far one of the best and most comfortable road races of my career.
To be part of one of the most prestigious road races in the world was quite an honor. Not a lot of runners get the opportunity to run and race in the same course with one of the greatest runners of all times, a living legend "Haile Gebrselassie". Meeting Haile was indeed and honor and an inspiration. I also had the opportunity to meet and interact with Madai’s coach, German Silva (two time New York marathon winner). German was very encouraging before, during, and after the race. I can not thank him enough for all his support. After the race, Madai, German and I headed to time square searching for some presents for their kids. Personally, New York Half gave me the opportunity not only to race against an international field and prepare for the World Championships, but to dine and meet very wonderful people and great athletes along the way. This is just one of many reasons why I love “TO RUN”.


April 12th, 2007
Alamosa, Colorado

At the very beginning I did not know what to expect. In a way, I was afraid no students were going to show up due to low temperatures and long shifts in the agricultural business. I admit I was very nervous. I tend to get very nervous when I make a commitment not only to myself, but to others. In this case, I had made a commitment to ITA (In the Arena), SLVIRC (The San Luis Valley Immigrant Resource Center) and the Students. I committed to spend some of my afternoons teaching English as a Second Language. After 28 sessions, I am very happy to say that my experience teaching English for the past four months was exciting, fun, and extremely motivating. We had time to laugh, learn, motivate and inspired one to another.

We met on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 6:00p.m to 8:00p.m. I started out with seven students. From the very first moment I could tell they were extremely excited and eager to learn. In fact, it was at this point that my happiness overcame my nervousness. It was then, when I knew I was in the right place at right time. As time passed by, new students kept showing up. I was very surprised to have a young group of men and women. They were from Guatemala, Mexico and El Salvador. The majority of them only went to school for a year or two. Some never did. I knew I had quite a challenge ahead of me. The goal was to keep them motivated to come to the next session. The most advanced students would always help the other students whenever they needed extra help. It was very rewarding to see their progress and enthusiasm. Rosalinda would always call me on Tuesdays to make sure I would come and pick her up to take her to class. By the 5th week or so, students were pretty familiar with the schedule and style of teaching. There were some sessions in which they took over the class and came up with they own questions, suggestions and concerns about the class or other issues that were important to them. It meant a lot to me to know that there was trust within the group.

In no time, we became a very close group which made teaching fun. On Valentines week we decided to skip class. Instead, we decided to meet with the other group (level II) watched a movie and order some pizza. The pizza was delicious and “Nacho Libre” was funny. Within our group, we had a gift exchange. The rule was not to spend more than 5 dollars. During sessions, we did a lot of fun activities. It was nice to see them chat and goof around.

This whole experience was enormously motivating. Every session I was looking forward to hear some of their inspiring stories. Every single person had a touching, inspiring, and motivating story to tell. At the end, I learned that all of us have something to share, to teach, to give. All of us can inspire others. I am very thankful for such a great time. I thank all my students for inspiring me, motivating me and for keeping me true to myself. I thank them for all the exciting, fun and motivating times we share together.


March 10th, 2007
Alamosa, Colorado

I truly believe that there is a time and a place for everything and this is “In the Arena’s place and time.” I am very excited and honored to be part of this organization. I also feel extremely blessed for having people who believe in us and are helping us to become the best we can possibly be. I am very motivated to be “In The Arena.” I am ready to fight. I am ready to get up in case I get knocked down. I am ready to give my best. I am ready to spend myself in a worthy cause. I am ready to make the best of this opportunity. I am ready to know either victory or defeat.

I know there are so many athletes out there who are anxiously waiting for a chance. They are waiting for someone to open a door for them. I knocked on doors for two years after I graduated from Adams State. I am glad the journey has not been easy. Otherwise, most likely I would not appreciate the way I do what I have now. Without any doubt this is the time for “In the Arena” to not only make a difference in my life, but in the lives of those that have dreams and aspire to achieve great things in life. It is a great honor and privilege to share some of my experiences and this part of my life with you and “In the Arena”. God Bless us all! Zoila.