First Time 50 Miler: Martin Hernandez’s Lake Sonoma Story

Our “mantra” at NATHAN has always been, “If you run, NATHAN runs with you.” In keeping with this theme, I wanted to feature a “non-elite” runner trying a new distance for the first time. After chatting with Martin Hernandez about his running background I realized he was not that guy.  Martin (pronounced “Marteen”) is super fast and no stranger to competition.  However, his story is still one we can all relate to.  He embarked on a journey with a goal in mind.  To run his first 50 at Lake Sonoma and to run well. I was lucky enough to chat with Martin before and after the race. Find out how his race went and what he learned as a result.




Tell us a little bit about your running background, Martin.

I was born in Templeton, CA. I have been running with the Hoka Aggies, an Olympic development team, for the past 15 years. My collegiate running career began at Cuesta Community College. I transferred to Virginia Intermont College in 2006, where our team won the NAIA Cross Country National Championship. In 2007, I moved to Shorter University and won 3 NAIA National Track Championships with my team and achieved All-American status as an individual. In 2009, I began my MBA Graduate Program and became head coach of the XC team. I was actually able to recruit Paul Chalimo, who recently took 2nd place in the 5k for the 2016 Olympics. It was a great experience and allowed me to share my passion for running with others.

For the past year, I have worked with Drymax Technologies in Sales. I enjoy spending time with my wife Ashlee and 9 month old son Noah.


Why did you choose to make the leap into ultra-running?

Ultra running has always been something I have been interested in and am finally able to take the leap. Curiosity has pushed me into my first ultra because running up hill has always been one of my strong suits, and I know elevation plays a big role. I have a few friends in Ultra-running that are a huge inspiration, along with working with Drymax and being able to sponsor Ultra runners.


What made you choose Lake Sonoma?

My biggest reason is because Drymax is a sponsor of Lake Sonoma, so it makes it a special event for me to take part in. Also, I want to compete in a race with high-level Ultra runners so I can observe how some of the best athletes run these races, including how they hydrate and eat during the race.




What did your training consist of? How did you juggle ultra training and a full time job?

My training has been simple – listen to my body. I used to be really focused on trying to do specific workouts and consistently running every day. I have taken a different approach this time by slowly increasing my mileage during the week and doing bigger mileage on Saturdays and Sundays.  I actually take days off when my body needs it, and it has allowed me to improve my mileage overall. Instead of having just one high mileage week, I am able to accomplish the entire month of solid mileage. In regards to working full time and training, that is just a matter of prioritizing your run. I have a family who depends on me so I make sure I wake up early to run and run after work before dinner. It also helps that I have a very supportive wife.


What is your goal on race day?  Any long terms goals?

My goal is to finish the race. This is my first ultra and it will be interesting to see where God brings me. My comfort zone use to be marathons but I am broadening my horizons. This race is all about getting my feet wet in the Ultra World.


What gear do you plan on using?

I will most definitely be wearing the Drymax maximum protection socks. The repelling technology is the best way to go for such high mileage because it will keep me blister-free. I will also be using my Nathan hydration water bottles because the light-weight technology will keep me properly hydrated and comfortable throughout the race. I will be wearing the Hoka Clayton shoes, which are light and responsive to the terrain I will be running on.  


What about running appeals you to the most? What is running to you?

I like the mental challenge in running. There is nothing better than competing at a high level, and being able to put all your hard work into one race. Then you can see who comes out on top at the end of the race.

Running to me is an opportunity. It has given me the opportunity to meet great people, travel across the country and obtain a Master’s degree. It has also shaped me into a disciplined, hard-working individual.


Moss Lane in Templeton, CA
Moss Lane in Templeton, CA


Where is your favorite place to run?
My favorite place to run is Moss Lane in Templeton, CA (pictured). I have spent many miles on this trail and have fallen in love with running there. When I was 15 year old, I learned what dedication to the sport meant on that trail so it is a special place for me.


What about your favorite place you want to run but have had the chance?

I would love to train on Magnolia Road in Boulder, CO because it is where some of the most elite runners in the world have trained. I would definitely take advantage of the elevation gain there and make the best of my experience.


Any advice for someone thinking about their first ultra?

I would tell them to make sure they have fun and use it all as a learning experience.






How did it go?

I wish I had a happy ending to my first ultra, but I only made it to mile 25. I was feeling confident with my ability and figured I will start picking people off as the race goes on, but I slowly started to fade and realized through the race this is a lot harder than I expected. I figured if I slowdown could finish and still be in the top ten. As I continued to go down the steep hills my quads started to feel it more and more and I realized I was not going to complete the race. All in all, it was a rough go around.


What did you learn?

I learned that I really need to practice running down hills. I felt like my miles were up and I was able to really attack the hills. Another, big learning experience I was looking at pictures over the years on what kind of shoes people were wearing and I saw a lot of people wearing Claytons. I quickly realized that was a huge mistake since the course was so muddy I was literally slipping and flipping all over the place. I would say those two things I learned. Downhill running is very important and the right shoes. I felt like a total rookie out there, but again I had no idea what to really expect.


What was the best part about your day?

I would say the best part of the day was running in Lake Sonoma. It was the most beautiful course I have ever raced. Everyone at the race was very nice and supportive and it was very encouraging to see the support from everyone at the race.


What was the worst part?

There really was not worst part. I think I was able to take in a lot from this race and really look at the positives.


What is next? Is another go at an ultra in your future?  

I will be taking a little break and then building my base for Cross Country and then gear up for a few trail races and then another shot at a high profile race.



Martin during Lake Sonoma
Martin during Lake Sonoma. Picture Courtesy of Drymax



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