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Saturday, July 15, 2017

Silver Rush 50

Leadville, CO - July 9, 2017.  An 'out and back' course with a few extra twists and turns.  Over 50 miles, starting altitude of 10,200 ft and the highest point at a little above 12,000 ft.  Total elevation change during the race: 8,000 ft.  It had HARD written all over it.

And I was at the starting line, about to start the race with an incline that seemed like a wall....

The Story of How I got there, and then some:

The thing was, I wasn't even going to run this race until I saw an Instagram post from Orange Mud.  It said that they were giving away a free entry for the Silver Rush 50 to some lucky individual that gave a good reason for them to vote on and decide.  I told myself, "Might as well test my luck!" and wrote a post about how it would mean a lot to me because a few years back, I was going to run the Leadville 100, but my dad had a stroke, so I cancelled the race, instead, flying to Japan to be with my father, who was in a coma-like state.  Since then, he's gotten better, but there's still been something missing since that race... and they decided that I was worthy!  They messaged me asking if I was serious about running the race, and I said yes!  It fit perfectly between a 10 hour night race and a 12 hour day race and a trip to Leadville would be definitely fill up that spot that I was missing from years back.  I trained hard, and despite having a sprained ankle two weeks prior to the race, I felt ready.  I was okay when I was running around Colorado Springs, and hoping that Leadville would be similar.

GEAR (and Nutrition):

2 pairs of Asics Gel Lyte 33 3
Injinji socks with a generic sock covering it
Nike Combat Compression Shorts
Adidas shorts
Long Sleeved Underarmour Compression Shirt
fav tech t-shirt
Buff
Orange Mud Endurance Pack
SWORD Mixed Berry
KT Tape
Ben Gay
Peanut Butter Crackers
Pickle Juice
Red Bull
iPod shuffle
Yurbuds Focus 200 Earphones

The Plan:

First of all, I needed to understand that the altitude would be a factor.  I was going to be slow... but I didn't know how slow.  Worst case scenario, I put myself at finishing in 10 hours because the elevation would be too much, but meanwhile, use the first half of the race to see how I do and take it easy, and use the latter half of the race to play catch up and go hard.  Walk as many of the uphills on the way, and on the way back, make it so that I would run up the easier hills.  Fortunately, I got to talk to Anthony Kunkel who told me that on the way back, the last 10 miles would be pretty much all downhill so I should be able to totally own that area of the race, should I survive the first 40.

and now, the race report!  (disclaimer:  due to me being all woozy, pictures may not be in the correct places)

Start to PrinterBoy

The start was as slow as a tortoise running through syrup as the first thing we had to go through was a hill.  It took me over a minute to hike up the hill, because hey, I wasn't going to waste my energy here.  There was a 50 miler to run!  After we went up, we went through the woods a bit, only to get on a paved part, and then we started going up.  During this time, I was still getting used to the whole breathing deal because it seemed a little harder than usual.  I went back and forth with running and walking, depending on the steepness of the hill, and bit by bit, I was able to find a place where I was suppose to be.  Since the first 10 miles is a slow uphill, I knew I had to stay smart.  I wanted to go faster and run more, but I needed to listen to my body, which was telling me that something was a little different.  I was a little weak, and so I began phase one of slightly hyperventilating as to maximize the oxygen intake during this uphill portion.  Through the run/walks, I saw the sunrise, big horned sheep, and my wish of running in the front vanishing.... this was time to survive.  Getting used to the thin air was part of my calculation, so I expected myself to be a tad slow... but this was beyond my expectations.  I thought to myself that I better utilize the downhill portions as best as I could... and then it finally came!  There was a U-turn at the ten mile point and it was mostly downhill, so I had to bust it all out to get to better oxygen and utilize gravity's power and explode.  I passed by many of the people that had gotten ahead of me during the uphill portion, but still needed more.  I continued on my reckless running and for about 3 miles, I caught up with a lot, gaining ground on those that were way ahead.  By the time I had gotten to the aide station, I was a little spent, but knew that if I was going to walk the uphills, I needed to feel somewhat like this.

PrinterBoy to StumpTown


Everyone at the aide station was nice and I just drank a little water and passed on through, because I didn't really need anything.  Therefore, without really stopping, I continued on, and ran down the downhill portion, catching quite a few people... but after a little bit, a climb came around.  It was time to slow walk.  For some reason though it wasn't too high, I still was winded as I climbed, but stopping would elongate that feeling, so I pressed on.  This climb was further up than the first, and eventually, I felt slightly dizzy.  It was not a fun feeling, but I needed to hurry up, because I wasn't even half way there.  My own personal rule was to never be passed when running, but not care when I was walking, and so it was a fun little game of rabbiting around, but it really hurt when I couldn't run even the slightest of inclines.  Finally, I had managed to get up to the highest point of the race, and I think it was somewhere around here there was an aide station, so they refilled my drink and I drank a little coke, but I had to hurry and go down... because, after all, all I had was downhill to the half way mark... but I still could not give it my all.... even with the downhill, but I knew that this was the only option I had of getting some air, and down I went.  I knew I was closer after a good bit of downhill running because I saw the lead runners who had already gone to the halfway point and returned to where we would share the road.  I would be going down, and they would be going up.  After a while, it was the opposite.  I would be going up (walking) and they would be going down.  It was so close to the aide station, and I had my Red Bull waiting, as well as my pack filled with SWORD.  I would need some replenishing while I switched shoes.  I finally came down to the aide station, and saw Anthony, who basically told me that I should hurry up because I wasn't going too fast.  Though I tried to explain how breathing was difficult, it mattered not to him.  I needed to go... I had held off my urges for 4 and a half hours and it was time.... time to kill people.

StumpTown back to PrinterBoy

Well, by killing people, it's just a game where passing people counts as a kill, so my goal was to be a mass murderer... in a totally non-violent Christ-like manner.  So I started off.  I saw my first kill.  He was running up a hill and I decided that for the return trip, I didn't care if I couldn't breathe, if I thought I could run while climbing, then I would go for it.  It was only a 50 miler.  Not a 100.  I could afford a mistake or miscalculation.  I passed him and counted '1' in my head, but number 2, was right in front of me.  As it was, there was quite a number of people that were taking the first uphill with a walk, and so I continued to kill as I crept up towards the highest point.  As I was only counting people, and not time, I had no recollection of where I was going, and how much time had passed, I didn't really pay attention too much to the beautiful scenery, as I was wanting to survive.  Climbing to the highest point was not so easy, as breathing became harder, but I thought to myself, it's only for a little bit, so as long as I could somewhat hold on, I could get over that and begin my descent... but alas, I was too rash in making that decision.  Part of the journey took me to this lonely single track route on the side of a steep incline.  Fortunately, we were going across, but as I made my way through, I stumbled, almost falling off multiple times.  This was a lot more dangerous than I bargained for... but I needed to get through it, and so slowing down only slightly, I made my way through the 'treacherous' area and finally came to a point of descent, which I flew through, as gravitational pull generally helped me go the right direction and I wouldn't trip too much.  It was a glorious downhill, and following that downhill, a slight uphill to the next aide station, where I would restock and make sure everything I had was maxed out, because from that point, I was going to go without stopping too much.  It was go time, and I had passed about 18 people.

PrinterBoy to Finish

The final portion of the journey first was a climb, and this time, I had no real energy left, and so I trekked the climb, letting a few overtake me, subtracting from my kill count.  It was about 3 miles of climbing followed by a 10 mile downhill sprint, and so I didn't feel like using too much energy on the uphill... but when the journey came to a crawl, I needed to change plans quickly.  This was not going as fast as I wanted, and I needed to get to the U-turn as fast as I could.  At some point in my dazed state, I decided that I would run for 100 steps, and then walk until my breathing came to control, and then do it again.  Though seemingly small, it took a lot out of my mental energy tank, and I was able to give more than what I thought was possible, even overtaking one person who walked up faster than I could.  I continued this for about a mile, and then came the turn around and down point, where I drank some dude's coke that he had ready for those in need, and I rushed down.  With each step, I was feeling better because it didn't require too much, but it was still hard as I had used up some of my energy on the climb.  The terrain was not so forgiving, but just enough so I could pull off a few 7-8 minute miles, and though we were still in the higher altitude, I was able to maintain a fast pace.  I was hoping to not walk til I got to the final aide station, but unfortunately, I felt spent at one point and walked up a hill.  Finally, about 3 miles after the turn, I made it to the aide station, gulped coke down, and asked the people manning the station how many were within 15 minutes before me, and they responded with about 5-6 people, so I knew I could do this.  I announced (more for myself) that I would overtake all of them in the last 7 or so miles, and rushed off.  The first was only an eighth of a mile in front of me, and I was going to blow past him.  Despite the harshness of the altitude, my predator-like instincts kicked in, and I reeled him in.  As I encouraged him, I began looking for my next victim (I really sound like I'm two faced right?  I promise I'm not.  I want them to succeed and do their best, but I also want to do my best too....)  There were about 4-5 people that I could catch in front of me.  However, little did I know that they were not in front of me... but waaaaaaay in front of me.  I was going at a breakneck speed hoping they'd all be evenly spaced out, only to find myself chasing down dreams.  After realizing that they weren't going to evenly space themselves out for me, I continued on my path, hoping that my quads and calves would hold.  Up til now, my legs were fine, but I began noticing a slight tremor as my quads warned me that without enough oxygen, they would start writhing in pain, and noting that, I continued hyperventilating a little faster now, and kept on going after the people in front of me, whoever they were... and finally, I caught sight of someone wearing orange.  My next victim!  That person seemed to be doing a run/walk mix and so over time, I knew that that individual was mine, and so I chased and chased.  That person had caught up with another individual, and so I thought of how fortunate I was to have a 2 for 1 deal in front of me and kept up the pace.  Just a little bit more... and then 1... 2... I was able to pass them both.  Still a little more than 3 miles from the end.  I continued and went forward, hoping for more and there wasn't for a little bit, but another appeared.  I was ecstatic!  My quads and calves were telling me to stop, but I was greedy for more, and so I continued.  I passed another, and there was about 2 miles left.  It was now starting to be tiring.  I was actually able to race and my legs were feeling it because my desire for speed had burst forth and carried me forward.  Another individual passed, and my legs started screaming, and so after a little incline appeared... I said okay, let's walk for now.  I continued breathing rapidly, so as to forcefully oxygenate myself, and then after I thought I was ready, I turned on my engine again.  There might be one more person ahead of me.... so I started slow, and gradually picked up the pace until I managed to get out of the trails and was on asphalt.  This was where I really picked up my speed, but it only lasted for a short while because sadly, the race director decided to add to my torture by adding a turn filled path all the way to the top.  It was just enough uphill that I could still run, but not enough that I couldn't feel the pain and exertion.  I had to twist and turn so many times, at one point, I just gave up and walked... but lo and behold, the final individual appeared.  He was many turns ahead, but because it was such a twisted trail, I knew that at that pace, I could catch him before the final push at the end.  I ran on in hopes that I was right, and little by little, I saw him get a little closer, and finally, I managed to catch up towards the last little bit before the 'final push'.  After catching him and picking up the pace, I finally got out of the woods, and there it was.  The final downhill plunge.  I hoped that I could make it without falling, as it was pretty steep, but judging how my legs handled themselves, I thought I could, and push, I did.  I pushed downhill and as I came off, one of my calves writhed in pain.  So as to not make a spectacle of myself on the final 100m of the race, I glided through, hoping each step wasn't the last, and finally finished my 50 miler in 9:32:44, 39th place overall.  It was one heck of a journey, and I'm happy that I came.

Afterwards

So my journey doesn't end here.  After the race, I was dead and could hardly breathe, and so it took a long time to recover.  My shoulders and legs were quite sore, but I was pretty well off when it came down to my feet.  No blisters at all!  I was glad this race was over but the thought of driving to Colorado Springs right away was a little too much.  So I rested, ate a little, and drank a good bit.  After hours upon hours of resting, I decided that instead of leaving, I would stick around and put my number in for the Leadville 100 drawing.  Didn't think much of it... but when they announced my number as one of the final lucky winners, I smiled and couldn't believe my luck.  I was coming back.  Leadville 100, August 18, 2018... I'm coming for you.



Many thanks to the RD who made this race happen, Orange Mud for giving me not only the opportunity to run this race, but also how it turned into making the Leadville 100 a reality, SWORD for giving me all that my body needed physically so that I wouldn't run out of energy and keep the right stuff in me, and finally to my new and old friends from Colorado that helped me finish!

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

RUTS Oak Ridge

Planning 2017 has been quite interesting.  With the USA National Championships in September as my main goal, I needed steps to take and races to get me to where I needed to go.  This round, it was the RUTS (Run Under the Stars) Oak Ridge 10 hour run that would get me to where I needed to be.  I never was any good with night runs because I enjoy my sleep, so psychologically, this would be tough.  Second thing is that I needed to use this race as a training run and not as a A race.  With my new training phase, my max weekly mileage was at 40 miles, which meant (to me) that I had about 40-45 miles of race miles, I knew that racing any more than that would require more time off, which wouldn't get me ready for my next race, a month and a week from now.  I needed to insure that the races added the longer miles I need without sacrificing any of the quality I was adding to my current training schedule.

With that in mind, I was ready.  It called for chances of thunderstorms and at least a bit of rain so I prepared by bringing as little things as I didn't want to take care of anything that would blow away.

Weapons of choice:

SWORD waterbottle:  (as a SWORD sponsored race, I knew I was going to do well with electrolytes)
normal waterbottle:  Mainly used to cool myself down but also as an emergency drink
Table:  Keep all my stuff on
Fold-out chair:  Used for when I need to switch shoes or feel like chatting
Garbage bag with my shoes:  Because knowing it's going to be rainy, I prepared 7 pairs to run with
Shoes:  Asics Gel-Lyte 33 3, pretty sad they're discontinued because they are my favorite, helps tons
Socks:  Injinji socks and another pair to make sure I don't get blisters (and I didn't!)
KT-tape:  Helps support arches (and I ended to race w/out feet pain)
Nike Combat Compression Shorts:  that and Aquaphor keeps me from chafing in a not so fun place
Adidas shorts:  Just your average pair.  Light, and pretty awesome
Underarmour shirt:  After the rain, needed it because of the chafing and temperature
Ice-Bug Buff:  If you fold it just right, you can easily put in your iPod shuffle in it!
Peanut Butter Crackers:  The perfect mix of carbs, protein, and fat.

Since I didn't bring too much as it was a shorter race and a possible rainstorm, I had only one goal:  Get to 62 miles and get myself a decent 100k time.  Race the first 40 miles and then coast from there.  Here's how the race went down

The Course:

RUTS 10 hour race was held in A K Bissell Park, where they concocted a 1.25 mile loop that was on mostly gravel-like paths and one bridge and a good bit of turns to keep you thinking.  It was pretty darn flat, making running big miles an easy thing to do.  The aid station was a quarter mile from the finish line, and had all the goodies that any runner would need.  All they needed was a little excitement.... which the thunderstorm definitely provided.  Haha

Mile 1-30:
I originally had thought that I would be at the point of getting the first 30 miles done in 4 hours and then spend the last 6 hours getting in 40 miles, but because I needed to plan ahead, I decided I'd get the first 30 at race pace and then back off.  However, that being said, I hadn't planned on running with Steve Barber, who was part of a team.  I really am a rabbit and enjoy being up front, so when he went out ahead, I let him go, because he was doing a relay with Joy.  That being said, try as I might, I couldn't help but little by little catch up to him.  Then with a tad of brashness, I thought, "What if I lapped him before the hand-off to Joy?" and so for the first 5 hours he was going to run, I battled against myself whether or not to lap him because that was an immediate goal.  Having one's mind wander during the race can be good at times, but sometimes, it can also be detrimental.  That's why I chose to focus on lapping certain people.  I knew lapping Steve was nearly impossible if he put the hammer down, but I also knew who was in 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th.  With that, I decided that I would focus on chasing after those people one at a time so I don't get side-tracked and bonk because I overshot myself.  Another interesting thing that happened in the first 30 miles was the horrific thunderstorm.  My sister and brother-in-law surprised me by coming and visiting AND sticking through the thunderstorm while supporting me.  Wow,  I thought I was crazy for running in the typhoon winds and lightning and sideways rain, but not as crazy as those two who were sitting through it all seeing me every 1.25 miles.  As the rainwater flooded the little creek, creating a roaring river, the path I was on became enveloped in the longest puddles, and there was no way around.... so I went through.  When it's raining sideways, you don't really care about your shoes getting wet.  You just go.  Some people didn't like the bigger puddles, but I imagined that if I ran fast enough, I would be running through without giving the water enough time to get in my shoes (disclaimer:  It didn't matter) and so I went at it like a maniac.  I figured that the disco lights (aka thunder) was for me and I needed to perform, so I began to press a little harder.  The first bits of the race, I went fast because I was fresh, but as time went on, I began to slow my pace down, so with this change of pace midrace, I allowed my body to stretch out a bit more!  To some, the thunderstorm was a great hindrance (ask all the people that had their tents blow away) but to me, it was as if chains were lifted.  I finished my first marathon portion of the race in 3:27:05 and the was just at 3:59:59 for my 30 mile split.

30-41.25 miles

It was during this time that I had to make a decision.  According to Sho-math, I was good to race up to 40 miles without significant damage, 50 miles with some recovery, and 60 miles with way too much recovery that I wouldn't have enough time to train for my next race, so the question was... how much should I push it?  I decided to talk it out and see where everyone else stood, because despite me continuously telling myself this was a training race.... I still wanted the win.  The timer crew told me that I was ahead of the number two guy by about 10 miles.... but that Cathy Downes... she was 5 miles behind me... or 4 laps.  That meant that I needed to be careful.  I continued at a decent pace, but I knew that I would have to make a decision soon... my legs were slightly sore from the distance, but more than that, I was sleepy.... so Red Bull it was, and it helped me stay awake, and my sister and brother-in-law had to leave...and now I had 4 hours left.

41.25-63.75 miles

4 hours left and Cathy was 4 laps behind... techincally, I needed to do about 4 laps per mile (5mph) and if she did 5 laps per mile (6.25mph), I would still make it.... but first, recon.  After lapping me, I decided to stick with her and confess.  She said right away that she didn't care and that it's normal to want to win... and we became friends.  We started talking about running (well mainly me) and that went on and on for quite a long time.  After almost 2 hours, I decided to take an easy lap and start running with her after she caught up, and then we chatted again.  This time, being the last hour plus change, she needed 4 laps to get to her goal of 60 miles, and so I calculated the time for her and we figured out that she had a good shot at getting 61.25 miles, so we went for it.  Finishing with about 5 minutes to spare, we both had a blast and it was a great time getting to know her!

Conclusion:

Quads and calves were sore from the race so I definitely need to work them out a lot more.  Form was good throughout the race, but I need to also work on my upper back as it was sore from keeping my back straight throughout the race.  I tried to get through the race without pickle juice.... but I'll put that in my diet because I think it would have helped alleviate some of the soreness my legs got in the first 30 miles of the race.  Overall, the storm didn't really affect me, so mentally I was okay, but the post-midnight run definitely hurts me mentally, so I'll need more work on that somehow... I'll definitely have to add more miles for training.  As always, RUTS was spectacular, I'd love to race all the races, but always have other things going on, so will get in as many as I can!  Really appreciate my sister and her husband, as well as the aid station and timing crew.  They were all so encouraging.  Also appreciate all the runners.  No matter what, they were all encouraging and kept on pushing.  It was awesome to experience a thunderstorm with them and still run through it.  Finishing a strong 63.75 miles and winning was nice too... but the nicest part of the race was meeting everyone and enjoying the time I was able to spend with everyone.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Run4Water Race Report

It's been too long since my last blog post/race report but here's something worth sharing.  If you're wanting to go to the race report, just skip to the Race section of the post.  I'm a story teller and I love my stories~

The Planning:

Normally, when running a race, I have this one question:  How can I perform at my best?  However, this race was completely different.  This was the final shot to qualify for the US National team.  It was my only chance to run in the World Championships for the 24 hour race!  Looking back at my training, I understood that with my current ability and training, I would probably finish a 24 hour race with between 135-140 miles.  However, in order to qualify for the team, I calculated that I would need 153 miles, given the talent of the field and who already was in the top 6.  That was 13-18 more miles than I was physically able to do... which meant one thing.  I either just do my best and be happy with a PR, or go balls to the wall and hope I don't blow up (I'd give it a 10% likelihood of success... probably less).  My question for this race was this:  Am I willing to risk not finishing the race because I ran with a pace faster than my body could possibly handle?

Obviously, I answered yes.

I have a dream and I'm willing to do what it takes to get there.  I was willing to 'look bad' or 'fail' or just have a real bad race if I had just a glimmer of hope for success.  In order to do so, I needed to plan to succeed and hope my body followed the plan.  Studying a few professional runners and their pacing patterns and then applying my own personal variables, I calculated that I would need to run this race with 4 phases.  Phase 1:  Run the first 5 hours at a 7 miles per hour.  Phase 2:  Run the next 7 hours at 6.5 miles an hour.  Phase 3:  Run 10 hours at 6 miles an hour.  Phase 4:  Run the final 2 hours at 5.5 miles an hour.  Obviously, this would only result with 151.5 miles, but I assumed I would go a little fast and get the miles needed and get to approximately 153 miles by the end of the race.  Perfect planning!  I studied Yiannis Kouros as he made the 24 hour world record and looked at his pacing and created my own plan for success, assuming my body could handle a faster than anticipated pace.  I wasn't really worried about the first 5 hours.... I wasn't even worried about the first 10 hours, but after that, I didn't know what my body would do as with my own planning, I would be up 6 miles more than where I suspected my body was capable of doing.  However, there was no turning back.  This was not a race for running as best as I could.  It was a race to see if I could handle a USA Team qualifying standard.


Preparation:

Due to my shoes untimely 'death' I scrounged 12 pairs of my Asics Gel Lyte 33 3s as these shoes matched my feet well and I have never gotten blisters from them... however, with all the miles they had on them and some of them being tattered up in an early demise, It would be rough on my feet... but outside of that, here's what I got!

KT tape - taped the bottom of my feet and ankle as there would be swelling, I needed the stability and compression
Injinji toe socks - best thing ever!  Extra help to prevent blisters
your average socks - second layer of protection
Nike Combat compression shorts - the best anti-chafing compression shorts ever!
Adidas running shorts - I do like the color black for running!
Underarmour compression shirt - in case it got a little too cold and no armpit chafing
tech shirt - breathable and red, fav color!
Asics Running Gloves - because I have delicate hands... not! I do get cold hands when running
Sinister 7 Buff - keeps my head warm AND holds cold water when it's warm
ipod shuffle - because sometimes, running around in circles gets a little boring
Focus 100 earphones - helps them stay in and don't have to worry about them giving your ears too much pressure
Sword and UD waterbottles - gotta keep my drinks in something!
SWORD - the best electrolyte/energy replenishing product I've ever taken that hasn't upset my stomach
water - splash myself, or drink
Coke - because we all need caffeine
Red Bull - because some caffeine is better than others....
Peanut Butter Crackers - best small source of energy that I would need throughout the race
Ben Gay - gotta keep my muscles loose!
Vitamin B pills - get some vitamin!
Aquaphor - because raw skin isn't fun to run with
extra jacket and other warmer clothes as well as some extra shorts


The Plan:

Outside of running the 4 Phases, it was rather simple.  My lovely little sister Maika was crew captain and she made sure that I got what I needed!  Each mile, I would walk for 20-40 seconds and during that time, I was given everything I needed.  During that time, I could recover, re-calibrate, and start anew!  Every mile, I was to receive a drink (rotation between water, SWORD, and Coke).  Every other mile, I was to receive two peanut butter crackers.  Every 3 hours, I needed a shoe change pit stop.  I also needed to know how fast I was going so I could figure out if I need to speed up or slow down.  During normal eating hours, she would ask me what I may want for a meal, and basically treat me like a prince for that day.  She's really the best.  She handled all that and directed the crew to help me in whatever way I needed help and that's part of what makes the race go smoothly!


The Course:

In Lebanon, TN, around Winfree Bryant Middle School, a small 0.50849 mile loop stood.  Though it started out flat, over the course of a few hours, a few hills do seem to pop up as the slight inclines become more noticeable as your body gets attuned to the race, as well as some of those speed bumps... but nevertheless, a simple course designed for high mileage.  Average temps are just crazy great!  45-65 which is good running weather for most people (I like the 65 side better, but eh, it's cool)


The Race:

Phase 1: the first 5 hours

As I needed to go at a faster pace than originally anticipated, I just needed to hang on a little more and needed a good distraction.  Running the first 3 hours without headphones and the last 2 hours with headphones really helped me out.  I figured out I had a bigger breakfast and therefore didn't need the crackers and even had a bathroom stop the first hour without losing too much time (which meant I was going about 20-40 sec/mile faster than planned) but I slowed down and was able to get to where I needed to be by the second half of the phase.  I was a little more tired, and so I think I needed more running during my tapering phase of my training so that my legs wouldn't get too stiff from not running.  Everyone was saying I was going too fast, and though I was going slightly too fast compared to my plan, I knew that it was vital that I find a good rhythm and keep it and so I continued.  I finished a little more than 36 miles.

Phase 2: the next 7 hours

Coming down from 7 miles an hour to 6.5 miles an hour was rather nice, because in my original plan, I would've been here a lot sooner.  The relief was good and I was able to keep a decently consistent pace, but by the time it was 9 hours into the race, I had built an extra 20 minute buffer that I needed to use, so I decided to use it the last 3 hours of phase 2.  Part of me thought that this would be a good break, but another part of me was thinking that in doing so, it could possibly accelerate the downward spiral, so I was at a crossroad... or perhaps the impasse.  I chose to go down to 6 miles an hour and still meet the original plan's goals, but by the eleventh hour, I felt that exhaustion creeping in.  The change of plans and my speed had caught up.  I had no care to placing up til then (I had learned that I was first for a long time, but knew Jon Olsen was going to go at his leisurely pace and overtake me, which he did during the latter half of Phase 2) but my legs were telling me that I had pushed myself and that small glimmer of hope in making the team slowly flickered out.  I'm not much of a gambling man, but given the odds of me making the team before was 0, I knew that taking the chance was a no-brainer.  However, it seemed like at this point, my body rejected the idea and I was out of tricks.  I believe I was at about 80 miles

Phase 3/4/Finish:

Unfortunately, after the heroic tale of the first 12 hours, my body was done in and the choice was now to walk to my 100 miler or to stop.  I talked with my crew and they suggested I continue on towards that 100 mile and take that 5 hours to finish... but even then, with their encouragement, my willpower depleted as I no longer had a true goal, I slowly faded.  Of course, by fading, I meant, I had a nice 30 minutes massage which to my crew was a hilarious show of me yelping, jerking, making other unreasonable noises, but it was fun.  I knew the odds were not in my favor (thanks Hunger Games) but I knew that in not attempting that, I would be cheating myself of that opportunity and I would regret that.  At 87 miles, I decided that it was time for me to drop and thus go home to a lovely 4 hour nap before going through the next day limping and hanging out with my awesome family and friends.


Conclusion:

Did I run a good race?  Nah.  Do I regret running as I did?  Never.  Did I learn something?  Yes!  My training quality worked but my quantity needed more improvement.  As always, I'm happy to be with my running family and meet new people and make new friends.... it was an enjoyable occasion.  Thanks to Greg Armstrong for being an amazing host/director/dude/runner/friend.  The course was amazing.  Thanks to my sister Maika for captaining the crew, and all my other crew-mates, for helping her out and helping me tremendously.  There is no way I could do any of these races as good without you guys helping and dealing with me.  Thanks to SWORD for sending me an amazing care package and allowing me to use their products.  No stomach issues means high mileage!  Can't wait to show you guys off!

So much happened that day and I am happy to be able to share the road with some of the greatest athletes in the USA.  Good news is that I have 2 years to get ready for the next world championship... but I think I'll just take 6 months of training and take a stab at the USA National Title.  This race may be the end of a phase, but I'm already on the next phase and excited to see what happens now.

Side note:  Run4Water is a non-profit organization that serves to help the water crisis going on in the world by raising support and awareness through these running events.  Pretty cool organization.  You should check them out!

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

24 Hours of HOSTELity

Dahlonega, GA - January 16-17 -  A .65 mile dirt loop trail with over a 100+ feet of elevation gain per loop with the main aid station at the Hiker Hostel.  The course seemed to be specifically designed to make even the sturdiest of hearts waver.  It wasn't just the elevation gain per loop, but the fact that with rolling hills and switchbacks, it made it hard to maintain a consistent speed.  In fact, nobody had yet seen anyone finish a 100 miles on this course!!

And here I was, aiming to be the first.

GEAR:

4 pairs of Asics Gel Lyte 33 3
Injinji socks with a generic sock covering it
Nike Compression Shorts
Adidas shorts
Long Sleeved Underarmour Compression Shirt
2 T-shirt
2 Long sleeved shirt
2 light jacket (generic)
Heavy jacket (generic)
Asics running gloves
OR PL 400 Sensor Mitts
Bandana
Petzl NAO Headlamp
Garmin Forerunner 310 XT
KT tape
Ben Gay

NUTRITION/HYDRATION:

Each lap would be .65 miles, so I figured that the best thing at first for me to do was to hydrate and eat every 2 laps until I noticed that I was dehydrated or something.  I would switch out with water and pedialyte and keep that until night time, when I would supplement coke in the mix and then I would add Red Bull before I became exhausted.  Every hour, I would take a swig of pickle juice, and eat PB&J cracker sandwiches every 30 minutes... but like all plans, things were bound to go crazy... after all, it was a 24 hour race, and ANYTHING can happen, so I reminded the crew that these were only guidelines.

RACING STRATEGY:

I had the fortune of running the 12 hour race last year, and was mentally prepared for the course and how I would feel after the first half, so all I needed was to make sure to run in the 'designated areas' that I preordained (all downhills and most easy uphills while walking all the steep climbs).  In order to get down the extremely steep hill, it was important that I run extremely fast so that I don't tear up my quads by running too slowly and expend too much energy stopping myself, and on the uphills, I needed to pick and choose my battles because I wanted to finish the race with absolutely nothing left to give... and what would be the point if I can't run any more downhills but had more than enough energy to continue up?  It was all about a perfect balance and being able to adjust to whatever came my way.  (side note:  every 3 hours, I changed shoes...  my feet definitely needed the relief it provided).  The most important thing, however, was my state of mind.  My theme for this year is JOY and it was necessary that I implement that in my running... which is why I told my crew to randomly ask if I was enjoying the race and having fun.  Keep my mind in check.  Joy meant that I was focusing on my purpose, and without that purpose, I would not have the strength.  I was made to run, and I enjoy every moment, both good and bad, because running fulfills me.  Not only was it important for me to have that overflowing joy, but it was important that those around me also received the fruit and so every person I met on the trail, I made it a goal to encourage them.  Share the joy~

Find a place inside where there's joy, and the joy will burn out the pain.
-Joseph Campbell

CREW:

Speaking of crews, I had 3 wonderful ladies come along with me to help support me during that race, and in all honesty, I could not have finished as well as I did without each of them helping me out every single lap I went through.  As a seasoned runner, I was a little too relaxed and didn't fully prepare them with what may come and they had to deal with me at my worst and continued to support me as I fought against the inner demons that held me down in the night.  Camille, Mekinna, and Claire (all my cross country runners from Johnson University) came to support me and experience the ultra community, and made sure that I was properly taken care of, both physically and psychologically.  They made sure to encourage me and relay messages from other people who knew I was running throughout the race to keep me going.

and without further ado, the Race Report!


First 6 Hours:

Arriving 10 minutes before the race started, everything was a blur, but what I do remember was that the starting temperature was a bit too low so I kept my light jacket on as I ran the first lap.  The first lap was a good warm up, getting myself ready for the race, and by the time I finished the first lap, I threw off my light jacket and continued on, leading the pack of crazy runners!  The second lap, I came through and threw off the long sleeved shirt, leaving me with just the underarmour and t-shirt, and continued on... but this time, at a little more conservative pace, and Sean passed by and started leading the pack.  I was slightly alarmed because he looked good and seemed like a great runner, but I came back to and focused on my race.  This wasn't about beating everybody.  It was all about giving everything I had in the 24 hours I would be on the course.  After the first hour and a half to two hours, I noticed that I wasn't sweating as much, and as that's a sign of dehydration, I decided right then and there that I would drink water every lap except on every 4th lap, where I would drink pedialyte.  Proper hydration is important no matter where you are in the race.  I also threw away the notion of eating every 30 minutes and instead, ate two crackers every other lap until I felt like I had enough in my belly for the time being.  For the first six hours, I was constantly worried about the downhill because it was really steep.  Every time I went down, I felt as if I was going to slip on the mud and fall, but fortunately, I was able to make it through without falling.  As an ultra-marathon required a lot of mental strength, it was important for me to focus on each segment while recognizing I'm running a full race, so for the first 2 hours, I focused on taking it easy.  I knew when to run and when to walk, so I was confident in what I could do, and took it little by little.  After 2 hours, I felt like I understood my fitness level and what I was capable of, and decided that I would kind of go for a 50 lap average in the first 6 hours, and then go from there.  At about 4 hours, I was still second with 32 laps, but told my crew I was feeling great and was going to little by little focus on catching up with Sean.  By the end of 6 hours, I had finished about 49 laps I think, and my mind was in a good place and I was enjoying the race and ready for the turnaround.

Second 6 Hours:

Every 6 hours, the course switches directions and I knew I enjoyed this direction so much more than the way we started because I would get to run most of the course as soon as I got to the highest point of the course and so focusing on catching up with Sean, little by little, I built speed.  Without focusing on the full 24 hours and focusing on smaller goals, a load was lifted off my mind and it became a really fun game.  I would find someone on the course ahead of me and look at my watch and see how many seconds behind them I was and see how long it took me to catch up to them (At 6pm, I added coke to the drink mix and started wearing the headlamp and kept on going).    With all the switchbacks, I was able to play this 'game' and continue running around and making up ground until at some point I caught up to Sean and before I knew it, I was headed towards breaking my 12 hour course record for the 12 hour race!  Enjoying the moment I was in, I was able to relax and run well and continue at a decent pace and was WAY ahead of schedule to break a 100 miles!!  In fact, at that point, I changed my goal from running a 100 miles to getting 160 laps in, which would put me at 104 miles, which would be a pretty awesome goal, and with 80 laps in by about 10 hours into the race (considering the difficulty of the course), I knew I might be able to make it to that point.  After beating my 12 hour course record with 30 minutes left, and so I felt that I could get to 94 with no problem.... however, that all changed on my 95th lap when one of the 12 hour runners wanted to make it another lap after the cut off.  At the pace he was going, he probably wouldn't have been able to make it and I really wanted him to succeed, so I told him to follow me and pushed the pace and trucked it all the way to the end, finishing with about 15 seconds remaining.

Third 6 Hours:

After having such a great run and making a PB for the HOSTELity's 12 hour course, I had no immediate goals and so things started to fall apart.  The headlamp I put on at about 6pm begin to go out at about 10pm because I accidentally put it on the wrong setting, and fortunately, Vikena lent me her headlamp, and I continued on... but not feeling good.  My crew told me I was walking like I was dizzy and tired and so close to 11pm, I asked for my iPhone and Mekinna walked a third of a lap with me as I got the music ready.  I was progressively feeling worse, not sure if I didn't have enough caffeine in me or not, but either way, things weren't going right, and at a little after midnight, I felt completely wiped out that I stopped and changed my clothes, hoping that it would make me feel better.  It did feel better, as the clothes I had on were sweaty and gross, but still not enough to get me out of the funk, and then after that, Vikena's headlamp also ran out in the next lap, but fortunately, Claire had her headlamp that her dad bought for her (Thanks so much!!) and it provided light for me for the rest of the race!  My crew knew that I was going through a tough time, but they kept on encouraging me and did their best to bring me out, so it was definitely the toughest part of the race.

Final 6 Hours:

At this point, my watch was running out of batteries and I needed my watch just to keep track of time so I could keep a decent pace... but with everything moved around, the watch was lost and I wasn't able to tell how fast I was going!  Mentally it was devastating, and I didn't know what to do... except to go on, because I knew that no matter how I felt, I needed to press on, so running without knowing how fast I was going, I kept trucking.  I meant to take a look at the time after every lap, but most of the time, kept on forgetting to do that, or blankly stare at the clock because I wasn't computing what it was saying.  Also, for the first time, I experienced hallucinations of my crew running around in the woods.  I knew they weren't, but man, I must have been so tired to even think that.  By then, both quads were in pain from the downhill running that I could barely keep a good pace and I did my best to push through because every lap was getting me closer to 100 miles, which was 154 laps.  Sean looked so much better towards the end of the race and encouraged me to keep on trucking and so I ran with him for a lap right at around 6am, til I had to switch shoes for the last time... it was such a relief to switch shoes again and get back out there, but my quads were getting worse and worse, and for some reason, I kept calling them Chris (who names their quads Chris?) and thinking about why I was thinking about it kept me distracted long enough to continue shuffling forward, running each lap somewhere between 10-15 minutes (compared to the sub 7's I would crank out at the beginning of the race.... haha) and though at first, I thought I may just be able to get to 100 miles before the 24 hours were up, every lap, I forced myself to focus on THAT lap and do my best and continued to surprise myself on what speed I was getting it in, and finished 100 miles in 22:10!!  It was a glorious feeling as nobody had run that far in 24 hours, so for a moment, I forgot about the pain as I received the first 100 mile buckle HOSTELity has seen and then I continued on towards my personal goal of 160 laps... 4 more miles.  Continuing to shuffle run for 3 laps, I needed 3 more laps to finish, but my legs were shot.  By then, the sun had come up and I was feeling a bit better (I didn't think so, but my crew said so, so I believe them) and so I asked if my wonderful crew would like to view the course with me and walk the last 3 together as a team.  They were more than happy to do that and so we chatted the last hour of the race, talking about how everything went and how Chris was in pain, they climbed the hill with me, understanding how hard it was for me to do that the other 150+ times, and continued talking about what we all went through in the race.
It was really a great bonding time, and even though I felt like a jerk during the race, always wanting drinks, foods, etc, they were so helpful and told me it wasn't as bad as I thought and that was when I was absolutely grateful to have these 3 come and support me during this run.  I was able to muster up all the strength I could gather, finished the 3 laps with my amazing crew, and finished 104 miles at the 24 Hours of HOSTELity.  As I crossed the finish line, I raised my hands in victory because it truly was a brutal course, and with the help of everyone there, I conquered it.

Conclusion:

First of all, I could not have finished the race as well as I did without an amazing crew.  They kept on pushing me, despite how I felt, and I firmly believe that had they not been there, I wouldn't have been able to get 100 miles in during the race!  But because they were there, reminding me to enjoy the run, and understand that the pain I was going through was only temporary.  They continued to believe in me when I was feeling low, encouraging me in whatever way they could, dealing with 'grumpy Sho' and all with a smile on their faces.  Never for a second did they doubt I could do this, and I am positive that that energy passed on to me throughout the run.  Secondly, I couldn't have gotten through this race without the Race Directors, both Josh and Leigh Saint were very supportive and wanted me to succeed.  They made sure everything was prepared right, marking trails, food and drinks, everything was amazing!  There were also people like Philip, Vikena, and many other encouraging runners that really encouraged me throughout the race and really, everyone there was part of the puzzle piece to success.  It's great to have a family of runners supporting each other to do their best and that's what this race had.

Records are meant to be broken, and I'm sure someone out there will come down and break this record eventually, but the victory and strength I gained through this race was immeasurable.  Being the first race of 2016, it was a fantastic start, and I know I'm on the right track towards my ultimate goal.  Team USA for the 24 Hour World Championships... but hey, I'm totally going to enjoy every step of the way!

Focus on the journey, not the destination.  Joy is found not in finishing an activity but in doing it.
-Greg Anderson



Wednesday, September 23, 2015

The Power of Discernment

Our imagination is sometimes our greatest blessing, and yet it can also be a curse.  The ability to see the possibilities of the future allows us to change how we act today, but we have a hard time harnessing the power to do so.  At times, the immediate future has a greater impact on what we do right now that we fail to look at life in the distant future.  The present has the most impact on what happens, and the near future is becomes the present so rapidly that because of instant gratification, we 'lose' ourselves and make decisions that affect us in the long run.

In the end, we only do what we want, and our choices will impact both our immediate and distant future, yet our problem lies not in understanding what they will cause, but how important it is to us.  Is it important for us to prioritize what is significant or not, whether our current situation is more important than the future beyond today, and our ability to discern becomes valuable.

For example, should we be dehydrated and the only drink available is a bottle of Mt. Dew, it would be illogical for us to not drink that because the drink isn't healthy and will affect my future running negatively because we are in need of something to replenish our reserves right now.  At the same time, if we were given the choice to drink water or coke and we decide to choose coke, yet we claim to be training hard towards becoming a healthy individual, it may taste good, but it takes us a step back from our goal.

Or perhaps our problem is with our social life.  Helping someone may mean you take a step back from their life because in continuing to help, you do them a disservice, stunting their growth.  It may mean pain, but through that pain, growth can occur... while at a totally different moment, helping someone may mean doing everything you can for them and serving them to raise them up because that is what is needed now.

You see, without discernment, we cannot make the best decisions and will not be able to help those that need help... or help ourselves perhaps because we are imbalanced.  At times, we will be too distant focused that we forget about the things we can do now to help the situation right now.... yet at another time, we will be too focused on our here and now that we end up making the wrong decisions for the future.

What we do right now will impact our future, both near and far, but it shouldn't affect who we are.  Should we remain focused on who we are, our identity guides us to make the correct decisions.  Our knowledge and understanding of the situation should give us discernment... and when we live beyond ourselves and understand the bigger picture of life... we can truly live.

So run to finish what you've started.  If the immediate future will impact your finish, make sure you make decisions that are wise that can change that future, but also keep in mind that the distant future is also important too, so that as you continue the race of life, you can finish what you started and live life to its fullest.


“Let discernment be your trustee, and mistakes your teacher.” 
- T. F. Hodge

Saturday, August 29, 2015

The First Lie

No one is going to know...

Halfway into my 20x400 speed drills, the thought entered my mind.  It was in the back of my mind as I finished the 8th 400m loop, and so my 9th loop had become slower.  My initial goal was to keep each 400m loop at under 1:20, which would be a sub 5:20 mile pace, and it would be very challenging.  After focusing on the 24 hour races, I lost a good bit of speed and needed to catch up with one of my Cross Country runners before October.

After each 400m lap, I would take a break to get back to about 90% as I was working on my top speed, and then go again.  At first, it was a little bit uncomfortable, but definitely doable, but after the second mile was over, my legs felt a little harder, and mentally, I wasn't feeling that good.

Then the voice came into my head.  

No one is going to know if I stop now.  I'd still get a good workout from just getting in 10 laps.  It's good enough.

The greatest discourager, the greatest enemy is usually ourselves, and at this time, I was convincing myself that what I had done was good enough... which was actually true.  Doing the 10 laps will make me faster, and technically, it was good enough.  After a 3 mile warm up and 2.5 miles of speed drills, it was good enough... 

At that moment, I was at a crossroad.  I could choose the easy way out, get some of the benefits and get out feeling pretty good about the workout... or I could choose to continue on and push myself hard and get myself to a point of near exhaustion.

We often come to the crossroads when things get tough.  Good enough is the enemy of greatness, and most people are okay with being good enough.

But there was one problem.  It started with a lie.  Somebody does know if I stopped halfway.  I would know.  If I accept my current status and walk through the door of 'good enough,' I would become a good enough runner, a good enough person.  However, my standards are different.  I know I can be good enough.  I know that it is easy to be good enough, or to be pretty good, but I also know that my goal isn't to become good enough, but to be the best I can be, and in stopping half way, I let that go.

The true test of a man's character is what he does when no one is watching.
-John Wooden

I don't wake up every morning ready to go pound out miles.  I don't go to every speed drill ready to take on the world.  I don't have anyone around me that forces me to do these things, to encourage me to push on... and it gets tough.  I know the workouts will be grueling, and nobody really WANTS to be exhausted... but I WANTED to become better, to become the best, and that meant that I needed to overcome the thoughts in my head and push forward.

After the thought came into my head, I shook that away.  I decided to raise the bar, raise my standard.  Instead of going for a sub 1:20, I would go for a sub 1:15, pushing a sub 5:00 mile for the last 2.5 miles.  I pushed on, I tired, but I thrived at every lap, pushing my limits aside and creating new ones.  I pushed hard, and as the laps I had to do went down, I became faster and faster, finishing the last 400m at a 1:08.  My legs were shot, and I was tired... but I was also satisfied.  I had battled my inner demons and won.  The 3 mile cooldown was nothing because I didn't have to run fast.

I'm a fighter, and though I may not win every fight, I will continue to struggle as I progress.  There will be mental walls, physical walls, emotional walls... but as long as I continue to struggle, I come closer to achieving my goal... as long as I don't give up on myself, there will always be that chance that I can make it to the end.

Today, I pushed aside the lie as I pushed myself.  I finished the 20x400 with an average of 1:14, a big step closer.  As I win these battles, I solidify my character, as I solidify my character, I become stronger, and as I become stronger, I come closer to achieving my goal.

Keep your heart in the game and your eyes on the prize.
-Nathania Gutierrez

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Am I Useless?

"I don't feel like I should come back here anymore, I just feel like I'm so useless.  I can't do anything, and I don't want to be a burden to anyone..."

A lonely older lady sat crying at the foyer, explaining to the greeter and I about how she no longer felt that she could do anything to help aid the church.  She felt that though her heart was there, her body could not keep up and so she felt she could not do anything.

Sometimes, life hits you hard.  It slams you down and you feel that nothing you could do you begin to doubt yourself.  You feel that any action you do is worthless.  You become... useless.

My heart went out to this lady and the greeter and I both hugged her as we talked and listened to what she had to say.  It was really sad for me to hear that she was so willing to do so many things yet she felt shackled and unable to do so much.  She wanted a way to go out and be a part of the congregation and do something... but her own body prevented her from being able to take hold of that...

Some races, I hit a wall and I can't overcome it.  The last race, I was in so much stomach pain that I could not make the full 12 hours and had to drop down to a 6 hour race, and that hurt a lot.  I felt useless, all that hard work... worthless.

If the moment we find our purpose is the moment we start living, then the moment we lose our purpose... it must be the moment we start dying.  When something happens which causes us to lose our purpose, we begin to feel useless.  What we once did is no longer important, and what we can do now is meaningless.

Doubt can be good when one overcomes it, but when it overcomes you, your burden becomes massive.  When you see that all your efforts are in vain, that what you do will not bear fruit, the hope seeps out and you're down.  You feel as if nothing can bring you up.

But there is hope.

The greeter and I and a few more people came together to lift her up.  We encouraged, we motivated.  We smiled and we hugged.  Her eyes, once wet with tears now were sparkling as her face was smiling.

It's the people around you that God provides that lifts you up when you're down.

A friend is what the heart needs all the time.
-Henry Van Dyke

Usually, in the morning, I am leading Sunday School, but this morning, there just happened to be no teenagers and so I sat and talked with the greeter and this responsibility came up... There is no such thing as coincidence or fate.  Just blessings.

We are meant to be a blessing to those around us.  A light in the darkness, a helping hand in times of need.  We look to help those in need, and be there for them.

Whether it be a race or life, it's the people you let lift you up that gives you the strength to find that hope... and with hope comes faith, and faith, belief, and belief... life.

I talked to her about how she felt and asked her if there was anything she could do, and to that she replied, "Prayer."  Her heart was in the right place, her beliefs were in the right place.  Despite what was going on, she still loved everyone and had a heart for those around her.

Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.
-I Peter 4:8

Love truly gives meaning, and when there is a family that gives love and continues that, and as Charles Dickens says, "no one is useless in this world who lightens the burden of it to anyone else."  The path she chose right now is to pray, to give her heart, to share her story, and though it may not have been the path she originally was on, for now, she's decided to walk this path and live.