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Wednesday, December 31, 2014

New Year's Resolution: Be the 8%

Obviously, not all statistics are true, but it has been estimated that only 8% of those that make a New Year's Resolution actually is successful in keeping it through the whole year.  No wonder only 45% of the people in the United States actually make New Year's Resolutions.  The likelihood of you succeeding is pretty rare... statistically speaking, but statistics do not have to define whether you succeed or not.  Also, people who publicly and purposefully make their resolutions are 10 times more likely to achieve their resolutions than those who do not.

So how can you make sure you're the 8% and not the majority of people who make resolutions and fail to achieve them?  Honestly, every individual is different, and every goal one has is also different.  However, I believe that the goals each person makes are divided into two types.  The first is what I call an achievement goal.  You're giving yourself a time limit in which you are to accomplish a certain task that is measurable.  In a New Year's Resolution, an example would be to lose 30lbs in a year.  The second is what I call a lifestyle goal.  Instead of a time limit, you're adding or taking away something in your every day routine, and create a new habit.  In a New Year's Resolution, an example would be to stop drinking soda from this day forth.

Understand what you are trying to do and then decide whether you want one type of goal or another type.  I prefer to attempt the lifestyle goals because to me, achievements are great, but they are only steps towards my main goal.

Anyway, after understanding what you are truly going for, then here are the 3 steps to success.

Be Truthful to Yourself

One of the hardest things I've had to do was to accept myself at where I am.  As a long distance runner, I need to know where I am and what physical potential I have.  I hear a lot of other people tell me where they think I am, how fast or strong I am at running, but in all truthfulness, the only person that knows me best is myself.  I know exactly how much I've run, how much I've gone to the gym and exercised, I know every training detail.  Overestimating myself often ends up with me going too fast and ending up running out of energy.  Running a strong 70 miles in a 100 mile race means nothing when you still have 30 miles to go.  The fact is that if I accept myself as I am, I have the best chance at finishing the race in the best possible manner, finishing the full 100 miles at my best.

In the same way, when you are making a New Year's Resolution, it is vital that you are truthful to yourself.  You have to start at the beginning.  You must know where you are right now, in the present.  If you don't know where the starting point is, how are you going to get to the finish line?  How are you to take steps towards success?  Accept where you are, and you're already way ahead of the 92% of the people that make these New Year's Resolutions.  When you're being truthful to yourself, you also have to be truthful and realistic on your potential, what you are capable of doing, and how much you can grow.  The more you know yourself, the better you will be able to judge your own capabilities.  If you don't know your own abilities, or refuse to accept it, then you will not be able to move forward.  It's only through understanding your strength and weaknesses can you truly grow effectively and achieve your goals.

Make Each Day Count

The thing about running a 100 miler is that each step forward you take, you are closer to the finish line.  Every single step you take can take you closer to the finish line, and the accumulation of each and every one of those steps gets you to the end of the race.  Now, to me, it's a little too much to think of the whole 100 miles all at once from the beginning, because it's just way too much pressure.  I like to divide the race up into 6-8 mile increments and focus on that.  However, sometimes, even that may seem too much, so while I have the 6-8 mile increments in the back of my mind, I focus on running the most efficient mile I can run.  Each mile I run takes me to the 6-8 mile increment, and each increment I do gets me closer to the finish line.  Making each mile the most efficient mile possible, I am able to connect the miles together to make the most efficient increment.  Each increment I put together, I am able to create the best 100 mile race... only because I focused on each mile, making every mile count.

In achieving your New Year's Resolutions, although it may be important to keep the end in mind, should the end be so far away, divide everything up into what you're suppose to do each month, and then further divide everything up and make each day count.  The accumulation of those effective and efficient days will make way to a good habit, which in turn will shape you and continue the momentum and allow your months to become effective, and in turn, by the time the end of the year comes, each day you commit to your goal adds up and the you will be able to reach that high goal.  In my 100 mile analogy, if I want to go further, I can focus not just on every mile, but each and every step, because with every efficient step, the mile becomes easy.  The reason is that the past cannot change.  It's already done.  The future isn't here, and you can't really do anything about it, except to prepare for it.  The most important time you have is the present, because it is THIS moment right NOW that you can make a difference, you can take a step, and instead of looking back or forward, and putting your energy into the here and now, you are able to put it all in a place where you can make a difference.

The Drive and Plan

No matter what sport you play, if you add a strong spirit or drive to your set amount of skills, you will rise to a higher level.  If you add a good plan alongside the drive, your level of competition rises to an even higher level.  In order to achieve any sorts of goals, it is very important to have both the drive and plan.  The drive is the force that allows you to maximize your skill set to its full potential.  The plan is a map, a path where you can effectively move forward to your goal.  Knowing the obstacles and events that happen in your life, you can make a plan to get through them and effectively get to your goal.  When crossing a river, it would be unwise to jump first and then fight your way through the swift current to get to the other side.  Instead, it would be better for you to see the options that are before you and observe what you will go through and then take all your energy and follow the path you've thought up of.  

Obviously, a plan must be like a willow tree instead of an oak tree, a fluid guideline instead of set in stone, so that should anything unexpected happen, you are able to make your way around the problem.  I remember watching Bug's Life where a leaf fell and because their way of thinking was rigid, one ant had to lead the others around the leaf.  Keeping options open and remaining fluid allows you to accept what happens and quickly take the necessary steps to achieving your goal.  If you have a New Year's Resolution and have a proper drive and proper plan, you have a higher chance of success.  Remember that the Motivation will push you towards your goal, but the drive is the pull that gets you to your goal.  Most people make the mistake by believing that the motivation is what drives them forward.  Unfortunately, motivation will die out and you will get tired; however, if it is necessary for you to achieve your goals, the necessity pulls you to your goals because you MUST achieve it.  That Desire is the drive that you need to pull you up no matter how many times you get knocked down, and that drive is what continues to fuel you as you take the steps forward.

Regrettably, one day's worth of thoughts do not contain enough words and information to fully disclose how one can be the 8%, but my aim isn't to paint a perfect picture of how to achieve your goals.  My aim is to open eyes and help people understand and respect what it means to make a resolution.  The word 'resolution' is derived from the word 'resolve' and if your resolve isn't worth much, then go ahead, make a flimsy resolution that you probably won't achieve.  However, if you have the resolve and the dignity, and it is worth a lot to you, remember that as you make your resolution.  Take the proper steps and don't give it anything less than 100%.  A promise to yourself that you don't keep shows how little you respect yourself and your words.  If you are true to yourself, your actions should follow your words.

As for me and my New Year's Resolutions, I have a nice little list, but this is my main resolution, to become one of the top runners in the US. 

So here's my question to you all.  Are you going to be the 8% or the 92%?

I'm going to be the 8%

Friday, December 19, 2014

Desert Solstice 100mi and 24 Hr Race

For those that want to get to the race report, just go straight down to the bold title, otherwise, here's my story.

It was 6:00 in the morning on Tuesday, and I couldn't sleep.  In less than a week, I was going to run against some of the best runners out there.  Heart pounding, body sweating, I eventually became too exhausted and went to sleep and woke up a little after 8:00 to start my day.  Not only was I about to run against the monsters of the ultramarathon world, but I was running it without training as much as I ought to have, and that always was in the back of my mind... but looking back at it, I had important things I needed to do, and although this race was important to me, there are things in life that have greater importance to me than this race.  I didn't have the mileage, but I still was able to get my speed.  Got through the day, and went straight to bed, ready to wake up in the morning and drive down to Atlanta.

Wednesday, I woke up, finished packing, and drove straight down to Atlanta, meeting up with my friend Miriam who drove me to the airport.  Although I was a bit worried about bringing just a carry on, I knew there's no point in fretting because if I don't have something I need, I'll just get it when I get there.  One word to describe the trip from Atlanta to Houston.  Boring.  The person beside me had earphones, so I had to play sudoku and made a 10 race plans, as there were multiple scenarios due to my training up til then.  I got off at Houston, went to the next plane, and behold~ the older lady beside me was nothing like the first person, and I learned a whole lot about her life.  Several history lessons and life stories later, we arrived at Phoenix, AZ.  Pushing the older lady in a wheelchair to the baggage claim area, the older lady's sister made fun of her, calling her a cougar, and I laughed and met up with Alicia, who was kind enough to offer her home as my base during my stay in Phoenix.  After setting my things down, we chatted awhile and I went to sleep.

Thursday was a pretty chillaxing day, put together a 750 piece puzzle, bought the things I needed from Walmart, and then at night, I was hit by round two of anxiety.  I couldn't shake the feeling that I was about to embark on a journey with some of the best runners around... and I knew that I shouldn't put that kind of pressure on me... but I still came back to it.  I finally got to sleep at 4:00 and slept til about 8:00, and the rest of the day was filled with nothing but... absolute rest.  In the evening, I went to the dinner the race had for the runners, and talked to some of the runners and little by little, my heart rate subsided, and the nervous feeling went down a bit.  I began focusing on running my race, and went home a little more prepared.  I then decided that I would do the majority of packing in the morning, and before I went to sleep, started another 750 piece puzzle, and when my anxiety was gone, and my focus was peaking, I went straight to bed and slept.

The next morning, I woke up, head clear, changed into my running clothes, and got ready.  It's race time.

The Desert Solstice 100 mi and 24 Hour Race Report

Located at Central High School 400m Track, it's a simple course.  You just run around in circles until the time is up.  From the 300m mark to about 350, there were canopy tents set up so that runners could have their crew set there to make aide readily available during the race.  24 runners were going to compete in this adventure, and I was one of them.

My weapons of choice are as follows:
4 pairs of Asics Gel Lyte 33 3
1 pair of Hoka One One Stinson Tarmac, only used if my feet are too injured
1 pair of thin Injinji socks
1 pair of breathable socks
1 pair of underarmour briefs
1 pair of my lucky shorts
1 underarmour shirt
1 pair of Asics gloves
a nice breathable shirt
my black bandana
If it got cold, I had a sweater, jacket, warmup pants, and an extra pair of gloves ready to wear

The plan was simple.   Run 5 laps and either after my 5th lap or as I'm finishing my 5th lap, I would walk the 100 meters.  That would be a set.  Every set was roughly 1.25 miles, meaning that I would base my food and water consumption based off of that. 1st lap water, 2nd lap water and coke, 3rd lap water, 4th lap water, pickle juice, and banana, 5th lap water, 6th lap water and coke, 7th lap water, 8th lap water, pedialyte, food, and a dash of chia seeds.  I would repeat that until I reach 24 hours, or until I reach my 'limit' where I would have to choose between going further than my body would allow, hurting myself, or stop and run in the near future instead, not afraid to break my body down even more.  Every 20 miles, I would switch my shoes, and continue on as far as my body could go.

First 6 Hours:

The start of the race was simple.  We all started running and being boxed in at the beginning, I didn't exactly feel like staying here and wanted to be free, so I got ahead of the group and was free.  I didn't exactly know too many people at this race, so I wasn't exactly talking to too many people.  Right before the race started, I was getting to know a few, but only by name, and so I felt practically alone in this race.  I was definitely going too fast, and instead of controlling my pace, I let my competitive spirit take control of my pace.  Not a great idea to hit 7 minute miles for a few laps.  The first stop was expected for me, but not for everyone else.  Most everyone seemed to be going at a certain pace
for a longer period of time, but because I enjoy running faster, this was my style of running that I was comfortable with.  My body wasn't exactly ready for this race, but I was.  With the beginning of the race underway, my nervousness was gone, but in the back of my mind, I was wondering how much gas I had left in the tank.  Kept on running as much as I could, I knew I got this, but after about 3 hours, I was feeling the pain in my hips.  Running around the track one direction had my hips hurting and I it wasn't feeling good.  I wanted to run a lot, but this predicament was a new thing.  I didn't know what else to do but to continue.  As I did, I noticed that I wasn't in my best condition, and the race had only just begun!  I was like, 'Oh snap~' because it was way too early for this selfish prideful me to die... and then I did some reevaluation on things I need to do to get this race over with.
Problem 1:  It's cold.  I'm weak when it's cold, more sun is good, but I need more than that.  Answer 1:  Underarmour shirt.  I felt so much better my pace picked up.  Problem 2:  I need something to take my mind off of the pain.  Answer 2:  I can pop ibuprofen and hey, lets have some fun, and started talking.  As my mouth went wild, my pace got better.  Whenever I passed people or people passed me, I just said something, either encouraging or random stuff.  That kept me going for a good bit, but after a while, even that didn't cut it.  I needed to get a little happier.  So it hit me.  I asked Alicia and John to get me my iPhone case, iPhone, and earphones, and boom.  I put Happy by Pharrell Williams on repeat and started singing.  I may have started going crazy, but when you want to be happy, you gotta go for it.  By this time, my crazy rambunctious nature had heads turning and the awesome volunteers would cheer for me every time they saw me.  Gotta say I enjoyed the celebrity status, at the cost of my dignity, but hey, anything to get through the race alive right?  So I went through the first 6 hours of my run at about 40 miles, now having a lot of people cheering me up and allowing my mind to get through without me blowing up.

Second 6 Hours:

It wasn't like I had the hardest job in the world.  All I had to do was run around in 400 meter circles, or ovals... whatever they are.  Very simple, except that the second 6 hours seemed a little bit longer than I thought.  I mean, I was glad I was getting all these miles in, but I just really did not feel like continuing on with this charade and was actually tired.  Granted, I did have a lot of energy in my upper body to make awesome poses to the cameraman as he took a bunch of pictures, but man, I just wasn't getting through for some odd reason.  I was tired like none other, and if you know what it feels like the moment before you get those extreme cramps, I was waiting for it to happen like a ticking time bomb, and that there was no way out, my legs were going to explode in series of cramping, and I would have no hope... and boom, it hit me.  I remembered that I could always take salt tablets and stay ahead of the game and the only thing I would have to worry about it the fact that I hadn't trained properly and my muscles would be extremely fatigued.... but that's a problem for another time.  So from then on, I decided I'd take two tablets every 50ish minutes, and once again, from the depths of utter destruction and the gates of Crampland, I came back around with renewed energy (which honestly surprised myself.  Who knew that 30-40 miles a week could get you to run 8 minute miles on your 50th or 60th mile (which honestly was still a bad idea... but it felt so good~).  But renewed with salt and more promises of high blood pressure, I continued on this monotonous circular path with no end, and kept
going.  Also, I made a new mantra which I'm sure some of the runners heard me say as I started running with that renewed energy.  It went like this. "I'm a monster, I'm a beast" and I would say that over and over in a beat so that I would be able to work on my wonderful cadence.   Oh!  Forgot, there was a point in this race where I was dehydrated because when I go to the bathroom, I can check my water content by the color of my urine, and it wasn't clear.  At that point, I changed from 5 laps to 4 laps and that got my water balance back to where it needed to be, but also got my stomach filled with water.  It was my time to get back to business.  By this time, I had gotten to know the Canadian runners Dennene and Dave, as well as their whole crew.  They were a fun group of people.  Dave was going for the Canadian record and Dennene was aiming for 180km which could put her on the Canadian National 24 hr Team.  They were a fun lot and very encouraging, every lap was a good lap, because as I continued to run, I made more friends, and running is so much fun when you're among friends.  At the 12th hour, I finished around 79 miles, a personal record for 12 hours, and all that without training like I normally do... man I was excited... and a little nervous because my gas gauge said I was getting close to empty.

Third 6 Hours:

The last time I ran a 24 hour race, I was only able to get through 12 hours before having to do a long walk and slowing down.  This time, I continued on beyond the 12th hour and went strong.  I was still on course for a decent distance that I would have gone for with good training, but without that training, I needed to conserve my energy and make sure that I could get through alive... but the magic only lasted for 2 more hours... 2 glorious hours.  I was ecstatic that I got that far, but by then, I had about 10 miles to go to 100 miles, and I didn't have the energy I needed to get through.  I was in big trouble.  The outside of the arch of my right foot was in pain, and that wasn't a good sign.  Having only trained myself in speed came with a price on endurance.  I was in trouble, but I could still do one more thing.  I could make it to 100 miles and make a personal record as long as I cut it under 17:42, and so I needed to get through, and still had the time.  However, my mental strength was spent, I could not continue on and walked.  Fortunately, in my bad times, friends always seem to come around and help me back on my feet.  This time around, Dennene was the one who got me back to where I needed to be.  She pushed me hard and got me going one more lap at a time.  It was dark and getting colder.  I hadn't fully prepared on how cold it got, and my body started shivering, I needed to continue on if I wanted to finish 100.  My original pace had me getting to 100 miles at 16:06, but with this walk and lack of mental strength, making it under 17 was 'impossible' (not really, I bet I could have done it, I just made myself believe in that time of weakness that it was impossible and affected my pace).  After keeping up with Dennene who was just getting over her struggling point, I pushed myself through and finished 100 miles at 17:31:20, my personal best.  I finished that lap and did another partial and then sat down.  I was done running, but I wasn't done being at the race.  I still needed to cheer the rest of the runners out there on, til the 24 hours were up.  I didn't come to a 24 hour race to go home after a little under 18 hours, I came here for the whole race.

Final 6 Hours:

Displaying IMG_2026.JPGAfter changing into warmer clothes, I was still cold, but despite my weakened state and constant shivering, I ate warm soup and then went over to chat with my team and cheer everyone else on and then talk to Joe and some others as they came by to sit out the rest of the time after reaching 100 miles.  From then on, I went over to the Canadian group's crew, and cheered on Dennene and was sad to see Dave hurt his leg and walk to 200km, and sit out the rest of the race.  Focusing mainly on cheering Dennene but always cheering everyone else out there (Ed, John, Anders, Stacey, Katalin, Traci, Rich, and Hung), I did my best to encourage everyone to continue on and do their best.  It was a great moment to see Hung make his PR in the 24 hour race, and Dennene not only getting to 180km, but going all the way to 189.303km, which was far beyond what she went for.  John Cash went on to win the race at 154.519 miles despite having stomach issues.  I also had the honor of watching Katalin Nagy finish at 151.443 miles, a new American track record.  Ed finished yet another 100 miler, furthering his world record of most 100 miles done in a year and a couple more til 40... man, that's crazy.  Eric Clifton also made a new 6 hour age group record, making him a beast... everyone out there was truly a monster, pushing through obstacles in order to achieve their goals, and succeeding.

Now to look back and learn from the race... Puzzles are great for me.  I think from now on, the night before a race, I'm going to do a puzzle til I have to sleep.  Definitely will take my mind off of the race and allow me to sleep.  My pace at the beginning was too fast, but if I train harder, it would be perfect for what I want to run the race at.  I had a roller coaster of mental strength and weaknesses, and I allowed my past to affect my present and future, giving it more power than it should have.  It's very important that I remember that and believe with all my heart that no matter what disposition I may be in, I can do a lot, even the things I may perceive as impossible.  Salt tablets are great and I will use them from the beginning of the race, definitely will use them for all my races too!  I'm glad I made new friends.  I enjoyed learning from this race and I enjoyed how well organized the race was.  Thanks to Nick and his crew for a great race, and will definitely return to become one of the monsters running there in the next year or two.  I was encouraged by so many amazing people and will fine tune my unorthodox running method and become a stronger and faster runner.

As Winston Churchill says, "Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts."

I'm going to continue, and through both my success and failures, I plan on reaching higher heights and creating new limits... as well as making new friends.

Guess that's the end of my story, for now.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Endurance Running: The Mental Aspect

When running in an endurance race, the first half is completely different than the second half.  Although the distance may be the same, the harsh reality is that you are in an entirely different world.  Even elite runners get tired and slow down as the race progresses (and of course, when I speak of endurance races, I'm talking about 50-100 miles).  The fact is that in a 100 mile race, 50 miles in, you're halfway there in distance, but in time, you're not quite there.  Not are you physically tired, but your mind has also used its energy during that time.  Physically, we can train and become capable of running the distance, but most people who attempt at a longer race fails to think about the mental aspect.

Imagine how I felt at a 24 hour race.  It's past 1:00am and I've been running for 17 hours.  I'm almost at 100 miles but I still have about 7 more hours to continue my run.  It's a tough situation.  I want to keep going, but I'm so tired.  The sun's gone, the music isn't giving me the adrenaline rush, and every voice in my head seemed to say that I should stop because I've done enough.  My enemy in this situation isn't the course.  It's the fact that I start believing that I've 'done enough' and that it's okay.  Complacency and satisfaction is the greatest adversary in the middle of any endurance race.  If you feel as if you've done enough, then you incapacitate yourself and begin slowing down.

As I begin to believe in what I'm saying because I'm physically tired, I slow down and my minutes per miles becomes slower and slower, and each step I take becomes even more fatiguing, feeding the complacency that has been filling in my mind.  Now I'm trapped and think constantly about how tired I am and how much I've already done, and that it was okay to stop.  It's one thing to have something formidable to face you that you have to overcome, but when you fall into the trap of being satisfied with how much you've done, you have a hard road ahead of you.

To me, I believe that it's important to prepare various tactics to prevent yourself from falling into that trap.  The biggest thing for me is that goal.  With your eyes on the prize, and taking steps towards making that goal happen, it prevents you from being satisfied with how much you've done thus far, because you aren't done.  You still have the rest of the race.  Having a solid goal to focus on will definitely help, but it's not enough.  Part of having that goal is being able to look back at the training you've done, and understand that the training you've put into yourself has led you to today.  Every mile you ran, every mountain you've climbed, every trail you've gone on, you've gone through all the hardships to get to this point. With that kind of understanding, you can bring out more, because you start believing in your training when things get tough.  That you know you are capable of getting through it because of the past.  The past is what gets you to the present, and helps you get to the future.  Use it.  Another method I use is to have little phrases you tell yourself, so that you can hear the encouragement.  Words carry a lot of power.  It can change anything, and in saying it out loud, you think it, you hear it, you process it even further, and you become encouraged.  You know you are capable, and are able to take that extra step per minute and when you feel like it's over, the encouragement you give yourself is erased with your own words of encouragement.  The final thing I do is to listen to music.  Sometimes, people like me think too much, and the overthinking drains your mind so that you have nothing left to continue on.  In having music to distract you, you don't waste energy and focus on enjoying the experience instead of thinking about every step you're taking.

Of course, there are more things that you can do to help yourself, but I guess there's one more thing that I would like to add.  It's to listen to others, and encourage the other runners around you.  The community in ultramarathon running is phenomenal, and whether you're at an aid station or running alongside another individual, you will be surrounded by those that will cheer you on.  So to me, it's very important that you take encouragement from others, thank them, and give it to another.  It's this kind of community that helps me push harder, run longer, and believe in myself as I run.

So what can you do now before the race?

One thing I 'like' to do is to go on the terrain that I dislike and do it over and over again.  I really dislike hills, and hill repeats are the worst thing I can do to myself, because once I get up to the top, I have to go back down, and doing this for about an hour really pushes me too much.  For example, this past Tuesday, I went up and down a 224 meter  hill 17 times... not fun at all.  Running 5 miles up uphill and downhill is definitely not my type of training, but I wanted two things from that day.  The first is getting used to running up and down because the 100 miler I'm going to be running in is in the mountains, so there will be a fair share of those uphills and downhills.  The second was more important.  It was so that I could build myself up, a character building exercise.  Forcing to do the things I dislike, and pressing on despite how tired I was of the uphills and downhills, I am able to grow and continue despite the mental obstacles that were in my way.  If it was just purely physical, then I honestly believe it would be easy to get through, but because it was mental, I had to conquer it.  Having run a few ultramarathons, I know I am physically capable of running 5 miles up and down hills, but mentally, I'm not where I need to be, so I train not so that I can physically get through, but to mentally defeat myself, so that I have full control over myself.

During the hill repeats, I would encourage myself, and I had the fortune of having the Johnson baseball team do a couple hills with me too, so having that sort of encouragement, I was able to get through and accomplish so much more.  With that training under my belt, during my future race, I will be able to look back and know that I have what it takes to accomplish this race, that I am mentally capable of handling this, that this distance and this elevation change is nothing I can't handle... that it's possible.  With that hope, I can push on, and when you run your race, you too can have faith that the path you had in the past will give you the strength to push through today, so that tomorrow, you can look back and say that you did the best you could.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Week 1: Foundation Building

A week in the life of an endurance runner... 8/3-8/9

First of all, I don't run every hour I wake up.  I just wish that I could.  Haha.  But the thing is, most people don't know what it takes to be an endurance runner, and it's not too much.  It's just building a habit for yourself.  It's a lifestyle that supports me and as I live my life, I take steps towards my goals.  Here's a recap of the runs I did during this past week.

Sunday:  8.67 miles at 6:56 min/mile average, speed work trading off 1 mile easy with 2 miles hard.  12.52 miles at 7:10 min/mile average, just sped up as I went on.
Monday:  Led a running group, ran 1.66 miles at a 10:52 min/mile.
Tuesday:  10.33 miles at 7:42 min/mile, speeding up as I went on.  8.63 miles at 9:50 min/mile running with a running group at Haw Ridge, just a fun run and miles!
Wednesday:  12.04 miles at 8:26 min/mile.  I was dehydrated and was running back from dropping my car off at the shop, so it wasn't exactly the most fun I've had while running.
Thursday:  16.43 miles at 7:17 min/mile speeding up as I ran.  Rested over 24 hours since Wednesday's run, so I felt good and it was a night run in a park, so really easy to run fast.
Friday:  0 miles because it's my absolute rest day.
Saturday:  21.33 miles at 8:07 min/mile doing a big loop.  First 6 miles were extra slow so I wouldn't run out of water or energy during the later part of the day.  8.05 miles at 6:51 min/mile at the park speeding up as I ran on but I stopped because I developed a blister that popped.  No fun, but hey, that's one reason to stop.
Total:  99.5 miles

My original plan for the week was 70, but apparently, my legs are stronger because Mondays and Fridays are my break days and I'm able to somewhat recover on those days.  I've talked to quite a few people and have been told that if I can, I should just add more miles every week so that I would be able to maximize however many miles I could do in 24 hours.  Eventually, I'm hoping that I'll get close to running 200 miles of running each week... but we'll see what happens, haha.

After each of these runs, I would make sure to do a full body stretch, which is important because I want my muscles to fully recover for the next run.  Thursdays, I also lead a fitness group so we do a little more, so that'll be my core workout day.  I'm hoping to incorporate more push ups, crunches, pull ups, calf raises, and squats to my workout, but we'll see what happens as I get closer to my goal.  First stop, 103.8 mile race in GA, the Georgia Jewel.  Going to see how well I can do that, and I've got 7 more weeks to train for it!  The most important thing I want to come out with from that race is the psychological strength... but it would be nice to get the course record too!

As for meals, it's rather simple.  Unfortunately, I only eat three times a day, and eat pretty simply.  Breakfast consists of a generous portion of rice, 6 eggs with the yolk warm and runny mixed with soy sauce, and natto on the rice.  Packed with carbs and protein, I want to make sure I start out the day great.  Lunch and dinner would most of the time be rice with chicken or tilapia with assorted vegetables, and once in a while pasta.  Once a week, I try to eat something bad so that I would be able to visit my grandparents as they don't exactly eat the healthiest and I end up sick to my stomach because their instant food just kills me... but yeah.  Try to eat healthy all the time.  I only drink water (or unsweet tea) so not much other than that.

Of course, being a little on the serious side, I'm always researching online for ways that I could improve my training, change my race plan, adjusting my race training schedule, nutrition research... but other than that, my life is pretty normal.  I also would randomly read manga (Japanese comics) that have motivational characters, or I would just go on youtube and look up motivational videos that would encourage me as I go through my training.

Since training only takes out a little over 12 hours a week (so far), it isn't too much of a bother, and doesn't really intrude on anything else that goes on.  As the training gets harder and the 12 turns into 20 or 30 hours a week, then it starts affecting the other portions of my life, but thus far, I've been able to balance everything out.  The thing is, if you really want to become better, you put time and effort in it.  It doesn't matter if it's running, schoolwork, a relationship, learning an instrument, if you really care about it and want to improve as much as you can, you have to sacrifice a little to do your best.  I think that it's easy for me to do that because I'm a pretty simple person.  If I want to become a better runner, I will whole-heartedly go for it, because I'm that kind of guy.  I go where my heart wants me to go, and I will relentlessly pursue it because it matters to me, and I will take all the necessary steps to make it happen.  Having a dream of being one of the top endurance runners in the world, I feel like I have what it takes.  All I need to do is pursue it.

Hope everyone enjoyed reading a little about this one week of Sho-ness!

Thursday, August 7, 2014

The Unconventional Truth: DESIRE

I have run marathons to train for different races, I've run a few races that have gone beyond 100 miles, I have made a course record last month, running 123.775 miles in 24 hours, but I am your average everyday person.

I have never believed that I had exceptional talent when it came to running these endurance races.  I don't see how I could possibly have a gift when it came to running because I consider myself to be just the same as everyone else in the world.  The only gift I believe I have is the gift of music, learning to play most instruments I can lay my hands on... but when it comes to running... I don't think I'm any different than the person that's sitting across from me as I'm typing all this down at Starbucks.

There is one thing, however, that does separate me from others.  I have embedded in me this hunger.  It was a hunger that could not be satisfied because there was always something more I could do to reach higher, run faster, become stronger...

Running has been with me since 7th grade when I got bored of my soccer team and wanted to do something else. I joined Cross Country because it wasn't just a team sport, but also an individual sport.  In getting into it, I learned that the more I practiced, the more I could improve, and so I started practicing harder than the others, and push myself more... but I could only get to a certain point.  There was always somebody faster than me, someone with more talent.  Even with hard work, I could never beat talent... but I wanted to see how far I could go with the hard work I put in.  By the time high school came around, I was slowly going up and getting to the point where I would be able to somewhat be in the top 20, but there was always that one guy who had so much talent that he would beat every single one of us... but I was catching up.  In the summer, I would go out and run 10+ miles every other day, while doing push ups and calf raises so that I could become stronger.  I kept pushing myself harder and eventually became stronger... but I could still never catch up with the number one runner... who was also one of my good friends.

My senior year, we were able to go down to Guam to battle it out against all the other international schools in the Far East, and after getting 14th place, the next day we did the team relays, and I don't even remember how we did there... but the Sunday afterwards, our coach asked the team if we would like to run a half marathon, 13.1 miles.  I had never run a race that long and being curious, a couple guys and I decided that we would run it.  I finished in 1:37:23 at 10th place, and first in my age group, over ten minutes ahead of the second place individual in my age group.  I shook hands with the 1972 gold medalist Frank Shorter, who handed me my award, and that was the moment, I knew I had something.  The following year, when I came to America for college, I signed up, trained, and finished my first marathon at 12th place with a time of 3:11:38, 1st place in my age group.  Two years later, I trained for that same marathon and finished in 7th place at 2:56:05, 1st place in my age group... but even with the hard work, it seemed as if I was missing something.  There was so much intensity in the training, but the results weren't good enough for me.  After graduating college, a friend of mine told me about a 50 mile race in Atlanta, which would take place in 2 months, and being the not so smart individual that I am, I decided to sign up train, and run.  I finished in 58th place... and that hunger was there.  I knew I could do more.  I knew that I could get better, run faster, and finish stronger.

You see, the hunger that I found was my desire to see how far I could go.  I wanted to test my limits, break them even, and forge new ones.  From that point, I started studying about ultradistance races, trained and ran a few, and came to a point where that desire was pulling me to the next level.  I have talked to several amazing runners and have learned from them all, I have studied thousands of articles, some for facts, others for inspiration, and come out stronger but mentally and psychologically.  You see, I am but a normal person who is forging himself to become a monster.  In order to challenge the monsters that are at the top of the ultra running spectrum, I need to bring in everything I've got.  The results I have right now come from the thousands of hours of research, experimentation, application, training that I've put in.  It's not talent that drives me forward.  It's my desire.

My desire to grow and challenge myself in the best possible way to lead to the best possible result has slowly put me up to being able to compete against a few of the monsters in this side of the States.  Through my desire, I have been able to grow steadily, pushing my very own body to the next level, and achieved so much... and now I have the opportunity to start challenging the elite runners.  It could still be too early for me to challenge the monsters that 'rule' the world of ultramarathon running, but the fact is that my desire was able to get me up to that point where I have the opportunity to do so.  Talent is not the sole variable which allows an individual to compete at a higher level, especially in the field of ultra marathon distances.  It's the hunger within that drives people to greatness.

Desire gives strength to those who wield it.  It creates opportunities where there seems to be none.  Desire gives a boost to the individual's ability, sharpening their senses, pushing the unimportant things aside thus allowing more energy to be used for the individual's journey towards their goal.

When I was in middle school, I was an avid reader, reading a dozen books a week, and taking in everything each book had to offer.  The biggest thing reading has done for me was helping me understand that there is always a bigger picture, an 'outside of the box' way of thinking.  If we nurture our minds, it can create anything, and make impossible things exist.  The more we learn about rules, we learn how we can break them, and because of that, it's now possible to fly to the moon.  Impossible was a limit that people set, but creativity allowed others to break those rules and create new ones.  Desire is one of the driving forces that allows the impossible to become possible, and the best part about it is that we all have that potential.

Whether it be running a 100 mile race at an elite level, or finishing a paper with 1 hour left before midnight, the stronger the desire is, the the greater power it gives you.  If you want it as badly as you want to live, you will find away.  Haven't you always wondered how there are families in this world that can barely survive because of the lack of income, but when something tragic happens and there's a great need for money, they are somehow able to raise enough money to get through.  The thing is that if there is enough desire, the laws of this world do not apply.  Desire is the fuel for success, and if you desire success badly, there isn't anything in the world that can stop you.

We all have the potential of using that desire to fuel us to our success, however, the problem with most people is the lack of desire, the unbelief, the weak willed and 'realistic' people who deem various things impossible.  It's great that you may be realistic, that you may listen to how logic states that certain things are impossible, but completely living in that world puts a lid to your growth potential.  It pushes dreams down, and growth becomes minimal.

So how can you tap into your desire?  How can you break away from the realistic and logical world that we live in?  If we let go of everything and stop differentiating between the realistic and unrealistic, it's as if the world we live in could fall apart.

Realistic and unrealistic doesn't draw a line between possible and impossible, and most people seem to forget that.  Sure, being unrealistic may seem impossible, but in actuality, it falls under the category 'improbable' which is a subcategory of possible.  Understanding that simple thing can help a few people take a step towards allowing their desire to fuel them to take steps forward towards their dreams.  Simply put, you don't have to forsake everything in order to pursue your desire.  Find the root of that desire, and let that be what guides you.  It's not the million dollar goal that people have that fuels them to finding a way to earn that amount of money, it's the security that comes with it that they're yearning for.  Get to your roots, understand what you really want, and let that be the desire that fuels you onward.

and hey...

If you do desire something so badly, nothing can stop you.

I'm just a normal person rising up in the ranks, about to challenge the monsters in the ultra distance world.  What gives me that opportunity is my desire.  I want to be the best that I can be, the best in the world, and I will take whatever steps I can in order to achieve that.  Desire gives me strength, it gives me opportunities, and it gives me hope.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Dreams Don't Die. They're Forgotten.

When I was in kindergarten, what I wanted to be when I grew up was to be a sumo wrestler.  I watched them fight each other and hit hard and thought it was a cool thing to do and wanted to be a winner like the ones I saw on TV back at home... but as I got older, that dream sort of disappeared.  The thing was, I had more than one dream.  I had a multitude of dreams, and when different dreams got in the way of each other, one won and the other slowly disappeared.  However, after graduating college, I noticed a lot of things happening to those around me.  Dreams were disappearing, but it wasn't because of another stronger dream that appeared... it was due to the fact that people were just forgetting what their dreams were.

Some dream of travelling the world, yet because of a new job they were able to find, put it off til 'later' which never came.  Other people dreamed of going up the ladder of success and eventually getting to a point where they were free to spend time with their family, but became content with their lives the way it was, and didn't really push to do anything more.  The thing is, we live in a world where most of us have become content with living the average life.

So is it wrong to do so?  To be complacent with where we are?

When water is moving in a river, it's crystal clear and beautiful, and as it moves around, it provides the fish with water rich with oxygen and gathering the nutrients from upriver and bringing it down, giving life.  However, when the water stops moving, little by little it becomes stagnant, void of life.  As the mud thickens and the water becomes dirty, the life from the river is forgotten... and I believe we are similar to that.  When we move and grow, we take and give... as we move towards our dreams, we are filled with life and we can truly live, but being complacent with where we are now, and forgetting our dreams, little by little, we stop growing and we stop... living.

Having a dream and working towards it is a wonderful thing.  It's also one of the hardest things to do because life can hit you pretty hard.  Right now, I have a dream to become a world class runner.  It's definitely going to be a hard road, but as long as I keep walking, I'm confident that I'll reach my destination.  In order to achieve that, I need to start winning races and doing well in both 24 hour races and 100 mile races.  Winning can only happen as a result of harsh training, and looking back at what I've been doing, I realize that I would need to add more training in order to make it happen.  Instead of running 120 miles a week, I'm probably going to end up running close to 160 miles a week.  Instead of going to the gym for 2 hours a day, I'm probably going to end up going 4 hours a day.  Having a dream and going towards it is hard.  It's easy to lay back down and be content with where I am right now.  But easier isn't the way to live.  As I want to truly live my life to its fullest, I want to push myself, to challenge myself to reach my potential, and take off my limitations.  In order to live the dream, I need to grow, to move, and ultimately LIVE.

So when you look back at your life, see where you are, and where you originally wanted to go, ask yourself, "Am I living the dream?  Am I moving forward to achieve the dream that I once had?" or maybe you need to ask yourself, "What was my dream?"

When you wake up in the morning, sometimes you can clearly remember the dreams you've had, but as you wake up, you forget that dream you just had... and it's the same with our dreams we've had before.  The moment we dreamed about something happening, it was vivid, it was filled with life, and we were filled with life... but as time went on and we didn't focus or grow towards that dream, we start to forget.

So don't forget your dream.  Remember that moment that you felt so alive.  Remember the excitement that filled you up.  Remember that spark that brought light to your life.

Remember what your dream was...

and run towards it.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Merrill's Mile 24 Hr

Wow... I sure did a lot of things this past week... it just seems a little unbelievable that all this happened in one week.  Thursday morning, I bought a house, became a landlord, and received my first rent check, and soon after, I went down to Georgia, celebrated Jordan's birthday at Maggiano's, and then back at her place... it was prep time.  It was nice to have someone to talk to while packing because otherwise, my mind would have gone crazy thinking about the race, but in a chill atmosphere, I was able to pack my things up and divided them up and just enjoy a good night's rest.  The medial side of my right knee had been giving me problems, so I was fortunate she was skilled in putting KT tape on it, and so I had that put on in the night before I went to sleep.  In the morning, I got my stuff and made some onigiri (rice balls) and headed off to Dahlonega, GA.  The trip was nice... but when I followed google maps on my iPhone... it stopped at a certain place and told me that I was there.  The only problem was that I wasn't.  So with a little adrenaline rush, I drove around, found a person driving, he stopped, he told me that the race was further down the road, and that I better make it there in time.... and I may have broken the speed limit to get to the camp in time to partake in this wonderful event, with only 20 minutes to spare.

Not having a support crew really bummed me out, so I had to bring all my stuff and make a makeshift picnic area, and dressed in my battle gear:

2 pairs of Asics Gel Lyte 33
2 pairs of Asics Gel Lyte 33 2 (my favorite pair!!)
Underarmour Compression Shorts and Shirt (helped me from chafing)
Your average running shorts that I bought at Hammers...
My first ultra shirt I received running TNF Endurance Challenge 50 mi
My wonderful bandana (x2)
Asics running gloves for the night

The first sunny parts, I would go shirtless and get a free suntan, but knowing my weakness to the cold, I was prepared with the compression shirt and good thing!!

The other things I brought to give me whatever help I needed was... Pedialyte, Pickle juice, Equate Pain Relieving Cream, Ibuprofen, Riceball (onigiri), bananas, chocolate covered espresso beans, and a headlamp (I'm sure I brought more... but this is pretty much the important stuff)

At first, I divided up the 24 hours into the 6 hour increments when we were suppose to switch directions... so here's what happened.

The Plan:

I decided that I wanted to get as close to 144 miles as I could, which would be a 10:00 minute per mile pace, but would be happy with a 120.  As the loop was .9902 miles long, I needed some way to keep myself sane, and so I decided that I would tackle this thing 6 laps at a time.  Each lap, I would run the full lap, but as soon as I finished the lap, I gave myself a 40 second break.  I would take 40 seconds to walk, get whatever I needed from the aid station, and then go run another lap.  If I could do 6 laps under an hour, that would get me close to the 144 mile goal because I knew I wouldn't be able to hold that pace.  As the first 12 hours involved a lot of sun and high temperatures, I made sure to drink enough fluids, so made my own little system.  Lap 1: water, Lap 2: water, Lap 3: coke and water, Lap 4: water, Lap 5: water, Lap 6: pedialyte, pickle juice, food.... and then go with the next set.  On the 6th lap, I would drop the 40 second rest rule, and give myself enough time to rest as long as I wanted so that I could take care of myself.

 There are three important things that we need in order to get through the race.  Water, Electrolytes, and Energy.  Should you deprive yourself of one of them, your body will not work efficiently and you will slow down.  Previously, I kept on playing with my hydration, drinking too much at times, drinking too little at times, but the main thing that allowed me to know how I was doing was when I went to the bathroom.  Though it's gross topic to talk about, it's still very important.  Whenever I dropped by the rest room, I was able to see how much fluid I had inside of me, and that allowed me to understand how much or how little I needed during the next ten, twenty minutes.  Another thing that helped me get through was the fact that I was licking the salt encrusted on my shoulders and arms.  It has the perfect balance of what I was losing, so why shouldn't I take it in?  As for food, it's important that you take in as much as you can so that you'll be able to stay ahead of your glucose usage, but not too much so your stomach is working too hard.  It was important that I eat whenever I felt hungry, breaking guidelines because it's important that I listen to my body.  Using these barbaric methods of understanding where I was and how I was doing, I believe I could add extra miles under my belt.

First 6 Hours:

The first lap was led by Beth McCurdy, who was just running for fun (didn't she do like 60 miles or something? haha) and I was following her lead, but decided afterwards that I just needed to do what I usually did and just take it easy and warm up during the first couple of miles.  After slowing down, I was passed by a couple of guys and didn't care about it because the only person I was actually racing against... was myself.  Instead, I focused on how I was going to get through the race.  As I explained to the aid station crew what was going on, they immediately asked me every time I finished a lap what set and rep I was on, and that really helped out because I was able to work through this whole thing one set at a time, focusing on finishing the set, instead of looking at the 24 hours as a whole.  As the sun came out, the temperature went up, but I actually sort of enjoyed the heat and had trained for it, so I pushed through at a decently fast pace.  I remember passing the 42nd lap and then having to turn around because I had finished the 7th set.  I was doing pretty well and knew that I wouldn't be able to keep it up, but it would give me a good cushion towards the end of the race when it got dark and cold.  The aid station crew was so kind I was encouraged to continue what I was doing and get myself through to the 12th hour so that I could do my best.

Second 6 Hours:

By then, it was 3:00 in the afternoon, the temperature was going down... but we were all suffering from it.  By this time, I was still going strong, but I was starting to slow down.  I wasn't able to get my 7 sets in, but if my memory serves to be correct, I was able to get in 6 sets, 36 laps... but by then, I was exhausted and even right now, I can't truly recollect how many laps I did... I just remember that I was going for 6 sets for this quarter.  12 hours had gone by and I had done about 77 miles.  By then, my higher end goal was 135 miles, and the lower end still at 120.  I knew that 144 miles would be next to impossible to reach, but I didn't want to throw that away and see if I could get as close as I could possibly get.  By this time, the physical battle was over and the mental battle was about to start.  The aid station crew was still supportive and even though the 144 miles was out of the picture, they encouraged me to continue to do my best.  The runners at that point also started really cheering for me because I was going at a quick pace... I honestly don't know what I would've done if I hadn't had such a strong group always encouraging me as I ran.

Third 6 Hours:

I honestly don't remember how many laps or miles I did on this quarter.  All I know was that I finished 100 miles at 17:42, which is my personal best for a 100 mile run.  Understanding that, I know I did one more lap before I turned around, because I stopped early before the time went to 18 hours just so that I could drink and just turn around... something about waiting made it easier for me to start anew.  This third quarter was the hardest quarter.  I had kept up the 40 seconds of rest/walking each lap and then running, but after 12 hours and 77 miles, I knew that I needed to slow down or I would self destruct.... and made the executive decision to walk a lap for the first time.  It was a long lap.  I walked and although it was a mile... it took longer than it should have, and my pace was a mess.  After that, I kept it going as much as I could, but I was quickly shutting down.  As it got colder, I put on my underarmour compression shirt, my running shirt, and gloves.  I was slowing down and it was getting colder.  As I was using an extreme amount of energy to continue on, it was important that I keep myself warm so that I would be able to use the energy to move instead of keeping myself warm.  There was an inverse relationship between the battle of the physical body and the battle of the mind.  If the 1st 12 hours was about the body, the 2nd 12 hours was definitely about how my mind handled this race.  This quarter, I was only able to get in 24 loops... 4 sets... 23 miles... and things weren't looking good.  I had slowed down a lot, and at 3:00am in the morning, things were looking bleak.  Before the loop ended, Willy (the RD) encouraged me and told me that I was going at an exceptionally well pace... but at that point, I didn't care too much, and I wasn't feeling that great.

Final 6 Hours:

All I needed was 20 laps in 6 hours to get to 122 laps... which would be 120 miles.  The goal was within reach... but I was too exhausted to get there and it was a dangerous place.  Physically, I was more than capable of finishing... but mentally, I was ready to drop out.  The aid station was really supportive but I was not the happy Sho that I usually was.  It was in the wee hours of the morning, and I was tired of running, still miles away from my goal, and I just wanted to stop.  At one point, I was broken... I couldn't smile, I couldn't go forward... I couldn't go on... so I found a seat and stopped for 5 minutes.  It was the first time I stopped to sit that wasn't part of the 6 loop plan.  It was then that I looked back at the different people that supported me before the race, the people that believed in what I could do.  I wasn't running just for myself, I was also running for them.  The people in Haw Ridge that I run with on Tuesdays, my friends that started their running after meeting me, the people on Facebook that encouraged me, Jordan for giving me a bed and taping me up, Beth who kept on saying, "Go Sho Go Sho Go Sho" and making me smile, Keith who cheered me on and cracking jokes at me, Chris who encouraged me and believed in me when I couldn't, I built relationships during the miles around the track, and there were a lot of people that kept me going, and with that thought in my head, I had to get up and keep going.  I got up, and began my trek towards 120 miles.  I pushed through every miserable loop thinking about the people that supported me, and though it wasn't fast, it was still a forward progression.  By this point, the 10ft elevation change was very apparent when going out, that I found it hard to run.  However, I talked with a husband and wife (curses... I forgot what their names were... but I know all about them, haha... silly how ultras mess with your head), and was able to walk with them up the 'hill' and run the rest of the way down to finish each lap under 15 minutes.  I held on for about 3-5 loops, but after that, I couldn't keep up because I was still mentally exhausted... but by then, the sun began to come out.  As the track became visible, I became stronger, and as I became stronger, I found hope.  The people that supported me, the 2 hours I had left, the opportunity I had in not making a personal record, but a course record, the fact that I could see the road ahead of me... they pulled me.  At about an hour and a half left in the race, I started running.  I started running because I saw that it was possible.  I could finish, and I could finish strong, and as the light became stronger, so did my run.  As I finished the last few laps, Keith was there with my cup filled with water, bringing the water to me so I didn't have to walk that extra 10 feet, and encouraged me as I went on.  The blisters on my feet hurt, but I knew I could handle it.  I pushed on, getting closer to that 122 lap mark.  But I still had more time.  I could go further.  I could push forward and get myself further.  As Philip encouraged me to push on, I knew I could get in a few more laps.  I knew that I could get in 125 laps.

and so I did.

After 124 laps, my blister on my right leg really got big and hurt, so even though there was a slight chance I could have gotten to 126 laps, I decided that I would walk my victory lap in the end, and walk I did.  My head held high, as I finished 123.775 miles, making a PR, 1st place, and a course record.

When I came to this race, I didn't expect to go far.   I was sick a few weeks ago and only ran 3 times the last 2 weeks.  My right knee was hurt and hadn't been fully healed.  I didn't even have a support crew.... but the rest that I was able to get during the last two weeks gave my body to rest and fully recover from my training.  The right knee that was hurt was well rested during that time and it was wrapped up... and I made sure to run properly and not too fast, so I was able to pace myself properly.  I didn't bring a support crew, but there were always people around me that was willing to help me as I made my way through.  Willy, Philip, Beth, and the rest of the aid station as well as other runners encouraged me and gave me exactly what I needed to push on.

Looking back, the things I thought would prevent me from doing what I did became the stepping stones to being able to do something great.  I was able to meet a lot of new friends, and I was able to run a great race... and now I feel like I can take steps towards my next big goal.

I thought that becoming part of the USA National 24 Hour Team was something that I wouldn't be able to achieve in the near future, but with this race, my perspective changed.  Now, I believe that it is very possible that I can become a part of the team a lot sooner than my original plan.  If I put in the work, I race wisely, and take the right steps... it's possible.  I'm definitely excited for what this next year is going to bring me.  I'm going to make my dream a reality and continue to become the best that I can be.

Thanks to everyone who supported me in this race, and special thanks to Willy for putting up such an amazing race.  Should I come back next year to see if I can beat myself?  Haha.  I appreciate the support I got from my old and new friends, and I want to encourage everyone who ran to continue running and beat themselves and constantly get better.  Never give up and be the best you can be, because if you never give up... then eventually you will succeed.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Letting Your Environment Support Your Dreams

So in the past, I have always talked about how we need steps to get to our goals, and from one goal to another, work towards our dreams... however, we still fail to grasp that and do not take the steps required to achieve our goals.  How is it that we understand what steps we need to take, yet fail to follow through and work towards that?

It's because we lack the foundation that supports us to our goals.  We do not have a system that pushes us forward.  In order to achieve your goal, you need to change your environment to being able to support you instead of push you down.  Friends family, house, finances... everything can either help or hurt you.  The thing is, whether we truly understand it or not, there are things that will bring you closer to your goals, and there are things that will take you away from these goals.  The little things that occur in your everyday life is your environment.  Should your environment be supportive, you will have a higher chance of success in achieving your dreams.  However, should your environment not be supportive, you may end up having a rough time taking steps towards your dreams.

In having an environment that not only allows us to push forward, but also pushes us, we create a system where we can only press on towards our goals.  For example, should an individual want to become healthier, a simple way to create an environment that supports his or her goal would be to simply throw away unhealthy snacks that are in their homes.  I always like to tell myself, "no temptation, no sin" and that's served me well when working towards my goals.

So how can we create an environment that would support us and help us get to our goal?  Can we find a one size fits all solution to our problem?  Well... unfortunately, there is no 'one size fits all' solution because we are all unique and react in different ways to various catalysts.  However, I believe there could be a few guidelines that would help anyone create this self supported environment.

First of all, we can divide what is in our lives into two parts.  First, there's the things that helps us or supports us towards our goal.  Then, there's the things that prevents us from achieving our goals.  It could be a habit, it could be a family member... it could be anything.  In order to create this ideal environment that would support you, you have to add habits that supports you, take away habits that prevents you from achieving your goals.  In order to do that, you must put away the material objects that would remind you of things that prevents you from progressing while adding material objects in your life that would encourage you to go towards your goal.  If it's family, you need to insure that whatever they do, they ought to be supportive of you and your goals instead of being distant... or perhaps you need the space and need their distance in order for you to achieve your goals.

Basically, in order to achieve your goals and create an environment that supports you, it is IMPORTANT that you know yourself.  The more you know about yourself and how you work, the more you can change the environment around you to support you as you take the steps towards your goals.  As you find more about who you are and how you work, your strengths as well as your weaknesses, you can manipulate the things around you so that making the best choice becomes the only option.

Whether it be losing weight or acing a test, it's important that you have an environment that supports you.  The more supportive the environment is, the easier it is to stay on the path towards your dreams.  Create an environment that urges you to grow, that provides energy for you to push on, to support you in whatever way you need to get to where you want yourself to be.

Monday, June 23, 2014

3 Steps to Becoming an Effective Leader

There is a difference between being an average leader and an effective leader.  The circle of influence of the effective leader far greater than that of the average leader.  With a larger circle of influence, there is a greater impact, and with a positive impact, one can change the entire world.

As a runner, I really want to encourage those around me to live a healthy lifestyle (not necessarily just running) as well as motivating others to achieving their dreams... and I wondered how could I do better?  I figured that there are a lot of people that do what I do and inspire others, but only a few actually stood out as an effective leader.  I yearned to be like one of those who were able to touch the lives of millions of people.   I desired the charisma of the leaders that blew the minds of the people and impacted lives and brought hope to those that needed it... and I came across these 3 steps.

First.  You need to understand the current situation as it is.  Where you are now is very important because if you don't know where you are now, how are you to know where you're wanting to go or how to get there?  In understanding the current situation as it is, you give yourself the starting point, the materials you have, and live in this real world.  You're not underestimating yourself and what you have, because then your dreams you want to achieve will become smaller.  You don't overestimate yourself and what you have because then your dreams will be too big and impossible.  You go with what you have.  That way, you can focus clearly on the next step.

Second.  You need to have a vision.  In having this vision, you use the knowledge of the here and now to focus on the endless possibilities you can do with it, and work towards your goal.  Without an end goal, you will end up unfocused and working towards several things that you never had to work on, but with an end goal, you can focus all your time and effort towards that vision, and wisely work your way to taking the steps needed in order to accomplish that.  Make the vision as real as you can.  Understand what you need to do to reach that and plan things out.  Realize what's possible with the different materials and talents you are given in the beginning and connect everything together to create a path to your dreams.

Third.  You need to take the steps.  What good is it to have a road-map to success if you're not going to use it?  The thing is, even if you put so much work in creating the perfect plan... if you don't execute it, nothing happens.  A leader needs to not only understand the current situation and create a vision.  A leader ought to take the steps towards making it happen.  In taking the steps, the leader puts him/herself in the front lines, works towards that vision, and as they take those steps forward to making their dreams come true, the leader will attract those who believe in the same thing and naturally will follow the one with a clear vision and work towards making it a reality.

The thing is, there are an awful lot of people working towards a bunch of goals.  Some of them don't understand the first step and therefore their vision becomes tainted and not as good as it could be.  Others will not create this clear vision and work towards a series of goals and waste their time, energy, and money on some projects that they didn't need to work on.  Still others will not take the steps to working towards their goals and have others do the work for them.  In doing so, things will get done... but it becomes a passionless progress, not as fast and not as effective.

In working with these 3 steps, it is possible to become an effective leader that can impact the world... and here's the kicker.  Effective leaders cannot quit.  In being an example, in being an inspiration, we are part of what gives hope to those around us.  Should we stop... should we quit... that gives the people around us a reason to quit.  As an effective leader, we shoulder the responsibility of not just ourselves and our dreams, but also of those around us.  There are always people following what we do, and they are encouraged by our accomplishments, so understand that there will be a time when we feel like quitting.  There will be a time when you don't feel like progressing....  However, as an effective leader, we need to prevail because we may be what gives hope to another individual as they work towards their dreams.

Effective leaders aren't effective because they just follow these 3 steps.  Effective leaders are effective because no matter what happens, they choose to push on towards their dreams, making the impossible possible, and giving hope to those around them.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Lakeshore Trail Trek 16 Miler

Considering that my first trail race was the 50 mile race in Atlanta, this 16 mile race was very different.  It was fast, and I was experienced.  Since my first trail race in 2011, I've gotten my fair share of trail running, and as I've been working on my speed since getting sick at Black Mountains, I felt ready for this race.  The Thursday before the race, I did a trial road run of 16 miles, 8 miles out and 8 miles back.  I did the first half in exactly an hour, and on the way back, I was able to finish it in under 52 minutes.  With this, I knew that for the race, it would be possible for me to finish the 16 mile race in under 2 hours.  However, after Friday's downpour, I was a little worried that the trail would be muddied and harder to run.  Saturday morning arrived and I woke up and drove over to the start of the race, and met up with my friends from Haw Ridge, and we talked about how I need to watch out for this bearded guy.  Wearing my wonderful Asics Gel Lyte 33 2, I was ready to rock the field.

The race was a 9ish mile out and back followed by a 7ish mile out and back, and the first part of the race involved climbing up a bridge and going across... it was definitely different than the other races I've done, and for the first mile, I led the pack.  I talked to a couple of the guys behind me and learned that two of them had marathon times of 2:44 and 2:54, which meant that they were definitely good road runners (faster than my own 2:56), and figuring out who I was up against, I decided that the best thing that I could do was to race my race.  I dropped back and went down to 4th place, where I begin the real warm up of the race, and then as time went on, little by little, I started to pick up the pace.  Between mile 3 and 4, I passed the person who was in 3rd, and little by little gained on the 1st and 2nd place runners.  At a little past 4 miles, there was a part of the race where you have to go over a fence, and that's where I caught the two runners and paused because we weren't sure what we were suppose to do.  By the time the runner I passed came, I stood on the fence and figured out that that was the direction we were suppose to go, and leading the pack, I went to the water station, dropped off my water bottle, and decided that I would start taking the race from then on, as seriously as I could.

On the return trip, I had previously heard the top runners talk about how they had wasted 30 seconds figuring out what the course was, I figured that I would need to beat them by a minute to make the victory feel real.  I had one runner running right behind me at that point, and I had the "Happy" song going in my head keeping the beat (must have been on the radio) and little by little, I pulled away, and as I passed my teammates, they all cheered me on, which encouraged me to continue the effort.  With switchbacks and rolling hills, the pace was never constant, but with the experience from Haw Ridge and all the other trail races I've done, it wasn't really a set back.  Whenever I could pick it up with the same effort, I would pick it up, and whenever I needed to slow down... I would slow down.  Every so often, I would pretend that there was someone coming up behind me, so that would jolt me forward with renewed energy, but other than that, it was a nice run all the way back to the start.

After climbing back over the bridge and getting to the starting area, I stopped to drink a little water and dump the rest on my head.  Talked to Tony for a little bit, and off I went.  For a little bit, it was roads and though I was faster, changing from trails to roads really was something different, and I felt it in my legs.  As I met up with the 8 mile finishers, we cheered each other on, but as I got faster and faster, the words of encouragement changed from a sentence to a phrase, but I was finishing the course as fast as I possibly could, and I knew I'd have to push the end if I wanted to make it under 2 hours.  After going through the trails to the aid station which was less than half way (because on the way back, we would add a few longer loops in the mix), I drank a little bit and dumped the rest on my head and said goodbye and thanks to the workers and started my return.

I wasn't sure how much I was ahead of the group behind me, but I wanted to make sure that it would be as large of a gap as I could possibly make it, and after a minute or so, I met up with the 2nd place runner, Bob Adams, who was headed towards the aid station.  As he is a very fast runner, I knew that a few minutes was something that he could definitely get back, and so that made me want to go even faster... which I did.  I passed by the other guys and then my teammates, as I zipped through the course, and being glad that I had the energy to run fast (since it was only 16 miles) I knew that the only thing that'll stop me is if I ran too fast and tired out my muscles... but the clip I was going at was decent and my cadence was strong, and I knew that as I got closer to the beginning, that I had a real decent chance at getting under 2 hours.  I was a little worried when I had about 10 minutes left and I wasn't sure exactly how far I was from the start, so I did pick it up even more, but as soon as I hit the road, I knew that I would be able to finish strong and achieve my goal of running under 2 hours.  In fact, as I finished, I saw that I had 3 minutes to spare!  Being a trail course and not having done any research on it, I was happy with my 1st place finish with a time of 1:56:53.

Top 3 Overall

Sho Gray        1:56:53
Bob Adams    2:00:54
Jesse Fine       2:04:44

Male and Female 1st place Finishers!!

Overall, it was a very fun race, well organized, and enjoyed the people that ran in it.  I'm looking forward to next year and see if I can lower the course record~  Definitely pumping me up for the 24 hour race coming up in July!!  (and happy that now I can just run slowly and not work on my speed~ haha)

You put in hard work and persevere, the results will follow.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

On Responsibility

"With great power comes great responsibility."

That famous line from Spiderman has been repeated a little too much... but there is truth in what that line says.  The people who hold power holds a lot of responsibility that affects people's lives... and usually it's immediate.  But I kind of find it funny to see that if we turn it around, we get, "With great responsibility comes great power," because it's true.  If you take on the responsibility of something great, with that you can hold that great power.

So what are we responsible for?  Honestly, we can be responsible for any number of things.  From jobs to homework, from children to adults.  However, we forget the most important thing we must always be responsible for.  We forget the importance of ourselves.  We are responsible for ourselves first before we can be responsible for anyone else.

What good is it if we are financially irresponsible for ourselves and we attempt to help someone who is in a financial bind?  Why would someone ask you for advice on training if you have a lazy lifestyle?  It is imperative that we are able to help ourselves first before we can help others.  Instead of putting yourself further in debt by helping another person financially, shouldn't you be helping yourself get your finances in order so that you would be able to help more that need the help?  Would it not be better for you to get yourself in shape before you go out and train other people?

Although we daily make an impact to the people around us, we ought not to forget our responsibility for our own growth, because in growing and bettering ourselves, the impact we make to the people around us has exponentially increased towards a positive direction.

The reason I speak of responsibility now is because whether we like it or not, we do have responsibilities.  We impact people.  We influence people.  We help mold the world through the small meetings we have with one another.  The classmate who you helped up when he fell... he could become a great neurosurgeon, saving lives.  The person you smiled at and asked how their day was... she could become a mayor... we just don't know who we're going to impact.  We don't know how they're going to turn out... but when you build yourself into a person of great character, an individual that leaves others better than when they first met them... you do make a difference.  You do carry that responsibility... as well as the power.

If we take responsibility and take care of ourselves, we create an opportunity to grow, thus allowing us the privilege of serving those around us... a responsibility which lets us truly live.

It's not being selfish that allows us to care for others, it's the simple fact that you can't serve if you have nothing to give.  Continue to fill yourself up as you fill the lives of others.  Just as you may put the responsibility on yourself to serve the people around you... make sure to not forget to serve yourself.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Pushing Towards or Pulled Towards Your Goal

Whenever I see friends sign up for a race, instantly, their training intensifies.  Why?  Does signing up for a race put the fear of God in them that they're forced to train?  Well... Kind of.

There are two different ways that you can physically move an object.  You can push it... or you can pull it.  In the same way, when we have goals, we either push ourselves towards the goal, or we get pulled by the goal itself.

So what then, should we do?

It makes sense that most of us enjoy the push towards success, but does the willpower last that long?  The answer is... no.  It doesn't.  So whenever you decide to go for a goal and believe that you can push yourself to that goal, prepare to be disappointed.  Not only will the willpower lose its effect within a week or so, but you won't really feel like attempting to get to that goal again because you've been defeated and you won't believe in yourself (if you do, the willpower will run out faster).

So instead, are we to find a way to have something pull us towards success?  The push runs out easily, but when some 'force' is pulling us towards success, then we aren't putting forth as much effort to get to being successful.  In signing up for a race, what happens is that we have a goal that we've set.  We put the money down, we're gambling with our pride, honor, cash, and our self identity.  The moment you make that commitment and sign up for a race, you begin moving towards that, because you've committed.  When you've committed enough things into it, you get pulled in by the race.  You have the feeling of 'oh crap, if I don't train, I'm not going to do well in this race.' or 'I don't want to waste money!  I gotta work hard to make it worth the money I spent' or any other reason.  Once you have something pulling you towards your goal, between the pushing and pulling, you're able to get that much closer to your goal.

Think of it in this way.  When you're passionate about something, there's no way it's hard work for you to talk about it.  When it's something you enjoy doing, there's no way you won't be doing it.  Why do people do things?  Because they're invested in it, one way or another, and when you've invested yourself in something, you get pulled towards that.

So if getting pulled to your goals is something that'll get you to your goals, why don't people do it?

Well, I'm no expert on people, but I can tell you this.  People only do what they want to do, and if they don't really want to do it... then they won't.  If a person decides that they want to change their lifestyle and become fit, then they would go towards that goal and push themselves.  However, a change in lifestyle will be difficult.  That difficulty will make the person really figure out whether or not they want the goal.  However, if they are 'addicted' to their old lifestyle, then that would mean that the want/need to get in better shape wasn't strong enough to pull them because they wanted to push.  Sometimes, it's due to the lack of drive.  Sometimes, it's because it was a wish-list and not a real thing.

So how can you start pulling towards your goals?

So let me tell you a story about the time when I was a freshman in high school.  I wasn't exactly the popular kid, and I was actually... very shy.  I had a hard time speaking up and didn't really stand out much.  That all changed when I met this girl.  She was a year older than me and she was attractive in every possible way.  She ran, loved God, and had the most gorgeous eyes.  Of course, there were more to it than that, but that's not the main part of the story.  So anyway, I was head over heels for this girl and was shy.  It was a bad place to be, and I knew it.  She was popular, and I was invisible.  So I needed to change something.  I had a goal, and I really 'needed' to get there.  I started talking to people, getting to know more people, and found out a whole new world. I found learning about people interesting and getting to know them, I started to get to know even more people.  I kept going on and on until before I knew it, I had been pulled up to the same level and was able to stand a lot more confident in myself.  I started practicing my instrument, and mastered them, studied for math and became better at it.  I ran on my own free time, and worked out as much as I could.  I became the smart math whiz, played almost every musical instrument the band offered, became one of the top runners in my region, and also got to know all the other people in different schools.  It wasn't because I pushed and clawed my way up, that I was able to get up that far.  It was because I was pulled up by my desire that I was able to grow and develop and become the person I am today.

Unfortunately, nothing really happened with her because in relationships... I tend to move as slow as a snail, but what I got out of it was a different perspective of the world.  My desire had pulled me up to being able to talk to others, stretch myself so that I would be able to do whatever I wanted to do, and in doing that, I have the confidence that I have in sharing my stories in hope that I would be able to encourage those around to stand up and be pulled up to their full potential.  

If you truly want something or are passionate about something, push, but don't forget to be pulled.  Create opportunities and place yourself in them.  Stretch yourself so that you can grow.  Pull yourself up to greatness and create that specific goal that would have the power to pull you up high.

Be awesome.