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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.