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Wednesday, September 23, 2015

The Power of Discernment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, August 29, 2015

The First Lie

No one is going to know...

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

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

Then the voice came into my head.  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Am I Useless?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But there is hope.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


One of the worst experiences an individual can have is failure.

It can come in many forms... from break ups to races, broken promises to broken dreams.

The more you invest in something, the more it hurts.  This goes with people you've let into your lives, the races you choose to run, the promises you may have made with someone else, or the dreams that now seem impossible.  It hurts because you gave so much time, so much energy, so much... everything, and it seemed like nothing came out of it.

Imagine a relationship you were pursuing.  Day after day, you would do your best, caring about the other person, helping the other person in need, sacrificing as much as you can for the other individual, getting closer and closer to the other.  Investing your time, investing... your life so that the other person can be happy.  At one point, you feel as if the hard work is paying off and you're a lot closer with girl you're pursuing and you're spurred to continue on and go after her to only be let down in a single day... it only takes a single day for her to decide that you weren't the individual she was looking for...  All that hard work, everything you invested in her... gone...

Or perhaps it was a race you were running, one that you've trained for so fervently, pushing hard day after day, night after night, making sure that you were in the best shape of your life.  You put in hours upon hours each day to mold yourself into the person you desired to be, an individual that would be able to win this race!  You come to the race as prepared as you can be and all of a sudden, in the first mile, you twist your ankle.  You can't go onward... All that effort, all that training, your hopes... crushed...

That's how I feel sometimes, when things like that happen... crushed.  I put in so much work, it appeared that the direction I was going was the right way... but somehow, I failed.

and because I failed, now I feel like a failure...

But it doesn't have to end that way.

It doesn't mean that I'm a failure.

Though my heart may be in pain, my mind struggles to bring the body back up and force it to submit and understand that there will be another girl.  There will be another race.  There will be another chance.  A time for you to rise.  It doesn't have to end this way.

But sometimes, I feel like giving up.  In the moment, I'm asking myself, "What's the use of trying if I'm going to end up failing again?"  Why should I invest in something that probably will not bear any fruit?

When something you invested in ends up failing, you want to give up.  You don't want to try anymore.  You don't want to trust yourself, or anyone else anymore...

But there's a part of you that still has hope.

In the moment, hopelessness and despair may surround you, but within, there is always that 'hope'.  It's what keeps us moving onward, despite the events that may have crushed our spirit.  So now, I must reach for that hope, and hold desperately onto it.

As I cling, I feel a little better.  Just a little bit.

I hold on because maybe, just maybe, I can rise back up again.  Maybe... I might be able to succeed in round 2, or whatever round it is.  Maybe, just maybe...

So though you may feel like you're on the ground...  you may have invested too much into something that brought you to your knees... have faith.

"I will try one hundred times to get up, and if I fail one hundred time.  If I fail and I give up, will I ever get up?  No!  If I fail I'll try again, and again and again.  But I want to tell you it's not the end."

-Nick Vujicic

So knowing that, I know it's not the end.  My heart will have to take time to heal, but I will continue on.  For after hope comes faith, and with faith action, and with action, another opportunity will arise.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

The Most Important Thing

I've been having a tough time sleeping today because there's a lot going on in my mind.  A friend of mine recently lost her sister, who left behind a husband and three children.  Meanwhile, up until I learned what had happened, I was selfishly complaining about my life problems.  The thing is, when I heard what had happened, everything changed.  Death changes things.  It changes what was once important to something so trivial, and makes something once so trivial into something important.

No one on his deathbed ever said, I wish I had spent more time on my business.
-Paul Tsongas

I've seen parents let their children suffer without knowing because they spend so much time trying to provide a good place for them, they don't build a proper relationship with them.  I've seen husbands wasting their lives on video games and neglect their wives.  I've seen girlfriends work hard towards their personal goals, that it drives a wedge between them and their boyfriends, and they don't know why...

I'm not saying providing for a family is a bad thing. I'm not saying that video games are an abomination.  I'm not saying that working towards your personal goals is a lousy choice.

What I'm saying is that there's more to life than that.

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength  The second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself.  There is no commandment greater than these.
-Mark 12:30-31

Nowhere in the Bible does it say to love God, follow your passion, THEN love your neighbor.  It says simply to love God, and then love your neighbor.

Simply put, our lives are all about relationships.  Everything else comes after that.  Looking back through history, it's evident that we have always lived in a community.  Sure, here and there, there will be the occasional hermits, but the majority of the human race have lived TOGETHER.

Yet in society now, we have found various ways to pull ourselves apart, creating a gap in our hearts.  When a gap occurs, our natural reaction is to fill it... with what?  Whatever we can get our hands on!  Sometimes, society tells us to follow our dreams and that will fill your heart!  Perhaps it's a sport or hobby!  It could be a game!  Maybe it's about self development instead!

And we miss our very own purpose.

We choose to elevate ourselves and find a place where we can belong, and in doing so we push away the very people that we could impact.  We choose to follow a dream where we accomplish many things, and when we arrive at the top, we find it very lonesome.

Our prime purpose in this life is to help others.  And if you can't help them, at least don't hurt them.
-Dalai Lama

We are all born with a selfish tendency, thinking about what we can do to serve ourselves, and in serving ourselves, we turn a blind eye to others, and end up hurting them.  I've seen other people in pain because they have opened their hearts to another but after doing so get hurt because the other individual prioritized something else over their relationship... but the same individual who was hurt would also accidentally hurt another because of another similar situation.

We live in a world where we prioritize ourselves over others, and in doing that, we end up hurting those around us... and showing those around us that that is the way of the world.

So it's time we change that.  It's time we understand that we must not look at the fault that may lie in another, but instead, look within.  Look at ourselves.

I've often looked outward at how I feel people have treated me, and in focusing on the fault of others, I've found that I've begun to ignore my own faults (Matthew 7:3 anyone?).  Here am I complaining about how another person has hurt my feelings... only to realize that I too am at fault with another.

So we must start from within.

Oftentimes, I have told my Cross Country runners that running is not the most important thing to me.  I continue and tell them that running is merely my tool to share with others and to encourage others... that the most important thing in my life is my relationships with the people around me.

Some of you may understand the amount of training it takes to get to the point of running 100 miles in the mountains... but if you don't... it's a lot of training.  Haha.  It takes a lot of commitment and a lot of discipline to get to that point.  Running a few thousand miles, it takes up a lot of your time.  So one time when I was training for Leadville 100, 3 weeks before the race, I learned that my father had a stroke.  I didn't hesitate at all, bought a plane ticket, flew down to Japan, did not run at all for a whole month and spent day after day in the hospital.

It doesn't take a genius to figure out what was truly important to me.  It was my father.

Don't let life blind you with what you may perceive as important.  Don't find out too late, like a few do, when you realize the importance of something after it's gone.  Life isn't about you.  The most important thing is living out your purpose, glorifying God and building a relationship with Him, and with the people around you.

Sunday, August 9, 2015


It takes a lot of effort to create a ceramic masterpiece.  The time it takes to create such a beauty is tremendous, especially if you have to consider the training the ceramist had to undergo in order to get to the level of calling it a masterpiece.  However, sometimes, accidents happen where the ceramics get broken, instantly causing what was once costly into a bunch of worthless little pieces.

The same goes for trust.  As we take time with one another to build that relationship and trust, it takes a whole lot of effort to assemble that magnificent amount of trust... but once that trust breaks down, we are back to square one, and this time, it becomes a lot harder to move forward.  We can't find that strength to continue... what was once a great and beautiful thing is now gone, and we're not sure we can put the pieces back together again to what it once was before.

Sometimes, when I have a bad race, I feel like that.  I feel like all that hard work was for naught, and that I completely wasted my time with my training.  I trusted in the training and then something came along and pulled the rug out from under me.  All that effort, gone.

Building up from such a mental breakdown is hard... but it comes down on what you truly trust.  If you trust that what you did, the training that you put yourself in, you can bring it back up, you can use the remnants from the training and build yourself into an even stronger character.  The result... an even faster runner than I was before the race.  The thing is, despite the things that may happen to bring you down, the training you've entrusted yourself into, the meaning behind the training still holds certainty, and you can create something even better from it.

In our relationships, we may lose the trust we once had, but when we get down to the bare bones of the situation, you still can find a way to repair even the most difficult situations.  Sometimes, it takes another friend to help you see the way, sometimes, divine intervention where you suddenly feel at peace on the situation when God's blessed you that tranquility you needed to put the pieces back together.

In Japan, when a beautiful ceramic is broken, it can go through a process called kintsugi, where the broken ceramic is pieced together and glued together with a beautiful gold resin, forming an even more beautiful piece of work.

Ceramics can be rebuilt... so can trust.  Trust in the fundamentals, the basics, and form an even more beautiful piece, and treasure it.  Don't let go, because what you may think is irreparable can turn into something much more beautiful, and the dirty cracks may transform into the highlight.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Leveling up

There are five main plot components that takes place in a novel.  The introduction, the rising action, the climax, the falling action, and the conclusion.  The protagonist will have to begin the story  at a certain point with certain characteristics, but throughout the duration of the plot, the character develops, allowing what was once a hopeless situation to transform into something hopeful.  The problem itself does not change... in fact, usually, as the story goes, the problem evolves into something bigger, but in order to handle the situation, the protagonist undergoes some growth which allows him or her to overcome the obstacle, and thus change the flow of the story, bringing it to the conclusion.

In the same way, we have problems which enters our lives.  In order to continue living our lives fully, it's important that we take care of the problem.... but what happens when we are a level 3 person that meets up with a level 5 problem?  To us, the problem is monstrous and too much to handle.  We can't control the situation as now the situation is bigger than us, and therefore can't move on... we're stuck.

In moments like this, we feel powerless as we aren't capable of handling the circumstances we're in, and we're overwhelmed as the dilemma is more than we can take.  What can we do to get through this crisis?

As we know that we are incapable of handling such a problem, it becomes evident that we need help from someone that can handle the situation, at least a level 5 person in that scenario.  Having people in our lives that we can learn from is vital because in order to get through life, it's vital that we grow.  If we're incapable of running a 100 mile race, the only way to change that is through training and self development.  In the same way, should we face a problem that is larger than ourselves, it is important that we grow so that the problems that are in our lives become something trivial.  Every day ought to be a day where you grow, where you can proceed in a proper direction, a path where you mature into an individual able to handle anything life throws at your way.

There will be people that can help you, books that can guide you, videos you can learn from.  However, most importantly, it is critical that you yourself must have the desire to advance in the direction necessary to not just survive any hardships, but thrive and become even stronger through those events.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Sinister 7: 100 Mile Trail Race

It was Saturday morning at 7:00 when hundreds of runners began their epic journey in the mountains of the Canadian Rockies.  You could sign up and make a team of 7, or perhaps dare to be a soloist, running the 18,000+ feet of elevation gain as you run through 100 miles of the beauty that Crowsnest Pass has to offer.  The choice was obvious for me.  I'm runnin' solo.  So I trained hard for this race, and prepared myself for the various obstacles that would be in my way.  The 100 miles weren't the problem, it was the diversity of variables throughout the course that would hinder my progress.  The dry heat that Alberta offered, the cold nights that would definitely freeze me up, the mountains that would bring most people down to their knees.  I learned after I came here for the race that this was THE hardest 100 mile race that Canada offered, and it also served as the Canadian 100 Mile Championships!  There would be a lot of people, and this was going to be one intense race...

In preparation for this race, I needed the proper preparation.  The training I went through was pretty intense, but more important was the plan for the race.  The race was divided into 7 legs, and each leg had their own unique blend of distance, elevation change, temperature, and trails.  I looked through the previous year's team relay (180 teams), found the most average time for each leg, and after adding them all up to get the most average time for the whole race, gathered the mile average for each leg, including the total.  With that information, I was able to use the numbers to correlate what splits I would need to get in order to get the certain time that I wanted, if I were to run a perfectly paced race.  I had my A goal of 17:30, B goal of 20:00, and C goal of 24:00.  Though the terrain would be tough, I believed that with the training, I would be able to run smart and get through the race on top of things.  The plan was to run only a mile (unless it was uphill) and walk for 40-60 seconds after each mile to prevent myself from pushing too hard and continue in this fashion all the way to the end of the race.  Simple right?  I would be able to gauge what pace I was running at and hope that I was calculating everything correctly and taking care of myself during the race.

4 pairs of Asics Gel Lyte 33 3's
2 pairs of Injinji socks
KT tape to wrap my arches and knees
Underarmour shorts
My favorite pair of running shorts
Various performance shirts
Asics running gloves
Heavy duty gloves (for the night)
White bandana
2 Ultimate Direction AK 2.0 with a 2L bladder
Petzl NAO Headlamp

Each leg that was close to a 10 mile jaunt, I would fill the bladder with 1L of water and 2 nuun tablets, each leg that was closer to a 20 mile jaunt, I would fill the bladder with 2 L of water and 4 nuun tablets.  Every quarter of a mile, I would drink a sip, and continue on.  Every hour, I would take in 2 salt capsules (Hammer Endurolyte Extreme), and one Clif Bar Gel Shot (Chocolate).  I planned on eating solid foods at the end of each leg, and also drink coke.

But anyway, here's what happened in the 7 legs of the race!

Leg 1: 10.25 miles

A few minutes before the race began, Majo mentioned to me that it would be best to start up front so I wouldn't get stuck in the bottleneck by everyone, so I promptly began at the front of the pack, lining up as the countdown went, and ran with the elite runners of Canada for a few miles.  The beginning of the course was mainly road, and after running an easy pace for the first 2 miles, I was far out ahead so that I could start doing my mile run with a 40 second walk.  I chatted with Dave, Majo, and Eric, but after a while, I let them go ahead so I could run my race.  After the paved road turned into a gravel road and became a little steep, I walked a good bit, as I had banked enough time to afford to do that.  Then, the gravel road became trail, and part of it became rough, that I was a little bit worried that my pace would be off... but didn't worry that much, as I still had miles upon miles left til I reached the finish line, and so I kept on going.  Knowing that 100 mile trail races are out of my comfort zone, running at this pace was soothing, and so I kept it up, and before I knew it, I hit the first transition station less than a minute off my A goal! 1:27:49.6, and with that surprise, I was mentally unprepared for the transition that I forgot to drink a cup of coke!  Still, I was able to get a drink of water and switch packs and continue on to my journey.

Leg 2:  9.94 miles

The compared to the first leg, I knew this second leg was going to be harder, and that I needed to prepare myself for a hill, and up we went!  The elevation gain was about twice that of the first leg and most of it was at the very beginning of the trail, so I walked most of the way up to save my energy, running in places where it sloped down.  A good number of people passed me as the relay teams were fresh, but I didn't let that bother me.  I kept on running my race, and to my surprise, as I was going up, I met up with Majo, who was one of the top runners of Canada!  I chatted with him and he told me that the guys up ahead were all battling it out 5 minutes ahead of him and he would rather run his race and be smart than fight it out and burn out.  Pretty happy that he and I had the same mindset, I continued on my trek, going up, and at the top came to a spectacular view!  I wished I had taken more pictures than I did, but anyway, the experience was amazing, and as I flew down the course, I enjoyed the scenery, and just cruised.  Every once in a while, the trail would go back up, but it mainly was a downhill run, and passing a few people, I relished the journey.  After going down from the top for a good ways, the larger trail turned to a single track, and was once again hidden in the bushes and grass just growing , which made it rather difficult to push hard, and at the same time, it became extremely steep!  Afraid that I would slip and fall, I tried to slow down, but it was a tough situation.  In the final miles of the race, I met an individual that ran out of food, but unfortunately, I couldn't give him an extra gel as I had only enough to last me through the leg... hindsight, should have brought emergency food just in case.  As I got down close to the end of the leg, the course was somewhat marked but a little confusing and after I crossed the bridge, the person there said to go past the trees and turn left.  I thought he meant more than the two trees that were in front of me, but apparently, that was all he meant, so I did a little backtrack to get back to where I needed to be, following a guy that had passed me in the mixup.  He continued on the path and then the trail split and I think he may have missed a trail mark and turned right, and I followed him.  A lady from her backyard seeing that we went the wrong way, luckily yelled at us and got us to turn around after 20 seconds of running the wrong direction, and so we turned around, and came back, finally getting out of that area, back to the course, and a few minutes after that, arrived at our next transition station... and even with all that mixup, I still was able to finish under my A goal with 1:56:10.2!

Leg 3:  21.75 miles

This time, I remembered to drink coke and ate a little bit of food, as the next leg of the race would be a long one, so I prepped myself and changed shoes, ready to bang out another twenty miler, hoping to finish in a good clip.  Dennene had told me that leg 3 was one of the harder legs because of how it was exposed and the sun would beat down on the runners mercilessly, and so I prepared myself for this, bringing with me 2L (70oz) of nuun water.  The plan was to run at a faster pace than the previous leg because there was a lot more straight aways, so mentally I was prepared to work a little bit harder during this portion, so I could start working to maintain that A goal, and so I didn't let the climb at the beginning bother me.  I went up as I always did, walking most of the way, not caring that people would pass me, drinking out of my pack every quarter of a mile so I wouldn't get dehydrated, but as the pace was a lot slower, I didn't realize that I was actually starting to dehydrate myself, but kept on believing that I was doing the right thing, and kept on walking up the mountain, hoping to hurry and get to the other side.... and once I did, there were a few little (extreme) rolling hills, but it gradually went to a long stretch.  At the rolling hills, I passed a guy that was just laying down, and he was not looking too good, so asking if he was okay, he told me he was going to drop after this leg... it didn't look too good for him, and he ushered me to continue on, and so I did, and went by a creek crossing, where I cooled my legs a bit, and continued on.  After the road went to a longer downhill stretch, he just passed me, and just charged on ahead with renewed energy, and letting him go with that, I took a couple pics of the beautiful mountains and continued on, to meet up with him at another creek crossing, where he had submerged himself and cooled his body down.  Seeing that great idea, I squatted down also, as my calves and quads had started to ache a little, and cooled them off.  I also got my bandana and swabbed myself with the cool mountain water for a bit, and then kept on truckin'.  Turning left into some trails that were climbing up the hill/mountain, I continued on and
made sure to just keep doing what I was doing.  I passed by the first check point of this leg, feeling pretty good, ate a handful of nuts, and went off without filling my bladder, because hey, I knew I was going to make the second checkpoint easily with this much hydration on me, but that was almost a bad decision.  I continued on but with the sun beating down on me, I started to notice that because this was a dry heat, I wasn't able to see the sweat coming out of me, and I was actually starting to heat up.  Fortunately, I caught myself being thirstier and drinking more than usual, making me realize that my internal temperature was going up, so immediately, I started drinking more often, taking in as much fluid as I could in order to prevent myself from getting a heat stroke.  At the first creek crossing I came to, I took off my shirt, dunked it in the water, and put it back on, immediately helping me feel so much cooler.  I also dunked my bandana in the water and cooled the back of my head, my armpits, and squeezed the water all over my body to ensure that I had not gone too far.  Although I caught it before it got bad, it did not stop me from feeling slightly nauseated, as I was in fact running out of water as my body was overheating.  I continued on in this fashion every time I crossed a creek, and slowly made my way up to the second check point, where I immediately refilled my bladder and ate a few pieces of watermelon, drinking a little more water.  Fortunately, I caught it before it became any worse, but the problem was that I was still slightly dehydrated, so I needed to move slower.  There was still a little more climbing I had to do, so after the checkpoint, I continued on, and as we went through the long descent and straightaways, I ran a little conservatively, as I knew it wouldn't help me the least bit if I continued at the pace I wanted to go.  I was still dehydrated and hot and the liquid I was putting in me was also not helping me as much as it could, so I attempted to play it safe.
Continuing on my path, I was able to move at a decent pace, but definitely slower than planned.  It was okay, I still had a lot of miles to cover til the end.  As I came across the next check point, I was met with children with water guns, and so I went up there to get shot in the face, to let the kids have some fun with target practice.  At that station, I got myself a good bit of ice cold water, which definitely saved me, and I walked out feeling refreshed.  I continued at that slower pace, still wanting to go fast, but pulling on the reins to make sure I could last the full race, even though I really wanted to push harder.  As I went back to the rolling hills to go back down to the transition area, I started to pick up a little speed and caught up to a couple relay runners, but unfortunately, it was short lived, as I was still recovering.  My toes cramped up as I was headed downhill and I needed to do my super-Sho-style steep downhill tactic, which was basically sliding down backwards on all fours, and managed to save my quads from further damage.  I slowly made it down to the TA, where I arrived in 4:14:31.5, right under my B goal.  Still good considering the dehydration... but trouble was right around the corner.

Leg 4:  10.56 miles

Thinking that I had finished rehydrating myself, I continued on my journey after snacking on a few sandwiches and bananas, and started the climb up the ski slope... but oh my goodness, my calves started cramping and I was not doing well.  I hobbled up and attempted to run the easy parts, but my body wouldn't listen to what my head wanted, and so I took salt pills, ate a gel and decided that this leg was also going to be a sacrificial leg, so that I would be able to get back... but greed took over and patience lost the battle and I took every opportunity to push ahead, not helping myself, and in return, consumed too much water because I was still dehydrated, and at that point, not doing well at all.  I managed to meet up with a female relay runner and walked and talked with her for a bit as she needed a break going up some of the climbs and we managed to get to the checkpoint.  At the CP, I thought I filled my bladder with water, but to my horror, within 30 minutes of walking, I discovered that I had run out of water, and could not go back to running!  Keeping myself calm, I decided once again that I would walk and just give myself a much needed break, letting this leg go so that I could make a comeback and run the rest of the race well.  It didn't look good for me as I started to get thirsty.  At one point, a runner gave me a swig of their water and another, Jay, who I met a few nights earlier, allowed me a good gulp to help me stay alive, and so I kept on walking, growing impatient and slightly dehydrated... and then the rains came.  I figured I was a few miles out, I could just get through this by running the rest of the way, and then rehydrating and replenishing my foods at the TA and take a break the first 3 miles on leg 5, so away I went, jogging for a bit, and then that jogging turned into a run, and then I found I was going at a decent clip all the way to the TA, finishing that leg in 3:01:52.3, which was 9 minutes slower than my C goal.

Leg 5:  18.39 miles

By this time, the once sunny and hot day turned into a nasty cold and wet weather, and it was really gloomy.  Majo had caught up to me at the TA and I saw that he wasn't doing too well at that point too, and so we exchanged encouragements, and I went about on my way, walking with my headlamp on, listening to music to get my mind off of the race and instead on recovery.  At the start, Taylor Spike passed me and as I encouraged him, he stopped for a moment and told me that apparently, we were still top ten, which surprised me!  That automatically tempted me to get to running right away, but I urged him onward and told him after a few miles I would catch up, and so he went off.  Jay came by soon after with his smile and encouraging words went on his way.  For a little bit, I decided that I wanted to run to catch up to them, but after a minute of running, decided that the walk would be definitely worthwhile, so I continued down the road and onto a rocky/gravel trail til a relay person came and I decided to just tag along and use him to encourage me to continue on a run.  By then, we had ventured off and came to a few muddy areas, and the course had become a lot harder, and so I let him go ahead, and at the CP ate a bit and continued on, walking up the dreaded incline.  No sooner had I entered the forest when I came across mud pits, mud slides, mud baths, mud mud mud, and I just slowed down immensely because I just could not handle mud (a big psychological blow), and I ventured through, and at one point, I slipped and landed in a mud pit, which came up to my knee!  I was worried that my shoe would get stuck, but fortunately, I came out alright (muddy), and continued on.  As the trail started it's downward trend, I ran a little quick and managed to find out that I had recovered enough during the uphill climb to begin my attack again.  I stopped worrying about running around puddles and ran right through them, not caring about where I was stepping as long as I was running towards my goal the fastest way possible, and away I went.  I soon passed a few runners that had gotten ahead of me, and met up with Taylor again, and he and I 'battled' each other as we pushed on through leg 5, and saw his crazy downhill run that I would never try to attempt, as it was a little too reckless for me.  We continued onward, passing through the checkpoint, and then that random zombie figurine (that later people thought was a bear) and continued our progression towards the end of the leg.  Towards the end, Taylor seemed to be done as I continued to the TA, where I arrived and to my horror, my support crew wasn't there!!  I had a little mini-panic attack, but after talking with Jay and Majo (who passed me after the last CP) who was still there with their crew, I just got back to my laid back self and just enjoyed the break, getting myself ready to make the attack on leg 6... where I would either make or break, and I was ready to make it.

Leg 6:  22.49 miles

Fortunately, I only waited for 3-5 minutes for the crew to show up, and promptly switched my shoes, ate, and got ready for the last big leg, but before that, I needed to take a bathroom break, so Kris and I got to the port-o-potties and after I did my business, we looked to see where the runners were going and saw headlamps going a certain direction, and so I went off on leg 6.  At a certain point, I wasn't sure what direction to go, and after asking someone whether I was going the right way or not, they assured me that I was to go up a mountain, which was good, because I knew I was suppose to be climbing a mountain and away I went!  The mountain was steep so because I needed to save my energy, I walked up slowly, not passing anybody for a mile and a half, and then there was an arrow that pointed to turn right and I looked carefully because I couldn't believe what I saw... it said that I was on leg 7.  I messed up.  At that instant, I was frustrated, exhausted, helpless, and hopeless.  I didn't know what to do, so I turned around and started trudging down the mountain I had just climbed.  I turned on my phone to text the crew to let them know of the mess up, but as I turned it on, two messages from Maddie and Kim arrived, asking me how the race was.  At that point, a small flicker of hope came back on, and very carefully, I nurtured that flame all the way down to the TA.  The crew looked up at me in horror as I arrived from the wrong side, and they were instantly very encouraging and motivating, getting me the things I needed, and doing their best to bring me back to a good place... but the damage was done.  I was going for a comeback, but with an hour and a bit lost, I wasn't going to do as well as I hoped... but I had enough in me to say that no matter what, I was going to finish the race.  Catherine gave me a hug as she led me to the correct path, and I trudged along, consumed with the burden, trying to rekindle that little bit of hope I had within me.  It was a long trip up.  I met Jacques who was a relay runner that was doing two legs and he needed the walk too, and so he and I both went up, slowly but surely all the way to the CP.  It took us hours to get there, but after getting there, my mental stamina was depleted and I was taken to the tent, where I battled with the demons within and fought my urge to vomit... but to of no avail.  I became weaker with that, but when the volunteers up there started talking about me dropping out, one last cry came from me.  I said no.  I said that I would not give up, that despite how I felt, that no matter what, I did not come here to start a race, I came to finish, and so with renewed vigor, I continued.  I stayed at the CP for 1.5 hours, but I was ready to go.  I pushed myself as I kept up with a few relay individuals who were very encouraging, and got me to the summit, but as they were going down, I grew weak and allowed them to go ahead of me, and I trudged along alone in the darkness, battling the negativity and doubts that were etched into my head.  People continued to pass me, and I kept encouraging them, but the mental damage to myself weighed heavy on my mind and I could not bring myself to continue.  I was weak from not being able to eat anything since the CP, but I started to drink, and little by little got myself back to physically being better.  I made it to the next CP where I was encouraged yet again by the volunteers, and I continued on my path, just a little faster, just a little stronger.  Troy, who wasn't doing too well himself, had caught up and passed me and both he and the lady he was with encouraged me and so after my little pity party, I decided that I would see what I could do, and I started running.  I only ran for 2 minutes til I ran out of juice, but that was enough.  That gave me a little hope.  As I went to the last CP, I ate a fruit cup, and hibernated for 5 minutes.  During that time, a few people passed me, and I felt bad again, but after making myself rise back up, I decided that I would start racing, that I promised I would do my best, and I would DO my best.  Instead of coming in just under 30 hours, I would finish as fast as I was capable of going.  I slowly built up my speed and ran every downhill and straightaways muttering, "I'm a beast, I'm a monster" over and over, and gradually picked people off... I was coming back.  Daylight had come and my body was starting to feel awake.  This was the feeling I wanted, and I kept up the pace, going faster and faster all the way to the TA.  I finished the leg in 10:33:47.4, the slowest time recorded on that leg out of all the finishers, 5 hours behind my C goal, but I was back and ready to rock the next and final leg.

Leg 7:  6.65 miles

Dwight was there waiting for me, and I quickly changed shoes, and got myself ready for the last assault.  I had two goals.  To get under 27 hours, and to pass as many people as I could and not get passed.  There were a few people I knew that were ahead of me, and I was hungry to catch them and see how far I could go.  As soon as I got changed and ready to go, I ran down to the bottom of the mountain that I climbed before, and caught one runner.  I climbed the mountain, seeing a group of about 3 ahead of me, and at the summit, I started running like a madman, ready to catch as many as I could, and I did just that.  I caught those three soon after, and continued on my crazed run, seeing more ahead of me, and I passed 4 more, pushing on and going down.  I arrived at the CP and asked if there was anyone ahead of me that I could catch, and they told me that there was one but he was 9 minutes ahead of me and I thought, "I don't know if I can catch him... but there's only one way to find out." and away I went.  Running hard, my right hamstring had bugged me (old soccer injury), and so I changed my running form slightly, using my right calf more, and continued the assault on the mystery runner.  I didn't know how fast he was going, but I knew that I would be going faster, and so continued all the way out of the trails to the road, and from there, I continued without stopping, because the road is my home, and I told myself I would not stop until the finish line, and away I went.  I came close to the finish line, and sprinted hard all the way to the finish, finishing the run at 1:35:50.3, the 4th fastest time for that leg, with my final finish time at 26:52:45.

Overall, I enjoyed the race.  Sure, I was frustrated with the unfortunate circumstances and me allowing myself to be burdened by that, but the victory that came in overcoming the pain was sweet.  Without my friends from home, Catherine, Kris, and Dwight (the support crew), the other runners in the race, Brian Gallant (who was one of the best RDs ever!  Amazing race, really!), Dennene, and many other people, I would have not been able to have this experience.  Though there were dark times, this last picture pretty much sums up the whole race.  Out of 183 who signed up, only 52 made it to the finish line (28% finish) and I was 19th place overall, 15th male.  It was a fun race, and I am very happy with every event that occurred, and all the friends I've made during that journey.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Building a Success Team

It isn't all about the talent you possess, but also the people who you place in your own life.

We choose a lot of things, but some of the more important things we choose to place in our lives are people.  We surround ourselves with all sorts of people that we have met in life, and depending on how you connected with them, you place a few close to you, and some a little further away.  The closer you place people, the more of an impact they have in your life.  We choose to place certain people close or far depending on a few things... sometimes it's their character, or perhaps their attractiveness, or maybe because of their position... the thing is, we make decisions to give people power to affect you.

Some people support you, while others bring you down, and some, you can bring up, while still others, you may bring down.  Whether or not you realize it, every time you meet someone new, you build a relationship with them... it might not be much of a relationship, but it is built all the same.  Every contact you make, a relationship is built, and with each relationship you built, you can invest or divest... and so can they, and depending on the nature of the relationship, you may grow... or perhaps you will shrink.

As you place people closer to your life, you give them the authority to affect you and your actions... and IF you surround yourself with those that raise you up and bring forth the best in you, the chances of success greatly increases.  Therefore, it is important we surround ourselves with people that give you the opportunity to grow, to rise even higher, and entrust them with the capability of positively impacting our lives.  That trust can be a hard obstacle, but once you have people you can trust, you can take that step forward and raise your standards of who you are and what you can accomplish.

As we surround ourselves with those that make an impact to our lives, we become like those we surround ourselves with, and surrounding ourselves with successful people, we become even more successful.  Surrounding ourselves with positive people, WE become even more positive.  Surround ourselves with good people, WE become GREAT.
However, that does not mean you push away those that may not do that, because they too have the potential to grow, the potential to be part of your success team, because you can be the difference in their lives.  Surrounding yourself with a team that brings you up, you can be in turn be a part of a different team that builds another individual up.  As your team continues to nurture you, you can help another team nurture another individual.

Yet, some choose to push those people away... why?

Sometimes, it's not a matter of trust, but a matter of self-worth.  Some people tend to drive those that can help away because they feel that they don't deserve the help... and to those that feel that way, STOP.  You are definitely worth it.  Every life is important.  There are no exceptions to that rule.  So gather that strength and take that first step, to take hold of the hand that's reaching down to pick you up.  Rise, grow, and become stronger, because in due time, it'll be your hand that'll be reaching down to help another.

"Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much." -
Helen Keller

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Using Focus to Achieve Success

An axe hitting various points on a tree trunk will not chop the tree down, but should it strike the same point continuously, it can bring down even the most colossal of trees.

Focus is then imperative to success.  In order to succeed and achieve something enormous, every day needs to be dedicated towards achieving that goal.  Should you let that energy go elsewhere, the likelihood that you will succeed greatly diminishes.  The higher the goal, the more focused you must become, because in order to succeed, it means that every single swing counts.

Let's say that you have about a thousand swings in you.  You could either generally aim it at the same place and use a good 600 swings to achieve that goal of knocking down a tree, or you could take precise swings and strike 400 times and knock that tree down.  The better the focus, the easier it becomes to succeed.  Efficiency is all about being deliberate in your actions, that no matter the circumstances, you take the best possible steps (or swings in this case) in order to achieve your goal... however, be warned that we have more than one tree to knock down.

In my life, I have multiple dreams.  I'm going to be a world class endurance athlete.  I'm going to serve and help as many people as I can with what talents I have.  I would like to be the best me that I could be.  I would like to have a good family... but if I were to focus all my attention on only one dream, the others would suffer because of it.  It's important to balance that focus in order to have a holistic life.  In focusing all my attention on others, I would in turn forget to help myself and thus impede my own personal development, limiting what I can do to serve those around me.  Therefore, we must be willing to always take that time to step back and assess where we are, so we could develop and mature accordingly.

In focusing too little, we aren't able to succeed in anything.  In focusing too much, we lose the ability to live a holistic life.  As with everything else, we must live our lives in balance.  Don't be someone that has too many things to do that nothing ever gets done... but at the same time, don't be that person that focuses entirely on work, and loses their relationship at home.

The power of focus allows all of our strength to go to a single focal point, making the greatest impact, and allowing so much to occur.

Imagine a magnifying glass.  It can focus the warm rays of the sun into a focal point and immediately combines all that energy, causing the kindling to combust.  In the same way, focus has the potential to maximize your efforts, allowing you to accomplish countless feats.

Friday, May 29, 2015


Today, after a run, I had an interesting conversation with an older gentleman.  I was talking about how I wished I could run more instead of having to drive everywhere, and he told me, "Your body is built to run.  Mine is not."  To which I said, "Actually, I molded my body to get here.  You can too." and he paused for a moment, chuckled, and replied, "You're absolutely right."

We often focus on talent but dismiss skill.  You see, skill is something that we earn through hours and hours of hard and concentrated effort.  We all start out with our unique set of strengths and weaknesses, but it is up to us to harness what we have and make it better... perhaps even transform our weaknesses into strengths.  Though we may be blessed in certain attributes or are given certain experiences, it is our responsibility to nurture what we have and direct it.

Some accept their strengths and weaknesses and do not mature.  They accept what they were born with, the experiences they have... yet they fail to use them as a springboard to leap higher and achieve even more.  You see, events will unfold whether you are in control or not.  Things will happen in your life, whether you like it or not.  Afterwards, it's you that will translate and see the situation, and then either use it as an excuse for failure, or as a reason for further growth.  It is up to you to react to the situation and limit yourself or be proactive about it and raise your potential.

When we figure out who we are, it does not define who we will be.  Rather, it gives us a better idea of what direction we ought to go... and how to get there.  Progress, then, is success, and when we are 'happy' remaining at where we are, we become stagnant and are not truly happy with who we are.  Therefore, it is vital that we search for ways to become stronger.  First, identify who we are, the talents we have, the experiences we received, the passion within us, but don't stop there.  Grow.  Mature.  Develop.

Keep striding forward.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Finding Joy in Where You Are

Today, I ran for 80 minutes.

That's a simple way of putting how my run was today.  However, I can also say that same event in a totally different way.

"As I walked out the door, ready to go out, the sun shone brightly, warming my skin, the first mile on the sidewalk warmed my legs up as I made my way towards Knoxville.  As a soothing wind caressed my whole being, I fell into a trance as I glided down the hill and made a turn to cross the bridge, looking at how the light touched the water, waves glistening.  As I made way down towards the river, I was eager to run on such a beautiful day, and two and a half miles in, I came upon a few water fountains spraying up on the sidewalk, and without a moment's hesitation, jumped through the cool water.  Soaked and smiling, I continued running as the sun dried me out, getting into a decent pace, running down Neyland Drive, making my way to Tyson Park, passing by a few families of geese.  As I passed by the UT Gardens, I looked down on my right and saw that there were a few turtles laying on a log lazily, soaking up the sun.  Ahead of me, a few cyclists were casually riding, and little by little, I began to reel them in.  Passing them, the lady in front was saying, "Oh my goodness!" making me smile even more, and as I waited to cross a road, a kind individual in a car waved me across, and I waved back.  As the forty minutes were up soon, I checked to see how far I'd run and wondered if I could continue this journey at the sub-seven minute pace I was going.  Slightly sore, but enjoying the pace, I began my trek back, passing other runners, and thought about how wonderful today was.  As I began running on Neyland Drive, I noticed a large boat lazily going the same direction as myself, and little by little, I inched forward bit by bit, pulling ahead.  As I came back, I came across the same fountains again, and embracing the cool water, I went through again, smiling once again at how silly I must have looked to those around.  Climbing back up and crossing Gay Street, I made it right in the nick of time before the boat passed underneath, and with that glorious feeling, I continued on, looking at my watch wondering if I would indeed come back in 80 minutes.  Seeing that I needed to speed up a good bit, the fun atmosphere shifted into a competitive one, as I started picking up my speed to see if I could indeed get back in time.  As I began climbing up the first hill on my last mile, my legs burned and I wasn't sure how I could keep this pace when it was suppose to be a 'casual' run, yet I pushed those thoughts aside and continued on.  As I came through the last tenth of a mile, I looked at the time, and realized that I wouldn't make it on time, but kept the pace up anyway, and finished 20 seconds past my allotted time to finish a wonderful run."

Now most people reading would wish that I stuck with that one simple sentence... but as for me personally, the feelings I had while running, a sentence doesn't do it any justice.

In our lives, we tend to shorten our experiences into small efficient stories that tells us what we've done, the achievements we've accomplished... but we fail to take in the details that describes the experiences we've gone through.  We focus too much on the results of our effort that we forget the journey itself.

In taking note of only our successes or failures, we lose the struggles we go through, the decisions we make, the experiences we gain, the people we meet.  It's not just about the details either.  It's about our view of each little event, where we open our eyes and take that time to appreciate what we're going through.

During the times of pain, we appreciate how we recognize our feelings... how our character and circumstances collide.  We open our hearts to and give ourselves the opportunity to understand where we stand.  It is then we are able to understand that pain is necessary, yet suffering... it's optional.  Joy or suffering, both come from within, and we have the capability of choosing either in our circumstances.

In the moments where things seem mundane, it seems hard to find joy... but once again, understanding that joy comes from within, it makes it so much easier to appreciate the world around you.  You begin to take in the details you are used to ignoring.  You welcome what may be a given as something special.

When something good happens, we usually get happy... and forget about being joyful.  Happiness is something that comes along for a ride and then goes away over time, while joy... joy stays with you for a longer jaunt, as a part of your character.

You see, joy does not come from the events that occur in your life, but from within.  It is up to us to harness that joy inside and use that joy as a lens to look through, seeing the world in a more beautiful way.  Joy has always been a part of who we are, but with the things that go on in our lives, sometimes we forget to utilize the capability it has to bring light to our lives.  Once we harness the joy within, we can use that to help those around us to realize their full potential, and one individual at a time, we can make this world into a joyful place.

Joy is prayer; joy is strength: joy is love; joy is a net of love by which you can catch souls.

-Mother Teresa

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Delirium Ultra: 12 Hours

It was 7:22 am, Monday morning, January 19th, a few days after I ran the 12 Hours of Hostelity when I received a message on Facebook.  It said, "Hey! If you are interested in Delirium I can talk to the RD..."

Standing at the starting line of the race on February 7th, I was both nervous and excited.  Who knew that a Facebook message would end up with me signing up for a race 3 weeks later.  The night before the race had also been an interesting night.  I did things I normally didn't do, eating burgers and fries for one, but also camping out at the course in sub-freezing temperatures without a proper sleeping bag (apparently, mine could handle cold temps... just not freezing).  On the bright side, I could sleep in, and had more than enough time to prepare for the race.  Being nervous, I didn't eat breakfast, as I could still eat during the race, after all, it was only a 12 hour race... right?

My Weapons of Choice:

4 pairs of Asics Gel Lyte 33 3
Injinji socks
Breathable Socks
KT Tape
Underarmour briefs
Lucky Shorts
Underarmour shirt
Red Breathable T-shirt (from my first ultra)
Old Sports Jacket
Assassin's Creed Jacket
Asics Gloves
Winter Gloves
Black Bandana
Garmin Forerunner 310XT
Princeton Tec Headlamp
iPhone and accessories
Bengay and Aquaphor

The Battlefield:

Located in Ridgeland, SC.  A 1.695 mile loop with hardly any elevation gain.  Although it was a little muddy and wet, not technical.  There was enough room on the trail for people to run together or to pass others.  Beautiful scenery, various sights, shaded and sunny areas... just a wonderful variety throughout the course.  Though the temperature started at about the mid 30s, I believe it went up to 60 during the day, and then went down to the 40s by the time the 12 hour race ended.

The Plan:

Run every lap, after finishing, walk to the aid station, drinking water/heed/coke and eating bananas or potatoes before feeling hungry.  Every hour take 2 s-caps, pickles and m&m's when needed, and then ease back into running the next lap.  Because of the lack of time for training due to coming off a different race, I was willing to look at 50 laps (84.75 miles) as the improbable A goal, 46 laps (77.97 miles) as my B goal, and 43 laps (72.885 miles) as my C goal.

Start - 3 Hrs:

We took a group picture right before the race, and then went back to huddling with friends due to the cold, but at 8:00, we were off.  I jogged around in the beginning, but after Kirby yelled at me to hurry up and go ahead, I shot out and eventually caught the leaders, pulling ahead to run alongside the guy on the bike leading the way for the first loop.  I got to know him a good bit, but as the loop ended, I drank a cup of water, ate a banana, and kept on truckin'.  I was going at about a 7:30 pace, which was pretty fast for what I wanted to do, but in the back of my mid, I had my A, B, and C goals and the 7:30 pace would keep me at the A range, which was good.  However, my body had other plans.  I'm not sure if it was because of what I ate the night before, or what else, but it seemed as if every other lap, I would have to go to the port-o-potty to relieve myself and continue on.  This was not good for two reasons.  Firstly, it would slow down my time, not only losing time, but also the momentum, which meant I'd have to warm up my muscles again to continue.  Secondly, I was worried about how going to the bathroom would dehydrate me faster than I would fill myself up.  I had already planned on drinking every single lap, but with all the bathroom stops, things weren't in my favor.  If everything worked perfectly, then I would push for 26 in the first half of the race, 24 in the second half would be possible.  Though I continued to have bathroom stops from the get-go, the first 2 hours went without a hitch.  However, after the second hour was up, I started feeling worse and worse and my stomach started acting up more and more, and things weren't looking too good.  I knew at this point that this race was going to be a tough one.  The aid station crew noticed that too, and though I looked fine and ran fairly well, the internal battle started to show in how I acted.  Most races, as I would pass others, I would encourage them and do my best to make them smile and be happy.  This race, it was not going to be that easy.  I was fortunate enough to have a great first two hours that I just finished the 13th lap when it was time for me to take s-caps and change shoes, but this next three hours were going to test how much I could do.

3-6 Hrs:

Though the weather was warmer, the stomach issues continued, making my every lap harder as it became a heavy burden to continue at the pace I was previously going for, and at that moment, the hope I had of getting 50 laps in was snuffed out and from then on, I had to reevaluate where I was and whether 46 was even possible.  Since my body was feeling pretty awful but my brain worked pretty fine, I thought that as long as I just did 12 laps in this next 3 hours and then 11 on the following and 10 after that, I would be able to get in 46 laps... but I wasn't sure whether or not my body could handle it.  At this point, my hamstrings started to get a little sore from running.  I wasn't sure whether it was because of the electrolyte imbalance with all the bathroom trips or because it was a flat course and I was only using my muscles in a certain way for an extended amount of time, but it was another mental thorn which tore at me, making this not just a physical battle, but a mental battle as well.  If I fell under the stress and self destructed, I would end up ruining my race plan, running considerably slower than what I was capable of.  It was crucial for me to intensify my focus and I said my mantra, "I'm a monster, I'm a beast" to keep a rhythm going and center my thoughts on this loop that I was on.  I was still a regular visitor at the port-o-potty, but once I started running the loop, there was no stopping til I finished it.  I still had some energy left in me in the beginning portion of the 3 hours, but towards the end, because I couldn't consume enough food, I was running out of gas, and thus I started to slow down.  I needed energy, and the only way that I could get this energy was to put on my headphones and listen to "Happy" by Pharrell Williams on repeat for the duration of the race.  I hoped that I wouldn't regret this decision.  I was only able to finish 11 loops, and at the end of the 6 hours, I was at a total of 24 laps.

6-9 Hrs:

Things were looking grim as I put on a new pair of shoes, but 46 times around the loop was very unlikely and if I went for it, I would most likely end up hurting myself and not even finishing the full 12 hours.  My stomach was feeling a little better, but it wasn't back to normal, and with 6 hours left, I needed to make the best decision to finish the race running the best I could.  By this time, it was 2:00 pm and though others were taking layers off, as I was undergoing some sort of shock to my system, my body was starting to get colder and so I started layering back up.  I noticed that my head was feeling a little feverish and knew immediately that it was important for me to cool down my head, just as much as I needed to warm up my body.  I doused my bandana under the cold water, and putting it on my head where it instantly relieved the heat that was building up, and feeling a little more energized, I continued on my trek.  An hour passed and by then, the sick feeling in my gut finally went away, but there was still the new problem of not having enough energy.  I was running on fumes and it was important for me to get in 19 loops in the last 6 hours, so that I could run 43 loops to meet my C goal.  I honestly felt like crap, but I understood the importance of continuing to the best of my abilities, and came up with 2 options.  First, I would either run 10 laps here and run 9 laps at the last 3 hours, or I would run 9 laps here, conserving as much energy as I could so that I could run 10 laps in the last 3 hours.  I wanted to do 10 here and now to get it over with, but I wasn't sure what my body could do, and in order to do 9, I needed to do a lap every 20 minutes, so I decided that I would try to give myself as much of a head start as I could for the last 3 hours, but not push it til the end.  Little by little, I gained an extra minute each lap I went through, and by the time the 3 hours were up, I finished 9 laps and was on my 10th.  During the last few laps, the volunteers at the aid station 'forced' me to eat so that I could get my energy back, and it seemed to work and I was ready to do my final push.

9 - Finish:

Things never work out the way you want them, and in today's case, it seemed like a lot of things went wrong.  It was the final 3 hours and I was ready to step it up a little bit to finish 10 laps and get to 43, but little by little, I noticed the pain on my left leg getting worse.  It was my IT band.  It wasn't feeling good.  I knew that for the time being, the adrenaline coursing through my body was preventing me from feeling the pain.  I had to sacrifice some time to wrap it tight and keep my IT band from getting injured beyond repair.  I stopped and asked the aid station guy for tape and if he could wrap it up.  He did the best he could, and though it took more time than I wanted, the job was done and I was able to get back on my feet with my left knee wrapped.  It didn't 100% fix the problem, but it did prevent it from getting any worse, and so I had to reclaim the time I lost.  I had a little over 2 hours and I was starting a little behind already.  Every second counted.  After a lap, I talked to another volunteer, asking her to fill my cup for me, and get ready for the next lap, and from then on, I shaved off an extra minute each lap because I had someone supporting me.  Gradually, I gained the time I lost, and with about an hour left, I needed to get in 3 laps in order to get 43 laps.  I was pretty sure my knee could handle the distance, but still, it wasn't definite and as I ran the first of the final three, I was a little excited.  By this time, it had gotten dark and I was running with a headlamp, and so one misstep and I could slip and fall and at this point of the race, I couldn't do that.  After finishing the lap, I had about 44 minutes left for the final two, about 22 minutes per lap.  More than doable.  I finished the penultimate lap, excited, I drank the water, got ready, and off I went.  I made sure to run at a slow pace to ensure that I didn't slip or fall, but as I came to the last mile of the loop, I started speeding up, and upon reaching the finish line, I was greeted by a good crowd, congratulating me on a new course record and first place overall.  43 laps completed, 72.885 miles.


I never thought that this flat and fast course would be as hard as it was.  I would have loved to continue encouraging others as I ran, but focusing on my goal, I ended up passing others without speaking, and still kinda feel bad for doing that.  Hyperventilating (instead of talking) was definitely my secret weapon, getting as much oxygen in my body as I could to maximize my running, and hey, no cramps during the race!  During the race, I felt sick for 5 of the 12 hours, and though it was a physically exhausting race, what got to me the most was the mental aspect.  There were multiple times during the race where I felt like giving up, as if the sick feeling in my gut was too much for me to handle.  However, due to the support from the volunteers and friends that I gained during this run, I was able to continue to run solid.  Also, during the tough times, I also thought of my Cross Country team and asked myself what kind of coach I would be if I gave up because I felt bad or tired.  To me, as a coach, it was important to be a good example to my team, and despite how bad I was feeling, it would be better to give it my best no matter what went wrong.  I ran a good race not because of the distance or the course record, but because I had the tenacity, the determination, never giving up despite the everything that worked against me.  I still was able to enjoy the beauty the course had to offer, meet others that were running, and continue to pursue my path to become the best I can be, no matter what.

Thanks to Tim Waz for providing a spectacular race.  I enjoyed everything you did, from the swag and awards to the volunteers and entertainment.  What you put together was so awesome that it makes me want to be a RD and make a 6/12/24 hour race of my own here in Knoxville (if you have any tips, I would love to hear them)!  Thanks to David Dowling for most of the pictures on this blog (Tim took the last two, I believe).  Thanks also to Kirby Russell who sent me that Facebook message, getting me to take part in this awesome adventure, and also congrats for finishing 100 miles during the race!  You really did an awesome job!

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

The Humble Runner

No matter how hard you try, you cannot put water in a bottle if the bottle has a cap on it.  Instead, you need to take the cap off in order to add more water in the container, so that it can serve its purpose.  In the same way, the more you accept how incomplete you are, the more you can grow.

It's easy when you're a beginner because you know you don't know everything.  When you don't know, the easiest way for you to learn is to ask.  The more you ask, the more you can grow, and the growth is exponential.  The more you understand what you know and don't know, you begin to ask the right questions and you start to learn at a faster pace, becoming skilled in the art of seeking knowledge.  Eventually, the beginner evolves into a skilled individual, and instead of being the ones asking questions, the individual is the one answering the questions and more often than not, this individual's growth reaches a plateau.

The thing is that once we become skilled or become an expert in a certain field, our quest for knowledge diminishes, leaving behind a rather skilled individual that has put a cap on his or her field of expertise.  We begin turning a blind eye to the constant growth of information that surrounds us and instead of that exponential growth, we begin climbing a slow incline, if anything, and look around us as others fly by as if they had on a pair of wings.  At this point, some of us will go back and start asking those flying by how they are doing so, and once again jump on the exponential growth that is going around them and fly up even higher then they were before.  Others will instead stop and wonder why they are in their current status.

There will be the exceptional few that never stop their pursuit for knowledge and they continue to propel themselves forward, growing at an astonishing rate.  How can they do that?  What makes them different than the others around them?  Are they just that talented?

I think not.

There is a simple solution to their extraordinary growth.  They simply threw away their cap.  They understood that they will never get to the point where they know everything and so they constantly add to their expertise, expanding their mind, allowing them this incredible growth.

One of my runner friends, DK always tells me, "Sho, stay humble." before every race, and I believe that it's essential to be that humble runner in order not just to race, but also to grow.  It's easy for me to learn and grow from the knowledge of those that have more experience than I do, and so staying humble among the veterans of ultra-running is easily done.  Through this, I have been able to grow and become a stronger runner.

As I become faster and stronger, I continue to learn from those around me, as well as from my own experiences, continuing the yearning for growth.  I understand now that as long as I train properly and prepare well enough, I can perform well in races.  However, it is during this phase that I often find myself falling into a trap.  Although I ask for advice and listen to those with more experience than I have, at times, I fail to give adequate attention to those around me that may not even be runners.

It is very easy to listen to someone that has a million dollars that gives you advice on how to earn money.  It is a lot harder to listen to someone that doesn't have a cent to their name that may have knowledge that you may not have.  However, there is one important fact.  Truth is truth.  No matter who says it, whether it be a child or an older individual, the truth will remain absolute.

To be honest, when someone that didn't run gives me advice, my initial reaction was skepticism.  Even if they are absolutely inaccurate and their advice was invalid, my action and attitude was a poor response.  My automatic reaction was to dismiss the advice and continue on my path.  However, had the advice been good, I would have missed the opportunity, and continued on my path without growth.  Little by little, I am beginning to understand that it is important to have an open heart and learn to the art of discernment so that I can continue to grow.  It hasn't been an easy journey though, as I take pride in knowing things... especially about running, but learning how to harness that pride has been the most helpful and effective thing for my own personal growth.

That being said, I'm still not done in correcting my bad habits and working on my new ones.  I suspect that it'll be a continuous battle, but in the end, it's worth the effort.  It's important that I have pride as a runner, but not let that same pride control me.  To be the best I can be, I must yearn to become humble.  To continue the exponential growth, I need to learn to throw away the cap and continue to learn, from both runners and non-runners, because after all, truth can come from both.

So what about you?  Are you ready to throw away your cap too?

Monday, January 19, 2015

12 Hours of HOSTELITY

First of all, forgive me if I write too much.  Unlike a 24 hour race or 100 mile race, I only ran this 12 hour race so my mind was functioning like normal, and there was no traumatic memory loss...

It was 2:00 am and I was still awake on Saturday.  For some odd reason, I was nervous about the race that would occur in 7 hours in Dahlonega, GA.  I drove in to Cumming, Friday evening so that I could chill and hang out with my sister and friends, but I could not stop thinking about the race.  My heart was racing, and I was feeling anxious.  There was no reason for me to be anxious, but because of the race, I just couldn't focus.   Though my heart felt like a beating drum, my mind was calm.  As long as I slept at least 3 hours, I would be ready to run a 12 hour race, as I had enough sleep the night prior... and before I knew it, I was waking up to my alarm at 7:00 am.  Everything was scheduled... including me being off schedule.  The plan was to leave at 7:30, get there by 8:15, and dilly dally til the start at 9:00.  I changed into my clothes, wrapped my right knee with KT tape, listened to some pump up music, and left for the course at 7:50, got a little lost once I reached Dahlonega, and arrived at the course at 8:40, giving me 20 minutes to sort everything out.

My sister Maika came with me and during the car drive, I told her that I didn't really have a plan, except to stop for a drink and 'something' every two laps, so once I started running, I'll make up a plan and would at that point tell her exactly what I want to do, and being a very kind and understanding sister, she sighed, shook her head, and didn't freak out.  It's a Sho thing, and she's used to it.  My other sister Mary would eventually come with her fiance Tim and they would help with the support so things on my sister's end would be just fine... or so I thought.


4 pairs of Asics Gel Lyte 33 3
Injinji socks so I wouldn't get blisters
Breathable socks that I put over my Injinji socks as an extra layer for extra blister prevention 
KT tape to support my right knee and arches on both feet
Underarmour briefs to prevent chafing as much as possible
Lucky shorts because I needed a little luck here and there
Underarmour shirt to prevent chafing and to keep me warm
Red breathable t-shirt from my first ultra (TNF Endurance Challenge ATL)
Assassin's Creed jacket to keep me warm... and because I thought I looked pretty cool
Asics gloves, a thin pair to keep me warm~
Winter gloves that I put over my thin pair to make sure my hands were warm
Black bandana, because I always wear one, keeps sweat out of my eyes, keeps me my head warmish
Garmin Forerunner 310XT to keep my time... not my pace
Princeton Tec Headlamp... so that I could see in the dark.
iPhone with only a few songs downloaded, to make the torture... less so
Ben Gay and Aquaphor, my two important friends that keeps my body... not as pain-filled

The Course:

It was a .65 mile looped course, and other than the start area, nice trail.  Not technical at all!  There were only a few roots and rocks that jutted out that would trip you, but they were all marked with a neon green paint, which made life so much easier!

Start - 3 Hrs (including detailed course description):

It was about time for me to find out what the course was actually like.  I had no clue what to expect, but at the same time, I knew what I had to do.  I didn't put on any Ben Gay because I didn't have time, arriving just before the start, but eh, that was okay, I just wanted to have fun.  After applying the Aquaform, I came out of the toilet to hear the last bit of the announcements about how every 6 hours the course would change directions, and then there was a minute left for me to get to the start and head off.  The starting area was a little small, but then again, there were less than 40 people running around in circles, so not a problem at all!  As soon as they said go, I did my usual take off, let a few people lead the way so I get the lay of the land, and started chatting a little bit with the people around me.  The course took me around the hostel, and as we passed the chicken coops (which I honestly did not see til about 4-6 hours later), we went down a mini embankment, which led us to a 'long' stretch, which at the end dipped down to the left and then went back up a bit to the right, a nice U turn and started going up with a single switch back which had us going back towards where we were going, but a little higher.  The trail was slightly going up, and as we approached the chicken coop (from the higher elevation), we did another U-turn which had us going on a very slight ascent, a U-turn still going slightly up, and then crossing a gravel road, we went back into the trails, but the wider trail became a single track trail as we went to the highest point of the course.  At the top, we started down the descent through the woods, and went all crazy til we finally came out at the top of the Chasm of Despair, where you would have to run down to the bottom, only to go back up again to the gravel road to the hostel.  After the first loop, I decided that I'd just stretch out my legs and hurry along and catch up with Deano, who had already gone up a little ahead.  Leading the pack was where I liked to be, but after a few laps, I thought about it... and decided that I needed to chill and run MY race and not someone else's race.  I slowed down, gave up my lead to Deano, and just ran what I thought was a comfortable pace for a 100 laps.  I didn't know exactly how hard the hill was going to be, but I thought that I could at least get in 65 miles... right?  Well... when people heard what my goals were for the race... they gave me the crazy eyes look.  Yes, the people who signed up for a 12/24 hour race giving me a crazy eye look... that kind of told me that I may have set the bar too high... but there was only one way to find out!  Keep going, run smart, and hope for the best.  The first two laps came by and my sister Mary was there... but they forgot to give me water... so I said it was fine, I'll be back in two, so get me some pedialyte... and in one lap they had the pedialyte ready, but I ignored them and kept going... but after my 4th loop, I got back, they got the pedialyte... they didn't take the covering off the bottle!  I was ever so slightly not as happy... but you know... it was my fault for not explaining, so I told them I'd get back in two laps, and then after that, I gave them an order for every mini-stop I had.  Pedlialyte, Coke, Water, Water and repeat forEVER!!  Every hour, I would take in S-caps, but other than that, I would listen to my stomach.  If I wanted something extra, I'd let them know, and after that, everything went smoothly.  

3-6 Hrs:

I stopped at the 3 hour mark to switch shoes (change through 4 pairs, 3 hours each, 12 hours total, BOOM, life is good) and by that time, I had talked to practically everyone on the course, and went by several nicknames, from Viper, Shadow, Sho-time, or anything... sometimes I don't know where the nicknames came from.  Also, by the 3 hour mark, I needed to be a little more than 25 laps to get to the 100 lap goal, and I was at about 27 laps in.  I was at a decent pace, and I felt okay... well... my gluteus maximus was a little sore.  I kind of regretted doing leg day the Thursday before... but hey, it'll be alright as long as I ran smart right?  It's only 12 hours... or that's what I thought at that time.  For the first 3 hours, I needed to restrain myself so that I could get to my goal, and now, the main thing for me was to ask myself how my muscles were feeling and if I needed anything else.  It was smooth sailing, and I figure the sore glutes feeling would feel away... but I was wrong, and by then, I divided the course up to the runnable areas and the walking areas.  The steeper hill I would walk/hike, and the rest I ran.  By the 4th hour, I was somewhere around 36-7 laps, which was a good pace, but I felt a little more tired, and so I got the iPhone and put in some good tunes to keep me situated.  Now it became serious, the turning point where I would figure out if I would make it to the 100 laps, or burn out.  Somewhere between the 4th hour and 6th hour, I hit a mental wall and slowed down tremendously.  I could not go as fast as I wanted, nor did I want to push it, because that might cause me to burn out earlier... I just wanted to finish.  Things weren't looking too good, and I wasn't feeling my best.  Though the sun was shining and it was daylight, I was still cold, and I didn't like racing in the cold.  In my head, the voices suddenly told me that I couldn't do it, and I hit a mental low, which stayed with me for the duration of this 3 hour period.  At the end of the 6 hours, I hit 51 laps, which was 33.15 miles... hitting 100 laps might have been a little too daring... but did that goal also mess with my chances of finishing 88 laps?

6-9 Hrs:

Turning around and doing the course backwards was a relief.  It really changed everything... including my mindset.  Though I was still in a bad place, filled with negative emotions, the change in direction added a small light.  The difference didn't affect my speed, in fact, my speed still continued to slow, but it did allow my mind to regroup and rest.  In the midst of this darkness, I asked myself a question. "Is my body not strong enough?"  I did a body check, and answered, "It's strong enough.  It can handle this."  The next question I asked myself was, "What's causing me to be weak and slow down?" and in reply, I answered truthfully, "my mind."  My body was capable of handling this course, but what got to me was how weak my mind was.  The hill had slowly changed into a mountain, and my perspective changed, allowing me to become weaker than what I actually was.  At this point, I had finished about 66 laps, and I was passed the 8th hour, which meant that realistically, I wasn't going to make the 100... but I would still be able to give it my best.  Still down, I had sat down to eat the wonderful tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwich, and started taking in as much energy for the final push, and as I stood to go out once more, Philip gave me one sentence which gave me that final shove, "You only need to run 21 more laps to tie the record." and with that, everything fell into place, my mind was strong once again.  It was Sho-time.  I put my iPhone to repeating one song and one song only... Happy by Pharrell Williams, and from then on, I took every breath on beat, semi-hyperventilating, but at the same time supersaturating my body with oxygen, getting rid of excess carbon dioxide.  I started running again.  There was hope, there was a chance, and I could make it.  In the midst of despair, I had created a small mantra, asking a question and answering it.  Four simple words:  Mind?  Strong!  Body?  Strong! and in asking and answering how I was doing, I believed in the power of my words, and pressed on.  I was going to make it to 90 laps.

9 Hrs - Finish:

The margin for error when trying to do your best is so small... go too fast and you risk bonking out and failing, go too slow, and you finish the race without giving it your best.  It was a scary balancing act.  Sometimes, I would run out of energy, but with the last minute eating from the previous few laps, the energy would miraculously appear, and I was barely making it through, running my best, and achieving my new found goal.  Time was coming to a close, and every moment count.  I couldn't be tempted to stop, I needed to push on, to do my best.  I promised myself that no matter what happened, I would continue and do the VERY best I can.  There was no lap count I was going for, but just the promise that when I finished the race, I would have given it my all, leaving behind no regrets. Sometime during the last 3 hours, Miriam and Marisa came to cheer me on, and with them here, it gave me another reason to continue on.  There are people here cheering and supporting me on this journey.  There was no way I could let them down.  2 hours left and I was on my way to getting 88 if I had about 10 minutes per loop, which was easy.  1.5 hours left and I needed to be able to average a 9 minute loop if I wanted to get to 90, but I wanted to give it my best, I wanted more.  I started averaging close to 7 minutes per loop and if I could continue to push onward, I might be able to get to 92 loops... it was possible, and that possibility pushed me onward... until the 88th loop.  All of a sudden, the momentum I had built up suddenly collapsed.  I had run out of energy.  My muscles were fully capable of running, but they had no juice.  I was done.  24 minutes left, barely any energy within me to walk... I was in trouble.  At that moment, I saw a smore that was in my sister's hand... and said, "I want that smore." and took it, ate it.  Finishing 2 laps was definitely doable.  4 laps, impossible.  3 laps... I just might be able to make it.  A quick calculation in my head and even though 3 seemed too strenuous, all I asked myself to do was to focus on this one lap, the 89th lap, a crucial lap that could either give me hope, or throw it all away.  I needed to finish this lap in under 9 minutes.  That's all I need, and that's all I focused on.  After getting cheered on as I broke the record, I walked a little more and then started my run.  The course seemed longer, but I knew it was just my mind, and I kept on going.  I finished the lap in a little more than 9 minutes, and with another smore, I left for my 90th lap with about 14 minutes left.  This was it.  Sacrificing one lap, I was able to recover enough strength to give me just enough energy to get me through my 'final' lap at a faster pace.  I ran a little faster, kept going a little further, and was able to get in with about 7 minutes left on the clock, and then I shouted at my sisters and the aide station, "1 more lap" and without stopping, I picked up my pace.  The 91st lap was the last lap, and I was going to finish it before the 12 hours were up.  The hill was daunting, but it was just one more hill.  I only had to get through it once and then I was done.  It didn't matter how tired I felt... nothing else mattered to me except for my finish.  I was going to finish this lap, no matter what happened.  As I flew down the course, my sisters and friends spread out around the course and cheered, and I ran harder.  I had to make it.  I needed to make it.  I wanted this lap.  As I crested the final incline, I turned left towards the finish line, and sprinted.  With my heart beating fast and my labored breathing, I heard the announcer saying there was 90 more seconds til the end... I had run my fastest lap at the end.  I finished 91 laps, a total of 59.15 miles, a new course record.


The race was so well done.  Leigh did a great job with volunteers and EVERYTHING.  The people at the aide station were amazing and helpful, cheering all the runners on.  The other runners were also amazing, some of them so kind to stop and just wave me through as I went through the last few hours as fast as I could.  If the 12 hours was this tough... what would the 24 be like?  Philip told me that nobody had broken 100 in this race, and told me that if I trained well enough, next year, I could come back and claim that title... interesting...

After the race, I had the most wonderful massage and also that compression leg thingy... whatever it was, it was amazing, but in the end, the best thing about this race was the amazing group of people that made this possible.  Without a director, volunteers, runners, friends, families... none of this would be as fun as it was.  This was definitely an amazing race.