Pre race

Day 143

It is two days before the race. I signed up for Jack and Jill downhill marathon back in who know when. It is my first far away (Seattle) marathon. I had to book a flight and hotel and car rental.

I have been eyeing this race since when I first heard maybe back in 2017. My friend did it and liked it a lot. Flying to the west coast costs lot of money and originally I was planning to doing only marathons in the east coast and eventually work my way to the west. However, my friend was going to run with me in this race and I was so excited, however she was injured during training and won’t be able to make it.

At the moment my health is not that great and that is an understatement. I really don’t know if I will be able to finish it. Last week, I could barely run a mile. I will try any way. Couple days ago, I was able to do 5 miles and that was the longest run so far. My body is recovering from the Lyme disease. I am one week in of taking antibiotic. I have two more weeks left.

I know now at least I can do 5 miles. If I can do 5, I probably can do 10. I did the math that as long as I could run 20 miles in four hours (or 4.5), I can finish. Will see. My plan is to run 2/3 of the time and walk 1/3. For the first 5 or 10 miles, I don’t have to walk. Then from 10 to 20 miles… I might have to start walk and run. Maybe every 10 min run couple with 2 min of walk. Then 20 – 26 mile , will likely all walk. I will need to bring a pen with me on the run to calc my target pace.

After all the money spent on this race, it is too late to back out. I just need to rest well today and tomorrow.

4th of July weekend

Day 140

Good news. I ran today. It felt good. It was a slow run and I couldn’t get my heart rate above 110 beats. I ran for 4 miles, actually 3 mile and walked for 1. This was my long run for the week! But I’m very happy because I wasn’t out of breath!

My body is really weak. I am still happy to run because for last three weeks, it has been on a downward fall. I was wondering when I would reach the bottom. I actually couldn’t run at all. And today I felt I could finally find a pace and keep it. It felt great.

I felt now this what I can work with. I can rebuild and I will take it step by step. I will need to work up my mileage all over again. It is like I have a three year set back. It is hard to believe in three weeks time it got me down to like I haven’t ever run before. I still have five months to prepare for the 50 mile race. So it is not too late.

I have a bunch of marathons in between and the few of those will probably be scratched (meaning I will run very slow or not finish). The one in couple weeks, my target time will probably be 6 or 6.5 hrs. I will have to see what the cut off is. It might really be a scratched for me (DNF – did not finish).

Maybe that is my current limit

Day 138

I always want to know what is my current limit. Now I feel like a boat out of the water. I really love running but as much as I tried this past week I couldn’t get anywhere.

I, in the past, laughed at older runners who swing their arms vigorously while their feet do not seem to be going anywhere. Now that is me. I am willing to do anything to propel me forward even if it means swing my arms 10 times faster than my legs are moving. My body just wouldn’t budge. Now I believe my nonrunning friends who often told me they just couldn’t run. Now I couldn’t run even if I want to. I could jog and that about it.

If it is really exhaustion or if it is due to my improper diet, I can make adjustment and in no time I will be back in my old self. Otherwise, it might be a long wait and I might have to hang up my running shoes.

I have been reading a lot on why I am feeling anemic.

I have a few reasons of my own. #1 reason was I just recovered from an illness. It was not serious but it lasted couple weeks and it affected my body. Apparently I am not a super hero and don’t have an indestructible body. I am human and with all its frailty. I completed couple marathons since but results were not good.

#2 All my running friends have been telling me I have been running too much. Surprising given we are runners and there is nothing about running too much in our vocabulary. I didn’t know this myself. I have been feeling fine all the time (except for being sick, but that only happened at night) unlike my previous recovery from a long run, this time around I did not feel much pain or tired. On paper though I did a lot. I already did three official marathons in three months. I have seven more to go. I have done many off the record runs.

A week before my ultra, the same week I was sick, I went on a 27 mile hike. It was a tough hike. I got blisters on both bottom of my heels. Then I had my ultra the following week, it was 28-29 miles and it took me 7 hours. I ran for about four hours at top/maximum heart rate. And couple hours just a step below the maximum. I didn’t think I exerted too much of effort because I felt I walked most of the time and averaging only at 3 miles an hour.

Then the week after that, I went out again and did a 27-28 miles run/hike on my own and it took me 10.5 hours. I ran for maybe an hour at maximum heart rate. My Garmin listed it as a 5 (top) red zone for aerobic, which would require lot of time for recovery. I didn’t know at the time. I felt I could go out again and do another run.

Since then, I did a half marathon, in which I had the worst finishing time in my life, at 2:30. Still it was a run. It was about 25% slower than my usual pace. Garmin listed that event a grade 3 aerobic.

Throughout last week, I couldn’t really run. Thursday practice was the hardest. Garmin listed it as a grade 1 aerobic, which is not much. However, I felt that run was harder than doing the marathon. I had a 5K today too and also received my worst time. About 25% slower. For the first time I did not finish under 30 minutes.

#3 I didn’t think of was the food I eat, but I changed my diet about couple weeks ago eating way less meat and more salad, no fat or sugar, trying to lower my cholesterol. I might be missing some vitamins. One that I could think of is vitamin B12 which only comes from eating meat. B12 affects one’s energy level, since it is needed for making blood.

My friend K has been onto me the whole weekend, like isn’t it obvious that I am not eating and I have been doing all these crazy runs. Wouldn’t my body break down? Nope it wasn’t obvious to me until she said it. Now I felt kind of foolish.

She said I got to eat. I got to eat the right things.

#4. I was leaning toward the 4th reason that I might have picked up a bad bug from my recent hiking trips or running in the woods. There is a tick that spread a kind of sickness that causes the spleen to rupture and destroys red blood cells. It is like malaria. Unfortunately, or fortunately it is quite rare. Like only 50 cases in 10 years. The area where the ticks reside is in the northeast of US. I am in the mid-atlantic, too far south.

I plan though to still get my blood tested again to rule out any parasitic infection. I did have fever and rashes. So there signs that I got something. It might not be the usual flu.

Lastly, I need to sleep earlier, to make blood.

Recovery

Day 136

The ultra marathon took a toll on my body. I haven’t recovered from it. At least I am no longer sick. I think fever left for good last Thursday. I could go out and ‘run’ 27 over the weekend and did a Half marathon on Sunday. It was not so much running but walking. My 27 mile run took me 10 hours to finish. My half was a bit better, only 2.5 hours.

I had a lot to say about the weekend. It was my first camping trip on my own. An important lesson is know where you are going. Before I set out, I thought I knew the place and all the turns but reality is I was only vaguely familiar and it was not good enough to give myself turn by turn from memory and of course I got lost. I had to make one U turn after another and back track. In the past, my friend who led me made it seemed so easy. It was not. I got off trail a few times without even knowing. Luckily, in the end, I found my trail and got to my destination.

I had some weird encounter with couple other people who showed up at my camp. They didn’t stay but they disturbed me for couple hours.

As for Half, it was hard. My body hasn’t recovered. I started with a slow pace of 10 min mile. And I thought I was consistent but my Garmin app showed that I slowed to 13 min mile pace by second half. I kind of knew too when everyone was passing me.

It wasn’t my legs won’t run but that I don’t have the breath to run.

I tried doing some running (4 miles) on Tuesday. I finished but it was very hard. I was running as slow as it can get.

This weekend, I decided to take time off from running, instead, I will be biking. I hope a change up will help my body to recover.

Got me thinking

Day 135 / long post

I pretty sure I wrote why I like to run some time ago. I think I did. If I had not, I am sure it can be pieced together from all my posts. It was kind of obvious why I run.

My mother dearest spoke to me over last weekend after I finished the ultra and is preparing to do another, and basically asked me why I am so gunho on running and doing outdoor stuffs one after another. I will be running by myself another ultra (28 miles) this weekend, untimed and self hosted, in the woods, far away from any civilization (not true but to most people it is) and is moderately risky. There is probably that 1% of me not making it back, because of from lightning, bear attack, or falling off the cliff, or from a common cold (I am still sick) — all outdoor activities are inherently dangerous, or maybe from being in a car accident…there is a higher chance of that, since I will be driving back in the wee hour to do another race, a half marathon near home in DC. Joking aside, death is real. Ony last race it hit home when a gentleman collapsed on the course and pass away. Those around him tried to help him but it was not successful. I know the danger. It will about a 4 hour drive to get back. I will make sure I’ll get plenty of sleep before getting in the car after my 28 mile run.

She said and I agree that if I am not running I’d be camping and if I’m not camping I ‘d be biking or swimming or doing this race or that. If none of those, I’d be traveling somewhere out in the jungle or in another country. There are constantly activities and there is no break it seems.

I know she is not against my running. She has been very supportive and been to many of my races. She stressed I have to do things in moderation. I understood her point of taking things in moderation to slow down the wear and tear on my body.

Basically I disagree with her about doing thing in moderation. The reason is there is not enough time in the whole world of I wait! While my body is still capable of handling the stress, I will increase in intensity. It is that word! My key word of the year. I am reminded of Hector in Achilles. I think it was Hector. He could stay back behind the city wall and not face Achilles knowing once he did he would die (at least according to their prophesy). But he rather die young in a blaze of glory rather than of old age. I think Achilles’ mom was saying the same thing to try to convince Achilles not to go into battle but Achilles was a spoiled brat for other reason. He sat out not because of his mother’s word but because he was sulking about his war spoil, a woman, being taken from him. Later, he rejoined the battle out of rage on Hector and it was all due to his own making, but he was blaming others for his own problem. Any way….

I know Hector’s circumstance is much different than mine. The guy is fighting for the survival of his home and kingdom.

I do know that by doing a lot now, it will probably shorten my life tiny bit. I’m pushing my knees to ruin – it is possible at least according to general consent. However, if I don’t push to do as much as I am able right now, who know in the future if I am able. One fact I do know is each year, my body is getting weaker and weaker – a process called aging. Time is fleeting. The energy level I have now in my forties would not be the same when I am in my fifties or sixties, generally speaking. There are always exceptions. We met an 80 year old man while hiking the Laurel Highland trail last month. He was about to finish 70 miles with only couple miles to go (a task not many of us is able to do) and he was carried a much much heavier pack than ours because he was old-school, while we the newer generation benefitted from having the newer and lighter gear. He blew us all young ones out of that mountain.

The final point is why? She knows I want to run but where does it end? The answer is until my body can’t do it any more or my interest wane. Right now, I want to do more. So what then after I conquer my next challenge, say 50 miler marathon, or a 100 miler, or an Ironman. So what? I understand there is always something bigger out there. In a way her reasoning is, we shouldn’t even bother doing anything because we as normal people never really make it to the top.

I am not doing it for a bragging right. I felt as long as my body is able to handle it, I will do it. Pain is insignificant because there is a joy in overcoming all obstacles to get to the finish line. I think there is an intrinsic value to set a goal and reach it. Hey, if I am good with other things like making money, I probably would focus my life on doing that. Running so far give me that peace and joy. Making money does not. Running, I can say it is something I am good at doing to a degree. Probably a non runner would not get it. I know I never be an Olympian but still there is a potential in me I got to reach for and be the best I can be.

On a secondary point, each new challenge prepares me for the next one. Like a 5K led to a 10K and a 10K led me to running a Half marathon and a half led me to doing a Full. This year, I have been running Ultras and marathons are almost becoming a 10k for me. Not saying those races or events weren’t hard any more but they are no longer an end of the world for me. I did a 5K after hiking 26 miles two weekends ago, and that 5k was the hardest 5K in my life.

There is no more answer to why or reason for my running. I kind of want to qualify for Boston, to be able run a marathon under 3 hours instead of 5. But that just a small goal. If I reach it, I would still continue to run.

She gave an example that some people after all their searching and busyness and they come back to a full circle of where they started. They found what they found if they haven’t run all over the place they would see the answer sooner. Not sure what she is driving at. It sounds like I should sit and meditate on the essence of life and reach my dao. I don’t know.

I don’t think I am searching for anything though. I felt every time I hit the peak, I could see a little more that only those who have been there could see. I got this from a web novel I read called Terror Infinity (a bad book with a bad ending, don’t read it). The main character reached a stage only he as a leader was privilege to get a glimpse of. It is hard to tell others what that was. Other characters in the novel just had to trust him that it was worth it for all the troubles and suffering he went through. It is a refining process.

Right now I am still trying to wrap my mind on how to run or endure a 50 mile or 100 mile event. It just blows my mind that people did it and I don’t know how. I don’t know if next year I would be brave enough to tackle a 100 miler. Yes, they all say left foot, follow by the right foot and repeat until you get there.

Race #3: Eastern Divide 50k

Day 132 race report

I got down to Blacksburg a day before the race for package pick up. I like able to avoid the rush. The drive was not that long but it felt forever. I could run a 4 and 5 hour race but I can’t stand driving four hours. I was going crazy and was verge of delirium for wanting to close my eyes for a bit. I stopped for coffee after two hours at Harrisonburg. The rest of the way was uneventful. The coffee kicked in about an hour later when I was near.

I had about an hour and half to spare after arriving and I went up ti Mountain Lake (Pembroke, VA) where the race would end and nosed around on the state roads. I was not able to find the start line but I was driving around a bit on the mountain roads. The place is beautiful. I didn’t have a map with me so I didn’t want to wander too far. After an hour I got off the mountain and went back to town.

I went to race director’s briefing. Aftereard had dinner and hit the bed by eight. I had to be up by 4:30 for the race.

The race had about 10 miles of trail with a lot of running on the fire roads. I thought I would do well since it is really a road race. I finished in 7 hours. It was much slower than I anticipated. For some reason, I just didn’t have the energy to run. I ran maybe the first four miles and the last four and walked most of the way. I average about 4 miles and hour. It was a fast hike.

The Cascade Fall was beautiful. I didn’t spent too much time looking at it before making the climb up to Butt Mountain. Then we ran to mostly on the ridge line to Wind Mountain. We finished it at Mountain Lake.

I didn’t see the lake during my run. I was looking down and watching my footing the whole time.

I probably wouldn’t do it again. I felt the elevation was challenging but the race was mostly boring. Physically I was challenged. I wish I was in a better shape. In the end It felt like a one long hike.