Day367 Gettysburg Marathon

What an exciting day. I drove up to Pennsylvania and ran the Gettysburg Marathon.

I don’t like running in the cold but with a marathon, I toughed it out and ditched my sweater and pants and ran in short sleeves. We are talking about 35-40 F degree here.

By 8 am the temperature warmed up a bit. After a mile I was sweating.

I was kind of expecting a fast race. It was not my fastest time, but it was a time I haven’t had since spring 2019 (3 running seasons away), that is a long time ago. I take it and am very pleased. Note, I am 15 pounds heavier now, so it is a major accomplishment to lug this heavy body to run a time I did when I was 15 pounds lighter.

With more experience now in race day management, I was able to track my time better during the race. The first half I finished in 2:01. I was pretty steady at finishing under 4 hrs even though I didn’t expect to finish under 4 though.

The second half was much harder. My performance degraded drastically, and I couldn’t maintain the 9.5 min pace. However, I did better than many of the past races in holding off hitting the ‘wall’. Due to Covid countermeasure, I carried my own water and food. I didn’t realize at the time, but my wall came at mile 25. That was good because in the past, it usually came earlier around mile 18-20. This made the difference of finish under 4.5 hrs or at around 5 hrs. If I didn’t carry my own supplies, I might hold off the breaking down till even later.

I pushed myself though. In many of my marathons I usually started slow and pushed hard in the second half. This time I started hard and tried strave-off the lost time/slow down in the second half.

I reached mile 19 by 3 hours. My goal was to reach mile 20 by the 3rd hour. This seems like a disappointment but I am actually pleased. The mile 20 goal is so elusive and I don’t think I will ever reach it. I feel good to able to get nearer and nearer to this goal. I think in this race is the closest I’ve ever been.

As about the race, Covid19 plan by race management was great! We had individual time start time. Everyone was 6 ft apart. Everyone had their mask on.

There were plenty of aid stations. Volunteers were great. They discouraged (not allowed) spectators. There was no crowd support. That is fine with me any way.

The road was open to traffic. Occasionally, we had to move to the side or cars shifted to the opposite side etc. This might be dangerous to some. I felt safe though. I ran in country roads this summer so I was not too disturbed by it. Most cars went by slowly. There were one or two instances that they didn’t slow down and flew by between runners. Jerks. We’ve heard the story how some neighbors were mad about the race closing down the roads in a previous year, and they might still carry some grudges against us runners.

Was the course hilly? I had 1000 ft gain. It was more hilly than other courses I have been on. It was not too bad.

I think it was a beautiful course. Running in the countryside gives you that peace. You see endless farmlands, combining with nice fall weather, it was beautiful indeed.

The course was a 6.6 mile out and back. We marathoners did the loop twice. So you see almost everyone twice or sometimes 4 times. There were two turn around points. One thing we missed was the half marathon people. Well not really miss them because usually they crowded up the roads, and finish earlier and eat all the food. This time they were not there and the race felt empty. Due to Covid19 measure, the Half Marathon would run the following day. So they didn’t run when we ran. Also in the afternoon, I think they had a 5K race on the same course.

I wore my maniacs club shirt. So other maniacs recognized me and shouted out. The race was mostly quiet. Most runners wore headphones so it was a very quiet and very few interaction, even during post race. Due to Covid19 there were very little interaction even though it was an in-person race. I made friends with one or two people. #80 did a good job. He was with me around mile 6 before he sped up or I slowed down. I saw him again after finishing.


Day316 100 mile review

There were a lot of things went well and I also made a lot of newbie mistakes. In the end I did not finish. The 100 mile run is not easy.

They say running a 100 miles is to overcome issues that crop up along the way. To finish you have to overcome those. Some can be anticipated ahead of time, but some only pop up as you run. I found you can’t prepare for every contigency.

What went well for me? The start time was better than expected. It was one of big concern – because I couldn’t start too early or too late since I have to make it to Stone Mountain during time when it is open (from 10-8). Also I would have to pay attention to the finish time, you don’t want to finish too late, or else can’t find a ride home. It is best to finish during day time. I chose to start at 7 pm on Friday night. It was hot. But actually that time, already became cooler. Most of the run, I had some cloud covering. It could have been hotter still. The first few miles, I had some sprinkling of rain. Luckily no thunderstorm, though it was forecasted. I am so thankful, because there is no way for me to get up on the Stone Mountain when wet (it is very slipery).

It was really really hot. Even after sun down as I ran throughout the night I was sweating crazy. My body kind of adjusted the next day but was not enough. I knew I was dehydrated because I couldn’t pee. I tried to drink as much as possible and was water logged. I was glad there were gas stations that were open. They were on the way. Some though were not open. I had tough time finding any that were open at 3 am in the morning (They say they were open but door was locked – it could be the employee was sleeping in the back).

The route was nicely planned. I went through the safest part of Atlanta during the night. The run started on Kennesaw mountain. It was way out of Atlanta, and costed me an arm and leg to go out there. People at Marietta, the town just nearest to the mountain, were very friendly and they live up to my expectation of southern charm. I come from DC area, no one in DC would give you a second look or say hi or smile, that is the culture in the DC area – and it is normal. But here in the suburb of Atlanta, people are quite charming.

So I made my way throughout the night in the Atlanta Suburb. I arrived at downtown Atlanta in the morning. Oh by the way, some neighborhood in Atlanta is 24-7, people were still standing outside at 4am in the morning. Not good people I know. Luckily they didn’t bother me. By the look, I think they were pimps and prostitutes. I don’t remember the name of the locale, but the bar/or whatever it is, Babylon was interesting. I never met any real hookers in real life, and so it was sort of an eye opener for me. Well they didn’t bother me and I passed by.

Inner Atlanta was ya, unexpected and also expected. It was around 6 ish, when I arrived. I passed by a very poor neighborhood. It was definitely scary. I lived in poor neighborhood when I grew up, but it couldn’t prepare me for this. The people didn’t bother me; it was just a different feel. They are people of color. That is a mark of Atlanta, a huge population of African American.

I came across many different parts. Saw wall paintings. You can say they are part of the culture or part of a dysfunction society. I have seen more black people in Atlanta than my whole entire life, so was kind of an experience. I came across a small BLM protest on my run, (Black Lives Matter) organized by mostly by white people, you can tell to see who marched in it, while I was sitting by the side of the road outside the gas station/convenience store with couple back people around — and it was almost a joke or insult. You have a serious economic inequality here and all the social programs of the past half century didn’t make a dent and people parading around saying BLM. It is a bigger issue – I have visited Indian reservation (Navajo), and pouring money and food assistance didn’t get people out of proverty but instead highlight something seriously wrong with our nation.

People open your eyes to see the condition of black people. I know BLM is about anti police violence on black people…but look at the bigger picture. I came across several police officers and they are white. I also saw an older black man asking direction from a police … my heart skipped a beat and I think the black gentlemen too (long story: we were locked in a park at Stone Mountain, they closed the gate early due to the 4th July celebration, and we couldn’t exit the park). However, I didn’t get to interact with many blacks except for one of my uber driver. Racial tension definitely is more pronounce in Atlanta than in DC. Here in DC we are like one happy family.

An observation, and I read about this too, when a community is poor, there is hardly any ‘good’ grocery store. As I was running, only place I can get food was at a gas station, and their choices were all junk food. I was so used to running in my own neighborhood in Northern Virginia where I have Giant Food, Whole Food, Safeway, Walmart. There are array of good stuffs here in Northern Virginia. Not so in Atlanta. There is no 7 Eleven in Atlanta either. I came across of a lot of Fried chicken places. No wonder we are so rich up north. It it is quite a different feel down in Atlanta. On the side note, I miss asian stores/restaurants — because I couldn’t have Tom Yum soup on the run. High salty soup is very beneficial for long run.

OK let discuss what didn’t go well. My pack was too heavy. There were many reasons that let me to not finishing the run. But one of the contributors is a heavy pack. I repacked it three or 4 times. In the previous post, I mentioned of taking the larger 18L pack instead of my smaller 6-8L. However before my run start, I swapped back to the smaller pack, and cut out half the stuffs. It was a wise decision, however, it was not enough. The weight though was still heavy. The reason being was I carried the full load of water, close to 3L and food, more on that later, because I didn’t expect any store to be open until day time. The weight issue really kill me. I carried the electronic gear, flashlights, phone, battery charger, wires, stuffs I normally won’t have on me on my usual runs. I also had a first kit, and a lot of food – way too much. More on this later.

Second, dress. I was debating wearing short sleeves versus long sleeves. I chose long because I wanted to avoid sun burn and I didn’t want to carry sunblock. Sunblock is heavy, even with the travel size. I could have put a dab of cream in a ziplock. Initially I had a bunch of ziplock bags, however, when I packed my suitcase, I tossed them out at the last minute and came to regret that decision. I was over heating the whole time in my long sleeve. It was made with breathable material, however, the heat sapped my strength. About mile 30 in I was done running. I walked until mile 77 ish. However, the chance that I could finish on time was out of my grasp. The race was pretty lenient, because if you run 1/3 of the way and walk 2/3 you can finish within the time limit. I was cutting close.

Cooling. I didn’t implement active cooling strategy. I should have pour water on me. I should have soaked my towel and cap with water, that would have helped a lot. I did this for other races but forgot to do it on this race until after I already decided to quit. If I implement this earlier during the day, I think I would have gotten farther in the race and might have finished. I was concern of ‘wasting’ the limited water I had.

Third issue, was food. 100M requires / expends a lot of energy. It was one issue I kind of knew but didn’t pay enough attention. I estimated of expending about 4000-5000 calories. By the time I stopped, I already used 8,000 plus of calories and that was only about 60% into the race. I should have prepared or know I would burn 12,000 of calories. I was vastly undestimated my needs. I understand it was impossible to reload myself that amount of calories within the race time, but my failing was not having any in my body other than fruit juice and other sugary drinks cut into my performance. I believe what killed me was by the 24th hour, I was out of energy. I could still walk but running was impossible. Understand that if I don’t put in energy, my body would start burning the muscles to fuel the expenditure and that was very bad indeed because muscles take a long time to regrow and be redeveloped.

What about the 2400 calories I packed? Since swithing to a smaller pack, I had to take 1200 calories out. The other 1200, I ate maybe 200 -400. They were granola, and it was very dry. They say, don’t try anything new on race day!! I didn’t take that advice. So I carry those heavy bars on me and did not really eat that much and took them back home. I should have jettisoned them a quarter way in when I felt I am not going to use them so to lighten my load.

The core of the matter of why I couldn’t finish is I got lost too many times. I can’t blame the turnsheet. There were definitely some errors on there, but some of the parts I caught them in my preparation. I marked them by hand on the print out, however, I didn’t use thst print out. I reprinted a new turnsheet on double side and the new turn sheet didn’t have the marking. I lost about 10-12 miles of keep making the wrong turn. My map was outdated too, and a lot of street names were changed. I wished I had memorized or more familiarized with the route. This was the first time I was running a race using turn sheet and map. I spent maybe 12 hours learning before I came up a system how to do it efficiently. Those first 12 hours were costly. Also I probably was sleep deprived. How I kept missing the turns was I kept zoning out in my run. It was horrible and frustrating. I was so used to running by zoning out because in all my races, there were either someone in front of me or the trail is blazed and those were easy to follow. But this race was like a scavenger hunt. You have to be on your toes. I was not used to it.

What new way I found? One is to keep your turnsheet and map out at all time! My phone gps died on me on some portion. That was the worse thing that can happen. Also the route on the phone kept disappearing. I had a lot of problem with it. Only by morning, I started to use exclusively a map and turnsheet and I became better at it. What I originally did was I kept my map in my pack, and every so often I would pull it out. It wasted too much time. It required stopping midrun to check the map and turnsheet. So in the end I found a way to fold the map showing only the next few sets of turns. It helped a lot. This is from hiking skill – but I was dumb and didn’t translate the skill learned in hiking to my running.

Night run was also worse in that I kept getting night blindness. The flash light was too bright. Every time I checked the turnsheet and then looked back up, I was blind. My vision took too long to recover. I did use a red filter lamp, but there were times I forgot and blinded by my own light. Those were reflected light too. I felt next time, I should wear an eye patch on one eye like a prirate!

What else I didn’t talk about? Flashlight/batteries. My headlamp was dying and I didn’t get batteries for it until at mile 62. By then I had already decided to quit, but I did buy batteries for the headlamp at a gas station 🙂 The whole week leading to this run, I was telling myself to buy batteries. Batteries was one of the concerns and I couldn’t make time to get them before my trip. It was a shot in the foot. During the race, I used a handheld bike light. It was heavy. I did have a very light handheld one, but it lacked batteries. So it was like a consolation at my last pit stop I brought new batteries, though too late.

My biggest concern going into the race was pain and sleep deprivation. Noted that I didn’t sleep on Thursday, because I was trying to reset my sleep to the morning but wasn’t successful. During the race slept deprivation was not that big a deal. I was full of adrenaline the whole time. I didn’t fall asleep until I was in the uber, heading back to my hotel. However, there were still 40 plus miles, if I tried to finish the 40 miles, I bet sleep derivation would play a big part whether I would finish or not.

As for pain, I didn’t feel too great a discomfort at mile 77. There were still 40 plus miles so I don’t know if I could have survive the pain. As some people say, the race just only get started at mile 80. The first 80 miles were just warm up. The fun stuff, and I missed that experience.

The pain I got at mile 77 was chafing. I believed my butt was bleeding from the chafe. I applied vaseline before the run but wasn’t enough. Also my underarms were chafed. I properly could have endured the pain for the next 20-40 miles, but it was definitely no fun. I wish I had kept some vaseline in a ziplock bag so I can reapply halfway in the race.

Blisters started to form at mile 75. They were not too bad. I took off my shoes. Popped the tiny blister on one of the toes. Put some body glide on my feet. Changed to new socks. I believed it would have last for the next 20-40 miles. This was the first time I do blister care in mid race and I was so proud of myself. The aid kit came in handy! They even have the safety pins for popping blisters! I was so impressed.

My “planned chaos” really killed my race. In my hubris I was hoping to pull through even with many mistakes I made. It was a series of small mistakes building up and finally I couldn’t handle it any more.

Conclusion. There were a lot of what-ifs. The race was only about 2/3 in. Who know what other problems the remainder would bring. However, I could have done a lot better in the first 2/3 by carrying lighter stuff, packing better food and eat them, study, really study my run (map and turnsheet), keeping the body cool, wearing better clothes, managing or minimize chafing issues, sleeping better on the day before the race. All these would have made a difference.


day 257 virtual run#3

This weekend was originally planned to be a trip to Laurel Highlands in PA, Trip#3 to Pennsylvania, but with the stay at home order from our governor, it is not wise to run about. I am sure people of Pennsylvania would not be trilled to have me there either. Their trooper/park ranger might give me a citation for not staying at home. Our state is like theirs, out count of number of infected continue upward with no end in sight. They projected now that our state will peak by May 21. Truly no one know when it will end, but having a date is reassuring.

There are a lot of people still on the road – I am sure they all were making the ‘essential trip’ allowed under law. This is something I noticed during my run. It is not like during a winter storm when the whole city is truly in a lockdown. During a winter storm, everyone stay put, you don’t need the government to tell you not to go out.

Did I mention since yesterday, our state…no the CDC has issued a recommendation to wear face mask in public. It was kind of expected finally. Of course face mask offers protection, that is why doctors and nurse are wearing them. I know, we did not have enough face masks and PPE for the public (even they are hard to come by for the health workers) but that was no excused of not recommending general to protect themselves. I had on a self made one from a bandana during my run. How useful that is, is questionable. Still I think it was better than nothing. I was happy to see so many people started wearing them on my run! People do listen to the CDC. Well, mostly asians though, they have been stockpiling on masks! Ha!

So I did another virtual run just to get it over with. A third virtual run for the third week of being staying at home and for the third marathon being canceled. I did it this time for the Blue Ridge Marathon #runblueridge, which was to take place on April 18. A virtual run around my neighborhood is better than not running at all. So this weekend I woke up earlier. Ate (fueling they say like a car), cooked my dinner too and off I went. I didn’t charge my watch this time, but it was showing full or near full. The time was 10:58. I started my watch immediately and didn’t wait for me to get to what I considered a “proper” spot for the starting line. You know at the race, you line up, wait around, listening to the announcer giving the count down, a then off you go. I like to mentally set a place as the starting line. For the last two virtual races, I walked to our nearest fire station. No this time, I just took off the moment I stepped outside of my house.

Yes I checked my watch, making sure my watch is on and tracking. Very important. A virtual run is all about the watch data.

I ran two loops around the neighborhood going the opposite direction than last Saturday. Having ran the course before for other virtual races really helped. You generally know where each mile is (mentally).

All the cherry flowers were gone by now. There were still some on the trees but no where as pretty as last week. The weather indeed was fantastic this weekend. It was completely different. We have sunshine instead of the oppressive rain cloud.

I had on my home made mask over my nose and mouth and it was hard to breath, especially on a run. I was suffocating. Couple times, I felt like I was about to faint for lack of oxygen. I caught myself swaying. How do people run with a mask on? I told myself hang on, you will get use to it. Think of it as high altitude training. After a few miles, I could start breathing normally. It was still annoying but I knew I could run the whole race with the thing over the face. Yes, sipping water was a challenge, since I didn’t want touch the mask much.

I did not have many great thoughts like in previous run. I came up with several ideas for blog, but now I have forgotten them. Lack of oxygen hindered much higher brain processing. I observed myself at time I can only have a fragment of a thought here and there. I was swimming in various disjointed stuff flowing in and out of my head.

I finished my first lap, stopped by my house and fueled myself with Gatorade and snacks. Then off I went for the second lap. I didn’t feel great at all. The first few miles of the second lap, I had my mask off because I was drinking, and how glad I was to breath freely. Then I put it back in place and plodded on. The second lap was over uneventfully.

I did walk the last couple miles. This time I did not carry snacks on me and couldn’t refuel myself as I was being worn down. A marathon is still a marathon – hard, no matter how many times I ran one. Funny I was hitting the proverbial wall at mile 24 instead of much earlier. Then my watch started complaining that the battery was running low. OMG. I got to hurry. There were two more miles and I didn’t want it to die now, otherwise the run would not be recorded. I got to mile 25. Still a mile left. My watch was flashing, warning me that it was really about to die on me.

Decision, should I stop my watch now and save the data, or should I game it hoping to get to mile 26.2? Luckily, but this time, I felt like running again and running fast. Also a funny thing with me is I usually get a second wind. This was my kick. I kept looking at my watch until I got to 26.2 and stopped it. There was still about a mile left to my house, but I am not going for 27 miles today. A 26.2 is good enough to post to the marathon event.

I then stopped by the grocery store to buy some snacks and drinks, oh, I was thinking of Corona, the beer. A proper after marathon celebration. No, I resisted the temptation and went for a Powerade and coconut juice instead. And as I walked a mile home carry all the stuff, I felt stupid that I couldn’t drink while walking, both my arms were full with grocery. And if I stopped to drink, I wouldn’t want to take another step, so I was dying of thirst, while holding eighteen or twenty bottles of Powerade under my arm as I lumbered home. What a sight. When you were thirsty, you want to buy the whole store. I was a dummy. Why I didn’t want to buy just one bottle? It was more expensive per unit than buying in bulk. Yup, a dummy.

That felt like a real race though. After crossing the finish line in a race…you usually still have to get to your car and usually it is quite a walk. So this virtual race did not end at my doorstep but a mile away from it. I thought that was funny, the irony.

One great thought I had was on making decision for my life. Each step I took was like each day when I wake up. I made a decision for the past three plus or 10 plus years, to keep going and not look back. Ya, I could stop, but that was no solution. I would be stranded. I will write more about it maybe in a future post. I was glad the run is over.

Watch data. distance 26.21, time 5:29:44, elevation 801. A picture of my neighborhood: see all the parked cars, everyone is staying at home as they should.


day254 – virtual run#2

Day 254 race report “Centreville Marathon”

I used my first virtual run I ran on March 21 for the Maine Coast Marathon.

I didn’t post about it but I think on Tuesday, I got an email from the race organizer about the race being canceled. Not a surprise at all after getting so many of this kind of emails for the last two/three weeks. Boy we are in the third week already of staying in place. Anyway, the race offered a virtual run, no swag. It was a cry fest on its facebook page. I guess all the big races were already canceled the first week CDC released its guideline about social distancing. This one was a bit far out in early may (May 9), so there was no word until this week. I have been checking its facebook page daily. Other people have been asking the same. A little can be said about the communication process here – share early and be direct. Yup, it erupted on its social media page. The community was not too pleased. You can read the anger people had. I can’t believe so other races, runners took it in stride, but this we just pour our anger at the race management – not really their fault, but we want them to hear us – “Enough with this Covid virus thing: we are angry and we won’t take it any more”. I just shrugged it off and moved on. I elected the virtual race option.

So I went out again this Saturday and did my virtual marathon run. People think, virtual mean we run it on the computer or internet. No. Distance-Running (like distance learning) is a better term. We literally run 26.2 miles. Some do it on the treadmill, some on their balcony, some in their yard. Luckily, I could do mine in my neighborhood.

I woke up late. Actually just poor planning. As you have read if from my other race reports, I usually take my race with upmost seriousness. Going to bed early. Layout all my clothes and gear the night before. Surprise for you non-runners, there are a lot of stuff to bring for a run like this: hat, clothes (layers) – undies, jacket, belt, watch, flashlight (for night run), reflector, socks, spares, towel, etc. Lot of lot of stuff. Usually I pack the night before. Not only that, you have to think food and drink. Since this is a virtual run, you would really have to consider what for each aid stop.

I didn’t prepare none of those until I woke up and said I will do a marathon today. My morning was actually interrupted by my boss, who had an IT issue and couldn’t wait until Monday. He called me and then my immediate manager. It had to be solved right now. So my blood pressure shot sky high. Not having eaten breakfast yet really put me in a foul mood. But the work got to be done. I logged into my work from my machine and fixed the issue. Everyone was happy but me. It was near noon by then.

I made lunch while also planning for dinner – with a virtual race still at the back of my head. Hey, you are going to run 5-6 hours and by the time you get back it would be dinner time. Then there is laundry too. Another surprising thing is when you work from home, shouldn’t clothes needed to be washed be less? I just did laundry like two/three days ago and now the hamper basket is full again. What give? I guess I have been running more while working from home!

Yup, another hiccup, there was no more food in the fridge. Wait before that, my most important piece of equipment for a virtual run, my gps garmin watch was low on battery. No watch meant no proof that the run actually happened. I forgot to charge it after my last run. It wouldn’t last for 5-6 hours out there. While that was being charged up, I made a quick drive to the market. Surprise, surprise. I brought everything but stuff for preparing my dinner. I only later realized this while running, what am I to eat after finishing the run.

During that time, I was filling up my water bottles. Prepared my one and only aid station (my house). I planned to do two loops around my neighborhood. On my second loop I would stop by my house to fill up and eat – have it set up like a real aid station. Really, by the time I left my house for my run, it was 3 pm. It was a late start. If the race would take 5 hours, I wouldn’t finish until 8 pm. Knowing it would take that long was demoralizing.

We were blessed with ‘nice’ calm weather. Sky was overcast. Orignally the forecast called for rain the whole day, even as late Friday forecast indicated. But rain had stopped by time I woke up. So the whole time I was out, was a cool 55F (12C), perfect running temperature. There were some mist, but I remained dry. I just hate running when it is wet and cold. I had one short sleeves and shorts. I didn’t lube up, and surprising did not get burn too badly. I had worn a normal underwear and it was rubbing the wrong way during the run, but I survived. Talk about lack of planning there.

Unlike the first virtual run, the whole run was slow and just draggingly slow. I went in the opposite direction this time to spice thing up. The loop I chose is really only 12 miles and so I would need to add two more miles to make it a 26.2. On the last virtual run, I did the two extra miles at the beginning. This time, I decided to add them in halfway. So it is more like a out and back. You add just enough so each loop would be 13.1. That what I did. I ran an extra half mile (out and back made it one mile to the Chantilly Library) in the middle of my loop.

One thing I did not notice on my first virtual run is how beautiful the neighborhood is. The cherry trees are blooming. The soft petals flow down as the wind blows. The ground is covered with white and pink petals. There is a lake. The lake reflects the trees and flowers. I could just stay there. No I got to continue on my run.

There were more runners out and about this weekend. Actually every day I woke up and I went outside and looked, everyone was staying put. But on Friday, half the people were gone (their cars were gone). On Saturday people cars were in their driveways but I saw a lot people being outside.

I generally love my run. I use the time to reflect on things. This virtual race was anything but peaceful reflection. It was more like when will this run going to end.

I saw the time elapsed. As usual, I tried to ignore and avoid looking at my watch too much. Half hour gone by quickly, then an hour and two. I got to ‘half way’ of my first loop around after 4 pm. I stopped for a break and my mom came out (she lives in the neighborhood) and took my picture. She didn’t get to see me on my first virtual run. I said she should be social distancing. She is considered to be in the at risk group – due to her underlining health issue and age.

Any way after the break, I added in the ‘bonus’ mile so I would end my first loop with 13.1 mile. It was way after six when I finished the first loop. I really did not want to run another loop. But I want that 26 miles. I told myself it is still not too late to turn around. I could have my dinner and we could attempt it on another day. How tempting that was. I arrived at my house. I was out of water in my bottle so I needed to top off. I grabbed an orange previously prepared to make it easier to peel while on the go. Off I went for the second loop.

I was not doing great with my time. I already calculated that it would be impossible to finish by 8 pm. With three hours on the first loop, I wouldn’t finish until 9 pm. I kept on praying, Dear Supreme Being, I don’t want to be out here till 9 pm. Have mercy. I was hoping maybe just 10 mins slower than my normal run. Passing my mom’s place the second time, but this time I did not stop. I continued to the Library for the extra mile. The sun started to set. It was a cloudy evening, so no pretty sunset. The cloud was so thick it was just a haze when you looked up. There was no golden glow. Just gray. I had my flashlight on me but I hoped it wouldn’t too quickly get dark that I would need to use it. 7:30, then 8 pm. I was counting down miles. 5 miles left. Five miles is five miles too far. On a normal day it means 40 more minutes. But tonight, who knows, it might be another hour.

I know the route well, completely had it in my head. I know if I get to that traffic light, I would only have about 2.5 miles left. I turned on my flash light by then. I did not check my watch but it got to be after 8 pm. I told myself, only way forward is to finish. To finish means I have to keep on running. Pushing on is the only way to finish. Surely my legs were hurting. Old wound too. Put that out of your mind. Got to keep running. I got to the traffic light. There was only a straight-a-way part now (rt 29 Lee Highway). Passed the sign that said 29th Infantry Memorial Highway. wohoo a piece of history. Never saw it there before. Now where is the sign of welcome to Centreville? The neighborhood became more familar because this is my hood! I ran passed all the stores. My house is outside the business district. Only a mile to go. There was still a hill to climb. It felt like downhill to me.

I imagined some of my last miles of previous marathons. Morgantown came to mind. I told myself, did you remember that crazy last mile? Or the JFK? It was dark and we (me and a lady) ran through the neighborhood just like this one. It was a joy reliving the moments of my previous races. But there was no actual finish line to cross for this virtual race. No one would greet me when I finish. No medal or celebration. It was just a virtual run. But I had to press on. Last mile.

I was so close. There the 26th mile marker I told myself. In reality there was none like that. Come on, only point two mile to go, I said. I got to get to the firehouse where I started. Can’t stop now. Yes the finish line was arbitrary decided to be the firestation. The last mile is always the hardest. There was no cheering as I reached it. I calmly stopped my watch. Good Lawd it was 8:40 something (actual time, not bib time). I did not look at the elapsed time. I was completely drained. No matter how tired I was, make sure that watch data was saved. I’m not gonna run this all over again. Now that felt like a real marathon. I haven’t experienced this for a long time (at least since January).

Imagine though running another marathon or even the third time with no rest in between, how would the body handle it. Yet I plan to do just that in couple weeks, I would do a 52 mile run (a double marathon for my Roanoke virtual race) and in June, if the race is still on, I would be doing a 70 mile run (8 miles shy of doing a marathon three times).

For naming – I haven’t decided which race I will apply this virtual marathon toward. For now it will be called the Centreville Marathon. Hey, we might make it an annual event. FYI, Centreville has no running club, and we don’t have our own marathon ever. Yup, this is the first.

map of my run. Time 5:41:09. Distance 27.19. 3218 Calories burned

Epilogue: my mom was at my house since 8 pm because she heard me saying I would finish by 8. The last virtual marathon (same route) only taken me only 4:45, so a 5-hour marathon finish is very reasonable estimate. She had prepared dinner and brought a lot of other stuffs, soy milk, pears for me too. I was dead tired though but did eat after a long relaxing shower. Then I couldn’t keep my eyelids open. That concluded the day.


traveling time

Day 214

OK OK. I flew to Boston to pick up a milkshake and then finally got to San Diego. It was a lay-over because of the cheap ticket.

I love Jet Blue. I have been flying American, United and Delta. Recently the last few trips have been with Delta, but Jet Blue is above them all.

I got a free check luggage, well probably included in the price of the ticket and had also prority boarding. It doesn’t matter to me much since I was not using the overhead bin. Our flight was full and some people was forced to check their luggage too. They were not trilled.

I flew Jet Blue many many years ago when I went to Boston. I haven’t been back since then. Might have been 15+ years. The airport has changed. At least I couldn’t find McDonalds or maybe it was Burger King. Any way the food court was not how I remembered it. A lot changed in 15 years. There used to be a big food court and now it is a TSA security check. I got my Oreo Milk Shake and happily reboarded the plane to my destination. (and you know why I was hungry later on? no solid food for dinner).

The lady at a seat over was having her plate of Walburger on the plane with cup of fries and here I was thinking, why I didn’t think of that.

O why I love Jet Blue? Free WiFi!!! And electrical outlet at every seat. Thank you Amazon for partnering with JetBlue. They give air mileage points for shopping on Amazon and free Prime Video.

I had plenty of leg room. It is not business class but every seat feels like one. I flew Delta on my Chile trip and Jet Blue felt like it has way more leg room. It doesn’t matter for me, since I am ‘short’ any way. I am like an inch or two shorter than my peers, though I am a tall guy in my family.

The trip was long and by the time I landed it was 7:30 local but actually 10:30 back home and I was hungry and sleepy. I have been on the go since 8 in the morning, that was like 5 AM local. Cheap ticket I tell you. I was too tired to explore the city.

I ate at an authentic ‘Cantonese’ cuisine at the airport while waiting for my baggage at the baggage claim. Yes it has some Cantonese flavor – steam/boiled carots – tasted authentic alright. Everything was bland except for the mogolian beef with scallion. I love carrots but somehow I had no appetize. They just don’t look good when they are not cut right. It was a bit too thick and there were lot of them, whole plateful. Truly I finally realized the different between Cantonese vs the normal chinese carry-out that I eat every day in the East Coast. But chinese was probably cheapest meal I can afford at this time. I used to not mind paying $14-15 for a meal, but now that seems to be the minimum. My chinese dinner was $12. They did say expect the food to cost more here in San Diego.

I was still hungry after picking up my luggage and got a rental car. In no time I was zipping down Interstate-5. Didn’t know at the time but I had no clue where I was going. Just zipping down the highway toward Los Angeles. North was where I wanted to go.

I almost did not bring my phone on the trip. I would have been so lost and would not make it to the hotel. Another thing I almost forgot on the plane was my passport. The air attendant stopped me from going back into the plane to retrieve it, but luckily they found my passport and brought it to me.

I missed having a traveling companion like back in Chile, because I didn’t need to figure out where to go. I was now on auto pilot mode just following the flow. I had to tell myself, well wake up and find some direction otherwise I would be in big trouble. Um, where I am going again?

Luckily I booked everything on Orbitz and it had the direction to the hotel. With a few taps I got the map and navigation going.

I checked in at my hotel, staying in Best Western in Encinitas. I butchered the word many times over – to me it is a food. The hotel room was more beautiful than any other I have been in. I usually stayed in places like Days Inn. This was heavenly and all by myself! This race would costing me arm-and-leg at any other time but fortunately the price I paid for the stay is like any of my other previous trips.

Of course I am here for a Wedding. The marathon was something a bonus on top. Danged, my suit is ruined because I did not fold it properly. I thought I followed the directions as shown on YouTube of how to fold a suit. Anyhow, yup Wedding and then a race the next day.

I love my rental car too! Nissan Altima has plenty of zoom-zoom as a friend told me. It is my first time driving one. The guy at the counter was offering Nissan or Kia and I couldn’t say it fast enough give me the Nissan… like a race car or something. I know I wouldn’t take a race car if he hands me one. It has about the same horse power as my truck but in a much lighter and smaller body. I love it. Of course I was also thinking I am blowing away a month worth of food while driving the car (I have been very cheap with my meal lately – like $2 a day limit), and it pained me to pay that much for a rental. I love the car though. You paid for the feel.

That’s Day 1 of my trip. Best remembered by oreo milkshake from Boston and fast driving on the I-5.

Flying over Boston. I was trying to find the Gillette Stadium and didn’t know it wasn’t even in Boston. Duh.
life travel


Day 213

Finally I did a couple short runs last week. That was monumental. All thanks to my running group. I finally got myself out of the door. It was good to be back on a regular schedule. I was glad to see familiar faces and some new faces in my running group.

up and coming – A Race! But you know, I feel like I am under prepared for an exam. All the plan I had about hitting the road running after my trip from Chile were up in flame. It was more like smothered out by the holiday season. Why I feel that way is because I have a marathon to run this weekend and basically I put in a total of 10 miles on the pavement in the last five weeks. I have never feel so under prepared for a race!

To San Diego. The first race this year will be in San Diego, for Tri City Carlsbad Marathon. I will fly out tomorrow afternoon and come back on Monday. We have a holiday. Yes another Holiday! Looking forward to bagging the state of California.

to Bolder Boulder, CO. Our running club is going to Colorado for the Memorial Weekend in May going I think a 10K. It is called bolder Boulder (city name). I just like the roll of tongue.

We got a massive Air b&b house that can sleep 30. Our group leader had that off and I gave my initial payment for it. I still have to sign up for the race and book a flight. I hope a lot of people will join, so my share for the house will go down. Currently we are each expected to foot about $200 for a three night stay.

Talking about numbers! I have been doing lot of that last week. I finally did a total of my trip to Chile and it was under $2,100. Probably the cheapest trip so far. I had to do it because I was out of money. As well as there were some fraudulent charges on my account so I had to get that sort out. My bank was very helpful. I got the last bit straighten out today. It was complicated, somehow. The representative said it might still take up to 90 days and I should continue to monitor my account. ah! I might forget about it three months from now.

I had to pull out all hat tricks for my up and coming races. I have been looking at flights for my trip to Colorado in May and another Marathon in Maine. I was contemplating which day to fly. Apparently flying out on Saturday or Sunday is cheaper than flying out on Friday. I almost decided to fly on Sunday arriving early Monday morning, run the race on Monday and then fly out immediately Monday afternoon. This way I save on the Hotel!

As for my trip to Maine, I have looking at the option to drive 10-11 hours there but the car rental, gas and toll came out to be just about break even with flying. I don’t want to use my own car.

About my car. It had been a busy week stressing out on my own personal problems. Car. In my state, probably any where else too, we have to take our car to the mechanic for a safety inspection once a year. Mine car is due for one at the end of this month. So, last weekend I took my car in for the inspection. Normally this only should take half an hour, but for me it took over three days and I still haven’t had it passed.

What’s wrong with it? Nothing and everything. I realized the tires were under inflated and I did not have coins for the air pump at the service station to fill them up. So I searched all over my hous for coins.

The first station I arrived the pump did not work. I drove to a second station. There were two cars in front of me. One of them was having the car cleaned. So I queued up waiting. Then the lady in the second car knocked on my car window, I rolled down mine and chatted. She said her car has a flat and she wouldn’t move her car. By that time I probably waited half an hour already. I ugnored her and said OK. Aftr waiting a bit more, I looked out my window and guess what! her front tire on the passenger side was indeed flat! OK she is really telling the truth, she couldn’t move her car. I had to go to another service station and got my tires pumped. As you can see, it is just string of bad luck! I spent my Saturday driving around my town looking for a gas station with a working pump! On top of that apparently there was something going on that we had gridlock traffic in my small town on a Saturday.

Unbelievable Life! That was only scratching the surface of the frustration I had. I replaced my windshield wiper. I won’t go into that. I then went for inspection and failed because some lights were burnt. I replaced those and it was a long story too juat like the tire incident. Today I finally had all the lights replace. I will take my car in for another round of inspection once I am back from San Diego.


double marathon coming up

Day 174

I just finished a marathon today. I will do another tomorrow. I will write more on this in another post of how people do or more marathons without rest. Back-to-back marathon is not too hard a thing to do. I found a secret.

I did Altis Cross County Marathon. It is a small ultra like race. There were 80 ish people running the full and about the same number running the half. Unlike other big names, this one was really low key but it has everything about a good race. I like the food and candies they offered. It had some trails to run on. The ground had everything: we had sand, asphalt, concrete, and dirt and might have some gravels. Luckily no water crossings.

Any way, this race was one I learned an important lesson about life. Not everyone running in a race have the same purpose.

I got to the race about an hour before the start time. I got out of the truck and saw a group 15-20 people was doing some warm up or at least I presumed they were warming up. They were heading out around the lake and I thought I would just follow them. Who would have known they were the advance starting group (first wave). The race director didn’t mention anything about this. I am not blaming the RD. Usually for small race RD is very flexible to different runner’s need.

However, I was blindly follow them to the point of missing the start. I did not time myself but when I came to my sense that these people were not going around the lake but instead was going farther out than I was comfortable. I could have turned around. I could have asked them where they were going, but a guy was being rude to me. He said he couldn’t help me and that the starting line was the other direction. We were like an hour out and probably have gone 3-4 miles already. I started being anxious. I guess my vibed was infecting the whole group I was with. More on this later.

I saw the race has now started. The real runners were catching up.

The race had two laps of out and back. I continued to walk with them. I would not want to splint back to the starting line. Actually, I was still curious where they were heading and was tailing them. Part of me did not want to believe that they were runners and I had goofed. At the turn around point, one of the guys told me to stop tailing them because I was making them nervous. The guy was mean and I sensed if I kept on, he might do physical/bodily harm to me.

This has never happened to me in a race and if it was really a race I wouldn’t tail them either.

Any way, I was quite disturbed. I calmed myself down, got away from them, by following them from far away. By this time other runners caught up and the trail was full of people. I fet a bit safer. I walked back to the starting line with them.

After passing ‘go’, I started running and started my garmin watch. I figured the race gave a generous time of seven hours and with about 5 and half hours remaining, I could still finish if I started then. If anything I just used it as a long run. I glad I was not disqualified from the race. The race was not bib timed, so it didn’t matter when I start (The RD was really generous). Actually he didn’t know I started that late. We all used the race clock. I started about an hour and half late but that was ok. Official time, I finished at 7:10, and my garmin time was 5:30. I ran 28 miles based on garmin measurement. If I added in the extra 9 miles walk before my start, that means I did a total of 37 miles. I was going to add two more miles but figured I didn’t want the race timing person to wait another half hour for me. I already finished after 7 hours (the supposed total time allowed for the race). I accidenally did an ultra and got an official finishing time (for the marathon). For that I was glad.

Any way, I was angry at myself for making such a rookie mistake. I did not check where I was going and followed the wrong crowd. I did not keep track of the ‘warm up’ time. However, in the end, it was no harm no foul. I could have been DQ for late start or failed to finish within the allowed time.

I was angry/frustrated also because I always thought myself a nice guy but there were people telling me to go away during the race. They said I made them nervous – how was it my fault? I should not let a random stranger bothered me. I always thought everyone in the runner community are welcoming. I shouldn’t let one person ruin the whole. I was bothered at the time because it was totally not within my expectation.

There were others who encouraged me during the race, such as saying keep it up, good job, you can do it, keep going. Or they simply smiled at me. Not everyone are mean. However, I was quite shaken. This was one of emotional races and left a salty taste.


Mountain boys

Day 172

I will try to make this short. My race report usually goes on and on. The past weekend, I went to West Virginia and did the Morgantown Marathon. Boy, was it hard. To compare to previous marathons I ran, this was an ultra level marathon. I was knock out by mile 19. I walked then for three miles and finally picked up running again but was going at 15 min mile, very very slow jog. By mile 25, I walked to the finish. I finished at 5:10; the orginal target goal was 4:40-45. So I might have gone out a little too fast in the beginning.

The course could have been tougher but I saw at many hills, the race path was diverted to an easier path. In my mind, I was thinking, thank God I don’t have to go up that hill. Though the course was made easier, it didn’t mean there was no hill. The whole course was hilly. We are in West Virginia, where there is not flat ground! There were hills that go up for a mile long. Mile 25-26 was like that. A whole mile of uphill. They had to put it at the end! Some people mention mile 20 as well, but I was walking at that point and do not remember if it was a hard climb.

One thing I noticed was even walking was tough. You would think if you couldn’t run, you would walk to catch your breath, but while walking, my muscles felt like they would not want to take another step. At that time, if the snag wagon came by, I would have taken it and gave up on the race. I never thought walking was hard before, but in this race, walking was hard for me.

The race organization was great. It started on time. They managed it like a 10,000 people race even though there were only 2500-2600 people registered and only about 250-260 people ran the full marathons. There were lot of food, water station, and after party. They have a pace vehicle! I thought I was running in the olympic. I couldn’t catch up to it though. There were many road crossings but they had crossing guards through out. We ran on closed roads for most of the race. There was one point though, I think one or two cars broke through a roadblock at an empty stretch. I know some people did not like us running on the road.We were in West Virginia, and to my mind, it is the wild wild west (their state slogan is ‘wild and wonderful’, indeed).

crowd support: It was not like other big races, but some neighbors came out. I am thankful for the frozen grapes at one of the houses. Unfortunately, no one offered me moonshine on the course. I was kind of hopeful to get some moonshine in WV.

Final word. They say run to conquere Morgantown, but I think the mountain boys conquered me.

running travel


Day 146 – full race report (Jack and Jill)

The marathon course by itself is one worth seeing. The course started from Hyak (aka Snoqualmie Pass, which is not near the Snoqualmie forest at all) and ended in North Bend. North Bend is about 45 minutes away from Seattle. The course is point to point, started from the top of the pass end in the valley, with a total about 2000 ft of elevation change, all of it was downhill with maybe 15 ft of uphill. The trail is on an old rail track, so any change in elevation is gradual. The path is wide, a double trail and even 3 or 4 people can run side by side. It is mostly gravel. The tunnel section is paved asphalt or stone.

The race is known for running through a tunnel of 2.5 miles in complete darkness, no light except from either end of the openings. Look can be deceiving. It seemed near but 2.5 miles is far away. We lost sense of perspective and even our sense of balance in darkness. Most people couldn’t maintain their pace. GPS watch was completely useless.

We wore head lamp. But I turned mine off, to kick it up a notch. There were enough light from other people’s lamps for me to see and made out the path, but other people couldn’t see me. It was kind of dangerous, like running with my eyes close (even if I had my light on). I dressed in complete black. Nothing reflected off me except for my shoes and my water bag. Others wouldn’t able to see me as I slipped in beteeen them and passed them by like a ghost.

The place was damp and cold. I felt the draft blowing through. Cold is relative but I had on two long sleeves, and a short sleeves underneath. There were reverberant too inside the tunnel. You see light reflected off people’s clothing. It was an unforgettable experience. I ran (walked) it alone the day before, so I was familiar with the feeling. It was more scary to be running alone. As a group, I felt like we were doing a prison break.

Besides the tunnel, the whole course is scenic. Mountains and valleys can be seen along the course. It was one breathtaking sight after another at every turn. Pine trees are everywhere, probably (Washington) Douglas fir and other pines. It was breathtaking. In the morning there was mist and fog surrounded the mountains and trees. That morning had a bit of drizzle. I didn’t mind. Not many people mind. The rain came to keep us cool.

One thing though, we had to park at North Bend, which was not a bad place at all. It was truely beautiful when I finished the race and looked back up the mountains surrounding it.

As for that morning, we arrived before the crack of dawn at a park, which I don’t remember the name. We were in no mood to enjoy the view since many of us didn’t sleep the night before. I had to wake up at 2AM to get to the bus pick up site for the 4:30 bus. There were 700 of us, so it took a while to transport us up the mountain. If anyone considers running this course, either have someone drop off at the starting line or take a bus up the pass. Most people took the bus. Buses were for runners only during the morning to the starting line. Later in the day, buses would take runners or family or friends members to/from between the finish line and the parking lot.

Everyone brought their breakfast with them. I got more. I prepared a 3 AM meal, a 6 AM meal, and an 11 AM meal. I figured food is my source of energy. I needed to eat. Unfortunately, I lost my 6AM breakfast on the way. Not sure where I lost it. I later didn’t even need my 11 AM food, as seen from all the left overs I carried back. I could have run faster without the extra weight.

We had a staggered start. I think there were at least 5 waves. I started in the last wave and it didn’t feel crowded at all. I passed close to 200 people. Only a few people passed me back. I was racing with the 4:50 (finishing time) pacer, she handled it with ease. She was running close to 4:40 and I was aiming for 4:30 or less. She of course left all her runners behind at that speed. She was a bit confused about her pace since the tunnel section has messed up everyone GPS watch and mine included. They had pace band but I don’t know how she couldn’t keep the pace. Maybe she is bad at math. Our distances and pace were all reported incorrectly. The 4:50 pacer thought she was 10 minutes behind and couldn’t figure out why, hence she was running with me. She finally passed me at mile 21. I saw her again at mile 24 where she stopped and I think she realized she was 20 minutes ahead of her pace by then. She waited and finished at 4:50, a few minutes after I crossed the finishing line.

The race was well organized. We had aid station with water and Gatorade every two miles. You know the race director has thought it out, that Gatorade was served in Gatorade cups and water was in the plain cups. Usually Gatorade was placed up front (first table) and water on the second table. The volunteers called out which one was which. There were stinger/gels at certain stations but I didn’t use any of those.

I hit the wall around mile 18-20. I slowed down to walk and run. I ate my peanut butter sandwich. I recovered a bit. I was too full to eat earlier but I should have eaten to avoid hitting the wall.

My energy returned. I might have able to finish at 4:30 but I felt I didn’t want to push myself. My original goal was just to get to mile 20 and walk the rest of the way to the finish. I know even if I walked the rest of the way, I would still have plenty of time. I reach mile 20 in 3:28. I could run a 10K when I was healthy under an hour. But I was kept on running and was expecting at some point my heart/body might make me stop and I would walk. However, that moment never came. I checked my pace, I was doing 13-14 min mile pace.

Since haven’t had much training run over last six weeks, my quad muscles started to hurt halfway in the race. Luckily they didn’t cramp up. Down hill usually make it worse since it keeps using the same muscle group without rest.

I couldn’t walk once after crossing the finish line. And not even talking about climbing up the stairs for the bus, which was impossible. I pulled myself up. I don’t know how other people did it, but I had such a hard time getting on and off the bus. For the next two days, squading down was a trial.

I didn’t stay too long after the race. The post race food was the usual stuff. There was no pizza but they offered some kind of pasta. I didn’t take any. I took a carton of muscle milk and a bottle of water and couple bananas.

They also have another exactly same race the next day. I didn’t go for the second day but I can imagine someone signing up a second day too. I can’t imagine the race director and volunteers coming out for another day. One day seemed to be all I could take. I appreciate all the volunteers to make it possible. Our first day is like a preview for them. I hope their second day would be just as good.

What else did I do? I cleaned up, unpacked my stuff, I ate like a pig and slept for the rest of the day.

The next day, I went out to Seattle and visited the farmer market. I saw the original Starbucks store.

For the rest of the trip, I drove up to Surrey and Richmond and Vancouver, BC. I ate to my heart content there. I am not much a travel blogger, so I won’t share too much. Vancouver is a nice and big city. I was amazed by its public transportation. It was unlike what we have in the DC area.

As now I am on my way home back to the east coast. I finally understood why Seattle airport is called Sea-Tac. I thought it was a cute and weird name. Sea-tac stands for Seattle-Tacoma. It is kind of boring after knowing the truth. That is a kind of secret I took from Seattle.


Race Completed

Day 145 – Jack and Jill Marathon

I did not have to use every minute available to complete this race and that in itself is a good news. I finished it an hour and half ahead of time!

It wasn’t my best time but I was very happy though. I felt like I broke a record. Indeed, it was a miracle that I could even run.

One lesson learned was that even though the race said I have 6.5 hours to complete, but I started on the last wave and that cut in to my time and in reality I only have about 6 hours to finish (race close at 1pm). So in the future, if I ever plan to use the full time allotted, I must factor in the wave start time.

As expected marathons unlike ultras did not provide food at the aid stations. I also didn’t eat most of the food I brought with me to the course. Here is a picture of the left overs. It looked like as if it was for the start.

Update: I checked the last finishing time for the race. They extended the race beyond 6:30 hours of the race clock time. (The last recorded time was 7 hrs chip time, so they were very generous). My worry of losing time at the wave start is not a concern for this race. Though for future races, the time it would take crossing the starting line should be part of the pacing calculation.