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.
I better get to it before I don’t want to write about it any more. My usual practice is to only journal about my big runs, and this 10 miler is not what I considered a big race. Still it was pretty awesome of overcoming hurdles to get to the finish line, just like other marathons I have done.
I was very excited to run in the Reston X Miler race because it was a local race hosted by Potomac Running (shoes store), so it is one of the PR races that I do all the time. They were the first people, I came to know about running and running competitively (hmm as recreational competition). I grew up in a family with little money to spare — basically we wereat or even below the proverty line (that is another story or blog post in itself), so joining a running club or sport was out of my mind when I was young (in fact it felt normal not to do the sport as most kids think of sports – we still played outside of course but not where we have to pay to play) and paying someone money so that I could run was completely an insane idea, even until recently in my family. It is a running joke within our family, that I should pay them instead and they would watch me run and do whatever a race would do like taking my picture or jotting down my time and posting them online. Their point is why pay when you can do it on your own for free. It seemed very silly to ‘starve’ myself so I can pay to run in a race. $40-50 is a significant chunk of mulla for a weekend ‘fun’.
But I have come to embrace racing near and far and have probably done close to hundred of them by now. I lost count. Say 20 races a year, and I am in my fourth year, or so about 80 races with some quick math. Most of my results are posted on Athlink if it ever gets there.
As I said, I don’t usually write about the smaller races but only marathons and ultras, which I have done about 20 of those.
But the Reston 10 Miler has become a tradition for me, having done it every year. However this year, money is very tight. Normally I paid for all the local races (from PR Races) by purchasing a race pass (or more) at the beginning of the year and use the pass(es) to redeem the race when they come. This year, I have no money for race p/asses. I was broke and still am.
My lucky break came when I got a tax refund from the government. Everyone was telling me to save the money. Ya, sure. The first thing I did was signing up the Pot of Gold (took place the previous weekend on March 1, which I blogged about it), and this one, Reston X. I felt since it was almost no chance of running it, and finally the chance came, I should memorialized it here.
Races are not too expensive that I can’t afford them but they were enough to make me pause. Is it worth it to throw down $100 for these two races (Pot of Gold and Reston X)? That could have been my two weeks worth of food money! I am to the point of counting pennies! So I didn’t sign up until the last moment when the extra money showed up. I know, this is not the wisest way to manage money. But but, I really like to run in them. I admit, I’m an addict runner.
See, the background story is more interesting than the race itself! I will get to the race soon.
I showed up bright and early. The race was at 8AM. I woke up around 5 – 5:30. Really, I take racing seriously and religiously. I went to bed really early too, making sure I have my full 8-hr of pilot rest. My friends kind of joke about I couldn’t wake up for church for the 11 AM service each Sunday, but if there is a race, you bet, I will be bright eyes bushy tail at the zero dark hour. I don’t even need to set an alarm. My body just wakes up on it own. Ha!
Time change was this Sunday. Yes the Day Light Saving kicked in. Not complaining about lacking an hour of sleep. It didn’t mess me up. It was just still dark when I left for the race and very cold (relatively speaking), but I was ready. A bit sleepy for sure, but no one was on the road at that hour.
I grabbed a quick bite. Warmed up the Instant Oat. Our microwave broke, so it was not heating up. Fidgeted around the machine. It was humming along but no heat and the light was off. What give? I didn’t whack it but really wanted to. No avail. So I ate it cold.
I have been ready the night before, laying out the clothes I would be wearing. A lot of thoughts go into this. I had a long sleeves underneath, with a short sleeves (T-shirt) on top. For the pants, I wore long. No need for long johns but I was not as brave as the day before to be in shorts. I felt I gave everything the previous day, and today I just wanted to be comfortable today. As a runner, you know to plan for 10 degrees warmer. What this mean is say the temperature is going to reach 40 deg (F), so you should dress if it were 50 deg, because that will be how your body would feel by the middle of the run. To do that, you must be willing to stand the cold of the first few minutes before it reaches the right temperature. Not on this day though. I know it would get warm later in the race but no way would I ditch my get up. I then put on a coat and headed out. I was toasty warm. That how I like it.
Since I wasn’t able to pick up the race bib the day before, I had to get there a little early. The place opened at 6:45, I believed I was there around 7.
I already checked the course the night before (map check), visualizing the run before I slept. There were bit of details I was not familar with, but the course was basically a normal 5K + 10K, plus an extra mile in the beginning. I ran 5k’s and 10k’s at the location too many times and know those routes by heart.
Unlike other races, I was a bit tired having done a 32 mile run the day before. So there was very little warm up I wanted to do. Instead I stayed hunker down in the school cafeteria (the race staging ground) until close to the time of starting. The only warm up I did was a few jumping jacks with the whole crowd. PR races usually have someone to lead a warm up for few minutes. Those were the extend of my warm up for the race.
Normally speaking, the weather was very good for running. I believed it was 26 when I woke up, but by the time the race started, it was probably around 32-35. It would continue to climb to the 40s and reach 60s by end of the day. It was relatively calm without wind, unlike the day before. However, I just felt cold. I know it was a mental thing. I felt I had nothing left in me to fight the cold since I left everything on the course the day prior in another race.
I knew this race would be a hard one. So I tried to tell myself that ten miles shouldn’t be too bad for me because I normally can do it in my sleep. I kept reassuring myself, it is just a 10K plus another 5K. Easy. I would finish in 1.5 hrs at most.
Things were not good at the start. I could feel the pain on the back of my right heel with every single step. I tried to do it as gentle as possible, shifting my leg, moving my ankle, just trying to find the best position that it would hurt less.
Over time the pain became dull and later disappeared completely, to my joy! I could run. My left ankle, the one I rolled, was not an issue. I could pound as hard on that one without a problem.
However, pain on my right foot was not the only issue. I had problem breathing. I felt I couldn’t take in deep breath. The left of my left shoulder blade would hurt if I did. I knew this condition. It happened once before last year, when I had like three races over a weekend, and on my last one the pain came when I tried to breath. So I knew, there was no point in trying to run fast. I can only run as a pace my body could take at the moment. I will have to do a google search if other runners experience this kind of breathing problem.
I slowly picked up the pace as my body allowed me. Seeing the first mile, then the second mile sign and the third. I skipped the first water station. No need to take water now.
By the way, many people passed me during the first few miles. Note, I didn’t line up to the front of the line but at what I felt was appropriate for my condition (10-12 min group).
Still many people passed me. I wasn’t bothered by this. I was too busy monitoring my foot and lung. It was just an observation that those people I normally left them in the dust, now I couldn’t even keep up with.
At no point did I panic. I ran enough marathons and I know this was not one. I was always afraid of being disqualified for not running fast enough. I did the math in my head, with two hours to run, I would not be disqualified. Only thing is to press on. One step after another.
My goal then was to reach mile marker 6, since that would basically ensure that I would finish. I also know the neighborhood, so I had in my mind every turn that was about to come. I know almost every hill there and when to press hard and when to ease up. Familarity with the course really helped.
I don’t remember when I started feeling better, whether it was mile 5 or even before that. By mile six I was flying. Those people who passed me earlier, now I was chasing them down. I saw everyone I passed was exhausted. They were out of breath and they could barely maintain their pace. I was on the other hand fresh. As fresh as I can be.
I had a new goal then, to be the top 100 finishers. I really felt I could do it. I looked staight ahead and saw bunch of runners after runners. In my mind I started counting off. 30 runners here and over there 20. I could do it. I could pass them. I pressed hard. The more people I’d pass the higher the likelihood I would be able to reach it.
Miles were flying by. There 4 more to go, then 3 more and 2 and last mile. There were probably 10 more people I saw that I felt I could over take them. But it was hard! I was staying with them, passing some still but it was slow going. I was running out of time here because the race wad about to end. I did not exactly know where the turn would be to the finish line, but I knew it was about to be there in a few more minutes. I only could keep trying in closing the gap at it.
Funny though as I was passing people, I think going back at mile 7-ish, there was a black guy, passing me on my left. I looked over. The dude was young and he had on a sweater, not a runner outfit but he seemed enjoying and not sweating at all. He passed me with ease just as easily as I was passing other ‘slower’ people to my right. In no time he disappeared out of my line of vision. The point was he was not even trying. He was as if just a warm up run. Dude, you know if he was running for real, he be gone. It reminded me to some people say running at a 7 min pace is like for me running at a 12 min pace. Instead, he seemed just like he was fast walking and he was passing me by. I was amazed. People on my right ignored him like they were ignoring me. They were too focused on their breathing and maintaining their pace to see the guy. I was floored.
The finish line came in sight. There was a lady I was trying to pass as there were about 200 meter left. I passed still some more people maybe 4-5 more, but there was this lady who wouldn’t yield. She had what is known as the kick. I do too, but she out kicked me and blazed to the finish line. I know it was rather stupid try to win the last few seconds because we were chip-timed and not gun-timed. To be able to finish just one second or half a second ahead doesn’t mean you have bested the other person. It could be the other person started way later than you, so though you beat the person to the finish line, but that person might have ran the race in a shorter time still according to the RFID chip, so would beat you when the result is announced instead of who crosses the finish line first.
It seemed I am a bit competive. Actually, I don’t really care. It was all about running the hardest. Other people only serve as a reference point for me. They do make me run my hardest (I don’t run like that in training).
As I crossed the finish line I saw the time on the clock, it was not a ‘fast’ time. I know in my mind my fastest time for a 10 miler was 1:20. The clock was showing no where near that. I had 1:32 for this race. After looking back from the last few years’ results, this was in fact my slowest 10 miler.
Sad it may seem, I did not get rank into the top 100 finishers. However, I was thrilled of having a blast as I was trying to over take people. It really seems silly to do so because by the time I picked up my pace, the people I passed were not at my level – so it felt more like competing with the easy crowd (I felt like taking candies from little kids). In the end it is all individual effort. Running is really an individualized sport. It is always me and the clock and no one else.
I mentioned about timing. Most runners do not care about it. In a sense, true. Clock only matters to the first couple finishers. The rest of us were just participants. We ran not to win because that is an unrealistic goal. But clock does mean something. I ran in a ‘race’ where the clock was not even on, and that was a downer for me.
I am still young. There are still chances that I would be able to improve on my time. I could imagine maybe in another 10 years, where no matter how hard I train, my result just won’t show. Age will be a factor. That would be interest to see what motivation do I still have to get myself onto the course. I suspect it would be still almost the same. It’d be seeking the thrill of running ‘fast’. Yes, fast is relative.
First off weekly miles ran: 25 plus 18 miles hiking.
Got to put those hiking miles in otherwise, my running look pretty shabby.
No long run this past weekend. I originally scheduled a marathon race. It was another Potomac River Marathon just like the one I did a week before. Note they (race organizer) called it something different, but basically running on the same C&O Canal towpath. I signed up for this race back in spring. I have been doing races with this organization, Health and Safety Foundation, for couple years. On last Tuesday though I decided to defer the race until next year. Luckily this race has a very flexible deferral policy.
I also deferred another race (50K), which is supposed to be taking place this coming Saturday. It is not because I am nervous. I think I am ready.
Somehow, I don’t feel like running that much recently. I know at this point in time, it shouldn’t matter how I feel, I should stick to the training plan and run my miles. There are only a few weeks left until my final race. I still like running, but some other things seemed to be more important.
I am struggling with prioritizing. Previously, I am all for first come first serve. If there is something I like, but my calendar already has something in it, I would not move my events that are already booked.
Now I started moving things that were set around, all hell break loose.
I have been going through some soul searching last whole week. Nothing much came out of it. I do like running but there are other things more important. I have been skipping out churches on Sunday and my time with my friends. Though they understand that I do what I like, still it kind of hurt when I have to put them on a balance and weigh which choices I should do.
This past weekend, I went hiking instead. It improved my mental health somewhat. I kind of coming out of it better than when I started. My problem was not resolved. I did not come out with flesh vision and passion. The best thing about this hike was my hiking Friend K, got herself a trail runnin shoes. It was not like she was going to run with me. She does not run. However, she ran me on the trail for at least five miles on rough terrain. All the time though I was trying to stay away from running, and there she was running. I was thinking she got to be tired soon, at least for someone who doesn’t run and we were on trail (mountainous), even real runners get tired. I don’t she was doing it for me, she said and I believe her that she would still run the trail even if I were not there. I got home, and slept for four hours until evening.
If yesterday was a fluke, today was not. I again started the race late. All I got to blame is myself. I got to race of what I thought was an hour early and took my time eating my breakfast. I had a lot of fried rice. Somehow, as other people gathered up, I was staying confidently at my car. I saw other cars were still pulling in and thought I had plenty of time. Somehow, I took today starting time to be the same as yesterday. However, in fact the marathon started half an hour before the half.
By the time I walked up to the starting line, only the half marathon runners were still there. I don’t know why I did not check the race website for the start time beforehand. I made another rookie mistake.
The race director kindly informed me the race has started and I should start running. He told me the course and which direction to go.
Luckily, being half an hour behind was not as bad as yesterday of being an hour and half behind. I tried to catch up to the runners. I know they were about three miles out. The course was out and back four times and so I saw them usually running in the opposite direction but I never caught up to them. The closest I got was within two miles.
I was not able to catch up to any runners but I did catch up to those who walked. Officially I finished at 6 hours but unofficially my garmin time was 5:34 about the same as yesterday.
The weather was hot. I did not lube up myself today because I woke up late but surprisingly I did not get chaffed. Halfway through I felt a bister was developing on my left foot but I readjusted how I planted my foot and in the end no bister. I did not know you could do that.
If you think how could someone can run two marathons within two days, the answer is simple, you run very slowly. I tried to run fast but I was unable to do it. My time was 45 minutes slower than usual.
Was it hard for me? A marathon is a marathon. It seemed when I was running, the course seemed unending. Eventually, it did end. It was hard in that sense. However it was not extremely hard. I am at a point now in my training, where doing 20+ miles for a long run and the next day going out and do it again is typically what the plan calls for. I am supposed to be doing that much miles during the weekend.
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.