Run for Krispy Kreme

Having completed an ultramarathon just two weeks previously, I had almost zero expectations for the Cool Peeps 13.1 that took place in Pickrell, Nebraska, on April 13, 2019. I no longer felt any soreness within several days of the 50K, but my first slower-than-usual run back showed me my body still recovering; although my speed came back soon after, I could not confidently predict my physical state and even worried I may be doing too much too soon.

In the ideal weather of low 30s and little to no wind, I simply needed to focus on running the flat trail I had already conquered three times in the same distance. Prior to the start, I told a friend lined next to me, “I won’t be greedy with time today because I don’t know if my speed is back.” Well, not greedy maybe for the first thirty steps. Once I saw my mile pace ideally maintain, praising my Father for His beautiful nature, I began to hope for a strong performance, and around the halfway turnaround, I knew I would attempt my third-ever sub-1:50:00 half marathon. I gradually slowed down a couple of seconds per mile at one point, and with over two miles to go, I repeatedly did math in my head to figure out how fast I needed to go to realize this goal. Not wanting any regret and slightly looking forward to the Krispy Kreme Doughnuts at the finish, I sprinted the final one-and-a-half miles, understanding this would be close.

Three awesome friends running the Lincoln Marathon in three weeks!

I secured my second-fastest 13.1 miles in 1:49:27 and a negative split in the second half, sufficient to declare me first place in my age group of 30-34 out of five, third male out of thirteen, and fifth overall out of thirty-three finishers. I still may have gone overboard tackling a half marathon this quickly after an ultra. I thank Jesus, as always, for protecting me and allowing me this joyous stress-relieving morning.

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Believe and Earn

On my recent three-week business trip to Korea, in addition to working and traveling and helping my parents pack and move into a new apartment, I could not dismiss training for the upcoming 50K with the Prairie Spirit Trail, by Timer Guys, on March 30, 2019, thanks to a Facebook invitation from an old ultrarunning friend. This distance, the shortest of four in the event, would cover three Kansas cities of Ottawa, Princeton, and Richmond, although the latter two should not be categorized as cities. Because of ultrafine dust that polluted all of Korea for a couple of weeks, I wore an air-filter mask and could not even contemplate running outside; thus, I focused on maintaining, rather than improving, my fitness by cross-training indoors and ran outdoors almost daily upon return to Nebraska for the two weeks prior to my first race in my 30s.

Prayers before the start! PC: Mile 90 Photography

I drove over six hours from Kearney, Nebraska, to Ottawa, Kansas, in nonstop powerful rain until I arrived in my destination the day before and then for whatever reason, unsurprisingly, managed only forty-five minutes of sleep; sleep deprivation has never affected my running, but I still felt irate. 50K participants attended a mandatory meeting at 7:30 AM, thirty minutes after which commenced the race. The weather channel forecast heavy thunderstorms for three consecutive days leading up to and in the morning of the event; however, soon before we lined outside, the rain turned into snow, about which nobody complained because nobody preferred rain that creates mud, what concerned me most about the course, to cute snow flurries. (We still faced both snow and rain incessantly and a bit of mud.)

Wet and windy day! PC: Mile 90 Photography

All glory to Jesus! PC: Mile 90 Photography

PC: Mile 90 Photography

PC: Mile 90 Photography

As my body copes more efficiently with the cold than heat, I knew setting a new personal record (PR) from last summer would be likely and humbly hoped for a sub-6:30:00 finish. Despite the vicious headwind for half the race, which forced me to scream (and maybe curse) at one point, I found myself being able to maintain my initial pace far longer than I thought I was capable of, and around seventeen miles in, I realized I could not only conquer but absolutely crush my goal as long as I did not bonk drastically. I desired to make the most of this rare opportunity and almost refused to walk, only taking two uber-short breaks of half a mile combined; in spite of the physical pain and eventual slowing of the pace, I pushed and pushed, constantly praying to and conversing with my Father and searching for various ways to motivate me and make me feel happy, including reminding myself the pain will not always get worse, as ultrarunning legend David Horton would say, and imagining ordering a hot Starbucks coffee to go on my way back home. When my 26.2-mile split shattered my past marathon PR by over fifteen minutes, I impatiently wondered what my finish time will be. The feels-like temperature must have remained below freezing for most of the race, and my body vividly felt the wet cold. Miserable, I thought about taking one more walking break towards the final four miles to garner more energy to end strongly, but a brief moment of worrying if I got lost on the trail, seeing no runner in proximity, increased my heart rate and utterly woke me up, allowing me to carry on running.

With my right index finger pointing to the sky as I said in my feeble voice, “Thank You, Lord,” I crossed the finish line of 31.24 miles, according to my Garmin, in 5:29:33, smashing my previous 50K PR by an hour and ten minutes. God answered every one of my prayers for this weekend, and I acknowledge this miraculous performance could not have happened without His providing me with strength, endurance, perseverance, and mental toughness, especially considering my limited training. Thank You, Jesus!

Late Valentine’s Day

This year, I celebrated Valentine’s Day two days late with the love of my life, running, with the Sweetheart Shuffle 10K in Omaha, Nebraska. This would mark my last race in my 20s.

PC: Bodies Race Company – Omaha

PC: Bodies Race Company

I have noticed for some time my Garmin tends to give me a shorter distance/slower pace the longer I keep the machine on without pressing start and decided to shut it off and restart, right after which the race director began to count down from ten. (I honestly do not know what I was thinking, or lack thereof, doing this following the national anthem.) I anxiously waited until the watch relocated the satellite, which put me in the way back of the line, and I spent the first thirty seconds or so squeezing through and running around slower participants, yelling, “Excuse me! Sorry!” Panicking, I initially even forgot to play the music playlist I created, but I managed to recover and find my rhythm about a minute in. I would not be surprised if this uneasiness inadvertently made me run faster than I would have in the beginning, as I tried sprinting past many, which I never do at the start of a race.

The nearly 0-degree temperature caused my ears slight pain for the first mile, but then my body produced sufficient heat for me to forget about the cold. Because pretty much all of Nebraska received snow the day before, the trail was covered in snow but thankfully not slick enough to worry me. I could see my eyelashes had frozen but did not realize how hilarious my entire face looked until a lady asked to take a photo of me upon my 10K completion to show her husband the brutality of the temperature.

I crossed the finish line in 50:02.1, which upset me having come so close to running a sub-fifty again, even blaming arguably the most inconvenient start of my running career because of my instinctive careless decision to restart my watch so close to the race. I later found out some runners dropped out due to the frigid cold, so I should simply feel grateful having sturdily overcome this condition. I will now shift my focus to a 50K in Ottawa, Kansas, on March 30, 2019, which means I must make time to train on my three-week business trip to Korea that starts next week. Thank You, Jesus!

Ideal Running Temperature

The human body’s ability to adjust to varying conditions, with sufficient time and the help of mental toughness, amazes me. Since I picked up running seven years ago, I have taken on temperatures between 0 and 105 degrees and my body has never failed to adapt to any of the extreme, including a mini-blizzard, in any season of the year. I do, as do all runners, have my preferences depending on the distances I plan to conquer.

When not racing, I do not mind any temperature, as I feel no pressure to perform to the best of my ability. Race day, not so much. Up to the half marathon, I prefer the low 30s, as my body moves the fastest and maintains its pace the longest in that neighborhood, not to mention I rarely worry about dehydration. In a marathon, I enjoy closer to 40 degrees, as I inevitably move at a slower pace than that of up to 13.1 miles. On the other hand, in an ultramarathon, particularly 50 miles or longer, I choose hot over cold any day. I cannot run 50 miles nonstop and must periodically walk, and since I move significantly more slowly in these crazy distances than in non-ultras, my body temperature plummets during breaks of more than 10 or 15 minutes. During my 102-miler, when the sun set, bringing the temperature down from 90 to 50 degrees, my body shivered viciously as a result of the short time off after the first 50 miles. In the ultra before of 51 miles, I experienced the same shaking immediately following the race. In these distances that unavoidably throw so many variables and obstacles, my time would certainly improve by hours in the cold but my chances of finishing would likely diminish.

0 degrees and I was sweating!

I have been working in Nebraska, one of the coldest and windiest states in America, for the past three-and-a-half years and last night close to 8:00 PM decided to cover my face and go for a quick run of nearly four miles in 0 degrees. Confusingly, I barely felt the cold, and when this afternoon reached 22 degrees, I even felt warm. Where am I that 22 degrees feels warm? This even made me want to run the Antarctica Marathon one day. Again, I am amazed by the human body’s ability to adjust.

What is your ideal running temperature/condition?

Plowing through the Snowstorm

PC: Bodies Race Company – Omaha

Itching to return to racing, I, for the first race of 2019, decided on the Resolution Run 10K, taking place on January 12, 2019, starting in Omaha, Nebraska, and crossing into Iowa. The weather app and websites showed no sign of snow when I registered the week before, but then, just the day before, I found out Omaha would receive one to three inches of snow. (I laugh people so confidently predict what Earth will look like in millions of years when they can hardly ever predict tomorrow’s weather correctly.) I became nervous driving from my hotel in Bellevue, Nebraska, to the event location at 6:30 AM, still dark with heavy snow that refused to yield anytime soon.

Due to the weather ordeal, many 10K runners switched to 5K, and I do not doubt some registrants could not even participate. At the starting line, I felt nothing but gratitude that the race was not canceled, for which I profusely thanked the race organizers. (On my way back to Kearney, just from Omaha to York I spotted nearly fifteen car accidents, which reemphasized the severity of the weather.) Currently, in training, I run much faster than when I set my 10K personal record of 00:48:42.8 last summer, so I had in mind to be greedy and slay that here; however, once I saw the degree of snow, especially in the first mile, exacerbated by powerful wind and hills, I thought, “Nope! Not happening!” To make matters worse, my right earphone would continue to slip out due to the freezing temperature of 29 degrees. I slid multiple times and even fell once, after which I needed 30 seconds to find my rhythm. For most turns, I practically jogged in place while shifting the direction of my feet. Concerned about landing on my butt, I could not even attempt to speed up in most parts of the course; regardless, when I saw how much more slowly I was moving than I had planned, I decided to “sprint” the final mile, shaving off six seconds per mile on average during that one mile, implying I could not give my 100% effort because of the icy trail and concrete.

PC: Bodies Race Company – Omaha

Prior to the start of the race, a 10K participant, looking at how I was dressed, commented I must be accustomed to the cold. I have indeed noticed for some time my body copes with the cold much more efficiently than with the heat, probably since I grew up in various unusually cold regions, and I prefer my running temperature to be in the low 30s and do not mind the 20s or even 10s.

Considering these brutal conditions, I cannot be too upset with my finish time of 52:07.2, first place in Age Group 20-29 and seventh place overall. My first race in the snow and first time falling in a race, at least I experienced something new in my 40th race. My resolution? Simply obey Jesus.

Farewell, 2018

One more repetitious yet eventful year in Nebraska, a momentous one for sure, has sprinted to an end that prompts me to think, “Where has the time gone?” I thank the Lord for another year of good health and protection, as always.

Most significantly, after seventeen years in the United States, I have finally become a permanent resident, once again allowing me the freedom to leave the country and come back whenever I please and for the first time ever gifting me the flexibility to work wherever and for whichever employer in these fifty states I choose. Though culturally American for as long as I can remember, I felt my confidence rise with this green card that proves I earned my permanent place in America. My family and I have believed God brought me to Nebraska, name that had never exited my mouth prior to discovering my current position as an international recruitment specialist in the summer of 2015, primarily to provide me with this freedom in the smoothest and swiftest way possible for a reason I have yet to experience but am certain will soon enough; I am convinced His plan for my life requires my possession of this permanent resident status.

Following the monumental racing year that included a 102-mile finish in the Texas heat and humidity in 2017, I continued in 2018 actively fueling my passion for running by participating in eleven more races, comprising a 50K, eight half marathons, and two 10K’s, setting many personal bests along the way and surpassing 1,000 kilometers in race mileage since my first 5K race, as a sergeant in the Republic of Korea Army, on March 1, 2012. Just several weeks ago, I was accepted to run in the Chicago Marathon, my first and hopefully not last World Marathon Major, taking place on October 13, 2019, wherever I will be then.

For several years I had longed for a small spiritual group and friends who serve my Father, and a Texan youth pastor’s family’s arrival in the summer gave me an easy route to find these and become more involved in the church community.

“Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails,” says King Solomon in Proverbs 19:21. Desperate to move to a bigger place with more global people of closer backgrounds, I have continued to set my own timing of when I will leave this tiny city of 33,000, which did not consist of returning to the same office in 2019. I ask every day, “When? How much longer?” I hope to be more grateful in my current situation, learn to live in the moment, and focus on following His will rather than my own desires and consequently glorifying His Name in 2019.

Hola, Spain!

With my green card in hand and freedom to leave the United States and return without an issue, I decided to travel to Europe for the first time in almost two years, this time Spain, from December 18 to 23, 2018; I chose Spain because the sun sets too early for my liking in December in all the other European countries I considered. By the grace of God, I located a bundle deal on Expedia impossible to pass up, one KLM and the rest Delta flights and a four-star hotel for five nights for only $1,085.06. Though I considered adding Portugal for a day to the trip, my hotel being in Madrid would have lost me over half a day simply going to Portugal and coming back, which felt foolish for my already limited time to adventure. Instead, I focused solely on Spain, covering Madrid, Toledo, Segovia, and Seville in these five full days.

Many travelers prefer otherwise, but I, especially when only journeying for a few days, prioritize seeing as many tourist attractions as I can and move about at a pace with which many would not be able to keep up. I checked off the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium, Royal Palace of Madrid, Almudena Cathedral, Plaza Mayor, Museo del Prado, San Jeronimo el Real, Buen Retiro Park and its art gallery, Palacio de Cristal, and San Anton Market in Madrid, Toledo Cathedral in Toledo, Alcazar of Segovia and Segovia Cathedral in Segovia, and Seville Cathedral, Alcazar of Seville, Torre del Oro, and Plaza de Espana in Seville. (This list does not include the meticulous city tour of Toledo and Segovia led by Amigo Tours, Madrid in the Spanish Civil War tour with an Airbnb hostess, and Torre del Oro cruise tour in Seville.)

I appreciate history and find it awe-inspiring I can easily spot objects hundreds and thousands of years old anywhere in Europe, unlike in America where anything several decades old qualifies as monumental. The ornateness and immensity of gothic cathedrals mesmerize me but at the same time make me wonder, “How can anyone worship God here without being distracted by the extravagant setting and never-ending tourists?” As expected, I struggled substantially with the normalcy of public smoking in Europe. I, practically allergic to cigarette smoke, despise the sheer ignorance and selfishness of smoking in public and could not bear observing hawkers smoking as they sold their handmade materials and artworks, a mother smoking in her infant’s face, and a young woman even smoking in the garden of the Alcazar of Seville, to whom I said, “You know you’re not supposed to smoke here,” but I doubt she understood or even heard me. Linguistically, I was humbled. I have traveled to more countries than I can count off the top of my head, and not once had I experienced prior to this trip an overwhelming majority of natives speaking to me in their mother tongue, in spite of their knowing I speak English and zero Spanish. Up to this point, I had assumed I could survive anywhere in the world as long as I spoke English, but here I thought, “Maybe I should have learned several useful phrases in Spanish.”

Traveling expands horizons and perspectives on the diversity of the world, one of the main reasons I enjoy doing so whenever I have the chance; I do not view traveling as solely vacation but also education. Physically, my traveling could never be categorized as vacation; according to my health app, unsurprisingly, I walked (and occasionally ran) more than 51 miles and climbed 124 floors in these five days. I am grateful to Jesus for granting me yet another opportunity to explore a gorgeous unfamiliar historic territory and soak up His beautiful Creation.