Fourth of July Tradition

10-year-old marathoner! 🙂

Participating in the Brownville Freedom Run Half Marathon in Brownville, Nebraska, on the Fourth of July has become a tradition for the past three years. This year, however, I did not firmly decide until the week of due to a subtle yet lingering soreness in my right foot, many symptoms of which hint at a developing stress fracture; therefore, I for the first time in 47 races registered the morning of the event, as online registration had already closed. I have not been able to run as frequently or hard as I normally do in the past month and thus added occasional swimming to my training.

With the foreseeable heat and humidity this time of year in Nebraska and not entirely confident in the state of my right foot, I did not set a specific time goal. The majority of this course takes place on rugged trails, but my adrenaline kept me from feeling any unbearable pain in the injured foot, even though I felt the sting for nearly the entire race.

I, still on pace to break two hours around mile 11, thought to sprint the final half a mile, but miscalculating the finish line led me to kick too soon for how little energy I had left, at which point I only focused on finishing strong. Concluding 13.15 miles in 2:02:25.4, first time in almost a year not comfortably coming in under two hours, I felt slightly demoralized until realizing most runners I spoke to after ran significantly slower than their capabilities. The beauty of summer running (and an injury), I guess!

I thank Jesus for protecting me throughout the race, as always. Happy Birthday, America!

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Running Transforms, Literally

Running transforms you, literally.

What else could I have expected in Texas in late April (of 2017)? After spending 39:25:44 covering 102 miles in the heat of up to nearly 90 degrees with no shades, I became a different race, pun intended. I had never experienced and knew nothing about a sunburn prior to this, so when the skin in my face, followed by my neck, arms, and legs, began peeling off, I freaked out until my father laughed and told me over the phone that my skin would probably look cleaner than pre-race. Next time, I will certainly remember to apply sunscreen in this type of condition. I also must have lost, temporarily, around 20 pounds and do remember my feet and one calf had bizarrely swollen up like hamburgers.

When I signed up for a 10K in Omaha, Nebraska, in February 2019, I did not expect to be running in 0 degrees, although I had run a few miles slowly in this temperature one recent evening. I could feel and see my eyelashes had frozen, but little did I know my entire face (and beanie) was covered in frost. I can only imagine how much funnier I would have become with a legitimate beard and mustache. As I awaited my official result, a lady in front of me asked to take a photo of me to send to her husband to prove the brutality of the race conditions, which prompted me to take a selfie and realize how hilarious I looked. I still managed my second-fastest 10K of 50:02.1. My body for sure prefers extreme cold to extreme heat.

I know I cannot use #TransformationTuesday today, but I did not feel like waiting until Tuesday just for the sake of this hashtag. Feel free to share your transformation running photo(s) in the comment section below!

Sleep-Run

PC: Bodies Race Company – Omaha

Returning to running earlier than recommended, I began to feel the straining of my right foot worsen with each casual run and worry I may indeed be verging on a stress fracture. Before taking some needed time off running to err on the side of caution, I decided on one more 10K at the Hero Hustle, taking place on June 8, 2019, at Eugene T. Mahoney State Park in Ashland, Nebraska.

PC: Bodies Race Company – Omaha

PC: Bodies Race Company – Omaha

Not falling asleep the night before a race has become the norm, but I struggled this time with sleepiness significantly more than usual due to picking up two friends and driving two-and-a-half hours to Ashland at 4:30 AM. I had trouble waking myself up from the drowsiness prior to the event, and I felt as if I almost ran instinctively while half asleep. I struggled the vast majority of the race with unanticipated vicious stomach cramps that refused to leave. Completing the same hilly 5K loop twice felt repetitive, and the heat that must have reached 80 degrees made this one of the toughest 10K’s I have ever run, although thankfully my right foot held up.

After recklessly starting at a six-minute-mile pace, I had a very average performance of a 53:48.53 finish, but I acknowledged, if these conditions affected me, they must have affected other participants also. Although I was initially declared the winner of Age Group 30-39, which pleasantly surprised me, I saw there could have been multiple system errors and asked the racing company via Facebook to recheck the results. The team, after looking over the timing computers and results, confirmed I actually placed second and thanked me for my honesty and mailed me my silver medal. I do not want a gold medal I did not actually win, so this correction relieved me.

Living for Him

I hate conflict, and if “it is possible, as far as it depends on [me], [I try to] live at peace with everyone” (Romans 12:18). In this age of social media, where so many people become so easily triggered and upset by any post that may even remotely disagree with their viewpoints, I have gone from being quite outspoken in my belief, even in sensitive topics, to hardly mentioning anything political that would inevitably create a heated dispute among unbelievers. I feel generally “prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks [me] to give the reason for the hope that [I] have” and do so “with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15). I strive to be “completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love,” but, a mere man, I, like everyone else, daily sin and “fall short of the glory of God,” and I am eternally grateful I have a patient, merciful, and forgiving Father who renews me every day (Ephesians 4:2, Romans 3:23).

This raises the question: Where do I draw a line between sharing the truth of the gospel in and out of love and hurting the feelings of so many, which does not take much in this generation that seems to almost search for reasons to be angry. The Bible could not be clearer about the nature of sin and certain detestable acts, in the sight of God, that have become so prevalent to the point many believe they fight for justice by despising and opposing the teachings of our Creator; they do not understand, when they challenge the Bible, they challenge not fellow humans but the Author. Those who do not know Jesus acting like they do not know Jesus do not bother me, but those who invoke the Name of Jesus and His Word and lead others astray, whatever the reason, infuriate me; “What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside” (1 Corinthians 5:12). If you proclaim with your lips to follow Jesus and then only believe what you want to believe and act as the judge, are you really a follower of Christ? As Christians, we should love our neighbors as ourselves and treat them with gentleness and respect, but this does not equal encouraging behaviors that dishonor God.

Painting of Jesus by Akiane Kramarik

If by loving and obeying Jesus people hate you, remember that the world “hated [Jesus] without reason,” and, as a “servant is not greater than his master,” those who follow Jesus too will certainly face trials and be hated and persecuted in this world temporarily ruled by Satan (John 15:25, John 15:20). Those who want “to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12). “If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own,” but you who belong to Jesus have been chosen “out of the world. That is why the world hates you” (John 15:19). Therefore, I do not put much weight into what people think of me; I only care about what my Father in Heaven thinks of my heart. As Jesus warns, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in Hell” (Matthew 10:28). Sure, as a mere human, I may be hurt by fellow humans every now and then, but I stand firm in the faith that my Father has always been and will forever be faithful and never forsake those who love and seek Him with all their hearts, souls, minds, and strengths. As my pastor would say, I live from, not for, God’s approval, and it would be unloving of me not to share this loving truth with outsiders.

I would rather do the will of God and be condemned by humans than do the will of humans and be condemned by God. I would rather please God and be judged by humans than please humans and be judged by God.

Welcome Back, Heat and Humidity

I made my longest trip ever for a half marathon, driving over four hours out and four hours back, to participate in the 5th Annual Bill Snyder Highway Half, taking place on May 25, 2019, in Manhattan, Kansas. (Not an avid follower of football, I may have been the only participant who did not know much about this eponymous legend.) The first eight miles would take place on scenic rolling hills of Bill Snyder Highway, succeeded by numerous turns around Kansas State University and the finish inside the Bill Snyder Family Stadium, comparable to the Lincoln Marathon. At this point this should be a given, but I, again, barely slept, maybe an hour, the morning of the event.

The weather forecast in the Midwest, especially Kansas, has been unpredictable to say the least, but I did not expect such heat and humidity after a cooler-than-standard and rainy month of May. I still felt the straining of my right foot, which had me worry slightly about the pounding impact throughout these multiple lengthy downhills. After maintaining an 8:18/mile pace for the first nine miles and still feeling strong, I thought to push the last section and potentially try to break my personal record of 1:47:35.7 from the Good Life Halfsy last year, but my body had different plans. With four miles to go, I could feel the scorching heat of 78 degrees on my neck, exacerbated by nasty humidity, and I felt as if I had lost most of my strength and endurance within seconds. A tiny part of me even considered taking a brief walking break, especially with the intrusion of unforeseen lasting stomach cramps, but I overcame this negative thought and continued running regardless of how sluggish my strides in these never-ending climbs towards the end became. For the vast majority of the race, hardly anyone passed me, but with roughly three miles to go, countless runners from behind stampeded past that even made me wonder if we had this many runners toe the line.

Covered in sweat and salt, so disgusting I did not want to get in my car, I crossed the finish line in 1:57:25 after being on pace for another sub-1:50:00 for a large portion of the race. Nevertheless, I understood full well how drastically heat and humidity affect my speed, so my performance, still in the top 27% of all finishers, did not disappoint me. Some runners could not finish and even fainted, so I could not possibly be arrogant enough to be upset over simply running slightly more slowly than I usually do. A chiropractor on the field, examining my right foot, strongly recommended I take two weeks off and then ease into running and incorporate cross-training to avoid a potential stress fracture. What he did not say: I need to stop stubbing my right toe, which I have lately repeatedly done.

As always, I thank Jesus for allowing me this elating trip on this Memorial Day weekend. Thank you for your service, all veterans!

Nebraska (Half) Marathon Major

PC: Jason Feddersen

On May 5, 2019, I participated in my third Lincoln National Guard Half Marathon in the past four years. Familiar with this semi-hilly course of the biggest race in Nebraska, I hoped to set a personal record, predicting my adrenaline rush and more intangibles of running alongside thousands of fellow dedicated runners and with spectators lined up on both sides spreading cheer and sporting amusing signs throughout the entire 13.1-mile distance to play a factor. I also acknowledged my body that copes with the cold much more efficiently than the heat would not enjoy the temperature advantage with a 54-degree start and this objective as overly ambitious. As per usual, I managed barely any sleep, of three hours, before the event.

The uncovered sun in the clear sky, contrary to the forecast of a potential thunderstorm, released sweat from the early miles, and I took a couple of sips of water at most aid stations, just enough to stay hydrated without being bloated. The straining of the outside of my right foot, which I began feeling earlier in the week, that flared up again with four or five miles to go bothered, though not worried, me. I knew I could and would block out the pain in my head until the end and find a way to not allow this symptom to slow me down and ruin my performance. This, however, did remind me to practice what I occasionally preach: take recovery as seriously as training. Running an ultramarathon and two half marathons in just over a month, without sufficient rest in between, may have been too much too soon and overwhelmed my body. Regardless, this certainly did not annoy me as much as some in the crowd, one openly, smoking cigarettes in front of runners heavily inhaling and exhaling to maintain the pace and rhythm. Really?

That left calf though. 😉 PC: Lincoln Marathon

Following a 2:00:43 finish the first time in 2016 and 1:59:08 finish the second time in 2018 on the same course, I crossed the finish line this third time in 2019 in 1:51:51. My sub-1:50:00 streak of three came to an end, but I found contentment in this visible progress, that consistency pays off. I shared with multiple people throughout the weekend that I took a while to break the two-hour barrier, but once I finally did, my speed rapidly improved that even breaking 1:50:00 soon no longer appeared unusual. Quite surprisingly, many seemed to agree and relate. With summer swiftly approaching, I doubt I who prefer racing in the low 30s will be setting any PR’s in the next several months, but never say never! As always, I thank Jesus for blessing me with good health, time, and motivation to continue to pursue this healthy and joyous hobby that attracts a myriad of amazing and inspirational people.

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 and consecutive 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.