Rolling

As close to Kansas as it gets from Kearney, Nebraska, and with the start and finish at different points, which I prefer to out and back, the Race to the Center Half Marathon that kicks off in Smith Center and concludes in Lebanon seemed too ideal to pass up, although only a week after my most-recent half marathon in Marysville, also in Kansas. Living up to its name, this event would take the runners (and cyclists) to the geographic center of the contiguous United States, even more appealing. Beginning by a cemetery felt spooky, but, as a few participants said, “It is better to start here than end here.” Valid point.

These ladies are amazing!

The rugged course for the most part repeated steep ups and downs with hardly any flat to give my body a chance to recompose, contrary to what I had imagined, to be mostly flat, based on the couple of videos I watched on the race website. Just like last Saturday, I participated mainly to use this as part of training for the Chicago Marathon less than a month away. I did not intend to push my body to the limit to achieve a particular time to avoid risking any unnecessary injuries; thus, even though I barely missed coming under two hours on this unrelenting trail, finishing in 2:01:09, I was not too disappointed, and how strong I felt on these ceaseless rolling hills actually boosted my confidence slightly, especially as I predict the weather and the energy from the mammoth crowd and environment then will give me many intangible advantages. More than anything, my right foot still feeling sturdy even after these two 13.1-milers in a week reassures me my body will be ready to go on October 13, 2019.

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9/11

Eighteen years ago today, four separate attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon and nearly 3,000 lives taken and over 6,000 injured, I remember exactly where I was: math class. I had recently started boarding school in Connecticut, having just moved from Canada, and homesickness immediately inundated my 12-year-old self; when I resided in Canada, living with my aunt’s family, I rarely felt lonely, but here at Rumsey Hall School I found myself daily crying a river to bed and calling my mother five to ten times, begging her to bring me back to Korea and complaining why I have to live away from my parents. Emotionally, due to my immaturity, I consider this the toughest season of my life. Who knew God would use this adversity to save my mother’s life?

My mother worked for Merrill Lynch in Korea for nearly thirty years, and she was scheduled to attend a conference inside the World Trade Center on the day the most tragic event in my lifetime so far and hopefully ever bombarded Manhattan and DC, or America. My constantly wailing over the phone made her feel so bad that she canceled her hotel reservation the night before and postponed the meeting, both inside the Twin Towers, to be closer to me. She could not relay this update to Merrill Lynch due to communication issues, so of course her office freaked out, thinking she was in attendance. When my math teacher told the class what had occurred, I remember nobody believing him until he walked us to the closest TV in the fitness center. As I watched this horrific scene in New York City being replayed, I kept thinking about my mother and feeling uneasy, not knowing why and unaware she was supposed to be in one of the targeted buildings when this tragedy took place.

When I share this story, most people say, “You saved your mother’s life,” and I always respond, “No, God used me to save my mother’s life,” for I am convinced if I had not been homesick, He would have found a different path to make sure my mother could not be at the World Trade Center then. I recall God allowing me hear the Holy Spirit very clearly at that point of my life, and my mother reminded me that I told her He spoke to me, “I will take care of your mother and father. Do not worry.” Still a teenager, I could not wrap my head around the unfathomable grace my Father had poured on my family here, because, although I will not elaborate here, based on the unthinkable hardship we were already facing, I do not believe any of us could have survived if He had decided to take my mother Home that day. The older I become, the more I understand this miracle God displayed and the more I praise my Savior.

May our righteous, merciful, gracious, and loving Father bring comfort and peace to every person whose life was affected this day in ways only He can.

Bring Back the Cold

With the 2019 Chicago Marathon the second Sunday of October finally in sight, I planned to race once or twice in September as part of training and registered for a half marathon with the inaugural Pony Express Half Marathon & 5K in Marysville, Kansas, taking place on September 7, 2019. What I believed to be a potential stress fracture in my right foot for months now seems to be a strain closer to my ankle, which I feel more intensely, strange considering I have been running less due to my recent overseas business trip. I could not help but worry running this race could worsen the injury and jeopardize my first World Marathon Major I had been eyeing for nearly a year at this point.

PC: Pony Express Half Marathon & 5K

I try not to be greedy with my finish time in the summer, so I never intended to push for a personal record. I simply used this 13.1-mile run, which ended up being 13.21 miles, to sustain endurance and build confidence from this minor foot pain. On pace for a near 1:50:00 finish and feeling as strong as the beginning for more than half the race, I did not see my drastically slowing down the final two miles coming. In addition to the heat, direct sunlight, and headwind, my constantly shouting for directions while turning on and off my earphones and pausing and restarting my music unnecessarily drained my stamina by throwing off my rhythm, and I had to settle for an official time of 1:57:33. Nevertheless, I felt relieved my right foot did not bother me at any point on the course and I was able to comfortably achieve another sub-2:00:00 half marathon, both of which boosted my confidence for the upcoming marathon in just over a month, especially knowing the temperature will give me a mammoth advantage by that time. Bring back the cold already; I do not enjoy running in the summer heat! Thank You, Jesus!

Altitude Party

Partly to explore Denver and partly to run my first-ever race in Colorado, I registered for a 10K with The EatingWell & Fit Foodie Festival & 5K/10K, taking place in Westminster at an altitude of nearly 5,500 feet on August 3, 2019, and drove to the Mile High City the morning before. I felt the slight effect of thin air every now and then but could not confidently say placebo or my nonstop singing did not play a role. I hydrated myself more meticulously and extensively than I usually do, especially the night prior to the event with a large can of coconut water and two bottles of water from the hotel. Walking around the mini-festival with thirty minutes left until 10K runners took off, I suddenly and rapidly felt my breathing become uncomfortable; thus, I drank an additional two cups of water, hoping I would not have to use the bathroom in the middle of the run.

When the race director told the “five, six, and seven-minute milers” to line up front, I naturally moved to the back of the line, thinking for sure this untested territory would deteriorate my performance. When the race commenced, unsurprisingly because I see this way too often, numerous joggers and even walkers audaciously clogged up the front, which forced me to spend the first thirty steps or so going through and around them. (Forgive me, but this annoys me a bit.)

Considering how I felt simply moving around right before the start, I was pleasantly surprised how efficiently my body adapted and kept up, especially adding the heat and constant rolling hills. Hardly any participant passed me and I passed quite a few throughout the entire distance. After managing to maintain a seven-minute-mile pace for the first couple of miles, I gradually slowed down and crossed the finish line in 51:25, gold out of nine in my age group of 30-39 and 10th place out of 127 finishers overall. I had always been under the impression most runners in Colorado must be intensely competitive, and due to this being my first time ever running at altitude on top of so much of the unknown, I never even imagined receiving an award outside the finisher’s medal to be a possibility. I remember praying to God, like a child, to pleasantly surprise me, and He did pleasantly surprise me. (I do not normally pray this immaturely and selfishly, so do not judge!)

The race most certainly lived up to its name, as the post-race festivities made the day far more exciting and memorable. Like the motormouth that I am, I could not stop talking to everyone around me and ended up being one of the last runners to leave the scene. I did not travel all the way to Colorado from Kearney, Nebraska, solely to run a 10K, but this event alone made the trip worth it. As always, thank You, Jesus!

P.S. Shout-out to the awesome representative of Omission Brewing Co. who graciously stored my keys while I ran and gave me a free twelve-pack of Ultimate Light Golden Ale on my way out (even though I rarely drink)! 😉

Ahoj!

Taking a leap of faith and ready to explore new opportunities outside the minute city of Kearney, Nebraska, I somewhat called home for the past four years, I submitted my resignation letter to the University of Nebraska at Kearney. Unexpectedly, the new head of my office asked me to continue to work remotely until I decide concretely what to do next, which I accepted following prayers with my close ones. Prior to this transition, I planned to briefly travel overseas in hopes of refreshing my mind and not stress myself over work and the future while away and, after looking into many options, decided on Prague, the Czech Republic; many of my friends have studied here and my mother has told me a couple of times about the beauty of the city.

Of course, knowing my travel style and with only three-and-a-half days to explore, I knew physically this would be the furthest thing from vacation, which proved to be true. From July 9 to 12, 2019, according to my Health app, I covered 31 miles on foot and climbed an equivalent of 196 floors. Starting day one in the afternoon due to the flight schedule and focusing on figuring out the transportation system, I had time for the Prague Astronomical Clock and Charles Bridge, both of which included going up to the top of the towers, and a one-hour boat tour with Prague Boats, which I barely made on sprinting nearly two miles due to constantly getting lost. I began the second day with the full admission to the Prague Castle, not realizing the multitude of buildings within that would require me to spend six hours there alone; these comprised the Old Royal Palace, the Story of Prague Castle, Basilica of St. George, Golden Lane, St. Vitus Cathedral, and Rosenburg Palace. I paid separately to ascend the seemingly endless stairs to the pinnacle of the Great South Tower, part of the St. Vitus Cathedral, which I recommend only to people in shape. Following, I hiked up to the Petrin Lookout Tower on the other side and climbed to the top of the monument, where I could capture a breathtaking panorama of the city.

Breathtaking panorama of Prague from the top of the Petrin Lookout Tower

For day three, I booked the all-day Bohemian and Saxon Switzerland Tour with Cayman Travel, the unquestionable highlight of my trip. This tour consisted of only four people, including me and the tour guide, which allowed us to build a closer relationship while inhaling the gorgeous Creation of God from both the German and Czech Republic sides. Being able to answer questions about the Bible and talk about the love of Jesus on our ride back to the starting point wins my most grateful memory; if God used that moment to plant the seed of faith in these individuals, my purpose of this journey is fulfilled. I spent the last full day visiting The Celts exhibition, part of the National Museum, the Dancing House, including drinking hot chocolate on the top floor, the Church of St. Cyril and Methodius and its crypt, and the Infant Jesus of Prague and then shopping.

American Airlines’ randomly and without a legitimate reason canceling my first flight from Prague to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, only hours before scheduled departure spiraled into the most frustrating and inconvenient flying experience I have ever dealt with, forcing me to argue with perhaps the rudest ticketing agent I have encountered, toss out some of my valuables, miss one flight and be stuck in Chicago, Illinois, overnight, miss church, and contact tens of agents of multiple airlines to retrieve my bag they lost. Nevertheless, I would rather focus on the positive. I was pleasantly surprised to realize I have set foot in nineteen countries since the summer of 2013, and I patiently wait in excitement to see God’s purpose of showing me so much of the world. I thank Jesus for allowing me another one of these indelible journeys and safely bringing me back home.

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!

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!