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!

Advertisements

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.

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?

Now a Thanksgiving Tradition?

For the third-straight Thanksgiving, I traveled to Pickrell, Nebraska, 35 miles south of the state capital, to participate in the Wild Turkey Chase 13.1, race number eleven of 2018. My last five running events from July to October, in terms of time, had been five of my top performances in my running career, ironically following two of my worst, and I have been consistently running at a much speedier pace on training runs, which had me eager for more ambitious objectives. I would also surpass 1,000 kilometers in race mileage with the completion of this turkey trot, which excited me even more.

I began the race morning grumpy having only slept twenty minutes, but I also reminded myself sleep deprivation has never played a negative role in my running. Understanding through prior experiences both this course takes place 99.9% on a trail and seems slightly longer than 13.1 miles, I told my mother over the phone the night before I anticipated to finish between 1:53:00 and 1:55:00. The chilly weather of low 30s without too much headwind felt perfect for me to over-perform, which proved to be true. I completed the first half of the course at an 8:13/mile pace, and, still full of energy, I had in mind to really begin pushing with a couple of miles to go to attempt to break my personal record of 1:47:35.7 from less than a month ago. Although I never felt my body fatigue or slow down, my Garmin showed I was indeed gradually losing pace. I figured at this point setting a new personal best would be improbable but still wanted to secure my second-ever and back-to-back sub-1:50:00 half marathon. I knew I would be close, and with just under two miles left, I increased my stride and hoped to miraculously shave several seconds off my mile pace; I managed to reduce one second. I completed the race in 1:49:30.1, content I achieved one of my goals of breaking 1:50:00 and relieved seeing how nearly I came to losing even that.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Golden Corral, again

I felt obligated to have turkey on Thanksgiving, so, like last year, I proceeded to Golden Corral that offered Thanksgiving buffet. Never did I imagine this time last year that I would be repeating this (now a) tradition a year later, which taught me not to rely on my own humanly plans but rather let God take control of my life, as He and I may have different plans (Proverbs 19:21) and His time and my time do not always coincide (2 Peter 3:8). This suffocating lonesome journey of living in Kearney, Nebraska, for well over three years now constantly plays with my head, especially over holidays when families gather. I, however, would be surprised if I repeat this Thanksgiving tradition yet again in 2019. Of course, His will, not mine! Thank You, Jesus!

Fly without Limits

After contemplating running another ultra in Kansas on October 27, 2018, I decided to instead enter the Good Life Halfsy in Lincoln, Nebraska, happening the following day, mainly because I hesitated committing to a minimum of twelve-hour drive out and back for the former. This event that welcomes over 6,500 participants bears the nickname “Nebraska’s funnest half marathon,” and I longed to test myself and see how fast I could run on this net-downhill course I heard so much about for years from local races. Seeing and chatting with champion ultrarunner Kaci Lickteig and her pacer again, in addition to taking part in various entertaining activities, at the Expo the day before the race unsurprisingly pumped me up and excited me for the next morning.

My impression of a “downhill course” made me visualize most of the course leading downhill, which proved inaccurate when I ran upward as frequently as I ran downward. With this initial thought, I started ambitiously fast, beginning at a low 7:00/mile pace and maintaining an 8:04/mile pace for the first few miles. I had a rough idea of the pace I needed to keep in order to destroy my personal record (PR) from slightly over a month ago, which about eight miles in I figured to be inevitable unless something drastic, like an injury, occurred. I noticed my passing many runners going up and down but occasionally being passed going flat, and I was reminded of why I missed the Georgia hills so dearly when I first moved to Kearney, Nebraska, that seemed 99% flat, in September 2015.

Nearing the finish line following a prolonged uphill on a bridge, I gathered all the energy I had left for a final sprint to the end, flying past numerous runners. I aimed to complete the run close to 1:50:00 while quietly fantasizing even more quickly on this fast course but knew I had set quite a greedy goal, making the official time of 1:47:35.7, beating my previous PR by well over five minutes, drop my jaw even lower.

I remember texting my best friend following achieving my first-ever official sub-2:00:00 13.1 miles of 1:56:55 in the summer of 2017 that I do not know if I could again replicate that performance, yet my last three half marathons, all on much tougher courses, casually smashed that seemingly amazing accomplishment at the time. I can feel my body rapidly becoming stronger and speedier, but how much more room do I have to improve? I guess I will find out soon enough. Thank You, Jesus!