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.

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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!

Mind over Body

Just over a month left until my fourth half marathon in the Lincoln National Guard Marathon & Half-Marathon 2016 on May 1, I went on a three-and-a-half-week business trip to South Korea to recruit students for the fall semester of 2016. On the trip, with the combination of a cold that lasted three weeks and the inexplicable pollution that prevented me from running outside, I checked only six or seven cardio sessions, two of them on the treadmill and one on the cycling machine, in the inanimate basement and stairway. I embrace nature while I run, so I find running inside mentally draining. Upon my return to Kearney, Nebraska, I ran three times, concluding training camp on a hilly 5.13-mile run, in the week and a half I had left prior to the half marathon. Cross-training in swimming and cycling as well, I prayed my three-month preparation had been sufficient for my first race in 2016.

What she is able to do blows my mind.

What she is able to do blows my mind.

I drove to Lincoln, Nebraska, the day before the half marathon to pick up my bib and cruise through the Expo in the Lincoln Marriott Cornhusker Hotel. Surrounded by hundreds of dedicated runners and veterans, I was reminded of the joy of embarking on this journey with strangers who share the same passion and inspiring one another; my preceding three races in 2015 did not offer an Expo. As I prepared to leave the building before the one-hour free parking expired, I ran into Kaci Lickteig, 2012 Olympic Trials qualifier in the marathon, runner-up of 2015 Western States Endurance Run, and one of the top female ultrarunners in the world today, along with her Boston-Marathoner mother and best-friend pacer. Months ago, I observed the track records of the University of Nebraska at Kearney and read Kaci’s name as the university’s second fastest 10K and eighth fastest 5K female runner of all time, discovering she graduated from the school for which I work. She was even familiar with the Brazos Bend 100 and humbly complimented me on my completing 51 miles in the event. Talking to her had me encouraged and pumped for the following day.

I look like a blowfish.

I look like a blowfish.

Waiting for my corral to start, I told myself to never underestimate 13.1 miles; the time I did so following a 50K resulted in one of my worst performances. With 13,800 participants anxiously waiting to take off, I predicted I would never be alone throughout the course and worried I may have to spend much energy passing slower runners ahead of me as I did in both the 2014 and 2015 Publix Georgia Marathons. Although many runners were not fond of the rainy 40-degree weather, I took this to be a blessing in disguise to avoid dehydration. For the first mile, I could not wipe the smile off my face, as I thought, “It feels good to be back,” especially with the fervent crowd holding up motivating and hilarious signs to cheer the runners on. In attempt to finally achieve a sub-two-hour half marathon, I ran significantly faster than I did in any of my training sessions for this race, and I did not plan to conserve my strides and endurance. I was pleasantly surprised I could maintain such a high pace without exhausting myself or running out of breath. I also tried not to look over my Garmin to see how many miles I had left in the race so that I would enjoy the moment rather than desperately hoping to cross the finish line.

All smiles after three PR's!

All smiles after three PR’s!

On mile three, I caught progressing stomach cramps. Even though I initially decided not to drink at the first couple of aid stations, I knew based on experience I needed water to resolve the issue; the pain swiftly escaped after my first cup of water. I let my weight carry me over running downhill and did not back down running uphill. On a lengthy and moderate uphill around mile seven, likely due to immensely overpacing, I pulled a muscle in my right knee; nevertheless, I blocked the hurt out of my mind and did not let the burden slow me down, even if I had to pay for that decision for days. Only a 5K to go, I was en route to breaking two hours for the first time. One mile remaining, with the 2:00:00 pacer still behind me by quite some distance, I thought I had barely accomplished my time goal. According to my Garmin, I hit 13.1 miles under two hours at an average of 00:09:08 per mile, but the course frustratingly measured 13.22 miles, and my official time read, “2:00:43,” yet still my personal best. I technically ran a sub-two-hour half marathon but was disheartened I had missed my official time goal by merely 44 seconds. I even set new personal records (PR) in the 10K and 15K splits, 00:56:46 and 1:25:05, respectively, and thus must not exude an arrogance of disappointment.

At the Expo, I wrote on the banner, “Running keeps me active and determined” for the reason I am running in the Lincoln National Guard Marathon & Half-Marathon. If I could, I would change my answer to, “Running keeps me humble.” Each time I participate in endurance running, I realize how vulnerable human body can be and, without God, I cannot do anything. Humanly, I might not comprehend how I set three PR’s in one race considering all the training distraction from the business trip; however, I follow my Father’s odds, and “I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).