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 over the phone laughed and told me 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!

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!

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.

Two States in One

Legends Bart Yasso and Jane Serues!

Days prior to my three-week business trip to Korea, I received a voice message stating my name was drawn for a free massage from Essentials Natural Family Health in Papillion, Nebraska, from a raffle at my most recent running event, Beat the Heat 10K. Upon my return to the United States, I sought another race around this area because I refused to drive three hours out and three hours back solely for a massage. I signed up for 13.1 miles in the Heartland Marathon, beginning and ending in Omaha, Nebraska, but taking place mostly in Iowa, on September 23, 2018, only a few days before the event. I felt slightly concerned about my only having run on the treadmill several times while away and not having fully overcome jet lag.

I arrived in Omaha a day early for the Expo, where I met many inspirational runners, including legends Bart Yasso and Jane Serues, guest speakers, and an elderly man who had completed 405 marathons, seven times in all 50 states. Come race day, I had no expectations but simply hoped to score another sub-two-hour half marathon in this beautiful weather for running. I also did not anticipate to run mainly uphill the first three to four miles, at which point I dropped any desire for a strong performance. Nevertheless, as the course, comprising both roads and trails, flattened out on mile five, my body swiftly recovered and I increased the pace and stayed near the 1:55 pacers, which told me I could still potentially break my personal record (PR) of 1:56:55 from over a year ago on a far-less technical and slightly-shorter course. 8 miles in, still full of energy, I passed the pacers and did not see them again until post-race; a new PR seemed almost inevitable.

With a mile to go, I climbed my way up on the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge that divides Nebraska and Iowa from the Iowa side, which, maybe due to chugging water right before, made me feel nauseous; approaching the finish line, I came close to throwing up four or five times, which prompted me to pray to God dearly not to let me vomit in front of all these individuals cheering. Especially considering the consistent hills and my just having come back from a lengthy overseas trip, I was pleasantly surprised with the new mammoth PR of 1:53:05, beating the previous by three minutes and fifty seconds and enough for 54th place out of 248 runners. I wonder how I would have performed on a less difficult course, whether I would have run faster or I deal with hills efficiently. Thank You, Jesus!

“I Don’t Know”

Due to the semi-severe cramping of muscles in the right shoulder and left hip, to err on the side of caution, I decided to run a half marathon at the Hot Cider Hustle in Omaha, Nebraska, on October 28, 2017, instead of a 50K in Ottawa, Kansas, that I had eyed for months. Although I did not officially register for any race until only several days prior to the Hot Cider Hustle, I consistently trained—running, swimming, and hitting the gym—because I knew I would run another race before the end of 2017.

Usually, I only allow in my head positive comments on races because running humbles me and I appreciate the humility and dedication of the running community, including event volunteers. I consider the Hot Cider Hustle, my twenty-sixth race, incomparably the most frustrating and poorly organized race I have ever participated in. The run was set to begin at 8:10 AM, at 24 degrees with the effective temperature of 18, so I remained in the car until twenty minutes to the race. All runners toed the line several minutes before the official race time, when we, shivering in our light clothes, heard for no clear reason we would not be starting for another twenty minutes.

A race this size (of supposedly 1,300) normally divides the starting times between different distances, but all half marathoners and 5K runners started simultaneously. I began the race as enthusiastically as usual until I saw the vast majority of participants who lined up at the very front walked or barely jogged, forcing me to squeeze through or run around them in the first minute and instinctively complain, “Come on!” I knew nothing about the course, so I was pleasantly surprised to run numerous rolling hills, as hills feel less redundant and thus more diverse and exciting than flat. My legs took a couple of miles to finally warm up to the freezing temperature.

New friends!

Half marathoners had to complete two separate loops, a 5K loop with 5K runners for the first and a lengthier loop to fill 13.1 miles for the second. About 2.5 miles in, I spotted two volunteers holding signs of “10 miles” and “5K,” and I asked as I approached five times, “Half that way? Which way do half marathoners go?” The volunteers paid no attention to me but rather chitchatted with one another, and then I was told to take a different route from 5K runners. I saw no clear direction and shouted once again, “Where the heck am I going?” when a fellow runner pointed up and said, “I think you go this way.” Several other half marathoners went the same route, and we discussed with each other, “Something doesn’t seem right,” as we continued to run into inaccurate mile signs. While some just turned around, one runner and I ran together all the way to the turnaround with two volunteers, to whom I asked, “Are we going the right way?” They answered, “I don’t know.” When I came back to the aid station I passed on the way to the turnaround and asked the same question to the volunteers, they again said, “I don’t know.” When I returned to the place where I was separated from 5K runners, a new face, maybe the race director, said, “There has been a miscommunication,” but I could not make out all he said because I was running. I presume he told me to skip the section I just covered in the second loop. I turned left and took the trail I was supposed to take all along, where I had to run through or around hundreds of walkers in the 5K, and once I conquered an immense uphill, I saw two separate paths and shouted multiple times, running in place, “Which way do half marathoners go?” Here, I could no longer contain my frustration and screamed, “Fxxk this race!” about which I am still embarrassed. I decided to follow the 5K participants, and as they were turning left to finish, I shouted again to volunteers only telling 5K runners where to go, “Where do half marathoners go?” to which a girl said, “Right.” A couple hundred yards following, I saw two cones blocking the path, which usually means turn, although I was supposed to run straight; I thank the fellow runner who ran a few miles next to me for not letting me get lost again. For the remainder of the race, I only focused on escaping this bizarre maze and at one point thought, “Do I keep going when I have no idea if I am going the right way?” Around 12.5 miles for me (and 10 miles for slower half marathoners who were not led astray by volunteers), I landed where I, along with the lead-pack half marathoners, was told to take the wrong turn. The same volunteers who stood there remembered me and had me skip the extended trail because I had already completed that during the first loop.

I finished the race in 2:01:27.43, which bothered me even more knowing I most likely would have broken two hours in the half marathon for a third time had I not been led astray countlessly and wasted much energy shouting for directions and panicking about where to go. I never felt too tired physically, maybe because my mind was solely concentrated on the direction. To look on the bright side, I am thankful I completed the entire original course, although one section in reverse order, and did not have to run random places to fill the mileage and went all the way to the turnaround the first time around so I did not have to go back during the second loop and add an additional 2.5 miles to my race. I am still blown away, especially for an event this size, how not a single volunteer knew anything about the course. If 20 to 30 runners get lost this many times in just 13.1 miles, obviously the race has issues. Regardless, I still appreciate the volunteers who took time out of their weekend to help runners to a successful race. And, of course, thank You, God.