A week after the San Jose Rock 'n' Roll Half marathon, I was up and ready for a trail half marathon in Pacifica, CA. I knew the course well from another race held by a different promoter. I had done a race prep run 2 weeks before and developed my strategy. I did recovery runs leading up to the trail marathon, giving a day of rest the day before.
I lined up at the start scanning the field. There appeared to be a handful of strong runners, my eyes scanning to feel them out to sense who I should watch out for. The gun went off and I surprised the pack by sprinting ahead. I did this because of the trail race being largely on single track paths. If I stayed with the pack, I'd risk getting stuck behind runners with a slow pace and would have to spend more energy passing them. I could hear a couple of chuckles as some runners murmured that I was foolish to do such a thing. I knew the strategy was risky, and this is what I was hoping for, for runners to think it was and hold back.
I found myself alone through the first mile. Moments later, a runner passed me with a pace I felt was too strong to handle. If I was going to give chase, I would do so on the descents. I maintained fast feet turnovers as I weaved up to the summit. Just moments before reaching the summit, I heard the footsteps of a runner trying to catch me. His breathing was heavy. He had spent good effort trying to catch me, and I would use this to my advantage. As soon as I reached the summit, I attacked the descent immediately and did not stop attacking. By the time I reached the bottom of the first climb, he was no longer behind me.
I weaved my way through the second climb, which was quite short compared to the first climb. As I made my way to the bottom, I saw my chaser coming halfway down. I had at least a minute on him. Rather than try to create a bigger gap on the flat section, I took this segment as a recovery interval, saving my strength for the third and final climb. The switchbacks seemed to be endless; trying to count them would lead to deliriousness. I kept a conservative effort with a fast turnover. The last thing I wanted was to have dead legs for the final descent. I reached the summit and went straight into attacking the descent. As good as it felt, I kept reminding myself that I was being chased and remained vigilant. I imagined every sound I heard was a runner nipping at my heels trying to catch me. I wasn't taking anything for granted and pushed the attack down to the bottom. I gave a final push to the finish line, claiming second place and a drinking glass as my prize.
In a way, running is like mouthwash. If you feel the burn, you know it's working.
Be well and run on!
On September 27, 2015, the streets of San Jose were packed with over 8,000 excited runners. I took my place in Coral 1 just behind the rope that segregated us from the elites. My goal was to break my current best of 1:24:08. The increased heat in the San Francisco area made race pace runs difficult the months leading up to the marathon. I was averaging splits 8 seconds over my targeted pace and couldn't seem to break through. With two weeks to go, I slipped on my Luna Sandals and did one last race pace run. I was able to hit 6:14 splits which would put me under the 2 minute goal. It was time to taper and see how it would go down on Sunday.
The gun went off and I hit the road fast to surge through a pack of runners then settled into a pace. Runners would pass me with a competitive eagerness that proved to be costly. I found myself passing runners who surged ahead and had a pack of runners riding in my drift. I wasn't worried. I was focused on my goal and stayed to it. I checked my pace every few miles and saw I was within my goal. With runners nipping at my heels and runners in site to pick off, I made the decision at mile 11 to start my kick. I dug deep and just ran, not bothering with my watch. I wanted to run the last few miles by heart, not by head.
I made a sweeping right turn and could see 2 runners ahead. I reeled them in, making my pass and made a final left turn and saw the finish with one more runner within my reach. I ran as hard as I could, squeezing out whatever juice I had left in my legs, and beat the runner by 3 seconds along with breaking my record by 2:49 (total time 1:21:21).
It's a great feeling when the stars align. Running breaks you, and afterwards you are stronger in the broken places.
Be well and keep run on!
I'm excited to announce that I've teamed up with Luna Sandals. The Luna story was inspired from Barefoot Ted's experience of running with the greatest runners on earth, the Tarahumara. See the video below for the origin:
Click here to check out Luna Sandals
What captivated me about Luna Sandals was that it brought back running to its essentials. For me, running in Luna Sandals has woken up my feet, and brought back a deep connection with the joy of running. The minimal layering allows the nerves in my feet to feel the running surface, and activates necessary muscles to run effectively. This means my feet and legs develop strength because they are doing the work, and are not being suppressed by padded shoes. Stronger legs and feet reduce your risk in injuries as well as make you better, faster, and stronger.
Since running the Water to Wine Half Marathon this past August, I began doing training runs in Luna Sandals. Within weeks I had noticed an increase in my stamina. I was able to run longer and faster with more ease. Recently, I did a race test run in Luna Sandals for the upcoming San Jose Rock 'n' Roll Marathon and beat my previous best by over 2 minutes! The experience of Luna Sandals is off to a great start. I will be alternating between shoes and Luna sandals for a bit until I build up my feet muscles, calf muscles, etc. Another benefit is that they make great for recovery sandals after racing or hard training runs.
Be well and run on!
It was a cool 60 degrees on the morning of the Water to Wine Half Marathon in Santa Rosa. I warmed up and took a spot at the front. I saw a male competitor lock his gaze on me as I lined up at the front. He moved his way over and stood next to me. I found this to be unusually interesting, being marked even before the race started. The goal was to break 01:24:00. The first two miles I went out hard to create a gap from the pack, then settled into a sub 6:25 pace. Moments later the male competitor who targeted me before the race passed me. A few miles later I caught up to him holding the pace I was at. When he saw me, he surged ahead. With over 10 miles left, I thought it unwise to give chase, so I stayed with my pace, holding 15th place.
Around mile 5 there was a turn off but no course markers to direct runners. I ran about a quarter mile straight until runners coming down the opposite side of the road told me I needed to make the right turn and loop around as they did. Coming to the turn, I felt certain I lost a few placings and also had time to make up. There was nothing to do but shake off the mishap and run on.
I picked off runners as I made it through the halfway point. Around mile 8 I spotted, in the near distance, the male competitor who targeted me before the race. I felt a surge of excitement and locked in on my next target. At this point my legs were feeling the burn, so there would be no hard push to catch him. There was a handful of miles left, giving me the opportunity to gradually close in on him. As I passed mile 11, I picked off one more runner before finding myself right behind him. I took a moment to gather myself, preparing to make my attack and counter his surge. As I passed him on my left, I gave a solid look right at him, enough to catch the look of shock and disbelief in his face, and then took off. I listened closely for any foot falls behind me. As I hit mile 12, I gave a look around and saw that he was in the near distance giving a hard push to catch me. I countered with a hard push that would hold, beating him by 36 seconds.
I wasn't able to break 01:24:00 but I was able to take 14th overall and 4th in my age group. Life isn't about the perfect hand, but playing the one you've got as best as you can.
Be well and run on!
The majority of us get sufficient protein. However, there is research to indicate that athletes require more protein than their sedentary friends. The USDA recommends non athletes to consume .8 grams of protein per kilogram (.36 grams per pound) of body weight each day. On the contrary, the International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN) recommends active people to consume 1 to 2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight each day. This can be broken down by activity:
Endurance Exercise: 1.0 to 1.6 grams of protein per kilogram (.45 to .72 grams per pound) of body weight per day.
Periodic Exercise: Activities considered to be high intensity and periodic (basketball, soccer, etc.) require 1.4 to 1.7 grams of protein per kilogram (.64 to .77 grams per pound) of body weight per day.
Strength Exercise: Compared to endurance and periodic exercise, you'll need more for these exercises, especially during the primary phase of training and significant increases in volume. Shoot for 1.6 to 2.0 grams of protein per kilogram (.72 to .90 grams per pound) of body weight per day.
Race: Pacifica Trail Race (21k)
Date: July 12, 2015
Place: 2nd Overall
I lined up at the start with my strategy in mind. I shot out from the start pushing hard to get ahead of the pack before the single track trail started. Another runner went out hard as well, and I got the feeling this would be one gnarly race. I kept up with him as we winded the through the first set of switchbacks but his pace was too hard to handle without burning up my energy. It was only 4 kilometers into the race and there was still 17 kilometers to go in this 21k race.
I made the call and dialed down my effort, saving my effort for the downhill. The first climb was steep, reaching 2000 ft. in just 5 kilometers. If I went too hard, I wouldn't have any legs for the two other climbs. I winded through a tree shaded segment into an opening and could spot first place ahead, already on the next set of switchbacks. I figured once I made it down the first summit, I could stop at the aid station and get a time gap between me and first place.
I reached the first summit, downed a gel and bombed the downhill with no regard. This is where I would make up the time between me and first place, as well as widen the gap between me and third place. I made it to the aid station filled up my bottle with fluids and checked my time gap. First place was over 5 minutes ahead of me. There was a slim chance I could catch him by utilizing my fast descents on the remaining 2 descents, but regardless I was going to give my best and fight to keep my current place.
The second summit was a short one, with no sight of first place on the climb or descent. It was on to the 3rd and final summit, one last chance to see if I could catch my rabbit. I picked off runners but none of them were in my race. I memorized who was in my race, so if any of them came up from behind me, I would know.
With 4k to go, I spotted a runner from my race trying to catch me. He put up a good effort to make it this far, but his breathing was heavy and fast, his posture broken. The game plan was to keep the conservative effort no matter how close he got. Either he would burn up energy and fade back trying to catch me, or I would pick him off on the descent if he passed me on the climb.
The runner faded and soon I was in the grandeur and solace of the mountain again. I reached the final summit and let loose on the downhill, it was all or nothing. As tempting as it was to ease up and recover, attacking immediately would create a bigger gap on the 3rd place runner trying to catch me as well as bring me closer to catching 1st place. Speeding through the descent, the only thing on my mind was, "attack!" Relentlessly forward I weaved through the downhill taking the switchbacks faster than before. If I wasn't going to get first place, I would battle to earn second place.
I reached the bottom and ramped up my speed for a fast kick to the finish. Crossing the line, I went to see a race official to ask about my placing. Before I could open my mouth, I was awarded the second place medal and congratulations from the race director.
There is this feeling of joy you get when you cross the finish, knowing you gave your best, leaving it all at the line. It's now onward, to the next challenge.
Be well and run on!
If fatigue was a fatal event, we would drop to the floor once we reached it. We would slow down and not be able to pick the pace back up, but that isn’t always the case. Each of us can recall times when reach the last part of a race, we find the energy to give a strong kick and run fast to the finish. The closer we get to the finish, our ability to push increases. Danger levels drop because we can clearly see the end in sight. The kick is a result of networking between anaerobic reserve, drive/reward, and a loosening of the safety mechanism from the brain. This phenomenon can be seen in studies that illustrate that at the end of a race, a larger amount of fatigue is permitted by the brain. Even though our fatigue increases, our brain lets us recruit a bit more muscle and endure more fatigue.
What is the kick made of?
A successful kick requires that we have a reserve left in our tank as well as psychological drive/reward. If we have these two elements, the reins are let loose a little more. The kick is largely based on our ability to tap into our anaerobic capacity. The trouble is that many runners use up their anaerobic abilities to maintain their pace during the race. When the time comes to kick, they may have the motivation, but they lack the anaerobic reserve.
The reason why we take months to train for a marathon is because our target pace is likely to be one that we can run, but we run it largely with great anaerobic effort, using up our limited glycogen stores and not tapping into the long-term energy source our fat provides. Training allows us to acclimate our bodies to the workload of that demanding pace, bringing an anaerobic effort down to an aerobic effort that serves as a much better system to use for endurance.
Train hard, train smart, and remember to save the best for last.
Be well and run on!
Ever think that if you could not feel pain, you'd run, bike, swim faster? The idea of not feeling a thing as you physically exert yourself appears to be a grand idea. You may imagine yourself performing at faster speeds, soaring effortlessly. Such an idea........couldn't be farther from the truth.
In 2006, Markus Amann and his colleagues performed an experiment with a pain inhibitor known as fentanyl. During a 5k self-paced time trial, participants were given fentanyl to block afferent feedback. No superhuman performance occurred by any of the cyclists. Instead, the cyclists performed much worse than without taking fentanyl. Because the pain information that comes from the muscles could not be communicated to the brain, they did not know how to manage their pace. Without that feedback, the participants ran like an inexperienced runner, going out crazy and harder, building up a greater degree of peripheral fatigue because the brain had no incentive to control let alone monitor the pacing strategy.
In the second half of the trial, the participants faded tremendously and had trouble walking and standing afterwards. This study showed that pain/afferent feedback is crucial to a good performance. The brain utilizes the amount of pain you experience to ensure that exhaustion occurs at the finish line, not before. When you block pain entirely, you have no way of knowing if you are pushing too hard too soon.
So the next time you're out there training or racing, remember that pain is your friend. It helps you to perform better. Embrace it, welcome it, and harness its power. Pain is like fabric. The stronger it is, the more it's worth.
Be well and run on!
Cloudy overcast with temperatures in the low 60s made for ideal conditions for the 2015 San Diego Rock'n'Roll marathon. Just 9 weeks after completing the Modesto Marathon, I set my sights on the hilly course of San Diego. There much debate over how much time one should take for recovery after a marathon. I've tested the general time frame of 5 weeks and found that after the 2nd week I was developing the urge to start training again. After the 3rd week, I was bored, going crazy, and really itching to get back into intense training. After the Modesto Marathon, I took the following week to recover and did 8 weeks of intense training. I kept a close watch on each training session to be sure I was making progress and not headed towards burning out or injury. Week after week, the data was showing I was improving, getting stronger and faster.
I made the trip down from San Francisco to sunny San Diego. I arrived a few days before the race so I could enjoy the sites, culture, and amazing food. The closer I got to race day, the more I could feel the intensity of the race. I woke up and took some time to meditate and get myself in the zone. Lining up at the start, I had the sense that this was going to be the kind of race where will power is what would get me through the final handful of miles. I couldn't have been more right.
The race started out flat with some nice downhill segments and subtle rolling hills. But as the race progressed, so did the severity of the hills. A good amount of runners increased their pace and passed me having not even reached the halfway mark. At this point, runners are still charged with adrenaline and feel strong and confident. It's tempting to make moves at this point and they might pay off. From my observation, I've seen it cost runners than pay them.
I adjusted strategy and pace to stay on track with my sub 3 hour goal but around mile 20 when I reached the base of the climb going up highway 5 and looked up, I knew this hill was going to cost a lot of energy, and I was willing to accept the fact I'd have to forego the sub 3 hour goal and make a new goal. I climbed with a consistent stride but with a conservative effort, passing up a few runners who had broken postures and heavy breathing. When I reached the top of the hill, I felt it was too risky to chase after the sub 3 hour goal. Instead I chased after my previous best of 03:02:21 from the Modesto Marathon.
The hills put the hurt on and every stride reminded me of it. Running is, in a way, just like mouthwash. If you feel the burn, you know it's working. I took advantage of the downhill sections and was conservative going up the hills, knowing my tank was running near empty and any hard efforts could be costly. The last 5 miles I caught much of the runners that had surged ahead of me before the halfway point. I could see the pain in their face. Two runners I passed pulled off to the side and stopped completely. Coming into the final stretch I could hear the crowd at the finish line and felt recharged by their support for runners. I rounded the last turn to the left and saw it was a downhill finish from here. In the near distance I could see the finish and one runner inching his way to it. I ramped up and gave one final kick, passing him just meters before the finish. Later I had found out that I beat him by a mere 5 seconds. Nonetheless, I was happy that I left everything at the line. My best was given and it was time to enjoy the endorphins and delicious recovery treats.
Overall: 39th out of 4218
Division: 8th out of 394
Gender: 36th out of 2426
Upon reviewing my GPS watch data from the marathon this past Sunday, when I had achieved 26.21 miles, my time was 3hrs 1min 55sec. When I crossed the finish line and stopped my watch, the watch read 26.52 miles with a time of 3hrs 3min 42sec (I ran a few meters past the finish line to slow down before stopping my watch). I expect a margin of error (a few meters give or take), but a margin of 338 meters is too big of a deviation to overlook.
It'll be a few weeks till I they give me their decision. Nonetheless, I'm happy with how I ran and see this as a big accomplishment. I'll enjoy the next few days to recover then hop back into training.
Be well and run on!
On March 29th I lined up at the start of the 2015 Modesto Marathon. All the training the months up the marathon was showing I was capable of running a Boston Qualifying time. Now, it was time to put it all to the test. I set out with a 6:45 pace. Monitoring my splits, everything was going well. It was at mile 4 I made a judgment call that would make the difference. The marathon started at 7am in the central valley of California. The temperature was around 63 degrees Fahrenheit. As strong as I felt early on, I knew the heat would take a toll on me and cause havoc. I dropped my pace gradually to 6:55. Around mile 16 I could feel the heat and fatigue creeping on me, but still had it in me to hold the pace. At mile 18 I was fading slightly but as long as I kept up the effort, I would qualify.
It's hard to describe the flood of emotions I felt as I ran the last handful of miles. This was a dream I had since I started running 4 years ago. Marathon after marathon, I kept chasing after it. There were times I questioned if I really was capable of achieving Boston. I thought of my girlfriend, Nicole, who supported me through the years I chased this goal, and kept me in the fight when I spoke of wanting to quit. I thought of my Mom, who would tell me constantly when I was a child, that I could do all things through Christ who strengthened me. I thought of my Dad, who told me if hard work is not paying off, keep working till it does. Knowing people believe in you gives you a sort of second wind when you're in the final stretch. At mile 25 I could hear the crowd and music playing, hinting the finish was close. I mustered up one last good effort picked up the pace. I sprinted the final 200 meters crossing the finish with a time of 3:02.21 (2:39 under the time for my age group), finally achieving my dream of Boston.
Each time you achieve a goal, it empowers you. You see that you are capable of accomplishing challenging and great things. Qualifying for Boston has motivated to set my sights higher. This May, I aim to run a sub 3 marathon at San Diego, progressively working to qualify for next year's New York City Marathon (needing a time of 2:53.00), and by year's end moving up to the elite category. I'll keep you guys updated and make some posts regarding new insights on nutrition and training. Be sure to check back soon. Thank you for your support! Find your limits, then exceed them.
Be well and run on!