Saturday, November 27, 2010

Trail Marathon #1 (11/26/10) - Thanksgiving Day Marathon

My first official marathon. I always dreamed of running one and now I finally did it. I always watched it on TV, seeing the olympics, NY marathon, London marathon, Hakone Ekiden in Japan, I wondered whether I was capable of ever doing one. Well. now I can say that I've accomplished one goal in life and it's not gonna stop here.

The race was held at the Van Cortlandt Park and whats great about this is that the race is free or a small donation to conserve the trails in the park. My long time friend and fellow runner Hideki convinced me to run this as I was afraid of not finishing. Another friend Charles also decided to run this with me as he attempted his first marathon as well.

Before I start ranting away about this run, I wanted to make a note by saying that I officially started running 6 months ago. It was the Japan Run (4M) in conjunction with Japan Day at Central Park. One month after that, I ran a half marathon in Queens but walking the last few miles. My hopes of running a marathon was vague at that point. I ran a second half marathon in September and finished with a good time which gave me confidence in running a marathon. At this point, I've ran a few NYRR races and was sort of training by running 3 miles here and there. I never followed a training program and I probably won't be able to since I am normally busy with work. In the beginning of November, I witnessed friends run the NY marathon which boosted my confidence level. I also signed up for a ridiculous 60K run to boost motivation, which turned out to be an unsuccessful finish but was able to run at least the marathon length (read ultramarathon blog on Knickerbocker 60K). I felt somewhat ready that I can finish the Thanksgiving Marathon.

Well, the day was cloudy and cold. I was nervous but was enjoying the company of fellow runners. Most were doing the half marathon but all my friends were running the full. People mentioned to me that the course was somewhat difficult so I was prepared to running at a comfortable pace. We started off at the turtle and rabbit statue and headed South towards the golf club. We then climbed a hill to get on the side of the highway and headed into the woods. I enjoy running in the woods. There definitely is something about the natural surroundings. I also tend to forget about the time or pace and just focus on running. After a couple turns here and there, we reached back to the tracks (where the turtle statue is, but on the other side) and headed back into the trail. This point marks about 3.3 miles and its another 3 miles or so to return to the start line. I forgot to mention that the marathon is a 4 loop course. The back end of the course has a good amount of uphills and downhills. I think its much tougher than the first 3 miles. It also runs through the golf courses at one point. There's always a stench of horse manure as you get closer to the horse stables. I like the last portion of the course as we get closer to the tracks again. It lets you know you're close to the finish line.

The first 2 laps were good. I was keeping a comfortable pace, even getting in some conversations with other runners. By the 3rd lap, I was getting really tired and started walking. Everything seemed downhill from there. My thighs, feet, and calves were in pain and every step seemed like a shock of electricity running up my body. I maintained a run/walk but it was paying its toll. I believe the time was 3:30 by the 4th and final lap. The clouds above looked like it was gonna rain any minute, so I tried to run the last lap.

It took 2 hours to run 6 miles. I walked most of it alone, in pain, but at the last 2 miles, Kino came from behind and encouraged me to finish. I was actually surprised that he was behind me since he's done many marathons in the past. Charles was actually behind me too, but I wasn't sure how far behind. I wasn't even sure how many people were behind us. When I reached the last portion of the run (the track field), I saw that Kino was waiting for me. I was actually happy that SOMEONE was there to witness my finish. He even took a picture of my finish. 5:30:00 (not exact time) it took to finish my first ever marathon. I was joyful, but at the same time, painful. The rain came as soon as I finished and headed back to the car limping. Charles called thirty to forty minutes later and said he had finished as well. I wanted to stay by, but the rain forced me to be in the car.

After the run, I took my giant fork and headed over to my girlfriends house as my thanksgiving feast was waiting. Hungry and tired, I scarfed down the turkey and all other food on the table and headed straight for the sofa. I really can't remember the night of the race, but I was sure as hell exhausted. The next morning, all I did was relax.

This marathon sparked the ignition for me to run more, run faster. I'm going to guess that it won't end here and there will be many more marathons to come. Next goal: 100 marathons.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Ultramarathon #1 (11/13/10) - Knickerbocker 60K

People train to run a marathon, people train to run a fast 10K, but what do runners do to prepare themselves for an ultra marathon? It was nearly 6 months ago that I decided to run at all, thanks to my girlfriend Leslie who encouraged me to run, and thanks to my childhood friend who inspired me to run after staring at his facebook updates.

In the 6 months, I went from running a 4 miler to a half marathon. I became addicted to running. I don't know what sparked this, but I felt the greatness and freedom of running. After running the Staten Island Half, feeling confident with running a marathon, I wanted to test out my limits. Well, K60K it is. The stupidity in me as well as fellow running buddy Charles Yoo, signed up for a ridiculous 60Km running event. 60K, which is about 37 miles...a marathon and a half marathon combined. What got into me?? I haven't even attempted a marathon and yet, here I was staring at the NYRR site.

Well, the day did come, and well, I couldn't finish the whole thing. It was kind of disappointing, but at the same time, a DNF (Did Not Finish) encouraged me to run it again next year. What also boosted my confidence was that I was able to run a marathon. I dropped out on the 7th loop of the 4 mile course. That's 28 miles! It was a gruesome 7 laps. I can't remember the time, but it was somewhere near 6:30:00. The course was a 4 mile loop around central park. Really nothing special. There were volunteers throughout the course and whats great were the runners running central park daily were cheering us on as well. I liked that a lot. It's always good to get motivation and encouragements from other runners.

The first 3 laps were going pretty good. I was pretty comfortable and my girlfriend was pacing with me the entire time. Leslie used to do cross country so she has more experience than me in running. She was able to maintain a steady pace the entire time while I was slowly struggling. When we hit the 4 lap, I decided to walk a little. My pace was a slow 11:00 and I should've gone a little faster. The slow pace paid its toll on me and by the 5th lap, I was in pain. Leslie decided to take a break after the 5th and I was on my own. I basically run/walked the entire time. I still admired the cheering from other runners and it made me want to run more but my body was pretty much shut down completely. I decided to walk lap 6 to regain some momentum, stretching a little here and there, but that didn't help much. The bottom of my feet were killing me the most and every step I took, it was a shock wave up my legs.

I should've kept walking the rest of the way, but I didn't have it in me. I could have finished and claimed my prize, but my confidence level was near zero. After walking lap 7, knowing there were 2 more laps, I decided to call it quits. It was painful both physically and mentally, but at that moment, I had a slight relief. My friends Charles and Wonah finished the race and I cheered them on. Wonah said she'll never do that again. Charles was getting at me for not finishing.

This race was a turning point in both mental and physical training. I vowed to train harder for next years K60K and I think I will continue to do this race as a mental training run. This also gave me confidence in being able to run a marathon.

So that day marked my first ultra attempt and I plan on training harder to do more of these.