Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Road Marathon #1 (9/18/11) - Yonkers Marathon

My first road marathon. A good friend and running mentor Hideki Kinoshita aka Kino has finally convinced me to run a marathon. And this one is not just a regular marathon. The Yonkers Marathon is known to be a very uphill course and difficult. Also, it is one of the oldest marathons in the US. I'm not sure how prepared I was, but I was definitely nervous. My previous marathon (first marathon ever) was the Thanksgiving Marathon at the Van Cortland Park in the Bronx. This was a trail marathon and it was gruesome having finished in 5:30:00. The Yonkers Marathon has a cut-off time of 5 hours so I was hesitant on finishing. A fellow runner I met through Kino had told me he is running Yonkers also, but Benny was much faster than me and I knew he would disappear in a matter of minutes. The temperature was mild, in the low 50's I think.

The race is a double loop going from Hastings-on-the-Hudson, up Yonkers, around, and back down. I was told that the beginning was practically a 5 mile incline, and it was! Boy was it hard, I ran a couple ultra's and marathon's but this was tough on me. I had new shoes on as well (stupid me), Saucony Kinvara. If I can recall the course, I just remember hills after hills after hills. Around mile 6, I met up with another running friend Jeffery Lin, who I met at the Thanksgiving Marathon. He was fast. We reached a point where it was a steep downhill and he just plowed right through it. I was still going at a comfortable 9-9:30 pace. The course was okay. Not much views except the beginning. There were lots of traffic lights and police officers. After the turn around coming back down, it was mainly the town of Yonkers. People were wondering what was going on, and some were angry that they couldn't turn or get out of their driveways. It was kind of nice to see the town, but view wise, it's really nothing.

By the time I reached the halfway mark, the time was about 1:55:00. My girlfriend who accompanies me on most races (such a great supporter and looked nice in her spring dress) was surprised that I came back that early. Early, yes, it was too early, too fast. I was expecting to be at midway around 2:15:00. This is where things went the other way. I knew I was way ahead of cut off time, but I also knew that I was pushing too hard for my first road marathon, in new shoes. I slowed down my pace to about 10:00. Bad idea. Muscles starting cramping and I felt drained, especially with the up hill AGAIN. By mile 16, I started walking. Some of this had to do with the shoes also. I was definitely not used to these semi-minimals. The bottom of my feet were hurting and I knew I couldn't heel strike. Also, the uphill running works your muscles and it paid its toll. I walked for about a mile before I regained some strength to run again. By this time, I was getting nervous whether I could finish in time. Miles 17-23 was a complete mess with run/walk (more walking than running) most of the way. I concentrated on running to a certain mark (lamp posts, traffic lights, etc.) and kept going. It was painful, but I kept a straight face and moved along. I was about 3.5 miles away when I checked my watch to see that I had run close to 3:40:00, exactly 1 hour and 20 minutes until cut-off time. By this time, I was pretty much done. At a 20 minute pace, walking the rest of the way, I was cutting it real close. I got scared and started running. It hurt, but I had to run. Not knowing that I picked up my pace, I was inching closer to the finish line. The last 3 miles were a steeeep uphill, followed by a 2 mile downhill to the finish line. I picked up my legs as much as I can and trekked along. 1.5 miles, I look at the watch and was surprised that it was about 4:05:00. I had more than enough time to walk the rest of the way. Not only that, I was gonna finish. My plan was to walk the last mile or so and jog the rest, but there was this person behind me that was shuffling along. I could hear the foot steps coming closer and I looked back. A blue singlet read Whippets, and it was a girl. She looked agonizing but moved along. Something inside me said I don't want to lose at this point so I started moving as well. I didn't want to lose for some reason. In the end, I passed her and moved along finishing at 4:27:26. Not only did I make the cut-off time, but I managed to run under 4:30.

After the race there was some beer and food served but I decided to relax a bit with Leslie (girlfriend). It's one thing to be able to run a marathon, but its another to appreciate having a companion that is very supportive. The weather was beautiful and we were by the river so it was really relaxing.

One marathon down, many more to go!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Ultra Marathon #3 (9/11/11) - 9/11 50K

To commemorate the 9/11 victims and supporters, Matt Gerowitz, who is a fellow running mate organized this free event running the circumference of NYC, approximating a total of 50K or 31 miles. The event was a fun run and I enjoyed it with many of my running friends.

The run was complicating yet simple, just run around NYC. We started off at Battery Park by the station. There were about 40 of us getting prepared to run. Leslie and I met up with Kino and Nobu and headed down to Battery Park. Nobu, who I haven't seen in years, decided to run this since Kino forced him to do it the night before. He's never ran more than a marathon and haven't trained at all. Leslie also never even ran a marathon and was attempting her first marathon.

We met up with many other fellow friends downtown. Benny, Nancy, Annete, Thunder, Matt, etc. So many close running friends were there to do this inaugural event. The weather turned out really nice too. Not too hot, not too cold. We headed east first to the South Ferry Seaport. Along the way, people were wondering what we were doing and when they found out, they started cheering for us. When we hit the Seaport, we then headed North, all the way to 49th Street. On the way, Jackie and friends joined in and there were about 8 of us running up the East Side River. Once we got to 49th, we cut across west to 1st Ave and continued straight up until 80th Street. We cut east again and headed North running above the FDR Drive right by the river. We met up with Thunder there as well. I didn't know about this path and their were many people running or strolling along the way. We continued this path until the 90's and headed back into the city. From here on until the 180's I vaguely remember where we ran. We sort of got lost, but headed North. We trekked along the river, cut across back into the city and headed to 151st street where we went back to the Harlem River Drive, along the river, all the way to Dyckman St. We then went on 10th Ave up, cut across to Broadway and stopped at Twin Donuts, which marks the halfway point. By this time we had already run/jogged 15 miles. It probably took about three and a half hours. Everyone refilled their bottles, grabbed some food and headed to Inwood Park where we made the turn around, this time, heading south back to Battery Park.

Inwood Park has a nice little running course that is filled with trees. You wouldn't believe there was still a place like this in NY. We crossed over to the West Side and headed South. This is where things got interesting. While heading South down the river, we were supposed to make a left at Dyckman St, and run along the Hudson River Greenway. Somehow, we missed the entrance and trekked along the road next to the railroad. This railroad is for the public transit that goes to Westchester so there are frequent trains passing by. Luckily, it was a Sunday, and we didn't see any while we were there. The little path that we were running on suddenly ended and we were right on the railway. Now this definitely isn't the right way and we could've gotten arrested (technically) for trespassing. I think we ran pretty quickly during this time. It was also somewhat exciting. We reached a point where there was a overpass (the Huson River Greenway) and we managed to go up a hill, through a broken fence, and onto the path. It was definitely an interesting part of the race I'll never forget. From here on end, it was an easy path back to the finish. The view was nice too. I always drive down the Henry Hudson (or Westside Highway) and see the runners along the path. I always wanted to run this and now I finally did. Aside from the cars, it was a nice day and there were many people running. We were pretty slow, walking and talking along the way.

It's definitely interesting to see the various cultural aspects of New York. I started realizing what a great place the city is. The high life to the poor community, the nice restaurants to the bodegas, and the different type of people. You really start to appreciate who you are and where you came from. Being raised in NJ, I was always in the suburbs. Raised within a community of medium to high income families. Where I am now, its not where my family would want me to be, but I didn't have a choice and I did work hard to be where I stand currently. Running around the city definitely put life into perspective.

As we headed down the West Side, I ran into my company's presidents assistant near 66st and got to view some weird statues along the way. I like boats and it was nice seeing all the different boats being docked. We were practically walking at this point as some of our members were hurting. Nobu and Leslie were feeling the pain in their legs. I was doing fine since it wasn't my first. We did a run/walk straight down to 42nd street and from there, I ran ahead until 14th Street. There were many people already since we've been running for 6 and a half hours by now. I waited at 14th St for the rest of the crew but Leslie was the only one that came. Nobu, Kino, Nancy was walking so we went ahead. As we headed toward ground zero, there were more and more people. Roads were blocked at this point and we weren't sure where the finish line was. We took a detour and headed into the battery park piers thinking that was the finish. I called Kino to confirm where the finish was and he mentioned it was around the pier somewhere. We waited for Kino and the rest but there were question marks surrounding us, until finally we found out that the finish was where we started, duh.

The last leg, which was only a few blocks, we just walked but Nobu and I noticed that we would be able to finish exactly at 8 hours if we ran. We sprinted the last part and noticed that Benny, Matt, Annette, and a couple more people were waiting for us, surprisingly. Everyone finished and Matt gave all of us a 7:59:00 finish. So this race was just for fun and nothing on time. I was just happy to get it over with and also get bragging rights on actually running around the city.

We all walked over to some alley full of bars and restaurants and ate their. Overall, it was an enjoyable course. Thanks to Matt for organizing this and I'm definitely going to do it again!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Ultra Marathon #2 (8/15/11) - Mahlon Madness 50K

My first completed ultra marathon. I decided to keep track of how I felt at the time of the event so that I can look back and realize how it all started. I know for sure that in the future, I will finish many more ultras and eventually an ironman triathlon which is practically my ultimate goal.

The relief of finishing such long distance is rewarding. To see the finish line, I forget how much pain is running through my legs. I forget that its been almost 8 hours since I started the run. All I see in front of me is the finish and my face probably with a bigger smile then ever. It all started in July of 2010 with a 4 mile run which I thought was pure hell. A year and a month later, after a few injuries and one failed ultra, I am proud to say that I've become one of the crazy people who surpass the norm and turn into maniacs. There is no money involved, there is no trophy, just a big congratulations, some junk food that tastes like a 5 star dinner course, and post race muscle fatigue (means PAIN). But I just did something that maybe (my guess) 1-2% of the world's population can only do and that is an achievement on a different level. I am definitely proud to say that I am a ultra runner and my life has changed since, in a way that I've never imagined. On Dean Karnazes' (ultra runner) 30th birthday, he decided to leave the bar and run 30 miles back home. A month into my 30th birthday, I've accomplished 31 miles and it won't stop there. I'm not Dean, nor will I ever be, but I've been re-born into someone that I never thought would become and I'm definitely loving it.

Loop 1 of 4: An easy 13-14 min pace. Through my previous experience, I decided to think more strategically and decided to just take it easy and save some leg for the last loop. The course had its ups and downs. I chose to walk the uphills and run the rest. There were boulders, mud, gravel, etc.  but nothing too difficult. It was a easy 7.5 mile loop that I didn't have a problem with (except for a slight stomach problem at around 5 miles.

Loop2 of 4: Again, I too it slow and walked the uphills. This time around, I started getting hungry due to not eating in the morning. I took the same strategy, but by mile 4, I was getting really hungry and I started feeling fatigue through out my body. My legs still had some fuel in them so overall, I felt fine.

Loop 3 of 4: The hunger got to me and I stopped at the aid station after the 2nd loop and grabbed all sorts of food. Bad thing was, I ate too much. I was so full when I started my 3rd loop, that about .3 miles in, I decided to walk about a mile to ease the stomach down. This is where I think my problems began. I felt a little groggy and I had difficulty breathing. All this lead to losing my mentality and I started feeling tired. Each step felt heavier and tiring. By the half way mark (3.75 miles), I walked another mile. I was about 19 miles in. At the turn back to the starting point, my legs were starting to hurt, especially the hip and upper thigh area. My running felt slower and I was tripping over rocks that I thought I cleared over (My legs weren't lifting as high as I thought). I ended up walking the last 2 miles and slightly running back to the start.

Loop 4 of 4: Last loop, I knew that I was going to finish, but I my legs were practically out of gas. My mentality was starting to daze off and at around mile 2, I thought I was lost. It's really weird because you know you ran the same course three times already, but yet, I didn't recognize my surrounding. I started to get worried that if I'm lost and I took a different route, I would be screwed. So I walked the entire first half of the loop. By the time I reached an area where I recognized, I tried to run but I guess the walking got to me and I couldn't get myself to run. During mile 3-5, I decided to change it up a bit and try forgetting how much pain I was in. I came up with this ridiculous method of walking 100 steps and running 200 steps. I would count each time in my head and eventually, saving overall time, rather than just walking the entire loop. I don't think this method works for everyone, but it sort of worked for me. I shuffled the last mile and eventually finished. 7 hours 54 minutes, which was the official time. I expected to finish in 6 hours, but I completely underestimated the trail. Lesson learned.

As I wrap up this ultra marathon, I've learned a lot strategically and now I have confidence of running other ultra marathons. Next up is the Yonkers Marathon, which I hear is difficult, but it is shorter than an ultra so I am pretty confident that finishing will not be a difficulty, rather this time around, I will look to run the entire 26.2 miles.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Up in the Air

I'm an avid traveler. My work has made me overcome the fear of flying and now I enjoy my time in the air very much. Well, of course, there are times when the plane is just too old or I end up on a flight that I didn't want to take. Currently, as I write, I am on a DELTA flight to San Francisco. So far, I'd have to say it's one of the worst flights ever. The seats don't recline, my tray table is broken, and the TV doesn't work. Even better, I'm in row 40. The only thing I appreciate is the in-flight wifi. Had this not been available, and it does cost $13, this whole trip would've been a horror ride.

In the first six months of 2011, I've flown close to 53,000 miles. Most of it is from Continental Airlines. Some from Delta and American Airlines. I've achieved elite status level many years and let me tell you, once you become an elite, even the lowest one, the whole process will make flying so much easier, like the movie with George Clooney, "Up in the Air". My goal will be to become a million miler. Although I'm short by a few hundred thousand miles, I think I can reach it. There's really nothing great to this accomplishment unless you really are a frequent flyer. Most people probably don't even care where they sit or what airline to take. As long as it's cheaper, they are comfortable. I personally can't do that. You sort of get used to certain airlines and you get comfortable riding with them, so much to the point that you remember a few flight attendants and they actually remember you. I've lately gotten to the point of learning the types of airplanes that are flown. Like cars, I try to guess the model and make of each plane I fly. I guess its one of those hobbies.

Its almost a routine when arriving to the airport. Walk straight to the kiosk, get your ticket, stand in the shorter lines, your shoes, PC, belt, anything metal, is already off and in the tray by the time you even get to security checkpoint. Walk to the gate, grab a cup of coffee, read the newspaper, and once boarding begins, you're one of the first batch in. In the plane, you're in the front row, or occasionally first class, but I won't do much explaining on that yet. Slap on the seat belt and off you go to sleep. Once in the air, it's your time and only yours. You can be reading a book, watch a movie, or even have a conversation with the guy or gal next to you. The savior of wi-fi today has given me the chance to write this blog.

The joy of flying. 4 years ago, I hated flying. I hated the turbulence. Every time the plane shook, I thought I was going to fall. And in a plane, if it ever does drop, there's really nothing you can do. But, aside from all that and given the statistical facts that you are more likely to get in a car accident, I've come to enjoy this time in the air. It's almost like a sanctuary. Next up, international flights. I need more of those. Maybe I should start writing more while I'm up in the air. This might be a good idea,

Monday, July 11, 2011

Spring, 1982

The very earliest time that I can recall seeing or remembering anything. I was not even 1 at the time. Scientists say your first memories are during the ages between 2-4.  Why do I remember at such a young age? It is a mystery, although my mother told me there is a video that depicts what I envisioned. As for this memory, I remember my great grandmother who was sitting by the kotatsu (traditional Japanese heating table). I remember a red plastic net, flowers, and the color brown. When I told this to my mother, she said we have a video of my first visit to Japan. This visit was also the first and last time I saw my great grandmother. I have yet to see this video since it's an 8mm tape and I don't own a player capable of playing such tapes. As for the net, it was a plastic net to hold fruits in. The flowers I saw were my great grandmothers apron. She apparently wore an apron with flowers all the time. When I visited Japan, my great grandmother basically watch over me while the rest of the family was busy. Maybe that's why I have this strong visual memory. Either way, this occasion was my first sign at life through my own eyes.

Everyone is different. There are no two exact replicas of a human being (aside from cloning, which doesn't count). We envision life differently as we are supposed to control our minds to create a pathway. Every step we take, every decision we make changes this path. I also think like this because I consider myself a realist. I tried religion, but it wasn't me. I sometimes think that believing in some form or type, can actually help, but more importantly, it is my decision, my mind, in which I control, that leads to the path I would like to have. To have this path, I believe what I have seen so far has lead me to where I am now, good or bad.

Note: My intention for writing these posts is not only to publicize my thoughts but also to improve on my writing skills as I probably do not have a great one. One of my goals in life is to be able to write an autobiography so that my future children and grandchildren will not forget the value of family and life. As I do not recall much of my families history, I value and cherish every moment of my life to make sure that what I learned will hopefully be passed along to them.