RACE REPORT: 2016 Marine Corps Marathon

This past Sunday, I ran the 41st annual Marine Corps Marathon which took course through our Nation’s Capital in Washington, D.C.

Earlier this year, after running the Brooklyn Half Marathon back in May, I had my sights set on completing a full marathon by the end of 2016.

I had a devastating experience after running the 2014 New York City Marathon and had taken a bit of a break from training for any races up until this year.

It felt good to be back in a regular running routine and have that feeling of working towards an end goal.

Initially, I had no idea what marathon I would end up running. It wasn’t until June that fate stepped in and a friend was looking to transfer her Marine Corps Marathon bib to someone. The minute that I found out, I immediately reached out to her and before I knew it, I was signed up for it.

I had almost forgotten what it was like to train for a marathon. The last time that I was actually following a legitimate training plan and taking it seriously was when I ran the 2013 Big Sur Marathon (which is my marathon PR to this day.)

When I began training for the Marine Corps Marathon, I told myself that I really had to get back into race mentality – that I had to take it seriously instead of just “winging it.” I followed Hal Higdon’s Intermediate Marathon Training plan, which is what I typically have used in the past. It’s straightforward and easy to follow.

After 4 months of training, and a few weeks of setback due to a foot injury, I felt that I was ready as I could be. When it came to travel arrangements, however, not so much.

I booked my hotel in Alexandria, VA which was conveniently located near both the race expo, start line, and finish line. I booked my flight very close to the weekend leading up to the race. In that time, train prices from New York to DC had already drastically gone up, and the bus just didn’t seem like an appealing option.

My sister and I landed late Saturday afternoon after already experiencing some flight delays. We went straight from the airport to the expo and arrived there only half an hour before the expo closed. I picked up my race bib and hardly had time to scan the exhibitor booths. When we left, we were starving after not eating lunch, so we went right to our hotel and ended up ordering Dominos (Not the wisest decision I’ve ever made. More on that to come)

That night, I laid out my race clothes, did yoga, and just tried to relax and mentally prepare for what I wanted to accomplish the next day.

I woke up at 5AM the next morning with a ton of energy and pre-race jitters. It hadn’t officially hit me that I was running a 26.2 mile race until that morning.

The hotel shuttle transported us near the start line, where we ended up walking nearly a mile to get to.

By the time we arrived, the sun was starting to rise and so were the temperatures. It was forecasted to reach near 80 degrees fahrenheit that day and surely, it did.

The race took off around 8AM.

I took the first 5K of the race very slow, knowing not to make the mistake of starting too quick too soon. I was feeling good when I started, but stopped at mile 6 to use the restroom. From that point, I already knew that I’d be behind and would have to make up for it later on. Stopping for the restroom took about 10-15 minutes off my time, so I tried to pick up the pace.

I ended up crossing the 13.1-mile mark in a time of 2:04, which I was fairly pleased (and surprised) about.

With half of the race behind me, I continued to feel good from miles 14-19. I managed to keep a steady 9:30 minute pace and had planned to really crank up the gears at mile 20.

And then, my worst fear happened.

I hit a wall at mile 21, was having stomach issues, and made the heart-breaking decision to stop, stretch, and walk a bit (which I had told myself I wouldn’t do). From there, it was a long and grueling 5.2 miles of alternating between running and walking.

At that point, I had to accept the fact that I was not going to make my goal time of finishing near or under 4 hours.

I did finish strong, using everything that I had left in the tank to stride across the finish line with a time of 4:38:44. I wasn’t ecstatic, but I wasn’t nearly as devastated as I was after the New York City Marathon.

Though I didn’t finish near my goal time, I did learn many lessons, which I’d like to pass along. Hopefully this will be helpful to anyone reading.

  1. Give yourself an extra month to train just in case something happens along the way such as an injury or a cold
  2. Pick a training plan and stick to it
  3. Do NOT order fast food (especially with cheese or dairy in it) the night prior, or even 2 nights prior, to your race. Don’t even order anything out of your normal diet. The last thing you want is an upset stomach.
  4. Make sure your bowels are empty before the race
  5. Get to the expo early. If you can’t make it a day before, then try to make sure you go a few hours before it closes. It’s not worth it to rush or be stressed about whether or not you’ll get there in time
  6. Try as hard as you can to reach 20 miles for your furthest long run
  7. Look at the course map and elevation early on so that you know what to train for
  8. Incorporate speed training
  9. Even if it’s a flat course, incorporate some hill training just in case there are even the slightest of inclines
  10. Make sure to stretch A TON in the days after the race 
  11. Don’t beat yourself up if you didn’t the time you were hoping for. Even finishing a marathon is a huge accomplishment in itself

12 Days Until Marine Corps Marathon

I’m only 12 days away from running Marine Corps Marathon – My third marathon in the books for me.

I ran my last long run of my marathon training this past Sunday and felt quite relieved to have not been as slow or as sore as I anticipated.

In the past, I’ve always underestimated the difficulty and dedication that comes with running a 26.2-mile race.

It definitely isn’t easy.

Yet, little by little, I’m getting better with each training period because I’m understanding the weight of the consequences that come with being unprepared for a race of this distance.

Two years ago, I ran the worst race of my life – The New York City Marathon. What was supposed to be a magical and exciting race ended up being one of the most awful experiences of my life. It’s not that the race itself wasn’t magical or exciting, it was my performance in running it that made it the disaster that it was.

The reason why I’m so intrigued and so passionate about training for a race is because it truly tests a person’s character, will, and determination. It sure did test mine. It humbled me.

Running is a love-hate relationship and not everyone loves it.

The reason why I love it is because it forces you to struggle with yourself. And sometimes, the best thing you can do is face that struggle. Running is a solo act. Even with team running events like Cross Country or Track & Field, you still only have yourself. You can’t tap out or have substitute anyone in your place. It’s you, your two feet, and the ground beneath you. And I think that’s something that people always struggle with, even if they love running.

With my marathon coming up right around the corner, I’m looking forward to seeing what this race will put me through; what it will do to me.

Even with the training that I have behind me, there are still those external factors that can make a difference The fun part is seeing how I how I handle it.

RACE REPORT: 2016 NYRR New Balance Bronx 10 Mile

This morning, I ran the NYRR New Balance Bronx 10 Mile race.

This race, for me, was particularly nerve-racking due to the setback that I had with my foot injury a few weeks ago. Somehow, I managed to run one of my best races in years.

I finished 10 miles with a time of 1:19:49. 

Again, I did not feel mentally or physically prepared leading up to it.

To backtrack, my weekend wasn’t off to greatest start. On Friday night, I had a stomach bug and was in bed by 9PM. The following day, I went for a short 2 mile warm up run in the morning, walked around the city all day, then hung out with my sister and a friend at night. When it came time to go to bed, I couldn’t get my head in a pre-race mentality. I ended up tossing and turning for hours and probably didn’t sleep until around 2AM (maybe even 3AM).

A few hours later, it was time to wake up. My first alarm went off at 5AM on the dot.

My sister and I left around 6AM and faced, what could have been, one of the worst journeys to a race that I have ever gone through.

The trains took forever, I had to pee entire time, and we thought we were going to be late.

Fortunately, we arrived with enough time for me to go to the bathroom, warm up, and even calm my nerves.

When the race finally started, my corral moseyed through the start line and we were finally off. The sun was shining and it was perfect race conditions with enough shade from the buildings surrounding to keep everyone from getting overheated.

My first mile was fairly quick and I only sped up from there. It wasn’t until mile 8 that I felt my speed impacting me.

The course was relatively flat with some slight elevation, but not overwhelming. It was my first time running this race and running in this particular part of New York, so I had no idea what to expect (even though they do provide you with the course info ahead of time).

The crowds were great and coming to mile 9 and 10 felt just like running during the New York City Marathon.

My sister was there to cheer me on right at the finish and I held my pace to get under 1:20, which was the unconscious goal that I placed in my head once I knew I was feeling good.

It was an amazing morning and a nice surprise. I honestly loved this race, not only because I was pleased with my performance, but the overall course, crowd, and distance. 10 miles is the perfect distance to know how much you can handle and know how to pace yourself properly. I’d recommend it to anyone who is interested at trying their hand at a longer distance race.

Setback

My personality, my profession, my mentality towards life highly revolves around my perspective on time and planning. I get easily fixated, and even somewhat obsessive, when it comes to making sure that I’m prepared to meet a certain goal or deadline. And for the most part, it works out pretty well. But, then there comes the days when things don’t go according to plan and life gets in the way.

I’m in the process of training for my third full marathon which is taking place in a nearly a month. Throughout my training, I always anticipate running the amount of miles that are scheduled for each week. However, it doesn’t always happen that I reach the exact number that I set my mind to which, naturally, upsets me a great deal.

With each race that I prepare for and each race that I complete, I get slightly better at managing my expectations and getting more familiar with the way that I train. I’m learning how to handle my schedule and accommodate for days that I didn’t run. I’m learning how to be more flexible. And from this, I’ve become a lot less stressed or worried about the outcome because honestly, when it comes down to it, anything can happen in the 26.2 miles during the race.

I’m writing this in lieu of a recent injury that I experienced.

About two weeks ago, I injured my foot which cost me 12 whole days of running which means 12  whole days of being behind in my training plan.

I ran for the first time in 12 days today and to my surprise, it felt great. If anything, the rest actually helped a tremendous amount. It helped me to think, to re-strategize, and even just take a break from obsessing about my marathon for a short period of time.

It always seems to me that the universe somehow always finds a way to give me rest when I need it most. I never ask for it, but I do need it.

Though not everyone may agree with my approach, that’s completely fine. But I’ve found that rest can be extremely rewarding and extremely beneficial to both the mind and the body.

Sometimes, we spend so much time running around, chasing things, and staying busy that we don’t slow down to give us the peace and relaxation that we actually need. Whether it’s training for a race, dating, working, or just constantly being on the move, we need rest.

After all, we’re only human.

RACE REPORT: 2016 NYRR 5th Avenue Mile

It’s been quite some time since I’ve written a race report.

Frankly, up until this year, I have been a little out of the game when it comes to determinedly training for a race. Now that I think about it, I’ve completely neglected to write a race report for my most recent race, the NYRR Brooklyn Half Marathon.

In any case, this blog post will serve solely to recap the NYRR 5th Avenue Mile, which I recently ran this past Saturday, September 3rd 2016.

After having been through a wave of changes from the Fall of 2015 up until now, I was eager, more than ever, to get back into a race training mentality.

For this Fall, I signed up for the NYRR 5th Avenue Mile, NYRR Bronx 10-Mile, and the Marine Corps Marathon. So far, one down, two to go.

The last marathon that I had run was the 2014 New York City Marathon in which I completely fell apart and regard as possibly the worst race of my entire life. This race taught me one valuable lesson: You get what you give. 

After the 2014 New York City Marathon, I told myself that I would never under-train or even run a race that I knew I wasn’t prepared for.

I used to think that squeaking by based on pure will and determination was enough to help me succeed – The truth is that unfortunately, it’s not.

I’m drifting off topic – Now, let’s back to what I really wanted to recap

I’m not too sure why I even signed up for a 1-mile race in the first place. The last time that I ran a timed 1-mile race was during spring track of my senior year of high school. I chose this race mainly because:

  1. I had nothing better to do on Labor Day weekend
  2. I heard good things about this race and figured I’d see how fast I can still run

I had absolutely no expectations or goals in regards to time. I had no idea where I was in terms of speed. I had not even done a single speed workout since I’ve started training for the Marathon Corps Marathon. Ultimately, I had nothing to lose with this race.

On Friday night, the night before the race, I picked out my race outfit, did yoga, and was asleep before 10PM.

Saturday morning, I woke up around 6AM, ate a light breakfast, did yoga (again), changed into my race outfit, and departed for the race. I showed up well over an hour prior to my start time and had a decent amount of time to warm up.

When it came time to finally line up, all that was going through my head was “run as fast as you feel.” And just like that, the race had started.

Short distance races don’t give you enough time to think. All you can do is just go.

So, I started off strong, kept a steady pace, and by the time I realized that I had more in the tank, the race was over.

I crossed the line in a finish time of 6:08, shocked that I was even able to get that close to 6 minutes. After replaying the race in my mind, I knew I could have gone faster, but my body just didn’t know how to do it. It didn’t know how to incorporate “the kick” at the end. I replayed it over and over again in my mind, thinking of how else it could have gone until I finally came to terms with the fact that I had not trained for this distance. 

My mind has been set on Marine Corps Marathon since the minute I signed up in June and I didn’t take into account the importance of speed training.

When that realization came to mind, I thought back to my performance at the 2014 New York City Marathon again and I just kept thinking, ‘You get what you give.’

In race training, in relationships, in work, in life, it’s always the same concept: You get what you give.

The amount of time and effort that you put into anything you do will eventually reveal itself in the end.

Refresh

I was introduced to a new friend at church this past Sunday who was visiting from another country. I learned that it was his first time visiting New York City – and the United States in general – so I ended up giving him a mini tour. Yesterday, we walked throughout the streets of Lower Manhattan, trekking from the Meatpacking District to Union Square.

It was one of those unexpected, special New York City nights.

Whenever I encounter someone who is visiting New York City for the first time, I’m elated at the chance of being able to show them how spectacular I think this city it. Because for me, it truly is a city that I am constantly in awe of.

After living here for nearly four years, I’m still discovering new people and new places every single day.

I recently moved to a new apartment outside of Manhattan nearly three weeks ago. It’s my first time living in a new borough and at first, I was slightly devastated to not be able to say, “I live in Manhattan.”

After guiding my new friend throughout Lower Manhattan, I realized how refreshing it is to look at New York City through a different lens; through someone else’s eyes.

Sometimes, if you’ve been in the same place for long enough, you become jaded, desensitized, and un-phased by your surroundings. It often happens to people in a city as large and ever-changing as New York.

New Yorkers are somewhat known for their ability to block out the loud noises, ignore the distractions, and go about their daily lives almost as if they never blinked; as if their eyes were never even open to begin with.

Similar to a young child who is excited about learning something new, it often feels that way for me when I’m talking about New York. I’m overjoyed for someone to experience something the same way I’ve experienced it – in awe.

The thing about New York City is that your experience is completely dependent on how you want to experience it. You can choose to see everything or choose to see nothing. The same goes for your life. And for me, I want to see it all.

Overcome

I used to think that you could only really have something meaningful to write if you went through some kind of trial or tragedy. I used to think that the best writing came from pain and struggle. Some of the songs, books, poems that truly impacted me were written in sadness (or so I interpreted it).

It’s been a while since I’ve been genuinely happy. And I can say, now, that I actually am – which is such a relief.

I realize, now, that great creations do not come solely from hardships. Instead, there are products of overcoming and overpowering those hardships.

It’s funny how the things you consume change as you change.

Your mental state affects how you treat your body, the kind of music you listen to, the people you surround yourself with, even the activities you participate in.

It’s funny how we work sometimes – When we’re sad, we sometimes want to expand on that sadness and continue on that path. The act of “self-destruction” or so it’s called.

But on the lateral side of that, we can amplify positive emotions as well – When we’re happy, we want to keep being happy. We couldn’t imagine not feeling good or not feeling alive.

In life, things happen and we have to deal with those things. It may take time, but eventually, we do have to move on so that, eventually, we can be okay again. And when that time comes, you couldn’t be more relieved that you got through it and found that happy place.

It Starts and Ends With You

Over the past few years, and more specifically the past few months, I’ve come to learn that no one can stop you from feeling happy or sad except for yourself. Everything you feel and whether or not you allow things to get to you is completely within your control.

This is not to say that we should never feel the feelings that we feel, but instead, realize that we can ultimately choose how we react to the things that life throws our way and what we are going to do about it.

In life, you have two options: Do or do not. 

It seems silly to say, but it really is that simple.

In the past few months, I’ve encountered obstacles that, at first, I wasn’t completely sure I could overcome. From an outsider’s perspective, some would say, “It could have always been worse.” And its true. It could have been worse, but I thank God that it wasn’t.

Everything that happens to you, whether good or bad, affects your life. The challenge is how we’re going to deal with it.

We all have our own problems to deal with. Some may be bigger than others. But when bad things happen, it’s up to you to decide if you’re going to let it take you down or rise above.

It’s hard not to get discouraged or upset when things don’t go the way we expected them to. It may seem impossible to push through whatever happens in your past. But, at the end of the day, it starts and ends with you.

Only you can decide when you’re ready to stop feeling sad or sorry for yourself. Only you can decide when you’re done being miserable. Only you can decide when you’re ready to move on. It starts and ends with you.

What Matters Most

I write a lot about growing up. That’s because ever since I was little, I’ve always been in such a rush to be older. I remember following my sister and her friends around when I was a kid and I just couldn’t wait to be old enough to hang out with them. Now that I’m older, it’s funny how it works in reverse. As you get older, you want to gain all those years back that you wanted to skip ahead to.

I spend a lot of my time around people of different age groups and it always fascinates me to talk to them about their experiences and hear their opinions on life. And regardless of age, everyone always experiences things at different stages of their lives. Some of us are wise beyond our years and some of us continue to resist maturity.

Now that I am where I am, I’d finally like to slow down and take advantage of the time that I have while I have it.

When you’re younger, it seems like things take so much longer to happen – Getting your license, being able to legally drink, graduating college, finding a job, etc. But once you’ve crossed all of those things off your list, there’s a realization that you start running out of things that you have to wait for in order to happen.

What I’ve learned throughout my twenties so far is that I’m much more capable of distinguishing between the things are a big deal and the things that are not. I’m able to recognize what really matters in life and what I shouldn’t get so worked up about.

After I turned 25, I can’t emphasize enough how much of a significant shift there was in my mindset. After losing love, losing jobs, losing friends, I’m less upset about the losses and more grateful for the gains and the people who are still sticking by my side. I’m realizing that my family is one of the most important of things in my life. I’m realizing that you shouldn’t fight so hard for people who won’t fight for you. I’m realizing that the time you are given is precious and it shouldn’t be wasted on people or things that do not fill you up with joy.

Recently, I keep thinking back to the time when I was in the hospital at the age of 20 and diagnosed with Chrohn’s Disease due to my own self-induced stress. I look back and wonder how and why I allowed myself to get stressed over things that I can hardly even remember to this day.

There’s a certain peace that comes with age and maturity that I’ve truly come to appreciate – And that peace lies within knowing yourself and what you want out of your life. I can now say with full honesty that I’m discovering the kind of person I want to be and the kind of life I want to lead. I thank God for that and I thank the people who are closest to me for supporting all of the decisions I have made leading up to this day.

Re-return from Colorado

I returned to New York City on a redeye from Denver, Colorado yesterday morning. The last time I had gone to Colorado was in late November after I was let go from a previous job. I find it ironic that I traveled back to Colorado just a few days before starting a brand new job. Both trips were completely spontaneous and unplanned, but somehow it worked out.

It always seems as though I re-encounter the same situations, only with different circumstances. As I sift through these blog posts that span throughout a duration of four years, it seems like I’m running in circles. But on the contrary, the other thing that always changes (aside from the circumstances) is my ability to handle these situations in a more calm and collected manner. I haven’t only changed, I’ve significantly improved. I’ve grown.

That’s the beauty of these particular predicaments that I always tend to find myself in. Each time I encounter a new struggle, I come back with fresh eyes and a new perspective. To me, it’s amazing to be able to go back to a familiar place but are able to see things completely differently – more clearly.

It’s true that the more experiences you have, the more you grow. The thing to remember is that you have to also learn from those experiences and apply that knowledge in the future.