I didn’t realize it’s been 3 months since I have last posted. I thought work would slow down after end of February, but as my friend said “no good deed goes unpunished,” it seems like the more you get done, the more items your to-do list receives. Does that sound familiar to you?
Running since Houston Marathon….
Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
Albert Einstein is a genius. He’s quite right. So I decided in September 2014 that I would like to run Boston 2015, but I like to PR in Houston, so I ran ahead and ran the Houston Marathon, PR’ed and tried to somewhat train for Boston. Does that sound familiar?
Ingredients of overdoing it = aggressive timeline at work for multiple projects (and ok, I am in control for some of the deadlines, but not all) + coaching certification + trying to jump back to 40+ miles/ week training 2 weeks after marathon
Recently, someone pretty smart mentioned that “physical pain” is a body’s way of telling us that emotionally we have been under too much stress. With all that going on, my right hip decided to ring the warning bells and tell me that I need to prioritize better.
So I did. On 2/28/2015, I sadly went to marathontour.com and cancelled the awesome hotel reservation that I have made for 4/20/2015.
Looking back, it was probably one of the smartest decisions I have made. Not having the stress of training for Boston allowed me to look at my running in a different way.
I decided to have fun with my running in March and April: no racing in March and only signed up for 5k’s in April and May. As a result, I got to run with different folks and make new friends along the way. I even got to be a rookie judge at the costume contest for the Bayou City Classic (It’s not what you know, it’s WHO you know…..)
Racing without a Goal….
My hip felt so much better by mid March (2 weeks after I decided I won’t be toeing the start-line on 4/20). So when April rolled around, I decided to test my fitness by running a few local, small 5k’s…
To not bore you, here is a recap of April and May in bullet form:
1) Run for Wellness http://thehwp.org/?page_id=410 4/5, 21:15, 1st female overall
2) Deer Park Strides for School 5k 4/13, 21:18, 1st AG (30-34)
3) Cinco de Mayo 5k – pacer – 22:23 (Way to go PIMsters for your awesome PR’s…) 5/2 (somehow, a 2nd AG for pacing)
4) Girls on the run 5k 5/3, 21:23, 1st overall female
In between, I had alot of fun on Tuesday nights in April to participate at the Tour de Bayou series. It’s a “popular and free” series. The attraction is the randomless of the courses, and the “I promise to be careful” pledge before each meet. I actually can learn to like running offroad….(just not good at it, but it’s fun)
We also decided last minute to jump into a 1.5 mile relay at the Bayou Bash. Our team, the PIMentos, actually did pretty well at 4pm in the afternoon. Granted, I was the slowest member on the relay, but I was excited to see that I can clock a 6:25 min/mile pace for a 1.5 miler at 4pm in the middle of May!!! We took 2nd place in the Mixed Open division (ok, there were only 3 teams in the category), but I was pretty happy with my time after running a 11 mile long run the morning of.
A week later, I participated at the corporate track meet. Sadly, I couldn’t apply my speed from the Bayou Bash into the meet…but we had fun.
So what’s next….
Nothing for this summer!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (ok except for the local 4th of July 5k and the Hot Undies Run on 8/1). I am going to get into maintenance mode this summer….which means having more liberty to running with friends and stick with a speed work session per week.
I would like to get myself in shape and strong enough to train for a half marathon PR (preferably before 12/31/2015). Right now, I am in research mode, debating whether to link the half marathon and use it as a building block for a strong marathon in January or try something else. I am definitely open to suggestion, but expect the training to be something like:
Tuesday Intervals (probably start from 800m repeats and build up to 1 mile repeats at 5k pace)
Thursday Tempo (probably Threshold run between 10k and half marathon pace and build up to 6 mile tempo, not including warm up and cool down)
Saturday/Sunday Long Run (90 mins to 2 hours)
Rest of the week is easy….
The key is to make room to have fun…..I expect work to continue to be busy the remainder for the year and I really want running to be fun and not “work.”
We’ll see where it will take me. And of course, not everything is cast in stone, so I will monitor and adjust as needed.
What do you love most about running? What is your favorite type of running (racing, training run, speed work, destination run, or others?)
On Wednesday, I was at an all day training exercise and the topic was about winning together. One of the examples the facilitate used really resonated with me. “My friend Bob decided to train for the Berlin Marathon. He has set a goal of 4:10. Bob trained hard and he ran a 4:08. Question… did Bob win?”
Everyone around the room unanimously said “Yes.” Even though Bob didn’t run a 2:02:57, Bob had clearly beat his goal. The frame of reference becomes very important. I find myself often getting upset about myself, because I haven’t met certain “goals”. But looking back, big milestones have been accomplished in both my personal and my professional life in the past 3 months that I would like to take a moment to reflect on,
We are now Husband and Wife…New Chapter in the Long Distance Race 😉
We have entered into a new chapter of our life on 12/18/2014. For those who have been following, Michael and I finally got married and Michael was no longer a 90-day Fiance as of 12/18 (and we finally ended a 5-year + long distance relationship)! We celebrated this big chapter of our life with a few close friend in a small intimate ceremony on the Living Bridge of Memorial Park. The story of the wedding will become another post at another time (it’s quite exciting since a police officer was involved!). Big thank you for everyone who took the time out to celebrate the special moment with us. Big thank you to Maura for officiating!!!
Houston Marathon 2015 – Marathon #6 completed
A month after the wedding, I ran one of my best marathons to date. The training cycle was filled with challenges: balancing work, life and training. A little over 1 month before the race, both Michael and I got a really really bad cold that won’t go away for weeks. Thankfully I was able to take 2 weeks off from work (well, this just means not going into the office…) I was able to put in a few key workout the last week of December and putting me in good shape for taper.
The marathon itself merits its own post. I will post that another time for a recap. It was a reflective run. Since all of my trainer partners had different goals for the race, I ended up running the race solo. This allowed me to quietly observed the spectators and the course (you can get alot of thinking done in over 3 hours).
Thank you to Elvira and her hubby who came out to cheer at mile 19/20! It was so awesome to see familiar faces on the lonesome Memorial Park stretch. It was definitely a race to celebrate. I was able to kept a pretty even split and savor the last 0.2 miles.
Funny moment: At around mile 20, because the lack of Gatorade, I miscalculated and thought that I was in a pace that could have beaten 3:22. So I yelled out to a volunteer and said….”I am going to beat my husband’s time today.” She polite smiled….and I charged on. Anyways, at mile 25, it became very apparent that I made some serious math mistakes. The finish time was 3:24:33. I officially have run a faster marathon than Apolo Anton Ono (hey, you have to celebrate every little thing).
Without giving too much detail here…Work hasn’t been a cake walk since we came back on 1/5/2015. I was asked to lead a study and mid-way, the already aggressive deadline was move up further for us. Long hours were dedicated to drive the study (thorough, fit-for-purpose but robust). Thank goodness to awesome teammates. We were able to deliver (a few days leading up to it, there were a few nail biting moments, but we all managed it through…I guess you just have to muster the courage like one would at mile 25).
A few speed bumps along the way….
- Immigration paperwork hasn’t been smooth. Michael had to ask for permission to leave the country due to family emergencies….and unfortunately, despite this took numerous calls and 2 trips to the immigration office….and the approval came in mid-Jan.
- In the middle of that, we got a letter asking us to re-submit our marriage certificate. Apparently, the first one sent with the package was “lost”.
- I was cautious in taking the time to recover the few weeks following the marathon; however, my right hip just couldn’t take another round of marathon training (and the downhill). 7 weeks from Boston, I pulled out. I think my right hip will thank me later.
Yet another Long-Term Goal achieved…
While Michael was in England, I spent Valentines Day with a group of aspiring running coaches. After 2 years, I was able to get into the RRCA Coaching Certification Course. It was 16 hours of classroom lecture including homework and case studies. It was a very thought provoking weekend. I can’t really say the material is new,but the course has really put everything together in cohesive way.
As if 16 hours of lectures on running/coaching isn’t enough, the certification process required answering 85 out of 100 multiple choice questions correctly. Granted, the test was un-timed and open-book, but still….wow….one does not want to taunt statistics. After double checking the answers, I felt that any more time invest in it qualify for ‘law of diminishing return”….so I click the submit and grade button and the results…..
Since I had taken my first aid and CPR class, on Monday 2/23, I got an email that legitimatized my credential as a RRCA Coach!
Is there a point to this post?
Wow..you are still reading….The point is, I know I am not the smartest, the fastest, the most talented person. In fact, I have to work extra hard through life to get by. But that’s who I am. While the last few months were challenging, I would like to take a moment to give myself permission to celebrate and reflect. Heck, granted it wasn’t a 2:02:57 performance, I have set out goals and I have achieved them. That’s not a shabby way to start a new year and embrace the future challenge ahead.
This past Wednesday marks the end of the regular Fall 2014 season of the 10-week PIM (Power in Motion) program. Tying back to the last post, I am happy to share how awesome the coaching experience has been. It has exceeded every bit of my expectation!
To kick off the last official Wednesday workout, Dr. Bob was our pre-run keynote speaker. The speech was about preparation for the Goal Race (11/1) and it was given in a form a commencement speech. How fitting right?! While the last workout marks the end of the official program, it has also kicks off (remember commencement actually means beginning) what I believe would be another new chapter in the runners’ running journey. While the speech was full of helpful running hints, the point that really resonated with me is the piece around improvement. In fact, the whole program is about improving oneself. This got me thinking….
As a reflect on my experience as a first time PIM coach, I was surprised to find how enjoyable it was. It wasn’t really about the “teaching” piece. It was surprise to find how much I have learned along the way. The group that I run with is the most advanced group in the program. Many of the runners are seasoned runners. Their stories and their enthusiasm re-ignite a spark in me.
Running has become one of my passions since late 2008. Yes, it’s fun to hit the goals: Sub 1:40 half, Boston Qualified times, Going under 3:30 in a marathon…the list goes on and on and on. Running is motivating….seeing individual improvements, seeing the pace go down is no doubt gratifying. Running is also therapeutic – I have spent many evenings reflecting and decompressing on the trails after long work days…sometimes emotionally charged work days. Running has been my “spa”. Running has also become my play ground. I have made so many friends – many of them have become my close friends. And through this season in PIM, I have gained many new friends whom I know I will still continue to run with (hello Sunday runs!).
Running has made me more self aware. I learn to know my strength but also improvement areas. Running has taught me to really listen to my body and listen to my heart (no pun intended). Running has taught me that while I have inherent limits (As Dr. Bob have said, “Choose the right parents, get the right genes to run fast), I can still work hard to achieve where my potential is. It is about understanding where the constraints are and aim to push the envelop a bit more (I know, a dream to every optimizer in town). It’s very liberating. It’s a solo-sport – it’s about the self and self improvement. Yet it is also a community.
Running has taught me about setting goals and milestones. Running has taught me how to lead and how to inspire by being my authentic self and without authority. Running has helped me reflect on my purpose. (In several recent occasions, I was asked to articulate my purpose). My purpose is to make it better one step at a time (That’s going to be my leadership mantra too).
So as I reflect on this personal journey, while it wasn’t a flat course like the Houston Marathon course, it has been a fun and rewarding. I am really fortunate to have found my best friend (you know who you are), found my running club friends (Calgary Outdoor Club, BON Racing Team and PIM), who have touched my lives each step of the way. I look forward to the next mile marker!
As I look forward to closing out 2014, I want to stay focus and healthy. There are many exciting things ahead and I am excited that I won’t be experiencing them alone.
Thank you for being part of my journey! I am going to leave you with a bunch of pictures!
Running from the law (while still staying compliance with laws of Thermodynamics).
On the track…’
And last but not least….
I decided to take a little summer vacation from blogging. I will do a few recaps of exciting summer adventures at a later day (including my recap on 1st time being a pace bunny). So what has brought me back from the hiatus? The answer is…PIM!
What is PIM?
Nope, it’s not the linear program that I run for refinery/cracker optimization. 😉 PIM stands for Power in Motion. Power in Motion is a 10-week running program/clinic/fun experience sponsored and created by the Houston Area Road Runners (HARRA). It is open to everyone ranging from run/walkers to seasoned runners. The program is designed such that the participants will be able to complete a 5k race at the end of the 10 week.
How did I get involved?
My friend Bernie has recruited me. 🙂 As soon as she mentioned that PIM is looking for volunteer coaches for the fall season, I checked out the website and decided to go for it. As soon as I read the brochure and the coaches roster, I was immediately inspired.
So what does it entail?
The 10-week program comes with a training plan for the participants (based on ability and experience level). The program is very well organized. For example, tonight, I went to the Coaches meeting. Prior to the meeting, I was given glossary, information about the set up and expectation via email. The Coaches were matched up so that each group will have 3 coaches and that at least 1 coach will be an experienced group.
I am bummed that I was too busy to take notes during the meeting and forgot to take pictures. I promise I will do a better job documenting things with photos in the next 10 weeks.
Since this is my first time being a volunteer coach, I am going to use this forum to capture my thoughts and hopefully I can improve from here. I volunteered because I am really passionate about running, meeting new people, but also learning from others.
Oh if you can’t tell already, I am really excited. I am partnered up with two very experience coaches. One of them is a world record holder for female age 60 to 64 for 1500m. The other partner in crime is a personal trainer. 🙂 I can’t wait for the next meeting and the pace finding exercise!
Have you ever volunteered at a race? Have you ever volunteer to lead an exercise class? Any tips for this first timer?
Happy Mother’s Day! I am lucky enough that I live so close to my folks that as soon as I wrap this up, I am heading over to say hi. Many of my friends have recently become new mothers, so this Mother’s Day will be extra special for them. In our running group, there are a few bundles of joy arriving in June and July. One of my really good friends just had a baby girl last weekend. I am really excited to be able to meet her when I visit Calgary.
The Houston Marathon (and Half Marathon) opened up for early registration on Tuesday this week. Earlier this week, I have posted on my Facebook page for public opinion on whether I should sign up for the half or the full. I was actually agonizing over the decision because I am really cheap and I would like to avoid having to pay $20 change fee later. Don’t get me wrong, I am grateful for that option, but at $115 for a half and $125 for the full, and $20 change fee, a hasty decision can be quite costly.
The reason for the deliberation is that I am considering running Boston 2015, which is in April. I have learned from 2013 that the body can only take so much. So putting back-to-back marathons on the calendars automatically has limited my opportunity to go for PR’s in shorter distances (and still allow proper time to train and recover).
It was fun to see my friends’ responses. The majority of them voted for Full. I am thankful that my running group is supportive, they were the reasonable ones voting for Half.
At this point, you must think I am milking the punch line.
Drum roll, I have signed up for:
If I have a good fall training cycle, I am going to aim for a PR at Houston, and make Boston the fun race. I will use some of the warm up races to gauge. If I am not feeling 100%, I am going to offer myself as a pacer to get my lady running friends to the finish line with a BQ.
My Plans for this summer:
- Corporate track meet (5/17) – I am determined to set a personal record for myself on the 3000m. I can go sub 12:45 right???
- Be my fiance’s biggest fan at the Calgary Marathon on 6/1 (topic of a future post).
- Hot Undies Run 2014 (6/28) – a fun 2 milers with the coolest peeps. If you are available, or if you would like to support these really cool organizations, please register here: www.hotundiesrunhouston.com
- 4th of July 5k
- A free 5k in August and/or September – as part of the Houston Wellness Project 🙂
- Start training for the marathon September…. 🙂
Quite a full plate?
How far in advance do you normally sign up for races? What are your goal race(s) this year?
Today, I ran my 2nd Girls on the Run 5k. It was really nice to see how big the race has grown since I have run in it 2 years go.
Girls on the Run (GoTR) is a national non-profit program for girls in the 3rd through 8th grade with the aim to inspire girls to be healthy and confident through learning how to run. The run program is a 3 month long program. At the end of the program, there is a celebratory 5k race. For many of the girls in the program, it would be their first 5k.
I stumbled into the GoTR because it was promoted in my running club (Brian O’Neill’s Running Club) 2 years ago. I was looking for a 5k to wrap up my spring season, and a small 5k fit the bill. Two years ago, the 5k race was held in a local elementary school. There might have been 200 participants including the girls:
The startline at the 2012 Girls on the Run 5k. If you look very closely, you can spot me in purple shorts 🙂
Today, we had over 2000 people signed up. The crowd was so huge at the startline, I couldn’t even take a pic. Thankfully, I was able to take a shot at the finish to give you an idea how big it was:
What I like about the Race Today:
Despite having 2000 participants, the race went very well. Everything was very organized. The start-line was a bit small for a big crowd, so it was interesting trying to get through the first 0.25 of a mile. But once we were half a mile in, it had thinned out very quickly.
It was so precious to see the girls decked out in capes. They seemed to have a strong trusting relationship with their coaches, as many of them ran with the coaches the whole time. It was really fun to see parents participating as well. Many young ladies were running with their parents.
I overheard in the startline from one of the parents that she was really thankful the program existed. Before participating in the program, her daughter did not show any interest in sports. Through the creative curriculum, the young lady found herself actually enjoying running.
So How did I do?
With the lack of serious speed work and warmer weather, I did not go in to the race with much expectation. Then I saw the local sisters (13 years old and 11 years old) in the bathroom, I knew who would be the winner of the race today. So I took the opportunity to play with different racing strategy. I missed the call to line up at the startline, so I was lined up in the middle of the pack. Given the great turnout, it was quite congested in the first 1/4 miles. Instead of freaking out and weaving in and out, I just took the opportunity to aim for even pacing.
I could have studied the course map a bit better beforehand. I was expecting I would be following someone. Well, after 0.5 miles in, I lost my pack, and was slightly behind from the sisters, so I was just going blind on the course. Part of the course was through a winding neighborhood street, so for the longest time, I thought I was lost. Thankfully, the course was very well marked with cones.
Although it was a cooler and less humid morning in Houston (68 deg F), by 8am, it was getting slightly hot. Interestingly, I also felt that we were facing a relatively strong headwind most of the way. So I just trusted my internal clock and locked myself into a sub-threshold pace.
The crowd was awesome. Everywhere I turn, there were folks cheering. Even the officers who were serving as course marshalls were cheering me on!
Thankfully it was a 5k. So as my Garmin beeped mile 3, I saw the finish line right in front of me and dug deep to get the BON Racing Team sprint.
I looked at my splits on my Garmin:
6:59, 7:02, 6:59, and then 5:46 for the last 0.14 miles
Not too shabby. Later validating the chip team, my official time was 21:38 (not a PR), but solid enough to place behind the two sisters (who finished in very amazing times of 18 minutes something and 20 minutes and change respectively). Official results can be found here.
Part of the reward was a very cute medal. My friends took this photo of me with the cute backdrop.
This is one of the rare races that don’t have awards. I actually like that about the race. It truly fosters the notion that everyone is a winner. It also helps motivates the young ladies to support each other.
I ran this race because I really like what this organization stands for – not for more shiny medals/plaques. After all, today is about the instilling confidence in our future generations.
I am giving the organizers and volunteers an A+ for a great race.
If you are interested in learning more about the program, here’s the national website:
Totally unrelated: I spent my morning getting sweaty, I went home, cleaned, had breakfast, did laundry, and got ready for my last symphony show for this season:
I am really fortunate to live in a city where I could be active and cultural at the same time 🙂
Also unrelated – Happy Birthday to the Hill Sgt!! 🙂
Have you run in a small 5k before? Do you prefer large races or small races? What attracts you to signing up for a race (the prizes? the cause? or the venue?)
Next Monday, over 27,000 runners will wake up the quiet town of Hopkinton and toe the start line of the oldest running marathon in North America. The Boston Marathon is the holy grail of many runners. Not only it is one of the Majors, it is also one of the few marathons out there that specify qualification times.
Boston Marathon is more than just a marathon. If you look closely at the symbol for the Boston Marathon, you will find a unicorn. The Boston Marathon represents a dream. It represents a stretch goal for many. It’s the reward for many months of training, sweating, toiling, and living with black toe nails.
Boston Marathon is more than just a marathon for the area. Schools are out on Patriots Day. It is a celebration. It’s celebrating a town that like a marathoner, has endured and preserved through many tests. Boston was the hot bed of the American Revolution. No matter who you are, if you live in the Boston and greater Boston area, Patriots Day is about celebrating the human spirit.
My respect for the Boston Marathon has grown after I have personally experienced it last year. For the past few years, Boston has been the inspiration that motivated me to run 12 miles pace run at 7pm at night after a long day at work. Earning that prestigious entry to the Boston Marathon is what kept me doing one more 1000m repeat at track practice.
The pursuit of the magical yet elusive unicorn…
On January 15, 2012, with the help of the BON Racing Team, my cheer leader Hill Sgt and my friend Mike, I crossed the Houston Marathon finish line feeling accomplished. On my second attempt, I earned the rights to sign up for the 2013 Boston Marathon. On the street of downtown Houston that day, all my friends could hear as I ran the last 6.2 miles of the marathon was….”I am going to Boston.” That moment would forever be remember as one of the top moments in my life (another would be hearing the dean announced my name the day I have earned my Chemical Engineering degree).
I was ecstatic when I found out in September 2012 that my application for Boston was accepted.
Fast forward to weekend leading up to April 15, 2013. Hill Sgt and I met in Boston. We had a wonderful weekend learning about the rich history of the town. We stepped foot onto the campus that I once thought I would go to for graduate school. We visited Paul Revere’s home. We met the Marathon Woman (Kathy Switzer). It was a town where everyone treated the runners like royalties. On Sunday, we marveled at the famous big yellow/blue finish line on Bolyston Street. The city, the town, and the street were full of life.
On Monday morning, I eagerly got up the yellow bus to Hopkinton. It was sunny, gorgeous blue sky. It was the perfect condition (almost, not tail wind that day) for running a marathon. It was crisp and cool. In the tents, I experienced the wonderfulness of the running community. As a newbie, I read about needing extra warm up clothing, but have forgotten to pack a blanket with me while we wait 2 hours for the start. I was greeted by a group of Houston runners whom I have merely met at Memorial Park. They welcomed me into their area and shared their blankets with me.
At near 10am, I excitedly jogged to my corral. I was near the front of the 2nd corral. The start line was impressive. It’s breathtaking to be surrounded by 23,000 other eager runners. At 10:20am, the gun for the 2nd wave went off. We followed the footstep of the elites who had started an hour before us. It was a sea of runners. It was one of the marathons where the whole time I was running with a big group. It was one of the marathons where you did not need music. The towns and the crowd were the music.
Mile by mile, I was greeted by spectators. The community cheered. Everyone is rooting for everyone.
It was a dream come true, especially I was diagnosed with shin splint 4 weeks before the marathon. Instead of completing the training, I spent much of the pre-taper and taper period nursing back to health. Being able to the toe the start line meant the world to me. After 11 miles of enjoying the gradual downhill, my quads began to talk to me. At mile 14, I started slowing down. Yet, I kept moving. There were no stopping me. Whoever said the Wellesley girls were loud? They were absolutely right. The cheers from the Wellesley girls rivaled the screams from the audience attending a 1999 Boy Band Concerts. Instead of cheering for the Backstreet Boys, on that day, they were cheering for me.
As I move into Newton, I began to prefer myself for the hills. As much as I dreaded running hills, it was a relieved to do something other than downhill. My quads took the much needed relieve. One by one, I had conquered the Newton Hills (and refused the walk).
Then…I ran across a sign that said “Heart Break is Over.” At first, I thought it was a sick joke. Then I looked down at my Garmin and was relieved to find that I had finished Heart Break. The last few miles of the Boston Marathon were the toughest for me. My legs did not have much left (due to the lack of training per the injury). In fact, for the last month leading up to the marathon, I had not run anything more than 8 miles.
The crowd got louder as I journeyed into town. I saw the big famous Citgo Sign. By mile 24, I was tired. My calves and my quads were not happy at all. I slowed further down, and took advantage (walk break) at every water station. Yet, I could not let the crowd down. I continued on. I saw Hereford. As I marched towards the last underpass, I was able to enjoy a brief moment of silent. Then as I mustered up all my leg muscles to charged up the incline (it felt like a mountain at that point, no wonder, some called it Mt Hereford), all I could hear was cheers. I felt that my legs were going to divorce me as I came to the top of the incline, so I had taken a small walk break.
One of the spectator shouted, “11817, you have made it so far, don’t stop now.” So I listened, and took whatever I have left in me and ran on. The final few minutes of the marathon was like a dream. As a made the famous left turn onto Bolyston Street, it was all cheers. I saw the big finish sign and along with a pack of runners, I marched towards the finish. Fists in the air. The rest of history.
The rest was indeed history. Yet, it was not how I would have imagined it would be.
I arranged to meet Michael at the family reunion area (at S). After getting the medal, walking down 2 blocks to get my bag, I was directed to the family reunion area 2 blocks away from the finish line. Because Michael had rented a bicycle to try to find me at various vintage point, it took him longer than expected to get through the crowd with a bike. Michael also had my cell phone. Thank goodness there was a cellphone area. I was able to call Michael and arranged to meet him near the bright orange AT&T cellphone lot.
As soon as I hung up with Michael, I heard two loud pops. At first, I thought it was a blown transformer (the many years working in a refinery will do that to you). My second thought was, “why would they do fireworks during day time?” Then a few folks in the area had concerned looks. Something did not feel right. My third thought was, I hope I can find Michael soon. And 30 seconds later, thankfully, Michael and I found each other.
As soon as I got my cell phone, I called Coach F. He congratulated me on the run, and we talked about the race, how our friend Cheney did. Then Michael started getting a cell phone call. We continued walking away from the area and started walking to the hotel. We started seeing concerned faces. Michael’s colleague called and asked if we were okay. Then the unthinkable word hit me. Bomb. Chills came through my body. Finally the realization hit, the two popping sounds were something sinister. The two popping sounds would forever marred the pureness of the Boston Marathon.
It felt like an eternity. As we continued to mindlessly walk our way back to the hotel, more texts came in. I had to abruptly end the celebratory phone call with Coach F, and quickly dialed my parents’ number. “Hi Dad. Where is Mom? Have you guys been watching the news? Oh…I just want to let you know that we are both okay. I had finished the Boston Marathon before the bomb happened and we are heading back to the hotel.”
Then my brother called. Then my coworkers texted. Michael’s family had called. Everyone had a somber face at the hotel. Both Michael and I really didn’t know what monstrosity had happened. We both looked into each other and understood that something horribly wrong had happened. It was agonizing to turn on the television. As we turned on the TV, the eerie reality flashed in front of our faces. We hugged each other and were grateful that we have each other. In the span of seconds, the celebratory finish line had become a crime scene.
As Michael went to the North End of the city to return the bicycle, I wrote a mass email for my coworkers. Everyone was worried. My inbox had over 30 worried messages. Then I went on Facebook. Over 60 concerned messages. I was relieved to find that my friends who were at the race were accounted for and were unharmed. I was simply grateful for the great volunteers and brave responders out there.
Still under shock, I wrote “All both Michael and I are ok – thanks for thinking of us.“
The rest of the trip was a blur. My quads were incredibly stiff. But my heart had endured most of the pain. A smile came across my face as I heard that my running group was doing a mass run to honor those whose lives have been taken and shattered. I saw a clip of my friends running in green.
2,892 miles later…
Over the course of the past year, I have grown. Boston had preserved yet again. It could have much worse.
A year later, I only have one wish. I wish that as the runners toe the start line of Hopkinton, they will reclaim that pureness that the Boston Marathon unicorn has one represented. Even though running is a solo sport, each runner makes up something bigger than his/herself. We are the running community. Boston Marathon is about love and perseverance.
Only two words can sum up how I have been feeling for the past year:
Grateful and Hopeful.
What I am most thankful for:
This past Saturday (4/12), I ran my 4th Strides for School 5k and celebrated the race’s 5th year! The race has grown a lot since its inception in 2010. I remembered having to pick up reusable chip on the 1st edition (the ones where you had to tie-wrapped to your shoes). It was merely 100 runners/walkers. In its 5th edition, the race has outgrown the original course, and moved to the Jimmy Burke Activity Center (A change that was implemented 2 years ago), with over 1700 walkers and runners participating.
(if you watch the video, I am at the end)
This race holds a special place in my heart. Not only because Shell is the title sponsor, but this is one of the races where I know the volunteers as well as participants. This is one of those races where I got the big home-crowd advantage. Familiar faces. Everyone cheering for me. I had a great time visiting with my old friends (I left Deer Park for Downtown 1.5 years ago, so this is almost like a mini-reunion). It’s a small local race, but every Spring, you are guaranteed to find a few rouge fast runners running in this one, including local high school track stars.
We were blessed with slightly cooler weather (I mean it is April in Texas). The race started at 8:15 and the temperature was 68 deg F and 93% humidity. I knew that a PR would be a miracle. To be very honest, since I was half doing speed work since January this year, I did not have much expectation going into this race, but secretly, since year 2012, I always wanted to win this thing. In 2012, I was the front-running female, until mile 2.5, the young track runner passed me….and I ended up 15 seconds behind her taking 2nd overall and 1st in my AG. Since then, I vowed to work harder to try to outrun folks who are 1/2 my age.
After a very nice rendition of the national anthem, the race started very quickly. I found myself right behind my colleague Darren (who’s a big speedster!). Maybe it was because of the head wind, I found myself going a little slower than normal for the 1st mile. After 2 women (both of them in blue) passed me, I clocked myself with a 6:55 min/mile.
The course was essentially an out-and-back, so I knew, if I could hang on, I can use the tailwind of the last mile to my advantage. The 2nd mile had use turning a few corners in the neighborhood, and towards the end of the 2nd mile, we were out back towards the start/finish line. I have to say, I wasn’t looking at my watch. I went by feel. I accelerated a bit more once we turned back and started going with the wind. (2nd mile was 6:53 min/mile).
At mile 3, I passed one of the fast ladies. She said “Good job” and I said “Good run”. Then I charged on to try to close the gap between myself and Darren. Then all of a sudden, the 10 year old runner in front of me suddenly stopped. I caught myself stopping just in time, and then moved on.
The 3rd mile was very motivating. As I was running back, I kept hearing Go MAY! My co-workers were awesome. I certainly have felt the love which motivated me to run faster. At the last turn, I knew I had less than 0.25 miles to go. So I had to kick in the BON Racing Team sprint mode. Time was running out though, I saw 20:5X but I was at least 0.05 miles away. Even though it wasn’t a sub 21 day, I would take that 21:14 proudly given that it was warm and I hadn’t done enough prep work.
As a cross the finish line, I heard “May Shek” another top runner. 🙂
Progression not Perfection…
Before I share with you the results, here are the progression of the past 5 years:
2/2010 — 23:06, 1st AG, 4th overall
4/2011 — 22:27, 1st AG, 3rd overall
4/2012 — 21:44, 1st AG, 2nd overall
4/2013 — was at Boston
(so you would think this may be the year I can take it all right, at least based on the trend above?
4/2014 — 21:14 …
Curious about the results?
Darren was a rockstar – he came in under 21 mins. It was a good day for many. My friend Bill (who started training for 5k last Fall) had a BIG PR!!!! (I am really proud of Bill’s accomplishment and his posts motivate me to train harder and remind me the pure joy of running.) After catching up with more old friends, at 9:45am, we gathered inside the Activity Center for the awards.
Even though the elusive Female overall escaped me again (by a wide margin this time, the top female ran 19:17), I was very happy that I beat my previous race time at this race by 30 seconds AND I ran this race with a negatively split (very rare for me).
I walked away with this:
1st Place in my AG! (Well, the fast ladies my age didn’t show up).
See, Deer Park has such beautiful scenery 😉
Above all, the coolest thing about this race is that we have raced over $100k for the School District this year!!!!!!!!!!
So what’s next? I need to get back to doing more speedwork. I got lots of work to do to reach my goal of running a sub 20 min 5k this Fall! And yes, if I am not running Boston next year, I would like to come back and chase for the elusive 1st overall female award. (To be fair, I have won twice in my running career….one time in a very small race, and one time in last year’s corporate challenge, but since I didn’t pay $20 to enter the race, I wasn’t officially the winner).
What type of 5k’s do you prefer? Large ones? Or small local ones? Why?
Hi all, I apologize for taking a while to get the recap in, but it took me literally a week to recover from the Festivities. Last weekend, my teammates and I (aka, 11 other crazy runners) embarked on an overnight journey of 203 miles from Gonzales, Texas into the San Jacinto Monument in Houston, Texas. The relay was about celebrating Texas, celebrating our love of running, and above all, celebrating the true meaning of team work and friendship.
The route: http://texasindependencerelay.com/
History in the Making
The route follows the same trail that the Texas Independence Revolution has taken place back in 1836. In running this race, I am also making a little history. This is my first overnight team relays. My last long relay was done in 2009 in the beautiful Kanaskasis in Alberta (aka the K-100). I have to admit that I get intimated by long relays. A lot of planning and work goes into these race. Everything has to be organized: Vans, routes, who does what legs, overnight snacking schedules, when to sleep, etc. Thank goodness to Francois and Rozell for organizing our teams. In doing so, all I had to focus on is to have fun and run my best.
We are named the Run Dynasty: Camp Gladiator and BON Racing Team #1. Yes. It was a mouthful. Our team comprised of awesome runners – 75% of our team has a 10k pace of sub 6:30 min/mile. To be truthful, I went into the race having the complex that I was the slowest runner on the team. We have 8 male and 4 females on the team, making us a strong contender on the Mixed Category (to be eligible to be a mixed team, the team must have at least 3 ladies). The reality of how awesome our team hits when the organizer announced our start-time. The organizers seeded the teams based on anticipated finishing time. The faster you are, the later you start. We were the 4th last team to start on Saturday.
Based on the anticipated time, we knew that we are going for 3rd or 4th overall. The fastest two teams were the Dollz and Towel Boys (last year’s Champion) and the H-Town Runners (comprised of members who were on the winning team a few years a go). Our goal was just to see how long it would take for these two teams to pass us. Our true “competition” was the SWT Silence Warriors from San Antonio. So after a little bit of persuasion, we started hand-in-hand with the SWT team. They were a speedy bunch (however, they only had 2 ladies on the team, so they are not in the mix for the Mixed category).
How does this work? There are 203 legs, each runners run the ceremonial prologue and epilogue (at Gonzales’s monument and in Houston’s monument). Then the 203 miles are broken up into 40 legs. Each leg is about roughly over 3 miles and slightly over 6 miles long. The race starts Saturday and finishes on Sunday. Each member would be guaranteed to be running at odd hours at some point of the race. A member cannot run more than 1 leg more than his/her teammates. So this is about strategy, about teamwork. Each team is allowed a max of 2 vans. The support van is not allowed to drive side by side by the runners. So the strategy is to arrange to meet the runner at certain point for water/fuel. And of course, getting the next runner to the proper exchange point.
So our team met in Houston to get on the two vans at about 9:30am. We were on the road by 10:30am, and we got to Gonzales around 12:30. At 1:48pm, the race was on!
Our team had two vans. So 5 other runners and a driver was in my van. So in my van, I had: Jimmy (driver), Rachael, Sunny, Michael (not my fiance), Bo, and Robert. Amazingly we got along very well. Although I am not a big van of rap, we did have a good mix of motivational music along the way. And thank goodness to Jimmy and Sunny’s good direction, we were able to get to even the trickiest exchange points!
The race started off with Van #1 in the middle of the day. So it was very hot. Brutally hot because first few legs were right on the highway with not much shade. Here’s an example.
Yet one by one, Van #1 teammates proved to be invincible. Everyone pretty much exceeded their predicted pace (despite the heat).
The good thing about being in Van 2 is that we didn’t start till late afternoon. So my legs were in the evening. I had the fortune to start of with leg #10 at about 7pm along highway 90 in a small town called Schulenburg. While it was relatively “flatter” than most of the earlier legs, it is still not flat. There were several small rolling hills. And sadly, my garmin couldn’t find signal, so I had to start my leg by feel. I went out as fast as I could. Yet there was something serene and calming about running along side of a quiet highway at sunset.
My van met me halfway at 1.8 miles for water. With their support, I went on and aimed for the exchange station. I booked into the end of my leg with an average pace of 6:53. YAY!
The Night Shift
As the night come, we concluded our first shift. It was Van #1 job to play catch up, while we fueled up. So we went to a local subway (middle of nowhere) for dinner. Weird enough, the runners must have overwhelmed the local Subway, because as we walked in, the two helpless teenage employees shared the bad news with us: “We are out of bread, we only have flat bread left.” Oh well, flat bread it was. After a not so exciting dinner/snack, we went back to our van and napped while Jimmy drove us to the next exchange point.
I have also noticed that as we progressed in this race, the porta potty progressive gets better. During the first few legs (since we were the last few teams to start), we had to bring our own toilet paper. As we started at night, not only were the porta potties well stocked with toilet paper, but the conditions also improved!
By the time it was my turn to run again, it was 2am in the morning. Here’s a history making moment – first time in my life I ran in the middle of the night. I donned on my reflective vest and headlamp and went off my merry ways on Highway 36. Again, I was blessed with a VERY FLAT leg. The only challenge about this leg was the darkness. Thank goodness to headlamps. This leg was also my favorite leg because we got to catch up to the teams that started earlier than us. So over the course of the 5.4 miles, I was able to pass 12 people (12 teams)!!!! Perhaps, I should have run faster. I ended up finishing this leg with an average pace of 7:07. (my garmin miraculously worked again).
Honestly, I don’t remember much of the night, because as soon as I was done with my leg, I caught a few hours of shut eyes on the van. I remembered cheering on my teammates. But that was about it!
ON to the next day…
When our van finished, it was about 3 am in the morning. So we drove into Houston to catch a snack and find the next exchange. The Challenge: what would be open at 3am in the morning? Our answer: IHOP. so we went into the IHOP and oddly enough, we were not the only customers there. We were surrounded by very interesting characters (my guess was, partiers who just finished their parties and heading to bed). Our waiter was dumbfounded when we told him that we were in the middle of a 200 miles relay. Anyways, the food was not memorable. I pretty much went on autopilot: food in, water in. chew. We were at the restaurant for maybe 1 hour, then Jimmy took us to the next exchange while again, I napped on the van.
Fast Forward to sunrise. Our portion of the relay is starting at memorial park to get us close to the east side of town. I unfortunately got the leg near the “not-so-glamorous” (aka “hood like”) part of running near Barnett Stadium. I started my leg close to 9am. Thank goodness, because I would be slightly frightened to run in that neighborhood. I ran as fast as I could until I saw what looked like a dog lying on the speed bump. At first I thought the dog wasn’t alive. As I approached the dog, it started moving, so I quickly stopped, quickly tip-toed around him, and went on my merry way. Thank goodness he didn’t chase me! My leg ended with crossing a concrete pedestrian bridge and into the Track Stadium (ironically, this will be the same stadium that I would be running in in 2 months for the the corporate track meet).
Are we there yet?
The last few legs of the relay are near Deer Park/Pasadena. I was elated. I had to tell my teammates the 8 years of my life I have spent in the Chemical Plant. I guess I was the only one impressed with the flares, furnaces, distillation columns and of course, the tank farms. The last leg of the relay started in Deer Park and took us through the Battleground road into the Monument. It was a beautiful day. Driving in the monument brought back so many memories (many days of community service, my first time riding a bike, all took place there).
Anyways, Michael Trejo took us to victory. We were to join him 0.1 miles before the finish and participated in the “epilogue” together. Of course there were flags, Texas Flags and the Texas Independence Relay Flags. We took pictures. We got our medals. And we celebrated!!
Besides witnessing the beauty of Texas (the Blue Bonnets were in bloom), I have learned quite a bit this weekend. Running is known to be a solo sports. Running can often be viewed as a “selfish” sports. Many times we focus on PR, getting faster, and achieving our own goals. By embarking on this trip, I witnessed first hand, the team aspect of the sports. I got to know my teammates better. I got to see runners supporting each other along the way. Life is made of moments like this. For that brief 21 hours 45 minutes, I was celebrating life. I was celebrating the love of running with my teammates. It did not matter that I am not a 6 min/mile runner. That day, I was part of the team. As we laughed and run, we made strides towards the finish. For that brief 21 hours and 45 minutes, I left work behind. This trip was about doing something that I haven’t done before. By stretching my comfort zone, I have gained new confidence. It was liberating – quite fitting as this relay is about independence.
So….you must ask…how did we do?
Instead of writing it, I am going to show it in the picture here (scroll down) Afterwards, we have learned that the Dollz and Towel boys did not win the overall win because they have lost one of the teammates in one of the legs for 30 minutes. You can read the post here: http://texasindependencerelay.us1.list-manage.com/track/click?u=8d45eda6e0abd571027f276d4&id=6cf94d2b12&e=6cbe880170
I resonated with the post. As much as we are competitive, there are more important things than “winning” the title. I am grateful for the opportunity to enjoy a beautiful weekend with my friends safely. And yes, we will have stories to share for years to come.
Have you done any run relays?
Upon recent reflection during a long run, I made the decision to share this story here. In one of my first few posts, I have written about how I have met my fiance during a group run. A month ago, we celebrated the one-year anniversary of our engagement. However, we both agreed that it wasn’t exactly how we wanted to celebrate it.
In many ways, our journey towards marriage is like a marathon. Yet, we are not exactly in control of when we can get married. Why? My fiance (let’s called him Hill Sgt here) is a Canadian citizen and I am an American citizen. We met while I was on assignment in Calgary in 2008. We have been in a long distance relationship since 2010 (yep). We both love our work. But when we decided we take the next step in developing our relationship further, he has made the decision to move to the US. You would think it would be simple, just like this movie right? It’s just one trip to an interview with the immigration department right?
Before we even got engaged, Hill Sgt and I have researched the options. It turns out even though both US and Canada signed the NAFTA Treaty back in 1994, immigration between the two countries aren’t exactly an easy cake-walk. We have two options: the Fiance Visa or the Marriage Visa. Both options requires almost 9 months to a year before we can officially live and work together in the same city.
DISCLAIMER: I am not an immigration attorney. The following is simply a sharing of what Hill Sgt and I have gone through to provide some solace to any one who is experiencing the same challenge as we are. If you have any questions, please either contact US immigration or consult a professional.
Are you kidding me? Why does it take so long?
The truth is that every law is implemented because someone has either 1) abused a loop-hole or 2) violated the rule. Unfortunately, in the event of immigration by marriage, over 70% of the cases are fraudulent. As a result, much scrutiny has been placed on the applicants. So bad news for us (two people who are truly wanted to get married, live in the same city, and live our lives together) is that our intent to get married is assumed to be fraudulent until we can prove it otherwise. (Yes, this is not criminal law here, so it is the reverse of guilty beyond any reasonable doubt).
What does the process look like?
This website here actually summarizes it way better than I could. Basically, for the route that we are taking (The fiance visa), we would have to:
1) Submit first set of paperwork to the gov’t – basically everything about our personal history. Where we have worked? When did we meet? Show proof that we have met in person for the past two years and kept a relationship, and we are intended to get married.
2) Once the government approves, we will have to do part 2, basically showing my financial history as a sponsor, Hill Sgt will have to submit immunization records, police records, and medical records. Hill Sgt would also have to fly to Vancouver to do a physical.
3) If things still go well, Hill Sgt would have to fly to Vancouver for an interview (I don’t think the interview is as relaxed as the one shown in the Proposal…)
4) If things are still going well, assuming no rework, etc, he would be granted the visa to come into the US. At that point, we would have 90 days to get married. Otherwise, he would be deported.
5) Once we get married, we do a change of status, then he can start applying for work permit and green card.
So between step 1 to step 5, it is currently anywhere from 5 months to over a year. From step 1 to step 3, it is variable. And of course, there are fees associated with each step 🙂 And missing information or filling out forms in the wrong order can result in possible delays in processing. And….in some rare cases, deportation could result if there is any doubt of foul play.
We found this guide extremely helpful:
Why can’t you get married first?
We technically can. HOWEVER, if we got married before sorting out the immigration thing, then we would have to file the marriage visa. That itself again, would take 9-12 months. During that period, he would not be allowed to go into the US. Plus since we went down the fiance visa route, we would essentially be starting over. Our goal is to minimize our time apart but at the same time minimizing the impact to our careers. \
What was helpful?
- There are many resources online. We have also consulted an immigration lawyer. He confirmed many of the things that we have researched. I was also reassuring to have another independent opinion.
- While we are still waiting to hear back from the government (they have just received our paperwork a few weeks ago), we were thankful that we ran marathons. Why? We have official websites that documented that we were together, and official photos that we were together and running with our friends. I don’t think you can argue with that? It also didn’t hurt to be featured on the Big Sur Marathon newsletter kissing.
- Keeping good records helps. We kept airline receipts. In my case, I only fly one major airline, so I essentially have printed out my frequent mileage statements for the past 2 years, and highlighted the times that I have flown to Calgary to meet Hill Sgt as well as times that I have flown to our vacation destination.
- Carving out time for it and making it a team project. We created a share folder, so we have managed this like a project.
- Taking pictures of us but also with our friends and family. Taking pictures at public event (like marathons or with celebrities – like Kathy Switzer) was also helpful.
- Triple checking everything. Unfortunately, since the job of the reviewer is to look for clues for inconsistencies, we had to make sure there are no errors (even the tiniest errors) on the information that we have submitted.
Again, how does running help in my case?
Besides the fact that we actually have listed all of our many races together and running vacation as supporting evidence to our application, preparing for this thing feels a whole lot like preparing for a marathon: it takes time, effort and dedication. With each milestone, we will get closer into achieving our goals. So…while it is frustrating, we both agree that in a few years, we will look back at this, and smile at how we have overcome this together. After all, this is the man who have ran with me through my first marathon – yes the whole thing in May 2011. If a couple who can survive running a whole marathon together in 3 hours 58 minutes (with one being an experienced fast runner, the other one, a first timer) , I truly think that the relationship can survive almost anything. 🙂
Our first marathon together – Calgary Marathon 5/2011- taken a 41km by Hill Sgt; almost the same spot when he asked “sweetie, can you speed up now??” – Fortunately for him, I was too tired to smash him. Little did we know, this moment will forever be a reminder of our strong we are – we survived running my first marathon together!
The UGLY Truth: Every time someone asks me about wedding planning, I feel like I have failed them. What kind of bride am I to not know when my wedding date would be? (Rhetorical question here, you don’t really have to answer it). As fun as wedding planning is, mixing in time sensitive governmental applications/forms can be very stressful. The added uncertainty on when things can be approved means I really don’t have a good idea on when my planned reception can be. As a type-A individual, this has made me very uncomfortable, but with Hill Sgt’s support, I have come to acceptance of it. I am thankful that many of my long runs/easy runs have been great stress reducer – I always feel re-energized after them.
Don’t worry – this is not my dress. I did try out many (and still looking for THE DRESS). And yes…this one is a Vera Wang.
In the meantime, as unromantic as it sounds, I am waiting for the note to tell me I have 90 days to get to a courthouse to get married. And secretly, I am really hoping I can have my “wedding”/”celebration” later in the year. If we are still on schedule.
Have you dealt with difficult and lengthy governmental application process? How do you approach the task? Any Advice you would like to share?