Marathon #18 – Little Rock Marathon (3/6/16)

Marathon #18 / Overall #24 / State #6 (Arkansas)
Little Rock Marathon
3/6/16

On the countdown to marathon #20 in Chicago to come… Little Rock was #18. Who would knew that I was going to PR on this course.

In retrospect, I felt like my overall performance at the Houston Marathon was average at best, just to strive to “complete it”. I had lost the excitement of racing and just striving to “complete”.I believe that I may have cruised into a “plateau” in my running, and simultaneously, my walk as a Christian lately (get to that later). Perhaps it was because of work, the stresses of trying to find a job with the pathology job market these days as good as “POOP ICON” (that’s a separate issue which I will not discuss now so please don’t ask lol).

Houston is F-L-A-T, Little Rock is H-I-L-L-Y. They’re 7 weeks apart, and I have not practiced hills consistently prior to Houston. How do I get my body there…

(3 weeks since Houston, 4 weeks until Little Rock)
I attempted the Rocky Raccoon 100 miler in Huntsville with minimal training, but only made 66 miles and had to drop out because of impending hypothermia (35 degrees with 90% humidity at 2AM in the morning after 20 hours into the race). I knew that I probably would’ve been better off with a winter jacket (hindsight is always 20/20), but after talking to people, they told me that I had to run more and train more. And I have to admit.. I kinda hated training at that time. I was doing it alone. I decided to join a running group here in San Antonio, FINALLY. I’ll still do my low mileage training but just do speedwork with the group and the long run as well.

It has not even been four full weeks since I joined the Soler Sports Stone Oak winter training group (thanks to Charysse who convinced me to swing that way ha). The Stone Oak area in San Antonio is full of hills. I had been practicing Evolution Running on top of Chi Running (I felt like I was hitting a plateau with chi).

(Saturday)
I drove up to Dallas on Friday, and rode with my parents up to Little Rock on Saturday afternoon. It has been a while that I wanted to make Chicago either a sub-4 PR or my #30th overall race. It was a matter of quantity vs quality. Taking on everything and just “getting by” vs picking and choosing and do it wholeheartedly as if unto the Lord, not men. Sounds like my walk, attending church, bible talk, etc, and me asking, “what am I doing here? Does this really matter? Why”, etc…

I needed some encouragement from the Word so I was reading off the book of Hebrews. And I said, “God, show me the purpose of this trip and race in Little Rock”. The answer I got from Him was, “How do you expect to grow if you do not push yourself?” (It’s funny how Jesus likes to answer a question with a question when he dealt with the Pharisees LOL) It became clear that I need to step out of my comfort zone here. Instead of cruising a 5:30-5:45 marathon, I would do it with all my heart.On the flip side, I was afraid. What if I bonk out or cramp up? Then my goal of a PR is ruined.  Yes I longed for a PR that beat 4:35:36, but I knew that it should not be the focus. What mattered more was that I did this with the best of my abilities with the training that I have done so far, and leave the rest up to Him.

I got to the expo around 3:30 PM. As I was getting my packet I was asking people how hilly the course is. One of the guys said, “this is not the course to get a PR in.” I texted that to my coach/friend Charysse and she was like, “don’t listen to him.” This was actually against the “odds” of the course (the theme of this year’s race is called “Game On!” haha), for most people think that a PR here is crazy. But at the end of the day, it didn’t bother me or weigh me down. I just wanted to be out of my comfort zone and give Him back my best.

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Ran into a few maniacs and pic with my parents at the expo..

I caught up with an old friend of mine for dinner carb loading at an Italian place.

This was so hiliarious… Somehow I ended up waving at a bunch of random strangers while they were in the restaurant and we were waiting outside so I took a self(WE)fie. And then when I sat down they left and took another self(WE)fie – this time I was inside and they were out… LOL

(Race Day)
This was the first time in which I decided to wear something that is NOT a maximalist shoe for a marathon. I have been training hills in the Altra Torins (which has moderate, but not maximal, cushioning, and a wide toebox that promotes natural foot position compared to most other brands), and somehow, when I put on my pair of Hokas, the Hokas just don’t “feel” right… But I thought.. but I’m used to these Hokas. What if I pull something if I switch from maximalist to moderate cushioning? But I didn’t train enough in these!!?? etc

But remembering my “vow” to God about step out of my comfort zone, I put the Altras on and did not think twice before leaving the hotel room.

I was socializing at breakfast with a few random strangers and me this old guy named Cliff who was running his 455th Marathon!

We all got on the shuttle bus. My parents walked with me to the starting corral at around 6:30. Right before we were starting, I could feel a little discomfort in my legs already. I had my calf compression on and suspect that might have been the problem. But wait.. I’ve worn the calf compression is every single marathon and ultra that I have done in my life??!!

Once again, off with my “status quo”, I just rolled down the calf compression on both legs. I was going to face the challenge of running without my “comfortable” maximalist shoes and calf compressions like I normally do. This would require more discipline in the way I land and paying closer attention to my running mechanics.

I started in the front pack of Corral D. At the front of the pack is the 4:25 pace group. They took off at a little faster pace than I did. As for me, the first few miles I felt horrible as I was trying to warm up. But once I was warmed up, after the 10k mark, I caught up with the 4:25 pace group. So, here’s the scoop, if I had run a 4:25, I would beat my old PR by a good solid 10 minutes. So I ran with the 4:25 for a minute or two and realized that I could push even a little faster. But then this fear came up – what if I fall behind and they pass me again? I’m not fast enough, nor am I good enough to pass a pace group.

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” – Colossians 3:23-24

Even if this means passing a pace group in which you know you have abilities to push further, rather than staying behind for “comfort”. So I took off, knowing that while there is a risk of falling behind if I go too hard, I’d still want to give it with all my heart rather than regret not doing so later.

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Nice view of downtown Little Rock as we were coming back in…

Neighborhoods of Little Rock…

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Split point…

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State Capitol…

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Half mark…

After the half mark, we encountered some monster hills going west on Kavanaugh Ave. I can see the people slowing down already and I was passing a lot of people, as I was steadily climbing up. And there were a few people running faster than me. Both were potential comparison traps in keeping me from running my own race, for there is no room for pride or envy at all during a marathon which I am focused on running MY own race, not that of others.

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Pictures don’t do justice… this was part of that LONG moster hill!!

While climbing that monster hill, there was one instance which I remember the guy from the expo saying “this is not the place to get a PR” and remembered what Charysse told me “don’t listen to him”. So I quickly blocked that thought out and kept going.

At around mile 14-15, I could now feel my feet getting sore (don’t usually happen this year if I wear my maximum cushioning shoes), and my hips getting tight (as I was using my glutes more in this marathon). But there was ultimately one thing I focused on – moving forward wholeheartedly. You see, this isn’t about whether or not I can finish. I KNOW I can finish. The mattle battle at stake is – will I push myself to RUN with the best of my abilities or will I give up and walk/jog/cruise along? If I push myself to RUN, how do I not bonk out and be forced to walk the rest of the way?

So I said, “God, I don’t ask for much, but I just ask for strength to carry me another mile.”

IMG_7065.JPGShortly after mile 17 there’s this HUGE descent.. And I ran into this guy again! I didn’t recognize him at first but he was the one whom I had a lengthy conversation with around mile 9-11 back in Route 66 (he was the mentor of this 12 year old girl who ran along with him). In fact he was the one who initially told me about Little Rock!! He was the one who was mentoring kids to stay fit, coaching kids who are straight A students AND those who have been in trouble with the law – bringing together the best and the worst for one common mission. I’m still inspired by their mission.

And here I am.. running Little Rock 4 months later.

After mile 18, the course started to flatten out as we were running parallel to the Arkansas River trail, but the sun was came out and shining brightly on us, with relatively no wind flow as we ran westbound. I could definitely feel the heat catching up and my abdominals getting tight. I saw many people slowing down, and I was tempted to do the same. In my mind I was going.. Hebrews 12.. run the race, Hebrews 12.. run the race. When life gets hard, am I going to quit?

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These people are silly… So is this where you turn around? LOL

We turned around after mile 20 and headed eastbound. Finally… some wind for relief and cooling! But then the wind was like running against a wall (not a big wall but can one feel it…? you bet!). There was a clock after mile 22, and I could sense a PR coming, but at the same time I felt my legs and glutes tensing up. It feels like.. one mistake and I could spaz up and be defeated..

And I said, “God, I don’t ask for much, but I just ask for strength to carry me another mile. But I will never give up.”

There were some rolling hills after mile 24, and at this time, I felt one of my hamstrings locking up. I was forced to pause for a brief moment and massage it out a bit and change position. This is a race, but at the same time this is NOT a race. I decided to be a little more patient with these few rolling hills until we were approaching downtown Little Rock.

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The best thing all day… I saw the mile 26 marker at a far distance, and saw that my time was only 4 hours and 13 minutes. So I sprinted until the finish line. This has never happened before. And out of all places, it happened in Little Rock where there’s monster hills. I PR’d with a time of 4:16:36, which was about 19 minutes faster than my previous one in Toronto in 5/3/15. There was a PR bell that you can ring, and when I pulled on it.. it broke. LOL.

Little Rock is known for its gigantic finisher medals. This is indeed the biggest one I have next to the Texas Metalsaw Marathon in Kingwood!

I’m still very grateful for the support of my parents once again on this race.. Again, something I would’ve never imagined even 6 months ago.

Pushing myself beyond my comfort zone allowed me to realize what potential I have for growth. To the average person, and to most maniacs, it’s simply awesome that one just finishes the marathon, especially the one in Little Rock. But the praises of men is nowhere near the comparison to what God has motivated for me to do.

“However, as it is written: What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived the things God has prepared for those who love him” – 1 Corinthians 2:9

This victory of getting a PR on this tough course in Little Rock is symbolic and reminder of greater ones to come. Keep pushing myself out of the comfort zone and run a fulfilling race for Christ rather than cruise along at a leisurely pace. I’ve been asked to lead Bible talk in the next few weeks, and potentially faced with people to reach out / build relationships with. The job market in pathology is piss poor and I’m wondering from time to time if I am gonna get a paycheck after I graduate fellowship… I don’t freakin know what’s gonna happen tomorrow. But it doesn’t stop me from keep on trying, and even if it means joining the military, I would (that’s a whole other discussion I won’t go into right now so again, please don’t ask lol). That’s just a few of many examples, and I don’t really know what’s out ahead. All I can do is to step out in faith and do it, and gaining a deeper trust in God’s provision for my life.

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Next stop… Reno, NV (#19)!!

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