I actually bought Hal’s program at TrainingPeaks, but to sync to Google Calendar I need to upgrade to Premium. So instead I created my own calendar and made it public. Here are the links to add to your own calendars.
I’ve always wanted to run the SF Marathon, so when we decided to move back I signed up for it right away. They had a 3:00 pace group, so I started the race with them. We were clocking 6:40 miles and had more than 30 seconds to spare after the downhill sections after coming back from the Golden Gate Bridge. A friend from my running group joined me in Golden Gate Park and paced me for a couple of miles, it was awesome and resulted in a pretty fast mile 18. I started to fade at mile 19, at around mile 20 the 3:05 pacers passed me. I think sub 3 at TSFM was a bit aggressive especially with inadequate hills training. Since I already got my BQ, I just took it easy on the downhills in the last 10k. I was mindful with my quads and didn’t want them to cramp up. I also didn’t want more black toenails. I ran high-7 and low-8 min-miles only and it was a pretty comfortable stroll to the finish line. I finished with a 3:11:00, which I’m pretty happy with.
Newton Distance S III, ran SFM with these, was curious about the brand, decent shoes, only have about 128 miles on them so far
Altra One2, just got them, very light weight, zero drop, the sizes run a bit small so maybe get a half size bigger than usual
RooSport pouch, I picked up one of these at the Grandma’s expo. I used to run with running belts and switched to this. The RooSport doesn’t bounce at all, and it holds my phone and a few Gu packets. I’ve done many long runs and ran SFM with it, no chaffing at all
Feetures socks, only socks I run with now, super comfy, no chaffing or blisters after over 1k miles in them. They’re also available for cheap at Nordstrom Rack
Meelectronic M6P cans, cheap $25 cans with volume slider and button, solid inexpensive running cans
I picked up a pair of SKINS RY400 recovery compression tights before Grandma’s. I put them on shortly after the race and had them on 24/7 for 3 days. They helped a lot. I now sleep in them after harder workouts. If you want to recover quickly, I highly recommend them. I hydrate with Nuun tablets after workouts, the flavors are tasty and sugar-free. I take Gu Recovery Brew after long runs, and after races I drink Hammer Recoverite.
I will attempt sub 3 again at CIM. Maybe one of the Tahoe marathons too, but should probably just focus on CIM. I’ll do Boston 2015 and probably the Boston 2 Big Sur Challenge, that’s to run Big Sur, a pretty hilly and difficult course, 6 days after Boston. I already signed up for TSFM 2015, I should be much better prepared for it next year.
I run about 40 miles per week since I moved back to SF. Every Thursday I run with ARM SF, a local running store in Presidio Heights. They have Thursday 7pm and Sunday 9am group runs. I also started hitting trails and hills more, but I’m still really bad at hills.
I signed up for Grandma’s shortly after moving back to the states, my parents live in the Twin Cities and my aunt lives in Duluth/Superior, so logistically it’s super simple to run this race. It’s also one of the best races to BQ. I had June 21st on my calendar, but didn’t really put together a day-by-day training schedule like I did with my marathons last year. I knew my base was decent, and I just needed more speeds. I loosely followed the “Coach” training schedule in the Nike+ iOS app last 5 weeks before the race.
My dream goal was to go sub 3, but the fastest pace group they had was 3:05. I figured sub-3:05 (BQ+5) should be enough room to get into Boston, so I ran with the 3:05 pacer. I pretty much ran in front of the group until around the 20-mile mark, I started to fade when I hit Lemon Drop Hill, at which point the pacer passed me and I chased him til the finish line. It was fun to hear the foot steps of the entire pace group behind me almost the entire race. I finished with a chip time of 3:04:49, which qualified me for Boston.
After my first marathon in March, I signed up for 3 more marathons in 2013. Taroko Gorge Marathon and Sun Moon Lake Marathon in November, and Taipei Fubon in December.1
2013 Taroko Gorge Marathon
There was an pretty decent quake two days before the Taroko Marathon, so the full marathon got changed to half. I ran it in the rain and had a blast. I didn’t really have a HM time in mind as I’d been training for the full, so I sort of winged it, but managed to PR with 1:38:47, averaging 7:39 minute-mile. I placed 161st overall and 58th in my age group.
2013 Sun Moon Lake Marathon
Two weeks later I went to Sun Moon Lake for the first annual Sun Moon Lake Marathon organized by TWEMBA . The route around the lake is around 29k, so they had a 29k super half marathon, and a 42k. The full consisted of running around the lake and the remaining 13k out on a highway, and turning back to complete the loop. I didn’t know much about the course and the elevations before the race. I think the race booklet had a course map, but I don’t remember seeing an elevation chart. I got placed into the first wave2, and I saw the 3:40 pacers at the starting line. My goal was sub-3:40, so I ran with the pacers. They went out way faster than I would’ve, my first split was in the low 7-minute pace. That obviously wasn’t really 3:40 pace, but I figured the pacers knew the course and there must be some hills coming. They were right. The course was 80% slight downhill, and since it’s a loop, the remaining 20% had to make up for the elevation loss. The last 10k was pretty insane, I don’t think I had ever run up a steep hill for that long. I managed to run all of it even though I contemplated walking a bit. I ditched the pacers at around the 15-mile mark and ran my own race. Finished with a PR of 3:35:55.52 3, I was 19th overall (but out of only 728 runners). Not bad for my second marathon.
Check out the elevation changes
2013 Taipei Fubon Marathon
Taipei Fubon Marathon happened under heavy rain. I got up at 4am, went through my usual marathon morning routine, and showed up at the super crowded starting line about 45 minutes before start time. I read that almost 50,000 runners participated for the various races that day! The race was pretty uneventful. I had to run fast in the beginning to catch up with the 3:30 pacers. Turned out one of them was one of the 3:40 pacers I ran with at Sun Moon Lake. Their balloons got tangled up so they stopped to fix them at around mile 5, I didn’t feel like stopping to wait so from then on I ran my own race. My goal was sub-3:30, I ran at 7:30-7:45 pace and felt strong, so I just kept going. Ended up with another PR of 3:22:47, 220th overall and 67th in my age group. Not quite BQ, but now it seems closer to reach. 4
I fueled with GU gels (with caffeine) during the races and I drank GU Recovery Brew within 15 minutes of finish. They served me well. Sun Moon Lake was mostly pounding downhill, so the bottom of my feet hurt quite a bit the couple of hours after the race. My feet felt fine after Taipei Fubon Marathon, but my legs hurt like hell that night that I couldn’t get much sleep. I took some Ibuprofen the next day and it helped with the swelling. The day after either marathon, I couldn’t walk fast and especially struggled walking down stairs. I felt better the following day, and by day 3-4 I felt good enough for an easy run. I also foam-rolled, soaked legs in ice bath, and got sports massages 3-4 days after the races.
Somehow I thought that was a good idea. I figured training for one was pretty much the same as training for three within 2 months, which turned out to be mostly true. ↩
It was the first race in Taiwan I’ve run that had waves/corrals, not sure why not all races have them, they really help with traffic. This is especially true when a lot of participants are there because running is sorta trendy here and they’re there for selfies to “PO” on Facebook. ↩
It was easy to “PR” when it was my second marathon. ↩
As we entered Central Park at Columbus Circle, I turned to Meb and told him as much. “It’s an honor to run with you,” I said. His response is something I’ll never forget.“No,” he said. “Today is not about us. It’s about representing New York. It’s about representing Boston. It’s about representing the USA and doing something positive for our sport. We will finish this race holding hands.”I’m a believer that running brings out the best in people. Running inspires. Running unites. Running uplifts. By pushing us to our limits and across them, running takes us to places we never thought possible—or even real. A good run can turn a dark day bright and make a bright day shine brighter. Performed on the scale of a marathon, running can transform communities and change lives.
A 6.7-magnitude earthquake jolted Hualien 2 days before the marathon, the organizer changed the full marathon to a half marathon due to safety concerns. 12k runners all ran the half in the rain. Decent race, I didn’t really know what my HM pace should be, so I just kindda ran by feel. Finished with chip time of 1:38:47.
After moving to the bay area in 2005, I got into clothes. I quickly went through the loosely organic path of starting from Honest Forum, to dry denim at MyNudies and finally ended up at superfuture, at where I spent most of my free time. Most of my friends after college were met at various superfuture parties and meetups. I don’t have the time to participate actively on fora anymore, but now I’m sorta a lurker at StyleZeitgeist, and I go back to sufu when I need to sell jawnz.
In 2006 I had a pair of Nudies Regular Ralf Dry Selvage (RRDS) and APC New Standard jeans in my rotation, I wasn’t completely pleased with the RRDS and I got bored of the APC NS. At the time the hottest jawnz on superfuture were the Dior Homme 19cm and 21cm, this was back when Hedi Slimane was in charge. I tried on a pair of 19cm in Vegas, and decided that they would be my next project, a couple of days later I called their Beverly Hills store to get a pair shipped to me. I knew the 19cm were stretchy, so I downsized and got them in 28 (years later a noob asked if I downsized on a certain pair of jeans and another sufuer replied for me and said “ayn always downsizes”).
But you have to be skinny, like real skinny, to rock them 19cm.
I was also obsessed with iPods, I followed all the announcements like how I follow iPhone and iPad announcements now. I bought new iPods on release date. When the Nike+iPod kit was introduced, intrigued, I picked up a Nano and kit.
I started running, my first Nike+ run was at 10:24pm, October 24th, 2006. It was a very difficult 2-miler with a pace of 9:22. Not a bad start actually, but it was hard.
After a couple of months, I built up to a daily 5-mile run during lunch. I worked very close to home, so I would go home, let my dog out, go for a run, make a smoothie and go back to work. That 5-miler became 7 miles, and I ran those distances for years. I started running for vanity, to rock super skinny jeans, but I loved running, I loved heading out with a distance in mind and accomplishing that goal.
I ran with my dog too, he loved to run. But his max distance was about 2 miles, which was quite something for a little yorkie. I would run 2 miles with him, bring him home, and do another 3 miles by myself. Later on I just ran on my own, but I skated around the neighborhood with him in the evenings.
I occasionally did Nike+ challenges with friends, the leaderboard and trash talk features were great motivation to run. To challenge ourselves a bit more, we did a “run 100 miles in a month” challenge in July of 2008, toward the end of that month, I did my first 10 miles run. That route became my favorite 10-miler in SF, it starts from Columbus Street in North Beach, toward Fishermen’s Wharf, out to the half-mile pier at aquatic park, up the hill and down to Fort Mason, along Marina Green, along the beach in Crissy Field, til the bottom of the Golden Gate Bridge, and then all the way back to North Beach. The mid-point was Hopper’s Hands, most runners in San Francisco would touch those hands when they get there.
At that point I could run 10 miles without much effort, I didn’t know much about the technical aspects of running, but I loved running and I loved my routes in SF. It’s hard not to, the weather is almost always perfect and I think it’s the best way to see San Francisco.
I did a couple of 5k and 10k races, running by myself for years, I loved the comradery you get in races.
I got my friend Gordon into running, he got serious very quickly, joined running groups, and even ran a few marathons in Texas. In October of 2010, he visited SF when he was training for a race, I told him about my 10-miler but he needed a few more miles, so we added the Golden Gate Bridge and back. It was an amazing day and still one of my favorite runs to date. That was the first time I went significantly over 10 miles, we did about 14 total, I ran with the Nike+ GPS app, so you can see it here. Our pace sucked, but the distance was there. He told me I was ready for a half-marathon for sure.
A couple of days later there was a Groupon for the U.S. Half Marathon, the start and the finish line of that race is a 5-minute walk from my apartment, and the route is basically my 10-miler, plus the bridge. Groupon for a half-marathon is funny, who signs up for 13.1 miles just days before the race? Well, yours truly. It really doesn’t get much easier or cheaper than that, I would feel wrong if I didn’t sign up. The night before the race it rained hard. I was up at 5am, and the rain didn’t stop, that was about 2 hours from the start time, and since I was 2 blocks away from the race, it seemed certain that I would run my first half-marathon in the rain.
Spoiled by California weather and gym membership, I had never run in the rain before. In bed, I grabbed my iPhone and researched on how to race in the rain. Some quick tips were useful: wear thinner socks. Actually that was the only tip I followed, I’m sure I read other ones but I probably didn’t understand the terms and I definitely can’t remember them now. I considered not running, but I knew there were runners who drove or even flew in from outside SF and stayed in hotels for the race, I lived 2 blocks away, I couldn’t bare the thought of not going through with it. Running in the rain turned out to be a ton of fun, it also helped that I knew everything about that route. When we turned from Van Ness onto Bay Street there was a huge crowds cheering us on, I was hooked. I did it in 2:00:50 (Nike+ link), which made me want to get under 2 hours really badly. I ran the second half the following April and did it in 1:47:37.
The US Half is a great race, and when you run both halves, you can stack up your medals.
After my second half-marathon, I didn’t run as much. I spent most of my winters snowboarding in Tahoe. To get my legs ready for snowboarding season, and to avoid running injuries, I started doing yoga. I still loved to run and ran often, but I didn’t sign up for any races til I moved to Taipei in Summer of 2012.
Running is very popular in Taiwan, and the Taroko Gorge Marathon is arguably the top marathon on this island. It’s very difficult to register for Taroko. The CTRRA website, like most websites in Asia, seems like it is behind a dialup modem with a 386 processor. Registering for Taroko marathon is harder than pre-ordering iPhones at midnight. Miraculously Sherry and I successfully registered for the half-marathon, which was the hardest event to get into. Taipei summer was no joke, so I hadn’t run for months. But I thought a HM was no big deal and our focus was to get her ready for her first 13.1. I found a training schedule and I ran with her in all our trainings, our pace was shit but her goal was just to finish.
After some hiccups in getting train tickets to Hualin for the race, we made it there. My parents went with too as they were visiting Taiwan. Taroko Gorge National Park is sorta like Yosemite, but way shittier. I definitely wasn’t blown away, but I guess it’s nice. We toured around the day before the race in a taxi, to sightsee and to get a basic idea of how the race will be like. I was worried about hills, but the route seemed pretty flat. We finished the race okay, I stayed with Sherry until around the 10 miles mark, at that point she slowed down so I ran ahead at probably around 8-minute-mile so I would get enough time to wait at finish line to take a photo of her crossing it. That didn’t pan out, there were too many people, and I missed her crossing the finish line. race at Nike+
After Taroko I signed up for the Taipei Fubon Half, she signed up too. I also trained with her, I wasn’t going for a PR, and I actually wasn’t sure if I could beat the PR I ran 2 years ago. Without proper carb-loading the night before (I think she met her friends for dinner so we had dinner separately), she struggled early on, it must’ve been at around mile 3, I left her and ran my own race. Hadn’t run at a decent pace for almost a year, my splits sucked, but it felt good to run. (Nike+ link)
Both races we started toward the back of the pack, there were a lot of poseurs in races in Taiwan, it seemed like they were more interested in posting photos of them at a marathon on Facebook than actually running it. I decided next race I would line up in front so I won’t have to dodge people taking selfies in the middle of the road.
Living in Taiwan there aren’t a lot of marathons you can do without flying to a different country, you also wouldn’t want to do one anywhere near summer. When I got an email about the 2013 Taipei Expressway Marathon in the middle of March, I signed up. It would be my first marathon. I took a week off running after the Fubon HM, and after that it was only 12 weeks away from the marathon. Most training schedules are at least 16 weeks, I managed to find a 12-week schedule that looked decent and doable, so I marked up my calendar, printed it out and stuck it to the fridge. Being able to physically check off runs is a very powerful motivator.
Even though I had run 4 half-marathons, I really didn’t know much about running. Gordon told me a couple of times that it was twice the distance, but way more than twice the effort, I trust him. I started nerding out about running. I was a long-time listener of Marathon Training Academy podcast, I subscribed to it but can’t say I listened to every single episode. It was entertaining and I enjoyed following Trevor’s journey from not-a-runner to his first HM. I got back into MTA when I started my marathon training. Since then Trevor had completed 2 marathons and his second one was under 4 hours. My goal for my first was just to finish, but the competitor in me had a dream goal of sub–4:00.
I ran with my iPod nanos when I started to run, and I switched to running with my iPhone with the built-in Nike+ integration. When Nike launched the Nike+ GPS app as a paid app, I bought it right away. As an engineer I like data, the more the better. I geeked out on marathon training and running techniques, one thing that kept showing up was cadence, that the optimal cadence should be above 180. Nike+ app doesn’t track cadence, it pretty much only tracks pace, splits, GPS route, but it has all my runs in their database. I also knew that a heart rate monitor would be useful. I looked into getting a GPS watch, but after much research, I ended up using the iSmoothRun app and a Polar H7 Bluetooth heart rate monitor. iSmoothRun is amazing. It is highly configurable, I won’t go into its complete features list, but it gives me audio feedback on cadence, heart rate and heart rate zones, how close you are at your target pace, hydration and nutrition reminders, it pulls my current weight from my Withings wifi scale (technically my scale uploads it to Withings and the iSmoothRun app gets my weight data from the Withings API). Best of all, you can setup custom workouts such as intervals training. It also exports your activities to most social training sites, including, you guessed it, Nike+. This is important coz I had all my data at Nike+ and didn’t want to stop using it. In addition to Nike+, I export to Strava, RunKeeper, and DailyMile. It also backup to Dropbox if you have to re-install the app or have multiple iPhones.
My cadence was in the 90’s (or between 180–190 if you count it that way), so I wasn’t overstriking. When I trained for the Taroko HM I decided to run with my Vibram FiveFingers. I have to admit I was intrigued after reading Born To Run. I picked up a foam roller years ago and knew that if I spent the time rolling out my IT Bands after a long run, my knees wouldn’t feel as bad the next day or 2. The long runs on the training schedule looked intimidating, in week 3 it was a 14-miler with 8 of them in marathon pace, and of course being my first marathon, I really could only guess what my pace would be. Every week after week 3 I would set a longest-run personal record. I doubted if my knees would hold up. To make things worse, I slightly injured my left foot during the Fubon HM, my left foot was in pain during the first 2 weeks of training. As I checked off runs in my training schedule, my legs got stronger, my left foot stopped hurting, and I started to feel ready. For cross-training, I did yoga 5 days a week, and I rode my fixie leisurely on my off days.
One advantage of training in Taipei is that massages are very cheap here. I can get a 2-hour massage for about 40 bucks. There are also a lot of foot massage places, while I’m not sure if foot reflexology actually works, my feet surly feel great after getting one. I found a place nearby that only cost $10 USD for a 30-minute foot massage, I went there at least twice a week. You have to be careful with massages though, I found that I should wait at least a day after my long runs to get a full-body massage, and my legs actually need a day or 2 to recover from a deep massage. After a more difficult long run I decided to stick with ice baths and foam roller, and only got foot massages after that. While massages are cheap, I don’t really trust them here, you get what you pay for. On a side note, if you need a sports therapist in SF, I highly recommend Carlos Aparicio.
It rains quite a bit during winter in Taipei, I ran in the rain a lot and learned a couple of things about it since my debut HM. When your clothes are soaking wet, it doesn’t matter what technical fabric they’re made of, it will chafe, a lot. I also found out other areas that are prone to chaffing that I didn’t know about. I shipped a a couple of BodyGlide to Christine’s in SF and asked Sherry to bring them back for me. (Can’t find them in Taipei). Highly recommended.
I added a few more running-related podcasts in Downcast and listened to them in my runs, these podcasts are entertaining and contain great information, highly recommended:
I subscribed to Runner’s World magazine on my iPad, and read Scott Jurek’s book Eat and Run. His book was definitely inspiring. When my left foot hurt like hell I never considered skipping a run, because Scott had run ultras with broken ankle and toe! I learned about the importance of re-fueling after workouts and developed a habit of drinking berries smoothies with an apple, a banana, and flax seeds after shorter runs. After long runs, I would have recovery drinks. Since I can only find Gu products here, I use Gu’s Recovery Brew. Hammer’s Recoverite has good reviews as well.
The 20-miler in week 7 was a tough one. After mile 14, I had to take 10-second breaks every half mile. Without enough water and any fuel, I didn’t have fun. You can see my struggle in my splits:
In retrospect, I hit “the wall” at around mile 14 in that run. I didn’t have breakfast and set out early in the morning to get it done. I learned that proper fueling is paramount during longer runs (right? lol). I went to Howard’s Bike and bought a ton of Gu gels, and I set a nutrition alarm every 45 minutes in iSmoothRun.
During week 10 of my training, I listened to Matt Fitzerald’s interview on Runner Academy. He talked about things runners can do to avoid “hitting the wall” in marathons. The Wall was definitely something I was worried about, especially after my awful 20-miler, so without even finishing that podcast, I bought Matt’s book in iBooks. btw, living abroad, I really appreciate the ability to buy books and magazines on my iPad. Without iBooks and Kindle, I don’t think I can find any of these contents in Taipei, at least not in English.
Back to Matt’s book, let me say this, if you are training for, or plan to run a marathon, you should read The New Rules of Marathon and Half-Marathon Nutrition: A Cutting-Edge Plan to Fuel Your Body Beyond “the Wall”. It’s available on Kindle and iBooks, I prefer iBooks for real page numbers and vertical scrolling. I wish I had read this book before I started my training. The idea of combining nutrition and training into marathon preparation makes total sense, and I ate relatively healthy, but I never thought nutrition had such great impact of pushing back the wall.
The last 2 weeks were highly impacted by this book. He recommends doing a caffeine fast the week before the race. Caffeine can enhance performance, but the body has to be off of it for a few days to maximize its effect. I love my morning ristretto, so this was especially hard. As a matter of fact, I was sipping my macchiato when I read the chapter on caffeine fast and immediately put the cup down to start my caffeine fast, 6 days before the race.
Surprisingly, caffeine fast was the hardest thing in my 12-week training. On that Tuesday I had severe headache, the muscles on my hamstrings hurt like hell, it felt like I was having a fever. I took Panadol (aka Tylenol in the States) and it didn’t help. When I did forward bends in yoga (uttanasana), my finger tips couldn’t touch the floor coz the back of my legs hurt. Despite the caffeine withdrawal symptoms, I felt okay in my Tuesday 6-mile aerobic run and the Wednesday recovery run. I also made a point to run slower in those runs (another thing I learned from Matt’s book).
Matt also advocates doing a simulation run. Ideally you would do this earlier in your training, but I was in week 10 already when I read about it. I couldn’t comfortably fit in a 26.2k (yes 26.2k as in kilometer) “simulator”. The simulator run makes total sense though, so I did the best I could to emulate the race day. I decided to run my last long run, a 10-miler, at 6am, the race start time. I also wanted to try out the pre-race breakfast and hydration, so I got up at around 4am to drink a glass of smoothie and about 16oz of water. I headed out at around 6am. At mile 7 I started to experience GI problems. Without going into too much detail, I found out smoothies were horrible per-race breakfast.
Day before the race
I did a bit of carb-loading the day before the race. Dinner at 6pm included homemade whole wheat penne with chicken breast and pesto sauce and a glass of chardonnay.
After dinner I packed my bag for the race: cap, sunglasses, heart rate monitor and strap, BodyGlide, pre-filled water bottle, Recovery Brew packet, and lots of Gu gels.
I went to bed at 9 but was still wide awake at 10, so I took a sleeping pill. Having previously taken the same pill, I knew there wouldn’t be any side effects. Feeling anxious even with the pill, I only got a few hours of sleep.
The race starts at 6am, and the location is 45 minutes away. To give myself plenty of time to digest, I got up at 3am. Breakfast was oatmeal with honey and banana, and a macchiato with a triple ristretto shot (oh yes!), followed by 16oz of water. Matt has a table in his book that is very helpful:
His book saids that runners tend to over-hydrate before a race. In my last half-marathon, and I wasted 10 minutes waiting in line for the bathroom at mile 2.
Matt wrote that if you drink enough water to have to pee once after the initial bathroom visit after you woke up, then you’ve hydrated enough for the race, no more water after that. And absolutely no water within an hour before the race. Great tip.
When I arrived at the race, first thing I did was to go pee, and then I waited in line for the bag check, got geared up, and then it was almost gun time. I started walking up the highway ramp to the starting line at around 5:55. When I got there, I saw a bunch of guys with signs of different pace time. I read about pace groups in marathon, but I have never seen one before. I asked the guy with the 4:00 sign where the 4-hour pacer was, and he pointed me out to 2 guys with black balloons tied to their running caps with 4:00 written on them. As I wrote earlier, my dream goal was sub–4hour, so I was very relieved when I found the pacers. I knew that if I could keep up with them and then go full out when the finish line was in sight, I should be just under 4 hours.
The pacers were obviously strong and experienced. The pace group was toward front of the crowd, so I didn’t have to go around selfies-snapping, V-Signing runners. The runners in my pace group looked strong and serious. At some point in the race, one of the pacers asked if anyone in the group was doing their first marathon, I raised my hand, there were only 2 of us. He paid closer attention to us afterwards and gave good advice throughout the race, such as to relax the upper body and to make sure we ate the bananas and drank the sports drinks even if we didn’t feel hungry or thirsty. My fueling strategy was a Gu gel (which contains caffeine) 5 minutes before the start, and then every 45 minutes, also I would drink all the sports drink to supplement the energy needed for the race. (Gels alone wasn’t enough). btw, before the race I couldn’t find out what brand of sports drink they would provide, but in the information booklet I saw an ad for Super Supau, and that was the only sports drink ad in the booklet. I figured Supau was probably the sponsor, so I bought some and had that in my last week of training to make sure my body could handle that drink.
The pace group helped tremendously, I kept up with the pacers without any problems. One of the pacers kept telling me that I was looking good and should have no problems at all, which was reassuring.
The Taipei Expressway Marathon takes place at a 10km stretch of highway. The half-marathon and marathon start at the same time, to the 10k point and back, at which point the half-marathoners finish and the marathoners turn back to give that 10k another go and back. I heard from quite a few people that this race was boring, and I could see why. But being my first marathon, I loved it. I tend to think about distances in parts, in my runs I always run for half the distance and then turn back to run home. It’s less intimidating, at least to me, to run two 8-milers, than one 16-miler. For 26.2, I knew I could easily handle 13.1. After my 12-week training, I didn’t really worry about anything under 14 miles. People think running on the highway is boring because there’s nothing to see, no spectators were allowed on the highway for obvious reasons, so no crowds to cheer you on. I thought running on a highway was super cool, when else would you be allowed to run 26.2 miles on a state highway? Cheering crowds might be cool at the start, mid-point, or end of a race. But they were everywhere at the Fubon half-marathon and I found them distracting. I run for myself, not to show other people.
After the first half of the race, I knew exactly how the second half would be like because I just fucking ran it once. I knew there wouldn’t be any surprised hills, or bends, or anything. At the half-marathon point, I felt great, and I quite welcomed the idea of doing it one more time. From 21 to 32km I ran side by side with the pacers, we didn’t talk, I had podcasts playing with headphones on, but I enjoyed running with other people for a change. They checked their watches often so I knew we were good for the 4-hour goal. The pacers also looked back often to check on the rest of the group.
Before I got to the starting line, I didn’t know there would be pacers, so I setup a marathon workout with a slight negative split in iSmoothRun:
The pacers were there to run a constant-speed race instead of negative split. So I was a bit faster than my target pace in the first split, but I was a couple of seconds behind in the second split. When I got audio cues from iSmoothRun that saids “X seconds behind your goal”, I naturally sped up. At around 20 miles, one of the pacers noticed that I was trying to not run ahead of him, he patted me in the back and told me that he had been watching me and I was doing awesome, and that I should be in the 3:30 pace group next time. He told me to go ahead and run a faster pace. He also told me to go all-out when I see the 3k sign. I thanked him but told him that a sub–4 would’ve been awesome already. I also knew that after the second turn-around point, every step I took was farther than anything I had run before, I remembered how much I struggled in my 20-miler without fuel, so even though I felt great, the concept of knocking out some 7- or 8-minute-miles the rest of the race seemed crazy. I kept up with the pace group for probably another mile, until the next fueling station, at which point I started pulling ahead and ran my own race. I solely depended on iSmoothRun’s audio cues and the race markers. The crowds thinned out at that point, and since I was away from the pace group, there was almost no traffic. The official photographers probably got some awesome shots of me in the last 10k of the race. I remembered I saw the Taipei Grand Hotel at the start of the race, and I saw that the hotel was coming up on my right, so I knew the race was almost in the bag.
Couple words on breathing – breathing is very important in yoga, in fact a teacher once said it is the only important thing in yoga. In my training I found that inhaling for 3 strikes, and then exhaling for another 3, gave me a meditating effect to get through the distance. A week before the race, the April 2013 issue of Runner’s World dropped. In Taking a Deep Breath, editor’s letter by David Willey, he wrote about inhaling for 3 strikes, but exhale for 2. This way it alternates which foot strikes the ground during inhale and exhale. A bit of balance made total sense, so I tried the 3:2 breathing variation on my recovery run the day before the race, and I generally breathed that way throughout the race.
I am pretty mindful of my body, it’s something I learn from practicing yoga. Earlier in the race I felt something funny at the extensor tendon of the big toe of my left foot, I paid attention to it and it went away. At around 22 miles I started to feel slight cramp at my hamstrings, but they were never bad. I figured that was probably normal when I ran 22 miles straight at around 9:00 pace. I ran to the 5k sign knowing that 5k is about 3.2 miles, which was a pretty short run to me even before I trained for this marathon. I ran on, drank all the sports drinks when I saw them, and took gels when iSmoothRun told me it was time for nutrition. And then 2k, 1k, I thought 1k is under a mile and that is a joke to knock out, at that point the idea of finishing my first marathon in under 4 hours was starting to sink in. I did see runners walking on the shoulder in the last 3k, and I knew they were most likely much faster runners than I was. They had to walk the last few K’s probably because they hit the wall, or something cramped up. At that point, the worst thing that could happen was to run too fast and for some reason had to walk to the finish line and miss the 4-hour mark. So while I was anxious to finish the race, I was very careful to not run too fast, not get too excited, and smooth into the finish line. I also got constant audio feedback of my heart rate zones in iSmoothRun, I ran mostly in zone 3, in the last 10k of the race, I went up to zone 4. I knew zone 4 was fine, and the elevated heart rate was most likely due to the heat. I hit zone 5 many times in the last 10k, when I hit zone 5 I tried to ease myself back into zone 4. Having a heart attack and drop dead in a marathon was a real threat to me, I was probably being silly, but I’d read about shit like that too many times.
When I saw the finish line and the clock with “3:54” on it though, I fucking sprinted to it, I was stoked! After I crossed the finish line I was so happy that I yelled out “woohoo!!!” with arms in the air. There weren’t many spectators there, and the other finishers clearly weren’t as excited as I was, so that felt a bit awkward but I didn’t care. After I crossed the finish line I knew that per the GPS on my phone, I actually hadn’t run the full 26.2 yet, it was probably like 26.15 or something. I contemplated turning back to finish the distance for Strava and Nike+, but I thought crossing the starting line again with the chip might screw up the timing system, so I just ended the iSmoothRun activity at 26.1 miles. This is why I still don’t have a “best marathon” time on Nike+, which is okay. My clock time was 3:55 something. I felt amazing. I waited around to cheer for my pace group and to thank my pacers. We walked back to the stage area together and took a quick photo:
I cannot thank the pacers enough, especially that guy with the 0883 bib, for his attention and advice throughout the race, it made the race a lot easier for me, at least psychologically. You know what they say — you run the first third of a marathon with your legs, the second third with your head, and last third with your heart.
btw, that guy with bib number 1900 was also in the 4:00 pace group, I checked his result, he ran a faster race than I did. He must’ve started in the back and caught up to us. He was in the 50–59 age group! Kudos!
I picked up my checked bag and mixed the Gu Recovery Brew packet into my pre-filled water bottle and gobbled it. There was an award ceremony but I wasn’t really interested, so I picked up my lunch box and left. Sherry and I got into a cab to get to the nearest MRT station, and headed home.
I finished my first marathon with a chip time of 3:54:29 – not an impressive time by any standard, but I am very happy with it. The race was uneventful. It was smooth, almost too smooth. I maintained a pretty constant pace, with a slight negative split due to leaving my pace group behind in the last 10k of the race. I guess some would think that my race was boring, but I think boring is not a bad thing for my first marathon. I did not hit the wall, I’d like to attribute that to Matt’s book, obviously there’s no way to know if I would’ve hit the wall without having read his book. But anything I could do to avoid the wall is worth doing.
And of course, this post would be incomplete without a gears list.
iPhone 5, the battery is definitely not ideal, especially in Taipei where cell signal is flaky. I found that Spotify, even with offline playlists, burns through battery quite fast. But listening to podcasts in Downcast, even streaming them, doesn’t use much battery at all. So I run with podcasts. During the race I listened to The Talk Show in which Gruber and MG talked about Apple and the Galaxy S4, and then the Accidental Tech Podcast on Apple pessimism
iSmoothRun, this is the best running app on the iPhone, bar none. Get it if you run with your phone
Polar H7 heart rate monitor. In Bluetooth 4.0, there is a HRM profile, and it’s super low power. The iPhone 4S and 5 support this profile, Polar and wahoo both make Bluetooth Smart HRM that are compatible with iSmoothRun, I went with the Polar H7 because it was the only one I could find on Taiwan Yahoo Auctions. Polar announced the H6 at 2013 CES, it’s smaller and slightly less expensive than the H7. Only difference is that H6 is Bluetooth only. The H7 has Bluetooth as well as Polar’s proprietary radio technology to use with other Polar devices such as GPS watches and bike computers. I would’ve bought the H6 if I could find one, but I was lucky to find a H7 in Taipei already
iFitness belts, I have 2 of these, one with water bottles and one without, both came with bib holders. The bib for this race wasn’t hole punched though, and I didn’t have a hole puncher at home, so I ended up using a different belt and safety pins for the bib
amphipod belts, I also have 2 of their belts, the iFitness belt I have is smaller, but I had to carry 5 Gu packets with me for the race, and my amphipod could carry them and my phone just fine, so I used my amphipod pack
VFFs SeeYa LS, there are only a handful of stores in Taipei that carry VFFs, I got these at a store called Go Hiking by the Daan MRT station. They’re super light and awesome. I’m ready for my second pair now
Oakley Half Jacket 2.0, I ran with some cheap Arnette specs I picked up at TJ Maxx for years. I did some research and the Half Jacket came up top of my list. When I was in Melbourne I went to an Oakley store and picked up this special edition with the frame in matte carbon fiber finish, a set of polarized lens, and 3 other pairs of lens, for about $300, pretty good deal. Admittedly I have never used the other 3 pairs of lens, and probably won’t. I do like the matte finish, and the only way to get a black pair with matte finish is through their Standard Issues store, and I don’t have a military ID to qualify for that
I run with running caps, they’re useful so sweat and rain won’t get on my face. I like Nike caps more than New Balance’s
Brooks Essential Run Jacket II, I have it in the bright yellow, good to stay visible on the road. It worked flawlessly in the rain. Reasonably priced too
Brooks Infiniti Notch Short II, these shorts have compression shorts built in, very comfortable, perfect length. I would order a few more if I were in the States, especially when they’re now on sale for only $31
for tops I run with a number of lululemon and Nike tops. A lot of the Nike shirts have headphone cable hooks on the back of the collar, which is pretty neat if you run with headphones. Shirts are expensive, but a lot of local fun runs come with tech shirts. I used to participate in the Sunset Fun Runs organized by Fleet Feet in SF. You donate $10, you get to do a fun race, have a party afterward, and you get a tech shirt, not bad!
You definitely don’t need all of these gears to run a marathon. A decent pair of running shoes is all you really need, actually no, you could run barefoot! But gears definitely make running more enjoyable for most of us, it’s unfortunate that running could be a pretty expensive sport, with tech shirts costing over $50 each, and race entry fees in the hundreds of dollars. Races in Taiwan are very affordable, this race cost $1000 NTD, which is about $33 USD only. I got a tech shirt, a towel, lunch box, water, sports drinks stations, and plenty of bananas and sponge stations. There was no crazy expos at packet pickup, but that was possibly the best 33 bucks I’d ever spent.
Now I am hooked, and I can’t wait to sign up for my next race!