Tag Archives: Marathon

The Amazing Race

I’m back at Stanford.

Last Saturday I competed––competed is a strong word––RAN the US Air Force Half-Marathon, the first non-marathon road race I’ve ever run and the first I’ve run outside of California. Besides a couple 100-meter dashes in 8th grade track & field, my parents have never seen me compete in a legit race before, so I’m glad they were able to come out and help me carry all those heavy, heavy 1st place trophies home. 🙂 OK, maybe not. But I’m still glad they came.

The race was scheduled to start at 8:30AM on the grounds of the National Air Force Museum, at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, so I woke up at 6AM to eat a banana and drink some water––it’s best to eat at least 2-3 hours before a long run––and pump myself up for an exciting 13.1-mile journey with the Air Force’s finest. Right before a race I’m always worried that my race number or timing chip is going to fall off while I’m running, and Saturday morning was no exception. I probably checked my bib and chip at least 10 times before heading out the door.

With my super strength, I will tear off these warm-ups.

With my superhuman strength, I will... tear off these warm-ups.

The weather was perfect: 60-something and sunny. After a painfully slow Air Force rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner” and a flyover by a couple F-16 fighter jets––apparently, the “sound of freedom” is that of your eardrums exploding––we were off.

From mile 1 to the mile 6 turnaround, I just glided, sitting on the tail end of the 1:40 pace group. Life was easy. I didn’t keep track of my pace too carefully, but there was a huge, ripped Air Force guy right in front of me, and I figured if I could stay with him, I’d be in pretty good shape. Well, he kept a metronomic pace, but this guy was FAST; just trying to keep an eye on him, I left the pace group in the dust.

By the time we reached the tenth mile marker, I was ready to die. Every breath hurt.

If you compare the last 6.2 miles of a marathon with the last 3.1 of a half, they’re pretty much the same. In either case, you feel like you’re going to die. The only difference is despair. In a marathon, when you hit the wall at mile 20, you literally have no energy left in your body. In a half, at mile 10, you know the pain is temporary, no matter how much it hurts. In Harry Potter terms, it’s Avada Kedavra vs. Cruciatus. Both hurt like hell, but one is somehow infinitely worse than the other.

So when I saw the sign that said, “Your feet hurt because you’re kicking so much ass,” I grinned and kept on running. And at mile 12, I sprinted past my giant pacer––who I admit DID have a knee brace on––and never looked back. The tunnel vision kicked in around then, and I saw nothing but the next guy/girl I had to pass in order to make it to the finish line as fast as humanly possible. Then it was over.

The taste of victory.

The taste of victory.

I crossed the finish line in 1:36:35, a pace of 7:22 per mile. Negative splits too––I covered the first half in 49 minutes, the second half in 47. And as I discovered on Saturday, there’s a certain satisfaction in being competitive in a race––not necessarily in terms of being fast enough to vie for an overall or age group award, but rather in sustaining a competitive mindset throughout the entire race. Invariably, when the glycogen depletion rears its ugly head at mile 20 of a full marathon, all I can think of is finishing the race upright. In Saturday’s half, I crossed the line with the notion of finishing as quickly as possible still intact in my mind. It’s kind of like taking a class pass/fail vs. taking it for a letter grade––in one case all you care about is getting by, in the other you always want to do as well as you possibly can.

Will and me

Will and me

Post-Race Family Pic

Chilling with my parents

Today’s assessment: nothing bruised, nothing broken, nothing sore. Now I feel like running barefoot again.

What a way to end the summer.


P.S. Congratulations to Mom for finishing her first 5-K on Friday!

Congratulations, Mom!

Congratulations, Mom!

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USAF Half-Marathon

I’ve been at home for nearly 3 weeks now, and I’m headed back to Stanford on Saturday.

But right before I get on that Frontier Airlines flight bound for San Francisco, I’m running the US Air Force Half-Marathon with Will, one of my childhood friends. I’ve been training pretty consistently most of the summer, but for some reason, I’m not really nervous or even completely aware yet that I’m going to be running a 13.1-mile race in less than 2 days. Usually, right before a marathon, I’m all hyper and raring to run, but this time, I guess I have other things––the start of another school year, mostly––on my mind. Also, in terms of difficulty and glycogen drain, 13.1 miles is definitely NOT equal to half of 26.2 miles, so I haven’t had to carbo-load or taper. And no taper = no “taper madness.” 🙂

12 weeks of training: Check. Race number (4469): Check. Broken-in shoes (Brooks Adrenaline): Check.

So I’m in pretty good shape for the race, right?

Nope. So on Tuesday morning, I picked up the book Born To Run, by Chris McDougall, and couldn’t put it down until I finished it that afternoon. It’s a hyper-paced story that revolves around a lost tribe of sorts, the Tarahumara Indians of the treacherous Copper Canyons of Mexico. The Tarahumara are legendary among those in the know––essentially two communities: ultrarunners and crazy sports scientists––as the world’s natural-born superathletes, gods among men. The problem is, with AK-47-toting drug lords guarding their precious crops and perilous cliffs that drop away into nothingness, few people ever make it in AND out of the Copper Canyons alive (the Tarahumara themselves are a peaceful people). Anyway, McDougall weaves together a storyline involving a mysterious gringo named Caballo Blanco (“White Horse”), a delegation of the world’s best ultramarathoners, and a 50-mile race through the heart of Tarahumara country pitting the best of modern running against the best of the “Running People,” who run in sandals made of used car tires and rope. And the book is NON-FICTION. Amazing.

The most exciting non-fiction book I've ever read

The most exciting non-fiction book I've ever read

The book talks up the genuine joy of running so much that, naturally, I decided yesterday that it would be a good idea to try running barefoot, kinda like the Tarahumara. And well, it sure felt good while I was running.

Then I woke up this morning.

It felt like Chris Brown had gotten mad at my calves and decided to teach them a lesson. (Too soon? Sorry, Rihanna.) Luckily, I still have another day and half before the race, so I should be at full strength by the time I pin on my race bib.

At least the race t-shirt looks sweet.


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An Auspicious Start

It’s 9/9/09.

Welcome to my first-ever post on my first-ever blog!

First order of business: an introduction. I’m Joel, a junior (Class of Oh-Leven!) EE major at Stanford University. Some of my greatest interests lie in entrepreneurship, solar energy, tennis, marathon running, and changing the world, so most of my posts will probably touch on at least one of those topics. I might also use this blog as a training log and a journal of sorts, to keep track of my weekly mileage and occasional profound thoughts.

Maybe if I smile big enough I won't remember later how much this hurts right now...

Big Sur Marathon 2009: *Maybe if I smile big enough, I won't remember how much this hurts right now...*

I decided to start writing a blog for a few reasons:

1. Writing’s fun when you don’t need a thesis and “6-10 pages double-spaced by Friday at noon.”

2. EE problem sets rarely call for more than a few written words, and never a complete sentence. Given my courseload, if I don’t do any writing on my own, I’ll leave Stanford in 2 years with diploma in hand, broke AND illiterate.

3. I missed out on Pokémon cards, Tamagotchi pets, Xanga sites, Furbies, Monica Lewinsky, and all manner of useless trends that made the rounds in American high society near the turn of the century, so I’m long overdue for an atrocious lapse of judgment.

Another good reason to blog: I’m serving as Marketing Director for the Asia-Pacific Student Entrepreneurship Society (ASES) at Stanford this year, and even though I have no formal marketing experience at all, I do know that, as a marketer, the more people you can reach, the better. So starting in a couple weeks, I’ll be posting periodic updates on ASES speaker events, mixers, and conferences. Most ASES events are open to the public, so if you’re in the Bay Area, come on by Stanford to hear and meet the best and brightest in Silicon Valley and beyond.

Thanks for reading.


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