This site is typically about investments and things in economy. However, I have one and only one other personal hobby, which is in-line with his pursuit of craftsmanship in investing, – long distance running. As it is not a weekly or monthly event for me to run a full marathon race, please bear with me with this piece of writing that is not directly related to the theme of this blog.
For all my life, I have been (trying to stay) living an active lifestyle. I ran casually in college, though no college track team will have an interest in drafting me. I joined the student residence hall soccer team because it did not have try-outs (meaning anyone could join). I used to be over 220 lbs when I was 18 years old and lost to 150 lbs in 6 months time due to a bad breakup with a girl. The medium of channeling those sadness and frustration was running. So in a way, running was a therapy back then and it rebalanced my life (first time living by my own, over-spent allowance money due to lack of money sense back then, a breakup, and other stress that a typical teenager had).
(Picture below, when I was 220 lbs, in 1999)
My weight then had ups and downs after college. I was very fit when I started my first job in Singapore (and ran a pretty good 10K race with new freshmen class colleagues). Then I slid into mild obesity when I settled into a stable lifestyle (stable work, stable relationship, stable life all along).
Then I came to United States in 2008. Adapting to a new environment and outside my comfort zone, I picked up running again and successfully managed my weight down from 180-lb-ish to 160-lb-ish. Until everything gets into “autopilot” mode again, I regained that weight and slid into mild obesity.
When my son was born, I was on night duty, which means the sleep was all, fragmented into pieces. Lack of sleep and lots of stress with being a new dad helped me gain about 30 lbs to a recent peak of 200 lbs by my son’s 1-year old birthday.
At 200 lbs and a body fat of approximately 25%, I promised myself to put more focus on managing my own health and wellbeing. That’s when I started my Nike Training.
Because running has done wonders to me in the past, I resorted to its help again in summer of 2017. However, the difference is that now I am older. Very quickly I pulled my hamstring from excessive running on treadmill without proper warm-up, stretching or cool-down. I can only then resort to other methods to lose weight then, and I stumbled upon Nike Training Club app. (Note, this is not an advertisement for Nike Training Club app, far from it).
The best thing with Nike Training app is that it is completely free. I hate the idea of committing huge monetary payments upfront to some trainer or some program contractually only to find myself forced to move forward due to this commitment device. I would like to start at lowest cost possible. (Yes, value investors typically are thrifty in everything they do in life). Soon enough, I followed Nike Training Club through its beginner’s program, then intermediate program and advanced program.
At the end of the first full cycle, I had already lost 20 lbs, built lots of muscle mass and looked and felt awesome.
(picture on the left, right before marathon training)
Training in gym will make you look good in a mirror but you don’t really have a metric to compare against. (It is very hard to celebrate the fact that the biceps are 1 cm bigger than last week!). Being a competitor, I started seeking something that is more commonly measurable, generally positive to my health, and not too expensive to participate. On October 1, 2017, I ran a local 10-k race that managed to clinch #5 in my age group (now looking back, that pace was quite embarrassing). However, I was hooked to distance running from that moment.
I then set my goal to train for a full marathon and try to get Boston-Qualified and “Sub-3” (run a full marathon in less than 3 hours time). That started everything.
First marathon was Long Island Marathon on May 6th, 2018. After a excruciating punishing east coast winter training, I stood at the starting line in Long Island wondering how can I finish this daunting 26.2 miles distance.
I started a bit too fast than I should have, which was a typical rookie mistake. I missed several water stations because the water spilled out was more than water went down my mouth. I was a bit short on energy gels in the end and three muscle groups were showing signals of cramping.
Regardless, I managed to finish my first marathon without bonking or cramping and I did it in 3 hours, 10 minutes and 35 seconds.
Santa Rosa Marathon Recap
(Picture on the left, right after Santa Rosa Marathon)
Santa Rosa Marathon was my second marathon for 2018. This training cycle started about 4 days after Long Island Marathon (a bit too aggressive, too early). I felt great in July when I pushed weekly volume to over 80 miles. That’s when things fell apart. The cumulative fatigue is a delicate matter to manage. If you are not careful, you will fall over into over-training camp and not be able to recover from the training. In late July, because of frequent business travel, heavy weekly running volume, lack of proper sleep, I injured my both knees due to tight and overused hamstring muscles. MRI showed a minor MCL sprain and knee effusion. And the remaining weeks were largely how to manage the conditions so that I wont miss too many training sessions.
In hindsight, this training cycle effectively ended with the injury. No matter how hard I push afterwards, the speed was gone; the knees can’t perform as before.
In the taper week, I was secretly praying that with reduced volume, the knees can come back slowly and I should be able to perform on race day. That did not happen.
On Aug 26, 2018, I woke up at 3:30am local time, 3 hours prior to race start time to do the pre-race routine: breakfast, “empty myself”, warm-up, bring all items and drive to the starting line. The weather was quite perfect: 50 degrees and 90% humidity.
The start was quite normal. My strategy was to start slowly and try to push the pace in second half of the race after mile 20. So for the first few miles I kept a 7-minute pace throughout. But quite frankly, certain stretch of the road was unpaved sandy surface, which is not that great to run on. Part of the route has very uneven paving, which may kill your ankle if you are not careful.
At mile 14/15, I felt better than what I felt in my first marathon at the same segment: no signs of muscle cramping or any other system breakdown. I was planning to push the pace a bit to see how hard I can go. That’s when knees went nuts.
Around mile 19/20, both knees were screaming at me. The pain was getting sharper and my body was a bit out of control of my mind. I knew then it was not my day. The knees are giving up at that point. From the pace split, there was a noticeable 30-second slow down around mile 20/21, which was due to knee pain.
The rest is history. I did not achieve personal record, did not get to Boston qualifying time nor did I break 3 hours (the grand goal).
I finished Santa Rosa Marathon in 3 hours 11 minutes and 25 seconds (equivalent pace was 7’18”/mile)
Marathon running is really like long term investing. You need to have an objective assessment on everything. You need to be patient and methodical. You need to deal with setbacks and come back stronger. You need endurance both physically and mentally. Sometimes a lot of effort and sweat may be jeopardized by a single overlook/mistake. So attention to details and avoiding deadly mistakes are more important than beating one highly watched measure.