Sept 2017-Paradise Valley Trail run (Half marathon) race report

(Still playing catch up, with my very late posts)

This race was not on my 2017 calendar until about 4 weeks before I ran it. DSC_0440Originally, 2017 was all about the Seoul International Marathon (March), Grasslands Marathon (july) and maybe one undetermined fall marathon, with a few half marathon trail runs sprinkled before, after and between those three races.  And then they cancelled the Grasslands race, in June. Dang it.

A record dry winter/spring turned the normally knee high ‘grasslands’ into brittle, short grass by early June. In attempt to save the grass, they chopped the race.

Yeah, I was looking forward to this trip to Inner Mongolia to run on the endless, rolling grasslands. Very disappointed. I had trained well, hitting solid monthly totals;

  • March 130 miles,
  • April 157 and
  • May 190!(2nd highest monthly total ever)

How great would it have been to run on soft dirt, across the gentle, rolling hills like this? Cool, crisp morning temps followed by warm, bright sunshine with low AQI (air quality index).

Grasslands

Guess it wasn’t ‘meant to be.

In June I focused on finding my next race, and soon. Didn’t want to wait too long for fear of loosing too much of the fitness I’d earned during the winter and spring in Beijing. I’d already booked a trip back to the PNW (pacific northwest) for September 2017 and one day randomly found the NorthWest Trail Runs site. Well how about that, the Paradise Valley Trail Run (half marathon) was the day after I landed in Seattle. Perfect.

It wasn’t a full marathon but I would go all out and just see what happened. Also, a huge plus about this race was that this ‘trail’ was a real trail. A dirt path with some rocks and occasional root but mostly dirt. Not a path littered with thousands of stones and rock stairs, that you see in China.

(See My first Chinese Trail Race report-

At the start, straight up.

Walking/hiking/not running on rocks

One down side to running this particular race so soon after flying in from China was yes, I would be jet lagged but heading east, (Beijing to Seattle) the jet lag would be to my advantage. Likely, I’d be awake by 4am PST, so just shower, eat a big, leisurely breakfast and head NE from Seattle toward hwy 522 and Monroe, WA.

The shuttle pick up was at a church and I was the first car in the lot. Way early. Within 20 minutes, three other cars arrived and all runners stayed in their cars, due to the fall chill. When the school bus pulled in, about a dozen runners emerged from the car park and climbed on. The first, of several shuttle buses, drove us about 15 minutes to the tiny (few parking spaces) trail head and the start of the race.

An hour before the gun, plenty of time to stretch, walk around a bit. Other runners emerged with each drop off from the shuttle bus. The final bus arrived about 15minutes before the start. Nearly 100 folks lined up to start. Ages mixed from high school cross country team members ready for a long sprint to pensioners looking for a nice walk.

I started in the upper quarter and followed close behind three younger runners for about the first two miles. Few runners passed us but we (slowly) passed a few. The trail was nice, mostly dirt with some roots but didn’t have to be hyper aware and constantly quickly picking your feet up, like when you run over rocks. By half way, I still felt good so kept the speed up. Running through the green everywhere evergreen trees and lush ferns was a real treat after the dry, brown, and arid, HOT Beijing dessert summer.

The route was two loops and as I started into the second loop, I had no idea how many runners were ahead of me. I guessed a dozen, but truthfully it was just three. Held on, trying to run fast but not fast enough to flame out. There was some elevation gain, about 1000 feet total, so that helped slow me down a bit.

The weather was cool but very misty/foggy. And I didn’t realize until late in the race that my garmin watch lost and reconnected several times to the GPS satellite. Therefore, when my watch read i’ve completed 11 miles, I knew i run further but not sure how much further. How much was left? No idea.

After not seeing another runner for 5-10 minutes, a guy passed me, moving at a good clip. There was no way I would catch him so didn’t even try. But sped up a bit, hoping to prevent being passed again.

Making a sharp right turn, found myself just feet from the finish line and crossed it to the sound of a claps from just a small handful of runners. who had already finished. I was number 4! And just 40 seconds from 3rd and my first podium. Oh, well. I was pleased with my result.

Overall, a nice course, with rolling trail surrounded by lush vegetation and tall, so tall evergreen pine trees. Loved it. So nice to be pack in the PNW.

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Seoul International Marathon race report

IMG_2365 (1)Back in March, the family traveled to Seoul, Korea for a three day weekend, and a marathon. Seoul was on our ‘list’ so didn’t have to lobby very much to convince the family to sign up.

I picked this marathon because the race course is mostly flat, with 1000ft of total climb and thought I could give it an attempt to ‘run’ a marathon. Doubted I could BQ but wanted to give it a shot.

One major challenge, because this race is huge- 30k runners, I wouldn’t be “running” unless I could land in a starting wave up near the front.

How could I score a (treasured) wave near the front?

  1. Months before the race…First, I ‘asked’ the race directors, if they would grant me a position, in an early starting wave. No luck. They said I must send in a ‘race certificate’, from my last fast marathon. Never heard of a ‘race certificate’ before…
  2. I sent in the URL to the results page of my last ‘fast’ marathon. The Tunnel, September 2016. No luck. They asked for an official ‘race certificate’.
  3. The tunnel race does not send out official race certificates. So, I created one in powerpoint and sent that in. No reply.
  4. Month later, sent in my (fake) race certificate again. No reply

What options did I now have? Cancel the trip or go and hope they gave me an early starting wave? Worst case, they put me in the back of 30k runners and I just ‘jog’ the course. We flew to Seoul.

Day before the race, I picked up my race bib and guess what?? There are 5 waves, which one do I land in??

5th wave.

Bastards

The race day weather was nice and cool, not frigid. Sun would come out and warm things up. We took the metro to the start area and after a bit of confusion, getting to the back of HUGE crowd, I had about 15minutes to get ready. Not ideal.

Spent about 13 of 15 minutes in a port-a-potty line. (when you gotta go, you go) Then quick stretch and jumped into the line about 50 yards from the end of the masses and masses of Asian runners.

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Will helps me stretch before the start

First mile very slow. Knew I’d waste A LOT of energy but couldn’t help it- I started weaving through the crowd to find daylight and space to ‘run’.

Mile splits:

  1. 8:30
  2. 7:49
  3. 8:23
  4. 8:13
  5. 7:48
  6. 8:42

Not only is weaving through the crowd a way to waste energy but its an easy way to fall. Cutting in front of a runner, they might accidentally trip me. Or, more risky, I was jumping on and off side walks to pass people. Again, not ideal.

Miles 7-9 made good time but I think I was running fast because I really had to PEE and no porta potty in sight. Come on, not a porta potty for MILES.

Mile splits:

  • 7- 7:53
  • 8- 7:53
  • 9- 7:52
  • 10- 8:06
  • 11- 8:18
  • 12- 7:53

Second half of race, temps starting to warm up. Likely, not drinking enough liquids. And still weaving through the crowds although by mile 12, crowd was thinning. Starting to pay for all that energy I’ve wasted.

  • 13- 8;21
  • 14- 8:41
  • 15- 8:08
  • 16- 8:33
  • 17-8:09
  • 18-8:13

I don’t recall much about this section but started to really feel it. Starting to struggle to keep pace. And little shade from sun.

  • 19-8:29
  • 20-8:41
  • 21-8:40
  • 22-8:48
  • 23-8:56

Last push. Slowing down and by mile 26, the wheels were starting to fall off.

  • 24- 9:06
  • 25-9:21
  • 26-9:55

Done! 3:44:23

Considering the crowds, I should be pleased with this time. But, I’m not. Bet I lost at least 5, maybe 10 minutes weaving through the crowd. Oh well.

Few last notes on this race:

The positives:

  • We liked Seoul. Great food, laid back, clean and tiny (compared to Beijing) city
  • Mostly flat course
  • aid stations well supplied
  • Good weather

Thing to improve:

  • Where are the porta-potties? Even ran down metro tunnel looking for one. Didn’t find one, for miles.
  • placed in last wave so wasted energy weaving through crowd for miles.
  • finished in stadium and took over an HOUR, I swear, to get out of the stadium, find my drop bag (in stadium parking lot) and get out onto street.

Overall, I’d recommend this marathon as a way to see the city. If you aren’t in a hurry.

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Running through the winter 2017

(originally written Feb ? 2017)

As I mentioned in the last post, late summer and fall 2016, my running was temporarily interrupted by a medical issue. I missed the Beijing marathon in September but I wasn’t too upset. It will be there in 2017.

By November first, I was able to crank the running back up to my regular routine. Although I was starting from scratch (no fitness base), I was thrilled just to be back in the game and thinking about what my next marathon would be.

As the brief fall ended and winter announced its arrival in mid November with its cold northern wind barreling down the blocks of Beijing, I select Seoul, Korea for the next marathon. I liked:

  • easy travel with 1.5 hr direct flight
  • several reviews gave the race organization a thumbs up
  • relatively flat
  • a nice place for the family to visit over a long weekend
  • good food.

Through December and January, my monthly total miles climbed to 131 and 144. Missed some training runs due to travel and minor injuries or strains (ankle, shin, hip). This time of year the air pollution is the WORST. For days in a row, this poison in the air stunk, and looks like off color smog. Thank god for the cleaner air of the gym. Ran 12, 14, 16 even 18 mile LR on the treadmill. Ugh, not easy. Even with a TV and podcasts to mix up the endless, mindless stride after stride.

Much more so this year vs last, the air pollution mentally was really tough on me. Likely because I don’t work 9-5 in an office, on bad air days I’d go to the gym for an hour or so but besides that, I hunker down inside the apartment all day. We have 7 air filtration machines in the apartment and on the days when AQI is above 250, we have to run the machines on Max for hours. The whirl of these boxes, hour after hour, also can kinda drive you nuts. They are loud.

The flip side of shitty air days is when the air is good, or back to ‘normal’, it’s exciting, a really big deal. I must to go outside and run.  Typical winter gear is, the wool running socks, two pairs of (light) gloves, hat, 2-3 shirts, neck gator, hat, and bright orange (capt n safety) running vest and out I go.

Another huge plus for me and my running is that I’ve started to run with a local running group. Heyrunning is a sub group of HeyRobics, that organizes three runs a week in the Sanlitun and Chaoyang Park neighborhoods of Beijing. I had read about this group last year but never made it out to meet them. Then, few months ago, I discovered one my son’s classmates’ father was involved, so I showed up, in late 2016.

HeyRUn

I’m not too consistent meeting and running with the group, maybe 2x per month, usually a Wednesday night. Those nights they gather at a coffee shop (Mocha Bros) about a 3 minute jog from our apartment. The group head into Chaoyang Park for about an hour. Normally, the routine is some stretching, easy jogs then longish speed work. For ex. 8x30sec temp runs, with 30 sec rest in between. Usually, between 5-10 people show up depending on the air temperature and the air quality. They cancel at AQI > 200. Those who show up is a good mix of really fast, fast and not so fast folks. Mostly Ex-pats from England, France, Germany, USA, Switzerland and Holland.

Although I don’t run with the group so often, I have tried to do most of my long runs with a ‘bloke’ from England. His daughter was in Will’s class Sept-December 2016, before she moved to Australia. Very long story, but her dad couldn’t move with them. Martin is a few years younger than me and insanely fast. 3:06 marathoner.

It’s really nice to have someone to chat with while we run those long 2-3 hr jogs. We are by far the oldest in the running group so its nice to chat about things the others wouldn’t understand; Margaret Thatcher, disco, the 1980s, etc.

When the air quality is above 160, I’ll head to the gym to run on the treadmill. I really should get to the gym once a week so it is insanely expensive and pretty nice facility. This winter/spring, I averaged 5 runs a week, sometime six. I’m pleased with the amount of running i’ve completed so far this year, with only minor injuries. My monthly running totals:

  • January – 144 (miles)
  • February – 140
  • March – 129
  • April – 158

Next up, long lost Seoul marathon race report….

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Lingshan 30km trail challenge Race Report

Saturday, I ran, no mostly slowed jogged and walked the Lingshan 30km mountain trail race. This race is about 80 miles NW of Beijing. I knew this course would be a real challenge and it absolutely was. Simply put, the toughest race I’ve ever run. I did finish but wasn’t pretty. Not as pretty as the stunning landscapes.

IMG_2612

3/4 up the first and steepest climb.

The day started with the 3am alarm. Up, dressed and consumed my regular pre race food stuffs- PB&J, OJ, yogurt and banana. Stretched some, unpacked my Salomon hydration pack to make sure I knew what I had then repacked it. Walked out the door about 5:15am.

Five of us from my running group rented a driver and van to take us to the race. I only had to walk about 5 minutes to the west gate of Chaoyang Park, the gathering point. The passengers were a blend of personalities and nationalities- Kate(USA), Joyce(Chinese), Abel (Spain) and Christine(Canadian). I had only met Kate before. All are serious runners. Have run many trail races; half, full marathons and ultras. And they are at least 10-20 years younger than me. Unfortunately, I was the only passenger not to sleep on the drive up to the race. Too many butterflies and windy turns.

And the drive was truly up. Off the main highway after about an hour and then back roads. Back roads quickly turned into endless windy roads heading ‘up’. Being in the back of the van, driving these windy roads couldn’t end soon enough.

When we arrived in the (very small) town of Lingshan, we thought we needed to pick up our race bibs here. Christine spoke to several people (all wearing running gear and race bibs) and there was some confusion about where to pick up the bibs. Very critical, we were told to use the public restrooms here in town. The race start had no facilities. (amazing but true). After trying two shops in town, looking for our bibs, we were then told the bibs were at the start location, just up the road. Glad we weren’t pressed for time.

Unlike at the Seoul marathon, we arrived at the start location with plenty of time, over an hour to get ready. There really were no bathrooms or porta-potties. So, we walked down the road and into the nearest woods.

The 100k and 50k had started at 7am and the 12 and 30k would start at 10am. About 200 total people, i’m guessing, gathered for the 10am start. Yes, I was very concerned with a late start time, if it was going to be hot. As we drove between the town and the start, we could see Lingshan ski resort, just to our left. There was a hiking trail going straight up the ski run. I mentioned, “really hope we don’t have to run up that trail.” This trail is about 1 km away from the start and that hill would be the first hill (see picture above).

The start was at 5000ft and with a cool wind blowing, it was cold. I put on my jacket and hat while getting organized. I briefly considered wearing my jacket at the start. Also, decided not to take my new trekking poles. Several people I asked, mentioned you need to have a lot of practice with them to really be effective. Since I only had them a short time and never run in the mts with them, decided to leave them for another race.

Our crew geared up and took a quick a pic with Mao. The startling line was just behind Mao.

IMG_2601

About 5 minutes before the gun went off, a race official led all the runners in a group exercise, warm up routine. Half jumping, dancing and stretching.

IMG_2600

And then the gun went off. I really had no plan, no expectation for how fast I should or could run. Maybe finish between 5-6 hours…? I’ve never run this type of elevation so my focus was simple-go slow up the hills, don’t fall on the declines and when my breathing and heart beat raced, so down more.

The pack ran about a km together to the ski area and then up. And up and up. The pack of runners quickly thinned out. The vast majority of participates seemed to be behind me. After about an hour of slow hiking, way too steep to try a jog, reached the top.

During this climb, my first three mile splits- 11:56, 26:49 (the slowest of the race), 20:34.

 

IMG_2609

Commanding view at 7500 feet but didn’t stay long enough to enjoy it. Turned around heading back the way I came. Going down had to maneuver around all the racers behind me and the growing number of day hikers.

IMG_2607

Sped up on the way down while gingerly hopped over so many stones and took less then 30 minutes to return near the start and the first aid station.

Refilled one of my 16 oz bottles, grabbed a banana, slice of watermelon (really yummy it’s peak season)  and jogged on. My two 16oz bottles on my chest held Gatorade and I had filled my water bladder with water, about 40 oz. The first half of the race, I mostly drank the Gatorade since it would be easier to refill and I wanted to make sure I consumed those electrolytes.

This part of the course was nearly flat but that didn’t last long. Started up again but not so steep.

Soon ran into an official directing runners off the single track trail into the grass as a detour. Quickly realized the reason for the detour was a runner down, on the trail. He was completely wrapped in emergency blanks like a mummy. I remember thinking maybe he is really cold and they are trying to warm him up. Several folks were standing around him but not talking or working on him. Glad I failed to connect the dots. After I finished, I was told this runner suddenly collapsed and could not be resuscitated.

The middle section of the course I recall with minor ups and downs but mostly remember the STELLAR views, endless sea of moutains. For an hour ran at about 5000-6000ft elevation. This section also held the most non racers. The picture below captures part of the horde of day hikers who stopped to pick flowers and herbs. Must have been hundreds of day hikers.

IMG_2598

At this point I was tired but overall felt fine. Some soreness in both calfs and lower thighs but nothing to worry about. I thing I did worry about was my hydration. Every 10 minutes of so, pulled a drink from one chest bottles or my water bladder. But I felt like I wasn’t getting enough liquid so I increased from1-2 sips to 3-4 sips. Approaching another ridge line saddle, focused on the views, appreciating the near perfect weather and trying hard not to think about the upcoming big decline and then the final slow death climb to the finish.

IMG_2616

Very well supplied aid stations.

The decline started in a cloud a dust. Two guys just ahead of me dropped off a ridge line, into the a sea of sand and dust, kicking up a cloud of dust. Following them down, I’d continue down until hitting a road that kicks off the final ascent. No idea the steepness of this descent but let’s just say, really steep.

After a few hundred meters heading down through the dust, entered peaceful and cooler woods. I enjoyed this change of pace in the scenery but many sections held deep leaf cover and didn’t like stepping where I wasn’t sure what was under all the leaves.

IMG_2617

Heading down, this is where I wished I was wearing proper trail shoes. My Brooks Adrenaline did fine but trail shoes’ improved support and traction may make a big difference.

Most of the course, other runners were in sight, ahead of me. Many wore the official race technical t shirt that was BRIGHT neon green/yellow. Seeing these glowing neon shirts up head was a bit reassuring, I was on the course. So many intersecting trails, few times I wasn’t so sure. But, for extended sections of this decline in the woods, not a single neon t shirt in site. Fortunately, the race crew did a fantastic job marking the trail course with red streamers in trees, about every 50-100 meters. So 99% of the time I knew I was on the course.

About four hours into the race, the decline bottomed out at the final aid station. With about four miles left, normally, a 10 minute mile pace is within reach but as I inhaled watermelon, Gatorade and bananas, I felt my body wasn’t happy. That pace wasn’t going to happen. Just trying to keep moving, departed the aid station and jogged up  on to the road that would take me the finish line.

As I tossed the last of the watermelon rinds, I felt the warmth of the sun and quickly decided not a good thing. My legs were nearly black, covered in sand and dust, my thighs and calfs barked with each step. The trek up the final 8km on this deserted mountain road was an ugly, slow slog. This gas tank was empty (aka hit the wall). Initially, tried to jog a few hundred meters at a time then walk. That became jog 50 meters, and walk and then I decided to just walk it in.

Picked up the pace the final few hundred meters and crossed the finish line upright and smiling. Time was 5:39, I know I can do better but I’ll take it.

Of the five in my van, a really good day. All finished and Kate won the ladies 30k, Joyce placed and Abel placed 3rd in the men. (Those speedy youngsters). Didn’t see too many, if any, folks my age racing so bet I at least placed in my age group. Maybe even won it…. Haven’t seen official results yet.

IMG_2604

The top ladies

IMG_2603

Kids in our van

Soon after I arrived home, my wife asked if I’d run this suffer-feast again. Initially, said ‘no’. But, yeah, I probably will.

 

Few lessons learned:

  • Eat more before race. Ate breakfast at 3:30am, since race didn’t start until 10am should have eaten late snack about 8-8:30am. Due to stomach issues (nausea from windy roads) on drive up, didn’t want to eat anything.
  • Drink more.  Too many small sips. Squeezing the water bladder or soft water bottle forces more out.
  • Buy and wear trail shoes.
  • Use poles…. tbd. Glad I didn’t have them but they may have helped.
  • Increase fuel intake. Consumed 5 GU, supplemented by food at stations. Likely didn’t eat enough. Next time, eat more at aid stations.
  • More hill training **
  • Learn how to run downhill***

Next up, Grasslands Marathon in Inner Mongolia- July.

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Second Trail race in China- preview

(written June 8th)

This weekend, I’ll attempt the Lingshan 30k Mountain trail race. It’s part of the Lingshan 100 Ultra trail challenge. If you read Chinese or have Google Chrome set to auto translate, this is all the info about the race. This will be my second trail race while living in China. Lingshan mountain is NW of Beijing, about a 2.5hr drive (with good traffic). I’ve seen pictures and I understand why it’s called the Mount Everest of Beijing. Got some steeps.

With nearly 6000 feet of climbs, going to be really, really tough but I am looking forward to it.

I found this race through the local running group I run with one or two evenings a month, in nearby Chaoyang Park. This race has 12, 30, 50 and 100km distances. The group has runners in every category minus the 12km. About 10 folks total running. I’m running the 30k with 5 others. We hired a driver and a van and depart at 5:30am Saturday. Going to be a long day.

My concern isn’t the distance but the elevation. Steep climbs and worse, steep declines. Going uphill isn’t a problem for me. Just take it slow. But going downhill is a problem. How does one avoid the huge strain on the knees or rolling an ankle on a rock? I’m not sure but I’ll learn as I go.  The elevation profile is below. The first climb is running up a ski run. Looks nearly straight up. And the finish is even worse. What kind of sadist creates a course to have the final 8km go uphill like that? That part of the race will be a true suffer fest.

Am I ready? Fortunately, my training has gone really well since the Seoul Marathon back in March. A few minor aches and pains around the knee and shin/ankle that only required a day or two of days off.  The body held together as I ramped up the monthly miles:

  • 129 miles in March
  • 158 miles in April
  • 190 miles in May

May was clearly a huge month. Two back to back 50 mile weeks, which I’ve never done before. And hitting 190 miles, that’s the most I’ve run in one month in nearly two years.

Endurance was the focus although did some speed work. Really wish I had done more treadmill (steep) incline runs in the gym. Not enough hills and especially declines are likely going to haunt me. Ran some stairs but should have done more.

The course will have just 3 or 4 aid stations so I’ll need to carry fair amount of fluid and some Gu. Decided to upgrade from my trusty fuel belt. A basic one that holds 1 to 4 10oz bottles. Served me well for nearly 10 years but decided time for a major upgrade. Since I’m running in the mountains, if the weather turns i’ll need a rain jacket, extra shirt, hat, etc.  Selected the Salomon Advanced Skin Backpack (12 Set). So glad I splurged:

  • Holds a ton of gear. 12 Liters of stuff
  • So many pockets
  • 1.5 liter water bladder
  • Two 16oz soft water bottles on your chest
  • very comfortable fit, light and hugely important..
  • snug fit. No bounce when run.

I run with it about 4-5 times including a 12 mile run so hopefully no surprises with the backpack on race day.

One other very important training note to mention is that I’ve dramatically increased my use of a foam roller. Should be rolling the calfs, thighs and hips every day but I normally get in 4-5 sessions per week. I know this has really helped prevent sore muscles turning into a problem muscle.

Lastly, race day strategy… mostly, just take it easy and enjoy the day.

 

 

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First Chinese trail run race report

Way, way back in February, I ran a trail half marathon, in the mountains of NW Beijing. It was called Aijiang Mountain cross country race. Here is the race report.

Previously, I’ve only run one “trail” race, a full marathon in the Methow valley of WA state. It was the Sunflower trail marathon, back in May 2015, i think…. LOVED it, the bright sunshine, warm air, killer views as we climbed and descended the single tracks of the North Cascades. But all that decline, humbled me. my knees and thighs hurt for days. Regardless, I knew I’d be running more trail races. Didn’t know at the time, the next one would be in China.

Few months ago, I fell in with a local running group, here in Beijing. They are a nice mix of recreational runners, mostly middle of the pack speed but a handful of hard core, seriously fast athletes. And the medium age is probably early 30s. So, if I want it, they will push my limits.

When I first heard about this trail race in January 2017, via the running groups WeChat page, I thought it a good idea since I wanted to race something during my training for the Seoul marathon in mid march. (that race report is next) The trail race would be end of February, starts at about 3000 feet so it would be COLD! But, I’ve run all winter in Beijing, figured I could deal with cold. Six of us from the running group signed up for the half marathon (there was also a full marathon) and someone booked a driver/van. That was fantastic. Just had to meet the van at 6am, at local hotel and no transportation issues. Unfortunately, there would be three other factors that required my full attention.

First, the white stuff. Beijing is in a dessert and we received ZERO precipitation in January into mid February. Then one week before the race, the city gets about 3 inches of snow and the surrounding mts get twice that. We hoped the sun would have a few days to melt all the snow. Sadly, that didn’t happen. In the shadows, the trail held a powdering of the white stuff and yes, covered rocks very slicker-ry.

The second unexpected challenge to the trail were the stones. (see ‘broken/twisted ankle waiting to happen’ pic above). Most people, like me, just gingerly maneuvered over the snow and slick, large stones. Thankfully, most of the trail wasn’t like this. It was more like single track or Forest service roads- smooth sand and snow free.

Our van driver experienced a few issues with the directions and so we arrived about 15minutes before the start gun. Due to my lack of experience running trails and the 1400 meters of climbing, I held no illusions of a fast finish time. Dropped off my drop bag, hit the head and arrived at the start line as the gun fired. With both distances starting together, maybe 100 people surged toward the first climb.

From the start, we climbed straight up. Few people “ran”, most were just walking, knowing to save that energy for later. Getting used to walking or jogging over the large stones was much harder than I expected. Since most people walked the steep parts, the crowd didn’t completing thin out for the first few miles.

Did I mention the weather was PERFECT? Bit cold, in the low 30s to start but bright, warm sun and temps climbed up into the 50s by the time I finished. As we climbed up to the first ridge line, the view was so clear could look east, all the way back to a few Beijing towers.

Stellar, clear blue sky and can just see Beijing in the distance.

The above picture shows what most of the trail looked like, much improved over all those stones. And the red marker. A million thanks to all those volunteers who spent the time to mark the course so well.

So, you might be asking, ‘how would you compare this race to a US trail race, what was different?’ Good question, how about:

  • You can’t drink the tap water in China and unfortunately, the first thing I thought of when I approached the first aid station and saw a large pitcher of water was, “is that safe to drink?” ( i needed water so yes, I drank it)
  • About a dozen times during the race I heard voices talking loud, via a bizarre speaker system place along points in the course. Naturally, the voices spoke Chinese so I had no idea what they were saying but it was really odd. Reminded me of big brother talking to you when you thought you had left all the video cameras and surveillance behind, back in Beijing. Later I learned the voices offered words of encouragement to the runners.
  • One single bathroom at the start. No port-a-potties until about half way mark.
  • At the finish, when you turned in your chip timer, they gave you back your deposit in cash (100 yuan) and a ticket for a hot lunch. The lunch was very basic rice and mystery meat, bread and salad. Nothing to write home about but yes, I ate all of it.
  • Ran right through a few small farmers land. Dodged a lot of chickens, passed through a clan of goats (clan isn’t the right word…) and got starred down by one pissed off ferral cat.
  • They sold beer at the finish and Chinese prices are $.50 USD for 20 ounces.

The end of the course, held significant, steep downhill. And up to that point, I felt great. But those steep declines, I had to walk and my thighs, hips and knees started to bark. Gotta figure out a better way to train for the declines, since what I did before this race clearly did not work. Since the guy on the left of the picture above and I likely were the only two runners pushing 50, I placed 15th overall, 2nd in my age group with a 3:25 finish time. Very pleased with that result.

I would highly recommend this race. And I might even run it again next year. Well organized, minus the lack of potties, friendly hosts and amazing views. For a moment, forgot how nasty the air pollution was in Beijing, just a few days earlier.

Posted in China, marathon training, Race, Travel | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Father taking the lead in parenting

(wrote this in June 2016 and just discovered it in the ‘draft’ folder. Oops)

We’ve been in Beijing for exactly five months. This Wednesday we leave to go on our great 2016 summer tour, in the USA. The boy and I do not return until early August. His school just ended and as we get ready to depart, this is kinda an end or the end of a segment of our time abroad and an opportunity to look back. I could look back on our time in China or go further back….

It’s been almost four years since I left a good IT job but one that brought little satisfaction to become a SAHD. For about a year I was a FT SAHD but in the winter of 2012 I started working on and in the summer of 2013, I launched a small company. Only working PT hours, this opportunity turned me into a PT SAHD but I remained the “lead” parent. Found this Atlantic article deep in the ‘draft’ section of my WordPress platform. Just re-read it and thought worth sharing and discussing a bit.

One year after adopting our son, we both worked FT. Like the couple in the article, kw and I expected to share parenting duties after I returned to work from a one year leave of absence and the boy started FT day care. At least for awhile. We both had solid, white collar jobs. I was a senior level ‘contributor’ while she was just entering into a lower level leadership position with a local non-profit. Her job was significantly more demanding while mine provided more flexibility (ex-like running around Lake Union at lunch). But, I really just had a ‘job’, she had focus, and motivation towards her ‘career.’ At the time, not sure if we realized that intense jobs tend to beget even more intense jobs. Regardless, she had more senior leadership potential and if she was able to jump onto that career fast track, me being available as the “lead” parent, would significantly support her.

By the next spring I was completely disillusioned with my job and she had taken that first significant jump and was already moving up the ladder. That summer, I embraced the new challenges as “lead” parent FT and left the workforce.

Now, she would not have to deal with what the article calls, “the mother hood penalty.” Pretty shocking:

According to a Pew Research Center study, 50 percent of married or cohabiting women report doing more child care than their male partners, whereas just 4 percent of men do more than their female partners. This disparity has a devastating effect on women’s careers. Researchers refer to the gap between male and female wages and seniority as the “motherhood penalty,” because it is almost entirely explained by the lower earnings and status of women with children. Despite their superior performance in college, surprisingly few women reach the pinnacles of professional success.

KW was free to ascend, embrace any opportunity that likely would require more of her time. I took care of getting him to daycare and pick up each day. Handled all doctor, dentist and the many speech therapy appointments. And embraced my opportunity to spend time cooking.

And as the article mentioned, she too has discussed with other female industry leaders that if they have children, the requirement to have a spouse who takes the ‘lead’ with all things required at home. The benefits are clear.

A female executive needs what male CEOs have always had: a spouse who bears the burden at home.

Even after nearly four years, being in this position, I  am periodically still uncomfortable and sometimes hold mixed feelings about my chosen role in the family. Walking into a parent organization meeting for the first time is not easy for me, whether in Seattle or Beijing. The PO group I recently joined here, I feel fortunate that hidden among the 25 women is one French father. (Thanks Joel).

Here, I am a “trailing spouse,” (the other spouse’s job brought us to China) the one who doesn’t work. My Seattle company is mostly run by a co-worker so I only have a few hours of work per week. Therefore, with all this free time, (when not running), I am trying hard to embrace the opportunity. As I mentioned, I’ve joined my son’s school PO group and monthly they take day trips around the city. Normally, visiting tourist sites, like temples, the Wall, museums, etc. And in this city, that could take a decade to see them all.

With over 250,000 expats in Beijing, there are A LOT Of trailing spouses so numerous local companies exist to cater to the needs of these folks (99+% women). I found a company that offer Chinese art classes. Took one Chinese landscape painting.  As expected, really challenging but glad i took it and may sign up for level 2.

So, we’ll see how this non traditional dad, who runs alot, will work out living in Beijing.

Posted in Beijing, China, Living Abroad, marathon training, Stay At Home Dads, The Media | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment