Tomorrow is The Great Wall marathon

(this was written few days ago)

Tomorrow is the Great Wall marathon, ready of not. Yesterday, I did the race ‘inspection’ tour. Jumped on a bus at 6:30am for 2+hr ride NE to the wall with about 500 other folks.

Most of the people running are on a package tour from everywhere but China. They are in town for 5-10 days and this race is the end of their visit. Only saw a few locals (Chinese). But, I road on the bus with those other ‘locals’, who were not on tours. Most lived in China or SE Asia as expats. We referred to ourselves as “the orphans” since we had no one telling us which bus to get on, herding us around, giving us water or shouting instructions at us.


Yin and Yang Square. Race Center

On our bus were Americans, German, Dutch, Mexican, French, and Austrian. We arrived at the race central, Yin and Yang square in the old Huangyaguan fortress, Great Wall, Tianjin province. It was about 9:30am and several vendors had food, snacks and tourist trinkets out for sale. I noticed more than a handful of folks buy and pop open a cold beer.

That activity kinda sums up the first of the two kinds of runners I noticed this day. This first group was here for the experience, visit china and enjoy themselves. If they wanted a beer with breakfast, by god they had one. Many in this group didn’t have the typical ‘runner’s body. Likely they planned to participate in the fun run or walk a significant part of the half marathon. Didn’t expect to see them in the full marathon.

The second group were the more serious runners. Not all uber fit and trim but many were and most had completed numerous marathons before and were not going to be drinking beer for breakfast. I spoke with several who were in the mist of running a marathon on each continent. One woman from Minnesota would complete this milestone tomorrow.  These runners could still have a good time but the number one reason they were here was to run.

On the website, this ‘inspection’ day is described a chance to come to the wall, check things out, hear the race director discuss the course, the logistics, talk to other runners and actually walk a small part of the course. This sounded all good to me, so I paid some amount of yuan for a ticket to do this. As we runners sat in the increasing warm sunshine, listening to race director describe the few kilometers of the course we would soon walk, my stomach sank. We would be driven up to the wall (out of sight, over a ridge) and walk back to this square. We would walk down ‘the goat track’, the steepest section of the entire route, just two days before the actual race.

I quickly debated if I wanted to walk this or just stay in the square and maybe have a beer? The reasons to walk it:

  1. Be on the wall, get a feel for it
  2. Talk to other runners, be social
  3. enjoy the stunning views from the wall

Reasons not to walk it:

  1. It was HOT, getting hotter.
  2. How long would I be out in this hot sun? I could only guess
  3. They would give us one 8oz bottle of water to carry
  4. The wall is insanely steep in sections so walking down is tricky
  5. many stone steps are cracked, missing or slick
  6. If I turned/twisted my ankle today…

I decided go, when in Rome….

About 90% of the other runners also decided to walk it so we walked back onto the buses and drove the first few kilometers of the actual race course, to another part of the wall and climbed up on to THE WALL.

Even going at a very leisurely pace, walking is not so easy. No part of the wall is level of flat, it just rolls, going up or going down. Did I mention it was a hot day? Think I downed my little 8oz bottle of water within 10 minutes. I did have another in my backpack and estimated this walk would take about an hour. Then we hit the ‘first’ bottleneck. The wall narrows or steeply descents and the people’s pace is a crawl.


Looking east.


About 30 minutes we arrived a the top of the ‘goat track.’ My knees and ankles were already getting sore. Why was I subjecting my body to this, just two days before the race? This isn’t exactly a ‘rest day.’ The back of my neck felt sunburned. Oh yeah, I don’t have any sunscreen.


This is not the steep part

An hour and half after we left the square, I walked back into it. Too late now to kick myself for making a poor choice but here I was, exhausted, hot, and definitely dehydrated. Saturday morning would arrive quickly and I really, really hope these sore, tired, heavy legs can recover before the start of the race.

Likely, the most important take away from the inspection tour was do not do the inspection tour next time. Actually, it was to realize how much energy I’d expend on the wall, even if I walked it. And, the weather calls for another HOT day tomorrow. Mid 60s to low 80s during the race. So, I gotta go slow, really slow on the course not on the wall. Initially, I was thinking jog 9min miles for the non wall sections, now I’m thinking 10 minute miles. And drink a river of water, pour water over my head often, to help fight off dehydration and heat exhaustion.

Time to stay off my feet, carbo load and drink water. See you on the wall.


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Great Wall marathon training

IMG_0839Just ten days until the Great Wall Marathon. I am half way through “the taper.” No madness yet. Today’s run was a tough one, likely my last tough one. A 20min easy warm up, 10x1min ‘fast’ with 2min recovery and ending with 20min easy. The air was crap so ran on the treadmill. Incline average about 4%.

Overall, the training has gone pretty well. And I am healthy, never a given at this stage of the training cycle. Already have my race packet (number, runner’s guide book, etc). This race has bib numbers on your back too, strange….Am I ready?

I really have no idea since this marathon is like no other. Been watching several YouTube videos recently about the race and they are extremely helpful. Full of views of the course and commentary.  A few are professionally done by the corp who organizes the race and several others were made by regular runners and their selfie-stick.

Regardless who made the video, all say the same thing, “this marathon will very likely be the hardest marathon you EVER run.” Ugh.

So, what does that mean? First, it means I am going to hurt, a lot. Steep climbs and downhills on stone are going to fry my hips, quads, hamstring, IT band, knees and the other muscles just above the knee. I’ve tried to mitigated the impact by running some stairs and inclines on the treadmill. But, I sadly think I failed to include these into my training early enough. And I never found a set of stairs inside a building to run.


I settled using several pedestrian bridge overpasses around the city but they are not very steep. Remember, Beijing is pancake flat. Guess running 10-20 sets here is better than nothing but next time find 5-10 flights of stairs.

Next, running this marathon means my finish time is irrelevant. The hills and descents are steep, so I “should” walk them. The flat sections I really shouldn’t ‘run’, but slow jog to conserve energy for the climbs. If I target a negative split, that may help me actually go slow, at least in the first half.

I hope this doesn’t happen in the first wave.

Oh, I fortunately did land in the first wave of runners. Think there are four waves, based upon previous marathon finishing times. This should help, since there are several tricky spots where we will congest, slow down and even come to a complete stop. Although I’m in the first wave, I will target to begin in the back of this wave.

Lastly, this means I must run smart. I’ve already mentioned trying to run a negative split, starting in the back of the firs wave, these are strategies to help keep the pace (and expectations) down. If I go out too fast I will hit that great “wall” hard and have to crawl the last miles, I mean kilometers.

On the plus side, my training has gone well. Completed 2 or 3  18 milers and three 20 mile long runs. Not much speed work this time but I feel I logged the miles to be in pretty good shape. At least with my basic endurance.

I was very lucky that I completed all but one LR (18) outside.


The air quality index (AQI) forecast is pretty reliable, so a few times, I moved the day of my LR to a better AQI day to allow me to run outside. More than 2 hrs on a treadmill is a royal pain. And for regular runs, I think I only had to run with a mask a few times. Normally, on bad air days, I’d jog down the road to the gym.

So, I’ll try to write next Thursday night, after I tour the course with a few thousand others. 2500 is the cap for the marathon,plus half and fun run. Keep your fingers crossed for cool temperatures on 21May. It was in the 80s last year and I don’t even want to think about that.

Focus on the positives…. It will be a stunningly scenic course.

Image result for images great wall marathon




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Jogging in Beijing- my start

The plane landed, we somehow survived moving NINE bags through the airport, met a co-worker who drove us into Beijing. We arrived!

Two days later, moved into the apartment. This isn’t just “talk” anymore, we moved to Beijing. How will this impact our running and trying to earn another BQ that actually gets me into the race…

I think it took a few days before my first jog. Luckily, the air quality was good enough that no mask was needed. But, how messed up to even have to consider, “do I need to wear my mask today?” That is now our new reality and we made the decision to learn to manage it.  I am not Mark Zuckerburg, when needed, I will wear a mask or jog inside a gym.

Mr. FB’s controversial jog. Air Quality Index was about 200. Below 50 is considered healthy.

Our apartment is located between the  3rd and 4th ring road, in the Embassy area. One of the largest parks in the city, Chaoyang Park, is just a few blocks away. When the air allows, there is a nice jogging path (see top photo) that meanders about 3 miles inside the park.

For me, the larger concern isn’t where to jog but dealing with the running surface. If outside a park, you should jog on the sidewalk or bike path, for safety reasons. Cars here really play by their own rules. They do not yield to anyone (bikes, walkers, parent pushing stroller, red lights) but larger cars or trucks. Unfortunately, the bike paths often are too crowded with scooters, bikes and yes, cars. So, that leaves the sidewalks. Sadly, most sidewalks are cement blocks. And my feet and legs really feel it. Not ideal, but I’ll deal with it.

Back to Chaoyang park. I have luckily found a dirt trail. On the east side of the park, just outside the gate is about 2 km long and 40 meters wide strip of earth. The park fence borders one side and a major road boarders the other side. It is kinda no man’s land, not many people likely use this space, although there is a sidewalk. Although its loud, (so close to highway) this soft dirt, when the ground isn’t frozen, is a blessing. Running on dirt is so much easier on these approaching 50 knees.


My secret trail

The loop around the perimeter of the park is about 5 miles. So, for the few LR I’ve already completed, I ran a few of these loops. Also, ran a few loops and also ran inside the park. Inside the park has the benefit of public toilets and vending machines with bottled water.

Besides the challenge of the running surface, the other major issue for me jogging in Beijing (so far) has been the weather. Cold temperatures aren’t really the problem. I can run in 20’s-30’s (F) no big problem. Use a few layers, hat and gloves. Temps in the teens, treadmill time. The problem for me is the cold plus the COLD wind from the north. OH MY GOD! Growing up in the south and last 25 years in Seattle, I have zero tolerance for that kind of cold. For the first time ever, few weeks ago I stopped a LR, due to frozen fingers from this wind.

Luckily, now late March, and temps in the 50s-60s (F), I’m pretty certain I will not see those conditions again til November.

Lastly, I didn’t expect to see too many other joggers. At least not in the winter times. But, I’ve seen more than a few. There is a large ex-pat community near the park, so at 10am, it’s not uncommon to see a few ‘trailing spouses’ (ex-pats who moved for spouse’s job and they don’t work), like myself, in and around the park jogging. At lunch time or the weekends, the jogger sightings jump. I need to tap into a running group to be social and help me train for my next marathon. Yup, I am signed up for the Great Wall marathon.

More on that next time.

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Move to Beijing

Image result for images beijing

At the moment, the family is sitting on a Delta B767-300ER, on the tarmac at SeaTac airport waiting to fly, not visiting but to move, to Beijing. Yes, Beijing, China. How did this happen….? Good question.

Don’t think I have mentioned how this whole ‘move to China’ thang began.

We are moving for a new opportunity for my wife with a large NGO, based in Seattle. The assignment should last between 18-24 months. I believe she first mentioned this potential opportunity way back in early Spring 2015. Initially, we both took the attitude, “I’m not sure we really want to move to China but let’s learn more about this.” Within a few weeks a few informational interviews started.

I do clearly remember the night she stated, ‘if’ I’m going to continue to move forward with this, we need to make some level of commitment. This ‘idea’ of moving to China evolved into we need to think in terms of, will we accept moving to China.” The real interview process began and then, the after the job offer arrived, the company offered to fly the entire family for a week’s visit in August, to help us make a tough decision.

Our August visit to Beijing far surpassed expectations. To be perfectly honest, we had few or low expectations. We’d traveled once before, playing tourist for a few days before we adopted the boy, back in 2010. Back then, we were so fixated on the upcoming adoption that we didn’t really let life in Beijing soak in.

This time, the attitude and vibe was completely different. Could we live here, would we want to? Doesn’t Beijing have the worst air pollution in the world? The week of our visit, crystal clear, blue skies and temps in the 80s. Yes, humid but no trouble for just a week. Naturally, the government helped create those Carolina blue skies by removing half the cars off the streets due to their hosting the World Track and Field championships, the same week of our visit.

We spent the week touring three private international schools and LOTS of apartments. All the schools impressed but the apartments did not. Way overpriced, and the low quality was surprising. Making you pay London or NYC prices but what you get does not meet expectations.

What the apartments lacked, the food made up with it. WE LOVED EVERYTHING WE ATE. The breakfast brunch buffet at the Westin, never grew wearing of. The dumplings, noodles, yogurt, amazing fruit, did I mention the dumplings?

Perhaps the most surprising thing about this trip was the boy’s reaction. He seemed to have a connection or peace about being there. Me, the mass of humanity (22 million residents), could be overwhelming. Not for him. He is Chinese after all and being surrounded by people who looked like him must have been comforting, on some level. And of course, he too loved the food.

He wasn’t shy or freaked out when we toured schools and the first grade teachers invited him to sit with the class. (The school year began the week before.) The kid has been through a lot and can just roll with whatever life presents. Wish I was more like that.

On the flight home, we de-briefed the pluses and minus of this unique opportunity:


  1. what an opportunity for the boy to connect with his culture, and learn Mandarin
  2. The food
  3. The job is a promotion, a challenge, and she’d likely learn a ton.
  4. Met two amazingly nice American families who live in Beijing
  5. Could travel around a part of the world we’ve never experienced.
  6. The boy could attend an elite international school with classmates from all over the world.
  7. Huge community of expats.
  8. Thai Beaches
  9. Thai food
  10. Did I mention Thailand?
  11. Marathon training and running in China/SE Asia.


  1. The air pollution
  2. The traffic
  3. The air pollution
  4. Studying Mandarin will be much harder than Dutch.
  5. Gotta learn to love running on treadmill
  6. LONG way from friends and family

Image result for images beijing

What would be your decision?

Posted in China, Holidays, marathon training, Travel | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

My next marathon…..?

This photo is fantastic, the misery, the agony. Not sure the total elevation gain but likely 4-5,000 ft. Do I really want to subject myself to this kind of pain…..?

May 2016, The Great Wall marathon.

Bet I’d really regret it if I skipped this one. If you were living in Beijing would you run this?

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My Quotable Kid


Soon after we adopted the boy, a friend gave us the “My Quotable Kid” book. Basically, its a journal of your child’s comments you wish to save. Must be from pre blog days…

Just found this book on the shelf, hadn’t seen or or used it several years.  Not too many noted these are worth putting down on his permanent record:

  • Who: The boy
  • When: July 2010
  • Age:18 months
  • Where: After waking up, stands up and wants out of crib
  • Quote: “Who, Who”


  • Who: The boy
  • When: Fall 2012
  • Age: 4 years
  • Where: KW asks him what are the four seasons
  • Quote: “Spring, Summer, Fall and Skiing!”


  • Who: The boy
  • When: Dec 2012
  • Age: 4 years
  • Quote: He sings “Major Tom”. “4,3,2,1 Earth below us, drifting, falling, floating weightless, calling, coming home…”
  • Who: The boy
  • When: Dec 2012
  • Age: 4 years
  • Where: bedtime
  • Quote: “Dad, sing the tomorrow song.” (The annie song, ‘your always a day away…)
  • Who: The boy
  • When: January 2013
  • Age: 4 years
  • Where: Bedtime
  • Quote: “Mommy, Daddy, will you tuck me up?” (tuck me in)
  • Who: The boy
  • When: 1/1/2013
  • Age: 4 years
  • Where: Stevens Pass
  • Quote: After his ski lesson, we asked him if he liked the lesson. “Yes, can we do it again and again and again and again?”
  • Who: The boy
  • When: 1/15/2013
  • Age: 4 years
  • Where: Bedroom
  • Quote: “Daddly, sing Major Tom, the old or the New”


  • Who: The boy
  • When: 1/19/2013
  • Age: 4 years
  • Where: Bedroom
  • Quote: “My belly is warm, new pajamas please.”


  • Who: The boy
  • When: 2/2013
  • Age: 4 years
  • Quote: “Mom, how old are you, 86?


  • Who: The boy
  • When: 2/2013
  • Age: 4 years
  • Where: heard on the radio, something about Afghanistan
  • Quote: “Is Afghanistan similar to Seattle’s Banana stand?”







Posted in Bedtime routine, Memories, Snowboarding/Skiing, Stay At Home Dads, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Still running, honestly

How embarrassing. No posts since September. I am ashamed. But, at least I didn’t stop running after the Tunnel Lite Marathon. Although, my weekly numbers dropped.

Not only did I keep running this fall but actually ran a race. An awesome trail run in December. Yes, that means a cold and rainy half marathon.

Reindeer Romp Half Marathon.

Reindeer Romp Half Marathon. The larger butt is mine.

Race recap:
I really didn’t know what to expect before the race. I missed several long runs, reduced many other runs. Didn’t stretch or work on core enough. Didn’t know the course, didn’t know how to set a target pace, due to elevation gain. And a good chance the weather would be pissy, cold rain.

Race day, pissy cold rain but at least it was a mild 49 degrees. Hard rain didn’t bother me at all but almost slipped, tripped or slide off course about 114 times. Literally. About 100 ran the half and another 100 ran 5miles. Started off and decided to run ‘moderate’ fast for a few miles. Crowd thinned quickly, no one within sight ahead of me from about mile 3 until mile 12. But, saw plenty going opposite direction on out and back loop trails. Picked up the pace several miles in and decided to give about 80% effort. One runner remained about 20 feet behind me from mile 4 until the finish. This guy really helped me keep pace up, didn’t want him to pass me. Felt like I was running much faster than my splits but I didn’t tire. I felt strong throughout- my level of fitness was shocking. Expected to run out of gas about mile 10 but didn’t happen. REALLY surprised how I could keep the legs turning.

No cramps, knee, GI, hammy issue or calf issues. Knew there weren’t too many folks ahead of me, thought maybe 10. Felt kinda bad passing one guy 50 feet from the finish- he had cramped up bad. Shock of shock, finish 5th. Remember this was tiny race. Most impressed with the fact that the four guys ahead of me were all in 20s and 30s. And the dude behind me who never passed me- 53 years old!

Overall, very pleased with this effort. Enjoyed the course, friendly volunteers, would run it again. Post race, not too sore. Guess I’m comparing it to my standard post ‘marathon’ soreness. More sore Sunday and Monday but really not too bad. I may try to run another trail race before our departure.

BTW, I don’t think I’ve mentioned something kinda big that will impact the entire family. We are moving to China.

Posted in marathon training, Race | Tagged , , , , , | 8 Comments