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.

IMG_6292

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

IMG_3358

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.

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Tunnel Light Marathon Race report

Race Report

Sunday, I ran the Tunnel Light Marathon. And when I say ‘ran’ I mean it. This race was all about qualifying for Boston. Actually, this entire year or past two, three, four, five, years has been all about Boston. Chipping away at my PR until the PR becomes a BQ.

  • 2011- Royal Victoria Marathon PR =3:37
  • 2012 – Light at the End of the Tunnel PR =3:30
  • 2013 – California International Marathon (CIM) (12/8) 3:24:29- 1st BQ!!!!
  • 2014- no new PR or BQ
  • 2015- TBD

I’ve run this marathon twice before and it is my favorite marathon. Starting in the Central Cascade Mountains, the route is a gentle downhill, mostly shaded and small field. Although they increased the field size, I think it is capped at 500 runners, so still very small. Also, the lack of concrete and asphalt is definitely appreciated by my knees. This is one long shady dirt and gravel trail.

A few days before the race, twice, I noticed that my Garmin, in the charger held zero % charge. Never seen this odd behavior before. If I rebooted the PC, with the charger attached, I could get the watch to charge. Yes, I was very concerned the watch wouldn’t hold a charge throughout the race. Instead of calling Tech Support on Friday afternoon, I decided to try a workaround solution. I’d wear the Garmin on my left wrist and my old, basic Timex Ironman on my right. The Garmin (if working) would display time, distance and average pace. The Timex would only have the stopwatch running.

Worse case, the Garmin dies, and I’d only have the TimeX. Since I wouldn’t know my target pace, decided to print out a marathon race pace wrist band.

http://www.marathonguide.com/fitnesscalcs/PaceBandCreator.cfm

Felt silly using this but figured if the Garmin dies, this is only way to avoid running ‘blind.’ I could periodically ask runners nearby for their current ‘pace’ but knew it was likely I’d be running stretches solo.

I printed out the wristband, lamented it with clear tape, to make somewhat waterproof and presto, my workaround.

Another potential issue with the Garmin is that I’d be running about 2miles through a train tunnel. (hence the name of the race) and the watch would lose GPS signal. The previous two times I’ve run this marathon, after coming out of the tunnel with no GPS running, the watch GPS corrected itself so it displayed the correct distance from the start and pace.

Today, I was gunning for about 3:22, which would be a new PR and BQ fast enough to guarantee me entry into Boston, I was extra nervous the last few days before the race. Naturally, didn’t sleep well Saturday night. Probably got three hours before the alarm chimed at 3:15am. (yeah, that is crazy early). Popped out of bed, dressed and slowly ate my standard race day breakfast; PB&J, plain yogurt with some granola, small glass of OJ, one banana and about 12 oz of water. Yes, I am a creature of habit so I’ve eaten exactly the same breakfast on race day for nearly every previous marathon.

Another reason for the extra early rise was to allow adequate time to get to the start line before the 8am gun. Left the house about 4:30am to drive an hour a middle school, outside of North Bend, WA. At the school, jumped on a bus for the slow drive up Snoqualmie pass to the start at Hyak.

Although I was significantly nervous, my stomach was butterfly less until I climbed on that bus. Within about 5 minutes, it was twisted into about 14 knots. That was worrisome. If the stomach is knotted, really tough to down all the fuel I’d require during the race.

Arrived at the start with 90minutes before the gun. The early start began at 7am and about 50 people slowly jogged toward the Tunnel. One hour until I started. With plenty of time, odd that I spent 95% of it just sitting on the ground. Thought I should stay off my feet as much as possible. But, I was so focused on sitting that I barely stretch at all. Didn’t really realize that until several miles in the race. Really hoped the hamstrings and calf muscles stayed happy.

Times have really changed. The 2012 start.

 

They called for runners to line up about 10 minutes of 8. Slowly pushed upfront, right behind the 3:15 pace group. Normally, marathons are mostly full of pretty healthy looking folks but the front of this pack, I was standing in a forest full of gazelles. All 6 footers+, long, muscled legs, below serious game faces painted on. This race has a reputation for very fast times, and people travel significant distances, looking for the same thing I would soon be chasing…a BQ. Chatted with a guy on the bus from outside Boston who was doing actually that.

The gun fired, I started both watches and we were off. The tunnel was less than a mile away and as soon as the entered it, the temperature dropped about 15 degrees and COLD water dripped from the ceiling. The two mile tunnel is only as wide as a train and about 15 feet high so stick 500 people inside and you get claustrophobic fast. Most people carry flash lights or headlamps but you must run gingerly since the floor is not completely lit. I tried not to pass others since the edges of the path were uneven and full of puddles.

Exiting the tunnel, notice the Garmin was way off. No surprise, the GPS clearly hadn’t worked inside the tunnel. The time feature still worked and using my wrist pace chart could determine quickly I wasn’t far off pace. But, 2 miles later, the Garmin had still not self-corrected for the distance inside that tunnel. Not only that, it currently wasn’t tracking pace correctly. For miles 3-6 it read I never ran faster than 8:15 pace. No way that was right. I confirmed a 7:45 pace from another runner’s watch. The rest of the race, the GPS never corrected. SO lucky had the wrist pace chart to determine each mile pace vs goal pace (7:42).

By mile 6, I was about a minute ahead of schedule and stomach felt fine. Thank GOD because I needed to drink 20+ ounces of Gatorade per hour and start eating my GU every 30minutes. Those two ingredients will turn a sour stomach into serious trouble.

I tried to run an even, relaxed 7:42 minute pace. Running lightly, trying to keep head clear, just keep picking up the feet. Perhaps by mile 8, still bit fast at 60min, I first felt some doubt linked to tired legs. How could my legs be tired already…I really hoped that feeling would pass.

Mile 13, halfway, legs still heavy but critically, the heaviness had not increased. Similarly, I wasn’t worried about getting tired or sore because you will get tired and sore. Just can’t get so tired or sore than you begin to slow down.

Mile 15, the hips and hamstrings were barking. Entering the mental part of the race. Can’t let the mind tell me I can’t, when I know my body still can. Still on target pace, even a minute or two ahead.

I clearly recall mile 18 and 19. Just focused on ‘getting to 20.’ Over and over told myself, hold pace and ‘just get to 20.’ After 20, there is a sharp downhill turn at mile 21 and then the final push (aks being in The Shit) starts. If I hit the wall, it will be during these last, painful, never ending 6 miles of the race.

Made the turn at mile 21, Rattlesnake Lake just outside NorthBend, WA. I loathe this part of the course, not because of the potential of the wall but because there are several REALLY long straightaways. Seeing runners 200 yards ahead, to me, is so much harder than only seeing 50 yards ahead of you.

Mile 22 than 23, still no appearance of the wall. My body was tightening up (calf, thigh, hips, hammies) and now slowing down but only a bit. No more ahead of schedule, now I was about a minute behind.

Miles 24 and 25 lasted 30minutes, at least it seems. I hurt all over; people were passing me and just wanted to see the finish line. The battle is still all in my head now. To fall apart, slow down and lose the BQ so close to the end would be heart breaking. I never saw the 26th mile marker.

Went under highway I-90, slight turn right and the finish line is visible, 50 yards ahead. Tried, god I tried to push it but not sure if I sped up or not. Now, finally, could read the red timer numbers in the banner of the finish. It read 3:2……3:22:50, 51, 52… First, so brief, reaction of relief, I’d earned the BQ but quickly turned to ‘every second counts move it’, so tried to squeeze in under 3:23… and crossed the finish line.

3:23:03!!!

7:44 average pace.

I didn’t get under 3:23 but I did get:

  • New PR
  • Second BQ, 86 seconds faster than the first BQ
  • Finished my 20th Marathon

No guaranteed entry into Boston with that time. But, I really ‘should’ get in. If this time doesn’t get me INTO the Boston Marathon, I give up.

I give up, at least until I turn 50 and the qualifying time drops from 3:25 to 3:30.

 

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Pre Marathon Post

Light at the end of the Tunnel Lite Marathon- pre race post

Screen Shot 2015-09-14 at 3.45.40 PMLast week, about 10 times I thought about needing to write a pre race post. Never did. So, if I had written it, it probably would have sounded like this:

As I think about my quickly approaching marathon on 9/13 and consider my chances hitting my goals, overall I feel good about it. The magic finish time is sub 3:25 for a Boston Qualifier. But what I really want is to not just qualify but actually get into the race so will need sub 3:23 to guarantee my entry.

Every race I establish 3 goals. The ‘easy’, medium and stretch goal. This time they are:

  • 1st– just finish, enjoy the race, finish time between 3:50-3:40
  • 2nd– finish, enjoy the race, finish time between 3:39-3:24.
  • 3rd-finish, enjoy the race, finish time between 3:23- 3:21.

Why should I feel confident? A few reasons include:

  1. stayed healthy
  2. the course
  3. the weather
  4. 3 long runs-20+ miles
  5. Raced HM then 21 miler in same week.

Why do I have confidence in scoring this BQ, well, mostly because I’ve stayed healthy during this entire training cycle. Usually, I have to miss several days to a week or two to rehab and allow some minor injury to heal. This time, didn’t miss any training due to that kind of injury. Of course I did miss a few runs when I felt too sore or tired or when life got in the way.

Secondly, this course is nearly ideal for earning a BQ. It is a gentle, dirt and gravel net downhill trail in the woods. Plenty of shade to keep the sun away and the gentle decline really helps hold pace.

Next, the time of year/weather should be on my side. Mid September in WA state cascade mountains normally has cool mornings (low 50s) with highs about low 70s. The start is at 4000 feet. I’m anticipating about 50 degrees at the start and finish upper 60s. That would be fantastic and really aid to avoid over heating or melting as I did in the heat of Skagit Flats last September.

Lastly, some specific training runs boosted my confidence. During this training cycle, I completed three long runs of 20, 21 and 22 miles. Some were a bit ugly but I completed all three. And long runs are all about time on your feet. So running that long on your feet conditions your body to be able to do it at least one more time. And the final LR of 21 miles, I completed less than a week after I raced a Half Marathon all out. Actually, set a new HM PR with 1:39 that I’m very pleased with. But the fact that I could run that fast and only four days later complete 21 miles was a HUGE accomplishment and moral booster.

Therefore, I do I think I can hold it together to earn my 2nd BQ. But sadly, the different between 3:25 and 3:22 is a lot of serious pain. That is where the mental strength comes into play. My body should be able to hold pace but my head will be screaming, “slow down, now, this is too fast, you are going to pull that barking calf muscle.” Somehow over coming that voice will be the key hitting my (3rd) stretch goal.

Fingers crossed.

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