running and writing

It’s been a while. There was a time when I committed to writing on here once a week. Then once a week became once a month, now it seems it’s almost degenerated to about once a year. After not writing for so long I find it difficult.

About a year ago I began training for my first half marathon. I began at just half a mile, slowly ramping up the mileage on my weekend run by half a mile each week. In July of last year I completed the San Francisco half marathon. Notice how I didn’t say I ‘ran’ the marathon? I finished just barely fast enough to get a finisher medal, which is to say I completed the 13.1 miles in under 3 hours. I did run a good portion of it– I made it to about mile 10 before my legs started cramping up. For the last three miles I did a mixture of walking, stopping to stretch my calves and painfully jogging when my legs would cooperate. As I crossed the finish line I felt relieved, then joyful for finishing, then painful misery as my legs completely locked up from cramping. I vowed never to run another half marathon, let alone a full marathon.

True to that vow, I have not run anything close to another half marathon. I actually didn’t even run at all for a few months after the SF half marathon. It was well into fall when I decided to try giving running another chance. That first run after laying off for so long was eye opening. It was shocking to find how difficult it was to run even a couple of miles.

Running is very different in that respect from biking. I’ve laid off of biking before–in fact I pretty much hibernate from biking every winter. As much as I love biking, I don’t love it enough to bike when it’s cold and wet. But even after several months of hibernation, once spring rolls around I’m able to hop back on the bike and do something like a 50 mile or 3 hour ride. With running I find if I stop for even a few weeks my running muscles are completely gone, and running for even twenty minutes is painful.

This is my first time writing after a long time off. I’m finding it kind of painful–but it’s not physically painful like running. My calves aren’t cramping up and I’m not gasping for air. It’s more like a mental weariness, as if my brain is a muscle that’s atrophied over time. Strangely enough, it’s the pain that actually keeps me running– it’s a reminder that my body is getting weaker if I don’t run. I don’t run a lot, mind you, and I’m pretty sure I’ll never run anything like a marathon. But just the fact that starting again after stopping is so painful keeps me motivated to go out and run at least a couple of miles each week. Maybe struggling through this first post will make me want to be more consistent about writing as well.


Spring seems to have come late this year. Actually, I take that back. Maybe spring has come at the same time as usual. I don’t really know. But this year I’ve come out of my winter hibernation later than usual. There’s a number of reasons why. I came back from Europe in February with something weird that my doctor had prescribed antibiotics for. And my bike was stolen. Both I suppose are legitimate excuses for not exercising. But in truth I think the main reason is inertia.

Wikipedia defines inertia as the resistance of any physical object to a change in its state of motion or rest.

In winter time, I am pretty much at rest. Not much biking or running. So I’ve found that when spring time rolls around, there’s a good amount of inertia. There’s a good amount of resistance to change in my state of rest. I just want to continue resting, even though I know I should be training for the various running and biking events that I plan to do throughout the year.


This past Sunday I ran my first 5k of the year in Modesto. I hadn’t done much training for it, so I was pretty out of shape.

Screenshot_2013-03-24-08-35-53The technology for these races is amazing nowadays. Literally just a minute after I crossed the finish line, I had an email with my official time. I had just barely cracked the 30 minute mark– I ended up being way slower than the eight and a half minutes per mile goal I had set for myself.

IMG_20130324_075735At the end of the race they had chocolate milk and bananas. They make quite the tasty combo, and apparently it’s a pretty close to optimal post workout meal, at least in terms of the ratio of carbs to protein.

Fullscreen capture 442013 50201 PMInertia works both ways. Objects at rest tend to wanna stay at rest, whereas objects in motion tend to stay in motion. Or at least in an ideal world that would be the case. I have slowly started to gain momentum and inertia in my workouts, hopefully I can keep it up. The MapMyRide app actually helps out a lot in keeping me moving. It tracks both runs and bike rides, and it shows meaningful statistics on all of them. What I really need is more friends using the app, so they can keep me accountable. *hint* *hint*

mud blast

Today team #YOLOLOL went to run Mud Blast, a mud run along the San Jaoquin river. For me it was the end of a crazy semi-vacation. I call it a semi-vacation because real vacations should be kind of relaxing. This vacation has been pretty exhausting, though still really fun. I wasn’t even sure if I would make it to the run– Jamie and I had finished hiking down from Mount Whitney after 10:30pm, and it was almost a six hour drive from Mount Whitney to the Modesto area where the Mud Blast event was being held.

I had driven through most of the night, stopping for an hour to sleep in Yosemite, before driving down highway 120 out of Yosemite. Highway 120 coming out of Yosemite is probably my favorite stretch of road in California– it’s crazy curvy and steep, which is why I figured it would be a good idea to nap before driving out of Yosemite.

Jamie slept pretty much the entire way, except she woke up about every hour to ask how I was doing, before quickly dozing off back to sleep. What really helped me make it through the drive was the audiobook that she had borrowed– a Stephen King novel called “Cell.” It was just getting to the good part as I was getting tired, so the suspense kept me awake. Well actually, maybe it was the suspense combined with the four frappuccinos and one McDonald’s iced tea.

So anyways, we made it to the campsite at Caswell State park where the rest of the #YOLOLOLers were staying. We arrived at around 6am, not enough time to rest before the run, but I was too wired from the caffeine to really sleep anyways.

Team #YOLOLOL before getting down and dirty. (I made the uber-noob mistake of forgetting to set the ISO on my camera before handing my camera over for this picture. I forgot that I was taking night photos before this, so this was shot at ISO3200 in full sun– that’s why the picture looks weird.)

Gid and me were the first two to cross the finish line. I look pretty exhausted, which I guess is warranted. The caffeine and adrenaline were beginning to wear off by now.

I got my camera and took pictures of the rest of the team crossing the finish line. Here they are in chronological order.

Dan looks extremely happy to cross the finish line.

Brenda and Deborah look very happy to cross the finish line.

Jason looks moderately happy to cross the finish line.

Jack looks kind of happy to cross the finish line.

It was everyone’s first mud run, but I think we did pretty well. If you read this blog with any regularity, you know that I hate running. But this was actually not bad. I actually really enjoyed it. Surprisingly I was able to run (ok maybe more like jog or waddle) the whole thing. I think this format works well for me, because I can catch my breath and use different muscles at each of the obstacles, which makes it easy for me to run all the stretches between obstacles.

So anyways, I had a blast at mud blast. I would do another mud run again in a heartbeat. I think I’ll probably do a few more before attempting to do the tough mudder next year.

Things I’m thankful for:

  • suspenseful audiobooks
  • muddy buddies
  • relaxing in a campsite after a crazy week

final failed five

For New Year’s eve this year I signed up for the first annual resolution run. It’s a 5k night run in San Rafael, which is across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco. I had heard about the run a while back, but kinda forgot about it until Jason sent me a discount code for half off the registration price. So we both signed up for the run pretty close to the registration deadline.

So on New Year’s eve afternoon I made the drive from Davis down to SF. I made it to San Francisco right at sunset. The last sunset of the year was quite beautiful, framed by the Bay Bridge and with the silhouette of the San Francisco skyline. The crappy cellphone picture I took through my dirty windshield while driving doesn’t do it justice.

I met up with Jason in SF and we had dinner. We went to a place called “Mandarin Islamic” or something like that. Their specialty was spicy lamb dishes. So we ended up ordering several spicy dishes. In hindsight I realize that eating spicy, greasy Chinese food before a run is a pretty stupid idea. I ended up getting a stomach ache during the run, and walked a good portion of it. One of these days I’ll finish running a 5k…

The sad thing is that I know I can run that distance, it’s always some random stupidity on my part that makes it so I can’t run the whole thing on the day of the event. Lately I’ve been using this app called MapMyRun. It’s pretty awesome, much better than the Nike+ app that I used to use. When you actually track your runs, it becomes pretty obvious when you’re being lazy. I obviously started the month off pretty lazily. So tracking the workouts automatically becomes motivation in and of itself. On the other hand, tracking your runs makes you realize how futile the whole running thing is– all that running and only 3121 calories burned?!?! seriously?!?!

Anyways, the event itself was pretty small, since it was its first year. It was kind of disappointing too, it was basically just a run through a mall parking lot. But it was still fun and it was still a good way to finish the year. I didn’t really take any pictures during the run, or of the after run festivities. But afterwards Jason and I headed to the BJs in the mall for a beer.

I did take a picture of that– My last beer of 2011. Hopefully this run is my final failed 5k run, here’s to hoping that I finish one in under 25 minutes in 2012. Cheers!

first pho king five

This weekend I ran my first 5k run. Well actually, I take that back. To say I ran the 5k would be too generous. I ended up only running a bit more than half of the route, and ended up walking the rest with a cramp in my shin. The sad thing is, I know that on a good day I could have run it without too much of a problem.

I signed up for the Oktobrewfest 5k run a little over a month ago. A couple of weeks back I realized that I should probably start training. A few years back, before I did most of my cardio on the bike, I had played around with the idea of running. Back then I bought all this cool stuff for running including an iPod touch and a Nike+ sensor. Unfortunately the battery in the sensor died, and so before I started training I bought a new sensor and a little pouch to attach the sensor to my shoe (I no longer wear Nike running shoes).

My goal for my first 5k was not ambitious at all. It was basically to not be the last person crossing the finish line. And so for my first training run I decided just to see if I could actually run the full three miles.

Up until that day, I had never really run much more than a mile, during which I’d always be thinking, “dahhhh…. why is this so hard?!?!” But I discovered something amazing. The first mile was still tough, but afterwards the next couple of miles seemed easier.

I thought maybe that day was a fluke. Maybe I had too much caffeine and so was super energetic or something. The next day I decided just to run for an hour or so, just to see if it was possible. Again I was amazed to find that, not only was it possible, it actually wasn’t all that bad. Maybe there’s something to this running thing after all. It burns a massive amount of calories, which means I can eat more.

I stupidly agreed to donate blood two weeks before the 5k, so for the next couple of days I couldn’t run or bike. My bro had left his motorcycle in Davis, so one of those nights I ended up riding my motorcycle with Sam. We decided to hit the levy road north of Knight’s Landing. I guess that wasn’t a great idea. I was pretty tired that night, so my night vision wasn’t all that great. But I figured it would be ok since there’s never really any traffic out there.

The levy portion of the ride went without incident. At the end of the levy run we descended onto a farm road. There was a turn with a 25mph limit sign and I felt like I was going too fast, so I hit the brakes. Before I knew what had happened, I had gone down in the shoulder. Sam was shouting through his helmet, asking if I was okay. I was okay, more pissed off than anything. If I hadn’t panicked I should have been able to make that turn.

I checked myself and the bike. I had banged up my knee, but I was able to walk so it didn’t seem like there was any major injury. The bike’s plastics were scratched and there was a small crack in one part, but there wasn’t any damage otherwise. But still we rode back carefully. I felt bad, my brother’s motorcycle was a real beauty, in pristine condition up until that point. I texted him about what had happened and told him that I would get him a new set of plastics. He replied with the usual Hong brother response, “Nah it’s cool… Don’t worry about it.”

Because I had banged my knee I pretty much stayed off of it until the day of the run. At the last second I decided to switch from my normal Vibram shoes to some old Nike shoes I had lying around, I figured that the thicker soles would cushion the impact and protect my knee better. Switching shoes at the last minute was a big mistake. My legs cramped up during the run and I ended up having to walk a big portion of it. Now I kind of want to sign up for another 5k or maybe even a 10k so that I can actually run the whole thing. Maybe before the next run I’ll get one of those arm band thingies so I can have my cellphone with me to take pictures during the run.

After the run we went to the Hoa Viet on Bradshaw to try the Pho King Challenge. Two pounds of noodles and two pounds of meat in one hour– I was like 99% sure that I wouldn’t be able to finish it, but I was thinking that Jason would have a shot at it.

It’s no joke– they make you sign a waiver before you attempt the challenge.

It doesn’t really show from the picture, but the bowl was huge. Big enough to bathe a small dog or baby in…

Gid and Jiro got the challenge bowls too, but they sorta just leisurely enjoyed their pho.

Jason on the other hand, was all business. His strategy was to transfer all the noodles into a separate bowl to prevent them from absorbing too much broth.

My strategy was sort of like Jason’s. I transferred a bit to a plate and ate off of that, mostly because the huge bowl was too hot to eat out of. With a little over 20 minutes left, it seemed like I was starting to get close to the finish. I fished out all the noodles and meat from the bowl and transferred it to the plate one final time. Our waiters thought that I was going to finish it with ease, but by that point I hit a wall and couldn’t eat anymore. I waited a few minutes and took a few bites of meat but ended up spitting them out. I had hit a wall and couldn’t eat anymore. Everything tasted disgusting by then, so by then I pretty much gave up. With a few minutes left I gave one last effort, taking in one more bite, but that too I had to spit out.

If I could’ve finished the bowl I would’ve gotten the meal for free, along with a free t-shirt and a picture on the wall of fame. Since none of us finished the damage to our wallets was about $25 per person. That’s actually not too bad. (But now that I think about it, I got a little gypped because I mostly ate noodles and the remaining food was mostly meat.) The damage to our gastrointestinal tracts? Well that’s harder to quantify. But I think with this one loss in one attempt I am going to announce my retirement from eating challenges so there hopefully won’t be too much damage in the future…