Chasing a Unicorn

boston_croppedI thought finishing my first marathon was a fluke and luck played a huge role. To prove it wasn’t just a fluke, I signed up for my second attempt of the Chicago Marathon. I registered for the Philadelphia Marathon that same year. Wonderful things happened that second year and chasing a unicorn crossed my mind. However, life is filled with ups and downs.  I dealt with injuries, personal obstacles, excuses, lack of planning, and long periods off. I started wondering to myself, “Can I actually qualify for the Boston Marathon on my terms?”

I chose the Philadelphia Marathon as my backup race. Anything can happen on race day. Something did happen at the 2009 Chicago Marathon. I hit my goals earlier in the race but things began to fall apart around the 25K market and took a nose dive. I finished my second marathon but walked away disappointed. Thankfully, I registered for the Philadelphia Marathon. I flew into Philadelphia. I was determined to get a better time and I did.  It wasn’t the exact time I planned but I beat my first marathon time by xxx and my second marathon time by xxx. I ran this race forty-two days after my last marathon, while staying at a hostel, touring Philadelphia by foot two days prior, volunteering at the expo, and eating poorly the days prior to the race.  I also didn’t follow my original plan. If I stuck to my original plan of staying in the pace group, I think I could have reached my goal at Philadelphia despite it being hillier that the Chicago Marathon. Although I still didn’t get the time set my goal on, I ran it faster and endured more pain.  I felt like I earned this one.

The idea of qualifying for the Boston Marathon leaped in my head as I waddled back to the hostel. The race organizers were touting this as great race to qualify for the Boston Marathon, one of the guests at the hostel ran the Boston Marathon in the past, and while waiting for the train to get back to the hostel, a guy at the Market Street train stop started chatting with me and the topic of the Boston Marathon came up. Boston was in the air in Philadelphia. The idea grew and grew.

With a bit of consistency in my running, I beat my personal best at the 2010 Chicago Marathon.  I didn’t get into the threes like I wanted to. Remember, anything can happen on race day. My right hamstrings gave me issues on Halsted Street. My calf cramped up again around mile 18. In the end, I did things right that day: the preparation, self-care on the course, and managing the race. I think I can do this.

I thought I could train for a faster time but I didn’t. The years following weren’t so good to me and running.  I strained my right foot in 2011. My heels started to be a constant problem from 2012 until the summer of 2014. I volunteered to lead a training group for CARA in 2012 and 2013 to help people prepare for their marathon while I reduced the speed of my runs.  I feel like I didn’t heel quickly because of a lot of false starts and misdirected energy. I thought about cross training with NIU’s triathlon club but I pushed too hard too soon.  With some time off and building my mileage and intensity gradually, I’ve been running with very little pain. Each run seems to give me more energy and more strength.  I feel like these injuries are behind me.

I learned a few things these past years. I feel like it’s time to chase a unicorn and qualify for the Boston Marathon. I can do this. I’m ready.

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2014 Chicago Marathon Spectator Recap

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After volunteering at the start corral, I walked back to my little red wagon to charge my phone and eat my second breakfast. I could barely keep my eyes open and fell asleep looking at the course map.  After my quick cat nap, headed out on the course to cheer on the marathoners and hunt down Chris and DC.

There were three good opportunities to find them.  The first location was between mile 15 and 16. I hoped to see Chris or DC. After estimating their time based of the run tracker report on my phone, I decided to walk to mile 18. Mile 18 is one of the best places to find a runner.  The field thins out between Malcolm X College and UIC. By the time runners get to Little Italy, they slowed down for water, port-a-potties, gels, and to stretch aching muscles.

I found Chris at mile 18. He appeared to be walking to work something out. My calves cramped up right before mile 18 of every Chicago Marathon I participated.  I understood his walk. “Chris!” I yelled out. I ran to him to give him a double high five. I started to talk with him. Then we trotted. We began to run together.  His spirit was high.  He looked really good at this point of the race.

He seemed to power up while I was running next to him. I told him he was doing a great job. I pointed out how he looked good. He still had a good running form.  We chatted.  He didn’t stop. I took a photo of Chris. I photographed the course along the way. We even took a selfie together. I ran on the sidewalk. I ran beside him when possible. I walked behind the water stations so I don’t interfere with a runner’s opportunity to grab fluids and energy. I accompanied him for 3.25 miles I thought were the roughest for me and where I wish I had someone nudging me forward.  I ran with him on the part of the course that was light on spectators and runners.  During those miles with Chris, I asked myself, “Am I a bandit or am I just supporting my cousin?”

I left him right before Chinatown. The course narrows a bit in Chinatown.  The huge crowd breathes new energy into the runners.  There’s no room to run on the sidewalks. I wanted to find DC. Chris got this in the bag.  He looked great. The race turned down Wentworth and into the heart of Chinatown.  I continued on the sidewalk down Cermak Road.  I hoped to find DC along Michigan Avenue at mile 23 or mile 24.

At this point, I was starving! It was time for lunch. While walking down Cermak Road, I stopped by a little pizza place for a slice. I was so hungry and the slice tasted so good.  If I move back to the city, I would definitely visit that place again. The neighborhood has changed so much since my brother attended IIT.  The projects were torn down. New buildings with shops popped up.  Where was this development when this area needed these jobs?  I digress. My hunger was satisfied. I went to Michigan Avenue to wait for DC.

I waited for DC. I saw Chris again.  I trotted with him and he told me that mile 23 was rough. I told him he was almost there and I’ll see him at Grant Park.  “Good job,” I thought. My phone vibrates.  The runner tracker alerted me that DC crossed the finish line.  She finished much sooner than I estimated. I walked back towards Grant Park to find Chris and give him a ride back home. So many runners were fighting to get to the finish line.  Their shirts told me why they were running. Their expressions showed me what they were feeling.  Pain is temporary. Glory is forever.

It was a long day but very fulfilling. I gave back and paid it forward. I supported my cousin and friends the way my brother supported me during my first marathon. My feet hurt as if I ran the entire distance with these marathoners. My legs were sore from all the walking. Chris and I found each other after negotiating the maze of fences and obstacles in Grant Park. We walked backed to the little red wagon and talked about the race. On our way home we chatted about family, weddings, running, work, etc.  This has been one of the most memorable marathons I have been involved in.

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2014 Chicago Marathon Volunteer Recap

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I slammed on the snooze button. It’s two-thirty in the morning. Why did I have to up so early on a Sunday?  It was race day. The Chicago Marathon began in five hours. I thought I would never have to wake up unusually early for a race again but there I was peeling myself off of my bed. So many volunteers make large events like the Chicago Marathon happen. Volunteering was a way for me to give back and give forward to the running community.  Last year I was a co-key volunteer with my friend VM to work the late finish line. This year, I woke up early to volunteer at the start corral.

When I arrived at the volunteer compound, they assigned me to the Jackson crosswalk. Runners started trickling in at around 5:30a.  The morning remained peaceful. The push rim wheelchair athletes rolled by us with their race chairs in tow. The sun finally woke up and a flurry of people started coming in. We (the volunteers) had to answer a variety of questions as best as we can. The most frequently asked question was, “Where is the bathroom?”

One thing I learned that morning was that fast runners are just like the rest of us. A few marathoners in the American Development corral (AKA- the wicked fast corral that isn’t quite the elite professional corral) were coming in within minutes of the walkway and corrals. I would have thought they’d get there early to warm up, mentally prep, and make sure everything is order.  Nope. Like many of us, they came in at the last minute. They raced to the gates to get to the race so they can get into their corrals to start the race.

We finally closed the crosswalk. The first wave marched towards the starting line. We started preparing for the second wave to start the Chicago Marathon. After moving the barriers and the discarded clothing, the crosswalk volunteers helped the Corral F volunteers. I jumped behind the Corral F rope to lead the second wave out.  To my left was a fellow volunteer.  To might right was a marathon that had a goal to run ten marathons in ten years.  It’s an admirable goal and he was excited to complete it. As we slowly approached the starting line, I could feel the energy in the air behind me. We paused halfway down our walk. The wait felt like forever, the gentleman next to me decided it was time to shed his warm layers.  I helped him remove his pants caught on his shoe. Once it was removed, I freed the pavement of his grey warmup pants and tossed it aside.  I aimed to have it drape over the corral fence. I tossed and scored.  I got cheers from runners around me. Remember, I’m a pro at the toss.  I’ve participated in five Chicago Marathons. I’ve seen people do this before.

At the starting line, we pulled the rope in front of wave 2.  The volunteers were instructed to enter a boxed off area for us to watch the second (and best!) wave start the race. The race officials released the runners. We gave them high fives, side fives, wished them good luck, and told them to run happy. Runners walked past us adjusting their gear. They checked and prepared their fitness monitors. Many of them let us know their appreciation by saying “Thank you volunteers! Thank you!” as they headed to the starting line. Hearing their appreciation and seeing their smiling faces reminded me why waking up at 2:30 in the morning was worth it.

It still felt weird being on the other side of the fence.  I volunteered last year as the co-key volunteer at the late finish line. However, this year was different.  I stood in front of the starting line. I witnessed the nervousness and excitement on the faces and body language of each runner next to me.  I wanted to run with them.  I was there to cheer them on.

The start corral emptied out. We tore down the starting line and prepared to give it back to the city of Chicago. We pulled down signs. We tore off the fabric fencing attached to the barriers. It was efficiently loaded onto trucks. The white barriers were pushed into groups for easy collection. Volunteers cleaned up the aftermath of a marathon start. Volunteers collected discarded clothing so it can be donated. We piled full garbage bags neatly into bags for garbage trucks to pick up.

During the start, I saw DS walk to the starting line.  I called his name but he was so focused.  I tapped his arm as he walked by.  He looked back and I gave him the thumbs up. I was so happy to see him ready to kick some asphalt. Now that the corrals were cleared, it’s time for me to find Chris and DC.

Do I find Chris and DC during the race? Do I fall asleep under a tree and miss the entire marathon? Come back on Thursday to find out!

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Return to Running and a Race Recap

I missed race day morning while I was injured.  The day wakes up. Chicago stirs from her sleep.  The sunrise kisses the skyline. The warm glow on her face takes my breath. The excitement and nervous energy of a race disrupts the stillness of a peaceful morning. I missed it and I’m glad to be back.

I find myself standing at the corner of Monroe and Columbus waiting for JB. It is her first half marathon.  You can feel the slight dread and worry.  She’s a fitness enthusiast who wanted to cross off the half marathon off of her bucket list.  She asked a number of our former co-workers to run her for moral support and to celebrate afterward.  I signed up when the others agreed to run. One had a change of plans due to an opportunity of a lifetime. The others did not follow through. It was just me and JB. I’m broken and she was worried about the distance.

The Rock and Roll Chicago is my first race since nagging injuries sidelined me.  Over the past two years, I registered for races but was unable to get to the starting line.  I couldn’t run without teeth-grinding pain since November 2013. Late May, I found myself wrapped around a tree along the Fox River Trail in Saint Charles, IL.  The injuries caused so much pain during last year’s events.  I shouldn’t have participated in those races.  I felt fear and excitement that morning.  I miss race day morning but am I ready to complete 13.1 miles?

I strung multiple days of running for the first time only a week before the race.  JB asked me to run with her for the entire distance at a ten minute pace.  Everyone else in her group bailed on her.  I stood alone but I’m still getting over an injury. I feared that pace because I didn’t want to lose another year of running. After a brief discussion, we agreed on a plan.  I will run at least 4 miles with her at a 10:30 minute pace and the fall back to around a 12 minute pace.

The race went well.  It unfolded as planned.  After mile four, I felt good and ran another two miles with her. Music finally arrived after a six mile absence. (The stage outside the Chicago Theater and at Daley Plaza was empty.) The music motivated me to maintain this pace.  I knew I can keep this pace but why? I’m just getting out of bad injury streak. I should just enjoy and complete the race, hear the music, and love the run. After cooling down and stretching, I felt like I could run another four miles.

I’ve been so happy to finish this race. I just have to temper my excitement so I don’t reinjure myself. I completed four full weeks of quality running since July 14. I feel amazing right now. Using my body and feeling the soreness after a run reminds me that I’m alive. I really need to thank JB for getting me out on the course.  She provided the impetus to get me running again. Without her, I still would be too timid to run.

***

Results

Chip Time- 02:24:14 (hr:mm:ss) , Average Pace- 11:00min/mi

5km- 34:10; 10km- 01:04:33 ; 10mi- 1:47:52; 10.5mi- 1:54:12;

 

 

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Declare Your Independence

Free yourself. Free yourself from naysayers. Free yourself from yourself. Free yourself from the status quo that brings the human spirit down. We are created equal. However, the weight of burden added throughout the years is placed unequally on each individual. Unburden yourself from years of baggage people placed on you and rise to your greatest potential. You have the strength and power within you to do amazing things with your life when the yoke is removed and you can run free.

Observe. Listen. Understand. Love. Unleash your greatness on the world as you humbly assist your fellow human achieve their greatness. Judgement can not build something great nor can blame.  Judgement only leads to walls and animosity. Live a life of love and acceptance.
Be confident. Be bold.  Dream grand dreams that stir the soul and and take action. Lay a foundation based on your dreams, passions, values, and sound principles. Hold your dreams tight embrace. Nurture it, care for it, and allow it to grow.

Pledge your lives, fortunes, and sacred honor on your independence. Only when we can free ourselves can we do great things. Declare your independence from those who shackle you. Free yourself the cramped box people put your in.

We can build and do beautiful and amazing things when we are free.

–Markemmanuel F. Rodriguez

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Summer Goals

I dedicate this summer to tying loose ends and begin writing the meat of this chapter of my life. The key to living you dream is to live it right now by creating achievable goals, break the goals down into tasks, and work on those tasks in a timely matter. This summer, I build a strong foundation to build success in my fitness, career, and travel.

Health and Fitness

I want to run in the 2017 Boston Marathon. I want to complete the 2015 American Birkebeiner in a reasonable time (approximately five hours).  I’ve been riddled with injuries over the three years and a recent bike accident complicates things.  It’s still painful to run. I miss my long rides through the woods and along the lakefront. I need to start slow and build steadily.  I’m essentially starting from scratch. I’ll be continuing my fitness journey by developing healthy habits. Consistency is the key to getting healthier.

Taking the first step seems to be the most difficult part of getting fit. You and I haven’t built the momentum to make exercising and eating well automatic.  Once we get off our behinds and start moving towards our goals, the momentum builds. I’ve read it takes three to four weeks to develop a habit. Each week I’ll be building upon the previous week’s successes and errata.

My fitness goal for July is to be active at least 30 minutes a day and include at least one healthy meal a day. Exercise can be as simple as walking.

In August, I will build on the prior month and increase my investment in health.

Skill, Work, and Funding

This moment in my life provides me a great opportunity to sharpen and improve my skill set. I made time invest in my knowledge base.  If I don’t use it, I’ll lose it.  Every day, I will invest a bit of time reviewing the fundamentals of economic theory and its applications.  I will spend time working on algebra and calculus problems.  I’ll be going over my econometrics coursework to reinforce what I learned.

I also need to find funding for my fabulous dreams.  I want to earn the resources by doing something that fulfilling and flexible.  I’d like to do work that reflects my dreams and values.  It could be a starter or phase one job that could lead to something bigger and better. It could be a stream of income that I build on my own.

I hope to find fulfilling work by the end of August.  I want to work on building my own business based on my interests and skills. I will treat my time as if I’m working a 60 hour work week and distribute it accordingly.

Planning for Next Year

I’ll be spending a few hours a week planning next year’s adventures and execute the plan to achieve those goals. I hope to have this planned by the end of August. I mapped out a general plan. I want to add some depth and texture to it. I’m trying to solve a puzzle with a lot of pieces.  How can I train for a marathon, travel and explore, and earn resources at the same time?  Hopefully, I can find and execute a creative solution. It’s achievable if I believe in myself.  First, I need to take the first step towards where I want to go.

 

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Vision, Dreams, Interests

To live a more authentic life that reflects who I am and who I want to be, I spent time mediating on what encompassing vision I have for my life, dreams that I want to reach, and what I’m interested in.

I will make my decisions based on these requirements. I will measure it against my dreams. Outcomes will be judged on how it influences my interests. How does this stack up to my vision? How does this help me reach closer to my goals?

Vision

I help people become whole, lead my life as a soldier of peace, and make a positive impact on people’s lives so they can achieve their dreams.

Dreams for Myself

This is not a comprehensive list my dreams. This just a small sampling of what I want to focus my energy on right now.  They are now burning desires. These dreams will set me up to achieve other things in life and build the momentum to create more energy.

Position myself in a position to leave a positive influence in the world. The only thing that stopping me from doing great things is myself.  I want to do something great with my life and if history thrusts itself upon me, I want to be ready with a sound mind, sound body, and sound spirit.

This requires me to sharpen my skills, gain skills that I lack, and improving myself by investing the time to get it done.  I want to be a extremely well rounded person that has an expertise or two. This is the dream I want to focus most on this year.

Run the marathon distance in under three hours and qualify for the Boston Marathon by 2016. A “What if” popped question popped into my head on a flight home from Philadelphia.  I chopped off 14 minutes and 29 seconds off my disappointing. Chicago Marathon time.  It intensified a year later when I dropped another 14 minutes and 22 seconds. I lowered my time by a total of 53 minutes and 39 seconds from 2008 to 2011.  Part of me knew qualifying is possible.

Because of school and work, I haven’t put the time and consistency into my training. I’ve been consistently injured instead of consistently training.  I believe this is the time to put the time, energy, and consistency into this dream. I am getting older. I look forward to dating again and finding the right person to have a family with.  A family changes the dynamics of my life.  This may be my final shot to achieve this dream.

Go off on a great American road trip to explore, discover, and learn from the places and people in the United States. I want to see everything and try to comprehend it.  I hope it will give me a greater understand on what is right and what needs to be improved upon. The United States has been blessed to have a system to protect and sustain parts of its history and natural environment. The people in my country covers the whole spectrum of human life and thought. Where else can I visit the full vibrancy  of cultures from around the world while staying within a geographic area.  This road trip is a journey of a lifetime.

It’s time that I make this dream a priority. In a two years, I’ll be embarking on a journey that will not allow me the luxury to savor the people I meet and the places I discover. It will guide my decisions and actions when I help individuals as I will gain different perspectives on my trip.

Interests and Concerns

There are a few concerns that I’m deeply moved by.  Part of it stems from my observations as a add miles on my weary feet. They are issues that needs to be addressed.  I firmly believe that every life is sacred and each individual and group is entitled to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. We have a good system that enables us to make adjustments and change things for the better (and sometimes for the worse). I want to work on mitigating or solving problems of poverty, hunger, economic inequality, and the degradation of our environment.  These problems causes the symptoms our society is facing such as violence, poor health, and other tensions. I want to be in a position to make an impact on this.

Illinois is a country girl in t-shirt and jeans that amazes you when you spend time with her.  If the world just listened and admired the minute details, they’d see how beautiful she is.  It’s all the little things. Unfortunately, she had a few bad boyfriends and some of her friends put her in awkward situations.  I know how gorgeous she is and I want to let the world know how beautiful she is.  I want to work with her, build a better life. and build a better place for people to live. She is my base camp. She will always be the home I come back to no matter where life sends me.

The Philippine Islands has a special place in my heart.  I am the son of hardworking immigrants who have roots in the Philippines.  It’s a beautiful place with so much potential. Every time I visit my parent’s ancestral home, I see its natural beauty slipping away from destruction of treasures GOD bestowed on the islands and poverty stripping away the human potential that could have added to the beauty of the islands. I dream of returning to a metro Manila free of poverty and pollution. I can see myself walking into the beauty of the rain forests and other natural resources protected or sustained for current and future generation. Once I feel my work in Illinois and the United States, I would love to start improving the world with my family’s ancestral nation and expand to other places.

Knowing my vision, dreams, and interests will help me navigate through the many decisions I need to make in my life.  It will make my life more authentic. What can I do today to take me one step closer to my dreams.  How are my actions affecting the interest and concerns in life.  During my final moments, I will not ask myself, “What if?”

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