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The Journey to Ironman Lake Placid

The following was authored by Cathy Huang who recently completed her first full Ironman at Lake Placid! It is hard enough to run a marathon but running one after swimming 2.4 miles and a 112-mile bike ride is a step many of us have yet to complete! This is how Cathy trained and performed at Lake Placid and her original post can be found on her Strava.

Queens Distance

The journey to an Ironman takes a village, and I am so thankful for my village that got me to the finish line for Lake Placid! From the encouragement (read: coercing) to sign up for the race, to the training buddies who made sure I logged miles, and family and friends who provided mental and emotional support leading up to, during, and after the race – thank you!

It’s been weeks since I completed Ironman Lake Placid (IMLP) and it still feels surreal that it’s done. It took me a long time to write this recap because there were so many different aspects of my journey that I wanted to convey without making this recap even longer. I decided to focus on the why, the how (training), and the race so that if I ever decide to do this again, I’ll remember what some of the main drivers were. I’m also hoping it provides perspectives for others who are considering tackling the 140.6 miles. There’s a lot more details than what’s written, so happy to discuss further over a run/ride/drink/meal anytime!

– Finish time of 12:55:00 – 20th in AG; 104th in Gender; 619th overall
– Swim 1:32:56
– T1 8:56
– Bike 7:06:21
– T2 9:25
– Run 3:57:24

Basking in my sweet, sweet victory.

Where It All Started

If you told me when I first started doing triathlons 5 years ago that I would one day compete in an Ironman, I would’ve told you you’re crazy. In fact, after I did the half-ironman distance in Lake Placid in 2017, I said I would never do a full in Lake Placid… But when you’re surrounded by the same “crazy” friends who like to push the limits, you inevitably end up signing up for one. My reason for Ironman Lake Placid is redemption. I Did Not Finish (DNF) the Age Group Nationals Champion Triathlon last year, which was the first time I DNF. I won’t go into all the details, but I signed up for IMLP as a goal to work towards. I wanted a course that would have an easier swim and Mirror Lake is exactly that. IMLP is a hilly course, but also an iconic race and one of the longest running Ironman events, or so the friends who were already registered told me when they were encouraging/coercing me to sign up.

The Training

I signed up for the race almost a year out with the intention to work on my swim technique (my weakest sport) and keep up a running base during the winter, before ramping up the miles on bike in the Spring. But between the combination of being the busiest time at work, buying an apartment, and moving to Queens, I didn’t start triathlon training until late March. Most people take 6-7 months to train for an Ironman but given I was short on time, I tried to maximize my training by incorporating brick workouts (doing two different sports with minimal rest time in between) to help my body adapt, focusing on swim drills to improve my technique, and doing one long bike ride during the weekend. I started with 50 miles as a long bike ride before getting two 100+ miles before the race.

While I almost never met this schedule, my training plan was to swim 2-3x, run 2-3x (two early weekday runs, and one run on the weekend after a bike ride), and bike 2-3x a week. In reality, I had a great training week if I swam 1x, bike 2x (usually only over the weekend), and ran 2-3x a week. Training hours per week varied between four hours to peak of 15 hours (more in June when I ramped up the long bike rides). I missed more training than I liked, especially when work hours got crazy, and it led to many moments where I really considered deferring my race because the training and miles seemed impossible. I felt stressed about being behind in my training, which added to me not feeling ready and questioning why I signed up for this race. Thankfully I had family and friends who lent an ear, talked me off the ledge, and offered to ride/train with me to keep me accountable. Shoutout to Maria and Kieran for the routine and company during our early #morningmiles; Jason, Samson, and Jackie for the company on long bike rides; CC and Alex for their advice throughout my training; and to Jessica and Jian for calling me impromptu at always the perfect moment to ease my concerns, and sound advice to focus on one week at a time. Lastly to David for always being my #1 supporter and taking care of everything else (often doing all the cooking, cleaning, and laundry) so I could focus on training.

It wasn’t until two weeks before the race that I finally felt ready for the Ironman. Yin, Jackie, Nima and I went to Lake Placid for a training weekend. We swam two loops of Mirror Lake on Friday and Sunday, and rode almost the full bike course (minus the newly added out and back by the Olympics Center) on Saturday, followed by a brick run. It was a hot day and we didn’t have enough water on the bike course but we got to fine-tune our race strategies. I learned I needed to eat every 45 mins and that I needed to drink way more liquids. I also finally felt comfortable (enough) going down Keene Valley descent  (about 5 miles of downhill ~2,000ft elevation change) to not brake the whole way down. Of all three sports, I trained the least in running. My longest run was 13 miles 8 weeks before the race, but I was trusting my running base that I’ll be ok for the marathon.

Congrats to Jackie, Nima, and Yin on finishing! We couldn’t have done it without this support group.

Race Weekend

Friday – I finished packing around 1AM Friday morning (so much for getting extra rest before the race!). I had learned from other Ironman friends that Ironman is not like your traditional triathlon where you get to lay out all your race gear for each segment. Instead, you’re given gear bags to pack what you need for each transition, in addition to special needs for halfway through the bike and run. Worried I would forget something, I re-packed multiple times and used ziplock bags to simulate packing for the gear bags.

David was really great at trying to help me relax on the drive up to Lake Placid, and didn’t let me split the five-hour drive so that I could focus on positive race visualization. We arrived at the athlete check-in around 1PM and met up with Vikram, Yin, Jackie, and Nima for athlete briefing. We went for an easy 30 min swim before heading for our Airbnb to make a pasta dinner and pack our gear bags. Even though I had prepared my bags already, I still repacked a few more times until I felt ready. I ended up not using the special needs bag for the run since I planned to carry my gels. Knowing I likely won’t get much sleep on Saturday, I was in bed by 10:30PM.

Saturday – After a light breakfast, we headed out for one more short brick (13-15 mile ride and 2 mile run) before bringing our bikes and gear bags to transition. On the way to the Oval I realized I had left my goggles and cap at the lake after the practice swim yesterday. Rookie mistake since you’re not supposed to use anything new on race day! Not the worst thing to lose since you can test the goggles before the swim start and make adjustments. I bought new ROKA goggles at the Oval. After hanging in our gear bags, I counted the number of rows I would need to pass as a mental note for when I get out of swim and back from bike tomorrow. Trying to stay off our feet, we checked into our new Airbnb before joining TriLife’s pasta dinner (thank you CC for making that delicious meal for all of us!). Besides great food, we got to talk to the TriLife coaches and other athletes on race strategies. I was most worried about the potential rain forecast, especially if it happened while I was on the Keene Valley descent. Based on when I expected to start the ride and when the rain was going to happen, I might be going down the descent right when it started raining. Knowing it was something outside of my control, I just hoped for the best. We left by 8PM and I was in bed by 9:30PM.

Saying farewell to my gear bags on Saturday – not your usual transition site!

RACEDAY – I managed to fall asleep almost right after going to bed but woke up a few times throughout the night until my alarm finally went off at 3AM. Vik and I wanted to get to transition right when they opened (4:30AM) in case there was limited parking (we were staying in Keene), so we headed out earlier than Nima, Yin, and Jackie. My breakfast was oatmeal with Justin’s version of Nutella and half a bagel. We arrived at the parking lot around 4:45AM and took a short 15 min nap before getting on the shuttle bus to transition. After getting to transition, I lost Vik and didn’t see him again until I was on the run. Saw Alix at the entrance to transition and she marked my arms with my bib number, and age on my left calf. For triathlons, your age is for the end of the year, not your actual age. I dropped off my special needs bag for the bike (second half of my food, which was Honey Stinger waffles and SIS bars, and a cold bottle of water with SIS tablets), pumped my bike, went to the bathroom one more time before I walked over to the swim start. I was carrying a banana with me to eat 30 mins before my swim start. Once I was in the swim area, you can feel all the nervous energy and buzz as athletes went in for a practice swim and spectators watched. I ate my banana and went in for a short swim to test the new goggles – works great!

Lake Placid swim is two loops of Mirror Lake, and a self-seeded swim start so you put yourself in the corral based on when you think you will finish the swim. My best practice swim time was 1:50 but I seeded myself in the 1:20 – 1:30 corral based on Ildar’s advice that everyone else is seeding themselves faster than actual pace, so I would get stuck behind other swimmers if I didn’t do the same. I saw Yin and Nima at the same corral, which was great since I didn’t see them since the night before. I lost Yin when she went for her practice swim but Nima and I got to talk to other first-timers before it was our turn to enter the water. The cannon went off (for the pros to start) and before we even started our swim, we saw the top three men finish their first lap (talk about fast!).

In my first lap, I was in a vortex of much faster swimmers and they helped pull me along. The best part of swimming in Mirror Lake besides the calm water is a cable line that holds the buoys and marks the swim course. Most swimmers try to stay close to this line to help with sighting and minimize extra yards, but you often get scratched, kicked, and bobbed in the head by the other swimmers. I tried not to swim right on the line but was pushed toward the line by the other swimmers so just tried to draft off of them. I finished the first lap in 43 minutes – my fastest yet! Grabbed a cup of water and ran back into the lake. In the second lap, most of the faster swimmers were already done but I was still getting bobbed and kicked to the point where I got really annoyed. I just wanted to get out of the water! When I got to the final turn before the exit, I was met with more arms and legs contact before I finally got out of the water. I realized later I got a cut on my right ankle, likely from another swimmer’s Ironman wristband, which is now a new battle scar on my ankle. I finished the second lap in 49 mins for a total swim time of 1:32 – 20 mins faster than I expected!!!

I happily ran out of the water and made eye contact with one of the wetsuit peelers, Mary, who got me out of my wetsuit. Got to say hi to CC and Alix during the run to transition before Mary caught up to me – my timing chip had came off when she peeled off my suit! Good thing she saw that or my time wouldn’t have recorded! I grabbed my bag from transition and ran into the changing room. This was an interesting experience as everyone was quickly stripping and volunteers were trying to help us get dressed and sunscreened up before the run. I tried to dry myself off with the towel I packed before changing into dry clothes. A volunteer came over to help me with my socks and I ate half a banana (the other half fell), drank 3/4 bottle of water before I ran out of the tent and to my bike. If you’re lucky, a volunteer would’ve already grabbed your bike while you were changing but given I was middle of the pack and there was so many of us, I grabbed my own bike.

The bike ride is two 56 mile loops of the Adirondacks, with about 8,000 feet of elevation gain per the athlete guide. You have small hills in the beginning, then a huge descent, then hills, more hills, and more hills. Then you repeat that again. I did the practice ride in 6 hours and 50 minutes and I felt good, but I wanted to save my legs for the run so I was aiming for 7 hours on the bike. I can’t say I remember all the details of the bike, especially the first loop. I remember going a little easier in the beginning, enjoying the beautiful views, going down Keene, some hills, eating every 45 mins, drinking every 10-15 minutes, taking two salt tablets per loop, and successfully grabbing water and bananas from the volunteers in the aid stations without unclipping or falling off my bike.

So happy to see David and Jenny – right after first loop of bike!

Around 30 miles, I saw a porta-potty and started thinking about needing to pee. Before the race, I read about people peeing on the bike to shave time but I couldn’t do it. I didn’t stop at that aid station but a few miles later, the urge to pee was bad. I tried not to think about it but the next aid station wasn’t for another 10 miles! I barely held it together before I finally got to the aid station. Of course, everyone else seemed to have skipped the earlier station and there was a queue for the porta-potties. I felt like I was going to explode. I finally got to do my business and continued the ride.

Around 50 miles, I started to feel very full. I was eating and drinking on schedule but perhaps too much since I didn’t practice this before, or I didn’t factor in the half bananas I grabbed from volunteers. I finished the first loop (around 3:23) and saw Alix during special needs and told her how I was feeling. She told me to only drink water until that feeling went away. I reapplied some chamois butter, grabbed the rest of my nutrition and cold bottle, and started my second loop. This is where I saw CC, Jenny, and David on the course and that gave me a small boost. Short lived because around 60 miles I was SO sleepy. All I wanted to do was pull over and take a nap. Since the bike portion is so long, the ride can get very monotonous. In hindsight, I should’ve packed gels with caffeine to wake myself up but since I never got sleepy on training rides, I didn’t think I’d need them. Between going down Keene descent (very happy to report no rain at this point because I had shaved off time during the swim!), which had some strong headwind, and another bathroom break that included reapplying sunscreen, I felt more awake. The full feeling I had finally went away and I was able to eat again. At this point my butt was starting to get sore. I didn’t realize I would have the opportunity to change for each leg until a week before the race and had done all my long rides with tri shorts, so per the “nothing new on race day” rule, I was racing in tri shorts. Tri shorts don’t have as much padding so I was feeling the pain.

When I got to Wilmington (another hilly portion of the ride), we got a few minutes of heavy rain, but not on the descent. I was relieved for the rain but right after, we were hit with 100% humidity and I could feel the steam coming off the ground. It was hot and with 16 miles left (which were mostly uphills) and a sore butt, I was losing steam. I stuck to the same nutrition plan of eating every 45 mins and drinking water and Gatorade (when my SIS water ran out) so I wouldn’t bonk on the run but I couldn’t keep to the same pace as before. During the practice ride, I was able to climb the second round of mama bear, baby bear, and papa bear hills with ease but I struggled on race day. There was a great support crew on top of papa bear cheering everyone on, and I leveraged their energy and pretended all the “Go Grace” written on the floor was actually “Go Cathy.” Finally, I got back to the village and saw the runners and knew I was close to transition. There was one more small out and back and this is where I saw Ildar who told me I was crushing it. Fueled by his positivity, I picked up the pace a little right into transition. I couldn’t be more happy to get off my bike and handed Eleanor to a volunteer to rack her. My Garmin watch showed about 7 hours for the ride so I was still on track with where I thought I’d finish.

Grabbed my bag in T2 (the second transition) and ran into the changing tent again. I had decided before the race that I would change my entire outfit again so that I would be comfortable on the run. I even took the time to wipe my face and reapplied sunscreen so total time spent was longer than my first transition. Some may say this was wasted time but comfort was important to me.

For the run, I had a secret goal of 4 hours, and it was actually my only goal for the Ironman. It was a secret goal because I didn’t think I can do it since I ran only 15-25 miles a week and had done no speed work. It was a goal because before this year, in all my triathlons, I felt terrible on the run. It was more of a mental block on my end that I wanted to train so I had this 4:00 mark on my mind when I started the marathon.

At the beginning of the run, the sun was out and it was HOT. You start off with a huge downhill that seemed great until you realize you’ll later need to run back up for the second loop. My legs didn’t have that heavy feeling after getting off the bike and I was able to keep up a pace around 8:30 ish per mile. I had set my watch on ultratrac mode to save battery but because it wasn’t picking up signal as frequently, I couldn’t always tell if the pace I was seeing on my watch was accurate. I saw Ildar again at the beginning of my run and we chatted for a bit before I was on my own. I stopped at every aid station to either get water or shove ice down my sports bra to stay cool. I could tell everyone around me was feeling the heat and humidity and most were walking by this point. I had watched a Ted Talk on “How endurance athletes are using the power of the now” before the race and it talked about focusing on the present to get through the run/difficult part of the course. I focused on putting one foot in front of the other and was able to break up the marathon into smaller miles, like thinking about the early morning runs I did with Maria and Kieran on Mondays and Fridays. Because the run was set up to be 6 miles out then back into the village, and repeat, I was able to see the other athletes multiple times on the course. I saw Fabian around 3 miles and Jackie was going back into the village as I was about to hit the 10K mark. I slowed down my pace around mile 8 and this is when I started to walk through the aid station instead of running through them, taking two cups of water – one to dump over my head and one to drink. It was still sunny and hot. Going back into the village around mile 12 was when we hit that big hill we started with, and I decided to walk it. I didn’t want to waste effort going up the steep hill and risk cramping, which worked well for me. My Strava showed my pace for that hill was still around 9:33 so the walk was definitely worth it. I saw TriLife members, David, Jenny, and Vik around the halfway point, which gave me another boost.

My nutrition plan was one SIS gel every 40-45 mins and I stuck to it. I ate some chips and pretzels on some of the aid stations, took a few licks of salt from salt base to prevent cramping, and continued taking water and shoving ice down my sports bra. My shirt was completely drenched in a mixture of sweat and melted ice. I was passing everyone on the run and still feeling relatively good. My legs were getting tired but again I thought of the Ted Talk and kept thinking, one foot in front of the other. Around mile 20, I saw Ross from TriLife on River Road and he told me to imagine everyone in front of me as a “kill” and to keep up the pace. It made me laugh and think of Ragnar days. When I got back into the village, I saw TriLife, David, Jenny, and Vik again (yay!). I walked the big hill again and knew I only had about 3-4 miles left even though my watch was showing me something different. I was trying to do math to see if I could hit my marathon goal but I was estimating maybe 4:03 or 4:04, which was ok too. I started to think about needing to pee again and saw a porta-potty around mile 23. This part of the course has a small out and back so I was thinking maybe I’ll pee on the way back. At the turnaround point, I saw Ildar again and he tells me I’m about to finish under 13 hours if I kept up this pace. I really wanted to pee but I was about to go through the finisher chute and blocked out the thought. I saw Jackie again and I ran in front of him for a little bit before he started running towards the finish. Going through the finisher chute I started to get emotional when I realize I was about to finish the race. I saw CC and she’s telling me to chase Jackie, but I just started crying. I wanted to hold on to this moment. I came around the finisher chute, saw the red ironman mat, saw Jenny, and David on the left, right before the finish line and heard Matt Riley say, “Jiayan Huang, you are an Ironman.” I had crossed the finish line.

Mixture of tears and joy as I crossed the finish line. Will never forget this moment.

Ildar was by the finish line and I told him my marathon goal. He checked the app – 3:57. I had beat my goal and that made the finish even sweeter.

Would I do another Ironman again? I initially said no but I think a part of me will want to. I had such a great race experience and want to hold on to that high a little longer. For now, I’m basking in this sweet victory.

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Tokyo Marathon Reflections

The following was authored by Queens Distance’s very own co-founder, Maria Wong! We’re very proud of her achievements and how inspiring she is.

Queens Distance

Pre-Tokyo & Training

Four months ago, I completed the Tokyo Marathon – my fastest marathon to date. I PR’ed with a time of 3:06:42 under the tutelage of Coach Medina (CM) and in the first class of the CM Sub-3 program. It was an incredibly hard but worthwhile training cycle with people I trust, respect, and admire. 

Since fall marathon training is in full swing and the Tokyo Marathon lottery has opened, I feel like this is a perfect opportunity to reflect on my experience in Tokyo this past March.

I’ve always dreamed of going to Tokyo since I’ve learned of it and its culture and food. Running the marathon just seemed like a good reason to go. Kevin and I made the choice last summer when I submitted myself to their Run As One program, where I had to have run a marathon between 2:45-3:30 within the past year. 

Photo courtesy of Tokyo Marathon

Let me preface this by saying that my previous attempts at a Spring marathon were abysmal. My training went well with a few hiccups but race day temps always hindered my performance, and thus, my goals were out of reach. I admit that I was (and am still) disappointed that I could not achieve my time goal for both of my Bostons, but I did not want it to happen for a third time. This is why Tokyo was a good choice. During this time, I was also training for Chicago with Coach Medina for the first time, so I was getting used to the hard workouts and summer heat and humidity. 

Fast forward to October, my Chicago marathon performance was hindered by stomach problems that I developed early into the race. Kevin and Edwin were kind enough to pace me, and Edwin stayed with me all the way to the end. I didn’t achieve my time goal again and managed to finish with a side stitch. Was I disappointed? A little. I wasn’t sure I could really even run another marathon and had already made up my mind to skip Boston next year. So again, Tokyo was a good fit.

Two weeks later, I started training for Tokyo with the CM Sub-3 group. There were good days and bad days, easy and hard days. Most times, I could barely hold a pace that I knew I could run. It was grueling but I had great company all the time. Everyone was just as motivated as I was to get to the starting line, fit and prepared. 

Expo, Takoyaki, and Rabbits

At the end of February, Kevin and I finally embarked on our first trip to Asia together. To say that we were excited is an understatement. We tried to fit in as much as we could: visiting sites, playing with rabbits, exploring the city, riding the subways, etc. My mind has expanded since I’ve visited Tokyo, in a good way. 

Back to the marathon, the number/bib pick-up was unlike any other I’ve experienced. It was outdoors, set in interconnected tents, starting with bib/number pick-up. When you enter, you are directed to one of the many friendly faces that scan your confirmation forms. Immediately after that, they scan your face and give you a bracelet (similar to entering a club or multi-day event) that you HAVE to wear until you complete the marathon. Then you walk towards the back to get your shirt and other goodies. The next few tents are Tokyo Marathon-themed paraphernalia, sponsor tents with samples and coupons, and some interactive tents. Honestly, it was all a blur and all I remember is sounds, colors, and a lot of people in an enclosed tunnel. Once I exited, there were picnic tables set up with food trucks all along the way to the exit. Of course, I opted for some takoyaki, which are fried dough with little pieces of octopus in the middle finished with a light drizzle of teriyaki and sweet mayo sauce. It was the perfect snack to end the crazy marathon pickup tunnel through which I just experienced.

The next day, we went to a Rabbit Cafe. It was a wonderful surprise that Kevin arranged that was both exhilarating and relaxing. Since this post is about the marathon, I won’t go into the details of our hour playdate with the rabbits. In short, it was bliss. And it was a well-needed distraction that made me happy and re-affirmed why I chose to go to Tokyo. 

Race Day

On race day, it was drizzling and would be raining for the remainder of the day. (Did I mention that it was also humid and raining during Chicago?) Kevin and I met up with Julie and David to take a photo before we all left to our respective corrals. I felt like I was going to kindergarten all over again. I went to check my baggage and then went on a search for the nearest port-a-potty. I encountered a port-a-potty line that winded around like a snake. In my mind, it didn’t make sense nor did it seem efficient. After waiting for almost 45 minutes, a couple of guys started directing people to unoccupied port-a-potties. It moved quickly for those 5 minutes but I needed to be in my corral in 5 minutes. I literally jumped in, did my business, and ran up a set of stairs to my corral, only to find that there was a separate section of port-a-potties for the Sub-elite. I didn’t even have time to think about that because I just rushed into my corral. I was surprised that there wasn’t more security/volunteers monitoring the corral closing, but I also showed my bib, which ensured that I was in the right place.

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Meet your QDR Tokyo Marathon Class of 2019! This will be the 1st Tokyo Marathon for each of them. Remember the names, because it’s SHOWTIME. Leading off, from Kew Gardens, frequent QDR Volunteer David Dominguez @duhminguez! Batting cleanup, one of our favorite #beyondtheborough members, from the Lower East Side, Julie Tran @eastvillageveg! Finally, standing in at 5 feet, 4 inches, hailing from Jackson Heights, your Co-Founder of the Queens Distance Runners, Maria Wong @mwmaria! We’d like to wish everyone running the 2019 Tokyo Marathon an incredible experience! See you on our stories 🤗 #queensdistance #queensnyc🌎 #itsinqueens #qdrteamtravels #tokyomarathon #maytheforcebewithusall #running #marathon

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As I was standing in the corral, I noticed a lot of other English-speaking runners around me. There were a set of bleachers to our left and one to our right. Once the announcer started speaking in Japanese, I just listened (even if I didn’t understand) and observed what other people were doing. Then all of a sudden, the people in the bleachers to our right stood up and started singing, what I assume to be the national anthem. Immediately after that was done, a huge group of Japanese men (who were dry) showed up to our left and lined up at the start line. The announcer also stated all the runners at the front of our corrals – the elites (because I recognized some of the African names). And then before I knew it, the start gun went off and confetti showered down on us. All I remember was starting my watch and saying to myself, “easy down the decline.”

The first thing I saw and was impressed with was the amount of Japanese women and men around me. They were all very fit, small, and purposeful in their movements. The crowds were loud, but not as raucous as the NYC crowds. My effort felt good and I enjoyed the sights and sounds. I knew that if I looked around too much, I would lose focus. And so, I focused on the road ahead and the backs of runners. There weren’t too many costumes, which disappointed me: Doraemon, Pikachu and a guy in a gold onesie. And then I saw some NYC club singlets: NBR, PPTC, and GCR. It felt like I was home for those few seconds. 

From the start to about 30K, all I heard were the continuous cheers from along the streets: “Ganbatte! (Good luck!)” Since the marathon is in Japan, all the marathon markers were in kilometers and miles were marked every 5 miles. I found that kilometers went by really quickly and I quite enjoyed looking out for the mile markers. It gave me something to focus on besides my breaths and steps. The water stations were also spaced out a little differently than I’m used to: the first at 5K, and then alternating every 2K/3K. It was a lot to think about, but it’s hard to miss the stacks of cups on tables as you near them. They also had an electrolyte drink called “Pocari Sweat” that was more agreeable to my sensitive stomach. It tasted like a lighter version of the Gatorade Ice series. For my fuel, I brought 5 Hammer gels with me, which I took every 45 minutes, or 8K. Dispersed along the course were nutrition choices that were odd to American taste-buds; they had pickled plums, chocolate, and other interesting choices that I didn’t even see. Suffice it to say, I didn’t touch any of those tables.

Photo courtesy of Tokyo Marathon

During the first 30K, I did a quick whole-body check every time I took a gel to see how I was doing. At around 30-32K, I did another check and mentally prepared myself for the last 10-12K. As soon as I crossed the 33K mark, my legs started to feel heavy and tight. I forced myself to focus on my arms and to stay with the people around me. I continued taking water when I needed it and just focusing on matching my arm swing with my foot strike. I remember that last turn at 36K before the long straight-away to the finish. I don’t remember many good thoughts or feelings – just a lot of struggle. The wind was strong, the rain was pelting harder, and I could barely feel my thighs from the cold wind and rain. As we were coming up on the finish line, a narrow section of brick-laid streets felt never ending. Every side street that opened up, I expected to turn to the finish. I just wanted it to end already! Then I finally saw runners turning and my heart did a flip. The turn and finish felt like 5 seconds, compared to the last 1K. And then, it was over. I saw my time of 3:06 on my watch and was happy. I had PR-ed by 4 minutes since NYC in 2017. As I was walking, I saw a blue shadow from my left peripheral vision calling my name. It was Michael Capiraso, eager to take my picture and congratulate me on my accomplishment. I was elated from my effort and time and even more so to see a familiar face. Little did I know, what was looming.

The march to the recovery food was brutal. I was cold and wet. We must’ve walked for at least 800-1000m before receiving a bag with a bottle of water, a bottle of Pocari Sweat and some form of carbs. (I can’t remember what it was.) We walked another 400m before receiving a Tokyo-Marathon-themed towel and heat sheet. Then we collected our baggage and went to our respective gendered changing tents, which was a god-send after being cold and wet for several hours. 

When I finally exited the area and went on a search for Kevin, I felt like a zombie. My limbs felt odd, like they were taken off my body and reinserted into its sockets. Since cell service was bonkers with so many people around, Kevin and I used Facebook messenger and finally met up in the underground station and headed back to our hotel. We later met up with Julie, her brother, and friend to take back to our hotel so she could shower and fly back to the states. We both rested for a while before managing to move around and eat a lot of delicious food before sleeping that night. Before the night ended, I contacted Coach Medina to let him know how I felt about my performance. I felt it was critical for me to let him know right away so that it was still fresh on my mind. Then, I probably had the best sleep in a while.

Our trip home was bittersweet. I loved our stay in Tokyo and wished we could’ve stayed for a couple more days. But my main purpose in going to Tokyo was to better my marathon time and I accomplished it. Along the way, I played with some rabbits, ate a lot of good food, and experienced a culture that I have dreamed about since I was young. What more could I ask for?

Photo courtesy of Tokyo Marathon

If you are considering running the Tokyo Marathon, take a look at the below Pros and Cons list, based on my experience. And as always, if you have any specific questions or topics I didn’t write about, message me and I will try to respond. Thanks for reading!

Pros & Cons


  1. Very well organized, from the expo to the family gathering area
  2. Clear directions on race course (kilometer/mile markers, turn signs, water/fuel signs, etc.)
  3. Super friendly and helpful volunteers
  4. Very clean (several volunteers were stationed right after each water/fuel station to collect trash)
  5. Easy to read signs pre- and post-race
  6. Very safe (only runners were on the race course; no pedestrians were on the course at any time. Police on motorbikes and police towers were visible on the course.)
  7. The 24-hour one-day metro pass (given in your race bag) is very handy for traveling during race day. If you don’t end up using it on race day, you can save it to use on another day.


  1. Even though volunteers were super friendly and helpful, they don’t always know the answer to your question and will go around in circles to try to be helpful.
  2. The walk from the finish line to the recovery bags, towel/heatsheet, and changing area felt quite long. As it was raining and windy, I was cold and my body was shaking after a few minutes into the walk. 
  3. The port-a-potty lines could be better arranged, instead of the snaking line that they use now. Be prepared to wait at least 30 minutes even if you show up about 1 hour before the race begins.
  4. Please bring your nutrition with you as you will not find any Western-branded nutrition (GU, Hammer Nutrition, Spring Energy, etc.) in Japan.
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April 2019 Recap

We cannot put into words the excitement we went through this past month. The anticipation for April put us on edge. When we finally reach our own individual event, we made the most of it by giving it everything we had. And we witnessed that from our teammates! From D.C., to Boston, to our very own backyard at Flushing Meadow Park, we witnessed grit and perseverance that kept us motivated and looking forward to what the rest of 2019 has for us. Let’s take look and make sure to take a look at the list of events at the end of the post!

Race Guides

Starting with the Credit Union Cherry Blossom 10 Mile and 5K Run, we created race guides meant to aggregate important race logistics, course strategy, and city attractions for our teammates. Since then, we have created more guides for the Boston Marathon, the Queens Marathon, and the Broad Street 10 Miler.

Although we will have more guides for local NYRR races, our hope is to have guides for races outside of NYC as well. What makes these guides standout is that they are written by our teammates who have previous experience with the race or knowledge of the city (which can be a new city to explore for many!).

Check out our race guides!

Credit Union Cherry Blossom Ten Mile & 5K Run-Walk

Just from the first weekend in April, Queens Distance raced all over. Teammates represented in Illinois, Missouri, D.C., and, of course, in local NYC races. Co-founder Edwin wrote about his experience at the Cherry Blossom Ten Miler and we hope you enjoy his training and mentality going into the race that earned him a 57:27 PR time. 

Boston Marathon

No time to rest! The following weekend was yet another big weekend with races that ranged from the 5K distance to 50 miles. I’m sure by know you may have guessed who ran that 50 miler at Lake Sonoma! Read more about his race on his personal site.


This weekend also saw one teammate run abroad in Serbia! For a list of races during that weekend and a recap of the Boston Marathon, check out our blog post on the 123rd Boston Marathon. It truly was a moment many of us won’t forget. Big thanks to Albert Tan of Horse and Duck Photo for going all the way to Boston to take amazing pictures of our teammates!

4th Annual Queens Marathon: RRCA New York State Marathon Championships

What an absolutely amazing day! We took over Flushing Meadows Park for a day full of volunteers and marathoners racing loops for different goals. We’ll have a separate race recap post for this race because we need to cover so many details that went into making the Queens Marathon a success for another year.

Until that recap is published, we’d like to thank all our volunteers who came out, especially the bike pacers, the volunteer leaders who took the initiative to coordinate different sections of the park, and the logistics and operation team who made the event run smoothly.


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The 4th Annual Queens Marathon was magical this morning thanks to all the volunteers who helped! From 6AM until 2PM, these fine folks motivated and helped runners achieve their best. We heard from multiple runners how motivating and high-spirited the volunteers were so a huge thanks to everyone who was out there in the Start, Closing, and All-Day shifts! • Big thanks to the bike pacers who kept runners on track! And Gabor for leading them! • Give it up to your volunteer leads! We had @tearlessretina leading the all the Fluid Stations, @jonarunsthecity leading the North section, @ashleyn1650 leading the East, @anngoldie leading the South, @jinx197 leading the West, and David leading the Core. • We also had @honus67 as the Main Announcer all day! And big thanks to all the work from @mwmaria, @algorhythm19, and Operations Manager and Assistant @notmichol and @vikmanjj ! • Much, much more to come! 💛 📷 @horseandducksports !! #queesmarathon #theworldiswaiting #flushingmeadowpark #bq #marathon #volunteers #dreamteam #teamwork

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London, Big Sur, & New Jersey Marathon

We completed April with even more marathons! Huge congrats to everyone who ran this past month. For the last week in April: Nicole ran the London Marathon and is closer to becoming a World Marathon Majors Six Star Finisher; Christine and Nick ran the hilly Big Sur Marathon; and we had a small team right across the river at the New Jersey Half composed of Zein, David, and Ashley. We are very pleased with Ashley’s performance as she Qualified for Boston! The previous week she volunteered all day at the Queens Marathon as a Volunteer Lead. It goes to show that the work you put into the team also helps you reach your goals.


Horse and Duck Photo

The team composed of Albert Tan and Jose Donado have a new site with many gorgeous pictures of our teammates at many events. Check them out!



Group Runs

Keep an eye out on our site’s calendar as well as on Strava for more group runs and training sessions. Make sure to also follow us on Facebook and Instagram for updates and news!

Queens Distance


Here’s a list of events this past April, 2019 (pictures courtesy of various team members):

2 – QDR Tuesday Afternoon Group Run- Rockaway Brewery Social Run! Up Vernon Blvd and Back!

4 – QDR Thursday Track Session: Queensborough Community College

5 – Club Fair at NYRR Run Center

6 – President Lincoln’s Half (Springfield, IL)


    3rd Annual 5k at the Bay Fun Run (Guardians of Flushing Bay)

7- Credit Union Cherry Blossom 10 Miler & 5K Run-Walk


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Congratulations to our top male in the #CUCB2019 5K Run-Walk, Jose Donado of New York, NY! Donado finished with a time of 18:24. Photo credit: Bob Mallet

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Queens Marathon Long Training Run #12 Marathon Pace Effort – The Perimeter

Delmar Dash 5 Miler

St Louis Marathon weekend (10K)

Boomer’s Cystic Fibrosis Run to Breathe 4 Mile

8- QDR Monday Evening Group Run: Central Park – Send off for Caroline

10 –QDR Wednesday Morning Track Session: Juniper Park Track

11 – QDR Thursday Track Session: Queensborough Community College

12 – QDR Friday Night Run – Kessel Run

13 – B.A.A. 5k, Boston

    NYCRuns Queens Half

    Helderberg Half

    Lake Sonoma 50, California

    QDR Saturday Morning Group Run: Forest Park Extended Loop

14 – Marathon Training #13

    Rutgers Unite Half Marathon

    Shakeout Run for Boston Marathon


    Shape Women’s Half

    Paris Marathon

    JFK Runway 5K

    Atlantic City Half

    Belgrade Half, Serbia

    Spartan race

    Riverside Dash 15k

15- Boston Marathon


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@bostonmarathon this was my 7th marathon and first time running Boston. The goal was to finish the race no matter how hard or painful could be. I was lucky to have one of teammates @danny.ocean working together from 1-17miles. This race is totally different from my other races the crowd and the support from my team made me stronger and motivated me to keep running útil the finish. / Esta fue 7timo maratón y primera vez que corro Boston. Me sentí afortunado de haber corrido con uno de mis compañeros del equipo @danny.ocean lo cual estuvimos compartiendo la milla 1 asta 17. Está carrera fue totalmente diferente que las demás que había echo ya que con el apoyo de la gente y del apoyo de mi equipo me hizo fortalecer y también me motivó a terminar esta carrera. Pic #3/ @horseandducksports Representing 🇬🇹 #Guate #contodo #Pablo⚙️ #nike #redbull #neverstop #hardworking #withoutlimit #runner

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18 – Queens Marathon bib pickup at Urban Athletics

19 – Queens Marathon bib pickup Queens Theatre

    Queens Marathon Shakeout Run! Friday Evening: Open to the Public!

20 – NYRR Run As One 4 Mile

    Queens Marathon Bib pickup at Modells at Queens center Mall and at Sac’s Pizza, Astoria

Queens Marathon Shakeout Run: Saturday Morning! Open to the Public

21 – The 2019 Queens Marathon- RRCA New York State Marathon Championships

24 – Popular Brooklyn Half confirmations sent out

27 – AOC Fun Run Astoria

    Power of a Woman Triathlon

    Allstate Hot Chocolate Brooklyn 15K/5K

28 –  NYRR UAE Healthy Kidney 10K


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Away we go! 📸: @horseandducksports

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    London Marathon

    New Jersey Marathon

    Big Sur Marathon

    Alley Pond Striders 5m

    Saint Luke’s Half and 5K

29 – Monday Morning Miles

   QDR Monday Evening Group Run: Central Park


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123rd Boston Marathon

Only a few days left until the 4th annual 2019 Queens Marathon, the Road Runners Club of America (RRCA) New York State Marathon Championship! This past weekend before the Queens Marathon was an exciting prelude to what is to come. Yes! We are talking about the Boston Marathon! Queens Distance went to mile 20 of the Boston Marathon to cheer on all the runners and especially our 13 beloved teammates.

The 123rd Boston Marathon was the last race of a long weekend held on Monday, April 15th Patriot’s Day. Before we go any further, we’d like to congratulate all our other teammates who also raced this past weekend.

Saturday, April 13th

B.A.A 5K, Boston
NYCRuns Queens Half & 5K
Helderberg to Hudson Half Marathon
Lake Sanoma 50 Miler, California

Sunday, April 14th

SHAPE Women’s Half Marathon
Paris Marathon, France
JFK Runway 5K
Spartan Race, Citi Field
Atlantic City Half Marathon, New Jersey
Belgrade Half Marathon, Serbia
Brookhaven 15K
Riverside Dash 15K, Sandford, Florida

Boston Marathon

Just a few years ago in 2016, Maria Wong and a handful of teammates ran the Boston Marathon. Edwin and Kevin went that weekend and biked from the halfway point until the finish line, cheering wherever possible. This year, 13 Queens Distance teammates trained through another frigid winter for this prestigious race. This is by far, the most stacked field Queens Distance has ever presented for the Boston Marathon.

This is the second of the World Marathon Majors races held each year and this race is very special place in the running community. This is a tough race to qualify for as many of us who try to “BQ” know. It is a goal many marathon runners seek and that many do not get. But that, in itself, is what makes chasing this unicorn special. Having this goal in mind, working towards it, perhaps failing, and eventually earning it makes toeing the starting line of the Boston Marathon a great achievement.

This marathon starts in Hopkinton, Massachusetts, an otherwise quiet New England town that becomes the epicenter for corralling thousands of remarkable runners all the way to the finish line in Boston. Just like last year, Queens Distance went to Newton and to the infamous Heartbreak Hill to cheer on runners as they prepare to tackle the last 10k of the race. Special thanks to Albert Tan of Horse and Duck Photo who came for the day to take amazing shots.


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Anibal Chehayab •3:00:49 Boston Marathon Debut 🦄

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Go to Horse and Duck Photo’s site for more race day photos!


It goes without saying but the weather is part of the race. Last year, runners ran through heavy rain and cold weather. This year, it was pouring in the early morning and around the start time the sun came out, and with that the humidity steadily increased. Still, the runners prevailed.

Here are the 13 Boston Marathoners who represented Queens Distance!

Women’s Team

Jona Molla
Caroline Nester
Irena Ocasio
Rinchen Pelden
Kaitlyn Richert
Deki Yangzom

Men’s Team

Anibal Chehayeb
Jeremiah Estes
Derek Hanson
Winston Mei
Eric Morris
Danny Rivera
Pablo Yax

Official results


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Deki Yangzom •3:25:02 Two Time Boston Marathoner 🦄 Representing 🇧🇹

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Until next year! And remember, right on Hereford, left on Boylston!

Queens Distance

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The 2019 Queens Marathon- RRCA NY State Marathon Championship, Press Release

Welcome to The 2019 Queens Marathon

The Queens Marathon is in its fourth year, celebrating and highlighting one of the most energized and diverse counties in America. Next year’s Queens Marathon will take place on Sunday April 21st, 2019 at Flushing Meadows Corona Park. While interest exists to introduce the race through our neighborhoods, we understand the sensitivities of our local Community Boards and are approaching this prospect with the short term goal of celebrating Queens at every turn at Flushing Meadows Corona Park.

The Queens Marathon is organized by the Queens Distance Runners, a community-oriented running club comprised of members from all over Queens, from Astoria to the Rockaways. Taking the lead to assure the success of the event is the Queens Marathon Committee, made up of folks from different Queens-centric walks of life. The committee remains singularly focused on producing an event equally representative of the running community and of Queens itself.

Road Runners Club of America (RRCA) New York State Championship Designation

The Road Runners Club of America is the oldest and largest national association of running organizations, dedicated to growing the sport of running since 1958. Out of 27 marathons in New York that took place in 2018, we are grateful to have been selected as the 2019 NY State Championship marathon race through RRCA in 2019. Recognition though RRCA will ensure the Queens Marathon participation from across the NYC area and from around the country.The race will attract a broad base of local athletes of every ability.  All runners will receive perks and amenities comparable to marquee races and unique to Queens, specifically. Professional Training and Coaching through Coach Medina NYC is available to all participants thereby allowing the Queens Marathon to be a springboard for future running success.

Reaching Out to the Running Community

The Queens Marathon is extending invitations to all local running clubs throughout Queens and the NYC area to participate in the event. Running clubs have a long history of helping individual runners achieve their fitness goals in a friendly and social atmosphere.

We’re also offering access to training from Coach Medina NYC. Coach Luciano Medina is a USATF (USA Track & Field) Level 3 / IAAF (International Association of Athletics Federations) Level 5 Elite coach and has helped runners achieve their goals since 2014. Coach Medina NYC is offering a menu of training programs specific to the Queens Marathon that offer virtual coaching, in-person group training, and additional guidance with strength- and cross-training, nutrition, and more.

Charities and Giving

The Queens Marathon is proud to associate itself with a broad spectrum of Queens-based charities. The Queens Marathon will provide a spotlight on several official charities. Runners will have the chance to fundraise on behalf of their favorite charity. Giving back to the community is central to our mission and will help make the Queens Marathon a truly community-based event.

Local charities supported by the Queens Marathon include: The Alliance for Flushing Meadows Corona Park, Achilles International Queens; Queens Centers For Progress; Queens Community House.


The Queens Marathon is also proud to associate itself with Queens-based organizations and businesses. This will ensure our place as a community event that all Queens residents can get behind, whether they’re a runner or not.

Local organizations supported by the Queens Marathon include: Queens Economic Development Corporation (Queens Tourism Council); Queens Community House, Queens Theatre, NY Mets, Queens County Savings Bank; and dozens of unique “Mom & Pop” businesses throughout the borough of which we will list in the coming weeks.

The World Is Waiting

The fourth Queens Marathon, presented by Queens Distance Runners with significant support from the local community and the running community at large, will be the best ever. We’re eager to provide The World’s Borough with the event it deserves by celebrating Queens on the world stage. Our slogan “The World Is Waiting” has a two-fold meaning. The race is an individual runner’s springboard to future marathon success and it will bring a lifetime of distance running conquests throughout the globe, from New York to Boston to Berlin and beyond. The slogan also represents the inclusivity and diversity that is Queens’ signature: the Unisphere. The Unisphere is our borough’s symbol and a representation of the Queens Marathon. We would like nothing more than to see runners from around the globe conquer 26.2 miles right here in Queens.

Queens Distance Runners

Find more information and register at and follow us on Instagram at @thequeensmarathon. Sponsorship opportunities are available through Press release also available as a PDF.