Category Archives: Houston

First Half Marathon Training Recap

I completed my first half marathon in Houston in January 2016. My original goal was to complete it under 2 hours. However, due to other competing commitment, I could not dedicate as much time to train for the race. The longest distance I had run before the race ended up being a mere 10 miles. Hence, I was definitely feeling the heaviness in my legs when I began mile 11. Regardless, I finished the race in 2 hours and 5 minutes!  I have come a long way from the 5K race in 2013 summer when I only ran one mile and walked the rest.

After the half marathon, I all of a sudden felt hollow inside. I lost my routine of working towards a goal and running seems to have lost its appeal. I learned later that runners call it “post-race blues”. Knowing that it is quite common, I resisted the urge to sign up for another race this year, because race training could be time consuming. Instead, I am using another recommended strategy – get 20/20 hindsight by writing this blog post. The strategy that worked well for me is building a good foundation and practicing deliberately on the weaknesses. In this article, I also referenced lots of articles that I found useful for training.

First of all, I contribute the accomplishment to two years of training for shorter distances (5Ks and 10Ks), as I learned through the process that training momentum is especially important for long distance. I did not realize how advantageous it was until I went on a three-mile run after three months of no running post half marathon. I struggled with it! In comparison, ever since the 5K race in 2013 summer that motivated me to start running through the first half marathon in January 2016, I have completed two 5Ks and two 10Ks with no major breaks. I used Hal Higdon training schedule online. In April 2014, I finished the 10K in 58’51 in Minneapolis. In March 2015, with the goal of improving the pace, I followed a more strenuous plan and finished my 2nd 10K in 54’20. After these races, I jumped on the long distance bandwagon and decided to attempt my first half marathon.

Even though I had a solid foundation prior to the training, I made sure to build up the distance slowly and train the endurance without worrying too much about the pace.  I definitely had those days when I did not feel like putting on my running shoes, so I ran with a friend to get the mileage in. I tried to hold a conversation with my running buddy to keep myself entertained and to gauge the pace, considering that the recommended pace is at which “you could still talk.” Moreover, I ran outside when weather permitted and explored new trails. The change of scenery along the trail and the sunshine urged me to carry on despite the tiredness in the body. If you ever consider take up running, start with the outdoor trail instead of the treadmill. The nature could be a great motivator. One area that is easily overlooked is to keep the increase of mileage no more than 10% each week to avoid injuries. I learned it the hard way as I had IT band issues after being too ambitious on the distance. As a result, I had to pause for full recovery and was at least two weeks behind on training schedule.

Apart from nailing the mileage, I also crossed trained to add more fun. I took up yoga, included weights, followed 10-minute core exercise on YouTube (FitnessBlender is a great channel to subscribe to), and went to quite a few rowing classes. The diversity not only avoided overworking certain muscles, but also strengthened some others that I might have neglected in running. Exercises such as one side legs raises and bridge exercise are also beneficial to stay injury-free from IT band pains, since IT band is usually caused by weak hips and gluteus. I had fun at rowing classes because rowing is said to be the least impactful on your knees while still building your cardio and leg muscles.  The energy in class usually pushed me to go beyond what I usually could do.

Training Log.PNG

My tracking log of the long run

Getting comfortable with the longer distance is necessary, whereas reaching the time goal is the cherry on top. Aware of the ambitious goal of two hours, I needed to level up the speed. Although I tried to speed up in the last half mile of every long distance run, it was harder for me to control and maintain the speed when running alone on the trail. Thus, I had some shorter interval runs on the treadmill at a higher speed with slope added. The added slope simulates hill running, which could strengthen the heart and legs. What’s more, I also participated in the long runs organized by the local running club so the overall faster pace will help me. I remember the first time I showed up for the run, the organizer said “the slower group will run at a pace of 9 minute per mile”! I immediately felt hopeless, since it was at least 30 seconds faster than my faster pace. I eventually fell off the pack, but the practice did help. “Effort is only effort when it begins to hurt.” perfectly summed up the approach I tried to increase speed


This has become my favorite quote lately.

I am thinking about a destination half marathon in spring 2017 and my goal is to finish it under two hours. To avoid solely using the willpower to keep on going after mile 11 that happened in the first race, I will definitely go above the 13.1 mile mark in the next training. Of course, I will never forget cross-training and pushing myself harder on speed.

Almost Back!

Oh blogging, how I missed you!

After being away from blogging for two entire months, I found that I truly enjoy writing and could not wait to get back! Now I think the original one year commitment of blogging could easily be accomplished.


During the two months of absence, I have kept a running list of topics to cover, such as half-marathon training (completed it in 2hrs 5 minutes and 20 seconds!), how blogging has impacted me, having small talks, etc. What’s more, I am in the midst of writing “Networking Hack #2” and will publish it next Sunday!

Complete off-topic – if you are looking for movies to watch, I highly recommend “the Big Short”. It is adapted from the same titled book of Michael Lewis, author of the Blind Side, Moneyball, and Liar’s Poker. Apart from the dazzling cast which includes Christian Bale, Steve Carrell, Ryan Gosling, and Brad Pitt, what makes the movie stands out is that it explains in simplest terms all the complicated finance concepts related to the housing bubble burst and is super comical.

Check back next Sunday!

New Look for the Blog and Holiday Break

I am excited to share that I have officially registered the domain of my blog! You could now put down “” to locate my site. What’s more, I have upgraded the site to the premium plan so that it has a cleaner view with open sans typeface, gets rid of irrelevant ads, and enables the subscription function (on the upper right corner for desktop and at the bottom for mobile views). I not only love the new look, but also believe it will give my readers easy access to the website and improved reading experience.

With the holidays coming, I am going to be on a writing break. As much as I love writing, producing a piece in clear logic and precise words does take up lots of time, most of which I spent locked up at home. In the holiday season, I would rather spend more time with friends and focus on other priorities, such as training for my first half marathon, which will take place on January 17th, 2016. Unfortunately, I overtrained in early November and had some IT band pain. The recovery has put me behind on training schedule by a couple of weeks. With the goal of finishing the race under two hours, I need to put in more effort while avoiding further injuries.

Though I won’t be updating the blog every other Sunday, there is still a chance of me publishing in the next couple of months. Remember to check back for updates! In the meantime, feel free to check out some of the blogs I follow:

Phil’s Career Blog –

Written by my college professor, who is an ex-consultant/corporate strategist passionate about teaching and mentoring, the blog focuses on career management and business thinking. The “Career” section includes pieces on Interviewing and Networking that are must-read.

If you are a young professional, Phil gave a great podcast this year to the University alumni community on managing the one’s career after college – It’s Not Just Luck: Increasing Your Odds for Early Career Success. I cannot recommend it enough.

James Clear –

The blog centers on habit formation and performance improvement. It is under his influence that I decided to write more to form a habit. It is also due to his article that I set my mind to prioritize writing. To be honest, I cannot keep up with his publishing frequency. However, it matters more to internalize and practice the learning than to count the number of articles one reads. Thus, when I do read, I usually try to apply the takeaways.

Ellen Chisa –

I recently stumbled upon her blog via her article “Have Some Coffee”, the points of which I can’t agree more with. She beat me to it in sharing tips on “stay in touch” and “return the favor”. I am planning to cover them in “Networking Hack #2”, so I will make sure my post has more examples, whenever I get a chance to finish it!!

I will resume the normal writing schedule in late January, hopefully with good news to share on the half marathon!

Until next time,

Charlie Brown


Be a Little More Intentional

A while ago, I read an episode of the Q&A column “Ask Ariely” by Dan Ariely, the author of “Predictably Irrational”. In that episode, the reader asked Dan why she didn’t have the same excitement going through her 20s compared to going through her childhood.  Dan responded that the perspectives changed – she didn’t look at the world with the fresh and curious mind of a child and daily life fell into a routine that probably no longer excited her. Since I just turned one year older, looking back at the past year, I had memorable moments such as training diligently and finishing a race with new PR, hosting friends from out of town, reuniting with old friends at a wedding in Minnesota, trying Airbnb for the first time, etc, but I also spent hours watching TV just to kill time, aimlessly scrolling down facebook new feeds, staying late in the office when productivity bottomed out, etc. Thus, in this coming year, I want to be a little more intentional with how I spend my time, so that same time next year, I would be happier reflecting “where the times goes”.

Inspired by the blog post of a friend, I have developed a list of 12 things I want to do before I turn another year older (not as ambitious 🙂 ). I have taken some ideas from her list as well (Thank you, Lisa!). Some of them are one-time events that I want to try, while the others are habits that I want to develop. I come up with the list with two deliberations: 1) it is not a check list, but more a list of goals and dreams that I want to strive for. I wouldn’t punish myself for not accomplishing everything, because things could happen unexpectedly that leads to a change of priorities. 2) some items are set with a reasonable stretch goal that could be achieved with invested time and efforts.

  1. Finish the Aramco Half Marathon under 2 hours

I finished the 10K this year averaging 8:42/mile. Since I am running more than double the distance, a little over 9:00/mile is going to be challenging.

  1. Update the blog every other Sunday for one year

This one year project made me realize how much I enjoy writing. I start to worry less about what others will think of the writing, but focus more that I find joy in words.

  1. Visit the Pacific Northwest and hit some trails

I had a blast hiking in Big Bend earlier this year. The long and somewhat strenuous hike took my mind off the daily hustle and bustle and directed the attention to the surrounding nature, my breathing, and how my body felt physically, which I relished. After reading the book “Wild” (not the best book in my opinion), I developed a fascination with the Pacific Crest Trail. Thus, I am hoping for an adventure in Portland, another stay in Seattle (kicking myself for not visiting Mt Rainier or Olympic National Park last time), and some trails in between.

  1. Write about six books I read in the blog.

With everything going on (work, blog, training, etc), it is reasonable to set the expectation of reading a book every other month.

  1. Explore a couple of new places in Houston every month and write something similar to the post on Minnesota a year from now.

Be it the Menil Collection, a coffee shop, or a biking trail, I am sure Houston has lots for me to discover.

  1. Do a better job of staying in touch with friends around the world

After moving to Houston last July, I find myself owing several friends Skype calls to catch up. Though cities or countries apart, I still want to show that I care about the friendships. I hope I could find time to visit or travel together with a few. Otherwise, postcards, birthday cards, X’mas cards, we will become best friends!  The good thing is that I love writing notes. 🙂

  1. Sign up for CitySolve

I wanted to participate in Challenge Nation to celebrate my birthday this year, but failed to due to scheduling conflicts and working over the weekend.

  1. Host a dinner party or partake in some fancy dining with friends

Yes, it is a very grown-up thing to do.

  1. Run a destination race with a scenic route

Hopefully with a new PR than Aramco Half!

  1. Talk to one stranger each day

What exchanges qualify and what not are hard to define, but the purpose is to work on my social muscle.

  1. Reflect every evening and journal the highlight of each day in a couple of sentences

Speaking of living a more intentional life, daily reflection helps.

  1. Do a better job at managing personal finances

I got advice that it’s never too late to start savings for retirement.

Accomplishing all twelve items in this coming year is no easy task. But I know that if I don’t set dreams and goals, I won’t be going anywhere. No matter how many items I will achieve next year, I will be content that I have tried.