Monday, May 16, 2016

Capital City Marathon 2016 Race Report

Here I am. Mile Two. Shoulder to shoulder with last years winner, Jesse Stevick, running 5:45 pace, talking about work and life and thinking holy shit. This pace feels comfortable.
Jesse's breathing was labored and I knew he had been dealing with a small injury. I thought to myself: This race is yours.
Any time Jesse made a move. I pushed. Any time his local fans would cheer him on I would cheer back, throw up the hang loose sign and surge. This was my race. I'd been picturing all of this for weeks.
At every hill I thought: You know this hill. This is easy. At every down hill he would push and I would push back until we were side by side again. At mile 12 I could hear people cheering for him, so I pushed ahead to show them this was my race. A few people looked confused and concerned and who the fuck is this? And I loved it.
My splits were almost exactly what I had planned meticulously in a journal weeks prior. I ate a gel every 35 minutes at every aid station I had written on my fore arm in sharpie. I drank at every single water station, a skill my wife had helped me perfect in the parking lot the night before the race. Everything was perfect.
At mile 16, after the large hill at Woodard Bay, I went to make my move, but my legs didn't have the energy in them that I thought they would have. I looked down at my watch which read 5:55 for the lap pace and thought: DO NOT give up. If you can't push the pace to 05:43 then just hold. This. Pace. 10 more miles and it's yours. The people you care about are there. Do not let them down. DO NOT let them down.
I couldn't hear Jesse's shoes slapping the asphalt anymore. I couldn't hear him clearing his nose.
Just keep moving.
As I approached the mile 18 aid station I went to pull a gel out of my shorts, but my arm felt unusually heavy. I didn't want to eat the gel and thought I would vomit if I did. I grabbed some electrolyte drink from the volunteers. I spat that out all over myself. Keep moving, Korey.
On 36th I was finally passing the half marathoners which I thought would give me a boost, but it didn't. I watched the pace car inch along wishing I could give up and get in it. Every group that cheered for me could be heard less than a minute later cheering even louder as Jesse was getting closer.
On Friendly Grove, right before mile 20, the cheers got louder and he passed me. I couldn't push at all.
Nice work, Jesse. I mumbled, as every bit of motivation that was once a raging torrent left my body in a trickling stream of defeat.
I stopped at mile 20 to try and drink some water, but I spit it out and almost fell over.
I bent over to puke but nothing came out.
Everything was a bit blurry and I started jogging in zig zags. In and out of the line of runners.
I don't remember it very clearly, but I do remember thinking that I had to get to Alicia so that I could stop running.
And that's what I did.
I kissed her, like I did the year prior. Except this time laid on the grass and said that I couldn't run anymore.
We can go home or you can walk the last 4 with me.
She smiled and said: Yea! I'll walk with you! Let's go! And she jumped up.
I changed my clothes and proceeded to have the most enjoyable, peaceful and calming final 4 miles of a race I had ever experienced. This woman changed my day, the way she's changed every aspect of my life.
We smelled the flowers blooming in yards. We talked about how beautiful the world was. We took deep breathes and commented on the smell of spring and the sounds of the birds and how they made everything seem even more beautiful than it already was. We joked with the volunteers. We held hands and laughed and talked about the future for 4 miles. I felt complete, even in the midst of failure and defeat.

I finished in 03:46 in 64th place. The farthest back I have finished since I started running in 2010.

We are our own worse critics and I am especially hard on myself. That will not change. It's what makes me want to be great. It's what makes me want to be the best dad, the best husband and the best runner. It's what makes me want to be a better person. And while I know my goal was too lofty for many reasons, I can't help but feel that I lack something that defines real champions. I can only hope to grow into that one day.

I could not be happier for Jesse. He is such a kind and genuine person. To take your 10th win with an injury? How impressive is that? He's a local hero. He deserved that win. This is not my town. It's his.

I want to thank the good people at Clif and Pearl Izumi for believing in me and standing behind even when I feel I've let them down.
Especially George at Clif and Emelie and Shannon at Pearl. Thank you.

And Alicia,
You are the most amazing and beautiful person I've met in my entire life.
Thank you for loving me the way you do.

In the marathon world 2:30 is not very fast at all.
I will break it. But for now I'm headed back to the trails.

I hope to see you all out there.

 Photos provided courtesy of South Sound Running

Gear Used:

Pearl Izumi RN1v2
Pearl Izumi Ultra Split Shorts
Raspberry and Vanilla Clif shots

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Deception Pass Half Marathon Race Report - 2016

Deception Pass State Park is a 4,000 + acre park about 2 1/2 hours from my place in Lacey in which you can meander along ocean shoreline, tide pools, lakes and sheer cliff edges.  The pass itself is a straight that separates Whidbey and Fidalgo Islands, connecting Skagit bay to the Straight of Juan de Fuca. Deception Pass Bridge crosses the pass connecting the two aformentioned islands; it's a breathtaking view and a stunning place to visit.
My wife and I made the trek up this past Saturday so I could race the Bellingham Trail Running Series Deception Pass Half Marathon. I wasn't too sure what kind of race I would have as I had been sideline with a knee injury for the first part of the year and had only recently got my average weekly mileage up to 40; a far cry from my 80+ this time last year.
The race started in the parking lot of West Beach. I went out fast with Benoit Gignac. I thought maybe he didn't intend to run that hard the whole race so I attempted to make a few early surges on him, but each time I'd pull ahead or catch up with him on a flat, he would widen the gap by twice as much on a descent. Nonetheless, we ran neck and neck for most of the race.
The course is only on the road for .2 miles before becoming all trail, excluding the 2 crossings of the iconic Deception Pass Bridge. There are two large climbs, the largest being Goose Rock. It's not a terribly long climb, but when you've been flying down smooth trail as fast as you can and then BAM! You're suddenly running up the side of a cliff; it hurts. The cumulative elevation gain on my watch said somewhere around 2,000 feet, but I don't have an altimeter, so it's hard to tell if that's accurate. I'll tell you one thing: it's a tough course!
The constant rollers and technical terrain make it hard to maintain a steady pace so you're forced to have strong skills on flats, climbs and descents if you want to run well. I couldn't hang on those technical descents. I tried to let go, but I would hesitate and Benoit would just vanish every time we hit a rocky, root strewn downhill section.
My favorite part of the race was the headlands. It's a quick single track lollipop that offers expansive views of the ocean and surrounding landmarks and makes you feel like you're in your own issue of Trail Runner Mag. It's breathtaking. From here it's only a few miles back to the the bridge and the West Beach finish.
The last 3 miles I never caught up to Benoit. I tried, but just not hard enough. I can't say I'm disappointed with my result, but I can say that I did not run a gutsy race. Not at all. I found myself thinking "If you sit back here and catch him at the end, then this will be the most ball-less race you've ever run." Benoit stayed super strong though and I never caught him. Still, it was the most ball-less race I'd ever run for 2nd place. That didn't make it any less enjoyable though! It was so beautiful and so much fun.
I want to thank Candice and Garret and all of the volunteers for such a great race. The course was marked SO well, it would have been impossible to get off track and everyone was super nice, fun and encouraging. At the finish line there was a live band and a BBQ and a ton of socializing. It was like a chill party and finally felt the way  trail running used to feel  to me. It's good to have that back again.
Thank you Pearl Izumi and Clifbar for the support this year and most of all thank you to my beautiful, supportive wife. I wouldn't be anywhere I am had I not met you.

I'll leave you with some photos:

Photo by Takao Suzuki

Photo by Takao Suzuki


Podium with Benoit

From the trail - post race hike

Photo by Takao Suzuki

Monday, June 22, 2015

Beacon Rock 50K Race Report 2015

I really wanted to break Connor Meakin's course record from last year and I definitely thought I had the fitness to do it. On race day I went out hard figuring #1 that no one could beat me and #2 that if anyone did have the fitness to beat me, they would be intimidated enough by my fast start to think that they couldn't.
The course consists of two 15 mile loops. Some people don't like loop courses, but I do! I think it's great to know exactly what's in store for the second half of the race and what to be prepared for. And even though it's a loop course, the views are stunning and the elevation gain and loss are substantial. 
You start the race with a half mile downhill road section followed by almost 2,000 feet of vertical gain in just 4 miles. It's a tough way to start a race and believe me, it feels much harder on the second loop. After the initial climb, the course drops about 1,300 feet in under 4 miles on beautiful single track through picturesque North West forest. Without any warning, as you're hammering downhill being hypnotized by nature, BOOM! You immediately start another climb of over 1,100 vertical feet in just 1.5 miles. Once you are on the ridge though, you are rewarded with some of the most stunning scenery you will ever see in any race: expansive views of the Columbia Gorge and the surrounding mountain ranges. From that ridge you drop about 1,700ft in roughly 6 miles back to the camp/start/finish before you head out on your second trip to do it all over again for a total of 30+ Miles and 7,500ft+ of Elevation Gain and Loss.

Ascending the second/fourth climb. Photo by Glenn Tachiyama 

I came through the first loop in under 02:10 and was fairly confident the course record would be mine, but I slowed considerably on the climbs during the second loop finishing in 04:32:06.

Coming through the finish in 04:32:06 for 1st place

If I had to pin point a weakness in my running right now, I would say it's my ability to maintain speed on long climbs. I live in a town with no hills long enough to mention, let alone train on, and I think that has been slightly to my disadvantage. But I've done the best I can with what I have and I do have to say that all of my tempo and speed work from Spring marathon training definitely paid off in all aspects of the race.

Happy with my race

I love Rainshadow Running! They put on the best events with the best scenery and the best after parties. Beacon Rock 50K is no exception.  If you've run one of their events, then you don't need me to explain how amazing they are and if you haven't? Well do yourself a favor a sign up for one! It might just change your life.
You know what I did after the race? Mingled with a bunch of like minded runners, ate fresh wood fired pizza, listened to the Pine Hearts and napped in the shade with the love of my life. Seriously, why run anywhere else?

Thank you James, Matt and Kerri and all of the volunteers for all of the work you do to make these events possible. I know how hard you work and I can't thank you all enough.

Thank you Alicia for waking up at 2AM and coming out to crazy races  in the middle of nowhere with me :)

And thank you Seven Hills Running Shop, Clifbar, Feetures and BOA for all of your support.

7 questions with 7 Hills
Feel free to follow me on twitter & instagram @koreykonga

Friday, May 22, 2015

Capital City Marathon Race Report

The Capital City Half Marathon was my first official race back in 2010 and at the time it was the longest distance I had ever run:13.1 miles. And it was painful. In fact that was the most painful race of my life as I had a horrible case of ITB syndrome and I was terribly under trained.

There I am. Looking wobbly. Ready to cry. Running a 7:31 pace for 13.1 miles.
Anyways, I've been racing trail and ultra races for the last 4 years and started to feel slow and stale, so I decided to try my hand at the marathon. Since I recently moved back home to Yelm, where there are no trails or hills, I thought "Why not hit the roads and go back to Cap City?" So I put in the work: Long runs. Tempo runs. Track work. Intervals. All of it. And I felt ready. I thought "I can run 02:35. I know it."

Fast forward to race morning. 5...4...3...2...1 Boom! Jesse Stevick (8, now 9, time winner) took off out of the gate and a guy I didn't know at the time (Corey Nunlist) stuck by his side. I thought "You've gotta try to hang with them." We ran the first 5K in 17:49.

The start. Photo by South Sound Running

I have since met Corey Nunlist and I like the guy a lot, but when he stopped running and started walking around mile five I was thinking "WHAT!? What were you doing pushing it with Jesse? And why was I trying to keep up with you guys!?" He had no business running up there and I had no business getting caught up in that. I realized then and there that I had made a big mistake going out too fast. I was a little irritated, but just kept telling myself to relax. 
I saw Phil Jasperson (5 time Capital City Marathon winner) out on the course around mile 7 and he said to me "You look good, but be patient. This course loves patience." He was right, but that wasn't something I had thought about from the start. I tell you what! It's amazing how much time you can lose at the end of a marathon by going 10-15 seconds per mile over your goal pace in the beginning.

Realizing I was running a minute slower than my GP. Photo by South Sound Running.

By mile 20 I knew I had blown it. Every water station I came to I would stop and drink water and walk. I saw my fiance' around mile 22 and gave her a kiss and said "I blew it! I'm going to finish, but I messed up!" It was a mental boost to see her. She said "It's ok! I think you're doing great." and I kept going.

Mile 26. Photo by South Sound Running

I finished 6 minutes slower than my goal time and over 7 minutes behind Jesse in second place in 02:41

The finish. Photo by South Sound Running

A big thank you to my sponsors and teams: Seven Hills Running Shop. Clifbar. Feetures! & Guerilla Running

Gear used:

3 Clifbar Clifshots
Team Clifbar Cap
Feetures! Compression Socks
New Balance Fresh Foam Zante
Garmin FR 220
Pearl Izumi Team 7 Hills Singlet
Pearl Izumi Ultra Split Shorts


Monday, April 13, 2015

New Balance Fresh Foam Zante Review

These kicks got Run Competitor's "2015 road shoe of the year" award with a subsequent in depth review posted to the website, but I love them just as much as everyone else, so I'm doing my own review! With a weight of 7.6 oz, an offset of 6mm (23mm/17mm) and a reasonable MSRP of $100, we have the New Balance Fresh Foam Zante.


The Zante has the fit of a racing flat from the heel throughout the midfoot, but the toebox opens up a little wider than a traditional flat giving runners a little more room. The upper is no-sew mesh with the tongue and vamp being one piece "bootie" construction to prevent any sliding, which is very effective from both a functionality and comfortability stand point. They fit true to size, though I went 1/2 size down for a performance/racing fit.


New Balance designed the one piece midsole to provide structure and support in specific areas throughout the platform by testing various pressure and contact points of efficient runners and using that compilation of footstrike data to "customize" the support and flexibility. The cushion is soft and forgiving, but not overly so, making it both responsive and comfortable. You can also feel a bit of medial support which you might find useful, say, in the later stages of a marathon when your form starts to break down a bit. The toe is also sprung which gives the Zante a nice peppy feel during toe off.


Not much to say about the outsole. It's simple: one piece of blown rubber with higher durability rubber in the heel for people like me who heel strike. So far it's been both smooth and durable.


I feel like this is one of my shorter reviews, which is fitting because two words come to mind when I think about the Fresh Foam Zante: Simple and Fast. I just love running in these bad boys! I took them out for 18 @ 05:53 AVG today. They ride like a dream on a run like that and anything other kind of run for that matter. They seem to be nothing more than exactly what I need, which make them one of my favorite pair of road shoes I've run in to date. I plan on getting my hands on at least a few more pair and I will be racing the Capital City Marathon in them as well. Let's just hope New Balance doesn't change the design too much when they decide to update!


I ran Capital City Marathon in them and I felt they handled the distance very well. I did end up with a large blister on one of my toes, so next time I think I will buy them in my usual size instead of 1/2 size down, but they were light enough with just the right amount of cushion for racing 26.2

Mile 26 Photo by South Sound Running

Feel free to follow me on Twitter & Instagram @koreykonga

Week ending 04/12/2015

Monday - AM - 9.8 miles - 01:15 - Easy road and trails.
                PM - 4 miles - 00:35 - Easy road.

Tuesday - AM - 11 miles - 01:07 - Warm up, then 9 miles @ 05:51 AVG, cool down.

                PM - 3.25 miles - 00:25 - Easy road.

Wednesday - 8.75 miles - 01:15 - Easy trail. Exploring trails in Yelm.

Thursday - 15 miles - 3,200 feet EG - 02:45 - Long trail. I've been making it a point to go out and explore the wilderness areas near my home. There are so many beautiful trails and mountains within 1-2 hours of our house and I've just been loving it. This week I ran up to Flapjack Lakes in Olympic National Forest. There are pictures below if you're interested.
I'm still having trouble with that right ankle on the trails. I get shooting pain that subsides but remains dull even if I just step on a small rock wrong. It's been happening ever since I rolled it back in Ashland. The good news is it doesn't hurt on the roads.

Friday - 10 miles - 01:15 - Easy road.

Saturday - 8.25 miles - 01:15 - Track. W/u then 12X400M in 01:15, 01:13, 01:15, 01:13, 01:13, 01:12, 01:13, 01:14, 01:13, 01:14, 01:13, 01:14 with 60 to 90 second recovery jogs. C/d.

Sunday - 4 miles - 00:31 - Easy road.

Total:  74 miles/10 hours 22 minutes

Gear used:

ClifBar ClifShots and Recovery Drink
Feetures! Elite merino + ultra light socks
New Balance Fresh Foam Zante, New Balance Boracay v2 (testing) New Balance Leadville v3 (testing)
Random old smelly shorts
Random old smelly shirts

Most of the gear I use (besides the smelly old shorts and shirts) plus much more can be found at Seven Hills Running Shop in Seattle. They're pretty cool about shipping to you as well if you just call the shop at (206)-941-5866. And remember that anyone can be a part of Team 7 Hills. Just purchase some gear from the shop, sport the logo and shoot an e-mail HERE with subject line "team7hills" and BOOM! Welcome to the 7 Hills Family!

Photos from the week

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Hoka One One Huaka Review

In the back of my mind I always thought Hokas were a goofy looking shoe, but I also wanted to see what they were all about and since Phil over at Seven Hills Running Shop in Seattle had been raving about the Huaka I decided to give them a shot.
With weight of 9.3 oz for a men's size 9,  a 2mm drop and an MSRP of $150 we have the HOKA ONE ONE Huaka.


I don't mean to start this review on the wrong foot, but to me the upper is a mess. It is too constricting around the widest part of my foot (the 5th met head) yet somehow feels sloppy throughout the rest. The tongue is long and made of sharp material which jabs into the top of my foot/ankle when wearing low cut socks and only gets remedied when it slides down the side of my foot during a run, which isn't really comfortable either. There is also a plastic eyelet above my first metatarsal head that protrudes on the inside of the shoe causing irritation which left me with a blister on a few runs. And they have speed laces, which I dislike; they are uncomfortable and I don't trust them.
When I put this shoe on for my first run I almost turned around immediately to take them off. Everyone raved about the wide upper, but I have an average foot (D Width) and felt a very tight and almost painful feeling on both feet. The Huaka comes with 2 insoles, one is very thin and the other is slightly thicker and a little more supportive. So when I got home I tried switching to the thinner insole to alleviate the the pressure, but that caused my foot to sink too low causing pressure and irritation around my ankle bone (don't know the medical term for that bone). So I removed the speed laces and put in the regular laces with the thicker insoles, which was the best out of all of the options/combinations. After about 40 miles, the shoes broke in and felt a bit more comfortable and the constricting feeling went away, but I almost gave up on them before that.
My biggest problem with the upper is that I don't think you should have to choose combinations of insoles and laces to get a decent fit; a good shoe should fit well right out of the box.  I really wish I had better things to say about the upper, but keep reading because this shoe does shine in certain areas.


Ah the midsole!!! The ride is phenomenal! They have a stack height of 27mm/25mm for a 2mm offset with Hoka's "Meta Rocker Design". The slight curvature of the midsole, paired with the cushy ride, feels like nothing else I've ever ran in. They make the road feel like trails and the trails feel like pillows. And because of the Meta Rocker design, the transition from foot strike to toe off is flawless.
I was pleasantly surprised with how they performed on technical trails as well. Hoka designs their shoes to let your foot sit low in the platform giving you a stable ride. That, coupled with a wide contact area on the outsole, provides a truly secure feeling on mixed terrain. They also feel like they have tremendous energy return, especially on ascents, which is something I really enjoyed.


The outsole has "high abrasion rubber" contact points on the heel and forefoot where most runners would get the most wear. As mentioned above, it also has a very wide contact area which provides a stable ride. For the trails they feature super shallow multi directional lugs, but they're no different than any other road shoe I would trail run in, so I wouldn't really consider them trail worthy. I also have some concerns about durability. After 120 miles the "high abrasion rubber" in the heel was showing excessive wear.

Outsole after roughly 120 miles


I have mixed feelings about this shoe. On one hand, I e-mailed Phil after a couple of runs and said "The Huaka is a game changer!" because of the ride which is by far the best aspect of the shoe. Cush and Springiness are blended together perfectly in the midsole material which feels especially great on easy days and recovery runs when my legs are feeling a bit tired and beat up. On the other hand, the upper didn't mesh well with my foot, causing some problems and durability is a concern.
There are plenty of rave reviews online and almost all of Team 7 Hills seem to love them, so it's probably just a personal thing, but they just didn't feel right. The other qualm I have is the price. I think $150 for an average shoe is a bit high, but you're probably rich, so go buy a pair and tell me what you think!

Feel free to follow me on Twitter & Instagram @koreykonga