2017 Race Calendar

2017 will be a year full of challenges. Besides marathons and half marathons, I will also do an Ironman 70.3 (half the distance of an Ironman), and maybe a century bike ride.

January

Walt Disney World Goofy’s Race and a Half Challenge (1/7/2017 – 1/8/2017)

The Goofy’s Challenge is to run the half marathon on Saturday and the marathon on Sunday. It’s 39.3 miles in two days and from the reviews I read, lots of fun. I went to the Disney World in 2014 during spring break, so I probably won’t go on the roller coasters again in 2017, but will definitely taking selfies with Winnie-the-Pooh.

March

NYC Half Marathon (3/19/2017)

The NYC Half Marathon is a lottery and from what I heard, hard to get in. I entered the lottery and we’ll see.

Caesar Rodney Half Marathon (3/26/2017, Tentative)

June

IRONMAN 70.3 Eagleman (6/11/2017)

August

Maratón Ciudad de México (8/27/2017)

September

Amish Country Classic Bike Ride (9/9/2017, Tentative)

November

Marabana (Tentative)

I want to do a marathon in November because it’s my birthday month.

For The Love Of The Long Run

I signed up for an Ironman 70.3 yesterday and was in denial for the rest of the day. What have I done?

Even though I’ve been running for more than a year, I barely know how to swim freestyle and I don’t even own a bike. I swam a lot in college but my background is in breaststroke. As for biking, my background is none. I rode a bike to school when I lived in Japan. But it was a commuter bike with no gear, and I have no knowledge of how to fix a bike either. Something even worse is that I actually hate indoor cycling: went to my first SoulCycle class two years ago and left half way because I just couldn’t take it anymore.

An old Chinese proverb says that sometimes people are brave because they are ignorant (无知者无畏). And I’m sure that is my case. I don’t know what it takes to complete an Ironman 70.3 so I thought it’s manageable.

Perhaps this is insanity at its purest level.

The real  reason for signing up an Ironman 70.3, besides showing off and being insane, is that I always skip cross training in order to do more long runs, because I simply love running anywhere for more than 15 miles. A triathlon will force me into swimming and cross training more, and it enables me to challenge myself while experiencing an amazing, healthy lifestyle. Having to train in 3 disciplines gives me much needed structure while challenging me to be a better athlete every single workout, every single day. I don’t know what had happened but I fell in love with running after my first treadmill class at Mile High Run Club, in May 2015. At the age of 24, I started running for the first time. Within a year of running, I did my first marathon and fell in love with the distance. While training for my second marathon, I had an injury and that led to my first DNS for the Rock’n’Roll Brooklyn Half. Though eventually I crossed the finish line of my second marathon healthy and happy, I don’t ever want to repeat another DNS like this again, so I decided to run less for some time and training for an Ironman 70.3.

Soy

Me di cuenta de que había muchos visitantes de México a mi blog, entonces decidí escribir un poco sobre mi misma.

Soy Daniel Zhao (mi apellido Zhao se pronuncia como Ciao en italiano), nací y crecí en China, y cuando tenía 18 años, me fui a la universidad en EEUU. Tengo licenciatura y maestría en la Ciencia de Computación y en 2012, viví un año en Japón como una estudiante de intercambio. Hablo 4 lenguas con fluidez, son chino (mi lengua nativa), inglés, japonés y español.

Ahora soy programadora, y en mi tiempo libre, me gusta correr, especialmente las carreras a distancia. También me gusta nadar, ir al cine y comer afuera. De hecho, no puedo cocinar y desde hace 7 años, desayuno, almuerzo y ceno en restaurantes todos los días. Me gusta viajar mucho, y mis momentos favoritos de viaje incluyen andar en bici a un faro en Key West, comer smorgasbord en Amish Country, correr el Maratón de Festival Derby de Kentucky, tomar el estrecho tren de Yunnan a Vietnam sin pasaporte, y visitando el sagrado santuario sintoísta de Tokugawa Ieyasu en Nikko, Japón.

26

26.

I was born in 1990 and today I turned 26 years old. But I felt I have been born many times. I was reborn at the age of 18 when I left China for college in a small town in the US; again at the age of 20 when I decided to become a programmer; again at the age of 24 when I had Essure; and now, again.

In between 25 and 26, I became a serious runner and spoke fluent Spanish. I started running in 2015; I was merely bored with my life and decided to see if I have the capacity to do something I always hated, which is running. Then something happened and changed everything. In December 2015 I ran my first half marathon. I signed up for it because everyone I knew on Facebook seemed to have ran a half, and I wanted that as a milestone. Instead during the course of my training, I became the person who studies training plans and discusses them endlessly with friends and even strangers behind water fountains. The night I finished my first half, I signed up for a marathon. Then in the next few months, I signed up another two marathons. Running went from something I occasionally do to who I am.

Spanish is something I always wanted to learn, but never had the resource or time, until I moved to New York City two years ago. I went to the first class at Instituto Cervantes and just kept going. In August I traveled to Mexico City alone and suddenly found that I could understand almost everything. I also went on Spanish speaking day trips with Peruvian and Colombian tourists, went to cheer the Mexico City marathon and made friends with fellow Mexican marathoners, and we were planning to run the Rock’n’Roll half marathon together in Mexico City next March.

I’m a good student and I worked hard: I hardly missed any classes and I always do the homework and the required reading; I took a lot of notes and on Friday nights I would study them instead of going out. The classes were expensive at $580 per course, and that’s about 30 hours of class time. But it was all worth it.

It is this year that I became a new person again, the person not quite who I want to be, but much closer to the goal. I reinvented myself into a runner and a Spanish speaker. I had to, because the person I had been would never have been capable of. In the next year I will probably focus on getting better: run faster and learn to understand more Spanish dialect. And the person in 10 years will again be completely different from who I am now.

人民币上的毛

这个周末要去墨西哥度假10天,于是今天下午我去换了一些墨西哥比索(Mexican Peso)。

IMAG2056

从某种程度上讲,墨西哥和中国其实很相似。墨西哥也是一个历史悠久的国家,是美洲文明的发源地,有辉煌的古典时期。近代同样经历战乱,殖民以及独裁统治,最终成为现在的民主共和国。在墨西哥比索上,有古典时期的哲学家,国王,殖民时期的诗人,近代的革命英雄,总统,艺术家。有男人,女人;有土著人,也有混血儿。我不禁想到,为什么我们的人民币上只印有毛泽东呢?难道中国五千年的历史,到头来只有毛一个人值得印在纸币上吗?墨西哥并不是一个模范民主国家。我们在新闻,报纸上都能读到,它的政府腐败,它的边境上犯罪率很高,失业率也很高 (因此美国有众多的墨西哥非法移民)。但是起码可以从纸币上看到,墨西哥政府对自己国家历史以及文化的尊重。而我们呢?上下五千年,我们有数不清的文学家,哲学家,书法家,帝王以及大臣… 旧版的人民币上起码还有五十六个民族大团结,可是新版的人民币上却只剩下了毛。我真想看看,是不是朝鲜的纸币上只有金家王朝…

mmexport1471915403164

 

2016 Race Calendar

Since I started running in May 2015, I want to complete at least one Half Marathon* in each State, plus D.C. and Puerto Rico, before I move out of the U.S. to another country. Here’s what I have sign up so far for 2016.**

March

QDR 30K Spring Marathon Tune Up (Mar 26, 2016)

April

Staten Island Half Marathon (Apr 2, 2016)

screenshot_2016-09-23-15-56-08

The day I ran my first half marathon of the year started with light rain. It was sunny that same afternoon, but between 9am and 11am during the race, it was heavy rain. Of course I was drenched as I’m always under prepared for any travels, and ended up having a fever and lying in bed for the next two days and missed my training run and Spanish class, I found the race experience with Trimara Sports pleasant.

I woke up at 5am, and spent 2 hours on trains and buses to get to Staten Island, but I had a good time. Now I’m considering signing up the Holiday Half Marathon at the end of this year with Trimara Sports as well.

NYCRUNS Queens Half Marathon (Apr 17, 2016)

screenshot_2016-09-23-15-55-53

It’s a half marathon in my neighborhood, of course I’m doing it. I really enjoyed running with NYCRUNS, they have put up a good race, with lots of post race bagels and fruits. And I couldn’t believe there were more than 1,000 people came out to run on a Sunday with limited 7 train service.

Kentucky Derby Festival Marathon (Apr 30, 2016)

screenshot_2016-09-23-15-55-39

This is my first marathon and my goal is simple: to cross the finish line in upright position. I have been training for the KDF Marathon since January and if I don’t collapse during running, I hope to finish within 4 hours and 15 minutes.

August

Camp Chingachgook Challenge (Half Marathon, Aug 13, 2016)

screenshot_2016-09-23-15-55-00

This course is beautiful but hilly, and the weather was hot. But then I get to swim in the lake and enjoy the best post race food! I always loved Lake George, back in my college days, my boyfriend and I used to spend long weekends here, relaxing and shopping at the outlet malls. It felt great to be back.

September

Bird-in-Hand Half Marathon (Sep 10, 2016)

screenshot_2016-09-23-15-54-30

I love almost everything Amish, so when I found out that the finisher’s medal has a horseshoe and the race course runs along the farmlands of Lancaster, I signed up right away. Everyone who knows me well knows that I travel to Lancaster to spend weekends several times a year. Maybe this will be the start of a new tradition, running Bird-in-Hand Half and then refueling with Smorgasbord.

October

Rock’n’Roll Brooklyn Half Marathon (Oct 8, 2016)

This ended up being my first DNS (did not start) race. On the Thursday night before the race, as I was walking through a door, it closed while I was crossing the threshold and hit my right ankle hard. I was immobile for Friday, Saturday and Sunday. I was really upset so ended up eating the entire bag of oreo cookies in Saturday afternoon.

I lived in Brooklyn for a year before moving to Queens my current apartment. I would love to do a half marathon running through Prospect Park.

Runner’s World Half & Festival (Oct 14-16, 2016)

screenshot_2016-10-17-20-09-28

Really happy to be able to run again. The RW Half & Festival is a great event, they even provided shuttles for us who live in NYC. The weather at the start was cold, but then it warmed up after I finish. The course was hilly but beautiful. I would like to come back and do their Grand Slam someday.

Marine Corps Marathon (Oct 30, 2016)

screenshot_2016-10-31-14-39-14

They say money can’t buy happiness, but when I received an email from my bank that my card had been charged $140 (means I won the lottery to enter MCM), I was in fact quite happy, almost ecstatic to be honest. When I told people I will run the MCM, almost everyone told me I’d have a great time and the race is really beginner friendly. I can’t wait :)

November

Cambridge Half (Nov 13, 2016)

screenshot_2016-11-13-19-59-21

My running buddy wanted to do this race because she went to school in Boston years ago, and I’m simply tag along. Why not :)

* I would only run half marathons, marathons or longer distances, because I’m thrifty and usually a 10K costs not much less than a half marathon, but the course is much shorter. To me, it costs more to run a 10K than a half marathon (dollar per mile wise), so I would only do half marathon and longer distance because it’s cheaper “per mile” to run.

**This list will be updated as soon as I sign up for a new race before Dec 31, 2016.

Now I Own A Server

I have finally decided to pay for a Virtual Private Hosting service last Tuesday. I had the standard VPS from Bluehost, along with my Heroku free tier, now I have two platforms to host my weekend projects and be as nerdy as I want to.

I couldn’t help telling my non technical friends about it, and had to explain that getting a VPS for me is the equivalent to receiving Christmas gifts for them.

It’s time to unleash my startup spirit: make great things and actually deploy them.

Introducing Just 1KG More

It appears that I have spent way too much time writing code for the past few months. I probably should be blogging about it too, even if it doesn’t interest anybody. So let me start by letting everyone know my latest project: Just 1KG More — a website built exclusively for nonprofit organizations that want to minimize operating cost.

Just 1KG More is a simple tool that allows nonprofit organizations to post project destinations, along with a list of items that could be used or need for the project. Travelers who happen to travel to the same destination can sign up and choose how much and what they are willing to carry (for the organization), starting at 1kg.

I created Just 1KG More for myself.

I travel to China at least once a year, and for an international flight, I can have a checked bag for up to 23kg for free. However most of the time my checked bags were around 19kg, so then each time I travel, there’s about 4kg of free space I can fill with donations and supplies for nonprofit organizations that need to be transported to Northeast China.

I have completed the backend work for Just 1KG More, and my next steps are:

  • Finish front end work
  • Start internal testing with friends and volunteers
  • Beta Launch
  • If the website gains users, then redesign the UX for production launch

One of the benefits of Just 1KG More is leveraging already available resources. Nonprofit organizations receive non-monetary donations, such as school and medical supplies, clothing, and much more. Travelers often have extra space in their packed suitcases. Just 1KG More can works to bring them together.

This is just the start! I’m looking forward to talking with you, and receiving feedback on Just 1KG More on the approach to the beta release in early 2016.  Send me an email at daniel@danielatwork.com, start a conversation on twitter @danni1990 and sign up for the project newsletter to learn more!

You can find the current version of the code here on github.

This work is licensed under an Apache License.

An Amish Weekend in Lancaster, PA

0002924_0002924-R1-E004

Lancaster County is about 3 hours drive from New York City, with glorious farmland, Pennsylvania Dutch smorgasbord and Amish themed tours, it is truly a wonderful weekend getaway from your busy city life. I first visited Lancaster in the summer of 2013, and have been coming back at least once a year ever since.

Arrive Thursday Night

If you leave the city around 5pm or 6pm, you can manage to get in Lancaster before 9pm. I would recommend staying in the East Lancaster area, such as Bird-In-Hand, Paradise or Ronks etc. Those locations are very close to the Amish settlement, and have supermarkets and restaurants nearby. There are lots of hotels along the Lincoln Highway East, or if you like Bed & Breakfast, many of them are along the Old Philadelphia Pike.

Friday with Old Order Amish

Friday is for Amish, but first stop by Lancaster Central Market to get breakfast. Lancaster Central Market is the oldest farmers market in the country (according to its website) and opens Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays. It has the standard farmer’s market stuff: fresh fruit, produce, coffee and tea. There are also Amish crafts, cookies, cakes and pies sold. It also surprised me with its gluten-free bread and cookies.

Now onto the Amish adventure. Amish Farm and House is a must stop for its informative bus tours. The tour takes you through the photographic Amish farmland and makes stops at Amish craft shops and roadside stands to try their homemade lemonade, ice cream and hand rolled pretzel.

0002924_0002924-R1-E016

Another must-do is the “Visit In Person (VIP)” tour offered by Amish Experience at Plain and Fancy Farm. Buy tickets online and enjoy a very personal visit to Amish businesses and family. We visited an Amish dairy farm and a soap shop, and saw the process of milking cows and making soaps. And the best part is our last stop at an Amish home, we got to sit in the living room of an Amish family and talk to them. One of the daughters of the family is a school teacher for Amish kids, so we actually looked at their textbooks used in school. It’s very informative and very personal. There is also an Amish Experience Theater at Plain & Fancy Farm where you can see a screening of “Jacob’s Choice”  about a young Amish boy’s struggle in choosing the Amish church, or leaving behind family and community for the “English” world.

Whether you choose to go on a buggy ride or drive through the back road on your own, a must stop is the Countryside Road Stand for its soft pretzels. They are made fresh, you can watch the Amish ladies make them right in front of you.  They are hot, buttery and so yummy. They also have homemade ice cream and root beer.

Saturday in Hershey

On Saturday you can either extend your Amish adventures or do something different and visit the Hershey Park. Hershey Park is about an hour away from Lancaster, with an amusement park and a water park, you can spend all day there. At night after the entire day of rides, dine at Khana Indian Bistro for some tandoori chicken or fish curry, the food is great and it opens late.

Sunday in Strasburg

0002924_0002924-R1-E013Lancaster is like a lot of other small towns that has quiet Sundays, because a lot of restaurants and shops choose to close on Sundays, but there are still some fun things to do. Climb aboard on the trains at Strasburg Rail Road and enjoy a 45-minute, round-trip ride through the scenic Amish countryside to Paradise, PA and back. Marvel at more than 1,000 acres of farm fields as they pass by your window. Reserve tickets online for first class cars, or just walk up to the ticketing booth for coach class.

Rest of Sunday is a good time for shopping. There is Park City Center Mall and several outlet malls in the area and since PA has no sales tax on clothes and shoes, buy as much as you can carry ;)

Where To Stay

I usually book a hotel on Priceline.com because I interned at Priceline.com and loved it. I don’t work there anymore because I can only work full time for an employer that sponsor H1B visa, but I still love to use Priceline.com every time I travel. Sometime I also like to stay in other people’s homes through Airbnb.

What Else To Do

Visit Hayloft Candles for candles of all occasions and see how candles are made. There is also a petting zoo free of admission.

If you are interested in religious shows and experiences, one time my host recommended me to Sight & Sound Theater. I’m not religious so I didn’t go, but I see the good reviews on Yelp and other travel websites.

For gifts and souvenirs, check out Kitchen Kettle Village for Amish dolls, pickles, foods and crafts.

For outdoors, make a stop at the Wolf Sanctuary of PA.

Where To Workout

I usually do at least one Bikram yoga when I travel. In Lancaster, that’s Bikram Yoga Lancaster. For gyms, I’ve only been to Formular Fitness and Aerobics, and it’s a decent gym.

Where To Eat

For lunch and dinner, definitely try the Pennsylvania Dutch smorgasbord, there are Plain & Fancy Farm Restaurant, Good ‘N Plenty Restaurant, and Miller’s SmorgasbordLititz Family Cupboard Restaurant & Buffet also serves breakfast buffet worth trying. Some restaurants in the area don’t open on Sundays, so you need to either call ahead or check Yelp to confirm the hours.

For fresh produce and treats, you should check out Miller’s Natural Foods and Kauffman’s Fruit Farm.


This category “Take Friday Off” is inspired by WSJ’s “Take Monday Off” on it’s Life section. So far my weekend getaways are restricted to places within the US because I can only renew my visa in my home country (China) and I have to do it once a year, so if I make a trip to some other country, I’ll have to go back to China, renew my visa before entering the US again. It’s really challenging because all I want to do is to spend money and have fun, and not being able to renew my visa in the US gave me a lot of trouble since I work at WSJ on breaking news, I can’t afford to break the “Breaking News” just to spend 3 days in Cozumel.