Sunday, September 20, 2009

RotaRun 09: Slaying the Ghosts of Races Past

What I've come to love about the sport of running is that, each time I hit the road, I am given an opportunity to vindicate past failures, avenge regrettable setbacks, and overcome my weaknesses. Every run, every race provides me a clean slate, a fresh chance. RotaRun 09 was one such race.

I entered the world of road racing via Kenny's Urbanite Run, where I crawled my way to the 15k finish line in 1:53. Although Urbanite gave me the satisfaction of finishing my first ever road race, it also instilled in me a fear of uphill runs. The effort that I had to exert just to make it through Upper McKinley was enough to make me not want to have anything to do with McKinley Hill again. Ever. It is this very same trauma that almost kept me from signing up for RotaRun. Almost.

I signed up for RotaRun because, during this weekend, my only other alternatives were two "very fun" runs - a 4.4k in UP and a 5k at BHS. However, even after I had registered, my attitude towards RotaRun was unlike that which I had towards previous races. During the weeks leading up to this particular race, I had consciously and deliberately conditioned myself that I was going to do RotaRun for the simple reason that it's there, and without any sense of purpose whatsoever. I have even taken to calling it a "tapon" race - a race where I won't even dare entertaining the faintest notion of probably chasing, let alone setting, a PR. I'll shell out 200 bucks, get the neat singlet, run, and that would be it. Papawis lang.

My carefree attitude towards RotaRun was in full display yesterday. Before I developed my "Sunday habit," I spent all of my Saturday afternoons playing basketball in Ateneo with close friends. You see, for my friends and I, basketball is not a mere brotherhood (apologies to Adidas). It is a fellowship, a religion, a way of life. Saturday afternoon basketball was sacred, and it has been so since '97, the year following my graduation from college. That's 12 long years right there. However, since I started joining races, I willingly gave up Saturday basketball in order to conserve my legs for the Sunday runs. Yesterday, however, I decided to live a little and played ball. I played hard, with great intensity, and without regard for the next day's run. I followed this up with a late night-out, which, during the Saturdays of the last two months, I had successfully avoided. I went to bed at 2 a.m. and launched a futile attempt to get even just two hours of sleep. That one didn't work, and by 3:30 a.m., I was already wolfing down a triple-decker peanut butter sandwich and three Cavendish bananas (my usual pre-race meal). All in all, I probably logged a whopping 30 minutes of sleep. This, my friends, is a textbook example of how not to prepare for an early morning road race.

4:55 a.m., and I was cruising down Lawton Ave. By 5:20 a.m., I had already parked my car and pinned my bib. Since the 10k race was scheduled to start in 25minutes, I did a shortened version of my stretching and warm-up routine. Hmmm... not a very good good sign. After completing a pathetic attempt at getting my muscles warmed up, I finally inched my way into the middle of the 10k pack. At exactly 5:45 a.m., the gun went off. Ohhhhh, boy. Here goes nothing...

For the first couple of kilometers, I paced CJ, my new buddy who was doing his first-ever road race. He had told me the night before that he planned to do RotaRun at training pace. That was perfectly fine by me, as I came into the race with every intention of running at his pace for the full 10k. Besides, I was thinking that, even if I do try to pick up my pace, the inclines of Upper McKinley would stop me dead in my tracks anyway. Strangely though, about two kilometers into the run, I felt that insatiable need for speed. It was as if a switch was flicked inside of me, stoking a nasty edge I never thought I'd find while traversing the confines of McKinley Hill. And boy oh boy, it couldn't have come at a better time. The sudden relentless - and totally unexpected - burst of adrenaline, energy, competitive fire, and pride carried me through the dreaded uphill stretch at a pace that, by my very modest recreational standards, is one to be proud of. I would later on find out that, during this critical and decisive stretch, I somehow willed myself to a 5:03 split. Finally, I have conquered the very same inclines that thoroughly routed me at Urbanite just a mere five weeks ago. Payback time, son!

With Lawton Ave. being relatively flat, I was able to maintain a decent pace (i.e., 6:00-6:20) the rest of the way. With only 400 meters to go, I decided go for a full sprint. Man, did that feel awesome! As I crossed the finish line and looked up at the 10k clock to check my finish time, I had the shock of my fledgling running life when I saw that I had just completed RotaRun in 0:54:03! Could it really be that I've just bettered my current 10k PR by almost three minutes?

Dream on. My iPod (with Nike+) showed that I had only covered 9.67k. Gingerbreadman Luis later on confirmed that the 10k route did fall short by around 400 meters. Based on my computations, had the route gone the full 10k distance, approximately 2.56 minutes would have to be added to my time. This would give me a 0:56:59 10k finish. This adjusted time still trumps the PR I set last Sunday at Eco Dash (i.e., adjusted - 0:57:42), and gives me a new 10k PR. Wow. Does this mean I should just run my next races with alcohol and zero sleep!?

And so, this is how RotaRun has come to pass for me. For the second straight week, I am thankful that I ultimately decided to complete a race that I came oh-so-close to giving up on. Last Sunday, Eco Dash and the rain-drenched Kalayaan Flyover reminded me of the simple joys of running. This time around, RotaRun and the hills of McKinley gave me a reason why I should keep on running.

If you've been following my entries, you will note that I've been on a fortunate winning streak of late. At the rate things are going, I can't wait to find out what lessons I'll learn from the New Balance Power Race next Sunday.

From the Shoulder: It's got to be the shoes... GU Chomps with caffeine is the way... CJ, 'til the next run, bro!... GBM Luis, hope to see you back on the road real soon, buddy... basketball on Saturdays and races on Sundays... 21k, here I come!


  1. Two thumbs up TARR! Keep it up! Basket on Saturdays, races on Sundays...I like that!

  2. Thanks, brad! I'm still waiting for you to finally join me for a run hahaha!

  3. I think it must be the margarita and . . . basketball !!! Oh, and maybe also the triple decker peanut butter sandwich !!! Haha. Congrats bro !!! It's all in the got to want it so bad, you would do anything for it. Keep it up =)

  4. Thanks, bro! The HK group owes me a run! I'll collect when PJ comes back for good from Jakarta hahaha!

  5. Very nice Julius, was so nice to finally meet you! Congratulations on your recent winning streak, and given your bball background you should be right on pace for better times. If you are running New Balance 10k and would want to be pushed, just tell me man. MAybe we could shave a few off those times :)

  6. Hey, Luis! Just got back from your blog. Galing nung Hitler vid hahaha! Left a comment there. Yup, I will be running NB 10k. I've seen how much of a speed freak you are, dude. 'Di pa yata ako ready for your pace hahaha! But of course, I'll give it a try. Thanks bro!