Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Deciding Factors

Only three more days to go before the big day, and I still have a number of decisions to make regarding my gear for the Milo Marathon.  For instance, do I wear the Milo singlet, or should I stick to my usual Adidas Response Climacool shirt?  The rules say runners must wear the official singlet, but I also know that this rule is not enforced strictly except perhaps for those who intend to qualify for the finals.  I'll most likely stick to what I am most familiar and comfortable with and wear my Adidas top, but a part of me is seriously considering wearing the singlet.  I never wear official singlets for races, but the quality of the Milo singlet (and the mere fact that it IS a Milo singlet) has gotten me thinking.  But then again, I've never tried wearing the Milo singlet during a long run, so I have no idea whether it would cause chafing and whether it becomes heavy when wet.  In contrast, my Adidas tops are tried and tested in these respects, so there's at least some certainty there.  Remember the basic rule: Never try anything new on race day.

Another dilemma:  Do I bust out the CW-X Ventilator tights, or do I go classic and wear my trusty Nike running shorts?  If Milo had been held a few months ago, I would have gone with the tights, hands-down.  At Condura last February, I ran in my CW-X Pro tights.  Lately, however, I have been going back to the basics and have been enjoying running with minimal gear on - base layer apparel, shorts, shirt, socks, shoes.  It has been months since I last ran a race in tights.  As a matter of fact, I've also ditched the iPod, the hydration belt, and all other abubots that runners nowadays seem to love wearing during runs - and running has never felt better.  And quite honestly, I could not feel the difference between running in tights and running in shorts. The tights would be an advantage when running in extremely cold whether (which I realized during my runs in Milwaukee last month), and is great for recovery.  But as an in-race apparel? I must say the jury is still out on that one (at least as far as I am concerned).  I'll most likely run Milo in shorts and then wear the tights post-race for faster recovery, but we'll see.

Also, do I wear my usual white Nike Dri-Fit running cap or my black 2XU run visor? I love my white cap to death, and it has almost become my trademark, but the run visor offers some distinct advantages.  Because the run visor leaves the head exposed, I won't have to take it off each time I pour water on my head during the run.  Also, the run visor will not trap heat in my head as I run, and can help keep my body temperature down.  I'll probably wait for race day to resolve this one.  If it's rainy on race day, I'll go with the cap.  If it's sunny, I'll go for the run visor.

And last, but definitely not least: Do I wear my favorite running shoes, the Adidas Adizero Tempo, or do I go with the rising star of my shoe cabinet, the Adidas Supernova Sequence?  Now this is a tough one.  For the past few months, I've been wearing the Tempo only during races.  For short training runs and speedwork, I have been using the New Balance 760.  For LSDs and easy runs, I have been using the Supernova Sequence.  For the past month, however, I have been using the Supernova Sequence almost exclusively.  As a matter of fact, I have only worn the Tempo twice - for the Independence Day half-mary and a 10k tempo run at Ultra last week.  The Tempo still feels GREAT, but a recent 30k run in the Supernova Sequence got me thinking.  The Supernova Sequence provided fantastic stability and great cushioning, and simply felt awesome over-all.  It would also make great sense for me to wear heavier stability trainers because I plan to run Milo at an average pace of 7:00 k/min anyway.  But then again, turning my back on the Tempo would almost be blasphemous.  I'd be lying though if I say that the Supernova Sequence performs just as excellently as the Tempo.  And so, as you can appreciate, I have a head-scratcher before me just a few days before D-Day.  If I can't resolve this through rational means, I'll probably toss a coin or something, and jujst leave this matter to chance.  This just goes to show how confident I am that, whichever pair I run with, I know I'll be in good hands.

To the uninitiated, these issues may seem trivial or mundane, if not downright silly.  But runners who are worth their salt would attest that these issues are far from petty, and making the proper choices can determine whether Milo would be a comfortable and fulfilling conquest of the marathon, or just another excruciating and meaningless five hours on the road.     

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Running Against Time, Running Back in Time

The Milo Marathon - my second full marathon - is less than two weeks away.  I must admit that, in terms of training, I am not where I was hoping I would be this late in the day.  A lot of factors have conspired to keep me from training as religiously as I originally wanted.  Unavoidable factors, actually, such as work, travel (for work), family obligations, and countless other things. Oh well. The story of my life.  

It has become a race against time, these past few weeks of my marathon training.  I won't say I'm cramming though, because I'd like to think that my training for my second marathon began the minute I hit the road after recovering from my first marathon.  And that was back in February.  Although I have not been following a structured marathon training program, my average weekly mileage has increased significantly since Condura.  Prior to Condura, I was probably averaging only 30 to 40 kms a week.  Post-Condura, that figure has gone up to approximately 45 to 60 kms per week.  My Sunday runs have also become longer. Post-Condura, 20, 21, 25, and 30 km runs have become regular weekend fare for me.  I've also added a good variety to my training runs.  I've been doing a combination of tempo runs, hill repeats, intervals, and LSDs. The benefits have been evident, as my times have significantly improved.

Conditioning-wise, I'd also like to believe that I am significantly better. This time around, I'll be running the marathon at least 10 to 12 pounds lighter. A better and healthier diet has brought my weight down (from 195-196 lbs to 183-185 lbs) without robbing me of energy and strength.  I've significantly cut down on smoking, so much so that I'm now down to being a weekend smoker. I'm now a non-smoker six days a week. The regular runs (four to five times a week) have built my endurance considerably.  I am also completely injury-free, unlike during Condura where I ran three weeks following a month-long lay-off due to a swollen right knee.  You can just imagine what that did to my conditioning.  Given all of these, I'd like to believe that I am entering my second marathon in much better shape than when I did Condura.

The prospect of completing the Milo Marathon in five hours or less is getting me all excited.  I laid a big, fat egg at Condura with a 5:42 finish.  I hope to improve on that, and the smell of redemption on July 4 has gotten me all pumped up. 

But then, aside from my personal redemption at the full marathon distance, do you know what else I am hoping would happen on July 4? I'm hoping that it would rain. I ran under the pouring rain during my 30k run last Saturday, and again during my easy 10k run at ULTRA yesterday. Call me sentimental, but running under the rain brings back so many happy memories of when life was so much simpler. Of life's simple pleasures. Rain during the marathon would remind me of times gone by - as I run against time and test the limits of the person I have become because of running.  

Saturday, June 12, 2010

The Independence Day Half-Marathon: Worst Race of the Year?

The Independence Day Half-Marathon was simply terrible. A total mess.

There's just no other way of putting it.  I should have followed my gut and just skipped this race.  I had very strong doubts about joining this race because I was  not familiar with the event organizer and the race director.  Maybe I'm just not in the know, but I think the people behind this road race are relative newbies to the "race organizing" scene.  Lest you think I am being too harsh with my opinion, consider these:

1.  The 10k, 15k, and 21k runners had ONE AND THE SAME gun start.  I have already joined a good number of races - both "big" and "small" - and this is the first time I've experienced something like this.  It was simply chaotic.

2.  The race route was not cordoned off.  Runners had to play patintero with vehicles in a number of stretches.  I even heard that a runner got hit by a car somewhere in Lawton Avenue.

3.  There were hardly any marshalls, and in the few instances where there were any around, the poor souls were practically clueless about the route and oblivious of what was going on.

4.  Km markers were few and far between.  At least five runners asked me about the distance.  I was fortunate that I had a 305, otherwise I most likely would have been the one doing the asking.  This, in my opinion,  is the most serious flaw of this race.  As I was doing my post-race stretch, I overheard a group of at least seven 21k runners openly discussing how they probably ran only 18k because they did only two loops instead of three at the closing stretch of the 21k route.  I didn't think they did that on purpose, though.  They got lost because there were no Km markers (only directional signs) in critical points, and the marshalls were as helpful as fire hydrants.  I myself almost missed out on a loop because a marshall prompted me to proceed to the finish line one loop early.  I checked my 305, and at that point, it showed that I had only covered 17.76k.  I made a u-turn and did another loop to complete the 21k distance.

5.  A lot of 21k runners who either got lost or missed a loop STILL crossed the 21k finish line.  This could only mean one thing.  The "official results" of this race would be crap.  Utterly useless and unreliable.  Good thing I don't see myself as competing with other runners whenever I join races.  I never entertain any illusions that I would ever get a podium finish in this lifetime or the next, that's why I compete only with myself, the clock, and the course.  That's what's great about this sport.

6.  There was a shortage of medals.  I had mentioned in one of my previous posts that I am a sucker for finisher's medals, and it really irritates me when there is a shortage.  It's simple, isn't it? Number of registered runners = number of medals.  For some reason, however, some geniuses still find a way to screw it up.  I couldn't care less about singlets - I almost never wear them anyway -  but I want my medal.  And here's the cherry on the sundae, the icing on the cake, the gravy on the KFC Chicken, whatever:  The group of 21k "finishers" who admitted running only 18k (see No. 4) ALL HAD MEDALS HANGING AROUND THEIR FRIGGING NECKS.  They only did 18k so they ended up crossing the 21k finish line way ahead of a lot of other legit 21k finishers (including me) --- and they had the balls to claim their finisher's medals! Where's the integrity in that? And they call themselves runners?

Anyway, some people at the finish line got my name and mobile number and said they'll contact me for the delivery of my medal.  We'll see. 

7.  The water stations were too short.  Proper spacing and just the right number, but waaaaay too short.  As in, just-one-or-two-monoblock-tables-long short.  They were also inadequately manned.  Most of the stations I passed as I was outbound were crowded.  Runners had to stop - as in a full stop - just to get a drink.  You can just imagine the precious minutes that the long queues added to the finish time of legit finishers (never mind the bogus finishers - they don't count).

8.  The 21k route was extremely boring.  It's bad enough that it was held at the Fort.  But making runners do three loops around one segment of the route? That's rubbing salt on an open wound.

The Independence Day Half-Marathon is a classic example of how NOT to organize and manage a race. It's sad because the race had so much promise - a rare Saturday race, an admirable theme (patriotism), very cheap registration fee.  But then again, that might actually be the rub.  It was dubiously cheap for a Fort race.  What's that cliche again? You get what you pay for? There you go.

Let me put in a little disclaimer, though.  Not all "small" races are like this, and my experience at this race would NEVER discourage me from joining "unbranded" races in the future.

Still, the day was not without redeeming factors.  Call these the day's saving grace:

1.  I think I'm getting my mojo back. I finished 21k with a gun time of 2:13:26 and Garmin time of 2:13:05.  It's four mintes off my 21k PR, but still an improvement of nine minutes over my last half-mary (2:22, Nature Valley).  Maybe my dinner the night before the race (spaghetti with meat sauce - Pinoy style - and fried chicken) and my pre-race meal (double cheese burger, GIANT cavendish banana, Gatorade) did the trick.  You see, I've greatly reduced my intake of carbs and meat. Over the last three months or so, my diet has helped me lose 12 pounds (prepping for BDM hehehe).  In my last few runs and races, I noticed that I tended to fade during the homestretch due to obvious loss of energy.  I loaded up big time for this race, and I think it paid dividends.  I can only speculate what my finish time would have been like had I not gotten lost and if the water stations had been longer.  Maybe I could have set a new PR, or even gone sub-2:05.  But then again, it is what it is.  I am happy with my 2:13:05 finish.

2.  Ice cold, absolutely free Pocari Sweat flowed like water along the entire the race route.

3.  The heat and humidity were tolerable.  It seems summer is finally, really over.  Perfect marathon weather!

And last but not least...

4. I finally have an angas Bald Runner 1,000 Km Club shirt.  As of this writing, I'm sitting on 1,397 kms.  Not bad, considering that I started logging my runs back in July 2009 only.  Thanks a lot to the Jedi Master, the one and only Bald Runner, Sir Jovie Narcise.

With a shirt like this, who needs a medal? :)

This is my last race before the grand daddy of local races:  the 34th National Milo Marathon Manila Eliminations on July 4.  I'll never qualify for the Finals, but I think a sub-5 hour 42k finish is definitely within reach this time around.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

34th National MILO Marathon Manila Eliminations

The wait is over.

Registration for the 34th National MILO Marathon Manila Eliminations starts on Friday, 4 June, at the following locations:

(1) Toby's SM North Edsa - The Block
(2) Toby's Greenhills
(3) Toby's Parksquare 1

Registration at RUNNR starts on June 14.

This is what a lot of us have been training for over the last few months. It's time, baby.

Product Review: Multi-Purpose Ice & Heat Wrap

I had always wanted to try icing my knees after runs and pick-up basketball games. I am aware of the numerous benefits of this tried and tested remedy, and countless runners swear that icing the knees after runs shortens recovery time and provides instant relief from any fatigue, pain, and discomfort that result from long runs. Unfortunately, the batugan that I am, I've never gotten around to icing my knees because I find it such a hassle to prepare an improvised ice wrap. 

And so, you can just imagine how happy I was after I purchased a pair of Multi-Purpose Ice & Heat Wraps from Walgreen's during my recent trip to the US.  The Ice & Heat Wrap consists of a gel pack and a garterized pocket with Velcro straps.  The gel pack can be frozen or heated in a microwave oven, depending on whether you want a hot or a cold wrap, and is reusable.  Just freeze or heat the gel pack, insert it in the garterized pocket, and strap the wrap onto your knee. Very easy and hassle-free, no drips, no mess at all.

I used the ice wrap for the first time last Sunday after the Nature Valley 21k Run, and again yesterday and today after my 10k and 13k training runs at Ultra.  The product instructions told me not to leave the wrap on for longer than 25 minutes at a time, and that was exactly what I did. The cold compress felt great and did relieve my knees of the fatigue right away.  My knees felt fresh all of sudden - as if I never ran at all.  Cleaning up was also painless.  I simply pulled the gel packs out of the pockets and chucked them in the freezer.

 Relief for my tired knees

At only US$20 for two pieces (I might have gotten them on sale), the Multi-Purpose Ice and Heat Wraps are an absolute steal.  Definitely one of my best and most practical buys in a long long while.  Hands-down, a product that every runner needs and should have.