Saturday, July 31, 2010

How This Runner Got His Groove Back

The last time I hit the road for a race was on 4 July, the Milo Marathon. After Milo, I went on a three-week hiatus from running. Some of it was necessary (i.e., recovery), and some of it was totally involuntary (i.e., work, other commitments). In hindsight, however, I would say that it was a much needed break from running.  It was all good.

Too good, even.  As in, "way out-of-hand" good.  During the long lay-off, I did not engage in any form of exercise or physical activity to keep my fitness level up.  Let's just say I simply felt lazy and enjoyed the surplus of free time that used to be gobbled up by running.  The cherry on the sundae was my relapse into an old - and very bad - habit: Smoking. Yosi Kadiri paid frequent visits, and we rocked it like it was going out of style. Who can blame us? The brewskie was just too damn good. And while we're at it, throw in a missed race, why don't you. I skipped the runfest because it was held the morning after my belated 35th birthday inuman with my closest buddies. 

This past week, I cleaned up my act and finally laced up my running shoes. A 5k last Monday, 8k Tuesday, 10k Thursday, and another 5k yesterday. There was some huffing and puffing at first, a few pains and some soreness here and there. Don't ask about my times. The rust was obvious, but I think 28 kms spread over four days did the trick. And tomorrow, my participation in the Rexona Run 21k race will formally mark my re-connection with the running world. They say it will be a flat and PR-inducing route. Given my relative lack of preparation, as well as a fitness level that is just absolute crap right now, I'll leave the competitive spirit in the closet and settle for a safe, relaxed, and injury-free run.  That sub-2:05 half-marathon can wait, and I'll have to stay happy with my 2:09 personal best - for now. Lord, please make it rain tomorrow.

Tomorrow's half-marathon will also mark the start of my preparations for my next marathon, CamSur on September 26. After tomorrow, my Sundays will again be reserved for the LSDs that will propel me to that elusive sub-5 marathon finish (positive-thinking!). All told, I've got my work cut out for me in the coming weeks. Wifey will understand (I hope).

Absence does make the heart - and feet - grow fonder.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Good Things Come in Small Packages

Look at what Mr. Postman brought in while I was away...

Now THIS is how you celebrate running.

See you on Sunday!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Heading Home

I can't believe how quickly the last eight days have passed.

It's almost midnight and it's my last night in the UK. I spent over a week here and I never got to log even a single run. Not one. My work load all week was brutally unforgiving, and I never found the time to head out on the road even for just a 3k or a 5k "sight-seeing run." Today would have been perfect for one, but I spent the day doing the tourist-y stuff around London. Today was my only free day, and I definitely wanted to make the most of it. A run along the banks of the River Thames - apparently a very popular running route for the Brits - would have been magnificent, but I simply did not have the time. That's another item for an ever-growing bucket list

This early, I already have my sights set on coming back next year with wifey for a vacation. A number of my colleagues here are veteran marathoners themselves, and they invited me to join them for the London Marathon 2011. It sounded like a plan to me, but guess what --- the lottery is already closed. Oh well. The story of my life.

For now, it looks like it's going to be you and me once again, Manila...

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Whoever Goes to Farnborough?

It's my third day here in Farnborough, England.  It's about 40 minutes away from London.  I am here for work and will be staying here until the 18th. 

On my way to the office earlier today, I passed an enormous open field that was surrounded by what seemed to be a jogging/bike path.  It's only a couple of kilometers away from my hotel and is just begging to be explored.  On may way back to the hotel, I saw a good number of runners and bikers getting a nice early-evening work-out.  You could just imagine the envy I felt as I passed them as I was decked in a suit and leather shoes instead of a Climacool top and my NB 760s.

I haven't fully recovered from my jet lag and today was a long day of meetings and calls at work.  I would have wanted to go for a run, but as they say, "the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak."  I think I really am getting old.  The good news is, the sun here does not set until 9:30 p.m.  As a matter of fact, 10 p.m. here looks a lot like 6:30 p.m. in Manila - the late stages of dusk.  I can get in a one or two-hour run even if I leave work at 7 p.m.   What's more, the weather here at this time of year is just perfect, and in the late afternoon it sits at a very comfortable 15 to 18 degrees Celsius.

I hope to get in a good run after work tomorrow.  I'll try to bring my point-and-shoot with me so I can snap a few pictures to post here.  I say "try" because, apparently, this part of England is not "tourist-y"" at all.  I tried snapping a few pics when I went out for a short walk yesterday afternoon, and people were looking at me in a funny way. 

I just can't wait to do my very first run on this side of the globe.  It's also going to be my first run since Milo so it's going to be at a very easy "picture-taking" pace.  An overly-delayed recovery run, I suppose. Hopefully, I'd be able to post some pics and take you guys along for a ride.  After all, whoever goes to Farnborough anyway?

Thursday, July 8, 2010

The Fly in the Ointment: Dishonesty at the Milo Marathon

In my previous post, I snuck in a teaser for what I thought would be the topic of my next post.  I wrote that I have another Milo story to tell, and that it was going to be a story of heart, passion, and love of the sport.

This is not that story.

On the contrary, this is a story of cowardice, dishonesty, and utter lack of respect for the sport of running.

As I was rounding out my third and final loop around the Macapagal-CCP segment of the 42k route (I think it was at Kilometer 33 or 34 in front of Star City), a green Mitsubishi L-300 van stopped in the middle of the road.  The passenger door opened and about six or seven "runners" wearing uniform orange singlets and white Milo race bibs (i.e., 42k race bibs) alighted.  They were all laughing.  They shouted "salamat" to the driver and resumed their "marathon."

My intial reaction was, I wanted to confront them and find out exactly what they were doing (or better yet, what they've done), but I restrained myself from doing so lest I wrongly accuse them of something.  Still, as I was plugging away during the last eight kilometers along Roxas Boulevard, on the brink of collapse while being fried by the late morning sun, the scene just kept on playing over and over again in my mind.  It went on and on until I finally crossed the finish line, where all of those thoughts were washed away. 

I thought I had completely forgotten about that scene until today, when I learned from several running blogs (i.e., Bugobugo, Running Pinoy, Jazzrunner) that the Milo Marathon was in fact marred by the dishonesty of some "runners."  Little did those dishonest bastards know that they will get caught, and that they will be exposed.

A quick glance at the race results would show that a number of marathon "finishers," although having their Finish Time, Chip Time, and 15k splits recorded, did not have data for their 26k and 37k splits.  The figures are quite revealing because, if you consider the 15k splits of these "finishers" and do a bit of analysis, you will instantly realize that their Finish Times are plainly and simply bullshit.

Let's take a look at one example.  Say, for instance, Runner No. 40632. This guy's Finish Time and Chip Time was a stellar 3:44:08.  Strangely though, this guy registered a 15k split of 2:54:50, but did not register splits for 26k and 37k.  And so, we'll have to do a bit of math here.  Given this runner's Finish Time and 15k split, it would seem that he ran the remaining 27.195 kilometers in only a little under an hour. Holy crap!  Ang bilis!

Let's try another one.  Another finals "qualifier" with incomplete splits is Runner No. 40939.  Finish Time 3:19:00, Chip Time 3:19:00, 15k split 2:45:14. No splits for 26k and 37k.  If we add these figures up, it would seem that this guy ran the last 27.195k in only a little under 34 minutes!  And the Philippines doesn't have an Olympic gold medal yet?!

One more.  Runner No. 40368.  This fella is the 34th-ranked "finisher."  Finish Time 3:38:02, Chip Time 3:37:53, 15k split 2:39:14.  As usual, no 26k and 37k splits.  This dude is a tad slower than our two other examples - he ran his last 27.195k in a little under an hour.  Siguro hindi uminom ng Milo.

Compare their figures with those of a true finisher's - Wilnar Iglesia.  Wilnar is a known speedster and a notorious halimaw in running circles.  Wilnar had a Finish Time of 3:30:59, Chip Time 3:30:51, and a 15k split of 1:14:09.  His 15k split is over an hour faster than those of the Three Stooges', but he finished the marathon behind Moe and Larry, and just slightly ahead of Curly.  Heck, even I had a faster 15k split than those guys, and I crossed the finish line almost two hours after they did! What's wrong with this picture?!

I combed through the results and compiled the names of the 42k "finishers" who had the most questionable statistics (i.e., absurd finish times relative to their respective 5k splits, incomplete splits).  Here, ladies and gentlemen, is your Honor Roll for the 34th Milo Marthon (drumroll, please):

Runner No. 40939
Runner No. 40368
Runner No. 40632
Runner No. 40938
Runner No. 40661
Runner No. 40660
Runner No. 40211
Runner No. 40489
Runner No. 40221

In the spirit of fair play, I challenge these "finishers" to explain how in hell they were able to pull off their amazing marathon finishes.  A simple comment on this post will suffice.  I always get a kick out of having prominent running personalities visit my blog, anyway.  If they don't feel like explaining anything (or, if they do not see the need to explain anything), they can instead just come out in the open and simply say they've done nothing wrong.  I'll give them the benefit of the doubt and believe them.  I might even shake their hands if I run into them on the road one of these days.  That is, if I can catch them.  These guys are waaaay too fast for an average recreational marathoner like me.

If you want to have more fun and would like to know what these gods look like, go to Photovendo by clicking here and simply enter their bib numbers (you know the drill).  As you will see, a number of these "finishers" were wearing the infamous orange singlet.  It's best that we familiarize ourselves with these running luminaries.  These are world-class marathoners. They ought to be celebrities. They're running gods!  Runner No. 40661, especially, is a CLASSIC.  He did a two-man relay on marathon day - as in, two different runners wore the same bib at different segments of the race! Check out the pics here and have a good time.

Now, you may be asking why I am making such a big deal out of all of this.  Well, I'll tell you why. 

I'm doing this because, after months of busting my knees and training for this marathon, after almost collapsing due to dehydration and heat exhaustion during the last eight kilometers, I chose to stay the course and somehow managed to finish the race with my integrity intact. 

I'm doing this because of fellow runners like Jet Paiso, who got injured during the marathon yet chose to carry on and finished what he started, even if it meant taking all of SEVEN hours to complete the damn thing and crossing the finish line long after the cheering crowds have left. 

I'm doing this because I personally witnessed an old, bent, and shabby-looking runner, evidently bereft of material advantages in life, almost crawling to the finish line wearing only one tattered shoe (it wasn't even a running shoe!) while carrying the other one in his hand, because it apparently lost its sole during the run.

I'm doing this because, somewhere along Kilometer 25, I and another runner attended to an old and battle-scarred marathoner who collapsed in the heat of the late morning sun, and stayed with him until help arrived.

I'm doing this because I've just learned that a 21k runner collapsed as he was only a kilometer away from finishing the race, and was then rushed to the hospital where he remained unconscious until he passed away yesterday due to multiple organ failure.  May his soul rest in peace.

I'm doing this because, by their acts of dishonesty and lack of integrity, these "finishers" are making a mockery of all the ideals that the sport of running is supposed to instill in all of us.

Mahiya naman kayo sa mga sarili ninyo.  Sana hindi na lang kayo tumakbo.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For: My Milo Marathon Experience

It has been over 14 hours since my Milo Marathon debut came to a conclusion.  And yet, as Sunday bleeds into Monday, my heart is still racing (pardon the pun) as I try to recall and put down into writing some of the events that transpired during the marathon weekend that was.  I joined Milo hoping to find redemption at 42.195 kms.  The weekend had come and gone, and while I have yet to find redemption, I made it out of Sunday with great optimism that it just might be right around the corner.   

Allow me to regale bore you with an account of my run.  I came into the Milo Marathon with the publicly stated goal of achieving a sub-5 hour finish.  I believed in my heart that it was feasible because of the relatively "easy" route, my perceived level of preparedness and fitness, and my high level of motivation. 

My plan was to maintain an average pace of somewhere in the vicinity of 7 min/km.  This seems easy enough, even for an average recreational like me.  The challenge, however, lies in maintaining this average pace using my chosen strategy for middle- to long-distance runs:  the Galloway run-walk method.  For this marathon, I stuck to my usual 6:1 run-walk ratio. During my walk breaks, my pace normally drops to 8:30 - 9:30 min/km.  I therefore need to do a 6-6:30-ish pace during the run segments in order to pull up my average pace to my desired 7 min/km.

Everything went perfectly according to plan from Kilometers 1 to 18.  I had a great warm-up and pre-race stretching, and my body was loose.  The sun had yet to rise, and therefore heat and humidity were not yet factors to be contended with.  Hydration and nutrition along the route were plentiful, as water and Gatorade stations alternated on the roadside.  Hammer gels and sliced bananas were being given out at one station along the Macapagal loop.  All these positives helped me produce a strong start, and this was evident in my splits: 7:36 7:22, 7:10, 7:08, 7:16, 6:51, 7:14, 6:59, 7:04, 6:42, 6:58, 6:49, 7:02, 6:50, 6:36, 6: 45, 7:01, and 7:07.  All told, I cleared the first 18 kms in 2:06, with an average pace of 7:08 min/km.  So far, so good.

My pace tapered during the stretch from Kilometers 19 to 32, but I was still in good shape.  By this time, the heat and the humidity were already rising and were starting to become game-changers.  At times, the monotony of the route somewhat caused me to tune out and lose just a little bit of focus, just a little bit of edge.  Hydration, however, was still plentiful, and that definitely helped.  I was still sweating profusely - a good sign that I was well-hydrated.   My legs, knees, and feet still felt fine, no blisters or chafing anywhere. Unlike in Condura, there were no cramps.  I failed to register a single 6-something split during this stretch, but I was still doing fine.  My splits for this segment were  7:12, 7:05, 7:33, 7:19, 7:47, 7:29, 7:25, 7:31, 7:52, 7:55, 7:46, 7:45, and 7:56 .  I cleared the first 32 kms in 3:53:10, with an average pace of 7:57.  Not quite the average pace that I hoped to have by this point, but a sub-5 finish was still within reach.

And then, it all came crumbling down. They say you will hit the dreaded wall somewhere past Kilometer 32.  I rammed into the damn thing at Kilometer 36. Or better yet, the damn thing rammed into me. Kilometer 33 was a prelude of things to come as I laid a big fat egg with my first 8-something split of the run - an 8:09.  I somehow was able to recover during Kilometers 34 and 35, registering splits of 7:43 and 7:49.  But these were to be my last gasps at my sub-5 target, which was steadily slipping out of my hands.  

By Kilometer 36, the monotony of the route became more pronounced as most of the 21k runners were already  on their way back to the finish line. The sun was already dominating the cloudless sky and was mercilessly toasting the 42k runners to a crisp. Still, I was optimistic because I made it out of Macapagal Highway - all three loops of that extremely boring and arid stretch - in one piece, and in relatively good shape.  Still no cramping, no blisters or chafing, no injuries of any sort.  My legs were already sore but were still perfectly capable of doing a bit  of running.  I got back onto Roxas Boulevard having already burned 4:16.  I still had 43 minutes and 59 seconds to cover 6.195 kilometers and complete the marathon in less than five hours.  I needed to average 7:00 k/min the rest of the way to safely assure myself of a sub-5 finish.

Six kilometers in 43 minutes and 59 seconds, at the tail-end of a marathon.  With sufficient motivation, the right amount of effort, and adequate hydration, it was very achievable.  As I got out of the CCP Complex and set foot on Roxas Boulevard, my eyes wandered and scanned the route for the next water or Gatorade station.  I was already wilting because of the heat and my throat was bone-dry.  I badly needed a drink.  To my amazement and indignation, however, each hydration station that I passed was packing up and already calling it a day.  One by one, they were closing shop, literally leaving the remaining marathoners hanging out to dry.  It was time to man up for the grind that was the remaining six kilometers of what had been a very promising race.

To conserve my energy, I tried adjusting my run-walk ratio to 4:1.  However, with no hydration to sustain me, I was forced to abandon this strategy and simply resorted to random run-walk patterns.  The goal was no longer a sub-5 finish, but simply to SURVIVE AND FINISH.  The heat and humidity were off the charts, and I was already seeing imaginary black spots floating before my eyes.  I was in Kilometer 38 and I had already slowed down to a walk.  I was on the brink of collapse, and I was no longer looking for a water station.  I was already scouting for an ambulance or paramedics that could attend to me in case I blacked out.  During this stretch, what kept me afloat were the encouraging words of fellow marathoners who either passed me or walked side-by-side with me - total strangers who were also going through the very same plight that was staring me in the face.

Finally, I made it to the US Embassy.  Only a little over a kilometer to go.  I stopped at a deserted hydration station and, out of desperation, scooped up some ice cubes scattered on the table.  I pressed these against my nape and the top of my head in an attempt to bring my body temperature down.  Man, did that help!  The cooling sensation brought me back to my senses, and I realized that I only had a kilometer more to go.  The boost was enough  to deliver me to the finish line and a 5:19:52 finish (Garmin time), for an average pace of 7:32 min/km.  I finally made it home.  Click here for Garmin data of my run.

Home sweet home!
Although I did not achieve the sub-5 finish that I coveted, my performance at the Milo Marathon is still cause for great optimism.  I am not into moral victories, but I have always been a "glass is half-full" type of person and I always try to find the silver lining in any situation.  And in this case, a lot of positives were evident.  For one, I improved on my marathon finish by a full 23 minutes. The 5:42 finish I had at Condura is now down to 5:19.   Another positive is the fact that, unlike in Condura, I did not cramp up.  This means my base mileage is, at the very least, already sufficient (I was sitting on 1,489 kms coming into this race), and that my muscles are getting accustomed to long distance runs.  I also believe I'm starting to figure out the marathon distance, i.e., how to pace myself, the proper hydration and nutrition plan, etc.  And lastly, I draw strength from the fact that, strictly speaking, I did not hit the wall.  There was no wall for me to hit, but the absence of hydration during the last eight kilometers simply forced me into submission.  I can only speculate what my time could have been had there been even just some (never mind adequate) hydration during the last eight kilometers.

Tired, but NEVER beaten.
I'll be taking the next couple of weeks off to recover.  There will probably be very little to no running for me at least for this week, and I'll probably ride the stationary bike at the health club just to keep my fitness up.  I'll be leaving for the U.K. for work next Saturday, and I hope to do some short runs while I'm there.  When I get back on the 19th, I will begin training for my next full marathon, CamSur, which is scheduled for  September 26.  I hear it's going to be a fast and flat course for that one.  I say, that sub-5 barrier is just about ready to be breached.

I'll leave you with a few more pics from my awesome Milo Marathon weekend.  I still have another Milo story to tell - a story of heart, passion, and love for the sport - but that deserves a separate post of its own.

Mission accomplished!
With wifey at the finish line
On to the next marathon!