Thursday, February 17, 2011

Wanting It Badly

To this day, I still almost nod in agreement each time I recall the classic words of my old professor in Criminal Law: "There are only two things in life that you pray you will never have to do twice: To get married, and to take the Bar exams."  I remember that our entire class laughed when we first heard the line. It sounded more like a punchline back then, especially to us clueless freshmen who had no idea of what law school and life really had in store for us. 

By the time I was wrapping up my fourth and last year in law school, I already knew that my professor's words had been true all along. I can still recall how, while I was taking the Bar exams back in '02, I was extremely careful about all the things I said, did, and thought --- in the hope of attracting enough good karma to help me hurdle what arguably is the toughest licensure exam in the country. After four years of the Socratic Method, tens of thousands of pages read, countless cases digested, and six long months of living like a hermit as I prepared for the Bar exams, I was sure as hell that I did not want to take the freaking test more than once (and I never did - one click!). 

It was pretty much the same way when my wife and I were preparing for our wedding back in '04.  Given the amount of preparation and sacrifice that we both poured into making sure that everything would work out right on our wedding day (we saved up and spent for everything), we knew that we had to steer clear of anything that would and could ruin the event. I recall that we observed practically every bit of superstition with a shrug of the shoulder, and just reminded ourselves that "we won't lose anything naman if we do it."

Over dinner last Monday, I confided in my wife and told her how dejected I felt over the possibility of missing BDM 102 because of my injury. And why wouldn't I be? She and I both knew how much time and effort I poured into preparing for the damn thing. I was not able to follow my training program to the letter, but we both knew that I did put in as much time into training as my body and schedule permitted. We both knew that thoughts of BDM consumed almost each of my waking hours, and that hardly any conversation passed without me blurting out something relating or alluding to BDM.  I told her that I cannot recall ever having wanted something this badly since my Bar exams and our wedding day. She believed me completely.

And just like that, it felt like I was back in law school, listening to my Crim Law professor deliver his prophetic line. Except only that I wasn't laughing.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

With Fingers Crossed and Bated Breath

I received some very positive and encouraging news today when my x-ray and CBC (complete blood count) results revealed that I have neither a fracture nor a soft tissue infection in my lower leg. Doc ordered these additional tests last Monday after he noticed the very bad swelling in the region between my ankle and shin on my left leg. He wanted to rule out the presence of a fracture and any bone or tissue infection, and to make sure that I am receiving the right form treatment. Now that those possibilities have been discounted, we are back to the original diagnosis - tibial perostitis, more commonly know as shin splints (albeit a very severe case). And so, the treatment continues - daily therapy, target-specific stretching exercises, anti-inflammatory cream, rest. LOTS of rest. Did I miss anything, doc?

This is my first-ever running-related injury, and it has come at the most inopportune time. My biggest race to date - BDM 102 - is less than three weeks away. As a friend had very aptly analogized, the healing and recovery process has become a race in itself. It has become a race against time, a dash to see whether my nearly 36 year-old body can recover soon enough to allow me to participate in the madness that I have been preparing for during the last five months. Will I make it within the cut-off time? We'll see. I do know this, though: The possibility of having all that effort go down the drain had sapped the life out of me. It had me completely deflated. And so, today's bit of good news comes like a tonic that has lifted my spirits. I am now cautiously optimistic that I will be at the starting line in Mariveles, Bataan on March 5th.

My heart-felt thanks to everyone that wished me well and gave me encouragement during the past couple of days. Special mention goes to my good friends Din and Carrie. Hope I didn't ruin your V-Day date by flooding you with messages on BBM last Monday. : ) You guys are the best.   

Sunday, February 13, 2011

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

THE GOOD: I've been cleared medically to take part in the insanity that is BDM 102.  Got my clearance a couple of days ago, and everything was perfectly normal with the exception of my cholesterol level. It sat on the borderline between normal and you-have-to-do-something-about-this. Blame it on my genes. But hey, I was cleared for BDM, so absolutely no fretting here.

More good news. I completed the second BDM 102 test run yesterday, from Km 50 in Abucay, Bataan to Km 102 in San Fernando, Pampanga. I covered 52 kilometers in seven hours and two seconds. Very good heat training. I was also able to try out my gear, as well as my nutrition and hydration plans. Now that I've done both halves of the BDM 102 route, I already have a clearer picture of what to expect on D-Day - the critical turns, the terrain, the climate, the over-all atmosphere of the race. For those interested (or just plain curious) in the statistics of my two BDM test runs, please click here and here.

I have trained hard, I have ran the actual route, I have medical clearance, I have completed the registration process. Only one more thing left to do before showtime, and this brings us to...

THE BAD: I have to heal and recover. I have shin splints - a very common running injury. I first felt some pain below my left shin and above the ankle after last weekend's Condura Skyway Marathon. Knowing that I will be doing the 52k test run this weekend, I rested all of last week and did not log a single kilometer. I guess it worked because the pain went away, only to return at Km 10 of yesterday's test run, while I was somewhere in the town of Hermosa in Bataan. At that point, the discomfort was still very bearable (almost negligible, actually), so I decided to push forward. I did notice though that I felt the discomfort when I walked, and not when I ran. This condition persisted until around Km 20, when, for some reason, the discomfort completely vanished. I thought all would be well until the pain (no longer just plain discomfort) came back at around Km 26. From that point on, it became a struggle for me just to put weight on my left leg. What made it worse was the fact that I was running on very uneven surface - the gravel-strewn shoulder of Roman Highway. During this stretch, wifey (who was in my support vehicle) and I had the following exchange as I was in for a pit stop:

Me:  It hurts like hell every time I step on a large stone.  The uneven surface is just killing me!

Wifey:  So why don't you get off the shoulder and run on the edge of the road instead?

Me:  Uhm... because it would hurt more if I get side-swiped by a bus.

By Km 35, the pain was almost debilitating. I was already hobbling badly when I ran and it was worse when I walked. I won't lie here - quitting did cross my mind. A lot of times. After all, it was just a test run, not a race. I seriously considered calling the troops back in. Obviously though, I did not quit, and I plowed on in this condition for the next 17 kilometers. Maybe it was courageous of me, or maybe it was downright stupid. I don't know. I guess it was a little of both, but perhaps it's bit more of the latter.

THE UGLY:  I am hobbling right now and couldn't even walk straight. I had my injury checked by Dr. Gilbert Tan at the Pain and Rehab Care Clinic in Megamall, and he confirmed that I do have shin splints. Absolutely no running or jumping for the next two weeks. Therapy sessions everyday during the same period, which by the way started this morning. In all  likelihood, I will still be able to do BDM 102 three weeks from today, but there is no assurance that the pain will not flare up during the course of the run. Fair enough. Good thing I already experienced running through the pain yesterday. At least I already have some practice on that. If pain flares up during BDM and I decide to run through it, would I expose myself to any risk of a more severe injury? Doc said no. I have all the assurance I need. Doc said a very extreme and highly improbable scenario would be, that I'd develop a stress fracture.  He also said, however, that nobody develops a stress fracture overnight. So, if I began feeling pain only last week, it couldn't be a stress fracture. He went on and discussed medical terms that lawyers normally do not understand (unless the lawyer is also a doctor), but I had already heard enough. Sorry for having tuned out, doc.

So, it's settled. Absolutely no running and therapy sessions everyday (thank God for company-issued HMO cards) for the next two weeks. Doc says I also have to use orthotic arch supports because I am severely flat-footed, to help ease the stress on my calves when I run. You got it, doc.

Oh well. There goes tomorrow's recovery run...

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Over the Top

First off, a big congratulations to all the men and women behind the Condura Skyway Marathon.  From the head honchos over at Condura (brothers Pat and Ton Concepcion), to the tireless Race Director (Coach Rio) and his crew, all the way down to the last marshall and aid station volunteer --- all of them contributed to churning out a marathon that this running-crazed metro of ours can be truly proud of.  It seems that the team left no stone unturned in its drive to ensure that the event would be a spectacular success.  This, coupled with the innate uniqueness of the Skyway route, are more than enough to make the Condura Skyway Marathon one of Southeast Asia's "must-run" marathons. It's right up there with the Cebu City Marathon, and surely deserves to be called the country's premiere running event.  Hopefully, events like the CCM and the Condura Marathon would boost the country's stock as a preferred marathon destination in the region.

On a personal note, I am pleased to share that I was able to record a new personal best for the marathon distance. I did not meet my target time of 4 hours and 30 minutes, but I wasn't way off the mark either. I finished with a chip time of 4:35:46 - an improvement of almost 15 minutes from my previous PB of 4:50:04, set at CCM last month. Average pace was 6:27 mpk. My run had juuuust the right amount of suspense, too, as I hit Km 37 somewhere along Buendia with a time of exactly 4 hours. That left me with 30 minutes to complete the last five kilometers - very doable even for an average recreational runner like yours truly.  I thought I could pull it off as I still felt strong at that stage, hydration and nutrition along the route was more than adequate, and the sun was neatly tucked behind thick clouds. And so, I gave it the old college try. As it turned out, a pace of 6 mpk was no longer sustainable, and I missed my goal by five minutes. No shame in all of this, however, because nobody that knew me when I was younger would have ever imagined that I would one day finish a marathon, let alone finish one with a time somewhere in the 4:30's range. Heck, it was the proverbial suntok sa buwan (punching at the moon), but somehow, I managed to do it by taking the Skyway. Statistics of my run here.

And for the record, the son never forgot.

Another saving grace was the fact that I continued my streak of bringing down my finish time, one marathon at a time. My finish times thus far are 5:42 (Condura, Feb '10), 5:20 (Milo, Jul '10), 5:18 (CamSur, Sept '10), 4:56 (Singapore, Dec '10), 4:50 (Cebu, Jan '11), and now, 4:35. It's obvious that my training for BDM 102 has allowed me to continuously improve. I don't think I've become faster, but I've definitely gotten stronger. Peaking at the right time? We'll see. My advice therefore to aspiring marathoners is this: The best marathon training is ultra distance training. : )

Now that my marathon streak is over (for now), I am back to being a newbie as I continue preparing for BDM 102.  I'll be doing the second BDM test run on Saturday, from Km 50 in Abucay, Bataan to Km 102 in San Fernando, Pampanga. This 52k run will be my longest run ever before I tackle the real thing on March 5, and also doubles as only my second ultra distance run. I am keeping my fingers crossed that it will be hot and humid on the day of the test run, as that will be the only way for the test run to simulate the conditions that I expect to face at BDM. May the next few weeks be fruitful and productive for me and for all BDMers, veterans and neophytes alike, 102 or 160. Showtime is just around the corner, my friends.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

First Things First

The gun start of the Condura Skyway Marathon is just hours away, but for some reason, I am not yet fully engaged.  Right now, I just don't have the degree of focus that I recall I had as I approached previous marathons. Proof: I am not even writing about Condura now. Admittedly, I am already looking ahead to what the future holds after tomorrow.

Perhaps too far ahead, actually. There is the BDM 52k Test Run next Saturday. Less than three weeks after that, will be the real thing: BDM 102. After BDM (if I still have legs and feet), I will be doing the Standard Chartered Kuala Lumpur Marathon on June 26. Before KL, though, some time around the end of April or in early May, will be the New York City Marathon lottery. I am a lottery hopeful, and I will finally find out whether I will be hitting the Big Apple in November to run one of my dream marathons. Of course, sprinkled in between all of these will be the Philippine Association of Ultrarunners (PAU) ultra runs and other ultramarathons that I also hope to experience this year, and perhaps a few other destination marathons here and abroad.

But for now, there is a race that must be run. The Skyway looms large and proud in the horizon. I must train my sights on the task at hand rather than day-dream about races and runs that have yet to pass. I am just an average recreational runner - no room for error and definitely no margin for hubris. A marathon is a marathon, 42.195 kilometers is 42.195 kilometers, no matter where and when it is run. Respect the distance, as the learned veterans say.

May the gods of running smile upon all of us tomorrow, and allow us to cross the finish line and see what lies beyond.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Give Batman a Break

If it were up to me, I would require anyone who will be taking up running for the first time – regardless of distance – to seek prior medical clearance. Running is a strenuous activity that, literally, is not for the faint of heart. This point cannot be stressed enough especially in the light of the current running boom.

I started running back in the late ‘90s during my law school days in UP. Back then, a long run consisted of three laps around the Academic Oval, and an hour on the treadmill passed for a regular workout. I ramped things up only after I had an executive check-up a couple of years ago. The check-up included the whole shebang – ECG, 2D Echo, treadmill stress test, chest x-ray, complete blood chemistry, medical history and physical examination, etcetera, etcetera. The results were very positive, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Earlier today, I went to a diagnostic clinic near my place of work to find out what tests need to be done for me to obtain medical clearance to do BDM 102. The medical clearance is a requirement for BDM (Bald Runner has always observed a “no medical clearance – no run” policy for BDM), but I would have sought one voluntarily even if that had not been the case. BDM is not a walk in the park, and to simply say “bahala na si Batman” would plainly be idiotic.  After all, I am no longer a spring chicken, having seen all of 35 (and pushing 36!) summers. I should give the Caped Crusader a break.

After I informed the receiving nurse of my purpose for seeking medical clearance, I was told that what I specifically need is a cardio-pulmonary clearance. She then referred me to a cardiologist. It so happened that the cardiologist is also a recreational runner who regularly does 10k runs, so he knew what BDM was all about. His first question, which he asked half-jokingly (I think), was “sigurado ka ba sa gagawin mo?” (Are you sure of what you are about to do?). I answered yes, naturally, and asked him to please have me go through all tests that would sufficiently gauge my fitness to do BDM. The good doctor obliged, and ordered that I go through something very close to the whole shebang – ECG, chest x-ray, urinalysis, and complete blood chemistry. He emphasized that he wanted to see my creatinine, glycogen, sodium, and blood sugar levels. I asked for more, and requested that he also check my cholesterol levels - just in case. Thank God for doctors who are also runners.

As of this writing, I already have the preliminary result of my ECG. I was told that I had a slow heart rate, but that this was expected given how frequently I do cardiovascular workouts. I asked the doctor whether that was good or bad, and he answered without flinching - it was expected. All test results will be in by tomorrow, and I’ll have the full picture in a couple of days.

I’m keeping my fingers crossed that everything would turn out okay (I never take anything for granted). It would be a shame if I had to pull out this late in the day. If and when I already have that medical clearance in my hands, I will have taken my first step towards crossing the finish line by the old train station in San Fernando.