Sunday, June 26, 2011

Perfect Ending

For the fourth straight week, I was able to meet (actually, exceed - by two kilometers) my target mileage. I'm not about to give myself a pat on the back, though. I aimed for 60 Kilometers this week, inclusive of my participation in the Kuala Lumpur Marathon. With the 42 Kilometers already in my pocket, getting at least another 18 was a cinch.  I could have gone for at least 80 to 85 this week, but I held back because I do not want to risk sustaining any fatigue-related injuries now, not with my next ultra just three weeks away.

A quick look at how the past week went:

Monday, 20 June: Rest day.

Tuesday, 21 June: 10-Kilometer run completed in 1:07. Complete stats are in my Garmin F305, which I left in Manila. 

Wednesday, 22 June: Rest day.

Thursday, 23 June: 10-Kilometer run completed in 1:09.  Complete stats are in my Garmin F305, which I left in Manila. Pounded the ULTRA track while Typhoon Falcon was pounding the metro.

Friday: 24 June: Rest day. 

Saturday 25 June: Rest day. Flew to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia with my wife Bam. Claimed my race pack for the Standard Chartered Kuala Lumpur Marathon.

Sunday, 26 June: Standard Chartered Kuala Lumpur Marathon completed in 5:07:17 (Garmin time) at an average pace of 7:13 mins./km. An immensely enjoyable run. It felt good to stand behind the starting line once again. My shins, which had been giving me some problems of late, held up nicely. Separate post to follow.

I am thinking of cutting back a bit on my mileage this week to allow my body to recover fully. I will probably shoot for just 40 to 50 Kilometers this week, spread over five days of running, with no run exceeding 15 Kilometers. With the way the past four weeks have gone - 92, 60, 75, and 62 Kilometers - I think I can use a bit of down time.

I am posting this summary from the comforts of our hotel room in KL, with the Petronas Twin Towers gleaming right outside our window. It truly is a sight to behold. We'll be here for a couple of days more, to take in some much-needed. And then on Wednesday, it's back to the grind.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Inspiration Found

I am and have always been a fan of good and insightful writing. I always get a high from reading works written in simple and coherent prose, whose words are carefully chosen and exude an air of unmistakeable sincerity. Those gems really drive the point home and always - always - inspire me.

If you appreciate that sort of writing as much as I do, you might want to check out Dakota Jones' blog, Living the Dream, one of these days. Dakota is an American ultrarunner, a young up-and-comer (he's only in his early 20s) that is starting to make a huge name for himself in the US ultrarunning scene. I stumbled upon his blog one day as I was clicking the links on Bald Runner's blog roll. I have been hooked ever since and I always look forward to his next post.

Check out Dakota's entry entitled "Revitalized." Very insightful stuff that captured a lot of the thoughts that had been swirling in my head but which I have been unable to express with enough clarity. His race account for the recently-concluded Miwok 100 is also a very inspiring piece. The sort of stuff that you ought to read the night before a big race.

I went searching for inspiration, and I think I may have just found it in the writings of an enormously gifted young runner from half-way around the globe. 

Monday, June 20, 2011

Speed Can Wait

Five more days to the Kuala Lumpur Marathon, five more days to my longest run since that 50-miler nearly 11 weeks ago. Now that KL is just around the corner, I finally feel a little anticipation welling inside me - sort of. I still find it odd that I am not too worked up over my next marathon, especially considering that it will be held in a country that I will be setting my foot on for the very first time. I will even confess that, over the weekend, my wife Bam and I seriously considered cancelling the trip altogether. As it turns out, neither she nor I have been too hot about seeing KL, after all. But hey, the trip will push through, the show will go on.

Speaking of going on, one thing that has been going on is my preparation for the Philippine Association of Ultrarunners (PAU) Fort Magsaysay 60k Ultramarathon, which will be held on July 16 in Nueva Ecija. For the third straight week, I was able to meet (actually, exceed) my mileage target, with 75 Kilometers ran during the week of 13 to 19 June. I did all my runs at my usual ultramarathon pace. But really, that's just a fancy-sounding way of saying that I ran at a shamelessly slow pace. The Galloway walk breaks also made a comeback of sorts, as I re-incorporated walk breaks in my daily runs. My main accomplishment for the past week was getting my body re-accustomed to the grind of running almost everyday.

A summary of how the week went:

Monday, 13 June: 15-Kilometer run completed in 2:04:25 at an average pace of 8:17 mins/km. Splits were 8:36, 7:36, 7:28, 7:57, 8:27, 7:57, 8:38, 8:36, 8:01, 7:25, 8:15, 8:20, 8:05, 9:55, and 9:02. I felt good all through out the run. Not bad at all, considering that I did 20 Kilometers just the previous night.

Tuesday, 14 June:  Rest day. I attended my sister's birthday dinner. Stuffed myself silly with Peking duck cooked two ways, but only to motivate myself to run my ass off for the rest of the week. Yeah right.

Wednesday, 15 June: 15-Kilometer run completed in 2:01:22 at an average pace of 8:05 mins/km. Splits were 8;39, 7:00, 7:35, 7:31, 8:31, 7:41, 8:32, 7:52, 8:54, 8:04, 7:48, 8:23, 7:29, 8:58, and 8:20. No effort whatsoever to pick up the pace.

Thursday, 16 June: 17-Kilometer run completed in 2:20:02 at an average pace of 8:22 mins/km. Splits were 8:45, 7:59, 7:30, 7:38, 8:39, 7:39, 8:41, 7:42, 8:33, 7:33, 8:31, 8:12, 8:38, 8:53, 8:10, 8:52, and 10:54 for the last kilometer, which I walked. I wanted to do 20 Kilometers, but I was already starving and suffering through a splitting headache by Kilometer 17. I should have taken a heavier a snack before the run.

Friday, 17 June: 15-Kilometer run completed in 2:06:19 at an average pace of 8:21 mins/km. Splits were 8:22, 9:10, 7:56, 7:39, 8:31, 7:23, 8:11, 7:46, 7:47, 8:16, 7:10, 9:40, 7:36, 9:26, and 11:28 for the last kilometer, which I once again walked. I felt really tired after this run, probably an effect of the heavy mileage that I have been logging for the past three weeks. No serious issues, though, and I knew I would feel better with a full night's rest.

Saturday, 18 June: 13-Kilometer run completed in 1:44:06 at an average pace of 7:59 mins/km.  Splits were 8:06, 7:50, 8:38, 8:37, 7:18, 7:41, 6:58, 8:17, 7:41, 8:15, 9:18, 7:17, and 7:34. Surprisingly, I felt strong after this run. Must have been the rain. I was tempted to stretch the run to 15 Kilometers, but my wife and I were meeting some friends for dinner. Definitely felt strong all the way.

Sunday, 19 June: Father's Day was also a rest day. Some things, such as running, will always have to give way to more important things, such as family. A Son Never Forgets.

All told, it was a very satisfying week. My daily runs are becoming longer in terms of both distance and duration, and I am once again becoming comfortable - both physically and mentally - with spending hours upon hours on my feet. Good ultra training. I know that I will eventually have to throw a bit of speed work into the mix, but that will have to wait as I simply am enjoying these easy runs at the moment. And it's all good, because I am making good progress without burning myself out.

With a full marathon scheduled for the coming weekend, I am tempted to experiment and go for at least 85 Kilometers this week. Unfortunately, this might not be the best time to risk sustaining an injury, what with a highly-anticipated ultra set to happen in a few weeks. I will play it smart and aim for 60 Kilometers instead.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

A Change of Pace

The Standard Chartered Kuala Lumpur Marathon - my seventh full marathon not counting ultras - is less than two weeks away.  I must admit that I am cramming for this one, and come race day, I am hoping that stock knowledge will see me through.  As far as I can recall, this will be the first marathon where I will not be putting pressure on myself to finish with a personal best time. For my first six marathons, the goal had always been to improve in measurable terms. Said differently, the goal had always been to finish faster. And I had been rather successful, too, as my finish time improved from one marathon to the next. During my maiden marathon back in February 2010, I finished in 5:42. It was a hellish experience that almost made me give up on marathons altogether. But I persevered, and somehow, I was able to bring that time down to 4:35 by February 2011.

The improvement has been painstakingly slow, to be sure, but the journey has truly been one big joy ride. What did I do to chop off more than a full hour off my marathon finish time? Simple: I trained for an ultra marathon. I incorporated full marathons into my training and treated them as long training runs. Obviously, it worked. My marathon times went down and I finished my ultra. It's not rocket science and it's a proven formula, that's why I'm doing it again. And so, the coming weeks will be quite busy: KL Marathon on June 26, a 60-Kilometer ultra in Nueva Ecija on July 16, the Milo Marathon on July 31, and then a 68-Kilometer ultra on August 20. I'm sure I will be signing up for other races in September and October, and then there will be the New York Marathon in November. All these races, and that's telling only half the story. The real goal is to run - and finish - my first 100-miler in January 2012. Hopefully, I'll get there, one road race at a time.

But for now, there is Kuala Lumpur to worry about. My goal had originally been to finish in 4:20. After all, it has been said that the KL route is a PR course. Unfortunately, the painful truth is, I am not prepared to chase a personal record right now. Barring any fortuitous event, I will finish, without a doubt. But a 4:20? Impossible - for now. For the third week running (pun intended, as always), I have been training to run long and far, but not fast. I am anything but fast right now. Just check my previous posts. And so, the goal for KL has been scaled down. Tremendously, as a matter of fact. I just want to finish KL in one piece, take in the sights, add another marathon to my race log, and get stronger for the longer races ahead. And of course, I should have fun doing it. After all, it will be my first time in Malaysia.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Come From Behind

For the second straight week, I stuck with the program and achieved my target mileage.  After doing 92 Kilometers last week to formally bust out of hibernation, I aimed for a more conservative 60 to 65 kilometers for the week of 6 to 12 June.  I started off on the wrong foot and opened the week with not just one, but two missed runs, but quickly got back on track via that glorious 15-Kilometer run last Wednesday.  The week ended with today's 20-Kilometer easy run that gave me a total of 60 Kilometers for the week. All in all, it was a good week, and I am again getting used to running almost daily.

A quick glance at the week that was:

Monday, 6 June:  Work forced me to ditch my planned 5-Kilometer recovery run. That, and my body also craved a day off from running.

Tuesday, 7 June:  Second straight "runless" day. Some of our company's global officers - including one of our biggest guns - were in town, and I took them out for dinner and a couple of drinks.  The couple of drinks were followed by a couple more, and then a couple more, and then a couple more, and then a couple more, and then a cou... oh, you get the idea. To cut a long story short, I got piss drunk. Not cool.

Wednesday, 8 June: 15-Kilometer Hangover Run completed in 1:50:10 at an average pace of 7:18 mins/km. Splits were 7:46, 6:31, 6:48, 6:37, 6:40, 7:01, 6:38, 5:58, 6:12, 6:15, 9:45, 7:32, 9:00, 8:13, and 8:16. Notice that I picked up the pace from Kilometers 2 to 10. I wanted to check if I could still run at a pace that's a bit faster than ultra pace, and I think I did a decent job. I enjoyed this particular run immensely, so much so that it served as the inspiration for my previous post.

Thursday, 9 June: 13.5-Kilometer run completed in 1:36:15 at an average pace of 7:07 mins/km. Splits were 7:04, 7:23, 7:19, 6:54, 6:47, 6:25, 6:27, 6:23, 6:23, 6:08, 7:23, 7:42, 7:13, and 12:34 for the last 500 meters, which I walked. I wanted to go for 15 Kilometers but it was getting late, and I had work to do.  Again, a portion of the run (Kilometers 4 to 10) was done at a pace that is relatively faster than my usual pace nowadays.

Friday, 10 June: 11.5-Kilometer run completed in 1:18:09 at an average pace of 6:47 mins/km. Splits were 8:01, 6:48, 6:01, 5:57, 6:02, 7:17, 6:52, 6:46, 6:50, 6:30, 6:51, and 8:10 for the last 500 meters, which I again walked. After three days, my total stood at 40 Kilometers. I was able to make up for my missed runs earlier in the week by increasing my mileage for the past three days (I had originally planned to do only 10-Kilometer runs). This set me up nicely for my planned 20-kilometer weekend run.

Saturday, 11 June: Rest day. The highlight of the day was a yakiniku buffet dinner with my family to celebrate my mom's birthday. The fat, cholesterol, and sugar intake left me with no choice but to do that long-ish run the following day.

Sunday, 12 June: I came thiiiiis close to giving up on today's run. Last night's family dinner was followed by drinks with friends that lasted until 4 a.m. I got up at 10 a.m., drank buckets of water, went back to bed, and woke up for lunch at 12:30. I spent the rest of the afternoon getting a haircut and watching my Ateneo Blue Eagles beat the living hell out of the San Beda Red Lions. The game ended well past 5 p.m., and I was simply in no mood to run. Too late to do 20, I was convinced. And then, my conscience went to work, and I asked myself this: Does this week really deserve to end this wayDoes my hard-fought 92-Kilometer week deserve to be followed by a 40-Kilometer let-down? Ah, rhetorical questions. Don't you just love them?  

Within a few minutes, I was dressed for a run and determined to meet my number. The Ultra oval was closed, so I resolved to instead  do five laps around my four-kilometer Valle Verde route. That meant that I would have to go up St. Martin Street five times. St. Martin is that street between the Ultra complex and Valle Verde Country Club. Very steep. Instant hill repeats. Excellent workout.

I completed 20 Kilometers in 2:40:08 at an average pace of 8:00 mins/km. This run gave me 60 Kilometers for the week. Mission accomplished. They say that the best runs are usually those that you nearly give up on but eventually end up doing and finishing. I must say that I believe that 100%.

Another week of running is upon me and, this early, I am already staring at a couple of challenges. I won't be able to run on Tuesday and Sunday because of family gatherings to celebrate my sister's birthday and Father's Day. That means I will only have five days to run for this week, with no guarantee that I will have time to do a long run. Just the same, I will work with the hand that I have been dealt and go for a 70-Kilometer week.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Heaven is an Oval

The full version of the title goes like this: "Heaven is Having a Track Oval All to Myself on a Rainy Afternoon."

Work reared its ugly head yet again and kept me off the road the past couple of days. Today was different. I worked from home and made sure to free up a couple of hours in the afternoon to do that which I love. The weather was perfect. I felt the gentle chill as light rain fell from the sky. The elements demanded that I head out for a run. Other days like this would typically find me in the sack, hypnotized by the sound of the rain. Not today.

On this rainy afternoon, I turned to an old friend for company. From the deepest recesses of my shoe closet came my old adidas Supernova Sequence, fairly worn but still highly reliable on days like today. After months of hibernation, it was finally time for the aged warriors to get reacquainted with the surface of the nearby oval.

The 1.3 Kilometer jog from my place to the Ultra complex is always a treat, but today, it was more than that. It was glorious. Amazing what a little rain can do. It was enough to convince me to do 15 Kilometers, five longer than the planned 10. The equation was very simple: 1.3 Kilometers out plus 12.4 Kilometers on the oval plus 1.3 Kilometers back equals an afternoon well-spent.

The cliché that goes "It's worth the price of admission" is a nice way of saying that one got one's money's worth. Whoever made up that line must have been thinking of an afternoon like today's. Thirty-five bucks to get in and run on an old and beaten oval. Fair enough. Only this time, my thirty-five bucks bought me a whole lot more. For on this afternoon, I was the solitary soul that did laps on the tartan track under the pouring rain. For all of one hour, 55 minutes, and 10 seconds, I was the master of my universe

At around 6:30, the loud rugby folks took the field. The silence was no more. The afternoon was nearly spent. As dusk bled into night, I made my last lap around the oval that was made resplendently scarlet by the rain.

On a day like today, it was good to be a runner.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Getting it Back

I could have have also called this post "Fast Track," or "Kick Start," or maybe even "Force Feed," and each alternative would have been just as appropriate.  For the week of 30 May to 5 June - my first week of serious running after two months of rest and sporadic workouts - I logged a total of 92 Kilometers to surpass my original target of 82 Kilometers. Now, I can confidently say that I am back. Boy, I am SO back. My fitness level is close to where I would like it to be (or, at the very least, is somewhere in the vicinity of where it was before I went on break).  My lungs, knees, and feet apparently still remember how to perform for hours upon hours.  In a nutshell, it's all good.

This was how the week went:

Monday, 30 May: My first day back at work. 10-kilometer run completed in 1:12:52 at an average pace of 7:16 mins/km. Splits were 7:59, 7:29, 7:02, 6:46, 6:51, 7:23, 7:21, 7:18, 7:43, and 6:44. Not bad.

Tuesday, 31 May: 10-Kilometer run completed in 1:19:20 at an average pace of 7:51 mins/km. Splits were 8:03, 7:23, 7:35, 7:32, 7:32, 7:44, 7:42, 7:51, 8:13, and 8:37.  Slow but sure

Wednesday, 1 June: 10-Kilometer run completed in 1:14:28 at an average pace of 7:26 mins/km. Splits were 8:36, 6:57, 7:28, 7:17, 7:09, 7:18, 7:40, 7:12, 7:14, and 7:35.  Uhm, what does Fartlek mean?

Thursday, 2 June: 15-Kilometer run completed in 2:05:00 at an average pace of 8:18 mins/km. Splits were 8:01, 7:23, 7:09, 7:13, 8:28, 7:54, 7:41, 6:30, 6:14, 6:54, 9:47, 10:09, 10:24, 9:55, and 10:42. This was my longest run since the Mayon 360 50-Miler back in April.  I was a wreck after this run and I actually ended up walking the last five kilometers. Not disheartening at all, because my goal was simply to spend at least two hours on my feet. Mission accomplished.

Friday, 3 June: 10-Kilometer run completed in 1:14:28 at an average pace of 7:26 mins/km. Splits were 8:33, 7:25, 7:35, 7:16, 7:12, 7:37, 7:17, 7:09, 7:17, and 8:19. Same old, same old.

Saturday, 4 June: Rest day. Loaded up on carbs - including beer(!?!) - for the following day's LSD run. Registered for the PAU Fort Magsaysay 60K Ultra (set for July 25 - four days after I turn 36!).

Sunday, 5 June:  The big one. I went on a long run with my friend Din Cordero. Din recently completed his first full marathon at theTBR Dream Marathon, is preparing for his first ultra (the Nuvali Trail 50k during the last week of June), and is eyeing BDM 102 next year. This dude trains like a horse and his improvement has been rapid and remarkable. A minimalist runner, he promptly hit a sub-5 at TBR in his VFF Bikila. This time around, he tried out his new VFF trail running shoes (sorry, forgot the model's name). We started at 2 pm to get some heat training in. The route spanned my BDM secret training ground:  Valle Verde 2 - St.Martin/ULTRA - Julia Vargas - Tiendesitas - C-5 - Green Meadows - Temple Drive - Corinthians/EDSA Monument - White Plains - Ateneo Campus - Katipunan - UP Campus - back. Very challenging, rolling route that featured a lot of inclines from end to end. We did it Galloway-style and used a 20:5 run-walk ratio, the same ratio that I used for Mayon (where I finished 80 kilometers in 12:45). We covered a grand total of close to 37 kilometers in 5:02:00 at an average pace of 8:18, inclusive of walk breaks. For the run segments, we averaged 7:00 to 7:30 mins/km. We flirted with the idea of extending the run to 40 kilometers but ended up ditching the plan eventually, because it was already getting late. Still, this was easily Din's longest training run to date.

After our run, Din immediately BBMed his wife Carrie to report: mission accomplished. I told him that, what he should instead tell Carrie is this: Mission accomplished, with still a lot left in the tank.  That was exactly how I felt. Yes, I was tired and my legs were sore, but I felt like I could have gone for maybe seven to 10 kilometers more but likely at a reduced pace. In short, the run was a success. I was on my feet for five hours (six if we include the pit stops), and I finished without any issues. I did suffer a splitting headache during the latter part of the run (which might have been hunger-induced), but other than that, it was all good. I wanted to jump start my training, and after the week that was, I was able to do just that.

Tonight after work, I will go on a very easy 5-kilometer recovery run. The goal for the week is a scaled-down 60 to 65 kilometers, with a 20-kilometer run at LSD pace on Sunday. It is comforting to know that after two months of very little activity, I did not give back whatever gains I realized during the course of my BDM and Mayon training. At the risk of sounding cocky, I will dare say that maybe I have already gotten to a point where I can "turn it on" when I have to, when I want to. And that, my friends, is a sign of progress.

The miles are piling up and the words are flowing. Oh, yes. I am so back.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

With a Sense of Purpose

That was how I jumped back into training a couple of days ago, after a couple of months of down time.

Alright, maybe it still isn't quite as rigid and structured as the word "training" would suggest, but considering where I had been during the months of April and May, it really is not a stretch.  Three straight days of running.  Not of the ultra variety, but just three easy-paced 10-kilometer runs.  For others out there, it is nothing to get too excited about.  But for me?  The last three days have been nothing but solid.  The last time I had work-outs like the ones I had the last three days was when I was preparing for BDM. 

"Focus" is the buzz word for me these days, as far as my running is concerned.  After eight weeks of kicking back and drifting aimlessly, I am again working towards a goal.  Having completed the 2011 BDM 102 in less than 18 hours, I hope to be invited to the big dance in 2012: the Bataan Death March 160k Ultra Marathon.  BDM 160 is the race that will separate the men from the boys, and I hope to be good and ready in case Bald Runner comes calling.  Trust me, it is never difficult to get up for a shot at personal history, or perhaps, even self-discovery.

The road to what hopefully will be my first 100-miler is long, yet it is filled with opportunities for me to improve.  There will be marathons.  There will be ultras.  There will be weekend LSDs.  And then, there will be the weekday runs in between.  It's always easy to get psyched for a race, but I have always maintained that the short weekday runs are the ones that really forge discipline in a runner.  Running during weekends is usually easy, but running as the sun sets on yet another stressful day at work? It poses a different challenge altogether.

The target for this week is 82 kilometers, spread over six days of running.  Five weekday 10k runs and a 32k LSD on Sunday.  I have logged 30 over three days thus far, and I am eager to claim the balance.

My eyes are definitely on the prize.