Monday, November 6, 2017

Race Review: Pinoy Fitness Sub 230 21km Race

It is that time of the year again wherein I once again registered for the Pinoy Fitness 21km challenge and as in the previous year, I wanted it to be easier by doing the Sub 3 Wave instead of the Sub 2:30.  And just like last year, I went back to the Sub 2:30 wave.  It is a challenge after all.  Not just a Half Marathon race. 

Given this standard requirement, runners who joined are faster and more serious runners.  Not much for fun but more for determination to conquer the distance at a given time.

My fitness level has slowed down this year, doing a few 8km runs on my own and sometimes a longer 16km over the weekend at a slower pace.  The last half marathon I did was Yakult Run last March 2017, six months ago!  In order to get back into shape for this race, I increased mileage to one or two 10km runs on weekdays and 20km on the weekend.  For the weekend long run, I had to make the pace faster too to that of 7:30 pace.

Hopefully all these things would be enough to sustain a maximum 7 minute average pace for this race (with enough leeway for below 2:30 which is equivalent to 7:09 average pace). 

The route map was almost the same as last year making up of two loops around Manila Bay area.  For each loop there are five U Turns in it (as opposed to last year's 4 U Turns).  No Roxas Blvd but also no flyover bridges as well.  I started at below 7 minute pace with intention of going faster at second half.  By having two loops I should be able to remember where the hard parts were on the first loop.

I couldn't go faster though so just maintained pace at slightly below 7 minutes all throughout the race.  I took two GU (at 12km and 17km), drank lots of water and Pocari Sweat drinks and even had one quick toilet break.  It was hard, but it made it more rewarding once they put the medal around my neck.

Thank YOU JESUS for sustaining me all throughout this race.  Thank YOU for giving me Strength.

Final time - 2:23:21 with pace of 6:53.

Need to train more as it was hard.  But glad I made it.  Alvin, who joined me for this race, got a gold medal as top 300 for sub 2:30 with finish time of 1:58ish.

Good news as well was that I was faster this year vs last year's time of 2:26:13, almost 3 minutes!

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Race: Milo 10km race

It has been a while since my last race.  First one for second half of the year and just 10km as no endurance and lack of training.  But with 1 hour 30 minutes cut off time, it should be doable for me.

Alvin, Mary and I registered for 10km race while Pao registered for 21km race. Venue was at SM Mall of Asia.  We left quite early as didn't know what logistics would be in terms of road closures and parking spaces.  We left at 3:50am for a 5:00am 10km race!  Quite early for our standards!  But at least we didn't encounter any problems going and parking there.

Our race started on time on a windy and cold Sunday morning.  Route was quite simple with just a U turn at Roxas Blvd.

I started at 7 minute pace and checked how that pace felt like. It was good and figured I could go faster.  

By 5km I was a bit winded but still felt capable to finishing the race at this pace of sub-7 minutes.  

It was harder come 6km but I remembered from watching CARS 3 (of all movies) about wind drafting and did it when I saw a runner in front of me running about the same pace.  So I stuck with him for the next 2km, even stopping at the same time as he at the water station.  Ninja skills so he wouldn't notice I was right behind him.

By 8km I felt I got my strength back and ran by myself for the last 2km of the race.  Thanks anonymous runner for your help in catching the strong winds in front of me.

Last 2km were both below 6 minute pace at 5:55 and 5:52, my fastest for a long time now.

Thank YOU LORD for your help and nice weather!

Got my first Milo 10km finisher medal at finish line too.

Good run followed by good breakfast at Dayrits.  Happy to Milo race even though distance wasn't my normal Milo distance.

Thank YOU LORD again. 

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Race: Run United Sub 230 21km

There is always an added pressure when a certain race distance have a qualifying time to attain the finisher medal.  Be it a sub-1 10km, sub 2:30 21km or sub 5 or 6 hours full marathon.  In these instances, you are required to finish the race not only by its required distance but also by its speed or pace.

Such is the case for this race wherein you have to finish within 2 hours and 30 minutes in order to get a medal.  I had anxiety attack the day before as wasn't sure whether I had the speed to do it given that I haven't been running fast for the past month.

My goal was to try and keep a sub-7 minute pace for each kilometer and hopefully to keep that pace throughout the pace.  Best case scenario was to go faster on second half for a negative split.

The thing that affected me in this race was its later than usual gun start of 5am.  I am hoping it won't be too hot for the second half of the race.

Alvin and I met at my house and I drove us to the parking area near the starting area.  We had about five minutes left when we reached the starting line and
met fellow runner Paolo there.

With so many runners the race organizers put two waves for this half marathon (it was the only race category for this event).  We got in the second wave which was released five minutes after the first wave release at 5am.

Two advantages for second wave:
1) lesser number of runners so roads less crowded
2) later time offers more time for last minute toilet breaks and/ or stretching/ warm ups

The route was two loops around BGC.  Initially I was happy with it as that meant no Kalayaan Avenue or Bayani Road which are the steepest roads in BGC area.

But I was mistaken to think that it was a flat route (it wasn't) and to do it twice made it particularly challenging!

Praise God that the weather cooperated and I was able to maintain pace that I wanted all throughout the race.  Yes there were some kilometers wherein pace
for that was above 7 minute pace but at least my average pace was well below 7 minute pace.

At one point during the run I realized that my Garmin was making an error as kilometer markers on the road were 1km shorter than what was reflected in my Garmin's total kilometers.  So I ignored the pace and distance of my Garmin and followed instead the one on the road.

Instead of having 5km to go based on my Garmin, it became 6km.  And so on and so forth.  I didn't feel particularly strong for this race but I didn't feel weak either (except for first part where legs
were tight).

My goal was simply sub 2:30 but I finished better at 2:19!  Praise God!

My final time at finish line was at 2:19 but it shows 22.3km.  If I based it on 21.1km, that will be an equivalent 6:35 pace.  Either way, it was good for me and I was happy.

I ended up using two GU gels for this race as was having a hard time.  The second GU I even used at 18km, just 3km from the finish line!  But I was exhausted and hungry and knew that this was the only way for me to finish strong.  And that I did!  Praise God!

Alvin finished more than 20 minutes ahead of me and accompanied me as I ran another 500 meters before calling it a day and having breakfast at McDonalds.

The finisher medal is one of the nicest I have seen in the Philippines (similar to international races) so it was well worth running this race and finishing below 2:30.

The only thing I didn't like from this race was the white gatorade they offered in it. Only one flavor and one I hated the most.  But even with that, it helped me the finish line at target time that I wanted.

Praise God for this race, the final race before my big race exactly a week from now. God is definitely good!! All the time!

It is all YOU LORD all YOU! 

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Yakult 21km 2017

In all the annual races of Yakult that I joined in the past few years (it is the country's second oldest road race after Milo), the 10-miler (16km) had always been its longest distanced category!

Not anymore for 2017 as for the first time ever, it now has a 21km category!  There are also finisher medals given for various race categories and something unique as well:  a Yakult pillow awaits as part of the finisher loot!

Of course with all these new things comes a re- adjustment of race registration fees.  I still remember days of old when it was just at P250 or P300 for a 16km race.  When Alvin and I joined last year, the fee had gone up to P500 (but still a lot cheaper vs other races in the city).  Now for the 21km category, the fee had gone up to P850.  Still cheaper than other half marathons as rate right now is at a minimum P950 and can go as high as P1,500.

Races aren't as affordable as they were in the past years and runners are more choosy as to which race they want to spend their money on.

In my case, joining Yakult was a last minute decision.  I needed to do 29km that weekend and figured that doing an LSD might be more beneficial to me (no pressure, no need to drive car or wake up that early for a race).  But I was drawn to Yakult (and more specifically, its pillow)!  I wanted that pillow!  Badly! Haha!

So after co-ordinating with the organizers (ProActive Management) via facebook (they respond quickly!  Another plus), I signed up online, printed out confirmation slip and set out to prepare for race day!

The race start is at CCP where parking was easy but not a lot of good clean toilets available.  Good thing I arrived quite early so once I got my race gear, I set out to do some running to add to my mileage for the day.

1km into the warm up jog, I found the toilet I was looking for: via a five star hotel near the race venue! Yahoo! 

15 minutes and another 1km later, I was at the starting line, just in time for the 4:30am gun start!  

The race will go through Roxas Blvd and make various turns at the back part (which I later realized was where Mall of Asia was).  So we had to do the two flyovers along Roxas Blvd as we head southbound to where the casinos and huge hotels are located.  I count five U turns from the race map and that is my basis for measuring how close/ far I am from the finish line.

Luckily this time around there were no tightness in my legs when the race started and I was able to run at a comfortable below 7 minute pace during that time.  

Struggle were the flyovers but I made sure to run them knowing that the downhill portion will more than make up for the slow ascend.  The first U turn was near the half way point and it was around this part that I had my first GU gel.

I felt good all throughout.  But kept saying the Lord's prayer every kilometer as a way of remembering God and to give glory to HIM via this race.

At the last few kilometers, I was breathing harder and had a hard time saying the Lord's prayer but I continued.  So far pace was quite good at 6:31 average. I wanted to bring it down to below 6:30 as haven't attained that for a while now.  So I had to go a little faster and started to
make loud wheezing and coughing sounds (I could be imagining the loudness as nobody was distracted by it. But definitely wheezing!)

It was just 2km to go. Less than 15 minutes.  "Let's not waste the first 19km by walking now!," I silently thought to myself.

So I kept going, secretly wishing it was over but at the same time, knowing that the longer distance could improve my average pace as I'm going faster for the last part.

And then it was over!  I crossed the finish line, stopped the watch, got the medal, got the pillow (yay!), got drinks and walked quietly and limping to the car!  

It was only when I got to the car and fixed my things did I remember to check my finish time (yes, I was too exhausted to care and was more motivated to get the pillow first).  

And what a surprise it was!  I achieved my last minute goal of sub 6:30 average pace (by a measly second), but in the process got a sub 2:20 finish time.

PRAISE GOD for this!  I can't remember the last time I was at this pace/ finish time.

When I got home (which wasn't immediately as I had 5.5km to go! Boo! And quick breakfast at Jolibee due to hunger pangs), I found out that the only times I was faster than this day's race was back in 2009 and in 2010!  Yes, 7-8 years ago!  Who would have expected that I can go to that speed again!  Praise GOD indeed!

This turned out to my 3rd fastest 21km (PR was at 2:14++) but first two happened before I had kids.  And for a
race where target was just sub 2:30, that was an awesome surprise!

And then there is the Yakult pillow, cherished by everyone at home including my eldest daughter.

Thank GOD for this amazing experience.
YOU are amazing!

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Race Review : SMDC 21km

 Like in previous year, this year's event had its race start at Mall of Asia grounds.  In the past years, whenever there is a race that had its starting line here, the route was almost always the same - course will go to intersection of Roxas Blvd, turn left on that road till all the way to Luneta Park before making a U Turn back and heading all the way to a certain point (usually Uniwide) along Roxas Blvd (after climbing two flyovers) before making another U turn (and back to same flyovers) that would take runners to the finish line.

Later, however the route had been changed for almost all races held here.  This time instead of the course being 90% Roxas Blvd, it now becomes 90% Buendia Avenue as we run the entire stretch before the U Turn back on the same road.

For this race, the U Turn is right after Kalayaan Bridge ends in BGC.  So we had to do the flyover two times (to and from).  Two more turns near Mall of Asia before making it to the finish line.  I much prefer the newer route (I hate Roxas Blvd.!) as shadier here and downhill when coming back.

I got to the venue early and had no problems parking my car or to look for a toilet and a few minutes before the gun start, I was already at the starting line. I had time to do some quick stretches too.

My goal for this event was to try and finish below a time of 2 hours and 30 minutes.  I noticed that after doing the HK Marathon, I had gotten a lot slower and get tired easily.  My training runs had been nothing but disappointments and I wonder if this will carry all the way to April's big race (another marathon).

So I was hoping to run below 7 minute pace but even that one wasn't certain given that my training runs had reverted to almost 8 minutes per kilometer and effort wise, it was in the red zone.

So I lowered my expectations for this race but still hopeful that I could run at an average pace of 7 minutes per kilometer.  

This was the first race in recent memory wherein I experienced some considerable tightness in both my thighs.  It made running difficult and by 2km, I walked while drinking some water.  When I resumed running, the tightness was still there.  In the beginning of the race, I had started at pace of 6:45 but it wasn't sustainable and by 7km or so, I was going at a pace of 7:20 per kilometer.

Now given this scenario, the 7 minute 2:30 cut off time didn't seem sustainable! But I kept going and tried my best, all the while reciting the Lord's Prayer every kilomter of the way.

We reached Kalayaan Bridge and began the ascend to the other side, where the U turn was located.  Legs were still tight here but at least 9km down.  12km to go.

As I headed back to Buendia Ave. and ran down from the flyover, I felt legs loosened up from the speed and hit 6:30 pace for that kilometer.  The next kilometer was also at 6:30 pace.  It became sustainable and helped me bring down my average pace.  If this continues, I should be able to finish below my target time of 2:30.

I felt a little hungry and took one super old GU gel.  Instantly I felt regret as it was horrible!!! I drank water, spat it and drank water again.  The bad taste lingered in my mouth!  I couldn't get rid of it and got worried if this will lead to upset tummy.  I ran faster with the fear that I might need to use the toilet any time.  So adrenalin rush for some panicking over expired GU gel.  All the while average pace was going down.

Then it was just 3km to go and I kept pushing knowing this will just take 20 minutes of running!  The second U Turn was there and done.  Only 2km to go.  Then it was the final U turn with 1km to go.  Finally the final turn to the finish line!

Yay!  I have achived sub 2:30.  Best of all, it was faster than my 7-11 Skyway Half Marathon in February!  Praise God for this!  Thank You Jesus!!

By the time I finished, it was just 7am.  And I felt good.  So I went back to the car, changed into my finisher shirt and did another 4km at a very slow and comfortable 8:15 pace.  I waited for the raffle prizes and saw Carlito and his friend Cesar at the finish area.

Good and well organized race with lots of water and Pocari stations.  Nice medal and finisher shirt plus some other things in the loot bag.

Total km: 25km

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Hong Kong Marathon 2017 - Part 3

This is the first International Marathon that I will be doing a second time around.  The first time I did this race was five years ago.  At that time Per also joined me for the Hong Kong trip but opted to be a spectator.  This time she will run the 21km challenge as well (and hopefully we both make it to the cut-off time).

I am registered for the Marathon 2 wave, which is basically everyone who runs slower than 4:00 hours time.  Gun start time was at 7:00am for my race while for Per's 21km, it was at 8:30am.  

We booked the same hotel (Benito Hotel) as we did five years ago and it was because of its convenience to the starting line (one stress factor removed - travelling to starting line).

On Sunday morning, we were at the start area around 6:30am and were there in time to see the fast runners go off. My arsenal for this race consists of 6 GU gels and 6 salt tablets.  

Weather wasn't as cold as our first day in Hong Kong and that was a good thing as I could revert to wearing just my running shirt and shorts.  Shades, cap and Spi-belt with attached bib, completed my running outfit.  We took some pictures around the area and separated thereafter as my race started while Per went back to the hotel to rest a bit.  In an hour or so, she has her own race to run for!

One thing that benefits me during a road race is proper studying of race route.  To know where the turns are, the climbs and the water stations.

As it was a new route for HK (they changed it last year for their 20th anniversary), I had to look at it again.  And it was all uphill till 19th km!  And three bridges, two tunnels and multiple cut off points throughout the race course.  Definitely not easy!  Luckily weather was cooperating for this year's marathon edition (I read last year was horrible because of the hard rain).

Given the steep climb, I had to take it easy for the first part.  By 2km, I was winded already and took a 1-minute walk break before resuming again.  Next walk was 3km away.  But I enjoyed the weather and the scenery.  There were no specific time goals for me for this race. I was just here to enjoy it and savor the moment of running it among thousands of like minded people.

I may sound a little preachy but I knew that I couldn't do this race alone and needed His strength all throughout.  I usually burn out from 32-42km and hoped this won't happen here.  I quietly recited the Lord's prayer every time I reach a new kilometer and lifted this race up to HIM.  I also prayed for Per that she will do well in her own race.  I did what I can but confident that He will be there to protect me to the end.

The nice thing now is that they have released a live tracking App so friends and family can track your performance back at home. Example of this is the picture above which came from Alvin's phone while he is all the way in Manila, and tracking our progess.  Not that accurate at start of race (my status was saying that I was running at 5 min pace!  And Per was destined to finish her half marathon at 2 hours 15 minutes.) but it all re-adjusted at the finish line.

My goal was to reach 19km mark as that would be the hardest in the course given its ascend. Incidentally it was where the first cut-off was located too at 2 hours 50 minutes.  The bus was there, waiting patiently for any runner who will not make it to the cut off time.  I switched my Garmin screen to that of the time of the day.  From this moment on, I won't see current pace but just base it on the time of day.  This helps me see how far I am from the next cut off as they are spaced about 1 hour apart.  It seems organizers forgot to mention as to which distance cut offs will be imposed and choosing instead to put it in location points.  With the route map, it wasn't clear where said locations or cut off points were.  Given the 6 hour cut off of the race, I knew I had to run below 8:30 pace, and that was achieveable for me.

I was more worried for Per and hoped and prayed that she made it for the first cut-off for the 21km, which was at the 10km mark (1 hour 30 minutes). 

I monitored to when it will be her 1 hour 30 minutes and said a quiet prayer for her.  I kept going.

During this race, I took 2 salt tablets at a time instead of 1.  And did this twice in the race.  GU gels I took at various parts of race along with banana at one point and even a small chocolate bar.  (I ended up taking only two GU gels which was smallest amount that I took in a race.  For salt tablets, I ended up with four pieces.)

From 25km onwards, I split distance to 3-5km segment target goals so that it won't be too daunting. 30km to 32km (20-miler! Woo hoo!) to 35km (back in Hong Kong Island after running inside a tunnel).

This is the hard part.  When you are exhausted after running so long, you have to dig deep and keep going.  Once in Hong Kong Island, runners would go to Central and to Wan Chai and finally Causeway Bay.  In between, there is another flyover that we had to run (or walk) on.  

Then I was at 40km.  Only 2km to go.  My feet are sore.  My body is hurting.  But just a few more minutes and I can finally sit down to rest.

I saw Per in Causeway Bay and felt nice to see her again.  But wondered how she did in her own race.

And there it was - the big mat to the finish line!  Praise God!  The last 100 meters!

Fisted hands raised to the air!  Yes, I did it!!

And then it was over!  Two- time Hong Kong Marathoner!

Per made it too!  Close to cut off time with a time of 2:58 ++ but still sub 3!  

We are both ecstatic with our finish time. Per's bestfriend even called her race NAILBITING as it was too close to the cut-off time.

My race was my fastest marathon since 2012.  That was 15 marathons ago!  Ironically the most recent race that was only faster this one was my first Hong Kong Marathon! And yes, that was 5 year ago.

I got my finisher medal and loot bag and went to find Per at our meeting place in Starbucks Fashion Walk.  This was only 500 meters from the finish line but because they closed off roads for the race, it took me more than 30 minutes to get to her!  A benefit I guess if your hotel is near finish line (like that of Regal Hotel) so can rest right after running!

We were both tired but happy.  And had late lunch of crab congee and wonton noodles near our hotel in Tsim Sha Tsui.

Race results came out that same night.  Talk about efficiency!

We did it!  To HIM ALL THE GLORY!


It was now time to celebrate!

Hong Kong Marathon 2017 Part 2

Here are some of the things that we did in Hong Kong prior to the big race:

Day 02 - Friday:
Woke up late and skipped breakfast for the two of us, which was awesome as it shows that we really are on holiday!  No work, no kids to worry about (they are in good hands under my parents care) and no plans for the day except to do one short 5km run in the city.  Reason for run is threefold: to loosen our legs for the race, to remove any anxiety we may have by running in Hong Kong cold weather and to help us to plan on the right attire and gear for the race.  Because of the cold weather, I was thinking of buying a light windbreaker for the race but as I didn't want to spend for it, I figured I would wear two (worn out but super comfy) running shirts and just throw one away when I felt that I didn't need it anymore.  I bought two shoes with me but with some pain in the soles of my feet during the short run, I opted to use the cushioned (read: heavy) New Balance shoes as hoping that it would make me last longer in the race.  My last decision on attire was whether to wear standard running shorts (which I have been doing for the past two years) or CWX compression pants to protect me from the cold weather (shorts won out on this).  With the short run, it helped me with the decision making- I would go to original plan of one running shirt, shorts and change my light running shoes to that of the heavier ones.  For Per, she vetoed her original plan of wearing her pink Soleus singlet in favor of running shirt and with light jacket over it.

Our running route was supposed to be just inside Kowloon Park but it was hilly there so we left the park and ran around Tsim Sha Tsui - from Nathan Road (where  race start will be on Sunday), we did a small loop that took us to the Cultural Center and Space Museum and back to the hotel. As we ran with my cellphone with me, our run became mostly a run walk as we stopped in a lot of places
just to take some pictures!  Tourist mode on! :(

Here are some photos taken from our "run":

Cheap dimsum after the run at One Dimsum in Prince Edward where we met some Cebuanos who are also doing the Marathon.

Day 03 - Saturday

Carbo loading day and I ordered two cheap but big meals at Cafe de Coral.

We also collected our race packs at Kowloon Park, which took about 10 minutes only.

Surprised to find out that Nike is now the sponsor of the race shirts!  Dry tech material! Yahoo!

Some more shopping at Harbour City before heading back to the hotel around 4pm so that we could rest our legs.

Slept a little, fixed our gear, had dinner and rested again.

Finally, race would start in 8 hours time!

To be concluded...