Saturday, December 27, 2014

What I did with a customized Starbucks Tumbler

We got a blank Starbucks tumbler for Christmas from our runner friends and I immediately had an idea
on what to do with it (and the pen that comes with it). 

I decided to put there all the Marathon Races I have done the past 6 years.  They number 17 in total and some were good, some were bad and some were just downright ugly experiences for me.  But I finished them all.  I didn't quit although some circumstances dictated that I should have done so (sprained ankle, fever, knowing I won't make cut-off time).

I still presevered to do my best and reach each of the 17 finish lines!  

With Per's help in doing the writing, I now have the tumbler to commemorate each of my races here and abroad.

What an awesome gift.  I can't wait to use it!

Merry Christmas everyone!
God bless you and your families!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

New York Marathon 2014 Experience Part 2!

near the Family and Friend Reunion Area.  Photo taken by Per

The New York Marathon is a point to point race, where runners would start at Staten Island, head toward the various areas of New York City (Brooklyn, Queens, Bronx, Manhattan) before finally finishing at Central Park (at Upper West Side).

My wave started at 10:55AM (with DST, it was more of 11:55AM) and I had a early race goal of finishing in less than 5 hours.  Well, that goal went out the window with my sprained ankle.  As I was part of the fast wave, I was left behind by 80% of the runners.  But I didn't mind as at least it wasn't crowded.  I ran on top of the Verrazano Bridge, which linked Staten Island with Brooklyn, and I felt the strong wind here.  It was strong enough that it pushed all runners from the middle or left side of the bridge to the far right side!  A guy who ran next to me was pushed by the wind, and said that he will just walk instead!

It was an extraordinary weather for this morning, so much so that the earlier race for the Wheelchair Division had to be moved from Staten Island starting line to AFTER the Verrazano Bridge by the race organizers for safety reasons!  That was more than 2 kilometers difference in distance! 

It also affected elite runners gunning for first place as both Men's and Women's Division Winners were slower by about 10 minutes compared to previous race editions.  Small difference for a regular runner like me but I think it was a big deal for them where every second counts!

Luckily, I liked the cold weather and preferred that to the hot weather.  I had to keep moving though as it was just too cold especially on top of the bridge where nothing was around it but water and wide open space.

Eventually I got out of the bridge and headed into Brooklyn where I saw the first of many, many spectators that cheered for us.  Crowd just got bigger and louder.  It was just awesome to see all these New Yorkers cheering for everyone in the race.  The atmosphere was indescribable and no race I had done in the past was able to duplicate the atmosphere from this event!

Distance was conquered easily from the very encouraging crowd.  There were areas in this race that had few people but those lasted for just one or two kilometers before the crowd came out again.  Bars were open along the race course and people were shouting with bottles of beer in their hands.

As it got warmer, runners started throwing their extra layers on the sidewalks.  I had on three layers of clothes and just at 5 or 6km, I threw away the jacket I bought at the expo just a couple of days ago.  I kept going with my light jacket and shirt on and a pair of running gloves that I bought at the expo as well.

Note:  It was revealed days after that race organizers were able to collect 6 tonnes of clothes from the race!  All will go to charity of course.  Good Job!

Once we were in Brooklyn, we also merged with the other waves and kept on going.  With 50,000 plus runners all doing the New York Marathon, it was a big surprise that there was never any moment where I felt it was crowded here.  No need to weave around runners.  No bottlenecks.  Nothing!  That is how it should be!

 Brooklyn took up a major part of the course but I didn't mind as there were people everywhere supporting us.  Lots of pizza places here (if only they offered those at the water stations!).

Next borough was Queens, which was quite short before we ran on Queensboro Bridge and headed towards Manhattan.  From 59th Street, we headed up towards 125th Street, crossed another bridge and hit Bronx.  Another bridge conquered, then we headed down on 5th Avenue towards Central Park.

There were portions here that were a bit hilly and I used that chance to walk.  It was mostly on the bridges when that occurred and pretty quiet in these areas as spectators aren't allowed to be here but once we passed them, local residents were there once again to motivate and keep us going.

Meanwhile, at the hotel, Per was watching how I was doing via the App she downloaded.  My finish time varied from 5 hours to 5:15 hours.  But at the halfway mark (where I had to walk for a bit), it went all the way up to 6:30 hours!  She got scared that I got injured again or my existing injury made it difficult for me to run!  Thank God that wasn't the case and she saw that my predicted finish time went down slowly to below 6 hours.

At 22.5 miles, I was at Upper East Side, and it was HILLY here!  I was tired but didn't want to stop.  I had to keep going.  As I saw Central Park, I got excited for this to be over.  But Central Park was a pretty big place and I still had a long way to go!  I kept going, knowing Per and Blanche were on the other end and I was excited to see them.

By this time, a lot of people were walking already but I didn't want to so close to the finish line.  I was tired though so had to walk for 1-2 minutes before I ran again.  I kept going.  I constantly prayed.

Eventually, I saw the place where I was the day before, where I waited for Per to finish her 5km race and knew that I only had 400 meters to go!  This was it!

I crossed the finish line at 5:39:39, a good time for me when my goal was initially at just below 6 hours (I found out later on that it was my fastest for the year in terms of pace!).  God is really good!

A finisher medal was placed around my neck and a Heatsheet was wrapped around me.  I was shivering from the cold and my legs were all jelly from this race.  I was tired and dizzy but I can't help but smile that I was able to complete this race because God was there for me.

Thank You Lord!

The Friends and Family Reunion was about 1-2 kilometers away from where I ended.  So no other choice but to walk slowly to that area.  As I didn't leave any baggage at the start of the race and chose the No Baggage Option, I received a very nice Poncho from the organizers.  The whole time, I was shivering from the cold and once the marshal wrapped this around me, I was on the verge of crying, as I finally felt comfortable and safe from the cold, cold weather.

I finally got to the Friends and Family Reunion area and slowly walked down the alphabets (starting from Z) as I looked for my surname letter.  After what seemed forever, I finally saw them!

I was happy to see my wife.  And it was when I saw her, that I felt accomplished for all that I did to get to that area and be united with her again.

Thank You God!

Happy to be reunited!  Thanks Blanche for the photo!

my split time on the App

email letter I received a week later

medal for God!  Thank You!

It was a very tiring race, with the weather, the hills, the injury and lack of training.  But Praise God for a good time but more so for getting me to the finish line in one piece.

We celebrated with some beer and burgers later on that night.

The next day, when I was sore all over, we walked back to Central Park, and not to relive the experience.  But they had MARATHON MONDAY there where finisher gears were sold to the public.  Of course I bought again!  Haha!

After all is said and done,  I would agree to anyone saying that this is the best marathon in the world.  IT REALLY IS!  And this should be in the bucket list of every runner out there, whether they are fast or slow, whether they run long or short, this is the race they should join!  A once in a lifetime experience!!!

So glad I was able to do it!  And yes, I definitely want to do this again!!!


Wednesday, December 10, 2014

New York Marathon 2014 experience!

 This is it!  THE NEW YORK MARATHON, no other marathon like it from all the people who have ran it and I am about to see if that is true or just hype!  Unfortunately, the whole time I was in New York, I just couldn't get myself excited for this race.  It was unusual especially since it was a (BIG, BIG) race outside of the Philippines and thousands and thousands of miles away from home.  The reason:  I was injured!  I am still nursing a swollen ankle that happened a month ago at Run United Marathon.  Rather than quitting at that time, I stubbornly kept going and finished that race.  It was to complete the goal of finishing the Run United Trilogy, which I have never done before.  I thought it was a good plan but as New York Marathon drew nearer, I was having doubts for this particular race:  Will I be able to finish it?  Will I be able to run it at all?

Alvin saw my ankle the day before my flight to USA and he said that my ankle was still swollen!  I had to stop training for two weeks and had to resume because I was worried my fitness level would all but disappear if I kept on resting my ankle.  It was a balancing act for me:  To run and risk getting more injured or to rest my ankle but at the expense of cramping or hitting the wall on the actual race.  This was a true test and I didn't know what I could do but lift this up to God.  My wife knew what the stakes were and she also fasted from all her favorite foods and prayed that I will do well for this race.  To say that only God can control this outcome is an understatement!  Of course I did my own part too in trying to get healed properly:  visited a doctor, R.I.C.E. Treatment, eating some medicine, wearing ankle support, etc.  but time was not on my side for this situation.  But God has worked miracles for me.  Prayer is very effective in the past and one of the things I learned to do all the time.

Come Saturday, the day before the marathon, I didn't have any of the pre-race jitters.  There was no nervousness, but there was determination.  I need to finish this race!  Whether I get injured again or not is not something I am going to dwell upon.  Whatever happens after the race, I can deal with it.  The important thing IS THE RACE and nothing more.  For the next 24 hours, I did all the required things for pre-race: checking all the gears, re-reading the manual (for start time, ferry service, finish line, friends and family reunion), fixed my food for the next day, rested at the hotel, carbo loaded at night via pasta dinner and resting early to get enough sleep for the next day. 


We all headed out to take a taxi cab from the hotel to Whitehall Ferry Terminal, which we will then take the ferry to Staten Island.  Per (bless her heart), was there for me.  Blanche wanted to go too.  So all three of us rode the taxi and all the time, I was thinking, "this is where I am going to run later!"

My goal isn't just to finish!  It's to do the best that I can to finish.  Although there are a lot of ways to excuse myself from a fast finish time (sprained ankle, lack of training - long runs, speedwork), I know I would have already lost the battle if I let that get the better of me.  In a long distanced race such as a Marathon, the mind plays a vital role whether you will finish well or not even finish at all.  You have to will yourself to finish!

However I perform, this race wasn't just for me anymore.  It was for GOD.  And for GOD, will you give anything less than what you can?

Weather wise, this was one of the worst weathers for the New York Marathon (Hurricane Sandy from two years ago was worst for marathon week because of the devastation caused in the city, but on that race day, weather was perfect if they pushed through with it).  TV even said that this was one of the windiest and coldest NYC marathon in 10 years!  Very very chilly!  I went into the ferry wearing three layers of clothing and even that wasn't enough.  Good thing I had some blankets which I put over my body as well!

right on time for the 8:30am ferry

sooo coooolllddd!

seeing Statue of Liberty in NYC: CHECK!

There are two ways to get to Staten Island, where the starting line was:  via bus ride from Manhattan, or ferry ride from Whitehall Terminal.  Since ferry ride is free for everyone, that is what I chose.  Seeing the Statue of Liberty was a nice bonus as well!

Weather seemed to get chillier especially once we reached Staten Island, where there is nothing to block us from the wind!  Rather than going to the bus that would take me to the starting line, I decided to stay behind at the terminal and buy a cup of coffee (they have Starbucks here) and eat from the food I bought with me.  We found a spot near the stairs and positioned ourselves on the floor.  As my starting time drew nearer, I decided to get on one of the last buses at the terminal.  I gave my farewell to Per and Blanche as they will head back to Manhattan via the same ferry.

A good feature for this race was the runner's tracker App which allowed Per to see where I am in real time.  That way she would know how I was doing, where I was and more importantly, when she would leave the hotel and head toward the finish line.  That way, she didn't have to wait a long time for me.  I told her to leave the hotel once she sees that I am at 38km mark.  

This App also allows up to 10 runners for you to track, so of course you could put in elite runners like Meb (what Alvin did) or celebrities who are running this race such as Teri Hatcher (what Per did).  Based on your pace in the race, it also gives an estimate of your finish time.  Of course, this would adjust automatically once you go slower or faster (more on this later).

After 15 minute bus ride (which seemed forever), we were finally dropped off... somewhere.  Only a few runners were left behind.  Was I that late?  Good side to this though was the very short line at the portalets!  I slowly walked to my wave area, and did some final stretching there.  It was just 10 minutes before my gun start.  I had arrived just in time (and just the way I liked it).

As we counted down the clock, runners started cheering and shouting.  Now, I was finally excited to do this!  Whatever happens, God is in control of this and I put my faith in Him.  "Thank You God in advance for this race", I prayed quietly.

Then we were off.  I walked to the starting line, press start on my Garmin and started to run....

To be continued...

Thursday, December 4, 2014

New York City Dash to the Finish Line 5km

New York City Dash to the Finish Line 5km is a good race for people who came to support their families and friends and wanted to run here but not a 42km race!  It is also good for marathoners who wanted to do a slow easy run before their big race the next day.

What is nice here is that it ends at the exact same place as the New York Marathon and the 5k runners will get a chance to run inside Central Park, which is definitely a To Do List for anyone visiting this city.

Per and Blanche joined this once I mentioned it to them.  I wasn't sure yet and by the time I wanted to join, it was sold out already!  Haha! 

Come Saturday morning, Per and Blanche took a cab to go to the Starting Line (near Grand Central Terminal) as I walked from the hotel to go toward the finish line. 

I found a spot 300 meters to the finish line and positioned myself in between the Japan and Brazil National flags.  There were a lot of Japanese and Brazilian runners who went there, took a picture with their national flags (or at least touched it), before running off again.

I was straining my eyes just trying to look for Per!  I didn't know if she started late or on time but I guessed her finish time.  Man, that wasn't easy to do!  Hats off to Per for all the times she looked and waited for me to finish my race.

After about 40 minutes, I saw....

Blanche!  Haha!  Took a picture of her but she was too fast for my camera so it came out blurred. 

Apparently, I missed Per and she had already finished the race.

Good thing it was easy to spot the two of them after the race and they were both extremely happy by it.  All good comments from them (perfect weather, didn't feel tired, didn't sweat, cold helped a lot). Wow, kinda got me excited for my race the next day!

Due to the cold weather, Per bought a throwaway jacket at a running store for USD 10 (USD 6 as Blanche won a USD 5 voucher and gave it to Per).  But instead of throwing it away, she kept it the whole time!

They got some snacks at the finish line such as apple, energy bar and some drinks.

As we headed back to the hotel, we passed by the Upper West Side neighborhood and saw some nice Halloween decorations.

Imagine our surprise when we discovered a Magnolia Bakery here!  Of course, we had to stop and eat here!  It was Per and Blanche's reward for their run.  It was my carbo loading for the race the next day!  Haha!!!

Good end for the morning run!

At Columbus Circle, there was a Marathon Lounge area on the second floor which we passed by as well and got a free souvenir photo there.

Their race is over and mine is about to begin...

Friday, November 28, 2014

New York Marathon Expo experience (plus some tips)!

Ahhh, the race expo, where each runner will not only claim their race kits here, but find reasons to spend a lot of money too.

Per, Blanche and I arrived safe and sound in New York City on October 29th, 2014 (Wednesday) and proceeded to check in at our Hotel in Manhattan.  We booked ourselves for one room with two double beds at Holiday Inn 57th Avenue, which was near the marathon's finish line.

                 Tip No. 1:  Book your hotel near the finish line as it may be hard to go home after the race given the 50,000+ runners and all the spectators/ family/ friends cheering for them!  Hard to look for a taxi cab after running 42.2km!  One less problem if you booked hotel near finish line.

                 Tip No. 2:  Hand carry ALL the things you will need for the race in the plane (shoes, shirt, socks, Garmin Watch, GU Gels, cap, etc) or you can wear them as well (such as the running shoes).  This is to reduce risk of panicking should one of your luggages get lost/ left behind during the flight!

                 Tip No. 3:  For long flights (such as this one), it helps to wear compression socks in the airplane.  First time I did it for this plane flight as nursing a sprained ankle and it was a good decision that I did it!

The following day after having a filling brunch at Chipotle,  we walked 5-10 minutes to where the free shuttle service would pass by for the ride to the expo.  Bus schedule was every 10 minutes so we didn't have to wait long before our bus arrived.  The ride itself took about 15 minutes as it drove through the Manhattan traffic.  We didn't mind as there was free wi-fi in the bus!  Woo hoo!

Once we arrived at the expo (Jacob K. Javits Convention Center), we were momentarily confused as to why there were a lot of Canon labelled bags given out for free.  Was this one of the sponsors for the New York Marathon?  Definitely not as we found out that the Convention Center WAS BIG ENOUGH to hold two big events:  Marathon expo and a Photography expo!

                 Tip No. 4:  As soon as you can, head towards the Marathon Expo.  The closer to race day, the more crowded it will be here!

                Tip No. 5:  Have a heavy breakfast or early lunch before heading to the Expo.  Chances are you will spend a few hours here so better go here full than having to leave early due to hunger pangs!

First thing to do once we got there was to claim our race kits!  I will be running the 42.2km category (God Willing) while Per and Blanche registered for the 5km race, which will take place the day before the Marathon.

Once we got our kits (in a very quick time of just 5 minutes), I checked my chip timer to see if that worked and we proceeded to the best part here:  SHOPPING!!!

Of course, ASICS being one of the major sponsors for this event, got a big space in the expo and only one selling the official gears.  There were T Shirts, Jackets (thick and thin), caps, beanies, gloves (racing and thick ones), shoes, teddy bears, shorts, compression pants, and any other running related item you can think of!  Just in this area, we probably stayed a minimum of 30 minutes!  Key word is:  Minimum!

After we finally got out, we headed to the other booths:  there was OAKLEYS which were selling customized shades (and where you can have the NYC Marathon logo imprinted on it), other running shoe brands (New Balance, Saucony, Adidas, Sketchers, etc.), North Face, various food brands (selling granola bars, GU gels, Cliff bars, sports drinks, yogurts, etc) and other race-related products (compression socks,Garmin watch, STICK, Spibelt, water bottles, etc).

For the running shoes brands, almost all had their own exclusive shoes released in the expo:  New Balance had a new running shoe that premiered here and will be launched worldwide in May 2015, Sketchers had their GoMeb NYC edition that were released exclusively at the expo, ASICS had their New York editions of Kayano 21s and Nimbus 16s (but released worldwide), and Saucony had their own New York special edition shoes!

Runner's World Inc had a small booth as well and luckily, Bart Yasso was there to do some book signing.  Of course, I got all excited and bought a book and had it signed with him! 

After a tiring but fun day of exploring the Ground Floor of Convention Center (and trying out the free samples), we set out towards the Second Floor where they had a small exhibit of the different boroughs we would run in come Sunday morning. 

I saw that there was a small booth of Kathrine Switzer but unfortunately she was nowhere to be found.  (Kathrine Switzer was first woman who unofficially ran the Boston Marathon and was nearly disqualified midway if not for the help of another runner who pushed the race official away, which allowed Kathrine to run and finish the race). 

Too bad she wasn't there but at the back of my mind, I was thinking of going back here again on Saturday because Dean Karnazes (Ultramarathon man and author of many books) will be there at Runner's World booth to do some book signing.  Since I brought with me two of his books all the way from Manila, I was a bit excited by this opportunity but also worried as to how congested it might be.

                     Tip No. 6:  Check in advance if there are any guest speakers for the Marathon Expo so you could also plan your schedule accordingly.  I knew Dean Karnazes will be here so I brought along two of his books that I bought years ago all the way from Manila.  Same thing I did too in Disney Marathon when I found out Dick Beardsley was giving a talk.

It would also depend what our plans are for Saturday afternoon, given Per and Blanche will be running the 5km race and might be tired.

But as things go, we were free that Saturday afternoon so Per and I headed back with the sole purpose of meeting these running legends!

First one we went to was Kathrine Switzer and luckily she was there.  I bought her book and a second book that she collaborated with her husband and had these books signed by them.  I also bought Spirit of the Marathon II DVD, which her husband co-produced.

After that was my running idol: DEAN KARNAZES!

I got two of his old books signed and bought his latest book "Run" as well! 

My loot for the second day at the Marathon Expo!  First time to try Sketchers GoMeb shoes.  Felt really light and comfy! 

Definitely THE BEST MARATHON EXPO for me.  This is OUR DISNEYLAND!  Now comes the hard part:  finishing my 42km with a sprained ankle!

To God be the Glory!!!!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Race Review: Disastrous Run United Marathon 2014

I joined this year’s Run United Marathon for a couple of reasons:

1) To finally complete the Trilogy!  I usually complete just 2 out of 3 legs.  I made it my goal for this year to complete this Trilogy by doing the farthest distance for each leg (21km, 32km, and 42km).

2) To maintain current running streak since its Inaugural Marathon Event.  I heard of people running certain Marathon events every single year (Boston, New York) and hoped this would be one of mine as well.

3) Perfect long run before New York Marathon the following month. 

A lot of reasons for this race, and I felt ready for it.  I hoped to get a good time of around 5 hours 30 minutes to 5 hours 45 minutes but it would always depend on the actual race.

The race start had moved its venue from BGC for the race’s past editions to Mall of Asia Ground.  The starting time was still the same at 3AM.  The route would take runners from Mall of Asia to Roxas Boulevard, to Buendia Avenue, Kalayaan Bridge, around BGC and U Turn back to Roxas Boulevard to the finish line.

The cut off for this race was at 7 hours but I wasn’t sure how strict the organizers were for it.

On race day, Alvin accompanied me to MOA as he wanted to get there early for his 21km race.  And he walked with me to my race’s starting line (he even bought me a bottle of VitWater drink from the convenience store as I left mine in the car).  He said he will wait for me even though I told him that he could ride with Kerwin going back home as they will all finish their 21km race ahead of me (by a good two hours at the least).  He said that’s okay and he will still wait for me (thank God for him committing to do so).

My race started on time and I got there just in time for it.  I was doing well.  My legs weren’t as tight as they were at Medoc du Marathon and I was confident that I will be able to finish the race.

The problem though was that the streets were dark and there were insufficient lights on the road.  That didn’t stop me as I was used to joining races like this here. 

I ran on Buendia Avenue at a steady pace of 7:30 to 8 minutes per kilometer and climbed up Kalayaan Bridge where not a single street lamp was turned on!  It was total darkness up here!  I cannot see where I was running on and relied on the runners in front of me.  I had to look in front to make sure I didn’t bump into anyone and tried to look at where I was stepping on as well.

“Well, it was a smooth road anyway as ran here in a lot of races”, I thought to myself. 

Unfortunately, just when you think that you are safe, something goes wrong!  As it was too dark, I couldn’t see that there was a small hole on the road in front of me and just my dumb luck to land squarely in it and trip in it!  I was able to roll with the fall and controlled myself from falling completely to the ground but my foot was in pain from the wrong landing! 

I couldn’t run with the pain and had to walk a bit.  Even though I didn’t fall to the ground, I made a big sound as I heard gasps from the runners around me.  Then, another runner patted my shoulder and asked if I was okay.  I told him that I was and thanked him.  I walked for a bit more till the pain subsided and stopped to test my ankle.  I rotated it both directions and it felt okay.  “Phew, close call!”, I thought to myself.

So I ran again, and somehow felt my foot became looser and I was able to run faster.  Wow, was this making me faster?  It was at 14.5km when that happened to me and suddenly I was able to run a 7 minute pace from an 8!  I was happy with this and kept going.

There was a little pain in my ankle but I felt it was just a bruise from the trip.  How wrong was I!

I reached the 21km mark at a time of 2:45 and felt I could finish this race at a good time.  I kept going.  But the pain in my foot didn’t disappear.  It was getting worse.  I looked at my ankle and IT HAD GOTTEN BIGGER.  I wasn’t sure if this was normal so I looked at my other foot and saw the difference!  But I could still run so thought that I should keep going.

As I kept running, the swelling got bigger!  But I didn’t want to quit and give up on the Trilogy.  I decided to continue this race.  If this was any other race, I would have DNF-ed.  But this was the one race I felt was important to do or the 21km and 32km legs I completed previously for this Trilogy would have been wasted.  This was probably my last chance to complete the Trilogy and I didn’t want to lose it.

I prayed to God to see me through and protect me.  The pain and the swelling were getting worse!  I didn’t want to look at it anymore and feigned ignorance of it.

By 29km, I was walking more that I was running.  I had 13km to go.  “Let’s not waste the 29km I completed”, my ego said!  Pride indeed is a big sin and I didn’t quit.  My pace hovered around the 10-11 minutes per kilometer now and at 35km I was 90% walking. 

“Just a little more, just a little more”, I tried to convince myself.

I kept going.  At the last 2km, Alvin saw me and told me to run.  I answered back that I couldn’t anymore because I sprained my ankle.

It was a horrible, horrible experience but by God’s Grace I made it.  I finished at a time of 6:31:58, my worst marathon time ever!

As I sat on the sidewalk with the finisher medal around my neck, I wept bitterly.  It was the worst kind of experience and no words could describe what I felt that morning.  I had never wept in any marathon before but this pushed me to my limits!  I should have stopped but my stubbornness was too much for my own good.  No one could understand why I didn’t and ruin any chance for a fast New York Marathon time, my goal race.  Even running New York became a big question mark!

At the sidewalk, I couldn’t walk by then and Alvin was the one who got the car and drove us home.  My ankle had swelled up to a size of a tennis ball and it was red and very painful.

I have completed the Run United Trilogy but at what cost?  The New York Marathon is in a couple of days and I am not 100% well yet.  I took two weeks off to heal my foot and my fitness level deteriorated during that time.  Last week, it was a balancing act whether I should start running and risk my ankle not healing properly or to rest and lose further my fitness level.  I chose the former but was extra careful with it.

It remains to be seen how bad or how well I fare in New York.  Only God knows the answer to that and I lift up to HIM my race and my injuries and I thank HIM that He is able to heal me so that I will be at the starting line on November 2nd!  I thank God that at least I am able to be at the starting line instead of at the hotel resting my foot.  

By the time this blog entry is published in this site, God Willing I will have flown to New York already (my flight leaves on Wednesday) and be at the New York Marathon Expo.

Please pray for me that I will do well in New York Marathon.  Please pray that my ankle will not swell again and that I won’t make it worse during the race.  Please pray that I will be able to cross the finish line strong, safe and injury-free.  Thank you for your support and prayers.

very hard earned medals!

Monday, October 27, 2014

Race Review: 30th Marathon du Medoc 2014

The fabled Medoc du Marathon, a very unique race that involves running a distance of 42.2km while drinking some of the region's best wines!

Wine and Marathon?  What a weird combination, and yet there I was on September 13th right at the Starting Line of the race with one simple goal:  to reach the finish line intact, never mind how high my alcohol blood content was!

Of course, it isn't as easy as it seemed as they even added a cut-off time of 6 hours and 30 minutes.  That would be fine in an ordinary Full Marathon but with one where you can be severely intoxicated, that time was a bit scary.

Reading some of the reviews from people who entered some of the earlier editions, there were stories of people who entered with a plan of not finishing the race.  They simply targeted the Chateau with the finest wine and set out to reach that place.  Once they got there, whether that was at 8km, 20km or 25km mark, they set out to get as drunk as possible with the unlimited red wine!  And just wait it out for the sweeper to get them and bring them to the finish line!  That was an interesting plan and something I thought of too.  Hehe!  This, after all, wasn't in any of my plans for the year but something I chanced upon when we have already booked our plane tickets to Europe via a promo fare.  This was also a good way to drink some very good French wine at rock bottom prices!

But then I saw the finisher loot bag and my, was I captivated by it:  One bottle of Chateau Margaux red wine in its specially made Marathon du Medoc wooden box, a very nice finisher medal, two glasses for drinking wine, and a souvenir bag.  It was too good to pass up on!

Plus the fact that I found out at the expo that I was the only Pinoy in this race!  How embarrassing would that be, the only Filipino who joined this marathon, and DNF-ed because he was too drunk to run!

No, I had to run this race and I had to finish it within the cut-off time.  I would just manage my drinking as that was one area I didn't practice in my long runs (the ONLY time I combined running and drinking was when I had two glasses of red wine in one long run where I just had 5km to go and I got so dizzy that I didn't even finish said distance, stopping at the 4km!).


Bus to Pauillac

We booked with a marathon affiliated travel agency (through the official Marathon website) so that it would be easier to get to the race.  This included transportation, race bib pick up and hotel accommodation.  Good thing I booked early as slots got sold out quickly!

The bus ride to Pauillac Region was a good one and a half hour from Bordeaux, where we stayed in.  The moment that we got off the bus, we already saw a lot of people in costumes.  This definitely wasn’t your ordinary Marathon race!

A lot of Japanese runners joined this race!  There were Samurais, Anime characters, Gaishas, and some ninjas!

some Prehistoric Running Cavemen
There's Waldo!  And there's another one! And another one....

wife enjoying the experience with me!

Such a festive event!  It was the Mardi Gras event for runners!  And people came in all sorts of costumes.  There were also large floats that 5-8 runners pushed while running as well.  Hands down to them!!

some Asians running with a dragon tagging along!

Philippines REPRESENT!

The atmosphere was pretty awesome and even my wife said that this was probably the most festive running event that she had ever witnessed.  She promised to wait for me here while I walked slowly to the starting line.  

There were some fireworks before the gun was fired.  And once it did, everyone started running.  
The course would take us through the vineyards of Pauillac as we would run into various Chateaus of this region.  There were no Gatorade served here.  No energy bars, No GU.  Rather they had water, crackers, chips and lots and lots of red wine!  

We hit the first wine station at 5km mark and people were lining up to get their first taste from it.  I remembered how I felt when I had wine in Manila and skipped it.  Out of a possible 24 plus different wine stations, I chose 4 only from the list based on popularity and decided to just hit these places.  That meant drinking wine at 8km, 15km, 20km and around 30km again.

I would also have two glasses of water right after the wine to ward off the alcohol!  Haha.  And eat some crackers or chips too.  

Well, not everything goes according to plan as by the halfway mark, I had four glasses of wine, two from just one station as it was the most popular!  That didn’t give me a good effect and I walked a bit before I ran again.

By this time, it was getting harder to run as the noon day heat was horrible.  There were no shaded areas and I had to look at where I was running on as it was on the rocky vineyards AKA Trail Run!  But it was pathetic if I would quit or stop going as people with large costumes and even huge floats kept going.  It was humbling to see how strong they were when I was having a hard time and I wasn’t even wearing any heavy costume!

At 35km mark, the water had ran out.  But don’t worry, they had wine!  Lots and lots of wine!  Uh Oh!   

I skipped that station hoping there was water in the next one.  There wasn’t!

So it was either – get dehydrated or get dehydrated with wine!  I chose the latter and gulped it all down.  With no water to wash it down, I hoped I could be sober enough to get to the finish line in one piece.  
This repeated again in the next succeeding stations.  And I drank again.  But there were some crackers to counter the alcohol (at least I hope they could do the job!).  At one point, they were serving fresh oysters and I had to take one too!  Mmmmm, very delicious!  But scary for my tummy!

Per, at the finish line, was getting worried too as to why I haven’t finished yet.  She started praying a lot that God would keep me safe and that I would get to the finish line in time!

While she was waiting, she took pictures of other runners crossing the finish line:

Captain America finishing!

And before long, GOD indeed answered her prayers and mine:

It was a big relief for both of us that I finished this race.  Being busy touring France before the race didn’t help me as my legs were tight from 3km onwards!  There were a lot of stairs that we climbed during the trip which had me running this race with tired legs.  I had to stretch a couple of times during this race.  But thank God I didn’t get any cramps here!

And thank God I finished before the cut-off time!

My chip time was at 6:00:57!  I didn't make it to a sub-6 finish time as I was too tired to do so! But who cares?  Haha

The extra one kilometer in this race was frustrating as well (made me think if all marathon distances are 43.2km!).

But GOD kept me safe and after asking Per to buy me two cans of coke, I got some of my energy back!  I was too tired to explore the finisher's area and we walked slowly to the bus to wait for the other runners. 

I am quite happy with finishing this race and getting the best loot ever from this race.  Very memorable and something I would recommend every runner to do and experience.

Thank You Lord!

PS. At the 6:30 cut-off time, the organizers announced that they would extend the cut-off time to 7 hours, the second time they have done so in this race's 30 years history due to the very hot weather.