Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Half Marathon Trail Run Finisher!

The Nature's Trail Discovery 1 was my third attempt to complete a Half Marathon distance for Trail Running for this year. For one reason or another, the other two Trail Runs I registered for did not let me attain my goal of being a Half Marathon Finisher.

I have done a lot of Half Marathon Road Races and a few Full Marathon Road Races in the past but doing a Trail Run poses its own challenges verses a typical road race. You have to watch where you are stepping on, you have to be careful on the road, you may have to crawl on certain parts or hold onto tree trunks or tree branches just to clear the obstacles nature put there. You will always be slower in a trail run as opposed to the smooth concrete roads of a road race. Challenging as it may be, it is also rewarding once you have conquered it. And the view is almost always spectacular as it takes you away from the busy streets and buildings of the metropolis and puts you right in the heart of nature.

The race start for both the 10km and 21km categories was by the Multi-Purpose Gym of Barangay San Andres of Tanay, Rizal but as this was my first time coming to this place, I got a little bit lost driving here, and by the time I arrived at the venue, I was more than 15 minutes late and I even saw the 10km runners take off! Man, I had a lot of catching up to do!! Good thing the race marshals acted quickly and directed me immediately to a vacant lot, where I parked my car and went to the starting line. I didn't do any more stretching or warm up exercises as I didn't want to be left behind in the mountains! I was literally the last runner on the road as there was nobody in front or behind me. In an ordinary city road race that was fine, but this was an unfamiliar trail run in the middle of the Sierra Madre regions that we are talking about! I didn't want to get lost in a place so far away from home!!

That fear lead to an adrenalin rush as I ran to try and catch up with runners and after ten minutes of running by myself, I finally caught up to some 10km runners. I hoped that this was the same route for all runners and that I wasn’t running in the 10km course only.

This, being a mountain 1,960 feet high and requiring us to reach its top by any means possible! Of course, I didn't know this detail at that time I was there (and good thing too or I would have quit this race!) and just kept going. I had stopped running and struggled to reach the peak. My legs were working double time for me and I had to make sure that I was stepping at the right places.

I was glad that I wasn't alone here and I was with a lot of trail runners. There was a natural camaraderie even though I have never seen them before today as we all gave each other positive encouragements, a quick smile or two, and generally shared stories about our experiences here.

Midway up this steep mountain, the view was fantastic! We were above the clouds and can see the wide plains below us. A lot of people stopped to appreciate the views or to take pictures of the scenery. I used that as an excuse to catch my breath as my heart was thumping so fast that I could already feel it!

It was a vicious cycle for me going up here – rest, climb, rest, climb, rest, and climb! It took me a long time but I reached the peak and saw the great view of Rizal below. There was a banana and water station at the top for runners to take a break and to do some stretching.

As soon as I felt that I was okay, I continued in my trail run as I had a long way to go. The difficulty in going up the mountain was similar to going down as well. There were a lot of runners who slipped and fell here (myself included). Shouts, screams and laughter can be heard all the way down from different people and from different locations. It was like we were all inside one big roller coaster as it was getting ready for the big plunge down! It was that steep! I went down the safest way possible: by sliding down the mountain and holding onto the branches and tree stumps to slow down my descent.

Thank God that I got to the ground safe and sound. By that time, I was clearly exhausted and I haven't even covered 1/4th of my race distance! There was nowhere else to go but to follow the paths so I started to run again. I didn't care anymore about whether I could catch up with the 21km runners. I just wanted to finish this race!

There were ample marshals at critical turns of the race and I crossed a few creeks to head on to... Mountain # 2! This was… INSANE!! But luckily, it wasn't as steep as the first one and I was able to run (more like a jog-walk now) as I headed up again. I was alone again as the 10km runners went off to a different direction. Good thing the organizers did a great job in managing the course by putting various big yellow tape on trails that we weren't supposed to run on. It was also an indication that at least I was on the right path. One of the nice sights that I passed by was this big waterfall! I have never experienced this before in any of my trail runs and glad that I could see this unexpected surprise!

Pretty soon, I reached the second mountain peak and ran down that mountain. It was an exhilarating feeling to have conquered all these things! I also appreciated God's work on Nature. It was a sight to behold.

After what seemed like a long time, I caught up with some 21km runners and that boosted my confidence level somewhat, but I knew that I still had a lot of distance to cover. The trail was flat now and I did a few river crossings. At first I didn't want to get my feet wet but after a while, with the strong heat of the sun above me, I welcomed the cold rivers and streams and took them as opportunities to cool myself by pouring water on my head and arms.

There was also a nice suspension bridge that we had to cross offering more fantastic views of this area. I ran on it with four other runners and we all felt the bridge sway side to side as we moved across it.

There were more river crossings (I lost count after four) and more running on the plains. By this time I saw a lot of 21km runners but they were all heading back! I ran through three “barangays” or districts here before the turn back.

Around here, there was another reward for runners as "buko" or coconut juice was given to runners as refreshments. As the line was long here, I was content with my water and ran again. I had 3 GU gels with me and all were consumed at different parts of this race. I was tired and I couldn't run continuously anymore. I walked on the shaded areas and ran when there was no shade. At this point, it was all just a mental game for me. After what felt forever, I saw the sign that I had waited for a long time. It simply pointed to the right side and read, "To finish line". I can't wait!!

I went up that last hill and saw the white finish line calling out to me silently. As I ran to it, I saw some friends there cheering for me.

As I crossed it with a big smile on my face, I thought to myself, “I did it! I'm a Half Marathon Trail Run Finisher!”

I got my loot bag, my finisher medal and my finisher medal. I can finally relax and sit down!

What a crazy, crazy experience but one I will never forget! I felt truly accomplished that day!

Thanks Pimco Sports Events for this great event!

So glad I finished this race!

Monday, May 21, 2012

2nd Back to Back Run 2012 - Boo!

There were two good races that happened just over the weekend:

1) Medirun 10km, and
2) Ensure to Endure 15km

Both places took place at BGC area and both went up and down Kalayaan Bridge as part of their race routes.

I was registered for both races while Per was registered for the Medirun only. (She would definitely kill me if I registered her for two races).

I was late at both races and had to chase the rest of the runners. For the first race, Per and I were late for 10 minutes but at least we had each other for company. For the second race, I was about 5 minutes late but it took me up to 3 kilometers before I was able to reach the 15km runners, so during that time, it was just me and the lonely, lonely road (with the slight panic that I would be the last to finish this race)! Was everyone running so fast already or was I just this out of shape?

Both races were good in terms of organization. There were plenty of hydration areas and the route distances were quite accurate (or close) to their promised distance. The loots were nice too for both these races. For the Medirun, we got the coveted 4 GB USB plus some bottled water and Powerade drinks and even some toothpastes and vitamins. For the Ensure run, I got a box of Ensure at the finish line, which I gave to my parents.

The fees for both these races were affordable too: Medirun 10km was at a reasonable P450 and the Ensure run was free, as long as you buy their products and show receipts for the bib and singlet. Since my dad drinks this product, I essentially got to run this race for FREE!

I also liked the fact that both races weren't that crowded with runners. Medirun capped its race at 2,000 runners, while Ensure had about the same number of runners in it.

What I liked about Medirun more than Ensure was the very supportive marshals and volunteers. There were a lot of cheering and encouragements made by these people and no matter how tired we were, it boosted our energies and kept us going.

The weather for both these races was a big contrast: whereas Medirun's Saturday race had a very hot humid weather condition, Ensure's Sunday race was cooler and a lot better than the previous day.

Unfortunately, I didn't perform well in both races. On Saturday's run, I had difficulty running in my Brooks Cascadia 7 as I wasn't used to running in these heavy trail shoes for some time. I felt pain in my right PFs for the first few kilometers before the pain disappeared. On Sunday's run, I thought I could race it (even optimistically hoping for a new PR). But that was not to be. I couldn't go fast. I couldn't get to the pace I wanted. My legs were tight and I had to stop to walk in every kilometer of this race. It was when I reached the 10 kilometer mark that I felt my legs become looser but for some reason, I still couldn't go fast. So I downgraded my PR goal to just one to finish.

Another BAD back to back weekend race! I have to get used to this kind of torture... I mean TRAINING!

On a good point, at least I was able to get good mileage during the weekend, which was a lot better than last weekend's disaster. :)

Medirun's 10km race with Per

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Bad Running Week!

It was the worst week for me - running wise as last Saturday, I attempted to do a 21km run by myself around BGC and Makati area. I had one bottled water with me, 2 GUs in my Spi-belt and I even wore compression pants. Before leaving the house, I ate one museli bar and consumed one bottle of Gatorade.

There were no time targets here, merely the distance goal. It should been an easy, long run!

Well, easy it wasn't. And long? Not even close!

I jogged a bit when I started at a slow pace but for some reason, I couldn't go any faster. I even had to walk at different parts of the run. Thinking that my legs were just stiffer than they usually were, I jogged some more, hoping that they will feel looser.

That didn't work out well and by 5km, I was tired and went back to walking again.

So I tried a different tactic by heading out to BGC in the hopes that the new route will make the run more interesting and keep me occupied. That kinda worked for the next 2-3 kilometers and I felt stronger and faster. I was glad it wasn't hot yet and the air was cool that morning.

Then I hit the 9km mark and I stopped running and I started walking. Eventually, that too became taxing for me and I just sat down on one of the sidewalks of BGC.

Just sat down and stared at the people running. I drank some more water but didn't touch the GU gels. I didn't think I deserved them anymore. That was it. The end of my run.

Only problem was how to get back home? I had no cash, no car keys and no cellphone with me. And I was just too tired to run back home.

So I just sat there for 5 minutes, 10 minutes, 15 minutes more. And with no other solution, I slowly got up again and went home the only way possible - with my two legs!

I jogged and I walked and I couldn't even avoid the cars on the road. Thankfully, none of them sideswiped me! I was too tired to even get off the road and I just didn't care anymore. I figured that if I accidentally got hit, at least they could take me home. Hahaha! Yes, I was pathetic that Saturday morning!

By God's Grace, I got home safe and sound and felt like I ran a full marathon. But it was just 12 kilometers and at a super slow pace.

Weird! I was disappointed at my performance and got home service massage for that night.

Come Sunday morning (Mother's Day), I did a short 5.5km run with Per in the morning and felt fine. Phew, at least that bad run didn't extend anymore till the next day or I may be traumatized from running again!

But come Monday morning, my Garmin Forerunner 205 couldn't work anymore. It was in a perpetual charging state but once taken out from the charger, it was just a blank screen. Somehow, the mode button got embedded too!

Argh! It was there with me for two full Marys, but it didn't survive the weekend run I did by myself and with Per. You will be sorely missed!


Monday, May 7, 2012

Run For Integrity 2 - Double PR!

My entire body from the shoulders to the feet are in pain right now. The only culprit for this pain was the race held the day before: Run For Integrity Towards A New Philippines (only we can think of a race name as long as the actual race!).

At that race, I did the 15km distance while Per did the 10km distance. My race was supposed to start at 5:00AM while Per's 10km distance had the gun start at 5:30AM. Good job (that's me being sarcastic) on the race organizer in following the gun start time! The 5:00AM gun start came and went and we were doing the Philippines National Anthem, the integrity pledge, and some warm up stretches! Shouldn't these things be done BEFORE the gun start?

So our gun start was around 5:15AM or so, but I maximized that time waiting by doing a 1km jog around the starting line (to add to my weekly mileage as well). (I learned later on that the 10km and 5km race categories started way earlier than their scheduled gun start time. Pat on the back again for the race organizers/hosts for making their own rules! And once again, that is me being sarcastic!).

But I can't worry on that too much as I have a race to finish. And not just any race. What's at stake here is one Gulliver's Full Bone steak as Alvin threw this in as a motivational tool for me. That should I finish my race in 1:37 or less (race pace of 6:30), then he would treat me to a full bone steak!

Hmmm, very tempting!

I kept thinking on how to achieve this and the best case scenario was to just go all out and not hold anything back. Yes, there's a strong possibility of burning out and fading at second part of the race but if I kept thinking about the future and the various what ifs scenarios, then I won't be able to run fast and I won't be able to reach my target pace goal. I'm also curious as to how fast I can go before I tire myself out. Not really a good strategy for this distance but what the heck, it's time to test my limits!

The route for the 15km race was pretty straightforward, literally and figuratively speaking as not much turns to make and just went out to Kalayaan Bridge and on Buendia Avenue for the U turn back to BGC, where we had to run a few more kilometers before reaching the finish line.

I heard my name being called out on the way to Kalayaan Bridge and who do I see but fellow runner blogger Roelle (Daytripped Running). We exchanged some notes and chatted a bit before we got separated in that race. I was within goal pace when I looked at my Garmin watch. Actually, I was way below my target pace and I imagined seeing the look of surprise in both Alvin's and Per's faces when I tell them my finish time at this pace. Yes, it was a good dream but in reality? Hmmm... let's see.

I still felt strong at this stage but slowed down as I climbed the Kalayaan Bridge. The water stations were just that - cold water in plastic cups and nothing else offered. But the coldness of this drink more than made up for what they lacked in sports drinks. Besides, I have a back up GU gel in my belt in case I need to "Power Up".

Thank God the weather was nice that morning and that helped take out the fatigue in my body. But I was slowing down, which was expected as I was running in my 10km race pace! I threw caution in the wind and refused to slow down. But I was getting out of breathe and took longer walking breaks at the water stations. I jogged/ walked going up Kalayaan Bridge a second time and looked at my Garmin. I was still ahead of pace target of 6:30 although that gap was getting smaller.

Time to Power Up! 1 GU gel consumed and I was able to overtake some more runners.

I checked the time and wondered where Per was. She should be around 7-8km by now. I hoped she was okay as this was her first 10km post-pregnancy race that she would be running by herself. But I saw the excitement in her eyes when I told her the night before to try and beat her 10km PR here. She was in her own race as well. Her previous 10km PR pace was at 8:11 with a time of 1:22++.

My previous 15km PR in 2011 was at 1:50:08, which happened all the way back in January of that year. This was my first 15km race for 2012 so although it was an automatic PR for the year, I was aiming to at least beat the personal record I set for 2011 too. Alvin, obviously had other goals for me as he wasn't just satisfied with me beating my 2011 PR but wanted me to obliterate that "slow" time from my memory. Hence the steak reward!

But I was slowing down and walking more. I finally saw Per at her 8km distance but had a very hard time catching up to her. But I saw her running continuously and took that as a sign that she wasn't injured or tired yet. I saw her overtake some 10km runners and that was another good sign.

I closed the gap slowly to her just so I can ask how she was doing. But when I got to her, I was tired too and could only blurt out, "Great job Per. You are strong! Keep going! You are near!" but more with a whispered tone of voice as I was clearly fighting my own battle here. I hoped that was enough for her and saw that they had their final turn to the finish line whereas for us 15km runners, we still had 2km to go! Argh!

It was all just a mental game from hereon. "It's just 2km more. You don't want to lose that steak on just 2km! Keep going! Do not stop!" I kept looking at my Garmin and felt mildly panicky. Will I make it in time?

The 2011 PR has been decimated but I didn't care about that anymore. I just want the reward! Haha. I reached the 15km marker but the finish line wasn't there yet. Dang it! No other choice but to keep on going.

Finally, I crossed the finish line at 1:38:15 for 15.33km and I was obviously exhausted.

I beat the target pace by 5 seconds to have an average pace of 6:25! Fantastic!

Per was giving me a thumbs up and raised her eyebrows when she saw me cross the finish line. I can only smile back to her.

She also performed magnificently, going below 8 minute pace to finish her 10km race at a time of 1:19:32 (pace of 7:57) and set a new PR level for herself!

What a great day for the two of us!!

God is Great!!!

The very nice finisher medal for all 15km finishers!

Race results are out via www.runningmate.ph, but since it's based on the "gun time" (and not chip time), I didn't take it to heart and will just follow the time and distance as measured in my Garmin watch.

Now, how to get rid of this body pain ???