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...