TNF: Rediscovering Trails

Training

I was never a fan of trail runs. My past experience with trails always brought about a feeling of frustration and almost quitting and there were only two of them. My first trail run was the Salomon 12k in 2010. At some point along the route, I just felt like sitting down on the dried grass and crying. Anyway, I finished it in 2 hours after walking half of it with fellow runners. The second run was the 5k Brave Mudders Run in 2012. Yes, 5K! I was thrilled about the obstacles but I wasn’t thrilled about walking on trail and mud. We got to the event early so I did a 12k easy run with my sister prior to the race. Wrong move! My muscles tightened before starting the 5k plus the weather was pretty chilly. Halfway through the race, I wanted to DNF. I couldn’t run anymore so I just walked but walking seemed to take forever. It was the longest 5k of my life. I finished it in 1hr 30mins.

Because of my traumatic trail experience, I didn’t join my sister Dianne and her husband last year when they registered for the 11k TNF. They finished it happy and satisfied so I thought about giving trail a chance. Kuya Ryan wanted to do the 22k last year but unfortunately he didn’t make it to the registration so we agreed to do it this year.

I wasn’t logging enough mileage since my last 21k in November and then the holidays rolled by, my training partner got lazy so my runs became a once to twice a week routine. I only started to increase mileage after Tine and I decided to run a 10k in the Philhealth run in Baguio. Come February, I asked my friend Nick to help me out with a viable training program for the TNF 22k trail run. He asked me whether I wanted to race or just survive. I wasn’t in the race mood so I opted for the latter. He gave me an 11 week program that started on the first week of February. I registered in Baguio mid-Feb and also urged Kuya Ryan to register. He said he lacked training since he wasn’t logging any mileage since after his marathon but nevertheless, he registered online.

I was able to follow religiously the first two weeks of the program and then summer came around. Lakwatsa dito, lakwatsa doon. I was skipping some workouts and even long runs. I still tried to run 4x a week and did squats and push ups every after run. I knew I wasn’t logging enough mileage and I wasn’t following the fartleks, hills and trails as per program. Short trail runs were part of the program so I gladly joined Mich and Jess when they invited me to run with them at the La Mesa Nature Reserve  mid March. However, due to time constraints I only completed a 10k and headed back home. The course was relatively flat so it was quite easy except for the mud that kept building up on the shoe.

Sir Knell, a fellow registered 22k runner, invited me and my sister for a pre-TNF trail run at Mt. Makiling early April. It was chance to practice walking on trail since I knew that it was my weakness. I did not expect the steep ascends and the rocky path but the power walks and the climb gave me the mental preparation that I needed. I wasn’t worried about the 22k anymore. However, my NB minimus proved to be slippery so I decided to wear my old NB trail shoes for the race. The last few weeks of training was a mental game. My 45 min easy runs on weekdays became 30mins. I got lazy. On the last week before the race, I ran with my sister from BHS to Mckinley and back. I was surprised to find the uphills easy despite my lack of hill training. I was feeling ready.

Finally, the race weekend arrived. My sister and I arrived in Baguio at 3am on Saturday. It was still way cooler than Manila despite the summer season.

Carboloading time. Tine, Irhys had our late lunch at Half Moon and headed to  ROX to claim our race kits. Kuya Ryan texted that he wasn’t pushing through with the race due to work schedules. That got me worried. I felt like I was the weakest among the four of us and I was hoping that I could run together with Kuya Ryan since I knew Tine and Sir Knell will probably be more competitive. I wasn’t ready to run the route alone. With just 3 hours of digestion we headed to Oh My Gulay for our carboloading dinner with Sir Knell.

IMG_3918

Oh My Gulay Carboloading

Race Day

I woke up on Sunday feeling so so. I put on my tights and shirt, pinned my bib, filled my water bottles with water and gatorade, stuck a bar of snickers and a pack of Orange chews on my hydration belt, put on my old NB trail shoes that still brakes bad-ass.

Remembering Boston

Remembering Boston

We arrived at the race area in Camp John Hay at 5am. A few 100k finishers were crossing the finish line. They were really inspiring. Sir Knell was no where in sight. At 5:10am, Tine and I checked in our bibs and positioned ourselves near the front of the pack. I could sense Tine was in a competitive mode so I scanned the crowd for Sir Knell but he was still nowhere in sight. I stood there feeling relaxed with a goal to finish and enjoy. No pressure.

Countdown to gunstart. 5.4.3.2.1.. off we go. I fumbled to reset my watch to 00 and by the time I looked up, Tine was already ahead by a few meters. I tried to catch up with her but it was futile with the thick crowd scrambling to get ahead. I jogged at my own pace not wanting to get burned out early on. At one kilometer, my right leg was starting to feel uncomfortable. I stopped to retie my shoelaces hoping Sir Knell would soon catch up with me but I still couldn’t spot him among the crowd of runners.

Runners started to walk at the Paterno hill. I had a bad experience with walking uphills at the Sto Tomas Run. I knew that walking could lead to hamstrings tightening so as much as I wanted to walk, I tried to jog the hills. Emerging at the Panagbenga park we made a turn into the trail part of Camp John Hay. I tried to study the map but it was just too confusing so I just followed the pack. I was feeling really strong at this point and tried to overtake as many runners as I could before we got to the single lane part. At some point, I had no choice but to trail behind a long line of male runners. We were running at a steady pace for a good part of the trail and it gave me the chance to steady my heartbeat. I took my first Orange chews at 45mins mark. We got to a part where the view was really beautiful but I had to watch my footing carefully since the path was becoming narrow with the ravine just a few inches to our right. I paused for a few seconds to enjoy the view and resumed.

I knew that Happy Hallow was part of the route but I didn’t know exactly where and which part. I just knew from Baguio 21k run that it was a notoriously steep winding road so when we emerged at the road of Happy Hallow I braced myself. Thankfully, it was only a short one. I could see runners walking the hilly part but I tried to jog part of it and power walked half of it. We turned right into the trail again after the water station which was the halfway point. A few meters into the route, I saw the familiar figure of my sister. I shouted her name and tried to catch up with her.  “You’re fast!”, she said, surprised to see me. “Mabilis ka ba or mabagal ako?”, she asked. “Bumagal ka”, I told her because I was not expecting to catch up with her. At this point, fatigue was settling in and I was fighting a mental battle. I wanted to walk the rest of it but my sister kept running so I just followed suit and told myself I was stronger than that. We reached another water station and refilled our water bottles. My bladder was ready to pop. We resumed down the cemented road but I really had to pee. Tine suggested I pee at the bushes while she looked out for me. I was hesitant at first but she said it’s ok, runners would understand. So, amongst the cobwebs, leaves, grasses and bushes, I peed. What a relief! I rejoined my sister at the road and we continued into the trail and out to a residential part of Scout Barrio. Tine was lingering behind me at this point.  She was walking more frequently.

(…so I had to park writing this for more than a week.. what an injustice…. moving along..)

I could sense Tine was getting discouraged. At the steepest part of the route, I still tried to use the momentum to jump, climb, walk, run the hills but Tine was trailing behind in her tired demeanor. I would rest and wait for her to catch up. After what felt like forever, we emerged at a road. I was feeling energized thinking it was South Drive with only 2km away from the gate but I was wrong. Tine said we were in Scout Barrio… oops! We still had a long way to go. Tine spotted a 100k finisher at the waiting shed accross the street and asked for a water refill. The guy cheered on us and gladly offered the remaining water in his jug. We passed by a residential area that headed to the foot of another hill inside Camp John Hay. This has got to be the last hill, I thought with relief.

It was the last stretch and when Tine rejoined me, she said she was already tired. She was too quiet. I paced with her and I kept telling her we were already close. I could already hear the emcee so we must be pretty close. A few ladies were already overtaking us and I pushed Tine to walk faster. It was 5 mins before 3hours. I told her we can still make it plus sayang ang place if we let the other ladies overtake us. However, she was really feeling discouraged at that point and told me to go ahead. I told her no and continued to push her repeating “konti nalang” over and over. She knew I wasn’t going to leave her so she obliged and hastened her pace. We were almost out on the road leading to the finish line. The guy infront of us was walking and he was startled when Tine and I shouted for him to run. “Takbo, Kuya. Konti nalang!” He looked at us, smiled and started to run, us following behind him. Ate Rose, Tine’s friend, was waiting for us when we emerged at the road. She hugged Tine and cheered for us as we ran to the finish line. We were supposed to hold each other’s hand as we cross but we forgot. Irhys was waiting for us at the finish line, pointing her camera at our faces. Whooo! We clocked in at 3:04 hours. I hugged Tine and she thanked me for not leaving her.

IMG_4058

Sabay na sabay na sabay (unison)

Sir Knell finished 5 mins after us. He was pacing another runner and felt hesitant about leaving the guy behind.

IMG_4084

Special Thanks to Miss Rina for treating us to a buffet breakfast at the Baguio Country Club after the run. Thanks to Ate Rose and Ate Racquel for the cheers and support.

IMG_4092

Post-run breakfast at BCC

That was an amazing experience, far from my previous frustrating trail experience. I just might do the 50km next year.

Random Thoughts While Running

“It’s raining”, my colleague proclaimed when he saw me in my running attire.  My face fell. “Oh no!” . After 9 days of total rest due to cough and colds, I was finally well today but I didn’t wanna risk getting sick again. I’ve ran in the rain a lot of times before and sure, it was safe but in my present condition, I had the inkling to skip a rainy run. I went back to my chair and to whatever I was doing on my laptop. Strangely, I was not really excited to run. My body was not craving for it but my mind was telling me I needed to get back into training for that 21km race on September. I checked the clock and decided I will skip the run if it was still raining by 8pm.

A few minutes after 7pm, I looked out the office window to check. Finally, it has stopped raining. I grabbed my water bottle and headed out of the office. I walked to the park across the street and dropped my water bottle on one of the benches. The moment I put one foot infront of the other I was suddenly overcome by the realization that I missed running. Whew! “This is good”, I thought to myself as I ran at an even, relaxed pace. “This is why I love running. This is why I should love running.  This is the running I love.”, I said to myself with a big smile. I was running on my own pace, not trying to outrun anyone, not thinking about the effort I was putting into it, not thinking about my heartrate nor my pace. I was thinking of so many other things. Random things started to cross my mind.

It has been a wonderful week so far. Surprisingly, a Monday turned out to be beautiful. The workload was light and I had time to browse through some awesome playlist. Soulful songs and Jon McLaughlin. I was smitten. His songs were so full of ehm LOVE. I don’t know if my mood was an after effect of the book I was reading. I was in the middle of the third book of the Trilogy 50 Shades of Grey. I spent Monday smiling like a lovesick sixteen year old, basking in soulful music and beautiful words from Book Mania. Tuesday turned out fine as well. Crazy, laughtrip Tuesday. Some facebook photo got me entertained.

Someone stopped me on my tracks, distracting me from my thoughts. Someone who looked familiar. Ohh it’s my sister. Apparently, she was also running at the park with some officemates.  On my second loop, I met her again and she grumbled about being tired already. I gave a small laugh and I suddenly realized how young she is. We are six years apart but the age gap never seemed to be there. We spend practically every single day together since we moved out from our older sister’s condo and settled in our new apartment. She hangs out with me and my friends, runs and swims with me. After she broke up with her boyfriend last year, she hasn’t been hanging out with other people during weekends. I made a mental note to encourage her to explore the world while she’s young. She should start dating again.

An upcoming trip came to mind. I was excited about traveling out of town with the gang. We haven’t been hanging out lately. Everybody’s been busy since the start of this year. I cringe remembering my work schedule. It was still something I had to work on to meet my own deadline just so I could be in Cebu by the first weekend. I smiled at the thought of our plans. Spontaneity took over all of us with this trip. I think I heard everybody say “Bahala na si Batman” with regards to availability, accommodation and plans.

I took a water break on my third lap. I reminded myself to keep the run relaxed and not stress about resting. I did another 2 loops admiring one lean male runner in a grey shirt drenched in sweat. Ahem. Mascular arms and chest. Ahem. Nyort nyorts. He was running at tempo pace. Suddenly, I remembered an embarrassing moment a few months ago while running at this park. I slammed into a man’s chest. Hahaha! Both of us were too close already when we realized we were head on. We tried to duck at the same time and my face slammed straight into his chest. Shit! I was too embarrassed to look at him. I just mumbled a quick apology and resumed running. The bad thing is we kept crossing each other’s path twice every loop since we were running in opposite directions, exchanging several awkward glances. I tried to smile at him but I think it turned out as a smirk. I noticed he wasn’t at the park tonight.

I finished my last loop and headed to the bench where I left my water bottle. My sister was already stretching with her colleagues. We had a quick chat and walked back to our building as it started to drizzle.  That quick, easy, no frills, wistful run surely added to the happy hormones.

Running Under the Weather

Hard-headed is probably one common trait of most runners.

We don’t run when we’re supposed to but we also run when we’re not supposed to.

It was quite disappointing to be sick the week before 2 important races. I’ve been preparing for the 5K Buddy Run and I was excited for this particular race since I knew that my sister, Irhys, and I could set a good PR on this race. We ran the 5K last year and I was just glad we finished a sub-30 considering we had to walk several times. I was just recovering from my Condura injury that time. This year I was planning to do it with a vengeance.

ANR Run was also held last Saturday, a day before Buddy Run. I could have been excited to join the relay if not for the sick bay I was in prior to it. I’ve been sick since Monday, coming down with cough and colds. I had to take 2 days off from work to rest but come Saturday morning, my nose was still clogged. No workout for 5 days plus a clogged nose spelled a disaster. I was in no condition to run.

Each ANR team has a men’s and women’s relay team composed of 5 runners. Each runner is assigned to run a 1 kilometer. Although I was not in the best condition to race, I appeared on Saturday morning at the MOA grounds with my sister, in my running attire. Looking around, I knew we had fierce competitors. Women in nyort nyorts, young, athletic, those who looked like track-trained, lined up with us when they called the relay runners. Awts! I just hoped we didn’t finish last. Ronnel came up to us and gave us our positions. I was assigned as the third runner. I looked around for Angela. She was one of our strong runners but she was nowhere in sight. Fortunately, she appeared while Ronnel was giving us instructions. She took the 2nd position. My sister was assigned as the last runner. Nikki, a girl I just met that day who joined the ANR 2 weeks ago, was assigned as the 4th runner. I didn’t know how fast she was but she must be fast.

Che-anne, our first runner, was now lined up with the fierce looking women at the chute. Countdown and off they went. 5 girls came back with their batons. Che-anne was still about 500m away. Finally, she crossed the line and Angela went off. Zoom! She came back with blue lips, closing the gap. I took the baton and went off. My nose was clogged. Shet! I had a hard time breathing. I tried to conserve my pace until I reached the U-turn, meeting the other team’s runner. I tried to push myself to run faster. Jess was trying to pace me from the far left, encouraging me to go faster. Someone was shouting “sige pa. diskarte lang. High knees.” I tried to run harder with higher knees.  I was having double vision. I was almost there but my breathing was just awful. I passed the baton to Nikki. Ronnel came to my side and encouraged me to walk. The double vision was still there. I wanted to just stop and sit down but I knew I had to keep walking. Ronnel was talking to me but all I could think about was how harrassed I felt. “F*ck I’m never doing this ever ever again!”, I kept shouting in my mind.

the hardest 1kilometer run of my life

 

Finally, my heart and vision normalized. I walked to the side of the cheerers. My sister was now anxiously waiting at the chute. UP’s 4th runner crossed the finish line, then MOA, then Ayala, then Nikki was in sight. Woot! We were on 4th place now, outrunning two teams. She handed the baton to my sister. She was just a few meters away from the Ortigas’ last runner, Bave.  I knew my sister could keep our place. I shouted in between coughs. Finally, my sister crossed the finish line. 4TH PLACE!! We may not have placed top 3 but we didn’t finish last. I am so proud of my team. We clocked in at 24:48, 20secs after the Ayala Triads. Next time, we might have a shot. Though I told myself never to do this again, I know we could do better so next time, I’ll try not to be sick.

aNR BHS Women’s Relay Team

I rested the whole Saturday, wishing my colds would magically disappear when I wake up the following day. At 12 MN, I was still wide awake. I had trouble sleeping. I needed the rest and I got more worried since I had to be up in 3 hours. I woke up at 4AM, with probably just less than a 2 hour sleep. Unfortunately, I was still coughing and had trouble breathing through my nose. I ate half a peanut butter sandwich and prepared for the 5k Buddy Run.

My sister and I arrived at the venue a few minutes before the 10k gunstart. At 5:15am, we started to do our warm-up where we saw fellow ANR runners from our men’s relay team. They looked like they were ready to take on this race. We wished them luck and finished our 2km warm-up. We weaved our way to the front of the pack of 5k runners. I wanted to do better than last year’s 29:29, although I was not in the condition to do so. A few more minutes and the gunstart sounded off. I pressed the start button of the Garmin I borrowed from Racs. I still haven’t replaced my busted G305. Irhys and I tried to maintain a 5:15 pace until the 3rd kilometer. My sister stopped to walk at the water station. I wouldn’t have wanted to walk but I could feel fatigue settling in. I encouraged my sister to run and told her we can rest at the upcoming downhill at the next bend of 36th street. We have slowed down big time by now and upon reaching the gravely part of 36th street, we walked for the second time. The 4kilometer marker was in sight. We tried to push each other but after crossing the stop light, we both slowed down again to walk. I pushed myself to jog and encourage my sister to do so. I could sense she was already tired. “Konti nalang, Irhys”, I told her. When she saw the last bend to the finish line, she kicked into high gear. We crossed the finish line at 27:34 clock time. My Garmin read 27:29. That was 2 minutes shaved off from last year! Woohoo! Partida, I was sick. However, I knew we could have done better. Another goal for next year.

Almost there!

The loot bag, as usual, was generously filled with grocery items. Always a reason to keep registering for this race. Small crowd and sulit loot bag.

After we got our loot bags, my sister and I proceeded to the event grounds, taking everything that was handed to us. Free chocolate and milk drinks, banana shakes, free stretching, orange juice, banana, wheat bread, water, sports drink. Ahhh!

LOOTBAG! The reason why I patronize Robinson’s Fit n Fun Buddy Run. SULIT!

 

It’s really frustrating and disappointing to be sick, especially when you’re too close to a race. So, as a runner, we must always try to eat well, sleep right and keep ourselves in the best condition. The week before I got sick, I was doing night shifts at work and working out everyday. LESSONS LEARNED. Now, I have to keep myself from working out since my cough and colds haven’t subsided just yet. I miss working out. I miss swimming, running, dancing, pylometrics but I also have to be disciplined in the area they call REST.

 

Skepticism on my 21k Goal

A question I’ve been asking myself lately: What for?

After my Condura 21k, which I finished on target (2:09), I excitedly plotted my next race and goal. A sub-2 21k on September at Camsur International Marathon. No doubt, hitting my goal, made me a tad more confident. After a long recovery, I was back and ready to conquer the road again. I knew I could hit a sub-2 IF I worked hard on it. That is a BIG IF. I’ve always been a determined and passionate runner. I could stick to a training plan. Nick and I already discussed about starting the program and he was very willing to help me again achieve this goal. I chucked out my plans of running an ultra this year and focused on this big goal. A marathon and an ultramarathon became less appealing. I was fixed on becoming stronger and faster.

When the middle of March came in, I started the maintenance program and tried to rack up my mileage to 5 hours a week. I was doing pretty well until the pains on my right thigh became too bothering. I remember the first time I felt the sharp pains burning through my hamstrings and pelvic area towards the end of February. I did a 10k easy run in the morning, hang out with my sisters at Club Balai Isabel and settled in a chair for an evening dinner. When I parted my thighs to stand up, I fell back into my chair. The pain was extremely excruciating but it disappeared after a few minutes. I forgot about the pains and attributed it to sore hamstrings. However, it turned out to be a regular visitor after every run with varying intensity, probably proportional to intensity of workout or cumulative distance. Nevertheless, it was freaking painful. After a hilly 21k in Baguio I decided to visit Coach Salazar, hoping to get the hamstrings fixed, I endured another agonizing deep tissue massage. Coach said it could be a case of Piriformis Syndrome. Possibly. After running for two consecutive days my visitor was back again, as intense as ever. I should probably rest it up.

An idea has been bothering me for a few weeks now. I’m feeling a sense of disconnection with my goal. My goal just doesn’t seem to make sense anymore. I don’t want to become faster nor do I want to run longer distances. Sure, I still love running but at this moment, I don’t see the point of doing a sub-2. What for? To prove something to others? To prove something to myself? To outrun someone? To impress someone?

I was never a quitter. When I set my mind into something, I always accomplish it. When put up against a big challenge, I always work my ass off to meet it. Challenge fueled me. It’s the same reason why I’ve always excelled in classes with tough professors. I like working with tough people because they make me tougher. It’s like we receive more praise for surviving a tough class or being favored by a tough professor or being praised by a tough boss. I was always that person who wanted to prove to these tough people that I can handle them. And same goes with running.

There is a big rewarding feeling for breaking our records because it means we are improving, we are becoming stronger, and we are outrunning others. In this sport, time and records make a great deal of impression, whether it be a 3k fun run or a 100k ultra. Fast runners are admired for their speed. Ultra runners are admired for their endurance and if you have both speed and endurance then double your popularity. While for some runners, they become popular for being jerks (*insert wink*).  Time is also a factor of our sense of achievement.  I’ve always put pressure on myself to becoming faster. I never believed in the goal “to finish”. I’ve always thought it was a prosaic objective and anyway, I think people who say this are more specific with their goals than what they are trying to imply.

Becoming faster is a difficult goal that needs patience, discipline, hard work and dedication. Doable yes but only if your heart is into it. And yes… mine isn’t. I’ve always pushed myself  because I want to prove something to myself which consequently would be proving something to others. However, this proving something, getting praise, being known just doesn’t appeal to me anymore.  Sure, the sense of achievement and knowing that all the hard work paid off is quite rewarding but it may not be enough to fuel the competitive spirit in me. I think I would need a new motive to achieve that goal. Or mayyybe I’m subconsciously doubting myself.

One sure thing though, I’ll run for as long as I can. I still love running.

Baguio 21k: Surviving the Hills

Baguio21k 2011

Wearing my yellow bib, I stood at the start line together with Dianne, Irhys and Apple who were wearing red bibs. It was the very first 21k race in Baguio. I zipped my jacket a little higher to hide the peeking yellow bib and waited for the 10k gunstart. The 21k was already sent off a few minutes earlier but I decided to stay behind and start with the 10k runners since I was not really in shape to run a 21k nor to run at all. It was 2 months after my fateful Condura injury and I was just starting to recover. Apple and I ran together until we reached the 6th kilometer. Both running on shin injuries, we decided to DNF at that point. We removed our D-tags, zipped our jackets and hailed a cab to take us to the finish line.

Baguio 21k 2012

This year, though I was not on a race mode I wanted to check out how running a 21k in Baguio would be. After my sister, Tine, talked me into registering, I finally agreed. A few weeks before the race I was beginning to get a little scared. My longest run in Baguio was an LSD of 15km and the last time I ran the most hilly route of 11k last December, I felt harassed right after so a 21k was a pretty challenging thought.

Baguio21k this year was set on Easter Sunday, just in time for the long 5-day weekend vacation. A few days before traveling to Baguio, I hadn’t had enough sleep. On Wednesday I was starting to have an itchy throat and the possibility of colds and cough were already looming. Tine, Irhys and I traveled to Baguio that day with me driving the whole 8hour stretch. By Thursday morning, I already had colds and the heavy feeling but we still continued our plan to run in the afternoon. We picked up our race kits at the convention Center and drove to Camp Johnhay where I parked my car at the Starbucks near the  South Drive gate. We started our way down the hills to Commissary, following Ordono Drive and out to Loakan where we met Kuya Jessie Manat who was training for the 100km TNF to be held there 2 weeks later. After a small chat we continued down to EPZA. When we got to Kadaklan entry point, we decided to check out the route since it was going to be a part of the race route on Sunday. We knew it was going to be hilly but what came next was beyond our expectation. We would have hailed a cab or a jeep if there were any that passed but sadly, it was Holy Thursday so it was a quiet road. We walked most of it and finally exited at South Drive Country Club. That was a 10k route in 1hr 45mins. Whew!

By Friday morning, my cough and colds were full blown and I was really feeling horribly sick. I tried to sleep as much as I could, and generously dosed myself with Vitamin C, paracetamol and ASCOF. By Saturday noon, my condition was not improving at all. I forced some food and slept that afternoon. By evening, I was feeling a little better.

Sunday race Day

I woke up feeling way better so I laced up my shoes and got dressed. I ate half a peanut butter sandwich and a small Snickers bar (a trick me and my sisters got from Coach Nick *wink). My sisters and I drove to Burnham Lake. Several runners were doing their warm ups when we got there. We met up with Ate Rose, a fellow runner friend of Tine and posed for some photos. It was a chilly morning and the wind blew slightly which made us all shiver. A few minutes later, we stood infront of the start line and waited for the gun start. Countdown and boom! Off we go. The game plan was to take it as slow as I can and run as far as I can without walking. After getting sick for three days, I was not really in shape to run the whole of it. I just wanted to finish without feeling ‘wasak’. I promised Nick I would run only for 2hours and walk the rest of the route. After checking the route last Thursday, I estimated a 3hour finish.

me, Tine, Ate Rose

Irhys was not registered for this race but she waited for us a few meters from the start line with her camera. The three of us ran together until Tine picked up her pace at the Military Cut-off and left us behind. The Loakan part was mostly downhill, with only around 2 uphills. Irhys decided to stop at the Texas Instrument entrance where she would wait for me. After the the turn around point, everything was uphill. I was trying to run without walking as far as I could go or until 2hours at least. But after the u-turn the uphill seemed unending and I finally gave up and walk. After around 2 km, I saw Irhys pointing her camera at me. Irhys paced with me again. After a few meters we turned right to Kadaklan. The Kadaklan-Happy Hallow route was a 5km killer hill route. The Kadaklan entrance greeted us with a very steep 200m uphill. The first 3km was rolling steep hills. We had to run sideways down the hill to avoid tripping over. At some part of the route, it was muddy from the rain the day before and there were small holes due to on-going road rehabilitation. With thick trees around, it seemed like a trail run. Though the hills were punishing, the view to our right was breathtaking. Happy Hallow was pure torture. It was almost a 2km steep uphill which was un-runnable. From the bottom of the hill, I could spot a house with a blue roof. When we ran the route last Thursday, I thought that house was the peak of the hill but disappointingly, it wasn’t. The men behind me were cursing, grunting, huffing. “Nakikita niyo po yung bahay na yon?”, I asked them. “Dun nab a yon?”, they asked. “Hindi po. Mga isang kilometro pa paakyat after nun”, I answered.

First steep hill at Kadaklan. I look discouraged already.

The Trail part

making friends with fellow walkers

Sitting on the sidewalk for some real rest. Alex riding his bike to check on runners and cheer.

I left my Garmin charger so I had to conserve the last 2 bars of battery. I only turned ON my G305 at the Loakan U-Turn. The 2km point shows the hill at the entrance of Kadaklan and the steep hill at 5.5km shows the 200m elevation for over 1.5km distance. Steep!

Going through the route last Thursday helped to prepare me mentally. At least I knew what to expect and how far the hill would be. At some point I just had to sit at the sidewalk because walking up the hill was not rest at all. My right hip was already starting to sore up. Just walking the hill was already tough. I tried to walk balkwards but it was just too steep and my quads were shaking. Finally, we reached the peak at South Drive. I gave myself a few minutes to walk and then started to run again. Irhys’ knees were starting to sore so she stayed behind. I picked up my pace. This part was a little flatter but it started to ascend again after Teacher’s Camp. I passed walkers and continue to run until I reached the end of South Drive. Irhys caught up with me at Military Cut-off. The last uphill was at the BGH turn. We walked this part and then took off again. Irhys went ahead so she could take photos at the finish line. Before the last turn, I saw Tine coming my way. She cheered and paced me. She finished at 2:19, placing 6th female. Ate Rose finished at 2:04 placing 5th. Finally, I could see the finish line. I clocked in at 2:39:55. Finishing sub-3 and still feeling great was a big achievement.

posing with the 4th placer, 5th placer, Sir Philip, Irhys and Tine

Baguio 21k runners

Kenyans bagged the first and second place on the male 21k category while the Milo Queen and a  Cebuana bagged the first and second place of the 21k female category, respectively.

For recovery, we had breakfast buffet at City Lights where our Mom and dad were already waiting. I survived the punishing hills of Baguio21k.

Congrats to Sir Philip Pacle and all the organizers for the very challenging route and a successful race.

Chasing a Dream: Sharing my sisters’ marathon journey

There are two profoundly moving moments in my entire running life.

First, when I crossed the finish line on my first marathon. Second, when I watched my sisters cross the finish line on their first marathon. I wanted to shed as much tears as I did on my special day but I had to keep my composure because I still had to perform my duties as a dream chaser. I was so happy for their achievement and I was so proud to see them smiling and finishing strong.

Tine and Irhys started running a year after I discovered my love for it. They were both living in Baguio at that time and I guess that provided them a good foundation for training. Tine was the one who encouraged Irhys to join the local races and after their first race together, they were unstoppable. By the time Irhys moved to Manila to work, she was already a stronger runner than me. With her built and high altitude training, she crushed me on our speed workouts. I could never catch up with her on our 150m sprints. Meanwhile, Tine was winning podium after podium awards at the small running community races at home. Their plans on doing their first marathon together with our brother-in-law, Mark, came up during the visit of our runner friends at home for the first Baguio21k fun run.

Out of Budget

When the registration opened on September, I quickly signed up my sisters’ names eventhough they have not confirmed that they were really joining. I was calling and texting Mark but they were out of town and he wasn’t answering my calls. I wasn’t sure if he was still interested since the last time I heard, he was hesitant because it was pricey. I knew Irhys already decided not join because it was totally out of her budget but I also knew how much she wanted to run her marathon debut with Tine.  I signed up her name and told her later that day that I’d share the registration fee. It was exhilarating when I saw their names on the master list but at the same time I felt sad for Mark not getting into the list because his reservation got in late. Luckily, Irene gave up her slot for Mark. So there, everybody happy. (Thanks, NFF!) Tine moved to Manila on October for her officership training and the timing couldn’t be more perfect. All set. The only thing left to do was TRAIN.

Training

When I joined TBRDM 2010 I followed the training program religiously. I was such a newbie runner that time so I had to rely on what was given to us and I trusted Jaymie and Coach Jim Lafferty on what they have envisioned. I expected my sisters to do the same. However, their program was two months longer than what we had before so I guess they got a little bit too relaxed about the 6 months training program. I was feeling frustrated at times when they slacked off. Irhys was joining me every Thursday at the ANR in BHS but that was the only time she trained. She would join me on my weekend long runs but she wasn’t running as much mileage as she was supposed to. Although I was getting worried about their training, they still performed well enough on the few fun runs that they joined which made me ease up a little.

The Unexpected

November 13, 2011 Men’s Health Urbanathlon. It was a race that Irhys and I was soooo excited about.  It took me two hours to sew and alter the race shirt for Irhys which was two sizes bigger. Race day came. It was a small crowd since most of the people were at the Runrio Leg 3 in MOA. Kokoy and Allan were the few guys I knew at the race. Although Tine was not joining the run, she came with us to be our photographer. Before we parted, she said she’ll be at the Seattle’s Best Coffee shop to study. I was on a race mode that day but Irhys was not feeling competitive. Anyway, we started together. After the first obstacle, Irhys was a few meters behind me then I heard her scream. I glanced back and saw her on the grass. I rushed to her while she tried to pull herself up. She twisted her ankle at a shallow hole. I held her by the shoulder and helped her hop to the sidewalk where I frantically waved at the marshall to get a medic. Irhys bent down, pushed down her socks and yelped at her bulging ankles. It was already swollen. I could see disappointment on her face and she asked if she could still run even though we knew it was already impossible. We waited for the ambulance while runners were scampering off the nearby obstacle and into the race. When the ambulance came and took her she told me to run off and continue the race. I ran as fast as my legs could take me wanting to finish soon so I could check on her. I took the 2nd place female award at the 10k category that day. Feeling ko ako si Thelma noong araw na ‘yon na tumakbo ng 5k marathon para makabili ng wheelchair para sa kapatid niyang pilay (I felt like I was Thelma that day who ran a 5k ‘marathon’ to buy a wheelchair for her crippled sister). Hehe.

My sisters rushed from the hospital to the event grounds to cheer for me while I received my award. *sniff*

We went to MOA after the awarding to meet with our oldest sister, Dianne and her husband, Mark, who ran the 32km. There was a time when Tine and Irhys had to cross the street from the parking lot to the mall and the only way to not get run over by the speeding vehicles was for Tine to carry Irhys piggy back style. When we got to our apartment, Tine carried Irhys up 4 floors.

Tine carrying Irhys. *Sniff*

On the second week of December, Tine, Irhys, Dianne, Mark and I went to Nuvali for the TBR Bull Session. Since Irhys was still not in the condition to run, she babysat for our neice while all of us joined the LSD. After the group run, we were taking pictures and joking around at the Solenad area when Irhys started to get teary-eyed. It was frustrating for her to see her batch mates doing LSDs while she was still unable to walk properly. We tried to console her and convince her that there were still a few months left to recover and train. I made a video to motivate them and inspire them to get back to training. Chasing a Dream

Getting Back on Track

On January 7, 2012, Irhys and Tine ran for 6hours at the Clark Parade Ground. Irhys was able to recover and challenged her ankles at the Fat Ass running buffet.

Fat Ass 2012 at Clark Parade Ground. I was done after 2 hours. They ran for 6hours.

March was fast approaching. After Fat Ass, disappointingly, my sisters got busy and lazy again. I wanted them to train hard because I always believed that the best part of the marathon journey was the training itself. Before January ended, I posted this on their FB walls, hoping they’d get the message.

Ako na ang magaling mangpressure.

I think they did get the message because they became more consistent on their training. Joining the bull sessions, bull circles and listening to Sir Lit Onrubia ignited their passion.

I was hoping to pace them on this race but after my Condura 21k, I didn’t think I was in shape to do so. Instead, I applied as a Dream Chaser and luckily I got in. Dream Chasers are runners placed along the route to provide support, cheer, encourage runners and pace them for a short distance.

THE DAY

Race day came. Tine, Irhys and I joined Dianne and Mark at the parking lot.  We took some pictures then I left them at the check-in line to meet with my Dream Chaser Group.

(Left to Right) Jun, Mark, me, Tine, Irhys

Thirty minutes before the gunstart I rushed back to the start corral to wish my sisters luck. When my dream chaser team got to the post at 5km, I started to calculate how far I’d have to run to watch my sisters cross the finish line. A few minutes after we got to the post, I saw Mark with his pacer, Jun, pass us by together with a thin crowd. He was at the front pack of marathoners. I started to search for my sisters. They couldn’t be far or they could be ahead. Then familiar faces came and went, still no sign of my sisters. At around 45minutes after gunstart, I was surprised to hear them calling my name.  They were a bit slow, I thought. Our Dream Chaser Group took out the balloons and started screaming for encouragement when the runners started to pass by our tent the second time. “Way to Go!”, “Doing Great!”, “Good Job!”, “Malapit na! Konti nalang!” but it was only 16km or so I thought. When I saw my sisters, I ran with them for a few meters asking how they were. I asked how far they have covered. It was only 12km. We calculated wrong. I checked my watch and it was already 3:40am. 12 kilometers at 1:40 was a little too slow for them. “Ang bagal niyo yata”, I chided. “Ok lang yan”, Tine reassured me. I was a relieved they were taking it slow for a negative split finish but I was a little worried they’re taking it TOO SLOW. I went back to our post and cheered some more for the other runners, waving my red and white balloon.

Dream Chasers Group 3 waving our balloons and cheering

Our tent was located at 5km and 26km (by loop 2). When runners started passing us on their second loop, it was time to do our chaser duties. Someone called “CHASER!” when a girl passed by our tent and Kuya Jess quickly appointed me to run with her. Her name was Tina. She was actually quite fast but she started to buckle when we got to the 2km uphill. She wanted to finish before mr. sunshine got nasty. However, she was already planning to walk the last 10kilometers.  We jogged the uphill at a steady slow pace. On our way down the hill, I saw my sisters approaching us. Wow! They caught up fast, I thought. I said a quick hello and continued to run with Tina who picked up her pace. I started to feel uncomfortable with my bladder screaming and there were no portalets in sight. I did not want to abandon Tina so I kept pacing her until we reached the next Dream Chaser Tent where I endorsed her to another chaser. Unfortunately, there were still no portalets. The next portalet was not until after 2kilometers away. Surprisingly, my sisters caught up with me at the U-turn. They were picking up their pace. Woot! I wanted to start running with them but my bladder was really ready to pop so I ran ahead of them in search for the portalet. After the quick bathroom break, I saw my sisters stop by at the water station infront of me. I grabbed a quick drink and started to run with them.

At kilometer 34 Tine started to complain about sidestitches.  She was feeling bloated so I forced her to eat some chippy for salt. Irhys was feeling better than Tine. A few more kilometers, Tine started saying she’s hit the wall. I paced with her while Irhys ran at her own pace and walked when she felt like it. I took their pictures on every kilometer marker as per request. Camwhore alert!

The WALL

At one point, they were already out of water and the water station on sight was not along the route. It was stationed past the next bend. I took my sisters bottle and rushed to the station while they followed their route down the hill. After refilling the bottle, I ran as fast as I could to catch up with them. HINGAL! At kilometer 37, they were taking more time to walk. I checked my watch. They can still hit  a sub-5:15 if they picked up their pace. However, the last 4 kilometers were mentally exhausting for them. Each u-turn and each kilometer seemed further. Past the last dream chaser station, we saw Jixee, a fello dream chaser friend. He ran alongside Irhys while I kept pace with Tine.  Last two kilometers! The longest two kilometers of their life. “I-beat niyo lang yung TBR time ko” (Just beat my TBR time),  I told my sisters. “Ibi-beat talaga namin yan!”(We’re really gonna beat that”), Jixee remarked confidently. Irhys and Jixee would stop and wait for me and Tine until we reached the 42kilometer marker. Irhys crossed the finish line at 5hours 20mins. I ran with Tine until before the last 50meters where  I slowed down and watch her have her moment as she crossed the finish line at 5 hours 21 mins.  They were able to beat my TBR time of 5:25. I ran to meet them after the finish line and gave them hugs. I wanted to cry at this point. I was just so happy for them.

 

proud sister

I still had my chaser duties so I left them posing for pictures while I rushed back to our post. I was feeling hungry and exhausted. I was not as cautious about my food and hydration intake as the marathoners were so I was spent. I walked the 5kilometers back to our tent, cheering and encouraging the runners I was meeting along the way.

The last guy I chased was Ronald. He was walking when I volunteered to run with him or walk with him. After one kilometer of walking I encouraged him to run again, to do at least a 1min run-1min walk interval. He conceded. I allowed him to walk the last 2 kilometers but encouraged him to run the last 200meters non-stop. When we got to the last bend, he ran all the way to the finish line. When I went to give him back his water bottle he said “Salamat. Kung hindi dahil sa’yo hindi ako marathoner ngayon.” (Thank you. If it wasn’t for you, I won’t be a marathoner today). He finished at 7 hours 40minutes. I knew he could do it on his own but having me there gave him more confidence. Being a dream chaser was not an easy job but all the pain was worth the wonderful feeling of having helped people through their struggle.

Mark finished a sub-6 marathon. He had cramps at kilometer 24 and struggled with half of the race. I was worried about this when I saw him 3km ahead of my sisters. He attacked it too fast too soon I guess. Nevertheless, a marathoner is a marathoner regardless of the time and he still did well despite his condition. Thanks to his pacer Jun who patiently assisted him all throughout the race.

People who haven’t experienced the TBR Dream Marathon may never quite fully understand how much it differs from other marathon races. Yes, it is pricey but I believe everyone who joined any TBR DM would say that they got back more than their money’s worth. When I made the video for my sisters I wished them to have the same wonderful experience I had on my first marathon and after watching them cross the finish line, I was sure they did. Thanks to the bullrunner herself, Jaymie Pizzaro and all the race organizers who continue to orchestrate a wonderful race each year. They have definitely given me two of the most amazing marathon experiences.

(Left) This is what I looked like after crossing the finishline on TBRDM 2010 (Right) This is what my sisters looked like after crossing the finishline on TBRDM 2012. =p

The best thing I heard that day was something my sister, Irhys, said after crossing the finish line. She said “I LOVE RUNNING”. I wish everyone who crossed the finish line felt the same way. The cheers of our friends will forever echo “Go Piacos Sisters!”. I am one proud Piacos sister.

What’s next? I still have one sister and one brother left who haven’t ran the marathon. My brother is a good swimmer and biker but he says he hasn’t found the passion for running yet. My older sister, Dianne, well… let’s see. Maybe someday she’ll crush all our records to dust. =)

Running Gave Me a Word and then Some

Pardon me for the lousy Title.

Each runner has their own story of how they started running and how it has changed their lives. For me, running has given me a word to put in the “about yourself” section of social networking sites. (insert HA HA)

Firstly, I think running has given us an identity. For most of us, before running became a part of our lives, it was a struggle to put anything under the “about yourself” section. Now, you can easily put RUNNER under it. It’s one word that doesn’t need any explanation. I’ve always found it very difficult to put even my profession (Engineer) as a description. It’s very general and vague and nobody really grasps what exactly I do. And most often than not, I only get confused looks after trying to explain, so I prefer not to tag it as something about me. While for “runner”, it’s very universal. Di kelangan igoogle.

Aside from the fact that Running has given us something to write in the “ABOUT ME” section of every social networking site, it has also given as a sense of belonging. You may be an outcast at work or in school but when you tag yourself as a runner, you automatically belong to a huge group called the running community. In fact it is so big that no matter what your personality or interest is, you’ll find yourself a social circle. And when you discover an acquaintance is a runner, you become instant friends. You’ll often find yourself in a conversation like “Runner ka?”, “Oo, runner ka din?” “Ano last race mo? Kelan next race mo?” and voila! “Friendship” na ang tawagan niyo.

Admittedly, I had no social life prior to running. I was career oriented and very much a workaholic. Now, there are times I despise how my job interferes with my running career – a new-found social life. I think we all have had our share of work-related mishaps on our training and races—missing a race, not being able to train enough, being physically and mentally drained. I missed Standard Chartered Marathon last year because I had to work on that weekend. I’ve booked my flight a year in advance, registered on the first day of registration and trained for the half marathon but the universe wasn’t on my side that day. We had an important activity that I had to attend to. Unfortunately, in my job there was no room for substitution so I was left with no choice but to miss the race. Can I say that it changed my life because I started to hate my job? Hate it more, actually (insert evil laugh). Anyway, back to social life. Yeap, most runners are very sociable. I think I’ve met the most *kaladkarin people amongst the running community (you know who you are *wink). One of the biggest impacts of running is being a highway for making tons of friends and meeting amazing people.

Running has made us cocky. We all have our own bragging rights. It has given us power over the non-runners. Because between a runner-mediocre employee and the non-runner outstanding employee, the runner is more powerful (of course, that is from the runner’s perspective). Alas, he has something to feel good about and brag about. That even if he ran the 10k in 2 hours, he still feels better than the outstanding employee slash couch potato slash non-runner.

 Lastly, it has given us something to blog about. See how many bloggers started out as runners. Meaning, running has given us something interesting to talk about and write about. We treat every run, every training, every race as a milestone—something worthy.

 Whatever way running has changed you, I believe that it has made each and every one of us a better person. Runners are made up of a different spirit, one that is gained through the pain and joy of every experience. One thing that makes us so great is our openness to learn and become better every time. We’d often ask ourselves why we run. Just like any monumental event in our lives, the first time we laced up our shoes and took those tentative steps, we know we were changed. We run because we know that every foot placed in front of the other makes a difference.