Monday, March 23, 2009

Condura 21K - Barely Making It

You can tell that it was going to be a huge event!! The first half-marathon event of the year. Organizers of the event were giving out estimates of 6,000 runners in total and 1,200 runners in the 21K event alone!! This is a major indication of how far running has come in the last 3 years! To top it all, the runner-blogger community was abuzzed with frenzy -- Team Bald Runner was in major preparations for a good showing with Bald Runner himself targeting a blistering pace for the event. and Jinoe organized a carbo-loading party Friday night that was well attended. And Bull Runner herself elevated her own media exposure with the publication of The Bull Runner Magazine on print!! Running is definitely in and I was in the thick of history in the making.

As for lowly me -- I was quietly readying myself to run my first ever 21K!! My previous race mileage topped off at 10K. My previous attempts to run 15K distances were thwarted one way or another. As such, I decided not to attract too much attention to this attempt. Despite trying to remain low-key, I was definitely apprehensive coming into race day.

Adding concerns to this was my blood pressure -- it just shot up high on Tuesday after doing my first ever 1 hour 37 minute long run. For several days after, it didn't want to settle down and I was worried it might prevent me from even starting the race.

So, I came into Sunday with a relatively nonchalant attitude. It will be my longest distance ever! With my BP condition, I wanted to make sure it was a safe workout. I also wanted to enjoy this unique race -- going the distance, experience the Skyway leg and documenting as much as possible for the blog.

Mama Ting was shepherding her wards during the days running up to Sunday through text reminders. One of her reminders was to come early as Rudy Biscocho is notorious for starting the race on time -- in fact, 5 minutes early!!! With 6,000 expected runners, parking was going to be a challenge.

And true to her predictions, by 5am, it was a jam-packed starting area that greeted everyone. Getting into the 21K starting corral was a challenge in itself. I tried waiting for the rest but had to get into the corral by myself so as not to be left behind.

Pretty soon, the race was on. I felt good at the start. I caught up with friends Jajo Quintos and Carlo Katigbak. Both were in high spirits and congratulated me on my first 21K attempt. Pretty soon, we were off doing our individual paces. By the 2K mark, there was a water station just in front of the start of the Buendia flyover. I stopped, took out my camera and started taking pictures before taking a sip from the water bottle they gave.

It was amazing watching the sea of runners going up and through the flyover. It was exhilarating watching the mass flowing through the structure. And I was smiling -- no pain from the effort and feeling ecstatic that I was part of it. On the flyer, I joined up with Jinoe and Quennie pacing another runner who was pushing a stroller with his son onboard.

After Makati Avenue, I spotted several runners veering off to the left to use a Portalet that was positioned on the island. I decided to take advantage of this as well. So while waiting for my turn, I also took pictures. That was when Mama Ting spied me holding the camera. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to shoot her during her run.

Water stations were strategically positioned every 2K and I took time to drink and take pictures along the route -- especially when we were up in the Skyway!!

What a sight -- seeing the runners climbing up the offramp. The whole stretch was about a 6Km run. The trip forward was mostly uphill, especially at the EDSA-Magallanes section. But, you can see that many of runners were awed and delighted with this stretch. I was with a trio of runners who were taking turns posing and taking pictures of each other. Quite a number had supporters waiting to catch their runners in action.

At the halfway point, there were several photographers from the Canon Club that gamely took pictures of many of the runners. I asked one of them to actually take mine beside the halfway marker! he! he! I also saw a number of Lasallian friends who were either running or supporting a runner -- Leo Camara and Jimmy Pascual.

While everything went smoothly up to the halfway point, there was more drama for me on the return leg.

After the 12K mark, I decidedly to slow down a bit -- came to walk a few feet before resuming the run. Near the offramp, my legs started to feel some cramping. I walked a few more meters but was able to resume the running until we reached the water station near Ayala Avenue. From then on, it was a battle between walking and running as I nursed the feeling of cramps in my calves and quadricep muscles. I was still able to run up to Paseo de Roxas where there was a station giving out electrolytes. By that time, my supply of Gatorade ran out.

I tried to restart the running, knowing it was just 4Kms left to the finish. Unfortunately, everytime I tried to run, I'd feel my muscles slowly cramp up. I didn't want the cramps to progress so I decided it was time to just walk home. I struck up conversations with other runners who were in the same predicament. Two of these were from Los Baños -- Miguel & Angeline. Miguel is an experienced 21K runner but it was Angeline's first. She was also cramping. We were slowly negotiating up the Buendia/Kalayaan flyover when I had to stop to nurse the cramps that were coming in stronger. At that point, another runner came up and said hi. He introduced himself as Daniel, a Singaporean, who dreams of doing an Ironman in the near future.

I found Miguel and Angeline later on ahead with the Red Cross ambulance beside them. The cramps of Angeline apparently came on full strength then and the paramedic was trying to stretch the muscles out to ease the pain. I stayed for awhile before going ahead. In a few more minutes, it was my turn to feel the heavy pain on my quadriceps -- I had to bend my legs at the knee to relieve the pain. The ambulance came by me and I was the one now being nursed by the paramedic. After a few moments of stretching, I felt good enough to start walking again. I even tried to run a bit but it just wouldn't do.

As such, I walked all the way until I reach the last 200 meters before the Finish line. I was determined to run to the Finish line, even at a slow pace. I was praying that my muscles hold up until I crossed the line. Thank God they did and I was able to run until the end. Time on the clock was at around 3 hours plus!! They gave me a finishers pack, a finishers medal and certificate. I opened the bottle of Vitwater inside the pack and downed the much needed electrolytes before heading off to the end of the corral to do some stretches. By that time, all my friends had left to do their swimming/stretching at the Makati Sports Club. I slowly walked back to my car so that I can join them at Makati Sports Club for breakfast.

I was tired, I was in pain but I was happy I didn't stop -- and have a medal to prove that I did finish. Never mind the time -- I know I can do better next time. But, it was an experience I'll never forget. When I joined up with my friends at Makati Sports Club for breakfast, Oca Sañez, exclaimed, "You were very brave Johnny, to have done the 21K with hardly any training!!" But, everyone said that they were all proud of me for finishing!! I guess you need a bit of some insanity to do what I just did but despite the pain, it was worth doing it!! I'm actually looking forward to the next 21K!! Jay Nacino (Prometheus Commeth) even joined the ribbing with his text message to me -- start your 16 week preparation for a full marathon!!! Hmm.... maybe if I feel insane enough to do so now!!! That actually might not be too far off!!! he! he!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Run For Their Lives - A 10K Adventure

Apprehension! The feeling I had coming into Sunday's race -- Run For Their Lives, organized by Extribe and the Rotary Club of Makati West. Why? The last race I had was at UP on Feb 8, 2009. Since then, I had a number of races that I skipped, for one reason or another. My work load has also somehow increased -- especially tough with a number of foreign partners visiting -- meaning early mornings and late nights. That has taken a damper on training runs. I had about 1 1/2 weeks training coming into this race -- many of the runs done were mediocre at best, not even one going the distance of 10K. You can probably visualize what I was feeling coming into Sunday.

Stressed! That's the feeling I had Sunday morning, 40 minutes before race time! I had a number of long days on the run-up to Sunday. The meant a sleep-deprived state! hah! So, Saturday evening, I had to beg off being a dad, because my kids were still out on their Saturday gimmicks. My wife had to take the burden of fetching them early Sunday morning. I set my alarm clock for 4:30am and went to bed, quickly zonking out into lala land. At around 3:29am, I somehow woke up, looked at my phone and saw it was still early, went back to sleep, confident I would be awakened at 4:30am.

I woke up again and looked at my phone -- it was DEAD!!! I looked at my other phone and saw that it was 5am!!! Technology has failed me yet again. So, my Sunday started off with a bang -- me in panic mode, hurrying to get ready so that I can be at the Fort before race time. I did manage to prepare my clothes the night before -- so that wasn't a problem. But, I needed to bring a water pitcher with me to fill my hydration belt onsite instead -- glad the pitcher didn't break or leaked!

Even though the fates seemed to have conspired against me, they were kind enough to make sure parking wasn't an issue. There was a bit of a tensed situation along EDSA as MMDA decided to start reblocking operations near Camp Crame -- traffic came to a crawl for probably 500 meters -- that was another stressful period. But, I was glad I got there in time to witness the ceremonial walk and for me to greet my Rotary friends, including Dist. Gov. Boyet Limon and Dist. Gov. Nominee Ed Alvarez, all great buddies of mine.

Friends in Running that were with me at the Starting Line - Dante, Jorge & Ed

Numbness! That was the general feeling I had as I started the run -- 6:00am on the dot. Being so stressed out, I didn't have the time to even acknowledge any other feelings as the run started. I was with running buddies Dante Briones, Jorge Buenaventura and Ed Francisco. Mama Ting took the day off to nurse her strained calf -- she wanted to preserve them for next week's 21K.

Of course, everyone left me behind after the race started. I was determined to manage my pace -- the goal was to have a controlled run to finish the 10K -- no PR's at all -- given that it was my first race back after a month.

The race route was different -- we headed right from the NBC Tent area towards Rizal Drive and 32nd Street where the fast food restaurants were located, swinging by Willcon Depot and back towards the Serendra and Bonifacio High Street Area. The start was flat. The 2nd half would be different.

As we entered the American Cemetery area going up towards the McKinley Hills area, I still felt good. Although in the back of mind, I was wondering whether I'll survive McKinley Hills. The organizers changed the route a bit -- instead of heading towards Bayani Road, they extended the run inside McKinley Hills. Making the 2nd 5K tougher!

Each hill I encountered was an agonizing challenge. I took my time, slowing my pace, taking advantage of the mental aids that I remembered from 10/08 issue of Runner's World I was reading just that weekend. Unfortunately, on the last hill, just before the turn into Lawton Ave. for the home stretch, I gave up 20 feet from the top -- I surrendered to a walk until the top. But I quickly went back running as soon as I reached the corner.

From then on, I kept myself concentrating on completing each kilometer -- there were just 2Kms left until the finish. Counting off each 10 strides helped. Concentrating also on the music coming from my Ipod Shuffle also helped.

Dante and me taking a photo of posterity at the Finish Line. Ironically, we asked a GMA7 Cameraman to take this photo!

Relief and Elation! That's the feeling rounding the last corner and seeing Dante giving me a huge wave and giving me a high five as I passed him on the way to the finish line. Upon stepping over the Finish line, I hit the stop button of my watch. It read 1 hour 8 minutes!! Woah!! A new PR!! I couldn't believe it! Despite all the odds against it, I had a great run -- at least as far as I was concerned.

We had breakfast immediately after with Dante and his family. I didn't find Ed after the race, so I wasn't sure where he went. Jorge decided to extend his run by another 25 minutes in preparation for next week's 21K. I saw a number of fellow runners extending their runs. Me -- I thought I would but I succumbed to my desire to rest and eat -- so, it was breakfast at Portico's. Ting eventually joined us after completing her bike run.

Of course, I took the afternoon off to recover -- somehow, though, I felt that my body was recovering faster compared to previous runs. I didn't need as much ice or felt as much soreness. Maybe I am getting stronger, bit by bit. Somehow, this is how one feels after all the hard work, tension and stressed. What a feeling!!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Runners 4 Others Operation Smile -- Condura Run

For many of us, running is a personal mission -- whether for fitness or for the joy of achieving new goals and levels or just for the sheer joy of running. Some of us use running to espouse personal advocacies -- like what Bald Runner does, seeking contributions of old sneakers and singlets for less fortunate but equally dedicated runners. This time, I would like to invite everyone to help me and a friend of mine with another mission -- to help children who were born with and are suffering from a cleft deformity.

I myself am looking forward to participating in the Condura Run on March 22. I'm sure many of you have also registered and are eagerly awaiting the opportunity to run a 21K over the Skyway. It will be my first -- and I'm dreading the experience already. (he! he!)

My friend, Jajo Quintos, have teamed up with a small group of running enthusiasts called Runners for Others. They are actively supporting the Condura Run in partnership with Operation Smile Philippines.

I'm stunned to learn that every year, one out of 500 Filipino children are born with a cleft deformity. These children go around with a heavy emotional burden brought about by this physical handicap. Fortunately, they can be helped. During my years with the Rotary movement, I've witnessed the healing power of operations to fix cleft deformities -- it's a fantastic feeling to see these kids, who used to cower in fright from shame and redicule, to finally smile, knowing they have a brighter future ahead because of the operation. The results are truly life altering to the affected kids.

Through Operation Smile, kids with cleft deformity are operated on by a team of volunteer Plastic Surgeons. Cost of related medicine and supplies are covered by Operation Smile donations. It takes P12,000 to operate on one child. The Plastic Surgeons waive their fees.

You have a chance to help these children -- When you register, or even if you have already registered, donate P100 at any of the Condura Run registration centers for Runners for Others (R4O) Operation Smile. In return, you will be given a specially designed race bib that you can pin at the back of your singlet on race day. This will be a separate one from your official race bib.

P100 is not a lot to many of us -- but it will contribute a lot to getting a child to smile again. What a great feeling -- running your personal challenge, conquering it and help a child learn to smile again -- R4O Operation Smile -- Let's all support this worthy endeavor now!! Not only will it show you run, it will show you run for others!