Race Report: Tri United 2 – From Holy Shiv to Holy Cramps!

Friday, 6 July 2012  |  Favorite Posts, Race Reports

Event: Tri united 2
Date: 1 July 2012
Venue: Laiya, Batangas
Organizer: Bike King

Tri United 2 was to be my first long distance triathlon: swim 2k, bike 60k, and run 15k. To say, I was nervous would be an understatement. The only thing that could console me was that I knew I had run marathons for about the same amount of time I expected to finish this triathlon. Still, my mind knew triathlons were a different animal, and, it was during this race, that my body learned that too.

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– Teammates Bic, Jake, and I after we set up our bikes at transition –

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– with Harvie, Alex, Roland, Coach Norman, Jake, and Bic. Before a triathlon, it helps to hang out with friends who are calmer than you! –

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– with Bic, Drew, and August a few minutes before race start –

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– Saling pusa! Photo courtesy of John Ramon –

RACE START – SWIM 2KM

The start of a triathlon is nerve wracking. You’re all lined up at the shore facing the unknown. You don’t know what lurks in the deep blue sea (jellyfish away!), and, worse, what lies ahead of you for the next few hours of the race.

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– Nervous smile.  Photo courtesy of Rose Marie Photography –

The swim course for Tri United 2 consisted of three loops. I was confident about my swim, but also anxious.  As a runner, I can anticipate and probably manage matters on the road, but, in water, I felt like I was treading in unknown territory. No pun intended.

My teammates Jake, Bic, and I wiggled our way through the crowd of triathletes lined up at the starting line. We poised ourselves on the far end of the left side. Our strategy, according to Jake, would be to swim on the far left end avoiding the traffic then cut to the right when it was time to turn the loop. Sounded like a good plan.

The gun went off and, barely a couple of minutes into the swim, Bic and Jake were gone. I was on solo flight…or solo fight. Probably both.

I struggled to find my rhythm amidst the chaos of flailing arms and kicking feet. Suddenly, a thought came to mind: What do I cling on to if I tire out? I was so far from the buoy! Almost instantly, I panicked.  I could hardly breathe. Like a drowning dog, I paddled my way towards the buoy. There, I found my comfort zone and proceeded to swim beside it.

By the 2nd loop, I found a sense of calm in the steady pace of my strokes. With every breath, I caught a glimpse of the sun. In my head, I said a short prayer asking God to keep me safe and thanking him for the awesome opportunity to participate in this race.

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– Out of the water for the next loop. I was having fun! –

The third loop was swift and strong. I found my rhythm along with a burst of confidence that I was capable of finishing this race. I swam to the finish pulling hard but leaving enough for the bike and run.

Time for 2k swim: 49mins.

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– Ani de Leon heading to transition –

BIKE – 60KM

It was the first time my boyfriend, the Shiv, and I were going to race together. I must admit, I was excited to see the progress I made in biking. From being unable to shift gears and ride in aero position, I could now do so with ease, plus drink, and take a gel, and even refill my bottles while riding!  (Next goal is to peel a banana and eat it!)

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– That’s my boyfriend, the Shiv, and I! Off we go on our first triathlon together! –

Prior to the race, Coach Andy Leuterio had analyzed the results of a Power Meter test he conducted on me a couple of weeks ago. Based on the results, he said that my heart rate went too high when I pushed hard on the bike (which was expected because I’m new to cycling) so he advised that I keep it steady on the bike to ensure that I could run strong. I obediently followed.

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– Steady she goes. Photo courtesy of Jazz Perez, Sports Unlimited –

The ride was steady, conservative, smooth, and, I must say, super fun.  Every now and then, faster cyclists would overtake me yelling “Right! Right!” which would rattle me, but for the most part, I think I was cycling with a smile all the way to the finish.

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– Teammate Bic makes the turnaround. I wish I could turn as easily as she did! –

Time for 60km bike: 2:11

RUN – 15KM

I didn’t know how my body would react to running 15km after the swim and bike.  It’s one thing to race 15km and another to run 15km in the sweltering heat in a triathlon. I expected heavy wooden legs as soon as I left my bike at transition. Surprisingly, my legs felt great. (In hindsight, it’s probably because I was conservative on the bike.)

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– Off to run wearing my bike gloves! Whoops! Photo courtesy of Noel Miano-

I ran the first loop steady and strong. By the second loop, the heat started getting to me. At every station, I dropped a pail or bottle of water over my body to cool down. It was almost like taking a shower at every station. (It was only at that point that I finally realized why triathletes choose to wear these body-hugging unforgiving trisuits! It’s so much more convenient for showering when the sun is beating down on you! Why didn’t we runners think of that?!)

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– Steady run. Photo courtesy of Noel Miano –

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– Keeping cool! –

It was also at this point that the mistakes I made during training and racing caught up with me. By the third loop, both legs started cramping up from my calves climbing up to my quads. I had never cramped up in my entire running life! I started shuffling my way through the last 5km. At the same time, I began talking to my legs (by the way, this always works!): Run. Run. Run. We can do this. I also prayed that they wouldn’t suddenly freeze on me and make me fall flat on my face a few hundred meters from the finish line!

Thankfully, the slow shuffle and the psych talk worked! I crossed the finish line even if I didn’t feel my legs AT ALL! It was one of the most fulfilling race finishes I had ever experienced. Right up there with all my marathon finishes. Hehe.

Time for Run 15k: 1:43 mins

CEBU, HERE I COME!

The most important gift of Tri United 2 to me, aside from the scintillating star-shaped medal, is the assurance that I’m on the right track towards Ironman 70.3 Cebu. For this last month leading up to Cebu, I know what I should work on (and there are a lot!), what I should continue, and, last but not the least, what power the mind has over the body!

After crossing that finish line, I heaved a sigh of relief.  My trepidation over Cebu considerably lessened and a feeling of excitement swept over me.  For the first time since I impulsively signed up for my seemingly impossible Ironman 70.3 goal, it suddenly occurred to me: Holy crap, I can actually do this!

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– with Teammate Jake and Coach Andy Leuterio at the post-race awarding. Tons of food, lots of laughter, and I got to fill up a whole glass with free chilled Enervon HP for my recovery drink. Hay, I can’t have enough of it! –

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– with training buddy, Jun, and Coach Norman, my coach for bike skills. Thanks Coach! –

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– with friend Vanj Endaya –

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– with new tri friends, Jay and Mark. Photo courtesy of Mark Salvador –

Congratulations to Unilab Active Health and Bike King for a fantastic race! For official results, visit Unilab Active Health website

Race Report: California International Marathon 2011

Friday, 9 December 2011  |  Favorite Posts, Race Reports

The Califonia International Marathon is a point to point, net downhill race. It starts at Folsom Dam, a 20-minute ride from Sacramento and ends at the finish line at California State Capitol in Sacramento. The course offers gentle rolling hills which allows for fast times and, subsequently, a high number of Boston qualifiers. No wonder Runner’s World named it as one of the top 10 marathons to run your personal best.

My hotel, which was booked with runners of all shapes and sizes, hired a bus that would conveniently take us to Folsom at 5:15 am. Race start was 7:00 am.

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– All wrapped up on the bus –

When I stepped out of the bus, I thought I died and went to the North Pole; it was freaking cold. There was no wind (thank-you-Lord!), but with temperature at the low 30s, my Sheddable Shell (tear away wind breaker purchased at NYCM for $10) with a throwaway long sleeve top plus fleece jacket couldn’t keep me warm! I was uncomfortable and I wanted to hide out in the bus until the gun was fired. But, I had to make a quick run for the portalet, check in my bag, and warm up.

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– Runners kept warm with throwaways and trash bags –

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– A wall of portalets. CIM has 1 portalet for every 26 runners. Pretty cool but there were still lines before the race start –

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– Streets were filled with runners scrambling for last minute race preps –

I waited in the cold for less than 15 minutes, then headed off to the assembly area for race start.

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– Just a few minutes before race start. Starting line is right behind me  –

THE START

CIM is a relatively small race with 8,000 runners registered. (Post-race results show that only 5,300 showed up and finished). The start isn’t crowded at all and makes for a pleasant experience. Most runners look experienced—slender, fit, and well-geared for the marathon.

Pace teams stood out with their black flags and pace times. The leaders for each pace team were friendly and experienced and would later give practical tips along the run. For newbies targeting a specific time, this type of system would help give them maintain pace. But, in this race, most runners who joined probably hoped to get that extra nudge to achieve their Boston qualifying time. This was one serious crowd of fast runners.

There was no major fanfare except for the Star Spangled Banner being sung. A few seconds after, we were off.

STEADY DOES IT

We ran through the small and peaceful residential neighborhood of Folsom. The sun was out, the run was slowly increasing our body temperature, and the sounds of our footsteps hitting the pavement was almost tranquilizing. We ran an easy downhill then up a minor ascent which warmed us up even more. There were locals—some in their pajamas—who stepped out of their homes early that morning to give us high fives and cheer us on.

The run was steady, but my legs still felt like lead due to the cool weather. My jacket and gloves were still on (I kept the gloves on until the race ended. Yes, that’s how cold it was!) yet I wasn’t breaking a sweat, literally. At one time, I bumped into good friend Lit and we agreed that our legs still weren’t fully warmed up, my nose was runny, and my lips were chapping. Offering him my chapsticks, I yelled: “Do you want my shlapsphtick?” Man, even my mouth was frozen!

I felt fully warmed up at around Km 8 to 10. And, when that happened, I suddenly felt like a well-oiled machine ready to keep on running. I put one foot in front of the other and never looked back. At Km 13, I turned my ipod on and gained extra strength (and inspiration) from my playlist. (Special thanks go out to Adele and Maroon 5.)

When they said CIM is a net downhill course, I feared it was downhill all the way which was no good for a marathon; it would tire our legs to be running the same way the entire time. Fortunately, this course offered gentle rolling hills. There were slight ascents, none harder than our very own Buendia Flyover killer, and the descents were gentle and easy on the knees. The roads were traffic-free, secure, and wide for most of the way. Race organizers did a good job in setting up this race. Truly the best course I have ever run for a marathon.

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– All smiles! Gloves were off only after the potty break! haha –

LESSONS LEARNED

How many times have you heard runners say: “Running is a metaphor for life”? Well, marathons are much like life too. As you go along, you learn from your mistakes and successes, pick up a thing or two from those who know better, practice, practice, practice, and, when judgement day comes, you hope to be the better, stronger person you are shaped by your past.

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– Fun and fast course! –

In this marathon, I practiced two key things that helped me finish the race:

1. RUN CONSERVATIVE IN THE FIRST HALF. I’ve heard and read this a hundred times before, but being the bullheaded person that I am, I always failed to practice it. After the big mistake at NYCM last month where lack of training due to my neuroma and an aggressive first half left me drained by Km 21, Lit reminded me to apply this principle again. A day before the race, I promised him I’d try thinking that I had nothing left to lose. I ran a conservative 6:20/km during the first Km 21 and found myself reaching Km 32 feeling great.

2. USE YOUR CORE. The day before I left for San Francisco, I ran with Ironman 70.3 2011 Champ and current TBR Magazine cover, Arland Macasieb. He gave me several tips on the Newton technique of running (I’ll post it here within the week) but what stood out was his advise to use my core, not the arms, to push forward. I practiced this during the race and felt like I could go on and on.

LAST FEW KILOMETERS

Much of CIM is run at Fair Oaks Boulevard at Folsom. I knew we entered Sacramento when the street names became letters and numbers. I spotted the street name: 53rd Street and wanted to delete it from memory.

You see, during the talk at the expo, we were forewarned that we should avoid looking at the street names during the last few kilometers. The race would end at 8th Street and counting down street numbers would only scare us about the distance. Well, it sure rattled me. 53rd street to 8th street. Woah boy, we had a long way to go.

Fortunately, this portion was all flat. And, again, the autumn trees did nothing but inspire me to plod on forward. I focused on taking one strong step at a time. Before I knew it, I was at 20th street, then 15th, and closing in on 8th.

RUNNING ALL THE WAY

Among all 7 marathons I’ve run, this was the first and only marathon that I felt strong until the end. For the first time, I had absolutely no long walking breaks; I actually ran all the way until the end!

I finished at 4:41, my second best marathon time after my Condura 2010 PR of 4:24. This was a whopping 40 minute improvement from my NYC Marathon finish exactly a month ago. With so little training due to my neuroma, I wonder about the possibilities of improved performance now that I’m fully recovered.

I crossed that finish alone overwhelmed with joy and beaming with pride. I wore that medal around my neck and met Pinoy friends for a wonderful picnic of free bagels, cookies, and bananas by the Capitol. A perfect way to end a perfect race.

Remember I said I wouldn’t run a marathon twice except for NYC Marathon which I finished in 2010 and 2011?  Okay, I take it back.  I would love to run CIM again…and again…and again.

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– Majestic California State Capitol to greet us at the finish –

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– with Nica (4:08 PR), JaneJane (4:09 PR), and Lit (4:38 PR) –

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– Pinoy finishers of CIM –

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– Fast runners of Team Cebu (Nica, Andrew, and JaneJane) with their relatives –

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– Runners relaxing after the run on Capital Park grounds –

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– Post marathon chatter is the best –

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– Free banana, bagels, cookies, water, and beer for marathoners –

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– with Nica at our little picnic as I sipped on my Gatorade recovery drink –

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– Walking back to my hotel. Couldn’t stop smiling! –

The ING New York City Marathon 2011

Friday, 25 November 2011  |  Bullish Insights, Favorite Posts

This begins my story about the ING New York City Marathon which took place last November 6, 2011. Over 47,000 runners from all over the world ran 42.195 km through the five boroughs of New York City: Staten Island, Brooklyn, Queens, Bronx, and Manhattan. Over 2 million spectators came out to cheer for the runners. A whopping $34 million was raised for charity. And its male winner, Geoffrey Mutai ran the fastest ever on a record-certified course in the United States with a time of 2:05:05.

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– NYCM 2010. Photo courtesy of Brightroom –

Thanks to Gatorade, I had the opportunity to run the ING New York City Marathon for a second time. The awesome people at Gatorade, who I can now call friends, offered full support from hydration allocation and scientific tests to actually running long runs together. They often said: We’re giving you the chance to redeem yourself at New York, but now with our full support.

I always say that every runner should run the ING New York City Marathon at least once in their lifetime. Imagine, I was given the chance to run it twice! This was a gift that I felt blessed to receive and I planned on giving it my best, whatever “best” meant given the situation I found myself in months before the race.

A TALE OF TWO RUNS

My story about the ING New York City Marathon is a tale about two runs within the marathon that were as different as night and day. The first run was the first 21k of the marathon, while the second was the last half. Everything changed for me after a potty break at the halfway point.

THE START

For those unfamiliar with the Big Apple, reaching the race start at Staten Island before the race actually starts feels like a huge win already. It can be quite confusing for international runners so careful planning must be done days ahead of the race. Fortunately for me, I rode a cab with NY-based runner and member of Adobo Run Club, Jet, to Whitehall Terminal, boarded the ferry to Staten Island together, and made it to our own corrals at around 8:30am with lots of time to spare before our race start at 10:10am.

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I waited alone for over an hour. I was excited but anxious at the same time. After five marathons under my belt, I had never been so ill-prepared for a race as this one. Don’t get me wrong; I always take marathons seriously as everyone should, but, due to my neuroma, which I only fully recovered from 3 weeks before race day, I only had 21k as my longest run. 21k?! No amount of prayer would take me to a smooth and easy marathon. I predicted one of two things: 1) Bonk at 21k, or 2) Bonk at 25k. Either way, I knew from experience that this was going to be a painful and agonizing 42km. At the same time, I tried my best to calm myself with the idea that this was NYC and “In New York, there’s nothing you can’t do, these streets will make you feel brand new.” I sure hoped my legs would feel brand new even at 32km!

We were then finally called to walk to the starting line at Verrazano-Narrows bridge. A booming, energized voice welcomed us all for the race. Runners chatted nervously or walked quietly unto the front of the line. The weather was perfect, just a little colder than Baguio, so my two layers of clothing plus the throwaway jacket was just right. I walked slowly towards the race start smiling from ear-to-ear barely able to contain my excitement.

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– At the race start –

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– Woohoo! Few more minutes to race start –

Suddenly, there was silence. The US National Anthem, the Star Spangled Banner was sung. Then, one of New York’s anthem’s, Frank Sinatra’s Start Spreading the News broke through the air. There was cheering, yelling, screaming, then we raced forward towards the bridge and unto the start of our 42km through the five boroughs of New York.

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– Running on the cold and windy Verazzano-Narrows Bridge –

THE FIRST HALF: FAST & FURIOUS

Once we got out of the cold and windy run through the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge and unto the sunny roads of Brooklyn, it felt like we were racing for our lives. The course was flat and fast and it was hard to hold back.

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– Out of the bridge and unto Brooklyn –

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– Ran behind a guy named “JOHNNY P.” same name as my Dad. My dad passed away just a few days before the race in 2008. Thought of Dad and ran in his memory –

We were running at a pace below 6 min/km. I knew I should’ve gone at a more conservative pace, but at the same time I thought: “Hey, if I’m going to bonk at 21k anyway, I might as well go full speed ahead. Besides, it was difficult to slow down with a crowd this fast anyway.” (I know, I know. I shouldn’t have done this. But, they don’t call me TBR for nothing!) So off I went.

5k – 29:48, 5:57/km
10k – 59:13, 5:55/km

I would slow down only for hydration breaks which, as advised by Gatorade was 125ml every 15 minutes. The hydration stations for the race were every 1 mile or 1.6km. I took gulps of Gatorade Endurance at most of the stations. Took a Hammer Gel at 10k. And off I went again feeling strong.

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– Hydration stations: water and Gatorade Endurance every mile –

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– Runners were running at a fast clip –

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– Blurry pic but guess what the sign said: DREAM BIG. RUN STRONG. Our tagline for our TBR Dream Marathon. How cool is that? –

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– Just one of the many bands that provided local entertainment –

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– I agree 100%! –

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– Check out those trees! Not the guy, he isn’t my type! Hah! –

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– Hey hey! Nice bumping into siblings Joey and Nona Torres of Polo Tri –

Wow. The sights and sounds of the ING New York City Marathon really compared to nothing else. The number of runners on the road that day were astounding already. But, to see the spectators lining the main roads and side streets, standing by the curb handing out food or yelling our names, was simply overwhelming. There were just so many people around us at any point during the race that there was no time for loneliness or boredom. Each borough pulled out all the stops to bring motivation, good cheer, and entertainment to us runners. It really was a celebration of running and the human spirit.

15k – 1:29, 5:56/km
20k – 2:03, 6:09/km

I took a peek at my watch when I hit 20k and had mixed feelings. It was a good split, but I knew I couldn’t keep it up with so little training in my legs. I took a potty break, saw the slight climb on the bridge ahead, and took a long, deep sigh. I suddenly felt depleted.

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– 20k. Sigh. Tired. 22k to go. Gulp. –

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– Nooo, not another climb –

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– Here we go! –

THE SECOND HALF: WALK IN THE PARK (LITERALLY)

21K – 2:13, 6:20/km

Why were there so many uphills? I remember myself thinking. I didn’t notice all the climbs from my run last year. They say that ING NYCM is one of the most fun courses you’ll ever run because of the crowd support, but make no mistake about it: it is still one tough route with five bridges to climb and several ascents throughout the course, even in the last mile.

One of the most unforgettable portions of the race was Queensboro Bridge. It’s one of the few portions where there are no spectators to cheer runners on, and most runners struggle to run the steep half-mile climb in silence.

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– Queensboro Bridge –

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– Well he was looking strong –

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– I had to stop for a photo op on Queensboro Bridge. Who could resist this fantastic view? Thanks to the nameless Spanish runner who spoke no english but agreed to take my pic –

By this time, I had accepted the fact that this could be my slowest marathon ever. I was alternating between running and walking and enjoying the walks a lot more than the runs!  I could choose to feel disappointed over this or enjoy the experience. I chose the latter. No use crying over missed training that I could do little about because of my Neuromas. Uhm, I may have also gone too fast during the 1st half and suffered for it now. (You marathoners, take note of this. Don’t be as bullheaded as I am and don’t do as I did in the first half!) I slowed down and started to notice more of the view around me and was overcome by joy: I was running NYCM a second time! How lucky was I?!

After surviving Queensboro Bridge, the next part was the highlight of the race for me just like last year. We entered First Avenue where the roar from the crowd was electrifying and energizing. The crowds here were five-rows deep from beginning to end. Cheerers provided tissue, chocolates, bananas, petroleum jelly and moral support just at the point where runners are struggling and wanting to give up.

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– Out of Queensboro bridge and unto First Avenue –

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– Thick, boisterous crowd awaits. Here’s a marriage proposal –

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– It’s like a huge party on First Avenue –

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– Crowds cheer but it’s also a tough portion for most runners –

By the time, I was walking most of the time and I was taking in the sights: I would read the banners from the spectators, watch runners struggle alone or find strength in another, and take photos of this incredible experience.

25k – 2:45, 6:36/km
30k – 3:25, 6:50/km

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– 30k! 12 more to go! –

I took me almost the same amount of time to run the first half of the race and the last 12k. As I run-walked through Central Park out again to Columbus Circle and back again into the park towards the finish, I was filled with emotion over the last few miles of struggle and the wonderful support from strangers around. It’s almost feeling a battle within: wanting so badly to finish the race and sit down to rest, but also wishing that this awesome experience would never end.

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– Central Park on our right. So near yet so far! –

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– Uphill again! –

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– No matter how tired, this guy made me laugh! –

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– Mile 24 in Central Park! Wooohoo! –

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– Ooops. Gotta get out of Central Park into Columbus Circle first. Gasp!

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– Thank God for crowd support. We really needed it here! –

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– Heading back into Central Park towards the finish line. Yes! –

THE BEST AND WORST TIME OF MY LIFE

I finished the ING New York City Marathon with a time of 5:21:09. This is my slowest marathon time for all six marathons I’ve run. In fact, I had never run a marathon over 5 hours before.

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– I did it! –

I’d be lying if I didn’t say I was disappointed with the time. Of course, I could always blame the Neuroma for messing with my training, but still a bad performance is just hard to take no matter how you look at it. I was severely depressed about if for, uhm, around 2 minutes. Then, I plodded forward along with other runners in that long, cold walk out after the finish line (some runners call it “The Walk of Shame”) while sipping my Gatorade post-recovery drink and munching on pretzels. I claimed my check-in baggage, sat by the sidewalk on Central Park shivering in the cold alone barely able to move my legs and my teeth chattering. I glanced at the medal around my neck and thought: Woah, I just finished a marathon! Fast or slow, walk or run, I finished! And, boy was I proud of it!

Thank you once again to Gatorade for the opportunity of a lifetime!  

Date a Girl Who Runs

Tuesday, 29 March 2011  |  Bullish Insights, Favorite Posts

Date a girl who runs. Date a girl who chooses to move than to let the world pass her by. She will cover the roads with you while talking about the mundane to the profound without gasping for air. She will notice and appreciate the little things: the extra cushioning of her shoes, the softness of the pavement vs concrete, or how much cooler it is to run 30 minutes earlier in summer.

Take her to a race and be there with her 30 minutes before gun start. You will watch her fret over her gels, and her hydration, and the portalets. You will laugh because she gives so much importance to running as if it was her entire life. But, you will learn later on that it only shows how passionate she can be about what is important for her.

Hold her jittery hands before you enter the assembly area. She will hope to break her PR at the half marathon, but do not wish her luck; she won’t need it after all the speed work and tempo runs. Instead, show her a reassuring smile that she’ll be fine and that you’ll be proud of her whether she finishes first or 50th. Let her know that you’ll be waiting at the finish line—or at least you’ll show up there in case she finishes several minutes before you do.

If you find a girl who runs, never let her go; register for a marathon and train together. Be her best friend on the road. When she talks, listen to the joys of her first 5k, the pains of her recurring Plantar Fasciitis, and the 1,001 reasons why she loves to run while pretending that you can keep up with her “easy” pace. In between stories, allow her to take a sip from your water bottle or remind her when it’s time to take a gel. Watch her glow when she talks about running; she is in her element. She is running by your side.

She is happiest on Sundays, the day when she can run long with you. She loves to sweat, and the sore legs, and, of course, the hefty breakfast along with the good conversations that follow each run. Always have a cold, wet towel in the cooler waiting for her. Surprise her with her favorite post-recovery drink, low fat chocolate milk, and if she runs an extra 5km, spike it with her favorite coffee from Starbucks. In her simple joys, you will find an abundance of happiness.

Propose after your first marathon abroad. Or drop the ring in her hydration bottle. Or run the trails together and end with a proposal at sunset.

When you marry a girl who runs, the only time you will see her slow down is when she walks down the aisle towards you. She’ll be a picture of beauty and strength in a gown with her running shoes upon her feet and all you will be able to think of is the thousands of kilometers you will run together. You will find the best running partner in her. You will talk about the household, career, and finances during your long runs. You will fight during your hill training and make up during easy runs.

She will never force your children to run, but they will learn to love it when they see her passion for running. She will make living a healthy, active life easy, natural, and best of all, fun. Expect a lot of laughter, sweat, and sports beans. Running will not be a sport, but it will be a way of life for you and your children.  You will never run alone.

Love a girl who runs and she will love you back the same way she loves running. You will ask her why she loves running and she’ll answer: Because I can. You will ask her why she loves you and she’ll reply: Because I do.

NOTE: I wrote this after I chanced upon Jayvee Fernandez’ blogpost Date a Girl Who Blogs. Jayvee was inspired by Date a Girl Who Reads.

Part 2: Running NYC Marathon

Monday, 22 November 2010  |  Bullish Insights, Favorite Posts, Race Reports

Wave 3 | Blue Corral | 10:40 a.m.

They said it was the coldest New York Marathon in 20 years.  I couldn’t agree more as I stood at the foot of the Verazanno-Narrows bridge dressed in a lowly black garbage bag shivering like a wet kitten.  My lips were dry, my skin had goosebumps all over, and my legs were as heavy as ice blocks.  But, with my husband and a thousand other giddy runners—27% of whom were running their first marathon—I felt like this bridge was the center of the world.  At this moment, time stood still and nothing mattered more than making this dream of mine come true.  As we made our way to the starting line, I told the hubby “Now it’s finally hitting me.  We’re really doing this!”


– The first and only video I took during the race. I still get goosebumps every time I watch it –

RACE OR RELAX?

Months ago, I asked Leica Carpo, who ran NYC Marathon last year and qualified for Boston in the same race, how she managed to run fast in a race that’s best known for being, well, fun.  Her reply surprised me.  She said she did both.

Could I possibly do the same? Run at race pace while enjoying the sights, sounds, and spectators of the biggest marathon in the world?

NEW YORK, NEW YORK

Running on the Verazzano bridge with Frank Sinatra singing “New York New York” in the background and the forceful wind propelling us on was an experience I cannot even put into words.  I wasn’t sure what touched me the most: the breathtaking view of the city on both sides, the presence of such a large pool of runners around me, or the idea that I had finally gotten what I had wished so long for.  It was probably all of the above.

By the time we rolled down the bridge, the cold had completely dissipated from my body. I felt warm enough to remove my long-sleeved top and gloves (but I didn’t) and, more importantly, to pick up my pace.

For the first 20k—except for a toilet break at Km 9 which felt like forever due to a line—I successfully ran at my goal pace of 5:45.  I looked at my lap time bracelet and I was behind by around 2 to 3 minutes, which I instantly blamed on the toilet break.  Nice. Still, I was doing well and I was enjoying every minute.  Much like Leica, I managed to enjoy the non-stop, full-blast cheering from the crowd even as I focused on my performance.

NYC4
– Pure joy –

NYC2
– And I thought things couldn’t get better. Check out my “pacers” –

THE SPIRIT OF THE NEW YORK MARATHON

How could one not be moved by the cheering from the crowd?  This was, after all, the spirt of the New York Marathon.

2.6 million New Yorkers had stepped out of their homes that day and filled every empty space there was on the street to provide drinks, food, petroleum jelly, tissue, and last but not the least, cheer, for all of us runners.  And, when I say, “cheer” I mean non-stop yelling, screaming, entertainment, and one-liner morale-boosting phrases from spectators. Strangers would yell: “You’re doing great!,” “Way to go!,” or “Looking good!”  For runners who wrote their names on their shirts, positive support would even be personalized.

As we ran through each burrough of New York, crowd support would be unique expressing the culture and personality of its residents.  As I ran past a church, a choir had come out to sing. Rabbis were giving high fives.  Mexican kids handing out drinks.  Black guys pulled out their speakers and played Neo’s The Dream. There was a Filipino family that waved the Philippine flag proudly (which I later on learned was the brother of Jun of The Solemates, hah!)  Everywhere we went, there was entertainment of every kind.

Even fellow runners added to the colors of the race, I spotted Superman on the ferry and The Blues Brothers in our corral. Runners came in their group uniforms, wore notes on their backs proudly showing for whom they were dedicating their run for, or wore funny wigs and outfits. I ran alongside marathon mommies, sturdy senior runners, and foreign runners who, just like me, believed that flying a thousand miles and spending all this money to run 26.2 miles on a foreign road was worth every penny.

THE WIND CHANGES

When I hit 21k, I suddenly felt drained of all energy.  This was a big surprise (and a frightening one at that) because, based on past marathon experiences, I usually tire out at around Km 30.  This was way too early.  I was just half way through the race!  Even worse, goal pace for 2nd half was a faster 5:35/km (as ordered via email by my coach friend Alvin) and, at Km 21, my pace had suddenly slowed to 6:59.  Not good.

I pretty much had an idea I wouldn’t hit my ambitious sub-4 target.  So, I downgraded to realistic 4:30.  Yeah, I could definitely do a 4:30.

I ran at a slower, steady pace and decided to enjoy the crowd support more.  I even made a conscious effort to smile more and draw energy from the people around me.  Perhaps this would provide me with my much needed second wind?  Not.

Things got a bit worse.  Suddenly, my inner thighs went numb.  My hips felt frozen stiff.  It wasn’t cramps and it wasn’t painful.  But, it required extra effort from me for each and every step.  Aaack!  So much for the idea of running faster in the cold.  This was definitely a myth when it came to my legs.

QUEENSBORO BRIDGE

I had worried about Queensboro bridge the day I listened to Bobby Flay announce at the expo that this was his greatest fear.  He said it was a dark and lonely ascent, no spectators around and little runners around, and it broke him.

When I got to the bridge, it was not as daunting as I had envisioned it to be.  The tunnels and bridges of HK Marathon were far more terrifying.  The Queensboro bridge was a long uphill, but not very different from the challenging hill near IS in Bonifacio Global City.  I thought I would have to walk this, but I focused and forced myself to climb slowly but surely.

All of us runners climbed this in silence and with full concentration, but we all cheered when, as we successfully started the descent, a fellow runner yelled “It’s all downhill from here guys!  We did it!”

By the way, this was the bridge where my idol (and I’m sure yours too) Haile Gebresselasie dropped out of the race.  Sob sob.

FIRST AVENUE FUN

Despite my worries, I was enjoying every minute.  It would’ve been a grave sin to complain, get angry, or even show frustration amidst a crowd of such positive and supportive spectators!  I continued to run slow and steady.  And, I was doing fine, thank you.

NYC3

Soon, we made our way to First Avenue.  What greeted us was a scene straight out of a Pacquiao knock out celebration.  There was a thick crowd of spectators from start to finish.  They held banners, flags, food, drinks, and everything else they thought we would need (I got a bar, bananas, and tissue). They made each one of us—all 45,000 of us runners!—feel like we were winners.

Ironically, it was at First Avenue when I bumped into my worst enemy: ITBS.  My ITB problem, which had remained dormant for about a year now, started rearing its ugly head.  There was no sharp, sudden pain, but with every step, I could feel him threatening to lock up my knee again, just like the way it did at Km 19 in Singapore Half Marathon 2008.

Pain
– Pure pain –

SLOW TO THE FINISH

The last 7 km felt like the slowest race I had ever run, if I ran at all!  Every single time I attempted to run, I would feel slight pain on my outer left knee due to the ITB pulling on it.  I walked briskly instead and watched time tic away.  Everyone was running past me.  Gone was my 4:30 finish.  I would be lucky to finish sub-5 at this rate, I thought.

As we entered Central Park, I was enamored with its beauty, but all I could think of was the finish line.  Everything was a blur when I crossed the finish line at 4 hours 57 minutes.  Behind me, a female runner was crying with joy.  Ahead of me, runners were hugging.

4:57. This was the slowest, hardest, longest, and coldest marathon of my life.  Such a slow time for a marathon I had worked so hard for.  I changed my diet, ramped up mileage, and spent a considerable amount of money to run this.  And all I got was this time.

All I got was THIS time.

ALL I got was THE time of my life.

NYCfinish
– Still smiling –

CONQUERING THE DREAM

I got my medal.  Smiled for my post-race photo.  Picked up my kit.  Trudged along with the rest of the runners in the horrifyingly slow post-marathon walk off to the exit.  Thankfully, I bumped into a fellow Pinoy runner, Mike, who was welcome company at such a momentous occasion.

I was exhausted.  I was cold.  And, I failed in my attempt.  But, I didn’t feel an ounce of disappointment.  I felt blessed to have experienced such a celebration of running and the human spirit.  I felt proud for conquering my dream.  I truly felt like a winner!

NYCfinish2

PREVIOUS POST: Part 1: Getting to the Starting Line
NEXT POST: Part 3: Post-New York Marathon

* Note: All photo courtesy of Brightroom. I’ve been trying to purchase my photos but had problems with their site. This will have to do for now.