Race Report: Barcelona Marathon

Monday, 15 April 2019  |  Favorite Posts, Race Reports
Marathon No. 17: Barcelona Marathon

Since 2009, I’ve been running 1 to 3 marathons per year.  This streak was broken in 2017 when I unexpectedly DNF’d at Marine Corps Marathon due to a foot injury, then in 2018 I suffered health issues that forced me to rest from running long distances to allow for full recovery. 

To say that 2018 was a tough year for me would be an understatement. It was the most difficult year in my 42 years on this earth. But, when I came out of it alive, I was wiser, mentally stronger, and, last but not the least, crazy hungry to race again.

Jane Jane and Drew, friends from Cebu with whom I’ve run NYCM, CIM, and Florence with, had registered for Barcelona Marathon. I decided to join in on the fun and begged them to adopt me – yet again – into the Ong family for the trip.

Day One in Barcelona with JaneJane and Drew
La Rambla. My first trip to this city. It was love at first visit.
Mercado de La Boqueria. Food tripping with Jane!

Since it was almost like starting from scratch with my running, I was conservative with my goals for this marathon. I just wanted to reach the finish line healthy and injury-free. My A-race could follow later in 2019. Barcelona would be about celebrating the opportunity to run again.

My training was unstructured, which was so unlike the OC planner I’ve always been. I registered online for McMillan Marathon program, but rarely ever followed it. I trained based on feel and listened to how my body felt. I ran 3 to 4x a week and cross-trained with 3x a week of weights and an occasional bike trainer session. My longest training run was a back to back 26k on Friday and 16k on Saturday. Based on my Florence experience, I knew this would be enough for a decent sub-5 finish. Simple goals, right? I didn’t know I’d surprise myself on race day.

Shakeout run with Jane before race day
Race gear the night before the race.

Event: Barcelona Marathon
Date: March 10, 2019
Race start and finish: Avinguda María Cristina, Barcelona, Spain
Cut off time: 6 hours
Registration: Non-lottery

THE EXPO.The expo was held at Fira de Barcelona, Recinto Montjuïc near the Olympic stadium, which was conveniently also the race start (at least we didn’t have to practice how to take the train from our hotel anymore.) We arrived at the expo on a Friday surprised to see how empty it was which was a good thing. Redemption of race kit was quick and easy without any lines at all. The expo was filled with just a few familiar brands, such as Asics and Garmin, and the rest were European brands, which were new to me. Official race merchandise by Asics was great. I purchased a shirt and printed my name on the back within minutes for free! At the end of the expo, we claimed our official race shirt, which was pretty good too.

Mabuhay!!!
I had my race shirt personalized with my name on it! TBR, baby!

RACE ASSEMBLY AND START. Race assembly was at Fira de Barcelona, Italian Pavillion. It was such a picturesque and spacious area that allowed runners to move freely or choose a spot in the park to relax while waiting for gun start. The vibe was calm and light and I loved it.

The assembly area was nice and calm.
That fountain was such a pretty sight!

BAGGAGE DEPOSIT. Barcelona Marathon does not give plastic bags for baggage deposit like other bigger marathons so you’re free to use any bag on race day. Just rip off the tag on your race bib and attach to your bag. Baggage deposit was very well organized. There were neither long lines nor waiting.

PORTALETS. There were enough portalets at the assembly area but there was approximately a 15-minute wait. First time I saw these portalets for men which made the queue for the portalets significantly shorter.

My first time to see this kind of urinals for men. It’s so smart. Every race should have this to shorten the lines at the potty!

WAVES. The race starts at 8:30AM in waves based on the PR you provided in your registration form. We sort of had an idea about how strong Spanish runners are because of the waves. The first 4 waves were designated for 3:00 to 4:00 hour marathoners and the last wave was gray for 4:30 and above. Just one wave for all of us 4:30 to 6 hour marathoners?!

[ THE RACE ]

RACE START. From the Italian Pavillion, one just had to walk nearby to the race start at Avenida de La Reina Maria Cristina where all runners entered their designed waves.

WEATHER. The weather could’ve been slightly cooler, but I wasn’t complaining. We were quite comfortable with 12 to 15 degrees. I wore a shirt and packed my arm warmers into my bag seeing that I wouldn’t need it. I mistakenly wore tights when I think I would’ve been better off in shorts. A cap and shades are a necessity because it can get sunny out there later in the race.

Overdressed. I should’ve worn shorts. It got a bit hot midway through the race.

HYDRATION AND FOOD. There were 16 hydration stations and was approximately every 2.5km. Drinks provided were water (handed out in bottles which was convenient for pouring on the head to cool off) and Powerade. Beyond 10k, bananas, oranges, and trail mix were handed out. Etixx energy gels were also provided at some stations.

PORTALETS. Portalets were every 2.5km as well. Good thing the lines were not very long with about 1 to 3 runners in line.

CROWD SUPPORT. There were a few locals who came out to support us and offered food sometimes but not as plenty as other bigger marathons like New York or even Tokyo.

COURSE. Barcelona Marathon was an out and back course (“Sortida” or leaving point and “Arribada” or ending point is the same). The race started at Avenida de La Reina Maria Cristina and headed out towards Plaza Espanya offering a beautiful course that ran through the landmarks of the city: Camp Nou, Dona i Ocell, Casa Batllo, Sagrada Familia, La Rambla, Forum, Torre Mapfre, Plaza Catalunya Catedral, and Monument A Colon. Was this a tour or a marathon? I’d say it was both!

The organizers announced that this was the first time they were using this new course, which would be flatter and faster. This led me into thinking the course would be flat, but it definitely was not. They probably meant flatter than last year!

I loved the hills though! I trained for hills and none were too steep anyway, so the ascents and descents offered the legs variety rather than tedious and boring flat courses.

As for my run, I decided to run based on feel and walk or pause only at hydration stations. I didn’t have a target pace nor a target time. I ran at a steady and comfy pace without pushing hard at all. Thing is, every time I’d glance at my watch feeling like I was running an easy 6:30 pace, my actual pace was much faster at around 5:50 min/km. WTH?!! Is this for real?!! I was astounded and, I must admit, pretty excited about the prospects.
I consistently ran at a good pace until Km30. I felt so fresh and strong. By this time, my brain was buzzing with excitement. Could I run a sub-4:30? Better yet, could I possibly PR without even training for it?!!

At Km31, cramps attacked both my quads. They hit me like a bolt of lightning. I slowed to run-walk pace. The cramps would go away when I walked and return in full strength every single time I attempted to run. It was maddening, frustrating, and, for the first time in a race, I teared up in anger.

At Km35, I chanced upon a convenience store and stopped to purchase Mountain Dew. In Ironman 70.3 Cebu 2017, when I had cramps, I had devoured salt caps and gels to no avail, but was instantly saved by a few gulps of soda. Who would’ve thought sugar could combat cramps, right? I hoped that it would work again this time. It didn’t. I tried eating oranges, bananas, gels, and gummy bears on the course but nothing worked.

I was in so much pain I couldn’t believe it. I repeated this mantra over and over in my head: “I am stronger than I ever was.” which I believed with every ounce of my body and spirit, but it did nothing to alleviate the cramps; it just gave me the will to run a bit even if I wanted to collapse.

I made it to the finish line at 4:42 and collapsed into the arms of a race marshal. I hugged him tight for a few minutes because I couldn’t move. Hell, I couldn’t feel my legs. While in his arms, he looked down and asked me: “Can I let go now?” I whispered back to him: “Five more minutes, please?” He then pointed to a woman walking towards us and said: “That’s my wife coming.” His wife arrived while I was in a tight hug with her husband and I apologized for the scene. I opened my arms out for her and said: “Come join our hug. We are family!” and we all burst into laughter.

Thankful for this guy! Too bad I didn’t get his and his wife’s name!

MEDAL. The medal was handed out a few hundred meters from the finish line. It was small and light. Nothing too fancy. No Finisher’s Shirt was provided.

POST RACE. After receiving our medal, we were given bananas, oranges and nuts.  There was one small food truck selling food items for runners to purchase.  The race area empties out quite quickly.  It’s as if the runners just come in, run, and leave immediately for home.  No fanfare or partying at the post-race area here, but the vibe was still fun and celebratory.

Overall, I loved this race. It’s relatively small and convenient to get to, the race course is picturesque and challenging enough but not too difficult, weather was just right, and, last but not the least, it’s held in a fantastic city with great food.  What more can you ask for?!


Must Watch: TBR Sun Life Dream Marathon 2017 Video

Friday, 17 March 2017  |  Favorite Posts, Race Announcements

It’s been a month since TBR Sun Life Dream Marathon 2017, but we will never forget your first 🙂

Race Report: Firenze Marathon (Florence Marathon)

Friday, 2 December 2016  |  Favorite Posts, Race Reports, Travel + Adventure

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– Would’ve been a great pic of me holding my 16th marathon medal at Firenze Marathon had I only held the medal facing the front *eye roll* –

Firenze Marathon (or Florence Marathon) is the second largest marathon in Italy, only second to its capital, Rome. I had heard about how beautiful Florence is and, having never visited Italy before, I was simply over the moon about this trip where our itinerary included Cinque Terre (a place in my bucket list! Woohoo!), Venice, and Pisa too. At the same time though, I had never been more anxious for any marathon than this one.

You see, I’m a forward-looking, obsessive, control-freak who always plans ahead for anything, especially my marathons. I always have a program to follow and I stick to it as if my life depended on it. Doing so gives me confidence that not only will I finish the race but I’ll do so without bonking, crawling, or cursing myself the entire time and, most importantly, I’ll cross the finish line with a smile.

For this training period though, I had three bouts with the flu and/or fever, which completely messed up my training schedule. By the time I discovered that all my illnesses were actually due to allergic rhinitis, it was too late. I had missed my 32k run. My longest run was a back-to-back 24k on Sunday and 13k on Monday just 2 weeks before race day. Lord, heeeeelp me. (more…)

Congratulations to TBR Smart Dream Marathoners Batch 2016!

Tuesday, 23 February 2016  |  Favorite Posts, Race Reports

Last February 21, 2016, 619 runners became marathoners at TBR Smart Dream Marathon 2016!  After 22 weeks of training since August, attending our monthly Bull Sessions and Bull Circles together, and bonding as batch mates, our runners experienced the culmination of all their hard work when they crossed the finish line of their first 42k at Nuvali.  After 7 years of organizing this event, I will never tire of taking runners on this marathon journey and seeing the look of triumph and joy when they conquer their dream.

Here are just some of the photos from TBR Smart Dream Marathon 2016.  To follow are photos from our inaugural TBR Dream Half Marathon held on the same day.  All images courtesy of our official photographers: Photo-Ops.

Start

42k race start of our Dreamers!

Start2

DreamChasersMassage

Our volunteer Dream Chasers go all out supporting our Dreamers! Are they blessing her or imparting more energy upon this runner? Your guess is a good as mine lol

DreamTeam

So proud to be working with these guys!  Host Ton Gatmaitan along with TBR Dream Team: Mike Janeo, myself, Coach Francis Diano, Jun Cruz, Macel Janeo, Coach Lit Onrubia.  Missing: Jim Lafferty whose flight was delayed from Egypt so he missed the race and Neville Manaois who was busy checking our course.

FinishLine

Couple

DreamChasers

Our Dream Chasers: the real heroes of this event

Family

Finisher1

Finisher2

HappyFinisher

Hug

MotherDaughter

Music_Band

WalangForever

LastRunner

Our last runner who makes it before the cut off with the Dream Chasers behind her

TBR Smart Dream Marathon wouldn’t have been possible without the support of a great number of people.  I would like to thank our Dream Chasers who are the real heroes of this event, TBR Dream Team who work tirelessly to ensure we put out a great event, family and friends of our runners who went out there to cheer for our runners, and, last but not the least, our sponsors who provided the generous support to make the entire event possible…Thank you!

SPONSORS2016_rev2

Best of 2015

Thursday, 31 December 2015  |  Bullish Insights, Favorite Posts

BostonFinish

“The best day of your life is the one on which you decide your life is your own. No apologies or excuses. No one to lean on, rely on, or blame. The gift is yours – it is an amazing journey – and you alone are responsible for the quality of it. This is the day your life really begins.”
– Bob Moawad

Oh what a journey it has been, 2015! This year was about independence, achievement, strength, and empowerment for me. Such strong words, you say?! After surviving life’s toughest challenges in the past years, 2015 was about pushing forward, rediscovering myself, and learning that, at the end of the day, I’m pretty darned happy with where I am and who I’ve become.

Here’s my best of 2015: (more…)