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.

Once Upon a Time

Monday, 13 September 2010  |  Bullish Insights, Favorite Posts

Once upon a time, there was a young sedentary mother who completely fell in love with running. It allowed her access to worlds she never thought existed and gave her the ability to attain the once unimaginable. It changed her life so much that she wanted others to learn about it too.

So, she wrote…and she wrote…and she wrote.

And, family and friends were moved by her words.  Then, friends of friends were interested.  And, soon, strangers both near and distant were inspired, or even changed.

And, she was happy.

But, as time passed, somewhere along the journey, she lost her way. The tales she once shared about her adventures and experiences slowly diminished. Her words, sharing her raw and sincere emotions about the sport she loved, dwindled.  These were replaced by matter-of-fact articles on gear and gadgets and information on events and conferences. It was quite ironic that her words were lost in the whirlwind of opportunities that running offered her.

What once was a labor of love for her started to feel like labor alone.  And, she was no longer happy with writing. She felt bored, forced, and uninterested.  Worst of all, she was tired.  And, it showed in her work.

Her love for running, however, never faltered nor faded.  She continued to run, covering the roads on her own as she always wished.  After all, she never ran to be with others or to socialize, to gain acceptance or be admired, just as she never wrote to be popular or to collect freebies.  She started running because she loved the freedom it gave her to be herself.  And, she sorely wished she could be herself again in her writing.

TBrlowback

Today, she returns to the blog with a new sense of direction.  As her running has never been this strong so is her determination to bring back the old and the good.  As she is more passionate about running than when she began four years ago, so will she give the same vigor and focus to her writing. Products, reviews, and race info will be present because they are and always will be a part of running.  But, heartfelt stories will prevail because these are wings for her feet on the road, just as they are for others.  It was never about what or who, it was always about the why.

Inspiration had to come from a well-meaning friend who provided advice so simple yet so significant only a few hours ago.  He said:

NEVER LOSE THE DESIRE TO TELL STORIES.

And, with that, the old Bull Runner was brought back to life.  With a new desire to write.  With more stories to be told, just the way they were shared not too long ago.

* thanks Raymund!

Running is Not my Life

Wednesday, 24 February 2010  |  Bullish Insights, Favorite Posts

Believe it or not, there was a time in my life when the R word was not mentioned at all at home or with friends. The only time we used it was when mommy would RUN errands, or we RAN out of fresh milk, or I wanted to RUN away from nasty clients.

If you gave me P10 for every time I said the R word last month though, I would probably be able to get myself new running shoes. RUNNING rolls out of my tongue every hour of the day. If I am not thinking about it, then I am doing it. It’s taken over my shoe cabinet, closet, pantry, refrigerator, calendar, inbox, social life, marriage, and family life.

I bumped into an old friend yesterday and, even if I had not seen her in years, the first thing she says is: “Hi Marathon Mom!” Blame that on facebook. Even my co-parents at school just ask me about running all the time: “How do I start?” or “Where are the clinics?” And, pretty soon, I’ll forget what my real name is and use “TBR” instead.

Running is definitely a big part of my life. It keeps me fit and healthy. It gives me a goal to work for. It provides me with my daily dose of sanity and peace amid all the to-do lists, meetings, and errands to run.

But, is it my life? I would be happy to report that it’s NOT. I can skip a run in a heartbeat if the kids had homework. I can miss a race for a family event. I have a happy family, work, other passions, non-running friends, and a life outside of running that make me feel complete.

Perhaps the best gift that running has blessed me with is this: It serves as a constant reminder for me to live up to my fullest potential, to become a better person. That if I just commit to do some good in running—whether it’s to run four times this week, lace up even when I’m tired, or help a newbie runner run her first 5km—then that positive move inevitably and naturally flows into other areas of my life. That if I push myself to run that last kilometer no matter how stiff my legs are, I am actually doing myself some good by overcoming my weaknesses and achieving the impossible.

If it happens that I find myself getting cranky because I missed a new PR or angry because of a flawed race, or I note that I may be getting over competitive, then I take a deep breath, go out for a good slow run, and remind myself about the beauty of running.

I run to live. And it’s never the other way around.

THE BULL RUNNER DREAM MARATHON – 22 May 2010

Monday, 1 February 2010  |  Favorite Posts, Race Announcements

Presenting (drumroll please)…

THE BULL RUNNER DREAM MARATHON in NUVALI

WHEN: Saturday, 22 May 2010, 4 a.m.
WHERE: Nuvali, Sta. Rosa Laguna
RUNNERS: 200 first-time marathoners
FEE: P950

TBR Dream Marathon is a one-of-a-kind small and intimate marathon especially designed for first time marathoners. From the moment you register for the race, we will guide you towards training properly and wisely until you run all 42.195 kms of your first marathon and cross the finish line.

14 REASONS WHY YOU SHOULD JOIN TBR MARATHON:

  1. MADE FOR FIRST-TIME MARATHONERS. We have 200 slots reserved for runners attempting to complete their first marathon. This race was made for the beginner from proper education to full support on race day. Race cut-off is 8 hours. No prizes will be given to top finishers because everyone who crosses the finish line is a winner.
  2. TBR DREAM MARATHON TRAINING PROGRAM BY COACH JIM LAFFERTY. To help you train properly, we’ve got a 16-week Training Program developed by Coach Jim Lafferty, retired P&G General Manager, finisher of 23 marathons, coach of multiple US national team members, and TBR Dream Marathon’s race director.  Thing is, as of Feb. 1, there are 16 weeks to race day; that means TRAINING STARTS NOW!
  3. BULL SESSIONS (LONG RUNS). While most of the runs will be done on your own, once a month all participants will be invited to a Bull Session: long group runs together led by the Pinoy Ultra Runners. This will neither be a race nor speedwork; it will be easy, conversational-pace runs together.  By the time marathon day comes, we hope most runners will be good friends!
  4. BULL CIRCLE (TALKS). Once a month, participants will be invited to talks by running experts specifically chosen by TBR because of their knowledge and competency in a particular field.
  5. PERSONAL AND INTIMATE MARATHON EXPERIENCE. Due to the small number of participants, we can and will treat each one of you as if you were the only runner in the marathon. You’ll know other fellow runners by name or by face. Even our marshals and volunteers will treat you like friends.
  6. NEW, UNIQUE, EASY AND SAFE ROUTE. For the first time, Nuvali, the new prestigious 1,700 hectare development of Ayala Land south of Manila, will open its roads to its first ever road race.  There will be neither cars nor pollution here.  You can enjoy the fresh air as you run on a course completely closed to vehicular traffic, except for one main intersection. You’ll marvel at the scenic views of Mt. Makiling, Laguna de Bay, and Tagaytay Ridge during the marathon.
  7. “DREAM CHASERS.” Experienced marathoners and volunteers—handpicked and screened by the race organizers—will be on standby at various points in the race.  At any time a runner requests for help, the “Dream Chaser” will happily run a few kilometers with the marathoner to provide hydration, gels, food, or even silly jokes.
  8. CHEERING ZONES. Solenad, a cluster of restaurants within Nuvali, will be designated as a cheering zone.  The route will have runners run through the Solenad dining area twice.  You can literally grab a pizza or cold drink from your family’s dining table.  At the same time, they can give you a hug or cheer wildly for you.  Surely the best way to reenergize when the going gets tough!
  9. “DREAM MOBILE.” One bus will travel along the route during the race.  Family and friends of runners can hop on the bus (with their banners, flags, and bells in hand) to cheer for their runner when they spot them along the route. (Go Daddy Go!)
  10. “SECOND WIND ZONE.” The last few kilometers is the hardest portion of any marathon. At this point, Team Secondwind will provide free hydration, food and of course, support to make the toughest part of the race a little bit easier and give runners their second wind as they run towards the finish line.
  11. FAMILY ACTIVITIES. While they wait for the runners, families and friends can dine at Solenad, a row of restaurants such as Italianni’s, Conti’s, and Yellow Cab, that will be open for breakfast by 6:30 a.m. They can opt to bring food and have a picnic or rent bikes.  Kids will get a thrill from feeding over 800 koi fish or ride boats on the lake.
  12. ENTERTAINMENT. We’ll have entertainment for runners along the route and for family and friends who wait at Solenad.
  13. PERKS, FREEBIES, AND DISCOUNTS. You don’t just get what you pay for, but you get MORE…
    1. Automatic inclusion in TBR Dream Marathon e-Newsletter for regular updates on our group activities
    2. 15% off at Nike Park Bonifacio High Street upon presentation of your race bib
    3. Free race photos from PhotoVendo
    4. Souvenir program featuring all the marathoners in the race
    5. Goodie bag for all runners. Mind you, this won’t be just any regular loot bag.
  14. COMMUNITY AFFAIR. People around you will fully support you as you complete your first marathon.  Family and friends can witness you as you run along the route. The TBR Dream Team and experienced runners will help you along the way.  Volunteers and spectators will cheer for you.  The entire community will be one to help YOU achieve your dream.

REGISTRATION

  1. The race is open to FIRST-TIME MARATHONERS. Experienced marathoners may register but will be on wait-list and will gain entry only if the 200 slots for first-time marathoners are not filled.
  2. In the meantime, interested participants can reserve a slot by emailing tbrmarathon(at)thebullrunner.com. Send email with RESERVE in subject line.  Include name, contact number, and confirm if you are a first time marathoner or not.
  3. Upon acceptance of RESERVATION, the runner will receive a letter from Coach Jim Lafferty together with the TBR Dream Marathon 16-week Training Program.  Training starts February 1, 2010.  That’s today!
  4. Registration at Nike Park Bonifacio High Street will open soon and will be announced on this blog.
  5. Reservation will be held for 48 hours upon opening of registration.  Runner must confirm reservation by appearing in person to register.  Failure to appear will mean immediate forfeiture of reserved slot.

UPDATE: Please expect an email from us within 2 days upon sending your reservation.  If you don’t hear from us, please email with the subject: FOLLOW UP and resend your email.

* Note: Reservation does not mean automatic acceptance into the race.

So, what do you say?  Think about it.  If it feels like a YES, sign up early so we can start training this week!  It’s time to LIVE YOUR DREAM!

QCIM: My First Marathon

Monday, 19 October 2009  |  Favorite Posts, Race Reports

I woke up at 3 a.m. yesterday morning expecting to run a slow and easy 32km at the first Quezon City International Marathon. Little did I know that I would end the race as a marathoner. Yes, I finally achieved my long time dream of finishing the full 42.195km. You’re surprised? I was too!

Here’s the full story:

THE PLAN

I was to meet good friend and now training partner, Alvin, at the assembly area. He was to run the full marathon while I was to stop at 32km. Target pace: 6:30 min/km. I was registered for the 21km but I was to start with 42k at 4:30 a.m. so Alvin and I could run together. Unfortunately, Alvin and I didn’t find each other before gun start.

AND THE RACE BEGINS

Of all people to bump into during the last minute before race start, I was lucky enough to have found great company. I ran alongside Run Radio co-host, Jay (Prometheus Cometh) and Atty. Raymund who celebrated his 30th birthday that very day.

No pressures for this run. It was just a training run for me after all! We ran at an easy 6:15 chatting and laughing along U.P. and Commonwealth before the sun rose.

QCIM3
– with Raymund, the birthday boy, and Jay (Prometheus Cometh) –

Occasionally, we would get cheers from others: young students with whom my two running buddies exchanged high fives with like celebrities, race volunteers (one even yelled out “Mabuhay and kababaihan!” to me at which I replied “Mabuhay!”), and even Coach Rio, who shouted what I thought was the word “Injury!” from his vehicle only for me to find out from Jay that it was actually “Jaymie!” We met interesting people along the way too: Love Anover of Unang Hirit, who was Atty. Raymund’s support and John Pages of Cebu Marathon along with his brother.

QCIM1
– with Raymund and Cebu marathoners, John and Bro. Carlos –

QCIM2
– Looks like we were going at 4 min/km pace. But it’s probably the photographer who went that fast –

LA MESA ECO PARK

It was smooth and easy all the way until La Mesa Eco Park. Entering the area was a wonderful break from the monotony of the city roads, but the course was also quite challenging. The hills were undulating and steep. As we didn’t care about speed nor time, we took frequent walking breaks during the climbs while chatting away.

My favorite part of the entire course was here. The course took us by the dam, where the temperature cooled and the view of the water and the trees was much more scenic; I felt like I was in Subic.

BACK ON THE ROAD

When we exited La Mesa Eco Park, it wasn’t only back to urban reality, but even worse. As we ran by SM Fairview, the road traffic was terrible with cars and buses sweeping past us. If that wasn’t dangerous enough, the air was polluted, not the best atmosphere for health-conscious runners. And, worst of all, water ran out at the stations. Thank God I still had 4 ounces of Gatorade left in my amphipod.

When we hit North Avenue and Commonwealth again, it was back to safe and relaxed running. By this time, it was just Jay and I running together. Half of the road was blocked, so we could view (and hear) irate motorists stuck in traffic. Although I was on the other side of the road, the traffic posed a huge problem for me; it meant that the hubby wouldn’t be able to pick me up at Km32 on Commonwealth. I had brought my cellphone with me, so I texted Hubby to say that I would run back to City Hall instead, which would be around 35km.

ON MY OWN

By 30km, Jay and I parted ways and I ran the rest of the race alone. Still on training pace mode, I maintained an easy 6:15 to 6:30 pace and took walk breaks, especially at the climbs. By this time, water had been replenished at the stations, so I stopped at every station to take a sip and drench my head and arms with cold water.

I hit the 32km mark alone. Much to my pleasant surprise, I was feeling great—no pains, no blisters, no tightness—so it was then that this Bull started welcoming nasty thoughts of just going for the full 42k.

Soon after, I spotted Hector of Second Wind, almost like an angel (but darker and on a mountain bike), sweeping down the road with a bagful of yellow Gatorade popsicles. Manna from heaven! I thanked him profusely and, as he left, Neville, his best friend and Team Principal of Pinoy Ultra Runners arrived. He started to bike slowly by my side.

THE LAST 10KM

Neville stayed with me from then on until the end. As the leader of PUR, this guy knows how to support a runner in need. He carried my hydration belt to lighten my load. He didn’t ask endless questions nor did he bombard me with small talk. He was silent most of the time, except for the instances when he’d share info about the course ahead. He advised me to just decide at Km35, when we passed the assembly area at QC City Hall, if I should stop or go for the full.

We passed Km35 with no fanfare nor talk. In silence, I had decided to push through with the bullish, foolish, or whatever-adjective-you-wish-to-describe-it decision to run the full marathon a little less than two months in advance of my planned first marathon in Singapore.

During these last 10km, I was fearfully expecting to hit the much talked about “wall.” I took one step at a time, listened to my body, and waited, but “the wall” thankfully never came. My legs were completely fine. My mind was calm and confident.

When we hit 37km, Neville told me “the last 5k will be the longest 5kms of your entire life.” As I went through each of them, it was quite the opposite; I actually enjoyed it. Each kilometer marker didn’t leave me thinking “4 or 3 or 2 more kilometers to go…” but I was thinking “Wow, I’ve done 38…39…40…Cool!”

Neville then told me, “You’ll enter Trinoma for 500m and I’ll wait for you here outside. After that, it’s just 500m to go.” I ran in, hit the turn around at the end, and exited unscathed. I spotted Neville and ran once again until the end.

FINALLY…MY FIRST MARATHON!

I crossed the finish 4:54:23 according to my Polar. Clock time read 4:55:36. I couldn’t be happier with a sub-5 for an unplanned and ill-prepared training run turned impromptu marathon. I didn’t shed a tear nor jump up for joy. I ended the run in a state of disbelief, excited to see the hubby who was famished by that time (as he only learned I ran the full when I was at 40k!)

IMG_1672
– A race I trained for since I started running in 2006 –

IMG_1674
– Big thank you to Neville of PUR! Ultra next year? Game! –

As they say: Running is a metaphor for life. In this QC International Marathon, I was proud to have gotten a glimpse of my life in a 42k. I learned that obstacles shouldn’t be feared but used to jumpstart a stronger, better you; that friends will be there for entertainment, for company, or most importantly, for support when you need them most; that you must grab every opportunity thrown your way and try your darndest best to make full use of it; and that no matter what you go through, the one who loves you most will be the one waiting for you at the finish.

IMG_1675
– 42km: DONE! –

* Thank you to Raymund for some of the photos.