Missed Milo—Again!

Sunday, 18 November 2007  |  Bullish Insights, Therapy + Injury

Race bib…CHECK
Brand spanking new mizuno outfit…CHECK
Fully charged garmin…CHECK
Packed bag with extra clothing…CHECK
Gatorade and banana…CHECK

Milo Nationals

As early as friday evening, I was all set to run 10k at the Milo race that was held this sunday morning. To say that I was excited about this race would be an understatement. I had missed the Milo Metro Manila eliminations last July due to a fainting spell, so this was my chance to finally experience one of the biggest races in the country. Surprise surprise, I failed to make it…AGAIN!

The reason: sheer stupidity and stubborness. (I don’t call myself THE BULL-headed RUNNER for nothing.)

I heard about the importance of tapering a hundred times over from Coach B to Higdon and Galloway’s books. But, due to my obstinateness, over-enthusiasm, and plain addiction to running, I couldn’t quite resist the urge to run the day before the race. I’m almost embarassed to admit it: 10km close to race pace on the eve of race day. Yes, that’s what I did. Yes, you may slap me on the head. Yes, I know I will suffer the dire consequences of breaking the golden rule of tapering.

Soon after that training run (or more like midway through it), I felt a pinch in the most vulnerable part of my body: my left knee which suffers from discoid lateral meniscus. This knee tells me when I’m overtraining. When it starts aching, it practically commands me to rest the next couple of days and gradually ease back into my training or else…or else…I don’t even want to go there. So, when I felt that slight discomfort around 5km into the run, my first thought was “No, it can’t be” (denial), then “No no no, I can’t miss Milo!” (panic) and within the next few minutes, “I shouldn’t have run! I’m so stupid.” (guilt).

By that evening, after a mid-afternoon massage that I hoped would magically heal my meniscus problem, I was in agony over the decision I had to make. Every inch of my body wanted to run. Weeks of LSDs and speedwork prepared me for this race. (In hindsight, I’m thinking the past few weeks’ training may have slowly built up this injury as well.) But, rationally, I knew I had to bite the bullet; I had to sacrifice the Milo race if I wanted to make it to my first marathon in February next year. Sob sob, goodbye Milo.

This coming week will be all about rest and recovery for me. I’m hoping against all hope that Santa comes down our chimney tonight delivering an advanced Christmas gift for me: instant mending of my broken knee. But, since that is most unlikely (they say Santa doesn’t exist, plus we don’t have a chimney), I’ll just try to be a good girl and patiently wait for this knee to heal.

To all those who joined the race, especially the finalists, congratulations! I hope to see you next year…barring any unforeseen circumstances that may strike a third time from keeping me from Milo races.

Vasovagal Syncope Won’t Keep Me From Running

Friday, 27 July 2007  |  Therapy + Injury

I’ve been to three doctors in three different clinics within three days to determine the cause of my first ever fainting episode last Saturday. Here’s a brief summary of what occurred in all of my consultations:

[ Doctor No. 1: General Practitioner ]

Doctor’s Diagnosis: VASOSPASM – narrowing of the blood vessels which restricts the amount of blood flowing through that vessel

Me: So, can I run a race this Sunday?

Doc: No, you’ll be under observation for 6 months.

Me: 6 months? No way. I will DIE if I don’t run. (I kid you not. This is exactly what I told the doctor.)

Doc: Go see a cardiologist to undergo more tests.

My reaction (read aloud in a wailing tone to achieve similar dramatic effect): 6 months?! Unbelievable! If I was crippled for 6 months, then I would accept the fact that I couldn’t run. But, no doctor forbids me to run only because she doesn’t know if I’ll collapse or not! 6 months?!


[ Doctor No. 2: Cardiologist ]

Diagnosis: VASOVAGAL SYNCOPE – an abnormal reflex towards a stimulus (coughing, sight of blood, dehydration, bowel movement, etc.) that results in a drop in blood flow to the brain which leads to fainting. Not serious nor life threatening. Treatment is uneccessary in most cases.

Me: So, can I run a race this Sunday?

Doc: Based on the ECG, you have an athlete’s heart, it’s very healthy (applause please!) But, just to make sure, get these tests done—Treadmill Exercise Test, 2D Echocardiogram-Doppler, and 24 hr Holter Monitoring—and let’s wait for the results. I also have homework for you. You must increase your salt intake. Eat chips and any other tasty dishes.

My reaction: I love this doctor. He’s probably right about Vasovagal Syncope…and the required potato chips intake. Before heading home, I run into a gas station and buy myself a large pack of Lay’s Salt & Vinegar chips. (Yes, I take my doctor’s orders very seriously.)

[ Doctor No. 3: Cardiologist ] Note to the curious: I went for a 3rd consultation because my husband’s HMO will only pay for my three tests if their own doctor prescribes the same tests

Diagnosis: VASOVAGAL SYNCOPE – (For those with lazy index fingers, no need to scroll up. Yes, it’s the same diagnosis as Doctor No. 2)

Me: So, can I run a race this Sunday?

Doc: You run?

Me: Yes, that’s the only reason why I went for this consultation. I need clearance to run this Sunday. I don’t want to faint in the middle of a race.

Doc: Ano ka ba—addict? (What are you—an addict?)

Me: Uhm…yes. So, can I run?

Doc: Get a treadmill test done and show me the results on Saturday. If you pass it—which I’m pretty sure you will—then you may run on Sunday.

My reaction: Oh yeah, I feel it in my guts—I’m gonna make it to the Race for HOPE on Sunday. Now, about that treadmill test, how long and how fast do you think they want me to go?

The Milo Manila Marathon

Sunday, 22 July 2007  |  Bullish Insights, Therapy + Injury

All I see is green. Among the mass of 10,000 runners clad in green, I find my way towards the clear roads of Roxas Boulevard. I am running, no flying. Other runners stare in disbelief as they fall like bowling pins knocked out by a speeding ball. I run the streets as if it is mine. I see nothing and feel nothing. I am running faster than I have ever had in my life. In the blink of an eye, the race is over. Crowds cheer. I look around to realize I am the first one to cross the finish line. I am the winner!

I wake up at exactly 5:58 this morning with that wonderful dream. (Yes, boys and girls it was a dream. What did you think?) My only thought upon waking was: two more minutes to the start of the race—and I missed it. I lay in bed watching the clock. One minute more. 30 seconds. 10. 3…2…1…and they are off. Me too—but I am headed towards the bathroom. This sucks.

Why did I miss the race? Because of my “little” incident last night:

After dinner in Teriyaki Boy, we—my hubby, son, daughter, and I—hop over to our favorite weekend haunt: Timezone in Alabang Town Center. In about 10 minutes, my stomach starts acting up. I ask my hubby to watch the kids while I walk in haste towards the nearest restroom. It’s a short walk, but not to me. As I wobble through the corridor towards the comfort room, my tummy starts churning, my vision becomes hazy, and I suddenly feel like I’ve been possessed by a drunk Britney Spears. When I reach the door to the comfort room, a woman holds me up and asks “Are you okay?” to which I can barely find the strength to reply a simple yes. I clumsily find my way to a cubicle and enter.

Bathroom Sign

There are women chatting and I am watching them from afar. I walk towards one of them. I am about to tap her in the shoulder when…

I open my eyes to hear voices “Miss, wake up. Wake up.” in tagalog. I was just dreaming. I look around to discover that I am lying on the floor of the comfort room in the arms of two janitresses who apparently caught my fall. God, I fainted. For the first time in my entire life, I fainted?!

Three security guards help locate my husband and kids and—even if I feel alright after a couple of visits to the toilet—they insist on taking me to nearby Asian Hospital. I hesitate, but relent. Before we know it, I am whisked away in a wheelchair towards the gates of the mall. God, this is so embarassing, I think. When we reach the exit, there is a large crowd curious to see who shall enter the ambulance that awaits. OMG, this is even more humiliating. I wish I had a brown bag to cover my head. I will die if I see anyone I know. I stand up, smile at everyone, and ride the ambulance towards Asian Hospital.

By the time we get home it is around 9 pm. I ask my hubby about the Milo race and he curtly replies “Don’t even think about it.” I pretend not to hear it and send SMS messages to my sister Janice and two other runner friends Mayi and Annie about the incident. All of them advise the same thing: “Don’t run.” Being the bull-headed runner (er, I mean The Bull Runner) that I am, I refuse to even think of skipping the race, but I don’t have a choice. It would be crazy to risk my health for a race. Besides, I think that fainting in a marathon is a hundred times worse than doing so in a bathroom with a handful of people as an audience.

So, there goes my Milo Manila Marathon story, which was certainly not the Milo Marathon race report you probably anticipated. To all those who crossed the finish line, congratulations! Annie, Coach, Mayi, Jamike, and Happy Feet: sayang, I didn’t get to see you there! To those who pledged through me for Kythe: I ran 0km but if you still wish to commit to your pledge I can still donate it directly to Kythe—or you may wait for my next race. Banggigay, Marga, Roselle, and Neville: shucks, I missed meeting you for the first time! Not to worry, there will be more races…like next week’s Run for Hope? haha.

Oh, and for those who have lingering questions about the cause of my fainting, here are the answers:

  • Nope, I’m not pregnant. At least I don’t think so.
  • Yes, I eat. I am not anorexic.
  • No, I will not be suing Teriyaki Boy. I’ve ruled out food poisoning because my family ate the same thing I did.
  • Yes, I’ll get myself checked.
  • Yes, I will still continue running.
  • No, I will not give you my Milo singlet!

Thank you to Alabang Town Center for taking very good care of me—specifically the two janitresses, three security guards, ambulance driver and his companion. I regret that I didn’t get their names, but I’ll surely be writing you to let you know of the wonderful people you have in your team.

Massage For Runners

Tuesday, 22 May 2007  |  Therapy + Injury

Did you know that you can significantly improve your runs while lying down? Yes, experts say that you can run better, faster, and longer if you lie down and…get a massage, that is. The benefits of a massage for runners are numerous:

  1. increases blood flow to your muscles (in simple language, it “heats” the blood just like a warm-up would do)
  2. soothes and relaxes your muscles
  3. relieves cramps and muscle tension
  4. improves flexibility which will result in more power and better performance
  5. prevents injury
  6. reduces tension (if you’re stressed about an upcoming race)
  7. lessens soreness (especially after a heavy training day or a race)
  8. aids in eliminating lactic acid build up
  9. makes you feel better (not as good as a tough run though!)

It comes as no surprise then that some experts recommend massage to be a regular part of a runner’s training schedule. At the NYC Marathon, they deploy 100 massage therapists to serve the 34,000 runners before and after the race. Wow. Here in the Philippines, we don’t even get water in our water stations (tsk tsk).


I have a love-hate-love relationship with massages. I used to love them, then after a nightmarish experience with a masseuse I boycotted them for three years, and now that I’m into running I am completely utterly dependent on them. After a super heavy run, it’s a must for me to get a massage if I want to walk properly (and not look like I have a stick up my butt) the following morning. If I feel sluggish during the day, my masseuse will definitely be called upon that evening.

Last Friday, two nights before the Champion Race, I thought of treating my body to a massage (perhaps the best way to prepare it for the torture it was about to endure…some sort of yin & yang in the bullrunner’s world.) With my favorite masseuse unavailable, I bravely asked them to send me the strongest woman in the house. This was no time for a namby-pamby body rub; I wanted fierce and fiesty karate-chop-type of physical therapy.

Boy did I make a big mistake. When the masseuse (let’s call her Masseuse X to protect her identity) started massaging my legs, I felt pain, not relief! Masseuse X had power alright, but her strokes were quick, rough, and amateurish. Her fingers were pushing into my skin. She even pulled on my blister and my dead toenail—such monstrosity! Not once, not twice, but thrice I asked her to decrease the pressure, but she didn’t heed my request. Ack, I gritted my teeth thinking of the hundreds of seconds I had to endure under that pain.

Since I am writing now, you know that I did survive that horrifying experience. I went to the Champion Run with a rejuvenated body, but with bruises on my shins and arms because of the pounding. Lesson learned: Thou shalt not experiment with a new masseuse before a race. If possible, have husband serve as guinea pig first.


Gloria Averbuch, New York Road Runners Complete Book of Running and Fitness, 4th Edition, New York, Random House, 2004

Claudia Piepenberg, Massage For Runners, How To Be Fit.com

My Knee Says “Click”

Sunday, 6 May 2007  |  Therapy + Injury

New runners often make the mistake of running too fast too soon. I was certainly not an exemption. Imagine, I forced myself to run as long as 15 minutes at a time without any previous running experience. I hadn’t felt any pain so I thought, hell yeah, my body can take it, let’s go for more!

By mid-december (mind you, that’s just a week after I embarked on running as a sport), I was hearing tiny little clickety-clacks in my left knee every single time I bent it. Argh. It wasn’t painful but it was bothersome.

Emotionally, I was a nervous wreck. I had just found THE sport for me and I could see myself running till the day I died. If I was told to stop running because of a “silly little” knee problem, I didn’t know what I would do. (Although I’m pretty sure I would’ve instantly gained 10 lbs. due to depression and lack of activity.)

So, I consulted one of the most distinguished orthopedic surgeons in the country, Dr. Antonio Rivera. After a brief examination—bend your knee in and out, a twist to the left and the right, and questions on my history—he tells me I’ve got DISCOID LATERAL MENISCUS. Basically, I was born with a circular miniscus instead of a C-shaped miniscus so my knee cap doesn’t fit into its socket. Then he says “Now for the big question: can you still run?”

Wait a minute. How did he know what I was thinking? Was the anxiety in my face THAT obvious? With bated breath I awaited his answer.

“Continue running,” he says. Worst case would be surgery if it becomes too painful, but that’s a simple procedure that is almost always successful. I could’ve given him a giant hug at that very instant—only my husband was beside me.

Leaving the clinic, I was bursting with excitement for my bright future in running. Quoting from Dr. Seuss, “Oh the places you will go! You’ll be on your way up! You’ll be seeing great sights! You’ll join the high fliers who soar to high heights.” But in my case it would be “Oh the many many races I could join…and perhaps someday win.”