Gabriel Symphony & Rotarun Races: Extreme Opposites

Sunday, 20 September 2009  |  Race Reports

Double race weekend, folks. One was light and fun, the other was downright exhausting and forgettable…


If there’s a race that makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside, it’s the Gabriel Symphony 12-hour Multi-Sport Event. In this race, there’s a variety of events that take place from sunrise to sunset, all for a worthy cause: to help sick and disabled children. The people who join the events aren’t just there to compete, but to help and, of course, to have fun.

I arrived at Alabang Country Club field alone and registered for the 5k race. I don’t know if it was just me, but the atmosphere was just so positive and friendly. Kids in trisuits guided by their parents, cyclists in full gear laughing, and hosts of the event, Sen. Pia Cayetano, Coach Ani de Leon, and Mailet Bonoan-Ancheta chatting with participants in the field. 

– Exhibit area –

– Super Tri Kids studying their course –

– Doting parents watch over their Super Tri Kids. That includes Fernando Zobel –

– Mark and Tiffin Parco with budding triathlete, Cassie. Congratulations Cassie! –

– Ting and her adorable daughter –

– Mark and Doray Ellis with their little triathletes –

– South tri friends: Glenn and Yvonne –

– Pinays in Action: Coach Ani de Leon and Mailet Bonoan-Ancheta –

As runners gathered behind Sen. Pia at the starting line, I realized we were less than 20 participants. Sen. Pia introduced me to the foreigner by my side and advised him to just follow me as it was just his first race in the country. I assured him he would be fine and whispered “I won’t be surprised if you win the race!”

In a few minutes, we were off. Through the field and unto the roads, our little race began to get serious. Some were running easy, others were going full blast. My newfound foreigner friend led the pack followed by fast male runners!

To say the route was familiar to me would be an understatement. This is the route I take on training runs when I want a tough workout. That morning, with little sleep the night before (it was Run Radio the night before, remember?) and a half marathon the following day, I decided to take it easy knowing that the ascents at 4km just might kill me. I ran at 5:30 min/km, a pace that’s comfortably hard, but not full race mode for me.

By around 3km, I realized I was running just slightly behind the female leader, a young girl probably in her teens. Then, a crazy thought hit me, I could actually grab first place! Now, I’m no bully, but when it comes to races, we always must give our best, right? I thought this was probably my first and perhaps last opportunity to ever bag first place. So, my nostrils enlarged, my bull horns appeared, and I ran steadily behind her.

In a water station, young female leader slowed down to drink just before the difficult ascent up Country Club Drive. The distance narrowed between us and I successfully overtook her as we were climbing my favorite hill (same road where this photo was taken by Ben Chan).

I made a right turn and headed back into Alabang Country Club immediately when I was supposed to go straight ahead! (That’s what I get for chit-chatting during the race briefing!) I was asked to make a u-turn, which I did, and made a break for the finish with no one behind me.

I came in first for the 5k. I forgot to check my time neither did I get my official results. Needless to say, I didn’t take the win too seriously (I was actually laughing about my luck all the way home) but I did show off my sparkling blue medal to show off to the kiddos and hubby!

– Bianca Gonzales, Mikhaela and friend –

– Podium Finishers! –

ROTARUN (Sunday)

My running program ordered a 21km at 6:40 min/km pace this morning, so I thought it best to run it during the Rotarun at McKinley Hill. Exhausted from the lack of sleep and the Saturday activities with the family, I dreaded waking up at 4:00 a.m. for this race. Even so, I managed to scrape myself out of bed, as hubby did too, and we dressed for the race. We had to arrive early to claim our reserved race packs, but it seemed that we were moving slower than usual this morning.

We arrived at McKinley Hill to find a long-line of cars entering the area. It was even worse entering the parking lot. I bid hubby goodbye at 5:25 a.m. (he was running 15k) and I was confident I would make it to the 5:30 a.m. 21k race start. By the time I reached the assembly area, the 21km had left (I heard they began 10 minutes earlier than scheduled) and the 10k and 15k runners were assembled at the starting line. I decided to wait for hubby instead. In a few minutes, the race started and, guess what, I didn’t have a race bib yet! Worse, hubby was nowhere to be found!

I am vehemently against running bandit, but in this case, I decided to run at the end of the crowd promising to myself that I would not avail of the services provided for registered runners (e.g., drinks at water stations, medals, certificates, etc.) I ran at training pace all by my lonesome with my trusty ipod to entertain me. Somewhere along McKinley Hill, I spotted good friend and sometimes training buddy, Harvie, who was late too. I waited for him and we decided to run this slow together.

Good thing Harvie planned on running easy too. We agreed to run at 6:30 min/km and chatted all the way through. We managed to entertain ourselves with lots of chit chat and frequent hi’s and hello’s to friends (and even strangers whom Harvie was playing a prank on.) Occasionally, he would tell me “I am so tired” because he biked 90km the day before, and I would echo “Me too!” because my body was just breaking down with all the work and the lack of sleep the past weeks. Yet, there we were plodding on, hoping to fulfill our training program’s requirements like good little soldiers.

Thankfully, we finished our 15km race strong and smiling. My time was 1:32 with a distance of 15.18 km (I didn’t cross the finish). Average pace was 6:06 min/km.

All things went wrong for me this morning: I felt fatigued even before the race started, I failed to get my race pack and missed my race start, it was terribly hot, and the race itself was forgettable. I almost had the worst race day ever, but great conversation and an injure-free run made the little mishaps more bearable.

Note: As an unregistered runner, I decided to abstain from my usual race review to give due respect to the organizer.

Animo Tri Simulation

Tuesday, 9 June 2009  |  Running + Triathlon

What: Animo Mini Sprint Simulation, 350m swim-11k bike-3.4k run
Where: Alabang Country Club and Ayala Alabang Village
When: June 7, 2009, 6:30 am
Who: Jamike (Try-Athlete), Jun (Solemates), hubby and myself

– Hubby, Jamike, and Jun –

– with Jun and Jamike –

I woke up at 5 a.m. to do pre-simulation data gathering: took note of my time at last year’s mini sprint and the time of the 3rd placer who was closer to my age than the 1st and 2nd placers who were in their teens and printed out four copies of the race map, one for each of us.

We arrived at the Club to find Jun waiting for us at the parking lot and Jamike already doing laps at the pool.  After a few minutes of chit chat, we jumped in and officially started the our simulation.

SWIM: 350m

We swam 14 laps in a 25m pool.  I swam in almost 11 mins. which was a big improvement from the slow 18 mins I did last year.  But, I seriously think the push offs at the end of each 25m made a big difference.  I don’t know how I’ll perform in a 50m pool.  Hopefully, a bit faster than 18 mins.  Gulp.

BIKE: 11k

When I had Annie’s bike tuned up for Animo last week, Hans, the owner of GranTrail bike shop at West Gate Center in Alabang who is an old acquaintance of mine from a million years ago, offered to lend me his own bike for the upcoming triathlon.  (How lucky am I?!  Uhm, if you see how handsome the bike is, you’ll reply “VERY LUCKY!”)  For this training day, Hans even lent the bike for practice.  

I hopped onto the bike and felt comfortable instantly.  We biked out of Alabang Country Club (not the actual route) and headed towards Narra where the bike portion really starts.  We thought we followed the ocho loop but learned only after that we still got it wrong despite my printouts.  (We’ll probably bike this again before race day.)

I forgot to turn on my Garmin for this one so I have no clue how I did.  Even when I remembered to switch on my Garmin in the middle of the bike trip, I couldn’t.  Admittedly, I still can’t let go of the handlebars until now.  So, for the entire 11k, I could not take a sip of water, scratch my forehead when it got itchy, or worse, wipe off a bug that landed in between my eyes!

The start of the bike trip was a bit tough.  My butt and shoulders were aching.  But, after a few kilometers, I learned to relax and enjoy the ride.

RUN: 3.4k

Need I say that this was my favorite part?  The route isn’t the flat course anymore like last year.  This new course starts flat, but once you hit University Ave., there’s a gradual incline, slight downhill, then a climb up again after the turnaround.  It’s a nice, short yet challenging route.

We ran 4.6k—a bit more than the required—at 5:35 average pace.  We were huffing and puffing all the way to the end, but that made the finish even more fulfilling.

Click here for more info on Animo Triathlon.

Hope in Motion 3

Monday, 6 October 2008  |  Race Reports

In the October issue of Runner’s World, it says that a cup or two of coffee an hour before a race may cut your time by 30 seconds. Although I wasn’t aiming to break my PR (I don’t think I ever will beat my 46.57 10k PR), I opted for coffee instead of my usual pre-race drink of Rush together with, as always, 3 sheets of graham crackers. Big mistake.

By the time I stood on Mindanao Ave. in Ayala Alabang awaiting the start of the race along with other runners (the larger group of 6k walkers were behind us), I had paid the toilet a visit 4 times already! Good thing the race started just a little after 6:30 a.m. giving me enough time to give my bladder a little scolding.

When the gun went off, my bladder was empty (thank God!), I was feeling strong, and I felt completely race ready. I ran out of Mindanao Ave. towards Visayas Ave. going a wee bit faster than I thought I should.  I hate to admit it but I had no strategy for this race.  My only plan was to conserve energy for the gradual ascent along Country Club Drive and, after that, I felt I could go as fast as I wanted knowing the route would be mostly flat until the finish line.

I ran at around 5:15-5:30 enjoying the familiar route I was running. Annie passed me early in the race and I watched her outpace runners one by one. On Madrigal Ave., Bald Runner and I were able to exchange a few words before he ran ahead of me. Just like in Gabriel Symphony last weekend, JunC was a few meters in front of me so he pretty much became my involuntary pacer.  Surprisingly, I was pretty well-behaved at this race feeling no need nor compulsion to chase any runner down; this bull was good and tame that morning.

By the time we hit the dreaded ascent of Country Club Drive, a foreign lady runner swept by me and it was fine by me. She seemed awfully strong and I didn’t want to bust my lungs climbing up that hill. Before I knew it, the short climb was over and we made our way towards the flat roads of University Ave. Woohoo, there was nothing to be afraid of anymore!  

My experience on these roads proved to be helpful as I watched other runners climbing up sidewalks along Country Club Drive, while I confidently stayed on the paved roads knowing it would be easier to just stay where I was. On University Ave., as other runners crossed to the right side of the road, I stayed on the left because the trees would provide shade from the intense heat. Yup, Patrick was right about having a home court advantage!

As we neared the finish, I felt I still had enough energy to sprint to the finish. Nearing Anahaw, I started to increase my pace and enjoyed the rhythm of each step. I crossed the finish line back at Mindanao Ave. with a time of 55.38 min for 10.27km according to my Garmin.  My average pace was 5.25 min/km.  

I peeked into the list of finishers and saw Annie in 1st place with the lady foreigner in 2nd place.  I placed 3rd!  So, I guess the coffee did me well.

Together with Annie, Jun, and Prometheus Cometh (who extended his run even after we headed back), I ran another 5km around the village. Total of 15km for the day. Just perfect.


– 10km Winners: Annie (1st), French lady (2nd), and myself –

6th Gabriel Symphony

Sunday, 28 September 2008  |  Race Reports

Joining the Gabriel Symphony 10k run was a last minute decision I was glad to have made; good thing there was onsite registration.  Yesterday morning, I arrived at the Alabang Country Club at 5:30 a.m. sharp anticipating a long line of onsite registrants; it turned out that I was the only eager beaver in the area. Organizers were still setting up the venue when I registered, got my race bib and singlet, and laughed to myself when I saw the lady jot down the words “Early Bird” on my registration form. I hoped that it’s true what some say “The early bird catches 1st place.”

Shortly after, I was relieved to see friends arrive: JunC, Coach Rio, Coach Jo-Ar, Coach John, Kim and friend Cristina, Dedette and Lisa. As we did our usual warm ups, Patrick and Totoy of Happy Feet took a detour from their run to say hi too. 


– Coach Ani de Leon gives the pre-race briefing –

The 5k & 10k event started late as Sen. Pia Cayetano, who was leading the affair, came from a brief swim with Maiqui Dayrit and Joey Torres, two athletes who so admirably volunteered to do an Ironman distance from 6 am to 6 pm to raise funds for Gabriel Symphony.  After a short talk from Sen. Cayetano about the recipients of the fundraising activities of Pinay In Action, the runners—perhaps less than 50—assembled at the startling line awaiting the start of the race.

By 6:30 a.m., we were off.  The course would take us through roads that I knew like the back of my hand. We were to make two 5k loops from Alabang Country Club to University Ave. and up Country Club Drive. Easy peasy, I thought. I could never have been more wrong.

As we exited Alabang Country Club, I ran at a comfortably hard pace for me—around 5:30 min/km—almost like I was going for my once-a-week tempo run. I ran alongside Sen. Pia for a few minutes; our conversation revolving around PRs and running, no longer about the kid’s articles we used to write together.  

The first 5k loop was fairly simple. I maintained a 5:30 to 5:40 min/km following three men in a line. Actually, they looked like the three little dwarfs (a lot taller though) climbing up those two major uphills at University Ave. and Country Club Drive (Think Hi ho hi ho, it’s off to work we go!)  As for me, the 4th little dwarf, I was doing fine, thank you, until another dwarf in black overtook me and claimed my position. Arggh, I was not happy playing 5th dwarf!

So, by the 2nd loop, this little dwarf was on a mission to regain her position. I stayed behind the black dwarf during the entire run, sometimes even matching his pace—no matter how tired I was—just to ensure that I wouldn’t lag too far behind. The supposedly easy peasy route and fast pace (remember this was a big guy I was trying to chase after), however, had taken its toll on me; I was feeling tired. As we climbed University Ave., my legs started feeling heavy and the black dwarf had gone way ahead of me. This annoyed me even more.

Rolling down University Ave. I discarded all shin splint fears and sprinted my way down the hill to catch up to black dwarf. We were less than 2 km to the finish and I needed to be right behind him to execute my plan. As we climbed the last uphill on Country Club Drive, I knew it was time.

I increased my pace just as he had slowed down during the climb up; yes, I overtook him! I wanted to scream out in triumph, but there was one problem: I was exhausted. (Hubby saw me at this point and waved at me from afar, but I could barely manage a grin.)  Oh, there was another problem too: the finish line was farther than I thought as we had to enter from the exit of the Club, not the entrance. Gawd, I didn’t know how long I could maintain my 4:40 pace without the black dwarf surprising me from behind.

Well, I ended the run with a terrible time of 59:48, unhappy with my time but ecstatic over my triumph over black dwarf. Woohoo!

I took a 5 minute rest (and a quick photo op with Smart peeps Ellen and Jet) and met up with JunC, who I was to run extra kilometers with as planned. Annie was supposed to join us but she was nowhere in sight.  So, Jun and I took off. We ran at a slower 6:00 to 6:30 min/km pace around flat roads this time (thank God!) and enjoyed easy conversation about family, children, and the upcoming Singapore Marathon where we’re both registered for the half. I ran an extra 4 km while Jun ran an additional 8 km.

The big surprise of the morning: I won 3rd place! First placer was the super fast runner who took Annie’s place as first at Nike due to Annie’s collapse; 2nd placer was no other than top female triathlete Sandra Araullo. Wooaah, I was just in awe that little ol’ me stood with these two great runners up on the podium. Must’ve been my lucky day.

I arrived at Gabriel Symphony with the mindset that it would be an easy, relaxed, fun run; it was fun alright, but it was taxing, challenging, and completely exhausting—just the way I like it.

– Winners received cool medals and a bag full of grocery items –

– When I grow up, I wanna be like Sandra Araullo. Problem is, she’s younger than me! –

– with 1st placer Coach John, 2nd placer Coach Rio, and JunC –


– Smart Runners with Ellen (5k winner) at the top of the podium –

Congratulations to Pinay In Action for completing yet another successful event. May you help more children live happier and healthier lives.

6th Annual 12-Hr Multi Sport Event

Wednesday, 10 September 2008  |  Race Announcements

Pinay In Action 

WHAT: The Gabriel Symphony Foundation’s 6th Annual 12-Hour Multi Sport for a Cause, In Memory of Gabriel

WHEN: September 27, 2008, 6 AM TO 6 PM

WHERE: Polo Field, Alabang Country Club


This is a fund raising event set up in memory of Gabriel Rene Cayetano Sebastian, the son of Senator Pia Cayetano and Atty. Butch Sebastian, who was born with a rare chromosomal disorder and passed away at the tender age of nine months.

The foundation supports children with disabilities.  Its major project is cleft-lip-and-palate operations for infants at the Philippine General Hospital, Malvar General Hospital and the V Luna Veterans Hospital.

Se. Pia with beneficiaries

For three years now, the Foundation has also included as its beneficiaries, blind and deaf children.  We work with Parent Advocates for Visually Impaired Children (PAVIC), the Ephpheta Foundation for the Blind Inc. wherein we donate artificial eyes and Braille books, Philippine School for the Deaf and the Philippine Ear Institute where we give out profound to severe hearing aids.

Your P1,000 donation/registration fee per participant enables registrant to join any of this year’s events:

New Event for Running Enthusiasts:

5km and 10km fun run

Race starts at 6 a.m.

Individual’s Choice:

Run, walk or bike for any distance and time between 6am-6pm. Aside from your donation, you may also wish to invite your friends to sponsor you for every kilometer that you run, walk or bike.  Discount for kids available.

Maxiwork’s Super Kids Aquathlon and Triathlon:

For kids who wish to join the aquathlon and  triathlon with distances based on their age category.

Pinay In Action All Women’s Triathlon:

An all women’s triathlon that has a very friendly distance of 500m swim, 15km bike and 3km run.

Corporate Relay:

Special donation and company’s employees come together for a team building activity and get fit by doing a 12 hour-relay.

And here’s great news:   

Maiqui Dayrit will doing his 4th birthday Ironman and Joey Torres will do his first! Maiqui and Joey are racing for the Foundation. To pledge support, you may email Maiqui at and Joey at

For details, click here.