Monday, May 2, 2011

My Birthday 10K

With Peach after the race
Workday Devil Mountain Run is a race that is very close to my heart, being my very first official road & 10K race, which I did on the exact same day of my birthday last year. It was also the first race that I did with a good friend, Peach Villacarlos, who ran the 5K, then later on ran her first 10K herself, after finishing a few 5Ks in between.

2010 Race
Since it was my first race of that distance, I set an automatic personal record (PR) with the following results:

Finish time: 53:31
Age Group Place: 24/54
Overall Place: 241/651 

Not bad for a debut race, which also served as a training run for my first ever half marathon in San Francisco three months later.

This year, I surprised myself with solid 8-min/mile splits for the first four miles, which, as far as I can remember, was something I've not even achieved during past races & training runs. Except for mile 5, where I felt a little breathless so I had to slow down at a water station, I really felt good throughout this race. It also helped that I set pace alerts on my Garmin watch each time my pace fell below 8.5mins/mile, to guarantee myself a sub-50 min finish time & a PR.

2011 Race
True enough, I shaved almost 4 minutes off my PR, with the following improved results:

Finish time: 49:40
Age Group Place: 19/47
Overall Place: 134/647
It's also my first race with my Newtons and I totally rocked 'em! On to my next race going for a sub-45-minute finish!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

I'm a Marathoner!

The K-Swiss Mural at the Expo
Yes, you got it right, I'm a marathoner! But before getting into the details of my 26.2-mile journey, let me share some pre-race weekend highlights.

I arrived in LA Thursday morning from the Bay Area to hang out with friends, then headed to the Expo at the Dodger Stadium the following day. It was my first huge event, so I was really overwhelmed by such an expansive expo held outdoors with numerous sponsors showcasing their respective products, as well as the charities benefiting from the race.

My name located at the third row of second column

The "jazzed up" Odyssey minivan
At the imposing Honda tent, it was a pleasant surprise to find my name embellished on one of two Odyssey minivans! How cool is that?!

Aside from the festive mood and great weather at the expo, there were lots of other great stuff and free samples so my sling bag got really heavy by the time I decided to leave the premises.

Only in LA!
The following morning, on the eve of the marathon, I went to the downtown Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, for the Blessing of the Shoes, a ceremony which, Deacon Manny Martinez had declared, as something that only happens in LA. The parish's mission statement about “inspiring athletes and connecting communities," only befits the charitable nature of the LA Marathon, whose route includes the cathedral itself.

Later that afternoon, I proceeded to a get-together with my grade school classmates. We had a lot of fun catching up with each other, so we ended up parting ways shortly after 10:00 PM. I almost forgot I had to wake up early for my marathon, but I was really stuffed with all the carb-rich feast we had for late lunch and dinner.

All set to make history!
With only 2 hours of sleep, I woke up at 3:30 AM to catch the early shuttle to the Dodger Stadium. It was an ordeal walking about two blocks in freezing cold, wearing only my Team World Vision tech tee over a long-sleeved base layer shirt, but there was no turning back. "This is it!" were the words that reverberated in my mind the whole time.
When we reached the stadium, it was still dark, cold and getting really windy, so I decided to wear my trash bag poncho which turned out to be a fashion statement that day. After grabbing a couple of bananas, I went inside the stadium, where a lot of runners were holed up to keep themselves warm, do some stretching and take potty breaks.

Calm before the storm (photo credit here)

The stadium crowd had swelled as I inched my way out to the general starting corrals. The overall feeling was euphoric and it was really nice seeing and being alongside the Students Run LA runners in neon yellow shirts & matching Nike shoes. As soon as the gun went off, it started to drizzle then poured non-stop after Mile 1. Felt a little uncomfortable running with the poncho and when I decided to lose it before mile 2, the rain became intermittently torrential and worsened by occasional strong winds.

Chinatown Dragon Gate (photo credit here)
Mile 3 past Chinatown was the first hill and it wasn't that bad. "This is it" turned into "I can do this" in my mind so I kept on pushing, keeping my pace between 9-10 min miles. Mile 4 was unforgettable because the rain turned torrential and directed toward us, making it a struggle to see where we're going, except probably those with visors or hats. The thermal beanie I was wearing was rendered useless but I kept it on to keep my ears snug.

Our HEROES! (photo credit here)
One good thing about the race was the steady supply of water every mile, and Gatorade by Mile 3, alternating thereafter. However, my bladder started acting up at around Mile 4, forcing me stop at the nearest porta potty station, which fortunately were available every 2 to 3 miles. I had lost precious minutes while waiting in line, but it felt good after meeting a fellow aspiring marathoner, assuring me that the finish line won't go away ;)

"Puddles" (photo credit here)
Thinking it was due to the cold weather and that I wasn't sweating that much, I felt the need to stop at every porta potty station. My situation turned for the worse at Mile 8, when I started feeling a twinge in my calves. So the potty breaks became welcome opportunities for stretching while waiting in line.

Cruising down Rodeo @Mile 17
I remember one elderly spectator at around Mile 9 yelling: "Hey you're in Hollywood, you should step it up!" It made me push harder for a while but I decided to keep running smart if I wanted to finish the marathon, so I kept my strides short and took walk breaks as needed. The rains didn't matter for a while because I was focused on managing the cramps, as my legs got really stiff and walk breaks became frequent.

Sta. Monica Blvd @Mile 18
Landmarks upon landmarks went by unnoticed, as the porta potties became my mile markers, with the rain & cramping blurring my vision of the finish line. By mile 17 and a slight uphill past Rodeo Drive, "I can do this" turned into a "Prayer of Hope." I've heard several runners hitting the proverbial wall at this stage, and for some reason, strong emotions started welling up as I was about to cross mile 18. Tried to hold them back but flashes of my family and friends who were rooting for me came right before my very eyes, and I also realized I wasn't only running for myself, but for the children in Africa with Team World Vision. The rain did a great job washing away my tears and as I passed by the band playing Route 66 along the Historic Route 66 itself, I told myself everything would be alright :)

Almost there!
Mile 20 marked the longest distance I've ever ran during my training. What I was psyching myself up at that point was to do just 6 more miles to finally belong to the elite club of marathoners. I also decided to stay close to the sidelines where the awesome spectators and volunteers alike, who braved the rains mile after mile, could call out my name & cheer me on to the last 10K. True enough, they boosted my morale and while I was still doing short strides, I was taking lesser walk breaks and having a clearer picture of the finish line.

The Runner's High
Though a bit late, I got my second wind at the last 3 miles and the "Prayer of Hope" turned into a "Prayer of Thanksgiving." I kept on running and while I slowed down a few times, I neither walked nor stopped for another potty break. The cheers were getting louder, as kilometers turned to a few meters, miles into a few feet away. I went faster as I ignored the pain and got a clear view of the finish chute and even passed runners in the process. Somehow, the time didn't matter to me when I crossed the finish line. It just felt good that I completed it and gained the title "Marathoner" that eventful day.

I'm a Marathoner!
All Wet, Tired, In Pain, BUT All Smiles!
Official time: 4:59:58
Click here for RunPix Graphic Results

"I grew up believing that once you completed a marathon it was as if you had been sworn into a secret society. A society of runners who become sisters and brothers, bonded by blisters, chaffing, dehydration, cramping and intense pain! We will have endured the same rigorous path together."

~Shalane Flanagan

"Every endeavor I have made ever,
Is coming into play, is here and now today!"
"This is the moment when all I've done,
All the dreaming, scheming and screaming, become one!"

~excerpt from the song: This is The Moment, from Jeckyll and Hyde: The Musical

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The Road to LA: My First Full Marathon

Running used to be just a plain warm-up and cool down routine for my weight training at the gym. I have never really paid attention to the benefits of cardiovascular exercise until my blood pressure started shooting the borderline, and had come to realize how inevitable this problem is, since it runs in my family. So the treadmill became a valuable workout partner and soon after, I started jogging outside during weekends.

My Nike+ Frees on the trail
My epiphany came in 2007 when I set foot in the United States, where I got to really appreciate what the roads and trails had to offer. I signed up for gym membership as well, but found myself getting lured more out into the great outdoors. Rain or shine, I made it a point to head out and pound the pavement. I went fast, then took it slow, depending on how my legs and lungs felt. Then I started browsing online about running, signed up with Nike+ Running community and eventually replaced my pseudo-running kicks with a fresh pair Nike+ Free Everyday. It was at the onset of Fall 2009 when I discovered the now defunct Nike+ Human Race 10K, the very first (virtual) race I started training for.

Getting ready for my 1st 10K Race
With the Nike+ Sportband, I religiously logged my training runs, as well as connected and joined challenges with other runners. Being an engineer, I became totally immersed with figures as my miles piled up and my pace improved exponentially. Not too long after the race, I was stoked into joining other running events, and found out about The SF Marathon. I knew I wasn't ready for a full one, so I signed up for the July 2010 Half Marathon race, which I preferred, because its course gets you to run the roadbed of the Golden Gate Bridge.

Running the Golden Gate Bridge
 My training for my first half marathon race was a fusion of sorts due to information overload. I basically followed the Hal Higdon Guide with a little bit of the Nike+ model. I didn't exactly follow the plans to the letter, so I sort of had "over-trained" in terms of mileage and worse, have never paid attention to cross-training and proper nutrition. I even managed to do a couple of 20-milers along the way! I paid for it dearly during race day, wherein I suffered serious cramping on both my calves, more than halfway through the course. You can find my race report through my Dailymile profile. More details on that awesome community later.

I'm a Half Marathoner!
A couple of months before my half marathon, I was able to squeeze in a last minute 10K race (WorkDay Devil Mountain Run) with a good friend of mine. It was so special because it happened exactly on my birthday and I decided to do it the night before. Felt good about this race because aside from setting a PR, it became a precursor to future running events with my high school friends in the Bay Area. It was also the first race that I got to use my new toy & indispensable running companion, the Garmin Forerunner 305, which I received as a birthday present.

One great thing about this whole exercise was signing up with Dailymile, an online community of athletes who share their workouts and constantly motivate each other. Belonging to this awesome group of people has inspired me to become a better runner and challenge myself further. So far, I've met three members already, and managed to have a few of my friends sign up as well.

Aside from the above races,  I've finished two 5Ks (Richard's Run and Run Wild for A Child), a Half Marathon Trail Race (Diablo Trail Adventure) and my most recent race, the Kaiser Permanente Half Marathon. All the respective links point to my Dailymile race reports, in case you want to know how I did.

It was November of last year when I decided to start training for my first full marathon and it wasn't until January 2011 that I decided to register for the LA Marathon, taking place the year I turn 42 years old. Yes, I'm a late bloomer as far as running is concerned, but what a way to celebrate my birth year by aiming to finish an equivalent of 42 kilometers!

I also signed up with Team World Vision for this event, so if you want to support this great cause, please check out my fund raising website.

 Finally, this post won't be complete without giving credit to music, which I learned to appreciate more with my running. One song that perfectly describes my journey is "Run" by Benton Paul.

"Instead of focusing on all the things I can't control, I am enjoying the moments in front of me. The marathon is going to be an amazing journey and I get the chance to write the ending."
~Shalane Flanagan, 2nd woman finisher at the 2010 New York City Marathon