Sunday, November 26, 2006

Questions

December 3 is the date set for the annual Davao Sunday Runners Club Finishers' Marathon. Run over a challenging out-and-back course which features more than 5 kilometers of hilly terrain, the event features a full 42k marathon, a 28k run and a 5k.

I am looking forward to running the 28k. I have done it about three times before, the last was in 2001. Five years is quite a long time, and I know that I cannot bring back the same level of fitness I had then in three months of running. I had biked recreationally and sometimes competitively the years I quit running, but I know that running demands a lot more, and I am no longer as young.

Have I done enough to prepare myself for this endeavor?

The longest runs I had were three 20k's on an out-and-back route with 10 kilometers of uphills. I have also packed in four 15-kilometer runs, in addition to the countless 6k's and 10k's on roads and trails.

Would all these be enough to carry me through the 28k?

I always try to assure myself that I would finish, that I have done enough. But the questions always come back, the doubts and apprehensions linger.

A week of running still lay ahead before the event. Perhaps I would find myself more assured in one of the coming runs.

I sure hope so.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

30:40.41

Boy, did I surprise myself!

I never thought I still had a 30-minute 6k in my legs and lungs. Well, it was really 40.41 seconds more, but after months of hovering around the 32-minute zone in my almost daily 6k run, I was never near thinking that I can do a sub 31. Running 31:30 for what has become for me a staple distance was a more likely thought

Like I normally do, I walked the 300-meter stretch of dirt road from the house to the paved highway where I do my runs. That and a few more minutes of walking before I start off on a slow run served as my warm up.

My first kilometer is usually run around 5 minutes. This one was no different. The next two kilometers of the run go downhill most of the way, so faster times are usual. I usually do each kilometer at 4:45, 4:50. But I felt more aggressive, bolder, and held a pace that was faster than my usual. My watch would later show lap times of slightly above 4:33 for this segment of the run.

Then came the turnaround and the inevitable climb back to where I started. This was the difficult part.

I normally run the first kilometer stretch of the return route in 6 minutes, which is what I did, At the kilometer marker, I picked up the pace, holding it over the 500 meters or so gradual upward slope which eventually gives way to a 200-meter downhill stretch before breaking into a steeper uphill of about 300 meters.

I was slightly in oxygen debt by the time I approached the post marking the start of the last kilometer of my run. I slowed down a bit, tried to breath more normally, and gauge how I felt.

I started to pick up the pace again after 100 meters and held it at what I estimated was a bit faster than my usual at this point of the run.

The road goes down slightly for 500 meters to the finish. At the start of that slight descent, I increased my tempo, held it for 400 meters, before breaking off into what for me was already a sprint to the finish.

I was gasping for breath when I raced past the kilometer post, fumbling for the stop button on my watch. I slowed down, walked, gulping in air. I looked at my watch - 30:40.41.

I checked my lap times. 5:23.50 for kilometer 5, 5:08.24 for the last. I smile to myself, bathed in sweat, as I walked back to the kilometer post.

Another morning in this ordinary mortal's running life, but a morning sweeter than the ones before.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Lance, the marathon, memories and lessons

Cycling champion Lance Armstrong calls the ING New York City Marathon “the hardest physical thing I’ve ever done”

So goes the lead of the news story on the official ING New York City Marathon website. It quotes Lance further:

“Even after experiencing one of the hardest days of the Tour nothing has ever left me feeling this bad.”

“I think I bit off more than I could chew.”

“Before the race that was my goal, I wanted to break three hours. But if you asked me that with three miles to go, I wouldn’t have cared.”

“Honestly, at the end I was so tired, I couldn’t care. I don't know how these guys do it.”

Lance did break three hours, clocking 2:59:36. He has prepared well for his first marathon, I should say. Just as well as any serious runner should.

I forgot who it was that said this, but I remember the words quite well - "You have to have respect for the marathon."

I learned that long before I discovered blogging, in those early running days. I tried to do my first full marathon with a only a couple or so of 20k runs up my sleeve, believing that more than a year of running 10k's was enough to get me through. Was I wrong!

By the 25k mark, I was dying. My legs ached, I had no energy, I was walking more than I was running. Much as I hated doing it, I had to board the ambulance that picked up the runners that were ready to call it a day.

I repeated the same mistake several years after, in our hometown 20k race. Again, I ran it on only two weeks of serious running. I had been on the on-again, off-again cycle for about a month and a half, but I have all these running experiences behind me, I've run a couple of full marathons, so this wouldn't be so hard. Again, I was wrong.

I took the first half with a fast (by my standards) 45-minute clocking, and was in the top 15 over-all. Then, 2 kilometers into the second half, it struck. I started getting cold sweat and felt goosebumps behind my neck. My pace slowed down, and soon I was in run-walk mode. It was without doubt one of my worst race finishes, one I would rather forget. Yet, I remember, because it is by experiences like these that we learn to become better runners. Pretty much like life.

Yes, you need to respect the marathon. I have been on a bike long enough to know that it can drain you more than a 100-kilometer ride does. There's no freewheeling in running, there's no coasting in a marathon or even in a 10k. You don't move your feet, you stop. There are no wheels that will move you forward on momentum. You just have to keep running, and all that pounding on pavement, all that punishment to your legs and feet -not to mention your quads- will surely take its toll in time.

“I don't know how these guys do it.”

I read those words as being said in awe and amazement. And I find it quite a praise for runners, even for mere mortals -mid and back-of-the-pack plodders- like us.