Saturday, December 01, 2007

Is this good news or bad?

Tomorrow is supposed to be race day. The first Sunday of December has been the day of the Davao City Sunday Runners' Finishers' Marathon year after year. Until this year, it seems.

I have just been told by a fellow runner that the organizers have canceled the event for still unknown reasons. No wonder I didn't see any news of the event in the Davao sports websites. Not a single item, which I found unusual for an event that has become big not only for Davao-based runners but also for others like me who hail from the nearby cities and provinces of South Central Mindanao.

I have mixed feelings about this news. It means I don't have to give up racing it this weekend because I just got off from sick bay and feel I won't be 100% for a 42k which is supposed to be my ultimate goal for the year. I am glad about that. But this race just has become such a part of my running life that hearing it is folding up makes me sad.

Deep inside, I am hoping that the news is not true. Deep inside, I am hoping they just decided to postpone it and still run it in another week or two. That means I would still be okay for my 42k goal this year. Deep inside, I am also hoping that if they did decide to call the race off this year, that they would run it again next year. If that happens, I will surely be there to take on the challenge of the 42k yet again.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Running the Merco 61st Anniversary 21k


Before Jollibee and McDonald's came to Davao with their burgers and fries, there was Merco. It was my favorite hangout before and after classes at the Ateneo de Davao where I was a college freshman way back in 1972. I loved their hot dog on a bun, steaming hot and garnished with mustard. It really made for a mouth-watering treat that I never missed to feast on whenever my finances as a student away from home allowed.

After decades, I was back at Merco, not for the hot dog, but to register for their 61st Anniversary Run. Scheduled on October 14, I thought it would make a good tune-up race in my preparation for the Davao Finisher's Marathon on the first Sunday of December. I have done a number of 20k weekend runs on moderately rolling and hilly courses- the only kinds of terrain I seem to ever get to run on in my corner of the world- with times hovering at 1:50:00-1:55:00. The best I ever did on this weekend long run was 1:48:39 on a hilly course (6 big climbs in all!) out to the next town of Makilala and back. I felt I was well-prepared for a 21k race, but the proof is always in the running.

When they first did the Merco Anniversary Run last year, they had 500 entrants, way more than they had expected according to newspaper reports. Not much of a crowd was gathered in front of Merco Bolton, the starting and finishing point of the race, as we checked-in for pre-race processing at around 4:30 a.m. on Sunday. There were just a little more than 50 of us, women included, waiting for the start of the 21k race. Apparently, most of this year's entrants were joining the 5k and 10k fun run. The 21k was billed as an open race, no age category winners, no possible honors for the likes of me. A possible personal best was all that was waiting at the finish. That was enough for me.

The sound of a siren from a megaphone set us off at 5:00 am. I positioned myself on the second line behind the faster elite runners to get a good head start, but I was never the good starter. 50 meters into the run, I watched the faster and younger runners who stood in front of me at the starting line move farther away from me. Not much later, three to four other runners went past me. I knew my pace was much faster than the usual. I was breathing heavier than I did on my normal training runs. I'll catch up with you guys, I thought. I'll catch up later.

By the time I was going into the 2nd kilometer, some of the guys who surged past me earlier were beginning to come back. I passed a heavily-built foreigner and a younger runner. Another one followed after a few more meters. Before we reached the 5k turnaround in front of Gaisano Mall, I was running next to a man wearing a Davao All-Terrain Runners (Datrun) jersey. Sensing me behind him, he surged. I let go. He kept a 100-meter lead on me. Trailing each other, we passed two more runners who were ahead of us on the road before we reached the 5 kilometer mark.

For three or four kilometers, I was content with trailing the younger Datrun member by a good hundred meters or so. Then, as we neared neared the entrance to the Davao Insular Hotel, I felt myself gaining on him. Soon I was running right behind him, matching his pace. It was an easy one. I stuck to it, relaxing a bit.

On the other side of the road, the leaders were making their way back to Merco Bolton. I started counting the runners who were now on their second half of the run. I counted thirteen male runners. Next came a guy in blue and white jersey, who I realized was one of the faster guys who passed by me earlier in the run. Only a little ahead of me was another heavily built runner, huffing and puffing his way to the turnaround point for the 21k race less than 100 meters away. I surged, passed the runner ahead of me, pulling along the Datrun guy. I snatched the blue plastic straw they were handing out to the runners and hang it on my neck. I also managed to grab a banana and some water. I drank a bit, took two bites at the banana and discarded the rest on the roadside. I was now running ahead of the Datrun guy. He was right behind me, matching my pace. Still ahead of us for about 100 meters was the guy in the blue and white jersey. I was now at 15th place basing on my earlier count. This was a good run.

As we approached the Redemptorist Church at Bajada, we finally passed the blue-and-white-jersey guy. My Datrun buddy still stuck behind me. As we made to turn to Quirino Avenue, a little past the 5k turnaround, we began running side by side. Not much was spoken between us. I guess we were both too tired to start off a jolly conversation. We were passing more and more runners on the road, either 5k or 10k runners jogging or walking their way to the finish.

After two more turns, we were on the straightaway leading to Merco Bolton. I was waiting for a surge from my Datrun buddy. Nothing came. I picked up the pace, passed some young girls who tried to give chase briefly while giggling. Still my Datrun buddy didn't pass me. I knew he was still behind me, I just didn't know exactly where, or how far behind. A crowd has gathered at the corner going to the finish chute, people taking their snacks and a line of more people still trying to get their share. I looked at the digital timer above as I neared the finish line. It showed 1:42. I pressed the stop button on my trusty old Timex Ironman Traithlon. One of the Davao Sunday Runners marshals took the detachable portion of my race number, while another one handed me my t-shirt. Each of the first 100 finishers was supposed to get one. As I looked back at the finish line, I saw my Datrun buddy enter the chute. I smiled and extended him my hand, he shook it and smiled back. Running really has a way of bringing people together and creating a bond between them.

I checked my watch. 1:42:42. Not bad. Not bad by any means.

Monday, August 27, 2007

My corner of the world



Some vr buddies have mistakenly placed my location at Davao City. Perhaps it's because most of the races I have written about in this blog were in Davao.

True, I do most of my races there. It's where most of the big-sponsor races are held in these parts and the most logical place for me to go to and put whatever running ability I have to the test. I do not live in Davao though, but in Kidapawan, a "provincial" city somewhere in the boondocks of North Cotabato in the foothills of Mt. Apo. It is about an hour and a half to two hours ride through 106 kilometers of paved roads from Davao City. Landlocked, it has no beaches or seaside roads where I can run to the sound of the rolling waves or the refreshing wisp of the cool sea breeze. What it has a lot of are rolling terrain, hills, and dirt roads which bring you to places where you run to the sound of bird calls and rippling waters of mountain springs.



Saturday was rest day- from running, that is- for me. At 7:00 am, I packed a digital camera with the rest of my biking survival gear in my Camelback Lobo, got on my mountain bike and pedalled off to measure the distance of a course which included a substantial portion of dirt road going through three villages of the city. I was scheduled to do a 16 kilometer run Sunday and thought it would be good to do it on this route, write about it, and share some images of this corner of the world where I run.

Sunday's run started at 5:30 with a 3km uphill effort on the paved portion of the Mt. Apo Nature Park tourist road. The road climbs steadily, and just when you think the next portion is flat if not going down, another slight uphill stares you right in the face as if taunting you. The slowly ascending route limits my pace 6:00-6:30 minutes per kilometer.

Before the end of the third kilometer, I turn right on a dirt road lined on both sides by fruit trees, the start of 7 kilometers of running on limestone roads, passing overflow bridges, jumping water puddles and mud pools, and all the while watching out for dogs as I pass through a cluster of houses along the route.


The route provides a number of fascinating sights. Giant boulders abound on the roadside along the first 2 kilometers, reminders of a time a couple of centuries ago when Mt. Apo vented out its fury. It has remained silent since. Large rocks are also a common sight in the mountain streams traversed by overflow bridges. I pass about three or four of these streams along the way. Kidapawan prides itself as the City of Highland Springs with enough reason.


These sights have a way of keeping you sort of refreshed. I felt more energized than when I run on pavement. I was recording faster clips of sub-5:20 mins/km as I breezed through the downhills. Maybe it was the sense of being one with nature, running to the sound of babbling streams mixed with the chirping of birds and the sounds of crickets and other insects, that keeps me energized. I definitely have no need for an MP3 player here.

No problem with the sun either as the rubber trees that line both sides of a large part of the route provide more than enough shade and help ensure a cool breeze.



Still feeling fresh after 10 kilometers of running, I surge up the last uphill on this dirt road. Another kilometer and I am back on pavement, with 5 kilometers more to run.

It was only at the last kilometer's final 200 meters that I feel fatigue begin to set in. It was an uphill and my legs have gone through a lot of ascents through the last 15 kilometers. I glance at my watch. 1:27:35. I told myself it was okay to feel tired after a good run in my corner of the world.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

One good run

Thursday. Virtual run day. I was up early - 3:30 am - not wanting to miss out again like last Thursday. Although E-Rod said I didn't really miss out on that one and that he started his run only 5 minutes earlier than I did mine, being on time made me feel better.

"Am I adrenalized?" I kept wondering as I walked to the starting point of my run. I really felt good! Yes, maybe it was the excitement about taking part in this virtual run that caused this, the idea of running at the same time with a number of other people who are in different places with different time zones yet joined together by their passion for the sport.

As I paced through my first kilometer, I decided that I would do a 10k out-and-back run which will bring me across the boundary to Barangay Saguing in the next town of Makilala and back to my starting point. It had a couple or so of hills including a roughly 1k climb back to the center of Kidapawan City.

I felt like I was in race pace mode during the first three kilometers. "It could be the downhills," I thought. But even when I was already negotiating the relatively steep ascent to Barangay Saguing near the end of my 4th kilometer, my pace still seemed fast. At the turnaround, my Timex Ironman Triathlon showed 25:58.50.

Now came the run back.

It was an ascent right from the turnaround, a slow gradual rise that goes almost the entire 1km distance. But this was not "it" yet. A descent to the Saguing Bridge follows, then a shorter but steeper rise, and a slow gradual ascent again from the 7th km to the Kidapawan City plaza, roughly a kilometer and a half in total distance. A slight descent to another bridge then precedes another climb to the 9th km point. This is the part that kills your legs, your knees, and your quads. Mine didn't die, but I knew I was having positive splits.

The last kilometer was relatively flat. I was soon back where I started. The old reliable Timex showed 54:52.93.

Back at the house checking on my lap times for the second half of the run, I took note of the following splits:

km6 5:56.36
km7 5:45.14
km8 6:04.50
km9 5:44.65
km10 5:23.78

I was slower today than last Thursday (54:30.51), but then I guess this was a tougher course. Already I am thinking of taking on this course again on next Thursday's virtual run.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Missing out on the virtual run

"Runners from across the globe connect and train virtually with each other through the power of 21st century technology."

"Runners separated by geography do a training run 'together' wherever they may be in the world."

"It doesn't matter where you are–the OC, Manila, or Timbuktu–you're welcome to join me and several of my training buds that span two continents, a really big ocean and several time zones."

After having read through posts in the individual blogs of those who have joined this virtual training run, I thought maybe it was time I try joining. The idea was definitely cool. Doing a run simultaneously at an agreed time over an agreed distance in each participant's own corner of the world - Manila, Makati, Alabang, Paranaque, Kuala Lumpur, USA. The specified time was 4:30 am, the distance 10k/6 miles. Since my set 10k run coincided with the group's 4th virtual run anyway, I thought I might as well do it as part of this group of virtual running buddies.

I was up before the alarm went off on my cellphone. Problem was I set it at 4:00 am instead of 30 minutes earlier. And it was already 3:55. With all my pre-run rituals, I seriously doubted I could be out on the road by 4:30.

By the time I was brushing my teeth, it was already 4:35. My first virtual run is fast going down the drain. The others are definitely into their warm-up phase right now. I finally go out of the house at 4:45, and reach my starting point on the main road at 4:50. I have missed out on the virtual run.

I went ahead with my own scheduled 10k run, breezing through my first half at 27:14.46. I did the second half at a slightly slower 27:16.05, for a total time of 54:30.51. My old Timex Ironman Triathlon, the only "gadget" I have ever used aside from the usual running apparel, showed an average time of 5:27.05/km with a best of 5:02.48 (No big deal. This was run on the slightly downhill 8th kilometer of my route).

It was a good run overall. The fastest of my three 10ks this week. It would have been more fun though if I had made it in time for today's virtual run. Maybe next Thursday ... .

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

In the shadow of Sondawa



Mt. Apo, king of Philippine mountains, loomed before me as I hit the last kilometer of my run. For the past two days I did my run on this same route, but overcast skies hid the long dormant volcano from view. Today the sky was clear, and from where I was on that last uphill I could see its peak, the country's highest at 10,311 feet above sea level, kissed by a single clump of grey cloud.

Running "in the shadow" of Sondawa, the name by which Apo is known to Manobos and Bagobos living around its foothills, always inspires me. I don't know why, but seeing it towering majestically in the distance as I run seems to energize me and erase whatever trace of fatigue or pain there is in my body. It is as if this mountain - both mystic and sacred to the indigenous tribes, with its steaming and ice cold lakes, sulfur pillars, and moss-covered age old trees - breaths fresh life into my battered limbs.

They did a foot race up Sondawa, the only one that covered a full course from Kidapawan City to the peak, sometime in the early eighties. Hardy runners from Kidapawan, Arakan, Cotabato and Davao braved the 3-day multi-stage event. They tackled the roughly 21-kilometer mostly ascending dirt road from Kidapawan plaza to Lake Agku'u on day 1. They took on the Marbol trail with its seemingly endless climb following a series of river crossings to spend the night at Lake Venado on day 2. Then they did the final ascent to the peak on day three.

A veteran of the Alay sa Pangulo marathon of the seventies, Romeo Pallarcon of Arakan, won the event. Other runners said he did it largely with the help of a Manobo runner, Crispin Damo of Sitio Sayaban nestled in the foothills of Mt. Apo. Damo knew the terrain like the back of his palm. He served as guide and porter for climbers. Damo himself landed in third place if I remember right, following a runner from Davao whose name escapes me.

And there was Alex Bornea, the race's heartbreak kid. Kidapawan's top bet, he was said to be leading the way going into Venado when he accidentally tripped on one of the many tree roots that dotted the trail and suffered an injury. They had to bring him down the mountain on a stretcher, I was told.

Some of those who did that one-time race were friends of mine. They invited me to join them in taking on Sondawa then. I knew myself and my capabilities. I was out of their league. But running up Sondawa, perhaps tracing the route taken by those unsung Mindanaon runners in that one-time race, is a dream that still burns within me.

I have trekked to the peak of this grand old man of Philippine mountains 5 times. At least once, I want to run my way up, beneath the canopy of centuries old trees, amid bird calls and the thunderous roar of hidden waterfalls of Mandarangan Trail. Or maybe through the mossy forest and "Elfin Woodland" of Bongolanon Trail perched at about 1,800 to 2,700 meters above sea level, and experience that surreal feeling of running through the forest moon of Endor, home to the Ewoks of Star Wars fame.

For now, I take satisfaction in being energized by Apo Sondawa as I pick up my pace towards the end of my run.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Taking on the Shrine Hills Challenge


The Shrine Hills Challenge in Davao City is perhaps one of the most difficult if not the toughest 10k run on city streets. Imagine more than a kilometer of climb on the end part of the race. I said climb, not a mere uphill ascent like the one you tackle on flyovers.

Just how high is Shrine Hills? I have been trying to find the exact answer to that question, but with the official Davao City website and even Wikipedia not giving me any help, suffice it to say that from where we started and finished the race - a restaurant called Jack's Ridge - you get a breathtaking bird's eye view of Davao City and Davao Gulf. In short, you are not talking here of a patsy high ground. Minus the pavement and the concrete buildings, I would say that this is more of a mountain run-up!

This was the second time I was doing this race. I did it back in 2002 during its first ever run. It was tough that first time. I figured it would even be tougher now that I am five years older and with much less training time behind me than I had then. I don't remember walking any part of the course the last time. Neither am I planning to do any walking this time around.

It is always easy to fall into the trap of going with the surge of the faster runners at the starting gun. On this run, you "die" early if you do that.

The opening kilometer of the Shrine Hills Challenge starts off with an uphill followed by a short flat stretch followed by more uphill. I immediately looked for a group going at my pace which I could latch myself to while we continued to tackle the rolling terrain. I found a group of three who I thought was going on a pace comfortable enough for me. I settled in.

Even before we hit the steep downhill that brought us down to the Diversion Road, one of guys picked up the pace and went ahead several meters. I stuck with the other two, a younger looking runner and a doctor who I was a bit familiar with. I knew Doc Oscar (I think that's his name) to be in my age group. I also knew him to be a strong runner. I had always wanted to have this chance to run step for step with him.

We faced a long descent at the Diversion Road, one that can really take its toll on your shins. It enabled all of us to go faster, though, and pick up our pace we did. Doc Oscar and I left the younger runner behind and caught up with the one who surged ahead earlier. Soon, he too was behind us. Together Doc Oscar and I passed several other runners mostly half our age. Exchanging leads and pacing each other, we were soon at the final stretch of the race - the big climb back to Jack's Ridge.

We took a right turn to GSIS Village and immediately faced a long uphill. It was then that I learned from Doc Oscar that it was more than a kilometer of climbing back to Jack's Ridge. Halfway up the first stretch of climb, I was already ahead of Doc Oscar, facing the challenge on my own. At a corner, the race marshalls directed me to turn left and there before me was a welcome site- a relatively long stretch of flat road with a solitary runner in red shorts and singlet up ahead going through a brief respite before facing his own personal hell.

I restrained myself from giving chase. I knew the final uphill stretch was a monster that required every bit of energy I had left. After another turn, I was at the opening of the final climb. Up ahead was an empty winding road going up and further up still. As I made my way further up on short fast steps, I heard the race marshalls at the last water station welcoming Doc Oscar. I fought the urge to look back and check how near or far behind he was, or whether he was still running or walking. I concentrated on the road ahead. At the next turn, I saw two or three runners from the PNP on run-walk-run mode further up the winding road. The runner in red was still ahead of me by a few meters.

As the road started to level off a bit signalling our approach to the finish at Jack's Ridge, I picked up the pace a bit and passed the runner in red. Ahead the PNP guys had taken the final turn going to the finish. They were starting to cue up for arroz caldo, boiled eggs and bananas when I crossed the finish line after a brief sprint.

I had my second Shrine Hills Challenged tucked under my belt. I checked my old Timex Ironman Triathlon. 49:38.27 - not a bad time for a 10k with a nasty mountain ascent for a finish.

(The 6th Shrine Hills Challenge was held June 24, 2007)

Monday, June 25, 2007

No risk in running? Better think again...

If you think that running is a non-risky sport, better think again.

I've been chased and snapped at by dogs, kissed the pavement and been hit by a hurtling fallen motorcycle while on the run!

Take the other Sunday, for instance. While on my 1-hour back roads run, two dogs chased me for a few meters until their owner called them back. This is a common happening for me on runs like this. Running in the countryside, I pass no less than half a dozen dogs along the route. It's a good thing not all of them give chase, and not all the chasers snap at you.

A nasty snapper narrowly missed me once. I didn't hear him bark. I just felt him running straight for my legs and snapping, missing me by perhaps only an inch. I stopped dead on my tracks and immediately turned to face the snarling "Cujo." It was when I shouted at the dog that its owner called it back into the house. I had to go back and talk seriously to the man about an existing ordinance mandating that dogs should either be caged, chained, or kept within the confines of one's home, and that he would be legally liable for any trouble caused by his dog.

If I had been lucky so far not to have been bitten by a dog yet while on a run, such is not the case with falling on all fours on the pavement. I've kissed the pavement twice on a run.

I was on an early morning run along Mabini in Ermita during one of my occasional visits to Manila when my most recent brush with asphalt happened. I didn't notice the hump on the road, and before I knew it, I had lost my balance and was falling forward towards the pavement. The asphalt was surprisingly warm to the touch of my palms and knees which were soon stinging from the forceful contact. I stood up and continued on my run to the CCP sporting a bloody graze on both knees.

Falling during a race several years back was a much better experience, I suppose. For one, I did not suffer any injury despite falling on the gravelly road shoulder. It was the start of a 10k race organized by the YMCA in Cotabato City. Runners were jockeying for positions, trying to get to the front, jostling and rubbing elbows. Running on the rightmost side of the pavement, a slight nudge was enough to send my right foot over the edge and into the lower road shoulder. I stumbled and found myself rolling on the gravel. I picked myself up and ran after the pack, managing to catch up with the last man in the group after a kilometer. I did not only emerge from that fall unscathed. I finished first in my age group.

The worst that has happened to me was being hit by a hurtling fallen motorcycle. I was on yet another Sunday long run along the tourist road leading to the PNOC geothermal plant site in the foothills of Mt. Apo when this one happened. Two motorcycles going in opposite directions somehow had some accidental contact causing one of the motorcycles to fall. I saw the fallen motorcycle sliding fast towards me as its driver rolled on the pavement behind it. I tried my best to avoid the fast approaching fallen vehicle, moving to the edge of the road shouldering. The motorcycle seemed to follow me, and my next move was obviously effective only in those action movies. The motorcycle hit my left foot even as I jumped to avoid it sending me on all fours. I did not see any blood oozing out of broken skin in my palms and knees when I picked myself up, but there was the obvious pain in my left foot and lower left leg. Finding no bones broken, I just started on my run back home after assuring the crowd that has gathered in the area that I was okay. I also made sure that the driver of the fallen motorcycle was alright. Except for a few bruises, he appeared pretty much fine.

So the next time you run, keep in mind that there is a reason for that waiver you see in road race application forms. Yes, running is a sport that requires your full attention even to the things around you. Enough reason for me to avoid listening to blaring music on the earphones while on the run, except perhaps when I am in the relatively safer confines of a track oval.

By the way, I don't have an iPod. I'd love to have one, but I see no serious need for it really. Anyway, that's another story.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

It's beginning to feel easier

It always comes to a point when everything begins to feels easier.

When I began doing this 6k route which starts with a 3k ascent Tuesday, I felt I was in running hell. Even before I reached the 500 meter mark of the first kilometer, I was in oxygen debt. I was literally gasping, and my arms and legs! I was feeling the burn. Lactic acid build-up, no doubt. There could be no other reason.

It was not that I started out fast. I knew the route enough to remember that I should pace myself properly, especially so that I came from running the Run For P.E.A.C.E 5k in Davao over the weekend. The road climbs steadily, and just when you think the next portion is flat if not going down, another slight uphill stares you right in the face as if taunting you.

That keeps on for three kilometers!

But yes, it always comes to a point when everything begins to feel easier.

The human body is resilient. It has that ability to adjust, to adopt, an ability that truly serves the athlete - even the ones who just "feel like" among which I would include myself.

After two days of taking on this "killer hill" of a route, including running it in a drizzle that eventually became a full blown rain Wednesday, it seemed a little less of a "killer" today. It was still a difficult route but a little tamer this time.

There was still a degree of oxygen debt at the early going, but my breathing has become less labored. I can pick up the pace and not feel like dying, and I found it easier to get into a rhythm. My 37-minute total run time for the entire 6k was down to 34 this morning. I still felt fresh after the run, and I'm definitely happy about it.

There's just this one thing, though. I want to tackle that third kilometer going into my designated turnaround point with a lap time lower than the 6:47 I have been recording in my old Timex Ironman Triathlon for the past three days.

Maybe I could do that one of these days. There are more runs ahead of me along this route. And its beginning to feel easier.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Going back again

"Been there one time... been there two times... never going back again..."

So goes the line from that Fleetwood Mac song featured in the 1977 album "Rumours." It is a song I can sort of so relate to these days.

After quite a long period of "inactivity," I am back into my usual run-and-bike grind. Since May 15, I have done 7 runs - two 4ks, a couple of 6ks, a 7k last Sunday, and a couple more back roads runs of 37 minutes each. I have done a short but fast (my pace, of course) 16k ride on a road bike and an equally short and fast spin on my mountain bike. That last one almost had me losing control on a fast downhill and in danger of falling into a very deep ditch. It had me thinking that the 45-day hiatus had somehow left my reflexes a bit rusty. I finished the ride without a scratch, though, except perhaps a bit of scratch on my self-confidence.

My thighs and lower back are sore. But it is sweet pain for me. I am back into doing what I love to do best, and there is no better way of self-assurance for me at the moment.

"Been there one time... been there two times... never going back again..."

No, I'm never going back again into long periods without a run or a bike ride... not if i can help it anyway.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

My back roads run

There are a lot of unpaved roads where I live. They snake their way up and down hills, pass by orchards and tree farms, over streams and small rivers traversed by overflow bridges. I run these unpaved roads from time to time when I feel like doing something different from my usual 6k-10k paved road routine. I call this my back roads run.

These roads all link to each other and run through several villages. Depending on the particular route I map out, a run could go from 45 minutes to 2 hours on a single loop. I did a 45-minuter this weekend, my first back roads run since October last year.

It didn't feel anything like I haven't run this route for the past 5 months. Perhaps it was the familiarity with the terrain. It starts with a 3km uphill effort on paved road before turning right to a dirt road lined on both sides by fruit trees. You then cruise through rolling terrain for about 2 kilometers and do a fast downhill over another 2 kilometers.

It was already half past six in the morning, but it's only when I hit the pavement again after that last 2k stretch that I feel the warm sun on my skin. All the while, the trees in the orchards and rubber farms that line the dirt road keep me sheltered in their shadows.

I guess that's one of the few things that make my back roads run always a refreshing experience- the opportunity to run amidst a cool early morning countryside scene.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Luck is with me, I guess

Thank God it's cancelled!

Race organizer Vic Sai himself told me the Petron 10k race in Davao City is set on Sunday next week, not this weekend as I was earlier told. And that's just fine for me. It gives me time to put in more mileage into my legs.

That sounds funny, isn't it? Putting more mileage into your legs for a race when you are supposed to be pampering them so that they are fresh for the big day. But we runners know that this is the harsh reality of our sport. We need to train our body - and our mind - to suffer so that further suffering becomes just another routine thing that it can take with more ease.

I only had one run this week. That wouldn't have been enough to get me race ready. Tomorrow, I will run again. And again on Monday, on Tuesday, on Wednesday, on... and on... I can only hope it is not just wishful thinking, that I can really find more running time. Unexpected tasks just have a way of cropping up and messing up schedules lately.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Another race coming, but...

It's been almost two weeks since I did the Adidas King of the Road 10k in Davao City. Another 10k race is coming up in the same city this Sunday. The thing is I can't say I have had a decent preparation for that one.

Running has been an off and on thing for me these past few days because of a busy schedule. I only ran three days last week doing an easy 4k and two 6ks. My last run was on Sunday. I haven't done any running since Monday. I had to leave for the big city early Tuesday and again this morning on some office chore.

Tomorrow I plan to run. I'll try to do a 6k again, maybe go up to 8k if I feel good.

The race this Sunday? I would love to do that, but I would first have to see how I would do tomorrow and Friday. Those are the only two days I believe I could do a decent run before doing that 10k race this Sunday.

I hope my body tells me it's okay.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Adidas King of the Road Davao

The day before

I arrived at the Adidas shop on the second floor of the Gaisano Mall at about half past five in the afternoon. A table has been set up outside the store to attend to late registrants and those who, like me, were picking up their race packet that afternoon. A runner I suppose was running in my age group was filling up his form. Others stood waiting.

I had called race coordinator Vic Sai earlier advising me to go to the Adidas shop. Apparently, he already had instructions for the guys at the registration table. The one in charge was a guy I saw in almost all races I had run in Davao. He either ran or helped out in race management. I guess I looked familiar to him too. He immediately knew I was the guy from Kidapawan even without me saying so. He asked his assistant to find my race packet from a cardboard box at the foot of the table and give it to me.

After reviewing the race route map that was handed to me by one of the other guys at the table, I went back inside the Adidas shop, race packet in hand, to look around.

No running shorts, and I mean running shorts. Not the loose all purpose shorts that the sales persons almost always give you when you ask for running shorts. Some even give you ones with pockets. This has made me wonder for quite some time now. There seems to be a shortage of running apparel in shops down here in the South. I looked for New Balance running wear at the Athlete's Foot shop here in Davao a couple of years back. They didn't have any. Nike shops also seem to have a shortage of running wear. I got mine during a trip to Tagbilaran, Bohol last year. It was on sale so I bought two pairs. There is a deluge of basketball apparel though. You will go crazy choosing which one to give yourself as a motivational gift.

I decided it was time to leave. I still had to get myself a room at a lodging house nearby. There was still a cue at the registration desk. A 30-ish looking guy had just handed in his registration form, while two younger office ladies were all smiles - excited, I suppose, about doing the race tomorrow. I predict that there would be a big crowd. It is always like that here in Davao. That's why I love running here.


Race day

I arrived at the Gaisano Mall for the Adidas King of the Road Davao leg just as they were calling the 10k runners for check in. I lined up with the rest and had my race bib -number 828- marked. I step into the starting area joining the throng of runners that were already there. 700 participants had registered for the race according to race coordinator Vic Sai. I immediately saw familiar faces.

Just in front of me was "Master" with his signature flowing white beard, braided hair locks showing at the back of his bandana-covered head, and barefoot as usual. There was the always jolly bunch of Davao Sunday Runners' Club. A whole company of runners in fatigue-colored shorts and shirt from the Philippine Army were also gathered at the starting area. And I noticed foreigners - a couple of female runners and a teenager with an older companion.

A fellow runner from Kidapawan, Cris Panerio, gave me a warm handshake, happy that I made it to the race. His daughter Nichiren was also there. I had seen this kid grow into the athlete she is now. She used to run along with her father as an elementary grader, later trailing us as we made our usual rounds at the Kidapawan City Plaza. She is now on a running scholarship at the University of Mindanao in Davao City. Two other male kids of Cris were running the 10k and his youngest girl was doing the 3k fun run. Running surely runs in this family.

The gun went off without warning, to the delight of some, and the race was on.

I started fast. I was feeling what I thought could only have been lactate build-up in my upper arms even before the end of the first kilometer. It worried me but it was gone in a couple more minutes and I was getting more comfortable with my pace. I began passing runners who had started off faster than me. I found myself by my lonesome going up the slight ascent towards the Davao Medical Center, about halfway in the first five kilometers of the race. I passed a couple more runners and noticed Nichiren running just ahead of me.

As we passed by the Carmelite Monastery, we saw the lead pack of four fast on the return route paced by eventual winner Jonel Languido of Philippine Air Force. Five minutes later, in front of the Damosa Building, we met up with Stella Mamac Diaz running by her lonesome, stamping her class in the women's race. Soon, it was Cris that I noticed on his was back on the other side of the road. My friend is going to win our 50-and-above age group, I thought to myself.

The turnaround followed shortly. I was still feeling good and passed still a number of other runners including Nichiren on the return route. One other runner was bugging me though. He was a few meters ahead of me running on the other side of the road against the traffic. I can't seem to catch up with him try as I may. Another runner was also catching up behind me. Both were much younger than I am. I crossed over to their side of the road, picking up the pace. By the time we reached the Victoria Plaza area, we were almost running together. I guess this made me a little more confident.

I saw the tall building of Gaisano Mall ahead. It was perhaps 600 or 500 meters ahead. I went faster. I didn't notice the two younger guys go with me. I felt I was running alone going into the curve and finally sprinting into the finish. I glanced at the watch. It read 47:14.45. Not the 45 minutes I had earlier targeted, but as a long unseen friend from Cotabato City who surprisingly was also there at the race said afterwards, nice time for an old man.


Postrace

I was right about Cris. He did win the 50-and-above age group. His daughter Nichiren was first female in the 13-19 category. I had my own share of luck. Adidas gave out gift certificates for P500 worth of merchandise to the first 100 finishers. I found my name in the list at 97th place.

At a restaurant where I had breakfast with my wife and another companion who have come to pick me up after the race, I noticed a family of three. The chubby young boy was slumped on the table, his father sitting beside him was stroking his back, while his mother looked at him with concern on the other side. Father and son still had their Adidas KOTR race singlets on. I smiled and soon we were in a friendly chat.

It was their first race. They were joggers who heard about the race and decided to try the 3k fun run. The boy was tired, and I guess his father was too, but they sure were proud of what they had accomplished. I didn't think the mother ran the KOTR, but I believe she too would talk proudly to friends about how her husband and son ran their race.

Yes, running is alive and well here in Mindanao, with the likes of Cris Panerio and his running children and that father and his son who did their first race together with a supportive wife and mother behind them.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Training

I am one of those runners who do not go by a fixed training plan.

I go out of the house on running days, walk to my starting point on the main road about 300 meters away, and then run my usual 5:00-5:30 mins/km average pace for my set mileage for the day which is from 6 to 10 kms. Cruise intervals, fartleks, hills, track workouts - I read all about these and have an awareness of how they help improve performance but much as I think of doing one or two, that's all it usually ends up to: a thought!

The nature of the terrain here in Kidapawan City forces me to run through a lot of moderate ascents and descents, though. That's the closest I have to running hills. And I would like to believe that it has helped build my endurance.

Tapering? That's another thing that I read a lot about but don't put into serious practice. A week before a race, I still go out on my usual pace at the usual distance, although I make sure that I don't run the day before the race.

Sometimes I ask myself: would I have barged into the top ten of my age group if I had followed a fixed training plan?

Maybe one of these days I could really seriously work out one and follow it to the letter. Then I'll see about "barging into the top 10."

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Looking forward to King of the Road

I registered yesterday for the Adidas King of the Road set a week from now in Davao City. This will be my first 10k race for the year.

I have run this course several times before in my previous running life (before my "inactivity", that is). It is a relatively flat out and back course that promises a faster time for me.

I live, work, and do my 5x-a-week runs in Kidapawan, a little more than a hundred kilometers from the race venue. My 52:33.93 10k this morning could well be described as my average 10k time in this hilly city up in the highlands of Cotabato. Perhaps, the best I can go here would be 50 minutes.

I hope the relatively flat Davao course and the city's lower altitude will help me do the race in less than 50 minutes. Maybe something like 45:00. I think that would be a good goal.

I still have a week for further preparations. I am looking forward to doing 6k runs on Teusday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. I might even make that an easy 10k on Friday.

Hopefully, with all the work I have put in these past weeks, this would be a good run for me.