Monday, October 14, 2013

A bittersweet 37th Milo Marathon Davao Elimination Race

I went into the 37th Milo Marathon Davao 21K Elimination Race last Sunday, October 13, hoping for only one thing - break my personal best for the distance. While I was having doubts I would, given the circumstances I am in now in comparison to 2011, I still harbored the thought. Dreaming was free after all.

Qualifying was an easier thing to do. Modesty aside, it was already a given.

My age group qualifying time was set at two hours and I was doing my weekend 20K training runs in lesser time than that. Barring any untoward incidents that would prevent it from happening, I was already sure of finishing within the qualifying time.

My best 21K time was set in 2011. I ran the Araw ng Dabaw Phoenix Run 21K in March that year clocking 1:41:31, finishing at the top of my age group and bagging a medal for the effort. Run on the same route of the 34th Milo Marathon Davao Elimination Race the year before, I considered it sweet revenge. I was only good for a 1:51:27 clocking then and failed to qualify for the Manila finals. The time improvement of almost 10 minutes elated me more than getting the top finisher's medal for my age group.  Thinking that I could finally beat the qualifying time in the 35th Milo Marathon Davao Elimination Race set in November made me even more excited. I might even set a new PR.

It didn't happen. I did qualify, topping my age group yet again, but on a new route that included no less than 4 no-nonsense climbs to the halfway mark outside the Davao International Airport the best I could clock was 1:42:04.

With a relatively flatter route this year, I was hoping I could set a new PR or a time closer to my 2011 Milo Elimination Race finish. But looking back, I could say it was a long shot right from the start.

I couldn't say I wasn't prepared. I trained, putting in running hours early in the morning before I report for work my at the radio station. I did several doubles, doing short afternoon runs after work. The weekends were for the long runs. I did quite a good number of 20K's. All that paid off.

I set off comfortably at the bark of the gun, got into my rhythm in no time, and was soon passing other runners left and right. I was running strong as I always did going closer into the halfway point. I traded paces with a couple or so of younger runners until a kilometer or two past the turnaround. All that just wasn't good enough.

My legs didn't feel more fatigued than they should be, but there was that now familiar burning sensation at the sole of my right foot that stings when it hits exposed gravel on the now deteriorated concrete road paving. I can run through the pain but on a much slower pace until it subsided. It was frustrating not to mention energy sapping. I don't know if it has something to do with my metatarsal stress fracture last year but it sure wasn’t there before that injury. The thin soles of my racing flats could also have been a factor.

My last kilometer going to the finish seemed the longest I ever ran in a race. Two other younger runners passed me back. Turning the final corner and seeing the race banner ahead, I mustered whatever strength I had and went for my fastest sprint. The race clock said 1:47 something.

I crossed the line, received my finisher's medal, certificate and goody bag. I didn't stay long at the finish area, and went back to the hotel less than a block away for a shower and fresh clothes. I went back to the finish area just in time to hear the winners of the men's 21K race being called out.

I have done what I came to do. Run and beat the qualifying time for my age group. With no new PR and not much else left to do, I headed out to silence my now grumbling stomach.

So what did I learn from this race?

I run better with high mileage tucked well in the elastic band of my running shorts. Training for the December 2011 Davao Finishers' Marathon, I put in several 100-kilometer weeks before that year's 35th Milo Marathon Elimination Race.  My weekend long runs by the time I did the elimination race were already beyond 20 kilometers. That made me stronger over the distance and helped me hold whatever limited speed I had longer.

I might need to switch back to racing flats with a bit more sole for 21K and the marathon.

Another year, another race. I'll train, and dream, and run and hopefully qualify again with a PR.

P.S. The 37th Milo Marathon official site for the Davao Elimination Race results had me finishing with a gun time of 1:47:55, good for third in my age group. I was 55th of 444 finishers overall.

55th of 444 21K finishers overall

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Milo Marathon on my mind

My race kit for the Milo Marathon 21K regional elimination race in Davao City on Sunday, October 13, arrived Friday last week.

This will be the 4th time that I will run this yearly event since I came back into running in 2008 after a brief hiatus. I failed to do the event in 2009 due to work schedules. Last year, I opted out of the race because I felt I wasn't physically and psychologically ready to take on it four months after I have recovered from a metatarsal stress fracture earlier in the year.

In 2008, on a relatively flat out-and-back route from Rizal Park to Sasa, I finished the race in 1:49:45. I hoped to improve on that in 2010 and hurdle the 1 hour and 50 minutes qualifying time set for my age group to get into the 42K national finals. Even if I wasn't sure of running in Manila, qualifying would be an achievement. The race took on a new route with a moderate climb to the old airport in Sasa thrown in making it a bit more difficult than the 2008 route. I could do no better than 1:51:27.

The following year, 2011, my hope of finishing within the qualifying time for my age group was boosted by a 1:41:31 finish at the Araw ng Dabaw Phoenix Run 21K. The race, held in March, was run on the very same route of the 2010 Milo Marathon regional elimination. The organizers however decided to put more challenge in the 2011 edition of the regional elimination race in November and had it climb all the way to the Diversion Road with more hills coming before the turnaround point just a few meters past the Davao International Airport. It was a killer. I finished in 1:42:04, not a personal best, but more than enough to make me the top finisher for my age group.

I had earlier planned to run in last year's qualifier. After nursing a metatarsal stress fracture for two months, four weeks of those wearing a cast on my right foot, I had slowly walked and jogged myself back to recovery. By race month, I had already run a couple of 10K races and a relatively fast 5K. But I was not ready for just another finish. I knew deep inside I would only be ending up frustrated if I did the regional elimination and didn't finish very close to my 2011 time if not surpass it. I finally decided against doing the race.

Now comes another opportunity to qualify for the nationals and break my PR.

Time hasn't been as available this year as it was when I trained for the 2011 edition. Partially employed with a lot of idle hours on my hands, I didn't only have the luxury of ample training time but also more than enough time to rest and recover after. I was in fact having the best year of my second running life - my second wind. While work hasn't robbed me much of training time, gone now are the long resting hours I used to have. Job-related tasks have taken over.

As I finished my easy 8K run this morning, I thought about how I felt. My breathing was good, my body relaxed, and there was that spring in my stride going into my final stretch. My training times tell me that a finish below the qualifying time for my age group, more relaxed this year at 2 hours, is very likely. The PR is another matter.

There is simply no predicting what will happen on race day. All you can really do is run your best and hope that it is good enough to bring you where you want to be. That is the simple truth of racing.

These you get easy.

This you have to earn.
(Photo from Kamote Biker)

Thursday, October 03, 2013

Each other's inspiration, that's what we runners are

We runners run mostly for ourselves.

We give various reasons when asked why we run - to keep fit, to stay healthy, to relieve stress, to socialize, to feel good about ourselves. Seldom, if ever, do we say that we run to inspire others. But in reality, it does happen. We in the solitariness of our run, oftentimes if not always totally absorbed in our love-hate relationship with the road or the trail, unconsciously serve as a beacon, an encouragement, an influence to others, even those who are totally unknown to us.

While in Makati for a job-related training, I visited a bookstore near the hotel where we were billeted to check out some running books. I was browsing through the pages of Rich Ellott's "Runners on Running" when I heard a tall guy standing a few feet away call out my name. It was Din, a runner I got connected with through Dailymile, a social networking site for runners and other fitness enthusiasts. We exchanged pleasantries and was soon joined by his wife Carrie.

This was actually the second time we met. The first time was at a restaurant in Greenbelt, more of a "hi, hello, nice meeting you" thing. They noticed me by the running shoes I was wearing. This second meeting gave us more time to talk running, and had both sharing to me how they started and a few stories of what they have experienced. What struck me really was how they said I have provided them motivation through my posts on Dailymile.

Today on Dailymile, I got a message from another online runner friend, Abet. She thanked me for keeping her spirits high while she is recovering from a serious bike accident. I am not sure what I particularly did or said. It could only be one or two of the workouts or pictures I posted that made her send me that message. But that doesn't really matter as much as having been able to provide motivation and inspiration in my own little way without me even knowing.

Runners on Facebook, on Twitter, and everywhere else where I am present online say that at one time or another - I inspire them.

I am no extraordinary runner. I am just another one among the multitude who embraced and continue to love this sport, eking out whatever little accomplishment we can from ourselves, getting high on any little victory achieved. Compared to the elite, the gods of the sport, I am a mere mortal. I even refuse to be addressed as coach. I have not been technically trained as a runner or properly educated to provide professional advice to runners. All I can do is share whatever practical knowledge I got through years of running.

Perhaps that is the beauty of this sport we love - how we find encouragement in each other's everyday achievements. In the same way that they say I inspire them, so can I say that my running friends motivate me to keep on doing what I do. I owe it to them that I continue to lace up my shoes and run every single day I can, even during those days when I didn't feel like running, especially during those days.

Perhaps that's really how we thrive as runners, by feeding off each other's energy,  by being each other's inspiration.