Tuesday, March 31, 2009

A Full Marathon In May?

It's Tuesday evening, more than 2 days after barely surviving and finishing my first 30k race, with my feet, legs and thighs hurting, my butt muscles in pain, and climbing up and down my stairs quite like climbing Mt. Everest, here I am, contemplating like a crazy fool the possibility of signing up for a full marathon in May. What is wrong with me? Am I nuts?

After suffering from painful muscle cramps on my thighs the last few kilometers of last Sunday's race, I was telling myself, this is it. No more of these crazy (too) long distance races. The 5k or even the 10 k are the ideal distances for an old, fat guy like me. Yesterday morning, as I got out of bed and slowly and in pain walked down the staircase (holding on to the railing for balance) for my morning coffee, I still felt the same way as the day before. No more running races more than 10kms.

What a difference a day makes. Tonight, I am thinking full marathon. The Mississauga Marathon a smaller race on the west end of Greater Toronto is scheduled for May 10 or the biggest marathon race in Canada, the ING Ottawa Marathon to be held on May 24 in scenic Ottawa, the nation's capital?

I am getting tempted to make my decision right at this moment, but, I will wait another day. Maybe a good night sleep would help me make the right decision. A full marathon in May?

Tomorrow maybe a different story. We'll see.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

The Around the Bay 30K - A Turtle's Story

I just came back from Hamilton, Ontario where I ran the 115th running of the Around the Bay 30K, the oldest race in North America (1894-which beat the first Boston Marathon (1897) by 3 years). I came to this small city in the southern part of Ontario full of excitement, hope and great expectation of a pretty decent finish time considering the training mileage I did in the last 2 months and the amount of carbo loading and hydration I had in the week prior (I think I ate so much spaghetti,Chinese noodles, other pasta that my weight went up from 197 lbs. a week before to 200 lbs. a day before the race).

My goal was to finish close to 3 hours and 30 minutes give or take, and I figured out if I could run a pace of 7 mins. per k, I would be alright. The weather forecast for Sunday was for light rain with the temperature at a day's high of 9 degrees above zero Celsius. I placed a pair of running shorts in my bag just in case I decide to wear one instead of the long one. Yesterday, my wife and I checked in at Sheraton Hamilton in the afternoon, although the race location is just an hour and 30 minutes away from my house. At around 8:00 pm, the wife suggested that we go out to have a look at the area surrounding the hotel, but I said no, got to rest the feet. By 9 sharp I was in bed trying to sleep.

By the way, I saw my running partner, Nette and her husband Fidel at the lobby earlier in the afternoon, and later we agreed to meet at 9:00 at the lobby on race day.

Morning of race day, after a sleepless evening from overexcitement, I was awake at 5 am, turned on the TV to check the days weather forecast, and to my dismay the forecast was for rain and temperature at plus 4 but with a windchill of minus 4. Damn. I tried my best to sleep again but all I did was close my eyes, open it again, twisted and turned in bed but could not get to sleep. By 8 am I had my breakfast, washroom visit, shower. I changed to long running pants instead of shorts and thought about wearing the orange technical running shirt given to me for signing up for the race, but decided not to, thinking that I would have to earn the right to wear it by finishing the race first.

Before 9am, I was out of the room, waited for the elevator with 5 other runners from the 8th floor. After a long wait, one of 3 elevators would open, but was full of runners going down the lobby too. This went on for 15 or more minutes until one of us, with common sense suggested for us to use the stairs. We all walked down the stairs and as we got down to next floors, more and more runners joined us from the lower floors until we reached the floor were the lobby is. The note on the door -No entrance to the lobby on this floor. We all went down one floor down the basement but the door said for emergency exit only. We all went to the other side and saw more runners (about 30 by this time) trying to get to the lobby too. One runner finally had the guts to open the door, and as the alarm went off, we all rushed out of the hotel. It was raining hard at the time, so we ran to the front of the hotel where I met my friend Nette.

By this time, it was close to 9:30, the start of the race and we still had to meet Sandra at the Copps Coliseum, where the registration tables were. The place was packed with people and we never saw Sandra there. Nette and I proceeded to the start line with thousands of runners walking ahead of us. We ended up close to the end of line of runners at the start.We slowly eased our way towards the middle of the road . I looked around and saw runners young and old, male and female, slender and fat (like me) collectively waiting in anticipation and excitement at the sound of the starting gun. I noticed many runners wearing plastic garbage bags and other protective covering from the rain over their clothes. As the gun went off, we started moving slowly with the sea of runners towards the start line. It took us almost 4 minutes to pass the start line.

I told Nette that I always feel spiritual and emotional whenever I participate in a big race like this. To me a race is a celebration of life and being healthy, and the hard work and dedication of everybody participating to maintain the runners' lifestyle. Then, it poured like crazy. First time I got drenched at the start of a long race. My shoes and socks were soaking wet and I heard the squishing sound of water inside my shoes as I was running.

On the 2nd kilometer mark, we saw Sandra and she joined us. On the 3rd k, other faster runners from our running club passed us, Annissa, Aaryn and Francesco. I was feeling strong the first few kilometers as we stucked to running close to the 7 minute pace, and even joked my running buddies that the way I felt at the time I could run a full marathon. How wrong I was I found out later.

At the 17 k mark, Nette had to use the washroom so I and Sandra went ahead. Sandra then started running faster as I slowly got tired around the 21st k. This time my feet were starting to bother me, the toes in particular, and I had to stop to change my socks which were soaking wet. It took me a couple of minutes to do this , and when I started to run again I felt so tired and so cold.

Then it was a test of survival with at least five steep hills for the next 6 ks. I did some hill training in my clinic, but our hill was a short 400 meters. All the hills that we had to run were mostly longer and much steeper. I ran the first hill, but had to stop in the next hills without reaching the top. Had to walk to avoid cramping, which I felt in both quads. I prayed to Mother Teresa and St. Michael .Two lady runners saw me limping while walking up a hill slowly, and as I tried to massage the cramping muscles, they stopped, asked what my problem was, and offered 2 big white round tablets which they said contain electrolytes. I popped both tablets in my mouth as the 2 earth angels continued running up the hill.

Around the 25th k, I passed Sandra. On the 26th k, My cramps started bothering me again, and I had to slow down but continued running . I tried walking but it only caused the cramping to get worse. One volunteer on a bike asked me if I were alright. I did not want a DNF so I said, I'm ok, nothing serious. I ran/walked the last hill and saw the 27th k marker. I told myself, with 3 ks left these volunteers would have to kill me, to make me stop finishing because of cramping. I felt better and better and the cramping stopped. I psyched myself to just relax and not overexert. I also visualized my mother smiling from above looking down at me as I continued running. I looked up the gray skies and prayed. Please don't let me not finish.

On the 28th k mark, I passed the 2 earth angels who gave me the white tablets. They were talking to an elderly white guy on a bicycle with white hair and beard. On the 29th k 2 guys wearing Grim Reaper costumes on the road told me if I want to quit and go with them. I said, "No way!" I then saw 2 elderly men with white hair ahead of me and I picked up a little speed and passed them.

As I neared the Copps Coliseum, I wiped my face of sweat with my gloves (lost my handkerchief somewhere along the race route), and then my nose too, being aware that I must look good at the finish line. I could hear the loud music and the announcer's voice calling out names of finishers as I ran closer and closer to the building. A few hundred meters to the finish line I picked up more speed as I passed a few more runners, and entered the Coliseum. With the loud accompanying music Staying Alive by the Bee Gees( do they look at your age to choose the right music for you?), and myself being shown in the huge Jumbotron, I ran the last 50 meters of the race in the best form I've ever had, and crossed the finish line for my first 30k race looking like a winner.

I finished in 4634th place out of 4916 participants in a turtle's time of 4 hours 9 seconds. So, with this 30 k race under my belt, I am happy to move another step closer to my goal of finishing a full marathon. But more than this, I was just blessed to have my 2 daughters, my wife and some close friends cheer me on at the finish line.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Ice Bathing Works

I am 6 days away from running my longest race ever, the Around the Bay 30k in Hamilton, Ontario, and I am so excited I breath, see, hear, feel, think - running every minute of the day.

The Sunday before yesterday, I ran my longest LSD ever, 26 kilometers much faster than the last one. Two days after, both of my feet, the inside below the arch were hurting I had to shorten my tempo run from 10 kms. to 7 kms, and on grass instead of the road. My running the 30k race seemed to be in jeopardy.

I usually use cold water and ice for joint and muscle pain after my long runs for 5-10 minutes depending on my tolerance level, and it varies day to day. A Pinoy ultramarathoner blogger, Rick suggested 15 minutes of ice bathing after a long run, to be repeated when needed, and basically, that was what I did, 2 or 3 times a day in the last few days. Boy, and how it has helped. Cold water immersion or an ice bath is a more popular therapy used by ultramarathon runners after a long run to promote recovery. It supposedly slows down metabolism which reduces swelling and muscle tissue damage.

On Friday, I did an easy run of 6 kms. and there was only a little discomfort in the same problem spots of my feet. Yesterday, two runner friends and I did 16 kms. , on a route with a few hilly portions and I finished the run pain free. I still continue ice bathing my legs and feet every day, specially now that I know it really works. Every long distance runner should try it.

For this week, I plan on running no more than 15k total in 3 sessions (6k, 6k, 3k)until race day.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Ups And Downs Of Marathon Training

Marathon training for a new runner is like running a course that is hilly. You can't avoid the ups and downs.

On the 3rd week of our 18 week marathon training program (1st week of February) just as my excitement and enthusiasm was at its height, I went down with bronchitis and missed more than 2 weeks of training. It was this time when I felt so down and thought of not running the Around the Bay 30k, a race I signed up for earlier in the year. Incidentally, the race is only 11 days away.

When I got well, I slowly but surely made up for lost mileage, and before long I was right on with the schedule of our training program. My last 2 LSD runs were 25 plus kms. and 26 plus kms. In both long runs I felt I could continue to still run a few more kilometers. That's how strong I felt after the long runs.

But yesterday, after 48 hours of rest, I went out to do my 10k tempo run, and lo and behold, as I started my run slow on the asphalt road, I felt pain on both of my feet on the inside just below the arch. I had to shorten my run to 7k and did it on grass (a football field in a park close to my place) instead of the road. I treated my feet to ice water for 10 minutes after the run.

The only thing that could have caused the problem was maybe my tightening my laces too much on my Sunday run. Or, running a little bit faster than the Sunday before?

Today I could still feel the pain. How do I deal with this problem with the race so close? I guess I will have to postpone my next run to Friday instead of tomorrow to allow the pain to subside. Let's see what happens.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Is 3 Hours 30 Minutes A Reasonable Cut Off Time For A Half Marathon?

There is a half marathon race, the Condura Run scheduled in Manila, Philippines on March 22, 2009 that has created a big buzz and lots of interest from Filipino running enthusiasts both in the Philippines and abroad.

The 21 k race is being organized by running brothers Patrick and Ton Concepcion who are both accomplished and respected runners. All the talk and posts from runner bloggers indicate that the half marathon race is going to be a resounding success, considering the excellent organization and the enthusiastic support of the running community in the Philippines.

I heard though that the cut off time for the half marathon is only 3 hours and thirty minutes .

Here in North America, I learned that in big half marathon races, the cut off time is more "new runner", "older runner" , "female runner" and "heavier runner" friendly. The 2008 Ottawa Half Marathon with 8,368 participants had a cut off time of 4 hours and 45 minutes. Similarly, The 2008 Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Half Marathon with 6,374 participants had a cut off time of 4 hours and 45 minutes.

Another big half marathon race, the One America 500 Mini Marathon in Indianapolis, USA, where more than 35,000 runners participated last year had a cut off time of 4 hours and 30 minutes.

I am pretty sure that the organizers of the Condura Run have taken into consideration all factors relating to the issue in coming up with the decision to set the cut off time for this prestigious race at 3 hours and 30 minutes only.

It's just too bad that runners who do not cross the finish line within the cut off time would not be officially recognized.

Do you think a 3 hours 30 minutes cut off time is reasonable for a half marathon?

Forget About The Shorts

Last night I was getting all my stuff ready for the next day's long run when I saw on TV Sunday's weather forecast. Tomorrow would be sunny all day with a high of plus 10 Celsius. Woohoo! Finally, I got my favorite black Nike shorts out of storage in my basement for wearing for the first time this year.

I got up this morning all excited, prepared my breakfast of coffee, wheat bagel, 3 hard boiled eggs without the yolk, and strawberries, turned on the TV for the weather channel, and to my surprise, the temperature is at minus 3 Celsius!

So, forget about the shorts.

I am going on a long LSD (Long Slow Distance) run at around 9:00 am today to do 26 kilometers (of course still wearing these cumbersome winter attire).


Did 26.24 kms. total in more than 3 hours.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

A Run Longer Than a Half Marathon

I finally completed a run longer than a half marathon for the first time in my life today. I feel like I am on cloud nine.

This morning at around 9:00 am I met my 2 friends Sandra and Nette at the Runningroom for today's LSD (Long Slow Distance ) run. Last Sunday, I did 19 plus kms., while Nette did 23kms. and Sandra did 26 kms. This time around, the 2 of them were to do 26 kms. while my goal distance was 3 km less.

The day's forecast was for rain in the afternoon, so it was the ideal time to start our run early morning with the temperature just about plus 3 Celsius. The day was cloudy and I noticed that there was no cold wind blowing in our faces this time. Three days ago, we had record high temperatures here, 17 degrees Celsius. Today we're back to reality. There were some small pools of water on the route, otherwise most of the ground, while wet, was clear of debris, snow or ice.

Now, I can appreciate running with women runners more, especially because my two friends gave special emphasis to the word "slow" in this LSD run. Just like our last training run, we started very slow, increasing our pace gradually until we settled into an comfortable pace and rhythm.
The route we took had 5 hilly portions, all of them shallow, but two are longer than the others. Sandra, who ran the Around the Bay 30k , told me that I would have to tackle a similar hill close to the end of that race, only much steeper.

I let my friends take the lead and I just followed close by, occassionally joining the interesting conversation about, what else, running.

After 1 km, we saw and greeted some friends (Greg, Felicia, Nadine) from the 10k clinic who were returning to homebase from their own run. On the 4th km we waved to Jason (my clinicmate from the last half marathon) and 2 other runners running on the other side of the road.

At the 5th km. mark, we greeted Jill (another clinic coach) and Phillis , another runner friend who were running on the other side but coming from the opposite direction.

Every now and then Sandra would all of a sudden stop to pick up a penny on the road. We stopped over at Tim Hortons on the 10km mark to use the washroom and refill our water bottles. Then we were off again, a la Forrest Gump, with the seemingly endless shuffling of our feet, wiping of our noses and heavy but relaxed breathing.

Around the 11 km mark, we seemed to have run out of running stories, and my two running friends started a new topic that I honestly admit I am completely ignorant of, bras and bra sizes. Of course, I did not join in the conversation and I tried my best not to listen (without success), although all this time I had a smile in my face. It was funny.

We also came across Ben, my former half marathon clinic coach, who was also doing his Sunday run. He said he's preparing to run a 5k race for next Sunday. He ran with us for half a kilometer until he had to turn to another street.

We had our last washroom and water filling break at the York Police Station at the corner of Carlton and Mccowan Roads after 17 kms. I felt, after a couples minute rest, that my quads were starting to get tired. Then we were off again.

The last interesting topic that we talked about was Donald Trump's love life, his new young wife, Ivana and Marla Maples. Also, Sandra picked up some more coins on the ground...

I do not know if I got tricked or what, but at the end of my more than 3 hours of running my Garmin showed a total distance of 25.11 kilometers instead of 23 kms. that I was intending to do at the start of our run. Sandra and Nette added an extra 1 km to our run.

My next Sunday long run - 26 kilometers.

Friday, March 6, 2009

23 Days To Around The Bay 30k

I am signed up to run my longest race ever, the Around the Bay 30k in Hamilton, Ontario on March 29. This road race is the oldest in North America, starting in 1894 , 3 years before the first Boston Marathon. It is one of the more prestigious races here in Canada that attracts the best runners in the world.

I found out about this race while running the Mississauga half marathon last year. Two lady runners both wearing orange colored shirts with the words "older than Boston" printed at the back of the shirts passed me at the halfway mark. Curious, I increased my pace to get running beside them and asked what is older than the Boston Marathon. "The Around the Bay 30k in Hamilton", she answered back. I then eased up my pace (I could not keep up with theirs) and the orange colored figures ahead of me became smaller and smaller until they completely disappeared.

Because of my busy work schedule and family commitments, I made up my own training schedule so that I would be running only 3, at the most 4 days a week instead of the 5 days in our marathon clinic training program. I also try to squeeze in between my running days some light weight exercises and stationary bike riding. I wish I had more time to spare though.

So far this week, I ran on Tuesday, 8.09 km tempo run. I added another 9.65 km with 6 hills last night . I will rest today and tomorrow and do my LSD (Long Slow Distance) run of 23 km on Sunday. I felt good after my last 3 training runs, other than the little muscle aches from being tired. My mantra for the next 23 days - Run, rest, run, rest, run, rest-run!!!