Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Sharing The Sights On My 15K Running Route

Had to take a short breather when I discovered this small stream during my run.

A short trail beside Angus Glen Golf Course

Soon these barren trees will be lush green.

I passed by my golf driving range 1k from my house.

I saw this guy cutting a log into smaller pieces.

North of my residence are huge farmlands (along Major Mckenzie)

Angus Glen Golf Course around the 3k mark of my run

It's refreshing to run with the Angus Glen Golf Course on my right.

I did my washroom and water refill break inside the centre.

Around the 5k mark close to Warden Ave., I saw million dollar homes that I dream to own someday (when I win the lottery, ha ha).

Not quite a million, but still a beautiful house

I chanced crossing paths with 2 ducks but they weren't too friendly.

Another nice house I saw around the 6k mark.

After daydreaming about houses, it's back to work at Warden Ave. going south.

But had to stop to take a picture of dandelions sprouting all over

A friendly goose, I took this picture a few feet away, the goose unmindful of me.

Retraced the same 1st half route and passed Angus Glen on the way back.
I decided to treat myself today to a leisurely 15k run on a new route that I knew I would enjoy considering the beautiful sunny weather were having for the day. I call it a treat, because for the last 2 days (I'm off work for a week), I and Jojo (the wife) have been working non-stop from morning to evening to clean up our basement of junk, old clothing, shoes, Christmas decor stuff. We decided to get rid of extra stuff and at the end, we had at least a dozen bags of old clothes ,jackets and shoes going to our church's charity, on top of the 10 bags of garbage piled in my garage.

Early this morning, Jojo suggested to me over coffee that today would be a good day for us to buy garden and potting soil so we could start to plant flowering plants in our front and backyard. Of course I said no, asserting that this was run day for me. She tried to persuade me for a bit but in the end accepted the inevitable. I laced up my running shoes, grabbed my hydration belt and camera and off I went out the door and into the warm sunshine and cool breeze of the most beautiful day in Markham this year.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

A New PR In The 5K Will Have To Wait

Race day was sunny and beautiful with a temperature of 15 degrees Celsius, ideal for a fast time in a 5k race. The race course - flat and easy. I eased my way towards the front of the the start line feeling excited but very calm inside knowing that I trained hard enough for this race. As the gun went off, I started slower than the elite runners in front, but my aim was not to compete with these runners but with myself, to break my old 5k time of 26:33 at last years Toronto Challenge 5k Race. I checked my Garmin 305 for my average pace, about 4:45 -5:00, heart rate at 150, and so far going to the first k, I was doing ok. I maintained the same consistent pace until the 4k mark when I slowed down a bit for the final push to the finish. With 300 meters to go I gave it my all running faster ,and passed a few runners as I crossed the finish line in a time of 25 minutes. A new PR!

That was the scenario I had been dreaming to happen in the last few days before the Legacy 5k Run ,a race I did this morning with my co-worker friends . And, it didn't happen.
This morning was the exact opposite of what I was hoping for. The weather was bad, with the temperature dipping to 9 degrees Celsius. The forecast was for cloud and showers in the morning, and it even felt colder because of the wind. I woke up at 7 for my breakfast and usual pre race preparations. All my friends were supposed to congregate to my place at 8:45 am, after which we were to car pool together and proceed to the race site for our timing chips and kits (for the ones who didn't get theirs yet).

At 8;45 none of my friends arrived yet, and I received a call from Joey that his daughter would like to register to run with us. Same day registration was between 8:30 -930 am, so had to tell him to rush to my place so we can sign up his daughter. By 9:15 everybody was present so we proceeded to the race site, registered Joey's daughter, but then received another call from Omar asking if we could register his wife Jen, and that they're also on the way to the site. We did that and then rushed to get our timing chips. We all met and gathered together underneath a Runningfree tent as we waited for Omar and Jen to arrive. I then helped everybody tie their timing chips on their shoelaces properly (as some of them were doing a race for the first time).
The first timers in our group were Joey, Kevin, Denese, Renate, Christina, Andrea and Rachael. The ones who have run a 5k race before, with our previous best times- Jen (23:51), Omar (23:55), Dave (25:03), Ken (35:54) and myself (26:33).

Ten minutes before the 10 am start, we had to huddle together with other runners under a small Runningfree tent to avoid getting drenched by a heavy down pour of rain. It was windy and cold at the same time, so I tried to keep warm by jogging in place and rubbing my palms together. I don't know, but for whatever reason , friends become tighter when they experience adversity together, and I felt that way just being around friends who were as cold and a bit wet as I was.I then asked Dave, who is a Christian and our bible expert to pray for the rain to stop. I prayed on my own earlier but the rain continued and I thought I needed somebody who has greater influence over the Big Guy. It did stop after a few minutes and then we were asked to proceed to the start line .

I was told that around 1500 people registered for this year's race, more than the 1000 plus in last year's. But this morning, the number of runners huddled together in the cold and rain at the start line would have been just half the number of registrants.

As the start whistle was blown, we gradually walked/jogged to the start line and off we went, slowly at first as around 3 hundred runners were in front of us. I noticed having a problem with my breathing into the 1k mark, my pace must be too fast? I looked at my Garmin and lo and behold, it was saying - battery low- and then it just stopped working. I always relied on my Garmin to check my heart rate. As long as I maintain my pace with my heart rate not going above 90% of my maximum heart rate, I know I would finish safely.
By the 2k mark I took off my wet vest (it was becoming too heavy) , rolled it and carried it on one hand, occassionally transferring it from one hand to the other as I was running. I also felt very thirsty at this time. I saw a young mother carrying a big umbrella with her young son pouring what appears like fruit juice on a miniature table on small paper cups offering the drink to runners. I was tempted to take a cup but decided to wait and drink at the water station on the 3k mark. That was exactly what I did, grabbed a cup and gulped the water down and continued running on completely wet road. I tried to keep pace with a group of 5 teenaged runners all wearing yellow (must be a cross country school team) who were just 20 meters ahead of me. Tried my best to pass them, and actually got to about 5 meters close but was not able to.
By the 4k mark I was feeling tired (what happened to all those LSD training runs?), so I slowed my pace until maybe about 500 meters to go, when I went on a higher gear, increased my pace, and crossed the finish line in 28:42.

After the race, we all went back to my place where we had a hearty lunch.

Am I aiming for a new PR again? Yes, but not in the 5k. I am running the Toronto Sportinglife 10K Run, the biggest 10k race in Canada (as far as I know, is there anyone bigger?)on Sunday, May 03. My previous best is a slow 1:02 in the 10k distance, so the chance of bettering it is greater than me improving on my 5k best time. The only problem is I will be watching the Pacquiao vs.Hatton fight on Saturday night and if the Pacman does not knock the Briton out in the early rounds I'd be in trouble come race day ( for I'll have very little sleep).

Friday, April 24, 2009

Going For A New PR (Again)

I came to work today carrying 9 race kit bags for my co-worker friends running with me on Sunday, April 26 in the Markham Stouffville Hospital Legacy 5K Run. There was excitement in the air as I handed the race kits to my friends, specially the ones running their first road race, some trying on the freebie shirts as soon as they got them. I remember this same feeling before some two and a half years ago when I was just starting to run and just before a road race . Like a 12 year old playing his first basketball game in his first basketball tournament, that was exactly how I felt on my first 5k race. To my friends, I hope and pray that they all finish the race uninjured, and for the first timers, just to savor and enjoy the experience.

If I remember correctly, I ran my first 5k in about 38 minutes. I also remember that out of more than a hundred runners, I was one of the last runners to cross the finish line. Being a former basketball player in my younger years, I was disappointed (my ego and pride were hurt) at my slow time, and from then on, everytime I ran a race , tried to beat my last PR (Personal Record). With this frame of mind, I slowly improved my times in the 5k and in June of last year, my last 5k race, I did 26:33 which is my fastest time on that distance. It's a nicer feeling now to be in the upper half of the race result list at least in the 5k distance.

This Sunday, I'm gonna go for it again. I will aim for a new PR in the 5k distance.

Is it even possible though, considering that I have been training in the last year more for endurance ( running longer distances, particularly the half-marathon or longer) rather than for speed? We'll see on Sunday.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Running The Legacy 5K With Monty And Friends

In late 2006 while at work, one of my co-workers approached me and asked if I were interested in joining a contest called " who's the biggest loser?". My co-worker , in his forties, but obviously out of shape (he was fat just like me at the time) explained to me that everybody who entered the game bets $50 and the winner wins all the pot. The catch, the winner would be the one who lost the most pounds percentage wise during the holiday season.Every contestant would be weighed at the beginning, and after the new year, would be weighed again to determine the winner. About 10 of us joined the contest.

It was an eye opener for me. I never thought anybody would consider me to join a fat men contest. I thought I was just alright. I thought I was just big boned. In reality though, carrying 220 lbs. weight in my 5'9'' frame was taking its toll on my body. My waist line was at 40 plus, my knees were hurting, and constantly, I suffered from arthritis in every joint of my body. My doctor advised me to go on a diet to control my high blood sugar level , high blood pressure and arthritis. I never consistently followed my doctor's advise. At first, I thought my co-worker was joking. Then, when I realized he was not, I felt bad and depressed. That afternoon, when I got home from work, I went to the washroom, undressed (he he, not a pleasant sight) and without sucking in my big belly as I was used to do, looked at myself in the mirror. God, I was fat!

Of course I lost my fifty bucks. Do you know of any Pinoy or Pinay who lost weight during the Christmas season? I was one of a few. I lost a measly 2 lbs total, even with forcing myself to control eating too much. I tried (sometimes) removing the fat from the crunchy balat ng lechon or just reducing my consumption of fruit salad or all the home made puto brought by friends and relatives. And the kare kare, ham, turkey, etc., I tried to avoid to no avail.

And then enter my co-worker Monty at this critical period of my life. He just turned forty, around 5'8", 230 lbs., with thick football player like body frame. I overheard him talking to another co-worker about joining the Law Enforcement Games, particularly in the middle distance races. I found out later that he competed in the 5k and 10 k running events. I also learned later that as a young man he was a champion wrestler , actually completed a couple of full marathons and consistently over the years, had run middle distance road races.

One day, Monty suggested to me that I join him to run a 5k race . Of course, I said no initially, making all kinds of excuses, my knees were bad, too old for running, arthritis. This went on for a while, Monty persistently cajoling me into running with him, until one day I said to him, ok, I'd give it a try. We ran the 5k fun run at the opening of the Vaughn Runningroom store, with him finishing , if I remember right in about 25 minutes. I crossed the finish line in 38 minutes.

From then on we became running buddies, as we ran a few more 5k races together.We did some training runs after work in the park just behind our workplace and the trails along the Don River . Encouraged and motivated, I joined the Runningroom clinic in April 2007 as I looked ahead to run races longer than 5k. Then, Monty busted his achilles tendon in one pick up basketball game. He underwent surgery and was off for almost a year while I continued progressing into running longer distances. When he returned to work, he walked limping, obviously favoring the injured foot. He told me that he didn't even know if he could ever run again.

Whenever I look at my past and the people I have met, there are some who stand out in that one way or another they have changed or influenced me in a positive way and made me a better person. Monty is one of them. He was an inspiration and a great motivator. He encouraged me to try running and once I did it with him, I fell in love with the sport and then there was no turning back. I lost most of the unwanted weight, the arthritis, the hypertension all but disappeared and overall, I feel good about myself. There is no day now when I don't think of my next run .

On Sunday, April 29, Monty (my mentor), some close friends from work and I are running the Legacy Markham/Stouffville Hospital 5K Run in my hometown of Markham, Ontario to raise funds for the hospital. After the race, we'll have a barbecue at my place which is only about a 10 minute drive from the hospital, where the race is going to start and end. It promises to be another memorable and enjoyable day to share with family and friends.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

A Perfect Day To Test The Ankle

Outside my house

Vacant farmland along my running route

Major Mckenzie Drive close to Kennedy Road

Kennedy Road north of Major Mckenzie

A few days ago the roofs of these houses were covered with snow.

It is a sunny beautiful day here in Markham today Saturday, with the temperature at 13 Celsius (which is seasonably high for this time of the year) and going up to a perfect 22 degrees by the afternoon. So, I am gonna lace up my running shoes and go out alone for my LSD run this morning instead of tomorrow with my running clinic group. I am thinking running at least 21 ks to test my right ankle that bothered me the last LSD run and made me feel miserable for a few days.

An ultramarathoner blogger, Rick, correctly noted that my not being able to complete my last 2 LSD runs may be the result of running too fast in the early part of the run. As I was running with a group, I was forced to keep up with the faster pace of more seasoned and experienced marathoners and I suffered near the end with exhaustion/lack of energy and the last run, pain in my right ankle. Now, I am back to basics, taking it easy and slow and trying to listen to my body. I continue to ice the sore ankle and rested it till Wednesday to go for an easy 10k run which I completed in 1:07:12 with just little pain in my ankle, maybe 2 in a scale of 10.

At this moment, I am eating a breakfast of oatmeal mixed with a spoonful of peanut butter with lactose free milk, taho and 5 strawberries (can't eat too many of them fruits without having to stop for a washroom (CR) break). I hope it is enough to sustain me longer, cause I ran out of gels. I only have a package of shot bloks with 6 pieces in a pack, total calories - 180. I will carry some skyflakes that we bought from a Filipino store. I wonder though if skyflakes will do as a good substitute for gels.

I usually wait until at least an hour after breakfast to start my long run. By then , I would have finished visiting the washroom, which is a must for me. I just can't do a long run with extra baggage in my stomach. I will take this oppurtunity to read some runners blogs too, read the front page of today's paper, give the wife who's still sleeping a kiss, and off I go for 2 to 3 hours of happiness and solitude.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Forget The Marathon In May

Forget the full marathon in May. I decided today not to run the full marathon in May after another lucklustre long training run that I did not complete for the second Sunday in a row.

On March 29, I ran my longest race in the Around the Bay 30k Race. Three days after the run, I got carried away and toyed with the idea of running a full marathon in May, choosing between the Mississauga Marathon on May 10 or the Ottawa Marathon scheduled for May 24. I continued doing my training runs religiously hoping that by doing so I would feel strong enough to sign up for a full marathon.

Last Sunday, on a scheduled 29 k LSD run, I was only able to complete 23 k because of feeling fatigued and leg weary. I thought by giving my feet and legs a little break I will rebound in the next training runs and become stronger due to the much needed rest. Had no problems with the shorter weekday runs. I felt strong and fresh after my 10k tempo and hill training sessions.

This morning though was quite different than the weekday short runs. I brought extra ammo in electrolyte pills knowing that our training run of 32 k (my longest ever) may cause cramping if I just relied on gels and gatorade. I took 1 electrolyte pill every 45 minutes as advised by Tony, one of our marathon clinic group leaders. I felt alright and kept up with Tony and Jack ( a Boston finisher in his late 60s) until we parted ways at the 12k mark. Tony had a commitment in his church, while Jack had to go straight to Bur Oak instead of the training run route we were supposed to take. I decided to try to run the designated route which was to go north along Hi-way 48.

By the 15k mark, I suddenly felt some cramping on my quad muscles on my left thigh. I had to slow down to avoid the cramping. I swallowed another electrolyte pill and it helped a little bit. At the 17thk mark, my right ankle, for no reason (I did not twist it ) started hurting and I had to favor the right feet while running from then on. In short, it was another disaster in this morning's run. I had to shorten my run again and just completed 22.24 ks in a slow time of 2:52:14. I drove home feeling down and walked up my house' front steps limping, with my right ankle in pain.

At this moment I am still icing the sore ankle, while I try to think and reorganize my running goals for this year. Today, after a forgettable LSD run, I am more inclined not to run a full marathon in May. Maybe the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon in September?

Monday, April 6, 2009

Winter's Last Gasp and Some Race Pictures

I woke up this morning at around 8 still sore from yesterday's 23k long training run. My morning ritual of going down the stairs to the kitchen for my double cream no sugar coffee determines how I am feeling for the day (in terms of mileage to run or cross training to do). This morning, unlike the Monday morning after my Around the Bay 30k race, I did not have to hold on to the railing and just walked down the stairs quite normally with a little discomfort/soreness. I guess my body is getting used to the extra mileage, and I find that I don't have to do ice bathing on my feet,legs and thighs as much as I did before.

I was just so surprised when I looked out the window and saw wet snow still falling at this time of the year.. While the streets were just wet but clear of snow, the pedestrian walkways, yards and roofs of houses were all white and covered with snow that must have fallen in the evening. I did not fight the urge to take some pictures of my neighborhood, the front and the back just to show how miserable the weather here in Markham is even in this early part of spring. The past week looked promising ,weather wise , as we got a lot of sunny days although the temperature was still hovering about 2-5 degrees above zero. I think this bad weather maybe the last gasp of winter , and then we're in for a warm, beautiful spring weather which would be ideal and conducive to running outdoors. Whenever we have bad weather like this, I think about runners in the Philippines who are so lucky to be able to run in warm weather all year round. I envy them.
I decided to do light weight training in my basement for an hour, after which I read some running blogs mostly Pinoy bloggers. I'm so proud to learn from Baldrunner of the success of the Bataan Death March 102k Ultramarathon race with 65 finishers out of 81 participants. Way to go Baldrunner! And congratulations to all participants, finishers or not. You're all heroes to us new runners, just for being brave enough to try and test your physical and mental limits.

I also had a chance to download my pictures, however few, of my longest race, the Around the Bay 30k. I am quite proud to earn the orange technical shirt which says older than Boston . I took some pictures of how the outside of our house looks with the crappy weather we're having today.

Hopefully the weather improves tomorrow for my 10k tempo training run. If not, the old reliable treadmill is just a staircase away down in my basement.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Happy To Be Home Alone

My wife , daughter Marie and her friends Jinkie and Michael just left the house 10 seconds ago to go shopping at the Markville Mall, Markham, about a 10 minute drive from our place. Finally, I am the king of the house for a couple of hours at least and I can do whatever I want without somebody telling me, " please get off the computer, I have to pay the bills" (what about the computer upstairs), or "what is this grain of rice doing on the floor?" or "can't you brush your teeth without staining the bathroom mirror?". Sometimes, like this time, I just wanna have a break, and be home alone. Are wives all the same?

An hour ago, Jinkie and her boyfriend Michael (who both I am very fond of and are like my own children) arrived here, the latter proudly showing me his finisher medal for the Angus Glen 10 Miler. Both of them are new runners, and it was Michael's first 10 miler. He only started running in June last year and he loves the sport so much he's done 5ks,10ks and signed up for the Ottawa half marathon in May.They were at the finish line to congratulate me when I did the Around the Bay 30k last Sunday. He was not too happy about his finishing time, like most new runners who expect too much early in their running career. I assured him that he did just fine considering that's his first 10 miler and encouraged him just to continue training and the speed would come to him in time( why didn't it come to me?, LOL). The Angus Glen race was run along the golf cart paths of the famed Angus Glen Golf Course (site of the 2006 Canadian Open), which is a short 5 minutes drive from our house. The course is very scenic but challenging because it is hilly.

Early in the morning at around 8:30, I went and joined my full marathon clinic group at the Markham Runningroom for our LSD Sunday run. I counted about 25 of us more or less. Our clinic is divided into 2 groups of runners. One group is scheduled to run the Mississauga marathon on May 10. They would be running 23k. The other group are the ones running the Ottawa marathon on May 24, they would be running 29k. The running route was entirely the same most of the time until the 21st k when the group doing 29 k would have to go west along Carlton, while the other group woud have to turn left to Kennedy Road towards home base. A small sub-group of 4 runners, all Boston bound, do their own thing. We only see them at the start of the run and then, they're gone like bullets.

Initially I thought I would do 29 k. The day was bright and sunny, except for the cool temperature of about plus 2 Celsius and the cold air blowing from the north. All 25 of us went off running along Bullock Drive, as I joined a group of runners doing around a 6:30- 6:45 pace led by Tony. I felt good and strong the first 17 kilometers, enjoyed the Markham scenery of new housing development, farmlands, woods with trees bare of leaves, but started feeling tired after a short washroom break at Tim Horton's at the corner of Major Mckenzie Rd. and Hi-way 48. I ended up running at the back of the pack with my marathon clinic coach Ray who was just recovering from an illness but would be running a marathon in Kansas this coming Saturday. I parted ways with Ray at 19k because he was to do only 21k, and I continued along Manhattan going westward. Then my quads and hamstrings started to get tight again, so, in the end I had to cut my run to 23k instead of the 29k.

I completed a total of 23.15 k in a slow time of 2:53:15 hours . Next Sundays' LSD run is for 32 ks..

Now I have to eat my ice cream, play poker on the internet (just play money), and do anything to my heart's delight before the bad guys arrive, ha ha ha.