Monday, September 28, 2009

After My First Marathon, What's Next?

Some of the 17,000 runners congregating at Nathan Philips Square in downtown Toronto before the start of the 5k, half-marathon and marathon races

Thousands of runners, relatives and friends in front of the twin Toronto City hall buildings

Excitedly confident with 13 minutes to the start gun

Made a last ditch effort to beat to the finish line the bald, fat and shirtless runner in front of me but missed by 2 seconds .

Happy to earn my first marathon finisher medal with wife Jojo and daughter Denise in the picture.

Finally at age 55, a marathoner. What's next?

As I sit down here and think about what to write on this post, my whole body is aching, the most pain that I've had since the all night hazing I received on my initiation night for membership to the Tau Lambda Kappa Fraternity of the UE College of Law more than 2 decades ago. It was even worse yesterday, after the race. I could hardly walk, occasionally had thigh muscle cramps, felt so weak, without any appetite, felt like throwing up and just slept like a log when I got home.

All morning also today, Jojo and I have been watching the Filipino Channel for news about Typhoon Ondoy, the floods in Metro Manila and other areas, the casualties, devastation and the return of Bayanihan spirit among all Filipinos, living in the Philippines and outside. Although in the past weeks, it seemed like the soap opera that is politics in the Philippines was the favorite topic in our homes and in the news, the sad aftermath of Ondoy saw all Pinoys irrespective of different and opposing partisan views and persuasions all come together and help each other in dealing with rescue operations, providing victims with the very basics like food, clothing, drinking water, shelter, and collecting relief goods and donations . There is still a lot of work to be done to rescue people trapped in their homes in flooded areas and making sure relief supplies, food and medicine reach needy people in time. The bad news is, there is another typhoon brewing close to the Philippines that may pass the country in the next few days. May God save us from another strong typhoon.

Below is the story of my first marathon.

Felt strong and confident at the start. Did 5k in 34 minutes, 10k at 1:14; half marathon mark (21k) at 2:42, and then as always slowed down in the second half, reached the 30k mark in 4:01. After passing the 32nd k, I was on unchartered territory. Begun to entertain negative thoughts because of pain on my left toes, left hip joint, quads. Chanted instinctively quietly, Tau ! Lambda! Kappa! to make me oblivious of all the pain. Thought of Rick, Mark (Tanaka), Jerry, Ronnie, Jovie, Jo-Lynn, all ultra runners, and said to myself , 42k is nothing.Passed a middleaged white male runner massaging his right thigh and gave him an e-load capsule (for electrolytes). At 33rd k passed another Asian looking middleaged runner who was limping while walking, offered and gave him an e-load capsule.

Felt weaker and weaker by the 34th k, (ran out of gels ,shotbloks, e-load by this time) and decided to stop by a variety (sari sari) store and bought a Cadburys nuts and raisins chocolate bar which I munched and finished in no time. I was so hungry. Where were Vener's saging na saba or Rico's hopia cubes when you needed them. A kindly resident offered fresh red watermelon on a tray and I picked one, and oh was it ever sweet. At the 35k heard my name being called, and saw my sports doctor, Dr. Natalie Labelle, a marathoner herself cheering on the side with her husband holding a poster with names and pointing at one name - Bong.. Stopped for a few seconds to shake their hands. She told me "you can do it Bong!"

By this time, I think I was walking more than I was running. All the runners who I passed, who passed me or were within my sight were either limping, stopping and stretching or massaging a thigh or leg, puking, walking, trying to move forward in what barely looked like a running motion. Negative thoughts came back and for a second the words quit and rest came to my mind. I prayed.

At the 37th k, just as I was walking and at my lowest low (physically and mentally) in the entire race, I heard a fat runner behind me yelling (what I thought of then as swear words), and ran pass me. The guy was no lighter than 260 lbs, I bet. He was shirtless, with his shirt tied around his big belly. This middle-aged, fat, foul-mouthed (I was mistaken here, I learned later), big bellied guy would never beat me, I told myself then. :)

From then on it became a chasing game between a used-to-be fat 55 year old wannabe marathoner trying to catch up with this shirtless, big bellied, bald guy. :)

With 400 meters to go he was still ahead of me by 100 meters as I tried to pick up speed to catch him. This time, all of a sudden a female spectator came out of the crowd of spectators to hug him (must be the wife) and he stopped for a moment. This gave me the oppurtunity to close the gap between us, and then he started running again. I was about ten feet behind him with 100 meters to the finish line and could hear him yell something like Go! Scott (his name) go! (not swear words that I thought I heard before). Gave it my all to catch and pass him before the finish line but missed by a few feet.

I crossed the finish line 2 seconds behind Scott (thebald, fat shirtless runner) in 5 hours 51 minutes.

So, what's next for me, if I'm asked today. No more marathon! I'd probably take up power walking or concentrate on the shorter distances, the 5k and 10k at the most. Or maybe just be content with walking Yuki in the park.

P.S. My running friend Nette recovered in time from her glutes injury to finish the same race, her first too, in 5 hours 26 minutes. Congrats Nette!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

7 Days To My First Marathon

Thirty years ago, I ran regularly at the Quezon Memorial Circle in Quezon City to help me get better at playing my sport then, basketball. Never crossed my mind that 30 years after, I would be a runner and try to finish my first marathon 7 days from today.

My first try to finish a full marathon is just 7 days away .

I am excited, anxious but confident at the same time.

I think I've done everything physically and mentally possible to prepare for this race.

Today is the first day of the 18th and last week of my marathon training program. Yesterday was my last LSD training run, just 16k in 2:03:45, that was part of tapering period. The last 4 Sundays before today, I did weekend long runs of 30k, 30k, 32k, and 23k successively, the most mileage I'd done since I took up running seriously in 2007. I did a slow 6k recovery run this morning, and would be running 10k on Tuesday, 10k on Thursday, 3k on Saturday and then the big day on Sunday.

In all my long runs 30k or more I felt like I had nothing left in the tank the last few ks. I know that the real test would be from the 32k mark on because that would be new territory to me, I've never run longer than 32k. I read that most runners with a DNF result in a marathon were unable to continue because they "hit the wall" after the 32k mark but before the finish line. I pray that I be given the physical and mental strength to cover the last 10k and achieve my goal of finishing my first marathon.

I also hope and pray that my friend and running partner Nette, who'd been with me through thick and thin in most of the past 17 training weeks of the marathon clinic, heals and recovers from her glutes injury so she could still run the race with me on Sunday.

So, the next few days would be time to rest, relax, take it easy, try not to get injured.

What one helpful advise would a marathoner or an ultra runner give to a first timer like myself?

My next post will be my race report after the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon on Sunday. I wonder what the title to my post would be?

Sunday, September 13, 2009

An Ankle Sprain 14 Days Before My First Marathon?

Are you walking me to the park today?

Yuki sleeping and using my foot as pillow

Yuki, my pet puppy, looking more confident now.

It was 8.70 kilometers into our long Sunday run this morning when it happened so unexpectedly. Nette, Sandra and I were running on a narrow asphalted walkway in a nearby trail when we saw an overweight man walking in our direction. We did a single file, and continued running, and as I was trying to move to my right trying to avoid colliding with a fat guy like myself, half my right foot landed on the edge of the walkway and the other half on grass that was too soft and gave way. Before I knew what happened I was down on the grass, holding on to my right ankle. I was understandably worried and angry at myself at the same time for being so careless so close (14 days to be exact) to my first marathon race.

I stood up, put some weight on my right foot, and thankfully, on a scale of 10 the pain or discomfort was only a one. I told my lady friends I would try running and see how it was, and lo and behold, the pain gradually disappeared as we covered more and more mileage.

Finished 23ks in a slow time of 3:12:17.

Took 2 advils when I got home iced it and took a 3 hour nap.

Woke up around 4pm , took my puppy Yuki to the park , tested my ankle by playing a chase game with her and found out that the supposed injury was nothing but a mild ankle twist and not a sprain as I initially thought.

Thank God, it's still a go in two weeks.

Also, my puppy Yuki (snow in Japanese) is with us for exactly one month now. Yuki is a bichon frise that we got from a dog adoption agency. She was with the breeder for 6 months living in a cage most of the time until a foster home got her to live there with 6 other bigger dogs. My daughter Marie got her from the foster home for a few hundred dollars donation.

Yuki was a pitiful dog at first. She was thin. Scared of people, her tail was always between her legs and her ears were always down. She got startled by any kind of noise, the closing of the door, turning on the computer or the TV. Coming home, I would see her hiding in one corner cowering in fear. My wife, Jojo even suggested for us to take her back to the dog adoption agency. This was Yuki a month ago.

Now, Yuki is a different puppy. She's getting more comfortable with people and she actually greets us cheerfully with her tail wagging. We used the services of a dog trainer who gave us some helpful information on how to potty and crate train her. We enrolled her to obedience school and every now and then take her to a dog care centre. A dog walker comes every now and then on days when all of us are at work. We exposed her to people by taking her to the park whenever we could. I'm reading a book by Cesar Millan titled A Member of the Family, Guide to a Lifetime of Fulfillment with Your Dog which I think could help me be a good dog owner.

I found out one day that Yuki, with her boundless energy was a great runner. I happened to be walking Yuki close to a nearby football field when I met a friendly lady with her pet Maltese. She suggested to me to let Yuki off leash and let her play with her dog. I did, and what a joy to see Yuki running fast chasing after the other dog (who is an adult dog) .

In all the days that I took Yuki to the park since then, we'd run and run in the grass until I could continue no more due to fatigue.

Yuki is my newly discovered running partner, baw waw waw!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

My Longest Run Ever!

This morning, Sunday, September 6, 2009 was the first day of the 16th week of my marathon clinic program. The distance for this morning's long run was 32 ks the longest training run in the marathon program. It's only 21 days to the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon, my (and six others in the clinic) first marathon, and the excitement of every runner in our run club entered in the event could be felt during our clinic sessions and right after the training runs.

I ran again with my running buddy Nette, this time around, I had with me tissue paper (toilet paper) inside a ziplock bag just in case of emergency. I got lucky the previous Sunday when I had to rely on Nette to provide me with tissue paper when I had to relieve myself in the woods for the first time also in my running career.

Unlike the previous Sunday when I kept up with Nette till the 22nd k, this morning, she started pulling away from me by the 14th k. And this was not because I was running slower, it was because she's getting stronger and stronger as we get closer to the race. So proud of her.

Reached the 21st k in 2:49. Started feeling tired, legs heavy the next few ks. By the 27th k, was in pain everywhere, my feet, leg and thigh muscles, my right pelvic joint, as if all parts of my running body were conspiring to make me quit. This was the time when I asked myself, why am I doing this? Why am I punishing my body like this? Is it worth all this pain?

The good thing about blogging is you get to know the accomplishments of other runners and athletes that far surpassed in a great way the best you've ever accomplished. When I was beginning to doubt myself and all these negative questions popped up in my mind, all I had to do was think of Ronnie, Jerry, Sir Jovie and everybody that finished the BDM 102k ultra in the heat of summer (blistered feet and all), Rick Gaston being tossed like a rag doll in the mountain trails in his 100 mile races, Iron ladies Pia and Ani doing their hours and hours of swim, bike ride, plus a full marathon. All these great athletes compete in events that require them to test their physical and mental limits in more than 10 hours some closer to 24 hours in difficult and sometimes extreme conditions. What is a 32 k? A piece of cake.

I completed 32ks in a slow time of 4:28:58, the last 3ks at close to 9 minutes per k average.

Next 3 weeks is tapering period, the next Sunday long run at 23 ks, the Sunday after next at 6 ks and then marathon race day on the 27th.

With my longest run ever under my belt, I now believe I can.