I run…therefore I am

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PAU 65K preps

Preparing for PAU 65K

This afternoon we will be registering for the PAU (Philippine Association of Ultrarunners) 65 kilometer run which starts at Pasuquin (an hour from Vigan) and ends just a few kilometers before Pagudpud.  It’s exactly a month before the big event and training will have to be in high gear, meaning 5 days a week.

Tuesdays, Thursdays & Saturdays will be 8.8-km slow jogs.  Wednesday will be a long run day – 4.4 km x 3 to 4.  Sundays, well they’re reserved for even longer runs which we will be doing with members.  Dave says it’s a lot of steeper climbs than the usual so I’m a little wary if we’re going to survive this one.  But this will surely toughen us up on the road to 65k.

Since we have day jobs, we start our runs as early as 4 am just like today.  Today, the weather was cool throughout the run and the sun showed its face just minutes into the homestretch.

In the next few days, I will start using new paraphernalia and running gears to test and worn them weeks before they see real action.  I plan to purchase the following:

  1. A cap/hat made of light fabric or some high tech material with front net to cover my face from the sun (very Taliban) and ‘tail’ to shade the back of my neck (very Japanese).
  2. A white long sleeve top of light material for those ‘high sun’ days.
  3. New, low-level shoes for near barefoot running.
  4. Moisture-absorbing socks
  5. Perhaps, a Garmin forerunner  (this one is the most expensive investment I’ll plunk on running)

Other accessories include:  fuel belt, camel back (for easy drinking), shades, etc.

The first time we joined our first Ultramarathon last May, we just took that proverbial plunge, unknowing of the conditions we were getting into.  Fortunately, we survived it.  This time we come well-armed with knowledge (hopefully it’s enough), longer sleep time, kilometers (though July has been quite erratic) and guts.  And a positive less competitive attitude, with the main aim to cross the finish line.  Hoping to survive this one.

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Siem Reap, Cambodia I

After a 5-hour bus ride from the Cambodian capital, we enter the more rural roads of Siem Reap, home to the famous Angkor Wat.  How many megapixels we consumed taking the pictures of the complex ancient city is beyond us.  It was a spiritual journey which can be described as physically exasperating (twas damn hot), visually arresting and fulfilling.  It was like no other and something perpetually embedded in my system.

Phnom Bakheng:  jockeying for the best position to see the sunset…

The very lively night scene in the ALLEY…

The Blue Pumpkin bakeshop and resto….finally got to rest the legs and the feet in an all-white place.

The next day, we were up early (5 am) to witness this….

Angkor Wat’s famous Sunset…

They came from all over the world for this…

This is too sumptuous to ignore…

Detailed story of their ancient battles scenes in stone…

The long and endless corridors…

Sorry, can’t help posing for this one…

A view from the inside

Inside the main palace…

This was where the kingdom used to have their grand parade for the royal family….

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Phnom Pehn, Cambodia (the modern side)

With the entry and residency of many Europeans, Phnom Pehn (and Siem Reap) took in a more modern and western aspect without betraying its Khmer origins.  The pics were taken mostly in the Central market area where shopping is an adventure and eating is so varied and of course, cheap.  My fave would have to be the Alley where restos, clubs and galleries are just waiting to be discovered….you wouldn’t think that 20 years back the Khmer Rouge ruled this land (see Toul Sleng prison)…

This just in:  More than 30 years after the horrors of the Khmer Rouge  were unleashed on Cambodians, a court in Phnom Penh has handed down its first verdict: Kaing Guek Eav, better known as Duch, harsh overseer of the Tuol Sleng torture centre, was jailed for 35 years.

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Phnom Penh, Cambodia

It’s almost a year since our visit of Cambodia so a little pictorial recap is but fitting.  August 2009 was when we visited this ASEAN neighbor (meaning no visa required) of ours – our concerns of typhoons and floodings ruining our tour, fortunately  didn’t happen and we had a surprisingly great time.  It’s the Europeans, I think, who have putthis country in the exotic and must visit map since opening to the  world in 2003 – what with its Khmer charm and French aesthetics melding effortlessly.  Traveling to Cambodia is still cheap and staying and walking and shopping is even cheaper.  This is one country I wouldn’t mind going back to…

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Post-marathon notes…

Post Marathon Notes

Now that the dust has settled, let me share to you my thoughts on the 34th MILO Marathon. This comes a tad too late, I know but lessons can still be drawn:

a. Runs are never the same. Whether it’s long or short, a run, marathon or ultramathon will always have different environmental conditions (the route, temperature, humidity, etc.), runner’s condition (well-prepared, well-slept, well-hydrated, properly nourished or otherwise), organizer (veterans like Viscocho vs. the newbies who prepare months before, test and study the routes, water stations, etc. vs the newbies who just do it for the money) – thus varying, differing results. Btw, among the race organizers, I favor the second – Baldrunner, bullrunner, Rio, etc.
b. Running can kill. As what happened to Remus Fuentes (and countless less prominent ones), one can never underestimate a run. So how do I do this – just take it easy (meaning run at my own pace), improve my personal record (PR) or compete with the throng of runners? For me it’s a little of the first and more of the second. My goal has always been – cross the finish line and still be ready to run another kilometer. That didn’t happen in MILO so I’m drawing new plans for the next runs.
c. Listen always to my body. It is one strategy to blur or erase any small discomfort along the way, by visual (picture happy thoughts of family, friends and travels), auditory (listen to music to get you pumping – in my case it’s the Eraserheads, Lady Gaga, INXS, Prince and basically the top 100 songs of the early 80s) or mental (imagine you’re running on ice/fire, flying/floating like a bird, etc.) means. It is another to ignore symptoms of dehydration, excessive muscle pain and cramps. Walking is never embarrassing. Who knows it may even save your life.
d. Prepare always. Invest on the kilometers, sleep, food, and knowledge. The week before July 4, I had 3 days of driving cousins around the metro and the last 4 days rushing complicated cases in the clinic. Not a very good prelude for the Marathon. But hey, we have day jobs so the operative word is still balance.
e. Be humble always. Although the last 50K PAU boosted my confidence on other races shorter than it, the MILO marathon reminded me that I’m only a runner and the next step could be my last. I guess, that’s what makes running intriguing, mind-boggling and never boring. Facebook bragging should never be the primary reason for running. Although a little would help, I guess. Just don’t overdo it.
f. Medical clearance. For the last few months now, I’ve been taking Losartan Potassium 50 mg once a day for my high blood pressure. It was recommended by my cardiologist weeks before she cleared me for my first marathon last February, the Conduran Run. It makes a world of difference that I have Dr. Siasoco’s green light to run once the pain and pressures come in the last few kilometers of a race.
g. Keep Running. My MILO run is not what I would consider devastating (I crossed the finish line naman di ba?) but it’s also a learning experience. As in life, I pick up the pieces and start running again. We are setting our sights for the PAU 65 km from Vigan to Pagudpud and practicing like hell (well, almost). We are excited, wary and just savoring every moment of the weeks leading to August 29. See you on the finish line!!!


The 34th MILO Marathon: 04 July 2010

I’m getting ready, getting reaaady. As early as Friday, I have all my running requirements laid out in my room while looki ng at the details of my pre-marathon preparations. I’ve never felt more prepared for a race since for over a month we have been racking up at least 42 kilometers per week within the village.

Certain circumstances would jar my schedule a week before – driving and entertaining visiting cousins and a full clinic schedule. On Saturday afternoon, the plan to close all clinic works by 3 pm extends to 5 pm and though I’m in bed by 6:30 pm, I finally get to sleep by 10 pm after 3 magazines plus ‘monitoring’ calls from Ian and Eric, who were also finding it hard to get to sleep.

By 3:15 am, we were all prepared and revved up for the most prestigious marathon in Philippine History. The gun explodes at 4:10 am and runners for the Manila leg shoot off from the Rizal monument area. We paced our first 10 kms and enjoyed Manila/Pasay nightlife with its sputnik/flame lampposts (ugh!) and the scenic Manila Bay. I want to do my return run in this area when the sun is up and my legs are still strong to sprint to a glorious finish, I said to myself.

Our group – Dave, Eric, Ian and Franco – go our separate ways after the first 10 as rate differences take over. I was fortunate to have found a talker of a running partner in Jojo who’s running his first marathon. His continuous pace (around 7 mins/km) challenged me to join him up to 32 km. Before that, our speed was constant with 1-minute walk breaks in between.

The course it seems was not that difficult (our weekly 4-day runs in the village had steeper ascents) even if we needed to climb 2 overpasses for 4 times. Or so I thought. By km 32, I felt numbness on my nape and shoulders (just remembered I did ‘mild’ back exercises on Friday). I ignore it and massage them with ice cubes while running under the stinging sun which came out early at 6 am. I found a new running mate in Geraldine at this time but she would soon advance and remain as my reference runner up to the finish (we had a 1 minute difference).

In the last 10 km, I make my final ascents on the 2 overpasses before turning around to a very slow finish. By this time, numbness has spread on the face (was I getting dehydrated or hypoglycemic?) coupled with hints of cramps on the calves when I resume to a slow run.

The last 5 km was excruciating as I mix my short runs and long walks. This is the first time I have felt this on all my runs so no amount of positive thinking and mind games would shake off my gloomy mood. It didn’t help that my MP3 player was stuck to playing the top 100 songs of 1980 (think Air Supply, Rupert Holmes, etc.). The most discouraging lines kept playing “Enough is enough…” (No More Tears) to a disco extended version.

Of course I make it at 5:49. That glorious finish didn’t happen even with Rizal watching over and the Quirino Grandstand area in the finish line. I would later find out that many veteran runners had their own grueling ordeal, mostly complaining of muscle cramps. Dave and I have this theory that the salty sea air had to do with it (we found salt crystals on our legs). But in the end, it’s as simple as running unprepared. Go check the first 2 paragraphs. I think they’re the main culprit for my dismal performance. Now how do I keep my clinic schedule less busy the week before a run and not accept walk-in patients? Aaah, to run or to treat patients…