RUN DMD

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Frontrunner Article #5: The Stockholm Marathon chronicles: icy rain, mutant jellyfish and dill pickles


the Nordic dream...

the Nordic dream…

The winds and torrential rain never let up, lashing on the poor runners as we struggled around the flooded stretch of Roxas boulevard.  Am I ever going to make it to the finish?  That was 2 years ago during the Manila eliminations of the Milo Marathon.  Now it’s happening again, minus the flooding.  In its place were stings of cold winds in a marathon dominated by Europeans and took me 9,000 kilometers across the globe. Am I going to surrender after travelling this far?  Hell no.  Suddenly, the legs stiffened…

Two days before, the sun was a perfect glowing ball as I ambled around Stockholm’s quaint streets and tony avenues to claim my race kit.  A day later, the weather was swelteringly warm but cool breeze from the surrounding waters made the walk towards the stadium a pleasure.  A local band dished out 80s tunes as I wolfed down the pasta dishes during our pre-race carbo-loading gathering.jgf6hu82

I landed in Stockholm on my own after staying and conditioning at a friend’s home for 2 weeks in another Swedish city in Malmo.  I shared a hostel room with 9 other travelers so I learned to fend for myself and find my way around Stockholm’s complex metropolis of winding streets, bridges, waterways and engaging views of both sea and mountains.

with my hostel mates from Spain, Germany & Argentina...

with my hostel mates from Spain, Columbia, Mexico & Germany..

Going to the starting line on race day, the runner is given various options of free rides on all public transportation.  I opted to make the 20-minute walk to calm my nerves and decide which outfit to use.  Reports of mid afternoon rains had me in my favored minimalist set – my MIM singlet and NYCM shorts.  A last minute decision to ditch my rain poncho and long-sleeved base layer was a nifty move that saw me through this race.

race kit claiming when the sun was still up...

race kit claiming when the sun was still up…

twice across the loop and then some...

twice across the loop and then some…

proudly Pilipino!

proudly Pilipino!

quite hard to imagine running in this kind of costume but it's one sure way of getting the most photos...

quite hard to imagine running in this kind of costume but it’s one sure way of getting the most photos…

Around 22,000 had registered for the Stockholm Marathon 2013 but not everyone showed up at the starting line (only 16,755) and even less would make the 6-hour cut-off time.  Still, we were divided in 5 waves and took off starting at 12 noon under a perfectly cool overcast weather.  This is after all the Nordic territories where the sun hardly shines, even during summer.  So the going was good, the breathing was a bit struggled but I was adjusting nicely to the semi-fast pace in an ocean of wall-to-wall runners.  Meaning to stop in the middle was to be trampled flat.

bag station

bag station

P1030386

we started at 12:10 along with the other last waves...

we started at 12:10 along with the other last waves…

There are enough distractions to take one’s mind from the incessant plodding – tree lined boulevards, interesting architecture, charming castles and a jovial crowd at every turn.  A slight drizzle made for a more enjoyable romp as we felt refreshed and rejuvenated.  We were now entering the old city and skimming the shoreline with its killer views of the waterways, cliff side hills and nearby islands.  We crossed 5 bridges with only mild ascents in the first loop (a 30-m sharp uphill wasn’t as tough as I’d imagined).

ready, set...

ready, set…

and off we go!

and off we go!

So far so good.  Maybe I could keep up this pace and score a sub-4 as I stayed close to the giant balloon of the 3:45 pacers.  We took on the second loop, this time entering the green reserves and the Djurgarden – both wide spaces where one can glimpse the river of runners snaking across from the far verdant distance.  A good 9 kilometers of thick forest growth outlining the open meadows soon gave way to the city’s asphalt and cobblestone jungle as we took on the same route as the first loop.

a verdant respite from the cityscape...

a verdant respite from the cityscape…

Out of nowhere, the rains came hard and strong and with it washed away my visions of a sub-4 finish.  At first, I was remembering the many runs I’ve done in the rain and tried to enjoy it in the face of the fierce winds.  Just then, the cramps came, taking on both the inner thighs.  Probably triggered by the dipping mercury, the hardening came and clung to me like some mutant jellyfish.  It’s the first time for me in a race and I had no idea how to remedy it.  Medics abound along the way but to stop and get a massage and some liniment would slow down my already diminished rate.  Besides, it’s never a guarantee of it not recurring, a few kilometers later.asm4

one of the few ascents in the route.  this first pass was manageable but the second one had lashing icy winds to contend with.

one of the few ascents in the route. this first pass was manageable but the second one had lashing icy winds to contend with.

I didn’t travel this far just to be weighed down by some muscle hardness.  Thus, it was decided to keep burning the miles – running and trotting while walking in between or maybe, most of the time as my personal videos would attest later.

Scenes on the final kilometers included local rock bands with their growling guitar licks and young girls doing some joyous number in carnival headdresses and bikinis while many runners were slowing down and dropping like flies.  I saw one splayed along the asphalt road while medics hovered around.  That’s not going to be me.  And so I dug deep into the recesses of my memory.  My most recent encounter with rain was in the mountains of Nueva Vizcaya during the H1 where I was wet to the bone while struggling on muddy, ascending trails with just my headlamp to light the way.  Now this was a far better condition, with water hitting and passing through my minimalist ensemble.  Glorious rain on a glorious day.

push it...push it real good.

push it…push it real good.

And so push I went, ignoring the cluster of discomfort – emerging blisters, dying toenails and faltering strength.  Instead, I focused on the sights, the people and the positive vibe the city was dripping with. Soon, the Olympic Stadium beckoned.  The 1912 structure was the site of the Summer Olympics during that year and was a fitting welcome to those who had survived the 42.195-km experience.  Wet and fatigued, I sprinted on the tartan track with guns blazing and spirits soaring.  Runners were entering the stadium in droves as their final struggles were flashed on the big screen and their names reverberated across the colossal venue.

I did it!  now where are the showers?  brrr...

I did it! now where are the showers? brrr…

names of finishers were flashed on the stadium screen.

names of finishers were flashed on the stadium screen.

sweet wet success!  mwah!

sweet wet success! mwah!

It would have been a superb finish without the relentless rains but last year, they say, was much worse with temperatures nearing the zeroes.  So I thanked the heavens for these tender mercies and surviving my 12th full marathon.  At 4:14, it’s 3 minutes shorter than my Baltimore finish last year.  It’s probably the wads of dill pickles and mints I gobbled up during the run.  Or just that overflowing warmth and cheering I got from the lovely folks of Stockholm that made the difference.  Tack sa mycket, Sweden!P1030434

shiver mi timbers!

shiver me timbers!

P.S.  It’s the final scene of me walking back towards downtown after changing my top but still dripping wet in my old shorts.  Every now and then, I would shiver but the high of achieving something great still superseded the minor inconveniences  (e.g.  a grumbling stomach even after downing solid food at the finish line).  Then a light bulb moment happened (ting!) – now, this can get to be a yearly habit.  Stay in a hostel, roam the city and run one destination marathon.  And I can go cheap, really.  No plush hotel rooms, no expensive tours, no classy dinners overlooking the city.  I can easily subsist on cheap rooms, walking tours (I’m getting good with maps) and street foods.  And I won’t feel a bit deprived and less privileged of enjoying the place.  Now where do I begin?   Paris, Berlin or London?  Maybe Chicago or Vancouver.  The possibilities are endless and the kilometers never end.

Here’s a compilation of the Stockholm marathon experience running to the song ‘Alive’ by Empire of the Sun.  Do watch it at 720p for that HD experience.  Most videos were emailed to us while others were extracted from marathon.se.  Wait for 1:01 of the video for some Pinoy surprise.  And please be patient with my walking scenes (probably 60% of the race), I was just warming up for the big surge ahead.  Hehe…enjoy!

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Frontrunner Article #4: The Great Disconnect


to run or to treat...?

to run or to treat…?

‘Doc, was that you we saw running the other day?’ queried my patient.  It’s been a question I get a lot since doing my training runs on weekdays.  Whence before I dreaded being sighted on the road dripping in sweat in very skimpy outfits by patients and friends, today I wear my running badge with pride and some confidence.  If before I led a double life of runner and dentist, today, I eagerly share my ultra trail and road adventures with gusto and gratification.

The last 23 years I’ve been in the practice of dentistry, friends and patients have always pictured me as the mild mannered guy whose idea of fun involved prying out tooth fragments and draining pus on swollen faces in the comforts of my sterile clinical existence.  It was a cocooned existence where the action was confined inside the hallowed caverns of the oral cavity, the valleys of the periodontal pockets, the uphill cusps of molars and darkened tunnels of root canals.  It was a safe, predictable, staid and boring lifestyle which little by little took a toll on the shoulders and back.

welcome to my cubicle!

welcome to my cubicle!

While I never looked better then, replete with well formed arms and chest (I was a gym buff), I had zero cardio-vascular workout and was easily fatigued and burnt out.  Plus the blood pressure went out of control.   Time for a game change…

i miss my rippling triceps...but then.

i miss my rippling triceps…but then.

Back in 2003, I loved posing, ala-Gardo Versoza.  This one was taken by Taal lake...

Back in 2003, I loved posing, ala-Gardo Versoza. This one was taken by Taal lake…

4 years ago when I stumbled into the world of running, I started donning the skimpiest of apparels and exposing myself into the ever-changing elements of extreme heat, rain and all sort of flotsam in the choking  world of Metro Manila roads.  So imagine one moment I’m pounding the pavement under the sweltering heat, dripping in sweat and all sort of bountiful slime and dirt.  And an hour later, I’m in the safety of my operatory attending to patients’ needs as peppermint oil wafts across Sitti’s cooing voice.

Back to my simple controlled life...

Back to my simple controlled life…

The great disparity was simply jarring that the first impulse was to conceal it from my patients.  The thought of them seeing me oozing with sweat and grime was just too much to take.  So this is my double life – one is controlled, organized and serene while the other is unpredictable, chaotic and full of surprises.  While I hardly break a sweat inside the clinic, the other is about dirt, sweat and I just love it.

We want our dentists well groomed, smelling sweet and uttering the wittiest statements & dishing out the most helpful of tips, don’t we?  And not cursing the wind and the race director (where the hell is the finish of this %$@* race?).  Now who would want to see his dentist slugging it out in muddy trails and treacherous mountain tracks?  I can just read their thought bubbles:  “Now isn’t that going to weaken his dexterity and clinical skill in handling my dental cases?” or “So how can he still take care of me when he’s always up there in the mountains, caked in mud and being feasted upon by jiggling leeches (eeew…)?

having a blast in the real world...

having a blast in the real world…

Now, let me run through all these misimpressions.  Oh yes, I am exposed to all sort of inconveniences (torture, if you may) in an environment teeming with dirt and grime an ordinary sheltered individual won’t be able to stomach.  But after each adventure, I’d bathe and scrub myself clean to the bone and I’d like to believe we observe aseptic techniques in our practice once ensconced in our four-walled, environmentally controlled clinic.  And yes, after years of hitting the road and trail, I can still take out an impacted molar or negotiate some shrunken root canals.

life is a series of movements whether it's macro or micro...you just learn to adjust to the situation.

life is a series of movements whether it’s macro or micro…you just learn to adjust to the situation.

And I still haven’t thrown my clinic sked into chaos in favor of the outdoors.  I can’t keep hiking if I don’t have the funds to sustain it so the most I’d take out in my work week is 1-2 days.  Basically, I still have 5 full days to see patients – yes, even if I’m a bit burned and limping.  Fact is, I look forward to be back to my air-conditioned environment after days to being exposed to inclement weather.  It balances things out without feeling burned out on either side of my polarized universe.

Without a doubt, running, besides stabilizing my fluctuating blood pressure and lulling me to long peaceful slumbers (didn’t know that Sleepasil has been routine to some colleagues), had strengthened me, physically and skillfully.  I can take hours of continuous dental procedures without complaining and feeling wasted – always keeping in mind that the finish line is coming round the bend.  Or during those toxic stressful clinic moments where I’ve learned to handle the situation the way I’ve battled injuries and submission during a race.

i run. i treat. i am rundmd.

i run. i treat. i am rundmd.

But eventually, like some illicit love affair, one tries to inevitably merge both lives.  I soon realized that running would play a greater part for the rest of my earthly life so I might as well wear it like a proud badge.  Soon enough, I was opening up to my patients on my exploits on the road and trail.  And what do you know, they were piqued curious (perhaps, by that BDM trophy resting at the reception area) and fascinated by my ‘secret life’.  I was no longer the guy who was buffed, clean and whole some, I had become the gaunt dark warrior – looking burnt and hardened but brimming with eagerness and perseverance and ready to take on any challenge, whether at the dental operatory or the road…