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My 4th Milo Story:  The Art of Cramping to the Finish


 

 

Since the final week of April to early June of 2014, we’ve been training and working out like hell (via the Milo R2 Running School) with our eyes trained on the big day of 27 July 2014 – The 38th Milo Marathon, my 15th full marathon.  We peppered our training with biweekly Payasso speeds (a month before) and some official races (RU2 32KM, Soleus Nuvali Trail Run 50KM, etc.).

training on a rainy day...

training on a rainy day…

 

Days before, even in the face of restlessness due to tapering and decrease in physical activities, I was savoring 8-hour sleeps and eating quite prodigiously so I was confident I had the factors of a strong performance by my side.  Did I mention that the Manila Bay weather was the perfect nippy kind?  So at 3 am by the starting line, I was confident of nailing this race and qualify for the Milo Finals at 4:10 or faster.10553389_770105099718762_3013718194619994303_n

 

The starting line was brimming with hope (this year’s qualifying times have been increased by 10 minutes) and electrified as we set out around the reclaimed area into Roxas boulevard, leading towards KM0 (Rizal Monument) then heading towards the Uniwide area then back into Buendia Ave.  Van and I paced each other for a good 6 kilometers before he took off with me just a few meters away.  It would be this way until KM26.  At 54 minutes, I finished my first 10 kms. while reaching the 20th at 1:56, still within my sub-2 goal.  At KM25, I was struck down by mild crampping every now and then.  I just ignored it and kept on with my steps.

Now, how do I finish thee?

Now, how do I finish thee?

 

By the time we were rounding out the streets of the Global City, the inner thighs (adductor muscles) of both legs were hardening and becoming bothersome that I had to make stops for some liniment (?) sprays which hardly had any help.  Soon, I was already slowing down as runners from behind started overtaking me.  But I was still within my goal by KM30 (that’s the start of the Kalayaan flyover returning to Buendia Ave.) at 3 hours flat.

 

So that’s technically, 12 kms. to burn for 1:10 if I want to qualify for the finals, still within my possible limits if the contractions would diminish.  Unfortunately, the muscular twitching worsened by the time I entered Buendia, where I started my cycle of run/walk/stop.  Two capsules of Mefenamic Acid were of little help to diminish the burden and discomfort.  With the clock ticking, I soldiered on and not let all my preparation and training go to waste. 10353645_10204655792932863_5928639691568124344_n

 

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Almost there, baby…

Upon finally reaching Roxas Blvd., I knew I won’t be able to reach my goal but I was also bent on not throwing it all away.  I’ve been caught in worse situations than this and have always pulled myself out of the muck.  Once I got to the MOA Arena area, the cramping grew more painful and the episodes longer, slowing me even further.  Finally, for what seemed like eternity, the final 800M of Ocean Drive came into view.  Photographers were strewn at every corner, recording our final surge into the finish.  Unfortunately for little old me, the most I could muster was a lame jog for every time I tried to push myself, the twitching would surface again like some creature from a 50s B-movie.

 

Just crossed the finished line here - frustrated and relieved in equal parts.

Just crossed the finished line here – frustrated and relieved in equal parts.

After 4 hours and 36 minutes, I finally reached the finish line and an hour later, after resting from pounding the pavement, all that cramping disappeared.  And my latest 42.195 saga ended, not in a spirit uplifting manner but still a memorable experience to ponder on, analyze and pick some lessons from.  In a week or two, I will have gather most, if not all facts, opinion and studies on cramping for at the end of the day, knowledge and the right information easily trumps out any physical ordeal that comes my way.  Cheers, everyone!

Our Milo marathon group, post race...

Our Milo marathon group, post race…

Photographs are by Photo-Ops, Jon Las Bruces, Running Photographers, Bon Aga and Adrian Aquino


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Back in the High Life – Races (Part II)


The last few months had been quite hectic, both in my personal and professional life but it was also during this period when I started running more races with the kilometers stretching into the Milo Marathon last month. Let’s look back at my races, both road & trail, pre-Milo Marathon…

Runs.

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Dawn breaks by Taal Lake…

Taal 360 25KM. This we took up upon the invitation of friends Joseph Baltazar and Bon Aga of Prince Productions, last May 24.  We took a banca from Talisay going towards Taal Island where the race had just started at exactly 7 am. We followed the final pack of runners going up the Taal peak which was really just another lake in the middle.  But we never got to reach it for soon enough, we saw the leadpackers going down and promptly followed them. We soon found ourselves by the shoreline where the route circled the circumference of the island, more or less.  The place would have been enchanting with its semi-pristine greenery, cobalt blue lake waters and the awesome volcano as the backdrop. P1090590

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Too much human intrusion in one of nature’s hideaway…

Except for the fact that human migration to the island had rendered it molested and trashed, both in the water and the land. It would have been a pleasure running by the beach sans the fish pens, all sorts of domesticated animals and more wastes all over. It was a challenge to be running around the man-made structures that Van even got caught in a net by the shore. More eyesores were the three soaring towers of an SMDC condominium jutting out of the Tagaytay summit. So wander no more why Taal Volcano was recently removed by the UNESCO from its list of heritage sites. That’s human greed at its finest, I’d say.

Anyway we just kept trudging in the face of scorching heat and unstable sandy terrain. Soon we started traversing the island as the ascents started towards more verdant surroundings. At one point, we found ourselves in a black desert planet. The terrain was rolling consisting of cogon areas, rocky façades, plantations and sparse trees – mildly difficult and scenic in parts.

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Four hours later, we reached the finish line and took our poses, medals and packed lunch. Total distance of our run was at 28 kms. Across the island we took in a more sumptuous lunch courtesy of the mayor of Talisay, a friend of Bon.10363700_1508928222659798_7279538895707261844_n

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Back to mainland with Bon and the rest of our group…

Run United 2, 32KM. It’s my longest road race since last year’s Run United Philippine Marathon so I had a mix of excitement and trepidation. At 4 AM, we started the race across the Rizal Monument (Km 0). There’s quite a heavy volume of runners but soon we were sparsely spaced out across the gaudily lit Roxas Boulevard (think Sputnik lights galore).

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In the Zone along the boulevard of broken dream (& tacky lamp posts)…

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fly me to the finish…

My first 16 kms up to the Cavitex U-turn had a jolly steady pace, powered by songs from my iPod mini. At some point I was shimmying (okay, I was dancing) across the boulevard taking in all the positive vibes of the morning. It would have been perfect to have kept such a constant pace and attitude but in the last 10 kms, a cocktail feeling of boredom, sleepiness, fatigue and restlessness came upon me. Soon enough, I was doing some stops and walking more.

No injuries or discomfort were experienced but I was slowing down, perhaps due to under training. Or probably because once daylight had set in, I had a picture of the enormity of the task I had to traverse ahead. After 3 hours and 11 minutes, I finally reached the Rizal obelisk, quite satisfied with my effort for the day.10363933_845346928826767_5528595440542338242_n

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Back shot with Tagumpay Bros…

World Vision Run 10KM. Subtitlted: Unveiling TB to the World. Now this was a challenge presented to our newly set-up team, the Tagumpay Bros – to run 10 km, sub-1 hour. That day at BGC, we showed up in our colorful, new and nicely fitting blue shirts. The last time I took on an official 10 km race was during Buddy Race last year and was ably paced by buddy Van to a 48-minute PR.

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A veritable speedy start in the first 500 meters…

I wasn’t expecting that much actually with this one (just finish an hour or less) but I was also eager to test my mettle on speed runs. Throughout the race, I just kept hammering on the pavement, huffing like there’s no tomorrow. A few moments, I slowed down a bit but hardly stopped. Soon, the finish line came into view but I kept moving on, not knowing who my co-runners in the 10 km category were (the 5-km have joined in by then).10477954_1527223650839580_2986209684472437616_n

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With longtime running companion Dave Buban…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The finish line indicated I clocked in at 49 minutes! I was #14 – not bad for a Sunday morning last June 20. As a bonus, co-Tagumpay Bros McCoy Lontoc placed 3rd and all the boys of the team finished within an hour.10409750_1490394767864468_5795522434163957897_n

1900394_10154009165075226_1440365264_oSoleus Nuvali Trail Run 50KM. It’s my first ultra trail race (again) since last year’s TNF100 and surprisingly, a pleasant over-all experience, even with mild cramping in the final kilometers. The last time I ran this part was in 2012 with Team Kulit such that by this time, many new structures have risen and sprawling development was all over the area. At 3 am, it was a dark start but runners with their headlamps were bunched together so most of the path was relatively lit. In a kilometer or so, we would be forming a line as the trail narrows and the elevation rose and fell mildly.Medal+Lanyard

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I was still trying to rediscover my trail groove in the early portions of the race.  Soon enough, I was enjoying the sites and sceneries with the rising of the eastern sun.  We were moving across open terrains of cogon hills and snaking dirt paths.  Jogging gave way some hiking and walking when the going got tough.  It was a delight in seeing old trail friends after quite some time.  Of all my running friends, I feel closest to my ultra trail family and they were there in droves.

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Well, hello trails! I. am. back.

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In between trails, wide roads of most developing communities broke the monotony of the greens. The sun was dancing in its full glory when I reached the turn-around point at KM25. I didn’t the do the customary heat training before but the long sleeve white tops were doing their job to prevent me from frying. The long ordeal of retracing back the same path was broken frequently by runners on the other side, struggling towards the midpoint. By lifting their sagging spirits, I myself was powered by their smiles and appreciation.

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A cramping finish…

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With fellow Milo R2 Apex classmates…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the return trip, around 8 kms into the finish, the cramps came out of nowhere, slowing me down when I needed to push myself. I countered the discomfort by doing some heel strike running. It helped me pick up the pace and soon I was overtaking some of the walkers. The last few hundred meters had me struggling as the hardness on the calves doubled so I had no glorious shots to boot. At 6:57, I finally reached the finish line in one piece though slightly fatigued and broken. And my return to the trails had begun…

Recovery lunch at Little Tokyo with Van, Alfred and Noemi...

Recovery lunch at Little Tokyo with Van, Alfred and Noemi…

The amazing shots are courtesy of Red Knight, Takbo.ph, Flat Ironman, Tara Trip Tayo, Prince Productions and Running Photographers

 


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Back in the High Life:  Trainings (Part 1)


 

The second quarter and part of the third had been quite hectic for me, both in personal and professional aspects.  Even then, I still had the energy and time to maintain, in my standard, an excellent fitness level.  And yes, I’d say that since I had my forced hiatus late last year, I’ve never felt stronger and at times thrashed from all my trainings and mileage since May.  Just check these out…

 

Milo R2 APEX Running School.  Of course, it’s nothing less than our Milo Apex Running School which we’ve attended since early May of 2014.  Every Monday and Wednesday, we would show up at the QC Memorial Circle and just blindly follow whatever our running and conditioning coaches would program us for that particular session.  That’s an exaggeration, of course, because before that, our coaches would bombard us on talks regarding nutrition, physiology, anatomy, and the basics on sports science and running.  I’ve been a MARSian since 2011 and have always attended their 3-month program leading into the Milo Marathons of July and December.  But this is the first time that I was able to complete almost all their sessions.

The 42KM Group.

The 42KM Group.

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One of our overworked and overused contraptions – the Theraband.

 

And boy, did we feel the big difference.  This year’s program was considerably amped up and taken to a higher level.  Since the first session, the pacing was greater and more difficult, the repetitions of the workouts were more numerous and the exercises were so much challenging that we’d come home twice a week totally thrashed and pushed to our limits.  Soon enough our bodies adjusted to the biweekly ‘tortures’ such that we we’re already looking forward to the ordeals of that week which varied from yoga sessions, plyometrics, speed runs, 1-minute circuit workouts, TRX, aquatraining and more additional surprise workouts.

One of our Aquatraining sessions at the Amoranto pool.

One of our Aquatraining sessions at the Amoranto pool.

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The wetter, the stronger…

 

Speed Run Sessions at the newly refurbished ULTRA track.

Speed Run Sessions at the newly refurbished ULTRA track.

It made a difference that Coaches Jim and Toni Saret were at the helm our sessions, visiting us once a week and supervising us closely, if not sadistically.  But hey, we went to the Circle to encounter pain and experience it at its purest form.  Upon entering the Memorial, I feel like a gladiator being sacrificed to some primitive brutal ritual.  Fortunately, no blood was shed and no body part was mangled.  But we did feel like warriors weeks after, coming out of battle, stronger and victorious.  Check out this video done by fellow MARRSian Caryl Aglian.  So, what did the fox say?

 

 

stronger and faster...

stronger, faster, higher…

Payasso 2200.  This came in the middle of our training program.  Speed runs are what Milo Finals qualifying times are made of.  So when Payasso 2200 (based on Yasso 800 by Bart Yasso) came our way, we grabbed on it and joined the fast and the furious class under Professor Jon Las Bruces around the UP Academic Oval.  Fortunately, it was scheduled every Tuesday & Thursday, alternating with our Milo Apex’s Monday & Wednesday sessions.  Imagine how thrashed we were come Friday morning.

Trail and ultra runners of all shapes and sizes...

Trail and ultra runners of all shapes and sizes…

 

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Meet our mentor – Master Jon Las Bruces.

But we were desperately in need of high quality mileage, meaning running at a sub-5 pace for 2.2 kms.  Plus we enjoyed our after-run dinner and fresh fruit shakes along with the bonding and bantering with some of the simplest and good-natured runners around.  Everytime I need to keep flying without losing sight, I just remember our Payasso credo of ‘blocking the pain’ and I’m off.

 

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pure adrenaline…

P90X.  For the the times when the clinic hours would extend beyond 6 pm or when the rain just would let up, P90X was a safer alternative for us.  Though it’s safe to say that a third of Milo R2 and Payasso were done in the rain.   It’s monsoon season, afterall.  P90X is a 50-min workout which we follow on a tv screen at my condo gym.  It’s a total body exercise though each session would sometimes emphasize certain areas like the core, shoulders, legs, etc.  After finishing such, we feel less guilty for missing out on our outdoor activities for that night.


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The Lost Files Series: October – November 2012


[These writings were done during my October-November 2012 visit at the U.S. The draft just surfaced a few weeks ago when my brother Fred and his family visited us for our parents’ 50th Anniversary celebration.]

The Lost Files #1: And my First International Marathon goes for a PR

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this is it…

The plan was to do New York but after failing twice, I knew it was time to visit the East coast after 6 years and reconnect with family and friends. And perhaps, do my first international marathon. Chicago was the next option but a day before my visa arrived, applications closed promptly.
My to-be home base would be New Jersey so Baltimore figured in the picture easily. I was to arrive 3 days before the event so somehow I’d still be in my fittest running state, that is after battling sleepiness (never had a shut eye during the flight), jet lag and acclimatization (late fall had descended by mid October).

The day before the race, we went to the M & T Stadium to claim my bib and the race’s official lime long sleeve shirt. I also bought knee-length compression shorts only after experiencing near freezing temperature and incessant winds. Now I’m getting nervous. We stayed at my cousin Allan’s house in Virginia, just 30 minutes from Baltimore

starting cold and early...

starting cold and early…

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my jittery smile at the start…

My brother and I appeared at the starting line an hour before to take pictures and survey the scene. Around 5,000 runners in various get-ups and outfits were there, including differently-abled contenders in hand-pedalled go karts and various contraptions. I had 2 layers of upper and lower running gears but was stiff as a block of ice. I just needed to heat up inside, I told myself, and I can slowly get my stride in order. It’s been the same story – I go too fast at the start, try to find my pace and just take on the remaining kilometers with earnest gusto and eagerness.
So there I was among the lead-packers as we raced up the city’s marvelous ascending main avenue – a quirky mix of brick and modern structures. The crowd’s fevered and fervent spirit kept the runners electrified and moving. I tried to take in all that energy until I realized I was catching my breath around KM5. I tried to slow down and just enjoy the ride, hardly being able to shield my legs and feet from the numbing cold.

At that point, I felt I had put all my preparations and expenses to waste – it was time to throw the towel. And what was I to put in my FB status? So I kept trudging into the rolling streets of Baltimore, the city zoo and various parks and open spaces. I was still waiting for the heat to kick in but after KM20, I gave up and just go with the flow of marathoners. We navigated through offices and commercial temples, both new and restored along the picturesque Chesapeake Bay.
We started at 8 a.m. and even with the sun already up and glowing, it was still a cold shivering affair. Thank God for the crowd and high school bands interspersed along the city streets, cheering and pushing us with some invisible force to the finish. And easily transforming it into one memorable street party.

the final struggles...

the final struggles…

I surprised myself when I reach KM32 (Mile20) at around 3 hours. Suddenly visions of a finishing my first international marathon with a personal record (PR) started swirling in my head. The race map had shown Mile 16-22 (a good 1 hour) a steep ascent into the finish line and so I kept anticipating it, expecting to walk and slow down when the going got tough.

But it never came. They were mean ascents alright but nothing that could have pulled me down. Buoyed by blaring street music and positive vibes from the crowd who had lined up the main avenue descending to the finish line, I kept hammering the pavement and pulled myself to a glorious finish. And it’s all documented by my little brother Fred who had strategically positioned himself 200 meters from the finish line.

metal-biting moment

metal-biting moment

Now these are what marathon memories are made of. And yes it was a personal record (PR) at 4:17:36. You might also want to check out my Frontrunner article on the same subject. Check out this link.

The Lost Files #2: Bimbler’s was no Bluff

Eight days after my Baltimore Marathon triumph (t’was a PR of 4:17:36), I was back for my second race in the States. This time it’s a trail run and 8 kilometers longer that my marathon. So when my brother drove me to Guilford, Connecticut one chilly morning, he figured that I’d finish it in less than 6 hours, considering my latest full mary time. I was also hoping he would be right but at the back of my mind, I knew it was going to be one harrowing ride.

578997_4884288903192_63899419_nJael Wenceslao, who had his share ultraruns in the States, helped me choose this run. My first choice was the Fire in the Mountain 50KM ultra but when he noticed the lead packers finishing within the early 6 hours, he knew it was one tough nut to crack. Bimbler’s Bluff had early 4-hour finishers so it was the wiser choice.

Or so I thought.

I learned my lesson from Baltimore so I showed up totally bundled up from head to toe. I’m the only visitor from the southern hemisphere so the outfit divide was quite obvious but what the hey…299434_4884284183074_1965776543_n
Around a hundred runners left the starting line and headed towards the forest. The route had some mean up hills but glorious down hills, as well. Early on the race, I started feeling the heat within as the molting began. First to go were the darn gloves followed by the bonnet then the jacket. After a fast start, I began to find my stride and let others outrun (and outchick) me. Quite frustrating really but I’m taking on this race 10 days on vacation mode and did I mention, 10 pounds heavier. 197618_4884282343028_283425629_n
But I never imagined it to be that bad. Let me count the ways:

a. Stone mines.  It was supposed to be just early fall but our trail had been littered with fallen leaves all over that one can hardly distinguish flat soil from strewn angular rocks. So a single wrong step could mean one nasty sprain. Those missteps just kept happening that I stopped counting. I never learned how my American counterparts were able to pass through those ‘mines’ like fairies flitting towards the summit. Suddenly, it was no longer fun anymore.

b. The cold. After a few kilometers, I had stripped to my compression pants with shorts and singlet over my long sleeve shirt but with the towering trees shading us from the sun, the cold breeze persisted. So while many of my co-runners were sweating in their shirts and tank tops, I was struggling mildly from the cold air and breath shortness.

c. Rudderless runner. I have always pride myself of having a good sense of direction and while all the wide route was well marked but their candy-striped red and white ribbons, I still got lost 4 times during the 50-km distance (losing a good 40 minutes). How did it happen? Probably, I got dependent on running behind a group that when left to my own devices, I suddenly felt rudderless and lost. Or when I got too immersed on the lovely autumn colors of the forest or my MP3 songs.

A single false glance or missed ribbon and I’m in alien territory. The longest time I wandered off was when I followed someone who himself was also lost. Anyway I just need to remember next time that in the States, trails and paths are intertwining and convoluted so the possibilities (to get lost) are endless.

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how to survive my first ultra-trail run abroad…

After the last time I got lost, I knew there was no way I could redeem this trail run. The only goal by then (8 kilometers away) was to finish within the 10-hour cut-off time. And so I surged forward, albeit still tripping on the stone traps and shivering but already keeping a sharp eye on the those candy striped flags

Going back to the finish, I realized how steep and slightly technical our furious start had been that morning. It was a minor hill so into the finish, I was basically just free falling and enjoying the final kilometers of our adventure. I clocked in at 8:08:36 and #117 out of 136 runners. I had wanted to be ranked in the mid pack somewhere in the 70s but it was not to be . Maybe next time, I could do better…hmmm.

The Lost Notes #3:  MAROONed for 5 days

It’s been 16 hours since the blackout started here at my brother’s house in New Jersey courtesy of hurricane Sandy who devastated mostly the Eastern part of the U.S. mainland. In the many times I’ve visited the States, it’s my first time to experience such a major catastrophe. 3 days ago, I was in Manhattan for a few days and I had a blast (as always) enjoying the sights, pulse and people of New York City. Now we got news that waters at Battery Park have reached 13 ft. and the Hudson and East rivers have overflowed.

upside down look at life...

life from the upside…

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Days before, I did some morning runs along those scenic river paths. Now, I’d hate to imagine how the newly revived public spaces (former railroad tracks) look like now. One of their most anticipated celebrations might hardly take place, actually. But I sure hope that within 5 days, New York City can get back on its feet again or else, the NYC Marathon is bound to doom for 2012.

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when the warm-up never led to the race…

Back in the home front, we were able finish our hearty dinner before the lights disappeared and continued with some much needed and unexpected family time – playing scrabble and hanging around sans the noise and disturbance of modern day gizmos. We had enough water and energy for my brother’s UPS (uninterruptible power supply) though we kept it at a minimum for who knows up to when this calamity would last. Even if clouds hovered above, the winds have dwindled and we even got to walk around the development to check out Sandy’s havoc. Here, it’s only 2 trees which toppled and no major harm to Mina house.

My training regimen has been in doldrums. Two weeks before, I did only 2 long runs after my 50K trail run while last week, it’s been down to one. It’s already Tuesday but I haven’t hit the pavement due to this storm. Since yesterday, I’ve been running up and down the stairs followed by some stretching and yoga poses just to keep the fitness level up.

It’s going to be a challenge but I need to rack up some serious mileage soon. I’m totally envious of my co-runners’ training runs in the Philippines as many of us are preparing for the C2C 200KM and the CM50miles. For me it’s CM50 a week after I arrive in Manila followed by the Quezon City International Marathon 2012, a week later. And I’m still weighed down by the same issues – jet lag, under training and acclimatization.

Yep, I do intend to run far and long here without getting too adapted to these conditions so I won’t have a hard time reverting back to tropical mode in 2 weeks. Wish me luck…

 

P.S. New York City Marathon, after some push and pull between organizer and the mayor’s office, didn’t push through on November 2, 2012 but many of the registered runners still ran along Central Park’s 4-mile road 6 times just to complete the 26 kilometer distance, more or less. I was there to party with the runners who many still donned their NYCM bibs.

On November 25, 2012, I took on the first Clark-Miyamit 50-mile trail run and was able to finish it at 17:12 or 48 minutes before cut-off time. A week after that, I took on a pacer’s duty (4:45) for the QCIM 2012 but with a lot of push was able to finish my 9th full marathon at 4:23:36.