[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
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
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.
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.
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.
Jael 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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.