Yes, running at zone-2 works. I am now a believer in this. I was doubtful about this, even if all the science seems to point towards its effectiveness. Proof of the pudding is in the eating, so they say, and the fact that I established a new PR in the 32K is proof enough.
My previous PR was set in November 2011 and it was a grueling experience. I had hit the wall at around the 28 kilometer mark and walked for most of the remaining kilometers. I ran a couple more 32-kilometer races but the result was more or less the same – I would struggle in the last 4 to 5 kilometers and would eventually succumb to walking.
But in today's Takbo.ph 20-miler race I didn't fold. I didn't stop to walk AT ALL. Ok, maybe that's not accurate. There were a few situations where I did stop for a few seconds to grab a cup and at least one situation where the marshalls signalled me to stop to let traffic pass, but I didn't stop because of exhaustion. And I beat my previous PR by four minutes!
Honestly, even days before this race, I had a good feeling about my condition. I conquered the uphill climbs in last weekend's 32K Resolution Run so I figured that I should be able to come out with a good result in the Takbo.ph event. I figured to take it easy in the first 5k and, since the route was actually 2 “loops” of a 16-kilometer route around Bonifacio Global City, I could gauge my pace and stamina after the first route.
The weather was cool – in fact it can be considered cold by Philippine standards. There is a typhoon in the south and rain was forecasted to hit Manila in the afternoon. The run started exactly at 3:30 am and the route took us through the International School and then close to the new Valkyrie club (where I could still see plenty of cars parked by the road) and then we ran up the Kalayaan Flyover, ran along Gil Puyat Avenue, and then making a U-Turn before we got to Sergio Osmeña Avenue for the run back. That's one loop. Unlike last week's 32K Resolution Run, this was a route I was familiar with. I knew the uphill climbs and I knew how far one landmark is to the next. I knew that it was predominantly a downhill run from Mckinley Avenue to the finish line so I planned that section for my last hurrah.
And I also knew that GPS signal would be erratic, so I knew that I couldn't rely on the distance indicator of my running app. Around BGC it was off by a few meters but after a couple of kilometers, once I got to Gil Puyat with all its trees and tall buildings, it was hundreds of meters off. When I completed the first 16K loop, my running app registered 16.7 kilometers so I knew I couldn't rely on the pace that the app was measuring.
At around the 25-kilometer mark, after running for about 3 hours, I knew that I would at least beat my PR. I knew that I could run all the way. I felt good. I didn't feel the onset of any drop-dead exhaustion. The constant thought in my head was “I COULD DO THIS!” Even running up the Kalayaan Flyover didn't sap my energy. Yes I felt my legs get tired but it dissipated once the incline levelled off. At the final U-turn near McKinley Avenue, I estimated two more kilometers until I reach the finish line so I picked up the pace a notch. When I saw the tarpaulin declaring the 31-kilometer mark somewhere by High Street, I looked at my watch (it was indicating 32 kilometers) but I paid that no mind. I was more interested at the time and I knew that even if I ran the final kilometer at a slower pace, I would make a new PR!
All in all I am more than just satisfied with my performance. I ran the second half faster than the first. And to achieve a new PR at my age is proof that age is just a state of mind. Those long boring Z2 runs did pay off!