48 days to go: I ran the Hashtag Run 21K

I ran a 21K in the Hashtag Run event, organized by a team named Runtarantantan. This was a “training run” so finish time is not so important. The original training schedule was a 25-kilometer run, supposedly 7K slow, 10K fast, 8K slow. I changed it to 7K slow, 7K fast, and 7K slow. This was supposed to mimic the fatigue in a marathon where runners struggle in the last few kilometers. Did I struggle in the last 7K? Not really. Yes there was shortness of breath and some fatigue in my legs, but I finished relatively strong and fresh. I felt no cramps. My legs weren’t wobbly. I had no muscle pain.

I arrived at the run venue around 3:45 am (run was scheduled to start at 4 am) and the Runtarantantan organizer was giving a pep talk. For once, I paid attention to the speaker on the stage. I normally zone out waiting for the starting gun. He stressed the following points:

Don’t give any attention to people bragging about their run times. This I wholeheartedly agree on. Running is a personal journey. Your time is your time. That’s why it’s called a personal record. So when you run faster (or longer) than a previous run, then you are, in your own way, a winner. And those who run can understand that feeling of beating a personal record.

– Hence, no cutoff times. This I don’t exactly agree on. There should be cutoff times, not so much for the logistics (i.e., roads have to be opened up at some point), but also because people should avoid tackling a distance if they aren’t prepared. Cutoff times can be generous – 3 hours should be more than enough for a 21K, maybe 2 hours for a 10K – and that should serve as a motivation for people to train before tackling a specific distance.

– And because everyone is a “winner,” everyone deserves a medal. I used to wonder why people give so much emphasis, so much emotion, and so much importance on the medal, but then I realized that I had also cherished my first marathon meddal and that I would also soon treasure my Tokyo Marathon medal since that would be a milestone in my running life. So while local races are no longer that significant to me, it is still a significant milestone to others and I should not belittle that achievement.

– He also answered many criticisms about whether or not the route is accurate in terms of distance. He corrected the misconception that GPS signals were accurate. It bugs me when people refer to their app or their watch to contest a route’s distance. “According to my GPS, the route is wrong,” they would say. “It was actually 21.2 kilometers!” GPS is not an accurate measure of distance! Trees and buildings can block the satellite signal. GPS will also encounter problems in routes that have twists and turns! I wish people would stop contesting the race distance using GPS as their basis.

– He also mentioned why the Roxas Boulevard route is better that the Bonifacio Global City (BGC) route. I also agree that Roxas is better than BGC, the latter having more turns than the former. Moreover, he did mention that Roxas is “fully closed” as in all intersections are closed (not that there are many to begin with) unlike that of BGC where you have to stop at intersections to let the traffic flow.

Yes I do prefer the Roxas Boulevard route than BGC. It’s easier to tune out since all you have to do is run the length of Roxas Boulevard, between Luneta and the end of Cavitex, unlike that of BGC where you have to pay attention to marshalls and wondering if you took a wrong turn and ended up with runners tackling a shorter distance.

But the run was not without it’s problems. I had no problems with how the run was organized – there were plenty of hydration stations and there was no “traffic jam” in those stations. My problem was with how I used my running app. I fumbled with my running app buttons, screwing up the lap times. The full workout was still recorded, but the “middle” lap (the fast 7K portion) registered as the “last lap.” So while I have the full run recorded, I don’t have the averages for the final 7K. No big issue, but it is a lesson learned on how to operate the running app.

The other “lesson learned” was that the app begins recording after I press PAUSE if I begin moving again. The app recorded a time of 2:44 but it included the walk I took from the finish line to the finisher booth. Fortunately, I took this picture shortly after I crossed the finish line. While the time isn’t in the picture, the is time-stamped at 6:41, which means that I finished at around 2:41. I did mention that time isn’t the priority – this was not a “race” and I wasn’t aiming for any time goals nor for any personal records – but it’s also nice to have an idea of how long I took to run the 21K.

The good news was that I was able to maintain an easy “zone 2” heart rate in the first 7K, maintained close to the prescribed pace (6:20/kilometer) for the middle 7K, and was able to bring down my heart rate to below 150 for the last part.

Now I have to figure out why Spotify stops in the middle of the run. I wonder if it has something to do with the intervals. It stopped twice during the run, both close to the beginning of a new interval. My guess is that when I enter a new interval, Spotify waits for the end of the current song and then stops. I should take note of this in my next run.

And my next long run will be a challenge – 32K Resolution Run. I have always struggled at that distance. Now am excited to see how my training has prepared me for that distance.

 

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Chocolate Kalabaw Milk

I subscribe to the practice of drinking chocolate milk after a run. The more strenuous the workout, the more important it is to imbibe some nutrition for recovery. Many health and running articles espouse chocolate milk as the ideal recovery drink. So when I spotted Kalabaw (or in English, “Carabao”) Milk at our local supermarket the other day, I did not hesitate to grap a few bottles. I tried it and it was delicious! The taste was not that different from that of cow's milk but somewhat creamier and sweeter.

So it piqued my curiousity. The Kalabaw Milk I tried was produced by DVF Dairy Farm. No, DVF does not stand for Diane Von Furstenberg. It represents the initials of the farm's founder – Danny Fausto. The farm itself is located at Talavera, Nueva Ecija, a “very ideal location,” so says their website, that is “far enough to be spared from the pollution of the metropolis, and near enough to assure that milk can be brought to you daily, fresh from the farm.” I am so tempted to pay their farm a visit just to see how the carabaos are taken care of. I hope they are not treated the same way as described in this article (though I doubt the article's accuracy) as it describes how cows are maltreated in U.S. farms.

 

Tired legs

My legs are tired. And I feel drained. Definitely this is the after-effect from 3 days of running.

Lets see . . .

Friday was “long interval day.” 5 sets of 12-minute intervals. I ran a total of 11.3 kilometers. My heart rate was predominantly at Z3 and above. That was a punishing run.

Saturday I ran a fast 10K. I guess you could call this a tempo run since I ran at about 45 seconds faster than 21K pace. Again another challenging run.

And yesterday was a 15 kilometer run with the middle 5K at a fast pace. The run left me tired. And what drained me wasn't the middle 5K but the last 5K which I had to run at the usual “slow” pace. I sloughed through that part. It fely like it would never end. As soon as I got home, I chugged down a chocolate drink because I knew my body needed all the nutrients it could get. Right after dinner I flopped to bed and was dead to the world until 5 am.

So yes I am tired. Thank goodness that today is a rest day because my legs feel wobbly and tingly. And I am sleepy. And a typhoon has hit my country and will hit Metro Manila later tonight.

Audiobook instead of music

 

A few days ago, I ran a 7-kilomter run and, for a change, decided to listen to an audiobook instead of the usual lively music tunes. Loaded in my iPhone was The Silkworm, Robert Galbraith’s follow-up take to The Cuckoo’s Calling, a book that took me time to complete but was still a satisfying and highly recommended book. For those who don’t follow news on novels and authors, Robert Galbraith is actually J. K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter books, who, in the author’s “other” website, decided to take a pseudonym to “to work without hype or expectation and to receive totally unvarnished feedback.” I wasn’t a fan of the Harry Potter books, but after reading The Cuckoo’s Calling, I am impressed with Rowling’s style and writing prowess. I am looking forward to more crime stories from Galbraith!

I have been listening to audiobooks for many years now, predominantly during the times that I would drive to work. I have always been an avid reader – I started reading novels as early as Grade 6 – but priorities at work kept me away from reading. Thus I turned to audiobooks. Because it would take me about an hour to drive to work and another hour to drive home from work, listening to audiobooks in the car would be the best way for me to “read.”

Just like this runner, my music playlist was becoming stale. I already had a running playlist but I found that I was playing the same songs over and over again. I needed a change so I thought of giving audio books a try.

I thought that it would be difficult listening to an audiobook while running. I thought that I wouldn’t be able to follow the story. Surprisingly it wasn’t that hard as long as I kept running at an easy (i.e., zone 2) pace. In fact, listening to audiobooks could aid me in keeping my runs easy because if I had to dial down the pace so I could continue to follow the story. I definitly coiuldn’t listen to an audiobook during fast tempo or interval runs, let alone running a race. My mind would be focused on trying to sustain a fast pace.

The problem I have with audiobooks is that my programmed audio cues would break the story at odd and sometimes critical junctures. To ensure that I maintained a zone 2 HR, I had programmed my running app (iSmoothRun) to provide me audio cues of my heart rate and pace. So sometimes, in the middle of the story, possibly at a critical plot point or dialogue, iSmoothRun would tell me to run faster or slower. To lessen the times that it would break the story momentum, I programmed the app to provide the cues every kilometer and I lessened the information to just the pace and heart rate, lessening the time for listening to running cues instead of the audiobook. In hindsight, the pace info is superfluous since all I needed to track was heart rate!

The other problem with audiobooks is that it could be difficult when there is distracting ambient noise around me. Airplanes fly overhead and it would drown out the words coming out of my headphones. Traffic with the droning sound of car engines and the cacophony of honking horns would also overwhelm the audiobook. I don’t want to increase the audiobook volume as my ears would pay for it and it is cumbersome to stop and press a button to replay the last 30 seconds.

 

 

Eating healthier

Monday is my “coding” day. That is when I have to be off the road by 7 am. For those who are scratching their heads about this “coding” scheme, Metro Manila, with its horrible traffic, has initiated this traffic control rule that requires certain vehicles to be off the roads by 7 am. This means I have to wake up earlier than usual and leave for office without having breakfast at home, else I get apprehended by policemen. The beauty of this scheme is that I get to leave home early and beat the morning rush hour. The disadvantage though is that I have to look for a good place to eat breakfast. I can't skip breakfast. If I do, I get headaches and I get cranky and I become unproductive.

I usually park the car at office and walk over to a nearby cafe for breakfast. For several Mondays I would walk over to Army Navy and have their pancakes. I am a sucker for pancakes. With bacon. Their pancakes are delicious and reasonably priced.

Pancakes at Army Navy

But today I chose to eat healthier. I didn't want to eat a breakfast primarily consisting of flour and sugar. I wanted something more “natural” and less processed. I wanted leafy vegetables and fresh fruits.

So I fired up Foursquare. Thank goodness for Foursquare. Being in a new office building, I was unfamiliar with the nearby restaurants so I needed some guidance. One thing I like about Foursquare is that it points you to different restaurants depending on the genre (e.g., Japanese, Italian, American), gives ratings of these venues and tells you how far away it is. I didn't want to walk far so I discarded restuarants farther than 500 meters. I discarded the usual fast food joints like McDonald's and Jollibee. Eventually I opted for Cravings, which is atop Fraser Place. It being a serviced apartment, I figured that it should have at least a decent and humble buffet restarant with a price tag lower than those found in 5-star hotels.

Breakfast buffet at Cravings

I ended up having two egg-white vegetable omelettes with wheat bread and some tomatoes, pineapple bits, and slices of cucumber on the side. The bill came out to P554, tax included.

The added bonus is that Cravings is a few hundred meters away from my office, so I had a nice easy walk (I timed it as an 8-minute walk) to help digest them calories.

Slept late for two days and now I have a cold

I haven’t run for two days now.

I slept late, woke up late, leaving me with no time to run. Not even for 30 minutes.

And now that I have had something like 5 hours of sleep for two consecutive nights, I have a cold. That has often been the pattern. Lack of sleep leads to breakdown of resistance and then I get the sniffles.

I really should be more disciplined. I shouldn’t allow myself to get distracted and unnecessarily sleep late. If I can avoid going home late, I should avoid going home late. It’s not so much that I miss out on a training day. It’s that I end up getting a cold, which is irritating. A cold makes me lazy to run. I end up making excuses not to run. I could end up telling myself “I’ll run when I feel better.”

Let’s see how I fare tomorrow. It’s just a cold and running experts say that you can still run if you just have the sniffles.

Beijing Marathon

Image from @PDChina

Despite the smog – “hazardous” as described by the U.S. embassy – that hit the Chinese capital, the Beijing Marathon still pushed through. That runners still chose to run the marathon was no surprise to me. That pollution levels peaked at 400 micrograms per cubic metre, exceeding the WHO threshold of 25 micrograms per cubic metre, was no deterrent to the thousands of runners. A marathon after all is a test of willpower. It’s definitely no cake walk. Those who have experienced the “wall” know that it becomes a battle of mental fortitude. A marathoner has trained himself to disregard that voice in his head that tells him to stop.

It’s not easy training for a marathon. It would have been frustrating not to have run. Runners would have trained for months, a number of times probably under the hot morning sun. They would wake up early in the morning and run for hours and hours. Would they let some pollution stop them from running a race that they had trained long and hard for? Would they throw away months of training just because of smog?

I am not saying that I approve of the choice they made to run. I am just saying that I can understand why they chose to run rather than sit it out. After all, you have to be a little crazy to run a marathon.

Easy running

I have been doing easy runs. How “easy?” Very easy. So easy that it’s downright boring.

Many running sites (like this one) recommend a per-mile pace of 90 seconds to 2 minutes slower than marathon pace. Now my marathon pace is already slow to begin with – if I target under 5-hours, then my marathon pace will be 11:30 thereabouts. So my easy runs should have a pace of 13:00 to 13:30?

That’s slow.

OK, since I am a country that uses the metric system, that’s 8:26 per kilometer. And my last easy run was done at an average of 8:28, does that mean I can do a sub 5 hour marathon?

My easy runs are based on heart rate. I have to keep my heart rate below 140. It’s not easy keeping your heart rate low. There’s this tendency to run faster. Your body is just aching to speed up. I still sweat but I don’t feel any muscle pain or any fatigue. I really wonder if this is effective but it seems all running websites point out that easy runs are effective. On the bright side, I don’t wake up dreading to run. When I haul myself out of bed, I just tell myself that this will be a boring painless 30-minute run. I tell myself that I would usually play iPad games for 30 minutes so I can easily sacrifice that for marathon training.

 

I am an aging marathoner!

On way to work today I listened to the latest podcast of Marathon Training Academy and the topic was “The Aging Marathoner.” It appears that, because I am now over 50 years of age, I am classified as an “aging marathoner!”

And it appears that I am not a rare breed. According to the article, in the US, “runners over age 50 represent one of the fastest-growing age groups participating in the marathon” and that “the number of marathon finishers age 50 and older nearly tripled to 92,200, or about 18% of the total in 2011.” Also, a recent study from the sports science department at the University of Burgundy in France, looked at the NYC Marathon from 1980 to 2009 and they found that “the percent of finishers younger than 40 years significantly decreased, while the percent of master’s runners significantly increased for both males and females.”

Actually the article made me regret not running a marathon much earlier in my life. The article lists what happens to our bodies as we age – the physiological changes like decreased maximal heart rate, decreased stroke volume and cardiac output, fewer blood capillaries, smaller and fewer mitochondria in the muscles (which are responsible for energy production), decreased maximal oxygen uptake (VO2 max), decreased insulin production, decreased growth hormone production, decreased muscle mass, increased body fat, decreased muscle strength and endurance, and changes to nerve functioning which would result in increased reaction time. I wonder what my time would have been if I had started training for a marathon ten years ago.

But on the other hand, it’s good that I started running before I had hit 50. I also wonder what would have happened if I had not started running, if I had not joined those short 5k fun runs and if I had not graduated to running a half-marathon. If I had not started running, it probably would have been much much harder to start.