32K Resolution Run

As I write this, I am experiencing muscle aches and pains in my legs – most especially in my glutes, my quads, and my soleus.

Yesterday's 2015 Resolution Run, which was run at Nuvali, Sta. Rosa, was grueling. And while I am elated that I finished the 32k, I would still give the organizer Runmania a thumbs-down on the way they had handled the event. More on that later.

Notice the elevation gain. 589 meters!

I actually discovered that the route would be an uphill run when I stumbled upon the Resolution Run event page. They posted a picture of the elevation gain and it showed that the gain would be 589 meters. Then, during the opening speech, the organizer gave more details about the route and mentioned that the route would take us up to Palace in the Sky, which an incomplete Marcos mansion but now converted to an urban park. Though I have never physically been to the site, I knew that it would be a really steep ascent. My friends and I were once contemplating a mountain bike trek to that place and we knew that it would test our strength and stamina. I mean it was named Palace in the Sky – not Palace on a Mountain or Palace on a Hill. Palace in the mother-f*ckin SKY!

Gun start was 4 am. I started the run slow. Slow as in zone-2 HR training slow. My heart rate averaged 134 for the first 11 kilometers and my heart rate stayed below 140 for most of the that portion. There were a few hills but it was nothing compared to the “mother-of-all-ascents.” I think it was that slow pace that made me survive the entire run. At the start of the run, people were overtaking me but when we reached the uphill portion, they were walking while I was running (albeit it at a slow pace) and overtaking them.

The uphill climb began at around the 11-kilometer mark, taking a right turn from the road which would have led us to Canlubang Country Club. It was about 5:30 am and still dark. It took me about 90 minutes to reach the peak which was at about the 20-kilometer mark. The sun was up by then. That's 1.5 hours! Granted that it wasn't a continuous uphill climb (there were brief moments of flat roads), but it was still a 9 kilometer torture fest that saw me climb more than half a kilometer uphill! Moreover, there were portions of the road that were unpaved.

I was running – even running uphill! – until I hit about the 19-kilometer mark. That was when I saw that it was one continuous climb to the top. At that point I uttered something like “f*ck this” and chose to walk. I still walked briskly, overtaking a number of runners as I strode up. You could hear a few runners asking the ones on the opposite side (they were going downhill) how far to the top. I really thought that we would reach the Palace in the Sky but the U-turn point was some distance away. We didn't even get a glimpse of the gate. That was disappointing. Maybe I misheard the organizer because I clearly heard him say we would reach the Palace.

Anyway, the marker for the U-turn point was an ambulance. Come to think of it, that was the first and only ambulance I saw throughout the run. I reached the U-turn point, there was also a hydration station so I took two swigs of water. Then I began “running” downhill. I put quotation marks there because it seemed more like shuffling than running. If you think going uphill is hard, running downhill is just as difficult. Running uphill is tough because your legs muscles are pushing you up; running downhill is tough and painful because your body is absorbing the shock as you hit the pavement!

I walked another time when I reached somewhere close to the 23-kilometer mark. I got hungry and ate an energy bar while holding on to a plastic cup of water.

A funny thing happened though at around the 4-hour mark. Suddenly everything felt light and easy and I really genuinely felt that I could finish strong with plenty of energy left. That feeling disappeared at around the 4:30 mark. It was supposed to be the final stretch and it looked endless. My running app was already registering 33 kilometers so I knew I couldn't rely on it. Was the GPS so unreliable that it was off by 2 kilometers?! My landmark was the parking lot, which would have meant that the finish line was a few hundred meters away, but as I looked far into the horizon I couldn't spot the parking lot! It was 8:30 am and the sun was already up so it was beginning to get warm. I kept on asking myself: “Where was the finish line?” At that point I began to walk.

Then, after a few minutes, I could hear music from a distance, which meant I was nearing the finish line. I saw the parking lot appear to my left. I began to run once more and finished at 4:45. The app measured the distance at 34 kilometers.

So why did I give Runmania a “thumbs-down” rating? Here's a summary:

  • It didn't mention anything about an uphill route in their site.
  • It didn't mention anything about dirt roads or rough, unpaved roads. It wasn't much, maybe about a kilometer in total, but if I had known earlier, I would have brought a different pair of shoes.
  • Given the difficulty of the route, a 5 1/2 hour cutoff seems unreasonable.
  • I spotted only one ambulance, and it's at the 20-kilometer mark. Given the difficulty of the course, there should be more medical facilities available.
  • The organizer mentioned bananas at the 13.5-kilometer mark. I didn't see any.
  • Some hydration stations ran out of cups.

I would think twice joining another run organized by Runmania.



Tomorrow I am running a 32k / 20-miler

Tomorrow I run a 32k run (that’s 20 miles for the non-metric) and I am both excited and nervous. The 32k has always been a challenge – I always “crash” some where at the 28-kilometer point. I had always paced myself wrong, pushing the pace too fast. But this will be a run where I feel that I now have a solid base. I have been running a slow zone-2 pace for months now so I guess this will be a test if that slow zone-2 training pace really works. If I finish the run without walking then I can confidently declare that it works!

The run tomorrow is the Resolution Run 2015 and will be held at Nuvali, Sta. Rosa. I have never run in Nuvali so I have no idea if the route is hilly or scenic or flat or twisting. This will be an interesting test on how I will run the Tokyo Marathon which is something like 6 weeks away.

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.


51 days to go: a 5K run to test my cold weather outfit

The Tokyo Marathon will be held on February 22. February is the coldest month in Tokyo. And according to the 2015 Tokyo Marathon brochure, the average temperature is 6.5 degrees Celsius (that's 43.7 degress for Farenheit folk). The coldest for Metro Manila in 2014 was 15.8 degrees Celsius. The coldest ever for Baguio is 6.3 degrees Celsius, and that happened way back in 1961!

So I had purchased these compression leggings and its matching compression shirt courtesy of Amazon and it was delivered to Manila by a friend of mine. The reviews claim that they are suitable for cold weather insulation and yesterday I gave it a try.

I ran an easy 5K while wearing the compression leggings. I figured that wearing the matching compression shirt would make me look like Superman so I settled for a simple singlet. The weather was relatively cool – my iSmoothRun would register it as 27 degrees Celsius – despite the fact that I ran at about noon. And yes the compression leggings kept my legs warm. I had originally planned to wear it for Sunday's long run but changed my mind and opted for trying it out in a shorter run. Good thing I did that because I don't know if I could have lasted. I also can't say if compression clothing actually improve performance. They feel nice and snug and my muscles don't feel like they're jiggling all over the place, but the jury is still out on whether or not it will make me faster or make me last longer.

Run stats: 5k in 38:35, average HR was 133, maximum HR was 145. The whole run felt more like a warm-up than an actual training run.

Today is a rest day, which is fortunate as I was still awake at 3:00 am, celebrating New Year. Here's hoping 2015 will be a fantastic year!


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.


55 days to go: 20 km run

I am happy that I was able to complete the scheduled 20-kilometer run today. The training schedule called for an easy 6k run, followed by a fast 7k, ending with an easy 7k. I had been preparing (dreading?) this long run for many days now. Yesterday, I had bought a bottle of Gatorade and stuffed the fridge with chocolate milk.

I was out the door by around 530 am, carrying a bottle of Gatorade and two packets of energy gels in my running belt. As it was still dark outside, I considered wearing reflectors but changed my mind. I figured that the skies would be illuminated by the light of dawn by the time I would hit the busy roads.

The route I chose was not an easy route. Fort Bonifacio is not a flat course. It had long, uphill roads, especially the one leading up to McKinley. I told myself that if I am lazy to tackle difficult, hilly routes then what more when I face the struggles and difficulties of a 42-kilometer run?

The first 6 kilometers was uneventful. My heart rate was steady at zone 2. The weather was cool. There weren’t that much cars on the road. People probably were still too lazy (or hungover) from Christmas celebrations.

The next 7 kilometers was tough but not too much of a challenge. The actual challenge was trying to nail the exact pace of 40 seconds below marathon pace. I hate it when I feel that I am maintaining a steady pace but my running app fluctuates wildly. The app was registering a deviation of up to 3-minutes plus-or-minus when I know I am running a constant pace! Is it because the GPS is spotty at the Fort where there are tall buildings and scaffolds above the roads? Or is it because iPhone GPS signals are more erratic than other devices (like Garmin watches)? It makes me begin to consider buying a running watch.

The last 7 kilometers, despite the easy pace, was not “easy.” My lungs weren’t bursting but my legs were heavy. I felt depleted. Again I told myself that this is how I would feel in the second half of a marathon. I would be drained and depleted. I should get accustomed to that feeling. So I sloughed through, one shuffle at a time, keeping my form in check, trying to relax, keeping my body erect, my head up, eyes looking forward.

I finished the 20k in 2:27:55. The sun was already up when I finished. I was still a good 500 meters away from home so I treated that walk home as a “cool down.”

Sunday is my next long run, and it is actually a 21k run event called Hashtag Fun Run. I am looking forward to it.


The week that passed: all easy runs

All my runs for the week were “easy runs” – that is, runs within Z2. It was a welcome respite from all the interval work that I had been doing. It has always been tough to squeeze in some quality runs during Christmas with all the parties, drinking sprees, and horrible traffic jams. This is the season of traffic deadlocks as people trek to malls for Christmas shopping. Friday (December 19) was supposed to be a “traffic armaggedon” as it was the last weekend before Christmas. Malls have been advised to close at 11 pm to spread out traffic but I think it made things worse.


Anyway, as I mentioned above, it's good that all I had to do was easy runs. I didn't have to do intervals. I could do the runs in the evenings and I could get a few more minutes of sleep. And since the runs were easy I could do consecutive days. Monday, for example, was when we had our office Christmas party. I had a few glasses of wine, left the venue at around 11 pm, but there was a traffic jam that kept me on the road for more than an hour. I got home at close to 1230 am – a 1 1/2 trip which normally would take me 30 minutes. Then another event made me get home around midnight. So instead of a rest-run-rest-run routine I rested on Monday and Tuesday and ran on Wednesday and Thursday.


70 days to go: Running Affinitea 16K

I had no expectations in the Affinitea 16-kilometer run. I joined not to “race” nor to establish some PR but just to run. My marathon training plan called for a 17-kilometer easy run with the the last 5K at faster-than-marathon-pace so I had figured that joining a 16K run, even if it were a kilometer shot, would still give me the same benefots and would also give me some motivation. The run would start at the CCP complex and would cover the full length of Roxas Boulevard. I enjoy running along Roxas Boulevard. It’s a straight and flat route, except for the two flyovers crossing Buendia and Edsa, with few intersections. I could just tune out and enjoy the run, unlike Bonfacio Global City with its uphill runs and twist and turns.

I was able to run the route at the prescribed pace. The only times that my heart rate jumped above Z2 was during the times I had to run up the flyovers. GPS signal was erratic – sometimes my watch would tell me that I was running at an incredibly slow pace of 9 mins/km and at other times at an incredibly fast pace of 5 mins/km, even if I knew I was running at a slow steady pace.

The main problem I had with this event was with the hydration stations. The tables were short. They were practically unmanned. I saw dozens of runners crowding to get water. This was “only” a 16-kilometer run so I figured that I wouldn’t need a drink. Weather was cool and it even drizzled at some point so I guess I really didn’t need to hydrate. I also chuckled when I saw sponges – even bananas! – being handed out. Bananas?! For a 16K run?! Maybe that would explain the run’s higher-than-average registration fee! It costed P900 to join and it didn’t include a timing chip. I’m sure people would also complain that there were no sports drinks.

But again I joined not to establish a PR so finish time was not a priority for me. I did finish in 1:56.


The problem with a Pebble + iSmoothRun tandem

I touted the advantages of a Pebble + iSmoothRun tandem. After several months, however, I discovered one major issue, and it is making me reconsider a Garmin watch.

A bit of history here. My Garmin Forerunner 610 conked out – the display was out of whack – and I was not in the mood to purchase a replacement. At that time I already owned a Pebble watch and I knew that there are plenty of running iOS apps that could connect to the Pebble. So I did the research and came across the iSmoothRun app, which integrates nicely with the Pebble.

With the iSmoothRun you can build all sorts of workouts, create blocks of workouts – like a 5-minute run at 6:00/km pace followed by a 1-minute recovery run – then repeat that block as interval sets which can be bookended by a warmup and a cooldown. The app can link with Bluetooth heart rate monitors and tracks your cadence, stride length, even the mileage of your running shoes. As a stand-alone app it’s functionalities don’t differ much from the more recognied apps like Nike+ or Runkeeper, but where it stands apart from these is how iSmoothRun integrates with Pebble.

I was in love with how the tandem of Pebble watch and iSmoothRun app works. You control the app through Pebble. You can pause the app, start the app, indicate lap intervals. With iSmoothRun you can customize what info is displayed on your Pebble. You can display distance, time, pace, heart rate, cadence, speed, GPS signal, iPhone battery level, steps, average pace, average heart rate, and many many more. In addition you can scroll through different screens holding different information. Think of your Pebblie watchface as one page, a page holding three types of info, and you can scroll through these pages using one of the watch buttons.

Sadly though there’s one catch. Battery life.

There’s something with the battery life of an iPhone that worsens as the iPhone ages. And somehow even the battery life of my Pebble has deteriorated. A two-hour run would leave my Pebble with around 30% battery life. My iPhone would be at 50%. Given that I probably would run a marathon in 5 hours (maybe even more), then chances are my devices would run out of juice before I finish. For training runs it could still work.

So now I am in a quandary. The most obvious choice for a running watch is the Garmin Forerunner 620 which has all the basic features plus a few advanced ones that would please the inner geek in me (like VO2Max and vertical oscillation, though I wonder how useful this info would be). One thing, however, that I loved with the Pebble was the capability to see my iPhone messages (without having to take out my phone. With that feature I could choose what messages – and even what phone calls – to respond to and what to ignore. While it’s true that I can’t reply using the Pebble watch, at least I can decide whether or not to pull out the phone. The recently released Garmin Forerunner 920XT has that feature and all the other geeky features of the 620 but the 920XT is more expensive and is a triathlon watch so basically I am paying for some features that I probably won’t need.

So what will it be for Christmas – the 620 or the 920?