Race results: Takbo.ph 20-miler

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!

 

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Takbo.ph 20-miler tomorrow

Tomorrow is the Takbo.ph 20-mile run. Once again, just like last week’s 32-kilometer Resolution Run, I am excited for this run. I fared pretty well in last week’s 32k run, where I ran strong with some energy in the tank despite the long and steep uphill climbs. Tomorrow’s route is still a hilly route but not as steep as last week.

I also reviewed my run stats.  My PR for a 32k is 3:54, which I achieved in November 2011. That’s 3 years ago. Will I be able to beat that record?

Ok. Let’s put some goals to shoot for:

  1. Finish in 3:46 (that means I can theoretically finish the marathon in less than 5 hours)
  2. Get a new 32K PR
  3. Finish without walking

So I wonder, how should I approach this run? Definitely I won’t start off by running my marathon pace. Probably do an easy (but no too easy!) run for the first 5 kilometres then settle into a steady pace. I don’t want to burn out and struggle in the last few kilometres.

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.

Signed up for Takbo.ph 20 mile run

Takbo.ph-20-Miler-2015-724x1024
I signed up for this because, well, 32k runs are held infrequently. The only other 32k run that regularly comes up is Unilab’s Run United series, which is typically held around June. I have to ramp up the mileage to prepare myself for Tokyo and it’s tough running 32 kilometres my own.

32 kilometre runs continue to be a challenge for me. I can finish a 21k with no major issues but in a 32k I find myself bonking at around the 28-kilometer mark. This is why I am always looking for 32k runs. By January 2015, I am hoping that my training runs would have prepared me for this distance.

Takbp.ph 20-miler will be held on January 18, 2015 at the Bonifacion Global City. As I write this, registration is still open. In fact, early registrants (those who register before November 30, 2014) will receive a personalised race bib!