Where Do I Go From Here?

It has been two weeks since I finished the Cebu Marathon. I still feel the ill effects of that race. My fatigued state has me intermittently experiencing cough, cold, fever, joint pains, headache, and sore throat. However, how bad I feel right now does not compare to how bad I felt during race day.

My girlfriend and I ate bad takeout dinner. It led to stomach flu. She was vomiting all night long yet I foolishly kept it in. I took frequent trips to the toilet because it was next to impossible to completely hold it. Needless to say, I toed the line sick and sleep deprived.

It was next to impossible to control my pace. My mental game was off. I relied on the state of my belly and the pace of other runners. I knew it was bad. When I got to the 12th kilometer, it got worse.

My erratic pacing earned me poor breath control. I had trouble breathing. My chest was tightening. I knew then that my pride was going to cost me. Maybe, not only during this race but somewhere down the line. I was starting to flashback to all my greatest hits. I took off my rosary bracelet then prayed.

I resolved at some point to ask for assistance from the medics. The race marshals and policemen seemed incapable of handling a medical emergency. I walked as fast as I can  hoping to find an ambulance but I was alone. It seems all my races in recent years had me walking alone at the back. When I finally caught sight of an ambulance, the chest pain was gone.

I wish I could firmly say that I did the right thing by not stopping. Somehow the thought of starting the year with a major loss did not sit well with me. I kept going even though I knew at the back of my mind that I was not going to make the cutoff. It was the worst time to find my courage really. I was at the longest most boring part of the race.

The halfway point until the finish line seems like a jumble of painful memories to me now. I walked most of it, ran only when I could. I knew I was going to finish the race no matter how long it took. The finisher’s medal did not even matter anymore. I could recall moments with the now 250-time marathoner named Mohan. His cheerfulness brightened up every runner’s face.

My finish was different from all my other race finishes. I had more cheerleaders for this one. They were more out of pity. Obviously, I could not kick but it still felt extraordinary crossing that finish line. However, I still felt a tinge of sadness. It felt like the end of an era. This year, I’ll be turning 30. What will this mean for my running career? I have not been competitive in over a year. Should I focus on shorter races? Should I quit? I don’t know. I guess for now, only God knows. 7:09:48

Unwanted

At a far corner
Underneath a dirty pile
Of shoes and slippers
They lay there unwanted

His nose reacted in disgust
Thumb and index finger
Held away the loathsome pair
They were falling apart

The design had crumbled
Like a tongue did the outsole hang
Holes upon holes adorned it
They were unusable

He had a mind to dispose
Off to the incinerator
Or to where the unwanted go
They only gathered dust

Memories of victories and loss flood
A convicted heart gave the pair away
To someone who cherishes them
They will race once again

42 Thoughts From The Mind Of A Marathon Survivor Part I

I feel more like a marathon survivor rather than a marathon finisher right now. Last Sunday’s marathon did not go as well as I had hoped. This time around, I was more desperate than ever to finish the race. The voices in my head were screaming full time. Most of them made me laugh while some were seriously messed up thoughts. All of these thoughts kept me going though. Here are just a few of these thoughts.

  1. It finally started. Quickly! Take note of escape routes for my inevitable DNF exit.

  2. Damn it! I left my money in bag. I guess I’m gonna have to finish this race.

  3. Keep running and don’t look at your watch. Keep running and don’t look at your watch. Keep running and don’t look at your watch.

  4. Water or Gatorade? Gatorade!

  5. 4 dozen moms have passed me today. I am officially a marathon noob.

  6. She just went into that bakery for a quick bite. Can we do that? Man, I’m hungry.

  7. Oh! A water station. I guess I can walk now.

  8. Two hours and thirty minutes have passed. Orange or chocolate flavored gel? I can’t decide while running. Must walk.

  9. My goodness! All the costumed marathoners are fast this year!

  10. I’ve been running for hours. Where’s the next water station?

  11. Those salt packets contain really salty salt.

  12. Four lamp posts of running then one lamp post of walking.

  13. It’s been three hours. That’s longer than my last long run. Go me!

  14. Oh sponge! Where have you been all my life?

  15. Why is it called a water station when it provides Gatorade?

  16. Drunk hecklers running beside me. Run at a reasonable pace faster!

  17. I’m gonna make this cup of gatorade last. I don’t wanna start running yet.

  18. Oh no. He’s talking to me. I’m too tired to talk. Run faster! Aaand I’m walking.

  19. Two lamp posts of running then one lamp post of walking.

  20. It’s so dark. I hope I don’t step on something weird.

  21. Let those drivers wait! I’m running on empt…

Remember

I remember it

Remember it all

 

The long sleepless night

The tense ride eight hours later

The painful pin prick

The failed attempt to warm up

The booming gun start

The jostling for position

The cold morning breeze

The long lonely stretch of road

The crazy fast kick

The proud victorious finish

The free awesome stuff

The failed attempt to cool down

The sweet post-race meal

The satisfying ride home

 

I remember it

Remember it still

Back To Square One

Cebu City Marathon 2012  5k  01/08/12

Before the race:

  • Brrrr.
  • Burning question: Will I run like cheetah at a savannah or corgis on a treadmill?
  • Pretty fireworks.
  • Mud. Everywhere.
  • Is it just me or did my belly get bigger?
  • These shorts are too short for me.

During the race:

  • Slowest start ever.
  • Yep. There it is. Ouch.
  • Pain level: 7 out 10. Minute 13. This is going to be fun.
  • Could this stretch of road get any steeper?
  • Okay. I give. 10 minutes. No! 5 minute walking break.
  • 1 kilometer to go. Run. Run!
  • That woman sounds like she’s in labor.
  • Breathing hurts. Light bulb! I should do a breathless kick.

After the race:

  • Answer: Corgis on a treadmill.
  • I think I’m gonna puke.
  • Oh, great. A band.
  • MOVES LIKE JAGGER!
  • Don’t I have a singing audition tomorrow?
  • Eternal question: Which is hotter; a hot runner or a hot singer?
  • Those Globe & Castrol models need a sandwich and a nap.
  • Not in the mood for cool downs.
  • That guitarist is too old for that genre.
  • Should’ve joined the fun run version of this race.
  • I’m swearing off dairy during race week for good.
  • My belly did get bigger!
  • Maybe next time.

Days later:

  • I’m not in the finisher’s list. Is that good or bad? 33:07.75

Something Sinister

Run United Cebu 2011 10k 12/18/11

It has been a while. Sigh. I could be more excited since this is my first race in exactly 3 months but I knew better. I had not done any runs longer than five kilometers in months. To make matters worse, I had not done any runs reaching five kilometers in weeks.

I knew the transition of training from track to road was going to be difficult so I enrolled at Runnr Academy. The seminars were often interesting and the group 5k runs were quite challenging. I didn’t really bond with the runners but I was almost sad it ended; a special emphasis on the ‘almost’ there. The venue took almost an hour of travel and I had quite a number of near death experiences trying to catch up to the fastest runner. Those were fun times though.

After I graduated from Runnr Academy and accepted a cool singlet, I overcame my ‘shyness’ went it came to road running. Running was a breeze if you didn’t mind the very real possibility of getting hit by a car or being chased by dogs or getting mugged. I suppose that runners from all over the world had to face these dangers at some point in their lives. Route planning was a bit of a chore though. There were so many factors to think about: safety, accessibility, distance, dog population, etc. I never really thought about these things before. This led me to be conservative about my routes, which in turn led to some of my running friends urging me to increase the distance. I eventually gave in but only in small increments and, if needed, I always went back to my shortest route.

With this mediocre training program in mind, I came into the race in full training mode. The festive mood chafed at me even as I envied the readiness projected by the racers. After the warm-up, I started to think that this race was either going to be a disaster or a chore when I saw a pretty sight near the starting line, a girl. Not just any girl. She was famous in the local running scene because of those ads and news articles about her winning in a triathlon. However, the first time I ever saw her was when she outkicked me on the last kilometer of the Y101 Armscor Run. I only saw glimpses of her but those were enough. I was smitten but I can’t exactly pinpoint which part of her like. Was it her girl next door looks or her blistering kick? I didn’t know. I still don’t know. One thing was for certain at that point though. The goal had shifted. I had fully intended to chase her all throughout the 10 kilometer course.

Then, it started. No, not the race. It was something else, something more sinister. I can’t fully disclose what it was but let me just leave it to me wanting to go to the John very badly, which was unfortunately situated 400 meters away. Was it number 1 or number 2? Quit asking! Whatever I needed doing, I needed to do it in 3 minutes. I didn’t make it to the gun start. By the time I started the race, I had stepped on a mud puddle and elbowed my way pass the 5k racers. This race was not going my way at all.

It was going my way, at least, for the first six kilometers. I remember little of those six kilometers. The training had taken over. I just ran like I usually did. The sixth kilometer was when I snapped out of my meditative running though. My left foot, specifically the forefoot, was radiating in pain. The pain reminded me of the true purpose of this race. It was not to chase some pretty/fast girl. This race was my long run and there wasn’t supposed to be any pressure getting a PR.

I ran/walked the rest of the way. Powerade was served on every water station. I sipped it leisurely during my walking breaks. No pressure. I even had time to ponder whether the drizzle would turn to rain.

At the last kilometer, I resolved that I shouldn’t walk anymore. I ran the rest of the way. My left foot protested of course but the pain was forgotten when I saw a familiar face during the distance were I normally initiated my kick. I invited him to sprint with me but he was a bandit so I had to proceed on my own. It wasn’t as powerful as I wanted it to be. A lot of people were crowding the finishing line. The kick kind of shied away.

After the race, I collected my loot bag and went home right away since I needed to go to Church with my family. I did not bother with the chip time. It most likely had the same time as my watch, which it did. A few days later, I saw my time at RunRio.com and it was surprising. It wasn’t my finish time that surprised me. What was surprising was my 5k time. It was an unofficial PR, which was the type of PR that involved side stitches and dizziness. I didn’t suffer any symptoms after the race at all. 27:10. Yikes. In my 19th race of 2011, I got my first honest to God running epiphany. 1:09:34.07

27 & 37

C24/7 1st Fun Run  5k  4/10/11

I remember little of the actual run. The time before the gun start is a different story though. I had gone through great lengths to replicate the activities I did prior to the Citirun event. With a new PR in mind, I ate the same food, slept the same number of hours, and did the same warm-up routine. Now, that I think about it, it was so similar that it was almost automatic. Maybe I did not remember that events that have transpired prior to the race after all. Maybe what I did remember was the Citirun event but I digress. Like I said, I remembered very little of the actual run. As the gun sounded, the little details fell away. My focus narrowed and it longed for the sight of the finish line.

There are things that I do remember though. The chilly air and the intruding drizzle for example. Both conspired to take the warmth from the muscle and the confidence from the heart. I remembered valiantly shrugging them off. I think I remember doing my usual racing plan such as the strong forefooted strike start, the economical turn technique, and the no water break strategy. I am not sure how it went though. I remember chasing after a woman. I do not remember why I engaged her competitively. Was she pretty? I did not see her face. I remember being outran by her. I think she surged on me at the halfway point. I never saw her again. I remember slowing down somewhere around the 4th km. I remember seeing two cops. The younger cop constantly encouraged his superior not to stop and press forward. I remember losing sight of them at one turn and I slowed down even more. I remember perking up at the sight of the finish line. The cops were 50 meters away from the finish line and over 100 meters ahead of me. I remember the surge. I remember the kick. I remember finishing alongside the cops. I remember the timekeeper saying I finished alongside the cops.

The pain broke off the stranglehold of my focus and on my memory for some reason. It would have been overwhelming had I not experienced a strange haziness. I directed my attention at my time and the pain took a back seat. My new PR was almost a 2 minute improvement from my last effort. This got me in a pretty good mood. I even socialized with some of the runners, which is not really my thing. I usually went home immediately afterwards. I should have. Some of the winners were complaining about the small prize money. Apparently, it was not enough to cover registration expenses. It dawned on me that there are plenty of runners out there who see this sport as a bread-and-butter job. Although, I hold no illusions of winning in these races, I do want see how far and how fast I can go in this sport. I left the race wondering if my level of commitment was enough to get me where I want to be. 27:57.01

Run For A Child’s Future  6k  4/24/11

Several mistakes were made before, during, and after this race. While most of them were rookie mistakes, I did some pretty stupid ones that make me question my age. I will probably be able to laugh at these blunders in the future, maybe 20 more races in the future. Hopefully, I have become wiser after this ordeal.

The mistakes started early. So did the pain. It was a familiar pain and one that intensified with every step. An affliction brought about by concoctions of different temperatures. It was gas and there were copious amounts of it in my belly. I assumed you’re laughing right now reader. I am going to wait for you to stop. Are you done? Yes? So, I really wanted to discharge the gases from their cage but I was faced with a daunting conundrum. I was near the starting line. Do I really have the guts to release my gases upon those innocent unsuspecting runner folk? I didn’t. They crowded behind me so it was very possible that I would get caught. Looking back, I think I did a pretty good job managing the pain. Even with the pain, I held off most of the runners that tried to overtake me. All things considered, the pain made the usually demoralizing ascent only mildly discouraging. However, the pain robbed me of a skill I did not think I would ever use in a sporting event; I forgot how to do basic math. At the halfway point, I clocked at 19 minutes. With a PR in mind, I knew I was going to have to do some calculations to determine my odds. I miscalculated. 36 – 19 = 27. Thirty six minutes minus nineteen minutes equals twenty seven minutes. How dumb was I? Naturally, I cruised through the second half. If I ran the first three kilometers at 19 minutes, then 27 minutes was going to be a breeze right? The dumb get dumber. Anyways, I could forgive myself for miscalculating mostly because of the pain in my belly but I did take it too easy on the second half. This was a loop course and the second half was mostly a series of descents, which I failed to take advantage. I guess I just ran out of mental strength on this one.

Well, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that I failed this one. There were too many mistakes. Even I knew this race was going to be a colossal failure the moment I saw the registration booth. They had pink singlets! Pink! Oh, I also almost choked on a hotdog. It did not go down easy; I was dehydrated. I did take comfort in the fact that I just helped send kids to school. Wrong! The organizers had to ruin this one for me too. A day later I read at a local newspaper that the run attracted only 300 participants. I was a failure. The whole thing was a failure but they did promise to hold another run outside the province. The organizers just won’t give up on educating those kids. Well, if children can trust strangers with their future then I can probably have a little faith on myself as well. However, I’m going to eschew pink singlets from now on. 37:04.57

Best Race of the Month: C24/7 First Fun Run

A measly 700 participants including one Kenyan participated in this one. Still almost 400 more participants than the other race though.

 

Best Performance of the Month: C24/7 First Fun Run

27 minutes. I fear that I will plateau after this.