Looking Back

Posted: July 25, 2011 in Lifestyle, Races, Run
Tags: ,
  • Long (Brick) Run (click to see stats)
  • 13.41k (1:16:31)
  • Avg. Heart Rate = 149bpm
  • Max. Heart Rate = 158 bpm
  • Avg. Pace = 5:42/km
  • Best Pace = 4:43 /km
  • Calories = 1275
  • Temp = 31º (Humidity: 65%)

As I labored along sans iPod yesterday morning during my long brick run, I got to reminiscing about the past.  Hey, what else is there to do when you don’t have your precious tunes or Audiobooks with you?  Personally, I try and focus the 4th Sacred Triathlon Commandment, specifically: think happy thoughts.  Hopefully, this will somehow allow me let my mind drift and forget about my current predicament of slowly melting into the pavement.  It didn’t work, like, at all, but I did fondly recall my adventure at having run the ‘Unilab United-for-Wellness 1/2 Marathon’, in the Philippines back in March of 2009.

In 2008 I made the decision that I wanted to go long.  Having spent that first season doing all Sprint distance races, I thought I needed a bigger challenge to strive for.  I was beginning to yearn for the opportunity to push the envelop a little more, hence, the decision was made to sign up for the Half Iron distance Musselman Triathlon on my birthday weekend (July 18th) for the next year.  So the 2009 year was going to be very pivotal in my mind; and it was.  At that same time, I adopted a Coach with whom I clicked, set out a strict meal plan strategy to drop weight and launched myself full force into ‘Triathlondom’.

That same year also provided me with a second opportunity to visit the Philippines for a month on business.  Now, I typically love travel, but attempting to maintain anything resembling a structured workout schedule was definitely going to be a huge challenge; specifically given that the temperatures in urban Manila can range anywhere between 27.7 °C (82 °F) and 31 °C (87.8 °F).  Where my swim workouts were confined to the neighboring condominium’s pool, and cycling was practically next to impossible lest you take your very life in your hands, with running I had a little room to roam, per se.  And roam I did.

At that time, I was primarily focused on improving my run and had set the ‘Around the Bay’ 30k event in April as my big motivation.  So the plan was to get out for no less than four runs per week, including one long arduous trek on the weekends; something I could use as an opportunity to get out and see the sites.  The real coup de tat  was also getting to participate in a half marathon around Bonifacio Global City.  But training in and around Manila presented some unique obstacles that I hadn’t considered.  I mean, I knew it was going to be hot and muggy and I came prepared to deal with that but I didn’t take into account the other more pressing factors such as: urban congestion, extreme air pollution, insane traffic, crime-ridden neighborhoods and the ever present risk of becoming hopelessly lost along dark, unmarked streets as I also happened to be working the night shift so my runs were typically done in the darkness of early morning.

As I was running mostly at night, I was spared from dealing with the scorching heat of day but there was just no escaping the oppressive humidity; on the weekends, however, those long daytime runs were torturous to say the absolute least.  On one such occasion I made the fateful decision to run to Tay-Tay and back…somewhere in the neighborhood of 25k.  I mapped out my out-and-back route so that I was confident I wouldn’t get too terribly lost, topped up the bottles on my hydration belt, tucked a few energy gels in my pocket, and then proceeded to cinch up my apple sack and get on with it.  Let the torture begin.

Watch your step…seriously.

And torture it was.  The first 7-8k or so where somewhat manageable, but, still nothing what you might consider as ‘comfortable’.  In fact, it was about as comfortable as running in a known war zone; if it wasn’t the plumes of toxic exhaust emissions from idling motorists *, it was the piles of burning garbage in the street or the risk of being run down by a careless Jeepney driver or, oh yeah, how about falling into a crater sized pot hole?  And did I mention it was about as hot as the Sahara Plains?  It was so hot out that my body literally felt like it was being slowly cooked from the inside out.  So here I was trudging along a scalding landscape through poverty and pollution, gasping and wheezing like an asthmatic orangutan.  At one point, I witnessed an old woman sitting under a small awning by the side of the road sadly shaking her head at me as if to say:  “Buddy, you’re fucking nuts.”  And who could blame her?

Alive and sticking.

By the time I got back, only a mere 3 hours after I had left, I was completely spent and coated in about an inch of soot and street gunk.  Likewise, I was hazard to even consider what I had sucked into my lungs during that time.  Verdict:  ‘that totally sucked’.

Hint: those arn’t tan lines

By the next weekend, I was completely put off attempting another long neighborhood run through public streets – especially 23k worth!  Instead, I discovered a local running track located nearby at the Philsport Complex that opened for the public beginning at 5:00am.   Perfect!  I showed up half asleep on the Sunday and started my run around the track with about two dozen other runners.  After about an hour the heat was beginning to soar along with the sunrise (by 6:00am it was already 28°C); but there was no crazy drivers to worry about; no burning garbage; no mangy dogs; just the boredom of going around and around and around…

The Philsport Complex Running Track

After about an hour, the original group of runners had dwindled down to maybe a dozen; after 90 minutes that number dropped to five – included myself.  By the two hour point, it was only me still going around the track in the full heat of the day.  Well, me, and two guards sipping on lemonades observing me from the shelter of their guard booth. They looked at me as the old woman had and by the time I had actually finished they had christened me as the ‘loco bastardo’, of which no translation was necessary. It almost killed me but at least I had survived my first 23k run and my confidence leading into the Unilab Half Marathon the next weekend was significantly boosted.  To reference, that particular run equated to 63 long, painful laps around the track.

The proof.

On the next Sunday (March 7th), I jumped into a taxi at 4:30am and made my way to Bonifacio Global City.  Bonifacio Global City is a highly urbanized district in Taguig City, Metro Manila, Philippines.  The district is named after the main Philippine Army camp in Metro Manila, Fort Andres Bonifacio.  The most interesting part occurred at the start of the event with two celebrities (apparently) leading our group of half marathoners through a quick 5 minute callisthenic routine.  You haven’t lived until you’re seen 2,000 people all bending and twisting I unison.  Somebody, however, might explain to the announcer the concept of a full marathon (42.5k) though, as it was humorous to us to hear him announce: “Yes, we’re getting ready to begin the half marathon, the most grueling of all running races.”   Pardon?

The route took us through the new city streets, up McKinley Hill and through Heritage Park.  All I remember though was being on the lookout for the next Aid Station with which to chug some water as well as douse myself with cold sponges.  It was otherwise uneventful, apart from the extreme heat and humidity that is, and I finished with a (then) Personal Best of 2:04:37.  Not bad for a fat guy, eh?

Grinning and bearing it at about the half way point.

How does this help my current heat training?  Well, it doesn’t, does it?  But it does make for a good story and it made the last 5-6k of yesterdays run a little less excruciating.  It also serves as a much-needed confidence booster in that I will – just as I did then – find a way to overcome this current heat wave and still be able to perform adequately come September.  Bring it on!

* It is also interesting to note that here is no legal environmental legislature monitoring or restricting the level and type of emissions being produced by either public or private motor vehicles in the Philippines.  In fact, most Jeepney drivers make what’s known as “home fuel” that they will mix up themselves; part gasoline – part who the fuck knows?

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