Wednesday, February 27, 2013

My First Marathon To The Sweet Finish!

"A Marathon is just 26.2 Miles", I once read this from a Soleus Watch. Might seem like it was just taken lightly or it's just telling me that despite the distance, it can be done.

My medal shot captured perfectly by Tong Pascua!

Marathon is one of my fears. I've seen how people train diligently and finish it like it was a death defying one, with the injuries and all. I've been running 21K races for more than a year now and I still hit a wall at around 19 kilometers. I know in myself that it will be hard to finish double the distance given my ever changing training routine because of my work schedule.

After that very tiring route recon at the TBRDM Bull Session in Nuvali on the first week of January, which I managed to run 26.5 Kilometers but I was so burned out, I realized that I only have less than 2 months to go to prepare for my first marathon. At first, I was so shaken that I already considered backing out but I realized that this marathon was long overdue and I should have done this last year. No matter how I delay this I still need to do it so it's gonna be now or never!

I admit I was so lazy after signing up at TBRDM. My thoughts where "Malayo pa naman eh! Tsaka nalang ako mag training." (The race is still far, I'll just train some other time). So I just trained lightly, missed workouts and never make up for it until the recon was done, and it was a wake up call for me.

With the element of time as my enemy, I consulted Coach Lit and he told me I should not miss a weekend LSD from that moment on to be able to prepare for the Marathon on the last Sunday of February. I also took a day off to prepare a good training plan that I will religiously follow. After collecting information from my runner friends, I came up with a training plan, nutritional plan and race day plan that I believe will work for me.

A week before the race, I feel I am strong enough to finish the distance since my weekend runs were all good and my body is feeling a lot better and lighter. I also had a good nutritional plan that helped a lot as well.

Marathon jitters were always present since the recon and it just got stronger a day before the race which caused me a sleepless night. I am just glad I already acquired more than enough sleep before it happened. Saturday afternoon, I had a slight hypoglycemia attack that I was able to manage quickly. Maybe the nervousness I feel is eating up my blood sugar. While I was cutting my toenails I accidentally wounded my biggest left toenail and the night just before I go out and head to the bus at BGC to Nuvali, my monthly period came in.

The bus left 40 minutes late from the expected time. We arrived almost 1:00AM so we have an hour to prepare ourselves for the race. While I was claiming my Ipico Timing Chip, I saw Tessa. She asked me if I'll be running alone. She is also alone so we decided to stick with each other to the finish.

Tessa told me she wants to finish in 6 hours 30 minutes. I told her my target is 8 hours and we agreed to do it my way.

Five minutes before the start we headed to the starting line. I was not talking. I was heavily breathing. While others are busy taking photos and chatting with fellow runners and supporters around, I was saying my sincerest prayers.

I remember saying this line, "Lord, I know I am not well prepared for this race. I do not wish a decent time or to be injury free or a strong finish, just let me get this over and done with alive, I'm good... but whatever happens, your will be done..."

The nerve wrecking feeling came when the countdown to ten begins and when the gun sounded, it's game time!

As usual, the start for me is always the hardest. I managed to run the first 15 minutes continuously until we hit a false uphill and started walking it. We agreed never to run the hill parts and compensate on the downhills.

Surprisingly, we are strong. We managed to run at a consistent pace and take it easy. We had frequent walks that we managed to do briskly. Even if we are slow, I'm glad that we did not feel any pains that may cause us to slow down on the first part of the race.

We clocked 2:58 on our first 21 Kilometers, which is good. So I told Tessa I am cutting our target time to 7 hours. At this time, we have conserved a lot of energy to go so we took a faster stride to finish the race at the new time we set to.

At around 24K, Tessa needs to go to the comfort room badly. We are so far from the portalets. She was struggling and we are walking slow. After 2 Kilometers we saw a guard house and they were very accommodating that they let her use their comfort room. I waited outside, on the road for about 15 minutes and saw some runners pass by me. After Tessa did what she needs to do, it's time to make up for the lost time.

At the 28K mark, it was time for me to change my tampons because it felt so heavy already. I endured the very dirty portalet that I won't even dare get into if it wasn't for the need. I think I burned 5 minutes inside that hellish place. Thanks to the guys who let me in first because I really need to go pee and change at the same time. After that I felt lighter, and I know I can run better now.

At Kilometer 30, I looked at Tessa while we were running and noticed that she's already wearing her shades. So I did too! And they are in matching colors, orange! Ofcourse I took a photo and posted it on my Facebook. I got 49 likes on it! ^_^

This is the time where I feel so pumped up. We run almost all the way. It was a great feeling to see those fast runners who at first passed by us and now most of them are walking or running slow and now it's our time to pass by them. It's like were given a chance to experience a competitive like racing to finish.

At the last 5 Kilometers Tessa started crying. I stopped her and told her to reserve the drama at the finish line. Don't worry I already said sorry for ruining her moment.

While sprinting, Tessa noticed the rainbow in the sky and we can't go on without taking a photo with it. The rainbow symbolizes hope, that despite all the hardships we've endured, in about an hour we will finish the longest race of our lives to date.

We continued running and at the last 1 Kilometer Tessa told me that she wants me to cross the finish line first because I deserve it. Though I wanted to finish the race with her I don't want to spoil our own individual moments. Such a generous heart she has! At the last 500 meters I saw all my runner friends and supporters cheering out loud. It was like a nitro that pushed me to sprint to the finish line. I even did a jump shot!

I finished the race with an official time of 6:24:18. A good time for a first timer. Surprised that I am the 298th out of 584 finishers! I really belong now to the middle pack. I guess I already graduated from being one of the last runners. I still can't believe it!

After just 2 months of serious training and a week of race and nutrition planning resulted to this. Was targeting sub-8 and incredibly finished an hour and a half less. No dramas, just pure performance, faith in the strategy I plotted, sticking to the race plan, positive attitude and mostly faith in God.

Who would have thought a fat, undertrained, diabetic, slow runner who had a wounded toenail and suddenly had her period finish a marathon injury free? Until now it still hasn't sinked in. Oh well, I don't know if I can beat this PR but what matters is that I can now erase Marathon on my list of goals.

Here are some of our photos during and after the race:

Happy right from the start! (Photo by Tong Pascua)

Japan Japan on a downhill!

My walking moments, at times when I feel so tired already.

A fer kilometers to the finish line and still running strong! (Photo by Team Ponkan Runners)

Sprinting to the finish line while giving a high five to the supporters cheering for us! (Photo by Jose Ramizares)

You got to love the after run stretch! ^_^

My true finish line and one of my reasons for fighting to live, my son!

The race is well organized, but I think there are still some things that can be considered for the next time:

  1. I hope the bus leaves on the exact time that it said it will. Waiting for almost 40 minutes is a hassle.
  2. It would be nice to have a dressing room since the comfort room at the clubhouse is not enough for everyone.
  3. Additional portalets will be a huge help. Placing more of them along the long stretch of the road so runners will not queue up. Better if it can be segregated to Male and Female portalets.
  4. Portalet maintenance please! Just to keep them clean.
  5. More Marshal visibility, especially on the turnaround points to prevent the idea that the race can be cheated on.
  6. An advise to wear a head lamp be more reiterated. If I wasn't wearing mine I would have tripped like some runners did.
  7. I did not feel the presence of the said "Pumped Up Stations". Everything is just like an ordinary "Hydration Station"
  8. Medics? I only saw a few. The one near the band doesn't even have Gauze Pads.
  9. The ribbon holders should let us do what we need to do with it. I even have to pull it out of their hands to pass through. It's not like were taking it home anyway. It ruined the finisher pose I was planning to do.
  10. Free breakfast was so limited the only thing I was offered by the waiter was Brown Rice and water.

Despite these, there are lots of strong points in this race as well. Here are some:

  1. I love how they put a Musical Band to play on the route.
  2. Dream Chasers? I love them!
  3. The roving Dream Mobile with cheering friends and relatives, such a nice thing to see and hear!
  4. Ipico Timing Chip is cool!
  5. The Marshals and Nuvali Guards are polite and friendly.
  6. Hydration Stations are sufficient and placed intelligently.
  7. Photographers are everywhere!
  8. The festive ambiance from 500m to finish line where our runner friends and relatives are allowed to wait is such a booster!
  9. Boy Ramos' congratulatory greetings at the finishline is a proud moment for everyone! It's such an honor to have Jaymie's presence to congratulate every finisher personally.
  10. The finish line moment, where everyone is given a chance to have a great photo with the ribbon!
  11. Stretching station is very helpful, and they provide ice for my knees!
  12. Race photos from delivered plenty of nice photos! We also got nice shots from other photographers as well.
  13. Race results are out in just a day!

My precious!

I would like to thank Ms. Jaymie Pizarro, Coach Lit and all TBRDM staff for organizing such newbie friendly race. To all the Dream Chasers who provided entertainment and offered what they can to help us along the route. To my runner friends and supporters who cheered us to the finish. To the friendly guards at Nuvali. To all my fellow Dreamers who braved the challenging road with us. To my sponsors, Asics, Ampalaya Plus, Soleus and Multisport Magazine. To my Team Kamote Runners Family who went all the way to Nuvali just to cheer for me and for all the running tips and wisdom I got from them. To my Team Triabetics Family, especially to Sir Poch Bermudez who always believed and is ever supportive of my cause. To Tessa Almendrala, whom I shared the whole 42.195 Kilometers with. To the running photographers who took my beautiful photos. To my Mom and my son, the reason why I am fighting for life and most especially, to God who never fails to let me see the power of prayers and of trusting in him more than anything else.

Still strong at Kilometer 32! (Photo by Joseph Nebrida)

So now, I'm officially a Marathoner! For whatever the next challenge I'll choose to take, I'll do my best to conquer it, not to beat anyone else but to beat my sworn enemy, diabetes!

How did I manage to get a decent time and injury free despite all of the hindrances? Well, I'll share with you all the details in my next blog post! Watch out for it! ^_^

Good Vibes everyone and Sweet Running! ^_^

Friday, February 15, 2013

Ritemed Supports PhilHealth - DOH Run 2013

RiteMed, the number one unibranded line of medicines in the country, is backing up the 'PhilHealth Run 2013: Nationwide Run for Mother and Child Protection' set on February 17, 2013.

The first simultaneous nationwide run is the highlight of the 18th anniversary of PhilHealth with the theme “Synergy for Universal Health Care."

PhilHealth Run 2013 is expected to attract 100,000 professional and amateur runners in 18 major sites in the country including Manila, Baguio, Dagupan, Tuguegarao, Clark, Malolos, Laguna, Batangas, Legazpi, Iloilo, Cebu, Tacloban, Zamboanga, Cagayan de Oro, Davao, Koronadal, Marawi, Butuan and Tubod, Lanao del Norte.

"We are pleased to continue our partnership with Philhealth not only in staging these running events for a cause but in other endeavors in pursuit of our common goal, the implementation of universal healthcare in the country," says Nicandro A. Salud, Assistant Vice President of RiteMed.

"Philhealth’s campaign for affordable, accessible and quality health care to all Filipinos is in synch with our corporate thrust, which is to make quality and affordable medicines accessible to every Filipino.  In 2011, RiteMed launched its advocacy on Right to Health because we believe that every Filipino has the right to adequate and quality healthcare," adds Salud.

With universal healthcare coverage, every Filipino, regardless of status, is given the access and support to quality healthcare and services.

PhilHealth Run 2013 aims to focus the people's attention to mother and child’s health, which is one of the country’s commitments to the Millennium Development Goal of reducing child mortality and improving maternal health.

Proceeds from the event will be used to support national and regional institutions promoting the protection of mothers and children in the country. The national beneficiaries of the PhilHealth Run 2013 are the Philippine Children’s Medical Center, a health care facility for pediatric diseases, and the Dr. Jose Fabella Memorial Hospital, a maternal and newborn tertiary hospital.

Other similar healthcare facilities catering to mother and child health in each of the major regional event sites will also benefit from the run.

RiteMed was also the co-presentor of the first Philhealth Run: The Mindanao Run for Hope held last year.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

My Bataan Death March 160 Support Experience

It's a critical training time for my first Marathon come next month and I'm so busy making the most out of it. I am sticking to my training plan and covering the mileage that is required for us to do. Having this marathon jitters also pushed me to train diligently, but when Kuya Zaldy called out for help for whosoever can give time to support our BDM 160 warriors, I never had second thoughts about it.

Bataan Death March KM 0 Marker in Mariveles, Bataan (

What is BDM 160? BDM or Bataan Death March 160 is a race organized by Major General Jovenal D Narcise AFP (Ret), a veteran ultramarathoner whom we fondly call Bald Runner or BR. This is a by invitation only race that usually happens every January. The race starts at Mariveles, Bataan and ends in O'Donnel Shrine in Tarlac, mostly the same route where the Bataan Death March of April 1942 happened. This is to honor the fallen soldiers of what they consider as the most inhuman act being done to prisoners by an invading force in the history of warfare in the world. (Information from

I ditched my Caliraya and Subic races for the weekend because I chose to support my Teammate, Kuya Carl. He did not ask us but we felt he needed us so we made the initiative. It was all at the last minute. No preparations was done. He managed to run without support for 84 Kilometers before we came in. The only thing we had then is an empty Water Dispenser and my packed food (Melon, Boiled Saba and Kamote). We just got supplies from the other support team and from buying stuffs at the stores along the way.

He was still running strong until we reached midnight of Sunday where his body is already tired and sleepy, not to mention the foot blisters and chafing on his body. There are times when he needs to lay down and sleep for 15 minutes and goes out running again. It was the most challenging part for all the runners. We even saw some that literally is sleepwalking/running. It's like they are on autopilot that when we talk to them they don't usually respond or they don't recognize us at all.

The route is very dangerous. Pampanga and Tarlac is not a good place for running safe at the wee hours of the night. There are a lot of drunken men who tried to play around the runners. There was even a mugging incident but gladly the runner and his pacer was able to get out of the situation safe and all their possessions intact.

Then I was told I need to do Pacer duties because Ate Lori is not feeling well and she needs to drive as substitute to Kuya Tong. Before I went to support, I packed my bags thinking that I may need to do this but I never thought it's gonna happen. I just prepared for the worst case scenario and it came true. No sleep, tired and nervous? The thought that I'll be pacing an Ultramarathoner? I just prayed and hope I can do it.

At 6am, when the Sun starts to rise, it's my turn. Capas Tarlac is a nice place and the breath of fresh air is very beneficial for me to sustain an almost continuous run that I never expected for someone who already did around 140K can still do. He regained strength as the morning blossomed and more when he changed clothes. I was trying my best to keep up with him and entertain him by telling him stories, jokes and I even sang him songs! Well, I guess it's not really for him but it's mostly for me, to take myself away from the thought of stopping because I can't, and I won't. I'll never be the cause of him slowing down.

At around 7am, the Sun starts to shed out its heat on us. I need to thank myself for the heat training I've been doing for the past months from running in late morning and swimming at high noon because it really helped me sustain the running pace even if it's scorching hot. I lost my fair complexion, but I gained heat resistance.

When we saw the Shrine, it was really a booster for him. It means that we only need to cover around 12 Kilometers to finish. I was not running beside him, I was running infront of him all the time just to give him a chasing game ambiance, trying to get at least 20 meters ahead of him and more so he would feel the need to catch up on me, which he always do. I'm also checking in at the support vehicle every 2 or 3 Kilometers to make sure I replenish his cool water supply and get supplies in case he needs to eat. I also check on him so to know if he needs anything.

When I'm looking back at Kuya Carl I saw a deep determination and courage. Most of his fellow runners looked wasted already and he still looks cool, calm and strong. His running form is maintained despite the pains that he's going through. He's one of the most cheerful and appreciative person ever at this part of the race, he never was grumpy or irritated or in a bad mood. He's one hell of a source of positivity and he never will go out of stock! I can say that he is the kindest person ever because in every small things we do for him he never fails to say thank you and give his sweetest smile. I never had a dull moment because he responds when I try to keep a conversation going on. This person is admirable!

My pacer duties ended at the last 7K of the race. At this time, he is already picking up his strength and speed. The most shocking part came at around 4K, where he is sprinting to the finish! We tried to get to him every 500 meters to give water and shower him with cold water. Even our support vehicle can't keep up with him. It was an amazing sight. Seeing him in all strength now while the night before he could barely run properly makes me teary eyed. After all the hardships the finish line is almost at hand!

Kuya Carl finished the race sprinting with a time of 29:21:13, he passed by a total of 15 runners who were infront of him and just walking at the last 4K stretch. As what he say, that's his trademark.

After the event, I wrote him a letter that I posted on his Facebook profile.

Dear Kuya Carl,
I want you to know that we are so proud of you! Even if your support team (us) were really unprepared for this because of such a short notice, you managed to adjust with our shortcomings. You managed to support yourself alone for 84 Kilometers and it's so great. Despite all the pains and sleepiness you still are the most cheerful and most positive runner at the race. We never heard you throw tantrums or complain. When we say run, you run, when we say wake up, you wake up, when we say you need to eat you eat. You are always appreciative in every small things that we do for you. You make supporting easy for us.
Thank you for giving me a chance to be your emergency pacer since Ate Lori can't do it because she needs to take over the driving duties. After you changed your clothes that morning and ran with me I admit I was so challenged to maintain an almost continuous running for 2 1/2 hours. I couldn't believe someone who ran around 140K can still run as fast as you do! I keep on thinking that I will never stop so you won't and we did it.
When we saw the Shrine you gained more strength, I don't know maybe it's because I started singing then. Actually it was not really for you, it was for me, to take away the pain I was feeling on my legs so I can continue running with you. After a while I was able to pick up your pace and I can run with you. Pacing an Ultramarathoner wasn't easy but with you it was worth it!
My pacer duties with you ended at the last 7K. You were gaining more strength at this time but the most epic part was the last 4K. Even our support vehicle can't keep up with you. I should thank my bike support training I was able to give you a cold water shower just in time when you pass by.
You were zooming in super speed that Ate She can't even keep up with you. You managed to pass by almost 15 runners who were infront of you that were mostly walking at that time. You even take time to congratulate them as you pass by them. Seeing you run fast and strong, I was all teary eyed. After almost 2 days of running non stop and all the months you've trained so hard for this finally the finish line is almost at hand, and you made it! Even if you were an hour late for your target when we reached 102K you were able to compensate for the lost time which is amazing!
You deserve an additional award for the most fresh looking finisher in this race! While everyone looked so tired and wasted when they reached the finish line, on the other hand you look like you can still do another 160K when you finished.
Congratulations for finishing the race in 34th place. You are such an inspiration to all of us! I'm so inspired it makes me think of doing this race in the future as well... Nah! Just kidding! :P

What I have learned from this support experience? Well, it was really different from supporting the BDM 102 race. I saw how the strongest of runners become so weak and could barely run or walk. The effectiveness of the support crew is crucial, the quick thinking pacers after the Km 102 and most especially the ones assigned during the nighttime. Keeping the ultramarathoner awake and running is a challenge, ensuring that he won't lose much time from walking or resting to get to the finishline before the cut off.

I experienced knocking on houses just to use their bathroom. Going through every convenience stores to get ice and supplies. Looked for an Eatery that is open at 2am to buy food that Kuya Carl requested. Keeping myself awake and alert even if I feel so sleepy and tired, I still managed to do pacer duties in the morning, and after reaching the finish line it was all worth it!

The Shrine has become a sought after place to get to that time, and ofcourse before the 30 hour cut off time.

The medal, buckle and the trophy were all well deserved by Kuya Carl. Though in this battle where 60 warriors fought, only 43 made it on time. Alex made it as the last qualifier and though Kuya Brai didn't make it before the cut off, he is still a finisher!

Will I brave this 160 Kilometer race? I guess not but I'll surely be glad to be a support crew and pacer again for the next batch of BDM 160 warriors come next year and this time, we'll be prepared!

(Photo credits to Tong Pascua Photography)

Good Vibes everyone and Sweet Running! ^_^