Cross-Training Diaries

Last week marked the beginning of my 8-week 10k training program for the Takbo.ph Runfest. Based on the training schedule conjured up by Runner’s World SmartCoach (see previous post), I should have logged 25 kilometers for the week, 5k of which should have been run at tempo pace. The week came and went but I managed to log just 11.2k (inclusive of a 4.5k tempo run), a good 13.8k short of the prescribed mileage. Ordinarily, I would lose much sleep over such a dreadful return. Not this time, though. As a matter of fact, I slept soundly practicaly the entire afternoon yesterday and happily cancelled my scheduled Sunday long run. The reason, you may ask? I had a gruelling 2-hour biking session yesterday morning that, to my mind, more than made up for the shortage in my weekly mileage.

To be honest, I didn’t expect to get a good cardio workout from my ride yesterday. I have had several sessions on my dad’s old stationary bike, none of which succeeded in raising my heartrate to more than 144. In fact, it would take 20 or so minutes of pedalling at 20mph with moderate resistance for me to hit a heartrate of 130. Little did I know that the real thing was a different creature (or rather monster) altogether.

My buddies and I met up at Puregold Taytay, Rizal. Of our small group of 5, I was the only one who brought a vehicle. The others either lived near our meeting place or were just seasoned bikers. At exactly 6:37 a.m., we hied off towards the direction of San Beda College where, according to my mountainbike expert buddy Jun, several bike trails beckoned. I had been warned that the entire ride would take about two hours. Hence, the day before our ride, I had to get myself a Deuter camel pack to keep me well hydrated during the ride. This would later on prove to be my smartest expenditure of the weekend.

A few minutes into our ride, we found ourselves on a paved road leading straight up into the mountains.  The incline was not that severe but a quick glance at my watch revealed that my heartrate  was already at 132.   I was going to get a good cardio workout after all. 

After a few more minutes, we passed the San Beda College Taytay Campus.  Like a tour guide addressing a group of tourists, my buddy Jun explained that the SBC Manila campus no longer houses the primary and secondary levels.  These were transferred to the Taytay campus. He was, however, quick to add that the San Beda junior basketball team still holds its practices at the Manila campus.  At this point, we were travelling along a longish incline.  Another quick glance at my watch told me that my heartrate was already in the mid 140’s, but I still tried to carry on a conversation with Jun to mask my exertions.  After all, they all knew me to be a runner.  It would be a shame if they saw me huffing and puffing at this point. 

I soon found out that the hills we just passed were just teasers for the main event.  Jun warned me that a major climb (in MTB speak, “ahon”) lay ahead of us.  After adjusting the gears on our bikes, we sprinted down the short downhill to gain lots of momentum for the climb ahead of us.  This is where I committed mountainbike (MTB) rookie mistake #1.  Thinking that gravity would be enough to give me the desired momentum, I adjusted my rear gear to the first gear, which is the lightest.

I realized my mistake as soon as I saw my buddies dart past me, pedaling at full speed.  I tried to mimic them but to no avail – I was at the wrong gear. I should have waited until I reached the incline before shifting to the lightest gear.  All that potential energy wasted.

Unfortunately, my biking naivete did not end there as MTB rookie mistake #2 would shortly follow.  On the upslope, I pedaled fiercely and, soon enough, I overtook everyone.  However, I noticed that my thigh muscles were tightening up.  I knew I could not maintain the effort much longer.  I tried to take solace in the fact that the apex of our climb was in sight – or so I thought.  Not knowing any better, I pedaled more furiously thinking that my arduous climb to the top was about to come to an end.  Ecstasy turned to agony, however, as I realized that what I thought to be the peak of our climb was merely a plateau that marked the halfway point.  As soon as I reached flat land I stopped.  I looked at my watch and it dawned on me that my quadriceps were not the only muscle group that was getting a good workout.  My heart muscles were getting a good workout as well, judging from my heart rate data – it was already in the 170’s.  Soon, my buddies caught up with me.  While taking a breather as we prepared to conquer the rest of the hill, my buddy pointed out to me that I was using the heaviest of my front gears.  So that’s why my thigh muscles felt like they were about to turn to jello.  That would explain my I-pace heart rate as well.  MTB rookie mistake #2 proved costly as I failed to bike all the way to the top.

Apparently, the top of our climb was where the paved roads ended.  We rested for a while as we looked down on the first of our downhill rides.  It was long, full of stones and had a nasty curve midway through the ride.  My other buddy Louie apparently saw the anxiety in my face so he dispensed some encouraging advice – just follow Jun’s lead.  Just as he said that, Jun backed up a few paces and pedaled full speed downhill.  I looked incredulously at Louie and he gave me a nod as if to say “go”!  So off I went, pedaling down the hill like crazy also.  Everything else was a blur.  My game plan was simple.  Avoid the large rocks and somehow survive that nasty curve.  Before I knew it, I was right beside Jun at the bottom of the hill.  As I looked back at the others, I wondered why they were taking their own sweet time.   Whatever happened to following Jun’s lead? When Louie was finally alongside me, he explained that what he meant by “following Jun’s lead” was simply to follow his tracks, and not to ride as fast as he did.  I thought to myself, “OK, so now you tell me.”  One good thing that came out of that harrowing ride downhill was the realization that I hadn’t lost my handling skills from my BMX days.  That gave me the confidence to face up to what lay ahead.

Jun led us through a trail called “Daang Babae,” which was supposedly named as such due to its popularity among female riders.  This trail passed through a short downhill patch nicknamed “rockies.”  When Jun introduced this portion to us, he said that he had no idea why it was so named .  I should have known better than to take Jun’s mountainbiking musings at face value, as I discovered after going through this rough stretch.  Well, maybe I should give him the benefit of the doubt.  Perhaps what he meant was that this patch should have been named “boulders” instead. 

After conquering “Daang Babae,” we took a short breather and had a short photo op for Facebook purposes.  The mud on our bikes told the story of our encounter with “Daang Babae.”     

 

After “Daang Babae,” Jun led us through another trail called “Paniki Trail.”  It was single file and, due to the muddy conditions, was practically impossible to bike.  We had to push our bikes most of the way.

 

Our ride ended with a leisurely bike ride inside a cozy subdivision on our way back to Puregold.  We got back at exactly 8:47 a.m., a full two hours and 10 minutes since we began our ascent into the mountains.  My heart rate data confirmed that it was indeed a good workout.  My average heart rate was 143 and my peak heart rate was 174.  I was at tempo heart rate levels for a good 30 minutes and I-pace heart rate levels for about six minutes. 

 All in all, a good cardio workout and then some.

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