Exorcising My 21k Demons (Part 2)

Unfortunately, my running suffered a major setback after the Century Tuna Run when I got hit by a spate of injuries. I had to take a leave from running for a couple of months. In June, I started training again for the 10k event of the Takbo.ph Runfest scheduled on July 25. However, things were just not the same. I found myself wanting in fitness and motivation. In fact, as disclosed in a previous article, I almost did not race the Takbo.ph Runfest.

As it turned out, it’s a good thing I raced it. The Takbo.ph Runfest woke up the competitor in me and I started craving for more challenges. I decided that it was time for me to move up to the next race distance – the half-marathon. After all, were it not for my injuries, I would have run my first half-mary at the Nature Valley Run back in May.

The obvious choice for my half-mary debut was the 2010 KOTR on October 24, which is my anniversary race. It also helped that it was more than 10 weeks away, thus affording me plenty of time to get back into shape.

To kick-off my program, I made a quick trip, not to the track, but to the mall. At the time, there were rumors going around that the 2010 KOTR singlet would be orange/black. Thus, I trooped to the nearest Adidas Store to get myself this:

Imagine my frustration when Adidas finally announced that the 2010 KOTR singlet would be black/white, and not orange/black as the rumor mills reported. Maybe I can blot out the orange lining with correction fluid? 🙂

Well, as they say, “it’s the Indian and not the pana.” But there’s also the saying that goes, “if you can’t play, then just display.” Was my subconscious telling me to just display? Maybe. But I was determined to grind out a good result.

My preparations for the 2010 KOTR was pretty decent. A few missed training runs here and there, but, on the whole, it was decent. However, as I reviewed my running log for the year, it dawned on me that my fitness was not yet back to my pre-Century Tuna Run levels. For one, I logged more kilometers on a weekly basis during my 10k training than my half-mary training. Also, there were workouts that I could no longer complete; workouts that I used to do on a regular basis. Hence, I knew that I had to scale back on my expectations for my first half-mary. I added 15 seconds to my program-dictated target race pace.

Come race day, I woke up at 3:30 a.m. and had a bowl of oatmeal. I think I also had a Granola Bar. This was my usual pre-race fare. For some reason, it did not occur to me that unlike before, I would be running for almost two hours. Obviously, a bowl of oatmeal and a granola bar would not be enough to see me through. And this was exactly what happened. At kilometer 16, I was still 45 seconds ahead of my target time based on a race pace of 5:15 mpk. Then, all of a sudden, I just lost it. It’s just as if my body didn’t want to run anymore. So I stopped. And walked. My first time ever to walk in a race.

A quick glance at my watch showed that my heartrate was in the low 170’s, which to me should have been comfortable enough. I couldn’t understand what had just happened and just decided to walk a substantial portion of the last 4k. It was only when I realized that I was at risk of not breaking two hours that I started running again. And that was in the last 400 meters or so. My time was 1:58:32.

The Agony of Defeat

I couldn’t believe that I was almost 10 minutes off my target time. Post-race analysis by my running brothers pointed to glycogen depletion as the culprit. The oatmeal and granola bar simply were not enough. I should have taken something during the race itself.

I knew that I had to redeem myself soonest. Just my luck, there was another half-marathon on December 5, the 2nd QCIM. I had 5 additional weeks to train. And this time, I wanted it to count. In fact, I purchased a hydration belt and a number of Hammer Gels, which I planned on experimenting with during my training.

I must say that I was more serious with my race preparations this time around. I stuck to my program and nailed all my workouts. In fact, a week before the race, I ran an easy 18k at 5:30 mpk. At that EASY pace, I would have beaten my KOTR half-mary time by a couple of minutes. My confidence was running high once again.

Then, an inexplicable act of madness. The Friday before the race, I attended a Christmas party. For the first three hours, I succeeded in staying away from alcohol. But as the party wore on, I gave in and had a bottle of beer. One bottle wouldn’t hurt right? Then one bottle became two. I figured that since it was almost midnight (the venue was reserved until midnight only) the two cases of beer that my friend prepared should have been consumed already. I was wrong, the beer kept on coming. And since it was midnight already, there was a sense of urgency to my drinking. Thanks to my good friend Bishop, I drank my next three bottles of San Mig light straight-up, one after the other. I had 5 bottles in less than an hour. All that hard work for 5 weeks wasted in less than an hour. Oh well, at least I had fun. 🙂

*Photo courtesy of Rafa Aquino

Saturday was spent hydrating and praying that not much damage was done the night before. I actually felt great on race day. I wasn’t able to warm-up as I wanted to get a good position at the starting line. For some strange reason, the 21k runners had to squeeze through what appeared to be a 5-meter starting area when we had the entire expanse of Philcoa at our service. Thus, the funnel that the runners had to go through forced us to practically walk for the first 60 meters or so.

This time around, I wanted to take it easy for the first few kilometers. I probably had my KOTR debacle at the back of my mind but I was more concerned about the fact that I wasn’t able to warm-up properly. OK, maybe all that alcohol that I consumed two nights prior was nagging at me as well. 200 meters into the run, I saw a familiar face. He was a regular at the Marikina Sports Center and I knew for a fact that he beat me by a couple of minutes in the 2010 KOTR. I figured that he could make for a good pacer for the first few kilometers. But as the minutes passed, I knew that there was something wrong. We were going too slow. I soon heard a beep from my watch and a quick glance confirmed my fears. My watch had my first kilometer at 6:03. Even my warm-up runs were faster than that. I kinda panicked and quickened my pace a bit, but not too fast as in my mind, I was still warming up. My 2nd kilometer was 5:32. I was ready to hit my target pace, which I did in the succeeding kilometers.

On the 8th kilometer, I noticed something terribly wrong again. The race marker I just passed indicated that I had just finished 6 kilometers. Yikes, the organizers got the distance wrong. I was hoping that it was just an error in the placement of the race marker, but as I reached the U-Turn point (it was a simple out and back course), I was sure that the course was long by more than 2 km. I thought to myself, “There goes my PR.”

Bye-bye PR

With a PR out of the question, my immediate goal was to finish the longest run of my life without walking. And this, I was able to do. I clocked in at 2:10:09 for a total of 23.411 km. As my immediate goal was to simply finish the race without walking, I didn’t really push myself. And it showed in my heartrate data. My average heartrate was only 166, way lower than my KOTR heartrate of 172 which involved a lot of walking.

Prior to the QCIM, I told myself that whatever happened, I would go back to racing 10k’s. Whom was I kidding? MUST. HAVE. MY. SUB. 1:50. HALF-MARATHON. I feel like a man possessed who needs some serious exorcising. No more Runners’ World SmartCoach for me. My demons require expert attention so I enlisted the help of my two revered friends – Jack and Brad.

Coach Rio, please, please, please, post your race calendar for 2011 already. MUST. HAVE. MY. SUB. 1:50. HALF-MARATHON.


2 Responses to “Exorcising My 21k Demons (Part 2)”

  1. james Says:

    i like it

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