Race Review: 1st QC International Marathon, October 18
This race marks my only running event for the month of October. It’s yet another momentous occasion for runners like myself because for ths first time, we will get to experience running above the wide, concrete-laden spaces of Commonwealth Avenue. In addition, this race will be graced by Kenyan runners, who are known for their speed and agility when it comes to the sport. They were spread across various running categories, and might I say, THEY’RE REALLY, REALLY FAST!
For the first time, I volunteered to serve as a pacer for the race. There were many time categories to sign up for – a 2:15, 2:30, and a 2:45 finish. Since the last two were already fully loaded, I decided to stick with the 2:15 finish. When I did my previous 21K attempts at the Cebu leg of the 33rd Milo Marathon and the Globe-Ayala Run For Home event, I came up with really good times (2:17 and 2:16, respectively). I thought that I would be able to achieve a 2:15 finish, so I signed up for it. I was to serve as pacer along with a fellow running buddy, Pat. That meant I had to train hard again before this race – and that I did. Numerous tempo runs and a few speed runs/interval attempts would have done the trick. Unfortunately, I felt I was undertrained because I didn’t have any long runs whatever – if you would consider 10K to be a long run, that is. This was brought about by many factors. But though I didn’t have any LSD training, I was stil confident that I would make the 2:15 mark, and my eyes were set on gaining a new 21K PR.
Race day came and I had my first dose of stress already. I wanted to park as close as possible to the starting line itself, but I ended up parking quite far from where everyone was, to the point that I had to walk a little over a kilometer to get to the starting line. Add to that, I wasn’t even in my running shoes yet (usually I would wear them before handing over my bag to the people at the baggage check area so that my feet will be a little more relaxed). I scurried as there were only 15 minutes before the race started. After making final preparations, I went to where takbo.ph was located. A little after, my pacer balloon was tied (c/o Pepsi) and stretched a bit. Garmin pace alerts were set between 6:10 to 6:40 min/km, just like what happened at the Run For Home event. Yup, I was feeling great, though I showed up late. I will not fail this run and I will have a new 21K PR!
KM 1-5: Chill.
21K runners started promptly at 5AM. The first 5K of the 21K course took runners to the academic loop of UP Diliman. The loop was all on asphalt so it provided relief for our legs. Everything was still fine and dandy at this point, but I made sure not to go over or under the required pace if I was going to make the 2:15 target. Along who were with me were Edu and Vic. We even got to see the 6:00+ 42K pacers, led by Pojie. They were just about to exit UP at that time, at LSD pace. Chill running indeed. We exited UP just before 5:30 AM. Now it was time for us to head to Commonwealth Avenue. It was my first time to run in this section of the metropolis – and probably the same for everyone else – and I was quite excited when we got to the avenue itself. Just like the Quezon Memorial Circle, it was completely closed to traffic.
KM 6-10: Humidity Strikes.
It started to rain a bit upon reaching Commonwealth Avenue. Again, this was an additional reprieve. Too bad the shower didn’t last long, though. But what was weird was that though the sun wasn’t up yet and it was quite dark, the environment was very humid. I couldn’t run for long because there would come points in time when I had to walk due to exhaustion and thirst. Like what I have been doing in my previous long runs, I didn’t bring any hydration belt as I discovered that such deters me from running faster than expected. This is why I had to stop and grab an isotonic sports drink or a cup of water at EVERY single water stop there was in Commonwealth – and that contributed to uneven splitting in this section of the race.
Along the way there were many spectators – but there was a particular group that served as “cheerers” for the race. They were holding pom-poms, offering shots of petroleum jelly, and handing out banana slices to those who needed it. Somehow they gave the push everyone needed for the 21K runners to reach the halfway point, located across the Batasan Complex. If I only had a light camera with me I would have taken pictures of them.
KM 11-16: The Jolt.
After making the u-turn near the Batasan Complex, everyone made their way back to Quezon Memorial Circle. The last few kilometers of the race will take everyone to Trinoma. I was practically bathing mostly from the water that I was pouring over my head and less of the sweat. The humidity wasn’t as much as forceful as it was in KM 6-10, but still, it proved itself bad. Again, I had to stop at every single water station to refuel and get a bath to dissipate the heat. I passed once again the “cheerers” and they were asking me if I could give them the pacer balloon that was tied to my race belt. =P
Suddenly, the tables turn. After climbing the steepest hilly section of the route on the way to KM14 – starting from Tandang Sora all the way to the central temple of INC – my calves were starting to feel an “initial shock”, so to speak, most especially the left leg. The jolts were trying to indicate that I was about to have cramps. But there was no pain just yet and the jolts didn’t affect my running that much yet, so I still kept myself at par with the required pace until I finally reached the northern end of the Quezon Memorial Circle. I checked my Garmin and after doing initial computations, I was going to reach the target, even if I slowed down my pace further. After getting another cup of water, I immediately set the pace zones to 6:30 to 7:00 min/km. There were 5 kilometers left, with only 35 minutes to go before the target time is achieved, and if I kept steady at 7:00 km/min, I would still get a new record.
KM 17-21: The Downfall.
The jolts on my leg were more frequent than ever. In order to alleviate this, I was forced to stop and stretch a bit, and massage my calves so that I wouldn’t experience cramps. At this point I finally realized that with the stop-and-go approach I was implementing, the 2:15 target will not be achieved. The best that I could hope for was a 2:20 finish. But before making the u-turn to Trinoma I had a major stop after feeling major vibrations from the left calf. Darn it, this wasn’t good at all. To save myself from embarassment, I removed the 21K pacer balloon tied to me and let it float across the skies. Forget the target time, what mattered most now was to finish the race no matter what the cost!
I tried to keep within 7:00 km/min as much as possible on the way to the finish. I was hoping that there was Salonpas on the few remaining support stations of the 21K route, but too bad there weren’t any. It was too late already.
After passing KM19, I saw a 42K Kenyan runner pass out. He was unconscious and security guards, along with other spectators, came to his aid, doing their best to wake up him up and finish the race. An ambulance came to pick him up.
It was also after passing KM19 when I let out with a scream. My left leg had finally suffered from leg cramps! I dropped on my butt and lay flat on my back and my scream to a minimum as much as possible though my calf had hurt seriously bad. A security guard and a fellow runner came to my aid and stretched my foot. I didn’t get his name, though, but thanks for the help, I really appreciate it. After resting for a few minutes and stretching both of my legs, I was on my feet again. Though I wanted to push I didn’t want to injure myself again, so I ran VERY slowly until I cross the finish line. I was with Vic yet again, and we were pacing with the 2:30 21K finish group. Finally, after bearing with the injury of my left leg, I crossed the mat with a Garmin reading of 2:26:24. 11 minutes off target, unfortunately, but it didn’t matter. At least I finished.
The first thing I did immediately was to stretch to prevent any relapse of the dreaded cramps. It was my first time to suffer from such DURING the race and let me tell you, it’s not a good experience. Lesson learned for me – I should stretch for a longer period of time before any race – and arm myself with bananas. It’s a runner’s best friend. I really should have thought of eating those banana slices that the “cheerers” were offering during the race.
I may have failed as a pacer in this event. But it’s okay. At least I got to experience it. The next time I get to do pacing duties again I’ll make sure to run slower than useful – say 2:30 or 2:45, like what Selle, Gab, Neil, and Carina did. There’s always a next time – and I would sure love to pace for runners once again. But for now, I see a revenge run coming soon to make up for this bad performance.
Here’s my review of the race:
D (direction) – starting point at Quezon Memorial Circle -> academic Loop at UP Diliman -> Commonwealth Avenue -> u-turn at Batasan Complex -> backtrack at Commonwealth Avenue -> North Avenue -> u-turn before reaching EDSA -> run through Trinoma -> head back to North Avenue -> finish line at Quezon Memorial Circle. This course was a difficult one because of the hilly sections of Commonwealth. They were in varying degrees and lengths. But the experience of running across a major thoroughfare was all worth it.
R (registration) – various registration centers were set up in Manila, even in Cebu. Thumbs up to the organizers for this one for giving a chance to those temporarily/permanently residing down south to be part of the race.
U (uhaw) – given the humidity that I described a while ago, you will thirst heavily in this road race.
M (money) – your money will give you a finisher’s medal, a finisher’s certificate, drinks, and other freebies in a Nike Human Race tote bag. Sweet!
S (safety) – the organizers closed down a portion of Commonwealth and the Quezon Memorial Circle. Now THAT’s safe.
Here’s the route that we took…
And a split analysis.
After this week, my training begins for the much awaited event on 07 February 2010. LET’S DO THIS. =)
(Thanks to Marga and Shel for some of the pictures.)