Finding my Pace in the Sun

Monday, November 10, 2008

I have been meaning to blog about my VSO Bahaginan 15km experience for hours. A bagful of thoughts has been percolating in my mind prior to, during and after the race, all waiting to be sorted out. As I sat down to type this post, I decided to draw inspiration from what others may have written as well as to check out my official race time. Like many others I can rave about the race organization - the kilometer markers, water and Rush stations, cheerful marshalls, etc. I was blown away by the markers, was very dependent on the Rush for energy boosts, and the marshall made the run a very pleasant experience. Till now I still castigate myself for not verbalizing my gratitude to Rio (whom I don't personally know) when I saw him and his crew dismantling on my way back from the gym shower nearby.

I have been staring at the race results for minutes now. I clocked in at 1:50:34 with pace of 7:22min/km and ranked 245 out of 272 males. I do not know how I feel and what I should feel. This was supposed to be a training run for me, where I was supposed to add 10km more on the treadmill immediately after so I can amass 25km in a day a week before I run the 25km in Clark. My training plan got sidetracked by dog breeding. To catch up, I did a hard, 12.5km run 2 days before the race, the after-effect of which I still felt the night before the race. I had to find a spa which closes late and I had massage that ended up at midnight. Pre-race excitement or jitters reduced my actual sleep to one hour. The only good thing was that I was up unusually early for a race that actually started late.

Given my pre-race circumstances, I should be happy with my time. Minutes before the race start I was actually telling myself I would be happy with a 2-hour time. I haven't done a 15km, but in the 16km I did years ago, I clocked in at 2:15. Two hours should be good enough for 15km. Then I saw a friend at the starting line - our team captain when I used to do dragonboat rowing. He just arrived straight from Batangas where he participated in the dragonboat regatta, played football after and rode back to Manila in the wee hours of the morning. My race excuse suddenly paled in comparison. Adding insult to injury, the guy clocked in at 1:22 for the 15km. Life's unfair.

I actually did better than my initial 2-hour target. I ran at a pace that I trained for and targeted if not better. But why is there still a tinge of discontent within me. I have been slowly accelerating my speed without having serious injury. Isn't this what I want? The VSO race was a reality check: I may have been shortchanging myself. Yes there have been improvements; yes I have been meeting my training goals, but am I setting the bar too low? Have I taken my mantra of excellence to heart, or are my forays into running and sports exempted from this? Yes I have sworn to myself to avoid as much as I can the folly of comparing myself to others, bearing in my what Desiderata says: "If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself"
Can I compare without being competitive with others?

Compare was what I did during the race; compare is what I do now as I read other peoples' blogs and the race results. Yes I still believe in Desiderata, but my personal goals and standards do need standards for comparison - not so I can become vain or bitter, but because I need honest answers.

Was I sandbagging when I set the 2-hr goal? Was I underestimating myself when I let a multitude of average and slow runners ran past me in the first few kilometers of the race? I started alongside a pace group of relaxed runners and eventually I fell behind. Was I deliberate? Am I that slow? Was I hiding behind the excuse of having wide, low-arched, overpronating feet and bearing excess weight to avoid running at a faster pace? Could I keep up with the pace of say, a Lance Gokongwei? In the second half I started to overtake some runners. Could I have overtaken some more? In my first 5K I barely made the clock; in my first triathlon I was the last finisher. In both instances, I finished with pride. Do I have the same pride now in being #245 and beating 27 others? Was I holding back? In dragonboat racing we were trained to pour everything out in the last 50-100 meters. For 30-45 seconds, our hearts pound and our lungs seem to burst. We finish at the point of near-collapse. Did I do this in the last 200 meters of my foot race?

So many questions. I hope to get answers in my future races


Nora, the golden girl November 13, 2008 at 12:06 AM  

Take it easy Rico. Forget the figures and just enjoy your runs. Sometimes we are so engrossed with statistics that come our way and we forget what our real goal is: to be happy and healthy.

You ran the VSO and we didn't see each other? Next time, call my name if you see me OK?

Have fun in Clark this Sunday.

Rico Villanueva November 13, 2008 at 10:11 AM  

Thanks, Nora. Yeah, I continually have to remind myself of what is important. I read you had a great run. Congratulations again. In crowds, I oftentimes have to literally bump into people to notice them. I am near-sighted. I am optimistic we shall bump into each other soon :-)

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