On Changing Routes and Failed Expectations

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Sheerwill with pacer Kikay Runner (Noelle)


Half-Ironman Dreams. Chased one half-marathon PR at a time. That is the theme of my 2010 running.
 
The plan is to bring down my half-marathon Personal Record from 2:32 (taken at 2009 Globe Run for Home) in series of key races.  I have chosen Century Superbods Run, Globe Run for Home, and Nature Valley Run as the benchmark races. Choice was made on one key factor alone: hydration. I wanted to chase my PR without the burden of carrying hydration. In the area of hydration, Runrio had his slips, but the Afro-maned guy knows how to face the music, and continues to learn his lessons. Expensive, yes, but for key races: in RunRio Sheerwill trusts.

The general plan is to bring down the PR in increments of 15 minutes before August. 2:30, 2:15, 2:00. Ambitious, yes, but if I fail to reach the stars, I hope to land at least on the moon. I have successfully crossed 2:30 in Century Run (2:28:11) without injury and finishing strongly. Maybe I could replicate my training plan for Globe.

The 2009 Globe Run I remember fondly for its refreshing foray into Ayala Avenue and Paseo de Roxas. The flat, asphalt roads of the business district and the new sights gave me a half-marathon PR that was pleasantly ran, achieved without much effort, and coming only two weeks after my first marathon.

One look at the 2010 Globe Run route and I was convinced it was the next key race I was looking for. The route was what the marketing touted it to be: a run through the heart of Makati, on the relatively flat roads linking Stock Exchange Plaza, Greenbelt and Glorietta. Why it even promised to pass by Ayala-MRT station and parallel to EDSA! Coolness! Only Globe will have the influence and muscle to effect such a route. In my excitement I tried to convince friends to run it. This is a PR-route, I told them. Just look at my half-mary PR which stood for more than 6 months. I was even able to convince Noelle to run it and be my pacer! Why, a number of friends were even joining our pace group. This would be one hell of a race party!

I was sold with the Globe idea and was willing to shell out Php750. That there was a group discount that brought the kit price to Php490 was just a sweetener. That I learned I could get a free race kit by virtue of being an employee of an Ayala Land tenant only made it sweeter. That I was invited to the bloggers’ launch and was also entitled to a free race kit was like getting choco toppings on your free ice cream! Globe is good!

Globe and Ayala Land actually delivered. The Globe coordinator for Social Media (Coy Caballes)) was professional and helpful. Globe gave me my kit on the spot at the launch for bloggers. I was promised a free kit by ALI earlier, but unsure whether I would actually receive it, I welcomed the Globe kit already on hand. But ALI did give me the promised kit Thursday before the race. Thank you Globe and ALI.

Everything was going great until that THURSDAY before the race when I learned the route was changed. WHAT THE F%#$#^^&!!! There goes my quest for new PR, my mind screamed. I have negotiated a 2:20 time with my pacer Noelle, although I had been training for a 2:15 time actually. But with this new route, with that long downhill-uphill passage that is Bayani Road, 2:20 suddenly seemed like Mt. Everest - beautiful but unreachable for me. Some small changes I could still tolerate, but to change the heart and soul of a route, that is a No-No! The least that could have been done was to replace the route with something similar. Was it changed to be more challenging? I have no problem with that, but please…change it before people make their decision to race.

I tried hard not to be bothered by it, but I was seething inside. I wanted to back out from the PR pursuit, but I have already enlisted a pacer and have a pace group hoping to run along. One month of careful planning and fastidious training, all that to be rocked by sudden route change. I may be slow, but this slow-fat triathlete also tries to be world-class in becoming the fastest slow-fat triathlete that he can be! Within a month I delicately balanced bringing my comfortably hard pace from 7min per km (mpk) to 6:30mpk; allocating time for swim, bike and runs; juggling training, recovery and social life; avoiding injuries and burn-out; losing 5lbs, and eating sensibly. It’s a demanding life I signed for, yes, but all I ask from a race is that I get what I signed for.

I trained for the original route, which was mostly flat. The flyover – I could physically and mentally hack that for I love flyovers. I was prepared for it. But Bayani Road? That was not part of what I signed up for.

I rested three full days for the daunting task ahead. On race morning I tried to be jolly, but inside I was in tenterhooks. Suddenly I am no longer confident as I was during my training runs. It took a lot of inner positivism to counter the demons inside. I started deliberately slow at about 6:30/40mpk, not only because I am a slow starter but also because I now needed to save up energy for Bayani Road. It was a quick pass through Makati – not even 2kms of central business district I think. Yeah, the race lost its come-on and charm. It has turned to be Global City Run.

By km 10.5, one hour and 10 minutes have passed. I was just on the dot for our original 2:20 target. I was just entering Heritage Park with Noelle, Sid and Timmy. Normally I am an even-to-negative splitter on the half-mary. Normally I would be more confident at this point. To a certain degree I was. The 2:20 target was still alive and I picked up the pace. My pace and heart just sank when I saw our Heritage route deviated from the usual RunRio route and ventured onto the rolling outskirts. What the heck! It was not enough that they included Bayani Road. They even had to make the Heritage Route harder! Grrr!!! I was not prepared to run this terrain at my new race pace. The rolling elevation was not evident even in the revised maps. That we have to zigzag in these rolling portions further dampened my spirits.

The only cheery note on my uphill climb along Bayani Road was when someone called my attention and asked if I was Sheerwill. The makeshift PhotoBongBong back bib with my slogan By Sheer Will was long torn off, but this amiable girl beside me probably remembered me from my blog or my takbo.ph avatar. Florian, or raspberry, it was nice to have met you, but sorry if I was not as chatty and cheerful as I was trying my best to shake off disappointment while catching my breath. Congratulations too on your run for I saw you finish several seconds ahead of me =)

When I reached Lawton Road from Bayani Road I was spent. I had to slow down for a while and exhale deeply to get my second wind. This happens to me rarely for I am a very even-paced runner. I was trying hard to catch up with my pace group Noelle, Sid and Timmy, who were several meters ahead for most of our run. At km 17 I had a time check. I had about 23 minutes to finish the last 4 kms within our pace group target of 2:20. That meant running a little below 6mpk. Although I would hit 5 or 5:30 in the last 500meters of every single training run, my original pace plan is really to go no faster than 6mpk.

Sub-6 pace in the last 4 kms seemed daunting but I suspended my disbelief. I would simply run it the best I could. Screw the tired legs made taut by unexpected downhills! I quit looking at my Garmin in the make-belief that maybe, just maybe, I could actually go faster than what I trained for. I have closed off the rational me; it was all heart from there. I didn’t know how fast I was going but slowly I overtook Julie who was minutes faster than me in Century Run. A kilometer more I overtook Janine who logged in 2:15 in the last Century Run. At km 18 I passed by Timmy, a stronger half-marathoner than me, for he had to deal with ITBS concerns. At the same kilometer, Noelle ran ahead after checking on Timmy, presumably to help pace Sid who was way ahead of us all and who eventually finished at 2:21.

In the last 2km I made another time check. The 2:20 goal was already out the window, but a PR was still well within my grasp. If I ran no slower than 7mpk, I can still finish 21.1km in 2:25/26. At that point I was running closer to 6mpk, and definitely no slower than 7mpk. I was rushing down coming from Kalayaan flyover, determined to lower that new PR as close to 2:20 as possible. At the Buendia-Paseo intersection, my Garmin said I should be down to my last 200-300 meters, but there were still two turns to the finish line! What was wrong!? I knew in that instant that the distance was off and I just prayed that my usual last kilometer pace pick-up could extend further and tide me off till the actual finish line. Once again, I abandoned the Garmin. I focused. Half-iron dreams, half-iron dreams, I would chant. In the last 100-200 meters I saw idol Mesh shouting Finish Strong. In one last spurt, I did. My last 500m were my best lap in the race.

2:29:50 in my Garmin, pressed from the time I stepped on the mat till the time I crossed the finish line. Garmin translates it to an average pace of 6:56mpk for a distance of 21.57kms. Other Garmin-ed friends reported longer distances.

I don’t know what to make of my time. That finish time, which was not even a new PR, plus the 6:20-6:40mpk reading I had on flats and a strong finish were the only other things I had.

Did I succeed or fail? If I failed, where I was wanting? 
Have I actually transformed from the 7mpk guy to a 6:30 guy on flats?
Did my training pay off? Is it worth replicating?
Have I already adapted to the new pace? Can I use it to build a faster one?

Sadly, I have no definite answers. The route change rendered most things inconclusive and incomparable. I now sit with calves and hamstrings sore from being forced to take stress beyond what it was trained for. No amount of Powerade and water can wash the opportunity lost, disappointment and regret. It might take a little longer for my muscles to recover; even longer for the confidence to be regained.

Half-iron dreams. Beaten but not crushed. Waiting for the next race that will actually deliver what it promises. Looking once again for a half-marathon onto which it could safely anchor.




23 comments:

Kessa Thea March 23, 2010 at 1:05 AM  

I don't know what to say but still congratulations for finishing it. I could say I understand what you feel but it's too much of a cliche. I enjoyed reading your post though and yes I agree, route changes should not be made after registration has already started much less just three days before race day.

Julius March 23, 2010 at 1:51 AM  

Rico, DATC's blog sheds some light on the inaccurate distance. You still did a great job, buddy. Congratulations. On to the next race!

myironshoes March 23, 2010 at 4:15 PM  

Hi Rico, from my view at the corner, I think you ran a darn good race. ;) Numbers will only ever tell you half the story... and the boring part at that! You will always know how much you put into a run and what you get out of it. It doesn't matter what that clock says. What You know, you know!(go ahead and ask Manny! hehe) Trust yourself and Believe...in the end that's what dream making is really all about.

Rico Villanueva March 23, 2010 at 4:28 PM  

Thanks Kessa Thea. I just have to write down my thoughts so I can move on. Thanks for taking time to read them and comment.

Thank Julius. On to the next race. My question now is: which 21K? I now have reservations about RunRio Trilogy. Not sure I can deal with another sudden route change.

Haha, Mesh. I like that reference to Manny. Haha. But thanks for the wise words. Kaya idol kita eh. =)

SamTheRunningNinja March 23, 2010 at 5:14 PM  

Pat yourself for finishing the race bro.

The worst thing that could have happened to you that day was get injured, dnf, mocked and walked your way not to the finish line but straight to your car....that happened to me.

There's Earth Run 21km race next month. You can still achieve your target time, as for me I'll bitched slap somebody's arse and race like there's no more tomorrow hahahahaha...i shall return..

meanwhile..back to licking my emotional wounds..huuhuhuhhu

runningpinoy March 23, 2010 at 7:05 PM  

Go go go Rico! We don't always get what we expect during races but the important thing is that we gave our best to achieve it. We may not always succeed but at least it keeps us trying!

Commissioner sikat ka talaga may mga female fans ka na during races :)

- dhenz

ian March 23, 2010 at 7:59 PM  

I believe you have hit your target afterall.. sans the heritage park inclines and the extra 900m..

The feeling could've been worse if the distance was shorter than 21.1kms ... :-)

and try to lose the watch some time.. and just run by feel.. worked for me... haha :-)

Noelle De Guzman March 23, 2010 at 11:20 PM  

Hey Rico, super sorry to read about your disappointment. If you're put off by Finishline races, the Earth Run looks like a good deal -- cheap, nice singlet. Not sure about the 21K course they've planned though, as it might take us once again either through McKinley or Bayani-Heritage.

Run Kick Smash March 24, 2010 at 5:21 AM  

Victory isn't defined by wins or losses. It is defined by effort. If you can truthfully say, 'I did the best I could, I gave everything I had,' then you're a winner. I'm sure that you're a champion boss Rico. :)Godbless!

-Sid

Rico Villanueva March 24, 2010 at 9:24 AM  

Hey Sam, I think you made the mature decision to DNF. On negative feedback, brush them aside if they are not constructive. We can't please everyone.

Hey Dennis, haha, I think Florian is more a fan of KikayRunner Noelle. She also asked me if it was Noelle running a little ahead of me =)

Yes Ian, I am really trying to run again by feel. Once I have settled into a desired pace, I shall do that again on races. Best feeling actually. Congrats btw on your sub-2hrs finish! Woot! Woot!

Hi Noelle, thanks again for pacing me. You might have noticed it but your pink top way ahead was a moving target that pulled me. On Finishline, I can either adopt a wait-and-see attitude or train under the toughest conditions so I don't get blindsided by route changes.

Yup, Sid, in that sense I am a winner. I just realize actually my official time is 2:32:52. I am not sure about the difference with my Garmin time, but that is immaterial to me now. In my mind, I ran a good race, and I improved. Nothing can take that away from me. Congratulations too for your new PR. Hopefully somehow our initial slow start helped you conserve energy for the second half.

Jayson Deuna March 24, 2010 at 1:59 PM  

You did your best Rico.. and you had a strong finish.. Cheer up man!
As per your goals.. Keep reaching for the stars. Good luck.

I believe 1 month is too short for a 15-minute reduction on your half marathon time.. But who I am to say that.. I only ran the 10K event. So just keep believing and keep training hard. We don't always get what we want, but what is more important is that we know that what we want is within our reach.. just not today.. it's up to us to keep reaching for it. ;)

See you around.

ploplo March 24, 2010 at 10:17 PM  

Hi Rico,

First and foremost, Congratulations! PR or no PR, it was still one heck of race! Still lots of races and opportunities for PRs. I'm sure you'll be able to do 2:00 way before August.

No worries about not being chatty, for I was huffing and puffing by then as well. And, running into your group was a very welcome encounter too. The race was difficult for me as well - under trained, and the humidity at the start killed me. When I saw your group around the entrance of Heritage, I was already thinking of not trying anymore and just walk/run to the finish (one personal goal: no walk breaks except for hydration haha). Long story short, I couldn't give up after seeing you guys give your best. :)

Kitakits sa Earth Run! It does have both Kalayaan flyover and Bayani-Heritage, but hey, it will just make the PR sweeter. :)

ploplo March 24, 2010 at 10:18 PM  

- Florian / raspberry (toinks!)

Rico Villanueva March 24, 2010 at 11:50 PM  

Hey Jason, thanks. What do you mean only 10K? You ran a mean 10K finishing 3rd! Whoa! Congrats. Yes the 15min improvement target seemed big, but I actually like the challenge. I was hoping my massive weight loss program will see through. Sana. Haha. =)

Rico Villanueva March 24, 2010 at 11:52 PM  

Hi Florian. Thanks for the words. Glad to know our group helped somehow. Congrats for overcoming the challenge. Nice seeing you in Ayala Triangle. See you around =)

daytripper1021 March 25, 2010 at 7:05 AM  

nice race rico! I'm surprised that finishline changed the route last minute. ok na cla nuong century and unilab races eh (same route pareho). that's why I'm planning to complete the whole trilogy this yr (21-21-32).

I would like to volunteer on your 2:20 quest. should u run on runrio trilogy2 (uncertain pa ako if I'm joining earth run 21k), let me know if you need a pacer. I'll gladly volunteer.

Try mo rin kumuha ng training plan from runnersworld smart coach. a good plan would be 7 weeks. kung may bayani-lawton route, definitely (definitely!) u need to do hill training. try out the 10k route I posted this week (magneto run) if you're in the taguig area. nakakaubos hininga yun. hehehe.

but, as many here have said, you've still finished another half-marathon. THAT is still a great achievement.

goodluck sa 70.3 quest mo pre. I hope you go all the way! :)

jetpaiso March 25, 2010 at 8:19 AM  

bro, focus on the greater prize. you did a great job in globe, in preparation for your half-iron dreams! keep the spirits high bro! i believe in you!

truman March 25, 2010 at 4:20 PM  

Congrats on your new PR, Rico! Even if you weren't able to meet your expectations, there are a lot more opportunities still. :) Best of luck, dude.

gerard March 26, 2010 at 4:58 PM  

There will be a next time rico! I myself put myself down. I really wanted a sub2 in the last race but I came up short.

We need to put in more runs. All this cross training(swim/bike) may be good for our endurance and stamina, but it is hurting our running mileage! :(

See you on your next 21k!

Rico Villanueva March 26, 2010 at 6:12 PM  

Thanks for the comment and the pace offer, daytripper. I will focus on the shorter distance for now, but come May I shall resume my half-marathon quest.

True Jet, focus on the greater prize. I hope to receive it in grace.

Thanks Bryan. Your example continues to inspire me. I hope to do well in BLC and half-marys.

We've done considerably well, Gerard. While my run mileage was considerably cut my triathlon training, honestly I feel stronger and faster with all the cross-training. Biking really helps in making me stronger, while swimming calms and helps me recover.

Gingerbreadman April 2, 2010 at 9:31 AM  

I would have been disconcerted as well with the sudden changes bud, training can be very specific and he slightest thing can throw you off, happened to me numerous times before. With your terrific weight loss, keep on plugging away at it and there's no doubt that you will further lower it. If there's any shortage of pacers I still owe you one, we can go right at it once my knee starts functioning again haha :P

The Scientist Runner April 2, 2010 at 5:52 PM  

I too was planning to better my PR for the 21K, paced myself quite well, and was very surprised when my garmin 21k alarm rang at least a 100 meters or so before I even turned left to paseo from buendia! Ended up finishing in 2:00:04, with the new PR target gone and all! But, like the others said, the importatnt thing is we did our best. In my mind, I still did a sub-2 (my minimum goal) even if officially I did not. So be happy with your new achievement and try to have a blast the rest of the summer as you describe in your latest post.

JavyO April 5, 2010 at 12:05 PM  

Hey Rico,

Good going. I sent you an email, hope it helps.

Enjoy the journey.

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