Photo-ops before the race right infront of Old Baldy.

Photo-ops before the race right infront of Old Baldy.

Quite inconsistent with my impulsive attitude, it took me this long to write about Badwater Cape Fear experience. Not that I had to. Tonight, however, as I went for a quick 4-mile run, I thought   about BW Cape Fear. I don’t know why. Maybe because my knee hurt a bit as I pounded on the road tonight. The pain just brought some memories from the BWCF experience.

But it was not all bad, thus, this writing.

Let’s turn back the clock.

January 2014, I was at a runner-friend’s birthday. My two other runner-friends mentioned running BWCF. I had asked for the date. As soon as I found out it will be on March 22, I decided I   was signing up for the 50-mile race. Or 51.4 miles. That was part of the impulse that led me to decide. Part of the reason was spite. I have a very spiteful attitude. Of course, I did that to spite Jun, who was running a 100-miler the same day at the NJ Ultra Fest. Boom, done. Before even registering, I knew I was in and traveling to North Carolina in March.

Fast-forward some weeks after. I did some training. I kinda figured, having finished Beast of Burden Winter 50-miles that January, there really wasn’t much training needed. Well, at least, I thought I could only improve on it and knowing I had finished 50 miles before, I had some sort of a guage that I CAN actually finish running a 50. So I trained some. Part of the training was, in fact, driving to Long Branch to run on the beach. I drove alone and managed to run 10 miles.  Somehow, I had the delusion that the “orientation” to the sand in Long Branch parallels running in Bald Head Island in March.

Wrong.

Come March 20 at night, my friends Gerald, Luis, Donna, and I travelled to North Carolina. It was a long drive. But did I care? No. I was not driving, at all. I just slept.

Being in the south in March was not bad, at all. The weather was almost perfect for running, in my opinion. We arrived in North Carolina early, about 10 in the morning. Thankfully, after lounging in the lobby, the hotel staff allowed us early check-in. Phew! What a relief.

Then we headed to Bojangle’s. I had to explain to my friends, you know you’re in the south when you see Bojangle’s. But being the vegangster that I am, all I could have were fries. Boohoo.

No introduction needed.

No introduction needed.

Afternoon finally came. After some sight-seeing by the water with some jumping-picture-taking, we headed to BHI, where the race was to take place. In the ferry we met some new friends, mostly, from all over the place. Some were nice enough to remain friends. One of the amazing people I met was Keith Straw. As Gerald would explain to me, he is a multiple Badwater 135 veteran. Being the experienced runner that he is, I found him to be the very humble, down-to-earth.

Soon enough, we got to BHI. Had our mugshots taken and had some photo-ops with Cris Kostman, the Race Director. Of course, at that point, I knew so little about BW, but Gerald insisted it would be good for me to rub elbows with Chris, in case I decide to run Badwater 135. Huh? Me? Run Badwater 135?! I don’t know about that.

But yes, I did.

One of the most beautiful things that happened, however, was meeting Jessica P. Jess is a  runner-friend’s friend. Now this runner-friend, Andy, is someone I met from BoB. You know, perhaps, by virtue of running a small race like BoB, fellow runners become some sort of family. I think, Andy will never realize it, but he is part of my BoB family or maybe, I sort of assimilated myself as part of that BoB family, being the newcomer to the race.

When Andy told me about his friend running BW, I actually though this friend would merely be an acquaitance. Writing this now, I can say, Jess has become a good friend, despite the distance.

Fine, I’ll also talk about Laura. Hahaha. Laura is another one beautiful thing that happened in BWCF. She is the crazy woman from upstate NY, who also ran BoB. I had to admit here now, before BW, Laura and I became Facebook friends, but I did not remember her from running the Beast. (Sorry, Laura). Maybe because back then we were covered from head-t0-toe. Duh, its Buffalo.

Anyway, this crazy women, coupled with some crazy Filipinos were almost a disaster. Or ended up as a disaster when seven of us squeezed inside a golf cart and skidded off our path. Six of us may not have run the race the next day. Thankfully, through some divine intervention or something, we survived. (And yes, Jess had some alcohol while driving the cart).

Chris and Laurie Kostman at the pre-race shindig.

Chris and Laurie Kostman at the pre-race shindig.

 

 

Anyway, fast-forward race day.

Boy, I hate waking up early. But do I have a choice? This was even earlier because we had to board the ferry to Bald Head Island again. And oh, did I mention I thought it was ridiculous that I paid $49.99 for that ferry ride for 2 days?!

Race day morning, I donned some SportSkirts. Put my TrailWhippAss singlet, my Altra Lone Peak 1.5, my DirtyGirlsGaiters, and my UltrAspire Spry Vest on. I was ready. Or so I thought. Somewhere in one of my drop bags was my Hoka, which, even at this time, remains my biggest regret. Why did I not wear it?

The start line was at the Old Baldy Lighthouse. We were there early enough that I was still able to munch on some purple yams, as if the gas I passed the day before was not enough.

We met some more of the people we met at the ferry and the packet pick-up the day before. Of course, there was Keith in his pink tutu.

I, on the other hand, managed to change into my usual Asics running short (which, by the way, I have 3 of exact same style and color, which I almost always use in races). I figured, my thighs were too big and with a skirt, they would be rubbing each other and would equal to a bad chafe. So that I changed.

Not much later, Chris played the national anthem on his iPhone and finally, the gun (or was it the bullhorn) went off. And we ran.

Laura Makey at the entrance to the trail section.

Laura Makey at the entrance to the trail section.

 

The first 9 miles or so were on pavement, along the mostly desolate roads of BHI. People were just waking up and regardless of how the island was not touristy, we got some cheers from the locals. From the above was a drone for some reason and being the annoying soul that I am, I waved and waved at it.

So I ran those 9 miles. But those 9 miles were hell. Running on the pavement was just way too much for me at that point. I decided to run on the loose gravel by the sidewalk. Somehow that helped. I thought I couldn’t wait til I get to the AS and change shoes. Or get to the sand where I can still wear my Lone Peak and have the sand for cushion. That was my motivation at that point, but early on, my legs and feet were already dying.

At some point towards the end of those 9 miles, my poor, dying soul was revived when we finally arrived at an entrance to what was to become the trail section. I’m not too sure how long that was but 1 mile or 5, that was pure bliss to me. I was just running through the woods with childhood candor, only, manifested in my feet. It was there that I decided, I love trails. And I belong in the trails.

Holy F#ck!!! Imagine 40 miles of this.

Holy F#ck!!! Imagine 40 miles of this.

Now some of my friends joked that the reason I was flying was because I am a midget. Maybe. But a midget that can run careless, run free.

I was sad when that section was over and I neared the AS.

I went and had some water and nutrition. This girl at the AS, who looked like some elite runner had the nicest attitude and helped me with my bladder.

And of course, I remembered the adage “beware of the chair.” Instead, I walked to my drop bag and ate some of my vegangster food. My Hokas were there but for some reason, I did not even bother changing shoes.

Soon enough, I was heading to the sand. It was supposedly the start of the 40 miles of sand. It was an out-and-back-course times 2, meaning, each way took 10 miles to the far AS (where, by the way, if you don’t come back for your drop bags the next day, all your belongings left there will be discarded and I had left quite a number of really good vegan snacks there. And I regret that.)

When I said the 9 miles of pavement was painful, running on this North Carolina sand was torturous!!! It was hell. Or what’s worse than hell?

My definition and description of it would be (and I have maintained this description when people asked me about BWCF): The sand was either too soft or too packed, it was like running pavement.

And it really was like on cement.

It was just difficult for me finding my state of “satori,” as Jurek would say. My mind was working too hard on trying to figure out whether I should run on the soft or on the packed sand. Add to that, trying to elude getting wet on the waves.

It was one of the most agonizing runs I had. I think, comparable, to my first 50k at the Wildcat Ridge Romp. Maybe worse. The stretch of sand just seemed endless that it, somewhat, created a mirage. At some hallucinatory state, even, an oasis. Or maybe that was the middle AS.

So clueless about the pain.

So clueless about the pain.

 

Whatever it was, the feeling of pain didn’t leave me. It was at that point that I started to question whatever happened to the training and to the words Nicklaus Combs had said “At least its sand; not pavement.” Then I felt hot with the tailwind and decided to take my singlet off. The heat was another issue I had to contend with, although at that time, it was not so bad.

Then I started to have regrets. I started those dreaded words “I should’ve…” And I am not one to regret. I hate I should’ves. The biggest I should’ve was— I SHOULD’VE STUCK WITH MY HOKA. I don’t know why I allowed myself to be talked into such assurance as “You don’t need Hoka. The sand will be your cushion.” Cushion, my butt. No. It wasn’t.

Finally, after some painful manuevering up and down, back and forth from the soft to the packed sand, I reached the far AS. I ate some and for some reason, my butt sat. Fortunately, like some spikes were on the bench, I got up immediately. It was not long til I was running again toward the finish line, where I would jump off again for another out-and-back for the final 20 miles.

I think the perfect storm just crumbled me right there. I started to walk more. Now, I ran BoB Winter 50 walking only as much as 50 feet max, maybe. But this, I walked much.

It was then that I started to think that if I can just see the middle AS, it would be awesome and I would be, at least, halfway.

But that took forever. It just dragged that not even the encouragement from others and the lie we always hear that goes “your’e looking good. keep it up.” didn’t work.  I knew I looked like shit.

So after passing the middle age station (finally!), I pulled my phone from my vest. Dialled my team-mate and good friend and TWA co-prez, Dylan’s, phone. Or maybe I texted him first. I’m certain I was cursing. I was so mad that it took me forever to reach him. Actually, I never reached him. I knew he was at the NJ Ultrafest at the time, watching the other TrailWhippAsses and friends run. Bastard.

 

Race morning ferry ride to Bald Head Island.

Race morning ferry ride to Bald Head Island.

So I walked or maybe ran. Finally my phone rang. And then I cried. I had asked Dylan if it was okay to DD (drop-down) to a 50k. And I cried some more.

I cried because it was our quasi-slogan to never DD or DNF unless you’re hurt or injured. And I had DD’d on 2 races prior to BWCF on a whim. I thought this was a whim again. Technically, I estimated that once I get to the AS at the finish line, I would have another 6 hours to finish the last 20 miles. I thought that was doable. My mind said so, but my body just disagreed.

Thankfully, Dylan talked some sense that day (maybe because it was not time to drink wine yet and he was sober). He told me, it was okay to drop down because I was still dropping down to an Ultra distance. That made sense. Of course, I had forgotten that. But I think part of me that didn’t want to give up was because I was still on a delusional state at that time, thinking if I finished another 50, I would make a friend proud. Boohoo. Sucker.

So finally, like a child, I wiped my tears and hung up, decided on dropping down. It was around that time when I finally saw Gerald and Luis again. Apparently, they had discussed my “fate” in the race and came up with an idea that I would have a better prognosis if I DD’d to 50k. Or maybe, they just didn’t want to wait for me so long in the cold. Hahaha.

Whatever their intentions (and I know they were good), they were right in affirming and confirming for me the brave decision to drop down.

I went and run feeling freer at the thought that I would no longer need to save some energy for another 20 miles stretch. The support about the decision to DD was overwhelming that finishing at 50k didn’t really hurt that much— besides the fact that I had my eyes set on the buckle.

Finally, I neared the finish. And let me note that for some reason, another runner running the 50k was mostly behind me that day but managed to pass me, nearing the finish. We finished by only a few seconds or a minute apart.

Little did I know that that would be another (minor) regret I would have running that race. Apparently, if I had not let her pass me, I would have ended second in the women’s category for the 50k. I landed 3rd, instead. Not that there was any award, but that would have been a good headliner when I get home.

At the AS, Donna met me. I could never be thankful enough to finish a race. It was pure agony at its best.

At some point, I gathered myself and received my medal from Chris.

Thankful for the vegan option.

I swore my usual lie never to run that race again.

Then I devoured on the hot vegan bean soup. And then some. And then some more.

I was home.

I raised my leg.

Watched my other friends finish. Or pass out, as in Jessica’s case.

Yelled for our new friend, Brad, to finish as soon as the lightning started to come.

And it was time for the ferry back to the mainland.

Looking back, Badwater Cape Fear remains to be one of the hardest races I’ve done. Not that I have  a lot under my belt. I would say, it was even worse than the slickrock of Moab. But then again, it would not be BADWATER if it were not hard. It would be some other other name.

 

I guess, as an addendum to all these introspection that I did while running those 4 miles tonight in Jersey City, it is worth to note that it was in BWCF that I realize my love affair with road races has met its demise. It is dead.

I will still run road race (and have, in fact, signed up for one road marathon), but it is in the towpath or the trail that I will spend most of my years running careless, running free.

But Badwater Cape Fear 2015? Well, it IS already on my calendar. I am coming back to claim that buckle.

 

It's not me if I don't jump. No kidding. This was at the start of the sandy stretch. No idea what was waiting for me.

It’s not me if I don’t jump. No kidding. This was at the start of the sandy stretch. No idea what was waiting for me.

 

  • Teeny-tiny eyeview of where the run started.

    Teeny-tiny eyeview of where the run started.

    This one is for the record. Writing about a race two days after the event is, in fact, a record for me. In fact, I have not even    arrived New York but I am already tip-tapping on my phone. Just taking off from Phoenix! Bravo. I guess I owe that to the levels of hormone that somewhat contributed to the outcome of my adventure in Utah, running Grass Roots Event’s Moab’s Red Hot 55k.

    Okay, enough about hormones.

        Let’s talk Moab.

         Where do I even begin?

    Perhaps on the fact that I wasn’t supposed to run this race, which is all the way in Utah. It was my team mate, Joe Delano (or JD, as we would call him), who planned to run this months and months ago. I was just an accidental runner. Somewhat. JD had incessantly talked about “Moab” and invited us to run with him since forever. Since forever that, in fact, I managed to schedule this post-Valentine weekend off of work, thinking that I may actually decide to run it. But as it would turn out, I signed up for NJ Trail Series’ FebApple, instead. This was scheduled a week after Moab.

    Photo-bombing my team mate and travel buddy, Joe Delano, who talked non-stop about running "Moab." Taken a day after the race.

    Photo-bombing my team mate and travel buddy, Joe Delano, who talked non-stop about running “Moab.” Taken a day after the race.

    Honestly, part of me was a bit hesitant about traveling all the way to Utah to run a 55k. I mean, I thought that if I were to travel, anyway, it may as well be for a 50-miler or longer.    Then again life happened and I would end signing up for Moab 55k Tuesday, the week of the race. And– a day before race registration closed. When I met the cool RD for the race (who JD and I would call Chrick because we weren’t sure whether his name is Chris or Rick), he would tell me they recognize me somewhat as the runner from Jersey. “Usually, its runners from Colorado who would sign up last minute… not from Jersey.” Yup! That was me. In Moab. From Jersey.

        I’ve always been in love. But not like this.

    Oh, my god! Utah is beautiful. Moab is even more beautiful!

    The place just mesmerized me. I was transported into that state again where I would declare “I want to live here.” And I think I could. Now that I don’t eat seafoods, I will not miss what the sea would offer. Besides the sea itself. So maybe.

    Moab is a small town. Quaint yet not the usual quaint town I have seen in the east coast. As I would learn from a 711 cashier, for you to live in Moab, you have to either have money, be artsy, or have a business. So I asked “Is there a hospital?” Yes. There was the other unspoken option. Ha!

    I could really live in Moab. The dream will live.

        Clueless.

    Before I came to Moab, I only had a faint idea of the race I was running. I only found out about the elevation profile days before the race. I would also only find out how “big” (aka popular) the race was few days before February 15, with Anton Krupicka, Karl Meltzer, and Jenn Shelton (sorry, I had to throw her name in there) as among the guests/runners.

    Package pick-up was at a restaurant-bar called McStiffy’s. Yup, that’s no typo. No pun intended, but it was kinda tight and packed a venue for the packet pick-up. I was expecting more like a JFK50-ish expo. The line was long and extends from a nook in that resto-bar to the entrance. But I couldn’t complain. I was in quasi-fugue state.

    I can't complain; they have vegan pizza!!!

    I can’t complain; they have vegan pizza!!!

    One other important thing I missed or misread were the “rules.” For some reason, I was a bit complacent taking the race seriously because I had somehow misread the “12:30 pm cut-off for mile 18 ” (before they declare you as having DNF’d) as a 12:30 (read 12 hours, 30 minutes) cut-off for the whole race. My thought process was “yeah, that’s easy-peasy.” Count on me to finally read the whole race rule the day I flew to Salt Lake City; it was only then that I found out that there was an 18-mi cut-off at 12:30pm!

    The race was to start at 8:00am. Sonofagun! 4:30 to finish 18miles. Thank goodness for gogoinflight services! That’s when I started to freak out. By my marathon time, I knew I would be done with 18 miles before 4 hours and 30 minutes, I figured. But that was marathon! On a flat surface! JDC, another friend who encouraged me to run Moab, would over and over try to appease me and say “Its all in your mind.” I would use that as a mantra although sometimes, admittedly, it failed. But on race day, I would hang on to these words.

       Running Slickrocks. 

    So what ends up when you’re mostly unprepared and without expectations? You get a good beating.

    The race was in the canyons of Moab. Over slick rocks and mountains and loose dirt.

    It would start at in a valley and all you did from when the gun would fire was climb. Or run on some elevations. And run on some more elevations. And climb. And climb for many miles. And yes, uphills are not quite my friends yet.

    Now to begin with, Utah already has some altitude. Put that in the context of actually running with an elevation. I was gasping for air. I hate runners who make those heavy breathing sounds but I knew that day, other runners probably hated me because I just panted. For good 4 miles or so.

    I would also meet an Instagram friend, Francesco, from Salt Lake City at the race.

    I would also meet an Instagram friend, Francesco, from Salt Lake City at the race.

    The course was point-to-point, except for one AS that repeats at miles 13 and 18. This only means no going back for anything I may need like shoe change, nutrition, etc.

    The markers for the 55k were in pink! Brilliant against the orange dirt and lime-colored rocks.

    The scenery was beautiful but I think I was done and beat and exhausted by mile 11.

    However, all I could think of at that point was beating the 12:30 cut-off. I thought I did not come to Moab to DNF. And DNF IS NOT AN OPTION. I had other things that would motivate and push me to push on that only I know personally know. “Push past the pain” is another.

    Running the course was just brutal. Being in the back of the pack proved difficult when the markers became few and far between. Most often, I ran the course alone and in those instances when I could not find the markers, I would end up in another hill by the time I finally retraced the course. Time lost.

    But if there’s one thing I figured running trails lately is that I have developed a penchant for getting lost. Of course, it is imperative to find my way back. Duh. But I loved the solitude. Of being able to tell myself I am the master of my own destiny, literally.

    Some of the climbs through slickrocks.

    Some of the climbs through slickroc  On one hand, one great thing about being a back-of-the-packer in these ultras, too, is that it is easy to pass gas or pee behind the shrubs when there is hardly anyone near you. If you’re on vegan diet (and eating a lot of  beans because Mori emphasized the importance of beans to powering legs), you’ll understand how much gas I passed.

        Finally!

    At 11:53 or 3 hours 53 minutes or so on my garmin, I crossed mile 18. I could not be happier enough that not only did I make it to the cut-off, I also managed to cross it before 4 hours. I was exhausted and dead, by then. However, I knew I only have to endure the remaining miles (although I honestly didn’t know and still don’t know how many miles I was supposed to finish at 55k).

    One of the AS's, manned by absolutely wonderful volunteers.

    One of the AS’s, manned by absolutely wonderful volunteers.

    So I ran and walked. And I not ashamed, at all, to admit I walked many uphills. But then  what’s weird about running elevations is that you realize even walking hurts and that running would hurt less. So I braved some uphills and actually ran some.

    What got me through those difficult moments running or walking was the idea that with uphills came downhills, although not always in that fashion. Some climbs through slick rocks were just succeeded with more climbs over some cactus-infested hills. At mile 24, I remember going up a slick rock (not a boulder but a rock the size of a hill, I should say) so pretty in pink with the marker on top, but what the fuck?! There was nothing to hang on to to climb it! Going up that rock took a lot of thinking.I finally realized that going over and through it meant crawling and positioning one foot on this tiny crevice on the side, that one slip could mean my death. Thankfully, my analysis of the situation was right and my Hokas didn’t fail me and I managed to reach the apex. I think it was at the same point that my hormones peaked because I remember crying at mile-24. All the emotions in my life just poured out.

         Downhills, I Heart You!!!

    Then there were many steep but lovely downhills from there. Somehow I knew and figured out lately that my quads and overall, my legs, have become pretty good and tolerant with downhills. I was flying. If only uphills loved me the way I loved downhills.

    But it was also around that point that I decided to stop looking at my watch. I just ran and sucked it up. There was no doubt that I can finish. It was just a question of when.

    I would finally reach the last AS, manned by elderly men and a woman. They would tell me that there will only be 5 miles left. I looked at my watch and saw 28miles. That couldn’t be 5 miles, I thought. Still I gave them the benefit of the doubt and told myself “These seniors couldn’t have travelled so far to man this AS, so its probably just 5 miles.”

    Some of the climbs through slickrocks.

    Some of the climbs through slickrocks.

    And thus I ran and brisk-walked and peed and ran again. At that point, there were a lot of flats yet running on a flat terrain hurt, too. I prayed for downhills but there were barely any. Yet, towards the end, part of what  motivated me to push on was not wanting to be “chubby chick’d” or end up DFL, if I, in fact, ended getting “chubby chick’d” and all the others behind me didn’t make it to the cut-off 12:30 pm cut-off at mile-18. So I made a dash for the last remaining miles. Eventually, I would see a runner infront of me being met by a friend. That’s when I figured we couldn’t be far from the finish. I would also see more people, kids included. And ATVs that looked fresh.

    Finally, as I would see one more downhill that runs on a zig-zag pattern, I would hear a white man sitting call out some name. Oh! My name! It was JD! Already in his sweatpants and– taking pictures. I would pause to ask to have a jump picture taken. He obliged.

    You know I just had to jump in the end. Still need to work on that facial expression business.

    You know I just had to jump in the end. Still need to work on that facial expression business.

    He would pace me in the last few stretch.  I would finish at 8:21 (on my watch). And I wouldn’t forget to stop my Garmin this time.

    Then it was time to do the traditional jump again. This time, at the finish line.

            My take on this race?

    me and chris

    With Grass Roots Events RD, Chris Martinez. Such a cool guy!

    Beautiful, beautiful course that any runner should have this on his bucket list.

    Great race to meet new friends. Moab Red Hot 55k reminded me again why I have learned to love ultra/trail/ultratrail-running: it is the sense of   community.

    Few of the wonderful people I met were Lisa and Bruce W., Maureen H., and Julia L. from Colorado, Rachael B. from Idaho, and Francesco P. from Utah.

    Cool, cool, new friends from Colorado and Idaho.

    Cool, cool, new friends from Colorado and Idaho

    Enjoying the company of a team mate in a new land, who can actually make you cry and takes your crying in stride (I hope).

    Meeting really cool RDs, who would take you running trails the next day.

    Above all, experiencing the beauty of Moab. I will forever be thankful to you, JDC.

    The final take is that some friendships may have been severed during this trip, new ones formed, but memories (both painful and wonderful) will forever be cherished. But that some words that were uttered and feelings felt in the journey towards finishing a 55k in Utah, will have to remain in Utah.

    Now I dig this trucker's hat.

    Now I dig this trucker’s hat.

It's not a Buckle. Yet.

It’s not a Buckle. Yet.

I will start off with what a new (running) friend had said in her race report. The context goes along this line: she did not consider herself an ultrarunner until she    finished a 100-miler. I exactly felt the same way, except that I have not finished my first 100 yet. I sort of felt I am not an ultrarunner until I ran and finished my first 50-mile race. This was back then.

So some time ago, while waiting for my 8-year old to finish her piano class, I found myself inside my car, signing up on an impulse (and based on ego) for the Beast of Burden Winter 50. No, I was not ready for 100. I am not ready for 100, thus the choice to go with the 50. It was based on a challenge by Otto Lam, a quite well-know Ultrarunner in the NY/NJ area. Bottom line, I signed up for BoB50, in that 30-minute wait inside the car.

Of course, I was mocked by people who were personally close to me for signing up for an ultra in the middle of winter— in upstate New York, particularly, in Lockport, New York, which is ultimately synonymous to Buffalo.

Signing up probably happened in November. Or say, late October. Either way, I felt I had enough time to “train.” I know it is “just 50.” Not a 100-miler in Vermont or Utah or Colorado or California. But when I signed up for BoB50, the word DNF was never an option.

For those of you who know me, I am not a fast runner. Nor am I a runner, born and blessed with fast-twitch muscle fibers. I came from a country that did not quite place enough leverage on physical activities in educational institutions, back in the day. I also happen to have been hit by an SUV in head-on, while crossing the street in 2009 that left me with a knee surgery a year after.

No excuses. Bottom line, I. AM. NOT. FAST.

But I happen to have the resolve and determination to finish what I start— at least, when it comes to running. I think that is the only form of artillery that I arm myself with each time.

So on January 18, I ran BoB.

Being that I had planned few weeks before Beast of Burden to run Badwater Cape Fear, I decided my goal was to finish under 14 hours, primarily because Badwater had a 14-hour cut-off. I sort of figured that was a lofty-enough goal. That was a rather slow pace, yet realistic for me. But even that made me nervous.

I knew BoB was flat. And that it was going to be in a sub-freezing temperature. But yes, it made me nervous setting the 14-hr goal. Not because of the “cold;” rather, because it was flat.

Now I am not a hill runner. But so far, I know some of my short distance PRs were in Central Park where there are “mounds.” I even PR’d in Bethlehem, PA for my half-marathon by 12 minutes. So yes, the “flatness” of the Beast’s course scared the hell out of me. Why? Because that meant using the same muscle group for 50 miles. So I wasn’t exactly afraid of the cold. I knew Icebreaker got me prepared for that. Besides, I have always had this belief that when it comes to forces of nature, I can only deal with them and not fight because they are what they are.

For some reason, however, the night before the race, over dinner with friends who came from NYC and NJ for the race, I somewhat decided I’d aim for an even-loftier goal: finish in less than 12 hours.

I hadn’t really told anyone about what my goal was (remember that 14-hour goal?). Or maybe I did tell Vivian. But then, no one else.

So when I decided on dropping my goal to 12 hours, I felt I was about to explode, not having anyone to tell it to, share it with.

Morning of the race, I had to hit coolrunning.com and check what my pace should be. “Okay, doable,” I thought to myself. So I had set that out for myself. Less than 12 hours.

Ten o’clock in the morning, the race started. There were flurries. I could only be thankful for a 10am start. That meant sleeping in after that dinner that ended a bit late.

And then the race started.

It was an out-and-back of 12.5 miles down (or up or whatever) alongside the Erie Canal. And for some time, I thought about what another running friend, Dylan, had repeated over and over: I don’t want to f#cking run on a straight, flat course on a tow path!!!

It will always be my choice for 26.3 miles and beyond. Thanks, Hoka!

It will always be my choice for 26.3 miles and beyond. Thanks, Hoka!

That statement lingered for a bit. Actually that lingered before I came to Lockport. I thought, for some weird reason, that the course would literally be straight— like airport runway straight. That was dumb of me to think. Of course, it bent some. Curved some. But yes, it was flat. Almost as flat as a runway could be. And it was a towpath. Thankfully, there was no slush, which mortified me. I looked down the towpath and for a mile or so, all I saw were loose soil that resembled chia seeds.

For some reason, I had fun. I rushed past the first AS in Gasport (about mile 7), not knowing I was supposed to stop there for the splits. Thank goodness for Kino! I was just “high” and full of adrenaline. I was happy running. Soon enough, I reached Middleport, which was the turn-around point before taking the route back to the start.

Then THE moment of torture happened.  The headwind was horrible. It was, what? 25mph? 30? I don’t know. I just knew it slowed me down and it was blowing against my lungs that already have issues with cold air (read: weather-induced asthma, which I diagnosed myself with). I could barely open my eyes and with the dryness, I looked to my right at one point and saw a field of what I assumed was a plantation or something. And then I hallucinated. Or was that my blurry vision… of Santa Claus in the middle of the field. I had to rub my eyes over and over when I stopped. Finally, it cleared. It wasn’t Santa Claus. It was a red fire hydrant near the snow-covered field. Who puts a fire hydrant in a field, anyway?!

That was a horrible time coming back. But I managed to reach Gasport then the start line. And I was smiling again.

Still smiling. Approaching the halfway mark at the start line. 25 miles more to go!

Still smiling. Approaching the halfway mark at the start line. 25 miles more to go!

In a way, again, I remembered one of the best encouragements I received the night before. “Fifty miles is just less than 2 marathons! You will crush that towpath.”

Again, thanks, Dylan!

Having finished 25 miles, I knew taking 1.2 miles more and I would, in fact, be less than another marathon towards finishing a 50. So off I went back out, saw and greeted some runners, and ran, ran, ran.

Reaching the Middleport station at 8 hours 9 minutes since the start of the race, I felt I had a chance to finish in less than 11 hours, instead. I somewhat figured that it couldnt possibly take me 4 hours to finish 12.5 miles. So I went for it, hoping to finish sub-11 rather sub-12. It even propelled me further to aim for that “new goal” when Violet told me the wind has somewhat dissipated. Ha!

But then, I think at that point, some exhaustion had set in. And yes, there still was wind, although not as horrible as it had been that morning.  By then, it was darker and colder. I had already put on an extra shirt, put on a pair of borrowed mittens. It was a fast turn-around, considering the excellent crewing of Ken Tom, who had helped me put my hydration backpack with so much ease, primarily because he got authorization that he “can touch my boobs.” What am I talking about?! I don’t have any!

Regardless, that was some saved time at that point. But of course, little did I know coming out of Middleport that I had forgotten to turn my head lamp on and now with mittens on, that had become a somewhat difficult task. That was when I slowed down. I had to take the mittens off then the other layers of gloves underneath. The whole process just ate up so much time.

And then my hydration back pack seemed to have loosened. Then my bottle was leaking. Again, I had to remove my gloves and mittens. More time wasted.

From then on, it was a struggle. Murphy’s Law. Five and half miles from Middleport to Gasport seemed like eternity.

Eventually, I would reach Gasport and leave it one last time.

Now I did not pee before leaving Gasport. I sucked it up and because I am a nurse, I was pretty good at it. At least, for the time-being. I would see Tiger and run alongside her, walk a few feet, and catch up again when I ran. I knew the only reason I was able to keep up with her was because she was running a 100. On an ordinary day, I knew I wouldn’t. I would eventually go ahead. But not for long. I had to pull over and hide behind a tree.

The nurse in the runner me could not hold her pee. My butt was numb and I had forgotten to turn my headlamp off, but I didn’t really care. Another few minutes lost.

Finally. I went back into the course. Ran alongside Tiger and went about my merry, tired way.

Photo taken from the start line. Across the canal is part of the course, approximately 2 miles away from the start/finish. If only swimming was allowed, it would have been closer. But it isn't and I can't even swim! This last stretch can feel like eternity. At least, it was for me.

Photo Courtesy: Lockport Photographer (My apologies for not remembering who took this photo). Taken from the start line. Across the canal is part of the course, approximately 2 miles away from the start/finish. If only swimming was allowed, it would have been closer. But it isn’t and I can’t even swim! This last stretch can feel like eternity. At least, it was for me. At any rate, this sight is reminiscent of a Van Gogh, except I can’t find stars.

Finally, too, I saw the finish line from across the canal. That only indicated the final 2 miles. But even that would seem like forever.

I looked at my watch and saw I was nearing the 12-hour mark. Where did time go?

Damn it. At that point, I really thought I’d murder myself if I didn’t make it to the 12-hour “goal.” It just wasn’t acceptable at that point to finish past 12 hours. It. Was. Not. An. Option.

So in exhaustion, I made a mad dash for it. The 2 miles became 1 until I reached the bridge called Exchange-something that marked the point where I’m finally home stretch. I struggled to run as fast I could, whatever fast meant at that point in time.

I kept looking for the blue tent. The freakingly elusive blue tent. But finally, there it was. And there was Jim.

Finally it was the end. Jim hugged me. But then I had to push myself inside the tent. I don’t know if I needed to but I felt I needed to clock-in! Boom! I looked at my time: 11:51. Or 11:51:53, according to UltraSignUp.com.

Okay, I was happy. More or less. Part of me was actually disappointed. I had wanted my sub-12 to be sub 11:30. Yes, I could never be satisfied.

Thus, I resumed the revelry with more hugs– from Ken and Denise and again, from Jim– that I didn’t even notice the RD give me my medal. I took the Jello-shot, only to realize after I took it that I had already sworn not to take alcohol again. But “whatever” was what was in my mind at that point.

Jello shots!!!

Jello shots!!!

And then I cried some. Eventually, I would settle on a chair, covered by volunteers with a warm blanket. (Oh, no, no, no. Not the Christmas Tree blanket!!!) And I would see some runners finish, some runners turn and go for their halfway stretch, and just witness some of the remarkable events that can only transpire in ultra races.

It was a beautiful experience.

It still is. And I still smile at the thought of the Beast of Burden. Of how beautiful the people are at the Aid Stations, at how friendly, at how kindly they make you feel like family. Now I understand what Lisa C. meant when she referred to her “BoB family in Lockport.”

It is funny now. Someone had said that that being in Lockport was like being in Redneck New York. I did not feel that being there.

Beast of Burden was an experience that was beautiful overall. A lot of things had happened training for it, which, thus, led me to call this article a non-race report.

Bottom line, preparing for the Beast was life-changing.

I have made so many friends. Learned so many things. Gained a whole new experience.

1026271_10202953076970981_1446902105_o

Sorry, RD, I did not even notice you.

Equally important during the preparation for the Beast, I have turned my diet around one that was so ingrained on animal products into one that is plant-based, aka vegan. And in running on a vegan diet, I didn’t feel weak, at all. I felt great. I barely walked (besides inside the ASs)!!! In total, I’d say that in all the 50 miles, I had only walked about 20 feet in the course.

Surprisingly, above all, I did not suffer from the same hand swelling that I often suffer from running races prior to the Beast. I am not quite sure if it was turning vegan that made that possible, but considering that I have nothing else to attribute that to, then why not say it was because of that. Why not?

So thanks, Joe, for the influence. I will have this stamped for life.

So going back to where I started with Violet saying “I felt like I am not an ultrarunner until I ran a 100-miler.” I hear you, Violet. For a time, I felt I was an ultrarunner as soon as I finised a 50. I still do.

But then what you said about running a 100-miler is a reflection of what I am feeling now.

Pre-race dinner: Linguine with Mushrooms. One of my favorite pasta mixes even before turning vegan.

Pre-race dinner: Linguine with Mushrooms. One of my favorite pasta mixes even before turning vegan.

Its time to up the ante, push the envelope, and say, I feel like I am not an ultrarunner, until I finished a 100-miler.

Let’s see what September brings.

Aside  —  Posted: February 10, 2014 in Uncategorized
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Image

One of the biggest influences my running friends have on me, besides running itself— jumping!!!

  I know myself as being capable to lie. I have to admit I do not want to admit about lying about other things. But lying about not running a specific race anymore or ever again— that, I admit, I have done over and over. Or the other way— saying that I am running a race again but will most like not. That, too, I have done. 

  Case in point. Okay, make that cases in point.

  I have lied about the NYC 60k. The moment I finished it, I said I wasn’t going to run it ever again. Adamantly. However, after much contemplation about where I went wrong that led me to a very, very, very late finish, I realized I needed to eat my words. This came no later than the day after I finished a dismal finish. Yes, I will run it again. But run it minus the stopping to chit-chat with Instagram friends, stopping to go to the pond-side bathroom, stopping for nothing. And run it minus non-essential activities. Period.

  I have also lied about Vermont. I said I was running it again next year. I swore with all my heart I was. But just the same and but without much of an introspection, I just thought I wouldn’t want to run it again. For now. Never mind the beautiful view at the finish. Or the promise of Stonehill Farm mango habanero preserves. Nope, not running it. 

  Then, there is the Adirondacks Marathon, which I said I will come back to again next year. Well, as of this writing— not happening. It was a whim brought about the beauty of the lake. So that, I will have to think about. For now, I lied.

  Today, however, is a testament of how I have the capacity to hold true to my statement. 

  Today I ran and finished the Staten Island Trail and Ultra Festival. And right of the bat, I promised myself— and the race director— I will run it again.

  Because today I learned to love the rolling terrain. (Note: credit goes to Jeff Dengate, who gave a great map of where the best hill runs are in the Jersey City area). I never thought I would see that day when I would actually say so– that I appreciated the ups and downs rather than the flats. 

  Close to ten years living in the US, I have to admit, it was the first time I ever set foot in Staten Island. Once, I may have passed that island, about 9 years ago, when I just moved here. For years, Staten Island was just a name. I didn’t realize how close this was to the city where I live. I’ve seen the Verrazano from afar, but didn’t realize that the island that it connects to some other island in NYC (or is it Jersey?), is so close to me, I could smell its air. I drove to the race alone. Something that I have not done. As I would discover, it was an easy-peasy drive, after all. 

  And little did I know the borough offers 38 (I overheard) miles of trails. Lovely, beautiful trails that make me forget about the harrowing experience I had when I ran my first 50k trail in New Jersey. This was the bomb! A trail that makes you love trail. A land so dense with vegetation yet runnable enough despite its single paths on ups- and downhills. 

  Now, let me be clear: I am not a trail person. I am a Filipino, who practically grew up in the Philippines, where trails are not safe, where trails can welcome you to heaven. Or hell. 

  Thus, when I was introduced to the Wildcat Ridge Romp in August, I did not actually feel like I missed not seeing trail in my life. Yes, it was that horrifying an experience. One that I have said I will not wish for anyone to go through.

  But today, I fell in love. 

  Race director, Matt LeBow, explained that this year’s course was actually, different from the previous years with a significant elevation in the 1 small and 2 big loops that cover the 31-mile course. He explained, however, the elevation is lower than the previous years, yet because it is broken down into 2 big loops rather than the 4 small loops they had last year, the uphills this year were actually steeper. So what’s not to love? Smirk.

  But actually, there are. There were. 

  I love that it is runnable, despite the single path. Despite what I opine as a seeming lack of aid stations within the course– or perhaps, resources in the aid stations (note: I only saw gatorade at the last 2 aid stations during the second loop. Same thing with the fruits.) 

  ImageThe race is beautiful in that it was missing the congestion and rather, appears to have unassuming individuals running the course. 

  I loved the technicality of the trail with its exposed roots, uneven paths, fallen trees that prompt you to bend some, hop some, stumble and trip some. The creeks, the ponds, the puddles from the rain that soaked the leaves touched by autumn. 

  And I loved that it made my Hoka One One dirty!

  And yes, I love that because of the absence of runner-congestion, I actually learned to finally blow my nose without the luxury of tissues and just let out several secretions that are proofs of the fact I came to this race sick with colds and cough and fever. (If you know me, you know I hate spitting during races).

  And most of all, I loved that despite spending most of the time in the trail in my lonesome, where and when I should have been worried, I was, in fact, able to have fun. Fun while learning how to manage not to get lost in the quasi-wilderness. Fun while my butt ached. 

  So while I missed my goal by some minutes, I must say this was a beautiful learning experience. 

  So ask me again if I will come back to here? 

  Well, this time, there will be no lies. The answer is a no-brainer. 

 

Running Small Town America

Posted: October 18, 2013 in Uncategorized

Running Small Town America.

Lovely addition to medal collection.

Lovely addition to medal collection.

I wanted a 5mm David Yurman ring for my birthday. Bought by my money. Not expecting it from anyone.

But no. I had decided otherwise. I wanted to let go of all non-essentials because I wanted to save to see more, travel more. Run more races and see how racing is in other parts of the country, the world.

For now, lets talk Scranton. Particularly, Steamtown Marathon.

My friend, Philip, said and I quote, “If you wanna see the spirit of marathon in small town America, come to Steamtown.”

And, in fact, he was right.

Before Sunday, all I thought of Steamtown was that it was or is a race that promises some PR. Apparently not. Or apparently, there is more to that.

So here’s how it went down.

We arrived Scranton Saturday, the day before the race.  Because when you are married with a child, running out of town no longer means just packing your bags and taking the first flight out. Or drive at the earliest convenient time. Rather, running out-of-town becomes some sort of an extended family-to-friend affair: friends-with-kids come along. They are there to act as quasi-babysitters and it becomes somewhat a play date. And it is most (even though it really isn’t) covenient to arrive on a Saturday.

At the finish line, Saturday. I know the police was near. I was actually a bit nervous breaking into the area.

At the finish line, Saturday. I know the police was near. I was actually a bit nervous breaking into the area.

Thus, Saturday, like any other pre-race days Saturdays, was highlighted with the expo and then a side trip to kid-friendly destinations. (If you know me, I do not quite have the patience for children’s activities. Take me to an expo that sells novelties then I’m in!!! Kid-friendly spots in an out-of-town trip? Try to count me out.)

So whatever kid-friendly activity Scranton had to offer Saturday, any day, I was thankful my good friend was there. She took care of that.

One of the landmarks in downtown Scranton, near the finish line.

One of the landmarks in downtown Scranton, near the finish line.

Thus, off I went with the husband and Philip to see what we can of the Electric City.

Fair enough, it was beautiful downtown. A quaint town of many Main Streets. The architecture on some buildings from when, I surmise, Scranton was big and mighty, when electric lights were introduced and when it first started production of rails, was astounding. I had to take pictures. And Instagram them.

But you don’t see more than that when it is Saturday night and its pre-race day. It didn’t even seem fun on a day or night when it was supposedly your birthday.

So what has a person nearing twilight got to do when its her birthday and she is out of town and it is the day before a race?

Hit a Chinese buffet and burn (!!! lol) $55 for 5 adults and 2 kids! Yes! And no kidding! After all, this wasn’t New York. Hit a Krispy Kreme store for a donut on the premise that it is justified because “carbs are needed for the next day.” Then hit the bed. Surely, no alcohol.

Thus, all you have left is a blur of what and how that birthday on a Saturday in Scranton had been.

Race day and you wake up early. Still in a blur. Or a fog. Whatever its called, seeing the beauty in a town, a borrough is probably not on top of your agenda when you have 26.2 miles on foot with only yourself to rely on.

But then, you drive to downtown Scranton, hop on the bus that would take you to Forest City, where the race starts.

And there is where it starts to hit you.

nice

One of the architectural beauties of Scranton.

Because it is fall, a bus ride to the start means a blanket of darkness. While you are wrapped around with anxiety over what might transpire in the next 2 or 3 or 4 or, in a worse case (like mine) maybe 5 hours that would take you to finish 26.2, you cannot help but wonder what scenery, thus, unfolds in your journey.

You see, Steamtown has the reputation of being a “quad-buster.” What this means is that there is a significant elevation drop. Quite profound, especially at the start. Assistant Race Director Jim Cummings kept on reiterating that 955-ft drop. What this also means is that whe you drive up to Forest City, your bus goes up and up and up. In return as you look out and down from your window, you see lights. Lots and lots of them.

For me, it reminds me of a city in northern Philippines called Baguio. Whenever I went there, I was in heaven.

That bus drive was reminiscent of the few times I have been there.

Anyway. The moment you arrive after that 45-minute bus drive with your bladder so full and about to explode because you had coffee to drink earlier, thats when you start to actually feel the beauty of this marathon.

Again, I have not been to many marathons or races, thus, my points of comparison are quite limited, admittedly. And this is where that David Yurman dream comes into the picture. You know, that wanting-to-see-more agendum.

And just when you thought your bladder couldn’t hold any longer, the bus finally halts. You step off the bus, you are greeted by young kids (high-schoolers, I think), and they, in uniform shirts, guide you to either the porta-johnnies or the school auditorium, where you can take cover from the cold. But wait. Before you even enter the school, you are greeted by cheer-leaders!!! Full of energy at 7-ish in the morning!!! You just know you are up for something wonderful.

Inside the auditorium, runners are gathered on the floor, against the wall, all over. In retrospect, while I felt security may have only gone as tight as implementing the “universal” plastic bag thing, the atmosphere seemed relax and friendly. Don’t get me wrong; you still see the over-achievers and the elites. But there is the absence of the snotty-ness of big-city races.

It was at that point when I decided I miss those days when running was simply a free-for-all, smorgasbord of fun, sportsmanship, and shared experience by families. And knowing how I haven’t been running that long, the memory of that is not from long ago. F@#k those Boston bastards!

Stepping out into the start line, where you await the start, the unassuming-ness of the Steamtown Marathon can be seen from the akward lack of corrals that I have, somewhat, become accustomed to in NYRR races. Or the absence of pacers. But then when I think about it, that becomes spectacle in itself. No “stiffness” or rigid rules, where runner 1 can only go to blue or where 4055, slacker that you are (and yes, that was my BIB number at one point) can only go to the pink corral (or was it purple?).

So off the cannon (yes, cannon) blew in lieu of the gun. And out and about the runners went. Down the downhills of Forest City towards Scranton.

But before all the finish line revelry happens, a lot of other things happen.

Runners who made a mad dash down course blow their quads. And yes, you see many of them. Ouch!

But that aside, other lovely sights unfold before you as you balance enjoying them and avoiding crapping in your pants or bonking or both.

Picture doesn't do justice to how fun this neighborhood really was. They made me take beer and I said I was coming back.

Picture doesn’t do justice to how fun this neighborhood really was. They made me take beer and I said I was coming back.

People are just everywhere!!! Kids are everywhere— from the high-schoolers who hand you water at fluid stations to children giving you high-fives.

A personal favorite was a young boy that had a sign that said “Push button for more horse-power.” I saw him once earlier a few miles from the race start then again, perhaps, past mile 22 when I was close to dying. What has a girl with no leg power that day to do? Yes, she “pressed” the button on the sign and ran. At that point, you just want to try anything to avoid hitting the wall.

But just when you think you felt like sh#t and had no muscle power, you see more lovely people along the course.

You see elderly men and women in wheelchairs, outside some nursing home or assisted living.

You see blocks and blocks of houses with residents gathered outside their homes, beer in hand at 10am, 11 am on Sunday, feeding on BBQs.  They cheer you and give you the biggest lie ever told (and a lie youv’e heard more than a thousand times if you’ve been running): LOOKING GOOD, RUNNER!!!

No matter how you know how shitty you look at that point, you actually try to believe it and go on a smile, talk, or high-five with them.

It makes you go on. It gave me a renewed sense of envigoration even when I felt like I didn’t have strength.

And you take your strides. And I took my strides, little as they were at that point and saw more lovely faces of Steamtown. They are nameless and faceless at that point. Faceless at this point. But they were faces that gleamed and beamed, passing on those gatorades and water set up by the race organizers. Passing on slivers of oranges, plates of pretzels, bottled waters. Yes, bottled water.

As we would find out a day after, those residents in the “unofficial” aid stations apparently pooled some funds to set up everything. Now thats the spirit.

And there would be more. The fall scenery of leaves turning the color of autumn. The mom, who I’d always call from hereon as “Megan’s mom,” as she had screamed from mile 1 to another and another and another for, who I supposed, was Megan, her daughter. The bands playing “Cotton-eyed Joe” to the other band of elderly men taking a break, violins on-hand to the lone man by the bridge with his cassette player blasting  “Charriots of Fire.” So appropriate.

Then there were the runners. And when you are among the back-of-the-packers,

you see a lot of the spirit, which, to me, can only be surpassed by the camaraderie I’ve seen, so far, in ultra races. Where runners helped other runners. From as little as passing on a cup of Gatorade (because he didn’t want that cup and wanted water, instead) to asking for a pack of salt to giving away some gel to just running along, side by side to the finish line.

I finished at a dismal time. I honestly felt disappointed when my half-marathon split did not yield a number I was looking at. Especially when it displayed an even more “off” of a target number.

I tried to make up for it and pushed on. But I guess, there comes a point in running those 26.2 miles when you are forced into introspection and figure where you went wrong. I wasn’s spared that state. And then, resignation. Be resigned to the fact that you did not meet your expectations.

Was it the 3-hour sleep the night before? Was it the lack of sleep, leading up to the race, which is ironic because I was supposed to be on my 9th day out of 12 days of hiatus from work? Was it the ginseng bottle that broke when it fell off my pocket that morning? Was it nutrition? (Though I doubt it was, as I had been eating well on days prior). Or was it the other marathon 3 weeks ago that still left me battered, physically yet unknowingly?

Then, even in the middle of that immense period of introspection, you eventually snap out of it and just decide and say “F#ck it! As long as I finish.” And you push and walk a little and run again and push again and run like you’ve never run before with your legs dead and tired.

Then you come out of that fugue state that consumed you for several miles.

And you just see the people of Scranton (or Steamtown) cheering you on. Like they know you. As though you know them. And you cross the finish line.

Volunteers, serving coffee, pasta, and pizza!!! And they tasted good!!!

Volunteers, serving coffee, pasta, and pizza!!! And they tasted good!!!

The unassuming finish line marker, void of any of the frills of big-city marathon finish line markers. Arms to the side, not quite high as that of the Marathon Goddess’ but enough to make a statement during that brief photo-op moment to say “I made it.” And you cry inside.

And you stop your Garmin. Then you figure that is the end. At least, the running part of it.

Because the beauty of Steamtown doesn’t end.

Awaiting you are volunteers bestowing you your medal. And they serve you pasta and coffee and pizza and fruits and massage for your legs that surprisingly, still had strength to make you try do a jumpshot.

And you pause.

And say, wow. Beautiful Scranton. I will run you again.

Food!!!

Food!!!

The beautiful lake. Beautiful being an understatement. Can you go wrong?

The beautiful lake. Beautiful being an understatement. Can you go wrong?

adk medal

Beauty! All that’s missing is a bear.

(September 23, 2013)- I should be doing or starting my graduate school paper now (or was it last night?) that is due tomorrow. However, I felt the need to nap. But then considering the coffee I have had shortly before hitting the bed after my 2-mi “recovery” run this morning— and, all the other things I needed to do today— I could not seem to fall asleep. I am somewhat crazy that way; my mind wanders about even when the physical me is dead.

My thoughts lingered, as well, on some introspection and retrospection. On some year it has been. For me. Phew.

Well, honestly, nothing much happens in my life. Its a blah. An almost-blah, highlighted only by some fleeting moments that trigger momentary excitement captured on either Instagram or Facebook or both.

But that particular “year” that started September 22, 2012… That’s another story. So far. In my own terms. And you guessed it right. It talks of running. After all, thats almost all that I care about these days. Everything else (besides family and work), everything else is dealt with with some degree of nonchalance.

jump 2

My friend, Vivian, and I. We both intended to run Adirondack as a long run, thus, all the jumping and rolling on the ground that led us to a 5:34 finish.

Time travel.

A year ago yesterday, I ran my first half-marathon in Jersey City, where I finished a dismal time of nearly 3 hours on a flat course in what I consider  as my hometown for the past 9 years. It was a beautiful September day, by the Hudson River.  Yet I swore while struggling to reach the finish line. And I wondered. ” Why the f- did I sign up for another half-marathon the month after?” At the Runners’ World Inaugural Half at that.  On hills! On hills?! Lotsa hills! I questioned my sanity back then. No, not really. But it was an hour or so of self-doubt while finishing those 13.1 miles in downtown Jersey City. I questioned my ability to do another half-marathon; I thought I could not do any more run that will last almost 3 hours. But of course, as soon as I finished that September day, I felt great, more than anything. I was proud of myself.

Thus, fast-forward October 2012, I ran Bethlehem (aka RW Half, which is what I prefer to call that half-marathon). I PR’d by about 12 minutes. On hills! It felt great and I was high, but it was hell. All I could think of running those hills in Pennsylvania was “Why? Why the self-flagellation?” It seemed like the only thought that kept me going was David Willey’s smile when and if I crossed that finish line. (Oh, that smile.) But as history is sometimes meant, yes— I finished and I PR’d and I was proud of myself– again. I still wasn’t fast but I knew I could do more. From then, Bethlehem was my point of reference, in terms of degrees of difficulties for any given race course. It was like singing Sinatra: if I could make it there, I’ll make it anywhere.

In fact, that was precisely the same thought that persisted when I ran Philly Half the next month, where I PR’d yet again by about 2 minutes.

And it was also in Philly that I registered, on impulse, for another half-marathon. Well, supposedly, for another half-marathon— the New Jersey Half-Marathon aka Long Branch Half in May.

Little did I know that that was flood gate of insanity for me.

Back home, I caught myself signing-up for more races.

I registered for NYC Runs Half, ran it, and PR’d about 26 minutes. Then slightly after that,  I ran Manhattan Half on a cold day. Note that before Central Park half, I had only run that place for the Joe Kleinerman Classic 10k. Thus, I hadn’t had any “hill” training of some sort besides that. Let alone run Harlem Hills.

Of course, running both halfs in Central Park, I figured my Sinatra mantra could work. Yes, if I made it in Bethlehem, I could make it anywhere.  And so I did. PR’d in the Manhattan Half by another 4 minutes! To this date, that remains my personal best in half.

I thought my affair with running would stop at half-marathons.

You see, I came from and grew up in a country where, in my time, did not quite value physical activities within the boundaries of educational institutions. Nothing much was presented to students, except to those who were not vertically-challenged like me. For some reason, schools in the Philippines placed more leverage on games like basketball. Basketball!!!!!!! Basketball when our “tall men” could not even keep up with what real tall men are really like come Olympics.

So there I was growing with no talent in sports, whatsoever. Well, I played varsity for badminton in high school, but thats about it. And I can barely even swim!

That’s how lame a duck I am.

So when I started running a 5k last year, 2012, it was all new to me. I knew from the last time I went home to the Philippines in 2006, I could barely run a track. Yet I figured, if I bought enough gadgets and more than one pair of shoes, I would propel myself out of the couch and the computer and just bust my bazinga. Build the train tracks, before the trains come! Yes, that’s how things almost always work for me!

Thus, out I  went with my first two 5ks in June and August. (Note: the husband can vividly remember how I almost brought hydration bottles for those 5ks.)

trophy

Cute, little things called… trophies!!!

Then, went out of my way to start the half-crazy deal in September.

And remember that Half-Marathon I signed up for Long Branch, supposedly for May this year? I upped the ante, put down a few more dollars, and registered for my first full marathon.

Looking back now, I think I owe myself some pat in the back for having come this far— far being subjective, on my own terms.

Yesterday, I finished my 3rd marathon (4th, including a 50k in August… and by marathon, I mean, 26.2 miles, okay?). In a course that can now give Bethlehem a kick in the butt. In the beautiful, quaint town of Schroon Lake— with its hills, and hills, and hills. A run that I had signed up for, again, on an impulse after running my 2nd marathon in Vermont. A run that was meant to be a training run for the two other marathons I have lined up for October and an Ultra in November.  A run that was literally a pain in my behind but one that promised wonderful memories of friendship, scenery, and good food (note: visit Mr. P’s if you’re ever in Schroon Lake).

Now as I contemplate, I know I want to run more. Work more to pay so I can run more. And I know I will never be fast. I will never be Kara or Shalane  or Desiree. I can only be me, who will— knowingly or unknowingly— try to inspire my friends and some strangers, who can barely run like me… who, like me, will remain the backest of the back of the pack. The 99.9%.

As I often say, I can only endure. I can only endure  and, to borrow Ms. Tuff’s words, push past the pain and past the mantra along.

jump adk

At the finish line. Of course, the husband almost bonked but still managed to finish at 3:36.