Posts Tagged ‘#asics’

 

With my Trail WhippAss team mates and friends. L-R: Matt Gerowitz, Juliette Ciacca, Stalina Gibson, Moi, and JC Sta. Teresa.

With my Trail WhippAss team mates and friends. L-R: Matt Gerowitz, Juliette Ciacca, Stalina Gibson, Moi, and JC Sta. Teresa.

A week ago today, around this time, I was in the Appalachian Trail, either run-walking up or flying down the beautiful downhills.

But before that even happened, I must say, I came to JFK 50 with fear. I have run and finished 2 50-milers before and I knew I CAN FINISH 50 miles. But then, as the cliché goes, no 2 races are the same. JFK 50 has a 12-hour cut-off for those starting at 0700 and 14 for those toeing the line at 0500. So far, one of those 2 50 miles I’ve done, I finished under 12 hours. But that was at Beast of Burden, which was flat as a runway. The other, TARC 50, I finished at 15 hours and 50 minutes of running, after I got lost at mile 48.5 or 49, sat, cried, and then given the chance to finish. So technically, I didn’t have a good history to bank on. On one hand, I thought that while BoB was flat, it was cold, I had my period, and went to the bathroom a million times. So maybe, there was hope that I can actually finish under the cut-off.

Still, the assurance was not enough. I freaked out.

And then, there were the whys. Why did I let Stalina talk me into this? Why did I even think I could do it?

My husband ran it last year and finished under 9 hours but that was him. Why did I even think I could do it? Or may be I could. But then, wait, was I even trained enough? Not in my opinion.

Since TARC in June, I had 2 DNFs. Two 50Ks— what would’ve supposedly been “training runs.” One, a week after TARC (who was I kidding?) and the other, in October. So talk about confidence. Then, I guess all the other “trainings” involved running some “hills” in Central Park, walking on 35-40% incline in our treadmill, probably 1 back-to-back 16- and 11-milers, and Steamtown Marathon followed by a 10-miler the next day. The only other essential part in my so-called training was trying to train/run on empty. So far, I’ve only managed running without nutrition or hydration for the longest distance of 10 miles. So was I ready? Not exactly. But I had to convince myself I was.

Fast-forward, November 21 came. With my family, we packed 2 more runner-friends, Stalina and Juliette, in our car and headed to Hagerstown. I was thankful the husband came because I could not imagine driving a day after the race. That Friday, we picked up our bibs at a hotel after eating Thai food. Then at dinner, we headed to Ledo’s Pizza (and their pizza was awesome!) where I had the quasi-mandatory dinner of vegan pizza and pasta. I swore I’d never eat that much before. Following dinner, we readied in our room. I skipped the FlatKat, the “traditional” laying down of race attire for photo-ops. I was scared as f#ck that might jinx me.

Then fast-forward race day November 22.

I had a good night’s sleep. When I woke, I had coffee and a wonderful bathroom visit.

That's my best poker face at the bib pick-up.

That’s my best poker face at the bib pick-up.

It was a cold morning. There were frostings on cars at the parking lot. I was wearing shorts. I had settled on a long-sleeved tech shirt with my Trail WhippAss (my running team) singlet over it. But I’ve also a loose tech running shirt over it for throw-away, then my Ultimate Direction Jenny vest.

After a quick stay in the gym for some last minute race announcements, we were heading out to the start. Jun’s (the husband) last words to me in our dialect “Don’t DNF.” Boom.

Gun went off just right after I used the porta-john, where I actually tripped and hurt my ankle.

Just as expected, it was crowded, but that was good. With over a thousand (?) runners, I figured I could never be the last person.

The first five miles were just relentless uphill on pavement. As soon as I heard a volunteer say “last uphill and you’ll be in the AT,” my eyes lit up. That trek uphill ate up so much of my time.

Soon enough we hit the AT.

I had to make a mental note about what how my ultrarunner, badass friend, Elaine Acosta told me to go slow in the AT, because per her experience, she was fascinated with it that she ran too fast and bonked in the towpath. But that wasn’t a problem for me; I can’t run fast, anyway.

But yes it was beautiful. I managed to run smarter, walking the uphills mostly. (I have been warned by a random runner and Jun to not run the uphills because they burn me out but I feel I can run better uphill than walking uphill.) Then I made up for time by running downhills, even in the most technical ones and along the switchback. At one point I twisted my ankle really bad and heard a snap and I was worried for a while but that didn’t do harm.

The AT was a beauty. Unfortunately, we only had about 9 miles of it. I have memories of the picture-perfect scenery but only in my mind because I turned my phone off to fight the temptation to take pictures.

It was sad when the run along the AT ended. I especially loved the view that overlooked the river when we started the switchbacks and the AS by the rails where we actually had to stop for about 5 mins for a cargo train to cross. But I didn’t really stop long in these ASs as I was constantly making sure I had enough time. I breezed through them just to get water to mix with my Drip Drop and a spare bottle to drink. Other than that, all I picked up at the AS spread apart were 2 PB&J Uncrustables and 4 pretzel sticks. Other nutrition only composed of 2 dates and 4 or 5 V-Fuel, which I took along the way.

Finally, we hit the 26-mile stretch of the towpath, almost flat as a pancake. Contrary, however, to the Beast, at least, there was some fall foliage to see. Fine. I’ll take that.

So it was the most boring part of the race. I was dragging my feet. I was only thankful I was wearing my Hoka One One Clifton as they were the lightest bunch. I also had to make sure I relaxed my hips because more than the legs and feet, they are the first to give up. But boy, did that hurt. Same muscles for 26 miles. But then again, if there was one thing I learned from pacing Gerald in Badwater 135 in the middle of the night going up Cerro Gordo, pain has its limits. You can always push past the pain. Because if it didn’t have a limit, the pain scale that we often use at work would not be a scale of 1-10.

A lot of things go on in your mind when you’re running 50.2 miles. Especially for a back-of-the-packer like me. Because that’s a verrrry looongg time. But the goal is to stay away from surrendering.

On the towpath, mind wandered from where my ovaries are relative to the fact that since they’re no longer anchored to a fallopian tube and/or uterus, where could they be? Are they bouncing like me? That question kept me going for quite a bit. Then there were thoughts of inspirational words I had received days leading up to the race like “Believe” and “Have Faith” from 2 of the best ultrarunner friends I know, Stephen Bandfield and Paul De Nunzio. And everytime my mind went off on a tangent, I had to override it with some thought I had from Michele Yates’ interview: stay focused.

I would also discover, my GPS was off by close to a mile at this point. And I had 2 Garmins on. My old 910xt was the one I relied on, as my 620 stupidly did not start until 8 minutes into the race. I had calculated my pace to never exceed 14:11-min/mi if I wanted to make it to the cut-off. But with a GPS reading that was skewed, it was hard to say what my actual pace was. So I mostly relied at elapsed time.

And of course, there were cut-offs I had written on my arm and covered with tegaderm. They came in handy. And yes, I only looked up and found out about the cut-offs the night before. And that’s when I freaked out. This is one bad habit I need to overcome: I don’t read instructions.

I had about an hour of buffer on the first cut-off time, even with all the walking that happened the first 5 miles. But the numbers just thinned out as the day went on.

Then boom, we were nearing mile-38, where, in my opinion, the strictest cut-off was. For some reason, nearing it, my GPS said we were close to mile-38, even with the GPS being inaccurate. But behold, we almost didn’t make it past that Aid Station.

The volunteer there blurted out “even if you continue now, you will not make it to the next cut-offs.” This, even with 3 hours to spare to finish 12 miles. For some reason unknown, or may it was exhaustion, I almost quit and call Jun to come pick me up. But for some reason, as well, I felt lazy about taking my phone out and thought that if I stayed, I would be cold. Stalina, my Russian friend, was feisty enough to talk me out of it, so we, along with 2 others went for the last 13.2 miles. Of course, I was a bit miserable when we left because I didn’t realize until later that in our haste, we had not gotten water. I only had about 6 ounces left. Good job.

And then, Stalina left me. And I couldn’t find her. Without looking at the cut-off chart on my arm, part of me thought that I may not make it to the next AS on time. I only remembered Stalina saying the night before that the last 12 miles of the whole 50.2 will be like doing negative splits, aka running for your life. While you are exhausted.

So I took my time, took my dates from the back of my pack, and ate those 2 dates. “Ahhh… Real food, finally.” In my not-so-hasty trek, I was surprised that after only 2.8 miles, there was another AS not far ahead. In my mind I was saying “Wait, what? 3 miles with an hour to work on?” I crossed that AS with about 10 minutes to cut-off and that was with walking. This time, I had more FAITH and I BELIEVED more that I could actually do it. My friend, Stephen, told me to have the same faith when I ran Steamtown Marathon where I PR’d by 15 minutes. My faith resurrected and I knew at that point finishing was possible.

I was just 9 miles away and I think it was when we were donned the “vest of shame,” the vest that was to protect us in the next 9.2 miles because we were running on a road with actual traffic. But I didn’t mind that. I figured way before that if wearing the vest of shame meant I would finish, then so be it. I wore it with pride. And well, with my headlamp.

Again, I was reminded by what Elaine had said about how the last 9 miles are helpful because while it was rolling, you gain time in the downhills. So that was what I exactly did. I walked some incline and just ran the downhills. Ran some inclines and ran some downhills. Repeating the pattern in the next miles.

Along the line, it got a bit tricky staying safe. Because we were in a highway or main road, there were no shoulders to work on. In some areas, I actually had to stop because there were trucks coming and there was nowhere to run. But then knowing there were other runners made me feel safer. And I met John the Irish (I would find out his name after from Paul Grassie). He kept on giving encouraging words about how we were almost there. This went on for a few miles. And finally, when we hit the mile-44 (or 46?), I heard someone say “boiled potatoes.” I found that ridiculous because I have been looking for potatoes all day and never saw any. Now seriously, what will boiled potatoes do for me at the end of the race? So I brushed it off.

Finally, I hit the last few miles and there were mile markers, counting down. I could already smell the finish. And my family’s stench of fear that I may not have finished. Haha. It was also at this point I heard Mr. Incredible, on his bike, playing a boom box. “September” was playing. My heart was racing and when he was finally beside me, I asked him if he was the sweeper. He laughed at that and said “No! There are actually about 25 runners behind you” and he biked along.

I lost John the Irish somewhat and I had a sudden surge of energy as I passed some runners infront. I finally caught Stalina, who I saw had to do a double take and say“Oh, my god. I’m happy you made it.” I went and ran and at this point, I saw my pace was still under 14. But I knew that was no longer accurate because when we almost stopped at Taylor’s Landing, I paused my watch and we stayed there for 5 minutes. So literally, I didn’t have much time left. So I just ran, passing a few more runners. Until that final left turn on the highway where I was finally told the finish was waiting.

Sure enough, I saw the blown-up arch that said finish. It was slightly under 12 hours at this point but I was happy. I heard my name as I was approaching the finish. And I heard one of the announcers congratulating runners. The same announcer I heard talking last year, when Jun and finished.

I found myself making the sign of the cross and thanking God and thanking the Holy Spirit for helping me through it. The same way I had been praying so hard to just be guided in the past 50 miles, to know when to run, to pause, and to run again.

And with the intention to be photographed with my Trail WhippAss singlet, I took the vest of shame off about .1 mile away. And a few feet from the final timing mat, I saw Jun and Mariska and I jumped what was supposedly my jumping pic (unfortunately Jun missed it). And in Maggie Guterl’s words, I “pranced” to the finish.

Oh, my Lord. The clock read 11 hours 48 minutes something. I survived JFK 50. I finished under 12 hours!

With Herman Nichols Gilbert Gray and Paul Encarnacion.

With Herman Nichols Gilbert Gray and Paul Encarnacion.

It was one of the happiest finishes in my life.

I was ecstatic. I received my medal and then ran to the side to see Stalina finish and some other runners finish. Just like we all do in Ultras. But we had to walk out of the finish before the 12-hour mark sounded off. It was cold and I didn’t think I could handle seeing runners not making it to the cut-off. That would break my heart. But I’m not quite sure if anyone did not.

So I survived JFK 50. My thoughts and fear of having bought a JFK 50 hoodie and magnetic car sticker dissipated.

Sure enough, by the time we reached the public school cafeteria, there were no more ramen noodles. Back-of-the-packer problems. But who cares? I could very well survive the next days with just the runners’ high.

In retrospect, JFK 50 was a journey, a reflection. This is why I run ultras or why I sometimes DNF ultras. In my own twisted thinking, it is the experience that matters. When you’re happy or in pain but are able to digest things in life. Because if you can’t do that, then what’s the point?

Run careless. Run free.

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Talisa and I at packet and bib pick-up. 6.6.2014.

Talisa and I at packet and bib pick-up. 6.6.2014.

They say, in life, we often see crossroads where one direction means success, the other failure. But how do we know that? It is a gamble. Often, we do not know what lies ahead, unless we take that step.

That is how TARC 50 turned out for me.

June 7, 2014 was going to be my 3rd attempt at a 50-miler. I was determined to have this attempt a success, having DD’d (dropped down) to a 50k at Badwater Cape Fear in North Carolina in March.

I signed up for TARC 50, after having spectated at the inaugural TARC 100 last year, when the husband ran it at its old course in another part of Massachusetts. I figured it would be nice to go back to the race. Last year was my first ultra immersion as a spectator and I did like the experience. Plus, it was only 20 minutes off Boston, which is one of my favorite places in the country.

So off I travelled with my friend and running buddy, Talisa, on Friday. This would be Talisa and my 3rd race together. We’ve run The North Face Bear Mountain 50k in May 3rd and Dirty German 50k May 18th. Nothing proved nicer than going out of town for a race with her.

 

This time, however, we picked up another runner, Bradford; a runner uprooted from Florida to Croton-on-Hudson, NY. The 3 of us drove up to Weston, Massachusetts, where we would meet 2 more runners, Jess and Brad.

Mile-2: I took my singlet and visor off. It was hot.

Mile-2: I took my singlet and visor off. It was hot.

Soon we arrived in Dedham, where our hotel room was (yes, 5 of us shared one hotel room, on the premise that Bradley would be running 100 miles overnight Saturday, anyway, while Jess paced him, so we would have more space Saturday night after the race). Thankfully, we would find out that our hotel sat right beside a Chinese restaurant and was right across a Whole Foods flagship store. That was convenient for nutritional purposes.

After checking in and a quick late lunch, we went to packet pick-up at the Hale Reservation where the race was taking place.
It was low-key. I liked that. I screamed for Otto, the only other good, close friend Talisa and I know, who was running the race. No sight. We would eventually see him at WF later that day and wish each other a good race the next day. Otto was also running a 100 and this would be his 2nd TARC 100. He ran the “mudfest” last year, too.

After doing flatKat, which has now become a “tradition” for me, where I’d lay my “attire” and essentials and take a photo, we finally decided on getting rest. Talisa and I shared a bed, Jess and Brad shared a bed, and Bradford slept on the floor.

Now when I said “rest,” I must have been delusional. Because sleep never came. Or barely came. Despite Talisa giving me a pair of earplugs, the snoring session Bradford performed that night was unbearable. I since, then, made a note to self to screen future hotel roommates for snoring.

Where the hell is Otto?

Where the hell is Otto?

And just when I thought I finally dozed, I heard noises of people getting ready for the race. I estimated the max amount of sleep at 2 hours.

Already a rough start to a day that was going to be spent running 50 miles and I know myself to be less functional with sleep deprivation.

I forced myself out of bed and got ready. I put my usual Asics split shorts on, my Asics Trail WhippAss singlet, my pink polka-dotted C3 Fit compression sleeves, IceBreaker socks, Hoka One One Stinson Trail shoes, and UltrAspire hydration vest.

Days prior, I had bought a Garmin Fenix 2 watch but being that I have not used it in a race, I decided to wear that along with my Garmin 620— just in case. I was stoked wearing the Fenix 2 with the promise that it will last 50 hours.

After some breakfast with left-over plantain and bagel and coffee with almond milk that I brought from home (yes, running vegan, I learned to be self-sufficient with my hotel breakfast), we headed out. Thankfully, since becoming vegan, going to the bathroom prior to a race is no longer an issue. That was taken care of earlier on.

Talisa in one of the steep, less-technical climbs.

Talisa in one of the steep, less-technical climbs.

 

 

At the race start, we gathered by the lake in Hale Reservation. Since it was June, it was a little nippy but comfortable enough. It was predicted to be upper 70s on race day and I knew it was not going to be long until I start shedding off my singlet and my visor.

I placed my plastic box drawer of nutrition in one of the grassy sections by the lake. In it were some Hammer Vegan Bars, Vega Bars, MacroBar, and some SL and S-Caps.

The lake was beautiful and the water at that point looked pristine. I could’ve really just stayed there and watched the runners run, instead. But a job had to be done.

After a few selfies with Talisa, gun finally went off (or was it the yeti with the gun?) and we all headed our merry way out of the beach into a section that would serve as the trailhead.

Just as I predicted, 2 miles into the race, I had to stop at a race marker and take my singlet and visor off. At the upper 70’s, it was too warm for me. I figured, I would be able to come back for them later in the race.

Pre-race selfie by the lake.

Pre-race selfie by the lake.

The 50-mile race was 2 loops of 25miles. Race description of the 50 showed minor elevation. I have run part of the course when I was in Boston in April and I figured, this race could not be so hard. Days prior, however, I was a little apprehensive, realizing this was my first trail 50-miler. The other 50-mile race I ran was in a towpath. Flat as hell. Not that I know hell is flat. The TARC elevation profile, as described at the sign-up website, somehow, did not bother me. Or so I thought. After all, the course was described as “friendly” for those new in ultra trail running .

Well, I had fun. Until it dawned on me how technical the course was.

I love downhills!

I love downhills!

There were so many— and I mean, so many— rocks and roots. Rocks and roots. Rocks and roots.

It actually reminded me of Bear Mountain 50k. No seriously, it was a mini-version of Bear Mountain spread in 50 miles!

This is how I liked to describe it: the elevation was not “bad elevation” but they were steep when they were uphill.

I also remember a section with really loose gravel but was really quite steep. And there were climbs that required some hands. Like one of those in Tammany or Bear Mountain that would be like climbing rocks, leaving you cursing a bit or being swarmed by mosquitoes because you’re going too slow. But as in any uphill, the hard work is often paid off with breath-taking views when you reach the top. This was no exception.

It was like that.

And then you hit the Aid Stations. Very well-supported. The first AS even had the vegan/gluten-free option (aka avocadoes and oranges side versus the pretzel or bread side, duh). Talisa would laugh at the memory of that AS with the gluten-free option.

Not 2013 TARC mud.

Not 2013 TARC mud.

Then there were some mud, but not TARC 2013 mud; just enough mud to get our feet wet and dirty.

Eventually, I finished the first loop. I decided to sit on a bench at the AS to apply some Trail Toes. Then a cramp hit me. And I never had leg cramps ever. I figured, however, that might have just been from sitting and rubbing my feet. Yet I screamed. It was painful. Some friendly AS volunteers helped me. That was very comforting. Something I love about the trail slash ultra running community. People are just there for you.

However comforting that was, I did not stay long on the chair. The husband had already inculcated in me that notion “beware of the chair.” I left the AS. I was confident I was going to finish sub-13 hours at that point, having had the eye-view of the course at this point already.

I went about my way, passed mile 27 and saw my visor and singlet still intact. Passed the same AS’s along the way and intermittently, Talisa and I would take turns passing each other. However, she is always fast at coming in and out of  Aid Stations.

Halfway into my 2nd loop, I was still confident I would actually finish at sub-13.  I was going to be happy with that. I am not a fast runner so there isn’t any delusion of grandeur there. Days before, I actually was being talked into by the husband about finishing sub-12, but I wasn’t sure about it. I thought I was capable but you always maintain the cliche “I just want to finish.” But of course, deep inside, you have your own secret mission.

But then, exhaustion started kicking in. Still my mind was set on a sub-13 finish. Or faster.

Of course, a bummer of a text would come from the husband, who would tell me, I am “predicted” to finish around 14:33 or something, and that really dampened my spirit and for a while, made me cry. What a motivation!

NIGHT FALLS TARC

My Petzl.

I pushed on. Yet the inevitable darkness would fall and although I had my Petzl headlamp on, I would slow down, especially on those uphills with rocks and roots.

My time would further drag and I reevaluated my goal to finishing just slightly under 14 hours, rather than my earlier target of finishing sub 13:30. (Yeah, I have this crazy thing in my head where anything over half an hour on a given hour “would not count.”) And yes, that shit was kinda hard.

So one foot after the other, taking some walks at this point to prevent nasty falls. I was comfortable and I was optimistic to finish under the cut-off despite losing the battle on the secret mission. I was focused and determined—- until, I reached mile 48.5 or 49.

DARKNESS FALLS TARC

Darkness falls.

There, I lost track of a trail marker and lost 2 other runners that I intermittently ran side by side with, passed or get passed by (I would later find out they were Annette and Gwen, who I am now Facebook friends with).

But I wasn’t alarmed. At least, not at that point. I thought I still had over an hour until the 15-hour cut-off and I was only over a mile, at most, away from the finish. So I navigated through the darkness, with only my headlamp as my guide. Once I tried to scream for help, saying “hey, I’m lost.” I saw some headlamps from all sorts of direction but no luck.

So I ran and raced, walked and raced, now with the cut-off haunting me. I finally found a marker and threaded that path. Sighed a sigh of relief. Ran on. Then I reached an uphill, which I sort of suspected that was not supposed to be there. Yet I continued and followed the markers.

Earlier in the day, but when I ended up in this section for the 3rd time that day, I suspected I was about to get lost.

Earlier in the day, but when I ended up in this section for the 3rd time that day, I suspected I was about to get lost.

When I finally hit a flat land that would take me to a right turn on the coursel, that’s when it hit me.

I was lost.

I was on my way back to the mile 45 AS.

It was then that my world started to crumble. I looked at my watch. It was now 14:23 into the race. It registered 49 miles. My mind was racing.

Then another sound dug the hole for me. My watch gave me the signal “Battery Low.” What the fuck?! What happened to 50-hour battery life Fenix 2 ads promised?

I think I died at that moment.

Epic fail or human error?

Epic fail or human error?

For the first time, I couldn’t decide on what to do. And I am mostly decisive.

And I did, for the first time, something that I have not done before. I paced few steps to the left, few steps to the right. I did this over and over and over.

And I did what I often do. I called Dylan, my friend and “little brother.” Of course, I think he was drunk again.

I explained the circumstance. And even as I’m doing this, I was pacing left and right. I literally didn’t know what road to take. I would just take a few steps left, few steps right.

I was facing a grassy, flat section at this point. Right meant DNF. Left meant DNF. Right meant going to AS 45, declaring DNF, and asking for a ride back to the AS. Left meant taking the same route where I was on twice before, attempting to find the finish with the prospect of getting lost again, and, of course, not making to the cut-off.

I tried to make myself cry. And I couldn’t. So I hung up and I did what was logical at that point. I walked the longest one or two-mile walk ever to an AS.

Nearing AS 45 (for the 3rd time that day), I was hallucinatory. Or paranoid. I saw a man in a spotted cow costume. And for a while, I wasn’t sure why he was there. I wondered if he was a psycho with a machete out to kill me.

I would learn his name was Chris Agbay, a runner volunteering at the AS. He and another runner would volunteer to pace me back and I remember saying over and over that there was no point running to the finish as I would not make it to the cut-off.

Mile-45 AS volunteers at my declaration of DNF.

Mile-45 AS volunteers at my declaration of DNF.

For some reason, they assured me not to worry about the cut-off. I didn’t understand that but one of them said the RD was not implementing a really strict cut-off.

Still I decided on a DNF. My first DNF. Chris drove me to the start/finish. As I neared a quasi-suicidal state where I asked myself the question why I DNF’d a race one mile from finishing.

I was disappointed. I knew I had put my 100 percent into that race and I was this close to finishing.

At the start/finish AS, I saw Bradford, who was already comfortable and clean.

However, for some reason, after talking to him I decided to walk up to the tent, where the RDs would be and told them what happened. How I would not find the trail maker on that final route to the last AS.

For some divine intervention or something, Bob would ask me how far I was from finishing. And he would ask me, too, if I am still up to running 1 mile.

I didn’t quite get what he meant. He had to clarify if I wanted to “finish” the race and I could do 1 mile.

“And I’ll be a finisher?” Duh, what a stupid question to ask. He said yes. What does one say to that? Oh, hell, yeah! I tried to show him my watch to prove how far I’ve run but, perhaps, under the unspoken honor code that exists in ultras, he took my word for it.

So off I went with Chris, pacing me in the last one mile that would seal my fate as a TARC 50 finisher.

Time 15:55. Fifty-five minutes over the supposed cut-off that was now down the drain. But who cares? That’s the beauty of ultras. Unless you are elite or competitive, the spirit is in finishing. And so I did.

Talisa would finish shortly after. She had gotten lost, too. And so did many other runners. In and around the same area where I had started to get lost.

But Hallelujah!

There were lessons learned. One essential point is to never give up. Or maybe I did when I declared a DNF and hopped on Chris’ Audi. But then, I guess approaching the RDs at finish was still, somewhat, a testament of some hope lurking in the background. And it paid off. With some faith and perseverance.

My time was poor. But then again and again, I am not an elite. I could not even run a track 8 years ago. So I went home happy. Poor time. But happy, happy trails.

Anticipating-a-finish jump.

Anticipating-a-finish jump.

 

 

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.

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.