Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Surviving Xterra 2013

What is Xterra? For triathletes, it is the equivalent of the Ironman race, only mountain bikes and trail running is required. In short, it is the ultimate off-road triathlon race in the world; and for the 3rd straight year, Xterra Philippines will be held in Liloan, Cebu.

This year's race features a new venue for the swim & transition, a tough bike course and a brutal run route. Xterra is basically a mountain biker's dream race. It usually showcases tough climbs and technical downhills. Liloan has all of that and more. So it was never any doubt that the organizers will have any trouble mapping out a world-class Xterra course, despite the sudden change of venue.

Last year I joined the Xterra Individual Lite division. It was my first ever triathlon race so it made sense that I must join this year's race. But this time, doing the Individual Full category. I knew it was not going to be easy. I am not a very good mountain biker, I have a great fear of heights, and I still have my damaged left knee to deal with. So, why will I join Xterra? Because I love to challenge and test myself, and prove that anything is possible!

To be honest, my Xterra game plan was just to survive ... and hopefully make the cut-off times and get that finisher's medal. I knew that my bike split would be very slow and that I would have a hard time during the run. It's tough to get used to riding on single tracks, rocky technical downhills and steep climbs in just 3 weeks of preparation. Running on uneven terrain with so many sharp stones & loose rocks is not an easy thing to for a guy with bum knees & flat feet. But I will do this!!! I was determined to make the bike cut-off time at 12 noon and then survive the run under the scorching heat!

Race day came and the excitement, anticipation & expectations reached a fever pitch. You knew everyone was hyped and had game plans of their own. I knew the swim would be the least of my worries and true enough, almost everyone had very fast swim splits. But then it was time for the bike leg, and I was just glad I still had 4 hours and 20 minutes to finish the 2 loops before the 12 noon cut-off time. Just a few kilometers in and I had to dismount from my bike a few times whenever I came across difficult terrain. And pushing my bike up that steep ridge really drained me ... and this was all on the 1st bike loop! Then came the killer uphills, the single tracks and then the technical downhills! I lost count of the bikers overtaking me and kept hearing "Bike on your left" over and over again! Well, this was nothing new since I also experienced the same thing last year. I just kept looking at the time, endure cramps and kept catching my breath on the 2nd loop. I reached the transition area with 15 minutes to spare before the cut-off time! Whew!!! Then came the run. And boy was it HOT!!! Some water stations ran out of cold water and it was really very lonely since most of the participants either finished their race or were already about to finish their run. I was walking a lot, trying to endure the challenging terrain and the heat of the sun! There were times that I felt like giving up but there was nowhere else to go, nobody to talk to and nothing up ahead but just single track roads. I just had to keep moving. I reached the finish line in 6 hours 47 minutes and it was the most fulfilling race I had ever done ever!!! It really drained me, humbled me but I survived it! I AM AN XTERRA WARRIOR!!!

To all the mountain bikers & trail runners out there: I salute you! It's not easy to ride a mountain bike. The handling, the skill, the balance & the courage to tackle steep uphills and technical downhills is no joke! Running around uneven terrain, going up & down hills and trying to watch your step while maintaining the pace is also certainly no joke as well! These things take time, effort and lots of practice. After the race, I said to myself not to join Xterra anymore. But that was yesterday ... and am looking forward to surviving Xterra 2014!

Me & Doc Benj getting ready for the swim

Just out of T1, still fresh on the bike!
Local folks all around the route to cheer the participants.

Steep ridge where everyone had to push their bikes up!

Finishing up my 2nd bike loop.

Approaching the finish line!

Mission accomplished! I am an Xterra Warrior!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Cobra Ironman 70.3 2012: Godspeed, Ramie

Aug. 5, 2012: Cobra Ironman 70.3 in Cebu. It was to be the biggest sporting spectacle in Cebu's history, and TTB was going to be a part of it with 10 individual entries and 3 relay teams. It was going to be our biggest triumph of the year, and we were all well-prepared and ready to go. I was doing the bike leg for TTB Cebu relay team, and I was going to enjoy the experience.
Watching the swim leg with Ramie, Doc Mitty & Mai-Mai
True enough the Cobra Ironman kicked off with a blast and a frenzy! All the hype and anticipation exploded with the more than 1,700 athletes registered ready to endure punishment and claim their medals. When it was my turn to go out on the bike course, I was just amazed at the people lining up the route. It was something new for a Cebuano since these are the same roads that you occasionally do training rides but with vehicular traffic. It was going to be the first time to ride along the SRP, and I was going to enjoy every minute of it.

Water station at KM65, Talisay area, with Ramie
I passed by teammate and regular bike buddy Ramie Igaña a few meters past the water station at the Talisay area, approximately 25 kilometers to go. We both acknowledged each other and I sped up with the tailwind heading home. I saw an ambulance just before entering the tunnel and thought, "who could that be?". I got back to the transition area after a 3 hour 18 minute ride and stayed on to watch the other athletes coming back from their bike rides. After all my other teammates came back from their rides, I was still surprised why Ramie wasn't back yet. I could tell that Doc Mitty, his wife and relay runner, was really worried. As the bike cut-off was announced and still no Ramie in sight with no word whatsoever from the marshals & organizers, I had this bad feeling that something was wrong.

I left the transition area to join Siobe as we waited for Mommy Sheila at the finish line. When she arrived, we got our medals and finisher shirts and then headed down the lunch area. That's when Doc Benj told us the news: that Ramie was pronounced dead after he suffered an Acute Pulmonary Embolism on the bike course at the Talisay area. I was really in shock since that was the area that I overtook him. I was probably the last person he saw and my name was probably the last thing he uttered. Celebration turned to devastation as we were all speechless and in disbelief.

Doc Mitty said Ramie died doing what he enjoyed best: biking. He was an avid biker ever since his college days. Ramie was a good friend, a loving husband & supportive father to NIña, and a true TTB adik. TTB was going to celebrate it's 2nd year anniversary on Aug. 7. For the past 2 years, we have been through so many bike rides, runs, gathering & parties and that is how I want to remember Ramie. 
My photo tribute to Ramie (some of our bike rides)

Gone too soon, my friend. But godspeed on your next journey, we will ride again someday...

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

TTB: Tri Ta Bai!

So where does a running group go when it has conquered marathons & ultra-marathons? You simply add two more disciplines, swimming & cycling, and venture into triathlon! Sounds easy? Yes and no. It's easy to tackle swimming, biking and running for health & fitness purposes; but to train for a triathlon race is certainly not an easy task! In the words of Ironman Champion Chris McCormack: "If it was easy, everyone would be doing it!"

Ever since November 2011, when it was announced that the 2012 Ironman 70.3 Philippines would be held in Cebu City, the excitement and anticipation was already abuzz. Cebu would be playing host to two international triathlon events for 2012: Xterra Philippines in March and Ironman 70.3 Philippines in August. It just doesn't get any better than this! Swimming coaches & trainers were suddenly having full schedules, while local bike shops are reporting record sales up to today! And once online registration opened for Ironman and Xterra 2012, even the most inexperienced athletes signed up for the challenge ... me included!

So now the hard part: training for triathlon! Most athletes follow certain training programs, while others have their own personal coaches. For me, I have TTB! Aside from comparing notes, tips and advice, it's certainly easier to motivate yourself to train when your teammates are also doing the same routines...maybe even more! Century bike rides, LSDs, brick training and tri simulations with the team has been really fun and fulfilling! Not all of us are fast swimmers, seasoned cyclists or swift runners, but I'm sure we all have the same will and determination to face the challenge of a triathlon race. I can see it in each and everyone of us that it's about taking on the challenge. It's the same attitude that brought TTB together to tackle half-marathons, marathons and ultra-marathons in the first place.

And when 2012's triathlon events came, TTB was there to tackle every challenge!
Xterra Off-Road Triathlon 2012 Finishers

1st Talisay Triathlon (1k swim, 30k bike, 7.5k run)

Century Tuna National Age Group Triathlon Series (1k swim, 30k bike, 7.5k run)

Tabuelan 111 Triathlon (2k swim, 88k bike, 21k run)

As for me, I'm just enjoying the ride! After all, six months ago, I had tendonitis and could hardly run. I could barely complete a 50 meter lap in a pool. But together with TTB, I've taken on the challenge of triathlon and loving every minute of it! See you guys in August!
Tabuelan 111 Triathlon official finish time: 7hrs, 8min, 8sec

Monday, July 18, 2011

One Year with Team Tyts Bogdo

August 7, 2010. It was a Saturday. And it was a spur of the moment LSD (Long Slow Distance) run organized just a few days earlier on Dailymile. It was to be a 21-kilometer run that would cover the 2 major bridges in Cebu. Most of us have never run that far for a long time, and for some never ever. Heck, most of us have never even met in person yet! A full marathon was only a dream for most of us, yet we were going to tackle a half-marathon with not much preparation. 

"I could never imagine myself running for 21k!" That's what Charles Cullen said to me just a week earlier when we first met in an Ungo LSD. Boying Milan was the only experienced marathoner, having finished his 1st Milo Marathon just a couple of weeks earlier. That's why everybody called him 'Coach Boying'! Everybody kept asking him questions and advice on preparing for a marathon. And it was Doc Izzy 'Fafi' Rabang who came up with the name 'Tyts Bogdo'. Team Tyts Bogdo, or TTB for short. Once again, Coach Boying has all the answers on his blog: http://kirkboying.wordpress.com/2010/08/09/ttb-team-tytsbogdo/

But in many ways, that Saturday LSD was a truly memorable experience for me. It was my 2nd 21k run ever and I had to struggle trying to finish since my foot was already hurting. But those guys certainly helped me finish. And in the upcoming months of training for that first marathon, we would try to find the time to train together, despite the different schedules we all had. As a result, I guess we all pulled ourselves up into achieving something by training together and pushing each other's limits.

TTB has certainly grown after a year. Not only has it grown in number, but I guess into something more than just a catchy group name. Of course, it also helps that we are officially a part of the Ungo Runners. And after all the LSDs, ReHydrations, carBogdoloading, races, marathons and ultra-marathons, it's hard to imagine what this crazy bunch of Adiks have achieved for one year. So, what's next for TTB? Anything, Coach Boying? What say you now, Chuck? Whatever it is, one thing's for sure with TTB: Sayang ang Miles!!! Happy Birthday, TTB!!!

A short pictorial summary of TTB's 1st year:
August 7, 2010 Saturday LSD
STC Glamour Run: the debut of the 1st TTB singlet
Citigym Halloween Run: TTB medal finishers

Run United Leg 3: TTB banner finish
Cebu City Marathon 2011: Graduation Day for TTB
SM2SM Run: TTB's new singlet debut
Citirun 2011: more running medals
Leon Kilat's Retreat: an Ungo 42k run
to infinity & beyond, TTB?

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

A Runner's High: Cebu City Marathon 2011

“If you want to run, run a mile. If you want to experience a different life, run a marathon.” —Emil Zatopek.

That quote really hit me because it certainly felt like I was in a different life! Actually, running a marathon felt like different stages so let me break it down into three parts.

Part I: The Adrenalin Rush - For this part, I will mention the hours leading up to gunstart. Since Saturday afternoon, all I could think of was "4am Sunday". I kept visualizing my gear, outfit, things to bring, the race venue and even the route. I could already feel my heart pounding fast and my hands getting sweaty! I tried to go to sleep at around 9:30pm. TRIED is the correct word since I hardly got any! I got up at 2am, had a little meal, coffee, poopstop and it was off to Asiatown I.T. Park!

When me and my bro got there, you could already sense the excitement and anxiety of everyone. Again, heart pounding fast and more sweaty hands! After so many greetings, a few photos and getting checked in, the more than a thousand strong souls registered for the 42.195 km distance were treated to an inspirational video and a prayer by Fr. Siongo Tan of Team Boyek. Then the countdown began...and a spectacular fireworks display signaled the start at exactly 4am!
TTB before gunstart

And so we were off! I ran with TTB teammates Coleen, Charles and bro Chill. We maintained a 6:30 min/km pace for the first 6 kms. By this time, Chill and Charles were already pulling away. Fellow TTB mate Benjhz joined me and Coleen as we approached the SRP Tunnel. The runners were still so rowdy and energetic, especially when we entered the tunnel and were greeted with loud Lady Gaga music. So far, so good! We maintained an easy 6:30-7:00 pace with walk breaks on every water station.

With bro at the Fuente area, km 5

With fellow TTB Coleen along Jones Ave., km 7

Part II: The SRP Highway - For the past week, the morning weather in Cebu was either cloudy, rainy or gloomy. Perfect running conditions! So this was certainly on every Cebu City Marathon registrant's prayer and hope for Sunday's weather. But as Coleen, Benjhz and I entered the SRP highway, we just knew that the sun was going to attack us. It was still dark and cool as we passed the 10 km marker, but you could already see the sun's annoying orange rays forming through some clouds. By the 12th to the 14th km, the thing I was most afraid of suddenly hit me...slowly but surely! My injured left knee (torn ACL and meniscus) started to pop and become uncomfortable with each stride. I was really slowing down! But Coleen stayed with me the whole time (so grateful, Colili). The U-turn point, or the 20th km at the end of the SRP highway, was all I could look forward to at that stage. So many runners were already overtaking us and I honestly was contemplating on not finishing this marathon.

When we got to the U-turn, I had to let Coleen go ahead since I was really in pain. And she certainly sped away like an orange blur! From then on, I had so many walks and stops just trying to relax, massage and "aligning" my knee. I could only run a few strides and then walk again. It was so frustrating and disappointing! The only things I could think about were the months of preparations and motivations for my 1st full marathon going down the drain. But so many runners and motivators along the way forced me to just keep on going. At the 24th to 27th kms, where the sun was already very visible and I was approaching the halfway point of the SRP, I finally found a little running rhythm going. Even though I was really slow (around an 8 min/km pace), I figured as long as I'm running I'll be able to get to the finish faster than walking. But the SRP really gets to you. By the 27th km, approaching the Filinvest area where the sun was already in full force, the highway just keeps getting longer and longer. I thought every meter felt like a kilometer! From time to time, the pain in my knee would resurface. But as they say, No Pain No Gain! I just wanted to reach the tunnel to get reprieve from Mr. Sun.

Part III: The Homestretch - After getting out of the SRP and the tunnel (around 4hrs 20min of my Garmin time and at the 32nd km), all I could think of was finishing in one piece. Somebody once said that the final 10 km of a marathon is probably the longest you'll ever run. So true!!! By this time, my feet were killing me. My knee still felt sore but my slow pace probably relaxed it a bit. I maintained by 8 min/km pace while walking every 1.5 - 2 kms. Heading into Mango Avenue (35 - 38 km) was also another torture area. The uphill and downhill slopes and the heat of the sun certainly didn't help any of the runners at this stage. Not to mention the heavy traffic and the vehicle fumes all confined at the other side of the road. But you just had to force yourself to move on. Go go go! was all I could think of at this point.

When I got to the 39th km, I gathered all my remaining energy to force myself to run the last 3 kms without stopping. Go go go! I raced passed many runners who were walking at the UP Gorordo area (that dreaded killer uphill area) and just kept on going. I felt like I was sprinting, but my pace was still at 7:30-8 min/km. Everything felt so heavy but I just wanted to get this over with and finish under 6 hours!

The sight of the finish line and seeing many familiar and encouraging faces really gave me that "Runner's High"! My wife and daughter were there as well as other Team TytsBogdo teammates. What a feeling that was!

Making the final turn for the finish line

I guess it's true when they say that only a marathon finisher can understand how it feels. I've heard so many stories before about finishing a marathon, but only until you actually experience it that you truly understand its significance. Pain was certainly inevitable, as my knees and feet were really heavy and sore right after. Stairs were a nightmare while taking a bath was an effort in itself! But through all that, looking at my twin mangoes CCM medal just puts a smile on my face!

So I would like to thank my family, for all their support and tolerance; Team TytsBogdo, who certainly provide all the motivation anyone can ever need in running a marathon; and to the Ungo Family, also for all their support and camaraderie.

Mission accomplished!

Finally, I would like to borrow the closing line from CERC member & friend John Pages' article from Sun-Star Daily: To all those still grimacing with aches and sore muscles, consider this...
“I’m never going to run this again!!!” said Grete Waitz after winning her first of nine New York City marathons.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Preparing for my 1st Marathon: CCM 2011

Eleven years ago, after my 1st 21 km run, I said to myself that I would not be doing that again.

Two years ago, I was contented with my weekly routine of 6k to 8k loops running solo around Cempark.

A year ago, I said to myself: "Why are these guys so excited for a marathon (1st Cebu City Marathon 1-10-10)? I can just run anytime I want, anywhere I want and any distance I want."

Six months ago, I thought my weekly 10-15 km Sunday Fun Runs at 5:30 min/km paces were satisfying and gratifying already.

But today, two days before January 9, 2011: the 2nd Cebu City Marathon, and after a 14-week training program, I reflected on my earlier thoughts.  I will be running 42.195 km this coming Sunday, I will be running with more than a thousand other crazy guys registered for the same category (including my Team TytsBogdo), I am excited like I have never been in my life and a 5:30 min/km pace is now something I can only dream of.

But my marathon preparation has been made easier by Team TytsBogdo. With special mention of course to my wife and family. But TTB has made the 14-week training program more enjoyable rather than monotonous and boring. To the celebrity sightings on the road during weekday runs, to the many posts and comments on Dailymile and to the many Sunday LSDs, TTB has been more than a running group & family. In fact, sometimes I think I'm more updated with what these guys are doing or saying on Dailymile & Facebook than my own family & friends! Maybe that's an exaggeration but I'm sure you guys get my point.

So to TTB, Ungo Runners and the thousand-plus other crazy registrants for this Sunday's Cebu City Marathon: see you at the finish line!!!

A little photo tribute of Team Tytsbogdo in preparation for CCM 2011:
TTB's first LSD back in August

After the Citigym Halloween 21km run

Conquering Run United 32km in Manila

CarBOGDOloading at Fudge before CCM 2011

My race pack for Sunday

"You will be mine!!!"

Monday, November 22, 2010

The RunRio Experience

Ever since June of this year, and at the peak of Cebu's running boom, so many runner friends have been talking about the RunRio Trilogy. The 1st leg was the Century Tuna Superbods last February 21 and then the 2nd leg, the Nature Valley Run held last May 30. All were staged in Fort Bonifacio Global City in Manila and both events featured the half-marathon distance of 21km, and plenty of excellent reviews and praises from the fortunate runners who were able to join. So when the schedule for the 3rd leg (initially billed as the Timex Run) came out, I wasted no time in booking promo plane fares for this much-awaited and "must-run" trilogy finale.

When the online registration for the event (eventually renamed as the Run United 2) started back in late September, I immediately registered for the 32km distance! Then you start second guessing and having doubts as to the daunting distance at hand, "Could I handle such a long distance? And at a different place outside Cebu?" But since knowing that Team Tytsbogdo, RH Runners and many other Cebuanos are also joining, then you start to feel confident that you won't be alone. And since most of TTB is also preparing for the 2011 Cebu City Marathon, the 32km Run United 2 is a perfect LSD training schedule for us, all while also enjoying the trip to this much-hyped up event.

I arrived in Manila last Friday, November 19, together with my brothers. The rest of TTB & RH Runners arrived on Saturday. We only had a few hours of sleep last Saturday night, the usual excitement & anxiety before any race day. We got up at 2am and prepared early since we wanted to be early for the 430am start. I have joined a total of 23 race events ever since, and when we reached the venue at the Bonifacio Global City, this was no ordinary race! This was an EVENT!!! It was like entering a major concert event! There were bright lights, loud music, large screen LCDs, plenty of staff personnel & service tents,  and lots of runners!

Some images at the large screen LCDs before the race.
A computer-generated image of Coach Rio.

Team Tytsbogdo with Wayne just before the gun-start.
As the race began at exactly 4:30 am, we maintained a comfortable 6:30-7:00 min/km pace with TTB runners Boying, Chill, Pam, Coleen, Kenneth, Eric and Jack. We looped around the dark streets of Global City for the first 7 kilometers of the route. The asphalt roads were very soft and comfortable while the cool, early morning breeze and the bright full moon were quite refreshing. There were water stations every 1.5 kms and they were really in abundance of water and energy drinks! Some also had bananas, energy gels and water sponges. We passed by Buendia Avenue via the Kalayaan Fly-over and traffic at every intersection was at a standstill just so the runners could pass-by undisturbed! Wow! There were so many impatient and i'm sure irate drivers honking and honking but the race marshalls and traffic personnel would have none of it, as hordes of runners continued to trot up and down the avenue undisturbed! You could see it in the drivers' faces how angry they were! That was really cool!

When we got back to Global City from Buendia, this was already at the half-way point of the route at 16 km. Some of us were already separated from the group. By the time we approached Heritage Park along Bayani Road, I started to feel the heaviness and aches from my legs and feet. This was approximately at the 23rd to 25th kilometers. By this time, I could see Boying, Kenneth, Chill and Pam ahead of me and all I could think of was that I wasn't going to let them out of my sight. I could feel my pace slowing down. There were many runners walking and quite a few dealing with cramps. But there were so many medical aids along the route, not to mention the overflowing water stations! They never run out of cold water!

Going up Bayani Road at the 26th km.
The last 5 kilometers were the most grueling I have ever ran. The longest distance I've ever ran was a 28 km LSD with TTB, but that was with several walk-breaks in the last 2 km. Entering the loop outside of the Memorial Cemetery was very eerie. First, your body is telling you to stop. Second, the place was so QUIET! Third, it was a very boring 1.5 km loop. And last but not least, you could see the finish alone ahead but you still have to go back for the loop! My mind took over at this point upon reaching the 30th km. My pace was already at a slow 7:30-8:00. I was already running alone for the past 4 to 5 kms so it was purely psychological at this point. As i approached the 31st km, Boying, Chill and Pam were waiting for me with the TTB banner that we brought. This gave me an additional adrenalin rush as the four of us proudly ran together with the TTB banner for the last kilometer! It was time to look good for the several photographers scattered along the last 1,000 meters! You disregard your body pains and try to maintain good running form! And you could hear the people cheering us along the way, even if they could not pronounce "Tytsbogdo" properly! But it was an unexplainable runners' high when we crossed that finish line together!
Team Tytsbogdo along 7th avenue approaching the finish line.

That was one memorable experience, and certainly the best and most challenging running event that I have ever experienced in my life. What made it a little easier was the motivational factor that a running group can give you, and that is what Team Tytsbogdo is all about! I'm sure we'll all be ready come January 9 for the Cebu City Marathon! Go TTB!!!
TTB crossing the finish line!

With our finisher medals!