35th MILO Marathon: Redemption, Oh How Sweet You Taste In My Mouth!

I first joined MILO National Eliminations in 2009 when I debuted in the half-mary category. Unfortunately, I came up real short at that time because of my injured shins. At 2:47, MILO was my worst 21k record ever and if it weren’t for dear friends at Takbo.ph, I probably would have done worse – if not altogether quit the race.

But, it’s all behind me now because last Sunday, at the 35th MILO National Eliminations (Manila Leg), I had my shot at redemption; grabbed a hold; and sort of ran with it all the way through the tape – doing twice the distance as my first Milo appearance.

My second marathon after my debut at the Condura Skyway Marathon in 2009 certainly did not disappoint. Although I was hoping for a sub-4:30 finish, I am still grateful that I crossed the finish line with a sub-5 record; about 6 minutes faster than my Condura time.

'Great things start from small beginnings...'

I liked (my) MILO marathon experience for a lot of reasons.

First – although MILO had nothing to do with it at all – because of the rain. Like I told my Boss just minutes before gun start, I was looking forward to running 42 kilometers in the rain because it reminds me so much of my hooligan days in the province when I would would wait for the steady snoring of my Dad during siesta, escape through the backdoor and run around the plaza with friends. On one or two occasions that I got caught – soaked and mud-covered – I got some mild flogging; vaguely remembered being asked to kneel for a few minutes because I was caught playing by the river which had swelled all the way up to the hanging bridge because of the steady downpour which lasted several days; but that did not exactly deter me from escaping a few more times. Good memories.

Second, water stations aplenty. For someone with serious hydration problems, I totally loved the fact that MILO and the organizers did not scrimp on this one. I found myself making a pitstop at nearly every station not because I was parched but because the water-filled cups lined up like robots in TRON look so inviting I just had to get my hands on them!

Third, the runners. It was just awesome being in the company of runner friends and even those I only get to exchange ‘hi’ and ‘hello’ with on Twitter and Facebook. What’s even more awesome was seeing older people (men and women alike) who would just zoom past me and you can tell by their gait and that they were once among those lording it over in marathon circa 60s, 70s, and 80s even! I remember this lady who’s probably in her 50s who ran along side me somewhere in the Kalayaan flyover just before we hit KM31 or 32 and told me to push harder. I was already taking walk breaks at that time due to my cramped quads and left hamstring. She said ‘jog ka lang iha‘ and when she probably saw there is no way I could keep up with her, she said ‘Una na ako sa’yo ha‘. That moment was so cute I just had to smile!

Fourth, the support teams. Having people call out your name (though most of them I only recognize by face) with some words of encouragement can be very…encouraging.

Fifth, my ‘accidental’ pacers. Alex and Gab, you guys helped me get through the race – thank you! Gab, whom I’ve known for quite a while now – he was among the first runners I made friends with through Takbo and paddled with in Manila bay on maybe three occasions – would pace me on and off during the race. He even gave me a chocolate bar before we hit KM30 which helped me loads in the stored energy department. haha. Alex, my Reebok teammate, was my mainstay pacer. I would lose him a few times during the course because I tried to keep a steady pace at least before the cramps cramped my style, but he would no sooner find me and run/walk my pace. We took several walk breaks which was a pity because we were doing pretty well until we weren’t any more.

Sixth, I also liked the fact that my bag was kept safe at the baggage counter the whole time! At first, I was really apprehensive to leave my bag with money, phone, and camera inside (with no lock whatsoever!) because of the horror stories of some runners losing valuables at the races. Every now and then while I was running, I would worry about my bag so I told Alex that we should head down to the baggage counter soon as we cross the finish line. But my worrying was all for naught because MILO employed the best people to man the booth! Awesome!

Seventh, the speedy release of results! Just like everyone else who ran that day I suppose, I couldn’t wait to see the results – and gush about it.

Lastly, the photographers who took thousands of photos of the runners in various state of wetness and exhaustion. Special mention to KB Runner (who ran the whole course half-naked buti na lang he’s super lean, hihihi), A Runner’s Circle, Jojo Pauly, and Mediabetes Runner for the lovely photos I shamelessly grabbed and posted on my FB Milo album!

***Edited to add this: Needless to say I was (and still am) mighty pleased with my race results. Like I said, I managed to shave around 6 minutes from my first marathon time in 2009. Not only that, I was ranked 497th overall out of 1,053 runners; and 6th out of 9 in my age category. I am 32 years old, so yah, you could say I am quite mature. hihihi.

Having said that, CONGRATULATIONS MILO and RUNRIO for staging one of the best races I have ever joined!

Now let’s take a look at some of my priceless 35th MILO Marathon moments. But first, here’s a look back at my MILO moment in 2009…

Thank you Argo for this photo.:)

I’m such a naturally happy person that even when beset by injuries aplenty, one would rarely catch me in a frown. It doesn’t show in the photo but at that time, my shins were crying bloody murder and would swell up in a freaky way Dinzobear refused to look at it when we had dinner/movie shortly after that 2009 race.

And now, say hello to the two-time sub-5 marathoner. Wooot!

Thank you, ARC!

Now that's a happy runner!

I did it!

Oooops, by the way, I would like to thank Kassy for lending me her Garmin which I totally forgot to set in my haste! We arrived at the starting line just seconds before gunstart and of course, I scampered just like everyone else when the countdown ended. Garmin turned out to be just a fashion accessory, hahaha. But you gotta admit, it made me look even more legit! Thank you Kas for being the wonderful supergirl that you are!

Much love to REEBOK for the support! Bruno was awesome on the flooded roads! I did not get blisters this time around but I went home with two dead toenails which is kind of a normal thing for me when I do long distance runs. Dead toenails = sooo un-girly-girl! hahaha.

My quads are burning!

MILO...MILO everyday!

Thank you Alex for pacing me!

Thank you Kassy for being awesome!

Up next: MIM

Thoughts on (hopefully) Running on On-Running

When it comes to running and nearly everything fitness-related, I have to give loads of credit to a certain friend of mine for getting me started – and pretty much hooked – on it. Though the ‘hooked’ part is really more of a personal conviction, something I am determined to keep on the up and up for as long as my body can take the pain, he was the one who introduced running to me – right from my first pair of legit running shoes, Mizuno Wave Creation 10 in bright orange (around this time, I haven’t gotten into the habit of naming my shoes yet but for easy recall, let me now call my first pair, Wanda. She breathed her last in Phuket  where I have decided to leave her degraded body – but Wanda served me well. Very well, in fact.) which he gave me as birthday present two years ago; Phoenix, my NF trail running shoes who carried my weight and busted shins all the way to the finish line of my first trail run – the Men’s Health All-Terrain Race in Sta. Elena; my prized Zara the Zoot which I would wear to my first (and only) full marathon, the Condura Run for the Dolphins in 2010 in which I crossed the finish line in less than five hours. Far from a Kikayrunner finish, obviously, but not too shabby either. Zara the Zoot were given to me as Christmas present so I was actually one of the few who would be wearing the pair before it was formally brought into the country by the local distributor. Zara came in patriot pink, by the way, which happens to be one of my favorite colors. And I got another pair of Mizuno Wave Rider, which I named Blu, as my 2011 New Year’s present. All these serve as constant reminder for me to work hard in making my fitness resolutions stick because I have been known to run my mouth on this and that and end up not achieving the end-goal I desire because I would get bored halfway through it and move on to do something else. It’s like the early signs of ADHD, I tell you.

Enter Reebok…and suddenly, my fitness goals have taken a whole new dimension. Just before I joined a bunch of cool runners as brand ambassador for Reebok Running, I thought my running mojo had decided to go on an extended vacation – indefinitely. At that time, I have not been logging decent mileage per week, so much so that I have already placed my running shoes back in their boxes, which resulted to my pants getting a bit tight around the waist again. Uh-oh. Danger alert!

Now what I like most about Reebok is its versatility. So far, the shoes and apparel that I have worn to so many running events and also at home when I do my Insanity workout (which reminds me, I gotta start Insanity Asylum soon!) have all given me my main prerequisites: Comfort, Performance, and Style. It fits perfectly with the very active lifestyle I maintain. I have Bruno, Basia, Purple Pippa, and Terra of the ZigTech family, and all of which have seen some hardcore action on and off-road. As luck – combined with hard work, determination and a whole lot of prayers for safety and deliverance from major injuries, if I may say so – would have it, I have also bagged a few podium finish. Recently though, I swallowed my prescribed dosage of this bitter pill called DNF and it did not taste heavenly at all, but it taught me a lot of things which I really ought to apply in my next ultra run happening in August. It’s 60k, if I’m not mistaken. Oh but before that, there’s MILO marathon happening end of the month for which I am hoping to log a new PR. I will attempt to shave off at least half an hour from my first marathon record of 4:56:00. Reebok Teammate Titanium Runner is egging me to pick up the gauntlet and throw in my bid to go sub-4 just like him and Sam the Running Ninja but I don’t know yet. I think it would be too tall an order for me. But who knows? Barring unpleasantries, I think I have enough fire power in me to achieve my marathon goal.

So now I think it seems pretty clear that I am a fitness enthusiast who loves shoes! I don’t know with you guys but it just seems very logical to me to come armed to the teeth when I am about to embark on some fitness activity – especially running. And by that I mean, I have to make sure my feet, knees, shins, etc. are insulated from injuries – especially the lingering kind. Nothing hurts a runner more than not being able to run.

Speaking of shoes, I have recently come across this brand which I heard will soon be making an appearance in the local running scene (courtesy of CHRIS Sports) — On-Running. Have any of you guys seen this on the road? I read Titanium Runner and JazzRunner‘s blog posts and I must say my curiosity got piqued. In a colossal way! It’s supposed to be the fastest running shoes in the world and it’s got nearly all of the world’s elite athletes raving about it. I took a peek at On-Running’s official website to learn a wee bit more about their patented CloudTec™ 3D cushioning system and found myself daydreaming about it for quite a bit. I mean, it’s rather hard not to when shoe performance is talked about glowingly like that. I have no illusions of one day running neck-and-neck with the gazelle-like Kenyans but I am mighty curious to know just how much faster I can still run. I don’t think I have reached my maximum speed yet. I mean, I may be 32 but I think my body’s built to constantly morph and improve. I wonder how it feels like wearing them? How exactly does this CloudTec system work? Will it really make me more agile and run faster and longer?

I suppose there is only one way to find out.

What are you running ON?

Uhrmmm, by the way, my birthday is less than 24 hours away. I’m just saying.

On Scuba Diving and Another Podium Finish at Run4Life

This weekend truly has been one of, if not THE, MOST INCREDIBLE weekend I have ever had in nearly 32 years. I may have said the same line about something incredible in the past but this weekend easily takes the cake out of anything I can remotely think of as great. Except, of course, God – who makes everything here on earth seem pretty average.

But before we get to the whys and hows, have YOU registered for the REEBOK ZigTech Run yet? Yes? No? Oh you bad, bad, baddies! This racing event promises to be challenging and fun on so many levels and I know there are one or two interesting races happening on the same day as well, BUT (the) ZigTech Run is definitely something to try out – especially if you are a Zig user yourself.  The race is happening on the 5th of June, so you have a few more days to hie-off to the Reebok store near you. Register now!

Run with us!

Remember when I mentioned here that I’m going scuba diving? Well it finally happened this weekend and I have EPSON and SPEED magazine (Manny, you’re the best!) to thank for it! I was invited to be part of the FUSION Media Adventure and it felt great hanging out with some members of the media again – after such a loooong time. Apart from Melvin and Mick, whom I have known for years (back when I was doing PR and handled Microsoft and Oracle), the rest of the media invitees were relatively strangers to me. But it only took us a few minutes to settle in and get comfortable with each other. The group games were one helluva fun – the name game only highlighted the fact that I have a memory of a dory – and I’m equally glad my dear friend Mark was there with me. He took unbelievably beautiful photos of nearly everything – from people to rocks to LPG tanks, sea landscape and the beautiful Batangas sunset! You can check out his photos here. I won’t go into details as I am saving that for SPEED but let me share some photos so you’ll know how much fun it was for all of us. Not even my overactive imagination has ever conceived of me going 25ft below sea level – knowing how freaked out I am of the sea because I had never learned how to swim. But on that day in Batangas, I conquered my fear…and loved every second of it. I also would like to thank my DM, Vlad, who was very nice and reassuring the whole time.

With my DM Vlad

Yihee, I'm underwater!!!

That's me wearing yellow aquasocks communing with the school of fish

I know right?!? *wink*

With a playful puppy named Pussy. We found him at the diving resort next door.

FUSION Media Adventurers

Photo by Mark Montalban.

Swimsuit by Cocotini. Photo by Mark Montalban.

My new wallpaper. Thank you Mark for this knockout photo!

The best tan says Mr. Running Shield. I think so too.:D Thank you Mick for snapping this shot!

One more FTW!

Sunset Parody by Marlon Magtira

Kamusta naman ang tawa ko dito, divah?

And just when I thought my awesome week ended with my scuba diving adventure…I bagged another podium finish in this morning’s RUN4LIFE race held in Alabang! I joined the 16k category and finished 3rd in the female division with a time of 1hour 30 minutes and 32seconds!  I’m sure it’s not that great a time compared with what more capable runners can do but it still feels pretty good – especially since I hardly slept the night before and had to wake up at 2am to get ready for a 5:10 race! *ROTFL*

There was a major faux pas with the 16k results which got me really upset – I was 3rd in the female category but they called someone else on stage, another runner who was trailing behind me from the get-go. I protested, of course, not because I wanted the prize but as a runner who takes running somewhat seriously, people ought to respect my time and effort. Anyway, Runningmate said they have already rectified the records and my name will appear in the top 3 – as it should.

Moving forward, it was a good run for me – especially since it was my first time to run that course. It was also lovely to see Ms. Villy of Reebok, Patrick ‘Running Shield and the brains behind Condura marathon’ Concepcion who gave me the best compliment of the day (PC: Vicky, you have the best tan!), and Jonel Mendoza who’s running the Nuvali Trail Challenge in June and I have already signified my desire to do 50k!

Lastly, it was lovely running with my Team Reebok mates again, especially Kassy, whom I haven’t seen in a long time!

Here are some photos of the race this morning. Thank you Lifeline Foundation for staging Run4Life – and for doing a great job helping a lot of disadvantaged members of the society!

Vicky and Kassy - the lady ambassadors of Reebok for running

Sharing the stage with crowd-drawing Mr. Younghusband.

With Ms. Villy of Reebok

Reebok forever.

With Ms. Betty Romero of Lifeline Foundation

Condura Run 2010: My First Marathon Experience

That's how I completed my first marathon - with a radiant smile.

“Run fast Vicky, you can still do a sub-5!” says Gab, my friend from Takbo.ph, who was already walking off his legs after crossing the finish line minutes before I would do the same.

“How far am I from the finish line?” I asked while doing a slow run and silently bearing the pain shooting through what felt like heavily-blistered feet.

“Just 200 meters. Run!”

That was all I needed to hear to push myself one last time and make a mad dash for the finish line just before the race clock chimed 5 hours.  I concluded my maiden foray into the world of competitive long-distance running at the recently-concluded Condura Run for the Dolphins marathon in 4 hours, 56 minutes, and 32 seconds.

Wow, I am officially a marathoner. I am still in awe of the fact that I made it: I have conquered the Skyway and traversed all 42 kilometers on foot in less than 5 hours with absolutely NO proper training and preparation. All I had going for me was my heart and unwavering determination to prove them naysayers wrong.

Now let me tell you my Condura story.

On the days leading up to (the) zero hour, I was shuttling to and fro various states of excitement, trepidation, anticipation and, to a certain extent, pessimism. What if I don’t make it? What if I succumb to pain mid-way and find myself unable to run the remaining half of the race? Or what if I finish it but at a totally unacceptable time even for a first time marathoner like myself? These thoughts kept me up most nights before the race. I’m a very proud woman, you see, and the last thing I would want to be perceived as, is a failure.

The night before the big race, I didn’t get to sleep at all. I was too excited I couldn’t even keep my eyes closed for 10 seconds! I was all geared up and munching on a chocolate bar, by the time my friend picked me up at 2:30 in the morning. Upon reaching The Fort, we were met by some of our Takbo.ph friends who were just as excited for the race to begin. A few of them were first time marathoners just like me. While the rest were simply doing it as preparation for the upcoming Bataan Death March.

At gunstart, close to 600 42km runners took to the road and coming from the middle of the pack, I kept to my pace and tried not to let the runners sprinting ahead bother me. Normally, I get royally pissed when people overtake me in races but now that I have come to accept my speed limitations, I am more tolerant.

Though weakened by lack of food and sleep, I was feeling pretty good about myself and my running condition at the beginning of the race. I was wearing my new pair of Zoots Ultra and running at a very comfortable pace and my ears were being made love to with sharp and sensual precision by the songs on my trusty iPod.

It was still very dark when we left The Fort and the others who I was going to run with were soon lost in the sea of runners. I found myself running alone, except for that brief moment going to McKinley when Condura’s Patrick Concepcion would run by my side and advise me to run steady before he would run off and leave me to my relaxed pace. It was awe-inspiring as it got lighter to see the hundreds of runners along the road like a big long snake in front of me and behind me for as far as we could see.

Great team support from friends at Takbo.ph!

After a few kilometers, we were confronted by the signs and arrows pointing to the Skyway. It was exhilarating! Though not exactly trained to run on steep inclines, I was, at that point, still feeling very confident that I can make it all the way to Bicutan where it ends, and back again to Buendia.

And then my feet started to feel blistered. I knew I should have worn a thicker pair of socks but I thought the ample amount of petroleum jelly I applied on my feet would be enough to ease the discomfort of friction. But still, I soldiered on. All the way to the 30km mark, after which I was almost ready to take off my Zoots, slump on the pavement, bawl my eyes out and just declare myself a loser. Clearly, I overestimated my strength and underestimated the distance before me. At this point, I was already questioning my purpose for doing full marathon when I have only been running (and not actively at that) for 10 months and did not at all prepare for the race. Kinda like being stuck in a relationship you know from the get-go is very wrong for you yet you continue to keep to your side of the bargain because you’re in love with the person? That is exactly how I would describe my relationship with (long-distance) running,  except that running represents everything good for me, and it makes me look better each time it hurts me. After all, it helped a lot in getting me this body, among other things.

I did a Galloway as my Takbo friends advised me. After crossing the 30km mark, I no longer felt shame in taking walk breaks. It was time. I was in no condition to continue running with my feet feeling blistered and all. My legs, thighs and even my core, were likewise starting to feel the brunt of the race. My fresh tattoo was likewise throbbing because of the copious amount of sweat watering it down

The last 12 kilometers were tough. And the final 5 kilometers even tougher. But again, thanks to friends whose constant cheering inspired me to conquer the last few kilometers. In Buendia, on our way back to The Fort for the finish, another friend paced me. He told me to keep running as we still have a chance to do a sub-5. In my head, I was willing and ready to abandon my quest for a sub-5 record. At that point, I no longer have the confidence I had an excessive amount of at the beginning of the race. I thought I was done for.

It was already a few minutes past 8:00am and I was starting to feel the heat of the morning sun. But thanks to Condura’s impeccably-organized race, I was in no danger of getting dehydrated because of the numerous (and strategically-located) water stations which I totally made use of. 100 Plus has never tasted so good!

And so it came to be that I was able to conquer my Mt. Everest. And did I mention that I ranked 336 out of 595 marathoners?

At the Finish Line.

10 Life Lessons from My First Marathon:

1. You need NOT be a waif-like, gazelle-type Kenyan to run a marathon. Before Condura, I was very much in doubt of my capabilities to finish all 42 kilometers thinking I was heavy and ill-prepared. But look, I did it! Age, likewise, does not matter. Young, old, large, small, thin, wide, you name it, they were all running a marathon and a lot of them passed me even at my fastest pace.

2. Train. Seriously. I didn’t train at all for my first marathon and even though I finished respectably, I know I would have done so much better if I trained well for it.

3. A podium finish doesn’t matter. Finishing greatly does. Everyone that crosses the finish line in a marathon is already a winner.

4. Don’t stop. Sometimes we have a tremendous urge to quit, to give up, to throw in the towel so to speak. Having the ability to overcome those urges and keep going makes all the difference in life. I lost count of the times I wanted to succumb to exhaustion and physical pain during the race but still I soldiered on – and finished with grace.

5. Cheering helps, A LOT. I have been to some sporting events and yelled and cheered for my team. I never thought it helped much until I was on the receiving end during my first marathon. It was amazing how much it increased my energy and drive when people were cheering me on.

6. Have a coach. I consider myself a fairly smart person and can figure out a lot of things on my own. But looking back at my first marathon, I can imagine the results would’ve been a lot more favorable if I had someone coaching me on my run.

7. Mental preparation is just as important as physical preparation. As much as we like to think that success in sports simply requires having a perfectly tuned and trained body, it is much more than that because after all the physical preparation, much of your success has to do with what goes on in your head. I tell you, after the first 30 kilometers, it can get real ugly.

8. Marathon is not a sprint. People who have gotten so used to running short distances tend to start off running at a quick pace. Big mistake. Giving it all you’ve got at the beginiing of the race will leave you running  completely out of gas even before the first three kilometers is up. Pace yourself.

9.  Mile markers are essential. In life, as well as during a marathon, we need mile markers. Condura, unfortunately, didn’t have enough mile markers but those that I saw coming up from quite a distance away have helped my mental conditioning. If you thought about the finish line, it was so far away and seemed impossible to reach. But if you thought about just making it to the next mile marker, that seemed doable. So the immediate goal was always to just make it to the next mile marker.

10. Let others inspire you. I had set a goal last year to run a marathon. In fact, I signed up for the Singapore Standard Chartered Marathon last December but bailed out at the last minute on account of injuries sustained months before (shin splints, stress fracture, and sprained ankle). When I some photos of my friends who went ahead and finished the Singapore race, I was completely amazed and inspired and decided right then that I would do it. And I did – at Condura. And I will do it again in July at the Milo National Eliminations…and again in December in Singapore.