REVIEW: Wall Rope Yoga at Master’s Yoga Sadhan


For quite some time now, I have been harbouring illusions of becoming a yoga teacher someday. Not that I have really devoted a good amount of time to study and practice yoga in order for me to get anywhere near my dream, but I have been practicing on and off for a year or so now. And for a while I thought I was really getting somewhere with my home practice, then I became really bad at managing my own schedule and before long, it was back to square one for me. Whatever flexibility I may have gained in the last few months of consistent yoga practice, was quickly reversed by just a few weeks of inactivity. Don’t we all just loathe it when something like that happens?

Thankfully, Mae pulled me back in to the amazing world of yoga by introducing me to wall rope yoga at Master’s Sadhan. Strictly based on the late great B.K.S Iyengar‘s strong focus on alignment, rope wall yoga helps you achieve proper alignment, strength and ease in postures. This is also good especially for beginners who struggle with their fear of inversions and holding balancing poses.

Location: 88A, TANJONG PAGAR ROAD

Welcome to Master’s Yoga Sadhan.

I looked up the studio on the internet and my curiosity was instantly piqued. I signed up for their ‘3 classes for $20’ promo, just to try it out before deciding to commit to more classes. I went for my first trial class and got magically roped in.

First of all, Master’s Yoga Sadhan is my kind of intimate yoga environment where the teacher – in this case, Teacher Shree – has more time, patience and dedication to look after the students and correct postures when necessary. I have been to big commercial yoga studios and frankly, I thought I grew more as a yogi wannabe by following YouTube videos. But when I entered Master’s Yoga Sadhan’s sanctuary for the first time and caught the tail-end of the previous class, where I saw the students suspended on ropes and inverted against the wall, I felt right at home.

Teacher Shree hails from India and has worked as yoga instructor in the cities of Bangkok and Hong Kong before moving to Singapore where he eventually set up his own studio, three years ago.

Let Teacher Shree will show you the ropes

Let Teacher Shree show you the ropes

In Wall Rope Yoga each student is assigned to two sets of ropes (top and bottom) which will be used in the asanas that typically include standing postures, twists, forward folds, inversions and arm balances.

These ropes are considered effective props in helping students, particularly beginners, to open up their bodies and slowly release tension in key areas by allowing the body to stretch and align properly without going beyond its range of natural and assisted range of motion.

Inversion junkies.

Inversion junkies.

Wall Rope Yoga offers a multitude of benefits, and if you ask me, these are the three things that I have come to really appreciate when it comes to my practice:

1. Wall rope yoga lengthens your spine and brings flexibility to your joints. With the use of ropes, I am able to extend my spine much further than in normal (unassisted) yoga poses, thus allowing me to go deeper in other poses like backbends and sidebends. I have mild scoliosis and prone to having lower back pains as a result of sitting in front of my laptop for hours on end everyday, and a good session of wall rope yoga gives me nothing but sweet relief down the length of my spine.

Working on my full split, rope-assisted.

Working on my full split, rope-assisted.

2. Wall rope yoga strengthens hard-to-build muscles. I have always lacked upper body strength which makes pull-ups and push-ups such a difficult task for me. But since I started working with the ropes, I began to notice the amount of strength that’s required of my arms and core in every pose, which helps me to distribute my energy and focus where they’re needed.

Post-yoga class playtime with Mae.

Post-yoga class playtime with Mae.

3. Wall rope yoga helps improve inversions. While I had already been able to execute headstands well before attending wall rope yoga, I still am terrified of doing variations such as tripod and my greatest fear, pincha mayurasana. But with much-improved arm strength which i am hoping to gain out of wall rope yoga, I have no doubt that I will be able to do pincha in a few months. *fingers crossed*

***

Master’s Yoga Sadhan is located at 88A Tanjong Pagar, Singapore.

Fermented Foods For Good Health


If 2014 is the year of gluten-free (some may call it ‘fad’) diet, 2015 will be the year of fermented foods, according to an article by Phil Lempert discussing next year’s food trends. Meaning, most fermented foods that we already know such as yogurt and sauerkraut are about to get more attention and most likely appear on our dining tables more often. Fermented foods contain live or active cultures that are considered effective bacteria-boosting agents.

Not to undermine the health benefits of farm-to-table foods, but these fermented foods with their pungent probiotic ingredients have been proven to boost the good bacteria in our digestive tract, which can help correct and prevent digestive issues, promote weight loss, improve skin conditions, and boost overall immune system.

Here are some traditional fermented foods you should incorporate in your daily meals to give the good bacteria in your digestive system a lovely boost. Keep in mind that as in all things good, you must only enjoy these fermented foods in moderation, with one or two meals a day.

Homemade Yoghurt with strawberries (from Pinterest)

Homemade Yoghurt with strawberries (from Pinterest)

Yoghurt. Greek and regular yogurt are the most common fermented yogurt, but you can also make your own. Try this delicious home-made coconut yoghurt and get all the beneficial bacteria your body needs to strengthen your gut health and improve your immunity.

sauerkraut

Sauerkraut. Also known as fermented cabbage, sauerkraut is said to have positive impact on good digestion as well as, brain health. According to Dr. Drew Ramsey, M.D., author of The Happiness Diet and 50 Shades of Kale, there “exists a correlation between gut and brain health”. You can either buy sauerkraut from the supermarket or make your own. Here’s an easy home-made sauerkraut recipe.

Miso Soup goodness

Miso. Here’s something that miso soup lovers probably already know: The paste made from fermented soybeans and grains is packed with essential minerals including potassium and also microorganisms that promote good health and stamina. And it’s also pretty easy to make! Simply add a small portion of miso paste to boiling water together with spring onions and bok choy.

Kimchi

Kimchi. Considered a staple in Korea, kimchi is a spicy dish that is made typically from fermented cabbage and is regarded as a beauty food and an energy-booster. Why? Because as you improve your digestion, you will notice a significant improvement in your skin as well.

Wine and Beer

Wine & Beer. Now this is probably where most of us are getting our fermented food quota. Go ahead, no one’s judging. Just keep in mind that the ideal quantity is just a glass and anything beyond that may bring your body more harm than good.

REVIEW: Singapore School of Meditation and Yoga (SSMY)


But first, something we all need to know from the get-go: Yoga is NOT a religion.

What it does is to promote certain steps for guidance in leading a meaningful life here on earth. Stuff like moral discipline, self-discipline and meditation are taught and practised in traditional yoga, but there are no religious obligations (like attending services) attached to it. Some even do it purely out of fitness pursuit and that’s okay, nobody’s hating on anybody, because that is simply un-yoga-like.

Like me, for example. I have been practicing yoga on and off for about a year or so and to be honest, I do it mostly for the asanas. I have not fully embraced the yoga way of life because my self-discipline is still far from the level that it’s supposed to be at, for me to be able to truly live the yogi life. But I know one day it will come.

I like yoga because each practice gives me a more positive outlook on life and if you know me, you would know that I sometimes have the predilection to be too pessimistic about certain situations, people included. It also allows me to be stronger and more flexible, not just physically but also mentally. In fact, I like yoga so much that I am planning on taking a yoga teaching course sometime next year. Hopefully, after I pop one out.:)

Fast forward to Saturday night, when Hubs and I attended the opening of Singapore School of Meditation and Yoga located at Tras Street in Singapore. At the event, invited guests were treated to a one-hour session of group meditation, followed by another hour of Vinyasa. Both sessions were led by SSMY Founder Japadas Bismark, whose entire life is a living testimony to the physical and spiritual benefits of yoga.

Embrace yoga beyond the asanas.

Embrace yoga beyond the asanas.

The Singapore School of Meditation & Yoga is dedicated to improving the well-being of every individuals through its teaching of Bhakti yoga. Like most people who are not as knowledgeable about yoga and its origins and teachings, I turned to Google and this is what I found: (http://www.zentofitness.com/yoga-eastern-western-philosophy/)
Yoga is actually represented as four “ways.” The way of harmony, or Raja Yoga (of which hatha is one), is the physical component. The way of unity is known as Jnana Yoga (the intellectual approach to yoga). Bhakti Yoga is the way of devotion (the religious orientation). Karma Yoga is the journey of works (the path of cause and effect). They each fit different yoga practitioner’s temperaments and form much of the comprehensiveness of yoga.
According to Japadas, SSMY’s purpose is to reinstitute the real meaning and purpose of yoga and mantra meditation by imparting to the community the true ancient knowledge and practices of yoga and mantra meditation that have been handed down through generations of bonafide gurus. So for people who are looking to deepen their appreciation and practice of yoga, beyond the asanas, SSMY is where you will find solace after a gruelling day at work or at home.
SSMY, from an aesthetic point of view, has been designed to really showcase the serenity and peace of the senses that one hopes to achieve during practice. It may be small in space but it does pack a lot of positive energy, clearly evident in the pristine white walls, the cushions on the floor of the small receiving area before it opens to the asana room with a floor-to-ceiling mirror on one side and big beautiful windows typical of traditional shophouses, and the custom-made yoga mats and yoga blocks for the students’ use. The asana area can accommodate up to 12 people.
The SSMY asana room

The SSMY asana room

Hubs and I practicing yoga together.

Hubs and I practicing yoga together.

Meanwhile, the meditation room located upstairs was designed differently from the asana area. Up here, the mood is more soothing and tranquil with less noise piercing through the walls and windows. The meditation room can accommodate a maximum of 15 people, all seating comfortably on plush cushions placed on the carpeted floor.
The SSMY meditation room

The SSMY meditation room

The studio also comes equipped with lockers and changing rooms and a nice clean toilet for everyone’s convenience.
The Singapore School of Meditation is offering free meditation classes on Mondays at 7pm beginning on the 17th of November. Meanwhile, the asana classes are available every morning for now but will accommodate evening classes soon enough. Founder Japadas’ vision is for SSMY to launch yoga retreats outside of Singapore beginning 2015. For the full schedule and other queries, you may visit SSMY’s Facebook fanpage.

TOTAL FITNESS: Trick Your Brain Into Loving Your Workout


TF September 2012

Truth is, not everyone loves (to) workout. Otherwise, we would all be looking very fit and healthy and the word obesity may not even be found in the dictionary.  For most of us, the problem is not the absence of desire to get fit. Secretly, we all want to fit into our sexy pants and tops and still breathe normally; or reach for that last piece of muffin not worrying about our clothes suddenly bursting at the seams. The problem is embracing the paradigm shift that it is within our capacity to reach new level of excellence each time we do our workout. And the key to taking this paradigm shift to heart and making it happen is to trick our mind into loving our workout.

How successful we are in making our exercise a big part of our routine has a lot to do with our mindset. Meaning, we have to change the way we see ourselves. If we keep thinking fat and resign ourselves to our overweight state, the more that it will become a reality.

Having a defeatist mindset is counterproductive and not just in keeping fit. So the first thing that you must do is to see yourself as a healthy person and affirm it! Instead of obsessing about how fat and sluggish you are, picture yourself fit and healthy. Same thing goes for your workout. Let your mind tell your body that workouts are a fun challenge that can give you that body you want and not a tedious chore that you can keep putting off.

Here are some more tricks you can employ to finally get you on the road to a passionate love affair with your workout:

  1. No more excuses! We all make excuses to try to justify our behavior – eating too much and working out less – but these kinds of excuses are not going to bring us any closer to our ideal weight and form. Break the cycle and work on improving our eating and exercising habits.
  2. Decide to be thinner, fitter, and healthier. Sometimes all it takes is a firm resolution to make a change in your life. If you want to lose weight, make the choice to do so and let your actions follow suit.
  3. Avoid being emotional when it comes to your weight and diet. For many people, food is a convenient coping mechanism for things that aren’t right in their lives, that’s why we have such a thing as emotional eating. When faced with such situations, the wise thing to do would be to think clearly. Try to separate your emotions and employ a logical approach as far as your diet is concerned.
  4. Be positive. There is no benefit to negative thinking when it comes to weight loss. Staying positive will help you feel better about yourself, keep you motivated and reduce stress — all of which will help you lose more weight.
  5. Think in your best interest. Direct your thoughts to gradually replacing your unhealthy thoughts and habits with healthy ones. Keep revisiting your health and fitness goals and you’ll be one step ahead of the game.

TOTAL FITNESS: Why LOVE is good for your health


NOTE: Published in this month’s TOTAL FITNESS Magazine. Grab a copy today!

***

Love, it seems, has immense therapeutic potential that inspires professionals to continue exploring ways in which to channel its benefits in promoting good health, longevity, and a fulfilled life. Where there is love, intimacy cannot be too far behind. And these two, put together, often bring healing, joy, and meaning to human lives.

1.  Being in a healthy relationship keeps you fit. Literally.

But before that, a caveat: Just because you consider yourself (finally) off-the-market on account of a relationship, it doesn’t mean that you have earned the right to let go as some men/women tend to do. Being in a healthy relationship means looking after each other’s needs and in doses that are non-detrimental. Keeping it to the physical aspect of romantic relationship: Did you know that the simple act of kissing can burn up to 28 calories, while up to 30 minutes of sexual activity can burn 85 calories – the equivalent of a small glass of red wine. This might not sound like much but a vigorous session can burn up to 200 calories, which is about the same as running for 15 minutes. Sex also works the core muscles in your legs, pelvis, bottom and abdomen and can boost levels of testosterone, which leads to stronger bones and muscles. So, next time you feel like opening that bag of Cheetos, grab your beau instead.

2.  Love is a potent stress-buster

Relationships – and especially marriages – might traditionally be seen as sources of stress but supportive, long-term relationship brings mental health and physical health benefits to both the man and the woman.  To prove this point, a study published recently by researchers at the University of Chicago found that men and women in happy relationships or marriage had lower levels of stress hormone cortisol in their bodies, indicating they had reacted less to the stress. In addition, happy and fulfilling relationships have also been linked to improvements in mental and physical health and longer life expectancy.

3.  Healthy relationships promote better immune system and can help reduce pain

It has been found that optimism and positive attitude boost immunity and people who are in love and cared for in return are naturally optimistic. Going further, some studies indicate that having (safe) sex once or twice a week lead to higher levels of an infection-fighting antibody called immunoglobulin A, or IgA. Having physical contact with another person, whether kissing, cuddling or having sex, promotes the release of the hormone called oxytocin – dubbed the “love hormone”. Aside from its relaxing effect on the body, oxytocin can also reduce anxiety and help numb pain by releasing endorphins.  To demonstrate this, scientists at Stanford University School of Medicine, launched a trial whereby patients suffering from chronic headaches were given a dose of oxytocin in the form of a nasal spray. Around half of the patients administered oxytocin said their headache pain had been reduced by half and a further 27% reported no pain after four hours.

4.  Healthy sexual relationships promote longevity

On the subject of longevity, many scientists believe that good sex and orgasm may be linked to higher life expectancy. In 1997 British Medical Journal, there was a study published which reported that men who had at least two orgasms a week had less than half the risk of dying from various causes over 10 years of follow-up than those with a lower frequency of orgasm. Meanwhile, other studies have suggested that sexual dissatisfaction is a predictor of the onset of cardiovascular disease.

5.  Love and marriage alleviate depression

It’s quite common to hear people complain about their significant others driving them crazy on many occasions, but what most people don’t know is that companionship actually tends to be good for mental health—especially for women. This is particularly true when it comes to depression, which is roughly twice as common in women. According to experts, depression is a very female expression of psychological distress and the benefit of marriage shows up in women in lower levels of depression. Marriage also appears to be a stabilizing force in women with bipolar disorder. Married bipolar women have fewer and milder depressive episodes than their never-married counterparts, but the same trend is somehow absent in bipolar men.

6. Financial Stability and insurance

Believe it or not, married people are more financially stable than their single counterparts.  By recognizing the fact that they now form part of a partnership, couples tend to become more conscious of their expenses, savings, and the pursuit of a comprehensive insurance for their family in the future. While worrying less about money certainly helps reduce stress and anxiety, financial stability also impacts health in a more concrete way, via access to health care. Marriage is associated with a hearty increase in the likelihood of having health insurance for both parties.

So, are love, relationship, and marriage good for your health? In general, as research and studies suggest, YES. People who are in happy and fulfilling relationships tend to live longer, have better access to insurance and health care, enjoy a more satisfying and exciting sex life, experience less stress, live a healthier lifestyle, and have lower rates of serious illnesses and depression compared to their single counterparts. Now, if you happen to be in a relationship and you don’t see or feel any of these, then it’s time to evaluate the situation and work on changing the course.

Event: DISCOver Duathlon with Coach Andy Leuterio


What is duathlon?

What are the essentials and basic duathlon techniques I need to learn?

What workouts should I do that will help me become a competitive duathlete?

Get the answers to these questions and more from no less than Coach Andy Leuterio this coming Wednesday, 18 July, at the SM Mall of Asia Music Hall at the run-bike clinic dubbed as DISCOver Duathlon presented by Newton Running, RUNNR, Toby’s and Fitness First, and supported by various media partners.

Registration fee is P495 and participants get FREE Newton singlet, RUNNR socks, Runner’s World Magazine and snacks.

This event is limited to 50 slots only so hurry, McFlurry!

Lifeline Foundation: Dance 4 Life


Ladies and Gents, it’s time to get those dancing feet a-shuffling again, and for a very good cause, with Lifeline Foundation‘s DANCE 4 LIFE!

Be at the Venice Piazza at McKinley Hill in Fort Bonifacio on the 11th of August (Saturday) for a guaranteed major  fat-burning dance marathon! By signing up for D4L, not only are you gonna be dancing your way to health and fitness, you will also be giving some of Lifeline Foundation’s beneficiaries a shot at a better life.

Register TODAY and come dance with us on August 11. See you there!

 

 

Fresh: REEBOK RealFlex Flight & World Vision Run 2012


Take flight with Reebok RealFlex Flight. Engineered with individual flex-friendly nodes (76 sensors) and a lightweight, minimalist foldover tongue and sole, the RealFlex Flight is designed to help your feet move and flex naturally with an ideal balance of support and flexibility. Now available at all Reebok stores nationwide for Php 4,295. I will be wearing these babies, which I have decided to call Fiona, this coming Sunday at the World Vision Run where I will be doing another 21k. See you guys there! xoxo

***

Speaking of World Vision Run, this is going to be held on June 24, 2012 (Sunday) at the Bonifacio Global City. World Vision is inviting runners to share the same kind of love that can change lives—lives of children in need. With a very small act of kindness these children will be able to look ahead to better lives with better opportunities, all because runners like us and even non-runner kindhearted souls out there, have made the decision to willingly open our hearts and share love and care to kids who are in dire need of it!

This Run  is a way for us to make a real and lasting difference for ONE precious boy or girl in need. Proceeds from registration fees shall be pooled together with other World Vision resources so children, families and communities may be provided with the following:

  • Education
  • Skills training
  • Improved Nutrition
  • Livelihood assistance
  • Health care
  • Safe water
  • Values formation
Again, let’s support this run and help children gain access to a better future for themselves and their families. For more details, check poster below:

UNILAB Run United 2012


I haven’t been around road races lately but UNILAB Run United 2 has, more than anything, shown me just how huge the running community has grown since I became part of it in 2009. Until Sunday, five thousand half-marathon runners were unheard of in the Philippines. In a way, it’s nice to see more runners taking more risks when it comes to pushing their capabilities. That most of them don’t just look at 5k or 10 and stop there is, I think, a very good thing – not only for physical fitness but also for general wellbeing. There most certainly is a good deal of pleasure to be had in besting one’s personal record and moving on to longer distance categories.  Trust me, I know, because I haven’t been able to shake-off the urge to keep doing better in whatever race I join – even when the odds are stacked high against me.

Run United 2 Expo

Just like this Sunday. I woke up around 3am to aching joints and that all too-familiar abdominal cramps. Yep, it was day one and what do you know, it was raining too! I briefly contemplated ditching the race and continue with my dreamy slumber – bed weather and all.  But after consuming six heaping spoonfuls of Nutella the day before, along with a few other unhealthy nibbles, I was too guilt-stricken I couldn’t possibly pass up the chance to burn some calories – even when in period-related discomfort and pain.

We reached BGC twenty-five minutes before gun start and I was pleasantly surprised to see the starting line crawling with runners; all of them oblivious to the steady drizzle drenching everything on sight. After dumping our bags at the luggage area, we made our way to the barricaded starting line, where the marshals were no longer allowing anyone to check-in until the first two waves of 21k runners have been released. We wound up on wave 3 – Bave, Cris, and I – and we snaked our way just a few layers behind the lead pack.  You see, I am not a fast runner but I kind of resent getting stuck behind runners much slower than I am. When this happens, first, I get exceedingly bored and then gradually, my temper starts to bubble up at the surface. I suppose it’s called aging, this ‘getting annoyed so fast’ syndrome.

Team Reebok with Eric Caramay and Sir Rene ‘Jazzrunner’ Villarta at the Unilab Media and Bloggers area (Thank you, Unilab!)

I have always enjoyed running in the rain so I started skipping happily past the starting line, momentarily forgetting about the painful spasms. Now I must say that Run United 2 has done very well with hydration. I’m not much of a hydrabelt-sporting runner but it was clearly unnecessary for me to worry about that in this case because hydration did not leave anything to be desired. There were piles of banana and sponge in some water stations, too, much to the runners’ delight. At least, I thought it was delightful! I had half a banana at one of the stations and chewing on it helped get my mind off the cramps I’ve been battling since I woke up.

Now the fun thing about starting at wave three is that you get to pass by so many runners from the first two waves who have slowed down. Not that I got any faster but I suppose they were more tired than I was, so I managed to squeak past a number of them.

Team Reebok

And then there was the finish line, with the digital timer blinking away beautifully. It was just the respite I needed. The pain in my abdomen did not recede one bit and in my drenched state, I was exceedingly uncomfortable too. One of those days when being a woman is not much fun.

After crossing the tape, I immediately went in search of my luggage so I can take my digicam and snap photos of the post-race revelry while waiting for my teammates to arrive. I visited the Reebok booth and was glad to see Ms. Yoya and Villy, both of whom have been very supportive of the team for a year now. We saw some of the latest designs in running shoes and apparel and they all look pretty ingenious! Too bad, most of them are for men.

Reebok Phils. family

Polecats Manila was also there and I stood there in awe of the grace and athleticism of the pole athletes led by Ms. CD. I really shouldn’t have stopped at just three lessons. I had been busy with work and travel that I wasn’t able to make time for it but now that I’m here and actually have a few days before I leave again and again, I’m definitely enrolling for some pole fun! My dream to become a pole athlete is still very much on.

Now that’s pure athleticism – with a sexy twist!

Now I have heard so much hype on the 3-piece RU2 medal, each piece of which you will have to collect for every RU2 race you join, and I can totally understand how so many runners have bought into it. The idea itself is nifty and it creates some form of loyalty from the audience. Since I wasn’t around when RU2 Leg 1 happened – at that time I was fighting for BDM 102 recognition with blood, sweat, and tears – I don’t have the first piece of the medal puzzle. So if there’s anyone out there who wants the second piece of the puzzle (I dunno. Maybe you were ill or incapacitated last Sunday and couldn’t run), I’m willing to donate mine. Kidding. Or not.

Thank you Mr. Photographer!

All in all, I thought UNILAB and Run Rio did an amazing job with Run United 2, which turned out to be a mega success despite the inclement weather the night before and on race day itself. The celebrity sightings and mini concert also added flavor to the show and even though I did not stay long enough to check out the booths and other activities at the Expo, the runners all seemed to have enjoyed themselves immensely that day.

By the way, here’s my 21k race results and analysis. I wasn’t fast enough, it seems. Oh well, let’s hope I do even better on my next full-mary: the 36th MILO Marathon.

***

Race outfit: Reebok top, Reebok RealFlex shoes (since it was raining, I wanted to go lightweight with my kicks), pink Newton socks, Smith Optics Pivlock shades, and a bright smile.:)

MERRELL Adventure Run 2012


Between a trail and a road race, I would go for trail – in a heartbeat. That I have always known since I had the opportunity to try out trail running at the first Merrell Adventure Run held at the Wawa Dam in Montalban, Rizal back in 2010. I only did 5k at that time and even though we got lost and ended up wandering aimlessly for a good hour before we would be able to find our way back, it did not diminish the exhilaration one bit. It sure was fun taking photos of the ducks, rocks, and the dam itself.

So when I was invited by Agatep Associates (Thank you Agatep!) to be part of the third Merrell Adventure Run last 2 June, this time at Timberland Heights in San Mateo, Rizal, not only did I say ‘hell, yeah!’, I also signed up for 21k for maximum mountainside adventure experience!

The night before the race, it started to rain and the downpour came cold and steady I struggled mightily to get out of bed at 3am – enough time to shower and get prepped-up for the 4am pick-up. In the car, Lai and I were speculating whether or not the race will happen given that it still hasn’t stopped drizzling. We passed by Philcoa to pick-up runner bloggers Running Atom and Allan of Run Free Manila, both of whom I know and have run several races with in the Metro.

It was still dark and chilly by the time we reached Timberland Heights, but there were already a lot of cars parked and runners milling around, some doing stretching exercises and others are happily playing catch-up with fellow runners.

With Running Atom (in black) and Allan aka RFM (red)

Ten minutes before gun start, Running Atom and I made our way to the starting line to join the rest of the 21k runners. Looking around, everyone seems to me is in great trail running shape. Extreme adventure athlete Thumbie Remigio, the brains and brawn behind this year’s more physically and emotionally demanding Merrell Adventure Run course, gave a few reminders to the runners before sending us off to what awaits us at Timberland Heights — a dunk in a mud pit, a few kilometers of slick uneven rocky pathways, and was punctuated with an endless string of uphill climbs.

The downpour had turned the already rigorous uphill off-road course into a slippery path.  We found ourselves sliding down muddied inclines, groping for handholds at slippery slopes, and splashing across natural streams.  I slipped twice while trying to cross the boulders that dotted the stream. One particular ‘vertical split’ (imagine one foot slipping fast down the side of the rock while my other foot was still lodged above) gave my inner thighs/crotch a nasty stretch, I would feel the tingle for a few more hours after the race. I also collected a number of cuts and scratches on my thighs, legs, and arms, from coming into contact with blades of tall grass and tree branches.

I didn’t have my watch with me so I couldn’t tell how long I had been running out there for but I was having so much fun  I was practically oblivious to anything but. I passed Reebok teammate Beep Beep at some point and would not see him and our other friends after that. Most of the time I would be on my own, occasionally overtaking a few runners, but would also be overtaken by a good number of runners as well.

There was enough water and Pocari sweat in all the well-placed hydration stations (Pocari was, of course, limited) to keep me hydrated all throughout the race. Before the race, I had planned on bringing my hydration belt with me but decided against it when I learned about the mud pit. A wise decision as I would not have been able to save it from getting dunked into a pool of mud.

Thankfully, I did not suffer cramps or knee injuries that would have made running uphill and downhill such a painful task. Before I knew it, I was already approaching the finish line and Running Atom (boy was he fast in this one!) and Alan (RFM) were already there waiting to snap some photos of me crossing it. Chip time says I finished 21k of the challenging Merrell Adventure course in 4 hours, 19 minutes, and 27 seconds.

Merrell Adventure Run 2012 certainly ranks high on my list of all-time favorite races!  A fantastic upgrade from its maiden attempt in 2010. I enjoyed the race so much I am now on the lookout for more trail runs I could join. Thank you Merrell and Agatep!