1st Barefoot Race, Tribe Relations, and Everything in Between

May 27, 9ish in the morning.

“Go ahead. Finish it on your own,” Coach Mike Logico said.

I was surrounded by members of Barefoot Running Philippines. I was ten meters away from finishing the race.

I smiled and kept the tears from falling.

“Yes, Coach,” I said.

Rookie Mistake

It was my fault. A week before, I ran my first marathon, traversed a mountain (or a very high hill), and endured the heat of the sun. Everything was fine except my feet and ankles. It’s the classic symptom of too much, too, fast, and too cocky — but that’s fodder for another post. My ankles were a battered mess, I couldn’t walk straight, much less stand for more than a minute without it hurting.

Running my first marathon in Kai Sandals a week before my barefoot race.

Two days worth of anti inflammatory medicine and Emulgel helped decrease the swelling and the pain. By the third day after the marathon, I was running barefoot with Barefoot Running Philippines.

I should have been content that I could run barefoot after a marathon, but I was too full of myself. During the last kilometer of the Wednesday barefoot session, I pushed myself to run fast. Again, too cocky. I did run fast, at the expense of my ankles stiffening.

Race day

Other than my ankles, everything was fine during race day. I thought I will beat my personal record in the half marathon – I was wrong.

As my practice, I started at the back end of the pack. I got my groove on and pace as I reached the first kilometer – 8:20 per kilometer. not bad, I thought. I was running barefoot and maintaining a decent pace.

I maintained my pace and soldiered on until the first turn around marker. Both ankles and feet are a bit stiff at this point.

At around kilometer ten, I had the tail end of Barefoot Running Philippines on my sights. A little adjustment with my pace and I found myself beside Mommy Eve, and Jhoe Zep.

I was relieved that I found pace and running buddies. My feet (cuboid bone) was hurting and my right ankle was starting to swell by the end of kilometer eleven.

Mommy Eve, pasabay po ah,” I asked.

“Sure,” Mommy Eve said while she flashed her infectious smile.

The three of us walked until we reached the 12th kilometer mark. After that, we started to run.

Run and Pace Buddies, Jhoe Zep and Mommy Eve (photo c/o Jhoe Zep)

Somewhere between kilometer 13 and 15, my right ankle started hurting badly. Again, being too cocky, I didn’t pay attention to it and ran faster. To compensate, I landed on my left foot harder, and cradled my landing on my right which led to my right knee hurting.

At kilometer 16, the distance between Mommy Eve and Jhoe, and I was becoming significant. I panicked and ran after them. When I was an earshot away, I shouted for Jhoe Zep.

“Zep, hintay.”

“Okay ka lang?” he asked.

“Masakit na. Intay lang.”

He called for Mommy Eve, and checked if I was okay.

Kaya mo pa tumakbo?”

Kaya pa.”

I ran five steps.

“‘Di pala.” I told Jhoe.

Feeling the pain of at 13K

The longest 5 kilometers.

Jhoe Zep and Mommy Eve walked with me from kilometer 16 to 21.  At this point, we were beyond the three hour mark.

At kilometer 18, I wanted to DNF (Did not Finish).

“Mommy Eve, una na po kayo. Susunod po ako,” I said

“Hindi, sabay sabay na tayo. Magpahinga ka kung gusto mo, pero sabay na tayo,” she said.

She knew what I was thinking. And she kept me from giving in to my thoughts.

“Kung buhatin ka pa namin eh,” she added as a joke.

Little did she know that they will.

At kilometer 19 or so the two of them had to carry me for a while by my shoulders. The road was sharp and my ankles could not compensate.

Little by little, step by step, the six kilometers dwindled to 1. Members of the Barefoot Running Philippines came back for the three of us to prod us on.

20 meters out, the whole tribe was there, waiting and cheering. Some of them were asking how I was.

“Ankles ko,” was all I could answer.

Resting the tired ankles with Mommy Eve at Kilometer 18 (photo c/o Jhoe Zep)

Last 10 meters.

“Go ahead, finish it on your own.”

“Yes, coach.”

I ran the last ten meters of the race. My ankles hurt, my feet were battered, but I ran like it was my last. Ten meters. Every step was excruciating, but I smiled all the way.

My ears were buzzing when I crossed the finish line. Everyone was there. The tribe was complete, my Baliw Team was there, and two topless guys were taking my timing chip and putting on my medal. A lot of photos were taken and a lot of congratulations were said.

When the buzz died down, Coach came to me and held out his hand.

“Congrats,” he said.

“Thank you, po,” I said. Like him, when he finished a full Mary barefoot, all I could think about was, I just accomplished something.

Even after four hours, the tribe waited for us. (Photo c/o Sarah Navoa)

I used to think that I was invincible. I used to think running barefoot would make me an elite in the running community: No more pain, no more discomfort, no more hassle. I was wrong.

I admit I became cocky. I ran a marathon, I must be invincible.

And just when I was about to let my attitude inflate my ego, barefoot running kept me humbled and grounded.
My injury/pain/discomfort or whatever you want to call it is NOT a direct result of running barefoot. It was the result of me not resting and me not practicing proper technique. For all the naysayers of barefoot running, about how it can cause more injuries, it’s all bull. Running barefoot promotes proper form and technique. But then again, like what Coach Mike said, the number one enemy of a barefoot runner is himself.

brmigo:

The story of Marcelo Bautista is awe-inspiring. How Sir Jovie narrates his story is also worth a reblog.

Originally posted on Bald Runner:

He arrived at the Starting Area two hours before the Gun Start. I personally don’t know the man but looking at his physique, I already knew that he is an elite runner. I just observed him walking around and within the Assembly Area of the Race inside the Rosario Municipal Plaza (Rosario, La Union) and I was trying to figure out his running kit. He was wearing the usual running shorts with an upper garment which seems to be a midrib attire usually worn by elite lady runners as well as the men’s elite. He was wearing those colourful ladies’ hose/socks whose length is up above the knees and the color on one leg is black and the other one leg is a combination of light green, pink and cream. The socks must be functional for him as a combination of the usual socks and calves sleeves! He was wearing…

View original 1,415 more words

Race report: Valley Trail Challenge 2

Days before the race, weather forecasts said July 1 would be cloudy with dispersed rain showers. The forecast seemed reliable, heavy rains fell on the archipelago the whole week. I was surprised to see stars in the night sky on the drive to Laguna. “It will be a little sunny later,” I said to myself. Boy, was that an understatement.

JULY 1, 5:00 AM (1st Loop)

After the briefing and instructions of Race Director, Sir Jonel Mendoza, 150 runners for the 50+K category lined up at the starting line. Stars were seen above, and not a single cloud was imminent. I didn’ mind how clear the sky was. Most of the runners were concerned about the “puddle” in the middle of the starting line – remnants of the hard downpour that happened just a few hours earlier.

After giving out his final instructions, “First loop – blue ribbons, second loop – redSir Jonel Mendoza started the countdown. I stayed at the back end of the pack when the “gun” went off.

TRAIL, ROAD, MUD

frontRunner magazine remained true to their word –  only 5% of the route was paved roads. The first turn that the 50K runners did was on a gravel path that lead to the trail proper. Since I was at the back of the pack, I was surprised to see runners crowding in on the trail. Most of the runners at the front of the pack was there too. And then I saw it – mostly felt it (a squish). The mud. It was ankle deep. The rains of the past days soaked the trails and made it into mush. The runners slowed down and looked for a path that wasn’t that mushy, either to stave off mud from their shoes – though this is unlikely, or to save their feet from getting wet (and saving their soles from blisters). If it wasn’t mush, we had to deal with slippery trails, and rocks – a given in any trail race.

The muddy trail runners encountered; photo courtesy of Simon Miranda

At some point in the race, I got tired of looking for a path that wasn’t muddy. Instead of saving my shoes from getting mushed, I trekked right into it. My black and green trail shoes became brown. After running in muddy shoes for 15K, I  realized why the runners were so hesitant about traversing ankle-deep mud – it makes shoes heavier. Fortunately, I found a puddle and soaked my feet right into it. I would rather risk getting blisters rather than lug around mud heavied shoes for another 45K (plus, a barefoot runner who’s afraid of blisters? Nah).

One of the puddles that I used to “clean” mud drenched shoes; photo courtesy of Simon Miranda

NEW ZEALAND

Runners from different running sites and forums kept mentioning “New Zealand” on their posts about the 1st Valley Trail Challenge. I was intrigued, but I did not delve into finding out what New Zealand is about.

At around 10K (official distance) runners took a turn to “New Zealand.” I did not have to ask fellow runners if this was the fabled place. I knew it the moment we stepped into it. It was the most scenic place in the race. It was a valley with rolling hills. There were no “talahib” that was taller than a man, only grass. And true to it’s namesake, there were a lot of cows. Most photos of the race that is posted online is taken here.

New Zealand in the Philippines! Photo courtesy of Simon Miranda

It was in New Zealand that the 25K runners caught up with the tail end of the 50K runners. The bonus kilometers (7 or so kilometers) were also ran in and around this area. It was also in New Zealand that the sun started to rise.

HEAT

During the last 5 – 7K of the first loop, the sun started bearing down on the runners. It was only 10:00 AM, and the heat was unbearable. The roads let off it’s “singaw” which made running conditions more challenging.

10:00 AM or so (2nd loop)

The sun was beating down hard. I was a bit tired and dehydrated, and my feet were wet and sore. I made it to the clubhouse during the heat of the day, again, at the tail end of the 50K runners. With the help of my support crew, I ate a little, hydrated, and changed socks. In less than ten minutes, I was off to do the 2nd loop (last 20 or so kilometers) of the race.

Since I was at the tail end of the pack, I didn’t have anyone to run with. Getting lost was out of the question (with the heat, it was scary and dangerous). So I stuck by Sir Jonel’s instructions – I followed the ribbons.

I didn’t have a hard time finding my way. Ribbons were laid out at every major turn point in the race. And to make sure runners were following the right trail, race marshalls were a plenty (relative term when it comes to trail running).

During the second loop, I ran like crazy.  I wanted to make it to the cut-off of 10 hours (Sir Jonel extended it by an hour). I was surprised then that I passed other runners who looked like they were struggling with the heat.

Incident of cheating(?) Short cuts?

The heat and running another loop may be the culprit that did runners in who DNFd. This may also be the reason why some runners took crazy running to the extreme.

10 kilometers after starting the 2nd loop, I passed at least half a dozen runners. For about half an hour, I was running/sprinting for 4 minutes with 30 seconds of power walking. I was alone for most of this time, constantly checking if a runner is behind me (one of my motivation mantras, “Don’t let the runner you passed, pass you“). I was surprised to hear runners behind me. I turned around. They came from an unmarked path.

One of them ran up beside me and asked, “Ano time mo sa 1st loop?”

“5:28 po,” I said.

The runner looked back to his companion and said, “Sabi sayo, mali dinaanan natin.”

“‘Di naman mahalata yan,” his companion said.

“Bayaran na lang natin yung kumukuha ng oras,” the runner said (some of the race marshalls were taking note of the Bib Numbers of the runners at some of the intersection points).

I didn’t give them much attention, and focused on running. When I looked back, they were gone.

Last 6K

The last 6K was done on semi-dirt paths and paved roads. The heat was at its highest. Like before I encountered a runner who looked strong, but was feeling defeated.

“Tara, Sir, konti na lang,” I said to cheer him up.

“Ilan pa ba?” he asked.

“Siguro less than 6K na lang, yung last turn natin nasa 6 na tayo nun,” I said.

He smiled and started running. I tried to keep up, but like what I observed, he was a strong runner. He had at least 300 meters on me. I was trailing him and had him on my sights with about less than 3K from the finish line. I was surprised to see him take a turn to the talahib area going to the road to the finish. “Weird,” I thought. ” I remember the turnaround was at least a few meters ahead.”

When I got to the area where he turned, I felt sorry for him. There were no ribbons, not even a trail. There was less than 2K to go. “Sayang,” was all I could say to myself.

Finish

All I thought about was to run hard. That’s what I did, the moment I stepped on paved road again. I knew I wasn’t going to be in the top ten finishers, neither will I be included in the finishers who finished within 9 hours (the original cut-off time). But at this point in the race, I did not care. I wanted to finish strong, so I ran as hard as I could.

At around 2:30 PM, I finished the race. The happiest green horn in town.

Out of breath but happy as a camper, with Sir Jonel

At the end of it all, Sir Jonel and his team  took care of the small details.Though the claim was All thrills, no frills, this was an overstatement. The medal and shirt was exemplary, the Aid stations had ample provisions (ice, water, food, and electrolyte drinks), and the marshalls were honest (they will tell you the exact distance that you have to run) and friendly. 

The incident about cheating is technically not proven. There were hearsays about it at the clubhouse at the finish line. For what I saw, and heard, I stand by them. I did not get the Bib Nos. of those that I encountered so I have no proof of saying who they were, but they did what they did, and what happened, happened. The Race Director has no control over runners like these (with the vast expanse of the trails and the limited number of marshalls). A suggestion would be to let the runners wear two bibs, one at the front, and one at the back. So when a runner takes a shortcut, runners behind them could report it. Reporting incidents like these should also be encouraged. 

The Valley in and around Nuvali is not as spectacular as that of other trail races. It is flat, hot, and (at times) muddy. But what it lacks in scenery, it makes up for its degree in difficulty. Those who think running rolling hills is easy should definitely run the third edition of this race. I definitely would.

Lessons for a Green Horn

Like any average newbie, I made the mistake of setting my goal to superficial things. I wanted the medal that said 50k Finisher, and the Finisher’s shirt. Little did I know that I will give up these things in a heartbeat once I cross the finish line.

frontRunner Magazine’s Valley Trail Challenge opened my mind to things ultra runners see, experience and live for.

It is okay to be afraid, you can’t be brave if you are not.

Running a distance more than a marathon is daunting for a newbie. Thoughts like, “Can I do this?” is a constant. Fear and doubt took hold of me before the race. Denying and ignoring it would do more harm than good, so I did what any psychologists would do, I dwelled on the fear and confronted it. I am afraid. I have all these doubts, but during race day, I’ve made sure that I’ve come into terms with what I can do about the situation.

Statements like, you did not train enough, you are too fat, were left at my bedside on race day and were replaced by, I’ll run it anyway.

“Be humble”

Veteran ultra runners like Sir Jovie and Sir Jonel would almost always say this to an aspirant runner. Understanding this concept is a bit difficult, especially for newbies like me. I misconstrued the sentence because of its vagueness. Be humble. Humble about what?

First would be to train and prepare. Failure at this is tantamount to disrespecting the distance a runner is about to face.

Second would be to know your real goal and purpose. Running and racing should be about overcoming personal boundaries and pleasing and satisfying one’s self at the moment of this accomplishment. If the sole purpose of running a long distance race is tied to material and superficial things like medals, Finisher’s shirts and bragging rights in Facebook, it defeats the purpose of overcoming boundaries and self improvement, which in turn defeats the purpose of running an ultra – the need to acknowledge our weakness (humility) in order to know our strength.

Taking a short break after 27K

It is easier to blame than to put in work

Through out the race, I’ve encountered participants who settled to blame external and internal factors on their lack of drive and on their attitude towards finishing. It is easier to find an excuse when your body is rebelling against your will and mind.

During the second loop of the race, I’ve encountered a runner in one of the Aid Stations, he looked strong and fresh, but he was resting.

The first thing  he said to me was, “Di na tayo aabot sa cut off.”

Not wanting to dwell on his idea, I tried to change the topic, “Maaga pa. Aabot pa yan.”

He just looked down.

Na-bobore ako dito. Boring yung race. Di tulad sa Mt. Ugo, ang daming switch backs.”

I was shocked. this dude ran Mt. Ugo, and he was giving up with less than 20k to go?

Maybe he was tired, or injured, and maybe running Mt. Ugo was better in terms of scenery and switch backs. But then again, runners are committed to finish a race within cut off once you register, so blaming the scenery is out of the question.

The most dangerous enemy of the runner then are these excuses. Rationalizing these things will only lead to a weak mind during the race.

Leave room for positive thoughts and energies.

The runner mentioned above was a veteran. He looked strong, is strong, and has more experience in running ultras. For him to say that he won’t make it to the cut off seems rational. Who was I to question his judgement?

But I am irrational, bordering on crazy. so I stayed positive and didn’t listen to his negativity.

Instead, I focused on doing my job and on being positive. Yes, I was in pain, my knee was injured, and it was hot. But I could still run. So that’s what I did. I ran.

I kept telling myself, “I can make it, all I have to do is run,” and “Madami pang laman ang bodega.”

Staying positive worked. I finished ahead of the veteran, with half an hour to spare.

Be honorable

I was slow. So slow, that some runners thought no one was watching them from behind when they took shortcuts – I was surprised to see 3 runners (on two separate occasions) take unmarked routes (no ribbons).

This was during the second loop, with barely 10K to go. Then and there I knew that I’ll take a DNF rather than cheat myself. I would not pass up on an opportunity to test my limits. Plus, taking short cuts in a trail race is a shame. Period.

After 9 hours and 30 minutes, I crossed the finish line. I got my medal, and my finisher’s shirt. But I gained more than these two things. I still have to run more miles for me to fully appreciate the things running an ultra teaches, but one lesson I am glad I learned after crossing the finish line,

The beer tastes better after an ultra.

El Toro Loco posing with me at the finish line. She’s my anchor, rock, and number one supporter. Thank you!

If you have the…

Aside

If you have the desire for knowledge and the power to give it physical expression, go out and explore. If you are a brave man you will do nothing; if you are fearful you may do much, for none but cowards have need to prove their bravery.

Some will tell you that you are mad, and nearly all will say, ‘What is the use?’

- Apsley Cherry-Garrard,

The Worst Journey in the World

 

“God, please let me run.”

That was my initial thought/prayer when I sprained both my ankles (separate occasions) and got ran over by a van. I wasn’t digging running seriously then – either I was training for a boxing or wreslting match, or I was trying to be fit for the PMC. But after each unfortunate injury/event, all I asked was, “Can I still run?”

The first time I seriously sprained my ankle was during Muay Thai practice. I tried a kick that I haven’t practiced. I lost my balance and slipped, landing all my weight on my right ankle.

I was immobile for three days and was in pain for weeks.

My prayer then was for me to start running again. After weeks of walking in pain, I managed to jog 800 meters without much discomfort. The initial prayer of wanting and being satisfied with running was forgotten. I ventured into more contact sports – boxing, wrestling, and MMA.

Two years later I got injured again.

This was a week before my boxing match. I helped a friend with his upcoming MMA match by being his wrestling partner. He outweighed me by forty pounds. My friend shot for a single leg take down.  With his weight advantage, sprawling was improbable, so I tried to be evasive. I overstepped and put all my weight on my left foot. My ankle turned inward. For about a second, my full 130lbs was supported by my turned ankle.

My left ankle was swollen and hurting. I couldn’t walk straight. I didn’t think about my upcoming boxing match then. All I thought about was, “Can I still run?”

After a month of rehabilitation, I was running and boxing again.

About  year ago, I got into an accident.

I was a few hundred meters from our house. All I needed to do was cross the avenue , go into our village, and walk home. Simple.

It was raining hard. I had my black jacket on, and my black umbrella.

Halfway across the avenue, I got hit from behind. I was airborne for a second or two.

I was confused. Initially, I thought some dude was trying to rob me. But then I thought, “Wala naman yatang magnanakaw ang marunong mag-takedown from behind.”

And then I heard a man say, “Sorry, ‘di kita nakita.”

Then it hit me (literally). I just got ran over. I glanced over to what hit me. What I saw scared the crap out of me.  It was big-ass van. With big-ass tires  - those that they use for off-road driving.

I was sure that something got broken on my right leg after I saw what ran over me.

The driver/dude got out of the van and brought me to the hospital.

While on the way to the hospital, the driver/dude explained the situation. He wasn’t looking at my direction and he didn’t see me. Inspecting his van, I couldn’t agree more with him. Yes, he won’t be able to see me in these conditions: His van had the manyak-tints on level 100.

While my right leg was being  X-Rayed, all I prayed for was that I regain the ability to run again.

Fortunately, I didn’t break any bones. My right ankle took most of the beating (two of the monster tires ran over it directly). But it was only swollen and sprained.

Thinking back, now I know why those injuries and accident happened and why my initial reactions were like that. Life is reminding me that I am a superman, and that at the end of it all, I will always go back to basics, to things that I hold dearest.

Run first, race last

Running and racing are two different things. Even though the two are miles apart, most confuse the two as the same.

Running is free. Racing is not. Some people run first, and then race second, while others race first and run last.

That’s the difference.

I don’t mind not racing for a year. I could always run on my free time. I’ve already done several half marathons on my own, and I feel happy about it, even if there are no medals or loot bags. Running is not about getting medals, collecting singlets, and those things. Running, in it’s purest form is about survival.

Fail to run during prehistoric  earth and you have guaranteed yourself a seat in the extinct train. Early man ran away from danger, and ran to get food.
People run and race nowadays to connect with that innate nature of man to shuffle his feet either in pursuit of something or away from one.

I take a different approach to Racing. Mostly, I join races so I could run with a pack. I also join races so I could run places that is normally condoned off the public – like the skyway, the roads in and around Taguig, and Roxas Boulevard. It was never about freebies or the quality of the shirt, or because of loot bags and medals. Again, I don’t mind if a race won’t offer free shirts, loot bags, or medals. I’ll run a race if A, it provides a different experience, ie location, and B , if the race raises awareness for a particular cause that I support.

A race is a timed running event. It’s that simple. A race is a race because of running.

And that’s why I join races

I race because I run.