Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Learning from my 5th HM

All runners ( I hope )  trains well to prepare themselves for their chosen races. But training is not enough to guarantee a superb performance during the actual event. Others, me included, ended up being disappointed due to some unforeseen reasons that caused them the race.  As they say , we all learn from our mistakes . I just learned some of them in a hard way.

Road to Condura

In spite of the pricey registration fee , the  Condura Skyway Event still was a race to prepare for and join. Running in the skyway, as some may say, is priceless. Having this in mind, I was already registered last December 2010. I was one of those early birds who wanted to not only run but fly in the skyway. So there I was getting so excited for my 5th half marathon, the first major event for me for 2011.  But, human as I am, I was not able to do much to prepare last December. Fresh from my QCIM experience, I  did sinful carbo-loading instead. The year ended with no decent miles logged for my Condura training.

The new year came with renewed determination to at least break that elusive “Sub 2” time on a pikermi. I was religious enough to train, focusing more on quality and not on quantity. I was hoping that my preparation would carry on and help me during the D Day. I am not a “technical runner”  but I started believing on having some training plans. So for the road to Condura, I kept a log of how much , how far and what time did I run. By doing this,  I believe I can better monitor my progress as I move along.  Below is my log for January alone.

To add to what I have above, I did add some cross training with emphasis on core workouts. I did not consider doing an interval and focused mainly on tempo runs. However , they did not even last an hour. Never the less, I was confident with my goal and I believed that the training will help me through.

Meet the Skyway

The gun time for 21K is rather early as compared to the usual HMs that I have joined last year. At 3 AM in the morning I was out of the house waiting for a ride going to Ayala Ave. for the my 5th half marathon. The traffic was quite smooth and going to the location was a breeze. After spending quite some time lining up for the baggage counter area, I was running my way to the starting line. Being part of wave A,  I was on the first legions of runner excited of running in the skyway.

At 4:30 AM , the gun went off and I am off to a good start. Breezing my way in between runners as I start to warm up my body for 21K of non stop running. Before I knew it, I am already making an entry to the skyway cruising just below 6MPK.  The rest of the skyway route was none the less a combination of rolling hills , wide lanes and a beautiful experience. I was comfortable with my planned pace and swiftly passing some runners along the way. Hydration was also adequate , I took some sips on my bottle and refilling it along the way. For the first 12K of the race I only took minimal water, one energy gel and took some conservative take of the 100+ sports drink along the way. Feeling strong and fit, I did not feel any mishaps along the route.

Then came the 15KM mark, still running at a good pace, a sudden jolt on my left calf alarmed me. Stopping a bit and  running slower, I was thinking the cramps wont push through. At 16K, the sudden jerks  became more evident and the right calf started to act similarly.  From 17K down to finish line, I was running and walking with cramps. I took in more water and energy drinks thinking it would help. I even took my second power gel but to no avail. It was indeed the longest 4 kilometers I ever run. I stopped to walk,  changed to heel strike when running and constantly cursing myself out of disappointment. All I was wishing is to see the finish line anytime soon. I even had the patella support on my left knee moved lower to at least ease the effect of cramps on my left calf. As I see the kilometer markers nearing 21K, I pushed myself to make some short burst of running and still wishing that I could do a sprint on the last few hundred kilometers of the race. Then came the last turn  and the last wave of pain. Seeing the finish line just around 500meters away,  toe cramps on my left foot started. It was an excruciating experience but I have to push myself and finish the race. I manage to do a slow jog towards the finish line as the timer flashed 2:14:xx . Goodbye to my sub-2 effort.

Looking Back.

While I nursed  swollen calves for 3 days or so, I assessed my performance during my 5th HM.  Below is my splits for the race based on my watch ( I just hope the kilometer markers were close to accurate ):

Looking at my splits , it was indeed a decent run after all. I broke my 15K and 16K personal best for at least 15 minutes! If only I was running consistently and without cramping , the sub 2 goal is almost attainable ( a just above 2hr finish time could have been very acceptable ).

 The following factors may have caused the cramps :

  1. Dehydration. I was passing a lot of hydration station thinking that my supply of water and power gel would suffice. I passed 2 banana station but did not bother to grab one. I tried skipping the 100+ drinks knowing its nasty effect on my stomach.
  2. Side effect of medicine. I am taking anti-hypertensive drug as a maintenance medication for my hypertension. Based on some readings, some anti-hypertensive can caused cramps as side effect. I have yet to consult my doctor on this.
  3. Insufficient training. As I was looking with my training logs, I noticed that my tempo runs did not exceed an hour and most of them were just around 7 to 8KM runs. I am thinking that my body was not accustomed to my faster pace at higher distances, thus, the lactic acid build up may have contributed to my demise.

The Day After.

Immediately after arriving at home, the very first thing that I have thought of is to look for ways of coping with cramps during the actual race. A runner may have trained so hard for a race but sometimes, he may have forgotten, to read something about dealing with cramps on the actual race.  From my readings in the Takbo.PH forum, as shared by other runners who have experienced the same thing, SALT seems to be the immediate panacea for cramps. Some suggested taking a small amount of salt would immediately give a relief. Thus, starting  with my next race, I shall never forget to bring a small pack of salt at hand in case something like this would ever happen again. The various stretches to ease the cramp is also a new learning for me.

Above all, the importance of proper hydration and training is still the best solution for any mishaps or injury. Prevention, as they say, is still more important that the actual cure.

I realized that injury during the actual race will not only hurt you physically but also dampens your morale. It is only with sheer will and determination that we continue to push our self to finish it in spite of all the pain and disappointment.  This, I guess, makes a runner a fighter , not only during races but also in the actual day to day life battle that we must fight. For any disappointments or failures we meet along the road of life there is no harm in standing up again and give it another shot. Learn from our mistakes and move on, because as long as we are breathing, we can try it all over again.

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