Only three short nights left until the big day. The butterflies are already fluttering about in my stomach.
My training has shifted into taper mode, the pre-race period one to two weeks before a major competition in which you lay off the hard training so that your body is well-rested. With the reduced mileage comes (slightly) more time for writing.
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As many a long distance runner will attest, training has its ups and downs (figuratively, and in ideal training conditions, literally too). Training in a tropical country while doing fieldwork poses its own suite of challenges. Here are some training highlights and hiccups.
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Training for a marathon often entails following a plan with a variety of workouts – tempo runs, hills, intervals, recovery runs, LSDs, cross-training and rest. Some runners (present company included) are neurotic about designing the ideal program, calculating target pacing, completing all workouts and meticulously recording everything in a training log.
My current training regime, however, is very unstructured. The terrain, the climate, the research, the pollution, the travel and the availability of cross-training activities all affect what I can and cannot do.
Long slow distance runs are a key component of any training program, especially for the marathon. I usually look forward to them as they offer opportunities for exploring new places or long chats with running partners. In Quezon City, there’s really only one place to escape pollution and traffic for effective LSDs: UP Diliman.
|The academic oval at UP Diliman campus|
I run laps around the academic oval. Running laps makes it easy to track mileage and avoid carrying fuel. Running laps can also be repetitive and boring. I change direction every couple of laps to ‘spice things up.’ I change my stride to match the song playing on my iPod. There are ~1000 songs on the iPod but I usually listen to the same playlist on LSDs. Here’s a sample of the songs and their elicited response.
ABBA (various) … warm-up
Avril Lavigne (various) … picking-up-the-pace … flashback to counting bird blood parasites in my undergrad
The Buggles (Video killed the radio star) … head bobbing … flashback to recovery runs with the Queen’s x-country team
Paul Simon (various) … lip sync
Moby (Bodyrock) … flashback to surfing (à la kayak) on Big Joe … press repeat 2-3 times to extend the exhilaration
Shakira (various) … dancing on the run
The White Stripes (My doorbell)… light steps
The penultimate long run (in training) was last Tuesday.
Eighteen long laps.
Made especially long because my iPod batteries died.
It was only when I was leafing through my housemate’s copy of “Runner’s World Philippines” that I learned that the academic oval is 2.2km and not 2km. So with the warm up, I had run a marathon.
Only two LSDs were done somewhere other than the academic oval. One in Nagoya, Japan. One in Legaspi, Philippines. While the weather was cooler in the former and made for better running, I preferred running in the latter. Picture running next to the sea in the wee hours of the morning. In the distance is Mount Mayon, a near-perfect conical active volcano and the pride and joy of Legaspi.
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My preferred food during LSDs is dried mango. Dried mango is cheap (especially compared to gels which are twice the price as those sold in Canada). It is readily available at grocery stores. It is easy to stash in the bushes (so that I don't have to carry it on me throughout the run). I keep a few bags of dried mango in the freezer - away from the mice and geckos that manage to chew their way through just about all food packages.
Staying hydrated is critical for training in the heat. Most sports drinks make me gag; they are either too sweet or taste articificial. My first race here was sponsored by Pocari Sweat, which turns out to be palatable and effective. Since then, the drink has been my liquid fuel of choice.
I've discovered that fresh buko juice after a long run does wonders for speeding up recovery. It's cool, refreshing, filled with nutrients, and somehow reduces soreness the following day. It has become part of my routine to stop in the barangay of San Vincente on the jog back home. The young buko seller carefully splits open a young coconut, drains the juice into a plastic bag and finally scoops out the flesh. If it’s not too hot outside I save it for after my shower. If it’s unbearably hot, I drink up immediately.
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The Ananda Márga Yoga Centre in Sikatuna Village is a 25 minute walk or a 25 peso tricycle ride from my place. When in Metro Manila, I do an hour and a half yoga session once or twice a week. The classes are probably the reason why I have, knock on wood, remained relatively healthy and injury-free these past few months. I’m counting on the yoga sessions this week to help my legs recover from last weekend’s spelunking expedition. (It wasn’t such a great idea training-wise but exploring the Calbiga Caves in Samar was too good an opportunity to pass up.)
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Runners don’t make for good foot models. Their heels and toes are calloused and blistered. Their toenails are either missing or purple.
The right pair of running socks can make a big difference in minimizing the damage. Knowing my feet, I brought two pairs of running socks with me from Canada. As of this morning, one half of each pair of socks has disappeared at the laundry. Unfortunately my two pairs of socks are different thicknesses so they can’t be used as a pair. And so, tomorrow I must venture into the malls in search of a new pair of running socks.
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Zorro is a fixture on UP Diliman campus. No one knows his real name or story. I am told that once upon a time he was a brilliant student studying physics and mathematics at the university. Then something happened. He dropped out of school. He began sporting his now-famous costume - a Zorro mask and cape - and spending his days encouraging joggers exercising around the UP academic oval. Every lap Zorro flashes a giant grin and high fives me. He usually says something along the lines of "you run fast beautiful lady." My face is already flushed from the heat and the exercise, and hides my embarrassment. Zorro told me he’ll be there for the marathon and will for cheer me.
* * *The countdown to the Second Quezon City International Marathon has begun. Three sleeps, two easy runs, one jaunt to a running store ‘til the start gun fires at 4:30am on Sunday.