The Running Angel

Just because I don't have wings, doesn't mean I can't fly.

Climbing Out of a Rut

I’ve been stuck in a rut for a few months now, maybe even years.

When I hear the word rut, I imagine a dark, damp hole in the ground with nothing but soil and rocks and roots all around. The clear blue sky can be seen, but it is too far out of reach. It is lonely and miserable and depressing.

But the rut I’m in is actually quite comfortable. It’s got a nice couch and a TV with all my favorite shows. It’s got the Internet and an iPad with games like Candy Crush and PvZ. It’s got a fridge stocked with goodies and sweets. It’s got a Kobo filled with books (though most of the time, they are ignored when there’s a new update on the games). When you’re stuck in a place like this, it is very difficult to climb out, to will the body that’s gotten slow and sluggish to just get out and run. When you’re already so comfortable, why would you ever want to leave?

Because seeing the sky above, knowing there’s a big old world out there just waiting to be explored, leaves one wondering and wanting more. Because the whispers in one’s ear, saying it’s time to get out, are becoming too loud to ignore. Because the pounds that have crept in and the clothes that no longer fit have started to pile up.

Here are a few things I decided to do to get out of this rut:

1. Sign up for a race.

Roland and I are going on a trip to the US in October. It’s our first trip outside of Asia together and I could not be more excited! Running is one of the best ways to explore a new place so we decided to look for a race we could join while we’re there. (Plus, it’s a great way to counter all the eating that’s sure to happen.) We’re joining the Healdsburg Wine Country Half Marathon on October 25. Running + wine sounds like the perfect combination to me!

healdsburg half

2. Get a coach.

I am really not a morning person, but last Tuesday and Friday at 6 am, I dragged myself out of bed to train at the Ultra track oval. Luckily, it’s just a five-minute walk from our place. We booked several training sessions with Coach Roel Ano, who was also our coach when we did the Runner’s World 25-K Challenge last November. It’s really very helpful to have someone motivating you and pushing you to your limits. Though those first two sessions were tough, I’m beginning to see the benefits of training in the morning. Nothing beats breathing in the fresh air, soaking up vitamin D from the early morning sun, and seeing other runners pound the track with their lean legs and perfect stride.


3. Start writing again.

The irony of being a magazine writer and editor for a living is that I find it very hard to write for myself. After a stressful day at work, I just want to stay away from my computer and retreat to my comfy rut, where I can watch my shows and play my games. But writing has always been a way for me to reflect and see things in the right perspective. Back in high school, when I had limited access to the Internet, I’d write pages and pages of words on my journal, looking back on my experiences and processing how I felt about them. As the digital age took over, I did this less and less, apart from the occasional silent retreat where I had no choice but to power off my gadgets.

After my shingles attack back in 2012, I got very busy with getting married, adjusting to a new home, and dealing with added work responsibilities. I’ve been able to keep running and traveling, though not as often as I used to. It’s all been overwhelming but I’ve been very blessed. Though safe and comfortable in my rut the last few months, I don’t want to be removed from the world anymore while life passes me by. I want to participate and engage, enjoy and appreciate the little moments.

So here I am, trying to claw my way out, one handful of soil and rocks and roots at a time. —A


A Bout With Shingles

So for the past week, I have been quarantined at home because I got shingles—a painful, blistering skin rash due to the same virus that causes chickenpox. At first I kept thinking about who I possibly could have gotten this from, but it turns out, I got it from me! According to the doctor, you can’t “catch” shingles. (You can catch chicken pox though, so if a person hasn’t gotten it before, then he or she can get that from me.) The way I understood it, once you’ve had chickenpox, the virus lays dormant in your system. And when a time comes when your immune system is very weak or you are particularly stressed, the virus awakens and re-emerges as shingles.

After I got back from Boracay two weeks ago, I went straight to work. Then, I went out with my friends from abroad. Then I worked some more. Then I took them to Tagaytay. I had very little sleep that whole week, but I still kept going. Before we went to Tagaytay on Friday, I already felt this pounding headache on the right side of my head but I figured it was just because I lacked sleep. I also had an earache, which I figured was a result of helmet diving in Boracay. On Sunday, a rash had already appeared on my face but I figured some insect just bit me (because mosquitoes really like me). I already wasn’t feeling very well but I just took some Biogesic and went to work the next day anyway—it was turnover week and I was already behind! On Tuesday, the rash wasn’t getting any better so I finally took a half-day leave and went to the doctor in the afternoon. Turns out, all the things “I figured” were wrong. What I had was shingles.

Being jilted out of my whirlwind schedule and forced to stay at home felt kind of sad and lonely at first (the fact that the rash started to hurt more and that I am turning 30 in a few weeks didn’t help). But then I started to enjoy the time I had to really rest. Oh don’t get me wrong, I still had to work—those magazine pages weren’t going to be turning over themselves, after all (Thank goodness I had an efficient team to help!). But apart from that, I was also able to read some books, pray and reflect, catch up on some TV shows, watch a few movies, and just spend some quality time with myself.

Perhaps the one thing I haven’t been able to do that I miss most is run… just when I was three weeks into my half-marathon training plan! I was supposed to join two 10-K runs too. But that’s okay, there will be other races. I may have to start from scratch (because I have not had any physical activity for the last three weeks), but that’s okay, too. I’m sure a 3-K will turn into a 5 and then a 10 in no time.

So for the rest of 2012, my goal is to take it easy (although the prospect of holiday shopping and my growing wedding to-do list is beginning to make my shingle scars tingle). Hopefully, I will be able to take to heart the lessons I learned: I cannot do everything. I need to rest adequately and let my body recover. When something feels wrong, go to the doctor asap because my health is more important than anything. Delegate. Prioritize. Focus on things that matter. —A

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From Ultra to Bora

Runner’s World Half-Marathon Training Plan Week 3: Tuesday – 3km easy, Thursday – 6.5km easy, Sunday – 8km LSD (long slow distance), rest or cross training in between

My Workouts:

Tuesday, 11/20 – 3.5km @ 29:33 (Average pace: 8:20/km)

On Tuesday afternoon, the Runner’s World team trooped to the Ultra track oval in Pasig for our cover shoot. We couldn’t have been more excited to meet our cover guy—a popular celebrity and marathoner who’s had a really inspiring journey (but more on that in the January-March 2013 issue!).

After the shoot, I did my 3.5 km easy run-walk around the oval with Roland. After the run, we went up the bleachers to do some stretching exercises while admiring the view.

Footwear: Saucony Kinvara 3
I wore these shoes the whole day, from the office to the track. Unfortunately, I went for fashion over comfort—I wore a pair of black ankle socks which kept sliding down to my heel so I ended up having blisters at the back of both feet! The shoes itself are very light and comfortable, although the upper part of the shoes are a bit narrow. I will probably just be using these shoes for drills and short runs (with the proper socks next time!).

• Thursday, 11/22 – 6.6km at 54:04 (Average pace 8:11/km)
On Thursday I was up extra early because I had a meeting all the way in Tagaytay. Luckily, I was able to take a nap on the way back to Manila, which means I had enough energy to do my run as scheduled.

Footwear: Newton Distance Trainers

Sunday, 11/25 – 0km
My Thai friends Neuy and Gift arrived on Saturday and today we flew to Boracay! I had hoped to do my long run here but I was too tired from the trip. We did walk all the way to the end of Station 1 (from our hotel near Station 2) so that’s got to count for something, right? :p

Total Weekly Mileage: 10.1km

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Listen to Your Body

Runner’s World Half-Marathon Training Plan Week 2: Tuesday – 3km easy, Thursday – 5km easy, Sunday – 8km LSD (long slow distance), rest or cross training in between

My Workouts:

Tuesday, 11/13 – approx. 3km of drills at the RW Running Clinic at Mercato Centrale

Wednesday, 11/14– approx. 3km of drills at the Nike+ Media Trial Session

I had a chance to road test the new Nike LunarGlide+4 Shield at their event in SM Mall of Asia last Wednesday. I also tried the Nike+ Running app on my iPhone which was pretty cool. First, we ran about half a kilometer by the bay area. Then, Coach Rio dela Cruz and his team proceeded to lead us through a set of running drills.

Though the pair I tested was a half size bigger than what I’d normally wear, the shoes felt comfortable as I ran and performed the drills. However, the upper part of the shoe is quite narrow, which can pose a problem on long runs since my feet are wider than normal. I love the bright orange accents though!

After drills by Coach Rio’s team, another group of coaches headed by Chappy Callanta of 360 Fitness Club led us through a more challenging set of exercises—burpees, mountain climbers, planks, push ups, the works! Though the workout was short, it really had me huffing and puffing. Then, another half-kilometer run by the bay. My Nike+ app recorded a total distance of about 0.9km (including the earlier run). All in all, it was a great session. My muscles felt sore the next day, which is a sure sign that my body was pushed to the limit.

Friday, 11/16 – 3km run @ 27:31 (Average pace: 09:07/km)

I opted to rest on Thursday and tried to do my planned 5km run on Friday. However, I was already feeling very tired and heavy from the start, and my right hamstring felt sore (I’m guessing I pulled a muscle at Wednesday’s training). So in the end, I decided to listen to my body and cut the run short at 3km before the soreness could escalate into a full-blown injury!

Other factors that may have contributed to my lethargy: I had my period, I lacked sleep, and I had just started my South Beach Diet again. Perhaps my body was still adjusting to the lesser food intake.

Sunday, 11/18 – 8km LSD @ 1:07:32 (Average pace: 08:26/km)

Cutting my Friday run short and getting a good long rest paid off because by the time I did my long run today, I was feeling really good. My average pace for this run was a little faster than last Sunday’s. I was feeling lighter (I lost a few pounds since I started dieting) and more energetic, plus the pain in my right hamstring was gone. This time, I had my running buddy and soon-to-be-hubby Roland with me, which made the time pass a little more easily. 🙂

Total Weekly Mileage: 17km

So basically, this was a good training week—one that taught me the importance of listening to my body and paying attention to the little things in training. Perhaps two consecutive “running drill days” also isn’t advisable, particularly if the workouts are intense. On to week 3! —A

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Lessons Learned

Yesterday I attended the second Runner’s World running clinic with triathlon coach, Jojo Macalintal (who also happens to be the coach of celebrities like Piolo Pascual and Jennylyn Mercado!). This time it was held in Mercato Centrale, Bonifacio Global City. As what happened in Ultra last week, the session started with a short lecture on proper form and the importance of training to strengthen running muscles and prevent injury. This was then followed by ladder drills and other practical exercises.

At the end of the session, I took note of two important things:

1. According to Coach Jojo, it’s better to do planks and other core exercises before your run as this helps condition the core and improve form. Plus, you’d probably be too tired to do them after running. — I can totally relate to this. I usually do core work (if at all) after running. Next time, I’ll try to do it before running so I won’t get too lazy to do it after!

2. During training, we usually do “long slow distance” runs. Coach Jojo discourages this because he says we shouldn’t train our body to run slow. When running long and slow, the tendency is that we’ll get so tired that our form suffers. Of course, he’s not saying we should go all-out all the time; we can always run at a moderate pace (or walk even)—just don’t run too slow. (If you must, check your form!)

It was definitely a great clinic and I highly encourage all runners to attend the next few sessions. Coach Jojo has a way of making training fun (cracking jokes every now and then), and he is very approachable and willing to answer all your questions. There’s a lot you can learn, whether you’re a newbie or a seasoned runner. Best of all, it’s free!

Check out the schedules below:

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Back to Basics

Runner’s World Half-Marathon Training Plan Week 1: Tuesday – 3km easy, Thursday – 5km easy, Sunday – 6km LSD (long slow distance), rest or cross training in between

My Workouts:

Tuesday, 11/6 – approx. 3km of drills

So the first week of my half-marathon training officially began last Tuesday, November 6. (I had just gotten back from Hong Kong so I was even more motivated to burn off the calories I consumed there. Hehe!) And what better way to kick off training than by participating in a Runner’s World running clinic at the Ultra track oval? The clinic was headed by renowned triathlon coach, Jojo Macalintal. He gave a short lecture on proper form and then led us through a series of drills to strengthen our leg muscles.

We must have done a solid hour of drills that included everything from ladder exercises to kangaroo jumps. Some of them I had done before, but others were pretty new to me. After drills, we ran 2 rounds (800m) around the track. It was definitely a great way to jump-start my training.

Footwear: Newton Distance trainers. The actuator lugs on the mid-foot made it a bit difficult to do some of the drills. Next time, I should probably wear a different pair.

Wednesday, 11/7 – Zumba class

Women’s Health magazine and Gatorade sponsored a Zumba class with Sharon Yu at the office. It was such an enjoyable session! As Sharon emphasized, it was one big par-tay! I had forgotten how much fun dancing could be as a workout (even if I couldn’t follow half the steps). And there were definitely a lot of moves that resembled running drills. I was so tired that I finished one and a half bottles of low carb Gatorade. Plus, we got some freebies, like this shirt and headgear, which perfectly matched my new Saucony Kinvara 3 shoes.

Friday, 11/9 – 5km run @ 41:10 (Average pace: 08:12/km)

I wasn’t able to run on Thursday according to plan since I had an important meeting scheduled so I opted to run on Friday instead.

Footwear: Merrell Bare Access Arc. I felt a bit of a hotspot below my right big toe. I should apply Body Glide next time to avoid blisters.

Sunday, 11/117km LSD @ 1:02:30 (Average pace: 08:56/km)

I was psyched to do my long run today. I made sure my Garmin watch and Bluetooth headset were charged, and I updated my Running Playlist. I normally don’t listen to music since running in silence allows me to think about a lot of things, but this time my goal was to just enjoy the long run. The sun had just begun to set as I headed out the door and I couldn’t resist stopping to admire the view.

My first 3km averaged about 08:30/km, but I got slower in the last 4 kilometers. For all my runs, I usually do Galloway’s RUN-WALK-RUN™ method. Since it’s been awhile since my last long run, I followed a run-walk ratio of 3:1 (3 minutes running followed by 1 minute running—although the walking became a little longer towards the end).

Footwear: Newton Distance trainers. All good except in the last two kilometers when my right toe started to hurt. It might be because as I got tired, I consciously tried to land on my mid-foot to avoid heel striking. Maybe I landed on my toes instead?

Total Weekly Mileage: 15km

All in all, I’d say it was a successful training week. I’m pumped to be running regularly again. I hope I can keep this up till the end of the year! —A

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Starting Over

The other day, I was updating the list of races I’ve joined and I realized it’s been more than two years since my last half-marathon. As I looked through my old race bibs (yes, I’m sentimental like that) and photos of past runs, I began to miss the days when I was a more active runner. I think running is a lot like being in love. From late 2008 to early 2010, I was caught up in the romance of it all. I was so passionate about the sport and signed up for race after race. But after about two years of being on a high, other things demanded my time and attention and running took a backseat. I was so comfortable in my relationship with running that I failed to make time for it and it slipped down my list of priorities.

Now, running seems to be nudging me, beckoning me to come back. “Remember how much fun we used to have,” running says. “Let’s rekindle our relationship.”

And what better way to ignite my passion than by training for another half-marathon? I haven’t picked a race just yet (though I’m looking at one in January or February 2013), but I’ve decided to start training again next week. And just as I did before my first half-marathon, I’m once again turning to Runner’s World for a proper training plan.

I hope to write more about my training in the coming weeks, but for now, a quick trip down memory lane of my past 20 to 22-K races.

All smiles after my first half-marathon in Singapore. December 7, 2008.

Running on the Skyway at the Condura half-marathon. March 22, 2009.

Trudging through miles of lahar at the TNF100 in Sacobia. May 24, 2009.

Breathing in the fresh scent of pine trees at the TNF100 in Baguio. April 25, 2010.

A pint of Häagen-Dazs ice cream after the Nature Valley half-marathon. Best post-race reward ever! May 30, 2010.

You’re right, running. Though we’ve had our fair share of challenges, it’s mostly been an enjoyable ride—one filled with memorable moments and valuable learning experiences. I can’t wait to do it all again. —A


Running in Paradise

Last summer, I had the opportunity to join a race on the beautiful island of Boracay. I wrote about the experience in the July-September issue of Runner’s World Philippines. Below is my article along with a few extra photos. 🙂

When I’m at the beach, there’s nothing I love more than just lying on the sand. When I’m on vacation mode, the last thing I want to do is get up and run. But on the eve of April 20, I found myself jogging on the soft white sands of Boracay Island. I had signed up for the Skyathon 2012 Boracay Beach Run the next morning and I was trying to figure out whether I’d be able to run in my shoes or if I should just go barefoot. I had never run 10km on sand before so I was feeling a bit nervous and apprehensive.

I was running toward Station 1 when I looked up and saw Willy’s Rock bathed in yellow orange light, while the sky slowly turned shades of pink and deep purple. My breath caught in my throat as I gazed at the majestic sight before me. The Boracay sunset gets me every time—or maybe I was just getting tired! Time to head back and save my energy for the race.

As I turned around and made my way back to the Tides hotel, I saw a different type of light. Establishments along the shoreline emitted colorful flashes from strobes, signaling that it was party time soon. But there would be no partying for me as I had to get up early the next morning for my 10-K. Instead, I settled on a bottle of Banana Rhum shake from Jonah’s after dinner (together with my new friends April, Franc, and Jhe) to cap off the night.

The next morning, about 300 runners gathered at the starting line across Epic beachfront. The sky was just starting to lighten and it seemed like it was going to be a cloudy day. The sea was calm and the waves lapped quietly on the shore. I did a few stretches and took a few pictures while waiting for the race to start.

At about 6am, the starting signal rang and the runners sped off towards Station 1. The 5-K loop went on until the end of Station 1 and back, then moved on to Station 3 before turning back to the finish line at Epic. The 10-K racers would simply have to run the loop twice.

I had decided to wear my shoes during the race but since it was harder to run on dry sand, I opted to run closer to the shore where the sand was harder and more compact. I also decided to just take my time—I was not aiming for a personal best; I simply wanted to relish the sights and enjoy my first race in this island paradise.

The first 3km (1.5km to the end of Station 1 and back near the starting line) went pretty smoothly. There weren’t that many people at the beach yet and there was a relatively wide, clean area near the water where the sand was nice and compact. But as I moved toward Station 3, the shore seemed to slope upward and the hard space between water and dry sand grew narrower. It felt like I was playing a game of tag with the waves, as they moved forward and back, trying to catch my feet. One area was also covered with a carpet of slippery green seaweed. I didn’t want to risk falling on my butt, so I just dug my feet into the soft sandy floor.

On my second loop back towards Station 1, I was getting a bit tired but happy to be on hard sand again. A group of lean, tanned men—all barefoot—in a two-line formation (probably a Dragon Boat team) waved as they ran past me. More people were at the beach now and they gazed curiously at the runners who trickled toward the finish line.

Back at Station 3, the tide seemed to have gotten even higher—and since most runners had the same idea of running on the compact sand near the shore, it was quite difficult to avoid the water. The waves finally won the game of tag and managed to catch my shoes, making them wet. As I ran forward, I noticed barefoot runners on their way back, and felt jealous of their feet skipping on the water.

As I reached the turnaround point on Station 3, I thought, what the heck—I’m taking off my shoes and running the last kilometer barefoot! I didn’t even mind running (or maybe it was more like trudging) on dry sand because I loved feeling the soft, powdery surface beneath my toes. I alternated between run-walking on sand and water until I finally crossed the finish line.

Though it was my slowest 10-K yet (I finished at 1:30), it was definitely one of my most enjoyable runs. I savored every minute of the race, absorbed the sights and sounds, and felt energized by the beauty of the place. And I believe that’s what every runner should strive for once in awhile—to join a race where one can run for the sheer pleasure of it and have fun from start to finish. —A

The best part? Relaxing in the pool after a long hard race!

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The Beginning

It all started with one dream: to climb a mountain.

I had always been pretty active since I was a teen. I had a thirst for adventure and was constantly looking for ways to quench it. Back in college, I wanted to join the Loyola Mountaineers—but when I found out that we had to run 10 laps around the Ateneo campus as part of the tryouts, I thought, are they crazy?! No. Way.

Fast forward to a year after graduation: at a meeting with some alumni of the SIF-ASEAN Student Fellowship, a guy named Alman asked, “Who wants to climb a mountain?” My ears perked up. “Me!” I answered. “Me too!” My friend Maida chimed in. He then told us to show up at the Ultra track oval at 6am that very same weekend to join the AMCI Mountaineering Club. He assured us that no experience was necessary, that we didn’t even have to be physically fit to get in.

Without knowing just what we were getting ourselves into, Maida and I showed up at Ultra bright and early for training. They had us run a few rounds on the track and do various other exercises. Up until that point, I had never considered myself to be a runner. I always thought I was too weak to do it. I can still remember the first few weeks of training, when I would lag behind my fellow trainees. Part-running, part-walking on the streets of Valero, breathing in the smog, getting drenched in rain and sweat, and doing my best not to be sideswiped by passing cars, I would constantly think, what the hell did I get myself into?

But as the weeks passed, I grew stronger. With each kilometer I ran, each mountain I climbed, each challenge I had to go through as part of my training (a lot of which I wrote about in my old blog), I went further and further beyond my limits. Before I knew it, I had run 10 kilometers at the 2005 Milo Marathon—the first race I ever joined!

One of the final requirements to get into AMCI was to complete the 15-K qualifying run—in two hours or less. It was a daunting task for me, considering I could barely run one kilometer just four months back. I remember the day well… October 2, 2005 in UP Los Baños. I did not sleep a wink the night before. It must have been adrenaline and sheer will power that pushed me to finish the grueling course within the cutoff time. Of course, I will never forget the friends who cheered me on and literally dragged me to the finish.

It’s been seven years since that fateful day. I had gone on to run many more kilometers and go as far as my feet could take me. In that span of time, I can’t say when exactly I fell in love with running. All I know for sure is that I hope to grow old with it. —A

Shoutout to AMCI Batch 2005—my very first running buddies!

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