Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Bring It On! (At the 1st Philippine Men’s Health Urbanathlon)

I may be over reacting but I've been having dreams of running in a marathon and traversing obstacles nights before the 1st Philippine Men's Health Urbanathlon. I really couldn't hide my giddiness anymore, I had trouble sleeping the night before the awaited event. Perhaps, it's because the nervousness, the intimidation this physical challenge brings. But alas, I couldn't back out anymore, since I already pre-registered (I was able to get a discount, being a collector of Men's Health Magazine and as a member of Fitness First) and I practically announced that I would already participate in this in my previous blog (Another realization that you have to be careful what you say in your blogs!).

Preparation. I learned about the Urbanathlon a week after the last Body Combat Marathon, and since then I considered joining this. It helps when you have a major event to look forward to, as this keeps your motivation up in your workout. There was really no radical change in my usual workout (Body Combat and Body Balance classes) but additional treadmill time was added. At two weeks before the event, I've already been increasing the mileage from 5 kms to 7 kms. At 1 week, I was already working 10 kms non stop at 9.5 – 10 km/h. After each treadmill session would be approximately 20 mins of stair machine work (at effort level 5-7). This is all to simulate the approximate distance and the stair climbing challenge in the Urbanathlon. I failed to run on real concrete pavement due to lack of time, and I really wasn't able to prepare for the obstacles. I was confident that I would do well endurance-wise, but I was quite worried whether I can overcome the obstacles.

Night Before The Event. I prepared my MP3 player, loaded it up with my familiar Body Combat songs (yeah, Body Combat music. My body has already been conditioned to prime up when I listen to this music!). I prepared my bag with all my usual gym gear, since I plan to leave my things at Fitness First Fort. I slept in my running clothes (and guess what, I slept with my running shoes on!). Everything was already ready but as I said, I had trouble sleeping! To put me to sleep, I had to tune my TV to National Geographic. Luckily, it had something boring on.

The Day! November 18, 2007. Woke up on time (Race starts 7:30 AM). Washed. Picked up my bag and left on a taxi. I noticed that the tent was already brimming with people, all lining up for registration. I went to Fitness First to leave my bags at the locker but it wasn't open yet. Tsk! Now this is gonna be a problem, where am I supposed to leave my things!? I went to the registration area, learned that I no longer have to line up since I was already pre-registered. I inquired where I can leave my things, but they said they didn't have an area where people can leave their things unattended. Luckily, a kind organizer volunteered to have my things kept in her car (thanks, Marcie!). Whew! I went around the obstacle course and saw that carpenters were trying to reinforce some of them. The wall didn't look menacing at all. I was glad the wall was constructed with a beam in the middle (unlike in the New York videos which was all smooth on one face!). This way the beam could serve as a "step" to scale the wall. I looked for the hurdles and noticed that some participants were already practicing in them. Hmmm, I tried it once, and realized that this is doable. I looked for people I knew (I was alone, huhu, since my gym buddies backed out) and I saw familiar faces, from celebrities to friends. I noticed some of the fitness instructors from Fitness First MetroEast even joined.

The participants were gathered in the stage area where basic instructions, a brief warm-up and stretching session were given. After which, everybody was requested to gather behind the starting line. I think the organizers realized it would be difficult to force everybody (more than 700!) move back behind the starting line, so they started the race already. Everybody was running off. I was running in no time in my familiar pace, my MP3 player busting out my favorite tunes. As long as my music was playing, I didn't care if people were overtaking me, or I was overtaking them. My pace relied on my music. The roads in The Fort area was generally flat, with some areas with a maximum incline of 5 degrees. We had to work the course around The Fort twice since one round is only 5 km. Each round culminating in the obstacle course.

The Obstacles I. The 1st round of 5 km was relatively OK. I was already breathing hard but not yet tired. I promised myself that I will never stop running at any point of the race. I will never walk except at the obstacle areas. (Do you know why? The picture my professor took of me when I participated in the marathon in Luleå, Sweden haunted me. I was walking in pain! That picture did it for me. I never stopped running since then.) The first obstacles were the marine hurdles, which were OK. My technique was to jump simultaneously while lifting myself up, so I could prop my left foot on the beam. With the left foot, I could swing my right leg over and jump on to the ground. Next was the baby crawl, which I thought was poorly constructed. I think the net was too high so this let the people squat walk instead of baby crawl! But I guess this was a good thing. Otherwise, we would have been swimming in mud. Next was the parking lot. We had to climb over 4 Ford pickup trucks. After which were the balance beams. I actually lost balance at one point and fell. But I regained immediately. Then there were the 4 foot hurdles followed by a zigzagging drumroll area. There was no landmine area unfortunately. After the obstacle course, we headed to the race course again for the second round. The wall was reserved for the last lap.

The 2nd Lap. Another 5 kms, and somehow I was already feeling tired. The change of pace in the obstacle are rattled my running rhythm, but soon I regained it. This time, the distance between runners was more defined. I could notice some were already walking (I learned that some of them were quite disappointed that they still had to run another round!). But I knew I was doing OK for my standards, and I could still see the leaders far ahead. I was sure with my rhythm, but sometimes I would have to pick up my pace just to challenge myself. At this point, no one was overtaking me anymore. I was the one overtaking people. Not that I was running faster. It was because the runners in front of me were slowing down.

Sometime in the middle of the 2nd round, my MP3 player suddenly stopped. I looked at it frantically wondering what could be the problem. I knew I charged it full the night before. It wouldn't play. And since there was no music already, I could hear already my rhythmic heavy breathing (Yes, this is a reason why I play music when running. I don't like to hear my heavy breathing, because it reminds me that I'm tired!). I couldn't have my MP3 player to work so I had no choice. Last Song Syndrome. I had the last song playing in my mind, and it kept me until the obstacle course. Unfortunately, the water stations ran out of water! They gave out bottles of iced teas instead! This couldn't quench my thirst, but it gave the sugar boost I needed. I had to pick up used water bottles in the road and drink what's left there! Wala nang pakialam kung sino uminom nun, nauuhaw na ako eh! In the last turn of the road, I could see the leaders already in the obstacle course area. I realized the organizers removed the stair climbing challenge. Too bad, I was looking forward to it.

The Obstacles II. I knew I was tired because I was taking a longer time preparing for each hurdle, and I was already walking in between each obstacle area. I hated this change of pace. Soon I reached the wall. I noticed the guy in front of me refusing to climb the wall. I picked the middle part. I held on the rope, pulled myself up. Propped my feet against the wall. I climbed up the rope until I could place my feet on the beam. I slipped a little but managed to hold on. I pulled myself up and scaled the wall. In no time I was on the ground running towards the finishing line. I finished at a decent 1:02:49! I was breathing so hard, but deep inside I was glad. I surpassed my own expectations and was proud of completing the course without extreme difficulty.

Festival. I met with old grade school classmates (Hi Ferdie and Louie!) who were there to cheer on their girlfriends. It was a reunion of sorts. Funny how you meet people you lose contact with in such events. I toured all the booths which offered lots of freebies. I ate lunch and rested while we listened to Session Road during the festival. I was exhausted but happy. Luckily, the gym was only a block away where a warm relaxing shower was waiting.

Unfortunately, I don't have pictures of me in action. I took these pictures after I finished the race.

I am glad I joined the 1st Philippine Men's Health Urbanathlon, happier that I completed it better than I expected. I just hope the organizers make sure next time to include the missing segments (the stairclimb challenge and the landmines), and perhaps make the course longer instead of having to run it twice. Congratulations to the organizers of the event! We're sure to join the next one. Next in line among my list of physical challenges: the Concept2 2007 Holiday Rowing Challenge!

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