Nowadays, a lot of people comment on how into running I am. How much of a health-aware individual I am and that I’m capable of posting respectable run times. In my latest endeavor, I’m now trying out multi sports. I’ve invested a significant amount of time in my swim since based on my first attempt at an aquathlon and a triathlon, it was obvious that I did not know what I was getting into. Hopefully in the coming years, I get to improve. But looking back, I don’t think I ever thought in my wildest dreams that I would have goals like these… Now I dream of finishing the 100-mile edition of the Bataan Death March Ultramarathon, I dream of doing and completing the Ironman event in Kona, Hawaii. These are dreams that I never had, and never thought of while growing up – dreams that started only sometime 2009.
Let me step back a bit though and give a background which may be more familiar with some of my friends from way back. As a kid, I wasn’t exactly the most athletic person you’d see. I’m just an average… well… below average lanky, asthmatic kid. I would usually just either barely pass, or fail the physical tests they have us do in grade school and high school. I’m pretty sure you remember those… chin-ups, pushups, runs, etc… I could not a single chin up to save my life, I’d die after 3-5 pushups, and I could not run for 5 minutes straight, let along the 10-minute requirement! I guess, looking back, the only one I enjoyed were crunches, which I’d be ok with doing and would make it at least the requirement.
I only enjoyed P.E. because it was a subject out of the classroom where you were not required to study. I mean, any kid at that age would rather be outdoors than in a classroom listening to a lecture, answering quizzes, taking down notes, or reading. Well, I’m sure there are some out there who did, but not me. I studied hard to make my parents happy, not really thinking it was for my future, but more for their delight. Plus, it was the only thing I knew I could control and improve on, not so much with my fitness level. Add to that, that it’s probably the only subject you’re guaranteed to pass as long as you regularly show up. P.E. was that subject you had to help you pull up your general average, and that’s what it was to me. Regardless of what sport we were doing, I would struggle and just hope to make the grade (even ballroom dancing back in college… I’m pretty sure my Lasallian peers remember Mr. Ronda – I hope I got his name right).
What P.E. did for me though is expose me to several sports. I got to try out volleyball, football, and even swimming, plus the typical sports such as track and field and basketball. So it was not all a waste, at least it was a bit of an orientation to the world of sports. Although for me, it was something that just made me believe more that sports is not exactly my strongest suit.
During my childhood, I was exposed to the gym through my parents. They’d go to the neighborhood gym and I’d like to join them of course. I would at least want to improve on my pathetic excuse for fitness. I lifted weights, even tried several home remedies to bulk up. Anyone remember the Sarsi and egg commercial? Yup… I tried that as well… nothing… no visible results at all. All I gained were just calluses on my hands and a sore body after. Well, I guess I was also a bit too eager to see the results.
Going to the gym though did help at a later part when I tried… get ready for it… modeling. With the help of a good friend – Carlo Adorador, he mentored me and shared a lot of his intense circuit training and nutrition tips. At least during that time, I got the physique I was aiming for. But man… we’d be in the gym 4 hours a day, 6 days a week!
I have to admit though, I had a lot of “artificial” help to get the look I wanted. These ranged from protein supplements, to intense fat burners and other pills and tabs just to help me overcome my body’s current limits. Oh, and my diet? Damn! All boiled, no flavor, no oil, nothing… I know, I know, what a sad life to have. Despite that nutrition regimen being as bland as paper, I was able to do it for a whole year! Nope, I don’t think that life’s for me.
Among the first sports I tried out was basketball. I remember back in the day my childhood best friend, my brother, and I would get up very early in the morning just to play in nearby village basketball courts. We’d usually play until before lunch, then again in the later part of the afternoon. I remember being at awe of my peers who could, in my eyes, fly and have a high vertical leap. I’d be amazed at those that can sprint up and down the court and leave their defenders behind; I’d watch those sharp shooters from the perimeter who could shoot the living daylights out of their opponents from any angle and from any distance. As for me, well… my vertical leap was what they call “ga-piso” or as high as a one peso coin… and in my case, a coin that’s on its side! I’d be among the last ones to get to the other side of the court, and my endurance wasn’t exactly up to par with my contemporaries. Don’t even ask about my shooting, let’s just say I’m the last one you’d like to pass the ball to if you wanted to score, and the first one you’d give the ball to if the team already has a 30 point lead. I’d be tired and would not be able to keep up with the mad sprints for a fast break or transition defense (I’m pretty sure all basketball fanatics know what I mean).
At the most, I tried to make up for my lack of physical abilities by giving every game my best and settled with being happy to be in the background. I helped in boxing out under the basket so my high leaping team mates can get the rebound, I’d give picks so my slasher buddies would get to the basket and score. I would also try to run after the fast breaks of the opposing teams, even if I knew I did not have a chance. In some instances, I’d be that annoying gnat during the free-throw taunting the shooter and hopefully distracting him. Needless to say, I wasn’t exactly varsity material. I was usually among the last to get picked when forming teams, and I would just be in the team to be the 5th member just to help build a complete team. Ok, basketball was not my strongest sport… I knew how to play, but that was it.
Now indoor wall climbing was something that was a bit more interesting to me. It was a mix of being a physical challenge and a mental sport. You had to plot your route up the wall; at the same time you needed the physical strength to pull off some of the moves to hurdle some of the inclines. It also required a lot of technique so you get to utilize the legs as well.
It was also a sport that my then girlfriend (now my wife!) and I did together. That was one thing that made the sport attractive to me. We were able to find an activity we both enjoyed.
I did not really progress as much though since the equipment was a bit pricey and I did not have the budget then to invest in it. That, plus the wall at Rockwell closed, which was our favorite, and probably the only wall we enjoyed climbing.
Left, Upper, Hook, Straight!
Another sport I tried was boxing. It was fun at first since it was something new. I got to invest on a decent pair of wraps and gloves. I even got myself a head gear. I was doing ok, my stamina was built through the drills and exercises. I did, however, do poorly in terms of hand-eye coordination and my reaction time sucked! It would take me longer than usual to absorb the trainer’s combination instructions before I could execute them. I would also usually get the combinations wrong. My skip rope technique was also questionable, and in my opinion, too girly. No offense to women though, but I skipped like how a little girl would, one foot at a time.
Despite this, I was encouraged to join a tournament. With that though, I felt I was being rushed and forcing myself into the sport. First was I could not make the weight-cut despite the intense exercise and crash diet. Also, during sparring sessions, I’d usually get beat up! One session, I even had a scratch on my cheek which was because of a punch I got form this kid (who was obviously a lot better and quicker than I was!). Again, another sport that was definitely not for me. Slow reaction time, terrible foot work, a weak chin (I was stunned with this one straight punch I got)… all a recipe for a knock out. Oh, and that tournament? I did not push through. I felt my trainer was crazy to think that I’d trust his judgment seeing how the attempt to lose weight and lack of skills improvement was definitely something indicative of a terrible outcome.
If anything though, there was one thing I learned from my boxing sessions which apparently is something I can use in my future endeavor. In boxing, my trainer taught me about fartleks! He did not use the exact term, he just do a jog then sprint as fast as you can for as long as you can, then rest by doing a slow jog again, then repeat. A year of this actually helped me get a decent time in my first 5k run.
Owls and Vampires
With all the attempts at various physical activities, it’s also worth mentioning a period in my life that was simply put, very unhealthy. When I got in the call center industry, I was surrounded with unhealthy habits. Being new, and earning a substantial amount, it was very easy to give in. I was a chain smoker, a heavy drinker, and a pig when it came to my diet.
I always had with me 2 packs of cigarettes. One for me, and one to share. Also, in the industry, breaks are very strict. At one time, I worked in a call center and we were located over 40 floors above, so it took about 5 minutes just to go down. So, within a 15-minute break, 5 minutes to go down, 5 minutes to go up, and 5 minutes to smoke. Within that 5 minutes, I’d smoke anywhere between 2-3 sticks… trust me, it was possible and crazy!
I also went out almost daily with friends and have more than a few bottles of beer, coupled with some food that’s a recipe for a heart attack – everything fried and fatty. That was the time of my life where I weighed my heaviest. I averaged 170-175lbs!
That was the unhealthiest I’ve been. The sad thing was I had a difficult time stopping myself despite feeling it. I woke up breathing heavily and exhausted. The unhealthy lifestyle was and I believe still is the worst thing to pair with working shifts. I lost my fitness mojo, and my health was in a downward spiral. No regard for my well being, no regard to what I was doing to my body, and since I found it tough to go back, no regard for how unhealthy I looked.
After an unhealthy stretch, I just suddenly had the urge to get healthy again. Perhaps it was more of vanity, seeing how my pants from just a few years, or even months back no longer fit! I had to go back, I had to get healthy again. I no longer wanted to be gasping for air when I woke up, I no longer wanted to have my gut bulging through my shirt, I no longer wanted my cheeks to look as if my mouth was stuffed with food all the time. I re-enrolled in Gold’s Gym Alabang, got a physical trainer and trained my ass off! I went regularly and did my best to strictly do the workouts. The biggest wake up call I got was while on a treadmill, I was exhausted after 2 minutes at a slow pace, while this old lady was jogging, and has been for 30 minutes already and looked more relaxed than me! That competitive and vain side of me kicked in, and the fitness fire was rekindled.
With my regular visits to the gym I saw these guys doing handstands, flips, swaying from side to side, throwing punches and kicks! All these to a catchy rhythm and tempo of music in Portuguese. I was exposed to Capoeira. A Brazilian martial art that was developed when slaves had to come up with a way to train their fighting skills in a discrete way. Capoeira was made to look like a dance, but it had deadly offense, holds, and strikes hidden in the seemingly innocent cool dance moves. Sinha Bahia was a school with very pleasant and friendly members. During a roda (oh god, I hope I’m not murdering these terms… please bear with me Mestre!) I’d be at awe at the height of the flips, the speed of the strikes, and the agility of the evading maneuvers. I improved my core with this sport. Doing hand stands and flips required a strong and stable core to pull off. So whatever core strength I have now, I owe it all to Capoeria.
It was cool and all, but was not for me. Remember, I failed ballroom dancing, and boxing revealed my poor coordination and reaction time. I felt that maybe it was time to try out something new.
Calm and Relaxed
A good complement to Capoeira apparently is yoga. A colleague encouraged me to try out a new yoga place in Makati – Bliss Yoga. This Yoga place which was established by Roland dela Cruz. With his friendly demeanor, calming presence, and friendly, inviting aura, we got hooked! I was progressing fairly well. Despite my struggle with a lot of the flexibility poses, I was able to to do a lot of the strength and balancing poses – all at beginner levels of course.
Yoga was a great way for my wife and I to relax after our long days at work. Bliss Yoga was a great escape from the daily stress of work and life in general. We’d go there in the afternoon, and with the rooftop location, get a nice sunset view which then turned into a view of the sparkling Makati skyline.
It also complemented running since it helped with stretching, improved balance, and strengthen the core. I actually miss it nowadays, and plan to work on scheduling around it so we can attend again regularly.
Now, finally… running!
In addition to Capoeira, I continued my weight training. As a warm up to my weight training I’d do an easy 30 minutes on the treadmill. I slowly built it to the point where I was able to do 5 kilometers within that time frame. Of course, that was on the treadmill, which apparently is much different from road running. I noticed my pace improve and get faster as time went on. That was 2009 – running had already been around for quite awhile and it was starting to pick up as a popular activity. Races then would cost around Php100-Php300 at the most. Yes, once upon a time, it was that cheap! After coercing with my wife and some friends, we finally decided to run our first official organized event.
On April 26th, 2009 at the Step-Up for a Cause event, I did my very first 5 kilometer race. I clocked in a decent time under 30 minutes. After the race, I actually felt good and still strong! I had so much fun and enjoyed running with a big group with water stations for your hydration along the way. Needless to say, after that, the rest was history.
I progressed in distance fairly quickly. I did my first marathon only 6 months after that. Last October 24th, 2009, I ran the infamous Subic International Marathon. For those that read my blog entry, you’ll understand me when I say that it was not the ideal event for a first time marathoner. Despite that though, I managed a decent time and was able to hit my target.
After that, the running bug hit me, and upon prodding of some new friends I made in the running community, I went for the Bataan Death March less than a year after I started running. I was fortunate to complete it despite the lack of a proper training program. I guess I was running on pure adrenaline and emotion since I did it for my grandmother who passed away 2 months prior to the event.
The progression was definitely quick, quicker than I would have liked. Looking back, it would have been smarter to progress slowly. I was prone to injuries, and now I think I should be thankful that nothing permanent happened to me. I should have trained smarter, and properly for progression.
One, Two, Three
Now that my running has improved, and I feel that I’m doing fairly well, a new event caught my eye. The triathlon. The Camsur 70.3 Ironman started a couple of years back, and I felt though that this must be a crazy test of endurance. Imagine having to do 3 events all in one day, one after the other. This was a new challenge for me to try out.
Rico V.’s Sheerwill Aquathlon was the perfect introduction for me to multisports. The biggest fear I had was swimming. My earliest exposure to swimming wasn’t exactly inspiring. Back in grade school in order to get a good P.E. grade, I joined the swim event in our Intramurals. I obviously had a pathetic swim and had an embarrassing finish. Fast forward to the aquathlons, I was usually among the last to finish the swim leg.
After these aquathlons, I did my first triathlon last June. It was the Animo tri, and I joined the mini-sprint event – 300m swim, 12 km bike, 2.5 km run. Same result for the swim leg… I actually stopped and grabbed on to the line every 25 meters, gasping for air. I also took my time at the end of each lap to catch my breath. I definitely needed to train more for the swim part, and 4-5 weeks was not enough. I’m just glad I have a decent bike ride and run pace that helped clock in a fairly decent time.
Despite the terrible swim though, I enjoyed the thrill of the event. 3 disciplines in one day is something that will definitely take away the boredom of the event.
I’ve learned my lesson, and I’m now more religious with my swim training, and progressing slowly.
My fitness life has helped me meet a lot of great, noteworthy individuals…
Running Diva: Who was more than willing to share her experiences and tips. Without her, I would never had continued with running. Thanks to her patience in giving me advice, running (and fitness in general) has become a big part of my life.
Kenkoy Runner: Timmy, my first ever pacer! He’s another great example of how friendly the running community is. Everyone is willing to lend a helping hand. It doesn’t matter if you’re a newbie, or a long time friend, all runners are willing to help and eager to share their experience.
Sheerwill: Rico is another friendly person I met in the running community. His aquathlon events were my introduction to the world of multisports.
Gingerbreadman: and who can ever forget the epic rivalry of Piolo and Gingerbreadman. Luis is one person who’s always willing to help out no matter what. From swimming tips to helping (and very patiently) helping me build my bike. I would also never forget the time we shared the pavement in the 2010 edition of the BDM 102 Ultramarathon talking about stuff just to keep our minds off the pain, and take turns encouraging each other when we felt like giving up.
DocT: The running doctor, ready and willing to give his expert medical advice. Someone you should not miss when going out for a couple of bottles… (in his words… tubatels)
Baldrunner: The retired general, who is the father of ultramarathons in the Philippines. The brains behind the Bataan Death March ultramarathon and father of the Philippine Association of Ultramarathoners. He, along with his wife are familiar faces to hardcore ultramarathoners. His dedication to running is beyond anything I’ve ever seen. His passion has carried him and other runners to various locations in the Philippines. Without his races, I would never have thought to explore our country. From the Bangui Windmills, to the route of the soldiers of the Bataan Death March, to the crazy gradients of Sierra Madre, he’s brought us everywhere! At his age, he can still teach kids more than half his age several things about running.
Bugobugo: Jonel… the man behind Frontrunner magazine. One of the strongest influences in the ultramarthon scene, one of the pioneer runners of the BDM 102 Ultramarathon. The most memorable impact he had on me is convincing me to run the 34th Milo Manila Elims which my first race that I did not race. He taught me that not all races are meant to be competitive, and made me remember the reason I started running and the joy I have when I hit the pavement.
Manokan: If you’re a runner, and haven’t heard of Takbo.ph, then you’re not a true runner. Takbo.ph creator Jinoe along with with Q are vital cornerstones in the Philippine running scene. Takbo.ph became, and still is a vital source of anything and everything running.
Team Powerpuff Boys: I’m privileged and honored to be part of this group of super fast runners. The Epic Relay was truly Epic. This group showed that running although known as an individual sport, can actually turn into a team sport!
Team Ungas: My ultramarathon family who shared the pavement with me for over 17 hours in my first ultramarathon.
These are just a few, a very small portion of interesting and great friends I’ve made through running, and I’m looking forward to meeting more.
Looking back at all the activities I tried out, I noticed that I have a very long learning curve no matter what. My running pace progress is very slow, it’s taking my a lot longer to pick up the proper swim technique, let alone build my swim endurance, and I still can’t seem to keep up with the average bike riders.
Despite this slow and steady process of learning and building my base, I think I’m at the healthiest point of my life. I’m eating right – not less, I’m engaged in physical activities daily, and last 2007, I quit smoking, and have not smoked a single stick since then. I’m now living a healthy life, and try to promote it to people I care about. I try to show them that healthy living is possible and that no matter what sport you get into, no matter how slow or fast your progress is, just remember that in the bigger picture, you’re taking care of your body. You’re setting yourself up for a long and healthy life.