30 March 2009

the closest I could get to Mt. Everest

Two weeks ago, I was in a certain international school along with my colleagues in the fundraising team. Students from this lovely, socially aware school decided to pool some of their money to raise funds for UNICEF's program for children living in war-torn areas like Mindanao.

My teammates and I were there to accept the cheque (an amazing Php 53,000!!!) and to make a short presentation to the 7th and 8th graders on UNICEF's work in the Philippines. So we were setting up our laptop and such, and the school coordinator then informs us that we're the first in the program. Okay. Didn't realize it was going to be a major show-and-tell thing pala.

Apparently, we were the front act, and Carina Dayondon was the main show. My jaw literally dropped when her name was announced by one of the school coordinators. Oh. My. God.

Carina Dayondon is the second Filipino woman to reach the summit of Mt. Everest and one of the first ASEAN women to get to the peak. She is AMAZING and INSPIRING, and I was only a few meters away from her. I was practically hyperventilating, like I was in Mt. Everest myself.

When they called out Carina's name, she stood up. But before she faced the clapping, enthusiastic crowd of students, she headed over to me and my teammates. Carina reached out to shake my hand and said very earnestly, "Thank you. Thank you so much for helping the Filipino children. It's an honor to meet you."

I was just too starstruck, and I only managed to croak out, "Um, um, it's an honor to meet you." My brain was still busy processing the fact that I had just shaken hands with the woman who scaled Mt. Everest. And she looked so cool, dressed in her North Face expedition gear which she wore in Everest. Talk about a real, mind-blowing show-and-tell.

I mean, the kids probably liked our little presentation (and there is undoubtedly a coolness factor in working for UNICEF and for the world's most vulnerable, disadvantaged children), but you could tell from all the loud clapping that Carina was really the star attraction of that general assembly. Couldn't blame the students. To me, Carina Dayondon was way up there in the coolness category. I didn't even have the right to complain about the torture of 10K runs when I was in the presence of someone who had climbed some 8,800 meters up the world's tallest mountain.

I wanted to stay and watch her entire presentation, but we had to leave (arrgggghhhhh). Thank God Love managed to take a photo of Carina sitting on a chair, waiting for her turn to present.

Oh my God, I am still starstruck.

29 March 2009

Condura Run results in Philippine Star

Am in my usual haunt, Starbucks, on this lazy Sunday afternoon, and of course I had to check today's issue of the Philippine Star.

All the names of the finishers in the 3K, 5K, 10K and 21K categories occupied three full pages. The whole thing looked like the results of a bar exam! =P

In the 10K race, I placed at lucky number 777, out of 1,313 runners. Of course, it would be nice to have a higher ranking, but with time and patience and lots of hard work, I'll get there someday. (Drinking coffee gets me all giddy and highly optimistic.)

Some of us noticed that the published race records for this run are actually higher than the race clock times. When I crossed the finish line, I saw from the race clock that I was at 1:11:49 but according to the official race results, I'm at 1:10:35. Hmm, I don't know which record I should follow. But anyway, what really matters is that I ran injury-free--and happy, to boot!

I hope the Concepcion brothers can continue to mount fantastic race events like this. This year's Condura Run had 5,274 runners, which is an amazing achievement. I hope our next UNICEF Walk on the Child's Side can have that many participants!

P.S. You can also view the official Condura Run race results here.

Manny! Manny!

My God, sometimes I can't believe he's this big to actually land on TIME's 100 List. Every Filipino must be so proud. Vote for Manny!

I don't fancy the slider thing so much though. If you were a really biased fan, wouldn't you push the slider all the way to 100? Haha.

25 March 2009

weighty matters

I haven't done any practice running since last Sunday's Condura race. My body still feels slightly beaten up, and it's funny how the simple act of climbing up and down the stairs can be such a Herculean struggle for me. My sore legs have been silently screaming in pain.

But I miss running already--and it's only been three whole days! Hopefully I can start again this weekend. Just some maintenance runs, as I'm not joining any race soon.

And speaking of maintenance, I've been checking my weight regularly, as I am wont to do. In fact, I weigh myself everyday. There's a weighing scale in my cubicle area, and everyday, I insist on stepping onto that scale and facing the truth head-on. And much to their chagrin, my teammates find themselves following my obsessive- compulsive daily habit and doing some weight monitoring as well. The scale has become slightly dirty already because it's now becoming the "timbangan ng bayan", with colleagues from the other sections/departments stopping by my area to check their weight (and some don't even bother to remove their shoes).

Anyway. I'm now at 96 lbs. Normally, I would have been worried going over my self-imposed 95-lb. mark. But people have been telling me these days that I look too thin for my own good, and I have to say that I quite agree with them. My face looks way thinner now, like I've taken a fistful of Bangkok pills or something.

It's not my fault, people! I don't even starve myself. I'm just thin. Not bombshell-with-killer-abs thin. More of stick thin. Or waifish thin--which sounds like a prettier term. I don't like dieting or depriving myself of the good stuff--although I know how to nip unreasonable cravings in the bud (like lechon in the middle of the night, for example).

But because I look unhealthily thin lately (probably because of the regular running and the work-related stress), I've been allowing myself some nice treats after the Condura Run. Here's a run-down:

two doughnuts
McDonald's Monster Coke Light Float (the best thing ever)
stolen piece of Stuffins from my younger sister's stash
sizzling pork sisig from Aling Lucing

Starbucks coffee
McDonald's cheeseburger meal with a Monster Coke Light Float

a few snack-size chocolates
Starbucks coffee
Hershey's Chillz Shake from Mini Stop

2 Reese's peanut butter cups (at 10 am!!)
my lunch at Mexicali: jalapeno & cheese quesadilla, cup of shrimp bisque soup, and a side order of nachos & salsa (All of that was mine, and mine alone. Okay, so maybe Randy took like 4 nacho chips, tops.)
Starbucks coffee
cream cheese on choco-chip bagel w/ peach & lychee fruit shake

All those carbs and an entire food group called chocolate. And I'm still at 96! And, my face isn't getting any fatter. I know I shouldn't complain, because I have what most people would call a happy problem. But I hate looking like I'm on a 5-crackers-a-day diet when I've been stuffing myself silly all this time.

Maybe I should go on a pork binge. Hmmmmm.

23 March 2009

incorrect calibration

I forgot to mention this on my last entry on the Condura Run. When I crossed the finish line with a time of 1:11:49, I also pressed the stop button on my Timex Ironman watch (the particular model I have can log distance, activity time, pace, steps, and calories burned while I run).

On my watch, the distance logged was 8.51K. Wtf?! I stared at my watch in disbelief as a somewhat horrible thought was dawning in my mind. Was my watch incorrectly calibrated to begin with in terms of distance and steps? Have I been running more than what was recorded all this time??

I remembered that 11.33K training run that I did more than a week ago--and when I did some quick math as I stood in the Condura Run finish area, I realized I must have run 12.82K instead. Oh my Lord.

This skews everything I've recorded so far ever since I started on that SmartCoach program. I was clocking in more mileage than I thought, and having a slightly better pace. Which also means I was actually running faster during those blasted 3x800m intervals. Waaaaaghh!!! I don't know whether I should be ecstatic or not. I hated those intervals, and I felt like such a loser at that time, clocking in 8 seconds later than the target goal of 5:54 in the first 800-meter speed run. When in reality, I perhaps (just perhaps) did meet or stay within the 5:54 target--assuming that my watch was incorrectly logging more mileage pala.

No wonder I've been feeling slightly injured and very sore these past few weeks. I've unconsciously pushed myself to run farther at distances I'm technically not used to doing on a regular basis (like the 8K and the 11K). Talk about blind running.

Anyway, I shouldn't lose more sleep on this. I actually ought to be grateful that I was able to run more--and faster, in some cases. Best of all, no serious injuries (although a visit to a sports clinic or ortho is in order soon, just so I can have my knee assessed).

22 March 2009

Condura Run 10K at The Fort / Kalayaan Flyover (Mar 22)

It was a good day, a halcyon day.

Arrived at the NBC Tent by 5:30 am. By that time, the race venue was jam-packed with runners milling about or standing at the Start area waiting for the run to commence. The 21K runners had already left, and I was excited for them, as this was the first time ever that the Skyway would be a part of a race route.

The sun was already rising as a massive 4,000-strong crowd of 3K, 5K and 10K runners cheered at the sound of the gun start. And I was thinking to myself, oh no, the sun's up, and it's going to be one hot run. Literally.

The first 2 kilometers were relaxing, and since I hadn't run since last Wednesday, my muscles were well-rested. The 10K group first covered the perimeter of the NBC Tent/High Street area before reaching 32nd Street, the street leading to the Kalayaan/Buendia Flyover.

And then I saw it: a throng of 10K runners before me pushing up the dreaded flyover, with some people raising their arms excitedly. My face broke into a huge smile, and all thoughts of getting injured or experiencing exhaustion were momentarily pushed to the back of my mind as I climbed up that long stretch of road, which for at least 2 hours, was completely closed to motorists.

The flyover was solely for us runners at that time, and it was funny to see how vehicles on the other roads would slow down so that the curious people inside the cars could look at us. A few friendly motorists even rolled down their windows to wave. I was smiling like a kid during this first stretch and I think the happy feeling helped a lot in distracting me from the weeks-old soreness in my ankles and right knee/shin area.

By the time I had gone down the flyover and onto Buendia Avenue, I had reached the 4K mark, and amazingly, what came into my mind was "Wow, I'm at 4K already! It went by so fast!" and not "Shit, I'm still at 4K." I had prayed for this feeling--to be able to reach a certain distance and not feel tired and spent but raring to go further.

It was surreal running on Buendia. People stood on the sidewalks, gawking at us, and there were slight traffic build-ups on the Paseo de Roxas and Makati Avenue intersections because, of course, that part of Buendia was for us runners alone, and cars weren't allowed to cross Buendia at all. A big thumbs up to the Concepcion brothers and the other organizers of this event for ensuring good traffic marshalling and the safety of the runners.

When I reached the U-turn at Reposo (the Mapua Institute of Technology at the corner of Buendia and Nicanor Garcia), I wanted to laugh because I could see my office building from that distance; just a few more minutes, I would have reached RCBC Plaza. I was beginning to realize how far we actually ran--from NBC Tent at the Fort up to Buendia/Reposo. And to think that we were just in the halfway mark. Masochists!!

The toughest stretch was running back up the flyover. There was always that big urge to stop running and just walk, but I couldn't bear the humiliation of walking. Even if I wasn't running fast, I was still running, and that mattered a lot in terms of self-confidence. My right knee and shin were throbbing a little as I went up that cruel flyover incline, but I kept saying to myself, "It's not that hard. It's really not that hard, Gina." That thought kinda cheered me up and kept me moving. The mind is an amazing thing, really.

Some TV crew in their vehicles were allowed to go up and cover us as we ran back on the flyover. I managed to smile and wave a little at the cameras, haha. That's how happy I was. Harsh route, but I was so, so, very thankful that I was running injury-free. In fact, when we were running again on the flyover back to the Fort, I encountered the most peaceful part of my own run: The sun was shining, U2's "Yahweh" was playing on my iPod, and as corny as it may sound, I felt so alive and thankful that God was letting me run without so much pain.

Somewhere on the last 2K stretch at The Fort, I encountered two brass bands playing at different points to entertain and encourage the runners, and again, I had to smile. What a feel-good run! How can one not get drawn into the festive atmosphere of the event when there are brass bands playing?

Of course, the large Finish signage was the most beautiful sight to behold, haha. I mustered a little energy to sprint to the finish line, and glanced at the clock above. I clocked in at 1:11:49. Still not a super fast record, but hopefully I'll be faster in the next months or so. Besides, 1:11:49 is my best 10K record so far, and that means I'm improving slowly but surely. Will work harder to reach a 6 to 6.5 km/min average pace in the coming weeks. Hope it can be done within that period.

The best part after the run, aside from the water stations? A huge Manila Water tank parked at the finish area with a giant hose spraying water on the runners! No second thoughts for me: I went and allowed myself a little bath. It was great! I felt like a kid today, all smiles and happy greetings to friends who were at the race as well.

Overall, the Condura Run is one of the best races I've encountered in my short history of running. Great route, lots of water stations, photo walls, food stalls, freebies like back issues of Men's Health Magazine, and even a Nike booth that was offering up to 70% discount on selected products. Congratulations to the organizers and to everyone who ran--especially the 21K runners! They deserved the medals that were placed around their necks at the finish line. (It got me thinking, gosh, when can I run 21K? Getting a medal must be amazing.)

Now that Condura Run's over, what's the next run for me? =)

P.S. Saw Mr. Fernando Zobel de Ayala, who was also running 10K, somewhere in the Buendia/Makati Avenue part of the route. He looked very fit and barely sweating. When I reach that age, I'd want to be in that great a shape too.

19 March 2009

reasons to worry about The Condura Run

I’m really worried. Last night, I was aiming for a tempo run of 8K, but I had to stop at 3.7K. Ridiculous.

Stress at work, running at a very late hour, perpetually sore and battered legs (not kidding; I tend to hobble these days), slightly throbbing scar, not-so-cushioned running shoes, not enough pre-run energy food—these were all the factors that came to my mind when I stopped running after a measly 3.7K distance. I don’t know exactly which of these factors (could be all of them!) had something to do with my dreadful performance last night, but I sure was depressed. Now I’m seriously evaluating my capacity to run this coming Sunday on the flyover.

I couldn’t walk properly, so I called for a home service masseuse and treated myself to a good massage. The girl who worked on my poor legs and back was really good; I could feel the stress and soreness alleviating, and I actually fell asleep halfway through the treatment.

As I sit and write this short entry, I can’t help but feel really anxious about Sunday’s run. Will I finish it? I’m sure I can. I’ve done 10Ks before, and there’s nothing better than the atmosphere of a race to push one to reach the finish line even if the run was torturous. My worry, really, is my pace. I won’t run hard but I don’t want to be slow either. And I want enough endurance too to actually enjoy the 10K and feel happy every time I reach a kilometer mark, and not think “Oh, God, nasa 6K pa lang ako.”

So my promise to myself, as of yesterday evening, is to rest thoroughly. I feel exhausted these days, and I can’t afford to get sick. So no running in the meantime, as my right knee needs to heal. My next run will be this Sunday’s Condura race—more than a hour’s worth of running around the Serendra/High Street/NBC Tent perimeter, going up the Kalayaan Flyover, down to Buendia, past Makati Avenue, U-turn at Reposo and all the way back to NBC Tent, The Fort.


The route sounds even more daunting, now that I’ve actually described it in words.

16 March 2009

The Magnolia Chocolait Experience

Over two bottles of Stormhoek white wine, my friend Bun and I were fantasizing about what it would be like to drink from a bottle of Magnolia Chocolait once more.

Chocolait in a bottle. Ahhh. Those were the days.

When a page was created on Magnolia Chocolait in Facebook, I promptly listed myself as a fan. Like Sesame Street and patintero and Nancy Drew, Magnolia Chocolait was an integral part of my childhood. I remember how my mom would go to the grocery every three or four days and come home with three big bottles of Magnolia Chocolait. Growing up with four elder siblings and a younger one meant perpetual fighting in the kitchen over those three bottles.

It was like war-time food rationing: my mother, being the frugal type, would pour each of us a glass of cold Chocolait, making sure that we had our just share. We weren't allowed to have more or less. Of course, I would at that time try to come up with creative ways of getting more than my share--like sneaking into the kitchen in the dead of night to pour myself one-fourths of a glass. But such a plan remained purely theoretical in nature, because I had never mustered enough courage to go downstairs and help myself to even just a few extra milliliters; I was always afraid that my kuyas and ates would discover my nefarious scheme, strap me to a chair, and force-feed me with spoonfuls of ampalaya and liver (my idea of the most abject form of torture at that time).

As a kid, I wished a lot that my mom had enough sense to buy each of us a bottle, so that we didn't have to look so greedy every time she poured us a glassful each. But in retrospect, Magnolia Chocolait wouldn't have probably tasted as great if it had been too readily available to me and my siblings back then.

And then there's the fact that it came in a bottle. There's something about that glass bottle that brought out the natural chocolate-y goodness of Chocolait. And there was definitely a magical element to that entire ritual of standing in line with my siblings, watching my mom take out a chilled bottle of Chocolait from the fridge and pour thick brown liquid from the cold glass bottle into my own tall drinking glass.

Some 20 years later--Sunday, March 15 in particular--I'm sitting outside Mini Stop, icing my shins and ankles with a small bag of crushed ice after an evening 6K run, and drinking a tetra pack of the newly formulated Magnolia Chocolait. (Bun tells me it's the yellow-colored tetra pack with a cartoon image of a little girl on a swing while a little boy looks on in delight. I don't get the drawing, but heck, it's still Chocolait.)

As I take long sips from my 250mL Chocolait drink, I realize two very important things:

1. I now have absolute purchasing power to buy a dozen tetra packs of Magnolia Chocolait (or even two dozen, if I wanted to) but all the money I have now won't bring back the blissful experience of drinking Chocolait that came in a bottle. Hell, I'd give 200 bucks now to drink Chocolait directly FROM the bottle. I hope someday the Magnolia people would have a Eureka! moment and bring back the bottled Chocolait that everyone knows, loves--and totally fantasizes about in Facebook.

2. Magnolia Chocolait in a tetra pack doesn't taste as great as the bottled version, but it still tastes like a real treat to me. Especially after a sweat-filled, sore-muscled run. It's good to know how the small things that made me happy in childhood still manage to thrill me.

15 March 2009

The Delinquent Runner

Yes, I can go by that name too! Haha.

I haven't run since last Tuesday's 11.33K, mainly because of work. Had to catch up on some backlog paperwork now that I can spend more time reading and writing with my new glasses. I was supposed to do a tempo run of 8K on Thursday and an easy-paced 5K on Friday, but I had to give those up. Sigh.

Well, abandoning Friday's 5K wasn't really an excuse, because I went shopping in Rockwell that night. Shame on me. Went with Ryan to check out the Rockwell Urban Bazaar, where my dear friend Neva currently has a booth for her fab Leyende bath & beauty products. I'm such a big fan and believer of Leyende, and it's wonderful to see how the brand has grown since Neva started her business some 3 years ago. I get a little nostalgic, just thinking about a few of those times when the poker group would gather in Neva's place for our usual 20-peso-buy-in games, and Neva would dab a bit of her latest concoction on our arms. Of course, us girls would love testing the products and giving feedback before the final versions go out, but the boys were such a good sport about the whole thing and treated it seriously. Real men use Leyende, and that's that.

Ryan bought his usual favorite, the Norte variant of No Rumple Silk Skin Butter and I was excited about my purchase of Place in the Sun Sunblock. (Will use this in the Condura Run and for summer outings. Hooray!) I've tried and used all Leyende products (except perhaps the Hair's End Shaving Oil) and because I'm such a skincare addict, I love the Leyende stuff to pieces--especially the Mother Butter Cocoa Butter Lotion. Ahh, I feel delicious every time I slather this on.

Okay, back to the bazaar. After Leyende, I went and looked around at the rest of the booths. It was an assault on the senses. Too many beautiful summer dresses and bikinis. I wanted to buy something, but I had to restrain myself. I'm under a tight budget these days.

However, I was wearing killer (literally!) black pumps that night (to go with my skinny jeans)--and I kept complaining to Ryan that I could barely keep up with him as we walked. Death by pencil-thin heels was not as worthy as, say, death by 11K, so I ended up buying a pair of slim Havaianas to give my poor feet a break.

I have such terrible self-control; every time summer kicks in (or even a holiday, for that matter), I have this ugly compulsion to buy a new pair of Havaianas. I have so many pairs that I've actually lost track of the actual count. But my feet were in such agony Friday night that I went inside Moana (the first shop in Power Plant that I saw with a stock of Havaianas) and actually felt justified in buying the pretty blue-and-gold slippers with the peacock design. Hay. Adik.

Dropped by Fully Booked with Ry to browse--but again, I had to restrain myself because I still have a reading backlog that's longer than my arm. My friend was able to buy some reference materials on digital photography, so at least one of us came out of the bookstore completely happy.

Next Friday, I am sticking to the park. The mall is a dangerous, dangerous place.

14 March 2009

Deleting your friends for a Whopper? Have it your way.

You may have heard about this old campaign already, but I find it such a cruel, insanely funny ad that I just have to blog about it.

Burger King's Whopper Sacrifice campaign demands no less than the pain and aggravation of choosing 10 friends to be deleted from your own Facebook account so that you can receive a free Whopper that's worth $3.69, or approximately Php 180. What's even more demented is the fact that these rejected friends will each receive an alert on their respective Facebook accounts that they have been deleted.

I have to admit it's a brilliant online marketing campaign. Brilliant but mad. I can't imagine deleting 10 people from my account--not because I'm too nice (hahaha) but I find it such a HASSLE to go through my list of friends and decide who's going to be banished--just for a friggin burger that's not even totally expensive to begin with. (But if we're talking about a year's supply of grande-sized Starbucks coffee drinks, I might just rethink my principles. Hahaha.)

Naturally, Facebook wasn't happy about the whole thing, so in the end, Burger King had to sacrifice the campaign.

long distance running with a sore ankle

I’ve been busy the past couple of days with work, juggling three direct mail campaigns at the moment and planning the next one which rolls out next month. It can get wildly stressful at times.

But the good news is—my vision is back! I now have new glasses which, sadly enough, make me look like the nerd I used to be in college. And even better, Dr. Santos has informed me that I can go back to wearing soft contact lenses by next week, but I would have to buy brand new ones that have my new eye grade. My glasses will serve as back-up so that I don’t end up overusing my soft lenses.

Last Sunday evening (March 8), I was scheduled to do a long run of 7 miles, or 11.26K. I was nervous about completing the 11K+ because that would be the farthest distance I’ve run so far. So there I was in Legaspi Park with A, doing a lot of warm-ups in preparation for this torturous distance.

The first few kilometers were good enough; I was running at a relaxed, average pace of 7 min/km and I was mentally prepped to complete the targeted 11.26K. But by the 6th kilometer, I started to feel a very bad soreness in my left ankle. It wasn’t the regular kind of sore; it was the alarming kind of sore. I think I unconsciously placed a lot of stress on that ankle especially when I ran on the park’s curved paths. The landing of my left foot probably wasn’t correct to begin with. So a little past the 6th kilometer, I felt a throbbing kind of pain, which I tried to ignore at first. But the pain intensified, and I was forced to stop and limp my way to the nearest bench. I took off my shoes and socks to massage my ankle, which was feeling sensitive but not sprained, thank God. After a few minutes, I put on my shoes again and decided to try running the rest of the 5 or so kilometers.

I stopped after two minutes of running. The ankle pain wasn't going away.

In my 28 years of existence (haha), I've had my share of injuries, both major and minor: a cut on the bottom of my chin due to a bicycle accident when I was a kid (and I had to undergo stitches on the chin); a fractured left collarbone from judo; normal bruises on the knuckles from boxing PLUS a very bad two-week bruise on the rib from a sparring session; deep cuts on the knees from various accidents, like colliding into some stupid huge rock underwater; and a benign dermoid cyst the size of a human fist which had to be removed from my right ovary through surgery. Basically, I am one of the most unfortunate people you'll ever get to know.

At that point when I felt the bad soreness in the ankle, I knew I didn't need another injury. I was already vision-impaired to begin with--but an ankle sprain would completely prevent me from running. So I stopped running that Sunday night, out of fear that I would be stuck in bed with a sprained ankle and miss out on an entire summer of races including the Condura Run.

Of course, I cussed a bit when I forced myself to stop. Couldn't help it, you know. I was upset about not finishing the 11.26K. If I was forced to DNF on an actual 11K race, I would have probably died of embarrassment.

Monday morning found me gloomily contemplating on the unfairness of life while I semi-hobbled around the office. Even though I had iced my ankle and shins Sunday night, I was still somewhat sore the next day. And to think I wasn't even running super fast that Sunday.

On Tuesday (Week 3 of the SmartCoach training program), I was scheduled to do an easy run of 5K. I was anxious as I stood on the park's running path with a slightly sore left ankle, praying that I wouldn't be too injured to complete a standard 5K run. As my own way of behaving nicely, I ran very slow that night (close to an 8 min/km pace), gauging my ankle every time my left foot hit the pavement. I was careful not too put so much stress on it. In fact, I was so busy paying attention to my footstrike that the 5K went by almost unnoticeably.

I was ecstatic to be running in such miraculously good condition, and then and there, I decided to do an open run: go past 5K and see how far I could go without feeling any pain. By the 9th kilometer, I was getting super tired, but my ankle was still fine despite the soreness, so I was thinking to myself, yeah, Gina, just keep on going. Who knows, you'll probably make it to 11K.

I finished at 11.33K after an hour and a half of continuous running, and my first thought was: Thank You, God.

I'm no regular churchgoer but I do have my own personal way of communicating with Him. The entire run felt like one long prayer--although I didn't really ask God to make me reach 11K. I only hoped to run as far as I could, and He gave me the will to finish 11.33K.

When life gives you lemons, well, make lemonade the next chance you get. Haha. I may not have finished the planned 11K that Sunday, but Tuesday's long distance run was the sweetest one I've had so far, sore ankle and all.

08 March 2009

Bagasbas Beach

A long overdue entry.

Bagasbas Beach was one of the places I enjoyed in my visit to Camarines Norte last February 9-12. Because Daet's a pretty quiet town, there wasn't much to do at night except hang out at the beach. So after dinner at Mr. Chinese Magic Man's restaurant in our first night in Cam Norte, the six of us (Dickie, Michelle, Dante, Robin, Joel and me) headed for Bagasbas Beach.

The place was a little deserted when we got there, which was surprising. I was kind of expecting more people to be enjoying the sea breeze at that time. I'd kill to have a beach near my place, and the Daet folks are lucky to be living near one.

The cold wind stung my face a little and I was glad I had worn a light jacket because I get cold easily. Our group spent several minutes just marveling at the scary waves. Bagasbas Beach is a surfing and kite boarding haven for local and foreign surfers alike and apparently holds the title of 61st surfing destination in the world (Dante read aloud this piece of information from a flyer on Daet as we wolfed down the laing in Central Plaza Restaurant earlier that evening).

It turns out we were just a day late in witnessing an annual kite boarding competition. Too bad. I would have wanted to see that. Bagasbas Beach is, they say, a good place for newbie surfers--although the big waves I saw that night didn't look newbie-ish in my opinion. Haha. (Surfing--one of those things I have yet to try. My officemate Cecil and I are dying to learn surfing one of these days but we're still checking out cheap packages and the ideal time for us to go on leave from work.)

Anyway, the guys, especially Dickie, were craving for a beer and some chips. So we walked along the beach strip to look for some munchies and drinks. The place isn't like Boracay's White Beach which is crammed with restaurants, bars and shopping stalls--and that was just fine with me. I liked the solitary, raw look and feel of Bagasbas. And even if the small, dimly-lit bars along the beach looked a little run-down (probably because of the strong winds), the entire place had its own charm.

There was a sari-sari store right across the place where we parked, and Dante, Michelle and I volunteered to get the drinks. I forgot the name of the place, but it was managed by this amazing old lady who was sewing under poor lighting conditions as she ran the store. Before we decided on our orders, I watched her as she steadily inserted a sliver of thread into the eye of a needle and started doing some complicated stitching. She looked 85 years old and still had better eyesight than me.

As I wasn't in Manila, I didn't expect the place to sell vodka and the like. So beer was the choice drink of the night.

"Anim na San Mig Light po," Dante said to the old lady.

I made a face. Never liked San Mig Light Beer. I'm not a beer person at all and I prefer the taste of tequila or vodka or wine. But if I had to drink beer, I'd choose something other than San Mig Light. So I inquired if there were other beer beverages.

The old lady peeped into the ref and recited, "San Mig Pilsen, San Mig Light, Colt 45, Red Horse--"

"Red Horse," I answered promptly. "I want Red Horse too," Michelle added.

For a second there, Dante stared at us women like he was gauging our beer-drinking capabilities and then turned to the old lady. "Uh, apat na San Mig Light at dalawang Red Horse po," he said.

So the men ended up drinking the girly beer while us girls had Red Horse.

(Red Horse. Yum. I haven't had one in a very long time. It was my favorite beer back in college and of course, it got me way tipsy on several occasions. On one school night, a friend and I made a bet on who could finish 1 liter of Red Horse first. So he parked his car in Shell, and we bought ourselves a 1-liter bottle of Red Horse each. I won the bet. Well, I nearly retched outside Shell Select, but still, I won.)

I was thankful that the Red Horse beer made my body feel all warm because Bagasbas Beach really had some mean winds. While the others ate balut (I was so inggit, but I didn't need those extra calories) and drank beer, I watched as a few children played tag in the sand as the waves crashed onto the shore.

The entire shoreline wasn't that long and it was the perfect spot for running. I was itching to run. Brought my running shoes with me, actually, in case there was an opportunity to run. I asked Robin jokingly if he was willing to drive me to Bagasbas Beach the next morning at around 5am so I could run, and he wasn't too hot on the idea. Haha. The others teased me, saying that I could run from our hotel to Bagasbas (which was a 6K distance), then run along the shore, and run back to Jollibee in time for breakfast. Haha. Sounded like a good plan actually, although I knew the UN Dept. of Safety and Security would have a fit if they found out I was running on the deserted roads of Daet alone at an ungodly hour.

We went back to Bagasbas Beach the next night to have dinner in Kusina ni Angel. The grilled seafood was super delicious--and super cheap! Dickie insisted on paying for the entire group, and when the bill arrived, the total bill was like 900 pesos. Nine hundred bucks for a dinner of six which consisted of various seafood including large prawns. The price is completely unheard of.

Given the opportunity, I'd go back to Daet just for Bagasbas Beach. I owe myself a run. And it won't hurt to have a cold bottle of Red Horse too.

Here's my lopsided take on Bagasbas Beach from the car during one of those mornings.

07 March 2009

Who watched the Watchmen?


I have to thank Ramon for introducing me to Watchmen some 2 years ago. I've never been a big fan of comic books, and as a kid, I only read some of my brothers' and male cousins' comic books because the obsessed bookworm in me felt compelled to read anything in sight. But I must admit that the comic book genre never really appealed to me, and Ramon knew that.

He insisted I try reading Watchmen anyway and promised that I would like it. And because I trusted my friend--who's the most voracious reader I personally know--I borrowed Ramon's old but carefully preserved copy and started reading. It's actually a big deal for me when fellow booklovers and friends like Ramon and Neva entrust me with their books. I normally don't lend out my books--anyone close to me can attest to that---because I'm really, really, really sensitive and obsessive compulsive about the handling of my books, and I only lend out my books to people I trust. (My officemate Nonoy casually picked up a book from my desk one time and roughly flipped through the pages. I let out a small scream, frightened at the sight of my book being so manhandled. I think I alarmed Nonoy so much that I haven't seen him go near my books again. Sorry about that, Noy. )

I am digressing. Anyway, it turned out the Watchmen edition Ramon lent me is his lending copy--to be used for evangelizing people into becoming Alan Moore fans. Like me, Ramon is OC about books and has his own personal copy of Watchmen, which he doesn't lend out, I'm sure.

Again, I'm not really knowledgeable about this particular genre, but as a comic book layman, I enjoyed Watchmen the novel immensely. The material was dense and gritty, an ambient gloom and world-weariness pervaded the story--and it was unlike any other comic book I've encountered. You couldn't read Watchmen in one sitting; it was just too impossible to digest and savor all that brain candy in one go. Alan Moore was--is-- obviously a writer of the most uncompromising kind. And for someone who was used to seeing dense prose all the time, Dave Gibbons' illustrations were new and strangely beautiful to my text-loving eyes, and I found myself poring over the panels in a slow, leisurely manner.

So as I stood outside the movie theater last Friday with A, waiting for the ticket lady to let us in, I was contemplating on the movie I was about to see. Without a doubt, I knew the movie would never be able to measure up to the book--and this is me not even being an Alan Moore / Watchmen fan, ha. (I'm not even sure if I'm in a position to write a blog entry on Watchmen.)

And I was 100% certain that Ramon and other friends who worshipped Moore could come up with a long list of the film's faults and spend hours discussing these gross blunders post-movie. I almost felt a kind of pity for director Zack Snyder who set himself up with the monumentally daunting task of translating this novel into a medium that would make it accessible to non-Watchmen fans without invoking the rage of the rabid Alan Moore cult.

Obviously, there's nothing as hellish as the geek world's scorn if it involves a less-than-perfect film adaptation of Watchmen--and if negative reviews could inflict physical harm, I'm sure Snyder would be badly scarred by now. In truth, the layman in me found the movie adaptation alright and enjoyable in some parts, but it wasn't spectacular. I think Snyder wanted to please the fans so much that he safely and faithfully stayed close to the source material--to the point of being unimaginatively redundant. His signature slow mo-speed up shots were tiring and relentlessly used, and the soundtrack leaves much to be desired (I'm sick of hearing Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" and it was jarring to hear it played during the sex scene).

Jackie Earle Haley as Rorschach was a joy to watch in this movie (Rorschach's my absolute favorite Watchmen character), and I think I would have enjoyed the movie much less if the portrayal of his character was substandard. The other performances were so-so, although I liked Billy Crudup in all his naked, otherworldly, blue penis-ed glory as Dr. Manhattan. Haha.

They took out the giant squid and the whole pirate comic-within-a-comic subplot (I saw the newsstand though!) but ah well, can't please everybody. Of course, as a reader, I would infinitely prefer Watchmen the graphic novel.

As these are just random thoughts of mine, please go to Rotten Tomatoes for the real, professional movie reviews. =)

Week 2 Training: Speedwork

It's been a tough week for me mainly because of my impaired vision. In the office, I had to read slower in order not to strain my eyes too much, and it hurt looking at the computer screen for long periods of time. So I was actually forced to complete tasks at a much slower pace.

And speaking of slow paces, last Thursday's running program involved speedwork--which I sorely lacked. If I had a running coach present with me last Thursday, he'd probably shout "Your grade? FAIL!"

Haha. Okay, I'm sure coaches aren't that mean, but yeah, I did fail in the speedwork thing.

I was supposed to do a 1.6K warm-up, three sets of 800-meter runs at a 5:54 pace per set, with 400-meter jogs in between sets, and then a final 1.6K cool-down run. Making it a total of 8K.

ARGH. If I was made to do long, slow distance running for 8 kilometers, I'd certainly be able to hack it. But I'm not a fast runner, so 3x800 @ 5:54 presented a challenge.

I had a happy 1.6K warm-up and when that was done, I ran in place while I reset my watch's activity time and distance log back to zero. I was nervous about completing 800 meters at a pace I knew was not realistic for me, considering my current running capability. But because I aim to try everything at least once, I started to run. When my watch indicated I had reached 800 meters, I was gasping heavily, and I checked the total time: 6:02. All that torture and I was still late by 8 seconds.

By the time I started the second 800-meter set, my knees were shaking in dread. God, I can be such a wuss at times.

I clocked in at 6:15. I was pooped, my shins hurt, and it seemed like my heart was about to burst out from my chest, so I didn't bother to do the third and final 800-meter run. I just wanted to complete the rest of the 8K doing LSD running. Right after the 2nd 800-meter set, I slowed down to a more relaxing pace and let my watch continue logging the distance. The speedwork tired me out so when I reached the 1.6K cool-down, I had a faltering gait and I could feel a bad soreness in both ankles and in my right shin.

Finally, my watch registered 8K. I slowed down to a limp and stretched my legs in one of the benches in Legaspi Park. I was so, so very tired, but the nice thing about running is that my eyes feel brighter and less sore. It must be an endorphins thing.

Later that night, I lay in bed with aching muscles, mentally going over the program I had just did. The speed running was exhausting, and I didn't do the third 800-meter set, but still, I kept asking myself why I was so tired after running 8K. Eight kilometers in total should not be too much of a problem for me these days. As I was computing my overall pace, a sudden thought entered my head that actually made me sit up: I didn't run a total of 8K. I ran 9.6K instead!

After my 1.6K warm-up, I had reset my watch distance and time log to zero. And then without stopping, I proceeded to run the next 8 kilometers. I totally forgot to include the 1.6K as part of the 8K. No friggin' wonder I was more tired than the usual.

Not only am I terrible in speedwork but in basic arithmetic as well. FAIL!

04 March 2009

Hi, I'm Gina, and I'm such a Starbucks fan

This is one of the reasons why I would never go down the path of self-destruction, which, in Gina lingo, means resorting to instant coffee:

As a creature of habit, I headed over to Starbucks RCBC Plaza this afternoon for my usual after-lunch coffee. Coffee is important to me in the afternoons because without it, all those fundraising campaign projections on Excel just swim before my very eyes and I will not be able to decipher anything in my zombie-like state.

So anyway, I entered Starbucks and was immediately greeted by three baristas (“Hi, Gina!!”). Wow. Slightly embarrassed but pleased nevertheless, I fall in line to get my typical coffee order: hot grande caffé mocha, nonfat but still with whip (I like caffé mocha because it’s the marriage of two of my obsessions: coffee and chocolate). A bunch of corporate-looking people were also in line in front of me and they took the darnedest time ordering their coffee. One of my pet peeves is being stuck in line with the person in front of me not having made a decision yet on what to order and he/she spends like five minutes dilly-dallying at the cash register.

Good thing Starbucks usually has two registers. So while corpy group acted like they owned the store and took their time ordering, one of the baristas, E, who greeted me earlier, kindly motioned me to go over to the other cash register, where she could process my order. Another barista, M, stood beside E. He smiled at me and asked, “Hi, Gina! The usual?”

Double wow. The usual. Very powerful words. I was thinking to myself, “Oh my god, is this the moment? Have I finally arrived?”

Truth be told, I spend a lot of time in the Starbucks Waltermart and People Support branches in the weekends, so without having to tell them, the baristas there already memorize my standard order as well, which isn’t really complicated but not too typical either. (I mean, how many people do you know specify nonfat but still with whip?)

But there’s something about the high-traffic, corporate atmosphere of the RCBC Plaza branch that makes one feel a little smug for standing out in a sea of countless orders and faces. So I nodded yes in reply to M’s question.

Apparently, E knew what my usual order meant because she immediately said, “That would be Php 130, Gina.” Amazing. No need for me to rattle off “hot grande caffe mocha, nonfat, still with whip” for her to determine the price of my coffee. I felt like I had just been inducted into some secret society where chosen patrons no longer had to open their mouths to say their coffee order.

And as I stood, patiently waiting for my coffee to be prepared (I hate coffee that’s rushed), I overheard one of the corpy women say to the barista, “My usual, please.” And the barista politely asked, “I’m sorry, ma’am. Would that be a tall caffé mocha or white mocha again?”

“Grande white mocha,” the lady answered curtly, looking a little miffed. Yikes.

In the meantime, another barista, L, had just finished putting whip into my drink and handed me the to-go cup with a cheery “Here you go, Gina. See you again tomorrow!”

I left Starbucks with a post-purchase happy consumer afterglow. Who needs instant coffee when you can have that instead?

tsokolate, ooh!

Randy's back from his hedonistic one-month vacation in Norway, France and Spain (kainggit) and brought home pasalubong--chocolate! Of course, I have this incredible weakness for chocolate. So whether it's cheap, comforting Goya or the slick-tasting Godiva or my latest craving, Royce, I'm ready to devour anything that's labeled 'chocolate.' =P

Randy gave each of us a good-sized bar of Ikea chocolate, and I immediately snatched up the one and only dark chocolate variant available. Haha. Greedy, little, dark choco-fixated me.

But then I saw how the wrapped chocolate bar looked, and I fell in love with the packaging right away:
Now I don't feel like eating it. It looks so pretty!

Damn Ikea for making chocolates have that designer look as well.

(And speaking of Ikea, the last time I was there, Tintin had to literally drag me away from the bookshelves and chairs sections. Everything looked so yummy. I think she was afraid I'd buy an entire living room showcase and she might end up helping me pay for the excess baggage fee. Haha. Damn Ikea ulit.)

03 March 2009

Week 2 Training: Easy Run

I know I should be resting my eyes, but I'm still feeling a little energized from tonight's 5K practice run and am very much wide awake.

As much as possible, I'm still trying to stick to the SmartCoach program that Runner's World customized for me. If I feel that the mileage is too much, I can always decrease the number of kilometers that are asked of me in a particular week. Last week was Week 1 of my little training in preparation for the Condura Run, and I completed 11 miles (18K) out of the required 16 miles (25K)--but I have an excuse. Haha. Because of the eye infection I contracted last Thursday, I had to skip Friday's 3.2K easy run. And then last Sunday, I joined the Botak 5K race with one good eye, so I don't think it was possible for me to do an 11.2K long run on that same day.

Will see how Week 2 goes. Tonight was supposed to be an easy run of 3.2K but that distance isn't challenging anymore (naks), so I ran 5.11K instead. Anyway, it's usually on the 3rd kilometer that I'm really warmed up and ready to run some more, so why not go the extra distance, right? What I find really encouraging is how my body seems to be telling me these days that it can endure longer runs now (I did an 8K last Thursday without much pain; my past 10K runs left me really gasping for breath). The increase in my pace isn't dramatic but I keep telling myself not to rush and be impatient. Baby steps, Gina!! Er, or maybe more of baby strides in this case.

Thursday's program involves speedwork training--and I have this gut feeling that I'll fail miserably at this. I don't get to do a lot of speedy running in my practices, so this is something I really need to improve on.

P.S. After 3 months, my Nike Zoom Limitless+ running shoes have turned into a dustier, dirtier shade of blue and white. And I love how this pair looks so used. But I also need to consider having another pair of running shoes--one with more cushioning. I'm beginning to feel slightly battered in the ankle area. I think that when I run, my ankles seem to experience most of the impact, and that's not good. I tried on the latest New Balance 1224s and they felt really nice--as if my feet were cushioned protectively by some gel-like substance at the bottom of the shoes. It all feels expensive to me. Haha. But will see in the next few weeks if I can indeed afford to buy a new pair.

01 March 2009

Botak Paa-Bilisan 5K at The Fort (Feb 28)

I stood quietly behind the start line along with hundreds of runners in this morning's race. I had already done my warm-ups in place and was just waiting for the gun start.

As runners around me chattered excitedly and took pre-run pictures, I looked antisocial, listening to the music on my earphones and checking and re-checking my watch to make sure that the distance and activity time were set to zero, so I could properly track my run.

I wasn't being withdrawn and standoffish, actually. With only one good eye, I felt it best to economize my movements and literally get a feel of the concrete road from where I stood, as a way of prepping myself. As I've mentioned in my last post, my right eye is sore and a little red due to overuse of contact lens, and my doctor has instructed me to go without contact lens in the said eye. Which leaves me with only one working eye, the left.

Seconds before the race started, I said a quick prayer, hoping that I wouldn't trip and fall because of my, er, handicap. I wasn't entirely confident about doing well in this race due to my limited vision, but I also wanted to prove to myself that I could hack it. After all, some people would run with injuries (and on some occasions, I would see this elderly man running fast with only one arm), so what's to stop me from running with only one contact lens on?

I was also insistent on running this Botak 5K race in particular because my first-ever run last October 2008 was also a Botak Paa-Bilisan event. Also 5K. In a way, I wanted to see how far I'd gone from my first race to this current one. Believe me, I haven't gone so far in terms of improved performance, haha. But I'm glad to see that I've made some progress in improving my endurance and pace. Because in my first race, I had a S-L-O-W total run of 43 minutes.

Today's race started late (unlike runrio races), so by the 4th kilometer, the sun was already up and the glare of its light was merciless on my poor eyes. Yup, summer's back with a vengeance, I thought to myself.

The first two kilometers were the hardest for me because my muscles still felt cold, and I was trying to adjust to running with only one good eye. To be safe and prevent myself from tripping, I stuck to the middle of the road and looked out for potholes. I was pretty conservative in my running and in my goals for this race; I just wanted to make it to the finish line, safe and in one piece. That's already a lot, considering my very poor vision.

Of course, when I saw the finish line (from my left eye), my face broke into a smile and I ran a little faster. I clocked in at 35:16 and checked my watch, which had the exact same activity time. A 7:05 pace wasn't altogether bad for this girl with the vision handicap. And when I checked my right eye afterwards, much of the redness was gone and the eye even looked a tad brighter.

This is totally encouraging. At least I can still do practice runs in the next couple of days even with one eye. Hurrah!