Wednesday, December 22, 2010

KFC Double Down

I like to compare KFC's Double Down to skydiving. It's a radical and dangerous idea, and I keep telling myself that somehow I am going to try it at least for once in my life. But then, when faced with the actual decision, I can't bring myself to take the plunge.

Until one day, I did.

For the uninitiated: This meaty monster is not a sandwich. This is two layers of greasy chicken fillet surrounding a slice of cheese, a few strips of bacon, and mayonnaise. It is certainly sandwichesque, but it is even more certainly not a sandwich.

I wanted to surround the thing with a loaf of bread. It was not as good as I hoped, and not as bad as it sounds. An interesting experience but not one I plan to try again any time soon.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Week 6: Quezon City International Marathon

I started my binge of running in late October by challenging myself to run a 5K every week for five weeks (or as long as I could keep it up, really). Five kilometers is a good distance, short enough for anyone to finish but long enough to demand a great deal of endurance if you are going to put effort into it. Five weeks is long enough to build up a comfortable routine, but once you gets too comfortable it's only natural to push yourself further.

Set on December 5 was the Quezon City International Marathon, featuring a 5K race, a 10K race, a 21K half marathon, and a full 42K marathon. With the promise of a huge event (the word "International" entices me) and long running distances, it seemed time to finally step up my game, up to a target I had long looked up to but never before considered within reach. 10K.

I had once thought 10K as an impossible distance. Sounds silly saying that in the context of a race with a full 42K marathon, but it is true. Running 5K leaves me mentally exhilarated but physically exhausted. Going for twice that long would be-- twice as much.

(For reference, 10 kilometers is the distance from the SM Mall of Asia to SM Megamall visa EDSA. But please don't run on EDSA.)

Quezon City International Marathon
Sunday, December 5, 2010
Commonwealth Avenue, Quezon City

Distance: 10K / Time: 1:00:37 / Rank 325 of 1314

Now, despite the word "International" in the title, it seemed that so much about the event was amateurishly organized. I shall elaborate in bullet point form:
  • The poster said registration would end on November 7, yet registration was going on far beyond that date. This isn't much of a complaint, since even I registered late, but why bother setting a deadline if they won't stick to it, right? I'm sure many missed the event because they thought the registration period had passed, and the extension wasn't clearly communicated.
  • The singlet design posted on the internet was colored green, yet somehow the final thing itself turned out a bright neon yellow. They posted a sort of apology on their Facebook page but no real explanation, except to say that's the way it turned out when they got it from the printers.
  • Registration included the unusual and unnecessary step of claiming the singlet and race kit from UP on the weekend of Nov. 27-28. Why couldn't they just give it out along with the actual registration itself? Or why not have registration itself at UP that weekend? Seems like they're imposing a logistical burden on both organizers and participants.
  • Race kits were supposed to be distributed at the Bahay ng Alumni in UP, and I had to ask around since no directions were given, and the UP campus isn't particularly visitor friendly. When I got there I found only a sign saying that the venue had been moved, and it gave some vague directions on how to get there. Turns out it was at a remote and dusty gym at the furthest corner of the campus.
  • I get to the race kit distribution place, show my claim stub, and-- surprise! My name is not on the list. Seems I wasn't the only person with this problem, because they had an ad hoc workaround in place and did a quasi-registration on the spot.
  • I suspect that the workaround registration is the reason why the race results show me as an ageless, sexless, "Unknown finisher". Overall, 677 out of the 3515 finishers in the 5K/10K race results are listed as "Unknown finisher", identified only by bib number. That's nearly 20%.
  • The baggage counter had me a bit worried. They had such a small storage space considering the amount of runners, and bags were overflowing out of their area. When I came to claim my bag after the race, I was able to just pick it up myself without any assistance. I could easily have stolen someone else's bag.
  • This doesn't affect me, but there are many reports that the 21K race distance was actually more than 23 km. How they can make such a large mistake in distance is beyond me. Several people brought this up via the Facebook page, with responses saying that would look into it, yet nothing was done.
  • The cutoff time for the full marathon was supposed to be 7 hours, but they removed the timing sensors an hour early. If I ran for 42 km and this happened to me I would be barking mad. Absolutely barking.
Ok I think that's all I have in terms of organizational complaints. Whew.

Sweaty masses of humanity at the finish.

The starting point of the run was where Commonwealth Avenue meets the Quezon City Circle. They closed the entire northbound half of Commonwealth Ave. for the event, and I can just imagine the furor from motorists. I've seen the event advertising that runners would be passing Quezon City's most glorious landmarks, but really for the 5K/10K runs there is nothing to see along Commonwealth Ave.

Hydration was plentiful, with tables of water and Powerade at good intervals. I may have helped myself to a little too much water since my stomach began to protest in the last few kilometers and about half the time was spent walking. People were passing me but I comforted myself in the thought that no matter how slowly I go it would still be a personal best.

Post-run ceremonies at the Quezon City Circle.

I finished in the very respectable time of 1:00:37, and ranked 325 out of 1314. Not bad for my first 10K, eh? Of course I would have preferred to be 37 seconds faster and finish within the 1 hour mark, but I'm quite pleased considering I thought my time would be more like 1:20:00. Plus, I'm still in the top half in the rankings. Maybe I could be pushing myself still harder in terms of distance. 21K? Who knows. Someday.

Then I came home, took a shower, had breakfast, and slept for 10 hours straight. Not even exaggerating.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Week 5: Resorts World Grand Fiesta Run

My week prior to the Resorts World Grand Fiesta Run on November 28 was full of distractions and conditions that were a completely unideal preparation for running. Because I had visitors in Manila, I was only able to run for a total of 10 km during the whole week as preparation. I was eating way more than usual. I spent entire days getting my legs and feet sore by walking around the malls. And the night before the run I had a mini-reunion with high school friends.

One bright note though was that these visitors would be going to the airport on early Sunday morning, which was just perfect since I could be dropped off right at the race venue across from NAIA Terminal 3, at Resorts World Manila.

Resorts World Manila Grand Fiesta Run
Sunday, November 28, 2010
Resorts World Manila

Distance: 5K / Time: 28:10 / Rank 29 of 266

The run's route was around Resorts World and Andrews Avenue in front of Terminal 3, a new and untested route for fun runs. This probably added to it's appeal and explains why it managed to be decently attended despite heavy competition-- the Runrio-sponsored Run BGC and the McDonald's-sponsored McHappy Day Fun Run were scheduled the same morning, among others.

The downside of this venue is that Andrews Avenue is a heavily used road that can't be blocked off from traffic too much since people are going to the airport. When going southeast on this part of the route only the two inner lanes were for the runners, so it's a choice between being close to the heavy pollution coming from the traffic in the opposite lane, or getting too close to the speedy cars on the other side.

I didn't even come close to finishing the whole 5K without walking, but was still surprised that I got a decent sub-30 minute time. Even more pleasing was my rank of 29 out of 266, nearly in the top 10%.

Running with NAIA Terminal 3 in the background.

Superman emerges in the 1K "Rat Race"

An interesting gimmick to this event was a 1K "Rat Race" where participants were encouraged to come in business attire. Personally I thought this would be a waste of time that no one would join, but there were just enough people to keep it interesting and successful. Most photogenic was a guy (a minor celebrity, I think) who ran in a full suit, then revealed in the final stretch that he had a Superman costume underneath.

Finishing off the event was a generous raffle. Lots of prizes were given out, which got people excited since the number of participants was not that big. The two grand prizes were vacations to Resorts World in Singapore, along with tickets to Universal Studios.

People stuck around to the every end, hoping to get lucky. Then it came time for the final grand prize. "The last digit of our grand prize winner is... a seven!". Disappointed moans erupted from the crowd, with a few scattered cheers. I didn't even bother sticking around to hear the rest of it-- I just picked up my bag and left.
As I walked away from the event I happened to be walking beside another dude, and our eyes met, and we laughed out loud at the unspoken but shared understanding of our lack of fortune. Hah. What can you do.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Week 4: Animo Run

I was faced with two options for the morning of November 21:
  • Big Blue Katipunan Run at the Ateneo campus, sponsored by Ateneo
  • Animo Run at the SM Mall of Asia, sponsored by La Salle
Seemed kind of funny and not at all coincidental that fun runs by Ateneo and La Salle would be set on the same day at the same time on opposite ends of Metro Manila. The choice for me was easy enough though-- the Mall of Asia is relatively closer to where I live, and also I was a bit wary of the loose organization and low turnout of the Ateneo-organized run two weeks earlier.

Also, the Animo Run's singlet design as posted on the internet was better and free of sponsor logos. The actual thing was full of sponsor logos though. Oh well.

Animo Run
Sunday, November 21, 2010
SM Mall of Asia

Distance: 5K / Time: 25:24 / Rank 110 of 1384

The crowd was bigger than I expected. I think the host announced that there were something like 5000 registrants-- there are no results for the 3K though so I can't be sure. Apparently, joining the run was required for some PE class.

Even though I'm the opposite of a Lasallian alumnus, I loved the fact that the cheering squad's drums were booming to greet runners as they came into the final stretch. It was the first time I finally achieved the goal I set for myself of running an entire 5 kilometers without taking breaks to walk, and the drums kept me motivated to keep going despite a dull pain in my side started to creep up in the final kilometer or so.

Despite being able to finish the whole thing without walking, my time and ranking were not as good as my 5K personal record set in the run the week before. It's just a minor letdown, since I really think that week's run was actually shorter than this was.

La Salle's drums

Runners in front of the IMAX theater

The real thing to be disappointed about was the "loot bag" given to finishers. Despite the promises of generous freebies from sponsors, the loot bag actually given out had hardly more than coupons and a thin magazine. They could have put it in an envelope. I threw it in the trash before I left. I wouldn't have minded if there was no loot bag at all actually, but they shouldn't set expectations if they'll just let people down.

In spite of that I walked away from the even a happy dude. Just ran five kilometers straight, felt like I could have gone on for five more, and nuthin' could stop me.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Week 3: Race for Life

My third straight weekend of 5Ks was for the "Race for Life", a fun run for some charity that I am unaware of. Apparently it's a pretty popular charity, because it attracted a crowd of thousands of participants-- surprising, given the relatively steep registration fee. All in all there was a total of 2694 people across all categories who finished the run (that's over 10 times the number of people in the Ateneo run the week before).

Race for Life 2010
Saturday, November 13, 2010
Bonifacio Global City

Distance: 5K / Time: 25:03 / Rank 43 of 1259

This one was held on the shiny new streets of Bonifacio Global City. For a pleasant change, the route was just one big loop with almost no backtracking. Unfortunately though, the distance based on my most generous calculations in Google Earth was just 4.8 km. Actually I suspect it was even shorter.

I'm not so familiar with the streets of BGC and didn't bother to study the race route, so during the run itself I had no idea how far along I was, and it came as a surprise afterwards when I found that I nearly finished the whole thing without walking. With a time of 25:03 I was somehow ranked 43 out of 1259 finishers in the 5K-- a ranking that remains my best ever in percentile terms.

In fact it seems fishy to me, and I had to double check the results just now to be sure. Maybe there were a lot of women and old people.

Final bend before the finish.

Epic line for goodies from sponsors.

After the run there was an area set up with the sponsor booths in a row, forming a sort of assembly line where finishers collect freebies for the generous loot bag. There were drinks, candy, sardines, soaps, shampoos, a pen, alcohol, vitamins, a raffle entry... I think there was even a bank offering loans or something. Almost enough to make the 30 minute wait in line worth it.