Last Friday, I received a tweet from @PaulThePRGuy:
@PaulThePRGuy hi Paul, I was unable to register for it :)
— Noelle De Guzman (@KikayRunner) March 14, 2014
I’d deliberated on registering for Run United 1 when registration was opened earlier this year, but kept putting it off. Unfortunately registration to the 21K filled up very quickly. But Paul, who works with race sponsor Adidas Body Care, had some complimentary kits to spare. Spur of the moment, I signed up!
Until last year I had been basing my 21K race pace on a previous average pace of 5:15 to 5:20 per kilometer. At the Aerotropolis Half-Marathon in January, I’d found I could do an average pace of 5:02 per km. For Run United, I decided I’d go out at a sub-5 minute pace and see how long I could sustain it — or if I couldn’t, how badly my pace would drop off so I would have some idea of at what point I could blow up in that distance.
On race morning, I missed the gun start for the first wave of 21K runners because I still had to pick up my kit from Paul, and he’d gotten delayed. It didn’t matter, really. There was a timing chip which would help log my race time, and I wasn’t aiming for a podium finish (the top places are chosen based on gun time, not chip time).
Despite my lack of run-specific mileage — my last “long run” was the 21K run leg at Challenge Philippines — I had been keeping my “engine” turning over with bike, swim, and short run sessions. I was curious about where that fitness base would take me. I just wanted to see how far I could push my body.
my Run United 1 stats (click for full view)
Well, I found myself pushing hard from the second wave gunstart because I would need to get to the front to get some clear road to run on. I was running on sidewalks, grassy borders, dodging between runners, trying to find a path through the crush of bodies hurtling forward. I got through the worst of the congestion after 6 kilometers, but I realized I’d never get clear. I’d already caught up with the tail end of Wave 1 and needed to start dodging people again.
Our route took us from Mall of Asia to Roxas Boulevard and back, so it was pretty straightforward and flat except for the Buendia and EDSA flyovers, which were short climbs. I expected to be gasping for breath somewhere after the halfway mark, but at kilometer 10.88 with 54 minutes and 38 seconds on the clock, I was still breathing through my nose comfortably and my pace hadn’t dropped off. Was I pushing hard enough?
I was in a nice rhythm with my legs, arms, and breathing, and I didn’t slow down through the hydration stations. (Pro tip: head to the tables at the end of each station for less congestion.) Without having to look at my watch too much, I knew I was on pace for a new PR. I actually felt even better than I had at Aerotropolis, and my pace increased even without the free speed from a descent.
As the 21-kilometer mark ticked by on my watch, I realized I still had to run more than half a kilometer. The route took us past the finish line to a U-turn further down the road before heading back to the finish. It was about 600 meters longer than the Aerotropolis route, so I just narrowly missed a new PR. I didn’t feel too bad about it, because my average pace was four seconds faster than the previous race. :)
This race was also a test of nutrition strategy. I’ve been having gastric problems for the past few races when taking gels and electrolyte drink, and racing on a full stomach seemed to make it worse. So on race morning I didn’t eat anything until I had a Gu gel 15 minutes before gunstart and just had gels and water throughout the race. I must say, it was a success. I missed my pre-race breakfast, but I guess I’ll just have to deal with a growly stomach if I want to race well. Anyway I had a nice big slice of cheese pizza post-race, which really hit the spot. :)
(Can I just geek out about what I wore? Because the race started so early at 4am, I couldn’t wear dark-tinted sunglasses. But I hate having dust fly into my eyes, so the orange lenses from Salice were perfect. Then when I was done before daybreak, I zipped up into a Mizuno Impermalite running vest to keep from getting chilled while waiting for some of my friends to cross the finish line.)
There were 12,000 runners on the road that day at Run United 1. It’s great that Runrio and Unilab Active Health hold these races to encourage runners to exceed themselves, whether by setting a new PR or testing themselves on the longer distances.
My own run exceeded my expectations. It’s actually a little scary how easy it all felt, considering the (lack of) volume of my training the last three weeks. However, I think I’ve got a great fitness base from following the MX Plus system, which isn’t as periodized as most training programs. Rather, I have a mix of short bursts of fast or intense work during the week buffered by more aerobic foundation work, and recovery determined by how I feel. So I’m always working on base fitness through the foundation work while also improving speed and strength through threshold work. (Read this Slowtwitch post that explains in more detail.) This system should allow me to race more and race effectively while having shorter tapers. I’m intrigued by the implications this could have on the rest of my season, because I love to race!
If you raced Run United 1 last weekend, how did you find it? Let me know in the comments. :)