Here comes the sun! Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration declared that summer season starts on March 18 and temperature will test the most recent highest temperature recorded in Manila at 36.6 degrees Celsius on April 2012. Philippines has a 31.7 degrees Celsius annual average high temperature so 36.6 degrees Celsius can be considered an adverse weather condition. How can runners beat the intense heat? Adaptation has been the best approach. Heat acclimatization refers to the biological adaptations that protect vital organs, reduce physiologic strain and improve physical performance from heat injuries such as heat stroke, heat cramps and heat exhaustion. Based on the United States Army Center for Health Promotion and Preventive Medicine heat acclimatization requires a combination of heat exposure and cardiovascular endurance exercise of 2 hours per day for 14 consecutive days. But before we run under the sun we must understand the so-called heat index that combines atmospheric temperature and relative humidity to determine the human-perceived equivalent temperature. The human body has the remarkable capacity for regulating core body temperature between 36.5 degrees Celsius and 37.5 degrees Celsius through sweat evaporation but when extreme relative humidity decreases sweat evaporation then heat index increases. Philippines has a 78 percent annual average relative humidity that ranges from 71 percent in March to 85 percent in September. Based on the United States National Weather Service an elevated atmospheric temperature and relative humidity can increase the heat index by 8 degrees Celsius. Hence the Philippines with a 31.7 degrees Celsius annual average high temperature can have a 39.7 degrees Celsius annual average heat index. What more when we use the annual extremes than annual averages. Now we know the reason our perceived equivalent temperature is higher than what the thermometer indicates. Prepare for oven hot running days. Despite the scorching sun and smoldering asphalt the personal Lenten ritual 20-kilometer run commenced on March 29. I ran for 10 kilometers from Katipunan Avenue in Quezon City to Emerald Avenue in Pasig City but severe heat index forced me to an extended stopover at Ortigas Park along Emerald Avenue. I continued running to complete the 20-kilometer Quezon City-Pasig City loop but muscle cramps put me in an awkward moment at the 13-kilometer mark along Greenmeadows Avenue. Gasp. Can this run be done? I brisk walked until the 15-kilometer mark along White Plains Avenue but muscle cramps became unbearable. The pain persuaded me to discontinue and went home with a meager 15-kilometer mileage. What went wrong? Muscle cramps will be the usual suspect but heat acclimatization done in haste was the reason. Runners must learn to adapt rather than confront the natures wrath.
01 March 2013
Panagbenga Festival lured us to return to Baguio located 250 kilometers north of Manila covering 57.5 square kilometer land area featuring a subtropical highland climate 8 degrees Celsius lower than the national average. Who does not want to watch an annual flower celebration featuring flower float parades and flower arrangement presentations in the famed summer capital? As tourists swamped the annual flower celebration the Manila-Baguio deluxe bus service had ran out of tickets earlier than usual. Deluxe buses provide direct travel services from origin to destination using custom-made buses with exclusive features such as on-board CR, TV, WI-FI, reclinable seats with extended legroom. Without further ado we chose the standard bus service that provides comparable travel services except for the on-board facilities earlier mentioned. Despite the stopovers in Tarlac and Pangasinan we reached Baguio within the standard 6-hour travel time. After our usual travel church break we wandered from Baguio Cathedral to Melvin Jones Ground and became spectators of Ronda Pilipinas that conducted the last leg of the renowned 20-day, 15-leg, 2,000-kilometer Philippine Road Cycling Championship. We were elated that corporate sponsors led by LBC Express Inc, MVP Sports Foundation and Total Philippines Corporation supported the said road cycling competition that we used to know for decades. Remember the defunct Marlboro Tour and FedEx Tour Pilipinas? Baguio has vast road network measuring 315.9 kilometers whereas 90 percent are paved with concrete or asphalt. No wonder Baguio has been known as cyclists and runners haven. After conquering the 20-kilometer Lake Drive-Kias Road loop the search for another running route continued. Based on Baguio map runners can select Kias Road or Kennon Road from Baguio General Hospital junction. Why not take the road less traveled? Although the shortest route to Baguio compared to 47.2-kilometer Marcos Road and 42.0-kilometer Naguilian Road the 33.7-kilometer Kennon Road has been considered as one of the most if not the most dangerous road in the Philippines due to the sharp curves, unstable fences and constant landslides. These are the reasons motor vehicles weighing more than 10 tons are prohibited along Kennon Road by the Department of Public Works and Highways. Even with these adverse geological conditions most motorists and tourists traverse Kennon Road to appreciate notable areas such as Bued River, Twin Peaks and Lions Head. Baguio has been known for the long and winding road but what surprised me were the steep slopes of Kennon Road compared with the shifting slopes of Kias Road. I was able to complete the 16-kilometer Lake Drive-Lions Head loop but not without severe muscle cramps that forced me into spontaneous walk breaks. Please do not get me wrong. Running programs include walk breaks for endurance conservation but it must be random not constant. Runners have been taught to respect the distance but this experience taught me to respect the slope. I shall return to seek redemption.
01 February 2013
Toll road races had been proven bankable as runners swamped the Subic International Marathon along the 94-kilometer Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway and Condura Skyway Marathon along the 16-kilometer South Metro Manila Skyway Project. Who does not want to run on these long and paved toll roads? Hence runners were elated when the Philippine Seven Corporation organized the 7-Eleven Run along the 14-kilometer Manila-Cavite Expressway (CAVITEx) that spans from NAIA Road Intersection in Paranaque to Kawit Interchange in Cavite. Philippine Seven Corporation owns the license to operate 7-Eleven stores in the Philippines. The race stakeholders were commendable for providing an event-dedicated website where runners can browse event-related information such as schedules and regulations. There was even a downloadable race course map that indicated the distance markers, directional signages and turnaround locations. But the said race had been plagued by numerous postponements due to harsh weather condition and damaged access road. Public outrage spread like wildfire as brutal comments flooded the social networks and running blogosphere. Runners frustration became apparent when registrants plunged by 39 percent from 9,697 to 5,905 as 3,792 opted to refund. But good things come to those who wait until the said race pushed through on January 20. I was surprised by the organized event venue held at the 204-hectare Aseana City located along the coastal borders of Pasay and Paranaque. As the wave starts begun before dawn runners were amazed by the secured race course with road cones and water stations. Wave Starts are start time intervals to prevent race course overcrowding. CAVITEx stakeholders such as Cavitex Holdings Inc and Metro Pacific Tollways Corporation were generous to provide two-lane access road to the tollgate and four-lane northbound road to the farthest turnaround. CAVITEx can be best described as an exceptional toll road race course without interchanges whatsoever. Interchanges are grade-separated road junctions that allow continuous traffic flow on other transit routes. Due to the absence of interchanges runners benefited from an unobstructed coastal panorama of Manila in the west and scenic landscape of Laguna in the east. Moreover the said race was for the benefit of the Philippine Seven Foundation whose social projects include rescue operations, feeding programs and medical missions in underserved communities. If you want to donate the foundation has a corporate website where the public can browse social project-related information such as completion reports and project certifications. Three cities with most registrants received support in kind equivalent to cash prizes worth P800,000. A remarkable feat considering the lower than expected registrants turnout due to the above mentioned postponements. Despite the harsh weather condition and demanding logistical challenges the race stakeholders found redemption as they were able to provide runners with memorable running experience. I reached the finish line in 2 hours, 19 minutes, 9 seconds and received the coveted 21-kilometer finishers medal. 7-Eleven Run was worth the wait.