1st Carigara Fiesta Marathon and Color Fun Run 2018

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One of Leyte’s most famous delicacies is the pastillas de leche from Carigara. I grew up eating this sweet treat on special occasions. What makes Carigara’s pastillas is the use of pure carabao’s milk. This ingredient makes the product creamier but not too sweet, the kind that tastes like heaven as it melts in your mouth. Yummy!

We visited Carigara this year for the 1st Carigara Fiesta Marathon and Color Fun Run 2018. I took a short nap after spending the day working at my parents’ school. By 11:00 PM, we headed out for the hour-long drive to Carigara from Tacloban City. The start time was 1:00 AM of July 8, 2018.

An event was winding down at the Local Government Unit (LGU) grounds. We proceeded to a small building to pick up my bib and check in for the race. I pre-registered online and paid the race fee of P1,400.00. My husband Richard stayed behind in Manila but I had my brother Don and our family driver as my support crew.

The marathon was a fundraising event for the 2019 HCC Grand Alumni Homecoming that will be hosted by Class 1994 and was part of the official town fiesta events. The registration fee included the T-shirt and the bib.

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I met up with a fellow Taclobanon runner and his wife who was the president of the alumni group. Many members of Class 1994 were at the alumni office busy preparing for the races. I took the chance to have my picture taken with them.

22 runners signed up for the marathon. We warmed up by dancing the zumba, and took off at exactly 1:00 AM.

Starting line was at Carigara LGU- going to Capoocan via Sta. Cruz chapel/ Slaughter house – turning point at Atipolo bridge going back to Carigara, then straight to Tunga – turning point at Naliwatan bridge going back to Baruguhay Carigara- turn right straight to Carigara District Hospital- turn right going to Barugo- turning point at Barugo Central School- going back to Carigara- straight to Cassidy Elementary School turn right going to Boulevard- turn left- going to the finish line at Carigara LGU.

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Don was a very caring support crew; he ensured that I had all the water, energy drink, and food I needed. He also took photos of me running by my lonesome. He talked to the organizers prior to the race to ensure that he knew the route, and trailed me to light the road ahead.

I was thinking I had the hometown advantage in this race. Boy was I wrong! The race was tough and was longer than the marathon distance by about three kilometers. I shuffled to the finish line with another runner who was doing the half marathon.

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I crossed the finish line in 6:21:16 and was very surprised to emerge as the second runner-up in the women’s division. I received the cash prize of P3,000 in cash from the president. I was so happy that even though I was super slow, I still managed to get a prize!

The finisher’s goodie bag included sample pain medicines and a promotional cup.

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The race was definitely well worth it! The hometown feel and no pressure in running was just perfect. We stopped by one of the houses to buy the famous pastillas de leche and ate them all before we had a chance to take a photo of our purchase!

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40th Gold Coast Marathon 2018

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Our first look at the Sydney Opera House.

Living in Europe makes it a challenge to run marathons in Australia. But – if there’s a will, there’s a way! We spend our summers in the Philippines and this year I carefully planned our schedule to include the 40th Gold Coast Marathon 2018.

We took the 10:30 PM  seven-hour Philippine Airlines flight from Manila to Sydney on June 28, 2018. We arrived at Centennial Terminal early and found out at the check-in counter that we had to apply for Australian visas prior to departure! What?! I thought our passports did not require visas! Fortunately, the visa application was easy online and immediately issued after payment of 21AUD by credit card. With the visa approval number in hand, the rest of the check-in process was smooth. Whew! I cannot take visas for granted and should check the country’s requirements before traveling.

We landed at 8:45 AM and was picked up from the airport by my brother and his wife. As first-timers to the Land Down Under, we excitedly made a beeline to the Sydney Opera House.

This trip was also a mini family reunion. I rarely see my brother now since he moved to Sydney and settled down almost 20 years ago.

It was just the beginning of winter in June for Sydney. The weather was bearably cool; my brother assured me that they have mild Aussie winters. We had a leisurely breakfast at one of the restaurants on the Sydney Cove, catching up with family developments and news.

Before we knew it, we had to make our way back to the airport for our TigerAir flight to Gold Coast at 4:10 PM.

We arrived in Gold Coast at 5:30 PM and took the SkyBus airport shuttle which stopped directly in front of our hotel. Bus fare was 38 AUD return per person which we booked online in advance.

Palazzo Versace Gold Coast was our decadent five-star hotel of choice for this trip.

Our room overlooked one of the many harbors of the city.

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We slept very well that night with Versace bedsheets and pillows.

The breakfast choices were extensive.

Properly rested and nourished, we set about picking up the race bib at the Gold Coast Convention Center. The tropical weather in the city was a pleasant contrast to the one in Sydney. Richard wore shorts and I wore a sleeveless top; it was that warm.

The bus that stopped in front of our hotel took us directly to the race expo.

Race expos are always exciting but can be confusing. So many exhibitors and products to see, too many people wandering about. Thankfully, the layout of the expo was easy. We picked up our bib and browsed at products while making our way out.

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We spent the rest of the day walking around Broadbeach North. Richard took photos of these interesting flora and fauna.

Dinner was at one of the restaurants in the mini mall next to our hotel.

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Race day dawned bright and early. It took us 20 minutes to walk from our hotel to the start line on Marine Parade just a few feet away from the finish line at the Gold Coast Aquatic Centre.

The race started at 7:20 AM with a 6:40 time limit (gun time). The route, as expected, was lovely. The course took us all over the city, past the swanky hotels to the posh condominiums, to the beach roads with the views of the gold sands. Richard took these photos while waiting for me.

We had plenty of fluids and gels at the aid stations. They had shower mists and helpful temperature readers.

There were a couple of entertainments spots along the way.

I was slow (again!) and crossed the finish line with a net time of 5:54:57 and an official time of 6:01:37. We walked through the final shower mist and got out finisher’s T-shirts.

Richard was patiently waiting for me.

We walked slowly back to our hotel where I took a shower and rested before going out for dinner.

We slept in, leisurely took our time at breakfast, and had one last look at this beautiful hotel before checking out.

Nope, we didn’t take the Rolls Royce to the airport. Just couldn’t resist posing beside it.

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We arrived in Sydney by 7:30 PM on Monday, July 2, 2018. I was glad to see my brother and his wife again. The evening was family time, their two grown children home for family dinner.

We were out and about the whole day the next day, visiting the Sydney Opera House again for better pictures.

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We also stopped by Bondi Beach and lunch at one of the malls.

We flew back to Manila on July 4, 2018 on the Philippine Airlines flight that left at 10:30 AM and landed at 4:40 PM. It was such a nice visit with my brother and his family, and a great race in Gold Coast!

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42. Monschau Marathon Walk 2018

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Monschau, a very picturesque town in the western party of Germany.

The 42nd Monschau Marathon Walk 2018 was our first race a week after our summer vacation in Asia and Australia. Monschau is a very picturesque town in western Germany, just a little over two hours from where we live in Belgium. The running festival had several race categories: 52K ultra, marathon, relay marathon, marathon walk, and mini marathon. I signed up for the marathon walk as my recovery race from the four marathons and one ultra I did over the past five weeks. I also studied the altimetry of the race course and decided I did not want to run up those major hills!

Registration for the marathon run or walk varied from as low as 31€ if you registered before March 31st to 43€ until July 31st. The registration entitled you to a finisher’s certificate, medal, and T-shirt.

The marathon walk started at 6:00 AM in the morning of August 12, 2018. We decided to stay overnight at a hotel near the race start so I would not be so rushed so early in the morning. All the hotels in Monschau were already fully booked. Instead, we stayed in nearby Raeren at Hotel Restaurant Zum Onkel Jonathan, a three-star homely family-run accommodation. Free parking was available right in front of the hotel.

Dinner was at the hotel that night with vegetable soup and roasted chicken with frites. The restaurant was a local favorite. We had dinner at 6:00 PM and there were already people seated at two other tables, unusual in Europe where dinners start late at 8:00 PM.

I set the alarm for 4:00 AM on Sunday. We brought sandwiches with us that served as my breakfast the next morning. Richard ate the breakfast that came with the reservation later at 8:00 AM. We were on the road by 5:00 AM for the 20-minute drive to the bib pick-up and start line on Konrad Adenauer Straße.

People were already milling about. I picked up my bib and walked around the area. marathon walkers were scheduled to start at 6:00 AM with the ultra runners toeing off at 6:05 AM.

The program changed because the ultra runners started at 6:00 AM and we were released by twos after the organizers wrote down our numbers starting at 6:10 AM.

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The walker category allowed us to do nordic walking or even run all or parts of the course. The organizers made up for the tough course with a generous time limit eight hours and thirty minutes.

The route was beautiful, picturesque, and peaceful.

We had access to the full service provided for the ultra runners and marathoners but did not have the pressure to run the whole race. Sweet! I can get used to this!

I stepped on the finish line in 6:58:43. They immediately gave me a rose and my finisher’s medal and waited just a few minutes for my official finisher certificate.

I had time for a quick shower at the primary school in Konzen next door before we drove home.

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Pattaya Marathon 2018

The Pattaya Marathon on July 15th was one of the highlights of our 2018 summer break in the Pacific. I was excited to visit Bangkok again after the race, and Richard was looking forward to connecting with a former colleague and fellow retiree who chose to make the Thai capital his home.

We took the two and a half hour Philippine Airlines flight from Manila to Bangkok on Friday, July 13, 2018 and paid 120 baht bus fare per person for the one hour trip to Pattaya. At the Pattaya Bus Terminal, a taxi driver wanted to charge us 300 baht to Hard Rock Hotel. A fellow passenger who was a seasoned visitor to Pattaya advised us against the taxi. Instead, we took a songtaew for 20 baht each, a local mini bus that resembled the Philippines’ jeepney. The driver dropped us a corner away from our hotel. We stopped at a 7-11 convenience store to get some drinks and continued the walk for about five minutes to reach Beach Road and the pool entrance to the hotel. We quickly checked in and was in for the night.

The breakfast buffet the next morning was sumptuous, just a tad too noisy.

We booked a car and a driver with the hotel to take us to sightseeing. Our first stop was the teak Sanctuary of Truth.

The next stop was a brief one to get our photo with the Pattaya sign in the background. It was so hot we couldn’t help squinting!

Next stop was the Wat Phrai Yai Temple with the Big Buddha.

We spent some time checking out the goods and enjoying the action at the Pattaya Floating Market.

With the major bulk of sightseeing musts done, we finally made our way to Central Festival Pattaya Mall to pick up my bib. I was already pre-registered when the online registration opened on June 19, 2018. Marathon registration is 1,000 baht. The race kit included the bib, singlet, and a drawstring bag.

The mall was located along the Beach Road, the major tourist hub in the city. There were many sidewalk vendors selling race-related merchandise.

We walked back to the hotel to cool off.

The sunset view from our hotel room was beautiful.

We were out again in the early evening to walk the famous Walking Street and get some dinner.

We settled for dinner at one of the restaurants. We were pleasantly surprised that the dining area opened out into the sea.

The Walking Street was hopping with action by the time we finished our dinner. It was a reluctant walk to the hotel for an early night.

I set the alarm for 1:30 AM to be ready for the 3:00 AM start time. The start line was thankfully just a few meters away from our hotel.

There were some product samples available at the starting area. We could also get some water, bananas, and power drinks already.

We were off at 3:00 AM. We ran through the Walking Street for the first few kilometers. I was surprised the clubs were already closed at 3:00 AM but there were still some straggling tourists walking back to their hotels. I was thinking they were open all night!

The aid stations had water, bananas, and the sports drinks. It was windy and overcast, and I took my time to finish the race.

I crossed the finish line in 5:50, slow but still in good shape. Richard and I immediately walked back to our hotel so that we could take a shower and get breakfast at the hotel.

We checked out at noon to take a cab to Pattaya Bus Terminal and ride the bus back to Bangkok.

We were booked at Movenpick Hotel in Sukhumvit Road.

Richard was scheduled for a medical check-up so we skipped the breakfast the first morning.

I got to meet Richard’s friend who is a long-time Bangkok resident.

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Our Thailand trip was all too short. It was time to go back to Manila before we knew it.

 

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55K TransCebu Challenge 2018

Cebu City, the Philippines’ Queen City of the South, is undergoing a construction boom. The trip from the airport to our hotel was longer than our one-hour flight due to the traffic, and there seemed to be more buildings lined along the streets since the last time we visited in 2016.

We took one of the Cebu Pacific morning flights from Manila to Cebu on Saturday, July 21, 2018 so that I can run the 55K TransCebu Challenge 2018. It was my second time to run this event after my initial participation in 2016.

I can still feel the deliciously steep altimetry of the infamous Transcentral Highway and my unexpected first runner-up finish in the women’s open division. Frankly, I wasn’t too keen in running this stretch of the race again.  Knowing what to feel and expect now at least prepared me for the ordeal ahead.

We stayed at the same hotel as the last time, Best Western Lex Plus Cebu, located at the corner of Escario and Osmena Extension a few blocks away from the Provincial Capitol. We were too early for check-in so we decided to go sightseeing. We took a cab to visit Magellan’s Cross, one of the most popular tourist spots in the city. The cross marked the exact spot Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan planted the Christian cross when he arrived in the Philippines in 1521.

We went to Robinson’s Fuente Osmena next, a shopping mall located at the city rotunda. We shopped for some race support supplies and visited our favorite restaurant Casa Ilongga for some crab meat, grilled squid and binignit.

The hotel was ready for our check-in when we got back. Took it easy the rest of the afternoon and had an early dinner.

The alarm woke us up at 2:00 AM. It was too early to eat so I just got dressed for the race. We took a cab to the pick-up point and finish line, the Barangay Busay Multi-Purpose Building. We were told to be there by 3:00 AM for the 4:00 AM departure and the 5:00 AM start time. Richard dropped me off. He was going to catch up to me at 9:00 AM and would serve as my mobile support station.

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The van was late in picking us up, delayed by fog and low visibility along the Transcentral Highway. We finally left at 5:00 AM, arriving a little after 6:00 AM at the starting line at Barangay Balamban Multi-Purpose Building. Each runner paid the P120 fare to the driver.

The 105K participants started at 9:00 PM the previous night; our start line served as their 40K checkpoint. We passed several runners on our way to our start line.

They provided us rice and ham breakfast with coffee and gave us our bibs when we arrived. We took a group picture before our  flag-off at 6:30 AM. I was actually surprised at the number of countries represented both at the 55K and the 105K. There were runners from Malaysia, Singapore, Korea, and France aside from the local runners. I represented the USA and the Philippines. There were some runners that did not get in the picture here.

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As I remembered, the incline started at around the 5K mark and continued all the way until the last 10 kilometers. The route was different this year. We had to go off the Transcentral Highway twice. The first one took us to Mount Manunggal, the site of Philippine President Ramon Magsaysay’s crash site. The race trophy and medal is modeled after the engine of Mount Pinatubo, President Magsaysay’s ill-fated plane.

The second trail off the highway was just 400 meters away from the first trail, a five kilometer out and back that was pure trail. We caught the tail end of the day’s fog along this trail.

We stayed on Transcentral Highway for the rest of the course.

There were marshalls at intersections and turning points. They took our pictures as proof we reached the checkpoints. I stopped at a couple of aid stations to rehydrate and eat boiled eggs. Richard and the driver leapfrogged me and provided everything I needed.

The day was thankfully overcast, even raining for a few minutes here and there. I reached the finish line in 10:40:23.95, more than an hour faster than my previous finish and good enough for a second runner-up finish in the women’s open division. Yay!

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They were chopping up lechon to serve to finishers but we didn’t stick around for that. We stopped at Robinson’s Fuente Osmena again for some takeout food at Casa Ilongga before heading back to the hotel. Richard and I took a long shower and ate in bed that night.

We flew back to Manila the following morning on Cebu Pacific Air. Finishers received a finisher shirt, trophy, and a medal. I also received a plaque for my podium finish. This was a good trip!

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42nd National MILO Marathon 2018

The MILO Marathon series is probably the oldest and the most popular foot race in the Philippines. I’ve heard of the races ever since I was a little girl in Leyte and that was a long time ago! Back then, I thought the races were only for the very fast and the very few. Now, I’m glad to see thousands of new and seasoned runners at the national elimination race every July. Many, like me, just want to run the race. More competitive runners aim to finish with the qualifying times needed to run the national finals in December. Runners may also get into the finals by qualifying through the half marathon distance in other cities held on several dates.

This was my third time to run the National MILO Marathon. I was racing MILO after four other marathons over four weeks so I was realistic and knew my finish time would not be ideal. I was also still nursing my sore quads and a swollen left ankle, results of the beating I took at the 55K Transcebu Challenge last weekend. No matter; I was here to enjoy the races in my birth country.

Registration for the marathon is P1,050 (approximately US$20) with a P100 (US$2) delivery charge. MILO requires a Fit to Run medical certificate to be emailed to the organizers before they will deliver you the race kit. The race kit included the bib, the disposable timing strip, the singlet, a MILO sachet, and the drawstring bag.

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I woke up a little past 1:00 AM of Sunday, July 29, 2018 to eat a sandwich and get ready for the 2:00 AM assembly time at the Seaside Boulevard at SM Mall of Asia in Pasay City. Rain was in the weather forecast for the morning. Nice! It will help us cool down.

We started right on time at 3:00 AM! The route was different this year. The course took us past the Philippine Senate complex before we got on Buendia Avenue and on to Bonifacio Global City until few kilometers past the Heritage Park on C-5 Road. There were seven u-turns several inclines as we got on and off the overpass. Water with ice was plentiful, with Pocari Sweat at a few of the stations. One of the fire stations along the race route had its hoses out to spray and cool runners as we raced our final few kilometers.

Although it was dark when we started, the streets were well-lighted. There was nothing much to see and no entertainment along the way to distract you. We were running on national roads which we shared with buses, trucks, and private cars. We stopped at intersections to wait for the marshals to clear us to cross the roads. It rained on and off the whole time so I did not take out my iPhone to snap photos along the way.

The cut-off time for this race was six hours, and I shuffled to the finish line at about 5:49. They have not posted the overall race results at this time. The medal is a Sub-6 Finishers’ Medal. From what I understood, those who did not finish within six hours were denied the finishers’ medal. Ouch!

The finisher’s loot was bountiful! Check out what I got. The most coveted entitlement was the sleeveless hoodie.

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Richard waited for me patiently at the finish line. We went home to take a shower, get some breakfast, and have a massage.

We flew back to Belgium the day after the race. I’m back at work now, and I must say that our five week summer vacation was very productive!

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40th EDT ASICS Stockholm Marathon 2018

 

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Gamla Stan, the Old Town of Stockholm, Sweden.

Stockholm weather the second time around was still not ideal for marathons. I ran this race the first time in 2015 when it was raining and windy the whole time. It was so cold that I ran with a space blanket in the second half of the race! This time though, it was blisteringly hot that race organizer emailed an advisory to the 20,000 runners to give up any specific time goals for the 40th EDT ASICS Stockholm Marathon 2018. The Scandinavian part of Europe was in the middle on an unseasonably hot streak during the last few days of spring. The forecast predicted lots of sun between 25 and 30 degrees Celsius. Officials wanted us to enjoy Saturday and take it easy in the heat that the marathon’s time limit was extended by half an hour to six hours and 30 minutes. Fine by me. I won’t have the pressure to run fast at all this time.

We flew out of Brussels South Charleroi Airport on the 14:55 Ryanair flight to Stockholm, Skavsta Airport on Friday, June 1, 2018. Our flight was delayed by more than an hour. Upon arrival, we took the Flygbussarna bus bound for the city’s main train station. The bus ride took 80 minutes; fare was 556 SEK . It was already past 8:00 PM when we arrived, too late for picking up the bib at the race expo which closed at 8:00 PM.

We decided to proceed directly to our hotel a few meters away from the bus stop. Radisson Blu Royal Viking Hotel is one of eight Radisson Blu hotels in the city.

We had our own carbo loading dinner a time the restaurant chain Vapiano nearby.

We tucked in early and woke up for a leisurely breakfast.

The subway brought us to the Gärdet station. It was an easy walk to  get the bib at the Expo at Kungliga Tennishallen (Royal Tennis Hall).

From there, we walked down the street to the starting line by the Olympic Stadium. The marathoners took off in two waves: 12:00 and 12:10.

The elite runners were running in fine form but the back of the pack runners like me took their time by alternately running and walking, and staying under the shade where possible.it looked like there were a lot more cooling stations this year, areas where a fireman hosed us with cool water, or stations with tubs of water you can dunk your sponge in.

Richard found me at the 16K mark.

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The finish line was inside the Stockholm Olympic Stadium. I was slower than my 2015 Stockholm race, clocking in at 5:57:42.

Richard was waiting for me at the finish line. We took the subway back to the hotel to shower and get a proper post-race photo.

We decided to do a bit of sightseeing after the race.

The sun finally set around 10:00 PM that night, our cue to head back to the hotel.

We flew back to Brussels on the Ryanair flight on Sunday afternoon at 12:35 PM, arriving in plenty of time to do some weekend chores.

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