Monthly Archives: July 2010

David Alerte does a Redmond

Take a look at the Barcelona European Championships 200m final results. Ahead of everyone is the superb French speedster, Christophe Lemaitre (20.37s), who pipped Britain’s Christian Malcolm (20.38s) by 1/100th of a second in a monstrous last-ditch burst to the tape.

At the bottom of the 8-person list is another Frenchman, David Alerte. Beside his name is a time more suitable for a relay split, not a 200m dash final – 1:27.42.

Alerte injured a muscle 80m into the race, ruining his chances for a podium finish. Courageously, the French sprinter walked to the finish line, reminiscent of Derek Redmond’s emphatic act of willpower, which, incidentally happened at the very same Olympic stadium.

The stadium did not burst into cheers (or the occasional tear) as Alerte walked painfully down the track, perhaps because (1) Alerte’s father did not come out of the stands to assist his hobbling son or (2) simply because the European Championships is not as big as the Olympics.

Hey, David, at least you didn’t get a DSQ like Derek did!

Indeed, Lemaitre’s dramatic finish is one for the record books (a good meet so far for the Les Bleus, after their World Cup embarrassment). But I just have to commend Alerte for finishing the race and embodying the Olympic ideal that “the most important thing is not winning, but taking part.”

David Alerte, I salute you!

Additional links:

EAA article

200m results

Photo credits:

Daylife

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Basketball thoughts

I’ll always be crappy basketball player. My movements are awkward; my dribbling is horrid. Although I do have a decent stroke and sound lateral movement (a product of my 2-year foray as a basketball pretender), I prefer the track to the hard court.

Once a year, however, my high school classmates and I join the Ateneo Basketball League, an alumni tournament. We had a stellar run back in 2008, when we won the Championship. In 2009, a series of injuries and other off-court engagements resulted in a mediocre season, where we didn’t even make the Final Four.

Incidentally, that was my breakout season! Even though my averages were relatively humble, it felt good to be part of the rotation – and to actually contribute to the team.

I played basketball again for the first time in four months. The physical exertion required for the hoops game is quite different from the sort of track training I’ve been doing. Nevertheless, I have a sound fitness base to work on. Although I withered after a few ball possessions, it felt good to do something different.

By late August, I’ll start rounding up the boys once again for basketball pick-up games. The road to basketball redemption is about to begin!

Wake-up Call

Just talked to one of my former teammates a while back. He was the team captain from my sophomore year. We were training buddies for more than a year. I looked up to guy, not just as a track & field mentor, but as a worthy role model off the competition pitch as well.

In our conversation, we delved on the usual topics us track & field alumni talk about: updates on other teammates, sports stuff and upcoming night outs. He also floated a potential business idea, which I met with queasy reluctance.

Then it hit me. I have to grow up. Man up. As I near quarter-life, the only high point I can cite is my experiences on the track.

This reminded me of a quote from Hoosiers: “You know, a basketball hero around here is treated like a god, er, uh, how can he ever find out what he can really do? I don’t want this to be the high point of his life. I’ve seen them, the real sad ones. They sit around the rest of their lives talking about the glory days when they were seventeen years old.”

Does my life today paint a similar portrait? Am I en route to such an outcome?

Such a queries  fill me with fear. I’ve always been very competitive, but it seems as if my entrance into the professional world extinguished this zest for perfection. Maybe I’m too entrenched at this ho-hum, dreary routine that I’ve lost that go-getter edge. I do not want the rest of my life to be defined by the humble athletic feats I once achieved.

It was a wake-up call.

Best movie pep talk… ever.

Beginnings

Here’s a piece I wrote four months ago, at the nascent stages of my comeback. It’s refreshing to read such entries. It’s a stark reminder of the reasons why I train.

11 Mar 2010

Still tired from work and the commute home, I felt relieved to be wearing comfortable track clothes. The gym was almost empty, except for the basketball team and a handful of badminton enthusiasts. I appreciated the solitude. At this point in time, I’ve learned to appreciate anonymity.

The beat up red and black spikes felt tight at first. As I was tying the laces, I felt a renewed sense of vigor. Suddenly, a deluge of memories came tumbling by.

I remember the first time Coach gave the spikes to us chosen few in 2006. We were fresh out of a breakout UAAP season. From ignominious last placers two years ago, we clawed our way to a respectable position. In a sense, getting free Adidas stuff was a well-appreciated icing on the half-baked cake. We’ve been through a lot, my spikes and I – from the death wish long sprinting workouts, far-flung provincial meets to forgettable PATAFA races. In fact, I wore the pair on that fateful November day when I broke my arm.

Bubbling with nostalgia, I smiled at those fond and not-so-fond recollections.

The eerie quiet of my erstwhile home track said it all. Why the hell am I doing this? Will I be fast enough to run 13.72 seconds to qualify for London 2012? I doubt it. Will the track provide food on the table or contribute to the betterment of my chosen career? Indirectly, yes but directly? I have my doubts as well.

For a moment, I stared blankly ahead, almost laughing at myself at this purported folly. Here I am at the cusp of my professional life, doing something I have not done in 2 years – track training. Most of my close friends would undoubtedly say “Move on from Track.”

I tried doing just that the past two years. Aside from basketball, the thought of doing other sports as hobbies abhorred me. I am a track athlete to core and I feel very much at home on nowhere else but the track.

Life without track was a great big bore consisting of lethargic days at the office, boozing and oft-pointless workouts. I became lazy and mediocre. Something felt horribly missing. From the determined go-getter that I was back in college, I regressed into just another Makati office rat.

Eric Liddell of Chariots of Fire fame uttered the following profound lines: “I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run I feel his pleasure.” As a college athlete, my purpose was to study and compete. But when I left the academe, I had difficulty finding renewed purpose. Badly shaken at having lost my final collegiate race, I left the track with much angst. I could not seem to move on. The past almost always found a way to haunt me, no matter how hard I tried running away. It took years to shed those pent up anger, to stop running and to face the undeniable fact that track is not my life.

I haven’t found my career yet, but the overall picture becomes clearer with each passing day. Although I have a healthy family and social life, I still haven’t met the lady of my life. Indeed, I still have miles to go in these much bigger aspects of life. Nevertheless, I’m glad to be on the right track once again.

The Demolishers’ snug fit and firm spike plate were urging my sleepy legs to do what it was trained to do – to be fast. Letting go of all doubts, apprehensions and past inhibitions, I closed my eyes to breathe the crisp air of this unusually cool summer night. Feeling the excitement run through my veins, I took the first few powerful steps to begin the sprint. Feeling the smooth-flowing yet quick strides, the supple movements were a symphony of speed.

I was grinning at the end of that electric dash; my mind was clear and lucid. The pleasures of the bottle could not even measure up to this. Whatever happens in the coming months – whether I wind up competing or not – I know for a fact that by going back to where it all started, I can put the past chapter to a final close and begin writing a new one.

New Kicks: Umbro Club Runner

To save my trusty Nike Air Skyraider from constant wear and tear, I bought a second pair of kicks from a sports shop in Glorietta. What a bargain! I got a pair of Umbro Club Runner-A’s for a good Php 1,750 (roughly USD 38).

Since the longest distances I run are 3k’s (during base training), I don’t put much emphasis on running shoes. I just look for a pair that has a respectable brand name (Adidas, Nike, New Balance, Saucony – in order of preference), good cushioning and value for money. When shopping for trainers, I scour outlet stores and discount sport shops to get a good bargain. I love the snug fit and the stylish three stripes of Adidas, but then again, the high cost of the German brand is prohibitive.

The Umbro’s are quite decent. The shoe is lightweight and flexible. I don’t mind the classic, no-frills design, so long as the pair provides ample support. Even though my feet pronate inward, I’m not particular with the technical specifications of the shoe (since I don’t usually do long runs and my feet have compensated for the pronation!). The Umbro’s seem like a durable pair, for less than two thousand bucks!

The only drawback is the lack of support at the ankle area. Unlike most other running shoes, this pair lacks a couple of shoe lace holes near the tongue, making the fit too loose for my tastes. To remedy this minor irritation, I had the guys from Mr. Quickie punch extra holes.

Limits (28 July 2010)

Went to the good ole Moro Lorenzo track last night for some recovery sprints. I was still exhausted from Monday’s track seesion and Tuesday’s intense plyometric/gym session. My legs felt somewhat heavy while warming up, like huge Acacia stumps! In addition, cheap Umbro running shoes I bought that afternoon felt a little loose, not as snug as I want my footwear to be.

Nevertheless, I felt great. Even if I slept an average of 4 hours for the last three nights, I was pumped up for the task at hand. Perhaps it was the liberating experience of NOT listening to my trusty iPod Shuffle, for a change. The dearth of music enabled me to focus more on the ambient sounds nearby – the squeaking basketball shoes, the dribbling and the sounds of youthful exuberance.

Come to think of it, I’ve been using my iPod constantly for the past four years, especially during the latter two, when I left the college team and trained solo. I did not miss the discomfort of those white ear buds.

When I did my warm-up sprints, my left hamstring felt tight. I thought about cutting short the track session, to err on the safe side. But hell, underneath my tame, domesticated salary man image is the vicious albeit dormant go-getter. Back in college, I relished the chase to reach the limits of my bodily endurance.

I’m not a masochist, mind you, but it was time to swallow those fickle inclinations and feel pain.

I ran 4 200’s at 75% effort. Boy, did my legs feel heavy. I was fearful for my oft-injured legs, but then again, what do I stand to lose? My next track meet is around 10 months away for screaming out loud! So I went through the solitary trudge, weaving my way around the multitude of joggers running indoors, taking shelter from the rain.

It wasn’t the best of training sessions, but I sure as hell felt alive.

Track workout:

Running drills

4x200m sprints (75% effort, 5-6 minutes rest)

Lemaitre wins European 100m crown

Christophe Lemaitre won his first-ever senior title, the European Championships 100m gold, about a month after breaking the 10-second barrier. The Frenchman, after a sluggish start, stormed through the last 40m, leaving the other sprinters on his wake.

Lemaitre stopped the clock at 10.11s. Remarkably, the next 4 athletes clocked identical 10.18s times. An analysis of the photo-finish footage credited Athens 2004 relay gold medalist, the Briton Mark Lewis-Francis, (10.172) with the silver. Martial Mbandjock (10.173) from France got third, while the 2006 Goteborg champion, Francis Obikwelu, (10.174) reigning World Indoor Champion Dwain Chambers (10.178) and Gambian-born Norwegian, Jaysuma Saidy Ndure were awarded 4th, 5th and 6th, respectively.

As an aside, is a dead heat possible in track & field? Can two athletes (or three!) share a single medal?

What a year for the young Frenchman. What a debut on major outdoor championship. So long as he irons out some sprinting specifics (his start, his stability), Lemaitre will surely go places. Although I don’t see him beating the Big Three anytime soon, it’s refreshing to see someone so young do so well at the senior stage.

Additional links:

Yahoo sports article

IAAF article

Results

Kluft makes it to Euro Champs long jump final

Carolina Kluft qualifies for the European Athletics Championships Long Jump final, with her 6.62m leap!

Keeping up with the intense Kluft spirit, check out her mighty guts pose:

Photo from Zimbio and Getty Images

A season best, this placed Kluft (given a wild-card entry after failing to meet the Euro Champs entry standard) 12th among all qualifiers. The Russian Lyudmila Kolchanova topped all female jumpers with 6.87m.

Read “The Talented Ms. Kluft”

Said Kluft in a  Scotsman interview:

“It feels like a big victory. It’s really great. It has been a really tough year for me… I missed so much training, but I’m so happy to be in a European championship final in the long jump. One year ago I was walking on crutches and now I’m standing here, so it feels really, really good.”

“That’s what makes sport wonderful: you can find your challenge in your little area which can make you so happy and go out there and do your best even if it’s not for the medals.”

Additional links:

Day 1 Results

Scotsman article on Kluft

What is a guts pose?

Beautiful Stranger (27 July 2010)

As much I’d like my motivation to stay intrinsic, I can’t deny the fact that those fair maidens give quite a boost in strength. Back in college, I was a driven student-athlete – driven by an internal, superhuman desire to be the best hurdler in the Philippines, and by my gorgeous teammates (I’m referring to women here) and fellow athletes (again, girls)!

Celebrity Sports Club’s weights room can be likened to an all-boys school. Members of the fairer sex, much less those aesthetically endowed, are a rarity. To highlight the dire situation in the gym, the handful of ladies I’ve encountered can be counted on the fingers in my hand, with much to spare.

There’s this one girl who works out quite fiercely. She usually does long runs, core workouts and the occasional machine weights. I haven’t seen her in months. Since I’ve been practically lifting with guys the past two months or so, I was on the lookout for a female face not beyond the age of thirty-five.

Lo and behold, she came to the gym last night. While I was warming up, the short, porcelain-skinned lass even took the treadmill right beside mine.

This gave a much needed boost. Instead of the usual hour and a half, my training session lasted two hours. The quality of the lifts and the plyometric exercises increased as well. Instead of the usual sluggish feeling, I felt rejuvenated and pumped-up, akin to my intense college days.

I’ve never been known for my “game.” In fact, I have no game – an aspect I have to work on, mind you. Until I muster enough courage to actually start a conversation, she’ll remain just that – a beautiful stranger.

Plyometric workout

Dorsiflexion hops (3×10)

Lateral hops on cone (3×10)

Scissors (3×10)

Gym workout

Core

Power cleans (3×10)

Bench press + Pull-ups (3×10)

Deep squats + single leg shoulder press (3×10)

Leg curl + leg extension + bicep curl + some tricep workout (2×10)

Leg lifts with dumbbell (3×10)

Abs circuit (2×10)

Video credit:

madonnahub

Afterword

My most eloquent moments seem to come at the heels of heartbreak. I wrote the following piece days after my final UAAP. My confidence was shattered; I was aimless. A months-long period of emotional erosion – then healing – took place.

Now that I’m older (and wiser, hopefully), looking back at these turbulent yet formative chapters evokes fond feelings of nostalgia.

11 February 2008

Ah the race.

That race.

I tried to stay with the leaders during the first part of my relay leg, but decided against it after the 180m mark. I disengaged and coasted for about 50m, stayed in position for another 70m, but as I prepared for the final burst my legs simply could not go faster. We were in 5th place when I passed the baton to Mike Mendoza. Even though Mike and JP Azcueta overtook DLSU to get 4th place, we simply could not meet the targets that were set. I put the blame entirely on myself. If I only stayed with the race leaders all throughout. If only I had more speed endurance – more heart.

It was like February 2006 again, when the team failed to win 3rd place by a measly 4.5 points behind UE. Only this time, we lost a bigger prize, the 1st-runner up trophy by the infinitesimal amount of 3.5 points.

Again, there are a variety of “what-if” scenarios, with the aforementioned 4x400m race included. It’s a Pandora’s Box of situations that hardly does any good. But hey, we scored the highest ever aggregate score among all the Ateneo Men’s Track & Field teams that have competed through the years. So many people rose to the occasion and excelled.

I remember writing something several years back, about giving it your all and owing it to yourself in the end. The sun has set and I’m preparing to go down from the hill. In this momentary calm, I recollect my thoughts; put them in order amidst the chaos of these nightmares.

I feel really bad, but it could have been a lot worse. I didn’t meet my goals, but it sure as hell was a great season. I seem to forget that only a year ago, I was struggling to recover from a broken arm. I did break 15 seconds, even if it was only hand-timed, and had an almost forgettable string of low-15 second races. In the UAAP, I clocked a measly 15.52s in the heats and 15.75s in the final. I could have done much better, but the start, the sprint-in-between and the clearing simply didn’t have its usual spring. It could have been psychological; my collapse – my being outclassed – baffles me.

February 7 (and the 10th as well) simply wasn’t my day.

After the relay, which was the last event of the four-day meet, I took my time going back to the bleachers. Ashamed of my performance, I didn’t want to face my teammates. While I was sulking at one of the benches – “wallowing in self-pity” is a more creative and apt term – Orlando Soriano came to me to give his jersey. For a moment, I forgot the negative things and realized that sport did go beyond winning medals and scoring points. For all of track & field’s simplicity – those who throw and leap the farthest, those who run the fastest, wins – it really goes beyond beating the “7 nameless and faceless guys standing in my way.”**

One of the most relevant sports-related quotes out there are the ones by Martina Navratilova, the many-time Wimbledon champion; and Baron Pierre de Coubertin, the founder of the modern Olympics. Navratilova’s words are truthfully blunt: “Whoever said ‘It’s not whether you win or lose that counts’ probably lost.” For Baron de Coubertin, “The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not winning but taking part; the essential thing in life is not conquering but fighting well.”* At first glance, the two seem to lie on opposite poles, with the former viewing winning and losing from a black & white lens, and the latter, being more universal and philosophical.

If you made me chose between the two quotes a year ago, I would have chosen Navratilova’s. Now that I’ve been bitten by defeat’s rabid fangs, her words seem like virulent, bestial jaws devouring my skin – reminding me of the simple truth, that oh so painful of facts, that I’ve lost.

Through the excruciating pangs of failure, I had an epiphany – that these two quotes are not paradoxical. Each one complements the other; the latter builds upon the former: Indeed, sport is about winning; there can only be one winner, one gold medalist – one champion. But sport goes beyond winning and losing. Sport is beyond making a string of excuses that debunks sport’s very essence. Sport is about making goals and meeting them. Sport is facing adversity head on. Sport is about commitment, a wholehearted devotion to something that you love doing.

Sport is about winning yet it goes beyond winning.

In the end, I threw away all those notions of shame and negativity. I mustered enough courage to speak in front of the team – that fine collection of young men who had stood together, fought together, suffered and laughed together – to thank them for a lifetime’s worth of memories.

* – The Olympic creed actually came from a sermon by an American Bishop, Ethelbert Talbot, according to this BBC feature.

** – Quoted from Michael Johnson

*** – For a year after UAAP 70, I was unable to look at these video clips. It was pure agony at that time.

Fast

I lifted weights last Saturday night. Taking it easy, I did some plyometric exercises before the actual lifting. I felt sluggish all throughout the session. Perhaps I should warm-up longer. It was a forgettable workout.

I redeemed myself at this evening’s track workout. The hot and humid weather made warming up quicker. The fact that I wore a DriFit shirt instead of the usual singlet helped with increasing my core temperature too. After the customary running drills, I was pumped up for the speed workout ahead.

Gone were the flashbacks of my previous hamstring injury. I actually liked the way I exploded off the prone position (prone position, 50m sprint) and the 3-point stance. Hell, I was pumped up and confident after each rep.

I loved how I went about the 70m, 95% sprints as well. My legs were like pistons. I focused more on relaxing amidst the intensity. And it worked. I actually FELT fast, for a change.

All-in-all, it was one helluva GREAT WORKOUT.

Plyos (24 July 2010):

Depth jumps with bunny hop (3×7)

Box jumps (3×8)

Bounding (4x15m)

Gym workout (24 July 2010):

Bench press (3×10)

Barbell Row (3×10)

Lateral raises + Leg press + bicep curl + triceps pushdown (3×10)

Lower ab supersets

Track workout (26 July 2010):

2x50m prone starts (95%)

2x50m 3-point starts (95%)

3x70m sprints (95%, 6 minutes rest in between)

Iizuka, Barshim clinch World Junior Golds

Japanese youngster, Shota Iizuka, ran a season-leading 20.58s to win the 2010 World Junior Championships gold – the first ever Asian man to top a world junior sprinting event. The 19-year old followed the footsteps of compatriot Shingo Suetsugo, who clinched a bronze in the same event in the 2003 Paris World Championships.

It was a relatively good championships for Asian countries. Qatari high jump phenom, Mutaz Ezza Barshim, cleared an even more impressive 2.30m to grab gold.

Watch Barshim’s jump and Iizuka’s winning sprint (Moncton 2010 Day 5 PM highlights)

China and Qatar were the other Asian countries to barge into the medal standings. Thailand and India had representatives to the finals of the Men’s Long Jump (a youngster who leaps 8.00m+, Sukhasvasti N.A Supanara) and the Women’s 100m low hurdles, respectively.

It’s pity, really, how the Philippines failed to send even token participation to the prestigious meet. The young Patrick Unso (400m low hurdles, high jump) was supposed to compete, but his plans seemed to have hit a snag.

Additional links:

Men’s 200m article

Men’s High Jump article

Photo credits:

IAAF

Track Beauty of the Week: Marina Schneider

Marina Schneider is this week’s track beauty!

The Austrian high jumper and heptathlete competed at the 2008 World Junior Championships in Bydgoszcz, Poland. The same year, Schneider had won the Miss Austria crown, representing the small, landlocked country in the Miss World contest.

 

Photos from Leichathletik.de and Tirol.askoe.or.at

Beauty – and I mean top notch, world-beating beauty –  and brawns? Now that’s a rarity.

Photos from the Miss Contest Photobucket account

Judging from her IAAF biography, it seemed as if she has long since retired from international competition. At the 2008 World Junior Champs, she managed an unremarkable 17th place in high jump qualifying.

But then again, her best jump of 1.80m is a decent enough mark (a leap that would merit instant gold in the UAAP Women’s Division and a finals appearance in the Men’s Division).

Additional links:

More photos

More photos

Speed training (23 July 2010)

I did speed workouts last night. I started off with some 50m, three-point starts. I was still somewhat fearful of my hamstrings, since my most recent injury occurred while doing starts training. Nevertheless, the sensation of pure speed is a refreshing change from the endurance sprints I’ve been doing the past months.

Technically, I’m worlds away from the ideal. I have to work on my leg strength to enable my body to stay low for a much longer distance, to maximize the starts.

While doing starts, my glasses almost fell from my face! Perhaps I need to have it adjusted. This has never happened before, with any of my previous pairs. I’ve had this current pair of glasses since my junior year in college (or was it my 4th year?) and we’ve been through quite a lot of meets – from extreme heat to torrential rain, I’ve experienced them all with these pair.

Perhaps I really do need to get one of those sporty, face-hugging frames.

At this stage, I’m just happy to know that I’m still mentally and physically fit enough to go through a track training program.

But hey, it’s quite relaxing to train for nothing. I feel no pressure at all (since I train alone!), which is a good thing, in its own twisted way.

I capped the training night with a couple of 90% 150m sprints. I had difficulty running the sharp curves of Moro’s indoor oval. I’ve always loved running those sharp bends, but that night, my legs (particularly my right hams) felt a little weird.

I then headed out to my former team’s old network gaming haunt, Paradigm, to play some Call of Duty. The current crop of Blue Tracksters and Blue Eagles are engaged in a series of head-to-head duels. Reinforcements in the form of alumni athletes were called.

My apologies to Paco Razon for chipping out cash on my behalf! Sorry, I can be forgetful at time!

Track workout

4x50m 3-point starts (4-5 minutes rest)

2x150m (90% effort, 5 minutes rest)

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