Category Archives: PATAFA Weekly Relays

36 days

I’ve never known this much fear before a hurdles race. During my track days, my nerves were never an issue. Although being nervous before a big meet cannot be entirely eliminated, I thrived under those moments of pressure.

In the years that I spent competing in the sprint hurdles, I’ve grown accustomed to that exhilarating feeling before a race. I just love it how my opponents and the crowd looked at each of my warm-up sprints. Fulfillment of successfully finishing (or at times topping!) the 110m high hurdles is beyond compare. When glancing back at the full set of ten intimidating 1.067m high barriers, the sight evokes a mild sense of wonder. One can’t help but ask oneself “Hey, did I really sprint over those nasty looking things at full speed?”

I must admit that I’ve grown soft throughout my two-year retirement. It takes longer for me to warm-up. Before an actual hurdles workout, I spend minutes visualizing the task at hand. I seemed to have lost the swagger that comes with being a contender. It’s not surprising, really. I’m just a self-coached, part-time athlete. In a sense, I’m a little bit higher than the most exuberant of weekend warriors.

I once won silver medals in the UAAP and the National Open. My personal best in the high’s is a nondescript 15.52s (and 14.9s hand-timed). With modest personal bests, I’m more of a “never-was” than a “has-been.”

Being a fan of many an underdog story, I’m actually pleased to be cast in my very own underdog role. I’m quite eager to compete but I’ll be heeding my body’s signals. If I feel that I’m ill-prepared for the task at hand, I’ll pull out.

Even if I’d relegated my athletic pursuits to the periphery, mediocrity isn’t an option.

Spunk

Pound-per-pound, my strongest year in college was my pre-injury days. I was fresh out of a breakout junior year, unexpectedly winning a silver medal in the sprint hurdles. Coming into my senior year, I was given the honor of serving as the team’s co-captain.

As a 20-year old, I was running respectable hand-timed mid-15’s. That season, I brought down my hand-timed PR to 15.2s (from 15.8s a year earlier) and my automatically-timed PR to 15.65s (from 15.75s). My confidence was at all time highs. I was audaciously adventurous in my training approach, yearning to reach the thresholds of my bodily limits.

I was a man on a mission, hoping to finally snatch the UAAP gold that eluded me by a mere three-hundredths of a second.

The epitome of this spunky, glorious phase of my collegiate career transpired one particular September morning in 2006. We were competing at the PATAFA Weekly Relays. I came off the blocks slower than usual. FEU’s Orlando Soriano and UE’s Gabriel Quezada powered on to insurmountable leads.

The first race

At the end of the race, I was furiously disappointed. Despite my excellent training sessions, I couldn’t seem to notch a decent enough start. The faster sprinters almost always built up large leads at the start. More often than not, I had to play catch-up, relying on my superior hurdling technique.

When I got to the finish line to retrieve my things, my teammate Lech Velasco (who had a bad race as well) had the crazy idea of joining the next 110m high hurdles heat. I willingly obliged, wanting to vent off steam. As Lech and I assumed the starting position, I saw my befuddled coach look warily in our direction.

When the gun fired, I found myself at the forefront of the slower heat. At the halfway mark, I felt fatigue set in! I could barely sprint. Thankfully, my hurdling technique held true to form. I was able to stave off the fast-finishing Isagani Bayson of DLSU (a UAAP high jump champion and a decent sprint hurdler).

The second race (fast forward to 0:34)

I just ran two sprint hurdler races in a span of around 5 to 7 minutes. I timed a 15.6s in the first race and a 15.8s in the second.

At the finish line, I looked around for Lech. To my surprise I found him near the starting line! It turned out that he was actually referring to one more hurdle starts, not one more hurdle race! Nevertheless, I felt strangely vindicated as the endorphins set it. I was tired of course, but not exhausted – a testament to our fine conditioning regimen. More importantly, it felt great to finish first for a change!

Two months later, I broke my left forearm in a freak hurdling accident. Nine months later, I was back on the track. Physically, I was fully recovered from the injury. But something was wrong psychologically. Despite clocking much faster times in fifth and final year (new PR of 14.9s and 15.52s most of my races were low-15’s), something felt horribly out of place. Perhaps I never really did get the eye of the tiger back in such a short span of time.

Return to Rizal

After dropping by our former team captain, Rob Sargan’s running shop, I decided to visit the good ole stadium. I haven’t been to the decades-old Rizal Memorial since February 2010. Since then, the controversial memorandum between the PSC and DLSU had taken center stage.

Read: Rizal renovation leaves track & field athletes homeless

Construction of the new football pitch is in full swing; the field events have transferred to faraway Teacher’s Camp in Baguio (for the throws) and to Philsports in Pasig.

Seeing athletes train in the hallowed stadium brought forth fond memories. At least the track is still usable, despite a few holes here and there. The PATAFA Weekly Relays will be held in both Rizal and Philsports starting this November.

I’ve heard much opposition about the legality of the aforesaid document. The inner workings of Philippine sports is a quagmire I’d rather not delve in. I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed until the issue is solved with finality.

I hope the parties concerned come up with a win-win solution for both track & field and football athletes.

The Eye of the Tiger

I’m excited as hell to compete again. In light of this competitive renaissance, I’ve been dusting off the cobwebs of my repertoire of pump-up songs – to get myself into the proverbial zone. Since’ I’m a fan of the Rocky series (except the last two films!), Survivor’s 80’s classic “Eye of the Tiger” has been a fixture in many a play list.

I’m planning to finally start the long-delayed 2010 season on 20 (or 21) November 2010 by taking part in the 100m dash. I’ll be running my first 110m high hurdles race by 4 (or 5) December 2010.

Download the 2010 PATAFA Weekly Relays Schedule and Entry Form here

For the first time in years, I’ll be competing without pressure of carrying the school colors and chasing a particular collective goal. Of course, there’s the pride factor. Since Filipino track & field athletes are mostly school-based, competitors rarely go beyond being 24 years old. Those older than 24 are either national team members or athletes aspiring to be part of the elite national training pool.

Being the elder statesman, I have a reputation to protect. In the final two years of my college days, I never went below 4th place in all of my sprint hurdle races (competing against the likes of UAAP record holder Orlando Soriano and three-time UAAP gold medallist Mike Mendoza, one is bound to get relegated to the lower rungs of the podium!). Despite our relatively slow times, we were the best sprint hurdlers in the country.

The current crop of track athletes were mere teenagers during seasons 2006 to 2007.

With my contemporaries, aside from the hard-working Robin Tuliao formerly of UST, long since gone, I am faced with an unfamiliar field. Come to think of it, I haven’t even competed against the top 3 sprint hurdlers of the UAAP! I am that old!

One can argue that going against U-23 athletes merits advantages in terms of physical maturity and experience. After all, at almost 25 years, I’ve been hurdling since 2000 – 10 years (minus the two years I spent retired). But there’s the rub! The time I spent away from the sport had stunted my hurdling proficiency. Even if the day-by-day improvement is rapid, I can’t deny the fact that I’ve been away for far too long.

As the date of my comeback draws near, I’m having mixed emotions of fear, self-doubt and enthusiastic exuberance. I know for a fact that the first two feelings are bound to disappear – as soon as I regain the eye of the tiger! As for the latter, it’s an emotion I last felt when I was in the midst of my breakout 2005-2006 season.

Whatever happens, I’m thankful for being a second chance to hurdle again – to do what I love best!

Video credit:

coolshail87

Sub-15 (13 October 2007)

The Philippines is far from a regional track & field power, much less a dominant sprint hurdling country. Almost all of our national records pale in comparison with current Olympic “B” standards. The discrepancy between the “B” mark of 13.72s in the 110m high hurdles and Alonzo Jardin’s 14.76s national record is glaring.

Hence, going below 15 seconds is a defining moment for a local sprint hurdler, despite the relative insignificance of such a time abroad.

In 13 October 2007, I did just that. I clocked a hand-timed 14.9s (a modest achievement) finishing behind my teammate and three-time UAAP 110m high hurdles gold medalist, Mike Mendoza; and current UAAP record holder Orlando Soriano of FEU. It was a special moment – a defining milestone. 11 months before that day, I badly broke my left forearm in a freak training accident. I just had my first hurdles race since the injury a month earlier.

Read my original post, “14.9”

View pictures of the operation

View video clips of the operation: Part 1 Part 2

Physically, I was in tip-top shape. Despite the plates and screws in my left arm, I was lifting heavier than ever. Prior to 13 October 2007, I had matched my pre-injury personal best of 15.2s after a 9-month layoff. Psychologically, however, the wounds were still quite fresh. I seemed to have lost that X-factor – the fearless, yet relaxed aggressiveness that defines a good sprint hurdler. Nevertheless, I shrugged off those inner troubles and did the best I can under the circumstances.

Three years later, that early Saturday morning remains vivid. I can still remember myself standing at the starting line, smelling the faint traces of alcohol from my teammate Mike, who celebrated his birthday the previous night with loads of booze! Before my injury, I went undefeated against the then 19-year old Mike. But in my first two races after the November accident, I was down 0-2 against the fleet-footed, audacity of one of the best ever Filipino sprint hurdlers.

I was proud as hell for my teammate and friend. Those two prior defeats seemed to have fanned the fires of revenge even more! I felt the same towards FEU’s Soriano. Since the heats of UAAP 68, the speedy Soriano had been on a class of his own, setting the current 14.96s UAAP record in the process.

I always compete to win. I hated to lose, but I was thankful to be given the chance to compete against the best Filipino hurdlers in two decades.

As the gun fired, Mike and I were running practically abreast. Soriano and I were on the lanes beside Mike’s. I was pleasantly surprised to be running head-t0-head with my much faster teammate. I usually get left behind by a good one or two strides due to my poor starts. All throughout the first half of the race, Mike maintained a narrow lead. I welcomed my teammate’s flailing right trail arm hit my own left trail arm as a good sign.

 

Photo from Lia Tagulinao

 

Despite Mike’s Bacchanalian pursuits the other night, he still ran a superb 14.7s. Until now, I remain dumbfounded at how my friend ran a friggin’ 14.7s whilst hungover!

I never went below 15 seconds again that season, despite a series of low 15 second clockings.  I wound up fourth in my last UAAP (the only meet that season which had automatic timing. I stopped the clock at  15.52s – a new PB – during the heats but clocked a measly 15.72s in the final). Mike went on to win his 1st gold medal in the sprint hurdles, adding two more in the next few years – going within a hundredth of a second from Soriano’s record.

It feels great to be back. Despite my temporary, 2-year retirement, I’m nearing the peak of my physical prowess. In the coming months, I’ll be doing my utmost best to rewrite this three year mark.

On Competition

I heard from a couple of national athletes about the revival of this year’s PATAFA Weekly Relays. The tune-up meet was scrapped early this year due to a lack of funds. It turns out that the powers-that-be decided to hold some sort of stripped-down version. Based on what I’ve heard, the schedule will be finalized this afternoon.

My bouts with season-ending staleness and the occasional illness were quite providential. I haven’t really reached my peak level yet for the season. My body has not been subjected to the usual wear and tear. Hence, there’s more than enough room to fit a few tune-up races – before I finally wrap-up the 2010 season.

Should the Weekly Relays be held this October,  I must admit that I’m barely in tip-top hurdles shape. In the past month, I’ve only started working on the three-stride pattern (over low hurdles at that!). This is not the way I usually prepare for an honest-to-goodness sprint hurdles race. To be able to clock a respectable time, I need another month and a half!

If the plans for the Relays finally materialize, my main priorities would be to hone my sprinting (get rid of certain errors in form!) and to recover as much hurdling proficiency as possible, within the short window left this year.

I had my last race on February 2008 – almost three years ago. Every little bit of my being is aching to compete!

Fate of PATAFA Weekly Relays still uncertain

Months ago, I heard talk of the Philippine Amateur Track & Field Association (PATAFA) Weekly Relays cancellation due to the lack of sponsors. I was disappointed, of course. Having failed to compete at the Nationals due to a hamstring injury, I was looking forward to strut my resurrected form at the meet that started it all – the weekly relays.

There have been conflicting accounts. Some people say the Weekly Relays will be shortened to save on costs. Others opined that the meet itself would be scrapped altogether. The news I’ve been getting from track & field habitues mostly lean towards the latter.

I’m not a ranting person. I prefer to write about the emotional and technical aspect of the sport. I abhor the politicians-turned-sports administrators that squabble among themselves, much to the detriment of our sports system.

Yes, it sucks not having a track meet to compete in (the Philippines only has a handful of Open competitions. Most are school-based). As a washed-up college level hurdler, I can hang up my spikes for all I care. Nearing my 25th birthday, there is no future for me in track & field. Frankly, I’m concerned more for the future of the sport. Without the PATAFA relays, promising public school kids in Manila will be left without an important arena for honing their skills.

Our enlightened sports officials have gotten their priorities all wrong. They choose to provide monetary incentives AFTER winning the GOLD MEDAL. Don’t they realize that support and assistance BEFORE winning the GOLD MEDAL are more important?

Prior to big competitions, I always hear our glorious sports officials harping about awarding cash prizes to those who win medals. They need a reality check. Most athletes train for YEARS to reach the pinnacle of their respective events. Dangling a cash prize months before the competition will not get us anywhere near that elusive first Olympic gold medal.

However, there’s a faint glimmer of hope in the much-maligned Harry Angping’s policy of pooling elite athletes and showering them with support. Even if I don’t agree with some of his hard-nosed policies, I tip my hat to this prudent move.

I just wish that they could spend more on grassroots sports.

In times like these, a benefactor in the mold of a Manny Pangilinan will be heaven sent.

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