Sunday, October 31, 2010

Citigym Halloween Half Marathon: VFF and DNF

My wife was right after all. She told me the night before, "I think you're not going to finish your race in those shoes." Yes and No. I did not finish but it was not the shoes.

It started about 3 weeks ago while running a long one with my friend Gifford and a bunch of YYK runners preparing for the upcoming full marathon in January 2011, I hobbled in pain running and walking like Frankenstein as my right knee buckled up in km 10. Foregoing the planned 28k run to Danao, I cut my run short to 15k and took a cab home. I couldn't move my knee, much less squat in them. Walking downhill seemed to aggravate it.

Research later revealed I have suffered ITBS or Iliotibial Band Syndrome (Runner's World article). The causes are varied ranging from running in cambered roads, increased pace or mileage, incorrect shoes, shoes with worn out soles, etc. Unlike shin splints, ITBS virtually makes you stop running, the kind that makes DNFs. 

So I resigned myself to do better, ice packing it, taking COX-II inhibitors, stretching... and rest, which is an anathema to a runner.

Telling a runner to rest is like telling someone to hold their breath... or to skip breakfast or lunch ahead of major surgery or a corporate meeting. I'm serious. How many runners actually take rests?

Then came Born to Run, the bestselling running book by Christopher McDougall. In the author's quest to find out why running is good for some, bad for many, McDougall came upon a secretive tribe of highly skilled running athletes in the Copper Canyons of Mexico, the Tarahumara Indians, dressed in nothing but thin sandals known as huaraches. In a nutshell, the book inspires runners to: go minimalist (close to barefoot running), go veggie and go ultra (any distance more than 42k, the standard marathon).

Skipping my running shoes, I tried running two 5ks in my slippers a few days after that and felt great almost getting a new PR but was held back by prudence. Injury lingers.

I arrived in Cebu a few days before race day and dutifully got my first pair of Vibram Fivefingers Bikila. I couldn't wait to run in them. I did one 5k and one 3k prior to the race. No overstriding, no heel striking, no knee pain. Great.

RACE DAY. Finally, I met fellow dailymiler Katol, also on VFFs. At the starting line, I saw Gifford, his brother Harrold and the rest of the YYK runners. We exchanged stories and prepared for the gun start (which came out of nowhere). Before he ran, Gifford remarked, "Watch out, pre. Your ITB might flare up in km 10." Was he right!

Running in darkness out of the Waterfront Hotel, I was in high spirits and was tempted to dash but stuck to my race strategy. I was doing 6:45 min/km to 7:00 heading into Cempark. Feet felt great, no knee pain. Running in a cemetery was quite something. The pathway was dark. The only light illuminated was from the tombstones. The organizers played Thriller with dancing zombies for attraction.

The run to USC-TC was uneventful.

KM 9. Bam and wham! Like a creepy arachnid preying on lifeless mummies, pain encircled my right thigh just above my knee that had me stretching for 10-15 seconds every time I came upon a water station. The pain was unbearable I lost a lot of time. Runners were wheezing past me and looked quizzically at what I was wearing. They must have thought I had cramped up because of my super thin shoes! No way!

Slowly I struggled. Sometimes the pain was controllable, sometimes unbearable. I found my pace again at km 11 after the turning point. I noticed that if I run and land a little bit on my toes and lean more forward, I was pain-free. I could finish this race after all. Up until that point.

Never mind the hairy leg.
At the first water station right after the turning point, I slowed down and peeled a banana but when I started to run I could no longer do so. The pain was 10/10. 

A runner in VFFs came to my aid. He asked if I was ok and if it was my first time in my VFFs. I told him it was not the shoes but my ITB which had flared up. I thanked him for his concern and insisted he run ahead of me but not before we introduced each other. His name was Martin. Dailymiler? Gonna find out.

I barely crossed the Mandaue Flyover. I let the last of the 21k runners go by. I stopped my Garmin, switched off satellites, removed my hydration belt and hailed a cab. 12.2 km.

Nothing beats you up like wounded pride. I knew I had the pace and stamina. I felt strong after the 10 km point.

My first DNF. Did Not Finish. Also my first long run with a minimalist shoe. I'm back to the drawing board. I have a race in 3 weeks time-- a Milo 21k in Butuan on Nov. 21. I am hoping to complete my 4th half marathon by then. Gotta rest for now and live to fight another day.

Congratulations to the finishers!


  1. sorry to hear that dockie. rest nalang jud. go slow usa sa VFF. kay basi imong bagtak ig-on pod.

    goodluck in all your future races. good to see you ganina!

  2. Oh my! ITBS! i just had that. when you are training for the big one come January, you must wear only the shoes that you are used to. separate your training shoes with your race day shoes. used the training shoes for your training, while train with your racing shoes while doing a tempo. you should've consider this race as your tempo-LSD with your January race day shoes.

    I don't blame the VFF myself. Use the VFF after your target race. At this point in time, it's already suppose to be the peak of your training. you should be racking more than 50 kms on your weekly mileage, with tempo, recovery and speed work on your weekday training menu. you can't affors to get injured if you want to run the marathon.

    my physiatrist was Dr. Jorgen Lim. You may also approach Dr. Mary Jeanne Oporto-Floredelis.

    Train smart, doc!

    All the best,

  3. Sorry to hear about the race Marc. I agree that it's probably not the shoes. It's because after a day or two's rest, ITB pain will be gone. Then you can run 5 or more kilometers without pain but at a longer distance it will come back. Gifford got it right because he has experienced the injury before.
    Get well soon!

  4. Pre, you really need to do active rest. zero running for two weeks minimum but cross train to maintain the fitness level. you have to be smart about it especially that the marathon is just two months away. I was just surprised you shifted to vff in the middle of your training with the marathon so close. ITbs issues I believe are more on cambered surfaces and mileage rather than shoes. get well soon pre!

  5. Thanks for your input, guys. I really appreciate it. The next few weeks will determine my training. Zero running is so daunting. It's just good that Manny Pacquiao is fighting in 2 weeks time. At least, it takes me off the boredom.

  6. i like five finger vibrams better ,i think that five finger vibrams makes the toe boxes on their feet nice and wide,and you will see your calves and bare feet in the process of your running which is the best way to train your muscles of feet and legs.
    Let's go to to have a pair to have a try. i trust that you will agree with me.

  7. no need to rest or change your need to find someone who is ART (Active Release Technique) certified to release your ITB for you! you can look it up (, basically it is a deep, active stretch and will virtually get rid of your ITB pain in a couple sessions - should feel 50-80% better after first treatment. at home use a foam roller to roll out your ITB...painful but it helps. also work on strengthening your gluteus medius muscle (side of your glute) which you can do by using a loop of theraband around your ankles and doing side-steps with toes pointed inwards (pigeon-toed). you'll feel it in your glute meds immediately.
    anyways, definitely get some ART.

  8. ps - usually ART providers are chiropractors, physical therapists, massage therapists, athletic trainers...