Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Been There, Loved That: Bea and the ING New York Marathon

As far back as when we were wee high school girls dressed in Goldilocks-esque uniforms, I already knew Bea Locsin was made of strong stuff. Bea is one of those physically gifted people who's just good at everything she tries, whether it's cheerleading or football. But even though I've known about her strength and stamina since we were in our teens, I am still in complete awe of what she is doing these days. When she's not busy working as a money broker in ICAP Phil for the Interest Rate Swaps desk, Bea regularly trains for and competes in triathlons. These days she's got her sights set on conquering the big one: Ironman Zurich in July—that means powering through an 3.8km swim, 180km bike run and 42km run, in case you didn't know! Back in 2008, she accomplished one of my most daunting 30 Before 30 goals, which is to run in the ING New York Marathon. She has some really amazing anecdotes and incredibly helpful tips for wannabe marathoners like myself, so I thought she would be a perfect "Been There, Loved That" feature. Read on to find out more about Bea's ING New York Marathon experience and what it's like to live life in the fast lane.

What made you decide to do the New York Marathon?
Doing a marathon before I die was on my bucket list of things to do. After getting into triathlons, I knew this was going to be easy to cross off my list. In 2008, I found out that a few of my team mates from Polo Tri got slots to the NYC Triathlon in November. Perfect! I’ll have friends to do my first marathon with! Thing is, my friend already used up all the slots to the race ING had given him as a premier client. So, I went online and tried my luck in the lottery. Luck was on my side!

How did you prepare for it?
I got notice of my slot to the race in May or June. With 6 months to go, I was pretty lax about it. I first prepared for an Olympic distance triathlon (1.5km swim, 40km bike ride, 10km run) race in August. Training for that helped me get back the fitness I lost from surgery the previous year. My friends running NY with me were all seasoned runners, having ran at least 1 marathon each at under 4 hours! My goal was just to finish. Given our different levels in running, I couldn’t follow their program so I bought a few books and got a coach. I would see my coach in the track once or twice a week where he would give me structured interval training. Training on the track was very helpful because it gave me an accurate gauge of how hard I could push and for how long. Basically, I was running 4-5 times a week. 1 interval, 1 tempo, 1-2 recovery runs and 1 long run. I continued biking and swimming as well. I found that biking and swimming actually helped me recover faster from the hard workouts as well as aided in injury prevention.

When and how did you get into racing, in general? What was your fitness level like before you started racing?
While I was still in school, a friend of mine, Tricia Chiongbian was already doing triathlons. She told me many awesome stories about the experiences she had training and racing and I was keen on trying it out myself. However, at that time, I was still going out a lot, having fun. I didn’t get around to preparing for my first race until 2007. I decided to join the sprint distance race at the upcoming Subic Bay International Triathlon and I found 2 other friends to train for it with me.

I had been active all my life doing gymnastics, boxing, playing football, volleyball and golf. But as soon as I got a job after college, the hours I spent working out lessened. I would get busy and sometimes too tired to do anything after a full day of work. I was no couch potato but I would say that before preparing for my first sprint race, my fitness level was average. Oh, and I was still smoking a lot.

What was the experience of running the New York Marathon like?
As my first marathon, the NY Marathon will be hard to beat…

  • Walking from my corral to the starting line in Staten Island, I saw someone wrapped around in my red wool Baguio blanket that I had already discarded in the waiting tent
  • Seeing my friend, Niels, on the course. I didn’t even know he signed up!
  • Getting a few cheers saying, ‘Go Alaska!’ (I’m no Eskimo! I was wearing my team uniform and one of our major sponsors is Alaska Milk.)
  • Running with Borat, Rocky Balboa, a lighthouse and a flamingo (Some people ran all 42km in costume … Borat guy ran in a 1 piece neon green thong and it was 40 degrees!)
  • Seeing my family cheering for me somewhere along Central Park, Mom screaming her head off (using the athlete tracker, they were chasing me/looking for me since somewhere in Brooklyn but didn’t find me until 5km or less to the finish. Nice to have seen them at one point nonetheless)
  • Crossing the finish line (I'm done! Yipee!)
Low Points:
  • Mixed feelings here … Hit the 21km mark somewhere in Queens/Queensborough Bridge in 2:10, which was well within my target time (Yahoo!) BUT shortly after, I started to cramp
  • Cramps got worse somewhere in 1st Avenue and the Nineties. I couldn’t run. Even the left side of my face where I had surgery cramped up. I thought I was getting a stroke or something. Scary!
What makes the NY Marathon different from any other race you've done?
The NY Marathon is the only race I’ve done that had a Gospel Choir outside a church somewhere in Brooklyn (Solid!), a school marching band somewhere in Harlem (Cute!), thick, thick crowds of people cheering for you (many races have very minimal spectators) and best of all, no other race allows you to run through the 5 boroughs of one of my favorite cities in the world

Top 5 most memorable races:
  1. Ironman 70.3 Philippines (Super fun race and I came in 2nd in my age group. Personal Best)
  2. NY Marathon
  3. Ironman 70.3 Singapore (My first half ironman)
  4. SUBIT 07, my first race (I was on a borrowed mountain bike and I didn’t even know how to change gears!)
  5. The Tour of Friendship is a 5 day bike race ... a mini Tour de France ... biking from Bangkok to remote parts of Thailand, all in all over 600km of racing in 5 days. Super intense since the girls had to bike with all the men. I crashed on the first day and suffered the last 4 stages with a minor back injury, placing 3rd on the 3rd stage of the race.
Any tips for newbies like me who are attempting the NY Marathon?
  • Don’t do too much too soon. Build up your mileage slowly.
  • Listen to your body. Adjust your training plan accordingly. If you are tired or not feeling well, skip the workout and don’t feel bad.
  • Make sure to have at least 2 pairs of shoes while training so that by race day, the shoes you will wear won’t have worn out soles!
  • Figure out what nutrition plan works best for you. Try using whatever will be given out on race day while training (I think they serve Powerbar gels, bananas and Gatorade every year)
  • Find out what motivates you. This will come in handy on days when you’re too lazy to get out of bed and on kilometer 35 when you are just about to hit ‘the wall’. (During races, I end up talking to myself sometimes… Using Lance Armstrong’s motto: “Pain is temporary. Quitting is forever.”)
  • Have fun out there :)
How has all of this changed your life?
Getting back into a systematic and organized training regimen has dramatically altered my lifestyle. I now wake up and start my day at the time I used to go home! I have stopped smoking and though I binge on junk every now and then, I eat healthy stuff all the time, lots of fruits and vegetables and no red meat. Training and racing has helped me become more focused and driven, making me want to do even greater things for myself.

How do you maintain balance in your life while training so seriously for these races?
That’s one thing I try not to be—too serious when it comes to my races. I definitely put my eye on the prize, whatever it may be, but I believe that in everything, there should be an element of fun. It’s no fun when all you do is work, swim, bike and run. I’m a people person so I make sure to spend time with my family and dog and hang with my friends, though in more sober settings nowadays.

How do you unwind after a major race?
It’s all about the post recovery meal! Besides using that to unwind, it’s an incentive, something I look forward to. I plan out where and what I am going to eat. I also like getting massages. They’re the best!

What's the next big thing for you to conquer and how are you preparing for it?
I have 2 things to conquer. The first is finishing my race in Zurich. I want to be part of the official Iron(wo)man club. The second is getting myself into a good MBA program by next school year. That will be a dream come true.

In all honesty, reading Bea's account of the marathon has me somewhere between itching to hit the pavement and feeling sick to my stomach with fear. But I'm sure that all her hints will certainly come in handy over the next few months. Thank you SO MUCH for being part of my little project Bea. I'll be rooting for you to kill it at Ironman! Good luck!

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