LIFE begins at the end of your comfort zone.
I chanced upon this aphorism while searching for inspiring quotes about taking risks, physical and otherwise, which hopefully does not pay back in spades. And as risk is one reason why we enter sports that test our mettle and resilience, entertaining new forms of risk can be as exhilarating as it is daunting. It’s also why we insist on scaling imagined and real mountains to reach the twin peaks of excitement and danger. It’s race season again; and though your race lineup already looks like Paris Hilton’s social calendar, you might want to consider dropping some of the more traditional ones (Been There, Done That) and opt for some that take you off the beaten path.
Instead of the usual triathlons, why not try a race with more than just distance as the difference? The Defy 123 Triathlon (http://www.defytri.com) with its 1k swim, 110k bike, and 12k run through a tough but scenic course in Bohol guarantees to put more than a smile on your face. For starters, how about a beer of the Beer Below Zero variety in your hand at an air-conditioned transition area to keep you stoked while you whiz out of transition? You might need to chug more than one with the brutally hot and challenging bike course, but the thought of having a few more before heading out for the run leg gives you reason to ride fast. I’m not spoiling the surprise, but word is the post-race party is more than Instagram worthy.
Short, But Sweet
It might not sound as impressive as a half-mary or a full-mary, and getting up before dawn to lace up those running shoes may not be worth it just for a race that will take under an hour, but doing a quick 5k or 10k can jump start your need for speed. Inserting a short race amidst your middle- and long-distance runs is recommended by running experts to break the monotony and possibly give you that PR that you’ve shelved since you started going long. Besides, you can always run an extra ten or more after the race.
Step out of your comfort zone and see where the limit lies. At the far, far end of the running distance spectrum lies the ultra marathon. If you feel ready to subject yourself to more than a normal workday’s length of running, punch a ticket for an ultra, which technically means a foot race running fifty kilometers or more. Ultras call for a different strategy on hydration, nutrition, and pacing, and are fast becoming an option for runners looking for a different level of competition. If you’re up to it, the now famous no frills Bataan Death March 102k ultra marathon (http://baldrunner.com) is a must for your bucket list, featuring a historic run through the streets of Bataan to Pampanga, retracing the route taken by Filipino and American prisoners of war in the Second World War.
Teamwork and good fun make up run relays, where you can hang out with friends and get some decent exercise in the process. You can still dick around with your pals while burning rubber on the pavement or the trails, so throw in one of these races to spice up your run calendar. The Sierra Revenge 2014 (https://www.facebook.com/SierraSeries) takes five-member teams on a 50-km jaunt through the winding hills of Sierra Madre in Sampaloc, Tanay. The first installment earlier this year was so well received, the organizers just had to create a follow up. Go ahead, make a few calls to some friends, and share the love — for running.
For The Novelty (and Uniqueness) Of It All
Okay, so this article came about because I’m doing a race this April billed as a 50-mile run around the circumference of the world’s most perfect coned volcano. I’m also taking advantage of the race because after living my entire 49 years in the Philippines, I have never actually seen Mayon volcano (Instagram and Facebook await) except in pictures and videos. Now on its fourth year since its auspicious start in 2011, the Mayon 360 ultra marathon (http://mayon360.com) races across paved roads, crossing seven municipalities, three cities, and 77 barangays; support from all local government units ensures a safe, enjoyable, and festive event. My planned adventure race through the Amazon and the trek up Everest can wait — for now.
Take A Racecation
What better way to see the country than to do a race in the provinces that offers more than just opportunities to pig out on local delicacies and visiting the usual tourist traps (Nothing wrong with that, really)? With a racecation, you can bring your significant other, or in the case of families, tote the entire brood and make a great vacation of it. The maiden race of the Bataan International Triathlon (http://bataaninternationaltriathlon.com) promises a swim in crystal clear waters, a hardy bike ride, and a run through picturesque and culturally-steeped Las Casas Filipinas De Acuzar where restored heritage houses dot the run route. There’s also an off-road bike race for mountain bikers. Museum tours, nature walkabouts, and visits to famous landmarks lie ahead for participants and their companions.
Dare To Dream
So as I was saying… Aside from Everest and the Amazon, my insatiable wanderlust and the perennial draw of exotic locations have led me to two incredible ultra series recently introduced to me by friend who has done his fair share of formidable foot races. The Four Deserts (http://www.4deserts.com) and the Grand To Grand Ultra (http://www.g2gultra.com) multi-day/stage ultra races serve up spectacular scenery, shifting terrain, and unstinting weather patterns that will take one’s breath away figuratively and literally. Imagine crossing Jordan, the Gobi (China), or the Atacama (Chile) desert with everything that you need for the next five days on your back. Fun. Completing any two of these three 250-kilometer self-supported races buys you entry into The Last Desert. That great last desert just happens to be Antarctica, and as publicized, is “a polar region with little precipitation, no lakes and no rivers. It is, in fact, the driest continent on Earth where visitors can witness vast landscapes of snow, ice, mountains, volcanoes and ocean.’ For the Grand To Grand, advertised as the first and only self-supported foot race in North America, it starts at the north rim of the Grand Canyon and finishes on the summit of the Grand Staircase, one of the world’s most iconic geological formations. It’s small comfort to know that the awarding ceremonies take place in nearby amusement mecca, Las Vegas.
Certainly not the least of your options is to try something entirely different from what you’re already accustomed to. I’m not saying you should take up base jumping or free diving tomorrow, but maybe try something that could give you a similar high or thrill, and something that would complement or augment your current physical conditioning. Yoga, boxing, ultimate Frisbee, Crossfit, underwater hockey, water polo — the choices are endless. A friend and fellow age grouper told me more than once that he plans to ease up on multi-sport and slowly get into surfing. Good for you, Willy! Maybe I’ll join you one of these days and just paddle along on my board while you’re out there threading the pipe hanging ten.
Only two things can happen now that you’re done reading this article: a) you sign up for a race similar to anything that’s mentioned above, or b) you continue training and racing your ass for the same races (boring!), the same distances (boring again!), and the same adventures (ultra boring!).
Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far they can go.
– T. S. Eliot