Thoughts on the Trail

Today I went out and ran on the trails after seven years of road racing. When I first got into running in 2007 I also hit the trails. I think this cemented my overall love for the sport. Trail running put together two of my favorite things- running and the mountains. I was a mountaineer in college and some of my most cherished memories were  moments spent in the outdoors, scaling and exploring terrains of varying altitude.    I also grew up in the mountains of Baguio. Perhaps this also explains the affinity. The mountains are home to me.

So when I hit the trails again, it felt familiar and I could sense old feelings of excitement bubble up. But it also felt new and uncertain. I was very tentative at the start. I did not trust my footing and felt too cautious and awkward. The first three kilometers inside the forest were very technical and I let people pass, asking them to go ahead since I didn’t want to stall their pace. Surprisingly though, fellow runners were not in a hurry. Everyone seemed to take their own time, having their own pace. Of course there were fast runners but you could sense that they were not rushing and that they just genuinely enjoyed moving at that pace. There was no mad scamper as everyone just quietly plodded on, with only the rhythmic  sound of footsteps on dry leaves. It is more of a solo sport but at the same time people also watched out for each other as they called everyone “ma’am/sir” (this is how mountaineers addressed each other when they meet in the mountains). I love this solitary nature of trail running, appeals to someone like me who needs to be alone to reset. 

Finally I got into a nice pace that I was comfortable with and I just let my thoughts flow. I realized that I could take the distance and the uphill climbs but am very much daunted by the downhill. You can make me run very long distances, go up varying levels of elevation and brave the changing temperature. I’m that kind of a work horse- steady and ready for the hard stuff. But I dread the downhill. I clam up at the thought of letting go of control. A yoga instructor once told me that I seemed to have trust issues. I guess underneath the warm, accepting, dependable person who seems to say yes to every experience lies a scaredy cat who is not comfortable  not being in control. The people closest to me would attest that I am Miss Matatakutin.  Hard to imagine from someone who thrives in adrenalin -pumped activities. Losing my sense of control and just plunging into the unknown scares the shit out of me. I guess this is because it was during those times that I let go when I was most hurt and vulnerable. There is huge discomfort within me and I constantly struggle and tense up. But it was also during these leaps of faith that I felt happiest and most fulfilled. Heeding the call of the uncertain leaves me feeling very much alive. Hence the tattoo I got says exactly that- l’appel du vide which literally means “call of the void”. It is the temptation to take one more step past the edge of the known resulting to an inexplicable feeling of exhilaration. It is the perpetual “what if ” that beckons within. 

With these thoughts racing through my head I finally relaxed into the run. I became genuinely present. As soon as I settled into this steady quiet pace, I eased up and let go. Here in the mountains, no one was judging anyone, no one was rushing to do the next thing, there was no other appointment but to embrace the summon of the trails. So like a giddy kid in a huge playground, I ran and crazily laughed as I raced downhill. I must’ve been smiling like a mad woman because some runners I met past the 16th kilometer quipped “buti pa si ma’am smiling all the way”.

So I pray for courage that I may continue to open myself up this way. As I uttered this silent prayer, I am reminded of something from Rilke:

“We must assume our existence as broadly as we in any way can; everything, even the unheard-of, must be possible in it. That is at bottom the only courage that is demanded of us: to have courage for the most strange, the most singular and the most inexplicable that we may encounter.”

Till the next run, see you on the trails:) 


On Silence and Solitude

Some of my ramblings on why both silence and solitude are such wonderful respite, refuge and reset. 

In my silence I am whole. It has breathed a renewed life into me. It heals my brokenness, centers me and holds me tightly and tenderly. It grounds me so I may explore freely. It relaxes me and leaves me at peace. It is my rest. It assures me. And warms and treasures me. It molds and shapes me as it embraces and beckons me closer. It makes me happy. It loves me and caresses me. It fills me till I’m overflowing. It brings me good news but it also challenges me. It creates me and breaks me. It makes me matter. It gives me strength and courage. It teaches me and makes me wise. It inspires me, moves me. It bathes me in love. It opens me and frees me. It makes me grow and keeps me young. It makes me imagine possibilities and at the same time notice what is real. It gives me back myself. It brings me back to those I love the most. It takes me away so I may go back whole and free. It hones me and brings color to my life. It is my energy. It is how I choose to waste my time. It excites me and at times scares me. It is forever new but remains old and true. Because of it I am present, here and now. It holds my future and I trust it. It is familiar, just like coming home, but altogether strange and sometimes I truly don’t know what it hides and holds. It is loving myself unquestioningly and taking care of myself, just because. It is my gift to myself. It is being my truest self. It is arming myself for the battles and struggles ahead. It is the calm before whatever storm. It is my power and my passion. It is also my gift to others. It allows me to listen. It teaches me to hear the unspoken. It keeps me playful and lets me be a child filled with wonder. It makes my mind wander and my heart flutter. It lets me discover. It makes me beautiful and real. It is my reality check but it also is my time for reality distortion. It is the light within me, the flame that keeps me burning and yearning. It is what drives me. It lets me trickle out into the world. It starts and ends my search. It bothers me. But also reassures me and makes me okay. It questions me but equips me with answers. It also helps me be alright with these answers, even if it says no or not yet. It is my feedback and unsolicited advice. It is my ear that perpetually listens without judgement. It is my go-to-friend. It is what’s gives me joy. It satisfies my thirst and abates my hunger. It prepares me for harm’s way. It is my heart. It fuels me and makes my heart race. It disrupts me. It is there every season of my life. It knows when I need it the most. It patiently waits for me and lingers even after I have left. It reminds me of my past. It is steadfast and constant. It messes up with my emotions and mends me till I am well again. It unknots me and disentangles me. It makes me run free and wild. It permits me to live on the edge as it centers me. It makes me live a little and a lot more. It is my home and my destination. It is a journey. I get lost in it only to find myself again. I long for it and search for it. It keeps me silly and serious in a single breath. It makes me appreciate what I have and be grateful for what life has dealt me. It teases me and sometimes even taunts me. But it also tempers me and puts me in my place. It is my place in this world. It is my melody. And my rhythm. I can dance to its beat all day. It is my refuge and respite. It is my very own and no one else’s. It is the life that flows through me. It is the breath that is eternal. It is my soul. It is God’s love. It is Him.


Qualifying for Boston

Last year I tried to qualify for the Boston Marathon at the 2015 London Marathon. As a background, the Boston Marathon is the hardest to get in to because of its stringent qualifying time requirements. To some runners, me included, this is the holy grail of marathon running. Unfortunately, my time was not fast enough at 3:47 the first time I tried and so I vowed to try again. For my age group, I should finish an accredited race below 3 hours and 40 minutes. To qualify for the 2017 race, I should finish that race between September 2015 to September 2016. But meeting the minimum required time does not guarantee entry since they register those with faster times first. So it’s better to have a buffer so you are assured of entry. The record now for cut off is between 1:30-1:40 minutes faster than required time. I wanted to finish at 3 hours 35 minutes to guarantee my slot.

I signed up for the Tokyo Marathon again and luckily got in. I also decided that this would be my next shot at doing a Boston Qualifier (BQ). This time I wanted to do things right and be 100% ready. So I would like to share some of the things that helped me with my training.

Have a program that you are absolutely comfortable with.
You will commit at least 12 weeks of your time training for a marathon so you should make sure that you are fully subscribed to your program and understand what it entails. 

I am such a creature of habit that it is easy for me to weave a program into my everyday schedule. I like having a framework to book end my days with so I can be free and spontaneous with everything else in between. This goes for training as well. My coach, Kevin Fule, made sure that I have the basic stuff covered- interval, tempo, VO2max and long run. In between I added the other things that I was already doing which contributed to overall fitness- strength/Pilates training, yoga or swimming. It may seem like a lot but that’s around 5-8 hours per week max. 

I am also a treadmill runner so I had to make sure that the program maximizes this. 70% of my training is on the treadmill and you really can train yourself to like it, believe me. This has allowed me to be a steady-paced runner and I think also aided in avoiding injury because of the controlled environment. The program I followed used Zones that were speed-based so it was perfect for treadmill running. So for instance, I know Zone 3 is 5:02-4:46 mins/km or between 12-12.5 speed on the treadmill. 

Follow it to the letter.

Because I bought into the program, I followed it 100%. It’s the first time ever that I have done this. I was never into any strict training as a runner and only started following programs in the last two years. Previous ones I honestly did not get to follow to the letter for one reason or another. There is nothing like feeling really prepared for a race knowing that you trusted your coach, your program and did everything that you were supposed to do. 

Of course it was a flexible program and it could be adjusted depending on weekly performance and how I was feeling physically but I didn’t want the mental overhead of adjusting so I just followed. My coach was able to view my activities via Garmin Connect (Funny side note, I am not into sports gadgets and all the tech stuff related to training so the coach had to teach me how to properly use my watch and tracking since he noticed that I seemed to just use it like a stopwatch. ) 

Go for smarter training and recovery.

Another interesting thing about the program I followed is that there was less concentration on mileage but more on varied, quality workouts that focused on increasing confidence to speed up. So a week had four run-specific days. Three out of the four included any of the following- run threshold, run hills, run tempo, run aerobic. The last run was always a weekend long run, longest of which is one 30 kilometer run. 

Built into the program are recovery periods that were very helpful in ensuring that I was not overly exhausted or burned out from the training. Back to back runs were also done to ensure that I trained to run on tired legs. This was important since based on my previous races, I have a very strong first half but get significantly slower on the second half because I could not will my legs to run faster even if my cardio could still take it. 

Speaking of recovery, one of the wonderful surprises was that immediately after the marathon, I could walk normally, even going down the stairs (which is the hardest to do after a long race). You can’t believe how this is such a feat for me after all those marathons where I could barely walk after. I credit this to stronger legs from following the program. 

Overall it was not a physically draining program that left me feeling spent. I actually felt energized knowing that I could accomplish the workouts set for each week. 

Prepare yourself mentally. 

Very important learning for me and I think one of the most critical factors for this race’s training is incorporating mental practice into the program. This is something that we don’t normally plan for when we talk of race training. In my eight years of running I think this is the one thing that spelled the difference amongst all my race preparations. 

For this I read two really good books recommended by my husband- The Mindful Athlete by George Mumford and 10-Minute Toughness by Jason Selk. These books talk about how an athlete can equip himself with tools for his mental tool kit. They speak of the daily practice of training and strengthening the mind so it can will the rest of the body to focus and perform the task at hand. 

Key learning that I applied is that “mindfulness requires a returning to the moment we are in, and the breath is the most effective tool for doing this.” For the entire race I just recited to myself: “Strong, steady pace all the way. To do this, just use the breath. You are ready and you are in the best running form ever.” Every single time a negative thought crossed my mind, I replaced it with this statement. During the race I was not fixated with the thought of hitting 3:35 but just focused on keeping a steady breath and pace. Concentrating on the goal time unnecessarily stresses me out and this was not how I wanted to race. 

 I also was very aware of hitting my 5km splits. I did not rely on my watch for pace because for some reason it was displaying an erratic speed plus I heard that the course is supposedly longer than 42k. So I relied on the actual kilometer markers and checked my watch every 5km mark. Then I compared it to my target splits which I wore on my other wrist. This was simpler and kept me focused on just running and breathing versus constantly checking my watch. 


This was the pace band that I used as a guide during the run. It was free to personalize and print at the expo.


I consciously followed my splits and accomplished all until KM 35. There were several uphill portions during the last 5KM so this could be one reason why I did not hit the last split.

Also, another helpful process I learned from these books is as follows: 

  • Decide what you want to accomplish and what it takes to get there.
  • Choose to act on the physical and mental plans needed to accomplish your goals.
  • One of two things happens—either you achieve your product goals(e.g goal time) or you make adjustment to your process goals (what it takes to get there).

Enjoy the process. Love the run. 

Training is serious but it should never cease to be fun. It should work for you and not feel like a chore. You are committing time, energy, money into this so you should at least enjoy it, right? The world is full of stressful things and working on your passion shouldn’t be one of them. Don’t be too hard on yourself nor too strict with every single thing. For instance, I’m asked whether I have a special diet whenever I train. I don’t and I eat and drink anything and everything but always in moderation (although those who know me too well might disagree). I have a hearty appetite and equally appreciate the healthy and not-so-healthy. 

I love eating clean and healthy, most of the time anyway.


But I also enjoy eating and drinking eveything else

In conclusion, the road to mastery and excellence is really a daily choice and practice. Nothing great comes out if you don’t show up every single day. But after all is said and done, always remember why you got started on this path in the first place. For me, I just love to run and everyday I feel blessed and privileged that I am able to do so. So on to the #RoadtoBoston! 

Walking along the unusually quiet streets of Omotesando (this place is literally a sea of people during shopping hours) en route to race venue.

There were helpful volunteers every step of the way, ensuring that runners knew where to go.

Runners heading to their respective starting zones.


It was a beautiful day for a run. Over 30,000 runners from all over the world excitedly await at the starting line.


Happy to finish strong!



I got all teary eyed as I entered the building where the runners’ baggage were lined up. All the volunteers were clapping as they welcomed and thanked us. The volunteerism and organization of this race is something else, truly very Japanese.


Finished my best race ever. Thankful for this blessing and privilege, always.

 “May all beings experience excellence and wisdom with grace and ease.”

Focus and Clarity

Focus and clarity, these have been my intention for the past months in my yoga practice, in my running as well as in work and in family. Admittedly writing on this blog has not been part of the focus and I’ve come to terms with that. 

As I sit here watching surfers ride the crashing waves, I am reminded once again of these two things. Out in the open sea, there are a lot of things that may go wrong, a lot of things not within your control. The waves may daunt you or its rhythm may calm you. The uncertainty is unsettling but at the same time you are assured that the tides will come in and out. And you wait, you wade and lie still and alert, waiting for the perfect wave to ride. It takes focus to anticipate. It takes clarity to be ready. At the right moment they ride with all their heart, letting go and at the same time keeping centered. Time stops and stands still amidst the rush. 

This flow as a result of focus and clarity is what I continue to aspire for.  I don’t think I have it in me just yet but I have learned to be patient and gentler with myself. For now I practice, that’s all I can do. All I know is that I should show up, in all that I choose to do. As I show up more I realize how much more I don’t know and can’t yet do. And so I vow to show up some more, again and again keeping clarity and focus as both an intention and a constant practice to live by. 

Surfers eagerly waiting in the distance.

5 Tips to Survive a Travel Fair

I’ve been stung by the travel bug for years and it is what makes me wake up in the middle of the night to book cheap fares. And it is what made me line up so early in the morning for a travel fair. I said I would not do it and I will just catch the promotional fares online as I often do. But my inner ukay queen’s curiosity plus my perpetually itchy feet got the the better of me. There’s always the thrill of a great bargain.  I have also booked some of our most “sulit” trips from these events so there really is no harm in checking it out again. So I share with you some tips to survive and go home happy:

Go Early

I got here before 7 am only to find a long line outside the venue. This is just the first of many lines especially if you plan to book from the more popular booths, usually airlines. I heard the most popular are Cebu Pacific, Philippine Airlines and Delta Airlines. Make sure that you condition yourself to wait in line for hours so you will not lose your patience.

Have A Plan

Check out the list of exhibitors and plot which ones you want to prioritize so that you don’t waste your time just going around. Once you know which booths you want to visit, check their online sites so you can compare current web rates from what will be available on site. It usually goes down to as much as 70% but sometimes web rates are not so bad and you don’t have to go through the hassle of lining up. 

List Needed Information

A lot of the people are equipped with the complete personal information list of their entire clans.  Yes people book for their entire families for multiple trips. This includes names,  birthdates, passport details. It really helps too if you already know the dates and destinations for your trips. Make sure you also have alternative dates in mind so you can explore other options that may be cheaper. 

Be Patient

Long lines mean shorter patience. People will be extra cranky especially those who have decided to be on their fight mode, ready to battle anyone who may cut the line or prolong the waiting process. Take it easy and just chill. It also helps if you come prepared with stuff to do to while away the time. For me, it’s a time to catch up on podcasts and TED Talks.

Enjoy the Frenzy

Revel in the craziness of the whole experience. Have fun chatting with people as you line up. Exchange travel stories and tips. Be on the lookout for hidden bargain gems. Day dream of places to go to as you wait. It’s all part of choosing a life of wanderlust. 

Mindfulness and Startups

Ever since I started this blog, I have been bugging my husband, Gabby, to contribute. He is a voracious reader and is one of my trusted resources when it comes to entrepreneurship and the start up life. He also writes much better than I do given his wealth of experience and the number of reading materials he juggles at any given time. His maiden article talks about two topics that are close to my heart. 

Startups can be all-consuming. A startup is a company searching for a repeatable and scalable business model. Before you get your product/market fit, you’re scrambling with limited time and money to find a product that works before your funding runs out. It feels like a race against the clock, and it’s very tempting to put the rest of your life on hold – family, exercise, diet and just dedicate everything to work, work, work.

I’m here to tell you now – been there, done that, and you will not only end up ruining your personal life, but it will endanger the health of your startup, too.

This is not about work/life balance or punching out after a 9-to-5 day. What I am asking you to is to evaluate your whole life, and integrate all the elements so that you are doing what you must be doing at this very moment, and nothing else.

Ultimately, mindfulness is about being in the present moment. When your mind is fully in the present, your ability to focus on a task expands and you are able to do whatever it is you need to do much better than when you are otherwise multitasking. Being productive is not about juggling a million little things to do every day – in my experience, identifying the top 3 things I need to do today, and doing only that and calling it a day has been much better for my productivity than being all over the place.

To be truly effective, you must constantly ask yourself, “What is the most important thing I should be working on today?” To answer this, you need to have a clear idea of what your short and long term goals are, and evaluate your tasks against the eventual completion of these goals. If a task doesn’t get you any nearer to the goal than before, then you probably don’t need to do it.
I’m not a 12-hour-a-day busy type of person, but as a business owner, it’s on my mind 24/7, always at the edge (or front and center) of my consciousness. This is why I also need structured time where I can put everything away and focus on my physical and mental health. For me this comes in the form of martial arts, namely boxing and Brazilian jiujitsu. Others may run, do yoga, or have another sport or hobby that is outside of their immediate work goals. During the time I am practicing martial arts, I feel fully alive, and nothing else matters in that moment. This allows me to feel fresh and energized the rest of the day, to tackle the challenges of startup life.

If you feel like life is moving too fast for you, don’t try to go faster. Stop. Take a moment to breathe. And practice some mindfulness. You might end up taking better control of your life.

Back In Training

This week I finally went back to training. I think part of me was a little scared that I would have a really hard time going back to my marathon season routine. But then I figured the longer I delay it the more I would regress, the harder to get back the base I have built as well as the gains I have earned. 

So this week was about focus on getting back. I would like to share some of the steps I am taking:

1. First on the list is just following the program I have set myself out to do. Even if I am still unclear on the race I am training for, I’ll just get on it. This is the hardest part and so I decided to make it first on the list. I realized how much I have missed running consistently. I just hope this continues to be the tone of this training season- running for the sheer joy of running. 
2. Next was to add variety to the routine. I plotted the days where I will add yoga, strengthening and swimming. I found that this made the program more holistic. Since these are complementary activities, I would not mind having two workouts a day and was surprised that I did not feel spent or too exhausted.

3. Being extra mindful of nutrition is absolutely important. I have always been a balanced eater but lately I have taken additional steps to have a healthier diet. I am just happy that a friend of ours delivers the yummiest and freshest veggies and so we have gotten more creative with our salads and meals at home. 

4. Sleep remains to be a priority and thankfully I still get 7-8 hours of snooze time. I was just listening to a Arriana Huffington talk about the importance of sleep and how this affects performance in all aspects of our life. It’s just funny that people now brag about their sleep deprivation when they should be scared about the long term effects of lack of sleep. 

5. Taking time to also strengthen my work ethic has enabled me to include the workouts into the day’s schedule. This is a work in progress and sometimes I find myself still doing a lot of time wasters and “busy work”. Focus and prioritization are important to accomplish the essential things we said we would do.

I write all these to hold myself accountable everyday to my training and to the life goals I have embraced to do.