My Playground’s Trail Loop
After I arrived from the United States to join the 123rd Boston Marathon this year, I immediately created a dirt, single track trail inside my Playground Lot which has a total area of about One Hectare. With the help of an assistant to cut/clear the path from weeds, roots, and protruding stones and rocks; and an engineer’s distance measuring cycle which I asked my friend, Rowell Ramos, to buy from Amazon, I was able to measure a distance of 400 meters for one loop. It is not as perfect as an Oval Track in shape but it suits the purpose of a single track trail path.
Since then, I’ve been running along this loop on a regular basis . I always change the direction of my run every time I finish One Mile, which is equivalent to 4 loops. Sometimes, I would change the direction of run after Two Miles or sometimes, I consider the elapsed time like changing the direction after running for 30 minutes. You can say that running in a loop is boring but I make sure to make some speed drills or “strides” in some of the sections. However, hearing my music playlist solves everything in terms of maintaining my pace, rhythm, and trying to be more focused on my leg speed/turn-over on the trail.
The loop is not completely a flat one. It has some minimal ascents and descents which are short in distance but I could play or vary my pace and speed depending on what type of workout that I would do for the day. During my easy runs, I would register an average speed of 3.5-3.8 miles per hour with an initial one or two loops of hiking as my warm-up. During my tempo runs, I would try to reach my average speed from 3.8-4.2 miles per hour after doing some drills and stretching exercises. Lately, I would combine easy running on the first half of my workout and then do a tempo run on the last half. If my workout calls for a two-hour run, I would run the first hour with an easy average speed of 3.5 miles per hour and then the last hour with a tempo average speed of 4.2 miles per hour. My last one mile (4 loops) would be my cool-down jog.
With this Playground Loop, I could do my runs anytime of the day. I could also run half-naked if the weather is hot or if I do my runs in the middle of the day. Most sections of the loop are covered with fruit trees (mangoes), coconuts, and ornamental plants and I don’t worry about the heat of the sun as I have a shade throughout the course. I also run during nighttime to test my headlamps if they are still working and trying to improve my pace and speed during night running. Most of all, I pre-position two water stations along the loop and take in some of my nutrition and hydration depending on the time or distance I have covered. I have been experimenting which one is more effective; taking in my food and hydration by the number of minutes or by the distance I have covered. Lately, I have concentrated my nutrition and hydration frequency by the number of miles I have covered. The alarm from my Garmin GPS Watch once I cover one mile, warns me to take in a bite of my food (rice cake, fruit, power bars, or biscuits) followed with 1/4 water from my 20 oz water bottle. And this practice is repeated every mile along the course. I have observed that I have maintained my speed through this method. However, in the end, I would still be lighter in weight by 2-3 pounds once I step into the weighing scale after my workout. Hopefully, I would be able to solve this situation in my future runs.
After months of running in this loop, I have observed that my Garmin GPS Watch would register a longer distance from what I have measured through the engineer’s distance cycle meter. I think the vegetation and the trees that cover the trail would impede the accurate reading of the GPS satellites with my Watch. The GPS distance would be longer by 30-50 meters depending on the time of the day and the prevailing weather. The GPS distance is longer in the later afternoon, evening, and when it is cloudy. Sometimes, my Strava distance would be shorter than what is registered in my Garmin GPS Watch.
When I prepared for an ultra trail event like the Cortina 48K Trail Race in Italy this summer, almost all my running workouts were done on this loop without my trekking poles but I would carry 20 pounds of frozen water in my hydration bottles with my hydration vest. Whether I would hike or jog during day or night, I would be slogging it out along this loop up to three hours or more. I could only count with my fingers on how many times did I peak and “double-traverse” Mt Roosevelt (highest mountain in my neighborhood) by slowly hiking up on the ascents and “power hiking” on the descents with 20 pounds of water and food in my vest and belt at the middle of the day. Combined with these hikes in the mountain and runs along my Playground Loop, I was able to finish the said race even though I was the last runner to arrive within the prescribed cut-off time of twelve hours.
Since I have been training alone in my runs, I feel safe and secured within the confines of my Playground Loop anytime of the day. I can do whatever I want. I could make a video of my runs. I could dance after my runs. I could shout. I could sing with my Playlist. I could think clearly while running. I could wear any running outfit that I like. And simply enjoy running alone in my Playground. At this time, my Playground Loop is still not ready to receive some visitors, even if they are my running friends. I will keep this place as sacred and private.