Monthly Archives: September 2014

Are you ready for your first 42-K?

The beauty of running is this: There’s that next goal. After you’ve completed your first 3 km. run, there’s a 5-K. After that and weeks more of training, you can attempt to double the distance. You finish a 10-K. While previously you thought that you’d never be able to run that far, with gradual and steady time on foot, you can do it.

After that first 10 km. run, the possibilities are plenty. There are multiple 12-K races. The 15-K is another good target. And, there’s the famous “half-marathon” or 21-K. But the biggest prize? Unless you’re Mayor Rex Gerona of Tabuelan, who recently completed the 160-K Ultra-Marathon, the mightiest target is to complete a marathon.

That’s 42.195 kms., all without the aid of your car or bicycle or motorbike. You run the entire distance using your God-given legs. Isn’t that amazing? I’ve completed a couple of marathons and I can say that, while the training is strenuous and pain-inducing, the reward upon crossing that finish line is a memory to last a lifetime.

Are you ready? Obviously, if you’ve done a 42-K before, then you know yourself best. If you’re in good shape — let’s consider the Cebu City Marathon (CCM) this Jan. 11, 2015 as the target — then you’ve got 3.5 months to prepare. You can.

How about for first-timers? How do you know when you’re ready?

The marathon is not an ordinary race. It’s not an 8-K that you can easily join next Sunday. It requires the participant to have logged hundreds of miles on the road. Ideally, one must have done several 21-K runs.

I’d like to consider my friend Raycia Eullaran as an example. Raycia has completed more than six 21-K races the past year. (We ran together two Sundays ago.) Is she ready for the 42-K in CCM? Absolutely. As long as she gradually increases her mileage (peaking with one or two 32-Ks), then she’s good.

How about for those who have yet to complete one 21-K? I’d rather you run the 21-K this January. And, after that, build your mileage by running several more half-marathons.

As part of the CCM organizing committee, through the years we’ve encountered participants who, despite just logging-in a few 10-Ks, decide to jump straight to the marathon. This is not advisable.

Tips on preparing? One, see a doctor. Before you register (or embark on any rigorous exercise program), have an Executive Panel test or a full check-up. This is first priority.

Second: go online and check the myriad of training schedules available for free. You can click on “Beginner” and the appropriate weekly schedules are yours to follow. Usually, these programs ask that you run 4x a week with the Sunday long run as your most important run. Some will advise that you do speed work (tempo or intervals). Unless you’re a seasoned runner, you can skip this. The general rule is to increase weekly mileage by no more than 10 percent.

On your first marathon, the goal is to finish. Forget about the “I need to do a 4:30 time” mentality. Your goal should be to enjoy and run injury-free. Speaking of injury, this is the one hurdle you have to avoid. As your mileage increases, some of your joints and muscles may not be ready for all that excessive pounding — thus, the injury. Listen to your body. If the pain is unbearable at your knee, rest for a few days. If it persists, go see doctors Rhoel Dejaño or Tony San Juan.

Find a group. Especially on weekends when your long runs extend for three to four hours, it’s essential to have friends to chat with. Time will pass quicker. Maintain a “conversational pace.”

Rest. After a tiring session, rest the next day or have an easy jog. Make sure your body has ample time for recovery. Allocate one full day a week of complete rest.

Get a massage. This is good for your aching muscles and becomes a reward for your effort. Talk to marathoners about their experiences. Buy new shoes and socks. Alternate running between hard (cement) and soft (treadmill, track oval, grass) surfaces. Relax. Often, we get tense and uptight — keep your arms and shoulders relaxed. Best of all, pray!

Celebrating No. 20

The date was “September 21, 1994.” That’s 20 years ago today. That’s when my first ever sports column appeared on printed paper. I started with The Freeman. Then, my sole focus was writing about this game that involved Andre Agassi and Steffi Graf. As simply as can be put, the title of my column read: “Tennis Is My Game.”

My first piece? I wrote about Jun-Jun Cabrera, Lino Suico, Joseph Lizardo and Robert Angelo — names that, in the 1990s, were tennis-famous. I entitled that initial article, “A first for Cebu tennis.”

I was only 22 then. How fast time passes. How did I get into sports-writing? I was never a writer. I’d rather stand in front of an audience and speak. In La Salle Bacolod during my 7th grade, I applied for that plum “Editor in Chief” spot of our school paper and wasn’t picked. Putting thoughts into paper was never a strength.

Not a natural writer, what I was was this: a sports fanatic. The author Valerie Sherwood once said, “Don’t write what you know—what you know may bore you, and thus bore your readers. Write about what interests you—and interests you deeply—and your readers will catch fire at your words.”

I was passionate — and still am, every waking hour of each day — about sports. I not only write about sports… I do sports, read sports, watch sports.

My stint with newspaper-writing started two decades ago one morning in Jollibee – Mango Ave. We were there for the launching of the 1994 Cebu City Olympics and I was then in-charge of organizing the tennis competition.

Huddled among other sportsmen, we listened to Joy Augustus Young, then the chairman of the Cebu City Sports Commission and a top city councilor. I sat beside Nimrod Quiñones. My former schoolmate from UP Cebu, Nimrod is a fellow sports addict.

“Are you interested in writing a column about tennis?” he asked. I was startled. I’ll think about it, I said. Weeks passed and, one day, I was at The Freeman office to shake hands with The Freeman owner, Jiji Gullas.

I started pounding on the keyboard using a two-inch-thick and super-heavy Toshiba Satellite laptop. After completing a piece, I’d print it on paper and fax it to Nimrod, our sports editor. Then, email was nonexistent. And, via fax transmission, someone from TF office would retype the whole piece and we’d often have wrongly-spelled words because the fax print-out wasn’t clear.

From “Tennis Is My Game,” I changed the column name to “Tennis Shorts.” Then, it evolved into “Gut Feel” (I still like that name; “gut” also means “tennis string.”). Soon after I started, others followed, each one an expert: Graeme Mackinnon for football, Chris Tio for basketball, Dr. JV Araneta for cycling, Raffy Uytiepo for running.

My every-Wednesday column for The Freeman came to an end after eight years. I needed a break. My final article read, “Game, Set and Match.” After a year’s rest, I came back to write for Sun.Star Cebu.

Through the months and years, I’ve had the most amazing ride chronicling hundreds of sporting events and featuring dozens of athletes and sportsmen. I’m still reminded of shaking hands with Pete Sampras and standing beside Roger Federer in Kuala Lumpur. That was in 2007 and Jasmin and I were there with (my boss and editor) Michelle So, Chinggay Utzurrum and Dr. Ronnie and Steph Medalle.

With tennis, I’ve recorded plenty of smashes: from our gold medal-winning SEA Games campaign in 2005 to our Davis Cup forays here at the Plantation Bay Resort and Spa.

Watching my daughter Jana transform into a junior champion and, at times, writing a feature on her, ranks as a major fulfillment, especially with my role as a dad.

One highlight was the Olympics of 2008 that Jasmin and I watched. For 10 days without miss, I wrote a story about our exploits in Beijing. From witnessing Lin Dan in badminton to Rafael Nadal’s winning gold to the disappointing exit of boxer Harry Tanamor.

On this 20th anniversary, I look forward to the next 20. And, like Beijing, to the nearby Tokyo Games. I like that year and number: 2020.

Brian Lim: eSports is the modern-day Chess

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I visited SM City Cebu last Friday. Upon arrival, I went straight to witness an event that had intrigued me. It’s called “eSports.” Does the term stand for “Extreme Sports” or “Endurance Sports” or “Exciting Sports?”

Yes, it’s all of the above. It’s those words transformed into one name that’s spelled… Electronic Sports.

Inside the Cebu Trade Hall of SM, I met the organizer himself, my good friend Brian Lim. Everybody knows Brian Lim as a sportsman-businessman. His family owns the giant Rose Pharmacy and he’s CEO of Salon de Rose and Pyroworks. With sports, he’s a multi-athlete: He’s completed the IM70.3 and Xterra triathlons; next month, he’ll travel to Hawaii to join the Xterra World Championships. But last weekend, Brian sported a different role: As chairman of PESO — that’s Philippine e-Sports Organization.

“eSports is the modern-day equivalent of Chess,” said the always-smiling Lim, the organizer of last weekend’s event dubbed “eSports Festival: Rigs. Cosplay. Games.”

“It’s a mind sport but without any physical boundaries as it can be played across the internet and across different genres or game types,” he added.

My younger brother Michael explained to me that the most popular game is Dota 2. Brian adds, “Dota 2 is similar to basketball which is a 5-on-5 game but highly strategic in which players go through a draft phase in the beginning to pick and ban certain characters to best pit themselves against the opposing teams. Games can last anywhere between 15 mins. to a little over an hour.”

I must admit: I’m not a gamer, although I did enjoy the Space Invaders and Pac-Man games by Atari (this reveals my age). But here’s what I know: Tens of millions of people worldwide today engage in e-sports. Here in the Phils., the organization PESO is helping put us in the international gaming map.

With the leadership of Brian and PESO’s executive director Tryke Gutierrez, whom I also met last weekend, their Vision is clear: For the “Phils. to excel in eSports internationally by 2015… where we are not limited by height, weight or size but rather the competitiveness of our mind and the Filipino fighting Spirit.”

The event at SM helped advance these goals. “We had over 500 participants,” said Brian. “We held qualifiers in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao; the champion teams flew in from each region.”

Sven Macoy Schmid, an avid gamer and eSports fan, wrote this in his blog (svenmacoyschmid.com): “I only attended the 3rd and last day to watch the Championship games but I came without much expectations since I thought that the eSports scene was on a decline. But as soon as I entered the trade hall I was stunned by how many spectators the event drew and contrary to what I thought the eSports scene was actually getting bigger! As usual there was the cosplay event, the rig competition and the beautiful creatures called ‘booth babes.’”

Sven added: “As for the games, there was Hearthstone, Street Fighter 4, Tekken Tag Tournament 2, Star Craft 2 and the much awaited Dota 2. Dota 2 was the main event once again with participants from Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Mongolia, South Korea, Manila and our Local team Arcanys. Arcanys dominated Group B having a flawless 3-0 record while MVP from South Korea took 2nd place. In the other group The Prime (Indonesia) and MSI-EvoGT (Manila) upset one of the favorites coming into this tournament Mith.Trust (Thailand) and Orange Esports (Malaysia) both ending up with a score of 2-1.”

The highlight was Cebu-based team’s Arcany’s beating the heavily-favored team (and eventual champion) MVP Phoenix during the group stages. “The game is akin to a high level chess game where they sacrificed their queen in order to produce a check mate eight mins. into the game,” said Brian, “beautifully outwitting their Korean opponents who made it to 2nd place in the South East Asian qualifiers for the TI4 or the international — a whopping $10,000,000 prize pool tournament.”

eSport? Electrifying Sport.

Ateneo vs. Army: An ‘A’ for girls volleyball

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Full house. That was the scene inside the hot USC Main Gym last Sunday. Six girls versus six girls faced each other inside a rectangle. A tall see-through net stood in the middle. Screams from the thousands rocked the coliseum. Most of the spectators wore blue; some, green.

The contest: Ateneo versus Army. It was an army-like battle. The playing field: a volleyball court. The arena felt concert-like; Cebu had not seen a star-studded game like this. Maybe, ever.

The Ateneo Lady Eagles against the Philippine Army Lady Troopers. Could there be two more “A” teams — alluring and appealing? The one-afternoon-only encounter was named “Champions Tour.” And, true to its name, it was a tour of two champs: the Ateneo collegiate team are the reigning UAAP winners. Remember them winning that crown, having to make comeback after comeback against the likes of NU and La Salle? That was one for the Ateneo books. A season that will forever be etched in the storied history of ADMU.

Ateneo’s opponents? The current Shakey’s V-League Open champions, the Lady Troopers. Despite the little publicity the event generated in our local newspapers (I only read about it the day of the event; and my daughter Jana and I were barely able to enter because they had no free passes for sportswriters), the USC Gym was filled to the topmost bleachers.

Volleyball is now a craze. More so because these were athletes who were long-legged and towering; many of them were sexy and pretty.

Take the crowd favorite Rachel Anne Daquis. Codenamed “RAD” by the placards that several raised from the bleachers, Rachel has a supermodel’s smile. Fair-skinned and mestiza, she has light brown-colored hair — with a matching beautiful volleyball spike that she uses to smother that ball. RAY–CHEL! DA–KISS!

As this was an exhibition match, Rachel gamely approached the fanatic audience, took their cellphones by her hand and, with back facing her newfound friends, posed for that selfie.

On court, no crowd cheering sounded louder than when one girl — the best of them all — sprinted towards the net, jumped at her peak, and spiked that ball with an angry strike.

Alyssa Valdez. No player in women’s volleyball is more celebrated today than the forever-smiling 5-foot-9 superstar of Ateneo. She’s the MVP girl version of Kiefer Ravena. On campus or in the volleyball circles, all eyes are circled on her. And no attack is nailed with more ferocity than the spike of Alyssa. BANG!

She steps back, watches the setter toss a high ball towards her wing… she shuffles her feet for a quick sprint, bends slightly then jumps so high as if she were to slam dunk… then she snaps her wrist and slams that ball from the ceiling to the parquet floor. BANG!

It’s a beauty. The power. The speed. The “bounce.” The bullet shot from above, triggered by the palm of Alyssa’s right hand.

The beautiful thing about ladies’ volleyball? The smiles. The high-fives. The hugs. After each winning point, especially after a “kill,” the six players huddle for a quick session of clapping and smiling. They celebrate. It’s positive bonding and it’s a refreshing sight to see.

The actual game wasn’t close. The Army Lady Troopers dominated. In the first set, Ateneo wasn’t far behind. Still, they lost. The second set was lopsided. In the third set (of this 3-out-of-5 game), the Army girls did not field their strongest squad — and so they lost. In the fourth set, while the Army led by a wide margin, Ateneo clawed their way back and were two points away from tying the game. But they stumbled. Final score, in favor of the Lady Troopers: 25-21, 25-15, 19-25, 25-22.

As 5 p.m. neared (the game started 2:30) and the girls shook hands in the end, they performed one final act: the girls danced. Yes, one by one, as they formed a giant circle, player after player stood in the middle to bend and strut and twist and shuffle. This was beyond spiking, killing, blocking, digging. This was volleyball, entertainment-style.

2015 Cebu Marathon: The Sinulog race is on

 

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Last January 12, the Cebu City Marathon or CCM, as its initials are spelled, included only two distances: the full (42K) marathon and the half-marathon at 21,000 meters. For the 8th edition — that’s this January 11, 2015 — a third length will be added: the 10K.

Everyone has four months to prepare. That’s more than enough time to train. Enlisting for a race is always a good motivator. You’re forced to prepare. You look forward to that moment and encircle the date in your wall calendar.

For CCM ’15, the start and finish areas will be the same: the Cebu I.T. Park. The routes will be similar: run through Lahug, then the Provincial Capitol, then along Osmena Blvd., pass through the Sto. Niño Church and Magellan’s Cross… enter the Tunnel, emerge at the South Road Properties and run along the SRP until you return the same way.

Here’s another spectacle to expect: lots of music, dancers, hydration stations, bananas, Gatorade, and Sinulog drum-beaters. And, of course, the public already knows this: CCM is one of only two Philippine races (the other is the Milo Marathon Finals) that’s AIMS/IAAF certified. It’s accredited internationally.

What’s new? Apart from the 10 km. distance, a new set of singlets and finishers shirts will be handed out. Together with Steve Ferraren, our Cebu Executive Runners Club (CERC) president, we previewed the design last Friday and they’re new and colorful — just what you’d expect from a Sinulog-themed event.

All runners will be given singlets. All finishers, including those joining the 10K, will be rewarded with Finishers Shirts upon crossing that finish line. As to the medals — I can’t divulge the design but it’s brand-new — these will be reserved for the more hard-core of participants: those running 21K and 42K.

Personalized singlets? With your name printed on the back? Why not? Thanks to CCM’s partnership with Ayala Center Cebu — led by Anne Climaco, Mikmik Corvera and Wilma Entera  — this will be introduced during the Race Expo. Also, there will be a different and more exciting CCM Pre-Race Party two nights prior the event.

Online registration starts tomorrow at www.cebumarathon.com. Slots will be limited to the following numbers: 1,000 (42K), 1,200 (21K) and 1,500 (10K). Since these numbers were exceeded last January, I suggest you register early. First come, first serve. Register this week to be assured of a slot.

Also because the fees are lower (compared to the late registration in November). The fees beginning tomorrow are: P1,400 (42K), P1,100 (21K), and P900 (10K).

Rio de la Cruz, the most famous runner and race organizer in the country today, was here last Friday. He arrived at 10 a.m. and, by 11, we were meeting at the I.T. Park with Steve to finalize the details. Rio was accompanied by Franco Bambico, the man tasked to oversee CCM.

Screen Shot 2014-09-18 at 9.59.04 AMFrom left: Steve Ferraren, Franco Bambico, John Pages, Rio de la Cruz, Anne Climaco, Mikmik Corvera, Wilma Entera and Peter Rabaya

Each year, Rio and his team handle a total of 39 races throughout the Philippines. About 18 of these are the Milo Marathon events that are scattered everywhere. The latest addition to his events: the Condura Skyway Marathon this Feb. 1. This October 5 will be a major Manila race, also organized by RunRio. It’s the Run United Phil. Marathon.

Rio started organizing races eight years ago. Since then, he’s improved his craft and added race after race to his calendar. When CCM first introduced the full marathon with “01-10-10” (Jan. 10, 2010), it was Rio that our organization tapped to handle the electronic timing system.

For a man who stars on the cover of magazines and adorns giant billboards, Rio’s popularity has not changed him. Born poor and having had to struggle through his school life (his running for the varsity team helped pay his tuition), he has remained humble. We are proud to partner with Rio.

At the wide Open, will Nishikori be O-Kei?

Nishikori of Japan celebrates after defeating Djokovic of Serbia in their semi-final match at the 2014 U.S. Open tennis tournament in New York(Photo: Reuters)

The United States Open Tennis Championships, which started in 1881, is one of the sport’s four Grand Slam events (the other three are the Australian Open, French Open and Wimbledon).

It’s called “Open” because it is open for the public to join. Months before the August start of the US Open in Flushing Meadows, there is a nationwide contest participated in by thousands. The top winner is awarded a Wild Card to join the qualifying tournament. This means that, if you’re a 45-year-old club player from, say, Los Angeles, you have that minuscule chance of gaining entry to the US Open. Thus, the name “Open.”

Open also means that the event is “open to change.” And, yes, what changes this year. For the first time since the 2005 Australian Open (when Marat Safin defeated Lleyton Hewitt) — that’s 10 years this January — someone not named Novak Djokovic or Roger Federer or Rafael Nadal will contest a grand slam singles final. That’s how dominant these three have been.

This is exciting. It’s new. “For a change,” we call this. Because while all predictions pointed to a Djokovic-Federer final, the opposite happened: it’s Kei Nishikori and Marin Cilic in the Men’s Finals today, played at 5 a.m. (Phil. time).

The champion doesn’t only win $3 million but, more importantly, gets to be crowned the title, “Grand Slam winner.”

My pick? Who else… but our fellow Asian. Standing only 5-foot-10, Nishikori will be dwarfed by the 6-foot-6 Cilic when they meet.

It’s the first time in tennis history that an Asian-born man has reached a major final. If he wins, then the accomplishment becomes bigger. The person coaching Kei? He’s also Asian — by blood. Michael Chang, born and raised in the U.S., won the French Open as a 17-year-old. This was in 1989. Imagine if, 25 years later, Chang’s student (Nishikori) wins today?

The all-star coaches line-up isn’t limited to Chang coaching Nishikori. The mentor of Cilic is a former Wimbledon winner, Goran Ivanisevic. The losing semifinalists, even more star-studded: Novak is coached by Boris Becker while Roger has Stefan Edberg. These four coaches own 14 major titles between them.

With the Kei-Marin final today, the head-to-head has the Japanese leading the Croatian, 5-2, and Kei winning their last three meetings (including twice this year). En route to the US Open final, he downed Milos Raonic, Stan Wawrinka and Djokovic — three of the toughest.

This points to an easy win by the Asian, right? Not so fast. Cilic dismantled Federer last Saturday. While tennis experts predicted an RF victory in NYC (his 18th major, same with Serena Williams) — mainly because he escaped those two match points in the quarterfinals against Gael Monfils — Cilic had other plans. He embarrassed Roger with a clinical 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 win in just 105 minutes. He, too, is supremely confident.

The key of the match is Cilic’s serve. Against Roger, he served three straight aces in the final game. He was untouchable while tossing that ball and blasting 132-mph aces. If he serves the way he did against Roger, he’ll win. But if his first serve percentage dips and the points last longer, I tip the favor on Nishikori. Go, Japan!

SERENA. Fifteen years ago, my dad Bunny and I were at the US Open as we watched a 17-year-old win her first major title. Now aged 32, this same girl has won a total of 18 majors. (Her finals opponent then, in 1999, was Martina Hingis — who lost the women’s doubles the other day.) Given her hunger and athleticism, Serena Williams is on her way to breaking the records of Helen Wills Moody (19 majors), Steffi Graf (22) and Margaret Court (24).

IPTL. Tickets to the Nov. 28 to 30 meet featuring Maria Sharapova, Andy Murray plus many other top names are now available. For now, they’re selling “season passes” to all three days. They range from the least-expensive (P2,500) to the highest-priced (P49,000). They’re not cheap. Venue is the SM MOA Arena and tickets are available at smtickets.com.

Ahas to break Flash record at home

While the boxing world’s focus is in Dubai for the Pinoy Pride 27, one world champion has been patiently waiting. Rumors have circulated that after the Middle East promotion this Friday, Donnie Nietes will return to Dubai to fight his title bout there.

“We have not announced it yet but you can write about it,” said ALA Promotions CEO/President Michael Aldeguer in our email exchange earlier this week. “Right now, we are thinking of holding it in the Philippines tentatively on Nov. 15 either in Manila, Cebu or Bacolod.”

So, there. It won’t be in America or in Dubai — but here at home. And rightfully so. “People from all walks of life have been asking me, ‘Why hold it abroad when this is a historic fight? When a lot of boxing fans and enthusiasts would want to witness Donnie break the seven-year reign of the great Flash Elorde?’”

Correct. As you know, Gabrial “Flash” Elorde, who hails from Bogo, Cebu and was the youngest of 15 children, holds the record of longest-reigning Filipino world champ. His Wikipedia entry reads: “He (Elorde) won the world super featherweight title on March 16, 1960 by knocking out the defending world champion Harold Gomes in seven rounds. That night, Elorde ended the country’s 20-year world championship drought. The crowd estimated to be around 30,000, inside the newly built Araneta Coliseum… He defended the crown 10 times until June 15, 1967 where he lost a majority decision to Yoshiaki Numata of Japan. This made him the longest reigning world junior lightweight champion ever (seven years and three months).”

Donnie Nietes? The 32-year-old former utility man of the ALA Gym, Nietes won the WBO Minimumweight title here at the Waterfront Hotel in Lahug in Sept. 30, 2007. End of next month, it will be exactly seven years. En route, he’s won 11 more times and drawn once. If Donnie wins this November, Ahas breaks the record of Flash.

Manila, Cebu or Bacolod? “We are thinking of holding it in Manila because of the significance of the event,” said Aldeguer. “The huge venue (in Manila) will match the enormity of the bout and the impact to Philippine boxing.”

As for the home-court advantage here, added Aldeguer, “Cebu could be considered too because it is the Boxing Mecca of the Philippines and it is where Pinoy Pride, now the highest rating show on Sundays for the 15th straight time, was launched. We would also be proud to stage it in Cebu for the Cebuano Boxing fans and the media who helped us where we are now. After all, Cebu is where we truly started and took off. ALA Promotions and Pinoy Pride wouldn’t have achieved what we did and have now without everyone’s support.”

The City of Smiles is another possibility. “Donnie is from Murcia, Negros Occidental,” said Aldeguer, “what better way to mark this important moment in history than have it happen before the very crowd that has been loyally following the growth of their own boxing hero and where Champion Donnie Nietes started?”