Sports and Fitness in the Camp: A Guide for Running in Camp Aguinaldo

I am compelled to write about Camp Aguinaldo again, to try to override what I wrote about a temporary ban on running at about this time last year. As one does not easily give up on something you love (and by golly, I love the camp!), running and related sports are back to normal…in fact, some roads have been opened to the general vehicular public as access roads to EDSA, Katipunan and Marikina, subject to the conditions on securing a car pass into the camp. This greater access makes it possible for more people to get back into the fitness and training modes, and yet I have this nagging feeling that a lot others have not yet experienced this running haven situated North of Manila.

Claiming no expertise in this except the the right of passage of years running, holding races and getting to understand and memorize every nook and cranny of this place fondly called “agi” (short for Aguinaldo) is where my passion for life thrives. If you are ever curious what attracts people like me and those who dare step on the sacred grounds where dignitaries have held inaugurals and ceremonies, get intimate with the camp in this 101.

The essentials:

Camp (General Emilio) Aguinaldo is a highly-secured installation being the military headquarters (GHQ or general headquarters for those in the know) of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. Entry into the camp, even on a personal basis, is a privilege and not a basic right as you would experience playing in the grounds of Rizal Park (Luneta). As a key government facility, the hassle of work and business dominates weekdays more than your need for a running haven – but “agi” (I don’t really know whoever started calling the camp this way) is also home to officers, soldiers and their familis who are “domicile-camped” to ensure the nation’s security day in and out.

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Hence the first thing you bring into the camp is called COURTESY. If you are coming in as a pedestrian (and this includes you and your bike!), your valid ID is the first sign that you respect the camp. If you are entering by car, DIM your lights if needed and ROLL down the driver window enough for the guards to see your head and face. Do this automatically so it becomes more a habit than compliance. I drive up the camp at least once a day and I have a way of unnerving the guards to give me back a smile as I greet them good morning/afternoon. I think the gatekeepers respect you back by sometimes managing a snappy salute.

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image courtesy: quotesgram.com

Courtesy is also what you need in cruising along the roads inside the camp; it’s a behavior that permeates in a military environment particularly where soldiers interface with civilians. Signages also say them all – “Slow Down for Bikers and Joggers” or “Speed Limit 30kph” (for vehicles). Military Police (MP) uses radar speed guns and can apprehend and/or fine camp violators,including illegal parkers.

Since sports and recreation are your official business at entering the camp, park only at the following designated parking areas:

  1. Parade Grounds/ Grandstand area – This is nearest from Gate 1 and very secure. There are times, though, that the PG gates will be closed to the general public, to give way to special AFP events.
  2. AFP COC (Commissioned Officers Club) – The clubhouse parking practically as near to Gate 1 as the Parade Grounds, but slots are limited and may also be off-limits at times due to military or private functions .
  3. St Ignatius Chapel – This is my favorite parking hangout because I like starting my workout with a short prayer of thanksgiving. In addition, the restrooms are decently clean (don’t look for immaculately spotless) and unless there is Simbang Gabi (series of early morning Catholic masses during Christmas season) it’s not hard to compete on parking slots with church-goers.
  4. LogCom (Logistics Command) (Golf) Driving Range – Most bikers frequent the ample parking space here, as it is nearest to the infamous rolling Daza hills. This is also less than 500m away from Gate 6.
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The Parade Grounds (image courtesy of spacebattles.com)
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The Grandstand (image courtesy whitewashed.com)

Based on current experience, there are 3 gates to enter the camp, if you are on foot or have no carpass (valid YELLOW sticker):

Gate 1 (along Boni Serrano, fronting 15th Avenue, Murphy QC) – This gate is open 24hours but gate guardians become logically more inquisitive if you are coming in for a workout after 7PM and before 5AM. The main roads have been more lit lately thus encouraging early morning or night race simulation.

Gate 3 (along EDSA, proximal to the Camp Aguinaldo Golf Club/CAGC) – This gate is open only for stickered vehicles, only up to 9PM daily.

Gate 6 (along Boni Serrano, before 20th Avenue from Katipunan Avenue) – This gate takes in outsiders but of late, there have been days when gate has not been opened at all. Another current limitation is that this gate goes on a RIGHT TURN towards Katipunan and White Plains only.

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A usual “route” of 7KM can give you an athlete’s high because of a variety of terrains on almost 100% more-forgiving asphalted roads. Daza road alone can offer you long and winding or short and steep hills, depending on what on the workout-menu for the day.

The entire camp is a plush greenery of big pollutant-absorbing mango and santol trees that certainly complement the combed greens of the in-house golf course. It also helps that there are less vehicles plying these routes, hence one can practicing good breathing technique while doing workouts.

Seldom do visitors like us stay long enough to seek for concessionaires, but if you are not in a mad-rush, there are places worth breaking the routine for:

Soldiers Mall – The row of carinderias serve typical “silog”-varieties but only in these eateries does one experience trying kambing (goat-dishes) even for breakfast.

Hole No 14 Canteen, entrance near AFPSLAI/Gate 2 – Only this canteen seem accessible to public, compared to the others which are attached to the different holes of the golf course. Cheap, staple runners foods like saging saba and hard-boiled eggs have been perennially at P10. but you might also catch chicken arroz caldo or dinuguan-puto for P30 per serving. And yes, you can buy some bottled water or energy drinks, if the food was just a furlough to a long workout or session.

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CAGC (image from golfguidephils.com)

The CAGC Clubhouse restaurant (Gate 3) opens for breakfast but you can also treat the entire team with garlic chicken and pancit canton. Now that’s refueling in style!

Some runners and bikers also end the workout with silog breakfast or sisig-beer combo, at the logcom driving range canteen.

 

Sharing the road for safety

Bikers go with the vehicular traffic flow and this is enforced by the Military Police who also prioritize runners and bikers crossing intersections and the like. Runners, however, are not mandated to use any direction. By force of habit, I always run against the flow as this helps me anticipate road conflicts. Some, including the different military groups running almost daily in the camp, usually run WITH the flow of traffic and will tend to occupy the entire lane. If you like the smell of sweat, the sound of feet-pounding on the pavement and military cadence, you may want to join these groups…just make sure you can keep up with the pace set by the cadence master.

daza1Even if the entire camp is runner-and biker friendly, keep to the gutter-side of the roads, especially along the narrow Daza roads. While motorists are patient on slow runners who may have the tendency to hug the middle of the road, bikers in groups practicing sprint will skim you off the road if needed.

Flag-raising and flag ceremony. On dry weather, from Tuesdays to Sundays, a bugler calls the attention of everyone (runner, biker, pedestrian, motorist) in the vicinity of the Parade Grounds to halt and pay respect to the flag-raising in a 30-second bugle. Mondays are reserved for the full ceremony at 7:30AM, hence it would be prudent to exit the camp earlier or risk the inconvenience of not being able to get out when the long ceremonies commence. In the past, I used the Monday flag ceremony period (which is a good 15-20 minutes) to do hills-work along Daza which is much too to get affected by the flag-raising activities.

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Segundo Avenue near the Parade Grounds

Don’t leave special water bottles and personal stuff on top of your car, while on the run or ride. While the camp has a good reputation against bukas-kotse, I have lost a bottle or two, presumably, to strangers who may think it didn’t matter (you can take the bottle, but not the cold water in it, please!)

 

What the future holds for Camp “Agui”

I must admit that I went ballistic once, when running and biking was banned inside the camp. It is but stark reality that the use of the camp as our playground and recreation is always subject to its primary purpose of being a military facility. That is why I savor each time I am given the privilege to use these grounds and treat everyone crossing my path with dignity and cheerfulness. Over the years, I have gained neighbors and confidants in both civilian and uniformed men and this gives me an assurance that I can still count more years of my life running in this special place, running with my heart!

home

 

From Roads to Trail: The Transition

Admit it. You’ve been thinking about it for awhile. A whole lot, and not just thoughts here and there. You’ve even looked up race calendars and tried to mentally work up if a trail race could fit in the schedule.

How does one know if you’re in TRANSITION? Scan the checklist below and let’s find out the glaring truth.

 

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image courtesy: www. trail-runnng.eu

You’ve run out of ROADS. It cannot be helped, that after years or even decades of road-racing, especially if you have leveled up your game into marathons and ultramarathons, there comes a nagging feeling that you’ve been there and done that. And then you chanced upon the JazzRunner’s blog on the recently-concluded Salomon XTrail Pilipinas that have you oggling at forest trails, rolling hills and brooks teeming with fresh running water…and then you ponder: I have to get OFF the ROADS and into the TRAILS.

 

 

 

 

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image courtesy: trail-running.eu

You’ve busted your PRs. Even the best of us have limits and when we have peaked earlier than the pack, it could be a bitter pill to swallow. If you are the competitive type, it’s ultimately a choice between watching yourself slow down into obscurity, or take the challenge somewhere, where the performance could mean something meaningful again.

 

 

You’re in for a REALITY CHECK. Age is not the only limiting factor but it’s more of the fast and consistent wear and tear of your leg and feet muscular-skeletal components that goes with years of pounding the pavement. Because we love running so much, we continue to run despite the injuries that will never get resolved or totally healed as biomechanical changes have already altered our strides and landings. However, this does not mean that trail-running will not directly or indirectly cause injury or pain. On the contrary, the technical aspects of the trail-running must be learned and applied to prevent injury.There’s no shortcut around this as the trails are full of danger zones to the unskilled and stubborn runner.

 

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image courtesy: trail-running.eu

You are a NATURE-FREAK. Not everyone enjoys being away from the trappings of the digital age or being far from the comforts of racing in commercial roads. Not everyone understands that running in plush greenery equates to a cleaner air to breathe, for two reasons: 1) away from the metropolis is away from pollution, and 2) local flora takes in carbon dioxide, thereby absorbing retained heat in the atmosphere. No wonder it’s cooler to run in trails. And then there are the water elements such as rivers, brooks, falls to mention a few. To see and be with nature is always a perfect reason to travel and allocate budget for.

 

 

 

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From left: Running Atom, JazzRunner and FrancRamon

You are beginning to love COMPANY. Sometimes it’s really exhilarating to run solo and clear your mind. But, in the great outdoors, we are reminded of our social nature and the need to depend on others to get to the destination. Sure we can stay competitive but the FUN is as important as a goal at ensuring the race was worth investing on.

 

When you fall into any of these reasons and are contemplating on your first trail adventure, consider these basic MUST-HAVEs to make the experience just a stepping stone to leveling up the experience:

Sign up for the NEWBIE category, even if you’ve already been doing long distance road races for awhile. The principle of progressive increments applies here too. Too much, too soon can lead to severe muscle soreness and longer recovery.

Suit up appropriately up with good trail shoes, longer pants, arms and legs sleeves and a windbreaker, depending on the climate ahead.

Gear up with a cap/visor, a water belt or bag and cell phone for communication.

Be a good SCOUT by coming prepared with some simple first-aid staples.

Train for rolling hills as you never know when it will come in handy.

Remember, to become a TRAIL RUNNER is not an endpoint, but opens one to even bigger and more challenging possibilities. Skills are never lost hence we will be able to recruit them as often as we need, even if we move on to more trail adventures or get back on the concrete once in a while.

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image courtesy: runswithcoffee.com

 

Performance (B)Asics Time RUN 2015: The Asics Running Watch series

No, it’s not the title of a new race (but could potentially be!) but I got some elevated heart rate coming face to face with the Asics line-up of running watches during the media launch of the GPS and Night Run versions yesterday, 14 July 2015, at 100 Miles Cafe in BGC.  I’m an early adapter of the GPS technology but many of us got lost in the hoopla of information overload with the current brands available in the market. Sure, I’m interested in performance indicators but I must admit some of them are only “nice-to-know” for a mere mortal like me and also, often comes with additional cost. I will tell you right now, I was pleasantly surprised at the Asics GPS Watch when I did my 10K testrun today.

photo courtesy of Cheapanggang Diva (RS)
photo courtesy of Cheapanggang Diva (RS)

Here are my personal favorites among the other equally important features of the AG01 GPS SportWatch:

  • Information Display Designed for Ease of Reading. This is probably the single most important factor for runners challenged with visual acuity (oh come on, you mean “older” runners and runners with nearsightedness) – and the BIG, BOLD numbers on every run page is a delight and welcome change. Finally, the 1-second check on performance stats during a run is within glance.
    2 lines, 3 pages and you have it all!
    2 lines, 3 pages and you have it all!

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  • Large, Easy to Press Operating Buttons.  My fingers fumbled over touch screens on a small and limited display, hence even when it became in vogue, I went back to the button controls. AG01 has colorcoded buttons, placed strategically around the watch, in standard fashion as other GPS watches. That means my “muscle memory” doesn’t have to change – even if I switch to Asics now.
  • Lightweight and SnugFit on the Wrist.  Most women like me have small wrists and we actually hate wearing a “heavyweight computer” all the way to the finish line.  AG01 is not only lightweight at 61 grams (think carrying 2 Oreos), but the wristband fits snugly right up to the buckle. The watch itself is also not too bulky hence you don’t feel it sitting on your wrist like other brands. 20150715_112925
  • A Burst of Fresh Colors. Colors, like clothes and anything wearable, reflect you and your philosophy. I can make a statement with my Blue-Violet AG01 and it says: My performance is my inner beauty.
  • Fast GPS Connection.  This may have to be validated in different scenarios and venues and yet, I have to take note that I just had an out-of-box experience, of trying to get a GPS signal in my condo balcony last night in 6 seconds flat. Talk about performance!

The other great features add up to “performance basics” that make champions out of runners:

10-hour GPS operation ideal for long runs and ultramarathons * downloadable data through AG01 RUN application * Backlight function * 5-bar Water-resistance * pocket-friendly SRP Php 7,950

Asics also launched its LED NIGHT WATCHES that come in a variety of colors that can make others stop and stare.  It’s like running on neon lights as the LED light flashes for 30 minutes into the run. The investment of Php 3,950 is worth taking.

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L-Timestudio’s Iron Lady Ms Judith Staples made the perfect conclusion to this media launch by saying that “everybody deserves a GPS watch‘. That just might the reality of the future!

the iron lady at work
the iron lady at work

Part 2:  L-Timestudio’s commitment to Performance Excellence by honoring the Asics ambassadors!