The service shuttle that fetched us from Mc Donald’s Taft, Manila after getting lost on the way to the race venue finally managed to brought us to San Luis Sports Complex in Sta. Cruz, Laguna 15 minutes before the supposedly gun start time. There was at least enough time to put on my hydration back pack, bib number and make a dash for the toilet located about a hundred meters away from the starting arch.
By the time the signal was given for the runners to leap into action from the starting chute, it was already 2:10 am. There were only around 337 of us running the 53km Laguna to Batangas this cold February 23, 2014 morning. The number was bit low compared with the Cavite to Laguna leg, which had about a little over 600. This was due to the reason that many of the regular runners of Run Mania Philippines’ run events and other ultramarathon addicts were in their tapering off part of their preparation to the 102 km Bataan Death March Run happening the following week. While others may have chosen to get their finisher’s trophy via the shorter distance of 21k at the Financial Fitness Run also happening the same day Laguna to Batangas was kicking off.
I posted at my Facebook account, “mistakes are made to be repeated”. This pertains to my wearing once again a pair of brand new shoes at a race – a practice frown upon and discouraged by more experienced runners and trainers. This time I was wearing a yellow adidas Duramo 4 bought at discount in a shop along Session Road in Baguio City when I ran at Pilipinas Akyathon just a couple of weeks back. I couldn’t help it. I was donning an almost all Adidas running apparel: running tights, jersey, eyeglasses and caps. Even my sports bag, which carried my things, was sporting Adidas brand. I feared that the brand new shoes would wrought the same havoc on my feet as what my new New Balance Abzorb 560 shoes did when I ran 53 km at Cavite to Laguna last December 29, 2013. But the thought that at least I was running fully accessorized and fashionably threw away my caution to the wind.
The route from the starting lane and then spilling into the Sta. Cruz-Calumpang Road, a two vehicle lane road was bit crowded with runners occupying the leftmost lane of the road. Sharing them in the left lane were the incoming vehicles which at that wee hours of the morning still had quite a substantial number plying the route. And at the right lane other vehicles including the runners’ support vehicle. There was nothing much to be seen along the way which was basically darkly lit and lined by trees, houses and empty lot on both sides of the road.
The 10th kilometer portion of the race was somewhere in front of a barangay outpost in Sta. Lucia, Nagcarlan. I must have reached it just over an hour and twenty minutes. I estimated I could finish the race at a time of seven to seven and a half hours with a good two hours to spare before the 10 hours cut off time at 12:10 noon. But of course, when I made that prognosis, I was not anticipating the series of inclined road and the later killer uphill on the way to Barangay Bitin somewhere between the 45th and the 51 kilometer of the race which there was nothing like these two in the previous Cavite to Laguna leg.
One of the reasons for me in joining this race was the chance for me to see the popular tourist attraction, Nagcarlan Underground Cemetery. But with the race happening early in the morning I couldn’t possibly distinguish attractive sights along the way from the ghoulish imaginings forming in my mind as I tried to figure out what were the shadows and silhouettes all around me while negotiating the route lit only with my headlamp and occasional lamp posts. I was making good with my slow relax pace. I reached the 20 km of the race possibly passing by Nagcarlan Underground Cemetery in Bambang, Nagcarlan with out realizing it. All this time I already accepted the fact that probably I was again occupying the end part of the long strings of runners. Regardless of ranking, I was quite satisfied I was still keeping pace with many other runners whom some where pampered with their respective support vehicles. I also preferred to have certain separation with the other runners that way I can fart all I want and as loud as I can without bothering to be conscious about it being heard by others.
Soon, daylight began to spread as I passed by Calauan-Nagcarlan Road and a junction, which connects to the National Highway heading for Calauan on one side while Victoria and Pila on the other side. This was the 30th kilometer of the race. So far I was able to find Gatorade drinks still abound on each of the hydration station unlike again the previous C2L whose hydration stations seemed to have been swept clean by locusts and for poor straggler like I was could only lick what little water left. However, at this station I was beginning to notice more my aching feet. The pain was not so much brought about by my plantar fasciitis – although it was contributing a little. Maybe the AdiPRENE had indeed cushioning the impact of my heels on the ground thus quieting my plantar. On the other hand the pain may had been caused rather, I think by the double pair of socks I was wearing that kind of squeezed my feet tightly on my brand new shoes thereby constricting the circulation of blood on my feet. I learned later that my Adidas Duramo 4 was reviewed to perform well for running 5 to 10 kilometers. I am not sure if the model was meant for marathon and ultramarathon distance. Another reason that may have caused my feet to ache was that maybe I grown heavier that both my ankles were feeling the stress of my weight. One more reason that was contributing to the painful feet and threatening cramps on both of my calves was the fact that I now run only during the actual run events. I had no practice run during the weekdays that may have prepared my feet to the rigors of road running. I was not having practice run to allow my plantar fasciitis to heal by reducing running occasions but from my previous recent runs most of it were quite long distance and had difficult terrains that probably was not helping in healing my plantar fasciitis.
After the refreshments I headed the direction toward Victoria and Pila where another junction with a statue of a giant duck was waiting. Before heading for the direction going to Bay I had my photograph taken by one of the events photographers. The route was along the National Highway passing by popular restaurants frequented by tourists such as Kamayan sa Palaisdaan and Isdaan. The 40th kilometer lies along F.T. San Luis Avenue in Barangay Masaya. We had ice cream in this pit stop. I also took off one pair of socks that was bothering me. According to my wristwatch I was still making good of my pace although instead of two and a half time finish I was hoping of it was down to one and forty five minutes. Along the flat route I observed there were resorts and other recreational facilities. Then at around 46 kilometer a long steep uphill run that extends for about 5 kilometers confronted us. This portion of the race almost sapped everything from me from my stamina to my desire to go on because of the endless snaking road. It was just a good thing that I was confident that even if I chose to walk all the way I will still make it to the finish line before cut off that I remained much jolly than those whom I was walking the road with. At this point a lot of other runners were catching up each other and beginning to clumped together. When we asked around what lies ahead? We were told that after we reached Barangay Bitin it would mostly be downhill. But it turned out not so, for we just kept going up until we reached the Makiling Banahaw Geothermal Plant where the road began to flattened and then inclined downhill. When this downhill presented itself I was suddenly seemed possessed and was running all the way thinking at the end of the road was the finish line. I left behind a runner I was having conversation with earlier. I felt heart broken when I could not yet see a finish arch from the sweeping view of my diminishing elevation. I hit the flat surface passing by a town but still no end within sight. I still ran for a little more than a kilometer along Makban Road. Then just beyond a little uphill I finally saw the Finish line slowly unfurling itself. I crossed the finish line with the rank of being the 291st and a time of 9:06:00 about 46 minutes better than my previous 53 kilometer finish. From the 361 registered in this run only 337 crossed the finish line 9 beyond the cut off 6 did not finished while 9 did not even bothered to show up.