Tagaytay To and Fro: 2 Weekends of Ultramarathon

A little of 3 weeks after Ibtur2 my previous 60k run, I am again sporting the Bib number 10 (at Ibtur2 I ran with Bib no. 10) and running my second 60k at 2nd Sungay 60k Challenge held at October 19, 2014. I wasn’t really sure I could finish this Joseph Prince Baltazar’s organized run event for I was still a bit under the weather which began the previous week and the reason I had to skip what I heard the most challenging mountain trail run event of PIMCO Sporting Event so far, the Nature Trail Discovery Run III leg 2. However, there I was taking the event’s shuttle from Ayala EDSA Shell Station heading for the Municipal Office of Tanauan, Batangas the staging area of the Sungay Run. It was drizzling and wind was blowing when we arrived at a little pass 1:30 am. Initially, I spied on just a few runners about. But by the gun start at 2:00 pm there were 55 brave souls running in the event.

The race route the runners took led to President Laurel Highway going to Mabini Avenue. For this particular race I was not to run alone. Thea, a runner training to run the 160 km category of the Bataan Death March organized by Bald Runner on March accompanied me in the lonely path to the finish line. If I probably doing the Sungay Challenge alone I may be prone to more rest and walking than actual running. Initially the road was simply flat and almost unexciting. There were areas where there was little light on the road. That was why we suspect a runner from Tacloban joined our little party because we had headlamps. But as soon as his friend caught up with him they careened off and were almost not seen again unless they were coming from the opposite end returning from a u-turn. But we did still managed to catch up with them at the steep uphill going to Sungay West and again near the final stretch going to the finish line. We also kept on encountering the Team Milers which composed of 3 more seasoned runners who runs on uphills, 3 more senior members and about 8 young runners one of which was a female. The 5 of the young runners just kept on appearing behind us out of nowhere in spite in several occasions we passed them by and left them resting.

Since I was running with a companion I was really forced to keep pace with my companion. The pace we were running probably about 6 minutes and a half to seven per kilometer. If we keep up with this pace the 42k of this race can be attained at 5 hours and half a minutes. We then reached the Talisay-Tanauan Road passing by Apolinario Mabini Shrine. Soon as the day was beginning to come we were running with Taal Volcano and Taal Lake at our left side. This route serves as a preview to yet another run event Joseph Prince was cooking up – The 100km Taal 360. When we look up we saw buildings on top of the mountain. That was Tagaytay, which we will be going to but at that time seems so far away. The first U-turn of the race, which roughly the 26th kilometer of the race, was somewhere near the entrance of the town of Laurel. Another 9 kilometer run returning to Tagaytay-Talisay Road and into Ligaya Drive for about 10 kilometer steep uphill run going to Sungay West. I was struggling going up this route. It was a good thing we had established a good pace and time that we could actually afford to walk uphill and we could still make it before the 14 hours cut-off time. Midway this steep uphill was roughly the 40th kilometer where the coconut drinks were stationed. The remaining 5 kilometers to Sungay West was actually a display of great view of the Taal Lake and rest houses of the affluent members of the society which even if I work like the way I was laboring to finish this steep portion of the race, I will not earn enough to build me one of these architectures. At last we reached Tagaytay but we cannot still breath a sigh of relief. For we still had to run all the way to People’s Park the formerly Palace in the Sky and back from it which was roughly 12 kilometers before heading for the direction of Sky Ranch for about 6 more kilometers. The finish line located at Tagaytay Oval was somewhere right side of the road going to the Sky Ranch. Nearing the finish line, Thea and I had already caught up with a lot of other runners except for the pesky ninjas 10 milers. Since there were only about four female participants in this race, it was seemingly assured that Thea would be get the third place podium finish. So we kept checking our backs for the appearance of the 10 Milers whose female companion could wrestle the podium finish from my companion. But until we crossed the finished line they were not seen again. They came actually a little bit later. I finished as the 30th runner with a time of 12 hours and 19 minutes. Master Vic Ting, the 70 year-old ultramarathon runner who drinks 2 bottles of Red Horse Beer before a race, awarded me my finisher medal, trophy and a can of warm Red Horse Beer. I felt I did much better this second 60k than I did the first time in La Union. Already I was looking forward to the next week’s 50k run T2N2S.

A week later, October 25, I was again stepping foot at Tagaytay’s People’s Park to run in Run Mania’s T2N2S or Tagaytay to Nuvali to Sta.Rosa 50k Ultramarathon. At 9:00 pm, it was not the scorching hot People’s Park I had the weekend earlier. Instead, it was a chilly, foggy and windy evening. Instead of the 55 runners there were about 400 + runners converging the entrance to the People’s Park waiting for the 11:00 pm gun start. I saw again Thea with her Pacer Day Walker. I also saw some of other runners whom I ran along with one time another like Bernie of Team Foot-Ah whom I ran with at Kawit to Kaybiang Tunnel, Ternate 50k run, Independence Day Freedom Run by Run Mania. There was also Rene Arroyo who I had brushed along in several run events. The runner with FB profile name “Doer of Word” who is a pastor and related to the race organizer was also there. But what struck me most fascinating was my two shuttle mates who were already in their late Sixties or seventies who ran 120 km at Sungay Challenge. In fact they were the last runners to finish the race after starting Friday night at 8:00 pm and crossing the finish line at 5:00 pm Sunday – a good 45 hours run. To prepare for this run I didn’t do any running in order to recover from the previous 60k run. Then on race day at 5:00 pm I order myself a Charlie Chan Pasta and Calzone at Yellow Cab for carbo-loading. I finished off the remaining Calzone an hour before the gun start. But still I felt I might not have recovered enough and was again worrying I might not be able to finish this race.

At about 11:40 pm we left the People’s Park. The roughly 6th kilometer of this race led runners to the Tagaytay-Sta. Rosa Road of mostly downhill and flat surface road.
The 10th km of this race was in Silang. The bad news for me was that I was feeling some throbbing pain on my left foot and a little pain also on my right as if it also had incurred Plantar Fasciitis. But I went on. Learning from my Sungay run I ran with a pace close to 6 minutes and 45 seconds to 7 minutes per kilometer. I was targeting to finish this 50k, if possible, at sub-8 hours in spite of the 10 hours cut-off time. But by the time I was at the 17th kilometer that was after AUP, I was walking most of the way. Upon reaching the aid station at the 20th kilometer in Nuvali my confidence had already sunk low. So was my stamina, which became like a cellphone battery gone awry – it was easily depleting in spite of having several rests and hydrations I took. To top it all, my feet were troubling me big time. I already saw several runners were passing me by like I were a road marker, to think I thought I was already at the last end of the 400 + runners.

I ran twice already inside Nuvali in the trail events 2nd and 4th Valley Trail Run organized by the Frontrunner Magazine Philippines, but basically along the off-road portion of Nuvali. I have no doubt that Nuvali was large. But I still find myself surprised that the whole 20 kilometers portion of the 50 km run could be done along the road inside Nuvali. This sense of largeness of the place with its many dimly lit areas and deafening quietness surrounding me had doubly shrunk my already diminishing confidence to finish this race. I was groping amidst the darkness for every ounce of strength and desire inside me to overcome the depression I had fallen into. I wanted to see daylight so bad so that it can lift the heaviness of the evening that seems to weigh down on me. I had been taking way too much water that I felt I was bloating but I still took in a cupful on every aids station for I wanted to drown the tiredness engulfing me. By the time I was maybe around the 33rd kilometer and was about to run back to the direction going out of Nuvali my disposition improved. At the point I thought I will DNF at the 30th kilometer, I rested once again and ponder my situation. I don’t know whether out of acceptance that there was no one that could bail me out of the situation except myself or out of my body adjusting or the sight of still so many runners behind me. All I know I just decided to move from the spot I slumped on. Since I am no push over kind of runner, I pushed myself to hang on. I tried to hasten my stride from walk to run. Soon, I was gaining some distance from those behind me while gaining on those on front of me. With the speed my depression slowly dissipated. From formerly running with my head stooping low, I was now looking straight ahead and enjoying again the feel of air in my face. I can still feel pain in my feet though and there was a need for them to be rested. Best of all daylight had arrived. I can see my surrounding and this kind of made me surefooted on the distance that lies ahead.

At the 41st kilometer I had ice cream, energy gel and Gatorade. The last leg of the race was a run along a long busy highway going to Sta. Rosa. I had previously walked along this route before when I was looking for an accommodation when I joined the 2nd Valley Trail Run. In this remaining leg of the race I ran along Maribel and two others. Thea and Day Walker passed us by at the 47th kilometer. The final 4 kilometers prove to be the longest. The road seemed to stretch on and on denying us to reach our destination. However, I saw the inevitability of us finishing this race and as if the curse had been lifted we saw the elevated plaza. Finally, with the time of 8:41:56 I crossed the finish line as the 377th runner out of 420 other runners who finished the race. I didn’t get my sub-8 finish but still I kind of gotten some kind of revenge from failing to finish before the cut off time at the Independence Day Freedom Run. I did not get the finisher shirt then as the visible proof of having overcome the Kawit to Ternate route. I got only the finisher trophy. My companion Maribel who also ran and missed the cut-off time by a whisker at the Freedom Run had gotten the trophy, the medal and shirt then after arguing that the late gun start and the extra 4 kilometers should be factored in considering the cut off time. Had the cut off time then been adjusted 30 more minutes I just might have made it to the cut-off time. But that was all under the Kaybiang Tunnel now. With my current accomplishment, the quest for my first 100 km finish draws near. I am setting my eyes on Mayon 360 with its 80km run. That is if the volcano would finally allow us by quieting down indefinitely and of course when my feet finally quiet down as well.

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