When North Turned South: Running Thought On Clark Ultra And Cauayan’s First Full Mary

I won’t make it after all. Maybe I already saw it coming but I just won’t admit it to myself.

I was writing down these thoughts about my not going to Cardimax-Clark Ultramarathon this September 5, 2015, while having a classic Sansival cake and café latte at Floti Café at the Florida Bus Terminal along Lacson Boulevard. I was heading for Cauayan, Isabela this Friday evening to participate at the event, Yes To Fitness, happening on Sunday, August 30, 2015. But I am in the wrong terminal. I am actually at the adjacent Florida Bus Terminal, the one catering to those heading off to Ilocos Region. This terminal has a café shop where you can sit comfortably inside an air-conditioned room and drink a pretty decent java of your choice while waiting for your bus to arrive. There were even some passengers with their bus already available for boarding still chose to linger inside the café and left only when their bus was about to wheel off.

…this is in spite of being registered in this event quite early. The reason for my DNS-ing or Did Not Started is because I found a lame excuse not to go.

After going through a series of process to register and get confirmation that I’m registered, I was not able to read on the event’s webpage that Cardimax-Clark would be requiring after all a medical certificate of fitness on the day of claiming of race kits. Have I known about this requirement I wouldn’t have bothered registering at all in this event. This requirement was the very reason I skipped registering at the National Milo Marathon for two years now. Not because I am unfit to run or quite afraid to undergo medical examination. I did comply once when I ran my first full marathon with the National Milo Marathon before. But rather the principle that it really does not guarantee runners going to the event will not die on the race day, which happened in fact quite recently in Milo Marathon. The whole act of securing medical certification was just an additional effort on the part of a participants who is paying to get into the race to which organizers are not willing to take responsibility anyway when mishap happens. The Race Organizer, Rio Dela Cruz have held similar events utilizing same route the National Milo Marathon uses yet in these events there were no need to submit medical certificate in order to join. Now Cardimax-Clark Ultra requires one.

On hindsight though, the real reason it was so easy for me to let the Clark event go is because happening on the day after this Clark event is the Salomon City Trail Run which I wanted to join again. Salomon City Trail Run is scheduled to happen 4:00 pm September 6, 2015 in Intramuros, Manila just a few hour after Cardimax-Clark Ultramarathon.  I don’t want to repeat last year’s experience of running in Salomon City Trail Run just after running 42k the previous day at the 1st Caliraya Marathon. I was still not fully recovered then when I hit the pavement of Intramuros after the gun start of Salomon City Trail Run. After the first kilometers I felt I would not be able to finish the 12k distance I signed up then. Now with my withdrawal from participating in Clark, I will not be too tired to run in Salomon City Trail Run.  As an additional perk I signed up in another event happening in the morning before Salomon City Trail Run. The event, The Great Wall Run, a 10 k run organized by Knight of Columbus which last year I also registered at but was not able to run in it for the obvious reason I was still very much plastered.  Now I can have this as my practice run for the main event happening in the afternoon.    I guess this is how addicted I have become in joining run events.

I checked my watch and saw that I still have an hour and half more to burn before my bus bound for Isabela arrives. But I felt I have to give up my seat so that I could go to the comfort room and relieve myself. I know once I departed from my spot, like predators other waiting passengers will want a piece of the real estate I was occupying at.  I decided to leave and instead look forward on my trip to Ilocos at the end of September. I hope by this time the cafe will get my order of mocha sansival right instead of being served with the classic one.

The travel to Cauayan, Isabela went with just a tiny snarl. I was originally assigned to seat # 42 however, the bus had only up to 41 seats. So, I ended up being assigned to #24, which was actually better. But the bus loaded in additional passengers who occupied the center aisle of the bus sitting in mono-blocks.  Among those passengers sitting so close to my seat were a mother and a small kid. Sometime before we left Manila at a road near Araneta Avenue the bus driver suddenly hit the brake hard causing the mono-block the small kid was sitting on to thrust forward and catapulting the kid a few feet away.   Otherwise, I slept through the evening trip without a care. When I woke up around 5:00 am, we’re already in Nueva Vizcaya and had a stopover at Sante Fe. At around 10:00 am I was already hiking Canciller Avenue when I stumbled upon Hotel Andrea where I checked in. by 4:30 pm after having a hefty Pancit Cabagan at Highway Restaurant along Maharlika Road, I was sipping a Vietnamese brewed coffee at Chocolado Coffeeline at SM Cauayan.

Yes To Fitness Run or The First Cauayan Full Marathon being in its first year had experienced birth pains. In the event announcement at Pinoyfitness site it invited participants to “like” and join the events fan page. However, the fan page carrying the logo of the event that appeared after searching for it at Facebook and which I “liked” and joined turned out was not the official event page. As a result I received incomplete or utterly no information regarding the assembly and gun start time of the event. I just discovered later their actual event fan page through their event partner, My Run Time where it displayed the race organizer’s other Facebook address. When I sent SMS to the event organizer inquiring the time of assembly I was informed that it was at 1:00 am, being efficient I am, at around 12:30 midnight I was already circling around the event venue, which was SM Cauayan but there were no indications that an event was to be held there. It was all dark and quiet. The mall’s security guard directed me to proceed to Burgos Street but nothing there indicated anything was stirring at all. Then finally, one of the Race Organizer’s Staff came walking by and told me that due to the earlier rain they changed venue from the Transportation Terminal and Parking Area of SM Cauayan, which was originally visible from the street, and it moved deeper inside the mall ground which was not at all visible from any point outside of the mall. When we entered the mall’s premises the rest of the event organizers were just setting up. Marshals were just arriving and soon given instructions. I communed with the mosquitoes and cockroaches in the meanwhile. When the stage had finally been set, sound checked and the official time keeping board suspended at the start/finish arch finally lit, there were still quite a handful of participants were present. Most of these participants seem to be either students who are probably members of varsity squad or local athletes. By the looks of it most probably the registration fee of these participants had been either waived off or sponsored.  The race organizer spoke to the microphone that in about a couple more minutes the race for the 42k category would undertake. He called in all the 42k participants to come closer to the stage. I counted a little less than 20 participants, in fact in the race result there were only 18 of us. I saw that I was like a fish out of the water. I already saw myself finishing this race last and probably with a huge margin of distance between the last runner ahead of me and I. Even the award for the oldest participants was not fated to be taken home by me because one of the participants was at least 50 years old but his stand shows he was probably an elite runner. While my fastest time for 42k was just barely making it to the National Milo Marathon cut off time of 6:00 hour, most of the participants I saw were probably running a pace of a National Milo Marathon qualifier of at least 4:00 hours. Normally, if we were not so thin in number, I could have just simply slipped unnoticed out of the crowd and walked home to avoid the embarrassment of being the last runner to cross the finish line. But I traveled so far and had already been seen by the organizers. There was just no way I could back out with grace and pride.

At 2:00 am we were given our gun start. Sure enough most of the 42k runners dissipated leaving only a running couple and I to wade through the dust our other colleagues left us behind with. For a moment I entertained the though that perhaps I was not the slowest runner after all for initially I was ahead of the running couple.  But after 3 kilometers I was soon sweeping the tail of all the runners and I won’t even come closer in closing the gap with the running couple whom I initially thought were bunch of newbie. I thought so, because the male runner was sporting a hydration bag on a fully hydrated road full marathon.   Usually when new to running one buys all sorts of gears to try it on during run to appear a bit more like a runner. Hydration bag is one of those seemingly cool gears to wear especially with the hydration hose jutting out. I went through that phase and even now I keep on trying out new things to put on to feel more like a runner. They may perhaps be new to the sport but being younger than I the couple had more stamina which even if they were indeed new brought them certain advantage over the determination of an aging mid-lifer.

The race route took runners from the bowels of SM Cauayan ground and into Burgos Street, which soon had runners spilling out across Maharlika Highway and into Cabatuan Road. Upon hitting the 10.5 kilometers of the mainly flat road with some portion undergoing repair, runners made a U-turn to run the opposite direction heading back along Maharlika highway. This served as the 2nd U-turn of the race. The 42k runners did 2 loops of this route before heading back to SM for the finish line.

By the time I was making way for the finish line the hydration station in the last 5 kilometers had already folded up. I checked my watch and noticed that although I was the only runner left on the road and even with the runners of the other categories had done with their run, the time from the 42k gun start until the time I checked my watch was still less than 6 hours. Even if this race had a cut off time, which it did not or the organizer failed to mentioned it if this race had one, there should still be people manning the hydration stations. After all most death that happened in the past happened at the last couple of kilometers near the finish line.  Someone should also be checking out the road for struggling runners so that the runner could be assisted or picked up if necessary. But there were none of such. I am use to being among the last runner to cross finish line but now that I was all alone on a place totally new to me and perhaps people were not use to seeing runners, I was imagining what sort of reaction I will have if upon arriving at the finish line there would be no one waiting for me. But I persisted on.

By the time I crossed the finish line all the runners had indeed gone off except for one whom later I found out made it to the finish line just a minute ahead of me. The organizers had packed up but it was good thing that when I crossed the finished arch, there were at least photographers to capture my arrival. The RFID strip taped on one of my shoe triggered the receiver and record my time which was 5:43:48. The first two finisher of the 42k recorded a time finished of 3:02:45 and 3:08:02. The next 7 runners finished with a sub 5 hour. While the 6 following them finished with sub 5 and a half time. I was handed my medal and finisher shirt which they gotten it out of their crate. I was still all smiles and had seemingly forgotten the horror I was thinking I might feel just a few minutes before I reached the finished arch. I just felt bad that the organizers did not bother to check on whether all their participants had made it to the finish line safely. Have I been one of those who run a marathon with a time of 7 hours what would I found upon arriving at the finish line? Did they expect only elite runners to join this event and assumed that all will be finishing the race at 5 hours and a half? They could not argue that they have to clear the area in time for the mall’s opening to the public because by the time I crossed the finish line it was not yet even 8 am yet. Never the less I feel I had accomplished what I came here to do and that is to add to my list of places I ran in. This is so far the farthest place in the north near the eastern seaboard.