The 2016 Manila to Baguio 250 Ultramarathon had already kicked off at midnight a day earlier when we participants of the 2nd Batangas to Quezon 66 kilometers (actually 69km) Endurance Run or Batoq 66 for short were given the gun start at 3:05 am of February 13, 2016. On the other hand, the 1st Calabarzon 160 Ultramarathon Challenge was launched 5 minutes earlier than us in Tagaytay. There were only 17 of us participants from the original 30 registrants who left the front main gate of Batangas City’s Provincial Building and ran along President S.H. Laurel Avenue. Only two of the participants, Omeng and Jayson were familiar faces to me whom I first met in 2nd Sungay 60k Challenge then got a chance to ran with again at 2nd Luneta to Tagaytay Ultramarathon and in one of the Run United run event. They seem to have suspected that this race would be quite different from the two above mentioned ultramarathon events where they ran without support vehicle. This time they came in with a support vehicle captained by Kenneth who was last year’s Batoq 66 Champion.
After running the roads of Manila for a couple of years in various run events I am now straying into the road where the big men of ultramarathon spent their picnic preparing for run events with 100 kilometers and above distances by running the events of Runn Active. One such event was the 2nd Batangas to Quezon 66 Endurance Run, which was a sort of BDM Jr. (Bataan Death March) whose dad I still have trouble seeing me running in it. The reason I find myself wandering far from the usual run event venues was to test my mettle now that I am aiming to one day run the 100 km and above distances in the future. I just recently figured out from talking with one of those who ran Batoq 66 that it should not be mistaken for a walk in the park even when according to this source of mine that this event has the least rolling along its route than most of the events in Runn Active.
At the onset of the race Omeng immediately catapulted among the lead runners probably tagging along Gene another runner who was with him, Jayson and Kenneth when I met them earlier before the race. Jayson and I occupied the second group of runners which was trying its best to catch up the first group. I was initially feeling nauseated and on the verge of puking whose reason for the malady baffled me. I tried to cover it up with coughing and sometimes growling lest I invite attention and be pulled out of the race without even breaking to sweat yet. However soon as we made a right turn to San Jose-Ibaan-Batangas Road near SM Hypermarket the feeling subsided and I was able to focus on trying to keep up with Jayson. Along this portion of the route we encounter some bit of rolling and a lot of smell of poultry. Apparently, this portion of the province received much assistance from an elected political party list AGAP, which represented the poultry keeping industry. Earlier on the way to Batangas City I mistakenly I was already in Kumintang Ibaba and alighted from the bus just beyond the Toll Gate in a secondary road leading to Ibaan. When I realized my mistake, I thought from the spot I would be walking all the way to my original destination since it seemed to take forever for the buses to make a stop from where I was standing. I checked my watch and saw it was just around 10:00 pm plenty of time until gun start at 3:00pm. I was guessing erroneously my destination maybe just about 5 kilometers away. Thank God a bus finally came by and I was back again on the road to Batangas City.
Jayson and I caught up with Omeng who seemed to be limping. He was complaining of cramps. I on the other hand was having stomach trouble and was looking for a place to relieve myself of my trouble. I could have held it off for another hour or so if it were not for a misstep I made while looking at a Gas Station along the way and had a bad landing that led to twisting my right foot. This forced me to stop to nurse my foot and saw the opportunity to relieve myself at the nearby gas station. When I returned to the road I saw that I was the only one left on the road. It was obvious that I must be the last runner. Since I was not familiar with the race route I needed to keep up with the others so, I paced up until I could espied upon one of the stragglers who happened to be a lady. When I ran passed her near a town I saw four or five more runners converging around a “taho” vendor. At this point the sky was slowly lighting up with daylight. I couldn’t see either Jayson or Omeng ahead, which I assumed had careened off after losing me earlier. At the Aid Station just after the main town along Pastor Avenue while supping on hot rice porridge I learned that Jayson and Omeng was not actually running ahead of me but was struggling to catch up from behind because they took a wrong turn and got lost along the way. Sensing that most of the runners except for my two friends had already passed by the Aid Station I resumed running this time hitting the Rosario-San Juan-Candelaria-Gualberto Avenue. I soon found myself being adapted by the runners Roby, Van and Mau whom I kept trying to keep up with and if possible passed by completely. But every time I get close I tire and had to switch to walking. They again gain some distance ahead. At Zidro’s Place Restaurant where they stopped by I also stopped by to rest too. This was the moment they invited me over to their support vehicle for some refreshments. From then on I became the fourth wheel to their group. It was actually providential because my having constantly refreshed from the supplies of Mau’s support vehicle and sometimes Omeng and Jayson’s proved vital to my finishing the race.
At this portion of the race the route turned to a more leveled with hardly any uphill left along the road. Except for the incoming vehicles which forced runners to run along the shoulders every time they passed by and with the sun beginning to beat down on us at between 9:00 am and 10:00 am, it seems for us just a matter of enduring the race until the finish line otherwise the race was no different from the other ultramarathon events I encountered before. I learned that originally Mau was running all by herself. At a certain point of the race she contemplated on dropping out of the race. The timely appearance of her two “angels” Roby and Van however, prevented that from happening and provided her the encouragement she needed to push on with the race. Along the way to San Juan another running acquaintance of mine Albert who lives in Rosario met us riding his mountain bike. He dogged us most of the way shooting pictures of us with his cellphone camera and posting it in real time at his FB account. After passing by the Municipal Hall of San Juan which marked the 42.74 kilometers of the race we soon found ourselves crossing Bantillan Bridge which expanded over Malaking Tubig River. An arch which says we were already in Quezon welcomed us. We approximated the distance still left for us to run to about 26 kilometers with 4 more hours left before cut off time. Upon entering Quezon Eco-Tourism Road we stopped by for water melon. The Quezon Eco-Tourism Road featured at the right side the coast and some resorts which I hardly noticed since I was staring at the ground most of the time if not looking at the Mt. Banahaw at my left side. This was a dreaded flat 7 kilometer mini Dinalupian road similar to BDM because of it being devoid of cover to shade one from the relentless sunlight. Rodel Mendoza dubbed this portion as the Badwater of Quezon Province. Badwater being the 135 miles or 217 kilometers Badwater Ultramarathon which is the world’s toughest foot race held in California’s Death Valley usually on July where temperature ranges to 49 degrees Centigrade. The Quezon Eco-Tourism Road was a shorter alternate route from the previous year’s much longer route, which passes through Candelaria, Quezon before hitting Sariaya, Quezon. Actually I had little trouble adjusting with the heat. What actually became more bothersome for me was the rubbing so badly of my running tights with the skin underneath my crotches that later about three days after the race was completed I still walked bowlegged because underneath my crotches continue to suffer inflammation. I had to tell everyone the lie that I walk weird because my thigh muscles still hurting from the run. I learned from one of the elite runners of Runn Active’s event that the one time he ran and had similar issue with mine upon his crossing the finished line his running shorts was red with blood from gash.
The road seemed to stretch farther every time we stopped by and struggled to cool ourselves over the little shade given by sparse vegetation in the area. Now we were beginning to feel the real reason this area was being compared with Dinalupian. Albert scouted ahead and reported that two runners had already finished the race while just about a couple of kilometers ahead of us were two runners. Encouraged by the news that we were not doing quite so badly with our pace since there were runners just a little ahead of us, Roby and I took off reaching Lutucan-Guis-Guis Road. We turned left at the road that had began to surrender plenty of shades. Van soon joined us while Mau tailed us from far behind. In the kilometer marker it announced that Sariaya was about 15 kilometers away. We could no longer see Albert shadowing us probably because it was way passed the midday he might not be able to get back home before darkness hit him. Roby got his second wind and began to plough ahead while Van and I felt depleted walked most of the distance. There was a portion along the route when the sun was even fiercer than we had encountered in the Quezon Eco-Tourism Road. We even saw Mau’s support vehicle’s driver scouring for ice to replenish their supplies. Having taken my last energy gel, I soon recovered and got my own second wind. I began hitting the pavement with faster pace. I saw the two other runners Albert mentioned about and was overtaking them on the road before reaching the Daang Maharlika or Pan-Philippine Road. I initially turned leftward but my timely asking around for the direction going to Sariaya Municipal Hall saved me from going the wrong way. The right way was actually to turn right upon reaching the Daang Maharlika. It was strange that before reaching Daang Maharlika the kilometer marker indicated that Sariaya was just about 4 kilometers away but after hitting the Daang Maharlika Road the kilometer marker stated that I am still 6 kilometer short of completing the race. I saw Roby ahead of me. Running on the stony shoulders of the road again I little by little caught up with Roby until we were shoulder to shoulder. Upon crossing a bridge the St. Francis Assisi Church began to loom bigger. We turned right to Sariaya-Tayabas Road and finally to the Finish Line. Roby took the 10th place while I finished 11th with a time of 12:58:38. The two runners we overtook came in next then Van followed by Mau. Finally after almost beyond the cut-off time Omeng came ahead of Jayson to finally complete the list of participants.
While waiting for Omeng and Jayson to arrive at the finish line I listened to Rodel Mendoza tell the stories of how he came to run for BR’s BDM102. He had to go through lots of BR’s run events first. Now many who run in BR’s more than 100 kilometers run had at least experienced a couple of Runn Active’s run events which were said to be quite formidable but promises picturesque view of Quezon Province along the way. It was a good thing I had to run Batoq 66 first before blindly committing myself to Runn Active’s newest race, The Lucena to Antipolo 105 kilometer Ultramarathon. Now I know I should probably set it aside for now. With Roby’s assessment of our performance at Batoq 66 he was a bit grim about how we will fare in Mayon 360 in April with 16 hours cut-off time for 80 kilometers whose route was characterized with lots of uphill and unlimited sun exposure. But I had to shelves this thought out and not allow it to cloud the celebration of the moment’s accomplishment. I still have one more blessing coming in that would put a damp on whatever worry coming come April and that is the Batanes Winter Marathon happening on February 21, 2016.