A Taste of Badwaters in the 2nd Batangas To Quezon Endurance Run

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.

 

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Sagada Marathon Redux

While most of my running friends were busy with their last minute preparation for their probably most challenging ultramarathon, The Bataan Death March 102, slated on January 30, 2016, I was heading up to Sagada for the event, Sagada Marathon. Almost year ago I ran (and eventually wrote about it) 42k in Sagada at Front Runners Magazine’s event, Sagada Circuit Marathon. Unfortunately after running for about 9 hours I along with 6 other runners had reached only the 34th kilometers of the race a little over 2:00pm. It was not however, enough to beat the cut-off time for runners to be in this area. As a result we were no longer allowed to continue with the race whose last remaining 8 kilometers still entailed runners to run towards the 1937 MASL Mt. Ampacao Saddle before heading off to the finish line. Vowing redemption, I could not anymore wait for Front Runner Magazine’s event which may or may not happen this year, so I did the next best thing, I booked a slot at Team Malaya’s 3rd Sagada Marathon now leveled up to mountain trail run. The 2 previous incarnations of Sagada Marathon, which was predominantly a road run was part of the Cordillera Series that was running for 3 years now. Usually the Sagada Marathon was the kick off event to the string of marathon events under the Cordillera Series. I was part of the first batch but I missed running the Sagada leg. I could not run in the following year’s Sagada Marathon due to conflict in schedule. It was as if it was really my destiny to run in Sagada since Front Runner Magazine came out with its own event there.

 

Initially I was not fazed with the change Sagada Marathon underwent this year after all I had ran in at least three full marathons of the Cordillera series that featured mountain trails and came out a victor in each. However, after talking with some of the current participants and staff of the race who happened to be acquainted with the Meldwyn Bauding, who prepared the route for this year’s Sagada Marathon, I began to entertain thoughts that I might just be coming home again with another DNF wound. The last Kibungan Marathon’s route that was designed by Melwyn was so challenging that even the most seasoned trail runners that had ran Team Malaya’s offering struggled to conquer the race. Would Sagada Marathon turn out to be another experimental laboratory in the art of trail running torture? With an aim of getting back to Manila in time for my Monday morning teaching class, I booked a shuttle service that would leave Sagada Sunday afternoon at 5:00pm. So, if ever I find myself still in the neck of the woods at around 2pm I would not think twice in declaring myself DNF just so I could get back to the Starting area in time to change clothing, rest until we set off for Manila. This arrangement worked quite well with my co-passengers for the shuttle service all of them were registered in the 21k category and would have been done with their run way before my self imposed cut-off time.   In this race I picked up new friends who were my co-passenger at the shuttle. They were Ria, Sandy, Jester, Jake, Beverly and Teejay whom I am already acquainted with through Facebook. Most of them were quite new to running much more trail running.

 

At 4:00 am runners were already gathered at Minnie Degawah Compound, Mabbay Poblacion near Mount Carmel Church about 300 meters from the Municipal Hall for the race briefing and breakfast. I noticed that there seem to be quite a number of turned out of participants this year than the previous legs that I had participated in. about 156 joined the 21k while 56 in the 42k category. At 5:00 am with still darkness hanging about the gun start was given. Runners headed out along a concrete paved road that soon led to an uphill dirt road. The first destination was Kiltepan where amidst crowd of tourists waiting for the sea of clouds to be visible a U-turn awaited runners. I heard that even at this early juncture of the race there were already runners who failed to locate the u-turn and got lost at the view deck. I suspected they just wanted to get a glimpse of the now famous site where Angelica Panganiban and JM De Guzman shouted out their angst in the movie, “That Thing Called Tadhana”.   In Front Runners Magazine’s event this was the 21st kilometers of the race. From Kiltepan runners ran downhill towards Petron Gas Station where near it was a road that ushered runners to the dirt path going to Malboro Country whose highest point reach 1,684 masl. On the way I got my foot landing badly and had sprained my right foot. I however, managed to shake it off and was soon running again. The other runner who earlier got also sprained continued to limp as I passed by him. In the previous Sagada Circuit Marathon in about this area my companions and I got lost in this trailed covered with fog. Soon we reach Marlboro Country area. As in Kiltepan, the area where sea of cloud also could be viewed many selfie taking and camera totting people both tourists and runners were amassing. Light was slowing making its appearance. I forego any opportunity to do “selfie” since I don’t want to use up the few remaining bars of my cellphone’s batteries and I was more determined to make it as far as I could before I could call in another DNF, so I just plodded along the path and into the next portion of the race route. When we ran in this area in Sagada Circuit Marathon it was close to midday and the sun was baring down on us with fury. Soon I was entering a wooded area that led to the place called Blue Soil. According to Teejay the blue hue of the rock was due to chemical reaction like copper sulfate, which becomes more pronounce after rain. From here more woods and trail until we got out into a concrete road which in Front Runners magazine’s event the area was Payag-ew the 29th kilometers while in the current race the 14th kilometers.

 

Due to landslide and road repair, the portion going to the Pongas Falls was no longer taken by runners instead took the concrete road that led to Sumaguing Cave entrance. This is unfortunate because this portion of the race may be another stunning place to see. Actually I thought this was the same falls we saw in Sagada Circuit Marathon but upon checking the one in Sagada Circuit Marathon was Bomod-ok Falls whose access was via crossing Aguid Rice Terraces. Farther at my left nestled in the mountain I could see the communication tower the next important landmark in the 42k race route, which seem to be so high and still so far away. Soon I saw once again the 34th kilometers of Front Runner Magazine’s Sagada Circuit Marathon located at Gaia Restaurant where we were declared DNF last year. This time I was moving pass it in order to reach the road that would take me to Mt. Ampacao Saddle or Tower Peak the one stop I never got to see close in Sagada Circuit Marathon. On the steep and quite exhausting uphill trail that ushered us towards the road to Tower Peak I was dogging the 58 year old, trekking pole bearing Roberto Ramos who no matter what I do to get pass by him I always end up behind him. Close by was another runner Allan Palomares who was also running abreast with Roberto. I momentarily lose the two runners in favor of another male runner who suddenly overtook me after a much faster female runner made a dash out of nowhere passing by me on the way into another wooded area. The race ribbons that we were following began to thin out and could not be located easier since the distance in between gapped wider. I heard the male runner ahead of me speaking with another runner on his cellphone. Apparently, the runner on the other line was originally ahead of us but now found lost along the trail. Soon Ramos and Palomares were again overtaking me. I initially thought that upon reaching the summit we would turn back to retrace our path until we got down to the concrete road again. But I was wrong. We did not actually reach the Tower but turned to the ridge opposite of the path leading to the Tower. The Tower completely faded away from our path and I was afraid that we might have taken a wrong turn or something. But we were relentless in following the red ribbon route markers which although at a certain time seem to have completely disappeared suddenly reveal itself at the most opportune moment. As soon as I caught up with Ramos we stopped to rest and admire the breathtaking view of other mountains and Sagada Town below. Other runners began to appear out of the woods and likewise stopped. One of the runners mentioned that we were just at the 21st kilometers, which I could not believe after all the effort I had done. There might be something wrong with the watch or something, I thought to myself. Although taking 4 hours to get to the first half of the marathon was not too far fetch and finishing the 2nd half in another 4 hours was still pretty much decent for me, I just can’t imagine how another 21 kilometers could fit in with the remainder of the route indicated in the race map. It became apparent that we were actually traversing another ridge that soon led downhill until finally I saw we were already at Lake Danum area and soon having refreshments at the Aid Station 3. I heard later from Arel another runner who ran in the 21k that there were those who got lost at Lake Danum area because there were no ribbons to indicate which direction to take. I and my two other companions were much luckier because I already had gotten to this area in Sagada Circuit Marathon and therefore I know the way out to the road where the Aid Station awaits. The next destination was the Langsayan Peak that lies at 1,950 masl. I figured this would probably be 4 kilometers hike to the summit. But somehow it didn’t seem to have taken that long to reach the summit and from there the marshal told us that we were just down to 10 kilometers before completing the whole course. I couldn’t believe it that I was going to get my redemption after all with a finish time that beat my other Cordillera Series. In fact we reached Aid Station 4 at Bangaan quite quicker again, that when we were told that we were at the last 2 kilometers of the race, Palomares could not agree because in his watch we were just at around 28 kilometers. The last portion of the route after the AS4 was not at all 2 kilometers but rather 6 kilometers. But even with this remaining kilometers left for us to accomplish this would just be only 34 kilometers total. It turned out due to the change in the race route the 42k distance was actually reduced by several kilometers. Therefore even though I came through the Finish line with a time of 7 hours and 36 minutes it was still not 42 kilometers. Of course I could argue that the missing 6 kilometers would easily be conquered within less than 2 hours (in Sagada circuit marathon it took me 9 hours to get to the 34th kilometers) still I felt the celebration was not complete. So, in spite of completing the 42k series of Cordillera Series I was still feeling short of the kind of redemption I sought. I however, was now hesitant if I will be back if Front Runner Magazine undertake another shot at Sagada Circuit Marathon.

 

Perhaps, not all race are meant to be completed in a manner like how it was done the first time. It’s the experience going through the process of getting that redemption should matter. The very reason one fell short the first time must not again be repeated and improve upon instead. If ever again one fell short the second time count the initial success garnered not the failure. Sometimes it is much better to continue falling short of finishing a coveted race than complete one and retire the whole sport after attaining that coveted race. Failure sometimes gives reason to keep on going while victor sometimes become a good reason for others to stop from going. I have another race event that I initially failed to finish but somehow successfully conquered the second time because the event was done in another venue. Now it is again returning to the venue where I failed. I want to come back and try again. TNF100 2016 Baguio-Benguet see you soon.

Hitting The Wall Twice

 

Last September 6, 2015 after a year, I hit the Wall again and did it twice that day – one in the morning and the next one in the afternoon. The expression “Hitting the wall” an expression use by runners and as Wikipedia describes as, “a condition caused by the depletion of glycogen stores in the liver and muscles, which manifest itself by sudden fatigue and loss of energy. However, this is not what I was referring with at my opening sentence. Rather I was referring to the two events I participated namely, The Great Walled City Run organized by the Knight of Columbus held at 5:00 am and the Salomon City Trail Run, which was held at 4:00 pm both within the perimeter of Intramuros in Manila.

 

In the Great Walled City Run, the route started along Sta. Lucia Street near Anda Street and Baluarte Plano de Santa Isabel and wound its way along Muralla Street until Soriano Avenue before entering once again Sta. Lucia Street via Arzobispo Street. The route was basically a four loops run for 10k category participants, which I was registered at. I was pretty much all by myself with only Peewee Villar as the only runner I recognized among the other participants beside Running Photographer, RJ Knight who was one of the event’s photographer. Many of those whom I run previously were at the event, Entrep Run happening the same time at CCP complex. Although I did not have an earlier run the previous day, I found myself huffing and puffing the first few kilometers before I got myself acclimated and began running more comfortably. I finished the event with a time of one hour and ten minutes. Just a 3 minute more of my finish time at Pinoyfitness’ Sub 1 Challenge held in Baguio a few months earlier.

 

While at the Salomon City Trail Run, it was a sort of reunion of runners I had ran with in various occasions. Heidi, Albert, KC, Dwight, Baldwin and Louie whom I first met at Team Malaya’s Cordillera Series. While Luis, Grace who call herself in her FB page as Bling Runner and the guy with eye glasses whom I did not managed to get his name were from this year’s TNF 100. Ricky and Grace from Bandana Runners were frequent running mates of mine from various run events. Many of them also had a chance to run with each other in other events that I did not participated thereby making them acquainted with each other. This only goes to show that our running world was much smaller although the running community was bigger.

 

The Salomon City Trail Run followed pretty much last year’s route, which started at Fort Santiago. Runners upon exiting Fort Santiago turned right toward the sidewalk of Bonifacio Drive then turned left along Padre Burgos Avenue for a more “trail feel” by running along the grassy portion of the sidewalk. Then runners entered Muralla Street via the road often referred to as “Round Table” named after the Pizzateria once stood this location. Runners turned right following Muralla Street passing by the Department of Labor and Employment building. Runners climbed the Wall via Baluarte de San Francisco de Dilao and get off the Wall via the stiff stone stair near Anda Street and San Juan de Letran. Runners run along the street fronting the formerly commercial establishment filled portion of the Street near Letran Dormitory while at the other side of the wall fronting the Magallanes Drive stood the statue of Isabella II of Spain. Runners then turn left going towards Banco Filipino Building then exit along Soriano Avenue until Palacio Del Gobernador and enters General Luna Street to get a ribbon marking the completion of the first loop. Runners proceed to turn right along Postigo Street and into Arzobispo Street and left to Sta. Lucia Street to begin the second loop of the 3 loops perimeter run before runners climb the Wall of Intramuros via the stairs near Postigo Street. After runners got off the Wall runners turned right towards Intendencia and into Maestranza Street to enter Maestranza Park. Upon exiting this portion of the route a short run along Soriano Avenue will lead runners back to Fort Santiago for the finish. Salomon City Trail Run was for me one of the best ways to get back at failing to succeed in previous Salomon Xtrail Runs. That is why for the second year I was not able to pass the opportunity to run in this event. Hopefully the next time though a new venue could be considered so that the idea of running the pavement of a busy district like Chinatown, Vigan, or Clark’s Nayong Filipino would provide a different experience from the usual running venues like BGC and MOA while at the same time introducing the value of taking care of heritage reach places in the country.