ICUM, I Ran, I Conquered Catanduanes

Last October 21, 2016, my unquenchable thirst to join run events took me to Catanduanes, the Philippines’12th largest island, situated easternmost of Bicol Peninsula, in order to take part in the event, 1st Isla Catanduanes Ultramarathon (ICUM) organized by Lao Ogerio and John Henri Alsol Mariano.  Catanduanes, which according to travel bloggers is popularly referred to as “Land of the Howling Wind” due to the fact that like Batanes, the province is also often visited by typhoons. Just recently the 500 kilometer diameter Karen with an international name Sarika made a landfall less than a week before ICUM and two days later the Super Typhoon Lawin with an international name Haima missed Catanduanes when it veered towards the northern portion of Luzon. This province, which the local Provincial Tourism Office would rather promote as “The Happy Island” was 1 of my last 3 out of Luzon running trip for the year with the two being Antique and Tacloban.

 

For this event I am accompanied by Alberto whom I shared accommodation with at Marem Pension House nestled along Rizal Avenue, Sta. Cruz, Virac- I live in Manila at Sta. Cruz near Rizal Avenue. Both Alberto and I were among the originally 48 registered runners at the 65k category. However, only 35 were able to actually come to ICUM. On the other hand from the original 44 registrants of the 110 kilometers category only 39 were able to attend. The gun start for the 110k took place at the covered basketball court and plaza in front of the refurbished Immaculate Conception Cathedral at 10:00 pm while we of the 65k category were still deep in our slumber or others were getting drunk. Heavy rain dogged them during their evening run towards San Andres.   By the time the gun start for the 65k was given at 4:00 am rain had already dissipated. From the starting area we ran along the National Road that soon gave way to the sight of the coast still bathe in darkness at the right side of the road. We have not gotten farther away from the main town when we encountered a runner from the 110k being attended by an ambulance.  He would be the first among the 8 runners who DNF in the 110k category.  For my part I was soon dropping behind the other runners because like before I was again suffering acid reflux that was causing tightness in my chest area.  A fellow runner whom I had spoken with at the airport advised me to avoid meat three days before run to lessen having acid attack.

 

Pretty soon first time 65k runner, Alberto was running along side of me. He was convinced that he would finish last in this event if he will finish at all.  At around the 8th kilometers we were crossing the Bato Bridge. We encountered our second 110k runners the BDM finisher, Shiela whom we thought was already among the last runners when in fact she was actually among the lead.  Not farther away we passed by the St. John the Baptist Church, which originally when first built in the late 16th century was of cogon and nipa then later in 1830 with coral stone and mortar material transforming the original church into its current Baroque style look. We were officially at the Municipality of Bato whose name was derived from stone well. On the long flat road I saw a couple more of the 110k runner and the other 65k runners all making headway. I tried to run pass as many as I can but as soon as I hit an uphill I eventually slowed down. At around the 13th kilometer at the Aid Station BJMP runners, John and Eina caught up with me and soon Alberto as well. Eina recognized me from Mt. Batolusong Mountain Run Event in held at Tanay, Rizal. From this portion until Buenavista we encountered more and longer uphill which I cannot help myself compare the similarity with what I encountered in Puerto Galera and Caliraya. The portions with deep rocky ravines that were constantly smothered by crashing sea and the view of Cabugao Bay meeting up with the hilly portion of Barangay Igang, Virac seemed to be a reminisce of Batanes seen from the road on the way to Mahatao. The only difference between Batanes and Catanduanes was the clime, which in Catanduanes was hot as I remember Albay was when I ran there in the event Mayon 360.

 

Along the route maybe around the 15th kilometers we passed by the tower like PAGASA Weather Radar Station, which again Batanes also has but instead of tower like structure a more prominent half golf ball structure that was destroyed by another earlier typhoon. I soon left behind Alberto and the two runners from BJMP to pursue a solo flight.  Along the route I chance upon another 110k runner from Naga. Aside from the rolling hills the route also has flat areas that ran along rice fields and towns. Aside from the Philippine Red Cross and PNP manned Aid Stations there were drinkable water and water for dousing provided by each barangay we passed by along the route. The Municipality of Baras, whose name was derived from the plant badas which is use for building houses, lies about 14 kilometers from Bato. The main town has the view of Calapadan Bay that seemed so inviting to stop by and watch it. Along the way another 110k runner was seen. As I began to tackle a series of uphill three of the leading 65k runners were already on their way back one of them was Swoosh who would end up 1st runner up.  On the other hand I was already catching up with the other 65k runners. One of the popular destinations in Catanduanes is Puraran Beach, which is a surfing beach that produces barrel wave. 2.5 kilometers from Puraran Beach entrance lies the 65k U-turn while the 110k’s U-turn was situated at Balacay Point still farther away about 5 kilometers.  I rested at the waiting shed and waited until Alberto arrived.

 

When Alberto came to the U-turn he turned out to be not the last runner. There were at least two more others behind him and when we left the U-turn we left behind about three runners who arrived earlier but still resting. In spite of the sun was beating down on us relentlessly the pace we were running on had enabled us to cover the first 32.5 kilometers in 6 hours. We could therefore accomplish the remaining distance in 7 hours and a half and still finish the race within the 14 hours cut-off. But at this point Alberto and soon the couple BJMP runners elected to walk most of the remaining distance, which might affect our chance of beating the cut off time. As we retraced our way back to Virac whose name was derived from a flower named Burac, we were passing by other 65k runners who seemed to have began slowing down due to exhaustion and heat. More 110k runners were coming our way who were still heading for their U-turn among them the Runn’ Active Race Organizer Rodel Mendoza. The last of the 110k runner we met were DM and Aleli who will finish the race just a few minutes before their 24 hours cut-off. At the last 3 kilometers of the race I left Alberto once again to try to overtake a couple more of the 65k runners I spotted ahead. I finished the race with a time of 12:35:19 ranking 22 out of 35 starters. Alberto finished 28th with a time of 12:39:06.

 

I came to Catanduanes not knowing what I would see. It turned out there were actually a lot but out time was short to visit even the closest beach resort. When I ran in ICUM I was thinking like what happen in Batanes I could have a glance of the wonders Catanduanes could offer. But the distance I ran prove to be too short to grant me my wish. The best option is to plan a longer period of stay to be able to at least sample some of the places. I don’t know whether it would be accomplished if I ever decided I wanted to attempt the 110k or just to accompany fellow runners who would be running ICUM just as Alberto and I talked about. For now we try to enjoy the moment we conquered Catanduanes.

 

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Trashing My Threshold At Tarayem Sangagasot Kilometros 2016

 

A week before Tarayem Sangagasot Kilometros I ran in the event, MF (Miyamit Falls) 42 last October 2, 2016 held at Alvierra, Porac, Pampanga. I thought this event would be something similar to my experience with Team Malaya’s 42 kilometer runs in their Cordillera Series which I had ran before: tough but accomplishable given enough time. I was not least bit worried about failing MF 42, after all, I finished 2 tougher TNF’s already. MF 42 was supposedly a preview of CM50 or Clark-Miyamit 50 miles. But for a preview, MF42 proved to be more like the main feature and CM50 probably a two-part sequel. MF42 shown me I couldn’t win all the 42k trail events with just a will to do it. I DNF MF 42 when I didn’t reached the 12:30 noon cut-off at the junction leading to Miyamit Falls. I was among the 52 runners who DNF from this event along with RDF, Gerald and Chie whom I met at Sagada Marathon. The muddy and unlimited uphill of MF42 took so much out of me that now I fear would greatly affect my chances at the 100k Tarayem Sangagasot Kilometros.

 

October 8, 2016 nearing 9:00 pm gun start, I am once again standing in front of the Provincial Capitol Building in Laoag, Ilocos Norte. Almost like a déjà vu. My confidence was at all time low. I was so nervous I wanted to vomit. Quitting a race is probably the easiest thing to do once you had done it before. There are always good reasons to quit especially when you know you can always try again some other time. One reason for quitting a race is about avoiding risk. However, sometimes it is difficult to tell if ignoring risk and confronting the danger is the best thing to do. Just like in running, challenging oneself to go beyond one’s limit may court certain danger especially if we are talking about 100 kilometers. Is there really a point for me to ignore danger and push myself to surpass my distance limit to conquer my first 100 kilometers? I tried before to stop myself from falling into the trap of testing my limit. After all, what is there for me to gain if I conquer 100 kilometers? But I eventually found myself desirous of finishing a100 kilometers distance. In my attempt twice already I failed. But I became so obsess with taking my first 100k that I found myself returning to Ilocos Norte to give myself another shot of the route even if in January there is another race of lower distance which will cover Paoay to Vigan. I just have to put Tarayem behind me. This mean DNF was not an option.

 

The fact that I found out we were only 13 participants in the 4th edition of Tarayem did not help improve what I was feeling at the moment. I realized aside from me, two other runners from Manila had ran before under Prince Multisports Event, Inc. as evidence by the shirt Joe was wearing and the running suit of Batanguena Runner. Another runner from Manila Rodel had seen action recently in Ibtur, an event where I also participated. Rodel was the Champion in the 88k of Ibtur. In Tarayem he was racing against another Ibtur runner, Marcelo who placed 1st runner up in the 160k category and 4th timer at Tarayem.

 

When the gun start was given I fell behind quickly because once again I am having acid reflux attack that was causing me to slow down because I feel like my heart was going to burst. However, upon reaching San Nicholas just a little of 4 kilometers I was regaining my bearing as my condition improved. How to go by to pass the time while trying to complete a 105 kilometers distance? After all there were portions of the route that were desolately dim and lonely. In the areas were streetlamps illuminated the road there were constant racking from dogs barking ruins your moment for rumination. Once again I retraced the National Road Manila bound passing by Batac, then the junction whose other road led to Currimao and then to the waiting roving Aid Station at the junction near Pinili where I was informed that about 300 meters ahead of me was the nearest runner. When I reached the 40th kilometer, which was just after Badoc and lies at the boundary of Ilocos Norte and Ilocos Sur, I finally caught up with the runner Cyndi who was eating. She was with her support crew composing of her kids and a pacer. She invited me to sup with them but I opted to go ahead and try to establish as much separation I can from her. At last I ceased to be the last. What was also good was that I seem to be doing a better time than I did the previous year. I was targeting to reach the 50th kilometers, which lies in Cabugao sub-10 hours so that I could still have ample time to cover the remaining 55 kilometers before the cut-off time of 19 hours. The first Municipality of Ilocos Sur was Sinait followed by Cabugao. There was no lomi (egg noodle soup) to sup with this time at Cabugao unlike last year. At Santo Domingo I passed by another runner who eventually DNF because of blisters hounding him. However, a little further away while I was resting and spraying BSI medicated spray on my legs, Cyndi passed me by. I could not anymore put up a fight to overtake or even chase her along San Idelfonso. She disappeared from my sight while I struggled to reach Bantay, which seem to have stretched farther than the last time I remembered it to be. By this time I seemed to have reached the point that I only have just enough to carry me all the way to the finish line. So, I avoided overexerting myself to chase Cyndi. I pressed on like it was a normal business day for me after all I have BSI medicated spray to make my legs forget about it hurting. At last I was entering the road to San Vicente. The marshal that shadowed me last year at this portion of the race and to whom I succumbed to DNF came to welcome me. He was riding a bicycle this time whereas last year on motor bike. I said to myself, No way I’m going to ride that bicycle on the way to finish line if I chose to DNF once again. DNF was still not an option. To make a show of my determination to finish this race I jogged the length of the road until I reached the point where I did a Yamashita thing and surrendered. I was initially thinking of doing some ceremonial exorcism to prevent me from repeating that last year’s defeat but as we pass by the place I lose interest on it and instead became more eager to get away. In truth I regretted so much not finishing the last 15 or 18 kilometers last year thinking it was just a couple of distance away. But as I struggle now to cover the remaining kilometers it slowly dawn to me that I made a reasonable choice last year. The remaining kilometers were no push over. Aside from depleting strength because I was at my threshold, the sun was beating mercilessly down on me wanting me to bow down. On the way to the U-turn along the breath taking view of the coast of West Philippine Sea after passing by Santa Catalina Church another runner fell short of his goal to finish the race. Farther ahead returning from the U-turn was Cyndi. After taking a photo op at the U-turn I ate heavily at the Aid Station. At that point I was almost sure I would make it within the cut off time. But the trip to Calle Crisologo at Vigan took me longer than I expected. I was really getting tired that I had to walk and stop for rest. At last, I entered the tourists filled Calle Crisologo like a triumphant hero but nobody seemed to notice me. I thought I would make a sort of novelty and attract photographers but probably after seeing the others ahead of me pass the place by they realized I was a straggler and a sort of slow poke. I sat along the pavement for just a couple of minutes and then decided to move on. After the U-turn at the other end of Calle Crisologo my next itinerary was the Bantay Tower. If I could get there before 2:00 pm I will still have two hours before the cut-off time. However, I got to Bantay 2:30 pm which left me an hour and a half to finish the remaining 8 kilometers. The problem was, I’m already spent. The only thing that was keeping me up which were the energy gels and Enervon Activ multivitamins had all ran out already. I was reduced to zombie walking and stopping frequently for rest. I came to the point I was singing the Lord’s Prayer hoping I could find some strength in God. When I was riding at the back of the motorcycle to get me to the finish line after I quitted last year, the path to the finish line seemed so easy. I was really ashamed to face the people at the finish area then because I didn’t put so much thought on my quitting. Now, at any moment I can just simply collapse because my body couldn’t handle it anymore, regardless whether DNF was among my option. Uphill welcomed me at the last 3 kilometers then followed by downhill then I saw finally the new bridge at Banaong. As I stepped on it I knew the people at the other older bridge who were waiting for me to finish this race saw me. I wanted to give them a show that I am going to finish strong at least even though I am last. But midway I run out of steam and walked momentarily before resuming my run. Then as I stepped off the new bridge and on my way to the old Quirino Bridge I saw Cyndi in the front of the pick-up truck that was shadowing her all throughout the race. She egged me on. I stepped on the old Quirino Bridge and tried to run faster. As I move nearer the Finish arch, I removed my running goggles and cap thinking that I want to preserve this moment with a photographed where my face could be seen better. As I approach the Finish arch and finishing beyond the cut-off time I still felt like a champion crossing the arch. I imagined the cheers of the organizer and staffs who were quite aware I was taking Tarayem the second time were cheering me because I had delivered what they long ago believed I can. Crossing the finish Arch means I have gone the farthest distance my feet could take me. It now opened a new area for me to explore. Not that I am in a hurry. In fact, if only I had not signed up already for the 117 kilometer Andres Bonifacio Day Ultramarathon happening in November, I would not run any farther soon. But before I venture to my next 100 km I would run the following week a 5 kilometer distance event, the distance where I got initiated into the running journey since 2010 in the event, Unending Race at UST.