Bad Blister Bane Almost Doomed My ABDUM Bid

Even though I was able to finish the 105 kilometers distance of the event, Tarayem Sasanggasot last October 2016, the fact that I finished the race beyond the cut off time made the accomplishment seem incomplete. As a result I had this unquenchable thirst to prove I could finish a 100++ kilometers. The event, Andres Bonifacio Day Ultramarathon ABDUM 2016, which happened November 26-27, 2016 was the ultramarathon I had hope will deliver what I sought. It did not ever occurred to me that ABDUM 2016 was actually going to be a hell of a race that almost handed me my 3rd DNF at 100++ kilometers.

 

The event, which was a 117 kilometers distance ultramarathon was the 3rd ABDUM organized by Run Mania Philippines Promotion, Incorporated. It was the only event so far I had actually joined for the latter’s franchise after having run with them for several times in the previous years – I registered recently with their last event for this year. The ABDUM 2016 after examining the race route was a sort of a summary of the race route Run Mania Philippines Promotion had utilized which some I had ran in the past. I was expecting that this ultramarathon would just mainly be about accomplishing distance. Last year’s ABDUM had been difficult because of the torrid rain and flooding that hounded runners most of the way. This year I was praying for rain but when it occurred in the evening and the sun took over the rest of the way, blisters became the bane of many runners including me more than I expected exhaustion would do.

 

The race for the 114 Solo runners and 15 others from the relay category started at Lipa City Hall then proceeded to Lipa-Alaminos Road. I took the first few kilometers at a slow stride in anticipation of that usual tightening in the chest feeling I get every start of the race. It seemed to have work. As a result as soon as my body adjusted quickly to the activity I easily accelerated without a problem. Initially I was with the crowd of familiar runners like Ann and her Boyfriend, the group, “I Quit” minus Peewee who had already careened ahead; Ricky and Day of Kilometer Zero Night Runners both BDM102 and ABDUM 2015 finishers; Rona and Joel the organizer of Run for Rogel. Pastor Richard who usually was behind most everyone was surprisingly ahead of the group and was further picking up speed. Later I thought I had passed him when it was my turn to put some speed in my pace. The evening was cool and soon began to drizzle. At the 10th kilometer an Aid Station was waiting for runners to hydrate themselves. Swoosh the champion of ICUM 65k category and running in the 2-man relay in this race, commended be for my strong start when we saw each other at the AS he was running with another 2-man relay entry Marielle, though I did not saw her at the moment. Much of the stretch of the road we were running on was basically unlighted and less populated. Then as we came near the Maharlika Road regular town began to appear again. Soon I passed by Omeng whose last run was last August in the event, Run with the Masters. He seemed to be struggling. He DNF last year in ABDUM and was hoping for a revenge this year.   Another runner I soon passed by was Aduana Pacer who was leading Team Care in this campaign. He already had several 100 kilometers plus events finish under his belt in spite of actually being not quite that strong runner. In ocassion I was in the same race he is we were not much farther apart upon finishing the race which usually at the last place.

 

As I hit Maharlika Road I was running along the town of Alaminos whose memory I could recall had to do with our picking Lanzones in one of the farm way back in my first undergraduate course.  From Alaminos we were heading for General San Luis or Geothermal Road and to the 30th kilometers Aid Station, which also served as the 4-man Relay Transition Area. This portion of the route was the reverse route of the Laguna to Batangas 50k Ultramarathon which was my second ultramarathon ever joined. There was a steep ascent with the road paved in darkness.  Upon reaching the descent portion I was quite careful because I kept on veering on the edge of the winding road endangering me to fell off it. It happened that my headlamp had lower lumen and was not actually lighting my way well enough while at the same time my goggles was fogging out thus my disorientation on the road. After passing by the National Power Corporation run Geothermal Plant I was now at Barangay Bitin and in Bay proper a town whose name may have been derived from a word, which means, “kin” or “brother”; or may altogether refer to a land that was close to the water such as, “baybayin” or riverbank that eventually gave birth to the term “bayan” or town. At this point my feet were feeling there were little pebbles inside both of my shoes. It could only mean that blisters had sprouted to ruin everything. My left foot seemed to have the worst of the two. One runner who hailed from Bicol who passed me by had already replaced his shoes with rubber slippers to ease a bit the pain that blister had wrought him. Ahead of me to my surprised was Pastor Richard being quite efficient in his brisk walking showing no sign or complaint of having had blisters. He was just praying that the next AS was just around the corner for he had already depleted his hydration. However, the next AS was at the 40th kilometers along the National Road 3 kilometers from where we were.  As soon as I got to the AS I marched on ahead southbound going to the direction of Victoria. I was trying to make it to our shuttle service, which doubled as support vehicle. We had instruction that our shuttle van would be waiting for us somewhere at the 42-45 kilometers of the race route in front of the Isdaan Restaurant. But originally the support vehicle would be there only from 3:00 am to 5:30 am and then transfer to the next stop.  I wanted to get there so that I could change and eat since I was terribly hungry since the race started at 10:00 pm. When I got to the designated spot the 3 support vehicles were still there with the other runners. I headed immediately to Shiella where she handed be soda and Siopao. I took my bag from the van #2 and found myself a spot. I did not anymore socialize with the rest of the runners as I was trying to be quick with my business so that I can resume with my run. As a result I failed to recognize who were among those I knew who were likewise resting or changing into drier clothes.

 

I wanted to attain an eight hour finish for the first 50 kilometers but as I check my watch the best I could hope for was an eight and a half hours. So as soon as I was done with eating and changing my shirt I did not anymore linger. I went back to the road and soon found myself reaching the rotunda with a giant duck statue. I remember having photo taken from the spot in one of my previous run. A marshal directed me towards a provincial road that would lead to another turn going to the Calauan-Nagcarlan Road. This portion was the 51st kilometer and an Aid Station was likewise located.  I remember this portion of the route as the 16.5 kilometers U-turn in the event, Ana Kalang the 32 kilometers edition. Ana Kalang then had its gun start and finish area at the historical Nagcarlan Underground Cemetery, which was constructed in 1851 by Fr. Vicente Belloc, a Franciscan Missionary. It was believed that Ana Kalang or “Nanang” Kalang founded the town and thus the name Nagcarlan.

 

From here I needed to reach the 60th kilometers before the 9:00 am cut-off time. Originally I thought I was in no danger of being caught there beyond the cut off time since I managed to finish the 50 kilometers sub-9 hours, which gave me at least 2 hours allowance to tackle the remaining 9 kilometers. But somehow I managed to slow down especially with the route dotted with lots of uphill. I met along the way another runner from Bicol, Sonny who also ran in ICUM at 65k category.   In the end I reached the 60th kilometers around 8:45 am. I was told that the cut off at this junction was extended to 9:30 am since the gun start had been delayed. I saw Team Heroes Philippines’ Jhon in slippers. I learned that he was running in the 2-man Relay and he just finished his share of the route. The 60th kilometer was the transition area for both the 2-man and 4-man Relay. From the Transition Area the town of Nagcarlan was probably just 2 kilometers away.  But we did not anymore reach the portion where the underground cemetery was located. Instead the route took the runners to the Nagcarlan-Rizal Road heading for Sta. Cruz. At this point the sun had already fiercely imposed its presence upon us. There was really no hope that rain would visit us again as there seem to be no more clouds hanging up in the sky that could shed its precious liquid down upon us.  At around 10:00 a.m. I stopped by in one of the street eatery and ordered a “Gotong Batangas”, (a kind of soup with goat innards) which was really similar to the “papaitan” (same soup but popular version in the northern corner of Luzon). While eating I saw Gelay another BDM 102 finisher passed by and then later Sonny. Seeing only few runners passed by I made a conclusion at that time that there were only few runners left with the race. I thought about who made it at 60 kilometers since the cut off time when I was there seemed to be so imminent. But later I learned that from the runners familiar with me, only Ann and her boyfriend bade the race goodbye earlier.  Ricky and Day might still make it to collect their 2nd ABDUM finish and earn valuable mileage for their January bid for a 2nd BDM 102 finish. I have no news of Omeng’s fate even after the race as to where he declared DNF although I am quite sure he could have made it across the 60 kilometers cut off as he was not far from Pastor Richard when I last saw him before the 50th kilometers. After the brief rest I had I was again running. This time a bit better and was able to catch up with Sonny. We were soon running along the Sta. Cruz-Calumpang Road heading for the AS at the 80th kilometers, which I thought would be in front of the Laguna Sports Complex. I remember this portion of the race from the events, Laguna Marathon and Rizal Day Ultramarathon. We soon caught up with Sonny’s friend Manny who ran in the 110k category of ICUM. I thought he was struggling and tired that was why he was resting close to the Laguna Sports Complex when we reached him. It turned out that the AS was not where I thought it would be. Both my hydration canisters had already ran out of its content and was desperately in need of replenishment. It was good thing that Sonny’s support vehicle happened to be parked along where Manny was resting. Sonny gave me some Pocari Sweat Sports Drink. Another cut off was waiting for us at the 90th kilometers, which we need to cross by 4:00 pm. From where we were he had about 2 hours to do that so we hassled to get going. When we reached the 80th kilometers, which was located along the National Road just after the Sta. Cruz-Calumpang Road we were computing how much time before the 23 hours cut off which was at 9:00 p.m. About 6 hours and a half with 37 kilometers left to go. I usually finish marathon distance at an average of 6 hours and a half. Still pretty much tight considering the remainder of the route was mostly uphill. At the AS at 80th kilometers we were handed ice cream along with the usual drinks. There were other runners resting in the area some were actually sleeping. Upon resuming our run Manny seem to be reinvigorated and ran until we could no longer glimpse him. I on my part was trying to make it to the support vehicles now expected to be parked at AX Fitness in Pagsanjan. I just wanted to fetch my reflectorized vest since most likely we will be caught by darkness along the way. Another runner from our shuttle vehicle was also making way to the van to change his shoes with slippers since he too had been bothered with blisters. As soon as I reached the van Sonny went ahead. It did not take so much time I was back again on the road heading for the century old arch of Pagsanjan. The structure erected in 1880 used to have a gate was called Puerto Real because it led to Calle Real.  Now that street is called Calle Arco. The arch has 3 roman arches topped by 2 lions guarding the Spanish escutcheon. Upon my passing through the arches I was expecting to see the Aid Station marking the 90th kilometers. But there was none on sight. There were other runners who were also searching for the AS to record our beating the cut off time but were instead directed by the local policemen to take the road at the right of the church which led us out of the main town and eventually into the Pagsanjan-Cavinti Road which was mostly uphill. The name of Pagsanjan according to the book Cabinet of Wonders may have been derived from the word, “sanga” meaning “to branch” was due to Pagsanjan located where the two rivers, the Bumbungan River and the Balanac River branches out. Pagsanjan is famous for the boat ride called “shooting the rapids” to Pagsanjan Falls or Magdapio Falls. As I ran I saw where the boat ride actually start however, the actual Falls fall actually in Cavinti which Cavinti was trying to claim as their own and have the Falls rename Cavinti Falls.   The race organizer Prince a known bitter rival of Pat of Run Mania and a resident of Cavinti was an active proponent of the Falls being called Cavinti Falls while Pat who reside in Lumban a town very close to Pagsanjan and who usually features Pagsanjan in many of his race events preferred the current name.  Thus another reasons for the two to continue to bicker with one another.

 

I soon found myself running towards the winding uphill Pagsanjan-Cavinti Road which I recalled taking quite early in one rainy morning when I ran in the 2nd year of the 34 kilometer run event, Caliraya 360.  From the road marker, Cavinti was about 8 kilometers away. I was hoping that there were probably just about 17 kilometers left in the race. I wanted desperately to finish the race before 7:00 p.m. since I will be reporting to work the next day. My hope was however dampened when an Aid Station appeared along the way. It turned out this was the designated 90th kilometers and I just barely made it before the cut-off time. This means there were still be 27 kilometers left to tackle with 5 hours and a half left. Last year I finished my second Caliraya 360 race with a time of 6 hours and 21 minutes. Fatigue, blisters and the uphill might make the prospect of finishing the race before the cut-off a bit shaky.  From the AS I went ahead and soon I was hitting another winding road but this time descending. Upon checking who were behind me, I saw Pastor Richard was suddenly at my heel once again. I can’t help being impressed with the efficiency his brisk walking. We soon chance upon a runner who had been struggling because of acid reflux and severe dehydration. An ambulance was parked close by looking after him. The personnel inside the ambulance however, to my understanding were not instructed to issue any form of medicine and were task only to carry runners to the finished area if the runner declared DNF.   From the look of it his race was winding down fast. I gave him my two capsule of Omeprazol, the medicine advised to me to take for my acid reflux. I don’t know if he took it for eventually he finished the race though beyond cut off time. Another sight along the road was a runner sleeping on a mat beside a parked support vehicle. Earlier in another place by the road side I saw also a support crew sleeping on a mat beside the support vehicle. As darkness descent I soon separated myself from Pastor Richard at the 100th kilometers Aid Station. I hit Lumban-Caliraya-Cavinti and recognized it as the area where Caliraya Marathon organized by Gerard Palacol had its final U-turn before returning to the Starting Area which was also served as the Finish Area. I realized from this spot the main town of Caliraya was still a good 10 kilometers away while Lumban was 7 kilometers after Caliraya. Along the way there were other runners trying to make it to the finish line. Much of the path was populated with local residents who find us quite amusing. As exhaustion, anxiousness and pressure of not making it to the cut off time settled in this portion of the route seemed to turn into one of the hardest flat road for me because it was nearing the end of our journey but the road doesn’t seem to want to give up the end of it. It just went on and on stretching longer as you progress. I kept looking for the Lake Caliraya to appear at the right side but it either got swallowed up by darkness or hidden away by the sudden sprouting of houses. In a portion that was almost completely dark I chanced upon two runners with one of them already on the point of giving up the race. I wondered about the two other runners in neon green jersey I met hours ago just before the Bumbungan Bridge in Cavinti if they managed to continue after one of them had decided he was quitting the race. I spoke to the one who was quitting and advised him to give himself a good rest say 30 minutes before deciding because if he does quit usually what comes after the event was a terrible feeling of regret haunting like a loan shark.  Then upon my crossing Bumbungan Bridge I saw their support vehicle. Thinking there were just 5 kilometers left in the race because a prankster who was manning a crucial turn on the route was signaling me to hurry up for there were just 5 kilometers left before finish line, I approached the support vehicle and appraised the crew of the situation of their running friends. I think the two runners after being told of the actual distance left in the race decided to declare themselves DNF and were picked up by their support crew.  After the Japanese Garden, I passed by Peewee who was zombie walking.  I was quite impressed of Peewee whom I met in the 2015 event, Mt. Makiling 360 his first ultramarathon. He now runs faster than me and about to embark on two other equally challenging events: the 24-hour Crazy Endurance Run and 250 kilometer distance Manila to Baguio. He, however, DNFed in this race at 116th kilometers. Upon reaching the dimly lit portion beyond Aquatico Feliciano Resort, I rested for awhile by sitting down on the pavement with my legs stretched out. I tried to stare at the sky and then the lighted area I just came from. No one yet was following close by. A motorcycle passed by and when he saw me slumped on the road he went back to check on me. I said I was ok and was just resting. The motorcycle left. I checked my watch and saw I only had about an hour before 9:00 p.m. I quickly stood up and slowly jogged as my legs got too relaxed from the rest. I jogged until I hit the downhill. I allowed the gravity to propel me. Soon I was picking up speed and was passing by other runners including perhaps Jah who maintained her lead from me since the start until this moment. She was among the last runner who made it before the cut-off time.  I probably also passed by Manny who eventually finished beyond the cut off time.  I don’t know whether Sonny finished before the cut-off time since his name was not among the listed finishers whether within the cut off or beyond it nor among the DNF. I was running downhill but not as fast as I did in my second take of Caliraya 360 but enough to cover the length of the winding downhill road before the national highway in 40 minutes. From there the finish line which was the covered plaza in front of the Lumban Church was just a few hundred meters away. I summoned whatever strength left in me so that I could go on running until I hit the finish line. I finished the race 22 hours and 45 minutes ranking 85 from 94 finishers before the cut off time. 20 runners finished the race beyond cut-off while 56 DNF. This edition of ABDUM would probably go down as one of the toughest road run event this year and a nudge to those who finished this race as having raised the bar of their running career. It was kind of weird that on our way home inside the van I was among the celebrated 3 who had successfully overcome the 117 kilometers event whereas before I usually the one who silently rode the van for having finished a race either poorly or none at all. While running I swore I won’t again venture to another 100++ kilometer distance event but after the buzz had died down journeying back to Manila I was already eyeing a comeback on my failed bid at the 105 kilometer TransCebu on July 2017.

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