After running so many times in Laguna I am slowly making my incursions in Quezon Province. Previously I made it to Lucban, Quezon through the events, Laguna to Quezon 50 Kilometers Ultramarathon and to Infanta, through Rizal to Laguna to Quezon 85 Kilometers Ultramarathon by Run Mania Philippines and in Sariyaya, Quezon through Batangas to Quezon 66 Kilometers Ultramarathon event by Runn’ Active. Last March 18-19, 2017 I ran 100 kilometers from Catanauan, Quezon to Malicboy, Pagbilao, Quezon in Runn’ Active event’s, 4th Bonpen 100. Bonpen short for Bondoc Peninsula is located in the southeastern part of Quezon Province and comprised of 12 municipalities, which mostly are situated in mountain locked areas while Tayabas Bay hugged the western portion of the peninsula and the island of Marinduque lurks farther to the west. The Bonpen 100, however covered only 7 of the 12 municipalities but this didn’t made the route any less difficult.
I should have taken a hint from BatoQ 66, the 1st Runn’ Active event that I had participated to figure out how hard Bonpen 100 might be. Instead I threw my cares away and simply registered thinking that the route would be flat only to find out this event featured a lot of steep rolling and snaking road; exposure to intense heat of the sun that could have beaten my self-supporting ass to submission and eventually to another DNF if it were not for some timely assistance from the support crew of my fellow runners Errald of Sariayaya Runners and Team Oragon Ultramarathon Runners.
The race for the 17 participants (2 of which were female) began at the Municipal Building of Catanauan at 10:30 pm. Like me most of the participants had already run in Runn’ Active’s other events. The only difference was that many of the participants were gunning for this year’s grand slam. As a result they knew each other pretty much from the other events. I am familiar with this year’s Bonpen champion Rodel who also participated at the events Ibtur and Tarayem where he also brought home the championship. I met Orlan in the event Rizal to Laguna to Quezon then saw him again in Mayon 360 and Isla Catanduanes Ultramarathon. I had seen Zenik from Griv Brown’s event, Tacloban City to Basey Samar. Vhin runner from Team Oragon Ultramarathon Runners recognized me from ICUM and TC2BS. Melody one of the female runners was a recent Bataan Death March Grand Slam Finisher while Alex of TOUR was taking Bonpen 100 as his first 100 kilometer distance run.
After being given the gun start I, as usual, began with a slow pace run. While I was in Catanauan, which was supposedly a first class municipality I could not find any place to visit for sight seeing. Beside that it was really too hot to walk around the town, I had no idea that there is a watchtower to which the place was originally named after. Catanauan was occasionally raided in the 18th and 19th century by Moro, so a “magatanauan” or what came to be called the Santa Maria watchtower was built and was mounted with artilleries. After passing by the statue of Andres Bonifacio at about the 1st kilometer we passed by Catanauan Bridge. We then followed the Gumaca-Pitogo-Mulanay-San Narciso Road. As soon as I reached the 5 kilometers I was already overtaking the eldest participant Zenik. Not far ahead was the Foot Vikini wearing Romeo Jhon and ahead of him the 2 times Bonpen 100 finisher Marjohn who was taking his 3rd take of Bonpen but this time the reverse route. I eventually overtook these latter two somewhere before we reached General Luna at the 25th kilometers. The evening was punctured with dogs barking along most of the way we passed by and will continue so until finally day broke out. At the 36th kilometers lies Macalelon Highway Junction. There were marshals and local emergency response team eyeing the road. I was directed to turned right going towards Lucena. A kilometer away I passed by the eerie looking Mountain of Faith, which was made up of life size tableau of Station of the Cross. Not farther ahead was another runner who was resting but as soon as he saw me he went ahead. I didn’t recognize him from anyone whom I later met. I didn’t try to chase him for the path was a bit uphill. I told myself I’ll catch up later. At least I caught up with one runner after Marjohn overtook me earlier.
In retrospect a couple of years back I was not at all dreaming of running a 100 kilometers but after you tried once and then managed to accomplish one, joining the 102 Bataan Death March Run becomes irresistible. Thus every 100 kilometers event I joined becomes a preparation for BDM. Last February I already submitted my letter of intent to participate the BDM102 2018. I made an error of submitting the letter online hours before the official time Bald Runner instructed to submit. BR got angry of course to the point of threatening to disqualify the 20 plus overly eager BDM warrior aspirants.
When I arrived at the 45 kilometers it was already early about 6:00 in the morning. Vhin, Alex and Cyrus of the Team Oragon Ultramarathon Runners were having breakfast beside their support vehicle located at the Pitogo Junction. They invited me to join them. Romeo also arrived a few minutes later and was also invited for a breakfast. This became an opportunity for us to get better acquainted with each other. It was here I learned that I had encountered Alex, Cyrus and Vhin earlier in ICUM and TCBS events. After breakfast I went ahead to make a courtesy stop at the Petron Pototanin about two kilometers ahead where Rodel, the RD was waiting for runners to pass by. After I left the gas station about a couple of kilometers away Alex and company passed me by Romeo whom I think was having some difficult time running with his Vikini sandal was lagging behind us. All of a sudden rain began to pelt. I feared blisters would appear and wreck havoc to this campaign later. Somewhere along the way among the uphill portion Marjohn appeared and was soon running along Vhin and Cyrus. Alex at this point was slowing down a bit. The rain, which came so sudden disappeared just as quickly and was replaced by the sun which seemed to have a score to settle with us. We were soon taking a road that has steep rolling hills. I was staring at the couple runners ahead climbing the third hill while I was at the summit of the first hill. It was an amazing sight. A zigzagging downhill soon came up. I took this as an opportunity to run so fast that I overtook once again the runners from TOUR along with Marjohn. After this I didn’t see them again for quite some time. At the 61st kilometers was Unisan-Panagon Junction. The right direction leads to Gumaca, I think. I took the left portion of the fork heading to the town proper, which lies at the 64th kilometers and was close to the sea. The name of the municipal was derived from the Spanish word, “unir” meaning unite. Possibly by reduccion, which was a practice of relocating inhabitants to a town where the Spanish government could easily keep an eye on them. Another possible origin of the name of the place was uniting the inhabitants under Uni-Sancti or one saint, which was Friar Pedro Bautista a missionary of Kalilayan (the old name of Quezon) who was canonized Saint following martyrdom in Japan.
At a 7-11 Store I met for the first time the support crew of Errald of Team Sariayaya. It turned out that he was just ahead of me a little. I was thinking whether he was the one I saw at Macalelon. But I never got the chance to ask him when I caught up with him and his crew a little bit later. Errald with his support crew extended valuable assistance to me along the route just as the support crew of Vhin, Alex and Cyrus when they caught up with Errald and I. It turned out Vhin had an injury along the way and had to bow out of the race earlier. Along the way we caught up with a pair of runners Bryne and Anthony whom I thought were also spent. But after a while they were soon stepping on the gas and left us to ponder where else to get a dose of extra stamina. I soon fell behind everyone else and entered the town of Agdangan all by myself. This was at the 73rd kilometers.
The last 30 plus kilometers were actually more sketchy to me because at this point I was already concern about whether I could actually make it before the 18 hours cut off time given that I was actually getting so tired. By the time I crossed to the town of Padre Burgos whose Welcome Arch marked the 95 kilometers of the race, I couldn’t care anymore about cut off time. All I was ever cared for was to get home and take this event as an additional mileage for my very first and farthest distance run in the event, Bataan Freedom Trail 160 kilometers Ultramarathon and Bike Tour happening in April 10, 2017. Actually I was still able to overtake Alex and Marjohn along the way but I was pretty much sure they were not far behind me and could easily wrestle my lead to them as easily. I couldn’t describe my feeling upon finally seeing the arch that says I am already out of Bondoc Peninsula and was heading down Pagbilao. In a little while longer I saw a runner who had already finished the race coming towards me. He spoke the precious words that I am nearing the finish line. Well it was about time since I had less than 20 minutes to make it there before I wind up not listed once again among the finishers just as what happened at my successful bid at Tarayem Sasanggasot. Soon I was seeing more runners this time at a shaded bus stop. I made it to the finish line just in a nick of time. I was the last runner to make it before cut off with a time of 17:55:31. Alex came about 15 minutes after followed by Marjohn. Zenik finally made an appearance to the finish line beating Romeo Jhon.
Later in the week I saw my name as among those who finally made the cut for BDM102 2018. This was a joyous occasion but also a dilemma presented to me, for I am about to embark on my first 160 kilometer race in Bataan featuring the 160 kilometers BDM route but not the one organized by BR. This might throw my chance away at running in BDM102 2018 as I have already heard in the pipeline that those who will participate in the Bataan Freedom Run would be disqualified to run in BDM. Thus my road to BDM102 was gravely in peril.