Spending My Weekend at Speed 50-Mactan

January 28, 2017 was the 9th Bataan Death March 102 event’s day. Many of my running acquaintances including those whom I first met only at the beginning of 2016 at the event, Tagaytay to Nasugbu were marching to the beat of the drum of the BDM fever. T2N for many of these friends of mine was their first ultramarathon event and now they were 102 kilometers away from taking home the much coveted kilometer road marker designed trophy that would certify them as BDM Warriors. Me, I was in Cebu again and scratching off from my bucket list Mactan Island as one of my must run destinations. Four weeks ago I only brushed a portion of Mactan on what was then called Opon or Opong, one of the settlement areas given to Lapu-Lapu by King Humabon, when at the event, Cebu City Marathon I crossed Marcelo Fernan Bridge to reach Mactan and made a U-turn at a portion of the Manuel L. Quezon National Highway. This time in an out and back race event, Speed 50 – Mactan, I went around Mactan to get a better acquaintance with the island.

 

The event, Speed 50-Mactan held last January 28, 2017 was organized by Miles Multisport Cebu Company with Blue as Race Director. It was also the same outfit that organized the, Trans Cebu Ultramarathon in which I ran 55 kilometers in 2015 and in 2016 run under the 105 kilometers category but only made it as far as 67 kilometers. Until now I am still deciding if I should put TCU 105k behind me by taking it on once again this year or should I let it go for now to give myself a chance to see and run in other places and races. Speed 50 was also held in Tagaytay last December 3, 2016 but I just finish 117 kilometers the previous week in the event, Andres Bonifacio Day Ultramarathon and couldn’t participate. In Tagaytay Blue did not fare well as an organizer. Loads of issues rocked the event such as late gun start, running out of hydration at AS 2, awarding of wrong finisher shirt, running out of trophies for the finishers.

 

In Speed 50-Mactan 107 participants saw action. I noticed that there were only 3 who hailed from Manila. The other two aside from me were Willie and Shane both from Makati and my first time to meet them.  Most of the other participants were from the different parts of Cebu. The other participants came from Palawan, Bacolod, Ormoc, Tacloban, and Dapitan City. Two foreign participants from the countries of Germany and Canada also graced the occasion.

 

Speed 50 is the opposite of TCU where the latter espouses, “Slow is the new fast” because of the numerous steep rolling the route offers, which could only mean running it in slower pace for average participants. As against Speed 50’s “Speed is of the essence” which challenges participants to finish 50 kilometer distance in sub 8 hours. With my sub-8 hours finish at the event, Hero to hero Rizal Day Ultramarathon held last December 28, 2016, I saw no problem in accomplishing the task. I was hoping that I will maintain finishing 50k sub-8 so that I might have a better chance of finishing BDM102 before the 18 hours cut off at the finish line.

 

On Speed 50’s event day itself however, I was still feeling quite not fully recovered yet from the previous week’s 65 kilometers run at the event, Paoay Church to Vigan Cathedral (PC2VC) where I finished 10 hours and 44 minutes and ranked 13th from the 44 participants. And then there was the rain that went on in the evening of the gun start. I feared that the road might be flooded in and covered from view the potholes along the way. It did not help that I chose not to bring along my headlamp even though I had it with me when I arrived at the event venue. I deposited it to the baggage counter along with the hotel keys and change clothes. As if to further sow fear into my heart an hour before gun start a power transmission blew up at the height of torrid rain and plunged the whole area in total darkness brought about by the power outage. I was thinking my quest for a sub-8 was in peril since I would probably crawl my way to the finish line to avoid stepping on potholes and other obstacle along the way. Power was restored at about 30 minutes before the gun start and I was able to give a sigh of relief.

 

The gun start was given at 10:00 pm., about the same time the gun start was given for the BDM warriors at Mariveles, Bataan. As if they were running in a 10 kilometers distance race and were pitting for a podium finish, most of the participants sprinted away. I was carried along the melee and was easily puffing along after hardly covering a kilometer distance as I tried to chase the group of runners in front of me. I could not keep up that I began to lag behind them. The race route started at Lapu-Lapu City Hall located at Barangay Pusok along Manuel Quezon Highway near a Gaisano Mall. Thinking that Hotel California was near the starting area since it was also beside a Gaisano Mall I booked it as my accommodation. However, it turn out that its location was in Basak-Gisi-Agus Road, which is about 4 kilometers away from the event venue about 51 minutes walk or 22 minutes ride on a taxi cab if the road is clear from any traffic jam which was not so on the night of the event. I had to take a “habal-habal” or motorbike, which could easily ride through tiny gaps and corner of the road to get to the event venue.

 

Runners proceeded towards the direction going to Mactan Export Processing Zone 1 passing by Mactan Marina Mall and the Mactan Airport Road. I thought I was once again at the tail end of the lines of runners since ahead of me the crowd of runners I was chasing had thinned out. It was only upon reaching the first aid station at the 5th kilometer at Barangay Buaya that I realized there were still other runners behind me. Aid Stations for this event were spaced from each other in roughly 5 kilometers apart. Once I found myself adjusted to the activity and any of the previous difficulty I was feeling dissipated I was able to run faster. We headed to Punta Engaño Road, which veered from the Quezon National Highway for our first U-turn. Punta Engaño, whose translation means “deception point” because the area seemed to resemble Cebu’s port. It was believed that a lot of ships trading with Cebu were misled to think they were heading for Cebu port but was actually passing along the bay where Lapu-Lapu’s men could easily launch a raid attacks on the ships for its cargoes and men. On the way to the U-turn, runners pass by the Mactan Shrine, which commemorates the Battle of Mactan that happened in April 1521 that led to the defeat and eventual death of Ferdinand Magellan. Inside it contains the 20 meters high bronze statue of Lapu-Lapu. A few meters away, the Magellan’s Monument, which was erected in 1866 by the Spanish Colonial Government. The finisher trophy of this event carried the Magellan’s Monument design. The road was uphill here but I run it anyway until I was overtaking Willie and Shane who told me earlier they took the first 50 kilometers of BDM in 7 hours. Also in our earlier conversation Willie was commenting a bit negatively about his friends who were running weekly in run events. I haven’t told him I did the same thing. Another runner, the 55-year old James, a former surgeon whom I had spoken with later during the run found it similarly crazy that I had already figured in around 30 plus marathons. I haven’t told him yet of my 40 plus ultramarathon runs. James plans to run in Athens, the Alps, and in New York. Not quite as crazy as I was doing. It wasn’t the first time that I sensed that some fellow runners look upon those who run in events weeks after weeks in a somewhat negative fashion although they say it as a joke. How much more by those who doesn’t run at all? They seem to think this spending spree on running and exposure to future injuries as a stunt. I’m kind of reminded of Rolf Potts the author of the book, Vagabonding, who also felt the lifestyle he and other people like him chose to pursue was way too self indulgent and foolish. Potts was espousing a vagabonding lifestyle which entailed travelling for an extended period of time. Potts wrote, “Vagabonding is, was, and always will be a private undertaking and its goal is to improve your life not in relation to your neighbors but in relation to yourself.” People react negatively maybe because, “they might take your growing freedom as a subtle criticism of their own way of life. Because your fresh worldview might appear to call their own values into question or at least force them to consider those values into a new light.”

 

After the U-turn, which marked the 10th kilometers of the race I was again retracing the path going back to the Quezon National Highway. For some time now I was very much curious at what can Mactan offers by way of attraction since I had not seen much from the area near the airport and from my hotel. It turned out that various swimming and diving resorts lines up the eastern and southern portion of Mactan and all of which could easily be reach by Public Utility Vehicles plying the road I was walking at most of the time I was in Mactan trying to kill time before boarding the plane back to Manila.

 

Once again I was passing by the Mactan Shrine. Historian Dr. Gerona wrote that in spite of being given land for settlements, one of which was Mandaue or Mandawili, which Lapu-Lapu was able to develop into agricultural cultivations that further enriched the trade port of Cebu. The other land given to him, Opon was unproductive and may have forced Lapu-Lapu’s hand to plundering ships. The name Opon and Mactan was probably not the names given by Lapu-Lapu to the land where he built his community. Opon, whose variation Opol has a meaning “to block a river or pass with tree” while Opang means, “to create enemies or quarrel with others”. On the other hand, Mactan or Magahat means, “to kill or injure with the purpose of plunder”. We have now a very clear picture of what was Cilapulapu or Lapu-Lapu was meant to Humabon.

 

Upon exiting Punta Engaño Road we turned right to Quezon National Highway heading toward Barangay Maribago. The 15th kilometer Aid Station offered beer and barbecue among other goodies. I did not drink beer as I was still not quite sure of the benefit of beer in running. Since I started running I had drank less beer. After a quick hydration I resumed running once again but this time I kind of slowed down as I began to feel exhausted. Willie and Shane once again made their appearance and took the lead from me. I am no longer worried though, of being among the last runners because I have seen on my way back from the U-turn that there were others way behind me. I noticed that there were a lot of Korean Nationals in Mactan. There were also Korean establishments especially near the resort areas but not as many as those I saw in Angeles City. We passed by a few of the Koreans who were still up along the route. The next Aid Station was at the 20th kilometers along Barangay Marigondon. The road that intersected with the Quezon National Highway to the right leads to another series of beach resorts. Our race route was to the left towards Maximo Patalinghug Jr. Avenue where Basak and my hotel accommodation were located. It was just a couple of hours ago that this road was overflowing with vehicles now only puddles of water and exposed pavements to run on. The race route was heading towards the other end of Quezon National Road in Barangay Pusok were the race started. But Just before touching base with Quezon Nation Highway a U-turn awaited us.

 

The U-turn also served as the 25th kilometer Aid Station. At this AS resting were Willie and Shane. I wanted to take this as an opportunity to get ahead of them once again so I quickly spring back to the road and resumed my campaign now retracing our way back to the starting area. At about 300 meters I was doing intervals of walking and running. I was soon catching up with the 55 year old James and his two Cebu Road Rhythm Teammates. At first I thought I caught one of their teammate cheating when suddenly another runner joined the group of James after I thought I saw him coming out of the other side of their support vehicle. I was not really sure if this fourth runner were with them all along for I haven’t noticed him earlier. So, from then on I was keeping a close watch of the 4 runners to see further proof that they were cheating.

 

At 30th kilometers near Mactan Newtown Condominium another Aid Station awaited the runners. While hydrating I espied a couple bearing white paper cups emerging out from a corner hidden from my sight inside the property of Mactan Newtown. I guess this place could probably be the only other place where a Starbucks could be found aside from the ones in inside the Airport Road and Airport itself. From this AS runners soon turned right and once again running the Punta Engaño Road. Just before the U-turn another runner a female one joined James. I had not seen her earlier tagging the group of James. I was pretty sure now there was something fishy going on. However, after the U-turn I had a chance to speak with James and learned from him that his teammates where just pacing him and were not participants of the event as they failed to register in the race. With only 8 more kilometers to go James expressed his decision not to anymore tire himself further. He said that he would just walk the rest of the way. He believed that even with him walking he could still achieve a sub 7 finish. I was tempted to follow his lead and continue with our conversation. But the thought of possibly finishing sub 7 was more inviting for me so I bade James fare well and proceeded to run passing once again and for the last time the Mactan Shrine.

 

Said to be overwhelmed by military temper and wounded pride, on April 27, 1521 Ferdinand Magellan with sixty well-armed men who all lacking in battle experience along with Humabon and native men boarding 30 balanghai, they arrived at what came to be called the Magellan Bay. About 1,500 of Lapu-Lapu’s men from Opong and Buaya were already waiting and keeping eyes on the approaching fleet. Magellan’s ship docked about 8 kilometers away off shore and proceeded to approach the shore via smaller boats. Humabon and his men were told to stay put and watch the attack. Magellan’s musketeers and crossbowmen fired upon the shore but with the distance of about 60 yards they inflicted minimal damage and casualties. Magellan’s men succeeded their landfall and started burning houses at the nearby coastal settlements. Little did Magellan know the natives were actually luring them to a close range combat for which the Spaniards were absolutely unprepared to engage with. When the natives finally engaged the attacking forces, the former aimed their attack at the vulnerable portion of the Spaniards, which were at the exposed legs not covered with armor. One poison arrow utilized by the natives hit Magellan’s right leg. Magellan’s men began retreating hastily leaving Magellan with only 6 to 8 of his most loyal soldiers. There were different accounts on how exactly Magellan met his death but what basically occurred was that Magellan was soon identified by the natives and focused their attack on him. Weakened by his wound he was easily exposed to lance attack from the natives who soon gang up on him. Magellan was possibly hacked to death by his assailants. Magellan died in the area of Punta Engaño, which was at some point known as Punta Pangusan which means, “nose eaten by leprosy”.

 

As I got out once again of the Punta Engaño Road and spilled the Quezon National Highway this time on the return trip to the Starting area for the finish, my thoughts turned to my other fellow runners running in the BDM. Unlike Magellan whose odds were against him when he faced up with Lapu-Lapu’s men, the BDM warriors enjoyed one of the odds working for them-the weather. Unlike in the other edition of BDM in which the unrelenting heat of the sun was a vicious opponent especially along the route between Dinalupihan, Bataan and San Fernando, Pampanga, in this year’s edition the sun was mum by the prevailing cold front sweeping the northern portion of the Luzon. As I was nearing the 45th kilometers and the last AS, I also imagined the glee of the BDM warriors who almost halfway through their journey. They would soon either be looking forward to the second part of the BDM series which is the 160 kilometer distance or like others who settled to put an end to the madness of joining run events and move on to other less extraneous endeavors. For my part the last 5 kilometers seemed still quite a distance to cover with my diminishing strength. I shuffled once again from running to walking to preserve enough strength for a possible dash to the finish line. I checked my watch and saw that I wouldn’t make it sub-7. But at least I made it sub-8 which was after all the whole point of this event. I decided to walk further. About 300 meters from the finish line I was still able to over take another runner. Upon sighting the finish area I removed my running goggles and made a dash for the finish tarp. Upon reaching the finish line I saw at the event clock that I made it 7 hours and 9 minutes. 9 freaking minutes short just as when I joined the Pinoy Fitness Sub 1 10k Challenge in July 2015 in Baguio City thereby missing getting a finisher medal for Sub 1. Although in the past I had done sub-1 in 10 kilometers, it seem I couldn’t repeat the feat since I started running marathon and ultras. I found out later that I rank 52nd out of 107 participants. 94 of these 107 participants were sub 8 finishers. James was escorted by his teammates to the finish line garnering a time of 7 hours and 31 minutes while Willie and Shane came with a time of 7:39 hours. Not quite the latter’s BDM’s first 50k finish. They did not actually finish BDM either and was probably looking forward for a return bout. Maybe in the next edition of BDM we’ll get to see each other again.

 

 

From Western Visayas To Eastern Visayas In Two Weekend Run

According to history one of the earliest places the Spanish colonizers settled in the Philippines was the island of Panay in the Visayas in 1566 when Juan Miguel De Legaspi arrived and settled in Oton, Iloilo. In my earlier years of joining run events I ran twice in Boracay Island, which is part of the province of Aklan. Aklan is one of the 4 provinces in Panay Island along with Antique, Capiz, Iloilo and with the inclusion of Guimaras, which is a separate island together form the Western Visayas Provinces under Region VI. This year I visited Antique to participate at the event, 3rd Antique Marathon held November 13, 2016.  The 3rd Antique Marathon and happening the following week, the 1st 50k Antique Ultramarathon was organized by Manuel Magbanua, Jr., a native of Sibalom, Antique, a runner himself who took upon himself and friends of promoting running in the province.

 

Run event however, is not new in Antique.  In fact, last September 25, 2016 Bald Runner held the 4th Antique 100 and 50-Mile Ultra Marathon Race. The event had 14 participants for the 100 miles category and 2 for the 50 miles category. Their starting area was located in San Jose de Buenavista with their finish area at Caticlan where Boracay is just a ferry away. For the 3rd Antique Marathon there were only 14 of us participants in the 42k. Most of the participants were from outside of Antique and only about 4 local participants with one of which actually hailed from Cavite but for 6 months had been residing in Sibalom due to work. Aside from the marathon there were two other categories in the Antique Marathon: the 21k category where 28 runners participated while in the 10k category 11 joined.

 

During my stay in Antique I was billeted at Adelaine Traveler’s Inn located in San Jose De Buenavista, the capital of Antique, which is 9 kilometers away from Sibalom, the starting area of the 3rd Antique Marathon. San Jose is 2 hours away from Iloilo City or 5 hours away from Kalibo, Aklan for those who opted to book their arrival via Kalibo Airport.  Just as what I experienced in Cagayan De Oro, Iloilo International Airport is located farther away from the main city.  In Iloilo’s case about 19 kilometers.  To get to the city a shuttle van such as those of Susie ferries people for a fare of P50.00 to SM Mall Transport Terminal while P70.00 from SM to the airport. Jeepney heading for Oton would then take you to the Molo Transport Terminal where you can take shuttle vans to San Jose for P100.00.

 

On the way to San Jose via Iloilo-Antique Road you would be cruising along with the sight of Iloilo Strait at your left side most of the way. 30-45 minutes away from Iloilo City, the UNESCO inscribed, Baroque Romanesque architectural styled Miag-ao Church or Santo Tomas De Villanueva could easily be seen along the road. Built in 1793 Miag-ao Church which doubled as defensive fortress against Muslim raiders also boast of its ornately decorated bas-relief façade that featured St. Christopher dressed in local and traditional clothing carrying the Child Jesus on his back while holding on a coconut tree depicting the tree of life. About 15 kilometers from Miag-ao Church just before finally hitting Antique lies the lesser heralded San Joaquin Church built in 1869. Its façade featured a military themed bas-relief depicting the Spanish victory over the Morrocan forces in Battle of Tetuan.  The coast temporarily gave way to forest and mountain views upon hitting zigzagging uphill climbing PC Barracks Road. Once the sight of the sea returns you are already in Antique plying the Tobias-Fournier-Anini-y Road heading towards San Jose de Buenavista which lies about 13 kilometers away.

 

After we were launched from the Starting area at 3:20 a.m. in front of the Plaza of Sibalom, the race route led us along the Hamtic-Bia-an-Egana-Sibalom Road heading for the town of Hamtic. Just as in my previous run I was again hampered by attack of acid reflux, which caused my chest to tighten. I shuffled from running to walking and back at the beginning of my run. Casting further shame on my performance being the last runner, an ambulance shadowed me for a while until I picked up speed as my condition improved. At around 4th kilometer of the race I saw one of the Manila based runner and a dragon boat paddler, Jeremy who seemed to have loss some steam and was also reduced to alternating run and walk. I soon over took him. I expected a couple more runners might be just a couple of hundred meters ahead of me.  I was not actually worried being left behind because I was thinking that many of the runners who pulled away early would probably burnout later in the race. I thought so because when I saw earlier who were running in the 42k I thought a few of the participants were probably new in the sport.  After hitting Tobias-Fournier-Anini-y Road via R. Javier Street, I was at the Town of Hamtic. Hamtic, which lies roughly 10 kilometers from the Starting Area was the place were 10 Bornean Datus who were escaping repression of the Sri Visayan Empire in the 13th Century settled after purchasing land from the indigenous Ati Chieftain Marikudo. The festival of Ati-Atihan celebrated in Kalibo Aklan was an event commemorating the peaceful turnover of land to the Sultan of Borneo who purchased land from the local Ati community in the 13th Century.

 

San Jose de Buenavista was some 7.4 kilometers away from Hamtic. As we were entering San Jose’s town proper just after Gaisano Grand Mall, Jeremy soon took the lead from me but he took a wrong turn on the way to the Aid Station in front of the Provincial Capitol Building he quickly gave up his lead.  From here we headed off to the National Road and run into a junction in which the left side leads to Bantayan Road passing by my hotel accommodation.  A marshal was waving at me along the right side of the junction or PC Barracks Road and as soon as I approached him me instructed me to take the right turn to the narrow Salazar Street and then left to Cerdaña Street and right turn again to a road leading to Barangay Inabasan, Hamtic. The route was almost like plying the National Road I took in Catanduanes where there were rice fields on both side of the road and the sun peering menacingly.  Somewhere at the 23rd kilometer another Manila based runner Mark who is Jeremy’s co-paddler gave up his lead. We were soon passing by the previous 2nd Aid Station and heading back to Sibalom. As we hit the 27th kilometers we were instructed to turn left toward Barangay Catungan. This was the dreaded “dirt wall” portion of the race which was a 5 kilometers off road passing through rice fields and would terribly enjoy the full beating of the sun since this portion had lesser shade to take cover from. At the end of the dirt road awaits an Aid Station. The marshal there told me that 10 kilometers separates me from reaching the finish line.  I don’t know if the marshal had made a mistake in telling me about the 10 kilometers distance or that I just did not noticed the passing of distance as I ran for when a motorcycle riding marshal passed me by a bit later he told me that there are only 5 kilometers left to go and after taking the U-turn at the bridge leading to Belison the Finish Line was only 4 kilometers. At that moment I could already see the bridge and was probably 1 kilometer before I reach it.  It was already a little pass 9:30 a.m. time was winding down fast with the 7-hour cut-off time at 10:20 am. When I finally got to the bridge it kind of reminded me of the Sacobia Bridge in Mabalacat, Pampanga which I crossed in the event, Clark Animo Run earlier this year. Aside from the bridge being long and run above a wide silted out river, the time I crossed the bridge was about similar. Right at the middle of the bridge another 42k runner Rough Rap was on his way back from the U-turn. He had already ran the Antique Marathon 3 times already. On my way back from the U-turn the two Manila runners behind me were also crossing the bridge and were in close pursuit. The last 4 kilometers was not actually a simple walk in the park for me as I was already terribly depleted by the heat of the sun but I still managed to eked out a trickle of stamina to finish the race with a time of about 6 hours and 20 minutes ranking 12th from the 14 reported participants. The organizer actually posted a race result that was not accurate which placed me as the 5th finisher when the rank should probably belongs to the much stronger runner Joni another Manila based runner whose root was from Tibiao, Antique.

 

After landing in Western Visayas the previous week I soon found myself hugging Eastern Visayas as I stepped off the Tarmac of Daniel Romualdez Airport of Tacloban City. It has been more than 15 years since I was in TaclobanCity and therefore I am quite sure my familiarity with the place had been wiped out clean by the storm surged of time just as Tacloban City had underwent when Typhoon Haiyan or locally known as Yolanda ravaged the province in November 8, 2013.   I found myself again in Tacloban City to participate in the event, Tacloban City To Basey, Samar 50k Ultramarathon (TC2BS) held on November 20, 2016.  Tacloban City is the capital of Leyte, which together with Samar and Biliran forms the Administrative Region, Eastern Visayas designated as Region VIII.   From the airport I travelled on a tricycle heading off to Tacloban City. The fare for the trip was P150.00 for the 9 kilometers journey while it would be twice that amount if airport taxi was the choice of transportation. Actually outside the airport Public Utility Vehicle plying Tacloban City to San Jose could be had at a fraction of the fare mentioned above.

 

During the duration of event I was billeted at a hotel along Zamora Street near downtown, which was a walking distance to the Santo Niño Parish Church of Liberation located at Real Street corner Zamora Street.  The front of the church was to serve as the Starting Area whose gun start was schedule at 4:00 a.m. the following day. The church should not be mistaken for the Sto. Niño Shrine and Heritage Museum also found along Real Street. The latter is a two-storey building that the former First Lady Imelda Marcos built to pay homage to the Holy Child while the former, a church which houses the image of the Holy Child the patron saint of Leyte known as El Capitan. The image was originally lost at the sea on its way to Manila in 1889 and 6 months after was recovered by a fisherman from Semirara Island.

 

There were originally 127 listed participants but in the race result only 125 ran and finished the race before the 10 hours cut-off. 2 foreigners – one from the USA and the other from Switzerland – had seen action. Among those who were familiar with me who participated came from Manila were Alberto, Arniel, and the couple Jojo and Tally whom I met in the event, 3rd Antique Marathon. After the gun start was given at 4:28 a.m. participant took the length of Real Street south bound heading for Palo, Leyte where Gen. Douglas McArthur landed before liberating the Philippines from the Japanese forces in 1945. As usual I started slow that even Alberto left me far behind. The route had the San Pedro Bay at the left side. It was therefore not surprising to think that when the Storm Surge brought about by Typhoon Haiyan hit the Region most of Tacloban City, Palo and Basey, Samar took the brunt causing so much devastation and death since these places lies along the coastline like beachcombers.  The first Aid Station was at the 7 km in front of the Bureau of Internal Revenue Building and just 2 kilometers away was the McArthur Landing Statue where the runners got photographed by Griv.  When I arrived at the monument it was still quite dark.  I noticed Griv was not using camera flash and since the photographs were not posted online unlike the other photographs taken from other portion of the race, I assumed the photographs taken from McArthur Landing Statue probably did not turned out properly.  From the monument the runners followed a road that was not identified by Google Map until we hit Tacloban-Baybay Road. At the left portion of the road I caught sight of the Palo Cathedral or the Metropolitan Cathedral of Our Lord’s Transfiguration built by Jesuit in 1596.  The Church, I read was apparently damaged by Typhoon Haiyan.  However, I don’t know if the current look was a result of the repair done because of the damage for I felt it was a bit over done for an old church who prior to Haiyan was requesting funding assistance for restoration works from my former employment at the National Commission for Culture and the Art (NCCA) through the Subcommission of Cultural Heritage (SCH).

 

At the 13th kilometers we turned right and run all the way until we were back at the area near the BIR building. Along the way I met the 63 year old Zenik Chavez who also ran in the event, 1st Isla Catanduanes Ultramarathon (ICUM) under the 110 kilometers category. From this road, runners took right to the Pan-Philippine Highway heading towards Tacloban City, which was a long flat road. From afar I caught glance of another runner donning an orange jersey. I was hoping to further improve my ranking by trying to catch up with the runner and overtake him but he was just simply too far away. Soon I saw several other runners ahead running the right shoulder of the road.  Their paces had dipped low that I was able to pass by some of them. Runners turned right on a busier but narrower National Road leading to Samar. The road was undergoing road widening and the diggings added to the challenge of the race route. Along the way I managed to overtake several more runners.  After a long run on a combination of rolling and flat road I got to a portion where there was a fork on the road.  The road turning right was the way to San Juanico Bridge while the other road heading for Babatngon where I thought the Yolanda Shrine was. Since there were no race marshals to instruct me on which road to take I went instead to the road that I thought would take me to the Yolanda Shrine. I thought in the race route map runners had to go first to the Yolanda Shrine before heading for the San Juanico Bridge. It was a good thing that a tricycle driver told me that the other runners turned right. I run back and took the proper route. When I saw there were other runners about to reach the junction I motioned to them to take the right road.  Later just to satisfy my curiosity regarding why I thought I was originally right on taking the road to Babatngon I went back to the race map and saw that what indeed runners where suppose to go along Babatngon heading for San Juanico Golf Course and Resort.  San Juanico Bridge was the 34th kilometer of the race and the length of the bridge is about 2.5 kilometers. From the bridge we pass by a statue that turned out to be the Yolanda Shrine mentioned as part of our race route. We run 2 kilometer following the road right of the statue and turned back to head back to the Yolanda Shrine where runners were directed to take the left road which leads to Basey, Samar which lies 11 kilometers from the rotunda. I think either the additional 4 kilometers we took before heading for Basey was to make up for the original plan to have runner take Babatngon since upon also checking the race route map there was nothing there indicating the U-turn after the Rotunda where the Yolanda Shrine stood. I already visited once Basey when I was still with the NCCA before. Almost another lifetime ago I went to Basey, Samar because the NCCA-Committee on Monuments and Sites had allocated P150,000.00 to have a team to inspect St. Michael The Archangel Church a 17th century church build by the Jesuits with limestone and adobe materials. The church which acted as watchtower against marauding Moro raiders during the Spanish Colonial time sits on a hill that looked out over the Golden River and San Juanico Strait. Other structures also visited included Buscada Cemetery Chapel, Tribunal, a Baluarte ruins and Suhotan Cave which lies 30-45 minutes boat ride along Basey River.  Another thing that made Basey, Samar quite renown was for its mat weaving which I was told was being done inside a cave. I finally made it to the Finish Line inside the St. Michael the Archangel Church at 12:10 pm with a time of 8:14:18 and ranked 98 out of 125 participants however, I had to rush getting back to Tacloban City which lies 30 kilometers from Basey for I had already exceeded my stay at the hotel and my scheduled flight back to Manila at around 5:45 pm. So even after the actual race I was still in flight mode and only got to relax when I was finally settled at the airport lounge trying to look back what had transpired over the weekend and contemplating whether the mileage I got would be enough to sustain me on my next run the following week which will feature 117 kilometer distance.

 

From T2N Take Two To The Falls Run in Bataan

After emerging victorious at TNF100 2016 with bruised knees, I set my eyes on conquering the 10th Tagaytay to Nasugbu held in May 8, 2016. I already ran in the Tagaytay to Nasugbu in 2014 when it still held two events in a year one in May and another in December. The one I happened to participate before was the 8th T2N, held in a much cooler month of December. This was the last time T2N was held twice in a year and in December. Finishing T2N then gave me a lot of confidence since this was my first time to run under the event of Bald Runner who is known to organized badass run events. Finishing the 10th T2N now when the temperature is searing hot would be a true test of mettle.

 

I thought having survived the hot temperature in the events Batoq 66 and Mayon 360 I would be quite formidable and invincible to the whim of the prevailing surge of temperature brought about by the El Niño. But what had embraced me in the 10th T2N almost brought me down to my knees. Speaking of knee, another thing that almost played a spoiler role in my quest was the bruised left knee I incurred at TNF100. My left knee had swollen and because of it I had difficulty bending my left leg. Thus hampering my walking and with a slightest touch my left knee exploded with pain. It seem that missing T2N was almost at hand and I was willing to accept it. After all my registration to T2N comes from offsetting my previous registration at 5th Fort Magsaysay to Dingalan 65k Ultramarathon an event from last year which was canceled due to typhoon. I planned before to have my registration transfer instead to Mariveles to Bagac the newest run event of BR but the scheduled initially coincided with Mayon 360 and so I decided to transfer the earlier registration to Tagaytay to Nasugbu. It seemed that I would be transferring once again my registration to another event or completely abandoned any thought of claiming offset. By Thursday however, the swelling had disappeared and I was even able to run a short distance though my left knee still hurts a bit.

 

On the day I was boarding the service van, I learned that Shiella the Shuttle service provider, was also running the 10th T2N. This was to be her first ultramarathon. She was converting the van into a support vehicle that would provide hydration at the 25th kilometers and the 46th kilometers. I was volunteering to act as support crew in the occasion I was not able to get a race bib for this event. However, the God of Running was generous with me, I got my race bib and was sure set to run T2N after all. This year the number of participants had shot up to 197. Many of the participants were probably running T2N as part of the requirement for running the 102k and 160k Bataan Death March. As a consequence of this sudden swelling of number of participants there weren’t enough Finisher Medals and Finisher shirts during the event and would have to be distributed later as I experienced in the 8th T2N when runners from the Milo National Marathon upon its postponement due to typhoon registered on site at T2N.

 

In this year’s T2N I saw more familiar faces than I had when I ran in the 8th T2N. This means many of my acquaintances will be running the BDM. Add this to last year’s finishers of BDM many of which were my running acquaintances. It is now becoming clear that most of the people I previously run with had already run the BDM. I am the only one that had been skirting the BDM. Should I feel any pressure? Among those who run in this year’s T2N were Peewee who is becoming a much stronger runner than the first time I knew him, Rob and Speedy Turtle who I ran with in Batoq 66 and Mayon 360. Tina the barefoot queen was also seeing action. So does mang Mando whom I ran with in 3rd Cavinti Trail run upgraded to ultramarathon. Another runners from Mayon 360 were Jhon of Team hero and Elmar another barefooted runner running this time with his five finger Vibram.

 

At gun start I tested the water whether my left leg can handle the task. I felt like there was a stopper lodged at my knee and could only extend it to a certain length. I was moving terribly slow. However after perhaps about two kilometers along Tagaytay-Calamba Road and then hitting the Tagaytay-Nasugbu Road, I forgot about what was hampering my left knee. I could run a bit faster though I chose not to tackle the uphill like I did in the 8th T2N. A new concern arose. This time my stomach was acting up and I was in need to take number 2. I tried to endure it for a moment and focus on trying to catch up with everyone I knew including my van mate Dana a finisher of BDM in spite of having run just a couple of 50k ultra. She was a moment ago just running along side of me before she sped away and was gone from my sight. Day light came quite quickly. I remember from my 8th T2N that when I was passing by Mendez and Alfonso the surrounding then was still dimly lit. Now the sun was already beaming when I was passing along Twin Lakes, which was probably around 18 kilometers.

 

One indication that I was probably at the last portion of the queue of runners was when I saw Elmar passed me by while I was tucking my reflectorized vest and headlamp inside my hydration vest. In two races I saw him, he usually finish last. Another indication was my not being able to catch a glimpse of Shiella our Van provider. One of my co-shuttle Van User told me she was ahead of us being paced by another van mate. Finally, I sighted a gas station lying along the left side of the road that I can use to dispense myself of my troubles. As a rule of BR runners cannot cross the right side of the road for whatever reason. Seeking for gas station, which normally has toilet lying on the left side of the road along Tagaytay-Nasugbu was not easy since at the left side of the road was usually lies ravine. Upon reaching the 25th kilometer along Batulao Sandari area the sun was already scorching. This would be the norm all through out the route. I kind of envy those with support vehicles since they have unlimited hydration and refreshments while on my part I contended myself with what was on my back and what I could buy along the route. Bottled water was the most difficult to come by along the stores lining up the road. While those selling coconuts were usually found at the right side of the road. I survived on soda, “ice-water” or premature frozen water and sometime from the generosity of the other support vehicles, which extended whatever they can from fruits, water to sponge bath. The traffic of the incoming vehicle was as it was before which was frequent and unforgiving that was why I usually ended up running along the shoulder of the road ala trail running. The heat had really dampened my stamina and so I could only do a lot of zombie like walking. I was not however, falling far behind for I could still see ahead of me runners, which I could have easily overtaken if the heat hadn’t taken a toll on me. But from a couple of support crew I had spoken with there weren’t many at may tail and I was not far from ending up like how I finished from the couple of BR events I participated with after the 8th T2N, which was usually near the last runner to cross the finish line before the cut off time. In the end I managed to prevail finishing the race with a time of eight hours and thirty minutes. I managed to finish with a rank of 167th out of 188 who finished the race.

A week after Tagaytay To Nasugbu on May 15, 2016, I was thinking that after TNF100 I had enough of trail running for a while. But the trail leading to Pasukulan Falls in Pag-Asa, Tala, Orani, Bataan was beckoning me. I was actually trying to set foothold in Bataan through running so that I can add Bataan among the provinces I was able to run in. Although previously I was able to run in Camaya Coast located in Mariveles, it was more of a beach and trail at the fringes of Bataan. I wanted to have a longer line of road from Mariveles in absence of what running at the 102 kilometers Bataan Death March Ultramarathon could provide. The event 1st Mountain View Road to Trail Run was just one of the way to induct me to the other portions of Bataan.

 

1st Mountain View Road to Trail was a 26 kilometers run event that started from St. Joseph Bakhita Parish Church. On the way runners passed by Vista Tala Resort and Recreational Park, which is located about 1.5 kilometers from the staring line. This was where the concrete road ended and the trail began with steep uphill, which the 36 participants tackled, some like Ricky Runner and Tatay Caesar strongly other like RDF and I leisurely. Along the route in front one had a command view of Mt. Natib with clouds hovering on top of the mountain. One could also espied at the rear portion of the route the majestic Mt. Arayat towering above the sea of clouds while Morong lies at the eastern portion with the sea feeding Subic’s coastline. Trekkers usually traverse the trail from Morong to Mt. Natib. At about 4 kilometers was AS1, which featured Binutas View Deck. After that it was mostly wooded and light foliaged area along the route until Pasukulan Falls. From the moment RDF and I touched the trail I was bit careful with my steps. Whereas before when I was first time running the trail I was usually running without much care at the ground I stepped upon, nowadays I was careful. This was since a couple of trail events when I noticed I easily trip and quite often on rough surface especially when I am already tired. Someone told me I had problem with proper balancing. I almost avoided trail run events because of these but I still dream of running some of Jonel Mendoza’s trail events and I still have to do my revenge run on Mt. Ugo before thinking of retiring from any trail running.

 

Mountain View was not actually one of the most difficult trail events though it has a fair share of challenging uphill and downhill that I was not spared from my usual fare of falling off my butt along the route. There were quite a number of river crossings with one dried that almost looks similar to the one that had me losing my way at Pico De Loro. Some were just a bit of a puddle of muck. I was seemingly off my elements when crossing two of the shallower rivers where I still managed to find my foot slipping off the rock or missing the rock completely and landing squarely on the water. At about 3 hours since gun start several runners had already passed us by returning from the fall. I had hoped since Ricky Runner and Tatay Ceasar had passed us by that the u-turn was just a little less than two kilometers away and the other runners were just having time swimming at the waters around the fall. So that we could level a bit the time between us by just making a quick stop at the U-turn. Finally we heard the unmistakable sound of water falling and voices of people probably taking a swim. We were nearing the U-turn of the race and it look like our target time of finishing the race before 12 noon was indeed achievable. But before we could finally reach Pasukulan we had to climb down a steep slope whose foothold had gotten so loose and powdery that one might easily slip all the way down. Aided by a lone vine I rappelled down. RDF who was in front of me disappeared to which I thought he just simply dashed off. When I reached where a marshal was waiting for the incoming runners, RDF was still nowhere to be found. I thought he might have gotten lost along the way, which was impossible for the path was straightforward. After a couple of photograph session with the falls at the background, I was settling down to take a rest when RDF appeared. It turned out he took a #2 somewhere. Some runners who had came in earlier and had just finished taking a bath at the cold waters of Pasukulan were getting ready to take the trail again. Among them was the Greeneye Runner whose troll hair or wig is the one that is actually green. After a couple of photo ops with them they left. RDF wanted to move closer down the water of the falls but I relented for I wanted to leave immediately. Then those three runners trailing behind us suddenly made their appearance. This was our cue to leave in spite the desire of RDF to take a dip on the water. The need to avoid finishing last was much stronger especially those who were trailing behind us were a married couple and a local runner who had gotten slow after we overtook him after AS 2. On the way back a couple of long steep uphill met us that had me huffing and puffing. But my TNF 100 experience was able to sustain our assault. Then mostly downhill to a more leveled path, which kind of made the rest of our trip less eventful. At AS1 the three runners behind us was almost closing in on us so once again we dashed off. Finally we were on the concrete downhill portion of the race. With a time of 6 hours and 30 minutes we finished the racecourse but not before the 3 runners we thought were the last runners behind us overtook us at the last 2 kilometers. We could not summon enough strength to catch up and therefore was not able to salvage our pride. However a hot Lomi meal after the race was almost enough to assuage our bittersweet finish.

Facing Another Formidable North Face 100 In Baguio

It was just around 6:00 p.m. of April 30, 2016 but up there at the trails of Camp John Hay darkness had already engulfed us and the only sources of light illuminating our path came from our individual headlamps. Raindrops continue to trickle down but you could sense any moment it will cease without being notice.  I had difficulty seeing beyond few steps ahead of me as my sport goggle became fogged from heat emitting from my body and interacted with the cold forest temperature around us. As we hiked along wet trail and knotted roots I saw myself falling behind my companions. I kept calling out to ask for their position but RDF’s voice was becoming less and less audible by the seconds that passed by until finally I couldn’t hear any of it if ever he managed to call out back. I am just 3 kilometers away from accomplishing my come back run in The North Face 100 2016 50 kilometers category, which happened in Baguio City where two years ago I failed to finish it. I regretted it so hard for several months. My last year’s finish of the 50 kilometers of TNF100 held at Nuvali, Sta. Rosa, Laguna was almost enough to assuage my feeling but I felt I had to conquer Baguio if I want to find my peace.  With the finish line so near I should not worry anymore but finding myself all alone with vision impaired inside a forest played back the fear I had before deciding to quit at 32 kilometer at Mt. Cabuyao 2 year ago. I was worried then that if I continue I might find myself blanketed with darkness with headlamp suddenly failing and shoes not suited well for mountain trail running I might fall into a ravine. Earlier while I was at the first 3 kilometers of this race with darkness still bathing the surrounding at a little half an hour away from our 4:00 am gun start, I tripped on an exposed rock and hurt both my knees. I was luckier because another runner actually fell in one of the chasm and was brought to the hospital due to injuries sustained during the fall.

 

Having difficulty keeping track of the route marker I was having trouble of moving ahead since I had to test every direction to see if there were path leading to the next marker. Then all of a sudden from behind me 2 foreign runners running the 100k passed by. Their headlamps served as a beacon beckoning me to follow until their lights flickered out. Soon some of the reflectorized markers buzzed to life as they capture light from my headlamp. There were occasion that it took a kind of leap of faith to just keep on going because distance among these reflectorized markers were far in between the next. On the occasion that there were no reflectorized markers the TNF flag-lets tacked on the bark of a tree could be discerned. I must be coming close to the end of the trail for soon a cordon of TNF flag-lets lined up the path and slowly the sound emitting from the event ground was becoming louder. I was taken aback when out of my periphery vision appeared a marshal pointing me to my next direction. I emerged at last from the trail beside Le Monet Hotel and landed on the road. At a nearby restaurant people cheered and clapped as I passed by. When I first joined TNF under 22k in 2013 I watched as runners from the 100km and 50 Km ran towards the finish line. People were cheering them like they were heroes coming from a battle. I said then I wanted to experience this. Last year as I was making my way to the finish line at 9:30 pm there were no more bystanders to cheer for me so I had to make noise for the organizers and marshals to be alerted of an incoming finisher. It was silence and sleepy announcer that greeted me when I made it to the finish line then. This year, I finally felt like the hero I imagined the runners were two years ago as they make their way to the finish line. Bolstered by confidence, I waved at the incoming traffic to keep them to my right. Hero passing, I though to myself. Soon I saw the TNF starting Arch. More cheers and clapping welcomed me.  As I was turning left of the road and into the dirt leading to the finish arch I ran carefully lest I find myself tripping once again this time to my embarrassment. But as soon as both of my feet were convinced the ground was solid enough I accelerated and dashed shouting something I could not remember what, may be “revenge” as I did in Salomon last year. I had to be told to freeze for a while for the photo op before the medal was hung around my neck.  The photo op at the finish arch, this is another thing I wanted so much because last year my photograph at the finish line did not materialized at any album concerning last year’s TNF100 event.

 

I came to Baguio with RDF who was doing 50k of TNF 100 for the first time. He ran in the 22k the previous year. He was supposed to run along with me but just before the gun start he drifted towards his running acquaintances, which almost felt like everyone. For my part I approached a few of mine like Arel who was running TNF100 for the second time. He first joined in the 100k category of TNF100 2014 and DNF when he was at Ampucao after not making it within the cut off time at the Aid Station. I met him in Team Malaya’s Gold Rush Mountain Marathon where the route took us to Ampucao.  After photo op at the famous Gungal Rock at Mount Ulap on the way back he DNF again. This year was his third attempt to surmount a race that featured Ampucao. Unfortunately in the end he didn’t succeeded once again. I also saw Adrian whom I met at Sagada Circuit Marathon and who along with RDF had DNF with.  He would find himself having knee issue and would slowly find his way to the finish line before he clocked out finishing third to the last. Finally to Jun who was the last runner to finish the Batanes Winter Marathon. He finished fourth to the last.

 

By gun start at 4:00 am I was all by myself, which was fine with me since I usually start slow as I tried to acclimate my body with the activity. RDF probably dashed off with his other companions, which included Jorge, whom I met in Bulacan 360 ultramarathon. He shortened his formerly long lock and shaved his beard otherwise he would end up looking like his two other running companions and be mistaken as triplets. I tripped and bruised both my knees at the first 3 kilometers but I simply brushed it off. From the height of 1,612 meters above sea level the path had a sustained downhill thrust leading to AS1, located at Kadaklan Road at some 4.49 kilometers from the Starting area. From this location runners run the trail that continued to descent going through a settled area where stairs and concreted path lined up the route. AS2 was located somewhere at 9 kilometers away from AS1 at Gumatdang, Itogon at 728 meters above sea level. I dressed with bandages the bruised knees I earlier incurred after someone pointed out they were bleeding. From here runners then took a short hike through concrete road then turned left toward a gravel-covered terrain heading towards another town. A hanging bridge then dirt road awaited runners before heading off towards the entrance of a trail leading runners to an almost endless series of uphill until the concrete road at Ampucao heralded by the transmission tower somewhere at 1,612 meters above sea level. About 6 50k runners had already come down from where I was going. I thought either the u-turn was nearer than I thought or this was something like what happened with me at Akyathlon where barely making it to the 15 kilometer when two Japanese coming from the opposite side of the path had passed me by. I ended up DNF also in this race for failing to make it to the cut off time by mere 10 minutes.  I also caught up with Adrian who was struggling to hike the uphill I really thought that he won’t make it on time for the cut off time. However, this year the medal count is much higher than the participants and it seemed that even if you didn’t make it on time to the finish line you will still receive a finisher medal unlike in the past events. This what kept Adrian going. Some portion of the trail was familiar with me as it was the same route used in the Gold Rush Mountain Marathon. With the banning of too much tourists activity at Mt. Cabuyao, this year TNF100 was not given the permission to include the former as part of the route. As a result the formerly 100k route that took them to Ampucao became the 50k U-turn area while the 100k’s route became more breath taking with the inclusion of Philex Ridge and other feature. AS 3 lies at the 29,05 kilometers at the Barangay Hall of Ampucao the base camp and where those hiking up to Mt. Ulap usually registers. I finally caught up with RDF and his company at the Barangay Hall, while quite earlier I passed by the sleeping Jorge in one of the trail before hitting Ampucao. I was looking forward for the rice porridge, which initially I thought had already gone out so I had to buy a rice noodle. But soon the rice porridge, which was being saved for the 100k runners were brought out once again since probably marshals saw that there were lesser 50k runners left to stop by at AS 3. I place a special mention to this rice porridge because of how it rejuvenated me in 2014 at Mt. Cabuyao and like wise at Tagaytay Highlands last year. I joined RDF for a while on the way back from AS 3 but I lost them along the trail only to catch up with them once again somewhere after the AS 2 after the series of stairs, which RDF mentioned had exhausted him.  I got separated with them once again after AS 1.

 

Later while trying to warm myself with cup of instant noodle and rice meal, I heard that the 100k runners who were at the 66 kilometers of the race and where caught up with the rain where eventually succumbed to DNF since the path became quite difficult to hike through and the again darkness had swept the area.  Out of 250 plus runners who left the starting arch only 90 runners were able to finish the race for the 100k. For the 50k runners it seems every one made it to the finish line. I clocked my finished time at 15 hours and 23 minutes ranking 215th.   RDF was consoling both our friend Daryll and Luis who both ran in the 100k but DNF telling them that next year he will take the 100k with them. I on my part having seen that the runners from the 22k category had gotten quite a very decent medal was thinking of probably running in the 22k.

 

My Second Helping on Kaybiang Tunnel Route

 

June15, 2014 I ran in Run Mania’s event, Independence Day 50k Ultramarathon that took runners from Kawit, Cavite to Kaybiang Tunnel in Ternate. I failed to finish within the cut off time by 38 minutes. This was my third ultramarathon. My first encounter with the long uphill going to Pico De Loro DENR base camp and the route going to the Marine Corp. Command and then into Kaybiang Tunnel was one of my most challenging run then and it I had left its mark on me. A year after that event I once again crossing road with this route at the race event, 2nd Naic to Nasugbu 50k Ultramarathon which happened November 15, 2015 organized by one of the of the country’s bad ass ultramarathon and trail running events organizer, Bald Runner.

 

I was still reeling from the previous week’s Mt. Pinatubo 50k Trail Challenge and my battle with cough had gotten worst. I was really seriously thinking of putting this run off but I got a companion accompanying to this event so I couldn’t back out. Besides, this was a road run and I had already experienced a portion of this route. Maybe, I could pull this off much better than Pinatubo, I thought to myself as we hopped in the bus at D. Jose Terminal of Saulog Bus Company.

 

The starting line for this race was at Naic Town Plaza and it ends at the Petron Station in Nasugbu owned by another retired General and friend of BR. It is the same finish line of Tagaytay to Nasugbu Ultramarathon. Almost replicating the number of participants of Mt. Pinatubo 50k Trail Challenge, there were 32 participants for 2nd N2N. Once again after the gun start was given I immediately occupied my usual place at the tail end of the line of runners. Due to my ailment I was operating half of my capacity that my pace was even much slower than my usual, soon this gave way to creating a wide distance between me and the other runners. I cling to the belief though that I was not the last runner since I kept passing by some parked support vehicles, which probably means that they were still waiting for their runners to pass them by. Being familiar with the route I was not at any least worried of getting lost along the way even if I could not anymore spied any runners ahead of me. Nearing the uphill going to Pico De Loro, I was taken aback when from behind me came BR the race director who was acting as sweeper. I tried to run faster but I soon run out of steam. BR reassured me not to panic. I learn from him there was still another runner behind me. BR over took me and took the uphill as if it were flat surface. He soon disappeared leaving me quite in shame. The uphill at least didn’t bothered me anymore like it did before. In spite of taking the uphill walking, I believed I was making good pace.

 

Just as I was to hit Pico De Loro Base Camp, I saw another runner having some trouble with his legs. I know it was bad but I felt elated that there might be other runners I might soon be passing by aside from the runner who was cramping. The lure of a rest and probably eating breakfast at the DENR base camp however, was getting the better of me. Just as I was enjoying drinking a cold soda the last runner I was told about came running by urging me to push on. I was at first determined to take it easy but the realization that if the other runner I passed by could muster enough will to run he might overtake me leaving me with the possibility of becoming the last runner. With my condition I might also trail way behind everyone else that might even discourage me to finish the race if I don’t hauled up my ass and move on. So, reluctantly and still exhausted I returned to the road to try to chase after the formerly last runner whom I thought I could still catch up. Noticing that he was a bit stouter than I, I thought he was much slower yet, I couldn’t see him anymore ahead of me. The road turned downhill. It was supposedly easier to negotiate but my stamina was low I could not take advantage.

 

Happening the same day that we were running 2nd N2N was the event Philippine Marine Corps Marathon organized by Front Runner Magazine under Jonel Mendoza also a friend of BR. There were runners running their last 10 kilometers coming from Kaybiang Tunnel. I was running at the opposite lane they were running at. Mine was mostly downhill though. The last time I ran here the sun was burning us out so bad, I thought I might collapse along the way. It was sheer will and persistence that I withstood the heat and made it to the finish line then although beyond the cut-off time. Now I fear that I might not actually redeem myself after all if my health would not allow me to go on beyond the Kaybiang Tunnel and into Nasugbu, thus failing in my attempt to completely close out the 360 degrees route I have ran spanning from Tagaytay all the way to Kawit and back again to Tagaytay.

 

Along the way I chanced upon some running acquaintances running the Philippine Marine Corps Marathon including the 72 year old Master Vic. Others were probably looking at me quite amusingly because not only I was all by myself and was coming from Naic, Cavite. They probably know I still have a very long way to go before I set my eyes to the finish line while theirs was just a couple more uphill to go. Soon I was crossing the Kaybiang Tunnel on foot for the second time of my life. The view of the coast from the Nasugbu-Ternate Highway welcomes me but I didn’t have the luxury of time to linger and take in the vista. I stopped by at PMCM Aid Station to ask for refill for my hydration. They were generous enough to provide me and even wish me luck on my run. From here on I stopped by at their Aid Stations whenever there was a need for me to get refill for my hydration. Soon I was heading to uphill portion of the route which I thought would be the last of it. An ambulance stopped by me and asked if I am still doing fine. Actually at that point I wanted to quit. Not because my health had gotten worst but rather I thought that if I am to quit this race I might as well do it while it was still too far from the finish line so that I could enjoy the early exit. Besides, quitting when finish line was nearer would actually be more difficult to explain the reason for quitting which was how it was with me with Tarayem Sasangasot. However, I fought the urge since by my estimate I have already crossed probably the half of the race already. Along the way I was able to speak with one of the last runner from PMCM. He was lamenting the fact that there were quite a lot of uphill in their race route. For my part I encountered rolling hills that seem to go on forever passing by the same route as the PMCM until finally I reached their U-turn. I caught their marshals packing their supplies into a military truck. As I approached, the race marshal offered me a cold Gatorade. It was like manna from heaven and almost gulped it down in one take. By this time I was in a more flatter portion of the road. I could not imagine from what I was staring at ahead of me, which was a series of mountains how I could end up along the national highway to Nasugbu. My fear then was that I would be crossing those mountains ahead of me somehow.

 

Soon I was passing by Hamilo Coast Resort. According to BR about 3-4 kilometers of flat road separates this portion of the race to the next uphill. The sun was becoming intense by the hour. In one of the uphill I passed by Calayo Road, which leads to beach resorts. The road I took was undulating. At Natipuan the road was a steep downhill. Upon reaching to bottom I saw that another uphill was in the offing. At this point I was so tired I decided to rest at the shoulder of the road. The wife of the runner who I previously saw whose leg was cramping passed by going towards where I came from. I was thinking if she was going to get her husband because he was quitting the race, if they passed me by I might go along with them and quit the race as well. After I emerged from the uphill I was soon negotiating the road passing by Terraza Del Fuego and then later Kawayan Cove. According to my estimate 5 to 6 kilometers separates me from finishing the race but from what I was seeing in front of me the road still runs endlessly without showing me I was any closer to Nasugbu. I was begging the Gods to have me taken by the sweeper already since I could not make it to the finish line within the cut off time, which was down to 20 minutes away. On the other hand, I was thinking that I should endeavor to finish the race even if I make it beyond the 9 hours cut off. Just so, I could complete the route and probably still be given my medal although my name not anymore mentioned in the list of finishers. Finally I was crossing a bridge that was leading to the town of Nasugbu. I was already 15 minutes beyond the cut off time but the timely appearance of a fellow runner on board of a vehicle informed be that there was a mistake in setting 9 hours as the cut of time. It was actually 10 hours. Therefore I was still very much in the contention. Then they were off to tell the other runner behind me about the development. I was down to the last 3 kilometers but this distance proved to me even much longer. I was already running along the town of Nasugbu in search of the Petron Gas Station but the station was nowhere to be found. I was almost running at the end of the town yet I couldn’t see the finish line. I feared maybe I did a wrong turn somewhere or probably the finish line was at the other end of the town. The time was again ticking down against me. The just as when my will was giving up I saw the banner. Soon I was hearing the familiar cowbell being rung. I crossed the finish line with a time of 9 hours and 37 minutes. I am the last runner to officially make it within the cut off time. BR told me to train harder. I was just glad I wouldn’t have this race listed among my DNFs. BR mentioned before the start of this race that this route was more difficult than his Tanay 50 kilometer Ultramarathon, which means maybe I still have one more race with BR aside from the postponed Fort Magsaysay event, before I could finally consider his other more challenging events.

 

Pushing Pass Pinatubo

 

Since my failure to conquer Tarayem Sasangasot 100 last September some of my earlier laid out plans didn’t fell through as expected. When typhoon Lando made a landfall in Aurora Province on the day we were suppose to run in the event, 5th Fort Magsaysay to Dingalan 65k Ultramarathon last October 18, 2015, typhoon signal number 4 was raised all over Nueva Ecija and Aurora provinces the very venue of our ultramarathon event. Wind was howling while rain on the time of the gun start was raging as if hell itself had broken out. Rarely done, Bald Runner, the Race Director had to cancel the event an hour after the supposedly gun start. The delay was due to the hope that by some miracle the typhoon would abate and make it possible for the event to push through. While I was eager to test my mettle with the new race route deep inside I fear we were facing the risked of being chased and eventually restrained by the very military personnel occupying the Fort itself we were to be launched to prevent us from becoming typhoon casualties which the province was trying to avoid. My other fear was being caught by media covering the typhoon and be seen by TV audience as bunch of running wackos and would only earn the ire of the people and authorities seeing us braving the typhoon instead of the admiration for the dedication to the sport. When I got home news of floods hitting the province of Nueva Ecija and other devastations in the nearby province of Aurora flashes the television screen. It sent shivers all over me similar with how I felt when I escaped falling over a ravine in one of my trail run after tripping over an exposed rock.

 

Following the aftermath of the typhoon, another race event in Nueva Ecija, the 1st Cabanatuan 360 Ultramarathon organized by Prince Multi Sport Event happening on November 22, 2015 faced uncertainty. When I inquired whether this event would still push through for I noticed the absence of promotion recently by the organizer, which to me was a sign that the event was facing a possible postponement. The organizer’s response was not reassuring when I finally received answer to my query. So, I opted to quickly register in another event happening in November 21, which was the Subic International Legacy Marathon. Thus ensuring that for this year I would not be seeing Nueva Ecija being added to my list of provinces I had ran in north of Luzon.

 

Another event I thought I would miss was the 6th Mt. Pinatubo 50k Trail Ultramarathon happening on November 8, 2015. The reason was that I had a nasty cough bugging me for about a week and I had not been doing practice runs on weekdays. However, I had no plan of sitting this one out and wondering if I could run again in Mt. Pinatubo without hitch later. This was in spite of the fact that this Mt. Pinatubo 50k Trail Ultramarathon was organized by Bald Runner, a sure guaranty that this event was no push over kind of event.

 

Returning to commuting in getting to the race event after having opted several times for paid shuttle services, I felt I was returning to my earlier running tradition of going to run events all by myself without any idea who I will meet and how I will fare in the event. Taking the Genesis Bus bound for Tarlac whose terminal in Recto Avenue is just a 10 minutes walk from my residence I arrived in Capas around 1:30 am. I breakfasted at Mc Donald’s and afterwards took one of the tricycle bound for Sta. Juliana about 24 kilometers away with a fare of P350.00. At around 2:00 am I was the first runner among the 34 participants (of which 2 had arrived later after we had left the starting arch) to get my race bib. After fixing my running gears I had a short shuteye. Later I heard the voice of a running acquaintance and saw another whom I recently met in the postponed run event 5th Fort Magsaysay to Dingalan 65k Ultramarathon. I had an arrangement with the latter to share gas fare for a ride back to Manila along with two other runners. At promptly 5:00 am the gun start was given. Darkness still cloaked most of our surrounding and with no map of the trail we were taking nor markers to be expected along the route, the runners tried to run closer to one another to avoid getting lost along the way. Bald Runner instructed the runners with the enigmatic, “keep heading south and stay on the left side”, and in case of doubt follow the river whose water originated from the crater of Mt. Pinatubo itself. Most of the runners ahead of me (and I think, those who sanely join BR’s run events) were seasoned runners with some having ran at least the Bataan Death March 102k and 160k series. A few had recently conquered West Coast 200K Ultramarathon. There were 3 foreign runners that I assumed was not in this event to simply sightsee the Mt. Pinatubo crater but to conquer the brutal challenge and compare it to what they have came across with in their respective origins. The runners ahead of me soon packed speed and distance until I could no longer see the flicker of their headlamps. Thankfully there was still someone in front of me close by to keep me on track. I was quite sure there were just a couple of us runners lagging behind everyone else.

 

Daylight finally trickled in and ushered a vista that was quite bleak yet breath taking at the same time. The huge expanse of land we were running at was mainly covered with Lahar sand, which originated from the bowels of Mt. Pinatubo, which it spewed in 1991. There were shallow tributaries of the river flowing from the Mt. Pinatubo crater heading towards the direction where we came from. Some portions of my footpath were either too sandy that my feet sank while there were portions where the ground was soft because it was wet. Our bearing was always to head straight where the tiny dot of a runner way ahead was last seen. Other than that just keep heading where soon the 4×4 vehicles taking tourists were making a v-line.

 

The first Aid Station was at the 9th kilometer. I re-hydrate and took in some solid food. A couple running behind me took this chance to take the lead from me. They were occasionally looking behind them and beyond me. They were probably looking for their other companions. Other than that I expected that I was the last runner. I was struggling to run faster. From this AS the path to Mt. Pinatubo seemed to open up even wider. Soon I was crossing path with some of the 4×4 vehicles and saw the tourists boarding them were eyeing me like I was Bear Gryll, Cod Landin or Ed Stafford from the Discovery Channel Survival series. There were occasions the best path to take were those farther away from the tracks of the 4×4 vehicles were taking since they sometime took a more roundabout route than the route I chose which was simply to tread straight ahead. There was this occasion I thought I was nearing the area were the farthest the transportations can bring tourists was located. But it turned out their vehicle stopped because some of the passengers were simply taking photographs of the environment and was soon wheeling off again disappeared among the many snaking bends. I tried to keep up this time walking against a much bigger flowing river.

 

Way back in 1998 I went on a Mt. Pinatubo trek trip organized by the Department of Tourism. Back then the 4×4 vehicles park much farther away than it does now. We had to trek for about 2 hours going to the crater and another 2 back. Now it only takes about 30 to 45 minutes for tourists to reach the crater from the area the 4×4 vehicles were parked to wait for the tourist.

 

Since I had no idea of the track taken by the other runners ahead of me I sometime took the ones where it was much more precarious. I ended up traipsing along areas with a lot of huge boulders, sometimes soft and crevices pocked grounds near a river and elevated portions of the ground that completely hid the 4×4 vehicle passing by the opposite side of the path I was taking. The situation were much different on the way back were I could follow the shoe tracks of the runners ahead of me which led me to the other path they did passed by earlier. One of my apprehensions about Mt. Pinatubo was the temperature. Thankfully, in spite of the sun shining high the taller ridges cast shadows that kept me in shade in most of my travel.

 

The next Aid Station was at the 19th kilometers. As I was leaving this station the first runner returning from the U-turn came to view. I noticed he was not wearing anything that could contain hydration and other stuff that would hamper his run. The time was just little over 9:30 am – a lot of time still before the 11:30 am cut-off at the crater. But I felt I need to run faster because the 5 to 6 kilometers to the U-turn might take me even longer time since this was supposedly the uphill portion of the race. At this junction, I was already trekking along with other tourists who had arrived earlier with their 4×4 vehicles and were now hiking along with their hired guides. I still had no idea if the trail that I was taking were the correct ones I just make up my path as I go along the way whenever there were no tourists trekkers to show the way. More of the runners ahead me were now coming back from the U-turn. The path to the crater proved to be easier than what I had experience in Batad and Sagada trail runs. I soon reached the tourist view deck overlooking the crater below but this was not yet the U-turn. I was directed to go down the crater via series of staircases reminiscence of the ones in Batad and Sagada. Upon reaching the lake I had my photo taken with the lake and the inside portion of the rim of the crater at the background. One of the runners was having a good bath at the water of Mt. Pinatubo, which I had hoped I would indulge myself in also just as I did in the cold spring in Hungduan. But aware that I was slow to run the course I decided not to linger longer along the lake and hit the long staircase leading up again.   I thank again my stars for not making the staircase as challenging as those of Batad and Sagada’s. I reached the camp along the rim of the crater and rested for a moment to gather myself.

 

The return trip was supposedly much easier because by this time I could follow the path taken by other runners and also I felt much more energized than when I was still at the earlier stage of the race. But this time the sun was much higher and I could no longer hide behind the shadows of the ridges. I quickly consumed much of my hydration and that the AS became important stops for me. The AS 5 kilometers from the crater provided me with the much needed refilled of hydration and solid food. For me the most difficult moment I encountered in this race was the last 20 kilometers. Left on my own I resumed my trek by getting in the middle of the wide expanse of land always heading straight following the river. Wading along the shallow water, my shoes kept on filling up with sands so I had to remove the sand several times. Walking along the water was kind of soothing to my feet though that was why I kept it up for a while. The wind had also picked up and there were areas where whirlwind forming. I arrived in an area I thought was already the 40th kilometer. Two soldiers were manning the area. There were no hydration refill and instead I was asked if I still wanted to go on with the race. I said I wanted to for I have already pass way ahead of time the cut off time at 11:30 am at the crater. I thought I only had 10 more kilometers to go on with still 3 hours to spare. After passing this area I kind of got disoriented. Maybe the sun was getting on me. Perhaps probably my disappointment of not having a cold drink of matter or electrolyte drink, what simply occur was that I could not anymore recognized where I was, where I am heading. Nothing seems familiar. The temperature was pretty much high and then all of a sudden I heard loud explosions behind me. Somebody was bombing something. I was far from where the explosion was coming from therefore I did not worry that I might be hit with something. But it was surreal that I was in the middle of nowhere and there were explosions going on. I was hoping that the path I was taking would led up towards the finish line by this time if my assumption was correct that the last manned station I came from was the 40th kilometer. Instead I ended up nowhere near getting close to possible exit from the wasteland. Then I saw two tricycles speeding from the opposite direction. I tried to flag one but it just passed me by. The second one slowed down. I ask if I were still heading towards Sta. Juliana. I was told affirmatively. Soon I saw a vehicle parked along the bend. To my further disappointment this was just the 39th kilometer. I refilled my hydration bottle. A 4×4 vehicle stopped by carrying some of the race marshals. I learned that there were still three more runners behind me. I checked my watch and it says time was already winding down. I moved on this time I saw familiar portion of the race. But I felt I was already spent. This last 10 kilometers of the race was equally hard because after I came out of the familiar track I was again lost. I couldn’t see any tracks of the other runners. I don’t know where to head to without it. I was just relying on the tracks of the 4×4 vehicles but I was not sure if it was the same path that would take me to the finish area. I could not see where I will get off the Lahar dune. I remember that BR mentioned about new building of the military and tower, which I was seeing in front of me but I can’t see where to get off the Lahar area and into the solid land were people and normal vehicle ply. I followed the 4×4 vehicle track it led me to the national road but I was told this was not the right way so I went back to the trail. I walked until I saw another bend that led back to the town. With almost nearing the cut off time, upon reaching the first sari-sari store along the road I tried to buy me a soda but no one was manning the store. I went back to the road. Farther ahead I saw the school where our vehicle was parked and the finish arch above the road. I ran towards it even if I had so little to give. I ran until I was hearing the clanging of bell announcing or maybe welcoming my arrival. Before I knew it I was already standing under the finish arch being congratulated by BR himself. I finished with a time of 11 hours and 19 minutes ranking 31st from 34 runners. One more runner made it to the finish line before the cut off time. I could not properly thank the people who welcomed and waited for me at the finish arch. I was so overwhelmed with the experience. But I know that this was not yet my last bout of BR’s race for the week after I was again in one of his event which was equally challenging.

 

 

 

Hero to Hero: A Telling Tale of Two shrines.

History have dealt Andres Bonifacio a poor hand when in the height of the uprising he instigated he was tragically put to death by those very people who responded to his call to arms. Now more than a hundred years hence, his memory in the place where he lost his life seem to be still being trampled upon like the very trail that leads to his shrine at the foot of Mt. Nagpatong in Maragondon, Cavite. I may have spoken too harshly, but upon my visit at Bonifacio Shrine, which had me trekking at 2.75 kilometers of perhaps muddy during rainy and dusty at dry season off-road path going to the shrine and circling the thicket thick picnic area inside the shrine, my impression may not be too far off.

Bonifacio Shrine in Maragondon served as the finish area for the Run Mania Philippines Promotion, Inc. event, Aguinaldo to Bonifacio: Hero To Hero 50k Ultramarathon held June 21, 2015. The race began at Kawit, Cavite where the well taken care of and often visited Aguinaldo Shrine sits. Upon gun start at 1:00 pm 233 runners bolted out and ran along the race route that saw the towns of Novaleta, Rosario, Tanza, Naic, Ternante. Unbeknown to the runners they were taking a rolling path that would culminate to an epic 7.5 kilometers uphill crawl in Ternate heading to Mt. Palay Palay National Park. Runners inhaled and exhaled awe with being close to nature and curses for the seemingly unending uphill slope. The U-turn was situated in one of the area that might have serve as the National Park’s jump off point for Pico De Loro climb. An Aid Station was likewise set up to serve refreshments and brief respite to help runners gather themselves before hurling themselves once more on the road now turned downhill to make up for the time eaten away at the uphill. Along the highway at Ternate, runners then took an initially asphalt paved road heading right direction from the highway and seemingly into the bosoms of the mountain. This road eventually led to a rough road that ushered runners to the final stretch going to the Bonifacio Shrine. I wondered whether those who were settling this dismal portion of Maragondon were equally being punished for their forebear’s part in revealing the location of the tragedy that had struck Andres Bonifacio?

My visit to the Bonifacio Shrine brought about by my participation to A2B was actually my second visit. Earlier this year I came to Bonifacio Shrine via my participation to Pico De Loro 42k event. In that previous event we came to the place via trail that went through quarry, hilly terrain and farm. Once inside the shrine, runners ran around the premises and even went up the mountain of Mt. Nagpatong where Bonifacio might have met his end. In the current run event the final 2.75 km of the race was off road, which for the first timer to the place may cause him or her to wonder how could a proper shrine be situated amidst the jungle, unless it is Angkor Wat. One couldn’t shook the feeling that the faction of the Katipunan that saw Bonifacio’s coming to Cavite as a threat to those who held sway in Cavite still maintain up to the present the same aversion to the memory of Bonifacio and expressed it on how his Shrine was maintained in Cavite. It is as if people were deliberately being put off to visit the shrine so that the aspect of the history that saw betrayal of one personality against another would not be highlighted. I could not help my suspicion due to some account by historian Ambeth Ocampo who related the story about how in the 1920’s in an attempt to desecrate Bonifacio, his alleged bones were stolen at the National Museum and then were later found scattered among the garbage near the office of Aguinaldo’s cohorts. But with the previous ordeal one went through along the 53.7 kilometers stretch of the route especially at the uphill between the 37th and the 44th kilometers, maybe the above concern could just simply dissipate into the air and instead wonder, upon reaching the finish line, whether to rest as how Bonifacio had been put to rest wouldn’t be such a bad idea after all.