Sharing My Manila To Sierra Story

I thought after the 117 kilometers Andres Bonifacio Day Ultramarathon (ABDUM) there is no more event worth taking notice about. I am thinking instead of filing a sort of yearend report on my running activities.  This is in spite of having still two more run events for me to go to before the year actually ends. However, one event, the Manila to Sierra 65 Kilometers Ultramarathon organized by Coach Roel Amabao-Ano had left quite an impression on those who participated in it including me and therefore deserved some attention.

 

The event happened last December 17, 2016 where it had its gun start in front of the triangular plaza of Manila City Hall at 11:00 pm. The event was participated by 125 solo runners and probably just a couple on the relay category. Among those familiar with me who attended this event were as follow: Robinson, Jaime, Noel and his fellow Team Cabalen; the couple Levi and Girlie who DNF in the event Ibtur under the 160k category where I last saw them; Marielle who ran 65K in ABDUM; Cross dressing Fabulous Running Diva Yssa and Fritz running with headdress on and with Frinze in barefoot; Jham who was co-organizer of the 1st Isla Catanduanes Ultramarathon (ICUM), which kind of made it difficult for me to hide from his invitation to take the 110 kilometer category of the second ICUM; Davao based Nars who recently ran in Penang Malaysia; Nancy who I last saw action in the run event Bohol Marathon; Anton another runner who had not ran in any event for a very long time; RDF, Rona, Peewee who all DNFed at ABDUM. However about a week ago, RDF and Peewee redeemed themselves with their 100+ kilometers finish at the event 24 Hour Crazy Run. I think there were a pair of Japanese participants and representatives of various running clubs such as Ayala Triad, P.I.G.S., Team Arunkada; and bunch of first timers in ultra marathon running.

 

Upon gun start runners took Taft Avenue north bound passing by the Bonifacio Monument designed by Ed Castrillo which I cannot help feel was a nod to ABDUM event done two weeks earlier. The route then took runners towards the direction of the Art Deco style building of Metropolitan Theater and Quezon Bridge. Thankfully Quezon Bridge had been undergoing some repair for quite some time now and thus prevented runners from experiencing the unimaginable stinks this important structure kept at the four covered portion of the bridge’s entrances and exits as these were turned into public latrine by street dwellers. The passing runners also perhaps interrupted the commerce of pack of young snatchers preying upon PUV passengers lulled by the slow moving traffic or cut off from the world with their smart phone’s headsets.  From the bridge one could gazed upon the brackish Pasig River that served as highway during the Spanish Colonial Period flowing below the bridge, while the skyline bannered a tired city cross pollinated with influences from various culture such as Islamic, Catholic and American.  As we reached the other end of the bridge I observed that in spite of the lateness in the evening, The District of Quiapo was still abuzz with people trying to catch a ride home now suddenly disrupted and curiously watching the passing runners. They were probably asking what sort of craziness was going on.  Crisscrossing runners who were trying to avoid bumping bystanders and vehicles headed for Recto Avenue. Upon reaching Isetann’s Department Store runners turned right to the formerly portion of Calle Azcarraga starting from Binondo terminating at Calle Alix now Legarda. Runners would be following the elevated tracks of the slithering LRT Line 2 until it runs out of track at Santolan Station. I read somewhere Recto the present day university belt was once home to various houses of ill-repute. We were running at the right side of the road following the flow of traffic which was against the usual practice of runners to run against the flow of traffic which usually at the left side of the road. We turned left upon reaching Mendiola. The statue of Don Chino Roces never cast a glance at us nor to those who tried to march towards Malacanang to express opinions, to decry or to petition something to whoever sits as President of the country for behind the statue is the street going towards Malacanang Palace. I entertained a thought wishing that particular street passing by Malacanang which exits at J.P. Laurel and into Ramon Magsaysay Boulevard should have been included in the race route.  Instead we followed Legarda heading for Arellano University and then the Flyover Bridge that will take us across to Ramon Magsaysay Boulevard. While running on top of the Flyover I can’t help feel that I am once again in the event, Condura Skyway Marathon. Unfortunately for this coming 2017 the organizers of Condura Skyway Marathon had already announced that there would be no Condura Skyway Marathon as the organizers wanted to assess the event’s success and find out how it could still be improve. The convenient store, 7-11 however, which had been holding run events at Skyway for the past two years after holding it at Cavitex will be the sole organizers that would still provide opportunity for people to experience running on top of the Skyway. Another thought that occurred to me while running on top of the flyover bridge was a dream to run in an event that will feature the busy streets of the city of Manila that would include San Nicolas, Binondo, Escolta, Sta. Cruz, Quiapo, Legarda, Santa Ana, Ermita.

 

Another runner who also ran and DNF at ABDUM was Elena probably already on her mid-fifties who hailed from Cavite. She spoke of her concern of getting lost along the way if she could not keep up with the other runners since she is not familiar with the streets of Manila.  I was initially keeping close watch of her as we ran but she seem to be doing fine and was in fact running a bit stronger that it was I who was having hard time catching up on her. I along with RDF, Rona, Alvin of Team Heroes Philippines and Elena’s husband who was doing a relay were occupying the last place and enjoying the privilege of last runners of being shadowed by a motorcycle riding marshal. Upon arriving at SM Sta. Mesa we took the foot bridge to get to the other side to Aurora Boulevard. I noticed that from Ramon Magsaysay Boulevard the road was actually slightly uphill already. The sidewalks after SM Sta. Mesa were also a bit darker and populated with sleeping homeless denizens of the city.  The first Aid Station was located at the 8th kilometers in front of Robinson Place’s Magnolia. At Cubao we once again climbed up a footbridge and upon getting off it we were heading for Katipunan. Along the way we chance upon Rose, one of the female runners who regularly run 100+ kilometers distance but now busy providing passing runners with water.  It was long pass midnight yet still more people were out on the street. I think this made it seemingly safer for us participants than when the streets were devoid of people which most likely will attract people with malicious intentions. After Katipunan we headed for Marcos Highway. At this point Elena’s husband was suffering from either cramps or some other issue with his legs. He was at the point he wanted to quit but his wife egg him on to keep going however slow it might take him.

 

We were soon running along another bridge with the view of SM Marikina. We were now in Marcos Highway or a portion of Marilaque which is short of Marikina-Rizal-Laguna-Quezon and referring to the 110 kilometers road traversing Marikina Valley, Antipolo, Rizal, Sierra Madre, Sta. Maria, Laguna until Infanta, Quezon.  In July 11, 2015 I joined the event, R2L2Q which utilized a portion of Marilaque in an 85 kilometers ultra marathon event. What was missing in that route was the Marikina portion which I was now passing through. The Cordillera based Team Malaya also attempted to have a 110 kilometers ultramarathon event that would covered the whole span of Marilaque but the event was shelved for either fewer participants or logistics issues. The next Aid Station was at the 16th kilometers near Sta. Lucia Mall. Manning the AS were volunteers from the running club Pinoy Aspiring Runners (PAR) with Elmar another runner who DNF at ABDUM welcoming us and Red Knight shooting photos of us. The AS had pizza among others which was timely because I was already famished. Although I mentioned that we were the last runners, that position was pretty much tenuous as the other runners would suddenly appeared from behind us when we took time to stop by or we were the one over taking those who were stopping by their support vehicles or convenient stores.  The next AS was at the 19th kilometer at Masinag, Antipolo City.  The footbridge we crossed finally had runners running at the left side of the road. At the top of the footbridge was Day Walker who also DNF at ABDUM but did the 24 hours Crazy Run successfully. He took our photographs by the bridge. Last 2015 I attempted to join the event, Sierra Madre Ultra marathon organized by Ariel Cortez.  Its race route started from Masinag and ended at Sierra Madre but after I registered I noticed that there were only about 10 of us running in that event. The previous year it had 15 which included Levi and Girlie. I did not anymore bothered to show up because at that time I was still quite bashful of ending up last with huge time disparity among the participants whom I suspected then were most likely elite runners. I did not know if that event pushed through for there was no race result published in the organizer’s website. At least in this event I would finally experience that route. Upon getting off the footbridge we stopped by at 7-11 Store to rest for awhile, while RDF bought something to eat. A couple of other runners were already resting there and having coffee. I felt the air was becoming colder. Soon talks among the runners resting turned to the topic about running shoes as one of the runners was wearing a Hoka brand shoes whose model was for trail running. He told us might as well wear trail running shoes since the pavements of the country were rough and uneven. RDF related how his Altra’s sole pealed itself off at earlier this year’s event, Mayon 360. While my Saucony ISO Triumph pealed its sole off at the 10th Tagaytay to Nasugbu Ultramarathon. These happened when the pairs being sold in the stores were actually older stocks according to the one wearing Hoka. When we returned to the road we encountered a steep uphill before it gradually leveled off.  From here on until the 35th kilometers the road had about 300 meters gain in elevation. Rona spoke to me about a possible cut off for those who will not make it at the 35th kilometers by 6:00 am which she heard mentioned at the starting area. This got me worried because earlier Rona mentioned that she was currently undertaking therapy for both of her legs which suffered some torn muscles. If I will pace along Rona I might not make it to that cut-off time. So, I began to speed up until only RDF was keeping up with me. The next Aid Station was found at the 25th kilometers along Cogeo public market area.  RDF and I then passed by a fork on the road the one on the left led to Pintong Bukawe, San Mateo, Rizal. The place which featured two huge stone tablets with the 10 commandment inscribed in it, was in the movie, Bike To Love starred by Solenn Heuseff. It was one of the places popular among trail bikers. Last July 2013 I ran in the event, Merrel Adventure Run. This event was the last trail run event Merrel organized. Recently, Soleus held a buddy trail run event there which RDF had participated. Along the way RDF mentioned of a beautiful church around the area of Boso-Boso which we found ourselves passing by. I was only familiar with the St. Joseph or Baras Church which was one of the oldest in Rizal since I had visited it once and Morong Church with its Pagoda style façade that I have not yet visited, but not Nuestra Senora de la Annunciata of Boso-Boso. Another church that I had not yet visited is the Saint Idefonsus de Toledo of Tanay which had been declared National Cultural Treasure my previous office the NCCA.

 

The Manila to Sierra route from start until finish line actually totaled only 60 kilometers that was why upon reaching the 35th kilometers runners were required to double back for another 2 kilometers and then return to the Aid Station at the previous 35th now 39th in order to augment for the missing distance. At about 5:45 am we reached the 35th kilometers. From here we learned that Alvin had quitted the race while Elena’s husband managed to reach the transition area and had his daughter continued with the next part of the relay. Rona also managed to make it at the 35th kilometers although there was no truth about the cut off established in that area. Rona found two new runners Angelo and Edmer to pace along her who were both first time ultra marathon runners.  At the Aid Station in the 42th kilometers we once again had Elmar and Red Knight manning the AS. At this point we noticed that a lot of motorcycles passing along were becoming frequent, larger in numbers and a lot noisier therefore quite annoying. They were seemingly heading the same way we were heading. From the 40th kilometers to the 45th kilometers the road elevation had about 200 meters loss. But from the 45th to the 50th aside from the gain in elevation of 500 meters the route became winding. At the 45th kilometers I left RDF who seemed bent on reaching the finish line uninjured while I favored trying to reach it in faster time. While assaulting the ascents the quieter bicyclists were also quietly enduring pedaling the uphill stretch. Occasionally I received “a thumbs up” from a few of them. RDF was hot on my heel along with another runner and was able to catch up while I was resting somewhere near Palo Alto. We then spotted one of the female PAR volunteer jogging along the uphill. When she passed by us she told us Seannah Swift another elite female ultramarathoner was doing her Long Slow Distance along the same route and the PAR volunteer was trying to catch up to her. Not long after, Elmar on motorbike also passed us by. Upon resuming our run I once again speeded up and left RDF. This time it was Elena and another female runner Rhaymond whom I overtook while they were looking for a spot to take a leak. Up ahead I also caught up with Noel who was thinking of quitting the race because his right foot was a bit swollen and in pain. He was wearing a pair of slippers. He told me he left his running shoes in one of the roadside store a few kilometers back but was not sure if he could still remember which if he tries to retrieve it back.  I gave him a pain reliever then I moved ahead. I reached a portion that had an uncanny resemblance of a place I saw in Batanes which lies beyond the Municipality of Uyugan.  The only thing missing there was the strong wind I encountered along with the view in Batanes. Then I chance upon a spot probably a food house with viewing area that showcase Laguna Bay. As I was admiring the spot I saw in a signage that the place was just the 47th kilometers. I fought hard the urge to swear but I couldn’t help myself.  I seemed to have travelled quite a lot already for the spot to be just the 47th.  At the next Aid Station however I was told that I was already at the 55th kilometers. Feeling relieved I cheerfully went on. At another eatery by the road I chance upon two Team Cabalen runners, Rendell and Charito who were eating. Rendell treated me to a small plate of pancit and soda. I told them that I saw Noel somewhere after the 50th kilometers and was about to quit the race. But ho and behold about a couple of hundred meters behind us assaulting the road was Noel who seem to have found a strength to stay on the race. When he reached us he told us that the swelling had lessened. The pain was more bearable too.  I gave him another pain reliever. Rendell told me I could go ahead for they plan on taking the last remaining 7 kilometer at a more relax pace. So, I left them. From the 55th kilometers to the 60th the elevation gain shot up to 600 meters. Rain began to pour down pretty hard that when I reached the Aid Station at the 65th kilometers there were runners sheltering in one of the store along the road. One of them was Fritz still wearing his headdress just as how I saw him take the ultramarathon in Tacloban City to Basey, Samar. I thought maybe they had already finished with the race and were just manning the Aid Station as volunteers. But Fritz told me they hadn’t reached the finish line yet. I left the AS with a thought that there might still be other runners ahead that I could catch up with. The weather seemed to have given way to a storm which I wasn’t aware of any coming. But with the current weather system occurring in the country this time of the year, it was no surprise if suddenly a strong typhoon could suddenly develop and ravage the country as it happened in the past years. With the last 5 kilometers left I was getting a bit impatient to get this race behind me. I tried to ran but I couldn’t sustain it long I had to resort once again to walking.  Then the rain relented a bit. The sun even took a brief peek before hiding behind the clouds again. By that time I already saw that the finish area was at Pranjetto Hill Resort and not in Tanay Adventure Camp. Entered a gate like it was the Pearly White one we all wanted to enter one day. It was finally over. I logged a finished time of 11 hours and 59 second and ranked 106th finisher. Since it had rain the photographers had all left the venue including Peewee who finished the race quite early on with a time of 9 hours and 41 minutes. RDF came a little bit with a time of 12 hours and 37 minutes while Rona finished the course with a time of 12 hours and 51 minutes.

 

The race course was not like what I encountered in TransCebu 55 in 2015 where almost the entirety of the course was made up of ascents but Manila to Sierra with those uphill at the second half of the course was still a formidable race. Many of those I spoke with after the race says they find M2S quite a challenging because many of them had not ran as many race courses as I did that featured other difficulties aside from ascents. To me the true challenge was more of the mental one. I think I am coming to the point I am beginning to understand that distance could be overcome with the proper training and mileage but when doubt and other mental issues seeped in that when one begins to crumble against distance. Two of my running acquaintances ran close to 100 kilometers prior to running another 100 plus kilometer before taking Manila to Sierra. Both still managed to come through M2S with Peewee even finishing with an impressive time. With this idea I am suddenly embolden to consider I could successfully finish more 100 plus kilometers in the following year, which after my run at ABDUM, I thought I would be shying away from.  Rain once again poured down after the race and almost posed as the more difficult part of running in this event. I thought I would have to spend another day in Tanay for I did not avail a shuttle service for this race.

 

Bad Blister Bane Almost Doomed My ABDUM Bid

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

Trashing My Threshold At Tarayem Sangagasot Kilometros 2016

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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