Beating Being Broken By Bonpen 100

After running so many times in Laguna I am slowly making my incursions in Quezon Province. Previously I made it to Lucban, Quezon through the events, Laguna to Quezon 50 Kilometers Ultramarathon and to Infanta, through Rizal to Laguna to Quezon 85 Kilometers Ultramarathon by Run Mania Philippines and in Sariyaya, Quezon through Batangas to Quezon 66 Kilometers Ultramarathon event by Runn’ Active.  Last March 18-19, 2017 I ran 100 kilometers from Catanauan, Quezon to Malicboy, Pagbilao, Quezon in Runn’ Active event’s, 4th Bonpen 100. Bonpen short for Bondoc Peninsula is located in the southeastern part of Quezon Province and comprised of 12 municipalities, which mostly are situated in mountain locked areas while Tayabas Bay hugged the western portion of the peninsula and the island of Marinduque lurks farther to the west. The Bonpen 100, however covered only 7 of the 12 municipalities but this didn’t made the route any less difficult.

 

I should have taken a hint from BatoQ 66, the 1st Runn’ Active event that I had participated to figure out how hard Bonpen 100 might be. Instead I threw my cares away and simply registered thinking that the route would be flat only to find out this event featured a lot of steep rolling and snaking road; exposure to intense heat of the sun that could have beaten my self-supporting ass to submission and eventually to another DNF if it were not for some timely assistance from the support crew of my fellow runners Errald of Sariayaya Runners and Team Oragon Ultramarathon Runners.

 

The race for the 17 participants (2 of which were female) began at the Municipal Building of Catanauan at 10:30 pm. Like me most of the participants had already run in Runn’ Active’s other events.  The only difference was that many of the participants were gunning for this year’s grand slam. As a result they knew each other pretty much from the other events. I am familiar with this year’s Bonpen champion Rodel who also participated at the events Ibtur and Tarayem where he also brought home the championship. I met Orlan in the event Rizal to Laguna to Quezon then saw him again in Mayon 360 and Isla Catanduanes Ultramarathon. I had seen Zenik from Griv Brown’s event, Tacloban City to Basey Samar.  Vhin runner from Team Oragon Ultramarathon Runners recognized me from ICUM and TC2BS.  Melody one of the female runners was a recent Bataan Death March Grand Slam Finisher while Alex of TOUR was taking Bonpen 100 as his first 100 kilometer distance run.

 

After being given the gun start I, as usual, began with a slow pace run. While I was in Catanauan, which was supposedly a first class municipality I could not find any place to visit for sight seeing. Beside that it was really too hot to walk around the town, I had no idea that there is a watchtower to which the place was originally named after. Catanauan was occasionally raided in the 18th and 19th century by Moro, so a “magatanauan” or what came to be called the Santa Maria watchtower was built and was mounted with artilleries. After passing by the statue of Andres Bonifacio at about the 1st kilometer we passed by Catanauan Bridge.  We then followed the Gumaca-Pitogo-Mulanay-San Narciso Road. As soon as I reached the 5 kilometers I was already overtaking the eldest participant Zenik. Not far ahead was the Foot Vikini wearing Romeo Jhon and ahead of him the 2 times Bonpen 100 finisher Marjohn who was taking his 3rd take of Bonpen but this time the reverse route.  I eventually overtook these latter two somewhere before we reached General Luna at the 25th kilometers.  The evening was punctured with dogs barking along most of the way we passed by and will continue so until finally day broke out.  At the 36th kilometers lies Macalelon Highway Junction. There were marshals and local emergency response team eyeing the road. I was directed to turned right going towards Lucena. A kilometer away I passed by the eerie looking Mountain of Faith, which was made up of life size tableau of Station of the Cross. Not farther ahead was another runner who was resting but as soon as he saw me he went ahead. I didn’t recognize him from anyone whom I later met. I didn’t try to chase him for the path was a bit uphill. I told myself I’ll catch up later. At least I caught up with one runner after Marjohn overtook me earlier.

 

In retrospect a couple of years back I was not at all dreaming of running a 100 kilometers but after you tried once and then managed to accomplish one, joining the 102 Bataan Death March Run becomes irresistible. Thus every 100 kilometers event I joined becomes a preparation for BDM. Last February I already submitted my letter of intent to participate the BDM102 2018. I made an error of submitting the letter online hours before the official time Bald Runner instructed to submit. BR got angry of course to the point of threatening to disqualify the 20 plus overly eager BDM warrior aspirants.

 

When I arrived at the 45 kilometers it was already early about 6:00 in the morning. Vhin, Alex and Cyrus of the Team Oragon Ultramarathon Runners were having breakfast beside their support vehicle located at the Pitogo Junction. They invited me to join them. Romeo also arrived a few minutes later and was also invited for a breakfast. This became an opportunity for us to get better acquainted with each other. It was here I learned that I had encountered Alex, Cyrus and Vhin earlier in ICUM and TCBS events. After breakfast I went ahead to make a courtesy stop at the Petron Pototanin about two kilometers ahead where Rodel, the RD was waiting for runners to pass by.  After I left the gas station about a couple of kilometers away Alex and company passed me by Romeo whom I think was having some difficult time running with his Vikini sandal was lagging behind us. All of a sudden rain began to pelt. I feared blisters would appear and wreck havoc to this campaign later.  Somewhere along the way among the uphill portion Marjohn appeared and was soon running along Vhin and Cyrus. Alex at this point was slowing down a bit. The rain, which came so sudden disappeared just as quickly and was replaced by the sun which seemed to have a score to settle with us. We were soon taking a road that has steep rolling hills. I was staring at the couple runners ahead climbing the third hill while I was at the summit of the first hill. It was an amazing sight. A zigzagging downhill soon came up. I took this as an opportunity to run so fast that I overtook once again the runners from TOUR along with Marjohn. After this I didn’t see them again for quite some time. At the 61st kilometers was Unisan-Panagon Junction. The right direction leads to Gumaca, I think. I took the left portion of the fork heading to the town proper, which lies at the 64th kilometers and was close to the sea. The name of the municipal was derived from the Spanish word, “unir” meaning unite. Possibly by reduccion, which was a practice of relocating inhabitants to a town where the Spanish government could easily keep an eye on them. Another possible origin of the name of the place was uniting the inhabitants under Uni-Sancti or one saint, which was Friar Pedro Bautista a missionary of Kalilayan (the old name of Quezon) who was canonized Saint following martyrdom in Japan.

 

At a 7-11 Store I met for the first time the support crew of Errald of Team Sariayaya. It turned out that he was just ahead of me a little. I was thinking whether he was the one I saw at Macalelon. But I never got the chance to ask him when I caught up with him and his crew a little bit later. Errald with his support crew extended valuable assistance to me along the route just as the support crew of Vhin, Alex and Cyrus when they caught up with Errald and I.  It turned out Vhin had an injury along the way and had to bow out of the race earlier. Along the way we caught up with a pair of runners Bryne and Anthony whom I thought were also spent. But after a while they were soon stepping on the gas and left us to ponder where else to get a dose of extra stamina. I soon fell behind everyone else and entered the town of Agdangan all by myself. This was at the 73rd kilometers.

 

The last 30 plus kilometers were actually more sketchy to me because at this point I was already concern about whether I could actually make it before the 18 hours cut off time given that I was actually getting so tired. By the time I crossed to the town of Padre Burgos whose Welcome Arch marked the 95 kilometers of the race, I couldn’t care anymore about cut off time. All I was ever cared for was to get home and take this event as an additional mileage for my very first and farthest distance run in the event, Bataan Freedom Trail 160 kilometers Ultramarathon and Bike Tour happening in April 10, 2017.  Actually I was still able to overtake Alex and Marjohn along the way but I was pretty much sure they were not far behind me and could easily wrestle my lead to them as easily. I couldn’t describe my feeling upon finally seeing the arch that says I am already out of Bondoc Peninsula and was heading down Pagbilao. In a little while longer I saw a runner who had already finished the race coming towards me. He spoke the precious words that I am nearing the finish line. Well it was about time since I had less than 20 minutes to make it there before I wind up not listed once again among the finishers just as what happened at my successful bid at Tarayem Sasanggasot. Soon I was seeing more runners this time at a shaded bus stop. I made it to the finish line just in a nick of time. I was the last runner to make it before cut off with a time of 17:55:31. Alex came about 15 minutes after followed by Marjohn. Zenik finally made an appearance to the finish line beating Romeo Jhon.

 

Later in the week I saw my name as among those who finally made the cut for BDM102 2018.  This was a joyous occasion but also a dilemma presented to me, for I am about to embark on my first 160 kilometer race in Bataan featuring the 160 kilometers BDM route but not the one organized by BR. This might throw my chance away at running in BDM102 2018 as I have already heard in the pipeline that those who will participate in the Bataan Freedom Run would be disqualified to run in BDM. Thus my road to BDM102 was gravely in peril.

 

 

A Taste of Badwaters in the 2nd Batangas To Quezon Endurance Run

The 2016 Manila to Baguio 250 Ultramarathon had already kicked off at midnight a day earlier when we participants of the 2nd Batangas to Quezon 66 kilometers (actually 69km) Endurance Run or Batoq 66 for short were given the gun start at 3:05 am of February 13, 2016. On the other hand, the 1st Calabarzon 160 Ultramarathon Challenge was launched 5 minutes earlier than us in Tagaytay. There were only 17 of us participants from the original 30 registrants who left the front main gate of Batangas City’s Provincial Building and ran along President S.H. Laurel Avenue. Only two of the participants, Omeng and Jayson were familiar faces to me whom I first met in 2nd Sungay 60k Challenge then got a chance to ran with again at 2nd Luneta to Tagaytay Ultramarathon and in one of the Run United run event. They seem to have suspected that this race would be quite different from the two above mentioned ultramarathon events where they ran without support vehicle. This time they came in with a support vehicle captained by Kenneth who was last year’s Batoq 66 Champion.

 

After running the roads of Manila for a couple of years in various run events I am now straying into the road where the big men of ultramarathon spent their picnic preparing for run events with 100 kilometers and above distances by running the events of Runn Active. One such event was the 2nd Batangas to Quezon 66 Endurance Run, which was a sort of BDM Jr. (Bataan Death March) whose dad I still have trouble seeing me running in it. The reason I find myself wandering far from the usual run event venues was to test my mettle now that I am aiming to one day run the 100 km and above distances in the future.  I just recently figured out from talking with one of those who ran Batoq 66 that it should not be mistaken for a walk in the park even when according to this source of mine that this event has the least rolling along its route than most of the events in Runn Active.

 

At the onset of the race Omeng immediately catapulted among the lead runners probably tagging along Gene another runner who was with him, Jayson and Kenneth when I met them earlier before the race. Jayson and I occupied the second group of runners which was trying its best to catch up the first group. I was initially feeling nauseated and on the verge of puking whose reason for the malady baffled me. I tried to cover it up with coughing and sometimes growling lest I invite attention and be pulled out of the race without even breaking to sweat yet. However soon as we made a right turn to San Jose-Ibaan-Batangas Road near SM Hypermarket the feeling subsided and I was able to focus on trying to keep up with Jayson.  Along this portion of the route we encounter some bit of rolling and a lot of smell of poultry. Apparently, this portion of the province received much assistance from an elected political party list AGAP, which represented the poultry keeping industry. Earlier on the way to Batangas City I mistakenly I was already in Kumintang Ibaba and alighted from the bus just beyond the Toll Gate in a secondary road leading to Ibaan. When I realized my mistake, I thought from the spot I would be walking all the way to my original destination since it seemed to take forever for the buses to make a stop from where I was standing. I checked my watch and saw it was just around 10:00 pm plenty of time until gun start at 3:00pm. I was guessing erroneously my destination maybe just about 5 kilometers away. Thank God a bus finally came by and I was back again on the road to Batangas City.

 

Jayson and I caught up with Omeng who seemed to be limping. He was complaining of cramps. I on the other hand was having stomach trouble and was looking for a place to relieve myself of my trouble. I could have held it off for another hour or so if it were not for a misstep I made while looking at a Gas Station along the way and had a bad landing that led to twisting my right foot. This forced me to stop to nurse my foot and saw the opportunity to relieve myself at the nearby gas station.  When I returned to the road I saw that I was the only one left on the road. It was obvious that I must be the last runner. Since I was not familiar with the race route I needed to keep up with the others so, I paced up until I could espied upon one of the stragglers who happened to be a lady. When I ran passed her near a town I saw four or five more runners converging around a “taho” vendor. At this point the sky was slowly lighting up with daylight. I couldn’t see either Jayson or Omeng ahead, which I assumed had careened off after losing me earlier. At the Aid Station just after the main town along Pastor Avenue while supping on hot rice porridge I learned that Jayson and Omeng was not actually running ahead of me but was struggling to catch up from behind because they took a wrong turn and got lost along the way.  Sensing that most of the runners except for my two friends had already passed by the Aid Station I resumed running this time hitting the Rosario-San Juan-Candelaria-Gualberto Avenue. I soon found myself being adapted by the runners Roby, Van and Mau whom I kept trying to keep up with and if possible passed by completely. But every time I get close I tire and had to switch to walking. They again gain some distance ahead. At Zidro’s Place Restaurant where they stopped by I also stopped by to rest too.  This was the moment they invited me over to their support vehicle for some refreshments. From then on I became the fourth wheel to their group. It was actually providential because my having constantly refreshed from the supplies of Mau’s support vehicle and sometimes Omeng and Jayson’s proved vital to my finishing the race.

 

At this portion of the race the route turned to a more leveled with hardly any uphill left along the road. Except for the incoming vehicles which forced runners to run along the shoulders every time they passed by and with the sun beginning to beat down on us at between 9:00 am and 10:00 am, it seems for us just a matter of enduring the race until the finish line otherwise the race was no different from the other ultramarathon events I encountered before.  I learned that originally Mau was running all by herself. At a certain point of the race she contemplated on dropping out of the race. The timely appearance of her two “angels” Roby and Van however, prevented that from happening and provided her the encouragement she needed to push on with the race. Along the way to San Juan another running acquaintance of mine Albert who lives in Rosario met us riding his mountain bike. He dogged us most of the way shooting pictures of us with his cellphone camera and posting it in real time at his FB account. After passing by the Municipal Hall of San Juan which marked the 42.74 kilometers of the race we soon found ourselves crossing Bantillan Bridge which expanded over Malaking Tubig River. An arch which says we were already in Quezon welcomed us.  We approximated the distance still left for us to run to about 26 kilometers with 4 more hours left before cut off time. Upon entering Quezon Eco-Tourism Road we stopped by for water melon. The Quezon Eco-Tourism Road featured at the right side the coast and some resorts which I hardly noticed since I was staring at the ground most of the time if not looking at the Mt. Banahaw at my left side. This was a dreaded flat 7 kilometer mini Dinalupian road similar to BDM because of it being devoid of cover to shade one from the relentless sunlight. Rodel Mendoza dubbed this portion as the Badwater of Quezon Province. Badwater being the 135 miles or 217 kilometers Badwater Ultramarathon which is the world’s toughest foot race held in California’s Death Valley usually on July where temperature ranges to 49 degrees Centigrade.  The Quezon Eco-Tourism Road was a shorter alternate route from the previous year’s much longer route, which passes through Candelaria, Quezon before hitting Sariaya, Quezon. Actually I had little trouble adjusting with the heat. What actually became more bothersome for me was the rubbing so badly of my running tights with the skin underneath my crotches that later about three days after the race was completed I still walked bowlegged because underneath my crotches continue to suffer inflammation. I had to tell everyone the lie that I walk weird because my thigh muscles still hurting from the run. I learned from one of the elite runners of Runn Active’s event that the one time he ran and had similar issue with mine upon his crossing the finished line his running shorts was red with blood from gash.

 

The road seemed to stretch farther every time we stopped by and struggled to cool ourselves over the little shade given by sparse vegetation in the area. Now we were beginning to feel the real reason this area was being compared with Dinalupian. Albert scouted ahead and reported that two runners had already finished the race while just about a couple of kilometers ahead of us were two runners. Encouraged by the news that we were not doing quite so badly with our pace since there were runners just a little ahead of us, Roby and I took off reaching Lutucan-Guis-Guis Road. We turned left at the road that had began to surrender plenty of shades. Van soon joined us while Mau tailed us from far behind. In the kilometer marker it announced that Sariaya was about 15 kilometers away. We could no longer see Albert shadowing us probably because it was way passed the midday he might not be able to get back home before darkness hit him. Roby got his second wind and began to plough ahead while Van and I felt depleted walked most of the distance. There was a portion along the route when the sun was even fiercer than we had encountered in the Quezon Eco-Tourism Road. We even saw Mau’s support vehicle’s driver scouring for ice to replenish their supplies.  Having taken my last energy gel, I soon recovered and got my own second wind. I began hitting the pavement with faster pace. I saw the two other runners Albert mentioned about and was overtaking them on the road before reaching the Daang Maharlika or Pan-Philippine Road. I initially turned leftward but my timely asking around for the direction going to Sariaya Municipal Hall saved me from going the wrong way. The right way was actually to turn right upon reaching the Daang Maharlika. It was strange that before reaching Daang Maharlika the kilometer marker indicated that Sariaya was just about 4 kilometers away but after hitting the Daang Maharlika Road the kilometer marker stated that I am still 6 kilometer short of completing the race. I saw Roby ahead of me. Running on the stony shoulders of the road again I little by little caught up with Roby until we were shoulder to shoulder. Upon crossing a bridge the St. Francis Assisi Church began to loom bigger. We turned right to Sariaya-Tayabas Road and finally to the Finish Line. Roby took the 10th place while I finished 11th with a time of 12:58:38. The two runners we overtook came in next then Van followed by Mau. Finally after almost beyond the cut-off time Omeng came ahead of Jayson to finally complete the list of participants.

 

While waiting for Omeng and Jayson to arrive at the finish line I listened to Rodel Mendoza tell the stories of how he came to run for BR’s BDM102. He had to go through lots of BR’s run events first. Now many who run in BR’s more than 100 kilometers run had at least experienced a couple of Runn Active’s run events which were said to be quite formidable but promises picturesque view of Quezon Province along the way. It was a good thing I had to run Batoq 66 first before blindly committing myself to Runn Active’s newest race, The Lucena to Antipolo 105 kilometer Ultramarathon. Now I know I should probably set it aside for now. With Roby’s assessment of our performance at Batoq 66 he was a bit grim about how we will fare in Mayon 360 in April with 16 hours cut-off time for 80 kilometers whose route was characterized with lots of uphill and unlimited sun exposure. But I had to shelves this thought out and not allow it to cloud the celebration of the moment’s accomplishment. I still have one more blessing coming in that would put a damp on whatever worry coming come April and that is the Batanes Winter Marathon happening on February 21, 2016.

 

What’s Eating Me At 85

Last July 12, 2015, after crossing the finish line at the 87th kilometer, which served as entrance to the covered basketball court beside the Municipal Hall of Infanta, Quezon, with a time of 17:30:40, I broke my 67 kilometer barrier. Rizal to Laguna to Quezon 85K Ultramarathon by Run Mania Promotion Philippines is currently the longest distance I have ever traveled on foot in a single take. With this accomplished the road to my first 100 kilometer run had been laid closer to its fulfillment.

At the time 200 plus runners took off from the town plaza of Pililia, Rizal at 10:05 pm another ultramarathon was also kicking off in Quezon City, the UP to UP 80k Ultramarathon by Prince Multi Sport which will have their participants running from UP Diliman in Quezon City to UP Los Banos in Laguna. I would have registered in this event if not for the conflict in schedule with R2L2Q. I however, preferred to join the latter since this had route that will have me touching down in Quezon which I have not set foot on foot at all.

From the town plaza we soon found ourselves running northward of Tanay-Pililia Road. I was a bit wary of the rain and cold air that might be brought in by the South West Monsoon or Habagat that was being intensified by a passing typhoon along the northern most tip of the Philippine Area of Responsibility or PAR. So, I wore long sleeves for protection against strong wind and cold evening. But the evening air turned out to be a bit warm and humid. At about 5 kilometers later we hit Tanay-Sampaloc Road. Prior to this day, I made a mistake of expecting that only the first 10 to 20 kilometers of the route were uphill. But in the briefing earlier, Race Director Eng. Pat Maranan bluntly told us that the route would be mostly uphill -or at least the first 50 kilometers. However, it was not just the uphill that we have to prepare ourselves of. Rather the path itself, which would be mostly dimly lit to not being lighted at all during the whole evening trek. This became apparent as soon as we found ourselves along Sampaloc Road. In the past I knew I had passed by along this route riding service shuttle and sometime public utility vehicle shuffling to and from the various trail run event I attended in Tanay. That evening somehow I felt lost and melancholic along the way. Burst of sound of some singing of videoke coming from some resorts nearby did not help lessen the feeling. After the 1st Aids Station at the 11th kilometer rain began to pelt. I brought out my waterproof poncho and put it on. But wearing it was a bit uncomfortable because it was too warm in it. A runner in raincoat and with an umbrella breezed pass by me.

I reached Marcos Highway and as soon as the rain stopped I disrobed my poncho and never again wore it all throughout the race even with the rain coming in again later. A few months earlier Run Mania had the Rizal to Laguna 50k Ultramarathon. I thought this was only a portion of the R2L2Q. I also thought that R2L2Q would pass by Mabitac, Siniloan and Famy, Laguna which would be an excellent opportunity to finally reach those portion of Laguna I haven’t had chance to reach through running before. But it turned out I made a mistake. R2L2Q would utilized a different route altogether. It would actually use some of the portion of the route called Marilaque which is actually about 120 kilometers beginning from Marikina near Katipunan Avenue then to Antipolo, Sumulong Highway, Masinag, Sierra Madre, Tanay, Sta. Maria, Laguna then finally to Infanta. The Marilaque is actually considered as one of the most picturesque highway in Luzon along with Halsema Highway in the Cordillera and Pan-Philippine Highway in Southern Luzon. Another race franchise, the Team Malaya was also organizing an ultramarathon covering the entire length of Marilaque come September or October this year. Of course R2L2Q would only use about 66 kilometers of Marcos with Pililia and Tanay route filling in for the 20 kilometers.

Without realizing it I soon passed by Camp Capinpin where Former President Erap Estrada was detained. Then not far after was the Regina Rosarii Institute for Contemplation in Asia where a giant size image of the Virgin Mother stands. But of course with all the darkness around I couldn’t catch a glimpse of it. The 2nd Aids Station lies at the 22nd kilometers around the boundary between Tanay and Laguna. At the Aid Station I inquired about my current ranking. I was told that I was probably at the 170th. From the Aid Station the road dipped downhill and when we reached the end of the downhill we were entering a road surrounded with forest. The sound of animals and insects cries filled the void aside from occasional blinking light coming from some runners ahead. It was almost painful to see when those blinking light slowly shrink away until it was just your headlamp shining the path. Although we still passed through populated areas now soundly asleep almost after each of these barangays the road was plunged again in a depressingly dark surrounding. Then as if conspiring to sabotage my attempt to conquer my first 85k ultra my feet began to impinge pain. In an attempt to add cushion to my Saucony Guide 7 shoes I stuffed it with an additional rubber sole. But it resulted in squeezing my toes too tightly at the shoes’ heads and now I was uncomfortably trying to endure it. I was also feeling sleepy that I tried stopping over to catch a few snooze but sleep eluded me when I gave it a try. Then a kind of anxiety that I did not encounter before in my other ultra run started clouding my concentration. Anxiety brought about by my question what to think about to pass up the time. Without anyone to talk with or anything to entertain my senses, I couldn’t help myself thinking of how far the journey still lies ahead of me. My mind keeps on coming back to the present bombarding me with the thought of the distance that doesn’t seem to dissipate. To me this was even more painful than the physical pain I was feeling at my feet. I think this is what actually breaks runners in long distance run. At a certain point I put out my headlamp because by then I was already in the area where fog was descending along the road and the light of my headlamp was simply illuminating only a few inches away. I just followed the broken white strips of paint lying at the middle of road and let my eyes trace the outline of the surrounding to make sure I was still running along the road and not straight into a ravine.

I don’t know how daylight came exactly. All I know was all of a sudden I could recognize my environment and ahead of me there was someone familiar that I was slowly about to catch up with. It turned out he was FB call sign Word Doer, a pastor by profession and a runner by passion. This broke my solitary journey. Together we reached the 3rd Aid Station at the 33rd kilometer which was somewhere near Pacific Highland. If you are to rely on the yellow stone kilometer marker whose reference for its 0 kilometer is Luneta in Manila, we were already somewhere at the 84th kilometers. Soon we were passing by Heaven’s Valley Café which was still part of Sta. Maria, Laguna. The road was still cloaked with fog. It kind of look like we’re somewhere in the Cordillera during the cold season and true enough the barangay we were soon entering is named Little Baguio part of Magsaysay, Quezon. I was hoping that at the Aid Station at the 44th kilometer there would be the shuttle carrying our belongings and serve as drop bag point as mentioned in the briefing. I wanted to lessen my load and change my running tights to a more comfortable pair of short pants. My running tight was brushing with my private part and the friction was causing so much discomfort. Unfortunately when we reached the 4th Aid Station there was no drop bag station waiting. Either we arrived late or our shuttle van did not consider itself part of the vehicle that should stop by the 44th kilometer for runner’s baggage. So, I have no option but to endure the discomfort, which during the course of the run somehow abated without me realizing it.

The portion of the route we were running is quite popular among motorcyclists who stop by to eat bone marrow stew or bulalo and rest. We saw a couple of runners trying out one at Jariel’s Peak. I wanted to try one too but Word Doer told me we could choose to proceed until the 55th kilometer Aid Station where his brother was a volunteer marshal assigned to that station. Word Doer had stowed there instant cup noodles, which we could eat upon arriving. I acceded since I wasn’t really hungry but was just curious about stew. When I caught up with Word Doer earlier there were quite a lot of other runners behind him considering he was just walking most of the way and I usually see him before trailing behind other runners. This means he was really opting to finish this race. It turned out this was his second take of R2L2Q. On his previous take of R2L2Q he was unable to finish and was picked up by sweeper. Initially I thought I might not actually be able to finish this race but with Word Doer now accompanying me who seem quite determined to conquer this race, I gained a certain confidence I could make it until the 85th kilometers. The only problem was whether we could do it within the cut off time of 19 hours.

We passed by a DENR check point whose notice inform us that we were already leaving Sta. Maria, Laguna and entering the Infanta under the province of Quezon. From afar at our right side, I could see interlocking of mountains and beyond it the Pacific Ocean according to Word Doer. Only around 40 kilometers more to go and we’re finally done with this race. Ugh!

We’re running in roads with a lot or “U” along the path meaning we were going around mountain while going uphill. We were still bracing for that penultimate uphill that would take us at the highest point of the road and from there unli-downhill. At the 55th kilometer instead of cup noodle we were treated instead with an adobo meal. Delicious! Soon Day Walker and company also arrived at the Aid Station. Day Walker was another runner doing a revenge run on this race. I met him in couple of run events but it was only in ran the run event Aguinaldo to Bonifacio 50k Ultramarathon that I had a chance to run along him. To establish some sort of pride in us by not allowing any more other runners passing us by, Word Doer and I decided to push ahead of the inclined road where we were resting. Along the road I almost stepped on a tiny snake crossing the road. By the time we reached the highest portion of the road we did not realized it that we were actually there. What was actually waiting for us at that portion aside from some other runners resting along the road was downhill galore. As if cued, suddenly a down pour coupled with strong winds came and welcomed us. I told Word Doer that we could take this portion running which will increase our chances of finishing this race within cut off time. But he relented. With still plenty of time left that even if we walk all the way to the finish line we could make it at the cutoff time maybe 30 minutes ahead. He however understood I wanted to establish a good finish time and in order to do that I had to run the remaining distance beginning with the downhill staring at us. He bid me to go ahead. I felt bad leaving him but didn’t think twice to consider my desire. I had to make sure I will finish this race within the cut off time. So, amidst the spray of rain and gush of wind threatening to dislodge me from the ground, I ran faster as my feet could allow me. I was literally hurling myself. I was afraid I might slip at the wet pavement or stumble upon some rocks but the momentum seemed to be sweeping all the odds away to favor me. I ran and ran until I was passing by – or in local jargon, “tuhog” other runners. The rain was short live but the downhill couldn’t be outlived. The sun suddenly peeked out of the cover of the cloud and shone greedily. More runners were overtaken by me including the 55 year old Tatay Crispin who looks much older than his actual age is. I actually caught up with him earlier in the race. He was with me when I tried to catch some sleep in one of the stores along the road that was closed that moment. He was wrestling with some stomach issues but when he bolted out from the shelter he went ahead of me and I never saw him again until that moment I was passing by him. I was afraid of running along side of him earlier because hearing his breathing which was a kind of suffering sound, I thought that I he might collapse along the road any moment. But other than that he was fit. But not as fit as Virgilio Fule a much older runner at 70 but younger looking than Tatay Crispin. As in my past experience with Tatay Virgilio, he simply cruised by me coming from behind earlier in the race and was never seen by me again finishing strongly way ahead of me while Tatay Crispin finished among the last runners.

The downhill seemed to go on and on but the kilometer marker along the road seemed to indicate I only managed to shave off about 5 to 6 kilometers. Nearing Aid Station 6 at the 66th kilometers I caught up with the very young Die Harder Runner who had already done R2L2Q the previous year and was doing it again this year just to improve is PR. He was however, suffering from acid influx and was burning out. After this Aid Station I soon lost my steam and began to struggle along the road. Pain from my thigh area and feet was making me want to stop and rest frequently. A couple of runners were also doing the same thing as I. One of them a runner whom I passed by at the downhill managed to get his second wind and went on to finish the race earlier than I. The other one ran along with me until later I left him about 3 kilometers before the finish line. The rolling route continued. With all the running I did I felt sure I was nearing the completion of another 10 kilometers but instead the kilometer in the kilometer markers didn’t budge. The remaining 20 + kilometers seem to be stretching farther as if the distance was being pulled inside the event horizon of a black hole and experiencing what scientists says might happen when being pulled at the event horizon, spagettization. At the Aid Station 7 at what might be the 78th kilometer we were told that about 7.5 kilometers remain before tucking this race behind my belt. The Welcome marker that carries the lion statue that served as our trophy design stood at the foot of the last downhill stretch. I soon found myself running along Siniloan-Famy-Real-Infanta Road. The road was all flat from here on. Vehicular traffic began to burgeon along with increase of number of establishments lining up the road. The last 4 kilometers was long straight road that seem to be taunting and testing the runners’ patient for you know the finish line is just somewhere at the end of the stretch but the road doesn’t want to end. I think I have gone crazy a bit for I was shouting and cursing. I could relate with the runner who posted a video of himself at the last stretch of his UP to UP ultramarathon quest. He posed a question if there is some truth in runners getting crazy running long distance. He says since he was talking with himself there might be some truth in it. The road finally croaked and gave in. A right turned at 20 De Julio then left turn to Plaridel Street before entering the covered basketball entrance for the Finish Line marked the end of a long journey I never thought I could accomplish long ago. Only 15 kilometers separate me from achieving 100k. But I know I won’t just yet be going to barge into this 100k club that soon. All the 100k plus run events scheduled until the end of this year had other run events running alongside of it that I am already signed up for. I wanted that when I do run in a hundred kilometer run event I will be able to finish it. That is why I had to keep on earning mileage and get my body used to long distances. Right now the feeling is akin with me running nearing the crest. I know I could make it there and I will make it there.