Before The Year Runs Out A Number Of Things To Run By

With the last run of the year, Hero To Hero, held December 30, 2016 organized by Run Mania Philippines Promotion Incorporated done, I bade 2016 goodbye with the reporting of the following running accomplishments for this year. This 2016 I had a total distance run in various events of about 1,785 kilometers as against 2015’s 1,858 kilometers which give me 75 kilometers short from last year’s. Compare to 2015’s 13 marathon events participated I only had 10 this year although it is still better from 2014’s 6. Instead I had more half marathon this year with 11 compare to last year’s 4. I participated in 12 ultramarathon events this year, which included 2 successful finished in 100+ kilometers distance event.  Last year I had 16 ultramarathon participations with 87 kilometers as the farthest distance ran after I failed to accomplish my first 100+ kilometers attempt in Ilocos. From this year’s 12 ultra only 5 were 50 kilometers distance while the previous year I figured in 11 50 k distance events.   In 2014 I joined only 8 ultramarathon events with 2 almost back to back 60 kilometers as the farthest distance ran. This was already a feat considering I just started running ultramarathon in December of 2013.  I had 3 DNFs this year whereas last year 2, however, the 2014 was the worst with 4 DNFs that almost came one after the other. That because I had Plantar Fascitiis back then that only recovered by October 2014 as a result by 2015 I had foot pain issues which might still be attributed to that previous ailment or develop out from it. This foot issue kind of slowed my pace down.  By 2016 that foot pain issue was completely forgotten. However, after running 80 kilometers in the event, Smart Mayon 360 in April I began to suffer acid reflux that was causing my chest area to experience pain. I figured that if I start slow the tightening feeling in my chest disappear after about 2 kilometers. I hope by 2017 this too becomes a thing of the past.

 

This year my running was able to have me traveling farther than the usual Southern Tagalog and Cordillera Administrative Region. I was able to run 9 destinations including 1 international venue as opposed to last year’s only 5 outside Metro Manila and its immediate provincial vicinities. The places reached were Albay, Antique, Batanes, Bohol, Catanduanes, Cebu, Laoag, Tacloban and Singapore. In 2015 I had seen the crater of Mt. Pinatubo when I ran in the event, Mt. Pinatubo Ultramarathon. Running this year in one of the trail event, it was the Taal Volcano’s crater that I got to see. My trail running experiences this year even out last year’s 7 with The North Face Run as the longest distance for both years. In 2015 I ran in total of 43 run events which was similar to this year’s 43 but if I will include the two run events I missed because of rain which were the events, UP to UP 80k Ultramarathon and Orani Half Marathon, plus another run event that happened during around Independence day that I forgot I registered at and the recent Lining Half Marathon event then I top 2015 with the number of run events participated at. I even had 3 weeks of off season in the month of March of this year. The best news however was that in the event, Hero to Hero 50k Ultramarathon in spite of the rains and uphill encountered I managed to established a new personal best with a finish time of 7 hours and 20 minutes about an hour faster than last year’s 8 hours and 2 minutes record which happened  in December 29-30, 2015.

 

I noticed that my ultramarathons were spaced out with each other almost 2 to 3 weeks apart unlike the previous year which I ran ultramarathon almost every week. Does the finding suggest that the reason I probably had success with my bid for the 100+ kilometers distance was due to my having enough time to recover from the previous ultra? Should this be my strategy if I want to attain more successful 100+ kilometer distance? I usually participate in run event without regard whether the current run would have bearing on my next farthest distance bid. I join a certain run event because first I am interested to visit the venue the event may be happening at. Sometimes the event is a must try because of certain popularity it attained from among the runners because perhaps the challenges it pose. I also try to shop around for race organized by race directors which have obtain following from their respective local circle who can present a viable alternative to those that had yearly churned out events. I also look at the kind of loot given by race events. Currently, I am on a hunt to achieve my goal of reaching the 100th marathon. So far mine is at 33rd.  After running at Manila to Sierra last December 18, 2016 I realized that I might be able to achieve more 100 plus kilometer distance races that’s why I am counting on more of my participation at 100 kilometers distance event next year. Maybe next year also would begin my Road to Bataan Death March 102. I was planning to cut down on my participation in events though to lessen my expenditures. Probably avoid running in many of the more commercial run events like those of Run United. But I am still wishing I could finally run in places like Palawan, Bacolod and Pagudpud among other places locally.

 

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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.

 

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.

 

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.

 

Falling Short at Tarayem Sasangasot

Like a bad tune playing over and over relentlessly inside my head or perhaps a nightmare that could not be dispelled by waking up, the thought of what I was gunning for could not be attain at this juncture. That by choosing to wake up and embrace the reality of what the dream or the tune was playing is to accept that capitulation was inevitable. That for this particular run event I have to DNF again.

I felt a tough quandary while I was roughly at the 87th kilometer of the 105 kilometers run under the event, Tarayem Sasangasot Kilometros, which started in Laoag, Ilocos Norte and its finish line at the Quirino Bridge, 11 kilometers away from the town of Bantay, Ilocos Sur held September 26-27, 2015. This was supposedly my debut to 100k run but for the pass 40 kilometers I have not been running at all. Instead I was reduced to walking – briskly though. At 1:30 pm, the sun had not relented since it began to peek at around 9:00 am, in order to give way to the cloudy sky and rain which I had hope would return just as it had visited the previous day at around the same time. Of course, I should not have been expecting Ilocos Region to have a pleasant clime for running ultramarathon, which was known to have harsh dry weather during summer season much more now with strong El Niño currently ravaging the country. But the passing typhoon Jenny far north in Taiwan was tugging in some rain clouds that were reaching Northern Luzon. These had provided me with so much hope that with rain dousing the route this, 100k run would turn out a resounding success for me.

I was at San Vicente, Ilocos Sur about 2 kilometers short of seeing the West Philippine Sea washing along the coast of Ilocos Sur. I had not seen it before even though I had visited the Region several times already. But instead of going farther to get a whiff of the coastal air, I finally called in the driver of the motorcycle shadowing me since I reached the junction leading to Vigan and Bantay. I announced the very words I loathed to speak but had been contemplating on since perhaps the 65th kilometers -“Surender na ako. I quit the race. DNF na ako. Ihatid mo na ako. (I surrender. I quit the race. I am DNF-ing. Take me to the finish area”).   The driver called the organizer on his cellular phone to report my decision. Mr. Kagaoan asked me to think about it for a couple more minutes before proceeding. But I thought of the remaining 18 kilometers distance to the finish line; the state my feet were ailing; with the sun’s beaming down on me menacingly perhaps for 3 more hours; with the time winding down to the 19 hours cut off; and the need for me to get back to Manila to be able to function on Monday’s Faculty Union election as member of our college’s COMELEC – I could not choose to persist on finishing the race even with the remote chance I could pull this off. So, with deep regret I hopped on at the back of the driver of the motorcycle and was wheeled off to the finish line. While traveling the road I failed to tread on, which was actually very long, I was still convincing myself that it was the better decision.

Maybe my whole preparation for this event was the culprit. Although I have already finished successfully an 85km, a 70 km and a couple more 50 km ultras months prior to this event, I have not been doing my routine weekdays runs and evening stretches two weeks before stepping at Ilocos. Plus I chose to scrimp on expenses by coming to Ilocos on the day of the race event itself instead of availing the opportunity to go to Ilocos a day earlier due to a holiday that fell on a Friday. Upon arriving without much to do the whole day, I wandered around Vigan and when I reached Laoag later in the day did more walking lugging around my backpack. By the time the gun start was given at 10:00 pm all that was going for me was just my confidence that I can pull the table runner under this event without disrupting the table setting on top of it. I honestly started out strong. I even thought I was ranking 11 out of the 22 participants of this event. But after hitting the portion of the national road at Batac, my body seem to have hit the wall early that all I could do was to do power walk. But even with power walk I usually manage to keep quite a distance from stragglers because somehow I do have faster walk in me borne from years of walking.

The skin of my lower back became inflamed with chaff, which I had gotten from having my skin rub my shirt that was being pressed by hydration pack. I had to endure the pain it is causing most of the way. But it could not top how my emotion finally sagged low when the blow came upon my arriving at Cabuyao, Ilocos Sur. I was told that I was third among the last runners and what I thought of as 65th kilometers was in actuality only the 55th. It turned out I was actually walking slow but was exerting so much effort and with the distance my legs and feet was acting up to the point I was not sure I could squeezed anything beyond what it had already been giving me. After downing 2 bowls of Lomi (egg noodle) I was told that I have 9 hours to finish the remaining 50 kilometers of the race. Normally this could be ample time for me. However even with the Electrolyte Fuel System energy drink I was taking in and the food I brought along with me, my stamina was still faltering. I was simply out of gas my tank had gone dry. With still 50 kilometers to go I felt I was just starting over again. It was just a few hours ago while running at the 10 kilometers that I almost went crazy thinking how far the remaining 90 kilometers. Now at the 54th, I am again trying to make sense of the distance I still need to cover.

In fairness the race route was not really difficult. The National Road heading to Manila, which served as the main race route was predominantly flat. Upon arriving at Bantay, Ilocos Sur runners were instructed to take a brief detour away from the National Road heading to San Vicente and then after a U-turn that featured the West Philippine Sea, runners will then take the road to Sta. Catalina for another U-turn. Upon returning to the National Road runners turns right going to Vigan and ran strait to Calle Crisologo for another U-turn and photo ops then return to the National Road in order to hit Bantay Bellfry lying at the left side of the road. After being photographed with the Bantay Bellfry, runners will head off to the National Road once again south bound to Banaoan and into the Quirino Bridge for the most coveted finish.

For a brief moment I enjoyed a renaissance of energy and will as I thought I was moving closer to Santo Domingo and I presume Bantay. I imagined my earlier flagging spirit and thought of quitting would make a wonderful piece foreshadowing my account of an almost defeat that turned into a feat of victory. With this resurgence of energy, I felt impervious to the sun or just forgotten about it for a moment that I did not bother to put back on my cap. However, as the name of town roll by ushered by the kilometer markers strewn along the way I realized the great gap from the finish line was being sewn together at a minute pace. The distance was again impinging on me the reality of the moment. I was again falling into that pit of impatient wonderings whether I really have it with me to finish the race. My body was again shutting down on me and maybe this time I have no way of coming back from this quagmire. It became apparent that the only reason I was still up was because my body was literally being sustained by the energy supplements I was taking which by now I have run out. My body was so depleted that stepping on even with just a tiny rock was enough to topple me over. Soon, I was trying to get to Santo Domingo no longer hopeful of actually finishing this race but rather was contemplating to quit the race at the first sight of Aid Station. But fate was seemingly playing a cruel game with me for at Santo Domingo I did not saw any marshal to whom I can throw the towel with. I think I was still being urged by someone up in the sky to endure the race and bring home the Bantay Bellfry design trophy and the plaque featuring the Quirino Bridge. By the time I finally hit Bantay I was pretty much sure I was all tapped out. I was just looking for the right moment to quit, which was what I did at San Vincente.

Somehow quitting this particular race did not felt as bad as it did when I quitted in 2014’s TNF100 50k. I was not really planning on taking 100k this soon. But the allure of running Ilocos and adding it to the places I have ran in had gotten the better of me. With my having run from Laoag to Bantay Road, I almost completed running the provinces at the western portion of Luzon with only Abra being missed out.   I also took my running at Ilocos as mileage building. Maybe on my next try of 100k and up I would be more certain of attaining it. After all the year is not yet over. There are at least three more run events with 100 kilometers lining up the running calendar beforet this years bid goodbye for good. I might be tempted to pull another attempt. I compared my first try at 100k like that of a climber of Mt. Everest does before the final assault to the peak – he does a series of acclimation climbs. I’m positive I will hit a totally different wall soon the wall that limits my distance below 100 kilometers and run pass it.

Pitting With the Pavement of Pangasinan at the Prince’s Event

When the 1st Pangasinan 360 70K Ultramarathon event schedule was announced by Prince Multi Sports Event, Inc., I saw an opportunity to accomplish my desire to complete the list of provinces forming a continuous line north of Manila that I had already ran in. So far the list is composed of Bulacan, Pampanga, Tarlac, (Subic) Zambales and La Union. This is apart from the other provinces in the Cordillera that I also ran at composing of Baguio, Benguet, Ifugao. If successful, along with three other events I hope to join in September and November, Nueva Ecija, Isabela, Pangasinan, Ilocos Sur and Ilocos Norte would be added to the list. Maybe by then I can focus on completing the southern portion of Luzon.

Just like in Trans Cebu Ultramarathon when the 1st Pangasinan 360 70K Ultramarathon was held last August 8, 2015, most of my running friends were at the 21k Mt. Marami Silyang Bato FKT Trail Run held in Maragondon, Cavite. Seeing them having fun in spite of being soaked wet with rain and merrily sloshing along muddy trail, I almost felt quite left out and envious. To me this was another trail running event missed in favor of ultramarathon, which I hope will buy me a ticket to running my first 100k. In Pangasinan, I and a few of my running friends namely, Mignon Ygnacio, Delmo Sullano, Nancy Buenaventura, Tess Templado, and Sherman Manuel helped filled up the 60 plus runners who registered in the 1st Pangasinan 360 run event. Pangasinan was supposedly one of the more difficult place to hold run events at because being located in the great plain of northern portion of Luzon and lies near the sea, it is expected that the climate there to be quite hot and humid. But the schedule of the Pangasinan 360 run event coincided with the possibility of the southwest monsoon being enhanced by a passing typhoon north of the Philippines. Rain was expected to ease the usually hot temperature of Pangasinan. However, come the actual event, the rain came only at the latter hours of the run around the last 10 kilometers after the runners had already had their fair share of exposure to the sun’s warm welcome of the participants.

The race route, which began in front of the Manaoag Municipal Hall covered 8 municipalities whose route when traced formed a shape of a Bangus or milkfish which is staple in Dagupan. The Bangus also figured in the trophy design, although I felt the image of the Our Lady of Manaoag was a more appropriate to appear in the trophy. The municipalities covered were Manaoag, Urdaneta, Sta. Barbara, Calasiao, Dagupan, Mangaldan, San Fabian and San Jacinto. The route was predominantly leveled which make it easier for those who want to establish new PR or run the route in Milo International Marathon qualifier pace more likely to succeed. I on the other hand, after losing steam earlier in the race and fell behind most of the participants had given up any notion of establishing PR. I settled instead to run in a pace that would at least guarantee me of having a few other runners running behind me by the time I finished the race to at least give me the satisfaction to gloat about not being the last runner to cross the finish line.

The route was supposedly straightforward hitting all the mentioned municipalities as one reaches the main intersection of the highway where ideally marshals were expected to be present to further guide runners. But in reality there were forks on the road where marshals could not be sighted for directions. Since the race route was a 360 there were roads along intersections that run back to where we were previously came from. So, aside from the need to remember the instruction given during the race briefing about landmarks to seek out and where to turn to, runners really need to ask the locals around for directions. On the way to Urdaneta some of us made a wrong turn in one of the fork along the road and led us into one of the secondary road. A timely appearance of a motorcycle-riding marshal saved us from heading to either a shorter route or from totally wandering off the route. A couple of runners in front of us were no longer turned back and disappeared like phantom. Along Sta. Barbara I broke running solo and joined the company of fellow runners Sherman and Noel Carreon of Team Cabalen. We separated only when we reached San Fabian and I decided I wanted to catch up with some of the runners I saw ahead of me that seem to be straggling like wounded animals.

While the 1st Pangasinan 360 70k ultramarathon was going on with barely a couple of weeks after the death of the runner Marvic Reyes at Milo Marathon Manila Leg, in another part of the country, in Cebu, another runner loses his life. He was a Canadian runner whom I met in front of the Family Mart along Ayala-EDSA while waiting for a service shuttle that will take us to the event, Aguinaldo to Bonifacio Ultramarathon. He was Anthony Dean Borg, 52 years old. When I met him he says he had been running for about a year in the Philippines with 106 kilometer as his longest distance, which he completed last December 2014 in the event Bonifacio ultramarathon. After the AUB Ultramarathon he flew to Cebu and participated the Cebu 360 70k Ultramarathon. At the time he died he was running in another event, a 12 km fun run event dubbed, R399 Run where at 2km after being released from the starting lane he collapsed and died on the spot. On-line news account reported of Dean having hit his head on the gutter when he fell from his motorbike while waiting for the gun start. It is sad that in spite of the benefits runners tell they get out of running, the sport is still steep with danger and may be compared with crossing a highway, one could get killed by an incoming vehicle when one is not wary of the vehicle. This is primarily why every time I run, especially in ultramarathon whenever I feel something awry I try to reduce my pace and try to sense if I should proceed at all with the race. That’s why most of the time I lagged behind. On the other hand, accident is altogether another matter that even the most cautious runners could not avoid from occurring. In an accident unforeseen forces, some calls it fate, come into play. Thus, this is just another way where running becomes a metaphor for living. We could not predict when our time is up but while the road to the finish line is still there one should keep pursuing it for in finishing a race one could still appreciate the sweetness of finishing pain and all while in death even the honor bestowed upon you does not even blow the candle that lit your grave.

Nearing the last 13 kilometers I began passing other runners whom since they were not within my eyesight, I thought had already gone to establish vast distance that gravely hurt my ego. However, I kept the hope that they were just somewhere near but beyond my sight. When I pulled away from my companion, among those whom I saw ahead and soon overtook were the runners Mignon and Delmo who both ran 100k in TransCebu Ultramarathon. Accompanying them was another runner I did not caught the name and the 60 + year old Tatay Potania, who ran 100k at Ibtur. I was able to close gap with them when they were actually taking a rest somewhere between San Fabian and San Jacinto. But as soon as they were able to get back on the road they proved to have unlimited stored stamina that they easily wrestled the lead from me again. I came close running just barely behind them at San Vicente about 7 kilometers from Manaoag but I just couldn’t sustain the pace. I dropped behind them further and further until I could not spied anyone of them along the road. With only 2 to 3 kilometers left, I gained upon 3 more other runners namely Tess, Thezz and Allan. Tess and thezz decided to walk along Allan the remaining distance to the finish line because Allan was already disgruntled with the proceeding of the race had wanted to take a ride back to the finish line. Tess who was my classmate back in the Elementary school days swayed him to just walk his anger off. By the time we finally made it at the finish line I ranked 43rd out of the 53 runners who actually finished the race within the 16 hours cut-off.

1st Pangasinan is the 3rd 360 run events I participated under the Prince Multi Sports Event with Makiling and Bulacan as the two previous events.

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.