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.

 

Running Amongst The Ruins of The Rock: My Corregidor Marathon and Corregidor International Half-Marathon experience

 

On January 8, 2016 after disembarking from the new Sun Cruises Terminal at Esplanade Seaside near the SM Mall of Asia complex in Pasay City, I landed at Corregidor Island’s North Dock to attend the run events The 3rd Corregidor Marathon and the 6th Corregidor International Half Marathon happening on January 9 and 10, 2016 respectively. The tadpole shaped Corregidor Island also once known as Fort Mill whose head is pointing westward toward the West Philippine Sea, lies 41 kilometers from Manila. Although Corregidor is nearer to Bataan at approximately 10.5 kilometers, it belongs to the Province of Cavite under Sangley Point which lies about 21 kilometers away. Corregidor is the biggest of the group of 5 islands which include: Caballo (Fort Hughes), Carabao (Fort Frank), El Fraile (Fort Drum) and La Monja which is just a rock cropping out of the sea. Looking around the crowd while waiting for boarding the ferry I saw some familiar faces beginning with the couple of tri-athletes Julie and Nheng whom I met in the First Hungduan Marathon, K.C. whom I also met in Hungduan Marathon, Emerson and Flor of the Team Philippine Star, Rex who I often get to see in other run events, Kupa Ociones whom I met at the 3rd Cavinti Road and Trail Ultramarathon and the photographer Jack Morales. Some participants based on the shirt they were wearing had run in the same event I ran in before and therefore I may had probably brushed along them one way or the other one of them was Joni Castillo. Among the running groups or clubs competing for the King of the Rock Team Category were Team Soleus, Team Monumentum Milers, P.I.G.S., Team Cabalen Runners (which later arrived in Corregidor with Noel via pump boat coming from Mariveles, Bataan) and Team Philippine Star.

Upon arriving at around 1:45 pm the participants proceeded to the organizers’ area at South Bottomside near San Jose Church and Corregidor Hostel to claim race kits of those who have not claimed theirs in Manila. Those who were done with this procedure were given their respective accommodation assignments and keys and then departed to their respective accommodations located in different areas of the island. For those camping out, they took the tranvia for a shorter ride to the South Beach where the Finish Line area of the race was also situated, while those occupying the Corregidor Resort Cabana accommodation rode farther heading towards the beach resort complex located at southeastern and tail portion of the island. Still others, such as I, could just walk a shorter distance going to Corregidor Inn although by mistake I took the tranvia that travel all the way to the beach resort complex.  Before leaving the organizers’ area, the participants were told of the regular Corregidor Island Tour happening at 3:00 pm, which they could avail for P300.00.

It was more than 10 years ago for the purpose of doing a paper on Conservation Management of Corregidor Island for our Masters in Cultural Studies requirements when I along with 3 other faculty members stayed overnight in Corregidor. Aside from the regular island tour which culminated with the Malinta Tunnel Sight and Sound presentation, we also took the Sunset and Sunrise Tour Package, the Evening Lateral Tunnel Tour and some other side visits not anymore covered by any tour packages. In another visit to Corregidor when I was assigned along with another colleague by UST Center for Conservation of Cultural Properties and the Environment in the Tropic (UST-CCCPET) to accompany the visiting professor and author, William Stewart Logan to Corregidor, I was able to visit the El Fraile Island or Fort Drum, which is an island nearer Cavite that was made to look like a concrete battleship.

At around 7:00 pm the participants who had paid the extract P250 per meal had carbo-loading dinner at the Cabana Beach Resort area. Edward Kho, the Race Director of CM and CIHM welcomed everyone formally and gave last minute reminders regarding the race event the following morning.  Although the 42k race route which was said to look like the shape of “8” or infinity (of suffering the uphill?) and to be done twice to complete the 42 kilometers was discussed in the briefing done during the release of race kit in Manila nothing could really prepare one for the actual experience of the race route dubbed by one of the runner I spoken with as, “the marathon for the big boys”.   I tried looking for anyone having written anything about the 42k route of Corregidor Marathon to shed some light on what to expect. But I drew blank. Only the 21k had one as suggested by Mr. Kho himself as a pretty good read about the route but I suspect it does not come close to what the Race Director’s smirk was trying to communicate.

Since the first time I heard of Corregidor International Half Marathon 6 years ago I always wanted to experience running its pavements. But most of the times when I get to learn about CIHM, the registration to the event was either fully filled up or I have registered already at another run event coinciding with CIHM. When Corregidor Marathon, which happens a day before CIHM was inaugurated 3 years ago the reason I was not able to get on board on this event either because once again deluge of running enthusiasts registered to this event and the slots at the 42k got once again filled up quickly. Of course I am also partly to blame for dillydally with my decision to register when there was probably still slots available. Then last year I was able to finally registered at the CIHM and was all geared up to run the Rock but the visit of Pope Francis which coincided with CM and CIHM prevented my taking on the challenge because of the no sailing along the Manila Bay policy imposed by the government. The organizers were forced to reschedule CM and CIHM to March. The new date of the event did not worked out with my schedule so, I had no other recourse but to asked the organizers to instead have my registration be considered as an early registration for the 2016 CIHM, to which the organizers obliged even though it was not in their policy to do so. This year upon opening of the registration for the Corregidor Marathon I quickly wasted no time registering online for this event, never minding that I still have to confirm if the organizers were willing to honor my request regarding my previous registration. So, ho and behold when they did confirmed my last year’s CIHM registration for this year, I all of a sudden have two chances to run amongst the ruins of Corregidor Island and it is just a matter now of my surviving both runs.

At 4:00 am the breakfast buffet table was opened at Corregidor Inn. It was really a first for me to experience having heavy breakfast before an actual marathon run. In truth in spite of the belly-busting carbo dinner the previous evening I was really famished that morning. So, I figured I should indulge and put my cares away about eating so much that morning. The dreaded uphill I kept on hearing about would probably take care of the food I will be lugging along my tummy. The starting lane located near the Statue of General Douglas MacArthur at Lorcha Dock and the Corregidor Foundation, Inc. Office along the North Dock slowly began filling up with runners at 5:00 am although the sky was still blanketed with darkness. However, daylight quickly came and at 6:04 am the gun start was given. After a couple of meters running along the picturesque snaking coast line heading towards the island’s northeastern portion of the tadpole’s tail side, we finally saw the 800 meter long steep and winding incline that everyone calls “killer uphill”. We struggled climbing it.  The tail portion of Corregidor has a height of 100 to 400 feet above sea level. When the Japanese coming from Mariveles came to invade Corregidor in May 5, 1942 they beach head in this side of the island along Infantry Point and Calvary Point. Lumbering after overcoming the killer uphill and now in a more leveled ground, I followed the queue of other runners making towards the Filipino Heroes Memorial Garden where an Aid Station awaits. This was probably the 2nd kilometer of the race.  From this aid station runners proceeded towards the direction of Kindley Airfield. This portion of the road was more or less flat to slightly inclining upward.  Trees covered the left side of the road and made me I think some monkeys were residing this forested area for when I passed by a portion of it there was a kind of movement and noise among the trees. Soon we I spotted the airfield.

Kindley Airfield in contemporary history of Corregidor was where Jabidah Massacre happened involving the killing of some 180 Tausug and Sama Muslim soldiers after Operation Merdeka, a plan to destabilized Sabah in the 1967 petered out because of the mutiny of the soldiers who only learn on December 1967 after several months of preparation that they will be killing their fellow Muslim brothers in Sabah. Therefore the need to eliminate the soldiers became necessary and was put to action by mowing down with machine guns in groups of 12 these soldiers. Only 1 managed to survive this incident by the name Jibin Arula.  The news of this incident what finally united the warring Muslim groups in Mindanao into Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF). Runners ran both ends of the 800 meters grassy former landing strip before exiting the airfield to head back towards the Filipino Heroes Memorial Garden. Not far from the Airfield the Mindanao for Peace marker which probably was placed to commemorate the Jabidah Massacre. Still not farther away from this was the next Aid Station marking the 4th kilometers. From here we ran towards the Filipino Heroes Memorial Garden and turned left heading to the Japanese Memorial Garden, which was heralded by a huge Jibo-Kannon Stone Buddha. This portion was downhill that led to the Beach Resort Complex. Upon hitting the end of the downhill runners turned left until the start of the beachfront. Runners were treated to the breathtaking view of the South Channel kissing the rocky edges of the island. Runners then passed by some of the cottages that accommodated some of the participants and climbed the stairs that spilled runners back on the road. We turned left for the U-turn located in front of the Cabana clubhouse where we had the previous evening’s carbo-dinner and then proceeded to the uphill leading back to the Japanese Memorial Garden. This was probably the 6th or 7th kilometers of the race. From here we ran westward of the Island or towards the South Bottomside on a initially gradual then turning to a little more steeper downhill towards the east entrance to The Malinta Tunnel marking the end of the first loop of this portion of the island. The 925 feet length Malinta Tunnel served as shelter of the inhabitants of Corregidor including General Douglas MacArthur and President Manuel L. Quezon during the time the Japanese invaders were bombarding Corregidor beginning in December 29, 1941. Now it showcases dioramas simulating actual events in the Island. Seeing daylight at the other end of the tunnel photographers waited for the emerging runners and another Aid Station was located. From here runners were directed to proceed towards the North Dock where the Starting Line was located and from this point to turn left and then right again towards the direction of the Engineering Dock. Runners then veered left passing at the right side a ruined building, which ushered runners into a long trail. The whole scenario no longer recalls of World War II scenario but rather seemingly a more Indiana Jones or Laracroft adventure feel into it. Runners now found themselves running towards the Northwestern portion of the island and about to hit the portion called Topside, which jutted up the North Channel at 628 feet above sea level.  The trail has the view of the sea at the right side although foliage obstructed the view in some portion. The path leads to Battery Point and Morrison Point. The Topside served as the nerve center of Corregidor which held army post headquarters, barracks, officer’s headquarters, underground ordnance shops, the traditional parade grounds, hospitals, schools and etc. Currently this zone is part of the Memorial Arc Zone whose entrance runs along the steep uphill Ramsey Ravine where the second loop for this portion of the race will pass through later. I don’t know where exactly we exited but somehow we ended up on a road that soon led to where at the right side of the road the eerie ruins of the Middleside Barracks stood seemingly taunting us to imagine seeing ghosts of the soldiers walking about or peeping through the ruins.  From here runners soon entered a trail which featured the ruins of a hospital building that cannot fail to send shivers even to the bravest of us runners once you tread this path alone.

Upon emerging from this area runners wound up making way towards Battery Way which is one of the two (the other one being Battery Geary) principal defense of Corregidor during the War. This battery used to contain four 12 inch mortar10 ton that could fire upon Bataan. It was said that this placement was the last to be silence during the Japanese invasion of the Island. An Aid Station awaits here which probably marked the 12th kilometer of the race. Runners then made way to the 2 10-inch mortar totting Battery Grubb for a U-turn and then to run around the Battery Hearn, which is a 12 inch mortar facing Bataan before forging ahead to Battery Geary which has 8 12 inch mortar facing Cavite and Battery Crocket which has two 10 inch mortars also facing Cavite. After the batteries runners emerged on a road that featured the ruins of the Mile Long Barracks at the left side of the road while the Parade Ground at the right side. An aid station probably marking the 14th kilometer stood along this area. Upon turning right runners next encountered the ruins of Cine Corregidor, Pacific Memorial and the Freedom Torch before entering another trail that passes by the Spanish Lighthouse. Upon exiting the trail runners encountered about 3 kilometers of downhill along Ramsey Ravine which led back to the Bottomside towards the Starting Area at the North Dock to begin all over again of climbing the killer uphill going to the northeastern portion of the island for the second loop. Upon completion of the run at the Tail side of the island, runners proceeded again towards the Memorial Arc Zone where runners previously encountered the Battery Placements and Ruined structures only this time taking on the uphill along Ramsey Ravine for the 2nd loop of this portion of the island. Once the second loop completed runners headed back downhill along Ramsey Ravine passing by the North Dock, which leads to the 3rd and final run with the killer uphill. Once done with this portion only about 700 meters of downhill towards the Malinta Tunnel and about a hundred meters more going towards South Beach separates runners from the humongous medal waiting at the Finish Line.

I finished the race with a time of 6:33:13 with a rank of 72nd place out of 148 runners. One of my acquaintance seem to have DNF the race while the three other runners to whom I had dinner with, whom I thought I had more experienced in running, finished stronger ahead of me.  The four of us were discussing over dinner about proper spacing of time between run events to participate in. Their finish was a more convincing proof that it was more beneficial to have ample time between each run events to allow the body full recovery which obviously I do not follow. At around 2:45 pm most of the 42k runners boarded the Sun Cruises Ferry bound for Manila. I remained for yet another take at the Rock the next day at the Corregidor International Half Marathon under the 21k category. Although it was not quite hard to believe that there were those who run the CM and CIHM year after year like PinoyFitness’ Franc Ramon who had done the CIHM four times already, while my friend Emerson did CM twice, it was not unlikely there were also others who like me were taking CM and CIHM back to back. One of whom I know doing it was Rey, a runner I met at the 2015 TNF100 and another Flor of Team Philippine Star. The real question was whether I would find the route boring now that I had ran in it already and having encountered numerous uphill along the path would I still have the stamina to make another run of the Island. It turned out that getting bored was the least of the problem I got to deal with.

Some runners from the 21k category arrived at Corrigedor at 5:45 pm and just as what happened the day before, they proceeded to the organizers’ area for their kits and accommodation assignments. The rest of the 21k and 10k runners arrived at 6:45 am the next day. I half expected that there would still be more running acquaintance of mine that would be coming but unfortunately this was not so. For there were several other run events coinciding with CIHM that Sunday January 10 that got my other running companions registered. There’s Cebu City Marathon, PSE Bull Run 2016 happening in Bonifacio Global City, Maharlika Half-Marathon at CCP Complex, Fat-Ass Run 2016 in Clark Parade Ground, Pampanga and the Tarak Ridge 25k Trail Race which happens just across the North Channel in Mariveles, Bataan and by the time I probably reached halfway of the CIHM route I expected some of my friends were already be on top of the ridge and could actually espied upon Corregidor Island.

I did not expect some of the tweaks in the 21k route could actually make the CIHM run a bit more interesting after having run the CM already. But somehow it did. Upon gun start at 8:00 am runners hit the uphill road that led to the west entrance of the Malinta Tunnel first. This made the first time Corregidor runner think this was already the dreaded uphill mentioned to them as “surprise”. Upon exiting Malinta Tunnel it was still an uphill surge for runners. In truth during this portion of the race I couldn’t revved up. It seems the previous day’s exertion was going to haunt me although out the run until I could not anymore finish the race.   Another difference in the route was upon hitting the Filipino Heroes Memorial Garden runners immediately were directed towards the Japanese Memorial Garden and into the Beach Resort Complex. Only upon returning from both that runners headed to the Kindley Airfield. At this point I had already gained my strength and was pacing much better than the first 2 kilometers. Far from getting bored the familiarity with the route enabled me to anticipate distance of the next Aid Station and landmarks which gave me an idea on how to pace myself better.  After accomplishing route at the Tail side of Corregidor and was now about to cross to the other side of the Island.  The 21k route did not anymore utilize the long trail along the Battery Point and Morrison Point instead followed the 42k second loop route of going to Topside via the uphill along Ramsey Ravine. Only at the last 2 kilometers did the runners of the 21k finally get to meet the “surprise” killer uphill before heading for the finish line. I ended up finishing the race with a time of 3:08:42 with a rank of 129th out of 286 participants. I felt I made another milestone in conquering yet another run event that is known to be challenging and which had eluded me for so long. The whole Corregidor run experience coincided with the Black Nazarene Procession and because of it I can’t help point out the similarity of experience. For those who were looking from the outside at the participants, the whole exercise seems to be painfully difficult experience to undergo and even to comprehend. It is not a big surprise therefore that others question the motives of the participants. But to the devotees emerging from the melee comes out feeling blessed and justified. To them is all what really matters regardless of other people’s opinion about it. I believe this was also mirrored in the Corregidor run that was why some runners come back for another take of the Rock. The difficult journey around the island promises some form of redemption. It would even be more meaningful if the lessons that Corregidor Island holds from his multifaceted history could also be absorbed by the participants so that those who had crossed the finish line would have gain more than a weighty medal but a weightier knowledge of the country’s rich history and heritage.

 

 

Conquering the Challenging Trans Cebu Ultramarathon 2015

After running the length of Marcos Highway going to Infanta, Quezon, I thought I had ran the run event with the most uphill and most meanest road race route ever. Two weeks later I was in for a rude awakening in another tough ultramarathon. While most of my running acquaintances were having a ball earning their respective 42k finisher medal at the Manila leg of the 39th Milo International Marathon, I was in Cebu. I registered at the 55km category of the TransCebu Ultramarathon 2015. There were 34 registrants in this category but later I saw in the race result that there were only 26 of us who finished within the cut off time of 12 hours. I was 14th with a time of 10:53:09. In the 105km category they had 100 registrants but only 91 were able to make it within the cut off time of 24 hours. 14 were women. 2 of these women registrant were acquainted with me.

The event started for the 105k runners at 9:00 pm, right in front of the Municipal Hall of Naga, Cebu about 23 kilometers from Cebu City while for us 55k runners we had ours at 5:30 am in front of the Municipal Hall of Balamban about 44 km from Cebu City. This was the 50th km of the 105k runners. While we were on our way to Balamban on a service shuttle, along the road there were already some 105k runners embarking on the 2nd half of their journey to the finish line. They had been running for about 7 to 8 hours on a predominantly flat road prior to Balamban and now negotiating the Transcentral Highway (TCH) a predominantly rolling road. To describe Trans Central Highway as one of the most challenging mostly steep rolling and bending road with an element of off road thrown in for good measure just seemed to be too sterile to fully give justice to what the participants of TransCebu Ultramarathon 2015 had actually experienced along the route. TCU 2015 for me was R2L2Q shortened (for 55k at least) but on steroid.

The weather was also an added factor. At first, it was a pleasantly cool shaded morning that led to a sunny but still pretty much cool morning. Then clouds began to accumulate to fulfill the weather bureau forecast of an isolated monsoon happening in the afternoon. Then it eventually dissipated and ushered the oppressing hot afternoon sun.

Originally the gun start for the 55k was slated at 6:00 am but as soon as most of the 55k runners had arrived, gathered and collected themselves from being dazed at the feat of the 105k runners taking a brief rest and recovery at the Municipal Hall of Balamban, the gun start was sounded at 5:30 am. Before the gun start Blu, the Race Director’s reminded runners to keep it slow and enjoy the route. However, upon release from the starting area a foreign runner simply propelled ahead of everyone else. I wanted to make my finish time faster as if I am running at a 9-10 hours cut off 50k race. So, when a clump of runners composing of runners from Team Cabalen began to separate I tried to catch up with them until about 2 kilometers where Gaisano Town Center is located. But as soon as the rolling hills began to make its presence felt the distance between the lead runners and I gaped wide open until I could no longer see them in front of me. Another foreign runner picked up speed from behind me and took off as if possessed by the spirit of a formula 1 vehicle or something.

At a certain portion where the road was still pretty much flat the surrounding view of mountains and hills kind of reminded me of Sierra Madre-Tanay Route then as soon as we hit the uphill I felt I was running the uphill of both Sumulong Highway going to Antipolo and the Kenon Road going to Baguio. Before reaching the Aid Station somewhere at the steep snaking uphill road going to the 9th kilometers the view of the sea along with the massive Balamban Shipyard served as the backdrop of the route. At the 12th kilometer runners took left of an intersection leading to the Barangay Magsaysay, which was in the premises of Tabunan. A couple of meters ahead, a station with porridge or lugaw was waiting for us. Although it was not the North Face 100 variety which I ate at Tagaytay Highland, the good old fashion porridge with only salt to taste brought back memories of my childhood when I used to eat this meal whenever I was sick. This off road route led to the 1,003 meters high Mt. Manunggal, the highest peak in Cebu. The special interest of this portion of the race was to have the runners visit the site were Former President Ramon Magsaysay met his end when his presidential plane, Pinatubo crashed on March 17, 1957. To commemorate this fateful event a monument composing of the replica of the cylinder block of the main engine was installed in the site. The same replica of the cylinder block of the main engine of Pinatubo was used as design of both the finisher medal and trophy of this event. Mix dirt road and cemented pavement going steep uphill and downhill pretty much make up of the route going to the above site in Sunog, which served as the u-turn. According to my father the crash may have been triggered by a bomb explosion whose device was smuggled inside one of the baskets of mangoes given to the former president. However, I did not get to see the Magsaysay and the cylinder block engine monument for upon reaching the government structure at Sunog we were advised to take u-turn already there and return to the road that took us there. According to Blu this was a much longer route than taking the original route of taking the stairs going to the two monuments.

The whole loop going to and from Mt. Manunggal was about 10 kilometers. There were runners coming from behind did not took this loop as a result they gained on those who did. When I returned to the Trans Central Highway, which was uphill as usual, the sun was pretty much heating up the road at around 10:30 am. I had already traveled about 22nd kilometers. The name of places like Tap Tap and Ayala Height were lost to me and I only learned of these places along the route after I googled for it. But it made no difference for the common feature that left deep impressions among runners were the unli-uphells although out the race. Midway to the Aid Station at the 32nd kilometers, probably around the perimeter of Ayala Heights, a volunteer group giving out refreshments and meal waited on runners. I took the opportunity to grab a pandan-leaf wrapped sticky rice and sumptuous adobo then downed it with a couple of cup of cold soda. After a photo op I went on my way. As I was negotiating the uphill rain started to pelt. I saw that in some area situated up in the mountains fog had already gathered. I assumed that we will be heading there for I spied concrete road going there. I reached the Aid Station in front of a sari-sari store at around the 32nd kilometers. The rain was starting to exhaust itself though the fog continued to linger. As I moved on I noticed a lot of trees around. This could be Kan-Irag Nature Park.

By the time I reached Babag the rain had completely stopped and the sun began to show itself. I rested for awhile at the foot of yet another monumental uphill to gather some strength. After assaulting this portion of the race and I reached the 40th kilometer of the race which lies along a fork. The marshal at the Aid Station instructed me and another runner to take the road to Bonbon-Sudlon 2 Barangay Road and run until the 1.5th kilometers where a supposedly marker will serve as u-turn. But we been running there for some time and yet there was no sign of any signage indicating a u-turn. A returning foreign runner echoed the same observation of the absence of hint of any to tell which portion was the u-turn. So, relying on my companion’s GPS we stopped at was approximately 1.5th kilometer and turned back towards the Aids Station. From the Aid Station we returned to the Transcentral Highway (TCH), which now seem to go downhill a lot. My companion told me that about two more major uphill and then we’re done with the uphill. The first of the two, which was the steepest of the two, was near the Malubog National High School beyond it I saw a billboard announcing an outdoor adventure camp and zip-line around. Then the last one was along Busay with its summit at Busay Mountain View Nature’s Park. This was the 50th kilometer of the race. At the Aid Station Race Organizer, Joseph Prince Balthazar who was also in Cebu due to his previous week’s Cebu 360 a 72k Ultramarathon event he helped organized along with Team Lingam and was also preparing for his participation at Cobra’s Ironman 70.3 was waiting for us. He was also well acquainted with the runner I was running along with. From this Aid Station there were only 5 kilometers of mostly downhill awaits us. From the maximum elevation of 976 meters which was at Sunog U-turn we had been descending to about 2,347 meters. The sky had already turned to somber and soon the sun will take a dip. The remaining few kilometers was seemingly more torturous as anticipation to reach the finish line at Cebu Hilltop Hotel heightens and I was getting impatient. I was booked at Cebu Hilltop Hotel, which was about 500 meters uphill from the town proper of Lahug via Cebu Veterans Drive, which is connected with Trans Central Highway. Twice I walked uphill going to my hotel coming from the city and once going down to the city, now I will see the Cebu Hilltop Hotel coming from the other end. Every time I see the mountainous area farther away from my hotel when I was hiking up I cringed on the thought that the route might actually take us beyond those mountain. Then I brushed away the thought thinking perhaps there were flatter road below those mountains. Now I know. The Finish Line was at the pool side of the hotel so upon arriving runners will have to go through the runners-infested lobby of the hotel and into the poolside. Since, most of the participants were still around the awarding of finisher medal, trophy and shirt became a warm and cozy occasion.

I was just simply glad I got through the race and was swearing I would not again find myself stepping back on any portion of Cebu Transcentral Highway and its conjoint twin the Cebu Veteran’s Drive. Well, at least that was my sentiment during the run but upon having rested and recovered a few days later, I was setting my eyes on marking with a pen the Naga-Uling Road, Toledo-Tabunok Road and Toledo-Tabuelan-San Remigio Rd as having my feet stepped on during a run event.