Four Weeks

4 09 2015

I did not realize that I’ve been through with four weeks of my training since I’ve started for the 2015-16 Ultra Trail Running Season. I started my training on August 3, 2015 and the first day was a Rest Day with some stretching exercises.

I am still following a training schedule program which I’ve been using for the past two years with a little adjustment on my weekly training volume which I’ve increased within the range of 5-10 miles per week which are mostly done in my weekend LSDs. Before, I was doing an average of 50-55 miles per week but for the past weeks, I’ve have reached a peak of 66-67 miles per week. I feel okey, healthy, and pain-free from my knees and legs and had no bouts of leg cramps or “bonking”. I guess, there must a lot of good reasons why at my age of 63, my knees are still holding up and I could still hike some steep mountains.

Surprisingly, the bottle of Aleve that I bought lately have not been opened yet and for the past four months, I’ve never taken any pain-killer tablet in my races and trail running workouts.

My past failures to finish a 100-mile mountain trail run were caused by nutritional and hydration problems on my part. It took me two or more years to experiment what is good for my body. I really don’t have any problems with 50Ks, 50-milers, and 100K trail races with regards to nutrition but when I join 100-milers in higher elevations, my nutrition just put me down on the last 30 miles of the race. Following my experiences in the 100Ks that I’ve finished, I would only take in Energy Gels and Water and some solid foods offered at the Aid Stations and I would finish the course without any problem. I bought some nutrition books for endurance athletes and made some researches on the Internet. In addition, I was able to get some suggestions and advise from the Filipino veteran ultra runners residing in the United States. These suggestions from them confirms the studies and researches that I’ve read on books and on the Internet.

On this new training season, I’ve concentrated on my nutrition, not only before during, after my workout, but completely observed my daily nutritional intake to my body. I don’t count the calories of the food that I ingest but I make sure that I have Carbohydrates, Fats, Proteins, and Vegetables/Fruits in my 3 meals a day. Snacks in between meals would be anything, whether it is a fruit juice, milk, fruits, yogurt, or snack bars. I’ve never drink milk when I was in the military up to 2 months ago. Lately, by accident, I found out that Organic Fresh Milk does not give me stomach trouble caused by lactose intolerance. I’ve indulged myself in eating avocado as part of my meal or snacks and ate more foods rich in fats.

On my nutrition before my runs, I would have a breakfast of coffee, oatmeal or cereal with milk, avocado with milk & sugar, yogurt or fruit juice.

During my runs, I would hydrate every time my GPS watch would beep to indicate that I’ve covered a mile and have to strictly do the said “drill” every time I hear a beep. For my runs less than 8-9 miles, I would just drink water and ingest one 1 capsule of S’Cap every hour and after the workout. But for my LSDs on weekends which are more than 9 miles, I would carry with me a Tailwind Mixed with water in two bottles and purely Water in my 1.5-liter hydrapak on my backpack. I would alternately, drink Tailwind and water every other mile. I would also ingest 1 capsule of S’Caps every hour. At the turn-around or after finishing the first half of my run, I would eat any solid food I brought with me like, boiled potatoes, power bars, dried fruits, and some baby foods (fruit/vegetable).

I’ve stopped using Energy Gels in my runs since the start of this training but I still carry at least two packs just in case of emergency. I’ve have observed in my past races that Gels, after ingesting about 10 pieces, I would end up throwing up even if I use different flavors and flavors that I liked that didn’t give nauseated feeling in my past ultra runs.

My post-nutrition intake would be immediately after the workout——lots of water, one can of coke or one bottle of Ensure and a Power Bar. Once I arrive home, I would eat a complete meal. For the rest of the day, I would continuously hydrate myself with water, sometime consuming 1.5 gallons of water, and strictly adhering to my complete meals—carbohydrates, fats, protein, vegetable and fruits.

I have also incorporated “speed” workouts in my weekly program. Wednesday is usually my “speed” day where I do it on a flatter ground and paved road. This is the only time that I don’t go to the trails and mountains. Since there is no oval track near my place, I would go to a Public Park (Echo Lake Park) where the streets that surround it has a total loop distance of exactly one mile. I would do 1 mile X 5-6 repetitions or 2 miles X 3 repetitions with at least 5-6 minutes rest/jog intervals in between repetitions. In the mountains/trails, I usually do some “strides” or fast & quick leg-turn-overs on flatter portions within a distance of 50-100 meters just to give some “wake-up” drill to my tired leg muscles.

Once or twice a week, I would go to a mountain which has an “up and down” route where I have measured on each way (2.5 miles up & 2.5 miles down). I would wear my hydration vest full of 2 water bottles and 1.5-liter of hydra pack on my back with solid foods. I would practice “power-hiking” on the UP portion of the course and never attempt to do any run or jog. I would register the time from the start up to the time I reach the peak of the mountain. I have observed that I had been improving my time to reach the peak every week. The 2.5-mile distance has a vertical distance of 1,280 feet and my best time so far is 43 minutes for the power hiking in the UP direction.

On the ridge of the mountain, I would continue jogging and hiking for about 2 to 3 miles. On my way back, I would start my fast “downhill run” on the measured portion where I had my “power-hiking” workout. My attitude here in the fast downhill run is a “go for broke” one! A fast and continuous downhill hill run for 2.5 miles would “thrash” my legs! I am surprised that my old knees can still withstand the hard pounding of my feet on the ground. Every week, I would improve on my time on this downhill run! My fastest time for the downhill run is 20 minutes!

Power Hiking and Fast Downhill Running made me register a faster pace and speed for my daily runs!

Two years ago when I shifted to trail running, I did not give any attention to the vertical distance (total ascent/descent) in my workouts but it was later last year that I have concentrated more on the vertical distance of the trails I’ve been into. However, since I’ve started this new training season, I made sure that my weekly totals on the vertical distance will not be lower than 6,000 feet.

On Mondays and Fridays, I would do some stretching and calisthenics/core strengthening exercises. I would also do “foam rolling” to my legs for about an hour with more concentration to my calves, hamstrings, quads, and butt muscles. I stopped my lap swimming for the past weeks and by the end of the 7th or 8th week, I would incorporate (stationary) cycling in my weekly workouts.

On my weekend LSDs, I don’t eat a heavy breakfast (ingesting only coffee) as I want to simulate how I would apply my nutrition and hydration strategy when I am about to reach my “bonking” period which is about 1-2 hours after the start of my run. This is where I would observe how my body would react to any food or fluids that I take in, whether it is water, Tailwind, S’Caps, solid foods (power bars/baby foods/power bars/dried fruits), electrolyte mix, or Clif Bloks. So far, my maximum LSD distance was 20 miles in 6 hours, carrying a heavy load of water in my hydration vest (2-20 oz of water bottle & 1.5-liter hydrapak on my backpack + solid foods). However, if I use my 2-16 oz Simple Hydration bottles (tucked in my race belt with power bars) and one hand-held 12 oz handheld water, that same distance of 20 miles is usually done in 5 hours or less!

On the technical aspect and the monitoring of my body’s feedback on my performance every workout, my Suunto Ambit 3 Peak GPS Watch, had been very useful in monitoring my Heart Rate, VO2, Cadence, Calories Consumed/Burned, and Recovery Period. From these data, I would be able to know on what to do for my rest and recovery for the next workout. My daily workouts are properly recorded in a notebook/journal that I would religiously write every time I finish a workout, to include, what I feel before, during , and after the workout.

In summary, I attribute my faster and better performance in my 4 weeks of trail running due to the following: (1) Better nutrition before, during , and after every workout; (2) Constant hydration with water every mile with Tailwind every other mile; (3) Speed workouts on Wednesdays and incorporation of “strides” in my daily runs; (4) Adapting my body to ingest S’Caps/Salt Sticks during the run on hotter days without any negative reaction to my body; (5) More vertical distance and higher altitude hiking/downhill running would acclimatize my respiratory system; and (6) “Foam Rolling” & Stretching with Core Exercises twice a week.

I’ve been using my Hoka One One “Speedgoat” Trail Shoes for my LSDs and most of my daily runs while my Inov-8 Race Ultra 270 Trail Shoes and Hoka One One Challenger ATR would be used in my recovery and tempo runs.

Monthly Mileage (August 2015): 238.65 Miles or 381.84 Kilometers

Monthly Vertical Distance (August 2015): 41,605 feet

"Leave No Trace"

“Leave No Trace”

Los Angeles Trail #1: Griffith Park Trail #1 (“Merry-Go-Round” To Dante’s View/Peak & Back)

24 08 2015

Griffith Park is the Pride and Most Popular Outdoor Park of Los Angeles City. It is one of the world’s biggest city parks with a total area of 4,467 acres, about five times bigger than the size of the New York’s City Central Park, and considered as the biggest municipal park completely surrounded by urban areas.

There are so many access roads/streets that lead to the park depending on your purpose of visit or activity. There is Greek Theater which is a popular venue for music concerts and stage plays; an 18-hole Golf Course & Driving Range; a Museum; The Griffith Observatory; The HOLLYWOOD Sign; a Horse Back Riding Facility; Carousel/”Merry-Go-Round”; Old Train & Railroad Museum; more than 50 miles of Fire Roads & Trails; and 20+ miles of paved roads for cycling. Griffith Park is the city’s “People’s Park” where its residents would enjoy the outdoor and its trails for free. The Fire Roads and Trails are strictly for hiking; running; and horse-back riding as MTBs or mountain trail cycling is not allowed.

The “Merry-Go-Round” Parking Lot #1 to Dante’s View/Peak Trail Route is my favorite trail running route which has a “one-way” distance of 4.5 miles, making it a total of 9 miles in going back to the Parking Lot retracing the route on the first half.

In order to go to Griffith Park and to experience running or hiking this trail route, one has to take the Golden State Freeway 5 North and Exit at Crystal Spring Drive (Exit 141B), turn Right at Crystal Spring Drive and after 1/4 mile turn left on the first intersection. The ascending paved road goes to the “Merry-Go-Round” Parking Lot #1. The toilet is located near the Merry-Go-Round facility.

“Merry-Go-Round” Parking Lot #1

I usually start from the place where I park my car. Across the paved road from the Parking Lot #1 are two fire roads; one that goes south and the other that goes east. I usually take the fire road that goes to the east (it’s called the Coolidge Trail) that has an abrupt ascent until it levels up for about 15 yards. Follow this fire road as it goes up immediately after a right turn. From this trail you would see on your left shoulder the Crystal Spring Road and the Golden State Freeway 5 and this will be the sight on your first mile with the uphill and winding trail ahead of you. The 2nd mile will be a gradual uphill climb where one will be passing a Golf Driving Range on your left. Do not turn left on the fire trail that goes back to Crystal Spring Road. One should be turning RIGHT on every trail intersection along this 2nd mile section. There is only way but UP to the peak of the hill.

Trailhead. Take the Trail On The Left (Coolidge Trail)

Trailhead. Take the Trail On The Left (Coolidge Trail)

Golf Academy's Driving Range

Golf Academy’s Driving Range

5-Way Trail Intersection

5-Way Trail Intersection

Beacon Hill

Beacon Hill

At the 2.5-mile point, the route shall level off and one will encounter a 5-way trail intersection. I usually turn right from this point and go to a peak which is popularly known before as Beacon Hill. As I reached the peak, I would turn around and back to the 5-way intersection. I would continue my run by going to the fire road that goes up and there is only one fire road that leads you to a ascending direction. After about 50-60 meters of uphill climb, you will see a marker that says, “Joe Klass Water Stop”. The water fountain is located on a clearing on your right. Don’t pay attention to the bees that “guard” the said fountain, they are always there the whole year round. If you need to drink, just drink or refill your bottles and then immediately leave the place. Don’t mess up with those bees!

Signage Of The Joe Klass Water Source

Signage Of The Joe Klass Water Stop

The Water Fountain (Bees Are Not Visible In The Picture)

The Water Fountain (Bees Are Not Visible In The Picture)

Vista Del Valle Drive

Vista Del Valle Drive

Once you get out from the water fountain clearing, you will hit a paved road (it’s called Vista Del Valle Drive). After about 50 meters running on this paved road, you have covered already 3 miles! Follow this road and on your left is a paved flat area which is a popular site for photo-ops overlooking the city and sometimes, it is being used as a helipad or location for movie shootings. As you passed this flat paved area, you can see ahead of you two fire roads on your left: one that goes down and one that goes up. Go to the fire road that goes up! This fire road splits from Vista Del Valle Drive and it has a closed wooden hut beside the start of the trail.

Griffith Park Helipad Area

Griffith Park Helipad Area

Uphill Trail Beside The Hut

Uphill Trail Beside The Hut (Left Side Of The Hut)

After two or three turns, you will see a wooden bridge and a higher hill where the fire road is leading to. You are now approaching the dreaded Hogback Trail. This trail is too steep on some sections and make sure that you have a good traction on your trail running shoes. Before the last climb of this trail, you must have covered 4 miles. I always have the urge to drink a lot of water from my hydration bottle before the last climb. Once you finish the last climb on the Hogback Trail, there is a water source (a water fountain and a faucet) and you can make your water refill here.

Wooden Bridge & Hogback Trail

Wooden Bridge & Hogback Trail

From the water source, follow the fire road as it continuously go on a higher elevation (don’t turn left on the trail that goes down after the faucet/water source). In about 30 meters from the faucet, there is a three-way intersection, turn left on the fire road and in about 100 meters, you can now see some concrete tables and benches inside a corral on the Dante’s View/Peak and the Hollywood Sign can be seen on your right. The Dante’s View/Peak is usually the resting place of those who hike and jog. One could see the City, the Griffith Observatory, the Hollywood Sign and the trails/fire roads that snake within the perimeter of the park. But for me, I just get inside the corral and touch the biggest rock where the Survey Marker is located and immediately turn-around. The distance covered is 4.5 miles at this point!

Dante's View/Peak

Dante’s View/Peak

From the turn-around, I retrace my route as I go back to where I started, to include going to the peak of the Beacon Hill. One has to be very careful in going down along the Hogback Trail as there is great possibility that one makes a mistake of slipping from the trail which is purely a rock.

My Fastest Time to complete this trail running route is 2 hours. It has a total ascent of 1,857 feet and total descent of 1,837 feet. Dante’s Peak/View has an elevation of 1,608 feet above sea level. Allocate at least 3 hours for an average hiking with picture/hydration stops for this route.

A Runner’s Circle (ARC) Specialty Store is only 1 Mile away from the “Merry-Go-Round” Parking Lot. From the Parking Lot, turn right to Crystal Spring Road towards the Los Feliz Avenue Entrance to Griffith Park. Turn Left on Los Feliz Avenue and immediately after crossing the bridge, the ARC Store will be on your Right.

More trail routes to come within Griffith Park and other parts in the Los Angeles Area and its Suburbs in my future posts.

2015-16 Trail Running Season: 2nd Week

20 08 2015

Total Distance: 66 miles/105.6 kilometers

Total Time: 16:53:02 hours

Total Ascent: 12,783 feet

Total Descent 12,834 feet

Average Pace: 17:00 minutes/mile

Average Speed: 4.33 miles per hour

Average Heart Rate: 135 bpm

Total Calories: 7,139 kcal

Shoes: Hoka One One Speedgoat

Cucamonga Wilderness Peak

Cucamonga Wilderness Peak

Conrado Bermudez Jr: The FIRST Filipino Finisher Of A 200-Mile Mountain Ultra Marathon Trail Single Stage Run

17 08 2015

My friends and contemporaries would always tell me that I am CRAZY to be running ultra marathon distances in the mountains in the country as well as in Asia and the United States. I just smile because that is the best description we (as ultra runners) could get to those who have not yet experienced our sports. But now, more ultra runners have extended their body limits and endurance by introducing a 200-mile endurance mountain trail event which has doubled the famous 100-mile distance which is now being accepted as the NEW Marathon Distance in Ultra Running. The runners of this new event could be the CRAZIEST of them all and since it was introduced only last year in the first edition of the Lake Tahoe 200-Mile Endurance Run, three of these events had been scheduled for this year and called the Grand Slam of 200-Milers (it was supposed to be 4 races: Colorado 200; Arizona 200; Lake Tahoe 200; and Bigfoot 200 but the Arizona 200 was cancelled).

Let me introduce to you the CRAZIEST Ultra Runner who just recently finished the 1st edition of the Bigfoot 200-Mile Endurance Run——Conrado Bermudez Jr! Being the FIRST Pinoy to have finished this mountain ultra trail running event, it would be proper and fitting to have his story in running to be published here as one of the main highlights of this blog with the hope of inspiring others and telling to the world that we, Filipinos, are very strong and resilient in nature.

Bigfoot 200-Mile Endurance Race Picture Collage

Bigfoot 200-Mile Endurance Race Picture Collage

Conrado Bermudez Jr, or fondly called as “Jun”, finished the 200-Mile Race in 94 hours, 26 minutes, and 30 seconds, placing himself as #40 among the 59 finishers where 80 runners started in the morning of Friday, August 7, 2015 at the Mt Helens National Monument in Washington State. The race has a cut-off time of 108 hours which is equivalent to 4 1/2 days, forcing the runners to complete 45 miles per day during the race. The following is the general description of the race as taken from its Website:

“The Bigfoot 200 is a trail running event in the Washington State that seeks to give back to the trails by inspiring preservation of the wild lands and donating money to trail building in the Pacific Northwest. The race is a point to point traverse of some of the most stunning, wild, and scenic trails in the Cascade Mountain range of Washington State. The Race ends in Randle, WA after traversing the Cascade Mountains from Mt St Helens to Mt Adams and along ridge lines with views of Mt Rainier, Mt Hood, and more!

The race will bring together people from all over the world to tackle this incredible challenge. With over 50,000 feet of ascent and more than 96,000 feet of elevation change in 2015 miles, this non-stop event is one of a kind in both its enormous challenge and unparalleled scenery. The race is not a stage race nor it is a relay. Athletes will complete the route solo in 108 hours or less, some without sleeping.”

Jun finished the race with barely 6 hours of sleep during the race! He was supported by his wife, Kat, their daughter and running friends who would meet him in Aid Stations where there is vehicular access. For more details of the race, one can visit the following link:

Finish Line Of The Bigfoot 200-Mile Race

Finish Line Of The Bigfoot 200-Mile Race With The Race Director (Photo From Facebook)

Jun is a native of General Santos City, graduate of the Philippine Military Academy belonging to Class 1996, a Special Forces Airborne, and Scout Ranger of the Philippine Army before his family migrated to the United States.

In my interview with him on the later part of last year after he finished the other 3 100-Milers in the Grand Slam of Ultrarunning (except Western States 100); he recollected that he first personally met me when he was the Aide-De-Camp of the Commander of the Southern Command in Zamboanga City and I was then the Commander of the Task Force Zamboanga. The year was 2000 and he was barely 4 years in the military service. He went further to tell me that he got inspired by my blogs and photo running galore through my posts in our PMA Bugo-bugo Facebook Page.

Jun finished the prestigious Boston Marathon Race in 3:11:14 hours.

The following are the some of the data about Jun and the answer to the questions I’ve asked him:

1. Home Province-Gen. Santos City; Age-42 ; Height- 5’9″; Present Body Weight-146 lbs ; Schools Attended (Elementary to Graduate Schools)-Notre Dame of Mlang, Noth Cotabato (Elem), Notre Dame of Dadiangas College-High School Dept; PMA Class-1996 and Special Training in the Military-Scout Ranger, Airborne.

2. Places of Assignments and Positions held in the Military/Philippine Army:

Platoon Leader-  Alpha Coy, 25IB, PA as Ready Deployment Force (striker battalion) of 6ID in Maguindanao, Sultan Kudarat, Cotabato Province. My platoon was also involved in capturing Camp Rajamuda in Pikit, Cotabato Province in 1997.

Company Commander- Bravo Coy, 25IB, PA , mostly deployed in Maguindanao. My company was also deployed in the front lines of Matanog and Buldon and was very instrumental in capturing Camp Abubakar.

3. Present Job & Working Hours-Security Officer in the United Nations Headquarters in NYC and works on day shift; City of Residence in the US-Jersey City, New Jersey; Wife’s Job- ER Nurse; Gender & Number of Children- one daughter

4. Brief Background of Running (during Childhood up to College and as Cadet of the PMA)

I started running when I was 7 years old. I grew-up in a farm and the only playground we had was an open field and trails where we would run and tag each other. In elementary and high school, I was so engrossed on soccer games than any other ballgames. This is why when I joined the PMA, I discovered that I was a decent runner because I was always in the lead pack when we had our 2-mile run as part of our physical fitness test. I also represented my company (PMA) in various races but most of the time I bonked because I usually go all out at the start and faint halfway through, which resulted to my ER visits. My style of running then was with a “do or die” mentality; no technique, no proper hydration and nutrition. It was just a plain “old-school” way and lots of brute force.

5. Best time in 5K- 19:22; 10K-42:08 ; Half-Marathon-1:26:52 ; and Marathon-3:11:14 All were done in 2013.

6. Brief story on your exposure to ultra distance running events—-first 50K; first 50-miler; first 100K; and first 100-miler.

I started joining races in 2012. That year I only finished 2 marathons. I was following your blogs and postings about the Bataan Death March 102 and 160 and the other races you directed and I got inspired by the spirit of the running community, and it was that I got curious about ultrarunning, especially the 100-mile distance.

To start my ultrarunning quest, I signed-up for a local flat, out-and-back, looped course. Thinking that 50km was just over a marathon, and 50 miles was just 2 marathons, I signed-up for a 100k, which was held in March 2013 in New Jersey. I’m glad that I met some new good friends there, who are now like a family. I was so proud that I finished in that muddy, swampy, and cold course third place. My wife and daughter were there for my first ultra. As a solitary person, running alone for a day was not such a big deal. The feeling of finishing a long distance further boosted my spirit… I got hooked. Then I signed-up for my first 100 miler scheduled three months after. It was in June in the inaugural Trail Animal Running Club (TARC) 100-Mile Endurance Run and the first 100-mile run in Massachusetts. The race started at 7 pm Friday with a cut-off of 30 hours. The course was in a 25-mile flat trails with some creeks spread along the way. I was very enthusiastic to train knowing that some of my friends are also running the race. As part of my preparation, I was reading some blogs and race reports, and I even asked your advice on how to deal with the distance. You discussed to me the proper nutrition and hydration and also incorporating hike into running. The course got indescribably muddy, with most sections in knee-deep mud in every mile, but with my grit and determination, I was able to finish despite a big number of DNF in the race. I felt reborn and my spirit was so high. It took me a week to recover from the pain.

In November, I did my first 50-mile race as  a finale for the year. The JFK 50 Mile is the oldest and the largest ultramarathon in the US. The course is a combination of road and trail. It passes through the Appalachian Trail and C&O Canal Towpath then ends in an 8-mile paved road in Maryland. The course was pretty easy and fast. This is where I met some new hardcore ultrarunners from the Virginia Happy Trails Club.

After running all long distances, I signed-up for my first 50k as part of my back-to-back training for my incoming six 100’s. The Febapple Fifty was held on Saturday of February 2014. Then the next day, I ran the Central Park Marathon. The Febapple race was fun. The course was filled mostly with knee-high ice and snow in a rolling hills of South Mountain Reservation in New Jersey. It was quite a tough race because the ice turned slushy and it was a bit hard to run. I still managed to finish in the top ten.

All of my first attempts of these distances were mostly to get me into groove to venture and discover ultrarunning. I realized the 100-mile distance is my favorite.

7. Training Preparation in your 100-Miler Races and Nutrition Strategy in your Races. How do you balance your training with your work and family? (*I will discuss my training in item # 9).

In short ultra races, I carry a handheld bottle or belt hydration system. They are lighter that I could run faster. I take one salt tablet every hour but if I sweat a lot, I take two every hour and nothing at night when it’s cold. In aid stations, I eat potato, banana, watermelon, and PB & J aside from the Ensure that I carry as my basic load. I make sure I take more nutrition at the early stage of the race. I also drink ginger ale and Coke/Pepsi to refresh my mind from the lows.

I come home from work around 8pm and do my chores and help my daughter do her homework. If all is done, I relax for awhile and train. It usually takes me an hour or two to finish my training. I sleep around midnight and wake-up at 6am. I am fortunate that my wife is also supportive of my passion as she herself is an ultrarunner. And our daughter is also our number one cheerer. So far, everyone is in sync in the family.

Jun Bermudez @ Leadville 100-Mile Race

Jun Bermudez @ Leadville 100-Mile Race (Photo From UltraSignUp)

8. Were you aware of the US Grand Slam of Ultrarunning? Since you missed the Western States 100 this year, do you intend to take a shot on the 2015 US Grand Slam of Ultrarunning?

I did not have my qualifier for Western States  last year. I was already aware of the Grand Slam of Ultrarunning, so to get the feel of it, I tried to sign-up for six 100-mile races. I put my name in Massanutten Mountain Trail 100 and Wasatch Front 100 for lottery and fortunately, I was accepted. Since I have proven that I could finish multiple races in a gap of 3-5 weeks, I have more confidence now to challenge myself in GS in the future. There’s only a slim chance for me to get into Western States with one ticket but I will make sure I will apply every year to increase my chances. If not, I am planning to do more challenging 100-mile mountain races next year. It just sank-in that what I did was insane. Every time I finished, I cursed myself for signing-up and promised myself not to do 100’s anymore. But a couple of days after, I feel that I am ready to go again. Thus, if ever I am accepted in Western States in the future, I won’t hesitate to join the Grand Slam.

9. Knowing that you are a “lowlander”, how did you train for the 100-mile mountain races that you finished? How did you cope up with the possibility of encountering “high altitude” sickness in your latest two 100-milers?

My training was focused in strengthening my legs, ankles, and feet in battling the rigorous technical terrain. But 90% of my training was indoor because of my busy schedule, and  I have a child to watch that I could not leave at home if my wife is working or training for her ultra events. I usually do stairs workout, climbing up and down, up to 250 floors without rest every two weeks, which is a great way to improve my VO2max and giving me more mountain legs. Most of the time, I abuse my incline trainer/treadmill, which goes to 40%. I use it for incline hike/run with 10-15 lbs of rucksack together with my 2.5 pounder ankle weights. Although I hated speed workout, I still do my 5k in treadmill and this keeps my pace honest. Sometimes I do my trail long runs in the weekends with my friends but most of the time, I am stuck on my treadmill. Treadmill running is boring but it gives me more mental conditioning to tackle the distance. Aside from that, it also preserves my feet from the hard pounding of the pavement. I don’t really track my weekly mileage because I don’t have a proper training plan that I follow. I just listen to my body and do whatever I feel I need to work on. And to avoid injury, I do strength and core workout twice a week.

In an attempt to combat altitude sickness, I was taking  iron, B complex, and vitamin C supplements. But these didn’t really help much. I still got more vomitting in Leadville (12,600 ft highest altitude) after mile 60 and had some also after mile 70 in Wasatch.

10. How did you balance recovery and preparation in between those 100-milers for the 6-month duration of your ultra events?

I treat every race as my long run. After the race, I relax, stretch, and foam roll for 3-4 days to get rid of the pain. I also come back to work 2 days after the race. At work, I stand for 6 hours. I think standing at work and walking from home to train station and to work helps my fast recovery. At the end of the week, I start doing easy runs again. Then the next week, I go back to my usual training routine. My taper starts 2 weeks before the next race. I did this routine in my last four 100 milers. In fact, I was feeling fresh every time I start the next race and my spirit gets stronger. I was amazed that I was able to do sub 20 hours in 3 100 milers. Although I did not achieve my goal of finishing Leadville 100 in sub 25 and Wasatch Front 100 in sub 30, I am still ecstatic that I finished those races SOLO (no pacer, no crew) and without getting injured. When I finished Leadville 100, I focused more on recovery by just doing stretching, hiking and easy runs. It was in Leadville that I suffered much because of the altitude and my mistake of not hydrating properly. I had nausea and I threw up every time I ate and drank after mile 60, and I was also suffering from a bad stomach issue. Wasatch is harder than Leadville. But due to my proper hyrdation and nutrition, I felt better and stronger although I still had gastrointestinal issues around mile 70, but later I managed to cope with them by slowing down and taking my time at aid stations to recover.

11. What are your tips and advise to those who would venture to mountain ultra trail running events. What would be the things that you have to improve upon if ever you want to improve your performance in your previous 100-milers?

It takes a lot of discipline. Training involves time away from your family and it is important that no matter what, family comes first. It is helpful if your family is supportive, so that is paramount in your quest for ultrarunning and paramount in the list of things you have to make sure you obtain, foremost.

Never be afraid of the adventure. It is not always about the destination (aka finishing) but the journey. That is my advice to other runners.

Personally, I think I need to improve on certain strategies like hydration and nutrition. Also, not just to eliminate issues like GI problems that come with certain races, but— more importantly— how to perform well regardless of these problems because, lets face it, problems encountered during races MAY NOT ever go away. So it is a matter of pushing past these issues and finishing strong. Thats what I need to work on.

12. Aside from the 2015 US Grand Slam of Ultrarunning plan, what is in store for you in the coming ultra running years?

I want to venture into other Ultra races. The challenging ones, in particular. There are many races out there to explore with challenging course and beautiful sceneries. When they go hand in hand, they become priceless experiences, especially when you finish them. Like I said, mountain 100-milers are my favorite, but that is not to say I will not try to explore on distances beyond that. We’ll wait and see.

Jun could not stop wanting for more and he is now one of the few mountain ultra trail 200-mile single stage finishers entire the world. For the past two years, he has the following 100-miler mountain trail races with their corresponding finish time in his belt :

TARC 100-Miler in Westwood, Massachusetts (June 14, 2013) —-25:19:27 hours

New Jersey Ultra Trail Festival 100-Miler in Augusta, New Jersey (November 23, 2013)—-18:53:31 hours

Massanutten 100-Miler in Front Royal, Virginia (May 17, 2014)—-28:05:55 hours

Great New York City 100-Miler (June 21, 2014)—-19:33:14 hours

Vermont 100-Miler (July 19, 2014)—-19:10:51 hours

Leadville (Colorado) 100-Miler (August 16, 2014)—-29:19:11 hours

Wasatch Front (Utah) 100-Miler (September 5, 2014)—-32:18:26 hours

Massanutten 100-Miler (May 16, 2015)—-25:45:03 hours

San Diego (California) 100-Miler (June 6, 2015)—-22:16:27 hours

After his sub-24 hour finish at the San Diego 100-Mile Endurance Race, I told him that he has to rest and recover in between his races to let his body free from injuries brought about by over racing or over training in ultra distances. I even told him that he has to prepare for the possibility of being selected in the lottery for the Western States 100-Mile Endurance Race if ever he registers to join the race. I emphasized that I am betting on him that he will be the FIRST Pinoy Ultra Runner to be awarded the “One Day-24 Hour” Silver Buckle in the said race and I am sure that it will take another generation of Pinoy Ultra Runners to surpass such accomplishment.

My prediction on his ultra running career brought not a single word from his mouth but instead responded to me with a smile. Jun is a silent type guy and does not openly brag about his ultra running finishes on the Social Media and he does not even have a blog or journal where he can relate and share his stories in his ultra races. However, my interview with him has a lot of tips and advise for those who would like to embark on mountain ultra trail running, most specially to those who are in the lowlands and for those who don’t have access to the mountains or simply lazy to be in the outdoors.

BR & Jun @ Lake Cuyamaca

BR & Jun @ Lake Cuyamaca

Before we parted ways in Lake Cuyamaca in Mt Laguna, San Diego, California, he intimated to me that his ultra running career is not complete if he will not be able to finish the Grand Slam of the Bataan Death March 102/160 Ultra Marathon Race! Hopefully, that will be the day that Jun will be able to meet the whole Pinoy Ultra Running Community in his homeland.

This is what I said to Jun, “Get your Western States 100-Mile Silver Buckle first before coming home, Cavalier!”

(Note: Jun had been using HOKA ONE ONE Shoes in all his trail running races and training)

2015-16 Trail Running Season: First Week Of Training

12 08 2015

Total Mileage: 53.03 miles (84.85 kilometers)

Total Ascent: 9,225 feet

Total Descent: 9,098 feet

Average Speed: 4.36 miles per hour

Average Pace: 13:50 minutes per mile

Shoes: Hoka One One Speedgoat

GPS Watch: SUUNTO Ambit 3 Peak

First Week Run @ Lower Sam Merrill Trail

First Week Run @ Lower Sam Merrill Trail

Race Report: Mt Sembrano 32K Trail Run

18 05 2015

Two weeks before the race, the Race Director and friend of mine, Bong Delos Angeles, sent me a message telling me that I am invited to join the 2nd edition of this race which he is organizing. I told him that I will try my best to join the race if I have the time to return to Manila after my 1st Mt Tapulao Trail Run which is held the day before this race.

One week before the Mt Tapulao Trail Run, I decided to shorten the course from 46K to 36K so that I can have the time to return to Manila, coming from Barangay Barangay Dampay Salaza, Palauig, Zambales and spend the night in Manila before proceeding to the Starting Area which is located in Barangay Malaya, Pililla, Rizal.

The plan was not to race in this race because I had a 20K easy run to the peak of Mt Tapulao the day before the race. I was following a training plan that called for a “back-to-back” Long Runs on the said weekend and it was a good reason to join this race to comply with the training program.

I arrived in Manila on the night of Friday coming from Zambales and I knew that I will have a limited time to sleep as it was my first time to go to Pililla, Rizal and look for the starting area. I found out that the way to Pililla, Rizal is the same way that goes to the starting area of my Tanay 50K Run. I missed the turn that goes to the town of Pililla and I had to go back after finding out that I got lost. It was a bad sign!

As soon as I arrived at the Starting Area in the Multi-Purpose Covered Court of Barangay Malaya, I could see the runners ready for the start of the race. The race has two distance categories: 15K and 30K. The 15K distance category is for those “newbies” in trail running and other local running “celebrities”. I opted to join the longer course and expected to be “fried” under the heat of the sun!

First Mile Of The Race

First Mile Of The Race

The 30K distance started ahead of the 15K runners and I was positioned at the back of the pack as one of the last runners. The route was simply going on easterly direction from the Barangay Hall and it was a paved road going to the trailhead which is a straight assault trail to the peak of the mountain which is ultimately the Mt Sembrano. From the trailhead, it was a single-track trail ascending at a very steep grade. I just simply hiked on this trail, trying to follow the runner in front of me. Just when I was halfway to the first peak of the mountain, the leading runner of the 15K distance category were already on my back trying to pass me along the trail. I was impressed with the 15K runners as they were able to maintain their pace despite the steepness of the trail. I had to give way for them and some of them are my friends and runner-finishers in my previous races.

I decided to use hand-held water bottles on each of my hands instead of using my hydration vest with bottle pockets on both sides of my chest. It was my first time to use my TNF Handheld bottles in a trail running race which I bought sometime in 2009. I had no problem using them as I was using my cycling gloves which provided lightness on the way I was gripping them. I could still use my fingers and palms/hands in holding the rocks on those very steep portions of the trail.

I did not join the race to compete but to have a “back-to-back” long runs for the weekend. My goal was to finish the distance of 30 kilometers within the cut-off time; try & test my apparel/shoes; and find out if I can withstand using two hand-held bottles for the distance.

Going To The Peak

Going To The Peak

Once I reached the first peak, I had to refill my water bottles in an Aid Station and I could see a beautiful scenery all around me. The mountain is covered with cogon grass with the Laguna De Bay on the West; the Windmills of Bugarin on the North; the Mt Sembrano Peak on the East; and more cogon grasses on the South. I could see already runners coming from the peak as well as the runners in front of me going to the peak. It’s time to move and reach the peak.

Looking at the elevation profile of the whole course, the peak is about 700+ meters above sea level with a cumulative distance of 7 kilometers. It looks like my “Brown Mountain” playground but with a shorter distance to the peak of the mountain. From the peak, the course is descending with few hills and runnable ascents. But it is the heat of the sun that will definitely slow down the runners.

It took me a few seconds to stay at the peak of the mountain just to appreciate what is all around the area and I was on my way to the first peak. As I went down, I was surprised to see more runners along the way and I suspect that they could be the 15K runners. I was in the company of newly-promoted Lt Colonel Ron Yllana since the time we ascended the first peak of the mountain. He was always behind me trying to keep his pace with mine. At least, I have somebody to talk to along the course. As we went down to a lower portion of the mountain, we were able to be in touch with the other runners until we reached a junction where a tent and two marshals are located.

Coming Down From The Peak

Coming Down From The Peak

The marshals said that the 30K runners had to take the trail on the right while the 15K runners had to take the trail on the left as they are going back to the starting area. Ron and I took the trail on the right and we started to go down along the trail. After about one kilometer, we started to meet some runners asking us for directions and we answered, “just follow the yellow marker”. More runners were going up the trail while we were going down and we suspect that something was wrong. Not until we saw the Race Director telling us that we missed a turn so that we should be proceeding to Barangay Bugarin which is a cluster oh houses in the middle of some hills and trees with the windmills from a distance of about 7-8 kilometers.

Retracing back to the right trail for more than one kilometer of ascent with the heat of the sun on top of our heads is very frustrating. But the race (or LSD) must go no matter what or whether I will be last in this race. There was no need to complain or “whine” as the Race Director was so apologetic when he showed to us the correct way. It was our first time to see the trunks of trees that were placed across the trail to indicate that we have to veer right to a steep descending trail with yellow ribbons on it. I hope there should be more signs leading to this point and within this sharp turn. Ron & I and the rest of the runners behind us were puzzled why we were led to trail that goes to the Finish Line. At this point, my Garmin Watch registered a distance of 8 miles (12 kilometers) to include our “lost moments” of about 2.5 kilometers!

Elevation Profile On The First Half

Elevation Profile On The First Half

It was time to be back in business. Once we reached the wide dirt road that leads to Bugarin, I took a 10-second rest under a tree, took one of my GU Gels, drank my water, and took some deep breaths while looking at the far distant Bugarin. I said to myself, this will be a mental game! I have to give a “trick” to my brain and finish this race! Think Positive!!!

It’s time to count my steps and strides and power walk on the ascending portions while trying to hydrate myself. It was a boring and repetitive mental game but I would gain distance. I just let my Inov8 Trailroc Trail Shoes and my legs work on their own. Drink water alternately from my water bottles and try to maintain my pace. Ron and I would joined by another runner, Xcel Halog who is also a runner from Subic and who happens to know my playground. The three of us would be together as we got nearer to the next Aid Station.

As soon as we reached the Aid Station, I removed my cap and my buff and placed them inside an ice chest filled with ice water. Ate some ice-cold packed fresh fruits and hydrated myself with water and bottled sweet drinks. A lady volunteer at the Aid Station asked me if I am the Bald Runner and I said, Yes! She told me that almost all the runners that passed on the said Aid Station were asking if I passed already at the said point. The lady could not answer them as she would reply to the runners that she does not know the Bald Runner. I just smiled at her as these runners were on a “panic mode” if I will be passing them or will be on their backs trying to catch them.

One Of The Last Runners After Gun Start (Using Two Hand-held Bottles)

One Of The Last Runners After Gun Start (Using Two Hand-held Bottles)

We left the Aid Station refreshed and we were still in a fighting mode! We finally reached the turn-around point in Bugarin and I ate some food and fruits. After refilling our bottles, we were back on the course and I mentally programmed myself not to stop for a long time in my rest breaks. I just hope my two other running companions will be able to cope up with my pace. We did not mind the hot and humid conditions of the day as the trail was exposed to the heat of the sun. We were focused to finish the race and try to do the best we can!

It was unnecessary to force my body to a faster pace as this race was treated as a long run. My strides are very short but quick which I am accustomed to in my daily training runs in my playground. I have to take care of my body and made sure that I did not have any encounter with any injury along the way. I always think to relax my body while running and let my gluteus muscles do their work in the ascending parts of the route.

At The Finish Area

At The Finish Area

My nutrition played a key role on this part of the route despite the high temperature of the day. I mixed two GU Gel Packs in my water-filled hand-held bottle and filled my other bottle with water. I would drink my hydration from these two bottles, alternately and I was able to maintain my pace all the way to the finish line. The ice-cold fresh fruit packs served at the last Aid Station have also contributed in my nutrition needs to include my Stinger Waffle which I carried in my UD Pocket Belt.

As I got nearer to the Finish Line, along a descending paved road which is named as “Road Less Traveled”, I could sense that I was already running alone. Since I don’t have the habit of looking who is behind me, I kept on focusing on the road ahead and continuously being aware of what is happening to my body ( breathing, swinging of arms, lifting of my feet, correct body posture/running form, and relaxed pacing) making sure that there is no pain on my legs and my body.

The SMART people gave me a cold water to douse my head and a runner ahead of me offered a cold cola drinks from a convenience store along the road which I declined. I stopped when I saw a water coming out from a pipe and I slowed down thereafter to allow the said runner (from the store) to pass me on the last kilometer of the race. The runner even asked me to have a “selfie” with him as I allowed him to do so. From there, I told him to finish the race ahead of me.

I finished the race in 6:54+ hours with a smiling face!

Congratulations to Dabobong Delos Angeles and his MGM Team for organizing this event. Definitely, I will be back next year to improve my time in this event.

Finishing The Race With A Smile

Finishing The Race With A Smile

Vertical Distance

5 05 2015

In Mountain Trail Running, everything is about the Total Vertical Distance or Total Gain In Elevation for the whole course or distance that should be the main considering factor to be able to train and prepare in order to finish a certain ultra trail race.

Starting this year, I’ve been particularly interested on the total vertical distance or total gain in elevation in most of my training runs. This interest of mine had been based from an advise or suggestion from ultra trail internet resources and from two different bloggers who are also ultra trail runners and coaches. According to such advise, if the total trail distance of the course is 100K and the total elevation distance or total vertical gain is 15,000 feet, you have to divide the total gain distance by 10 in order to find out the total elevation gain for every 10K distance. By applying the formula from the said 100K course, your total elevation gain for a 10K distance should be 1,500 feet.

Simply put, if you intend to run a distance of 10K in your training, your total elevation gain should be 1,500 feet or 500 meters! If you want to have a LSD trail run for 20 kilometers, obviously, your total elevation gain should be doubled to 3,000 feet or 1,000 meters.

If you are not distance conscious and you record your runs by the time you spent on your runs or training, you can also consider your time in relation to the total gain of elevation you have covered. For example, if a 100K trail course has a cut-off time of 15 hours with a course total elevation gain of 15,000 feet, you have to divide 15 from the total elevation gain for you to have the minimum elevation gain that you should have covered for a period of one hour. Applying it on the example, you must be able to cover a vertical distance of 1,000 feet for every hour of your training run.

Because of this advise, I looked for a place where I could train for the Trans Lantau 100K Trail Run in Hongkong which has a total elevation gain of 18,000+ feet. I must have a trail running course that satisfies a total elevation gain of 1,800+ feet for every 10K distance! My Playgrounds “Alpha & Bravo” barely passed the test but I wanted a steeper trail to force my knees and gluteus muscles to be engaged more during the run. The once neglected “Brown Mountain” came into my mind and I asked my training partner, Dannin, to clean the trails with the help of the locals living thereat. In a “test run and hike” after the trail was established, I was happy about the results! At 4 miles (6.4 kilometers), my GPS watch registered 2,000 feet in total elevation gain and I have not reached the peak of the mountain yet! This is great!

The peak of the mountain is almost 1,800 feet or almost 600 meters with a distance of almost 5 miles (8 kilometers) from the point where I usually start my run. The total elevation gain once I reach the peak is almost 2,500 feet! I said to myself, this place is more than what I’ve been looking for. My runs in the “Brown Mountain” started as a Run & Hike To The Peak & Back and for a short period of time until my legs had been accustomed to the elevation. Dannin and I would take a break on the last one-third of the ascent until we were able to have a non-stop ascent to the peak of the mountain.

Our longer runs would be to traverse the mountain and have our turn-around at the other side of the mountain. I call this particular course as our “Yo-Yo” course where we have to reach the peak again once we go back from our turn-around point on the other side of the mountain and back to the place where we started. The “Yo-Yo” course would give us a total distance of 14 miles (22.4 kilometers) and a total elevation gain of 4,200+ feet or almost 1,400 meters. Our average finish time is 5.5 hours!

I may not be faster on my speed runs but my endurance in tackling more challenging and steeper slopes of mountains had improved tremendously. Finishing the TransLantau 100K Trail Run without any pain, “issues” or injury would proved that such advise on considering the Total Elevation Gain as one of the most important factors in trail running’s successful finish is a very valid and effective training tool.

As a Race Director of Running Events, it is also advisable that in order to plan for a trail running event and have it offered to the running public, the total elevation gain should also be considered. As a suggestion, if one has the intention of coming up with a trail running event, make sure that the minimum total elevation gain in a 10k distance should be at least, 1,200 feet or 400 meters. Anything that is less than the said numbers are good for the “newbies” in trail running. However, if the vertical distance of a certain course is more than the suggested 1,200 feet or 400 meters in every 10K distance, then it would be best if you have it considered as a trail running course which could earn some points for the finishers to join the UTMB or in other international trail running events.

Ascending/Descending Trails

Ascending/Descending Mountain Trails


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