Laguna Lake Ultramarathon Relay…WTF?

The Laguna Lake 200K Ultramarathon Relay Race was supposed to be conducted on the last quarter of last year but because of the damage brought by Typhoon Ondoy, the race was postponed indefinitely. However, early this year, the Race Organizers had decided to continue the race after the flooding brought about by the overflowing of the Laguna de Bay Lake to its surrounding localities have subsided.

There were lots of discussions of this and that about the problems of Laguna De Bay as a result of the flooding brought about by Typhoon Ondoy. But it seems that the first solution for the cleaning of the outlets of the lake; the dredging of its silted bottom portion; and the removal of illegal settlers on its banks and tributaries is the conduct of an ultramarathon race. I heard during the opening ceremony of the race that the Race Organizers would like to create “awareness” of the benefits and use/contribution of the lake in the overall environmental development and economy of Metro Manila. I really do not understand why the Race Organizers and Sponsors have to spend millions of pesos for the sake of conducting an ultramarathon race which is a forte of only a few of the total number of runners in the country.

2 Days; 5 Segments Per Day; 5 Runners; 200K Total Distance; 12 Hours Cut-Off Time

Well, since I am a sucker in a lucrative ultramarathon race that has a Cash Prize of P 350,000 for the First Prize, I tried to find out the rules and regulations of the said race where I could field the members of the Elite Team Bald Runner and I am glad the Kenyans were not included among the qualified list of teams for the said race. You seldom find a road race that has lucrative cash prizes for the top teams. In one of the basic rules, I found out that each competing team must be able to have 5 members. Out of the 5 members, only two elite runners are allowed, two non-elite runners, and one lady runner.

As most of my “boys” were made to compose the Philippine Army Team, they still carry the name of Team Bald Runner and two teams were formed as our “primary teams” for the Top Cash Prize. However, another Team Bald Runner was formed where I was designated as the Official Driver of the Support Vehicle of the Team. This team is supposed to be called the “left-over” among the Elite Team Bald Runner. This particular team consists of Rene Desuyo, Jack Espana, Patrick Gongog, Nhaea-ann Barcena, and Alquin Bolivar.

The rules and regulations of the race showed strict observance of how the runners are transported to each transition area in every leg as each runner is supposed to run at least 20 kilometers each day of the two-day event. The other four runners are transported by the team’s support vehicle from one transition area to another one in each leg of the race. The race organizers are also strict on the littering of waste and to include some restrictions on providing support to a runner on each leg,  like a runner must not get support from its support crew/vehicle while he is running as the Race Organizer promised a Water Aid Station in every 3 kilometers along the route. And there were other instructions at the Starting Line which are in conflict with those written rules and regulations. I had a feeling that Murphy’s Law will catch up with the road race.

The race started at the Tiendesitas Area in Pasig City at 6:00 AM with 21 runners (the 1st runners for each of the 21 teams that competed for the race). There is an instruction that the support vehicle could not “leap-frog” and give food and/or water support to the runner along the way. So, being the driver of the team’s support vehicle, I abided with the rule and just passed by our runner while the other four runners on our team are with me in our support vehicle.

Before I reached the first transition area at the Brgy Hall of Sucat, Muntinlupa, I saw Ed “Vertek” Buenavista with bloodied knees and legs as he was bumped by a motorcycle rider while he was doing his “warm-up” run on a congested road as he was supposed to be the second runner of the Philippine Air Force-Brooks Team. This did not prevent him from quitting from the race but I observed that he had a different and slower frequency of leg turn-over. Rene Desuyo, our first runner, finished 3rd with a few seconds away from the 2nd runner.

Jack Espana received the belt with the race bib from Rene Desuyo at the Transition Area and he was off on the road. Rene rode with the rest of the other runners and we immediately left for the next transition area, SM Sta. Rosa. After one hour of running, Jack Espana arrived as the 4th runner. He was relieved by Patrick Gongog as the 3rd runner of the team.

The third leg was problematic as the traffic was standstill on the route of the race. Patrick was so fast that he was able to outrun the motorcycle riding marshal escort that was caught in the traffic. However, what I observed was that the heat of the sun was already becoming a problem with the rest of the runners. Most of them were running slower but I could not see any water stations along the way. The Water Aid Stations promised by the Race Organizers every 3 kilometers along the route was nowhere to be located. Even my1st and 2nd runners were complaining about the absence of the much-needed water along the race route. Aside from the absence of the water stations and the inability of the roving aid stations to provide water to the runners, I have also the problem of bringing my fourth runner to the next transition area before Patrick reaches the transition. The traffic was endless and not moving!

Sometimes you need to be brave and decisive in overtaking other vehicles infront of you if you want to free yourself from traffic. I had only 2-3 minutes to spare at the transition area (Los Banos area) before Patrick arrived. I was surprised that Patrick arrived as the 3rd runner! The third runner collapsed a few kilometers from the transition area and the runner was brought to the nearest hospital. I suspected that the runner had an early sign of “heatstroke”.

Nhea-ann took off from the transition area as the 4th runner of the team and 3rd ranking runner. Nhea-ann was still strong when she arrived at the Office of the Laguna Lake Development Authority at Calauan, Laguna as the next transition area. Alquin Bolivar took the baton and he completed the 1st leg of the race up to Santa Cruz, Laguna. The team finished the 1st leg in 5:45+ hours, unofficially.

The 1st team to arrive at the finish line was the Team Antipolo of Coach Roy Vince; 2nd team to arrive was the Philippine Air Force-Brooks Team; and the 3rd team to finish was our team! At least 5 minutes (unofficially) separate each of the top 3 teams in their Finish Times. However, the first two teams have violated some basic rules and regulations of the race which were brought to the attention of the Race Organizer and/or Race Director. But later tonight, I was informed that my team had been reported with some violations, too!…WTF???

The team finished the race before noon today. Other teams DNFed but the two teams of the Team Bald Runner-Professionals were able to finish the 1st leg of the race within the cut-off time of ten (10) hours. Congratulations to these road warriors!

Tomorrow will be a battle of speed, endurance, against the race course, against the heat of the sun, against ourselves, and getting the least number of violations imposed by the officials.

Note: Pictures will be uploaded in my next post.


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