The first thing that I’ve observed during the conduct of the race on its first day is the traffic along the road from the 1st transition area in Barangay Sucat Hall in Sucat, Muntinlupa City to SM Sta Rosa, Laguna. Some runners had been “sideswept” by vehicles which were competing with the narrow streets. The volume of the traffic was exacerbated by the number of “vehicle caravans” and “sorties” of local political condidates going around their respective jurisdiction on this day. The Race Officials were able to count at least eight (8) different “caravans” or groups of vehicles of politicians which we encountered along the way from the Starting Area to Los Banos, Laguna!
The traffic was standstill that one of the teams used motorcycles in bringing its next runners to the next transition areas. This a clear violation of the rules and regulations of the race as one team must have only one Support Vehicle where the rest of the runners would ride and the only means where the runner would be transported from one transition area to another.
The worst problem on the first day was the absence of the promised water aid station in every 3 kilometers. Most of the runners complained about the absence of water being provided to the runners along the race route. The motorcycle escort for each runner were not properly briefed about their function and job description for the race. There were conflicting rules and regulation as to what was the job description of each motorcycle escort for each runner. The lack of water aid station along the route resulted in the collapse of one of the runners before he reached the third transition area. The runner was not able to complete his designated segment as he was brought immediately to the nearest hospital. His team was declared DQ or DNFed.
Sometimes, You Need To Remind People
At the 4th transition area, I was able to talk to Thumbie Remigio, Race Director, about the lack of water stations and some violations incurred by the other teams. Thumbie immediately refered me to the Race Organizer, Emmet Penson about the lack of water stations and he informed me that the violations made by the other teams were noted. I did not know that even my teams incurred some violations! However, Mr Penson was at the rear part of the race and I decided to see him at the Finish Line later during the day.
Being impatient of waiting for the arrival of Mr Penzon at the Finish Line, I immediately approached Chairman Ed Manda of the Laguna Lake Development Authority and introduced myself. I told him about my observations on how the race was being conducted by telling him about the problem on the hydration supply for the athletes and the news about one of the runners being brought to the hospital. Based from his answers to me, I concluded that he is not a “runner”, not even a “jogger”!
When Mr Penzon arrived, I immediately talked to him and told him about the concerns of my runners and some “lapses” in the conduct of the race. He listened and I was talking to a guy whom I believe could not even run and finish a 3K race in 20 minutes! I suggested to Mr Penzon that something has to be done to correct the “lapses” on the 1st day as the next day’s leg will be longer, more challenging because of more uphill climbs and the expected higher temperature of the day.
I really don’t regret “lecturing” these people who think that organizing a road race (and an ultramarathon race!) is a simple event.
Overall Standing After One Day
Team Antipolo is headed by PATAFA National Coach Roy Vince whose runners are members of the Athletics National Pool. They are leading the race by so much minutes but they violated some rules in transporting their transition runners by using their motorcycles. I could not even see if they have really a Support Vehicle with them. I was really impressed on the speed and endurance of these athletes and I was thinking that if they win the 1st Prize of P350,000, it will be a good incentive for these athletes who are training to represent the country as the government lacks the necessary support for this athletes.
Team Philippine Air Force-BROOKS was on 2nd Place but the presence of Ed “Vertek” Buenavista and the PAF Elite Runners would be a challenge to overtake this team.
My team, Elite Team Bald Runner #1 was on 3rd Place and the other Elite Team Bald Runner #2 was on 4th Place with 16 minutes in-between them.
Team McDonald’s was on 5th Place consisting of Jun Lozada, Jessie Ano and the rest of the known fast runners you see regularly at the ULTRA Oval Track.
2nd Day: From Sta Cruz, Laguna to Tiendesitas, Pasig City
Rene Desuyo, First Runner: “Small but Terrible”
The race started at 5:30 AM infront of the Provincial Capitol of Laguna in Sta Cruz, Laguna.
First thing that I’ve observed was the arrival and presence of additional Maynilad & Manila Water Pick-Up trucks to reinforce/augment the roving water stations deployed on the 1st day. All these pick-up vehicles were filled with water containers and personnel/crew. After driving for about 2 kilometers, I observed that there was a Water Aid Station using one of the pick-up trucks and cups filled with water! The crew of the pick-up truck were on the ground ready to hand in these cups filled with water to each of the runners.
I was happy to see a big improvement on the hydration support for the runners! Even the motorcycle escorts for each runner were instructed to bring with them dozens of handy bottled water in their pack properly tucked on their respective back seats! If I am not mistaken, there were at least more than a dozen of roving pick-up vehicles as Water Aid Station that “leap-frog” in every 2-3 kilometers along the race route. Even the motorcycle escorts were seen very responsive to the needs of their runners.
Rene Desuyo, my team’s first runner, was leading the race with two other runners. After cruising the first uphill climb in Cavinti, Laguna with almost 13 kilometers covered, he immediately sped up and told me later that he was bored with the prevailing pace. He left the two runners on the downhill and was able to gain 4+ minutes ahead of the second runner as he finished in the transition area at the Municipal Hall of Mabitac, Laguna. Rene Desuyo covered the 27K distance in 1:40+ hours!
“Houston, We Have A Problem!”
Jack Espana, our second runner, got the relay “baton” from Rene Desuyo and he started to run from the Mabitac transition area towards the new Jalajala Municipal Hall, a distance of almost 30 kilometers! It was the longest segment of the race! I was hoping that Jack Espana will be able to maintain his pace with the said distance knowing that his longest race so far was a half-marathon race! We waited for him at the 25-Km pont but we decided to proceed to the next transition area. Little did we know that he slowed down on his pace after he reached the 20-Km point.
The first runner to arrive at the 2nd transition area was the runner from Team Antipolo and the roving water aid station informed us that our runner, Jack Espana was already walking with the remaining 3 kilometers from the transition area. All of us panicked that our runner might collapse along the way and unable to reach the next transition area. This could be the end of my Team Bald Runner #1 where I am the designated “driver” of the Support Vehicle. However, I knew that the Race Officials were able to provide a lot of water along the way and there is no way that my runner will collapse due to “heatstroke”.
I decided to meet him (Jack) by driving our Support Vehicle but after I started the vehicle and moved a few meters, one of the rear tires burst and I have a flat-tire! There was no way we could support our second runner except by sending Rene Desuyo and my staff to meet and cheer him to jog and not to walk towards the transition area. One of the soldiers from the Philippine Air Force and the drivers of the Team BR-Professionals support vehicles helped me in changing my tire with the reserve tire.
Finally, Jack arrived at the transition area and our 3rd runner, Patrick Gongog left as the 5th runner of the race with the objective to stay focused and be able to catch up with the other 4 runners. Our team was lagging behind from the fastest runner by 20-25 minutes and we don’t want to squander the 16 minutes that we accumulated on the 1st day from the 4th place team! The remaining three runners were instructed to run their best pace and finish the race.
The Chase Begins
While changing my tires, I requested the Philippine Air Force team to transport my two remaining runners to the next transition area just to ensure that my runners will be ready once the arriving runner reached the transition area. After 20 minutes, our support vehicle was ready to go and we tried to catch up with our 3rd runner. From here, we made sure that our runner was within our sight and gave support through the motorcycle marshal. We had to “leap-frog” every 1-2 kilometers. We arrived at the 3rd transition area with enough time to prep-up our lady runner/4th runner.
I was surprised that Patrick was able to slowly gain some time we lost on the second segment of the race. He really tried his best to gain more speed and distance despite his non-exposure to 10K or half-marathon road races! I found out later that he is a 3K & 5K runner in the oval track as he is a part of the FEU Athletics Varsity Team. He tried his best to maintain his pace up to the transition area in the Tanay Town Hall. He was able to gain/reduce our delayed time by 6-8 minutes after he finished the distance of 19.3K.
Nhea-ann steadily reduced the gap on the leading runners as this was a segment for the lady runners. I consider this segment as the “hardest” one with two big uphill climbs at mid day! This is the Tanay-Binangona leg which has a distance of 19 kilometers. Nhea-ann is a very strong runner and she was able to maintain her pace on those two big uphill climbs and I was surprised that she was still sprinting on the last 600 meters towards the 4th transition area! She was able to close the gap from the fastest runner by 10 minutes and we are only 2 minutes away from the 4th runner!
Alquin Bolivar’s Run to The Finish Line
With the fast time delivered by our lady runner, Nhea-ann and Patrick, Alquin was confident that he could overtake the 4th runner and close in the gap with the 3rd runner. We had to “leap-frog” every 1 kilometer to make sure that our runner is fully supported by the motorcycle marshal. After 12 kilometers, Alquin was able to overtake the 4th runner. Alquin was not able to speed up because of the heat of the sun as he regularly douses his head and legs with cold water. Alquin really tried his best and “dig deeper” for his strength on the last 7 kilometers. He was able to close in the gap by almost 7 minutes. He was not able to overtake the 3rd runner (Team Bald Runner #2) as the 3rd runner finished 3 minutes ahead of him. But there was no worry among the members of the team as we had 16 minutes of lead time to spare which the team earned on the 1st day of the race.
“The Race Is Over Until It’s Over”
When Jack Espana reached the 2nd transition area in Jalajala, Rizal where our team lost a considerable time, my runners were all silent and I could see sadness & frustration on their faces. I was sad, too! But, I need to challenge and motivate the remaining runners to give their best for the remaining segments of the race. Well, this is where “leadership” should come in! The flat tire was just a temporary problem which can be solved immediately but trying to “fire-up” the fighting spirit of my remaining runners needs final verbal instructions to each of the runner. I told them, “the race is not yet over, it will be over once you reach the Finish Line. Do your best on the road, we’ll pray & we’ll give you 100% support in every 1-2 kilometers”.
Every time I release a runner to the next transition area, I have to brief them on the task at hand and motivate them some more to do their best. Once a runner finishes his/her segment, I personally meet them and pat them on their shoulders and tell them what they have accomplished—“you were able to close the gap by 7 minutes or 10 minutes or 6 minutes and you are a strong and fast runner. you did an splendid job of closing the gap” and remind them that the team will land on the 3rd place with the other team trailing behind us. I let them take a shower with our ice cold water to lower their body temperature and have them changed to a dry clothes before we move to support our runner on the road. Once the runner is inside the Support Vehicle, it’s time to feed him/her with food and sports drinks!
Awarding Ceremony @ Tiendesita’s
My teams tried their very best but they could have done better. Our Team #1 & #2 placed 3rd and 4th places, respectively. The Team #1 where I was the Manager/Coach & Driver got P 105,000 as Cash Prize with a Trophy, Individual Medals & Certificates. The Team #2 won P 80,000 and Finisher’s Certificates! Rene Desuyo as the fastest runner in the 1st segment for the 2nd day received an individual cash prize of P 5,000. As the Coach/Driver, I was awarded with a CASIO watch (I thought I heard it was announced by the Emcee as SUUNTO watch?)
The following pictures show all the happiness of all the runners during the awarding ceremony:
I hope the Laguna Lake Development Authority will have the 2nd edition of this race next year and hold it during the cooler months of the year! It would be nice to have the route of the race reversed with a separate category for the average runners. To encourage more runners to participate, it is suggested to incorporate also a 50K, 100K, 200K solo races with the 2-day relay race.
The race was fun and memorable to everybody. Congratulations to Team Antipolo for being the Champion and the Team PAF-Brooks for getting the Second Place. They deserve their awards and they did well in this race. And to all the Teams that competed in this historic ultramarathon relay race.