On the day of my 62nd birthday, US Navy Admiral (Four-Star General) William H. McRaven, Ninth Commander of the US Special Operations Command and a US Navy Seal, delivered a Commencement Speech to almost 8,000 graduating students of the University of Texas at Austin on May 17, 2014. He is an alumnus of the said University and a product of the school’s ROTC Program.
Having been a product of military training and some special operations training with the Philippine Army, I fully appreciate what the Admiral had gone through in his US Navy Seal’s Training.
However, for the benefit of my readers, I would like to relate the ten (10) lessons that the good Admiral had learned from his US Navy Seal training to the sports that I dearly loved at the moment and that I would like to be shared and experienced by other runners, which is Ultra Trail Running.
1. If you want to join and finish a trail ultra, start off by “making your bed”. Start with the “basics” of trail running. Go to the nearest mountain ranges or hilly parts in your place or community and find a trail when you can walk, jog, or run. Try to observe how your body would react to the uphills, downhills, flatter portions of the trail, rocky portions, muddy parts, uneven level of the trail, and the presence of obstacles along your path. Start training for the shorter distance, say 5K of pure trails until you can easily progress to longer distances. In trail races, it is better to start with the shorter distance events and slowly progressing to longer events in matter of months or years, and not of weeks. If you are totally new in trail running, I suggest you have to put in a lot of time running on the trails, like one year, before you are ambitious enough to finish a trail marathon distance (42K). As one has to progress to longer distances, one has to be aware of one’s hydration and nutrition strategy in order to keep ones energy and strength to finish the race. Make sure that you invest on your trail running needs like shoes and hydration system. Ask for some advise from the “experts and masters” of ultra trail running through their blogs or personal meetings/conversations with them. These trail runners are very much willing to share such information to you.
2. If you want to join and finish a trail ultra, find someone to “help you paddle”. It is better to train in trail running with somebody who has the same interest with you. It is either a friend or a group of avid/passionate trail runners. If you are new in a mountain, try to locate the Barangay Hall or the Barangay Captain and tell him about your purpose in going to the mountain or community. You can ask for the services of a Trail Guide within the Barangay who knows the “ins and outs” of the trail systems within the mountain. The services of a Trail Guide is invaluable as it will give you exact and accurate information about water sources and other salient information about the locality/mountain trail system in the area. If you are very serious in trail running and you have the goal to excel in this kind of sports, you can get an exclusive Coach for you who will guide you in your training. Get a Coach who is reliable and friendly. Aside from your Coach, start developing friendly relationships with your future Pacer/s and Support Crew if you intend to join 50-miler or 100K and above trail ultras.
3. If you want to join and finish a trail ultra, measure a person by the size of their heart, not the size of their flippers. Not because you have the physical strength, well-built body, healthy and fool-proof training, you can have the assurance to finish an ultra trail race event. There are things and factors to consider like the reliability and effectiveness of your running equipment; the prevailing weather; accidents along the course; nutrition; injuries and problems with ones feet and hydration strategy. Most of the faster and consistent podium finishers in ultra trail races are smaller (in height and body composition) people. Just look around you in the Starting Line of Ultra Trail Events, most likely, the smaller guys are the ones who dash froward as if the race is a 5K or 10K road race. These guys are usually the persons who have the tenacity to endure pain and fatigue.
4. If you want to join and finish a trail ultra, get over being a sugar cookie and keep moving forward. I call these hardened ultra trail runners as “Dugyots” (Dirty Runners) and they don’t care if their shoes are wet and muddy. They don’t care if they slip and fall on their butts or fall on their faces if they slip along the trails. They don’t care of their unprotected legs are scratched by sharp blades of grasses or tripped by thorny branches of bushes along the trail. They don’t care if their shirts and shorts or compression tights are ripped off by some accidents along the trail. What is more disturbing to these runners when they don’t really care if they are bitten by leeches in the jungle and just allow the blood to flow out of the bites of these leeches. I know of some runners who pee on their running shorts or tights while running and they don’t really care what and how they smell after the race. In trail running, the dirtier you look as you cross the finish line, the better for your picture!
5. If you want to join and finish a trail ultra, don’t be afraid of the circuses. “Circuses” are translated to “DNFs” in ultra trail races. Even the elite runners have their DNFs. So, why would you be afraid to experience your first DNF? Even if you are properly prepared and trained to a certain ultra trail event, “shit happens”. There are things and factors that one don’t have a control or manage to have these things from happening. If you think that your body could no longer tolerate the pain or any incurring “issue” within your body system and it would jeopardize you for finishing the race, you have to decide immediately for you to DNF the race. There is no shame in a DNF and don’t be affected by what the other runners and friends would say in contrary to your decision. It is your body that you have to preserve and you and only you who would have the responsibility to take care of your body, not by other runners or your running friends. Just remember to use the DNF as your “weapon” in your future races.
6. If you want to join and finish a trail ultra, sometime you have to slide down the obstacle head first. There are times that you have to take the “risk” in ultra trail race that you have trained for. It is either on your Race Strategy or on the skills that you have acquired and learned in your training for you to have an edge over your competitors. You know what your body is capable of when something or a challenge is in front of you, it could be a steep uphill climb, or a steep descending part of the course or a very technical trail where one has to be careful in every step, it could be a river/stream crossing, or some kind of rock climbing, or the need to rappel up or down to a mountain peak. However, don’t take the “risk” of joining and expecting to finish an ultra trail event if you don’t have the training/preparation, you’ll be wasting your money and time on this event. Do not take the “risk” also of introducing some thing “new” during the race, most especially on your equipment, nutrition, and apparel.
7. If you want to join and finish a trail ultra, don’t back down from the sharks. What is best in Ultra Running is the attitude of the runners. Runners would help one another in times when one is in need of food, water, or medical attention. But if everything is ideal and equal among runners, each one of the runners are competing with each other! Whether you like or not, you have “friends” or personalities whom you want to beat, pass, or finish faster than them. In your mind, these are your “sharks” in your races—they are your friends but at the same time your competitors! This is true also in Race Directing/Race Organizing. There are “sharks” going around you but if they become offensive to you, you must give them the “worst and hardest shock” of their lives!
8. If you want to join and finish a trail ultra, you must be your very best in the darkest moment. As they say, ultras are exercise of problem solving and adjustments. Pain, Fatigue, Loss of Appetite, and Dehydration are the most common “issues” to ones body in Ultra Running. But the worst “issue” is Hard-headedness! Each of these “issues” has solution and if you apply such solution, you will be at your Best once you comeback to the race. A brief rest or sleep (if you have enough “buffer” time) is the best solution to these “issues”.
9. If you want to join and finish a trail ultra, start singing when you’re up to your neck in mud. As they say, it is the “brain” that takes over when the body is already weak. The fight to finish the race is within the confines of the space between your two ears. This is where your “running mantra” would come in and you should express loudly for you to hear it. Some would use their iPods and MP3s/headphones to hear music; some would “pep talk” themselves with phrases or mantra which are repeated endlessly; some would count their steps; some would pray loudly; some would sing loudly which would make them on a happy mood; or some would think of their inspiration. Hope and Think Positively!
10. If you want to join and finish a trail ultra, don’t ever, ever ring the bell. There is ONLY ONE BELL in my Ultra Races and I, being the Race Director, is the one holding it and the ONLY ONE that is authorized to ring it. At the Starting Line, when it rings, it tells you “Good Luck & Have Fun”. And once I see you approaching the Finish Line, I have to ring the bell that tells you, “Good Job and Congratulations”!
Good Luck and See You In Your Next Ultra Trail Race!
In November 2013, it was a choice of buying an ALTRA Lone Peak 1.5 and La Sportiva Vertical K and after reading some reviews and technical specifications, I opted to buy the La Sportiva Vertical K. The main thing that I considered without seeing yet the actual shoes is the WEIGHT. In their weight comparison, obviously, the La Sportiva Vertical is far lighter than the ALTRA Lone Peak 1.5.
In last year’s recon runs and actual race in the TNF 100 (up to Km #53), I used the La Sportiva Helios and I was satisfied with its performance. I never had any incident of slipping on the declines of the trail route and it is a very light shoes. Having experienced an excellent performance of La Sportiva Helios on my preparation in last year’s TNF 100, I decided to have the La Sportiva Vertical K as my race shoe for this yea’s TNF 100 which is a bit lighter than the Helios. (Note: In the actual race of 2014 TNF 100, I used the old La Sportiva Helios instead of the Vertical K).
Last November 2013, after I bought my La Sportiva Vertical K, I’ve read and heard testimonies about the ALTRA Lone Peak 1.5 which are positive, as well as, negative feedback. I forgot all of these things as I got busy with my trail running training and switched/interchanged one trail shoes to another on a daily basis.
Two months ago, I decided to order a pair of ALTRA Lone Peak 1.5 from a local distributor which I believed was “hand-carried” all the way from Singapore. I got a discounted price as a trail runner and a Race Director of local races. This shows that I don’t get a complimentary shoes for Shoe Review or Display on my workout so that my readers have the impression that I favor the use of a particular shoes.
After logging 250+ kilometers after two months of use and a chance to run them during rainy days, I have now a balanced shoe review on the said shoes. I will not be stating those technical specifications that anybody could read on the corporate website in this review. What is important is on how I could feel when I use it and my personal experience whenever I use them.
The “zero drop” thing was not noticeable when I run since I’ve been fond of using racing flats in my road runs, road races, and oval track workouts. I am basically a mid-foot strike runner and it was just natural for me not to notice the difference of the “zero drop” thing of the shoes.
The best feeling and experience of using the shoes is the wide toe box. My whole feet are relaxed and comfortable, thus, my toes are spread as if I am barefooted or using my “flip-flop” sandals. This a complete change from my experience of using ASICS, New Balance and ADIDAS shoes. However, my New Balance 101 Trail Shoes has the same “toe box” feeling with that of the ALTRA Lone Peak 1.5.
The next best feeling and experience is the comfort and support cushioning of the shoes. From the heel portion up to the front end of the toe box, the support and cushion are perfect and I never had any pain, sore or burning sensation on my feet’s sole even on hot days. Whether I run them on rocks and other technical terrains (loose gravels and trails covered with leaves, twigs and branches), I could not feel these “bumps” on my feet. It has also a good protection when my feet would bump on roots or rocks on the front part of the shoes.
Of course, the RED color is something that is a plus for the shoes. For me, it connotes, speed, being hot, and full of strength!
The third best thing on the shoes are the lugs on the sole on a dry trail, most especially on the steep descending ones. The lugs can prevent you from sliding on powdery and dusty trails. However, it is a different story if the trail is wet and muddy.
On the negative side, the shoes is heavy as compared from my other trail shoes. Since I would sweat a lot in my trail running workouts, my sweat would flow on my legs and to my socks and ultimately, to the shoes! Almost in my runs, the socks and shoes would be wet and it would place an additional weight to my legs. I have also the habit to cool off my body by submerging my body to a pool of water on a creek or river along the route without removing my shoes. And once I continue to run, the shoes could hardly extract the water it absorbed. This will result for the shoes to attract dust/powder of soil dirt from the trail which makes the shoes to become heavier.
After my workout, I would “air-dry” the whole shoes and it would take forever (at least, 2 days/48 hours) to let the shoes to dry without exposing them direct to the sunlight. As compared to my La Sportiva and ASICS Trail Shoes, they would dry up overnight, and that’s 12 hours!
For three times, I’ve used the shoes on a wet and rainy environment. The lugs on the sole are considered as “mud traps”, the mud would stick to the lugs and they are hard to be removed as one continues to run. The additional mud and wetness of the shoes would put more extra effort for the legs to lift the shoes. You have the feeling that your legs are lifting an addition weight of one pound per shoe! What is worse when the mud is trapped on the lugs, you don’t have any assurance anymore from your shoes to help you or prevent you from slipping from the mud. If you are not careful, your butt will have the tendency “to kiss” the ground. Obviously, this will result for you to stall on your speed and simply be deliberate on your steps on the muddy trails. (Note: I think I remember right when one of the runners in last year’s Taklang Damulag 100-Mile Endurance Run complained that the shoes could not handle slippery mud on the trails).
The shoes could be lighter if they use lighter materials for the uppers; use a thinner material for the shoe laces and make them a little shorter; remove the “rudder” at the back of the shoes; and come up with more drainage holes for sweat and water that could be absorbed by the shoes. There is no point also of placing a cover for the velcro at the back portion of the heel, let the velcro be exposed. Reduce the number of lugs on the sole and make sure that they are more aggressive for muddy conditions.
The shoes is highly recommended for dry trails, thus, this shoes should be used during dry season/summer. After testing the shoes during the rainy days, I would not bet a good performance on a race where the predicted weather is wet and rainy.
As of the moment, the ALTRA Lone Peak 1.5 is now one of my alternate trail running shoes when my “playground” is dry but they are my favorite trekking/hiking shoes in my regular mountain peak bagging adventures.
Starting Area: Tanay, Rizal (Intersection Manila East Road/Highway in Tanay & Sampaloc Road going to Sampaloc, Tanay. Look for the Shell Station)
Assembly Time: 3:00 AM June 15, 2014
Gun Start: 4:00 AM June 15, 2014
Note: This is a RAIN or SHINE Event!!!
Rules & Regulations/Instructions:
This is a 50K Road Race. Every runner must be able to maintain the Integrity of this Race. “Cheaters” are automatically disqualified and removed from the race.
Support Vehicle is NOT mandatory for every runner. If a runner has the capability to have his/her support vehicle, he/she can bring a support vehicle. However, the support vehicle should “leap-frog” the runner. Support vehicle “shadowing” the runner is not allowed. Only four-wheeled support vehicles will be allowed. Motorcycles and Bicycles will NOT be allowed as support vehicles for the runners.
Pacer is not allowed in this race. If a runner wants to have a pacer, he/she must register his/her pacer as one of the runner-competitors in the race.
All runners are required to have their hydration belt or system with them while on the run. A participant can use the usual Hydration Belt, Camelbak Hydration System, or Hand-held water bottles. Every runner is advised to hydrate themselves based from their training/preparation for this race.
Runners should always stay on the LEFT side of the road, facing the incoming traffic. Runner should be ready to run on the sidewalk/shoulder of the road if there is a fast incoming traffic. Runners are warned that the Route is a favorite route for fast Motorcyclists!
Runners are highly encouraged not to wear headsets/earphones and MP3s & Ipods during the race. If runners think that such gadget would motivate them to run, it will be permitted, however, they should be aware and vigilant of their surroundings.
There will be NO Drop Bags or Baggage Counters. Runners with baggage can ask the other runners with support vehicle to accommodate their baggage to the Finish Line. Ultra runners are kind, helpful, and supportive to other runners. All you need is to ask for their help & support.
Race Bibs shall be displayed or pinned in front of the singlet or running shorts. Race bibs should always be visible to the Race Officials.
There will be limited Road Marshals along the route. Runners will start at the vicinity of the SHELL Gas Station along the Sampaloc Road. It will be a 14K uphill climb to Sampaloc, Tanay from the Starting Area. Once a runner reaches the intersection in Sampaloc, turn LEFT towards the Pranjetto Hotel/Resort. It will be another uphill climb up to the said Resort. Continue going NORTH until you reach the Sierra Madre Hotel/Resort. Once you reach the Sierra Madre Hotel, it is the 20K mark for the race. Continue going NORTH until you reach Kilometer Post B #0 (Baras Zero) after passing Country Cottages and PALO ALTO. The Kilometer Post B #0 will be the TURN-AROUND point and runner will go back to the Sierra Madre Hotel/Resort where the FINISH Line is located. From the turn-around point, the distance will be 15 Kilometers to the Finish Line. (Note: Expect some BONUS/additional meters after 50K, those additional meters will make you stronger and more addicted to ultra races!)
There will be no tie in the ranking of finishers in this race. Every runner must exert his effort and perform as a competitor. This event is a race to the finish line.
Dispose your waste or litter properly. A runner will be disqualified for throwing their litter or waste on the road.
The race will start at 4:00 AM or earlier. Runners are highly encouraged to be at the Starting Line at least one hour before the Start Time. There will be no Formal Program/Ceremony prior to the start of the race as this will be a “fun run” and at the same time a competitive race.
Runners should meet the following requirements/qualifications:
-Should have finished a registered Marathon Race.
-Must be physically healthy and don’t have any heart-related ailments
-“Newbies” should be able to sign a Waiver during the Processing Period, one hour before Gun Start
14. There will be no Cash Prizes for the winners. Instead, Top Three (3) runners in the Men’s and Ladies Categories will receive Trophies.
15. Runners who will finish within the cut-off time of nine (9) hours will receive the PAU Finisher’s Medal, Certificate of Achievement (will be given on a later date), and a Finisher’s Dri-Fit T-Shirt.
16. Always “Listen To Your Body” during the race. If you experience some pain in your body, observe and slow down with your pace or better, start walking. If the pain persists and if you think that you are injured and could not finish the race, please contact Cell Phone # 918-965-9895 and state your name, race bib number, and condition whether you need an Ambulance/Medical team to attend to you.
17. The use of “pain killer” medication is not prohibited during the race. Bring your own salt tablets and glucolytes.
18. “Bandits” are not allowed to run or walk along the route during the conduct of the race.
19. For those who will run on self-support, there are lots of “sari-sari” stores along the route that sell bottled water, Gatorade, soft drinks, biscuits, ice/ice water and fresh fruits. There are also “pit stops” for motorcyclists which serve “hot & spicy” BULALO and cup noodles along the route. Bring CASH with you!
20. Although this Race is a competitive event, treat your co-competitors as your friend/partner during the race. Try to assist or ask a runner who stopped along the course about his condition or if he/she needs help/assistance. Who knows, this runner whom you helped in this race will be the one who will help you in case you need assistance in your future races.
21. Trekking/Hiking “poles” or “sticks” are not allowed in this race. Runners should finish the race unaided with any equipment.
22. Running “half-naked” is allowed in this race, provided, the race bib is visible in front of the runner. However, runners are warned that the weather along the race route is unpredictable.
23. There will be no portalets provided along the race route. Make sure to make the necessary adjustments on this matter. As for the ladies, they could ask the residents of houses situated along the road for them to use their toilet/s. Use you initiative.
24. The display of corporate logos of runners’ sponsors on tarpaulins is not authorized. Runners can display their sponsor’s logos on their running apparel only. Running Teams/Groups can display their tarps on their support vehicle/s.
25. Registration period is from May 14 to June 13, 2014. Deposit the amount of P 1,500 as Registration Fee at the Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI) Savings Account # 0296-0673-22 in favor of Jovenal Narcise. There will be NO On-Site Registration. The Processing of Runners at the Starting Area will be QUICK & SIMPLE. Once all the registered runners will be accounted for, the Race will start IMMEDIATELY. (Note: Bring your BPI Deposit Slip to the Starting Line)
26. If you are planning to join the 2015 Bataan Death March 102/160 Ultra Marathon Race, this will serve as your “kick-off” start to assess yourself and start your training for the said event.
27. The decision of the Race Director is FINAL.
Good Luck To All The Participants & Support Crew!
Stay Safe & Finish The Race! (Note: Ignore Those Fast Riding Motorcyclists)
As I started to leave the populated community of Camp 6 and following the TNF Markers in between houses in the area, I was with a group of 5 runners who crossed the hanging bridge that connects Kennon Road to the next uphill climb towards Fort Gregorio Del Pilar or PMA Grounds. As we leave the last house in Camp 6, we were faced with a steep trail on the side of the mountain overlloking Kennon Road and Mt Cabuyao. As we went higher on the trail, we could see the lights of the other runners coming down from AS #8 as these runners were able to pass the Checkpoint within the prescribed cut-off time at 1:00 AM.
It was already 2:00 AM of Sunday when I left AS #9 with 4 other runners. I was asked to lead the assault on the mountain but I did it for a few steps and asked for the younger runners behind me to lead the group. At first, I was able to keep up with the pace but as we moved higher in elevation, I can feel that I was breathing heavily. I rested for awhile and let the other 3 runners to go ahead with their pace. The technique that I used in going up to Mt Santo Tomas was put to use again—counting 10-20 steps then rest for 5 seconds and then repeat the cycle again! With due patience and consistency, I reached a wide dirt road which is flat but I know that this is just a transition for a steeper approach to the grounds of PMA.
At one point along the steep section before reaching the perimeter of PMA, I was overtaken by three (3) big guys and I was amazed on their pace in going up along the slope. I thought to myself that they could be regular mountaineers and very strong on their legs. Even if they were power hiking, they were really fast for my pace.
Before I approached the perimeter grounds of PMA, Michael Lafuente, one of last year’s TNF 100 finishers and one of my training partners in last year’s TNF, joined me due to weak batteries of his headlight. We had to share some stories with each other about the TNF 100 last year and our training experiences and recon runs in preparation for the event. It was nice sharing the trails with him from Camp 6 to the Loakan Airport.
This Race Report would not be complete and accurate if I don’t mention what I did on the last 100 meters before reaching AS #10. I asked Michael and Danin, my training partner, to guard the trail for incoming runners so that I can “take my crap” beside a water source which is popularly known to Michael and some of our training partners last year. I could no longer tolerate the pain in my stomach that I need to release whatever wastes in my large intestines! I asked them to put off their lights; warn me of the presence of any incoming runner; and waited for me to whatever I need to do to relieve the pain in my stomach. In a few seconds, the job is done and the free-flowing water source was very convenient to clean everything, including the washing of my hands! What a relief! While I was washing my hands, a runner arrived at the place where Michael & Danin were waiting and Michael asked permission to go ahead with the runner.
We reached AS #10 with strong spirits to finish the race. Michael stopped by the Aid Station and I went ahead of the other runners who were resting, eating, and being checked by the Medical Staff. It was already 5:30 AM and it is already daybreak. A support crew of one of my training partners gave me some cola and Gatorade drinks. I also brought out from my backpack the sliced Korean Pear inside a plastic bag and held it with my right hand as I started to run. As I started with my run, a support crew shouted to me that I am already on my last 7 kilometers of the course!
AS #10 To The Finish Line
I knew that at this point that I can already “smell the barn” and try to run all the way to the finish line. Just follow the TNF markers hanging beside the fence of the airstrip, cross the airstrip of the Loakan Airport and then proceed on the streets of the houses near the vicinity of BEPZA and I will be in Barangay Scout Barrio, and ultimately enter the premises of Camp John Hay.
While running along the airport road, I started to eat the slices of Korean Pear that I brought out from my backpack and was able to consume it before I crossed the airstrip of the Loakan Airport. It was so easy and visible to follow the TNF Markers placed along the streets as I left the premises of the Airport. I noticed that a younger runner was tailing me as I entered a populated area. I could see also two runners in front of me walking up on an uphill road. The younger runner on my back had easily overtaken me because he had a faster pace. Once he passed me, I brought one of my Gu Gels and ingested it for my last 6K to the Finish Line. The younger runner who had overtaken me had come back and I was meeting him along the road. I asked him why he was coming back and he told me that there are no markings that he can see along the road. I told him to return back to his former direction as we were on the right road to the Finish Line. He believed me as I pointed out to him the markers ahead of us. He went ahead of me but I was able to overtake the two runners who were walking on the uphill road.
The last GU Gel that I have ingested had given me the much energy to run continuously as I passed the “three big guys” that passed me before I reached the PMA Perimeter/Grounds. From a distance I could see a group of runners who were walking along the trail and found out later that it was the group of Baguio Ultra Runners to include my friends, Jonel Mendoza, Nick Pasiken, Carlo Gonzales, and Ryan Jucutan. Instead of passing them, I joined them in their hike for the last 5 Kilometers before the Finish Line. By my personal estimation, if not for my decision to join them in their hike, I could have finished the race in 27:30+ hours. Our hike was delayed and was made slower when our group was able to meet the group of 22K runners which had started at 6:00 AM. We had to wait and stand beside the trail for the 22K runners to pass us. Well, what is 45 minutes or one hour of delay for the finish if you are with “loyal friends” in the ultra running community and be able to share some good stories with them and their experiences during the race.
At the last 200 meters before the Finish Line, we have agreed the order of finish among us. Carlo Gonzales was first and I followed him because the two of us considered this run as our “redemption run” for having declared ourselves as DNF in last year’s race. The other three runners were behind us as they had been regular finishers in this event since it was held in Baguio City. We started to run towards the Finish Line and we knew that we will be met by a crowd of spectators!
I crossed the finish line at 28:16:31 hours and I was awarded my first TNF 100 Finisher’s Medal as soon as I crossed the Finish Line. Officially, I was ranked as #107 out of 195 finishers from the almost 400 starters of the race. I may not had been successful in attaining what I have aimed for in this race, upper 50% of the finishers, but what is a few percent over the 50% (I am within the upper 54.8% of the finishers) if I was able to finish the race successfully without any injuries or any “issues”.
Let me thank the Almighty Lord for giving me the strength to have this kind of ability at the age of 62. I may not be fast but with guidance and protection from Him, I was able to finish the race in healthy and safe conditions.
Let me thank also the Team Bald Runner for providing me the support in every key Aid Station along the route. They were instrumental in preparing what I needed every time I need resupply of my hydration and nutrition requirements.
I would also thank the younger runners for making them as my targets during the race. I am doubly happy when I see them resting in a place and then suddenly resuming their trek to the uphill climbs when they see me coming to their direction.
The Race Marshals, Medical Team, and Volunteers in the Aid Stations were very invaluable for the success of the race. I would like to thank them through this post/Race Report, although I know that I was the only runner who would usually say “Thank You…For Being Here” to them during the conduct of the race!
My appreciation goes also to my orthopedic doctor at the Philippine Army Medical Center in Fort Bonifacio, Taguig for seeing to it that a Retired General of the Philippine Army would be accorded free rehabilitation and physical therapy on his knees. He made sure that I would buy the prescribed VIARTRIL-S (Glucosamine Sulfate, 1,500 mg) Powder For Oral Solution which I took once I wake up in the morning for the past 3-4 months. It is a very expensive powder solution in a small sachet but with my Senior Citizen’s 20% discount, I was able to save some of my money.
I am not a “sponsored” athlete/ultra runner but it is worth mentioning the things that I’ve used during the race. Here is the list:
Trail Shoes—-La Sportiva Helios
Socks—-DRYMAX Trail Socks
Gaiters—-Dirty Girl Gaiters
Calf Sleeves—-COMPRESSPORTS ULTRA (Black)
Running Shorts—-PATAGONIA Trail Shorts
Belt Bag (For Cell Phone)—-NATHAN Belt Bag
Upper Shirt—-PAU Long-Sleeved Shirt By “A Simple White Shirt”
Nipple Protection—-Johnson & Johnson Band-Aid
Hydration Vest & Pack—-Ultimate Direction Anton Krupicka Signature Series (Small)
Hydration Bottles—-Simple Hydration Bottles
Watches—-GARMIN 310XT & TIMEX Expedition
Head Bandana—-Mountain Hardwear
Running Cap—-The North Face Flite Series
Light Jacket—-UNIQLO Windbreaker with Hood
Body Oil—-Johnsons & Johnsons Baby Oil (Applied to exposed parts of the body before the start of the race to keep the body warm)
Gloves—-Specialized Cycling Gloves
Headlight—-Black Diamond’s Polar Headlamp
Flashlight—-FENIX Handheld Flashlight
NUTRITION/Hydration (Aside From Water):
12 pieces of GU Gels (regular) of 4 different flavors
Corn In A Cob (2 pieces)
Small Potatoes Boiled In Salted Water
Slices of Fried SPAM; Boiled Eggs; and Steamed Rice (Ampucao)
One Can of Century Tuna Paella
One Liter of RC Cola
One 12-oz bottle of Mountain Dew
Half-Bottle of Gatorade
Two Bottles of Coca-Cola (8-oz)
Chuckies & Bananas @ Aid Stations
Hot Noodles (2 cups)
Chinese Hopia (Sweet Bread)
2 Capsules of Pharmaton (Multi-Vitamins & Minerals)
2 Capsules of Immodium (Anti-Diarrhea)
4 tablets of ALEVE (2 tablets every 12 hours as Pain Reliever to my Knees)
Advise; Suggestions; & Lessons Learned:
1. Knowledge Of The Course—-It is not enough to know the technical description of the course. Seeing the elevation profile and the location of the Aid Stations/Checkpoints on the Course Map is not enough to have a full appreciation of the course. A runner must be able to recon the course if he/she wants to develop confidence to finish the course. Undoubtedly, this is the hardest TNF 100 course in Asia, harder than those TNF 50-Mile courses in the United States. Since I have a knowledge of the course during my recon runs and actual race last year, I was confident and ready on what to expect in every phase (in between Aid Stations) of the course.
2.Services of An Exemplar and Reputable Ultra Running Coach—-Get the services of a consistent Champion in all the Ultra Races that he joined in the past years (maybe for the past 10-15 years!) Some of his feats are still standing Course Records in 100-Mile Races. You might say that it is expensive to be paying such kind of ultra running coach but you will find out later that the investment is all worth it. Do not get a Coach who is an Average or Back of the Pack Ultra Runner, you are just wasting your time and money with him/her! “Get the BEST TEACHER and YOU SHOULD DO THE REST”!
3. Specificity Of Training—-This is the “most abused” advise from Coaches, Podium Finishers, and Trail Running Friends. If the race course is in the mountains, go to the mountains for your training, period! There is where you test your gears and hydration/nutrition plan. This is where you test and evaluate your running skills, running form, tactics, and techniques. You have to concentrate more on what is best for you on your food intake during your long runs/hike in the mountains.
4. Follow A Structured Training Program—-Obviously, the Coach will ask you what particular event you are preparing for. Tell him your target and intermediate goals and he will give you a training program that is suited for your age and running history. Follow the program and be serious of attaining your goals. Don’t get the impression that the training program is good for a few weeks or one months before the race day. You can not “cram” or “fake” your training for a rigorous 100K ultra trail run even if you are a fast marathon runner. In the Philippines, TNF 100 Registration Period opens two months before Race Day. Do not start your training once you have registered if you have just shifted from road running to trail running. You can finish it but not with an impressive finish time.
5. Taper Properly—-Two weeks before the Race, I was already tapering my training mileage. One week before the race, I was getting more rest and sleep. I was also eating what I usually eat during my regular days of training leading to the Race Day. By tapering properly, my body was able to rest and recover from the stress that I put into it for the past months of going to the mountains. I was fully rested, recovered and relaxed when I toed the line at the Starting Area. And the rest is history!
Lastly, if you have plans of joining the next year’s edition of the TNF 100 Trail Run, you have to start your training NOW!
It took me 2 hours and 25 minutes to reach AS #5, a distance of 12 Kilometers from AS #4 in Barangay Alang. As soon as I reached the paved road of Kennon Road, I was approached by Race Marshals to get my Race Bib number and instructed me to drop by the Aid Station for drinks and food. As I passed by the Aid Station, I saw some of the runners who arrived earlier and those who passed me on the downhill route from Barangay Alang. They were eating, refilling their hydration systems, checking their Drop Bags, some were changing to drier apparel and shoes, and some had taken their bath/shower at the nearby public toilet/shower room beside the road.
I asked my support crew to provide me with ice cold-soaked towelette which I could put on my head and nape as I was affected with the intense heat of the sun. I could feel the fatigue on my body due to the heat. I wanted to bring down the heat of my body at a faster rate by drinking ice-cold water and by rubbing my legs and arms with the ice-cold soaked towelette. It took me some minutes to do this “ice cold towel” rubbing routine to my exposed body parts. As soon as I felt my body temperature had stabilized, I asked for some solid food. I was able to ingest the whole can of Century Tuna Paella, 4 pieces of Vienna Sausage, and One Cup of Hot Chicken Noodle. I was able to drink half liter of ice-cold RC Cola while ingesting these solid foods. My plan to change my shoes and running apparel did not push through. I decided to continue the run without changing any of my running kit. While eating, I soaked my running cap, Buff Bandana, and my Mountain Hardwear Mini-Bandana in my ice chest so that when I am ready to use them again, they would give me some cold feeling to my body.
AS #5 To AS #6 ( Camp 1 To Barangay Tabaan)
After 30 minutes of rest/recovery at AS #5, I resumed my race and had my Mandatory Equipment Check-Up by the Race Marshals before leaving the Checkpoint at AS #5. Even with a “buffer” time of 3 hours before the prescribed cut-off time in the Checkpoint/AS #5, I knew that the next part of the course will be the hardest part of the route with the peak of Mt Santo Tomas as the next target. Last year, I had only 30 minutes as a “buffer” time when I crossed the Hanging Bridge of the Bridal Veil Falls and after hiking 2-3 kilometers, I declared myself as DNF. Since I did a lot of recon hikes on this part of the course, I was confident that I can retrace my way and recall the trails/roads up to the peak of Mt Santo Tomas. I estimated to reach the peak in 6 1/2 hours.
For this year, once I crossed the Hanging Bridge of the Bridal Veil Falls with much time as a “buffer”, I knew I would be able to cross the Finish Line with an impressive time. As soon as I reached the first creek/stream of the route, I saw a lot of runners resting and some had submerged their bodies to the cold water to cool off their warm bodies. I just stopped to dip my cap and my bandana and acknowledged the greetings of the runners whom I passed by. I continued my climb leaving the other runners behind. However, at some points, I would be overtaken by younger and stronger runners. I let them pass as I stepped aside from the trail.
After climbing the first uphill/ascent of the route and reaching the wide Barangay Road that leads to Andolor, I met two old couple who were watching me and the other runners. After greeting them in the local dialect, the old lady made some hand signs and verbal response to me. I immediately understood the message that she wanted me to do. She was telling me in the local dialect and hand signal that I need to close my mouth while exerting more effort in scaling those uphill climbs, thus, making me effortless and stronger in climbing. I said, Wow! I immediately recalled what I read in Scott Jurek’s book! According to a Chinese saying as stated in the book, “the nose is for breathing while the mouth is for eating”!
From this point, the advise of the old lady stayed in my mind and strictly observed throughout the race! I would strictly breath through my nose and always conscious that my mouth was always clipped! I tried to jog on the downhill parts of the route but it was temporary as I would face one uphill climb to another one. I had to power walk these climbs with the proper form and technique. Through the blogs of elite ultra trail runners, I was able to apply in my training some of their techniques in power hikes on uphill climbs. The first one is to use your hamstrings and gluteus (buttock) muscles in power climbs instead of the knees and quadriceps muscles. I have to bend my body from the waist as I push my body forward and make sure to land my foot on a flatter strike on the ground. By doing this, the hamstrings and gluteus muscles are forced to go in action on power hikes in uphill climbs. The second technique is to be able to constantly count your steps while power hiking or running. I would count from 1 up to 90 counts as my left foot strikes the ground and when I reach 90, I start again the cycle with 1 and so on. By counting your steps, you will be conscious on your pace and running form. Third technique is to find out one of your favorite ultra trail elite’s personal video on You Tube. Watch his video and try to recall/remember this video while you are in the race. This technique will inspire you to mimic his/her running form and the cadence of his feet even if you have short strides. Try these techniques and I am sure you will enjoy more on mountain trail running! Through these techniques, you don’t see me using my hands to push my knees in steep uphill climbs or had seen me using any trekking poles! But remember to always close your mouth and maximize the use of your nose in breathing! You will be surprised the heavenly feeling of breathing the purest air on earth!
All of a sudden I reached AS #6 which is situated at the Barangay Hall of Tabaan. I saw a lot of the faster runners resting and eating in the said place. Some of the runners suggested me to pick-up some foods and drinks and try to even up with the registration fee that we had paid to join this race. I stopped to pick some ripe bananas and chocolate drinks and I left the AS immediately.
AS #6 To AS #7 (Barangay Hall of Tabaan To Mt Santo Tomas)
After a few kilometers from the Barangay Hall, a group of runners passed me while I was power hiking. I was amazed how these runners would walk with such speed. I was able to briefly talk to George Javier, a mountaineer and ultra mountain runner based in Los Banos, Laguna, and a lady runner Del Guidaben who is also a fast hiker/ultra trail runner! At an intersection with a Waiting Shed, I decided to have a brief rest to eat what I’ve taken from the previous Aid Station. While eating, I would be greeted by those runners who stopped at the previous Aid Station as they passed my resting place. After 5 minutes, I was back on the road and continue with the race. I would never see the backs/shadows of George, Del, and the rest of the runners who passed me at the Waiting Shed.
More uphill climbs with more uphill hiking until I reached the Church of Andolor where Race Marshals and Medical Aid Personnel were stationed. The marshals advised me and the runners who were behind me that we can have a refill of our water bottles and we can also get some ice cubes from their supply. They warned us that the next 9 kilometers will be the steepest uphill/ascent of the course without any Race Marshal. I knew that the next part of the course will be the hardest to tackle as I need to rest/stop in every 20 steps on the steep inclines. The cycle had to be repeated until it became darker in the forest. It was still 6:30 PM but due to the thick foliage and cloudy sky/impending thunderstorm to come, the trail was already dark! It was time to bring out my Black Diamond Polar Headlight. In a few minutes, it started to drizzle and I immediately unpacked my light UNIQLO Windbreaker Jacket which I used in Mt Pulag during the H1 100-Mile Run and zippered it to cover my upper body. At this point, I still have 5 Kilometers more to go before I could reach the next Aid Station.
At some point after I wrapped myself with my Jacket, it began to rain lightly but as I go higher to the peak, I have observed that the rain became stronger. The trail was already flooded with water due to the rains and I had no other choice but to let my shoes and socks to be wet. The decision not to change to another shoes was favorable to me as I knew that my shoes would be drained easily from the absorbed water because the uppers are very porous with the materials used. Due to the strong rains, I found out that the water had seeped through my jacket. I started to feel some coldness in my body and my fingers had started to become numb. I remember what my Coach had advised me if ever I would be exposed to colder temperature during a trail race—keep on moving faster through hiking and/or moving or swinging the upper arms AND feed the body with more FOOD for the body to ingest. More food means more energy, and more energy means warmer body. I took in one GU Gel and ate a lot of those small potatoes (as big as those quail eggs) which I had it boiled with salted water before it was packed and followed by eating slices of Korean Pear. It was part of my food resupply at AS #5 from my support crew. It was still raining hard when I reached the place which I call “The Cable Drop” Point. Race Marshals were positioned on this point with their Camping Tent. From this point, I have to follow a steep descending zigzag trail until it would flatten for awhile and then followed with another uphill climb before an intersection. Another Race Marshals with tent were positioned in this place and I was told to turn left, meaning, go for another uphill climb again.
Due to steepness of the climb, my movement slowed down but my body was still warm. To anticipate the lowering of my energy due to my slow movement, I brought out my thin plastic poncho from my pack and had to wear it. It was still raining but I am confident that my warm body will not go down to a colder temperature with the poncho that I was using. Finally, I reached AS #7 near the peak of Mt Santo Tomas. One of the Race Marshals approached me and handed me a thin red plastic bracelet. I saw some of the runners at the tent eating some food and being attended to by the medical aide. When I saw that there are bottles of Mountain Dew, I got one plastic bottle of Mountain Dew and drank 1/4 of it. I was told that the distance to the next Aid Station is 3 Kilometers—1.5 kilometers as rough road and the other half as cemented road.
I reached this point at 10:15 PM and it took me almost 8 1/2 hours to climb Mt Santo Tomas! If not for the rains and colder temperature, I could have reached the peak with a faster time. At least, I was still enjoying a “buffer” time of 2 1/2 hours, reducing my previous “buffer” time at AS #5 by one hour.
AS #7 To AS #8 (Mt Santo Tomas To Mt Cabuyao)
It was all downhill from AS #7 but the road was rough with rocks although I can have a choice of where there are no protruding rocks along the wide road. I kept on power hiking on those downhill portions. I brought out my packed boiled corn in a cob for more more energy even if the rains had stopped already. While hiking, I had to eat the corn and ingesting them with the bottle of Mountain Dew. I was full of energy once I stepped on the concrete part of the road leading to Mt Cabuyao after I finished eating the corn. I would try to jog on the downhill portions and power hike on the uphill until I would see a completely submerged part of the road with water. I would go to the edge of the road and try not to dampen my shoes again. After slight rolling terrain along the paved road, I could see already the lights of tents near Cabuyao Peak. Once I reached the Aid Station, I was met by a lady Race Marshal who is a foreigner and she noted my Race Number. She advised me and the other runners reaching the place to get and eat some rice porridge. Instead of stopping by the Aid Station, I continued my walk to the trail that leads to the next Checkpoint/Aid Station.
I reached this point at 11:15 PM and had a “buffer” time of 2:15 hours before the cut-off time of 1:00 AM for this Aid Station/Checkpoint.
But there was some itchy feeling on my upper left leg and buttocks that I tried to scratch with my fingers. Lo and behold, I was being attacked by leeches. I believe that the leeches attacked my left leg on my way down from the peak of Mt Santo Tomas. I removed the leech from my left side buttocks, then another one on my upper left leg and then two leeches were trying to suck some blood from my left knee as they tried to cling to the upper edge of my calf sleeve. Four leeches attacked my left leg! After removing the leeches from my leg, I just continued my walk not minding if the blood was flowing out from my wounds.
AS #8 To AS #9 (Mt Cabuyao To Camp 6)
This is the steepest downhill part of the race course which consists of very narrow trail where one side is a steep ravine. In my recon runs in this part of the trail during the day, it was a fast one running and hiking along this course but with a muddy and slippery trail brought about by the rains on the early evening and trekking this part on a nighttime, it’s a different story. No one would dare to jump or run on those very technical and narrow trail of the route. One mistake or slip along this trail would result to flying to the deepest ravine of the mountain. I was very deliberate on my footing and every step on the steep declines which my movement very slow. I started to get a warm feeling to my body and I took some time to remove my thin plastic poncho and brought it back to my backpack. I could still feel that my windbreaker jacket is still damp and wet but my body was warm due to continues body movements.
As I slowly hiked down this trail, I immediately felt that my stomach was having some trouble and I could feel that I need to go to the bathroom. But I could still manage the situation as I continued my hike. As I approached a vegetable garden of cauliflower, I slipped on a muddy part of the trail and my buttocks “kissed” the ground. I tried to use my left arm to prevent my body from hitting the ground but it was not enough to counter the momentum of my body and I had to roll-over and landed on the vegetable garden. I immediately stood up and there was a pain on my left wrist. I thought my left wrist was broken! I slowly rotated my palm and tried to stretch/bend my wrist repeatedly. I was glad that there was no wound on my wrist and by massaging my wrist while walking, the pain just simply disappeared. I could see some blood flowing from my left knee but there was no pain on it and I concluded that the blood was coming from the bites of the leeches. I was glad that my slip was not done on those narrow trail where one side is a deep ravine!
After I’ve recovered from the slip, other runners would pass me along the trail and I would gladly step aside from the trail when I notice that there are sounds of steps behind me. I know that these runners would give notice or inform whoever were the runners resting on the next Aid Station that I was already near the Aid Station. Such information from these faster runners would also be relayed or monitored by my support crew waiting for me. More or less, my support crew would know that I am fine and still active/moving along the trail.
I continued my power hike but I’ve noticed that headlight’s illumination was becoming weaker. I had to move at a faster pace to reach the Aid Station where my support crew was waiting and where my stock of new batteries are located. As I moved faster down the trail, I forgot to take some GU Gel and my body became weaker, too. I had to stop, took a sit on a strip of lumber on the side of the trail and ate one piece of Hopia and drank a little of Mountain Dew. I felt nauseated when I swallowed the Hopia but I did not panic. I had to take a deep breath and observed my feelings. When the nausea feeling disappeared, I took one GU Gel and one Imodium capsule for my stomach pain before I continued with my hike. Slowly but surely, the sound of the river became louder and the sounds of the vehicles passing along Camp 6 in Kennon Road were becoming louder and nearer!
I reached Camp 6 at 1:30 AM and asked for my stash of running kit placed inside a “tupperware” box from my support crew. I immediately changed the batteries of my Headlight. I also requested for a hot noodles and coke. While eating, I tried to clean the leeches’ bites with wet wipes and declined suggestions from the Race Marshals that the bites should be treated by their Medical Aide. I also asked for my packed foods (sliced Korean Pear + boiled small potatoes) and have them inserted inside my backpack. As I ate and rested, more runners would arrive at the Aid Station. After about 15-20 minutes of stay in the Aid Station, I was ready for the last steep uphill climb of the race route.
I reached halfway of the course at AS5 with 30 minutes to spare before the cut-off time of 14 hours. After eating and resting, I continued the run but after hiking for about 2 kilometers, I declared myself as DNF due to knee pains and fatigue. The race was over for me and I needed some rests and tried to assess my running capabilities as I was about to reach the age of 61.
After one month of rest/recovery and some lackluster training, I tried to join a 100-mile trail run just to test myself how far I would go. I registered to the said race five months before the race and made the TNF 100 as part of my training/preparation. I failed again in this race due to heat exhaustion/fatigue; dehydration; and poor nutrition plan. I reached the halfway point of the race barely within the intermediate cut-off time. I was allowed to pass the Checkpoint and continue with the race but instead, I simply hiked up to the next checkpoint and I was the last runner on the course until I was finally declared DNFd at the next Checkpoint.
After one week of rest/no running, I entertained the idea of getting the services of a Ultra Running Coach. And I got one. After some exchanges of notes and messages, I was ready to start my training for the next year’s TNF 100 as he gave me a training program to start with. It was in the middle of June 2013 when I started a structured training plan which was 100% done on the trails.
The training was based from my age, number of years of running, and previous running-related injury/injuries. Monday is my Rest Day and the rest of the days of the week were on trail running with at least, 500 meters of elevation gain/loss in every 10K distance (6 miles). I started to have a mileage of 80+kilometers for a week. And as I got stronger on the trails, I would reach up to 110-120 kilometers per week on my peak training program where I would reach to higher elevations and mountain peaks. I was made also to do some strengthening exercises for the leg muscles and core muscles which I do once or twice a week. Speed work on the trails was also done at least, once a week. In my long runs, I had to test the best nutrition that my body would respond. I tested for purely water in my training. I tested also for powdered mix preparation which could be diluted with water. I would also test for solid foods ingested during training. But what was critical was to test the use of Power Gels/GU Gels and how they give you the much-needed energy during training. I would also test my trails shoes comparing them as to their weight once they are damped with my sweat or being wet from submerging myself in creeks and streams. I would also test my shirts and shorts as to which one are prone to chafing on any part of my body.
For the training and preparation for this year’s TNF 100K Trail Run, my post, “The Hay Is In The Barn” explains everything to it, to include proper tapering before the race. Aside from reducing the number of mileage within two weeks before the race, I also put more time to sleep and rest on the last week before the event. I was averaging 9-10 hours of sleep, at least, 3 days before Race Day.
On the early morning of Saturday after I had my shower (2 hours before gun start), I ate a full meal of rice, noodles with pork (pandit canton), vegetables, chicken, and hard-boiled egg; had my hot coffee; and took some amount of water. After the meal, I made sure I rubbed a lot of Body Glide to my body parts which I expected to have some chafing. I took my time fixing my attire/running kit from head to foot. I made sure that my shoe laces are tight but making the ride as comfortable as it can be. I decided to wear my La Sportiva Helios which had been my DNF shoes in my last year’s races because it is the lightest and the most responsive shoes on technical trails. My Patagonia Shorts are battle-tested in the CM42 & CM50 trail races. My white long-sleeved PAU Shirt by A Simple White Shirt had been with me in my long runs in my playground. Aside from the Buff Bandana on my neck, I have also a sweat bandana by Mountain Hardwear wrapped on my forehead which was covered by my TNF Running Cap. After having tried the Compressport Calf Sleeves in my training, I opted to use the Ultra Model for the race and I never had any cramps or signs of having some pains in my calves. They were also useful as “sweat traps” to prevent my socks and shoes from being wet and protection for leech bites on the forested sections of the route.
One and a half hours before the race start, I was already at the Starting Line for the Mandatory Gear Check. I was carrying a tightly packed UNIQLO Light Windbreaker Jacket inside the backpack of my Ultimate Direction’s Anton Krupicka Signature Series Hydration Vest with two bottles of Simple Hydration and seven packs of GU Gels stacked on the different small pockets of the hydration vest. I had also a thin plastic poncho which is packed tightly inside my backpack. I was carrying a Fenix handheld flashlight on my hand and a Black Diamond headlamp on my head. I got the whistle from my Salomon XT S-LAB Hydration Pack and have it tied to my UD Hydration Vest. After the race check-in, I returned to my vehicle and mentally reviewed my race and nutrition strategy. The Race Strategy was to arrive at the Intermediate Checkpoints with at least 2 hours as “buffer” time before the prescribed cut-off time and to pass as many runners along the way since I will be starting from the back of the pack. The nutrition strategy was to ingest one GEL every hour, alternating one flavor to another out of the five (5) flavors that I included in my pack. Eat solid foods and carry some food on Aid Stations where my support crew would be waiting. As I did in my training, two bottles of water would be enough for my hydration needs for at least 20 kilometers with an option to drink some more if there are sources of water along the route where I could refill.
Thirty minutes before gun start, I had to pee and took my first GU Gel. Composed and relaxed, I joined the rest of the runners and positioned myself at the back of the pack with the rest of the “usual suspects” in ultra marathon in the country.
Race Proper @ Camp John Hay To AS #3 (Ampucao)
At exactly 3:00 AM, the race started and I slowly moved forward to cross the START/FINISH arc by walking. Once I reached the paved road of Camp John Hay, I started to jog. My jog slowly became a run until I started passing some runners who would start hiking on some ascending parts of the first kilometer of the route. My run became faster on the descending roads and maintained my pace on those uphill ones. I remember last year that I was hiking on the first 2-3 kilometers of the route with a pair of trekking poles. But for this year, I was not using any trekking poles. In all my training runs for this year’s TNF, I never used my trekking poles. I tried to use them in H1 last February without any training and it gave me some problems with my pace. I just followed one of the “basics” in ultra, never use anything that you did not use during your training.
While running on the paved roads in front of Baguio Country Club and parts of South Drive, I have already passed a lot of runners and after hitting the trails of Camp John Hay, the group of runners in front and behind me had thinned out already. I had already my own space on the trail and I would have the freedom to dictate what pace I would be doing. The headlights in front of me would be my guide to determine how fast I would be running. I just took it easy to run the uphills and the downhills until we reached a populated area but we were still within the vicinity of Camp John Hay. Last year, I was overtaken by the lead runners of the 50K race which started one hour after our start time but for now, there was no way that the lead runners of the 50K would overtake me along the trails of the Camp. After one hour, I was already on the downhill approach towards the mining community of Itogon.
I was surprised to find out from my Garmin that my Average Speed was 7-8 kilometers per hour. At daybreak, after 2 1/2 hours after start time, I was already approaching AS #2 and I have run a distance of 20 kilometers at this point. I did not stop at AS #2 and kept on running on the easy flat and ascending parts towards the mining companies in the area. After passing a Gate/Guard Outpost of a Mining Company, the route started to ascend and I tried to run slowly until I passed more runners who were hiking. As we left the Mining Company perimeter, it was the start of the first never-ending steep ascent towards Barangay Ampucao. More runners would step aside from the trail as I passed them. I had a refill of water for my bottles when one of the marshals told us that the flowing water coming out of the water pipe is potable and clean. After some uphill and downhill, I was already near the Ampucao Aid Station. I reached AS #3 (Ampucao) at 7:30 AM, 4:30 hours after Start and I was happy and surprised. I had 3 1/2 hours as “buffer” before the cut-off time and I was 2 hours faster than my last year’s arrival time in this place!
AS #3 To AS #4 (Ampucao To Alang)
I immediately made a refill of water to my hydration bottles at the Aid Station and tried to glance what were the foods available. I saw some boiled bananas and boiled camotes and I did not attempt to pick up any of them. Instead, I approached my support crew and gave me hot noodle soup which I requested with two slices of fried Spam. I took my time to eat some solid foods after ingesting at least 3 GU Gels of different flavors for the past four hours in the race. After almost 30 minutes, I was done with my rest, eating, and hydrating myself with colder water. I was back on the road at 8:00 AM with a target time to reach Barangay Alang at 11:00 AM. Last year, I left Ampucao at 10:00 AM.
Ampucao to the “Mossy Forest” is mostly an uphill part of the course. The trail was too narrow and there are portions where there are too many rocks on the trail. I went up fast enough as I was confident with my training. I would slowly jogged on the flat portions and downhill sections of the course. Some trails are also enough for the cow’s feet to move within the place as this place is used as a ranch for cattles. This is also the part of the course with a breath-taking views of the Philex Mines, Baguio City, parts of Eastern Pangasinan and the San Manuel Hydro-Electric Dam, and the Mount Santo Tomas-Cabuyao mountain ranges, which is the other half of the race course! I did not have much time to stop and look around the views all around the place as I was focused to the very narrow and technical trail in front of me. I’ve been in this place for two times in my recon runs last year and it was enough to glance on spots where I would laugh and remember what my running friends had experienced in this place.
Before entering the “Mossy Forest”, I knew I had enough “buffer” time. It is a proof that my training is paying off and I was excited that my body was still strong. I had to overtake some more runners and sometimes allow the faster runners to pass me. And looking at the faces of those who would overtake, I am just happy that they look like they are half of my age! At this point, I was 2 hours ahead as compared with my time last year.
I purposely power hiked once I entered the “Mossy Forest” in order to take time for my body to rest after the uphill climb. I started to eat a sliced Korean Pear which I took from my support crew at the Ampucao Aid Station. The sliced Korean Pear was placed in a plastic bag and soaked in some ice. Eating such cold, juicy and sweet Korean pear was heaven in my mouth! Eating this fruit after ingesting one GU Gel is something that I would recommend as a good nutrition to ultra runners! I would jogged on the wider parts of the trail in the mossy forest which are mostly downhill. There are steep portions where one has to be extra careful on ones footing on the ground. There are also two portions where a runner has to rappel with a rope to go down from a higher to a lower ground. I could remember also that once there will be some uphill climb after the rappelling sections and pass by a “house with a water hose”, it is a sign that in a few minutes, I will be reaching AS #4 in Barangay Alang.
A lady race marshal was waiting at the “hut with a water hose” and she told me that the Aid Station with food and drinks is very near. I asked the Lady Marshal of my ranking and she told me that I was #91. It gave me a boost to slowly jog and try my best to reach the Aid Station within the targeted time—11:00 AM. After a few minutes, I was out of the forest and I could see the Aid Station with runners eating, drinking and refilling their hydration systems. The Medical Personnel asked me if I need some massage on my legs and I said, No, it would be enough that I would just sit and have a taste of the food prepared at the race. I was disappointed to eat a rotten ripe banana (lakatan). I think I had to get another one and peeled it with the same result. Instead, I took two small packs of Chocolate Drinks (Chuckie) and consumed the drinks! I made sure also to drink a lot of water in the Aid Station and made a refill to my bottles in order to anticipate the hot temperature as I go down to Kennon Road (AS #5). I still have some solid food in my pack which I would eat as soon as I would leave the place. In about 15 minutes, I was already back on the race and I was ready to face my “waterloo” in my last year’s race—the 12K downhill run from Barangay Alang to Bridal Veil, Camp #1, Kennon Road which is popularly known by the locals as “Ligay” (Wheel).
AS #4 To AS #5 (Alang To Bridal Veil Falls)
After jogging for about one kilometer, I brought out the food which was handed to me at the Ampucao Aid Station by my Support Crew—boiled sweet corn! I had to eat the corn from the cob as I walked on the slight uphill climbs of the course. It was too convenient for me to bite a part of the corn from the cob and then chew the corn in my mouth while running downhill. I practiced this kind of eating some corn from the cob while running during my training. It takes some time to chew the corn but with a small amount of water sipped into the mouth, the corn could be easily ingested. After a few minutes, I was able to eat one piece of corn on a cob and jogging downhill was just so easy for me.
At the middle of the 12K route, there is a convenience store where I would see some runners starting to leave the place once they see me approaching the place. I guess, they are making me as their “reference point” that they need to hurry up or else they will get passed by a Senior Citizen. I decided to buy two bottles of Coke (they were not cold) for my personal consumption in this convenience store. After a few seconds, I noticed a younger, tall and dark runner who ordered one bottle of coke and I said to the lady owner of the store that she would deduct the payment from the change of my money. The young runner was surprised to know that I paid for his drinks and he thanked me. I asked him if he is a local runner (Ilocano) or a runner from the South in Tagalog dialect. He told me that he came from Indonesia to join this event. We started a conversation until we left the store and started running. He was behind me for a few minutes and only to find out later that he completely disappeared from my sight. I guess, I was really faster this time in downhill running as compared in my last year’s experience. I would meet some locals in the area and race marshals preparing for their food/lunch and telling me that the next Aid Station is very near. I would say “Thank You” to them but I usually look at the horizon and the nearby mountains and compare where I am for me to gauge and estimate my elevation. As I can see that I am lower than the ridges of the nearby mountains, I can conclude that I am really getting nearer to the next Aid Station which is the Bridal Veil Falls at Camp #1 in Kennon Road.
Some of the younger runners would overtake me but I maintained what I’ve trained for in downhill running which is appropriate and adjusted to my age and personal capabilities. I knew I was doing good in the race as compared to my past experience last year. I just needed some patience, focused concentration, and positive attitude for me to reach the halfway point without any problems, “issues” or injuries. I had to hydrate some more as the sun’s heat was already at its highest. As I glanced to my watch, I was surprised to see that it was 1:20 PM and I was almost one kilometer away to the Aid Station! I reached the Aid Station at 1:30 PM with 3 1/2 hours as “buffer” before the cut-off time. It is insane to think that I improved 3 hours faster time than in last year’s race!