Race Report: 2016 Clark-Miyamit 50-Mile Ultra Trail Run
The goal to attain for this race is simply to finish my fourth (4th) consecutive finish in this race. I admit I did not train well/properly for this race as compared to my previous editions. I considered this race as part of my training for next year’s Tarawera 100K in Rotuora, New Zealand where most of my training runs on the previous months were on the paved roads except for those trails runs I had in Dona Remedios Trinidad, Bulacan last Octoder. My longest run for this race was the “back-to-back” Subic Marathon 42K on a Saturday and then a 10K run the following day which was held two weeks before this race. And since that weekend, I never had a chance to run/hike the necessary vertical distance needed for this event. In short, I did not have “consistency” in my training.
As usual, I only appear at the starting area two-three hours before the Start/Gun Start for my Race Packet Pick-Up and Mandatory Gear Check-Up. I don’t usually go to the usual Race Briefing and scheduled Race Packet Pick-Up. After my Mandatory Gear-Check-Up, I was back to my vehicle and tried to sleep for the remaining hours before the Gun Start. One hour before the Gun Start, I ate my last meal before the race with my extra “Jason Koop’s Rice Balls” with a CarboPro Drinks. I knew that this meal will last me for the next 2 hours after the race had started.
Fifteen minutes before the race started, I was at the Starting Arc and it was time to see some of the international runners and the “usual suspects” in trail running in the country. I could see new faces and younger runners among the crowd. Some would greet me and ask for group picture with me and I would also greet those runners whom I would see in other running events. After the usual “Start Briefing” of the RD, it was time to switch on my headlamp and GPS Watch!
Pak!!! The Gun Start had sounded and I was at the upper one-third of the runners. It was a fast start on the first mile and I think I was having a speed of 5.5 miles per hour and I tried to slow down! It is always the case in my previous two editions that I ended gasping for breath by the time I reached the trailhead towards the river. It was good it was a downhill that I was able to recover and slowed down with my pace.
Running along the river full of lahar was effortless as there were no water to wet our shoes for the first 5 kilometres. But on the first chance that my shoes was immersed on the river for the first time, I could sense that not much of the lahar went inside my shoes. The shoe gaiter that I was wearing was preventing those powdery lahar sand from entering my shoes! I was using a New Balance RC1400V4 which is a Racing Flat and I was happy that my shoes was very light even if it was wet and I could also feel that it would dry up quicker than my usual trail shoes. The only drawback is that if the trail is muddy and sticky, I need to be careful and slow with my footing!
At the Aid Station #1 (Km #7), I had my water refilled in my handheld bottle. By the way, I was using two handheld water bottles, one bottle is half-filled with water and the other one on my right was empty with only CarboPro Powder Mix in it. I knew that I could survive a half-filled water bottle in between Aid Stations except for the distance between AS4 and to the Peak of Mt Miyamit and back to AS4 which has a total distance of 20 kilometres. This is where I would start to fill up my bottle with a CarboPro mix and carry two bottles filled with water and powder mix. If I still lack the necessary water along this segment, I brought my Life Straw and “hope and pray” that a stream of water is still present flowing along this segment of the route where I can refill my water bottle. Every year, I would do this ritual along this segment of the route!
From Aid Station #1, I knew already what to expect——more sand/lahar filled dirt roads/trails; cemented stair; lots of steep descents and ascents; flat trails at the edge of sugar cane plantation; crossing the wide Pasig-Potrero River; the tunnel at the SCTEX; and then to Barangay Sapang Uwak. At the Pasig-Potrero River, there was not much of the flowing water but there was a very short river crossing where the depth is almost to my waist and the current was too strong that one has to grab a rope that was tied across the said river. Before reaching the Aid Station #2, I brought out a pack of my “Jason Koop’s” Rice Ball where one plastic pack container is filled with at least 3-piece equivalent of such balls and I had to eat it all for my first food intake on the race. I finished the water on my handheld bottle on my left palm as I approached the next Aid Station. It was still dark and did not spend much time in the Aid Station.
Since it was downhill from the AS2, I tried to run and maintain my pace all the way up to the center of Barangay Sapang Uwak. I did not have any problems with my Headlight as I have programmed the illumination rate or burning time to reach up to 15 hours of continuous lighting. Finally, a marshal signalled me to enter a detour part of the course which the first time it was introduced in this year’s edition. Instead of running uphill towards the Barangay Hall where the next Aid Station was located along a paved road, the RD deemed it necessary to avoid the cemented road. It was a good move to maintain the name of the event as an ultra trail run but….it made the course harder this time!
I call this “detour” as the “Stairway To Heaven” because after you pass this section, your curses and calls for all the Saints to help you while trekking on this trail, you will finally say that the Aid Station #3 as “Heaven” once you reach it. In the darkness of the night, I could feel that the distance of the detour is about 3-4 miles but in reality, it is only 2 kilometres of rolling terrain and with steep ascents that look like you are already “kissing” the ground. It was good there were diggings on the ground that resemble as stairs on this steep slope of the mountain. On the way back, one has to be very careful in going down on this slope that a misstep might bring you rolling down out of the newly built trail. I have to roll down the straps of my handheld bottles to my wrists and make use of my hands to grab anything on the ground for stability and balance.
From AS3, I hiked and tried to recover from the exhaustion I felt after reaching this part of the route. I just covered a distance of 24 kilometres and I felt that my energy was completely zapped at this point. How could it be? I still have 63 kilometers to go and I felt like I was about to quit. It was good it was still dark and cold. The breeze of the air; fresh air to breath and the presence of the fog gave me the strength to push myself. While hiking, I did a lot of deep-breathing and I just thought that with the fresh air that I was breathing, I would regain my strength! That was what I did until I met the first runner from 60K race! I was amazed by these runners who were about to go back to where we started and it was still dark as compared to the previous editions that I could comfortably and clearly see the faces of those leading runners. I would have thought that there will be course record to be broken again.
Finally, I reached Aid Station #4 and knowing the names of the Volunteers and being ultrarunning friends, I was treated like a “king” where they would serve me everything that I needed. After making sure I mixed my CarboPro with water on my right handheld bottle, I was on my way to the peak/turn-around point which is 10K distance and then back to this AS4 for a total of 20 kilometres. I slowly hiked from the AS4 as it is uphill and then tried to jog on the descents and flat portions of this segment.
As I was passing on a sharp-curved and narrow single track trail, I outbalance myself and my leading foot landed on a cliff and my whole body just fell off the cliff. I was quick to make my handheld bottles as my anchor to whatever or thing that would prevent me from falling to the bottom of the cliff. I was able to stop my body from falling but I need to lift my body to a distance of about 4 feet to reach the level of the trail. Knowing that a runner was trailing me behind for about 10-15 meters, I just rested myself with my body flat on the cliff and tried to observe if there was any pain in my body (making sure I did not incur any wounds or fractures!) while waiting for the next runner to see me on the cliff. The runner stopped and he asked, “Sir, what happened?”. And I said. “I fell!!!” He immediately pointed the tips of his trekking poles to the direction of my hands and I was able to grab them. I was able to reach the level of the trail with the runner pulling his trekking poles towards him and I was okey. I thanked the runner and asked him to just go ahead of me as I would hike and try to feel if my body was okey to finish the race. I felt some numb pain on my right quads and my groin muscles were starting to have cramps! I slowed down and took some time to drink my CarboPro and take in some salt tablets while walking towards the turn-around point.
It took me 3 hours to reach the peak after I left AS4 with all the fall, slow pace & cramping after the fall and a brief rest at the Peak. From here, I have 8 hours to reach and cross the Finish Line. I knew I could make it with more time to spare as long as I keep on moving. Halfway before reaching AS4, I was already in need of water as I usually drink a lot on this portion of the course plus the fact that the heat of the sun was starting to be felt inside the forested areas. I had to reach that stream of water and scoop some water into my handheld water bottle. Once I reached the stream, I have to walk upstream for about 3 meters and got some from the flowing water. It was time to use the Life Straw that was tucked inside one of my shorts’ pockets. I have to use the Life Straw twice to sip the water inside my hydration bottle. The said water gave me the necessary strength to bring my body to the AS4.
At the AS4, I took some time to rest; eat my rice balls and have my bottles refilled with water before going down to the Miyamit Falls. As compared to my previous finishes, I usually go down directly to the Falls once I reach the AS4. Not this time due to exhaustion and my accidental fall on a cliff. I usually calculate at least one hour to be spent in going down; resting at the Falls; and going back to AS4…and that has happened again in this year’s edition.
The volunteers manning the AS4 were kind enough help every runner passing or dropping by their station and they even go to the extent of giving more what was served on the table. Those “reserved” Coconut Water Drinks did wonders to my tired body that I was able to drink almost half of the bottle-pack! Thank you, guys!
From AS4, it was all downhill but the heat of the sun was on us, thus, preventing us to have a continuous run. It was a jog-walk-jog routine from this point and maintain a relentless forward motion making sure I would be able to cross the finish line within the prescribed cut-off time of 18 hours! It was a matter of time before we could reach AS3 which I call “Heaven”! At this point I joined 3 runners ( one male & two female) and I had a lengthy conversation with an ultra friend, Ariel Tuto Aquino who is also gunning for his 4th successive finish. In our calculation, we would be able to finish the race in 17 hours and some spare minutes.
At AS3, I just refilled my hydration bottles and drank some soda offered by a friend and then left the AS3 alone. It was a very deliberate hike in going down along the “Stairway To Heaven” and I was glad my NB Racing Flats had enough traction to hold me from sliding on those steep parts of the trail. However, I felt the sole portion of my feet were starting to cramp (first time to experience!) due to the very thin support on my forefoot. Once the cramps would appear, I would slow down with my pace and simply walk until the pain disappeared. Finally, I was at the cemented road inside Barangay Sapang Uwak and I continued to battle the exhaustion and pain until I saw some of the runners ahead of me having a rest/drinking ice cold drinks in one of the sari-sari stores in the barangay. I just continued with my jog as I knew I had a little “buffer” time for this race as I was thinking of those steep climbs before AS1 where I usually weaken in previous editions.
Patience to alternately jog, run and hike was the smartest things to do from AS3 to AS2 even with the heat of the sun was upon us. It was just a matter of time before we ( I was trying to catch-up with two runners in front of me) would reach the AS2 which is actually 17 kilometers away from the Finish Line. In my estimate, I had only 30 minutes as a “buffer time” which I knew would be enough for me to cross the finish line. I did not spend much time at the AS2 after I refilled my bottles. It is time to attack those steep descents and ascents before reaching AS1. I really slowed down on these portions because my hike was too deliberate using my hands as anchor to prevent me from sliding and use them too in propelling myself to go up on the steep ascents. I guess, I lacked some training on these situations during those weeks and months before this event. I hope to be smarter next time.
Upon reaching the AS1, which is 7 kilometres to the finish line, I still have 1:15 minutes to tackle such distance and I was confident to cross the finish line before the 18th hour knowing that there is only one easy ascent at the trailhead before reaching the paved roads of Clark. Unfortunately, on the last one mile with 15 minutes to go, I sped up my pace and went straight on the intersection where I should have turned RIGHT. It was too late to realise that I was lost at this point. So, I simply finished (beyond the cut-off time) and reported to the staff at the Finish Line that I got lost. I was still awarded the Finisher’s Medal and the Finisher’s Trucker Cap without the Finisher’s Shirt.
For sure, I will be back for my “graduation rites” next year in this event.
Thomas Combisen, the lone representative of the Philippines, finished and set a National Course Record at the 2016 IAU Asia & Oceania 24-Hour Endurance Run held in Kaohsiung, Taiwan last November 19-20, 2016. He officially represented the Philippine Association of Ultrarunners (PAU), the National Federation on Ultrarunning, and was invited by the International Association of Ultrarunners (IAU) to join this yearly event. He ranked #8 among the 27 International Runners with a total distance of 203.45 Kilometers covered during the duration of 24 hours of continuous running. The international runners represented the following countries: Australia, New Zealand, Japan, South Korea, Mongolia, Chinese Taiwan, and the Philippines.
Thomas Combisen qualified to join this prestigious running event for being a consistent Champion and Podium Finisher in PAU Races for the past years. He won in all the 200-Km+ distance races; set the Course Record for the Manila To Baguio 250K Race in 38:59:53 hours; and about to be awarded as one of the three candidates for the PAU 200K Grand Slam Award and to be considered as the Champion in this 4-event race as he won the past three races, namely, West To East 280K Run, Manila To Baguio 250K Run, and the North Coast 200-Mile Race.
Thomas Combisen is a native of Sagada, Mountain Province and works as a Civil Engineer in one of the Land Developers in Metro Manila and suburbs. He had been an active member of the Philippine Association of Ultrarunners for the past three years.
The Letter of Invitation from the IAU and the Chinese Taipei Ultramarathon Federation, as the Host and Race Organizer was officially received by the PAU last August of this year and Thomas Combisen was chosen and informed that he will represent the country in this international ultra marathon event with three (3) months of focused training. Major General Jovenal Narcise AFP (Retired), President of the PAU met with Thomas as soon as the Invitation was received and he informed him of the details of the race, how he will train and prepare for the race, and for him not to worry of the expenses for the travel, accommodation in Taiwan, and other logistics needs for him to join the race. He was advised to prepare his travel papers (passport) and PAU will support for his visa application for Taiwan. On a weekly basis, Thomas was advised to report on the progress of his training to the President of PAU.
The 2016 IAU Asia & Oceania 24-Hour Championship Endurance Run was held on November 19-20, 2016 at the World Games Stadium Area in Kaohsiung, Taiwan with 27 International Runners from IAU-sanctioned National Federations and 450 Local & Foreign Runners under the Open Category. The race started at 3:00 PM of Saturday and ended at 3:00 PM on the following day, Sunday. Runners had to run a loop course with a distance of 1.75 kilometers. The loop course has two RFID timing mats placed at the Start/Finish and at the midway of the loop course that would record the time of the runner, the number of loops and distance the runner has covered during the event. The loop course has two Aid Stations and other amenities that the runner could use during the event. Pacers were not allowed and competing runners were not allowed to pace each other for the duration of two loops. Such violation would result to immediate disqualification of the runners.
Our main goal in this race was for Thomas to finish at least 200 kilometers during the duration of 24 hours just for him to gain experience.
On the first two loops, Thomas was leading the race with a comfortable pace of 8:30+ minutes per loop and he told me that he felt easy on the pace and I advised him to just maintain the said pace and make sure to hydrate as often as possible. On the third loop, most of the international runners (IAU-sanctioned runners) started to speed up their pace until Thomas landed on the 4th place on the 5th hour of the race since it started. During the nighttime running, he maintained the ranking of #6. He finished 100 kilometres in 10 hours and 40 minutes and I advised him that our main goal of reaching 200 is doable.
Thomas crossed the Start/Finish RFID mat with 200 kilometers covered with one hour before 3:00 PM and I advised him to just have his recovery run until the horn was sounded to officially end the event. As the event ended with sound of horn and gun fired, Thomas was able to officially register a distance of 203.45 kilometres and placed overall #8 among the 27 International Runners.
As a result, Thomas Combisen had officially set a National Record for a Filipino Runner with a distance of 203.453 kilometres with a pace of 7:05 minutes per kilometre for a 24-Hour Endurance Run.
The following is the Official Result on the Podium Finishers (Top 3 runners) among the IAU-sanctioned International Runner with their respective pace:
For the Male Category:
Barry Loveday (Australia)——235.868 kilometers (6:05 min/km)
Takayoshi Shigemi (Japan) ——230.868 kilometers (6:14 min/km)
John Pearson (Australia) ——224.849 kilometers (6:24 min/km)
Thomas Combisen’s performance on his first international exposure in IAU-sanctioned Championship Races is considered as a success and excellent performance on his part and whole RP Team. Our participation to these kind of events will continue despite the lack of corporate sponsors and financial support coming from the Government.
From the words of Thomas Combisen, he said, “Sir, if not for you, my dream to join an international running event would remain as a dream and I will remember this experience throughout the rest of my life as this is something very special to me and priceless that money could never, never ever buy!” I just smiled and replied to him, “This is just the beginning of your international exposure as more races will come in the future. Keep your feet on the ground and keep on improving on your training as I have plans already for you to join the 2017 edition of this race!”
Race Report: 11th Subic International Marathon & 10K Fun Run (2016)
This is my third time to join this very challenging marathon race. If you can see the cover picture of this blog, it was during one the earlier editions of this race. The picture was taken at the point overlooking the Subic Airport and the Subic Bay. The second time I joined this event was when the route covered the Subic-Clark Expressway from Floridablanca Exit to Remy Field, Subic Freeport. Since then, I never had the urge or plan to join this event even if it is near my “playground”.
I decided to join this race a day before the race as part of my “back-to-back” weekend run in order to evaluate my training for the previous weeks which was concentrated on “hill repeats” and tempo runs. Knowing the Race Founder who happens to be a Retired General of the Philippine National Police and a Cavalier from the Philippine Military Academy, I was able to get slots/Race Bibs for the 42K Race which is held on the early evening of Saturday and a 10K Run Bib for the following morning of Sunday.
Marathon Race 42K (5:00 PM, Saturday, November 12, 2016)
A simple lapse on my part (maybe, it’s because I am getting older already) made me go back from Subic to where I left my iPods and Headphone as they are parts of my race goals and this lapse made me miss the Race Start by 10 minutes! Nevertheless, I knew that the Race Bib has a RFID and my Chip Time would start once I step on the RFID Mat placed on the Starting Line. General Samson Tucay, the Race Founder, was the one who handed me my Bib and wished me “Good Luck” as I left the Starting Area!
My race goal was to finish the race below 5 hours; attack aggressively the uphills by not walking; focused on maintaining my speed/pace; and regularly hydrating myself with water and regularly taking my Power Gels, Salt Sticks, and making sure that I have always some Coffee Candies in my mouth.
I consider this Marathon Race as the Toughest Marathon in the country because of its elevation profile. Two-thirds of the course are hilly (some consider them as mountainous!) and the dark surroundings slows most of the runners but the early evening breeze coming from the sea and the forest in the mountains is very refreshing. If I remember right, this is the very same running and bike route where “world champions” in triathlon were being trained under the tutelage of the famous Triathlon Coach Brett Sutton. Subic Freeport as a training ground was mentioned in the book of Chrissie Wellington and other Triathlon Olympic Champions. This was also my favourite road running playground when I prepare for my Marathon and Half Marathon Races in the past!
I was relaxed and composed when I left the Starting Line and maintained an easy pace with an effort range of 4-6 (from 1-10, where 10 is the most effort exerted) up to Km 5. At this point, I was able to pass two Aid Stations already where I had to take some sip of water that would wash down my saliva mixed with coffee candy. I started to switch on my headlight and EyeCatcher blinking lights strapped on my right and left wrists! It is also at this point where I had to pass the last runner that left the Starting Line 10 minutes ahead of me! As I start to get near the road intersection going to No Hands Beach, I overtook some male runners who were already walking. I started to pick up my pace as I was about to tackle the first uphill climb overlooking the Subic Airstrip and the Subic Bay. At the vicinity of the Airport’s Terminal, I would pass again some runners. At the second uphill climb near the APEC Executive Mansions, I would pass again a group of runners who were walking uphill. I never stopped on these uphill climbs making sure that I would be able to maintain my pace/speed.
The McDonald’s Quarter Pounder Hamburger which I ingested few minutes before I started the race gave me the power and strength to reach the “roller coaster” part of the course (Km 8-20) without having the feeling of getting weak. It was only after I reached the turn-around point (Mile #13) at the Ocean Adventure that I decided to ingest my first GU Gel, however, in every hour I would ingest at least two Salt Sticks while maintaining that my mouth and tongue have some coffee candies to play around. The GU Gel immediately kicked-in that I have to continuously attack the uphill climb up to the Subic’s Morong Gate and then back up to the Airport. I had my 2nd GU Gel on the last 8 kilometres to the Finish Line!
From the turn-around point, I registered a time of 2:15 hours (in my Garmin Watch) and I was happy. Knowing that I might not be able to have a negative split due to fatigue or some kind of incoming muscle cramps, I was contented that I would finish the race in 4:40-4:50 hours. At Km 32, my Garmin Watch registered a time of 3:40+ and I kept trying to increase my pace trying to push myself for a faster pace but I felt that between Km 36-38, I slowed down due to some technical problems with my iPod’s music (I found out later that it was going on a Low Power Mode as my new AKG headset needs a stronger source of power). Instead of listening to my erratic music, I opted to count my steps and do my “strides” (40 seconds fast, 20 seconds recovery) all the way to the finish line. I registered a time of 4:54:30 hours with my Garmin GPS Watch. It was almost 10:00 PM in the evening and I had spent some time to speak to the Race Organizers after crossing the finish line and greet some of my Ultrarunners who joined the race!
10K Fun Run (6:00 AM, Sunday, November 13, 2016)
All I needed was to sleep at least 4 hours after the Marathon Race and then woke up early in the morning on the following day (Sunday) for the 6:00 AM Gun Start for the 10K Fun Run. I made sure to be early and I was at the starting line 20 minutes before the scheduled Start Time. I joined the Opening Program with a Prayer; Speech from the Race Organizer; and some Dance Calisthenics of which I enjoyed doing as part of my stretching exercises. If you think I did not have any sore muscles after the Marathon Race, you are wrong! I really needed those dance steps and jumping as my way of stretching my sore muscles!
The 10K and 7K runners were led to the Chute at the Oval Track where the Starting Line was located. I placed myself two meters behind the starting line and waited for the starting gun. I made my last wave to the Race Organizers and they acknowledge my presence before the Gun was fired.
Bang!!! I started to jog as I was able to find a space which was not crowded by the runners around me in about 20 meters. As I left the Remy Field Oval Track towards Rizal Street, I was already passing some runners and most of them were lady runners. The 10K route is the same first 5K of the Marathon Race and it was relatively flat. It was a matter of time before I would reach the turn-around point at Km 5.
At Km 4, a runner who is 10-15 years younger than me passed as I was approaching a bridge and he was the only one who passed me throughout the race. As I got nearer to the turn-around point, I started to count the number of runners whom I was meeting as they are on their way to the Finish Line. As I passed the turn-around point, I counted myself as the #64 and continued to run; tried to increase my pace and making sure that I would take a sip of water on those last Aid Stations towards the Finish Line. At this point, I was happy that I was registering 6.2 to 6.4 miles per hour as my speed. I was already sure that I would register a sub-one hour finish to this race.
Along the way back to the Finish Line, I was no longer sure if the runners I would be passing were the runners of 10K, 7K, or 5K. What was important in my mind was to be able to finish the race in less than one hour. As soon as I was running in front of the Subic Yatch Club Building (last 500 meters), I was already sure that I would be able to attain my goal.
Finally, I crossed the Finish Line in 58:30 minutes! I survived the race with only 6 pieces of Coffee Candies and sip of water in every Aid Station.
After my shower and eating my breakfast, I slept and rested the whole day. I am blessed and thankful to the Almighty Lord that I was able to finish my “Back-to-Back” weekend runs as part of my training for my incoming races.
Things That Helped Me Finish These Races:
Three weeks of focused “Hill Repeats” and Tempo Runs leading to the event. Hill Repeats (on the middle of the week) are done at the middle of the workout at least once a week——The workout starts with an Easy Pace for one mile or 2K and then do “hill repeats” which would last for about 2-3 minutes from the bottom to the peak of the hill at 8-9 pace effort (where 1 is simply walking and 10 is my fastest pace). Jog easily in going back to the bottom of the hill. Do at least 8-10 repetitions. And then jog for 1 mile or 2K to end the workout. As for Tempo Runs, jog/run easily for the 1st mile, then at the middle of the run, do 10-minute tempo run (7-8 pace effort) with 5-minute recovery, do 2-3 repetitions of this 10-minute tempo runs, and then finish with 1 mile or 2K easy pace.
Recovery Runs. In between these “Hill Repeats” and “Tempo Run” days, I would do recovery runs which has 5-8 pace effort which covers a total distance of 7-8 miles to include 10 repetitions of “strides” (40-second “burst” of fast pace and recovery for 20-second easy jog) before my last mile for the workout. These recovery runs are done on the trails.
Long Runs. My longest run was the Rockstar MGM 50K Trail Run in Dona Remedios Trinidad, Bulacan where I finished in 8:45+hours in a brutal and challenging course three weeks before this event. The succeeding weekends were done along the road for a distance of 20K. Before I hit my last mile in these long runs, I would do 10 repetitions of “strides”. However, in these road runs, I would do some “slower” tempo runs that would last for 30 minutes in every 10K. This is where I try my nutrition & hydration strategy and try my running gears to include my lighting system.
No Cross-Training. For two sessions, I just did some selected Pilates poses to strengthen my core muscles. No strength training. No Gym workouts.
Always remember that a Marathon Race or 10K Fun Run is a “speed-endurance” running event where a serious runner does not need to walk during the race. Actually, in Marathon Races and Fun Runs, I usually walk 1-2 meters before I pick up those cups filled with water in the Aid Stations and then walk again for about 3 meters away from the Aid Station while taking a sip of water. In the hilly portions of the course, I would not stop running and try to quicken my pace as if I was doing my “hill repeats” during my training. And that was my “secret” why I looked like I was a very strong runner during the event as what was seen by those runners whom I passed along the course. As gathered from my Garmin Watch and other GPS Watches from my friends who finished this event, the course has a total elevation gain of almost 1,500 feet!
Race Light. Everybody would notice that I would use Running Shorts with an inseam of 2.5 inches in my latest races with “cropped” muscle shirt with holes. It is because I was able to reduce or shave off some grams from my running attire. Try to compare a “wet” cropped muscle shirt with holes from another “wet” full singlet or full race shirt (with sleeves) by holding them each with both hands or weighing them in a weight scale. You will find out how many grams you will be lighter during the run. No Buff or neck gaiters. No Calf Sleeves. No hydration bottle. I was using a Merrell Light Racing Shoes and Light Drymax Socks. I was wearing a Petzl Light which is 115 grams and a Headset which is about 30 grams, weights that are very negligible. Just do the math. If you can save at least 100 grams in your racing weight with 42,000+ jumps alternately with your feet, your legs will be lighter and the tendency for some muscle cramps to occur will be farfetched, assuming that you trained properly. Lastly, in a Marathon Race, leave your Cellphone behind!
Hipster Belt. My Coffee Candies, Salt Sticks, GU Gels, and Power Bar were stashed in the pockets of my Hipster Belt. It became also as my “sweat absorbent” keeping my socks and shoes dry from my perspiration.
Safety & Lighting Gears. The blinking wrist straps from EyeCatcher and PETZL Headlight is a “must” during a Marathon Race being held during nighttime.
Music. Finally, I was able to finally search for and buy a very light, reliable, and of good quality headphone from AKG By Harman (Model: Y30). In the past, I would only use those cheap “ear-plug” headphones during my training runs but they could not stay steady in my ears and that was the reason why I don’t use any headphone in races. Music greatly helped me to motivate myself to keep on going and I would consider it as one of the factors that made me finished the race fresh and focused.
Familiarity of the Course. Having trained and raced in this course for the past years, I knew what to expect ahead of me along the course even during nighttime. Even if it was not part of my plan this year to join this race, I am confident that I could easily make this race as part of my training workout. Having said this, I would make it a point to join this event every year as part of my mountain trail ultra training.
After I crossed the Finish Line at the Marathon Race, I was able to talk to General Sam Tucay and the rest of his staff. He lamented that he is not getting any profit from this event and its advocacy through the years even if it is already on its 11th edition. He was telling me that he is considering the idea of ending it as an annual event. On my part, I told him that he should not shelve the event and continue it as an annual event even if he considers it as not profitable. It will take some time to make his event as a popular marathon race as the years go by.
On my part, I did not tell him that I will be coming with this Race Report with an appeal to my ultra running friends and members of PAU to consider this event as part of their ultra running workout.
If you are a serious ultrarunner or training for a fast marathon race, you have to include this event as an evaluation or assessment race for your incoming A-races.
Since I finished the 2nd Zamboanga Mountain 50K Run, I did not run regularly for the next 3 weeks and then resumed my daily training two weeks prior to the conduct of this event. Most of my daily training consisted of road runs where I included “strides” and tempo runs within the middle of each running workout. I made some hill repeats per week and two weekends of long hikes in my mountain trail “playground” which lasted for 5-6 hours every workout. On those two weeks of training, I made it a point to have a full day rest on Mondays and two days rest before the event.
While on training, I was eyeing to join the shorter event which is 25K because I wanted to finish the race in 4 hours; go home to Manila early during the day; and my long runs prior to the race were less than 25K. However, while driving to Doña Remedios Trinidad (DRT), Bulacan, I have finally decided to join the longer distance event which is 50K with the thought of going around the 25K-loop twice. Knowing how organized and loaded with logistics in all the MGM’s events that I’ve joined (I guess, I joined all of them!), I finally decided to join the 50K event as soon I checked-in at the Starting Area.
Sometimes, I need to challenge myself and take the risk as to how far I can go in terms of testing my physical and mental limits as a result of my limited period of training; test my gears/equipment; and test my nutrition and hydration strategies.
While it was still dark (2:45 AM) at the Caribbean Resort in Doña Remedios Trinidad (DRT), Bulacan when we arrived, I could see lots of personal vehicles parked and runners wandering around inside the resort; preparing their gears; and taking their nap while waiting for the event to start. I could see the “usual suspects” or “addict” runners in trail running but I could not see lots of the faster ones. I was wondering if there is another trail running event being held for the weekend or it is a sign that most of them are still recovering from the trail event a week before this one.
Few minutes before the start, the Race Director briefed us about the course/map; elevation profile; and the locations of the Aid Stations/Checkpoints/Marshals. However, the briefing did not specifically mention about the rivers to be crossed; the slippery rocks to be climbed/trekked and the numerous waterfalls to be climbed. From the description of the course, I expected that my shoes will be wet throughout the race so that I decided not to use gaiters and calf sleeves. Instead, I used my light Salomon S-LAB Trail Shoes and the thinnest Drymax socks. I took time to review the map course and asked for some clarifications as we have to pass a certain checkpoint for three times. We were advised that the Marshal in the said checkpoint will write a certain “mark” on our Race Bibs to show or indicate that we have passed the said checkpoint for three times. (Looking at my Race Bib after the event, I saw the numbers 1-2-3 written on my Bib). I made sure that I will not get lost during the race.
The race started promptly at 4:00 AM for the 50K distance event. I took time to walk the first few meters while I turned on my PETZL Reactik+ Headlight. From the entrance of the Carribean Resort, we turned right into an asphalted road and after a flat portion, it was all uphill where I would hike and run trying to keep up with the pace of the other runners in front of me. But I have to maintain my pace with the thought that I would not like to “bonk” on the last half of the run.
For almost one hour and 45 minutes, I was running and hiking trying to focus on what my headlight’s beam was directed in front of me. I was quite bothered with the Nathan Handheld bottle that was strapped on my left palm that the water inside in it was getting out from its sipping valve as I swing my arms. To keep the water from being wasted, I had to drink the water regularly instead of just ignoring the leak. With this situation, I was always in need of water 2-3 kilometers away from the next Aid Station but I just relaxed with my predicament as I can easily scoop some water to drink on the rivers and waterfalls along the route, this is to include the free-flowing water from hoses in some of the houses in the area and man-made wells along the side of the road.
It was already daybreak when I reached the peak of the first “major” climb of the course and it was relatively downhill and flatter portions of the course. Some of the road was paved but most of it was wide smooth dirt road. I tried to increase my pace even if I would glance on my watch that I was having an average speed of 4.2 miles per hour. To me, this is already a big improvement and I was happy that my training (“strides”/hill repeats/tempo runs) is paying off and getting positive results on my numbers/data from my GPS Watch.
I was regularly ingesting 2 capsules of Salt Sticks every hour and made sure that I have at least two pieces of Coffee Candies inside my mouth. Every 2 hours, I would ingest those packs filled with “Jason Koop’s Bacon & Egg Rice Balls” which I copied from the Ultrarunning Book of Jason Koop. On the major climbs/ascents, I would ingest CLIF Energy Gels (Mocha) with water. All my nutritional needs were stashed inside the pockets of my NATHAN Hipster Waist Stretchable Belt (Size: Medium). I prepared 4 packs (each pack in a ZipLoc) of Jason Koop’s Rice Balls which is equivalent to eight (8) balls. At the Aid Stations, in total, I only ate 4-6 pieces of Jelly Ace, one piece of Hopia, drank two glasses of Ice Cold Coke, and ate 3 slices of native “Biko”/native rice cake. With this regular concern on my hydration and nutritional needs, I did not experience any “bonking” or any cramps on my legs during the run even if it was already hot on my last 10K to the Finish Line.
For the 50K runners like me, we were treated with so many surprises! I was thinking that we just simply cross a lot of streams and rivers but in reality, we were practically running with and/or against the flow of the water! And these streams and rivers where we have to run have a lot of slippery rocks underneath the water which made my running and hiking unstable. And for the rivers, some are deep up to one’s breast (depending on your height) and most of them have strong current but the current would bring one to a shallower portion of the river.
For the lots of waterfalls? I thought the route would lead the runners to just simply pass the bottom of the falls but we were wrong! We had to climb the waterfalls and reach the source of the water because that is where the route was! I could not believe it! Aside from climbing these falls up to where the water is coming from, we have to descend from the falls, too! In doing these ascents and descents on raging waterfalls and on the sides of these waterfalls, the rocks where one has to hike were slippery and sometimes you have to take time to select a small notch or crevice on the rocks to place your shoes and fingers to propel you upwards. Practically, were crawling or “rock climbing” on a slippery waterfalls on our way “up or down”. As these waterfalls were inside a forested area, I had to switch on my headlight just to be sure and see where I would hold on those slippery rocks! I am just wondering how those women runners were able to pass through these parts of the route. I highly appreciate their strong will and courage to go through these challenging parts of the course. My snappy salute to you! This “loop” is the most significant part of the course as I have to slow down but I enjoyed the challenge while I was tailing the first women to win this course!
The so-called “small loop” of the course is also challenging but not as hard as the first loop with those river running and waterfalls’ rock climbings. However, the “small loop” has the deepest river crossing and lots of steep uphill climbs but I tried to run the downhill and flatter sections and “power hike” those ascents. One has to go through this “small loop” for two times and this was where the heat of the sun would take its toll to most of the runners. I have to take time to dip my body to the rivers to cool off and drink lots of water on “small wells” along the route.
Finally, I was on my last 15K of the course before the Finish Line. One kilometre from the last Aid Station, a photographer was waiting and ready to take my pictures. I saw some water falling on the side of the road that I have to take time to have my “shower” to bring down my body temperature. The photographer asked for a “selfie” and I acceded to his request. He told me that the next Aid Station (last one) is already near.
The wide trail ended on the banks of a wide river where I could see a rope. I took time to rest and look around and found out that there are markers/ribbons leading me towards a hanging bridge, not knowing that I have to go back to the same river after coming from the last Aid Station and now using the rope to cross the wide river! So, I was treated with “Biko”/native rice cake and ice-cold Coke at the last Aid Station. I engaged some conversation with the volunteers and I sensed that they don’t know me. I found out that this is the first time that we, “outsiders”, were the “first” to run on these trails as most of the forests and lands are not yet exploited by “squatters and illegal upland farmers”. They told me that I could still catch up with the 3 runners ahead of me but I was not sure about their information. I was glad that they provided me with with some positive thoughts!
The paved road from the Aid Station led me to the same river that I’ve crossed using the Hanging Bridge but I have to cross now the river with me holding the rope tied across the river. Next, the markers led me to a single-track trail going up to a mountain where the trail has a lot of slippery rocks and inside a forest. It took me some time to reach the peak and then the dirt and muddy road leading to the Poblacion of DRT, Bulacan. I have to run on the middle portion of this trail as both sides had been depressed and became muddy due to the tire tracks from a truck that goes up to the peak of the mountain. It was a mix of jogging and power hiking as the trail is rolling in terrain and once I was out of the forested area, I could see already the roofs of structures of the town of Doña Remedios Trinidad (DRT), Bulacan. I know that once I hit the paved road, everything will be downhill to the Finish Line.
I finished the race in 8:45:50 hours. The staff at the Finish Line was expecting me to finish later in the afternoon and they were surprised to see me approaching the resort’s gate/entrance earlier than they have expected.
As a word of advise, don’t bring your iPhone to this event. I did not bring my phone as I did not want to be distracted with the temptation of taking some pictures of the route and I made a good decision. The remaining salt tablets after the last river crossing got melted and the candies became sticky syrup but my rice balls were properly sealed in their ZipLoc that they were dry all the time. If you decide to bring your iPhone, make sure to use a hydration system that have pockets higher than your breast/chest and have them sealed in a waterproof plastic packs.
I highly recommend this event to those who are looking for nice scenery, “laid back” trail running event, well-organised/stocked Aid Stations and well-marked course, and very challenging course.
Congratulations to Dabobong Angeles and his Team for this successful event. Congratulations also to all the Finishers of the 50K & 25K events!
On an early Monday morning, I woke up at 3:30 AM and drove all the way to the trailhead of Mount Baldy with the thought that I would be the first one to “summit” the peak for the day.
From my house to the trailhead was an easy drive for 45 minutes and it was still dark when I arrived at the Parking Area at Manker Flats. While I was preparing my things (hydration pack and shoes), another vehicle arrived and parked across the road where I was preparing my things. The other vehicle had two hikers in it and they immediately opened their vehicles’ trunk to retrieve their packs and went directly to the trailhead. They were 5 minutes ahead of me when I finally started after taking a pee in one of the Portalets.
They were wearing headlights as I saw them in front of me for about 200 meters. I was not wearing a headlight and I was confident that the light from the moon could easily illuminate the dirt road towards the commercial establishment at the Ski Lift. Before I was able to hit my first mile, I had already overtaken them after I greeted them. As I moved ahead of them, I could still hear their conversation as they were taking their time for the hike.
Being confident that I was already the first one on the trail, I maintained my hiking pace until I reached the Ski Lift’s Commercial Center. It was already daybreak when I reached the place and nowhere I would find find the two hikers behind me.
As I passed the Ski Lift’s Commercial Center towards the Devil’s Backbone Trail, I saw a Rescue Truck parked at the end of the Fire Road, the farthest that a four-wheeled vehicle would reach towards the peak of Mt Harwood. I was thinking that those guys aboard in it were just ahead of me but as I saw at the horizon and the trails above me, I would not see any individual/hiker ahead of me towards the peak of Mt Baldy.
Looking at a distance ahead of me, I would see the Devil’s Backbone Trail and it looks like a very challenging and intimidating ascending part of the trail where both sides have steep slopes that the lowest portion could not be seen. If anybody would slip or feel dizzy and plunge to any of the sides of the slope, I would suspect that a hiker would be hard to be rescued from atop the trail. But if you are already standing and doing your hike at the said place, you can feel that your courage is slowly taking over your mind and for you to be able to cross this dreaded part of the trail. As you passed this trail, you are rewarded with a higher elevation and a flatter portion of the trail with the peak of Mt Harwood in front of you!
I decided not to “peak bag” Mt Harwood as I was trying to be fast as possible in reaching the peak of Mt Baldy. As I was hiking on this flatter portion of the trail, I had my first sip of water and I started to feel some perspiration on my back as I was wearing my Uniqlo Water Repellant Windbreaker.
Finally, I was on my last mile before the peak of Mt Baldy! After about 200 meters, I saw a hiker going down from the trail and I said to myself that the guy could have started way ahead of me! He looks like he is a good hiker with all those beard and moustache on his face and the hiking boots he was wearing. He was not using trekking poles. A simple greeting and look on each others eyes as we met were part of the usual practice among hikers and it feels a good sign of showing respect to one another on the outdoors.
On my final 100 meters towards the peak of Mt Baldy, I met two hikers with backpacks and trekking poles telling me that a helicopter will be arriving at the peak in 45 minutes and my understanding of the message was that there was an urgency for me to reach the peak and spend a short/quick time at the peak. I said thank you to the two hikers as I moved faster and closer to the peak.
Few meters from the peak, I have observed that there were lots of stakes with orange ribbons tied on them that were placed surrounding the peak of the mountain. I concluded that those ribbons were markers for the pilots of the helicopters for them to visually know where exactly they would land. On the peak, I saw three (3) guys with big backpacks and orange jackets whom I assumed to be those who rode in the Rescue Truck parked along the trail going to the mountain. They were lying on their backs and talking to each other and not minding about my arrival in the area. They were inside the area where those pile of rocks formed in a semi-circle which I believed is being used for those hikers who would set their tent and sleep for over night in the area. The pile of rocks is so high that it can protect strong winds from hitting a pitched tent inside the semi-circle area.
I could still remember where one of my ultra friends who lives in Los Angeles had to stay and camp at the peak of Mt Baldy for one week as part of his training for the 2015 Angeles Crest 100-Mile Endurance Race. He would pitch his tent at the peak and then hiked and run towards the Ski Lift’s Commercial Center and then back to the peak during the duration of his stay in the mountain. I guess, camping in the said area is FREE as long as one has an Adventure Pass displayed on ones vehicle at the trailhead. As a result of his training, the guy finished the race in less than 24 hours!
I spent almost 30 minutes at the peak, taking some “selfies” and eating my nutrition bars/trail mix fruits & nuts, before starting my descent from the peak. On my way back, I started to move faster and run the flatter sections. If the descending part of the trail is smooth and without any roots or rocks, I would run and quicker with my pace.
I did not stop at the Ski Lift’s Commercial Center as they were still closed but three (3) SUVs suddenly arrived at the area full with “newly-recruited” Park Rangers and they were instructed to proceed to the establishments. I said to myself that I had to run 3.5 miles down to trailhead and be able to finish my hike before 10:00 AM.
As I was running down along the Fire Road, I could hear the sound of an approaching Helicopter to the mountain but sad to say that I could no longer have the view of the peak of Mt Baldy. Whatever, the activity that was being done in the area was part of the regular training being done in response to any contingency or emergency situation that is usually being experienced among hikers in the area. This is what I call being prepared and work’s efficiency among those people responsible in the safety and protection of the parks.
At 10:30 AM, I was driving on my way back to the house in Downtown, Los Angeles.
My next plan will be to pitch a tent at the peak and sleep thereat for an overnight stay!
After I finished the first edition of this race last year, I promised to myself that I would join every edition of this race as long as I am still strong to run an ultra distance event. I would make this race as my evaluation run as part of my training for my future ultra races here and abroad.
Three months ago, I have started my training for this race but instead of doing it on the trails and places where there are considerable elevation gain and/or loss, I have to do my training on the paved streets. I have to follow the usual training program and daily mileage which I have followed for the past three years of ultra running training. However, these street running workouts had to last for about two months before I had to go back to trail running.
The only difference with my training this time as compared for the past 3 years, is my desire to be faster as I grow older. I placed more emphasis on the conduct of “strides” during my daily runs and do at least two times of “tempo” runs during the week. Weekends would be devoted to long runs up to 18 miles with a faster average pace.
On the third month, I did a lot of hikes in the mountains on weekends which would last up to 6-7 hours and on weekdays, I would do 8-9-mile runs on trails with an elevation gain/loss of at least 2,000 feet every workout. This is where I would train myself on my hydration and nutrition with only water as my fluid intake. I tapered for about two weeks which consisted of hikes and easy runs in my “playground”.
What is good with this race is that the Hotel (Palmeras De Zamboanga) where I stayed is the Starting and Finish Line of the event. I went out of my room 20 minutes before the start with enough time to greet and have “photo-ops” with the other runners. Before I went out of the Hotel, I was greeted with free sandwich and hot coffee at the end of the hallway and was able to take advantage of this offer as part of my stay in the hotel. I knew that the coffee and the sandwich would be enough for my food intake before I reach the first Aid Station at Km #8.
The race started promptly at 5:00 AM after a short prayer and 57 starters left the starting line. It was still dark when we were running along the street leading to the Pasonanca Park but the streetlights were enough to light up our way. Knowing that the first kilometre is flat, I made an easy pace and just followed the runners in front me. At Km #3, a runner started a conversation with me and I asked if my prevailing running pace would be maintained up to the finish line and replied him, “Yes”. And then asked permission if he would be allowed to pace with me during the duration of the race. And I said, “Yes”! We would be running side by side from this point up to the Finish Line. At that time, we were on a speed of 4 miles per hour as gleaned from my Suunto Watch.
It was my intention to maintain the said speed throughout the race. As I had predicted before the race, I have announced on Facebook that I intend to improve my ranking of #17 and finish time of 8:34+ hours from the result last year. Actually, my target goal was to finish the race below the 8-hour time and maintain the speed of 4 mph up to the Finish Line.
We reached the 1st Aid Station (Km #7) without any problem and tried my best to run through those ascents without any brief walks or hikes. I took me less than 2 minutes to refill my bottles with ice cold water and eat some suman. From the Aid Station, we had to follow the paved road as the route became a “roller-coaster” and it started to be warm. After about 4-5 kilometers, we reached the 2nd Aid Station in front of an Elementary School. I had to refill my hydration bottle with ice-cold water, douse some ice-water on my head and face as the day was starting to be hot. I ate two ripe bananas and I was back on the way. From this Aid Station, it was the start of a single-track technical trail which has some rocks, mud, and flowing water.
As I tried to speed up my pace on the descending portion of the trail which was muddy and slippery, I started to feel some “cramp” on my left calf and I asked the runners behind me to pass while trying to walk my way down the trail. I was still running downhill but I made sure to slow down my pace. I brought out some of salt tablets and ingest some and kept it to my mind to regularly ingest some every hour during the run. After a few seconds and minutes, I was able to regain my pace and it was just a matter of time before we would reach the first Turn-Around point which happens to be the Zambales Elementary School.
At the start of a newly cemented road inside a thickly vegetated area in the course, we met the two leading runners. This is where I started to hike the ascending parts and run the flat portions and descending parts of the route and kept on drinking my water in my handheld bottle during my hikes. As we got nearer to the Turn-Around point, we had to meet those runners who just left the 3rd Aid Station at the Turn-Around Point which happens to be in a School. As I count the number of runner that I and my companion-runner would meet, I was ranked as #12 runner with my partner as #11.
In last year’s edition, I stayed in this Aid Station (Km #16) for a longer time as I tried to ingest more food and drink lots of water and craved for sweeter drinks. I even had more pictures taken with the other runners whom I was able to catch up in the said Aid Station. For this year, I was surprised to see a Zamboanga local runner who was still sitting and trying to cool off in the Aid Station when I arrived. “Chabby” is a very fast and strong ultrarunner and he beat me last year by almost one hour. I had to ask him his situation and he said that he was ok. But, I was brief in my stay by having my bottles refilled with water and then take in a mouthful of spicy noodles which gave me a little “jolt” and in less than 5 minutes, I was out of the Aid Station with my “partner” in tow.
It is a continuous uphill climb from the Aid Station and after about 1 kilometre, we started to meet the other runners behind us who were on their way to the Aid Station at Km #16. After passing the newly-paved road inside the thick forest, we were back again to the single-track trail before reaching the next Aid Station. Unknowingly, Chabby was few seconds behind us and we were together at the said Aid Station. However, he opted to stay behind as he changed his attire and wanted to rest for awhile. After refilling my bottles and eating some fruits, hard-boiled eggs, and rice delicacy, we were out of the Aid Station. The dreaded “Gulod De Medio” was already in my mind as I left the Aid Station! However, we passed another runner after about a kilometre away from the Aid Station. That makes me #11 and my partner as #10 as we battle the next ascent and the heat of the sun!
As my running “partner” and I were about to climb the “Gulod De Medio”, we saw a runner clad in black attire (with 2XU tights) in front of us within a distance of 20 meters. I made my pace faster with the intention to close the gap with between us with the runner in front of us. As we were in the steep ascent of the “Gulod De Medyo”, the runner saw us trying to get nearer to him but as soon as he reached the peak, he started to run faster! At the middle of the steep ascent, I started to slow down due to fatigue and the heat of the sun but I had to exert more effort but slowed my pace just to be able to reach the peak. I knew that as soon as I passed the peak, it was a gradual descent to the next Aid Station.
I took some Ice Cold Coke and native rice delicacy at the Aid Station and after refilling my water bottle, we left in a hurry! I knew that the course/route to the next Aid Station was a generally downhill. However, the heat of the sun was the one which prevented us from increasing our pace. At this point, it was our last 18 kilometres and in a matter of time, we would be able to reach the next Aid Station.
Finally, we reached the Aid Station and the lady volunteers were excited to see me that they asked me to have some pictures with them! Since I needed time to rest and ingest more food, I allowed them whatever pictures they could take while I was there. I guess, this is the Aid Station that I rested the longest time on the course because of the heat of the sun and the fact that the course will be uphill from this point to the next/last Aid Station. I ate drank a lot of Coke while ingesting two pieces of their local Suman with Latik which are bare (without any banana wrap). I thanked the lady volunteers for being there and for being able to serve us with the foods we needed. This one of the very reasons why I keep coming back in this race——very happy, very encouraging , and very helpful and beautiful lady volunteers!!!
I consider the next segment of the race as the hardest as one has to go uphill to the last Aid Station. It is not about the steepness of the segment but it is the continuous and gradual ascent that will force the runners to hike on the exposed portions of the road from the heat of the sun. This is where we could see again those who are trying to catch us from behind and from the distance we had made as a “buffer”, we can safely say that we will be able to maintain our rankings up to the finish line!
Reaching the last Aid Station was a relief as from this point, it is the last 7 kilometres of the course which is all downhill. We did not stay long in the Aid Station after we refilled our hydration bottles and ate some bananas. I carried a “Sakto” Bottle of Coke and my Handheld Bottle filled with water and I was confident that my liquid/water was enough for me up to the Finish Line but I was wrong! My running partner had to share some of his water and the Race Organizer had to place another Aid Station in about 3-4 kilometres from the Finish Line because of the heat of the sun. The descending portions of the course was steep and some are still rough with gravel and small rocks but the concrete pavement was too much for my knees but my legs were surprisingly prepared for the beating and pounding of my feet. My strides were short but quick and I was able to increase my pace as I took advantage of the gravity. It was the heat of the sun that really gave some problems to my body. However, I was prepared for it as I brought a lot of salt tablets and “coffee” candies; and really focused on my hydration strategy. The Aid Station at the last 3-4 kilometres was very helpful to everybody and I was able to regain my strength and keep my pace up to the finish line.
On the last 1.5 kilometres to the Finish Line, my running partner begged off that he should stop and slow down for awhile because of leg cramps and I replied to him that we should finish together. But he started to walk while I was maintaining my running pace. I guess, he was very courteous and respectful enough to offer the 10th place to me as a guest and a Senior Citizen! At the Finish Line, I found out the complete name of my running-partner, Marvin Sicat, who happens to be a close friend of one of my “pioneer” runners in the Bataan Death March 102 Ultra Marathon Race.
Finally, I crossed the Finish Line in 8:04:30 hours even if my plan was to finish in sub-8 hours with a ranking of 10th finisher. I was able to improve my time for almost 30 minutes and my overall ranking by 7 slots and I attribute my improvement to my quick turn-around at the Aid Stations; having a running partner/“pacer”; training with more “strides” and tempo runs on paved roads on the first two months; and later on the last month prior to the race on my hikes to mountains with higher altitude. My focused nutrition and hydration were also followed where I had to drink water regularly, eat solid foods in the Aid Stations, ingest my salt tablets regularly every hour, and regularly placing some coffee candies in my mouth.
The Zamboanga Runner’s Club and their Race Sponsors did an outstanding job for this race to be a successful one. I highly recommended this race to all my readers to this blog, most specially to those who are ultra runners, local or foreigners. It is worth the trip to Zamboanga City. Next year, I will be back!
I have discovered the use of trekking poles in my readings in the Internet about 5 years ago where it was used to aid older people in their walking and hiking on the road and on the trails. As we know, these trekking poles or first popularly known as ski poles which were always being seen in every event in the Winter Olympics and other skiing sports in temperate countries. Some writers would say that the origin of these trekking poles came from the European countries where trekkers, hikers, and trail runners (during the Summer Season and drier months) would use them for balance as well as to preserve their leg strengths for the long haul and also aid them in steep ascents and descents.
For the past few years, almost in all the European Trail Running Events as well as Ultra Trail Running Events you would see almost all the participants carrying with them trekking poles during the race. I would have the impression that the routes of these events have very steep ascents and descents that one would need these trekking poles.
When I first used these trekking poles on the paved road, I received some laughs and negative comments from cyclists who would pass me along the road to the point that they would ask me where is the SNOW and my SKI? But a few months after such incident, I would see Marshall Ullrich using these trekking poles on his successful USA Trans-Continental Run few years ago. If only these cyclists would see the video and read the book of this famous ultra runner, they would be convinced that trekking poles are also used in ultra running.
Lately, I’ve seen that some of the Ultra Trail Running Events in the United States have already allowed the use of these trekking poles as compared when it was then a “no-no” for runners to use these poles. Some would say that one is having an undue advantage from the other runners who would not use these poles. Some would say that it is a form of cheating in ultra trail races. But whatever it is worth, I have a personal experience in using these trekking poles on the road and on the trails.
Let me first give some suggestions on the use of trekking poles with the following enumerated observations:
1. Do not use trekking poles for the first time in a trail running race without having used them extensively in your training. It follows the over-used advice in racing of not using something new during race day.
2. If the trail running event is a marathon distance or 50K, do not bother to bring or use these trekking poles if the total elevation gain is less than 3,000 feet or in a relatively flat course.
3. If the number of runners is more than 300 runners where the course is 100% single-track trail with less than a marathon distance (42K), don’t bother to use trekking poles as it will slow you down, slow down the runners behind you, or you might hurt somebody else in front or behind you. Use good judgement in using trekking poles on a single-trail trail, most specially in a most populated trail running event.
4. It is highly recommended to buy those trekking poles which could be folded in 3 parts as they could be easily stashed and held by the hands as if one is holding a baton while running. Since they are light, their weight is insignificant and they could be easily brought back to their intended lengths in a few seconds. There are hydration packs that have strings or elastic bands that could hold these poles or stashed/held by the pack while they are folded. Make some practice in removing or stashing the poles to and from the hydration pack during your training runs.
5. If you carry the trekking poles with your hands, while running, on its expanded length, make sure that there is no one behind you as you might poke the tip of the trekking pole to the runner while swinging your arms. If there is somebody behind you, make sure you don’t excessively swing your arms to the point that you might hit the runner behind you. You can have the option to carry the trekking poles with only one hand and be able to control that arm from excessive swinging or you can simply fold the poles and stashed them in your hydration pack or hold them with your hands.
6. If you intend to use the trekking poles with their extended length and if you are a slow runner or if you intend to power hike the first half of a 100K or 100-mile run, I suggest you start behind the runners and not mingle with the faster runners behind the starting line. However, if you are a fast runner and intend to be in the podium finish, you can have you folded trekking poles stashed with your hydration pack or just simply hold them with your hands.
7. In my experience of using trekking poles and seeing the faster runners using effectively these poles, I highly recommended buying a longer length from the suggested size or length that is based on your height. Three years ago, I bought a Black Diamond Ultra Distance Z-Poles with the length of 120 cms and I found it to be useful in my training runs as well as in my races. Last year, I bought another Black Diamond Ultra Distance Carbon Z-Poles with the length of 110 cms thinking that they are lighter and which are specifically recommended for my height. But I would find them to be the same weight with my 120-cm poles and I found them a little short for my height. In my ultra races in Hongkong, I found out that most of the trail runners have longer trekking poles than what their recommended size for their height and I tried one of my friends’ trekking poles which are 130-cm in size and I found them to be more adapted to my hiking/running style. Hopefully, I would be able to buy them soon!
Having stated my experiences and observation in the use trekking poles in running events, the following are their advantages and disadvantages:
1. If used in 50-milers, 100Ks and 100-milers and other longer trail runs, these poles will preserve ones leg power and strength for the long haul.
In a technical route and with lots of stream/water crossings, the poles with provide an extra “leg” for balance and stability for the body, instead, of falling or injuring oneself along the route.
2. For safety and protection from wild animals and “creatures” along the route. The poles can be used to ward off snakes and other creatures in the forest/mountain that have the tendency to attack you. I once used my poles to “whack” or strike on the head of an attacking and barking dog in one of the populated areas in the mountains. My swing with the poles to the dog was so strong that it tumbled down as if the dog was knocked out by a baseball bat!
3. For contigency purposes, the poles can be used as a support to ease the pain or body imbalance just in case one has rolled an ankle, or in cases when a runner is injured. In cases of extreme accidents where there is fracture to the runner, I guess, these poles could be used as emergency splints!
4. I’ve seen a runner during the Translantau 100K where he was holding a very long trekking pole and I’ve seen him using the poles as “pole vault” as he jumped along the sides of a single-track trail while overtaking a group six runners on a single file! He did it while we were descending on the said trail. The runner was so fast that I was not able to see his back even if I was able to pass these six runners after him.
5. In this year’s Translantau 100, the winds on the second night was too strong that my body would not be able to stand on my own. But having my trekking poles as extra “anchor” to the ground as I was ascending on the last two mountains of the course, I would have stopped or crawled along the slope up to the peak of the mountain avoiding to be knocked down by the strong winds with almost zero visibility due to thick fog. I was glad that I had my trekking poles with me while trying to keep my sight on the couple of runner in front of me.
6. One time when I first joined the TNF Philippines 100, the trail was blocked by two water buffalos/carabaos and I with the rest of the runners behind me could hardly drive them away from the trail. By using the trekking poles as extension of my arms and raising them into the air, the carabaos thought that I was a BIG figure to contend with and slowly I was able to drive them away from the trail. But that incident and delay wasted a lot of my time and I eventually DNFd after one kilometre away from the place of incident. The trail was supposed to be the start of an ascending trail route towards Mt Santo Tomas which considered as the most challenging part of the course.
1. Obviously, it is an additional gear to be carried by the runner which means additional weight. Even if the trekking poles has a total weight of 280 grams, carrying it or holding it on a 50-mile, 100K or 100-mile or within a duration of 30 hours would be taxing to the body and you may end up carrying a total of about ten kilos or 5 pounds on the course. Additionally, it will delay you for some seconds in unfolding and folding them while you are running. If you add these few seconds within the distance of 100 miles, they will add up to minutes of maybe half an hour! Without proper training and technique on how to effectively use these trekking poles would mean a delay in finishing ones race.
2. In my three-year successive finishes of the Clark Miyamit 50-Mile Run (CM50), I have never used my trekking poles. I was then 61 years old when I had my first finish in this race and I would outpace and pass younger and stronger runners on my way up to the highest elevation of the course which happens to be the turning point of the race back to the Start/Finish Line. Simply put, if you have the proper training and preparation, there is no need to use those trekking poles in a 50-mile race. If you are less than 50 years old and I see you using a trekking pole while we are competing in the same race, my smile to you would mean that you are a “weak & newbie” trail runner!
3. In some of the international races, they allow runners to carry trekking poles but if the route is a “single-track” trail, they advise you not to use them, most specially if you have runners in front or behind you who are one or two steps away from you. There are also ultra races that require the runners not to use their trekking poles at the first 20-25 miles as most of the runners are running near to each other. Make sure that to ask from the Race Organizer/Face Director if the use of trekking poles are allowed in the race if their use is not stated in its rules and regulations.
4. Do not use trekking poles for the first time in a race you are going to compete. You will be saving the strength of your legs but your shoulder and arms muscles will take a lot of beating that you might no longer move your arms during the later part of the race or after the race.
At my present age of 64 years old, the trekking poles are my “necessities” and mandatory gear in my training and future races. I will be using them more often as I have already bought the proper size for me.
I have one year to train with them in preparation for my plan to join the @CCC in Chamonix, France next year, hoping that I will be in the race after the lottery.