DNF (Did Not Finish) @ 2016 Hardcore 100-Mile Trail Run
I have a lot of DNFs in my previous attempts to finish a 100-mile mountain trail run here and abroad and many are wondering why I would just simply finish one of my ROAD 100-mile ultras in my races and earn those buckles that I have designed. One of the important reasons why I insist on finishing a 100-mile trail run is because I have already transformed myself as a mountain trail runner after the conduct of the 1st Taklang Damulag 100-Mile Endurance Run. Since then, I limited my exposure to road racing as well as training on paved roads.
Maybe, my old age is fast catching up on my body that I need to spend more time in the mountains. However, more effort is exerted on my muscular and respiratory systems while I am in the mountains but after every run or hike I feel energized and more relaxed. It could be due to the following: the nice sights & scenery of the place where I came from, the clean and unpolluted air that I inhaled, or the variety of the ground where my feet would land that makes me more agile and fast in thinking. And the list gets longer with so many more reasons…
Fast Forward…The Hardcore 100-Mile Mountain Trail Run is very close to my heart as I was a part of the RD’s team to recon and measure the route for the first time within the duration of three consecutive days. We started in Kayapa, reached the peak of Mt Pulag, spent two nights in Balite, and then exited on the trailhead in Ambaguio, Nueva Viscaya and later linked up with our Support Team along the Maharlika Highway in Bayombong, Nueva Viscaya. We braved to fight the rains, the heat of the sun and the challenges of the mountainous terrain in Benguet and Nueva Viscaya. And the rest is history.
I made my first attempt to join the race in 2014 and I got lost on the first 14 kilometres due to error in judgment and arrived in Babadak Aid Station (Km #62) beyond the cut-off time of 16 hours. I was totally exhausted upon arrival at Babadak Aid Station even though I was well-prepared for the said event as I tried to catch-up from the loss of time I made from the Start to Pangawan. As compared this year, my preparation in terms of mileage and vertical distance is not even one-half of the mileage in put into the race in 2014.
I did not have any intention of joining this year’s Hardcore 100 but after my TransLantau 100 “abbreviated” finish last March where I was awarded only 2 UTMB points instead of 3 points, I decided to join the Four Lakes 100 where I could earn 3 UTMB points. I finished the Four Lakes 100K with a time of 26:45+ hours and it gave me the boost to try my luck again for the Hardcore 100 after asking the RD if I can still join the race. Instead of joining the TNF 100, I opted to join this year’s H1 Recon Run/Hike for me to familiarise again the first half of the route. Practically, my training for the event started immediately after I finished the Four Lakes 100 and I knew that the allotted time between FL 100 and H1 was not enough to gain more vertical distance and mileages appropriate for the event. But the hard-headed attitude in me prevailed and I know that any runner would not need “luck” to finish this race.
You may think that I was too ambitious to join this event and brave enough to toe the line with the rest of the Starters at the Starting Line but there is no shame in me because I am already 64 years (with nothing to prove anymore) and I would be happy to count the number of younger runners whom I could pass along the way which is, one or the other, would boost my morale to continue the race. So, my objective in this race was to catch up any runner whom I would see in front of me even if they are mountains ahead of me as long as I can see them and at the same time be able to build-up some buffer time before those designated cut-off times in the different checkpoints along the route.
The Journey To DNF
The race started at exactly 12:01 AM Friday, May 20, 2016 at the Kayapa Elementary School’s Multi-Purpose Covered Court with 134 starters for the Hardcore 100. Having considered myself as the Oldest Runner among the participants, I positioned myself at the back of the pack and started walking. I think I walked on the first 200 meters because it was an uphill along the Highway until we entered the trailhead which was a short downhill where I started to run and jog. I practically jogged the flatter part of the course and brisk-walked on those uphill climbs. I knew that it was an 8-kilometer distance of uphill before we reached the short climb to the trail of the “Mossy Forest”. However, upon reaching Km 7, it started to rain and I had to bring out my Patagonia Water-Proof Jacket to prevent my body from getting cold and wet. I was happy to see that there is a Marshal manning the short climb up to the Mossy Forest as this was where I got lost in 2014. I tried to run inside the Mossy Forest and I was comfortable with my pace until I was knocked down with a branch of tree that fell down years ago across the trail. I resumed with my run until I reached Pangawan and I refilled my bottle with water. The RD and the rest of the volunteers were there cheering us and telling us our split time as we arrived at the Aid Station. My time was 3:02 hours for 14 kilometres and I was 32 minutes late/slower from the “time plan chart” that I prepared and carried with me. Instead of losing hope, I have to think positively and made my brisk walking faster on the next 3 kilometers of uphill climb to Dayap.
I think I was able to shave off some minutes of my delay from Pangawan to Dayap because of better footing on the ground even if it was raining. The road has a concrete tire track and the exposed ground is too hard to become a muddy one as it was not saturated with the rain. I took advantage to improve my pace after leaving Dayap. However, the road to Banao (newly-graded for widening and improvement) became very muddy as more parts of the trail became ankle-deep mud with water. There are even landslides, too where barely one-foot of track could be passable on the edge of the mountain cliff. This made my pace slower even if I had the aid of my trekking poles to prevent me from sliding and landing on my butt on the ground.
Before reaching Banao, I was able to pass 8 runners and most of them did not have any trekking poles as they deliberately and slowly selected/chose the drier parts of the trail where they would avoid sliding on the muddy road. Even if the course profile on this part of the route is steeply going down, a runner would not dare to run a faster pace with the mud and slippery nature of the trail. So, instead of getting faster and improving one’s pace in this portion, I had to move slowly and deliberately instead of falling down and getting injured in the process. One false or mistake move on my part would mean a fracture or two on my ribs or bones. Better to be safe than landing in a hospital and giving a problem to the RD. One of the runners whom I passed just simply sat beside the trail wearing his raincoat and declared himself as DNF for having blurred vision! Before reaching Banao, the sun was already on the horizon, the rain had stopped and I could see signs from the cloud formation that the day will be a hot one!
As I looked at my watch, I was already delayed for almost one hour due to the muddy road (and slow start up to Pangawan) and decided to continue without dropping by at the Banao Aid Station. Knowing the different natural and free-flowing water sources along the trail, I was confident that I could easily refill my hydration bottles and bladder with water. It is a steep downhill run from the Banao Aid Station until you reach the bottom where one has to cross the 2nd Cable Hanging Bridge along the course. From the bottom, one has to go uphill again until one will be running along the edge of a mountain where on your left is a big & wide raging river. This is where you will pass the famous Sitio Happy, Kabayo where one will be running on the middle of a mini-rice terraces. Just be careful on your footing that you might land or fall down on the lower level rice terrace which has a height of at least 10-12 feet. There are more Cable Hanging Bridges to cross along this part of the course and be careful not to slip on those wooden planks. The course seem to be flat as the trail becomes flat as one has to run beside the raging river. Sometimes, you will run a flat trail with a narrow irrigation canal on your left side after passing the ABAT Elementary School until you reach a “meadow” where some houses are located. From the houses, it will be a deep descending part of small rocks on the trail where is a wooden fence on your right and a big trunk of fallen tree on the middle/left side of the trail. Take advantage of picking up your pace on these flat and descending parts of the course. After crossing the longest Cable Hanging Bridge in Kabayo, be ready for the next 7 kilometres of relentless climb up to the trail intersection/crossing of Napo-Tuyak which is still one kilometre away from the Aid Station/Checkpoint.
I started to slow down on the last 5 Kilometers to Napo-Tuyak because of the heat of the sun and the steep climb to the crossing/intersection before the Aid Station. It was only on the last 2 kilometres that I thought of ingesting some solid food and taking in my first Salt Tablets that I was able to recover some strength to beat the cut-off time in Napo-Tuyak by 2 minutes. The “pit stop” to eat and rest on the last 2 kilometres was costly that I squandered 20-25 minutes of my “buffer” time.
I was the #124th and last runner to arrive within the cut-off time of 11 hours at Napo-Tuyak (Km 45). How I wished there was an Ice Cold Coca-Cola drinks to greet me at the Aid Station but there was none. The newly-cooked Camote just arrived and I picked-up one or two pieces which were still hot to eat. I put them in my pocket and proceeded to the store where I could buy some Coke. After eating some solid foods and the newly-cooked camote with the Coke, I started my climb as the last runner to Grassland without any hope of arriving at the next Aid Station/Checkpoint within the cut-off time of 16 hours!
It is a consolation that it was my 4th time to trek on this very steep climb from Napo-Tuyak to Babadak no matter what time will I arrive at the next Checkpoint. There was still light as it was before sundown when I finally reached the Grassland. There is no need to bring out my Cellphone as I was here for so many times since started in trail running. From the Grassland, I was on a Hiking Mode to Babadak and hoping that I would be transported back immediately to Kayapa for my shower, tooth-brush, hot food and warm bed.
I missed the cut-off time of 16 hours in Babadak Aid Station/Checkpoint and I was declared “DNF” (Did Not Finish).
Things To Be Improved To Myself:
- Fighting With Age & Body Deterioration——I am so lucky and blessed that I’ve reached this age without any major illness or living a life while taking in some “preventive maintenance” drugs/medicines to buy more time in existence in this world. All I could do is to maintain my health/physique and continue what I love doing which is trail running and hiking up and down the mountains. I will be going back to Kayapa next year and finish this course and be declared as the “Oldest Finisher in this Event”.
- More Mileage, More Vertical Distance But More Rest——For one to successfully finish this race within the cut-off time of 40 hours, one needs the whole year to train and prepare for it. An average runner knows what is meant by periodization and one must follow this principle of training. For my age, I would strictly follow this principle and make the H1 as my A-1 Priority Race and consider the rest of the races of the year as part of my training and evaluation leading to this Main Event. The training cycle of 3-4 weeks will be observed as to give time for my body to rest and recover for the workouts I’ve put in to my body. Hopefully, I will be devoting more sleeping hours during the days and nights during my training period.
- Strengthening Exercises——My strengthening exercises and drills at the Gym for 4 weeks leading to the race complemented or substituted in some of my absences and missed trail running days in my weekly schedules. I did not feel any attacks of cramps or tightening of my muscles on my legs and arms except for some pain on my lower back which needs more “core exercises” during my climb from Napo-Tuyak to Grassland. I think those gym workouts which were concentrated on my leg muscles to include my butt muscles had greatly helped in my run and hike without any signs of any pain or developing any injury to my legs.
- Tool or Devise To Remind Me To Eat——I usually use the “beep” sound of my watch every time I complete one mile as a reminder for me to take in my liquid and food but most of the time, I would not hear the sound while on the run. There are times also that I become hard-headed not to drink or eat even if I hear the sound and focus more on what I see in front of me while running. I think I have to practice or train on this using my iPhone as a reminder device or use my iPod music, too! My faster pace between Banao to Kabayo and then to Napo-Tuyak contributed on my lack of concern on my nutrition to the point that I forgot that I had with me in my Hydration Pack lots of Clif Chews which could be eaten easily and gave me the needed energy just like when I ran the TransLantau 100. Age is catching so fast on my memory that I forgot also to take my Salt Sticks/Tablets on the early part of the race when the sun was out and I was sweating profusely and only to remember to take in some when I was about to be totally drained from my energy on the last 2 kilometers to Napo-Tuyak! Next year, this thing will never happen again! Can anybody suggest those “talking” Applications to be downloaded for my iPhone?
- Weather, Expect For The Worst——I’ve used my ALTRA Superior 2.0 in my successful runs for the Translantau 100 and Four Lakes 100 but it did not perform well on muddy and slippery trails of H1. Aside from not being aggressive on holding my feet from sliding on muddy trails, the insole kept on folding-up front inside my shoes! I thought that a lump of mud had accumulated inside my shoes that I had to dip my feet/shoes on every running water I could pass along the route just to remove the mud inside. I had some slips but I was glad I had trekking poles to balance myself. I think I have to go back to my Inov-8 Mudclaw or New Balance Trail Shoes with Vibram Soles if this event will be scheduled on this part of the year where I would anticipate some rains during the event. As with my Patagonia Jacket, it passed flying colours on what it is used for as a raincoat and warmer outfit to prevent me from the cold winds in the Grassland. I have used a The North Face Waterproof Jacket during my Recon Hike two weeks before the race as it rained from Napo-Tuyak to Grassland and it passed with flying colours, too!
- Trekking Poles——I used my almost 4-year old Black Diamond Trekking Poles which is 120 cm in length. I used them in my past TNF Races, Mt Ugo Marathon, Translantau 100s, Four Lakes 100, and CM50 editions and they are very useful. Now that I am becoming an expert on the use of trekking poles, I feel that I need a longer one in size for more stability. I will buy the same brand of trekking poles with 130 cm in length.
- Need For More Speed On The Trail——Hardcore 100 is a very unique mountain trail running event. One has to need some Speed or Faster Pace on the first half of the race and then maintain a comfortable jog-walk pace on the second half of the race. If you don’t have a “buffer time” of 3 hours upon reaching the Napo-Tuyak Aid Station/Checkpoint (Km 45), be ready to DNF at the Babadak Aid Station/Checkpoint (Km 62). If you are arrive at the Babadak Aid Station within the cut-off time of 16 hours in good condition, you have a 50-50 chance of finishing the race within the 40 hours cut-off time. In order to have a “buffer time” of 3 hours at Napo-Tuyak, I have to run an average pace of 5.6 kilometres per hour from the Starting Line up to Napo-Tuyak! Considering the total gain in elevation of about 13,000+ feet within the distance of 45 kilometres, the said pace is a very fast one for me. In my training, I could only manage to have my fastest average pace up to 4.9 kilometers per hour with a lower total gain in elevation by almost 3,000 feet. I have one year to improve my average pace appropriate for the first 45K of the course, hopefully! This will be the first thing that I will improve on in order to have a greater chance of finishing the race.
- More Recon & Visits To The Route—-Aside from doing more practice runs on the first 62 kilometres of the route (Start to Babadak), it is also a “must” to know and feel how it is like to run and hike from Napo-Tuyak back to Dayap (Km 102) during nighttime. From Dayap to the Finish Line is the “reverse” version of the Four Lakes 100 route but there is still challenge to it as one has to reach the peak of Mt Ugo before going to the Finish Line. Hopefully, I will be able to do my practice runs and hikes by segment or section on this part of the route when the body is already weak and exhausted. We will see!
As a closing note in this post, I know that there are so many younger, stronger, and more experienced trail runners who have declared themselves as DNF in this race, to include our foreign friends/neigboring countries’ mountain trail runners who have finished other challenging races in other parts of the world and this Hardcore 100 event is something that we could be proud of. This international event could not be possible without the vision and advocacy of Jonel Mendoza and his Team to bring Sports Tourism in this part of the country and establish an added economy for the people of Kayapa and its environs. Let us support this event whether you are a trail runner or a volunteer and hopefully, the government and/or private entities will come into play and be aware of this event and come up with “projects” or establishments for better living conditions and accommodations for the people joining this event.
And for those local Pinoy Runners, Men & Women, who took the Podium Finish Positions and up to the Top Ten Overall Ranking, they have proven that they could Break The Course Record in the previous year/s and even performed well within the standards of the world’s elite international trail runners. This outstanding performance of our Local Trail Runners shows and proves that we can compete among the top international elite trail runners in the world. I just hope that our local as well as our multi-national Outdoor Corporate Brands and Private Business Establishments, and of course, our Government will have the INITIATIVE and CONCERN to bring these outstanding trail runners to international competitions and exposure.
To those who experienced running in this event and about to join this most challenging trail running event in the country, always remember, you came to join this event not to brag to have tried or finished it but you came here to prove that you can endure the most painful experience you can inflict on to yourself because of mountain trail running…thus, you will know more about yourself and what you are capable of from the strength of your mind and body.
Congratulations to those who endured the pain and victorious to have defeated the mountains and had successfully finished the race. To those who failed, we have one year to prepare, train, and save some money.
See you next year!