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.