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.
To be continued…