National Flag of the Philippines: I have observed that there is NO National Flag of the Philippines displayed at the upper walls of the Ice Olympic Stadium despite the fact that there had been four (4) Filipino Runners who have finished the race or for the the fact that our country was always represented in this event for the past four (4) years. If there is a way, I will ask one of the future runners for this event to bring one flag of our country and I will buy one for this purpose. The flag should be given to the Race Director/Organizer to be displayed at the Expo and Start & Finish Area.
Local Bus Schedule: It is highly advisable to know the schedule of the local Dolomiti Bus through their website or through the Schedule of Trips posted at the Town’s Bus Terminal. An iPhone or Google Application can be downloaded to one’s cellphone to find out their daily trip schedule and buy a ticket Online or simply go to the Bus Terminal to buy ones ticket at the counter.
Visit Tri Cime Di Lavaredo: The bus that leaves to the popular destination in the Dolomites leaves the city early in the morning (usually 7:00 to 7:30 AM) to be able to return back to the city in the afternoon. Prepare 20 Euros for the Ticket to enter the Park at Tri Cime Di Lavaredo (separate from your Bus Ticket/Fare). It is highly recommended to visit this place if a runner has the time.
Hotel Accommodation: I highly recommend the Dependance Hotel Corona, the place where I stayed, as Stefano, the Hotel’s Manager and its Staff are very friendly and accommodating. Most of the runners stayed in this Hotel. You only have to make your reservation ahead of time, preferably, once you are picked in the lottery and have paid your registration fee.
Carry Some Rice From The Philippines: If ever I would go back to Cortina and run the Lavaredo, I would bring my Camping Cooking Gear and and maybe, 1-2 Kilos of Rice in my Check-In Luggage. I have observed that “Rice Balls” as my main source of Nutrition is very appropriate in this event. I can not live without Rice as part of my meal even if I brought with me lots of Lucky Me Instant Noodles to Italy. For 12 days of my stay in Italy, I was eating bread, pasta, spaghetti, and fruits but nothing beats Rice as my main source of Carbohydrate. I was able to reduce my weight despite my daily Breakfast Buffet at the Hotel to about 5 pounds which is maintained up to this day.
Flight Carrier: I have been traveling to Europe, since last year, through Qatar Airways. The fare is cheap as compared to the other Airlines if you buy your tickets ahead of time. The trip to the Marco Polo International Airport in Venice, Italy would take a maximum of 22-23 hours with a stop-over at the Hamad International Airport in Doha, Qatar. The round-trip ticket costs me P 35,000.00 more or less. (Note: Do not depart from the Clark International Airport, it collects a Terminal Fee which is supposed to be FREE or had been paid once you buy your airline flight ticket fare).
Bus Transfer From Marco Polo Airport To Cortina & Back: There are so many Buses to choose from as posted in the Event’s Website. You can book and buy ticket through Online at Cortina Express; FLIX Bus; or ATVO. I booked and bought my ticket through FLIX Bus in going to Cortina but I ended riding the Cortina Express. On my way back from Cortina to Venice, I took the ATVO Bus. Always remember that there is only One Trip in the morning and One Trip in the late afternoon in going to Cortina; and the same trip from Cortina to Venice. I suggest that you should buy your tickets On Line as early as possible. Each Bus ticket (One Way) costs from 14-18 Euros.
Tourist In Venice: If you intend to spend a day or two in Venice after the event and walk around at St Mark Square (San Marco Park), there is NO need to book for your Hotel accommodation within the vicinity of the said place. Simply, book a Hotel in Mestre, the railway and bus hub/terminal in Venice (about one hour travel to San Marco Park), and take the train to Santa Lucia (2.30 Euros) and from Santa Lucia Port, take the Public Boat to San Marco (about 6-7 Euros), and you can tour/walk (recovery) around the place and be back to your Hotel in the evening. Tickets are available in vending machines scattered in the Bus/Trail Stations and Sea Port Terminal. (Note: Looking for your Hotel Accommodation within the vicinity of St Mark Park is very hard and tricky. GPS signal is a failure if you are in between big buildings and structures in the Canals of Venice!)
Food & Accommodation In Cortina: Because I have a Free Breakfast Buffet in the Hotel, I only eat one meal outside of the Hotel for my early Dinner which would cost me, at least, 6 Euros (Panini) or 9-11 Euros (Hamburger without French Fries) or 9-11 Euros (Whole 8-inch Pizza). Extra food intake would be some fruits (bought from the grocery); Instant Noodles I brought from Manila; 3-in-1 Instant Coffee and SkyFlakes from Manila.
Shopping For Running Gear/s: You can buy some of the Mandatory Gear at the Expo after your Race Packet Pick-Up at the Ice Olympic Stadium. Always ask for discount from the Sales Person. I was able to buy my Salomon Bonatti Waterproof Pants with a 50% discount! After the event, there are sports brands and Sports Stores that are very popular in Europe but unknown in Asia and USA which are on Sale for 20% discount on most of their products. If you look closely on their material and quality of work, they are much better than the popular brands. I must admit, I bought some of these unpopular brands and be able to use them in my next year’s adventures in Europe.
Engage With The Locals & Other Runners: I always make it a point to smile and start a conversation with the people at the Hotel while having my breakfast or while relaxing at the Lobby or at the Porch/Terrace of the Hotel. You may never know that the one beside you had travelled a lot of countries and had joined a lot of ultra trail ultras in the past. They are very good source of A-1 experiences in these events. During the race, it is nice also to talk to a runner which is the same pace with you in the course. It starts with a simple smile and a greetings or a positive remarks. It is already a bonus if they have a Facebook account. (They will gladly give you their FB account if you ask while giving yours to them). Always remember that you are not competing with your fellow runner BUT you are in the event to compete with the course/nature and most of all, to YOURSELF! So, enjoy the company of the other runners, get to know about the capabilities of your body (strengths & weaknesses) and have fun with your journey. (Note: I will devote a separate post for those persons I’ve met in Cortina in this blog)
Training & Preparation: Trail runners who would try to participate in this kind of event must have the necessary ITRA points, which means, that a runner should have the experience to run in mountain trail events. I prepared for this event for 6 months through the Coaching Services of the CTS and I am satisfied of what my body is capable of. My old age is taking its toll to my overall performance as compared in my past running events where I have participated but I feel like I am healthier and more rested this time. As my Coach would say, the races that I’ve selected to join for this year are not the “EASY” ones but they are categorized as one of the hardest ones in the international ultra trail events and this is one of the reasons why such races are considered as part of the “Ultra Trail World Tour” Series. However, it would had been different if I’ve done these races when I was ten years younger. It is through perseverance, patience, discipline, and dedication that in the future, I will be able to finish these races.
Whether I have DNFd or had succeeded to finish this event, this is just a part of the process of becoming a better and healthy mountain trail runner (which I may never know would prepare me to a more challenging trail running event). I travel to other countries to experience their trail races and be able to enjoy life to the fullest! But in the end, it gives me the best satisfaction if I could share these information and tips to those who are planning to experience joining these trail races outside of the country in the future. As what I’ve been saying, “If BR can do it, you can do it, too!” The experience is really priceless!
Keep on running!!! Thank you for reading my 2018 TNF Lavaredo experience. God’s willing, I will be back to Lavaredo!
Clothing & Gear: I think I used the best clothing gear, from trail shoes to my headlamp lighting system. My “layering” of my upper garment was perfect with a sleeveless Uniqlo shirt inside my Red PAU short-sleeved shirt with my Patagonia “Houdini” Windbreaker Light Jacket. I feel warm with my MIUT Buff/neck Gaiters; Compressport Headband and Salomon Running Cap. I had Giro Cycling Gloves with my LEKI Carbon Trekking Poles. My Salomon Speedcross 4 was perfect for the trail in Lavaredo which I used for two months in my training leading to the event. I was using a Salomon EXO Twinskin Short (Red) which was light, comfortable, and provided me with warm feeling during the night run.
Salomon 5L Sense Ultra Hydration Vest & Pulse Belt: My Salomon Vest carried all the Mandatory Gear and Nutrition Needs for the whole course/event as I opted not to have any Drop Bag at Km 66/Cimabanche Aid Station. My Salomon Pulse Belt was perfect for my Trekking Poles; additional nutrition (Skyflakes) and Cellphone.
Training: My “mountain and hill repeats” were very effective for the uphills and downhill runs for short duration/distance along the course.
Nutrition & Hydration: I only have 5 pieces of Power Gels for emergency situation; 6 pieces of KIND Power Bar; 4 packs of SkyFlakes Crackers (Condensada); NUUN tablets: and two pieces of empty Ziplock.
Pacing & Average Speed During The Race: I have a lot of lessons learned from my early DNF at MIUT in Madeira, Portugal. I needed to be very light during the race and trained for heavy loads (3 Liters of Water + Food) in my daily long runs in my Playground. I was satisfied with my average speed/pacing during my run at the TNF Lavaredo until I was slowed down with dizziness and pain on my knees.
What Did I Do To Make It Right?
My frustration in MIUT last April gave me a lot of lesson learned and I was able to adjust things during my training. My early arrival in Cortina gave me the time to adjust with the weather and the altitude. However, I should have visited Tri Cime and other higher elevations of the course by Bus but with my lack of knowledge of the area, I was limited in trying to find the first and last few kilometers of the course. My CTS Coach John Fitzgerald sent me his last guidance with the gist/bottomline of focusing on the things that I could control during the race (nutrition, pacing, and mindset) with hiking with purpose and positive attitude. I learned a lot of variations on how to use the trekking poles during my training leading to this race. I really wanted to hike the uphills more efficiently with the trekking poles. I had more “push-ups” repetitions during my training days in order to make my shoulders stronger than what I had during MIUT.
Bringing lesser gels, bars, drink mix, and lighter mandatory gear (Salomon Bonatti Waterproof Jacket & Pants and Columbia Long-Sleeved Shirt) made my weight lighter during the run. I also carried lesser volume of water from the start to lighten my load but also carried an extra collapsible Salomon Foldable Bottle just in case I needed more water during the hotter part of the day.
After hiking the uphills, I would run at an easy pace on flatter and downhill portions of the course which gave me enough time to reach the First Cut-Off Time Checkpoint and put in more buffer time at the Check Point in Rifugio Di Auronzo.
Bring at least two empty Ziplocks in your pocket (easily accessible) for obvious reason.
What was NOT quite right during the race?
I opted to run the downhills on the early part of the course without using my trekking poles, most specially, on the seemingly flatter sections but they are actually gradual descents. I was thinking that I would be faster in running the downhills by not using the trekking poles but I was wrong. If only I have used my trekking poles on all the descents, I could have saved my quads and my knees from having pain even if I was slower by a few minutes. My old knees and legs need some cushioning when running the descents to preserve them for the last half of the course which has more descents.
I should have started to ingest my solid food on the start of the uphill climb from Lake Misurina to Rifugio Di Auronzo while on the move and not at the middle of the climb with a 3-5 minutes short stop and rest.
I should have NOT stayed so long at the Aid Station in Rifugio Di Auronzo and spent a lot of time sitting and talking with the Indonesian guy. I should have limited my stay there by simply eating the soup pasta, drinking my Coca Cola, and refilling my bottles while I was standing. I could have shaved at least 10-12 minutes of my stay here.
I really could not understand why I did not take the risk of taking some Aleve tablets to relieve the pain on my knees after the first switchback from Tri Cime/Peak of Lavaredo. I usually take these pain relievers on the middle of my race just to anticipate the pain on my knees which was very effective in solving the situation I am in in my past finishes.
What is the best-case scenario?
1. With a buffer time of 40+ minutes from Rifugio Di Auronzo, I should have maintained it up to the next Cut-Off Time Checkpoint in Cimabanche and gambled any remaining buffer time in every Checkpoint up to the last Cut-Off Time Checkpoint before the Finish Line.
2. I could have used my trekking poles more on the downhill/descents to save my knees/legs and be able to hike relentlessly with purpose up to the Finish Line. The time that made me faster to run or hike on the flatter and downhill sections without the trekking poles was nothing if I could have saved my legs and knees and be able to pass the Cut-Off Time Checkpoints.
3. From the start, one bottle of water/electrolyte mix (500 ml) is enough up to Km 33 to make my load lighter from midnight up to early morning due to the colder air/weather. One bottle filled with liquid in one bottle and another 1/2 bottle of liquid, totaling to 750 ml is needed from Km 33 up to the Aid Station in Rifugio Di Auronzo (Km 50). Carrying just the right amount of water on my vest could significantly reduce the weight I was carrying. Which translates to lighter load to my knees and legs.
What steps can you take to improve?
1. More strengthening exercises to my leg muscles. More push-ups and core exercises for my upper body.
2. More time to train for very LONG downhill running or hiking with the use of trekking poles. Downhill running/hiking distance should be at least 10 up to 20 kilometers straight down, whether they are steep and technical or not. (Note: Never stop using the trekking poles once they are deployed; in uphills, flats, and the downhills.)
3. More Mountain Downhill Repeats! Simply, the reverse of Hill/Mountain Repeats where one has to run or hike the downhill faster than going up to the mountain. This time, using my trekking poles!
4. Bring a lot of BUFF. One for the Ear Cover; one for the Mouth & Nose for the absorption of fluids due to “running nose”; and one for the neck. In addition, I can bring an extra BUFF to be looped on my wrist just in case I need a cloth to absorb some cold water from the streams to douse my head and neck during hotter part of the day.
5. If I have the time, I could have visited/recon by Bus or Car the highest peak or highest location along the course in order to acclimatize or take a brief hike.
After the Aid Station Marshal told me that I can no longer continue the race since I arrived at the Aid Station beyond the cut-off time of 1:30 PM of Saturday, I entered the Big Tent and ate some of the remaining food and drank some Ice Cold Coke. I was told to wait for the remaining runners on the road approaching the Aid Station before we could board the Bus waiting to bring us to Cortina. While waiting for the other runners, I brought out my dry long-sleeved Columbia Shirt from my Salomon Hydration Pack and removed my Patagonia Windbreaker and the rest of my upper clothing as they were wet from my perspiration. I was able to change my clothes and ready for the trip back to Cortina.
After about 40 minutes, all of the rest of the runners who were cut-off at the said station were accounted for. There were 3 ladies and 9 men, to include myself, and I have the impression that I am the oldest among the DNF runners.
The asphalted road from Cimabanche to Cortina seems to be a road that connects to all the mountains in the Dolomites. The road was not busy with traffic as I could not see or meet along the road big trucks and commercial buses. I could count with my fingers those private vehicles who were plying along this road. I slept for awhile until two of the younger runners (in their 40s) started talking to each other and they are Italians. They were comparing notes using the map on their Race Bibs on what went wrong with them. Although I could not understand what they were talking about, they were pointing on the descending portion from the Peak of Lavaredo to Landro as they talked to one another, the same section where I had my problem. I just smiled and tried to doze again.
After almost one hour, the Croatian/Polish lady was dropped in front of her Hotel which was along the highway, and 1.5 kilometers aways from Cortina. The bus finally stopped in front of the Olympic Ice Stadium and all of the remaining runners to include myself, alighted from the Bus. From there, I was limping while walking and carrying my things to reach my Hotel which about 650 meters from the Olympic Ice Stadium.
Sleep & Rest @ Hotel Cortina
I immediately had my hot shower and changed to my sleeping clothes. I ate whatever “left-over” food and fruits in the room and prepared instant noodles before I finally went to bed. At this time, it was already 5:00 PM of Saturday. I did not bother to check the Ultralive website about my personal data during the race and to those of the remaining Pinoy runners on the course. I was really tired and sleepy at this time.
I woke up at 6:30 AM of Sunday and I was happy that I was able to sleep more than 12 hours. I prepared a hot coffee and as I started to drink, I opened my Laptop to find out what happened to the rest of my Filipino friends. Since the cut-off time for the TNF Lavaredo is 5:00 AM of Sunday, I knew that the race was over already. I checked first on the LiveUltra page of Arwin and I was surprised that he DNFd somewhere in Km 90. I wonder what happened to him since I knew and was confident that he would be the one to finish the race with an impressive time because of what I’ve been reading and seeing on his training in Abu Dhabi, Dubai through his Facebook status. After looking at Arwin’s Page, I went to check if what happened to Rodel and I was surprised that he was able to finish the race in 29:23:10 hours. I was really happy that, at least, one of us in this year’s edition was able to finish the TNF Lavaredo 120K Ultra. I tried to review his time in every Cut-Off Time Checkpoint and I was impressed that he was able to make it in every checkpoint in a single digit number of minutes before the cut-off time in every checkpoint. I wonder what it was like for him to be catching up with the cut-off time in every checkpoint after the Cimabanche Aid Station (Km 66.9) and with those relentless uphill climbs on the second half of the course plus the cold weather during the second night.
Post-Race Meeting With Team Pilipinas
I have assumed that Arwin and Rodel had already left Cortina and took the Bus to their Accommodation place which is 20K from Cortina but after few minutes of browsing on Facebook and the results of the TNF Lavaredo on my Laptop, I received a Personal Message from Arwin asking me if we can meet at the Hotel to exchange notes and share our experiences with one another. Since I liked the idea of sharing ones experience with one another during the event, I asked them to proceed to the Hotel and I would wait for them at the Veranda/Main Porch of the Hotel overlooking the bridge and road leading to the town proper, the same place where we met and talked last Thursday.
I immediately came out of my Hotel room and went to the Hotel’s Porch to wait for Arwin and Rodel. After about 15 minutes, as I was going to the Hotel’s Porch, I saw them from the road leading to the Hotel walking slowly. I could understand and relate what these two gentlemen were feeling at that time looking how slowly they walked towards me. I immediately asked them if they need to have a shower as I offered my Hotel Room to them just in case they needed it. But they declined as they wanted just to share some stories with me. Arwin told me that that he had temporarily cleaned himself while he stayed at the Olympic Ice Stadium after he was transported from where he DNFd. Rodel also declined as he told me that he was able to change to dry clothes already and would be much better for him to take a shower in their place.
We sat and we started to share our own experiences. I told them what happened to me at the switchback descent from the Peak of Lavaredo to Landro——twice experiencing dizziness and severe pain on my left knee that caused my slow pace. Arwin, on the other hand, shared his experience and he told us that at the same section where I had some dizziness, he was able inhale a “cold air” that went inside his lungs and made him feel weak on the uphill climbs after Cimabanche. As he struggled at the uphill climb from Km 80 to Malga Travenanzes, he said, that he was feeling weak and lots of hikers/runners had passed him at this section to include Rodel. He finally DNFd at Km 90+ at Rifugio Col Gallina. Rodel told us that he had almost been cut-off from Cimabanche (Km 66.9) up to the last Checkpoint of the course. He could not believe that he was able to run, non-stop, from Malga Ra Stua (Km 76) to Plan De Loa for about 3-4 kilometers just to be able pass the checkpoint and then at the Peak of Col Del Bos (Km 92) to Rifugio Col Gallina (Km 94). He told us that he was praying “non-stop calling all the saints”, his parents and his relatives while he was running and hiking to these Checkpoints.
Breakfast With Team Pilipinas
We talked for almost one hour and half at the Porch until I asked the Manager of the Hotel if I can invite my friends for the Breakfast Buffet and I will be willing to pay for their bill. The Manager said, “You can invite them for Breakfast and it’s FREE for them!” Wow! I was surprised to hear such generous words from him! Stefano, may the Good Lord bless you always! So, we continued sharing our stories while we had our Breakfast Buffet on the morning of Sunday.
We stayed at the Hotel’s Restaurant sharing lots of stories and observations during the race until the Breakfast Buffet was closed at 10:00 AM.
We parted ways later as I can see on the faces of Arwin and Rodel that they are about to doze. They left the Hotel and walked to the Bus Terminal which is just few meters away from the Hotel.
I really appreciate this kind of conversation and exchange of experiences among Filipino runners while joining an international running event abroad. These guys are real people who are very graceful in defeat and humble in victory.
I told them that I had posted already a Facebook status that says that I DNFd at the event stating directly the cause of my failure. I asked them also to do the same as most of our Facebook friends are eager to know our personal “drama” in the said event. I promised to these two gentlemen that I am going to document, through this blog, all the things that we experienced in this event and I told them that it will be a very detailed one which be used as a guide for future local Pinoy runners and other interested runners around the world.
Even if I was not able to finish this race, just a short glimpse and description of what I went through, would be able to provide a part of the puzzle of what makes TNF Lavaredo a race to experience and what makes the Dolomites as one of the best mountain scenery destinations worth visiting.
Recovery Walk @ Cortina
I went to bed once I got into my room after breakfast. I was able to sleep until after noon time and woke up at about 2:00 PM.
I decided to have my recovery walk in the afternoon to the Town Center, shop for some souvenirs and look for a place for my early dinner. As I left the Hotel, I met some of the runners, some who DNF also and some who finished the Ultra and shorter races. They were leaving the Hotel for the Bus Terminal and enrollee to their respective countries. I will post a separate blog for these runners whom I met during this event.
As I was walking along the main road of the center of the town, I saw Hayden Hawks, the Champion of this year’s TNF Lavaredo 120K at the Event’s Arc. We had a picture and a brief conversation as he told me, after telling him my name and my country, that he has an Uncle who is a Filipino, married to his Auntie from Utah, USA. He asked me if there are Ultra Running Events in the Philippines and I told him that I am the Race Organizer/Director of the Bataan Death March 102K Ultra Marathon Race. He told me that he had not yet visited the Philippines and he might consider visiting the country in the near future.
Before dinner, I was able to really go around the town, getting inside the Cortina Church to pray which I found out to be a Minor Basilica, checking where the Bus terminal is located, looking for Sports Stores where I could buy some souvenirs, and just simply sitting on those benches along the main road of the town while looking at the people walking around. This was the time that I could also see a lot of runners wearing their Finisher’s Vest/Gilets as they are also doing their recovery walks. I felt envious with these runners wearing their Vests/Gilets and I really respect them for what they had done, whether they finished the TNF Lavaredo 120K or the shorter Cortina Trail 48K, they really conquered the Dolomites!
As I was sitting on one of the benches, I saw Tess Geddes, a Filipino Ultrarunner who is now the Race Organizer and Director of the Grand To Grand Ultra Marathon Race in Utah, USA. She joined the shorter Cortina Trail 48K and we shared some stories while we were sitting on the bench. After about 30 minutes of conversation, we parted ways as I was trying to look for some running attire which I saw being used by some runners during the event.
As most of the restaurants in Cortina opens at 6:30 PM for dinner, I tried to walk around some places farther from the town center as I waited for the opening of the eating places. Finally, I was able to find a restaurant that offers a fine dining cuisine and I rewarded myself with my last dinner in Cortina. The best steak in town!
I continued my celebration in my Hotel Room with two bottles of local beer before going to bed on my last night in Cortina.