Thomas Combisen: The First Local Pinoy To “Survive” @ 2020 Hong Kong Four Trails Ultra Challenge (HK4TUC)


Thomas Combisen: The First Local Pinoy To “Survive” @ 2020 Hong Kong Four Trails Ultra Challenge (HK4TUC)

Thomas Combisen, the top ultrarunner of the Philippine Association of Ultrarunners (PAU) finished as a “Survivor” in the 9th Edition of the Hongkong Four Trails Ultra Challenge, simply known as HK4TUC, with a time of 68:50 hours. This is his second time to join this race event where he declared himself as “retired” after running 228 kilometers on the third day in last year’s event. He missed his target time to board the Ferry Boat ride to Lantau Island for him to have the chance to finish the course in 72 hours for the last 70 kilometers of the event.

Hongkong Four Trails Ultra Challenge was created by Andre Blumberg, an accomplished ultrarunner who works as an Executive in one of the key Corporate Offices in Hongkong; a US Grand Slam of Ultrarunning “Eagle” Awardee; and a 2-time finisher of the famous and prestigious Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run and Hardrock 100-Mile Endurance Race in the US. The rule of the event is to be able to finish the total distance of 298 kilometers covering the famous Four Trails of Hongkong starting with MacLehose Trail (100 Kilometers); Wilson Trail (78 Kilometers); Hong Kong Trail (50 Kilometers); and Lantau Trail (70 Kilometers) in the said order but with each trail to be ran on the reverse course. To make it more challenging, each runner is “self-support” while on the trail and the only time that he can be supported is when he finishes a trail or before he starts the next trail. Each runner can be supported and transported by their respective Support Team while they are in transit from one trail to another. There are no Marshals, No Medical Responders, No Aid Stations, and No Whining in this event. There is No Registration Fees for the Runners and No Awards for the Survivors and Finishers. A Runner is declared as a “Finisher” if he finishes the event within the cut-off time of 60 hours. However, if a runner finishes the course within the cut-off time of 72 hours, he is declared as “Survivor”. All of them are required to kiss the Mui Wo (Green) Mail Post in Lantau to declare that they have finished the event. And for those who could not make it, they are declared as “Retired”. 

But for this year, Thomas has transformed to a stronger, faster, and smarter participant of this event. Determined to join again and improve his performance last year, he applied last July 2019 but he was placed in the Waiting List until he was finally accepted in October of the same year. Thomas focused on his training as he visited Hong Kong for a Recon Run in Lantau Island last August 2019 for two days. Due to his limited time to stay longer in Hong Kong because of his work in the Philippines and family to attend to, he decided to arrive earlier on the week of the event to review the places where he experienced “lost moments” that cost him a lot of hours of delay, most specially in the MacLehose and Wilson Trails. 

Having an experience from his previous year’s participation, doing some “recon runs”, and correcting his past mistakes with his race strategy and nutrition, Thomas was determined to finish the event, whether he could be a “Finisher” or a “Survivor”. What is important is for him to finish the event within 72 hours.

Thirty-three (33) participants selected by the RD/RO coming from different countries throughout the world started the race at 9:00 AM January 25, 2020, the Lunar Chinese New Year’s Day, for the 9th edition of the event at the starting area for the MacLehose Trail. Two other Filipino runners were also with Thomas in this event as they applied and qualified to join this race. Thomas started the race at the back of the pack and we, his Support Team to include his close family members from the Philippines and Canada, cheered him and later, monitored his movement through his Tracker on Racemap Application on the Internet. At Kilometer 50, Thomas was among the Top 3 on the trail and maintained his steady pace of 7 kilometers per hour. It was still too early for us to be happy that Thomas will target the sub-60 hour finish. However, he was in the right track for him to finish the MacLehose Trail in 15 Hours as planned. He slowed down on the last 15 kilometers as it was already nighttime plus the fact that it started to rain and he reported some tightness in his quads. Despite his situation, he was expected to finish this leg much faster than the time he registered last year with almost 2.5 hours. Finally, Thomas arrived at the Sai Kung Country Park as the 5th Runner with a time of 15:04 hours! It was a huge improvement from his time of 17:40 hours last year!

Thomas @ MacLehose Trail (Picture By Photo Guava)

In 10 minutes of eating and changing his clothes at the Park, we were on our way aboard a Taxi to the start of the Wilson Trail which is a good 45-minute ride but the Taxi driver had to refill some gasoline which added, at least 5 minutes of the travel time. However, Thomas had a good sleep, which he badly needed, during our trip to the start of the next leg. Once we arrived at the Waiting Shed near the Nam Chung Public Toilet, we set-up our “pit stop” assistance to Thomas——food, water, clothes, and running accessories were packed and placed in Thomas Hydration Vest while Thomas was eating. In a short time, Thomas started his run on the Wilson Trail with much encouragement for him to keep on moving, eat & hydrate when he can, and bring out & wear his reserve “wind-breaker” inside his water-proof jacket to make him warm as it was raining hard and colder temperature awaited him in the mountain peaks of the 78-kilometer long Wilson Trail. He started his run at 1:25 AM of the second day, January 26 which is again another improvement from his time last year. At this time, we were confident that he will not get lost and spend so much time when he will cross the Victoria Bay from the MTR Lam Tin Station to the MTR Tai Koo Station in Hongkong Island.

At the start of the Wilson Trail, looking at the Racemap App, the two other Filipino runners (Rolando Espina is a two-time finisher of the Spartathlon  Race in Greece and Ronnel Valero had just finished the 2019 UTMB 166K in Chamonix, France), had been declared as “Retired” which simply means that they declared themselves as “DNF” (Did Not Finish). Five other runners were also “Retired”, making it a total of seven (7) “retired” runners at the end of the first day. We did not try to find out the real reason/s why these runners “retired” on the first day. However, in a news report from the article of the South China Morning Post, they said that they could not stand and endure running on the “stairs” and on the concrete/cemented trails of Hong Kong. Some of the runners told to the reporter/s that the rain had brought them cold and freezing temperature which their body was not prepared to take.

On the second day, we were glad that Thomas was on the track without any “lost moments” and be able to finish the Wilson Trail on the said day. Our Support Team was at the Finish Line of the Wilson Trail at 5:00 PM January 26, 2020 with the hope that Thomas would finish within one hour. However, we waited for almost 3 hours for Thomas to arrive still smiling, happy and strong as he was ranked as the 9th runner at this point. Thomas arrived at 8:06 PM on the second day of the event. He finished the Wilson Trail in 18:30 hours.

Thomas arrival at the end of Wilson Trail (@ Stanley Gap Road) was very remarkable and surprising as he improved his time by 13+ hours as compared to last year. We immediately boarded a waiting Taxi for the 20-minute ride to the Bus Station on Shek O Road as the starting line of the 50-kilometer Hong Kong Trail. We “forced” Thomas again to sleep during the duration of our Taxi ride which he did. At the Shek O Road, we were met by Paper, the wife of Andre; Andre; Tomokazu Ihara; and Christian Viloria, a Pinoy OFW in Hongkong. We immediately set-up our “pit stop” for Thomas for him to re-charge his nutrition/hydration; rest; and change his running attire for more layering to fight the coldness in the mountains. At this point, the NHK TV Reporter and crew took a video of Thomas while he was eating and resting. The TV reporter was interested on the food prepared by his support team. Christian’s fried “tuyo” (dried sardines) and our Pork Adobo and Sinigang Na Ulo Ng Salmon were the “center of attraction” on Thomas’ food in the video and interview. Finally, Thomas left the Shek O Road at 9:05 PM after much encouragement and motivation from us and Tomokazu as he was his “classmate” in last year’s edition.

Thomas Before The Finish Line @ Hong Kong Trail

Based from Thomas performance last year, we estimated that he could finish the Hong Kong Trail in less than 9 hours and that we will be able to catch-up and ride the 7:00 AM Ferry Boat ride from the Central Pier to Lantau Island. But by looking on his Tracker, we estimated that he would arrive at the end of the Hong Kong Trail at 8:00 AM on the third day. We arrived at the Victoria Peak at 7:30 AM and the place was windy and cold. It seems that we were experiencing a freezing temperature being exposed outside the building and standing in the open/exposed park/space at The Peak. I decided to jog the last one or two kilometers before the Finish Line to meet Thomas and at the same time warn the members of his Support Team that he was arriving in a few minutes. At 1.6 kilometers from the Finish Line, Thomas was approaching, hiking and looked very cold but still in good spirits to finish the race. He had his fingers on both hands locked with one another with his palms pressed against his chest. He was trying to keep his body warm even if he was wearing his Salomon Waterproof Jacket. I jogged ahead of him by 50 meters and finally led him to the waiting Taxi with our Support Team. Finally, Thomas reached the Finish Line of the Hong Kong Trail at 8:42 AM on the third day, January 27. Thomas finished the Hong Kong Trail (50K) in 11:30+hours which is 3 hours slower than his time last year. He told me that the freezing wind temperature, sleep deprivation, the darkness along the trail and a bout of “acid reflux” had slowed him. He even had experience of “hallucination moments” with the rocks along the trail as talking tortoises only to realize that he was talking to the rocks around. 

Within the short 15-minute Taxi ride From Victoria Peak to the Central Pier, Thomas was able to eat “Lugaw” (Rice Porridge With Chicken) and Drink Hot Coffee and then took a nap. Five minutes before the Ferry Boat would depart for Lantau, we were running to board the boat and was able to ride in it. As the boat started leaving the Pier, Thomas was already sleeping for the 50-minute ride to the last leg of the event, the Lantau 70K Trail. We took the 9:00 AM Ferry Boat ride which was the slow one but the longer trip gave much time for Thomas to sleep. The fare was half the price of the faster craft but we did not complain as we estimated that Thomas would not be able to finish the event within the cut-off time of 60 hours.

Thomas @ The “Pit Stop” Before Lantau Trail

After the slow Ferry Boat ride, we established our “pit stop” under a tree near the McDonalds which is surrounded with steel seats. We bought Hamburger and Coffee which Thomas requested to eat and drink before starting the Lantau Trail. We refilled his hydration pack with water and food and he changed his attire and loaded some extra windbreaker and shirt in his pack. When he was ready, I accompanied him to the trailhead which is about 300 meters away from the Pier. Photo Guava, one of the Official Photographers of the Event, was also there to take pictures of Thomas and wished him “Good Luck”. Thomas started the Lantau Trail Leg at 10:25 AM of January 27, on the third day of the event. We estimated that he could finish the Lantau Trail at 1:00 AM on the fourth day, January 28,  which is about 15 hours of elapsed time. We returned to Hongkong where we were staying and monitored the movement of Thomas through the RaceMap App. 

We returned to Lantau Island aboard the last Ferry Boat trip at 10:20 PM to wait for the arrival of Thomas as a “Survivor” of the event. We boarded the Fast Ferry Boat and we arrived at 11:00 PM and tried to stay at the Silver Mine Bay Pier in Mui Wo to protect us from the freezing wind coming from the sea and the mountains. We looked for seats in the area and tried to get inside the telephone booths for a warmer air. Sometimes, we would go to the Public Rest Room for a warmer air and later went inside the 7-11 Store for food and drinks and we were allowed to stay at the 2nd floor of the store. Lastly, we were invited to stay at the heated Lantau Basecamp Sports Store where we monitored the movement of Thomas through the Racemap App. Jurg, the husband of Irene Montemayor, tried to join us at the finish line at the Hongkong Trail as he was our Main Support during Thomas first attempt last year but he was not able to catch-up with us at the Victoria Peak. He told us that he will be joining us in our Ferry Ride back to Lantau and cheer for the arrival of Thomas. At 1:00 AM, we were confident that Thomas will be arriving as the 9th Runner and the 2nd “Survivor” to arrive at the Finish Line.

After cresting the highest peak of the trail, Lantau Peak, on the last 15 kilometers, Thomas was passed by Lady Runner Virginie while he was sleeping in one of the Pagodas/Rest Areas. Virginie tried to help Thomas by giving him her “space blanket” to wrap his head and she even called the RD about the situation of Thomas. Thomas was freezing due to the strong cold winds at the Lantau Peak and after the peak, he took a brief nap while he was sitting with his back leaned on one of the posts of the Pagoda but he was surprised to wake up lying on the floor when he heard the voice of Virginie calling the RD on the phone. Virginie and Thomas had been running together before the Lantau Peak but Thomas went ahead of her until he was seen as sleeping on the floor of the Pagoda. Jurg and I tried to locate Thomas by boarding a Taxi to check on him on the said Pagoda after we received the recorded voice call of Virginie from the RD. However, when we saw that Thomas had moved on the Racemap App, we turned around and went back to the Finish Line. In a few minutes, Virginie reached the Finish Line at 5:30 AM on the fourth day and we were confident that Thomas would be the next runner to finish.

RD Andre, Tomo, and I were waiting for Thomas at the roundabout as we could see him going down the road on his last 100 meters to the Finish Line. After a few minutes of conversation, Andre and Tomo walked on the uphill road to locate Thomas and Tomo was shouting his name! After few minutes, RD Andre and Tomo shouted to us that Thomas was coming. Thomas reached the Green Mail Post at Mui Wo at 5:50 AM on the fourth day, January 28 as the 10th runner overall and the 3rd “Survivor” of the Event. Thomas finished the Lantau Trail in 17:25 hours. In total, Thomas finished the 9th Hong Kong Four Trails Ultra Challenge in 68:50 hours and declared as a “Survivor”.

Thomas Showing His PAU Shirt @ Finish Line (Picture By Alan Li)

In summary, Thomas finished the following Hong Kong Trails with these times:

MacLehose Trail (100K)—15:04 Hours (Cut-Off Time of 18 Hours)

Wilson Trail (78K)—18:30 Hours

Hong Kong Trail (50 Kilometers)—11:30+Hours 

Lantau Trail (70 Kilometers)—17:25 Hours

Almost 9 hours were spent in his transitions from one trail to another and his rests along the trails.

Out of the 33 Participants, 7 were declared as Finishers, 5 were declared as Survivors and 21 were declared as Retirees. Thomas is now one of the 49 Finishers & Survivors of this event since its birth nine years ago.  

Official Results: 2020 Hongkong Four Trails Ultra Challenge


2020 #HK4TUC Results:

33 Participants, 7 Finishers, 5 Survivors, 21 Retirees

2020 Finishers:

1. Nugo Yamanath Limbu, Nepal, 54:26 hours
2. Stephen Redfern, Australia, 54:46 hours
3. Abimanyu Shunmugam, Singapore, 56:06 hours
4. Takashi Doi 土井陵, Japan, 56:25 hours
5. Law Kai Pong 羅啟邦, Hong Kong, 58:11 hours
6. Jacky Leung Chun Keung 梁俊強, Hong Kong, 58:31 hours
7. Hyun Chang Chung, South Korea, 59:46 hours

Collage Of 2020 HK4TUC Participants (Courtesy of Lloyd Belcher)

2020 Survivors:

1. Cheung Man Yee 張敏怡, Hong Kong, 62:47 hours
2. Virginie Goethals, Belgium, 68:30 hours
2. Thomas Combisen, Philippines, 68:50 hours
4. Yang Feifei 杨非非, China, 70:40 hours
5. Sarah Pemberton, United Kingdom, 70:45 hours

Congratulations to Andre Blumberg & Support Staff, Finishers, Survivors, and to All The Participants!

(Source: Hongkong Four Trails Ultra Challenge Facebook Page)

Journal Of “Team Thomas” @ 2020 HK4TUC (Third & Last Day)


Journal Of “Team Thomas” @ 2020 HK4TUC (Third & Last Day)

There is a big difference between Thomas performance last year and this year’s HK4TUC. Last year, Thomas started the Hongkong Trail at about 9:30 AM on the third day of the event. This year, Thomas started Hongkong Trail at 9:05 PM on the second day, a big 12-hour difference earlier than last year.

After Thomas left Shek O Road, we went back to the place we are staying to monitor his movement through the Racemap App. After one hour, Thomas called us to confirm if he was following the correct track along the Hongkong Trail and we confirmed that he is in the right track. As compared from last year, Thomas did not have any problems in locating or seeing the Trail Markers because it was daylight. Compounded with the colder temperature and darkness along the trail, Thomas took time to confirm the location of the said Markers. After midnight, we went to bed as we were confident that Thomas will finish the Hongkong Trail and be able to catch up the 7:00 AM Ferry ride to Lantau Island the following day.

We expected Thomas to be approaching the end of Hongkong Trail at 5:00 AM and set our alarm clock at 4:00 AM. Before leaving our place at 5:00 AM, we called Thomas to confirm his position and we found out that he had “acid reflux” and he had to rest and take some sleep for his stomach to settle. He slowed down due his stomach condition and the cold temperature during the night and early morning. We estimated that he could not make it on the 5:00 AM Ferry trip and adjusted our schedule to leave our place. We expected that an early arrival at Victoria Peak/Finish Line of the Hongkong Trail will expose us to the cold wind in the early morning. We estimated that Thomas could not make it in the 5:00 AM Ferry trip and delayed our ride towards the Finish Line of the Hongkong Trail.

Thomas At The Finish Line Of Hongkong Trail

We finally left our place at 8:00 AM to the Victoria Peak. The wind was cold when we arrived at the said place and they were few people around as the business establishments were still closed. We entered a small enclosed space at an entrance in one of the buildings in the area to prevents us from the cold winds. I decided to jog and walk along the Hongkong Trail to meet Thomas along the way. After running for 1.6 kilometers, I saw Thomas walking. I called him, took a picture and turned around, jogged ahead of Thomas of about 20-meter distance towards the Finish Line. I immediately called my companion to warn them that Thomas has only 1.5 kilometers to the Finish Line. In a few minutes, Thomas crossed the Finish Line at the end of the Hongkong Trail at 8:42 AM, almost 48 hours after the Start of the Event. We immediately boarded Thomas to our waiting Taxi for our short trip to the Central Pier to catch our 9:00 AM Ferry trip to Lantau Island. During our 13-minute ride in the Taxi, Thomas was able to eat the Rice Porridge with Chicken we prepared and drink some Hot Ginger Tea. 

Thomas Sleeping Inside The Ferry Boat To Lantau

After a lot of Red Light Stops along the way, we were able to board the Ferry at 8:55 AM, barely 5 minutes before the departure time. Once we settled and locate some seats for a space to let Thomas sleep and lie on his back, the Ferry Boat left the Pier. Thomas went immediately to sleep even with the loud noise of the boat’s engine and the loud conversation of a group of Filipino Ladies seated near us.

After 50 minutes of Ferry Boat ride, we arrived at the Lantau Island’s Silvermine Beach Ferry Pier in Moi Wu. We established our “pit stop” under a tree near the McDonalds and immediately prepared to resupply him and change his attire. He again ate a Hamburger from McDonalds and drink a hot coffee before leaving the place.

Thomas was able to recover immediately from his brief sleep during the Ferry Boat ride and the food/drink he ingested during his “pit stop”. Some of the local runners and volunteers approached Thomas offering him a Hot Bath and some Massage at the Lantau Base Camp  Store but he declined such offers as he was decided to leave the place immediately. Photo Guava of Hongkong, one of the Official Photographers of the Event, took a lot of pictures of Thomas en route to the Start of the Lantau Trail. He even asked me to take a picture of Thomas and him during the short hike to the Trail. At 10:25 AM Monday, January 27, 2020, Thomas started his run at the Lantau Trail Marker #139.

Thomas At The Start Of The Lantau Trail

Thomas finished the Hongkong Trail in 11:36 hours which is too slow as compared to his Finish Time last year of 8:30 hours which was considered as the 2nd fastest time to finish the said leg. If not for the “acid reflux”, darkness along the route, and the extreme cold temperature during the night, Thomas could have finished a faster time or equaled his time last year.

2020 HK4TUC “Retired” Runners

During the day, more runners were declared as “Retired” or in simple runner’s term as “DNF” (Did Not Finish). After a total of 15 runners who were “retired” on the 1st and 2nd day, another 5 runners “retired” on the third day. At present, a total of 20 runners were declared as “Retired” in the afternoon of the Third Day and only 13 runners remain along the Lantau Trail with the hope that some of them will be declared as “Finishers” and the others as “Survivors”.

As we left our place to ride the Ferry Boat to Lantau, 7 runners have already finished as “Finishers”, with a time of sub-60 hours. It is just a waiting game on what time will Thomas reach and kiss the Mui Wo Mail Post and be declared as “Survivor”. 

Official Mugshot Of Thomas (Picture From HK4TUC FB Page)

We met Jurg, our original member of Team Thomas and husband of Irene from the Philippines whose family resides in Hongkong, at the Central Pier and joined us for the final push, support and cheer to Thomas. We arrived at Mui Wo’s Silvermine Beach Ferry Pier in Lantau at 11:00 PM with the expectation that Thomas would arrive at 1:00 AM on the fourth day, Tuesday, January 28, 2020. We initially stayed at the Pier and within the vicinity of the Mui Wo Green Mail Post due to the cold winds. We finally settled at China Bear Resto/Pub near the Pier where we comfortably waited as the place was heated. After the establishment closed at 1:00 AM, we transferred to the 7-11 Store where we were accommodated by the Cashier who is a Senior Citizen. We bought food and drinks while waiting for Thomas. We  also stayed at the Base Camp Sports Store to monitor the progress through the Racemap Application of Thomas’ movement towards the Finish Line. 

Kissing The Mui Wo Mail Post (Picture From HK4TUC Facebook Page)

Our waiting time was too fast that in a few hours, Thomas was already on his last 2.5 kilometers to the Finish Line. Finally at 5:50 AM on the 4th day, January 28, 2020, Tuesday, Thomas kissed the Mui Wo Mail Post at 68:50 hours and he was declared as the “3rd Survivor” for this year’s edition of the HK4TUC. Andre Blumberg, the RD/RO of the event, congratulated Thomas and he was impressed on the transformation on the performance of Thomas as compared last year. After the traditional Champagne shower on Thomas, and as a parting statement, Andre Blumberg announced his personal invitation for Thomas to join the 10th Edition of the HK4TUC next year which Thomas immediately accepted.

Training for Thomas for the 2021 HK4TUC will start next week!

Journal Of “Team Thomas” @ 2020 HK4TUC (Second Day)


Journal Of “Team Thomas” @ 2020 HK4TUC (Second Day)

Thomas started the 2nd Leg of the event at Wilson Trail at 16:25 Hours, which was 1:25 AM of January 26, 2020, Sunday Morning. Ahead of him was a 78-kilometer distance during a cold and rainy night. Thomas was feeling cold at the start but having eaten a lot of food and keeping himself on the move, he will surely regain his pace and tempo during the run. After Thomas left, we immediately fixed our things, packed the used clothes/attire of Thomas and threw the trash at the Trash Bins at the Starting Area. We immediately took the Taxi which was waiting for us to bring us back to the place where we are staying. As we arrived in our place, we immediately checked the Racemap Application to find out if Thomas was on the right track. We were glad that Thomas was on the right track and we immediately rested for the day at 3:00 AM on the second day. Last year, after 1-2 kilometers from the Starting point, Thomas got lost and we had a sleepless on the first night at that time when more additional “lost moments” had to be corrected.

I woke up at 8:00 AM on the second day and immediately checked on the tracker of Thomas and he was doing fine without any “lost moments” as compared to his experience last year. Our monitoring team advised Thomas to call us once he reaches the MTR Station at Lam Tin and once he crosses the Quarry Bay and reaches the MTR Station at Tai Koo on the Hongkong Island side. From these calls, we would be able to estimate the time we would meet Thomas at the Finish Line of the Wilson Trail Leg. But with the lagging time as depicted by Thomas tracker, we decided to give an ample buffer time to wait at the said place before Thomas arrives.

We arrived at the end of the Wilson Trail Leg at the Tai Tam Country Park in Stanley Gap Road at 5:00 PM with the hope that Thomas would be arriving in 30-45 minutes. In a few seconds, we witnessed the arrival of the 4th Runner Abimanyu from Singapore and since Thomas was ranked as the 8th or 9th runner as seen on the tracker, we prepared ourselves to wait for some more time in the said place.

Thomas Along The Wilson Trail (Photo From Facebook)
Thomas Along The Wilson Trail (Photo From Facebook)

The cold wind from the sea was blowing on our faces as we waited for Thomas but our Team was entertained by two Pinay runners who are working in Hongkong with their stories about the race and what they have prepared in terms of food for Thomas and to the rest of the Pinoy Runners. They even mentioned to me that Christian Villoria from Pangasinan, also a worker in Hongkong, is waiting at the Bus Station at Shek O Road for more food and drinks for the Pinoy Runners. We had a lot conversations with Tha Na and Josephine and they entertained us while waiting for Thomas. I decided later to hike the 1,000+ steps or the last 600 meters of the trail and tried to wait for the arrival of Thomas. Instead, the #5 Runner Chiang from South Korea came out from the vegetated portion of the trail and he was running at an easy pace going downhill. I greeted and congratulated and told him that he is only 500 meters to the end of the trail.

Thomas After Crossing Victoria Bay (Photo By Lloyd Belcher)

After almost 3 hours of waiting, the #9 Runner Karen from Hongkong, the leading Lady Runner of the event, arrived at the Finish Line and we knew that in a few minutes, Thomas will be arriving next. Finally, Thomas arrived at the Finish Line of the Wilson Trail Leg at exactly 8:00 PM of Sunday, January 26, 2020 with a time of 18:30 Hours to finish the whole Wilson Trail.

Thomas Finishing The Wilson Trail

At 8:10 PM, we left immediately the end of Wilson Trail to the Shek O Road for Thomas to start the Hongkong Trail Third Leg. It took us a 22-minute ride on a Taxi to the Bus Stop at Shek O Road which is officially the Starting Area of the Hongkong Trail. Upon arrival, Thomas checked-in with Andre Blumberg and we set-up for the “pit stop” for Thomas. Thomas ate his dinner with the food we cooked for him and the food brought by Christian Villoria. Christian was there to meet us once we alighted from our Taxi ride. The NHK Japanese TV Network guys were also there to meet us with their Video Camera and Lights. They even interviewed Thomas while he was eating his dinner and focused their video camera on the food prepared for him. They were interested to see Fried Tuyo (fried salted sardines), Pork Adobo, and Sinigang Salmon Head (Sour Soup with Salmon Head) as Thomas food for dinner.

Thomas At The “Pit Stop”
Thomas With Christian Viloria

After eating, refilling his hydration vest with water and food, and changing his socks and attire, Thomas was ready to start the Hongkong Trail which has a distance of 50 kilometers. Before he left the starting point, Tomokazu “Tomo” Ihara, a sub-60 Finisher in last year’s HK4TUC and also a classmate of Thomas in last year’s event, advised Thomas that he is in the halfway (in terms of time elapsed) of the event and he needs to complete the remaining 120 kilometers in less than 24 hours to be able to be declared as a Finisher of the Event. Tomo said that it will be an easy task for Thomas to take the 7:00 AM Ferry trip to Lantau Island and be able to finish the Lantau Trail before the 60-hour cut-off time. Tomo was surprised to see how Thomas improved on his performance this time as compared to last year. In a conversation with Tomo, I told him about Thomas “lost moments” on the beaches of MacLehose Trail, lots of intersections at the Wilson Trail & mistake of going to the MacLehose Trail, and delays for looking the right MRT Platforms at the Lam Tin and Tai Koo Stations. 

Thomas left the Shek O Road at 9:05 PM of Sunday, January 26, 2020 and we expect him to finish the Hongkong Trail in 8 hours or at 5:00 AM of Monday January 27, 2020.

Thomas At The Start Of The Hongkong Trail

To be continued.

Journal Of “Team Thomas” @ 2020 HK4TUC (First Day)


Journal Of “Team Thomas” @ 2020 HK4TUC (First Day)

This year’s event is the 9th edition which is usually held on the Chinese Lunar New Year with the runner completing the famous Four Trails in Hongkong starting at the finish of MacLehose Trail in Tuen Mun, then to Wilson Trail, Hongkong Trail and last is the Lantau Trail. Each trail route should be finished in the reverse direction with a cut-off time of 60 hours. There is a cut-off time of 18 hours to complete the MacLehose Trail and each runner would be able to start the Lantau Trail, 4th trail and last, before the 55th Hour as the Cut-Off Time. A runner is considered Finisher if he/she completes the Challenge within the 60 hours cut-off time by January 27, 2020 at 9:00 PM and complying with the rules. Each runner should cover the Challenge without any outside support while they along the trail. It is only after each trail or before starting another that a runner could be given an outside support. A runner who fails to finish within 60 hours may continue with the Challenge and will be recognized as Survivor if they complete the Challenge within the cut-off time of 72 hours, which is Tuesday, January 28, 2020 at 9:00 AM.

The Team Thomas was the first to arrive at the starting line at 6:30 AM of Saturday, January 25, 2020 which is the day of the Chinese New Year. The Team was the first to be interviewed by NHK, the National TV Network of Japan, which will be covering the whole event. The Reporter have interviewed Thomas and myself, asking, what would be our respective roles during the event. After almost one hour, the runners and their respective Logistic Team arrived in the area. It was the usual the “meet and greet” among the those who finished and survived the previous editions and the incoming participants. Each runner was issued a “Tracker” and an Official “Mugshot” was taken from each runner. The briefing started at 8:30 AM and the usual Group Picture of the Participants was taken.

There are 33 participants of this event for the 9th edition consisting of runners coming from different countries who applied and had been invited to join this event. At exactly 9:00 AM yesterday, the event started.

Group Picture Of The 2020 HK4TUC Runners (Photo By Lloyd Belcher)

Thomas started at the back of the pack on the first few meters of the course. Aside from the Team Thomas usual members of the Logistics Team from the Philippines, he was cheered by his eldest sister, Marina & nephew John who came all the way from Toronto, Canada, purposely to watch the start the event with Thomas and niece Carol who works here in Hongkong. Thomas sister and nephew came to Hongkong for the first time! After 30 minutes that the runners had left the area, we went back to our respective Hotel to monitor the progress of Thomas tracker and position through the Racemap application.

With Thomas experience last year and our Recon Runs, I am confident that Thomas would be able to finish the MacLehose Trail without any problems or “lost” moments. I did not set a time for Thomas to finish the 100K distance but as long as he can improve his last year’s time of 17:40 hours, which was 20 minutes before the cut-off time of 18 hours, he will be fine and on target to finish or survive the Challenge. I did not ask Thomas if he can finish it within the 60-hour cut-off time but I encouraged him to finish as a Survivor.

Last year, there were 3 Finishers and 6 Survivors. So far, after 8 editions, there are only 9 Finishers of this Challenge, to include, the Race Director/Organizer, Andre Blumberg. The locals in Hongkong call those who finished and survived this Challenge as “Heroes of Hongkong”. Thomas failure to start the last trail, Lantau, was the “fire” that inspired him to prepare and train for this 9th edition. We came back to Hongkong last August 2019 to recon the Lantau Trail for two consecutive days.

After a slow start from behind the pack, Thomas finished the first 30 kilometers in 3:30 hours and he progressed to number 3 and then to #4. He was ranked at #4 as he reached 50K in 6:53 hours. We were informed by the Race Organizer that the trackers will be refreshed or reset every 10 minutes. As we observed from the movements of the Trackers on Racemap, we are having a delay of at least 15 minutes from the “real-time” location and time of each runner. Compared from our experience in monitoring Thomas last year, this year’s tracker’s performance was not good. Practically, the trackers were not giving us the “exact and real-time” location and time of the runners. There might be some problems with the Satellite transmission for the trackers in some stages of the course or the rain during the late afternoon and during the evening might have some effect to the transmission. Whatever was the problem with the trackers, our Team was able to adjust with the expected time of arrival of Thomas at the Sai Kung Country Park which is the finish area of the MacLehose Trail. 

Our Team expected and calculated that Thomas would be able to finish the first trail in less than 15 hours and we were at the finish line at least 1.5 hours before the said time. The first runner from Japan, Takashi, reached the finish line at 13:50 hours and we tried to locate Thomas at this time. Thomas had still 8 kilometers to the finish line when the first runner arrived. Calculating the distance and pace of Thomas, we expected Thomas to arrive in one hour and ranked as the 4th Finisher. Surprisingly, another runner arrived as the 4th runner with few minutes ahead of Thomas.

Finally, Thomas arrived at the Sai Kung Country Park in 15:04 Hours and I immediately met him as soon as he reached the finish line. I escorted him to where our Logistics was located and did what was needed to be done to him. He changed his clothes/attire, charged his cellphone with a Power Bank, and then ate the food we had prepared for him. In 7-8 minutes, we were in a Taxi on our way to Nam Chung Public Toilet as the starting line of the Wilson Trail. It took us 45 minutes for the trip and it was raining. Thomas was able to sleep inside the Taxi during the duration of the trip. Thomas did not have any issues when he arrived at the Finish Line of the First Trail. He was still strong and happy that he improved his time from last year’s time.

Thomas Running Along The MacLehose Trail (Photo By Lloyd Belcher)

We arrived at the Starting Line of Wilson Trail at 16:00 Hours. Immediately, set-up the remaining food that we brought and let Thomas eat again. After repacking his hydration vest with food and water, Thomas left the Start of the Wilson at 16:25 Hours. Thomas was feeling cold because of the rain and encouraged him to eat some more. We gave him some fruits and rice packs and he left the area strong and determined to finish the race.

To be continued. 

Journal Of “Team Thomas/PAU” @ 9th HKTUC (Recon Runs)


Journal Of “Team Thomas/PAU” @ 9th HK4TUC (Preparatory Stage)

January 22, 2020 (Wednesday)——Team Thomas/PAU departed Manila aboard Cathay Pacific at 8:00 AM and despite the delay of 30 minutes for our departure, we arrived at the Hongkong International Airport at 10:30 AM. After changing our money to Hongkong Dollars, buying our SIM Card with Unlimited Data, and loading some money to our Octopus Cards, we took the Airport Bus to our Hotel. After lunch, we settled and rested the remaining part of the day.

January 23, 2020(Thursday)——Thomas and I woke up early in the morning and prepared for our Recon Run at the MacLehose Trail. We took the MTR and Bus until we reached Sai Kung. From Sai Kung, we took the Green Taxi up to the start of the Section 2 of MacLehose Trail. We made sure all the parts and intersections in the said Section were carefully studied and marked by Thomas. This was the part where Thomas spent a lot of time looking for the trail, most specially on the beach sections of the course. With all those stops to eat and hydrate, picture taking, and talking to some people along the way, we finished our Recon Run in three hours.

In one of the Rest Pavilions along the trail, we met Johse from South Africa as he was on his second day hiking the MacLehose Trail, carrying his tent and food provisions for six days in his big backpack. He was resting when we started talking to him. He intends to finish hiking the MacLehose Trail by Tuesday as he takes his time enjoying the scenery and resting along the way. He had been taking a lot of pictures with his camera whenever he was resting for the day and night.

The Beach Area Where Thomas Got Lost Last Year

At the 2nd village that we reached, Sai Wan Beach Village, we stopped at the first eatery establishment for water, Coke, and Pocari Sweat. The place did not have any food to offer but it was good that we carried with us a piece Tikoy from Camarines Norte. That would served as our lunch during the hike. As we hiked farther from the business establishment, we reached the Campsite/Beach and we appreciated the beauty of the sea and sand. We took some pictures in this place. According to Thomas, he did not know which way to go once he reached this section as it was already nighttime. We took time to see some markers for him to know which way to go this time.

As we moved further, I was able to see the Sun Dial and took some pictures of it. After which we reached the Sai Wan Stargazing Site. The place is very beautiful and we took some pictures on the said place. Thomas will no longer see these markers and places once he passes during the HK4TUC as it will be nighttime.

Thomas @ Sai Wan Beach Campsite

As we entered the Tai Long Village, Thomas pointed to me the place where he bought some food and soft drinks. Near the said place, an old man in half-naked attire was eating his lunch. As he glanced at me, he asked me if I am a Catholic and what country I come from. I said, “Yes, I am a Catholic and I am from the Philippines”. He immediately stopped his lunch and asked me to follow him as he went into an uphill stairs until he was leading me to an Old Small Church. He said that St Mary’s statue is inside the Church and it is 120 years old and the church was constructed 60 years ago. He said that every weekend/Sunday, a lot of Filipino, mostly Filipino Ladies would visit and hear mass in the said Church. His name is Philippe and he maintains the cleanliness of the church and its surrounding. He said that he is cutting the grasses to prepare the church for the weekend’s mass and visit of devotees. He said that he is 78 years old! I took some “selfies’ with Philippe and Thomas, the Altar with Mama Mary and the Church. When Philippe left us to continue his lunch, Thomas and I offered some prayers to Mama Mary. I hope and pray that a miracle will happen to Thomas this weekend’s run!

“Selfie” With Philippe @ Mama Mary’s Old Church

Two kilometers before reaching Pak Tam Au, the end point of Stage 2 of the MacLehose Trail, I heard some fast footsteps behind me as I was jogging fast to reach the Rest Room. I did not bother to look behind me as I was focused to maintain my pace. On the last kilometer of the section, I asked Thomas to take some pictures of me while running. With the brief stop that I had to talk to Thomas and hand him over my phone, the guy behind passed me and I was surprised to see him as we did not see him along the trail. After the picture taking, he was ahead of me and reached the Rest Room first.

After he got out from the Rest Room, I asked him the direction going to Sai Kung and that started our conversation. I forgot to get his name but according to him, he finished the Vibram HK 100 five years ago and never came back to improve his time because of knee problems. Instead, he hikes carrying his camera. While waiting for the Bus To Sai Kung to arrive, he told us that he purposely hiked along the Section 2 and reached a place to take some pictures of a plant’s flower that blossoms only  at the start of the Lunar Year. It is only this part of the year that the flowers bloom and they bloom in downward position. He showed to us the pictures that he took from the said flowers and they are beautiful. The flowers have some white and red color combination. We were amazed by the beauty of the flowers to the point that we forgot to ask his name and the name of the plant. We suspect that he had to veer off from the trail route and reached some peaks just to locate and take some pictures this plant.

Thomas @ Bus Stop To Sai Kung

We boarded the Bus to Sai Kung and had our late lunch in one of the Noodle Shops before taking the Mini-Bus that would take us to the MRT Station. 

January 24, 2020 (Friday)——Due to incidents of being lost at the Wilson Trail for so many times, Thomas was not able to catch up with the last trip at the MRT Lam Tin Station for him to cross the Quarry Bay enroute to Hongkong Island for the last leg of the Wilson Trail before reaching Stanley Gap Road. Once the MRT opened on the 3rd day, Thomas spent so much time inside the MRT trying to figure out what Platform was he going to take. He had to ask the locals for directions where to take the MRT up to MRT Tai Koo Station before reaching the Wilson Trail at the Hongkong Island side.

So, we recon and rehearsed this part of the route and Thomas was able to recall and review the the route. I think we were able to hike about 5 miles tracing this route aside from our trips with the MRT Subway. To make my hike/recon more challenging, I carried a backpack with a weight of 20 pounds consisting of four (4) 2-liter bottles of water. 

Hiking With My 20-Pound Backpack

On our way back to the MTR Lam Tin Station, we saw an old local Chinese man about the age of 80s pushing his wife on a wheelchair on an uphill climb of about 200 meters long. I asked Thomas that we should help the old guy in pushing his wife. So, we did it and we alternated in pushing the wife until we reached their destination. Some of the old guys that saw our effort to help the old couple were cheering us for what we did. It was a good workout for me with the weighted backpack I was carrying.

On the second day here in Hongkong, Thomas and I were able to successfully recon the places where Thomas got lost and places where he spent so much time figuring it out which way to go. Thomas gave me the assurance that his confidence had been boosted with our Recon Runs for the past two days.

In a few hours, the whole Team will take a ride to the starting area for the event. Good luck and have fun, Thomas!

To be continued.

 

The “Tricks” That I Do During Running


The “Tricks” That I Do During Running

I just want to review the things that I do when I am running in my training and races. Most of these things are known already by runners but sometimes they forget when fatigue and pain come into play at the middle of the run. I usually do these “tricks” to focus or bring back my mind into running as we tend to be distracted by some factors, whether they are external or internal to one’s body. So, these are the tricks that I do:

1. Strides: This trick is described as quick increase in pace or speed for a short distance or time followed with an interval of slow pace. Most of the time, the time elapsed during a particular stride should be the same period with the slow pace. I am usually asked by my Coach to do some “strides” during or at the end of my Warm-Ups and during my Cool Down. However, at the middle of my Races and training workouts, I usually apply these “strides”. Usually, I adopt the “30-second” duration of “strides” which I estimate 30 counts whenever my right of left foot hit the ground.

2. “30-30”-Second Run: Actually, this is the same with “strides” and it was popularized by Kilian Jornet’s technique in running trail events. The first 30 seconds consist fast run and the next 30-seconds in easy run. This cycle is repeated throughout the run or race. Just the same with the strides, I usually count my right or left feet landing/hitting the ground from count one to thirty on fast pace and then shift to an easy pace with the same number of counts. If one can do this consistently, a runner can run as far as he can. This is what I adopt in my running, whether I am on the trail or road. This is my favorite drill during my endurance trail runs and during my road runs.

3. “30-20-10”-Second Run: This drill run is done by doing first a 30-second easy run, then followed with a faster 20-second run, and finish with a 10-second “sprint” to complete the cycle. You can repeat this cycle drill as long as you want. I usually do this drill in 4-5 cycles in the middle of my workout. As you progress, a runner can increase the number of cycles at least one cycle per week until comfortable to do 8 cycles in a single running workout.

4. “Fartlek” Run: Simply look for an object far in front of your running path and then “sprint” towards the said object. Take an easy and relaxed run after the sprint and then repeat the sprint if you feel you have already rested/recovered. Repeat the process as long as you want. You can walk as your rest/recovery in between sprints. You can start with 4 repetitions in a single workout and then steady increasing the number of repetitions within the middle part of your running workout. This workout is done once or twice a week.

5. Counting Steps or Strides: In the middle of my runs, I usually count my strides, whether they are easy or fast, from one to 90. In my estimate, 90 strides is equivalent to one minute which in turn would estimate me running a stride rate of 180 steps per minute. I usually do this drill when I would force myself to jog or to have an easy run instead of walking on the downhills or flat roads. 

Most of these tricks were taken from the experiences shared by other runners. Some were taken from running books and articles from running magazines with the proper studies made by Sports scientists and sports physiologists. You can adopt one trick or you can combine all of these tricks in a single workout. It is up for the runner to choose which one is fitted for their prevailing running condition and purpose or objective while running. 

Applying My “Tricks” In My Playground

Gear Review: OAKLEY Flak 2.0 XL “Prizm” Sunglasses


Gear Review: OAKLEY Flak 2.0 XL “Prizm” Sunglasses

I am a sucker with sunglasses! There was a time that I bought 3 dozens of sunglasses during my visit in the United States which I gave most to some of my running friends with the intention of giving them as a gift. These are cheap sunglasses that any runner can use in trail running or road races without the thought of being broken or lost along the route. In a sense, they are disposable! Up to this time, I am still using three pairs of these sunglasses alternately during my heat training workouts.

In my collection of sunglasses, they are categorized as either fashion or sports sunglasses. In my early days of running in the 80s, I would use the Sports Sunglasses of Ray-Ban until my favorite “Olympic Model” just vanished from the market. What I have now are the Classic Aviator, Classic Clubmaster, Classic Wayfarer, and the Classic Round Metal Classic but I only use them in my casual wear and local & foreign trips. I never use them in my Sports activities.

When it comes to running and hiking/outdoor activities, I would prefer to use my Oakleys. Actually, I have five (5) pairs of Sports Oakley Sunglasses and they are in different styles: Turbine; M2 Frame; Frogskins; Half Jacket; and Flak 2.0. Except for the Flak 2.0, the rest were assembled and bought in the United States.

For the past two months, I’ve been using the Flak 2.0 XL Prizm Polarized Sunglasses which I bought at Sunglass Haven in Metro Manila.  This is the second most expensive Sports Sunglass in my collection and it is worth the price of more than Thirteen Thousand Pesos! 

For the past two months that I have been using the Oakley Flak 2.0 XL Prizm Polarized Sunglass, I have observed that it is very light due to its lightweight O Matter™ stress-resistant frame which sits snugged on my nose and ears and I did not feel any movement of the whole sunglass in every step and stride I made during my runs and hikes. I did not have to make any adjustments on the sunglass once I used it from the box. I have observed that the lower portion of the lenses don’t touch the upper part of my cheeks as compared to my other sports sunglasses.

The design of the frame and the lenses are for lasting comfort and performance. The lenses don’t touch any part of my face that may cause irritation or marks to my skin. The shape and configuration of the lenses also allow some air to get inside the space between the lens and the eyes preventing the lens from getting any mist due to my warm face and perspiration. There are some sports sunglasses that have holes on the lenses to prevent such mist but in this particular model, there are none. The frame is also fitted fully well on my ears that I could not feel that I am wearing the said sunglass. The rubber stirrups are well designed not give pressure and marks on the skin above my ears.

The optics is high-tech as it is called “Prizm” which is a High Definition Optics that sharpens the vision and highlights the elements often not clear when using other lenses. Aside from seeing my surroundings in the outdoors clearer than other lenses, they are not tiring to the eyes. During day time, I use it while I am driving my car and I feel alert seeing the details of what I see in front of me  and on my side and rear mirrors.

OAKLEY Flak 2.0 XL On Top Of Mt Roosevelt

I am really amazed with the performance of this sports sunglasses as I used it for the first time in the The North Face Hongkong 50K Ultra Trail Race. It was hot and sunny day in the Wilson Trail during the event but my eyesight was very clear and refreshing that I did not have a chance to remove it during daytime. What I observed in the lenses was that my perspiration does not leave any mark once it is dried. My sweat just simply slide on the surface of the lens leaving no trace at all. During nighttime, I just simply clipped the sunglass on top of the visor of my cap and it stays snugged on my cap. I really appreciate the versatility of this sports sunglass.

The Oakley Flak 2.0 XL Prizm Polarized Sport Sunglass provided me with much comfort, clarity in my vision around me, protection from dust, elements and whatever things that would harm my eyesight, and I guess, it gives me good looks, of course! I highly recommend this product as a casual wear when you are exposed to sunlight, when you are driving, and when you are engaged in any outdoor sports. It is worth as an investment for a healthier and clearer vision and protection to your eyes.

(Note: I am not Sponsored By Oakley)

Life Expectancy


Life Expectancy

Life expectancy is defined by Wikipedia as the statistical measure of the average time an organism is expected to live, based on the year of its birth, its current age and other demographic factors including gender. Life expectancy is commonly confused with the average age an adult could expect to live. Life expectancy differs from maximum life span. Life expectancy is an average for all people in the population, including those who die shortly after birth, those who die in early adulthood, and those who live unimpeded until old age. Maximum lifespan, on the other hand, is an individual-specific concept—maximum lifespan is therefore an upper bound rather than an average. 

Various factors contribute to an individual’s longevity. Significant factors in life expectancy include gender, genetics, access to health care, hygiene, diet and nutrition, exercise, lifestyle, and crime rates. Japan has the longest life expectancy of 82.84 years in 2010 while Mozambique has 41.37 years in 2010. The rest of the list of life expectancies of each country can be searched on Wikipedia or Google.

The reason why I thought of writing in this blog about this topic is when I saw a Facebook post in one of the FB Groups where I am a member. This FB Group consists of Retired Officers and Soldiers of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, of which I joined in the later part of 2019. In the said FB post, with the premise that the Life Expectancy of Filipinos is 68 years old, attached in the post is a List Of Retired Generals and Senior Officers who died before and after reaching the age of 68 years old. I was surprised that some of my Seniors, as well as, my Junior Officers had joined the List. May their Souls Rest In Peace! I am just sad that they did not enjoy their Retirement Benefits to the fullest.

As I am few months away, actually 4 months, from reaching the age of 68 years old. I feel good and happy that I am blessed to be healthy and active. However, as I “googled” the Life Expectancy of the Philippines, I found out the latest statistics/survey as seen in this picture that I grabbed:

Life Expectancy Of The Philippines

It is indicated that the Life Expectancy of the Philippines was 68.73 years old in 2000 and had steadily been increasing through the years up to 71.28 years old for the current year 2020. It appears that I still have an additional 3+ years “bonus” to live to reach the age of 71 years old.

It is very easy to say that I can project myself to reach this age and still be standing, healthy and active. But there are things that could be done to ensure that I could reach this age. In my past experience, I could say that the following reasons or tips made me as healthy and active as of today:

  1. Exercise everyday: My exercise consists of running or hiking on a daily basis for a minimum duration of one hour. 80-90% of my workouts are easy runs just to be able to perspire and let my heart do some cardio-vascular effort. I purposely hike with a weighted backpack once a week to strengthen my leg muscles, see the scenery/outdoors, and the best and quick way to perspire.
  2. Eat Simple but Healthy Real Foods: Most of the time, I eat a cup of steamed rice and one viand that has soup, vegetable, and meat/fish/chicken, all in one soup bowl. I end up eating a bite of chocolate or any fresh fruits available. If there is a chance that I could eat fresh vegetable salad, I would gladly grab the opportunity.
  3. Hydrate: I regularly drink water before, during and after my daily exercises. I even drink water regularly whenever I am reading some articles on the Internet, reading a book, or simply watching the Netflix. I make sure to take my body weight before and after my workout and closely monitor how much body liquid I have lost during the workout. I would immediately drink the equivalent weight that I have lost.
  4. Sleep Eight (8) Hours Every Night: Whether I sleep late or not, I should be able to sleep 8 hours during nighttime. If I can not make it or lacking for one or two hours, I would take a nap after lunch during daytime.
  5. Do Some Strength Training Exercises: Simple Dumbbell exercises with Light Weight; Leg Squats; Push-Ups; Sit-Ups; and Step-Ups are my main strengthening exercises which I do, at least, three times a week.
  6. Do Some Stretching Exercises/Yoga/Pilates: I usually concentrate my exercises with the strengthening of my Core Muscles through planks; some Yoga and Pilates poses. I usually do them as additional exercises during my Strengthening Exercise workouts.
  7. Take A Crap Ever Day: This should be a daily habit for me. I can not go out to run or hike or get out of the house for some errands if I can not sit “on my throne” once I take my hot coffee in the morning. My mood for the day depends on this habit. Every thing is light/easy and positive if this is done early in the day.
  8. Ignore Bad Vibes: There are lot of things to read on the Social Media that promotes Bad Vibes or things that are negative in nature. Most of the time, the sources of these negative stories and comments have nothing to do but spread such lies, inuendos, fake news, and information without any basis or evidence. These people are just happy to say bad things to other people and I really don’t understand what is in the mind of these people. There is only ONE Strategy to adopt in order to deal with these people: IGNORE! 
  9. Always Stay Positive: Because I ignore those Bad Vibes and negative comments, I always make it a point to think the positive way. What is important is that I know myself, I know my strengths and weaknesses, and I keep to myself my plans for the future. All my posts in Social Media are facts, my activities, and things that I like. Always staying positive leads to the next topic. 
  10. Don’t Stress Yourself and Simplify Things: For the past days, I have been reading the comments and exchange of comments among the members of a FB Group whose members are all AFP and PNP Retirees. The topic is about the delay in the availability the Monthly Pension for January 2020 in the ATMs. Some of the members are patient and understanding but most of them are angry of the situation. I just smile as I read the comments. In situations like this, I always say that “this is not yet the end of the world, why worry?” Politics? I don’t even dip my finger to politics. I really don’t care! As long as I receive my monthly pension, get my dividends to my investments & rentals to some properties and push through with my running activities, I really don’t care what is happening around. It is not yet the end of the world! How to simplify your life? Don’t mind the business of other people. Never dip your finger to the life or problem/s of other people. As they say, things happen for a reason! If something happens to you, deal with it. Don’t broadcast it on Social Media.
  11. Plan Ahead: Last November 2019, I have already made my schedule for 2020 and beyond, hoping that I am still healthy and active by then. However, they are still categorized as “Secret”. Hahaha!
  12. Enjoy What You Have: What else can I ask for? I am trying my best to control myself looking for places and running events where I could join in the future aside from those events where I have already registered. I am also controlling myself looking for things to be added in my collection of watches, pocket knives, business suits, and boots. I guess, I have to stop collecting them now and invest in precious metals that have the potential to increase in price in the future. 
  13. Drink and Eat Rich In Protein: As my muscles are shrinking as I grow older, I need to drink more fresh milk, soya milk, and eat more eggs! It is noteworthy to say that I don’t have any medication or maintenance medicine. Having said that, I could eat anything in moderation and make sure that I monitor my body weight regularly. I drink beer during occasions and social events but never I would allow myself to be drunk. Instead of paying for my medications (which there is none), I would spend for the service of a Professional Sports Coach to my Running as he closely monitors my training to include my Rests and Recovery. I think this is the best investment where my money is going as I am getting better, stronger, more active, and healthier.
  14. Socialize From Time To Time: As I am writing this post, one of my classmates in the PMA just died due to heart attack. We were born in the same month of May and year (1952). He should be 68 years old this coming May. We were both long-distance runners when were cadets and he was a good rival in our cross-country events as he was a member of another Cadet Company. During our early career as Officers of the AFP, we would compete each other in our Annual PMA Alumni Athletic Meets and would saw him in weekend road races in Manila in the early 80s. I have been faster than him since we were cadets. The last time that saw him was in the middle of last year during a meeting with a group of Retired Generals of the AFP in Camp Aguinaldo and I personally warned him of his “heavy” weight, thus, encouraged him to bring back his running days through walking every day. I really don’t know if he followed my advise then. I might have socialized much with my runners for the past years but I would meet my classmates and contemporaries from time to time. Most of those Generals whom I have worked with and had worked under me are now the “bigwigs” in the present administration. I guess, it is about time to visit them one by one and say “Hello” to them! In essence, I have the young ones and the old ones as my friends. And that makes my life a better and a wonderful one. 
I am A Trail Runner & Hiker

 

The State of Ultra Running 2020


This study was made by RunRepeat.com and the International Association of Ultrarunner (IAU). This is an excerpts from the said study. You can read the whole article here.

In this study, we explore the trends in ultra running over the last 23 years. We have analyzed 5,010,730 results from 15,451 ultra running events, making this the largest study ever done on the sport. 

Key results

  • Female ultra runners are faster than male ultra runners at distances over 195 miles. The longer the distance the shorter the gender pace gap. In 5Ks men run 17.9% faster than women, at marathon distance the difference is just 11.1%, 100-mile races see the difference shrink to just .25%, and above 195 miles, women are actually 0.6% faster than men.
  • Participation has increased by 1676% in the last 23 years from 34,401 to 611,098 yearly participations and 345% in the last 10 years from 137,234 to 611,098. There have never been more ultra runners.
  • More ultra runners are competing in multiple events per year. In 1996, only 14% of runners participated in multiple races a year, now 41% of participants run more than one event per year. There is also a significant increase in the % of people who run 2 races a year, 17.2% (from 7.7% to 24.9%) and 3 races, 6.7% (from 2.8% to 9.5%). 
  • There have never been more women in ultrarunning. 23% of participants are female, compared to just 14% 23 years ago. 
  • Ultra runners have never been slower across distance, gender and age group. The average pace in 1996 was 11:35 min/mile, currently, it is 13:16 min/mile. The average runner has added 1:41 min/mile to their average pace, which is a slowdown of 15% since 1996. We don’t believe that individual runners have become slower, but that these distances are attracting less prepared runners now because the sport is more mainstream.
  • Runners improve their pace in their first 20 races, and then their pace stabilizes. From their first to their second race runners improve by 0:17 min/mile (2%) on average. But by their 20th they improve by 1:45 min/mile (12.3%).
  • The fastest ultra running nations are South Africa (average pace 10:36 min/mile), Sweden (11:56 min/mile), and Germany (12:01 min/mile). 
  • A record amount of people travel abroad for ultra running events. 10.3% of people travel abroad to run an ultra, for 5Ks this percentage is just 0.2%.
  • Runners in the longer distances have a better pace than the runners in the shorter distances for each age group. 
  • All age groups have a similar pace, around 14:40 min/mile. Which is unusual compared to the past and to other distances. 
  • The average age of ultra runners has decreased by 1 year in the last 10 years. It has changed from 43.3 years to 42.3 years. 
  • Ultra runners are getting more engaged – the average number of ultras per year has increased from 1.3 to 1.7 over the last 23 years.

Based from the “Key Results” of this study, I would like state my opinion and observations on the following:

  1. Participation has increased by 1,676% in the last 23 years from 34,401 to 611,098 yearly participation and 345%in the last 10 years from 137,234 to 611,098: Within this period in 2009, the Philippines had its contribution of an event in the ultramarathon community with the introduction of the First Edition of the Bataan Death March 102K Ultramarathon Race. I can safely say that this was the first Ultramarathon Race in the country in the 21st century (from the year 2000 and beyond). It is also the First “Point-to-Point” Ultramarathon Event in Asia. Through the Philippine Association of Ultrarunners (PAU) and endorsement of PATAFA in 2010, the Philippines was the 6th ASIAN country to be accepted and sanctioned with the International Association of Ultrarunners (IAU). PAU is also considered as the FIRST ASEAN Ultramarathon Federation to be a member of the IAU. The BDM 102 Ultra had “sparked” the popularity trend of ultramarathon events in the country as more events were organized by individual persons in almost all regions in the country in the coming years. Trail Ultras had also expanded in the country with runners trying to get ITRA points for possible entry to the UTMB Races. However, in this report/study, I can only see Malaysia as the only South East Asian country that is included among the Top 20 countries that has the most number of ultra marathon runners. I wonder why? With Malaysia’s population of 32.7 Million against the Philippines’ population of 109 Million? With more Ultra Races here in the Philippines than Malaysia? Maybe, this is a good start for somebody in the country to document and collate all the ultramarathon events and number of participants in every event in the country. I am not saying that we should be included in the Top 20 countries of Ultra Marathoners but we have the potential to be a future contender in the said list if we just cooperate and be united among ourselves.
  2. Local Ultra Marathon Runners Have The Tendency To Run More Ultra Races Every Year: With more Ultra Race Organizers “sprouting” all over the country, runners are enticed to join these races and taste what it is like to finish an ultramarathon race. But what I’ve have observed is the loose consideration and “comfort-oriented” prescribed cut-off times of these races. In Japan, the average cut-off time for their 100K Road Ultra is 14 hours and 8 hours for the 50K. For the BDM 102K, due to the heat and prevailing weather, the cut-off time is 18 hours and for my 50K PAU Events is 9 hours. For the PAU 100-Mile Road Races, it is pegged at 32 Hours. For longer distances, a PAU runner must be able to cover an average distance of 5 kilometers every hour. All these Cut-Off Times for my races are way below and slower than the cut-off times of Japan’s Road Race’s COTs. I can not speak well about the other Road Races in the country and their respective COTs. (Note: In almost all my Races at PAU and BR’s Events, I use myself as the “gauge” to determine a decent COT for the distance as I run my events first before making it as an Ultra Marathon Event for the Public)
  3. More of our Local Ultra Marathon Runners Are Satisfied With Just Finishing: This is the reason why our Average and Competitive Ultra Marathon Runners could barely finish the Races in International Events. This is a question of having so many Ultra Races but not having Quality Finishers with the goal to level-up or be at par in International Standards in Ultra Marathon. I consider myself as one of the “back-packers” and one of the last runners to finish within the COT in International Races but considering my age of almost 68 years old, I still consider myself as a good quality Ultra Marathon Runner. I have yet to see a Filipino Ultra Marathon Runner who will land as Podium Finisher in the Badwater 145-Mile Endurance Race (with due respect to those Pinoys who have finished this tough race); a Silver Buckle Awardee in the WSER 100-Mile; a Podium Finisher in the Spartathlon; Podium Finisher in the Leadville 100 & Hardrock 100, and a Top 10 in the UTMB.
  4. Fastest Countries In Average Pace: South Africa in 10:36 minutes per mile is the fastest; Sweden is second in 11:56 minutes per mile; Germany is third in 12:01 minutes per mile; and Malaysia in 20th rank in 15:55 minutes per mile. Based from the yearly results of the BDM 102K Ultra, I can safely say that the Average Finish Time is between 16-17 hours (with a COT of 18 hours). Using this as a baseline, an Average Local Runner who finished the BDM 102 is just a few seconds slower than the Malaysians. Positively speaking, we could be in the 21st or 22nd rank! (I can only speak for my PAU Races as I know that most of the other races have slower COTs).

For the meantime, these are the only observations and conclusions/opinions that I can think of as related to this study. I hope that in the next period of study (within 5 or 10 years), the Philippines will be in the List of Top 20 Countries in the Ultra Marathon Community. Let us strive more to be positive. And let us unite our efforts in this sports.

Official Logos Of PAU & IAU