Repost: Top 3 Hot Takes From The 2019 UTMB, CCC, & TDS Races By Jason Koop

4 09 2019

The following article is a repost from what Jason Koop, Head Coach of CTS Ultrarunning, had published in their CTS website and shared in the Social Media outlets. I have received a copy of this article in my e-mail as one of the CTS Athletes for the past two years. (Note: I am on rest and recovery up to the end of this year). I hope this article will be of help to future trail ultra runners who have plans of joining this iconic race.

Repost: Top 3 Hot Takes from the 2019 UTMB, CCC and TDS Races

By Jason KoopHead Coach of CTS Ultrarunning

As has been the case for the last few years, I spent the better part of a weekend following athletes around the (newly revamped) Sur les Traces des Ducs de Savoie (TDS), Courmayeur – Champex – Chamonix (CCC), and Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc (UTMB) races. The races were packed with drama, success, failure and everything in between. From the front of the field through the final finishers, the mountain teaches us common lessons – sometimes the hard way – about how to prepare for and execute a great race.

Lesson #1- To win the race, you can be reasonably bold or just grind it out.

UTMB winners Pau Capel and Courtney Dauwalter days played out in seemingly opposing fashion, yet both ended up taking the top step of the podium. Pau took the lead early and never relinquished it, looking spry and springy all the way around the 170-kilometer course. Courtney on the other hand, quite frankly looked terrible the whole way. Normally a smiling and happy runner, she muddled, grunted and grinded her way to a 24 hour and 34 min winning time (which from a historical perspective is quite good).

As a quick comparison, go take a quick look at Update #8 and Update #9 from the final climb to Tête Aux Vents here- https://utmbmontblanc.com/en/live/utmb. It’s an easy compare and contrast of the styles from the winners of both races on the exact same climb.

What all runners can learn from this: There are several different pathways to the exact same result. If you are having a good day, take it and roll. Don’t get greedy with your race plan, but at the same time, if you are having a good day enjoy it and ride out the goodness, hopefully all the way to the finish line. On the other hand, if you are not having the best day and you have built up enough good fitness (as Courtney had), you should have enough resources to simply grind and tough it out. The day might not be all you hoped of, but you can still reach the finish line (and maybe surprise yourself along the way).

Lesson #2- Everyone has a bad day. The harder the race, the more the bad day is exacerbated.

Many of the top runners in the UTMB, CCC and TDS races did not have their days go to plan. Some of these runners ended up dropping out, while some ended up forging on for a respectable finish. Similarly, many of the mid- and back-of-the-pack runners we work with, and several I witnessed out on the course, were simply not having their best days. Although there is no easy ultra, the UTMB race in particular presents a wider variety of issues to contend with. The difficulty is compounded by the event’s length, starting at 6:00PM, running through the entire night right from the get go, copious amount of elevation gain, and the sheer energy of the Chamonix valley that drains the runners in advance of the starting gun. Generally speaking, athletes who got themselves into trouble in this race simply had a harder time bouncing back than those in the shorter (but still ridiculously hard) TDS and CCC.

What all runners can learn from this: If you are in a ridiculously hard race, do yourself a favor and play some defense early on. Aside from entering the race fit and ready, runners can do themselves a favor by running conservatively, taking some additional time at aid stations, having a good attitude, and – if there are any weather conditions ­– making sure you have enough gear to stay comfortable. All of these will give you a bit of downside protection for races where the penalty for failure is high!

Lesson #3- Multiple mistakes have compounding effects

Every runner wants to have a perfect race. Sorry to tell you, but those are rare. In a lifetime of running if you are able to scrape together a small handful of perfect races, consider yourself lucky. More often, ultramarathons are a series of problem solving exercises. Encounter some bad weather, move through it. Then, you will have a big, quad thrashing descent. After the descent, maybe your legs are giving you trouble. Your legs feel a bit better, then you have a monster climb ahead of you. Most runners can take each individual battle head-on in sequence by solving one problem and then moving to the next.

When issues pile on top of issues, the effect is greater than the sum of all the individual parts. I saw this unfold at the Beaufort (91.7 K) aid station during TDS. Nearly every runner from the front to the back of the field was tired at this point. CTS coach and eventual 2nd place finisher Hillary Allen (coached by Adam St. Pierre) even had the 1000-yard stare as she entered the aid station. As the day transpired, the runners arriving at the aid station complaining of one singular thing (I can’t eat, for example) would move in and move out quickly to tackle the next climb. The runners with a laundry list of issues (I can’t eat and my feet hurt and my quads are shot) took at least four times longer in the aid station and were moving at half the speed, regardless of where they were in the field. In this way, the runner who can’t eat but deals with it, then has their feet hurting and deals with that, and then has shot quads and deals with that, will finish far faster than the runner dealing with all three issues at once.

What all runners can learn from this: Dealing with issues during ultrarunning is inevitable. They are long and hard enough to present a host of problem solving opportunities. When these ‘opportunities’ creep up, don’t compound the problem by creating another one or not addressing the first. Address each issue as it comes up, when it comes up. ADAPT when necessary and slow down if you need to. It is far better to take a bit more time as issues creep up than continue to plow forward and create compounding issues.

I have always relished the opportunity to attend races as a coach, fan and support crew. These opportunities have always been ‘learning by observing’. The UTMB, CCC and TDS races were no exception. If you are reading, I hope you enjoyed the wonderful coverage of the event and some of these on the ground takeaways.

Carmichael Training System





John “Sting” Ray Onifa: The Pinoy Course Record Holder In 2019 UTMB’s CCC 101K Trail Race

2 09 2019

John “Sting” Ray Onifa: The Pinoy Course Record Holder In 2019 UTMB’s CCC 101K Trail Race

I have never met and still not a friend on Facebook of this very talented mountain trail runner. Because of this outstanding and admirable finish at this year’s CCC 101K Race in Chamonix, France, he deserves to be featured in this blog for whatever purpose. It could be an inspiration to future elite runners or a good reference to others. (Note: Hopefully this will used as a reference to our Local and National News and printed media). But one thing is sure, he is now the BEST Pinoy Ultra Trail Runner for finishing the 2019 CCC 101K Race from Courmayeur, Italy to Chamonix, France with a Course Record Time (For Pinoys) of 12:36:11 hours finishing with a ranking of 33rd place out of 2,000 runners and top 30 runners in the Male Category. His Average Speed for the course is 7.9 kilometers per hour (which is basically my average Road Running Speed) considering that this is his first exposure in running bigger/higher mountains than he usually race in Southeast Asia where altitude and technical nature of the trails usually slow down runners coming from the sea level places.

JR Onifa @ CCC 101K Race

Who is John “Sting” Ray Onifa? I bet that if you are more of an average Road Runner, you will never had the chance to meet him in person or read his name in local and national news or even meet him in the local and National MILO Marathon Events. Even the local trail runners in Luzon and Mindanao seldom would see this guy in more popular trail running events in the Cordilleras for the past years (except this year when he joined this year’s CMU). Except for the runners in Panay Island, he is well-known as a Road Runner and later on as an Ultra Marathon Runner having finished the local ultra races in Iloilo, Negros, and Antique. Later, he joined short distance trail running events within the area where he is from.

JR Onifa was born in Dao, Antique, now known as the Municipality of Tobias Fornier. Where is that place? Having been assigned in the Panay Island during my military days and visiting the Province of Antique almost every year for my Antique 100-Mile Endurance Run, it is my first time to know about the town. When I “googled” the name of the town, I found out that the municipality is located at the southernmost tip of Antique Province, way down south from the Capital Town of San Jose De Buenavista where my race usually starts. The town is bounded by mountains on the east and the sea on the west. You can “google” the name of the town for more details about the history and population data of the locality.

Young Elite Runners Use Trekking Poles @ UTMB

Due to the geography where he lives, JR Onifa was born in a poor family and ultimately earned his living through farming and fishing. I would suspect that he was able to complete his secondary education level only. For him to improve his life, he applied as a Candidate Soldier in the Philippine Army but he failed for three consecutive times to enter the service. How I wished I could had helped him during those times when he was trying to enter the military service. If he failed in the Neuro-Psychiatric Test (NP Screening), that is another story to deal with. To make things worse, his mother died and his father left the family. So, starting in 2015, he started running as part of his daily regimen while he was farming and fishing. Through his training, he became a well-known local runner when he won the local races in Antique and Iloilo, setting course records in every event.

It was on the early part of last year, 2018, when one of his friends who saw the elite running potential of JR Onifa started to ask for contributions and sponsorship through crowdsourcing for him to be exposed in international trail running events. His friend, Adonis Lloren aka LAGATAW  was very successful in bringing JR Onifa to Thailand to compete in the The North Face (TNF) 50K Ultra Trail Race on February 3, 2018.

JR Onifa @ The CCC Finish Line/Arc

The result of the said race completely changed the life of JR Onifa. He won as Champion with an Official Time of 4:01:51 hours in the said race, his first International Ultra Trail Competition, beating the elite athletes of the famous The North Face Adventure Team of Hongkong to include the Team Leader and Director Ryan S Blair who placed 3rd Overall in the said event. Director Ryan Blair was so impressed about the performance of JR Onifa and after a brief interview with JR Onifa about his background, he immediately thought of getting JR Onifa as his new recruit to the Team. Five days after the event in Thailand, Director Ryan Blair posted on the Team’s Facebook Page that JR Onifa had signed in as a full-time member of the The North Face Adventure Team based in Hongkong. I can just imagine how Director Ryan Blair felt when he found out the living situation of JR Onifa in the Philippines knowing for a fact that Director Blair had never brought a new recruit or member to his team for the past three years. Since then, JR Onifa had been a popular trail runner in Hongkong. In March 2018, he was able to get his Working Visa in Hongkong and since then he had been training in Hongkong as well as winning those popular trail races in the area. Simply browse on the Facebook Page of the The North Face Adventure Team (Hongkong) to find out those races where JR Onifa landed on Podium Finishes as well as those incidents that he would be lost along the trail despite being ahead from all the rest on the first half of the course! (This is so familiar to most of those local elite trail runners whom I know!) 

Director Ryan S Blair With JR Onifa

If Director Ryan S Blair would read this post, let me express my thanks to you for signing up JR Onifa to your ward of World Standard Elite Trail Runners. How I wish there are more people like you in my own country.

As of this writing, JR Onifa’s team mate Wong Ho Chung of Hongkong finished the UTMB 170K Trail Race in sixth place, highest ranking for an Asian Runner in the said event, with a time of 22:47:47 hours. This is his second time to finish UTMB where he was ranked as 38th Finisher with a time of 27:47:10 hours in the 2016 edition. He is awarded as the Hongkong’s 2019 Trail Runner of the Year.

Congratulations, Jay “Sting” Ray Onifa! You have put our National Colors again in the World of Ultra Trail Running Events. Keep up the good work and be good to your Team Members and Boss! At the young age of 29 years old, your career as a Professional Trail Runner is still starting. Be humble! I have the feeling that you will be standing the starting line at the 2020 UTMB/CCC 101K Trail Race again where you would proudly wave the Philippine Flag crossing the Finish Line as a Podium Finisher. I hope to see you soon in Hongkong!

(Note: Pictures Taken From The North Face Adventure Team Facebook Page)





Official Result: 1st Manila To Pagudpud 580K Ultramarathon Race

28 07 2019

1st Manila To Pagudpud 580K Ultramarathon Race

June 3-9, 2019

Starting Place & Assembly Time: Km 0, Luneta Park, Metro Manila/9:00 PM June 3, 2019

Assembly Time: 9:00 PM June 3, 2019

Start Time: 10:00 PM June 3, 2019

Finish Line/Area: Pansian Beach, Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte

Finish Time: 1:00 PM June 9, 2019

Intermediate Cut-Off Time: 100 Kms Per 24 hours

Event’s Cut-Off Time: 135 hours (5 days & 15 hours)

Number Of Starters: 14 Runners

Number Of Finishers: 6 Runners

Percentage Of Finish: 42.85%

Runners At The Starting Area In Luneta Park

RANK          NAME              TIME (Hrs)

  1. Robert Watson (Overall Champion & Course Record) — 129:15:57
  2. Thomas Combisen (1st Runner-Up, Overall) — 132:41:40
  3. Bong Dizon (2nd Runner-Up, Overall) — 133:12:21
  4. Laico Tolentino — 133:35:42
  5. Edgar Miras — 134:30:39
  6. Carlito Don Rodas — 134:50:32

Overall Champion & Course Record Holder Robert Watson

Finishers Of The Race (From L to R): Thomas Combisen; Bong Dizon; Laico Tolentino; Edgar Miras; & Carl Don Rodas

Congratulations To All The Finishers!





Official Result: 4th Tagaytay To Naic 100K Ultramarathon Race

26 07 2019

4th Tagaytay To Naic 100K Ultra Marathon Race (via Kaybiang Tunnel)

Starting & Assembly Area: Picnic Grove, Tagaytay City (In Front of the Development Academy of the Philippines)

Assembly Time: 9:00 PM July 13, 2019 (Saturday)

Start/Gun Start: 10:00 PM July 13, 2019 (Saturday)

Finish Area: Naic Municipal Plaza, Barangay Poblacion, Naic, Cavite

Finish Time: 6:00 PM July 14, 2019 (Sunday)

Cut-Off Time (Event): 20 Hours

Starters: 12 Runners

Finishers: 10 Finishers

Percentage Of Finish: 83.33%

RANK         NAME                TIME (Hrs)

  1. Thomas Combisen (Overall Champion) — 11:58:49
  2. Sherwin Bargos (1st Runner-Up, Overall) —12:19:55
  3. Aldrin Pallera (2nd Runner-Up, Overall) — 12:34:10
  4. Bryan Anuran — 18:30:00
  5. Kelvin Dela Torre — 18:43:03
  6. Emery Torre — 19:19:10
  7. Vhon Boston — 19:20:17
  8. KR Inosanto — 19:21:50
  9. Tom Barrientos — 19:28:50
  10. Cris Tatel — 19:30:35

Podium Finishers (L to R: Sherwin Bargos, Thomas Combisen, Aldrin Pallera)

Congratulations To All The Finishers!





Official Results: 2nd 12-Hour & 3rd 6-Hour Endurance Races

3 06 2019

2nd PAU 12-Hour & 3rd PAU 6-Hour Endurance Races

@ Philippine Army Grandstand & Jogging Lane

5:00 AM May 26, 2019

2nd PAU 12-Hour Endurance Race:

RANK      NAME          KILOMETERS

  1. Ian Christian Torres (Champion)—72
  2. Jubert Castor (1st Runner-Up)—71
  3. Vicente Zapanta Jr (2nd Runner-Up)—65
  4. Tina Aldaya (Female Champion)—59
  5. Aureo Pascua—50
  6. Kevin Lucero—45
  7. Gibo Malvar—40
  8. Laico Tolentino—37

Podium Finishers: 12-Hour Endurance Run

3rd PAU 6-Hour Endurance Race:

RANK    NAME          KILOMETERS

  1. Thomas Combisen (Champion)—56
  2. Jon Borbon (1st Runner-Up)—43
  3. Gary Mosqueda (2nd Runner-Up)—39
  4. Ale Paez—37
  5. Janice Reyes (Female Champion)—37
  6. Jerard Asperin—36
  7. Ruby Ann Angway (1st Runner-Up, Female)—34

Event Participants With The RD

Congratulations To All The Finishers!








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