Advertisements

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)

Advertisements




Summary Of Workout In Hongkong (August 2019)

23 08 2019

Summary Of Workout In Hongkong (August 2019)

Despite the protests and demonstrations in Hongkong during my trip last week, we enjoyed our two-day “back to back” runs in Lantau Island in Hongkong. We were not affected by the situation thereat as the Transportation Facilities (MRT/Subway and the Ferry Ride) were providing normal operations to the Public. Although the fare to and from the island is quite expensive which is about One Hundred Hongkong Dollars for each of us to include our food and water before and after our workout, the experience is priceless as we did not have to pay any Permits, Guide Fees, or any related fees in using the Lantau Trail. As compared to the trails in the Philippines, there are so many expenses or fees one has to incur in going to popular trail destinations near or outside Metro Manila.

Thomas was able to completely had an insight and orientation of the Lantau Trail knowing that he will be on this trail on the early evening of the second day of the event. Due to this recon run, he told me that he is confident to run the whole trail during nighttime. On the first day, he estimates that he was able to run and hike a distance of almost 25 kilometers. On the second day, he was able to run almost 30 kilometers. Those missing sections which he was not able to reach are the sections of Lantau Peak, Ngong Ping, and those flat areas in Tai Po.

As for me, on the first day, I was able to cover 11 kilometers with an elevation gain of almost 3,000 feet and on the second day, about 15 kilometers with an elevation gain of almost 1,800 feet. I am satisfied with my workout despite the heat and humidity; and the lack of training. Actually, I did more hiking in the ascents and descents, and tried to jog on the flat sections of the trail.

For two days, I have been using hiking attire except for the trail shoes. My shirt and shorts are from Columbia which are popular to hikers and mountaineers. My “Tilley” Hats that I used were bought at Decathlon  Hongkong and I find them to be comfortable and could easily dry when wet with my sweat or when I douse my head with cool water from the water spring/streams along the trail. My trail shoes is the Salomon Speedcross 5 which I found out to have a wider forefoot but I have problem with its insoles as they have the tendency to fold on my descents. It was suggested by Thomas that I have to glue the insoles inside the shoes to make them permanently immovable. I was using the Gipron Trekking Poles and they gave me the necessary aid and balance support in the ascents and descents. My hydration vest is the 8-liter Salomon SLAB Sense Pack where I stashed my money/Octopus Card, cellphone, space blanket, hydration bottles, dry clothes, light jacket, and power bars. It was my first time to use my Goodr Sunglasses (Green Lens) which I bought in A Runners Circle (ARC) Store in Los Angeles, California, USA two years ago. The socks that I used were newly-bought from the Decathlon Store in Mongkok, Hongkong.

A91011DD-7984-4ED2-BFA6-3400F7B824BF

This recon run will be helpful to me as I am registered for the 2020 Translantau 50K Trail Ultra which is scheduled on March 1, 2020. Hopefully, by that time, I will be well-prepared as in my past finishes in the Translantau 100K. 

If I have a chance to return to Hongkong before the end of this year, I would gladly go back again to Lantau Trail and MacLehose Trail if time permits.

72C6CBB9-1C74-4B16-96C3-7A491662886C





Trip To Hongkong (August 2019): Part 2

22 08 2019

Trip To Hongkong (August 2019): Part 2

While Thomas and I were on our way back to Central after our first recon day in Lantau, I asked him if he wants to return on the following day to trace the reverse route of the trail from Lantau Trail Post 140, going to Lantau Trail Pos 000. Thomas answered affirmatively to my question. Immediately, I have to google the route of the Lantau Trail and I was able to locate the end of the trail. (Note: I could no longer remember the route when I ran the Translantau 100 in the past editions)

We adjusted our schedule the following day and we had to wake up earlier than the previous day in order to take advantage with a cooler temperature in the early morning. We left our hostel at 6:00 AM, took our Congee breakfast, and then proceeded to the MRT for our Ferry Trip at Central. The ferry trip that we took was the more expensive one with Air-Con and faster speed. In a 30-minute ride, we arrived at Mui Wo at 8:30 AM and immediately proceeded at the back of the business buildings near the Pier until we reached the entry/exit of the Lantau Trail where the Post Marker 139 is located.

Lantau Trail Post 139 Located At The End Of Lantau Trail

The climb was easier than the first kilometers we had the previous day. The trail route was covered with vegetation and with the absence of rock stairs. Thomas went ahead of me with the same agreement/arrangement we had the previous day. I told him to maximize the number of mileage he can cover for the day and he can easily meet me in some of the camping areas or barbecue grill parks along the route.

After 3 kilometers, I saw a resting fixture and I was enticed to take some pictures around the place and some “selfies”. I took comfort of my easy pace while hiking as the air was cooler and the trail ground was damp with some mud. I could see the trail shoe marks/footprints of Thomas along the trail. My next stop was the next 3 kilometers but there is only one water stream that I passed along the way.

Entry To The Trail (Reverse Route)

This last portion of the Lantau Trail was flatter as compared to the first section of the trail. Although the next trail camp from the start of the reverse route is longer in distance than the original route ( from the trailhead), most of the sections of the trail are covered with vegetation and trees and due to its flatter elevation profile, I could jog or run on these sections. There is also a portion where the road is paved due to the fact that the route runs alongside a concrete drainage canal where the water comes from a dam with gates that control the flow of water to the drainage canal. There are also Barbecue Grill Camps where there are concrete tables and benches, and comfort rooms. The cemented flat road beside the drainage canal has a distance of at least 9 kilometers.

I would rest, hydrate and take in some of my power bars and SkyFlakes biscuits in these Barbecue Camps. When I was out of water, I just refilled my bottles from the flowing water of streams coming from the side of the mountain.

I think I was able to hike and jog for a distance of 12 kilometers. It is worthy to note that the first village that I reached along this route was at Pui O. This village is along the coast line where I could see modern houses and apartments where I could see white people living in them and most of the private cars parked are made in Europe, At one time, I was able to meet a group of young students being led by their teacher with camping gears and food. I would also see men who are with their swimming trunks and goggles coming out of the seashore. I have the conclusion that this place is a swimming area and a camping area.

“Selfie” While Resting

About 50 meters before reaching the National Road/Tun Chung Road, I saw a convenience store with a bench and a wide umbrella and I decided to stop and bought some water and bottles of Pocari Sweat. Because of the heat, I was able to drink half gallon of water and two bottles of Pocari Sweat. I think I took about 15-20 minutes sitting in front of this store.

As I reached the National Road, a yellow painted markings in wood points me to turn left along the National Road. After about 70 meters, I could see already another yellow directional sign at the other side of the road. I followed the sign and I was back again to the trail with softer footing because I transitioned again to wet ground. After a few Lantau Trail Posts, I reached a Cemented Biking Path which is near Barbecue Grill Camps. i tried to jog and power hike on this cemented portion of the trail which is beside a concrete drainage canal.

After drinking and eating my food, I decided to rest in one of the benches and I really don’t know how many minutes I have dozed off when finally Thomas arrived at the Barbecue Camp. He told me that the next Bus Station is located a few meters ahead and to our surprise, it was the same Bus Stop that we got our Bus ride back to Moi Wo the day before.

On Top Of Us Is The Bus Stop

After few minutes of waiting at the Bus Stop, we finally had our ride and we decided to change our clothes at the Public Comfort Room and then proceed to the Pier to catch our Ferry ride back to Central. We found out later that we were not able to catch our trip and we decided to have our light snacks and Coke drinks at the MacDonald’s while waiting for our scheduled Ferry ride.

We were back in our hostel at 4:00 PM, earlier than we had yesterday, and we did not know that there was a protest which was about to start at 5:00 PM a few kilometers from our place. We took our shower and changed immediately to our casual wear as we have a scheduled meeting with a Pinoy resident in Hongkong who is also an endurance athlete and who promised me to bring me to where I could buy the cheapest Seiko Watches in Hongkong.

My meeting with this Pinoy resident in Hongkong deserves another story in this blog.





Trip To Hongkong (2nd Trip For 2019)

21 08 2019

Trip To Hongkong (2nd Trip For 2019) August 12-15, 2019

This is my second trip to Hongkong for this year (2019). I was in Hongkong during this year’s Chinese New Year to support the participation of Thomas Combisen in the Hongkong 4 Trails Ultra Challenge on the second week of February. Unfortunately, Thomas was not able to make the cut-off time for him to reach the last leg of the Lantau Trail during the race. I promised to Thomas to bring him back to Hongkong purposely to run the Lantau Trail which has a distance of 70 kilometers.

Weeks prior to our trip this month, news had been around about the Protests and Demonstrations that had been occuring in the different parts of Hongkong. Sine we have purchased and made our reservations for our accommodation weeks ahead, we decided to take the risk and continue with our scheduled plan for this trip.

It was supposed to be a trip for four trail runners, including myself, but two of our companions were not able to make it due to personal circumstances. The overall plan for the trip was to recon the Lantau Trail starting from Original Trailhead and from the End of the Trail going on a reverse route. We planned to do this in one day and the rest of the days will be devoted to food trip, shopping, and side trip to Macau.

We left Manila at 5:50 AM of Monday, August 12 and arrived in Hongkong at 8:00 AM. After loading some money into our Octopus Cards, we took the regular bus to Mongkok, where our regular hostel is located. We had been a regular client/customer in the said hostel since I have started joining trail running events in Hongkong. Although I have stayed in more expensive hotels in Tsim Tsai Tsui, Kennedy Town, and Jordan, I always prefer to stay in Mongkok for the authentic Chinese cuisine which are very cheap and lots of shopping in the nearby streets and Nathan Road.

Another interesting reason for this trip to Hongkong is for my new hobby of Seiko Watch Limited Edition Collection! Before this trip, I have been asking some of my FB friends who are residing in Hongkong as to where to buy these Seiko Watches and they gave me some tips. Earlier this year, I was fond of the Onitsuka Tiger sneakers and I had to look and buy a particular model in Causeway Bay. I am done already with the OT sneakers and now I am crazy with Seiko Limited Edition Watches!

Starting At The Trailhead LT Post 001

On Tuesday morning, Thomas and I took the MRT from Mongkok to Central and then walked to the Ferry Terminal Port #6 for our trip to Lantau. After one hour and half, we were at Mui Wo and walked along the Tun Chung Road going to the Trailhead of the Lantau Trail and it was already 9:30 AM. The distance from the Mui Wo Bus Terminal to the Trailhead is about 2 kilometers which is an uphill road. As we reached the trailhead, we were already sweating because of the hot/warm weather in the area. Thomas and I made an agreement for him to proceed and run the trail as fast as he can while I would hike and jog to the next trail camp and try to follow him. If in case he would determine if his target mileage for the day is done, he can just backtrack along the trail and try to find me. From there we could take the bus in going either to Tun Chung or back to Moi Wo Bus Terminal.

So, that was what we had done. From the trailhead, it was an uphill climb to Sunset Peak and then descend to the next trail camp/rest area and then cross the National Road in going to Lantau Peak. It was a very hard hike for me because of the heat and lack of training. I had to rest for three times before reaching the Sunset Peak and stopped every flowing stream to douse some cold water to my head and body. There is also a water reservoir where there was a faucet on its side that gave me lots of water to fill up my bottles and rehydrate myself. A white guy in trail shorts and shirt passed me on the first 2 kilometers of my ascent; I met two white guys and a lady going down from Sunset Peak; three white guys with big backpacks on my descent from Sunset Peak which I found later that they are from California, USA for some Para-Sailing activity in the area; and two local young guys who were taking selfies on my way down near the trail camp/rest area.

Descending From Sunset Peak

I attempted to start hiking the first kilometers towards Lantau Peak but I could no longer endure the heat of the sun and I was already exhausted due to lack of training. I went back to the waiting shed at the trail camp and wait for Thomas to arrive.

I really don’t know how many minutes I was able to doze off when Thomas arrived. Thomas was also complaining of the heat and humidity but he was happy to recon the place. He was longing for an ice cold Coke that we decided to walk towards the next village along the National Road. But to our surprise, the village was still too far that we decided to stop our hike in a Bus Stop and waited for our Bus Ride to Mui Wo.

In a few minutes, we took our Bus ride and immediately changed to dry clothes at the last row of seats inside the said bus. We went directly to the McDonalds at Mui Wo  for our first meal of the day with a Large Ice Cold Coke and Double Cheeseburger! 

After our McDo meal, we waited for our ferry ride back to Central. This time, the Ferry was an Air- Conditioned with higher fare BUT with NO Wi-Fi as compared with the slower one, cheap with Wi-Fi which we rode on our way to Lantau.

Thomas and I @ The First Resting Camp

It was good to be back to Lantau Island to run and hike after finishing the Translantau 100K for two times in the past. Well, I was then a younger and a stronger trail runner then!





2018 TNF Lavaredo 120K Experience (Part 6)

3 07 2018

2018 TNF Lavaredo 120K Experience (Part 6)

Post Evaluation: TNF 120K Ultra Trail Race

What Went Right?

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Training: My “mountain and hill repeats” were very effective for the uphills and downhill runs for short duration/distance along the course.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

Salomon S-Lab Sense Ultra 5 Liters

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.

Last Message Of My CTS Coach

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.

At The Peak Of Lavaredo

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.

The Intense Look @ The Dolomites

To be continued…





2018 TNF Lavaredo 120K Experience (Part 4)

30 06 2018

2018 TNF Lavaredo 120K Experience (Part 4)

@ Federavecchia (Km 33.5)/First Cut-Off Time Checkpoint

Reaching this First Cut-Off Time Checkpoint at Federavecchia within 6:30 hours was my primary concern and target just to redeem myself from my frustration on my previous performance at the MIUT in Madeira, Portugal on the last week of April this year. I was happy and excited that I was able to build-up a buffer time of 32 minutes. With my age of 66 years old, I could be the happiest person among the runners that reached the said Aid Station.

1st Cut-Off Time Checkpoint @ Km 33.5 in 6.5 Hours/Average Speed: 6.26 KPH

I immediately brought out my almost empty Salomon Bottle, drank the remaining liquid and had it filled up with water, dropped one tablet of NUUN, and placed it back on the vest. Brought out an empty Ziplock bag from my vest and immediately filled it with apple bite cuts and dried apricot and immediately left the Aid Station. It took me less than 2 minutes to do all these things. But as soon as I left the Aid Station, I was facing a straight steep uphill climb.

I started to eat what I took from the Aid Station while I was hiking up the uphill climb which is an asphalted road that can accommodate three runners abreast with each other. The uphill climb consisted of more switchbacks and it lasted for about 2.5 kilometers. It took me two times to eat the fruit bites from the ziplock and they provided me the much needed energy to reach the peak of the third climb of the course and was able to reach Plan Maccetto which is almost Km 39 from the Start. From this point, I started to run on a single track trail which was a soft ground with with lots of small grass around. Even if this place is still considered in a higher elevation, my “running nose” and numbing hands had stopped and the temperature was becoming warmer to my body. After about 3 kilometers of running downhill, I finally reached the edge of a body of water which is called the Lake Misurina!

Tip: You can master the art of filling the Aid Station’s food with an empty Ziplock Bag. It will save you some time, instead of standing while eating your food at the Aid Station. Keep moving while you are eating and hydrating.

Lake Misurina

Lake Misurina is a beautiful lake with very clear water. I was tempted to take a “selfie” and picture of the lake & the surrounding mountains but I promised myself not to bring out my cellphone during the course of my run. The three of us Pinoy runners had talked about not having pictures along the course since it will delay our run/hike from Aid Station/Checkpoint to the next one. Knowing that there are Professional Photographers along the course in different strategic locations, there was no need for “selfies” or picture-taking on the scenery. It was another 1.2 to 2 kilometers run on a wide dirt road surrounding the Lake before I reached a Lady Marshal who was holding a Time Scanner. She tagged me and I asked her how far was the next Cut-Off Time Checkpoint and she replied “10 kilometers”. But looking on the map/elevation profile on my Race Bib, it indicates a distance of only 7 kilometers! I wonder which is one telling the truth, the Lady Marshal or the Map printed on the Race Bib?

@Lake Misurina/Average Speed: 3.81 KPH

After I exited from the periphery of Lake Misurina, I was now following an asphalted road that was going up to the mountain but the runners were directed to run along the dirt path/trail beside the paved road as shown and depicted by the trail markings. It was doing an alternate hike on the paved road and then going back to the dirt track beside the road and back again to the paved road at this point using my trekking poles. I was able to pass by an Asian guy and I started to have a conversation with him. He told me that he is from Hongkong and he was busy looking at his cellphone. Thinking that he was checking on our route through his cellphone, I asked him about the actual distance (while hiking uphill) to the next Aid Station and he answered “I don’t know!” That’s it! That stopped my conversation with him and I just tread on with my fast hiking.

Tip: The main reason why a cellphone is an important mandatory gear is that for communication purposes to the Race Organizer in cases of emergency and not for photography!

Rifuego Di Auronzo

From the paved road, I veered right from the highway and followed a single-track trail that seemed to be going flat and downhill but it was a short one. Looking up ahead of me, I could see from the distance, the iconic Rifuego Di Auronzo where the famous 3-rock mountain formation is located! The Tri Cime mountain formation is the LOGO of the TNF Lavaredo! By looking at the next Aid Station at the Tri Cime, I had a mixed feeling of delight and sadness as I need a lot of strength to reach the highest point of the course. The single track trail was a relentless uphill climb which is about 2-3 kilometers of steep winding uphill assault. As I was about to crest the last “false” peak, I stopped and ate two packs of Skyflakes Condensada and followed it with a Clif Power Gel. I was able to regain my strength after that and I was able to reach the Aid Station and Cut-Off Time Checkpoint at Rifugio Di Auronzo in 10:23 hours! I was able to accumulate a buffer time of almost one hour at this point.

It was an awesome sight to see the Tri Cime in Lavaredo, Dolomites and I became in love with the place! But before I could absorb what I was seeing and feeling at that moment in a place so beautiful to be at, I need to refill my bottles and ate some pasta soup with powdered cheese at the Aid Station. I was seated beside an Indonesian runner and we had a short conversation. The Indonesian happened to be in the same hotel where I was staying and he arrived later than me in Cortina. He is 54 years old and he looks like he is from their uniformed services. I think I was able to spend at least 15-20 minutes in this Aid Station. Finally, The Indonesian and I left the Aid Station at the same time. However, he was stronger and faster than me in hiking with his trekking poles.

Tip: Never, never, never stay at the Aid Station for more than 5 minutes if you need to eat and rest thereat.Never have the temptation to sit!

It was a flat downhill wide dirt road from the Aid Station which is about one and half kilometer and we had at least 3 kilometers more of uphill climb to reach the peak of the Lavaredo Mountain which is the highest point of the course. I could still keep in step with the Indonesian guy on the first 1.5 kilometers but when we turned left for the steep uphill climb, he made a considerable distance from me but I could still see him from afar. I think I was able to reach the highest point in almost one hour from the Aid Station. I think it was at this point where I was able to meet the Official Photographers of the Event. It was also at this point that at least 3 local runners, coming from behind me, tapped my shoulders and cheered me & congratulated me for reaching the said place!

Peak of Lavaredo Mountain

Finally, I reached the peak of the Lavaredo Mountain where I could see the North side face of the Tri Cime! As I hiked the first few meters going downhill, I was excited and happy to have reached at this point. Since my Garmin GPS Watch had been connected with my USB Charger, I could not see what was my actual distance at this point but on the Map/Elevation Profile as reference, it could be at Km 51.

@Rifugio Di Auronzo/Average Speed: 3.13 KPH

After hiking downhill for about 250 meters, I started to feel dizzy. The feeling was like I was drunk with Irish Whiskey and became sleepy! It was almost 10:00 AM (actual day time) and the weather was mild (but I was still wearing my Patagonia Windbreaker with the hood on my head). I panicked and I had to rest and lean on right side of the trail/dirt road. The left edge of the road is deep ravine. While resting and taking in some deep breath, I was tempted to bring out my cellphone and took the picture of the Tri Cime. After taking the picture and drinking some sip of my electrolytes, I resumed my hiking! However, after another 100 meters, I felt some dizziness again! Instead of stopping, I reduced my pace and went nearer to the right side of the trail just to anticipate that if I fell to the ground or pass out due to dizziness, I will not fall to the ravine. I became nervous as I hiked with the thought that I might pass out at this place and be air-lifted with a helicopter or just pass out to die while I am on this place of the earth. All of these things were in my mind, trying to figure out what could be the best to do in this kind of situation. I guess, a simple prayer did the trick and more deep breathing to remove the feeling of dizziness while I was hiking slowly towards the first switchback of the downhill course!

Tri Cime Of The Dolomites

Tip: If you think something is wrong with your body, STOP, take a rest, relax, take a deep breath, and enjoy the scenery. Re-assess yourself, PRAY and resume slowly.

The first switchback along this downhill course from the Tri Cime/Peak of Lavaredo is being guarded by Park Ranger or Polize (?) who were in Red Uniform. From this switchback, it was a steep, rocky and very technical single-track trail which is about 2-3 kilometers of more switchbacks. As I hiked and jogged this portion, I started to feel some pain on my left knee and my quads were already feeling to had been trashed. As I crossed a dry river bed on the bottom part of this trail, I could hardly lift my legs and my left knee pain became more painful. I tried to hike on the flatter section with my trekking poles to relieve the pain on my knees and rest my trashed quads.

My ONLY “Selfie” During The Event

I could feel already the warm air on the lower elevation of the course and I started to have some sweat/perspiration and tried to lessen my thoughts about my left knee pain. I did not remove my Patagonia Windbreaker and instead, just removed the hood from my head and I could still feel the cold breeze passing on my head.

Landro To Cimabanche

Finally, I was on the last 3 kilometers before the Aid Station/Cut-Off Time Checkpoint at Cimabanche (Km 66.9) and I started to do whatever “speed drills” and “strides” I did in my training in order to speed up my pace. The wide dirt road seemed to be flat but in reality, it is a gradual uphill climb up to the Checkpoint. I tried to do all my best to reach the Aid Station within the cut-off time in 12:30 hours but I was thinking already that my race was done once I reach at this point. My aching left knee could no longer withstand the next 53 kilometers of more challenging climbs and steep descents, thus, I could no longer accumulate some buffer time in every Checkpoint. I was envious of those local Italians who were cycling on this road with their nice jerseys and expensive Mountain Bikes, as they would pass or meet me along this road. I just entertained myself on looking on these young men and ladies biking on the said road.

The “sweepers” were able to reach and catch me on the last 50 meters before the Aid Station. One of the sweepers started a conversation with me after he saw on my Race Bib that I came from the Philippines. He told me that his wife is a Filipino and she is from Digos City, Davao Del Sur and they have some children (I forgot how many) and he showed me the pictures of his wife and children in his cellphone while we were jogging. He even asked with a “selfie” with me! Wow! These Italians are like Filipinos and they like/love Filipinos!

Cimabanche: The End Of The Line/Average Speed: 4.07 KPH

I missed the cut-off time by almost 13 minutes!

Tip: Listen to your body…always! Determine your limits and gracefully surrender in defeat. There will always be next time to redeem yourself. You can not fight against nature if you are already weak and injured. You will never win!

While we were in the bus going back to the Ice Olympic Stadium in Cortina, I counted the number of runners who DNFd in the Aid Station and I was able to count to 12 and I was the oldest, I think. I just smiled and one the ladies (from Croatia or Poland?) in the bus (who smiled and winked at me in one of the previous Aid Stations, I guess, in Rifugio Di Auronzo) was also there and she smiled at me, too before I was able to sleep during the ride!

To be continued…





2018 TNF Lavaredo 120K Experience (Part 3)

30 06 2018

2018 TNF Lavaredo 120K Experience (Part 3)

Past Pinoy Finishers Of TNF Lavaredo 120K

  1. Simon Sandoval: He is based in the Philippines. Finished the race in 2014 with a time of 23:33:35 hours, the first Pinoy to finish this race with the best time so far.
  2. Mark Fernandez: Finished the race in 2016 with a time of 29:44:46 hours. He is a Registered Nurse based in Europe, presently in Germany.
  3. Jerome Bautista: Finished the race in 2017 with a time of 26:13:37 hours. Jerome is based in Metro Manila, Philippines.
  4. Ramoncito “Mon” Beleno: Finished the race in 2017 with a time of 27:10:58 hours. Mon is based in Hongkong.

All of these four past finishers don’t have a blog or detailed story about their finish on the said event, except for the Facebook “status” posted by Jerome and Mon after they finished the event last year. However, I was able to contact them through Personal Messenger and asked them about their Travel Arrangements and Accommodation but I did not ask about the details of the route and things to anticipate during the race. However, I am not sure if they will share to me the details of the course/event even if I asked them. Oh, well, I think they were not generous enough to share their stories of pain, hardships, problems, concerns, and tips for victory (?) to overcome this very challenging ultra trail running event. This is the reason why I am doing this blog with a lot of details and be able to share my experience with the other runners, whether I was in pain/frustration and in happy mood!

TNF Lavaredo 120K Elevation Profile

Race Proper

Arwin, Rodel, and I started at the lower one-third of the runners and we initially walked for a few seconds and started to jog along the paved road of Cortina as we cleared the Start/Finish arc of the event. All of the runners were heading to the north direction, passed by the commercial establishments with people and audience cheering on us. We ran along the main highway until we veered off to the left on a short descent and started to climb up to the trailhead. The jog became an easy run for me but I could no longer see the backs of Arwin and Rodel as they were faster than me.

Before The Gun Start

My trekking poles were stashed with my Salomon Pulse Belt and I was running on an easy pace along the seemingly flat highway but I could feel that it was gradually going uphill because I can feel the tightness of my breath and I slowed down but I was happy that I can keep up with my planned speed of 6 kilometers per hour. I brought out my trekking poles as we approached the trailhead. The runners in front of me suddenly stopped and found out that the entry to the trailhead was packed with runners that I had to wait for my turn to enter it in about 2 minutes as only two runners abreast could fit into the entry of the trail. However, as we climbed along the trail, the width widened and each of the runners had some space to hike and jog the uphill. At this point, I had my own space and relentlessly used my trekking poles to reach the higher elevation of the trail. The trail was wide and not technical in nature and some are asphalted at the start but later became as soft soil trail.

Tip: For the faster runners, they can sprint the first 2.5 kilometers of paved road up to the trailhead to avoid the “bottleneck or traffic” of runners preventing them for some wasted time of waiting. For the back of the runner, if you ran the 2.5 kilometers from the start, the “bottleneck or traffic” is a good way to force one to rest and stabilize ones heart rate and breathing.

The following photo grab of my start on the “liveultra trail” shows that I was able to clear the starting timing mat after 4 minutes, reckoned from 11:00 PM and with 3 minutes of delay from the start, I was able to cross the start timing mat in one minute from the place I was positioned.

@ The Start Of The Race

There are 1,700 runners but only 1,650+ actually started the race.

The uphill climb from the trailhead was a regular switchback that continuous to climb some sort of a peak but it was hard to determine the overall surrounding since it was still dark. What I knew was that we were in a forest. I was using my Lupine Headlamp and had it adjusted at its lowest lumen-adjustment which is about 70-80 lumens and was just enough to illuminate 2-3 meters ahead of me. I intended to use this headlight for entire the course after I have tested that its maximum light adjustment (which is 750 lumens) can last for about 12 hours and its low light adjustment can last for 60 hours. Arwin, Rodel, and I discussed that nighttime in the Cortina mountains would come at 9:30 PM (recommended time to put on the headlight) and the early light in the morning at 4:30 AM (recommended time to put off the headlight). So, in summary, we need 5.5 hours for the 1st night and then another full 7 hours for the 2nd night, totaling to 12.5 hours of burning time for our headlight for the entire course. However, in order to anticipate some problems with my Lupine lighting system, I brought with me my Silva Headlamp (70 lumens) with 6 AAA Batteries (3 inside the lamp and 3 as reserve) in my pack which is very light.

Tip: Find time to test the burning time of your Headlight, whether on its “low and high” mode. From the burning time, you can now adjust to the period from of the event’s course “early evening and early morning” times in order to compute, at least, the number of burning time needed to finish the course.

As we reached the first peak (Km 7), I was surprised to see some people cheering us and some flashing of camera. Every time I saw people cheering us along the trail, I would always say “Thank you” and they would reply, “Bravo” or “Ciao”. Wow! They are still awake at 12 Midnight just to cheer us going up to the mountains! I really like the Italians!

As compared to MIUT, I was happy that I could see more headlights behind me, which means that there are more runners behind me, rather than I was one of the few ones at the tail end of the runners. I did not purposely look behind my back to see the runners behind me but in a switchback, as I turn in at the curve uphill, I could glance from my peripheral vision the lights below me! And there are lots of moving lights below me!

First 7K Of The Course (This Photo will be bought soon!)

At the start of the first downhill of the course, I remembered what happened to me at MIUT that I have to wait and stop for the slower runners in front of me to move to resume my running which cost me the extra 5-minute time to be cut-off very early at the first checkpoint @ Km 14. At this time, I was a “bad-ass” to the other runners that I had to pass or overtake them without a word, instead, switching the “maximum brightness” of my Lupine Headlamp to warn the runner in front of me that somebody is very close behind them. I really did not know how many runners I overtook at this point. There was also a group of 7-8 runners in front of me that I overtook where the lady heading this group was shouting after I passed them. What the heck? I really didn’t care what the Italian lady was saying. I was focused not to be cut-off at the first Cut-Off Checkpoint at Km 33.5!

At the bottom of the first descent, my Race Bib was tagged by a Marshal holding a timing scanner and he pointed the direction going to the trail. I think the place is called Plan De Ra Spines which is Km 12. I knew that from the trail the Marshal pointed to me was the start of another ascent. After about 3 kilometers of ascent on switchbacks, it leveled off and I was able to run and I knew I was getting nearer to the First Aid Station, Ospitale!

@Ospitale, First Aid Station @ Km 17.5/Average Speed: 5.94 KPH

From the Hotel, my two Salomon Flask Bottles (500ml each) were filled with my NUUN mix but as I was walking to the Start Line, I was already sipping and hydrating my body from one of the flask bottles. Before the start, the other bottle was already one-half filled with my liquid mix. I thought of myself that I would be lighter during the early part of the course with less water/liquid in my pack. I was surprised that I have few more drops of liquid from the bottle where I’ve been drinking from the start.

The cold weather in the night and early morning prevented me from perspiring profusely. Since I am a “heavy sweater”, to the point that I could lost 1.5 pound of water from my body in my one hour trail run workouts in my Playground (even if I have ingested one liter of water/mix during the run), I was surprised that I have only ingested almost 1/4 of liter before reaching the first Aid Station in Ospitale (Km 17.5) and that is a duration of 2.5 hours running time from the start!

Tip: If you want to be light and fast on the first 15 kilometers, you can carry only one bottle (500 ml) filled with water or liquid mix.

Few meters before Ospitale, I finally saw the back of Rodel and I called his attention and we greeted each other. Since I don’t have the intention of staying long in the Aid Station as it was filled with a lot of runners. I just refilled my empty Salomon Flask Bottle with water and put one tablet of NUUN and I was back on the trail. The timing mat for the Aid Station was some few meters after the table of food and water. I continued with my hike as I knew I was headed for the 2nd peak of the course. I was not sure if Rodel went ahead of me or he was left behind at the Aid Station. What I knew was that, I did not spend one minute in that Aid Station.

I could no longer remember or recall the nature of the trail from this point as I was focused to beat the cut-off time at Federavecchia, the 1st Cut-Off Time Checkpoint at Km 33.5. I must be able to clear the 1st Cut-Off Time Checkpoint in 6.5 hours. But what I recalled was that I started to have some “running nose” which I could not control by sniffing back to my nose! So, I just let them flow from my nose while purposely hiking relentlessly to the peak of the mountain. From time to time, I would use the BUFF that I wrapped around my right wrist to wipe my nose. It started to get cold that my ears were becoming numb and I put on the hood of my Patagonia Windbreaker over my head and pulled down my Compressport Headband lower to cover my ears, this gave some warmth to my face and head. But the worst feeling that I remembered was my hands getting numbed due to the cold weather. As per weather forecast, we would feel freezing temperature of ZERO Celsius from 3-5 AM and I think that was what I was feeling at that time with the rest of the runners. I was wearing a thick cycling gloves with my trekking poles and I could feel my fingers to be bloating and numb due to the cold air and higher elevation. I have a full gloves in my pack and I did not want to waste time of pulling them out and thus, maintained using what I was wearing already with my hands.

Tip: Use your BUFF to cover your nose and mouth when you think the air you are breathing is too cold for you. You can also cover your mouth ONLY in order to let your “running nose” fluid to be absorbed by the cloth.

Tip: Your collection of BUFF or neck gaiters is very useful in mountain trail running, they are effective also in wiping your fluids from your “running nose” if they are “looped” on your wrist. Bring, at least, 3 pieces of Buff.

I thought of eating solid food to generate heat for my body and I was able to ingest one of my KIND Bars with Nuts and shredded coconut. I was able to ingest the whole bar while hiking but after a few seconds, I started to cough heavily! Shit! Some of the shredded coconut were stucked to my throat that were causing to the irritation. I have to drink one half of my bottle flask content just to flush down those coconut flakes in my throat. It relieved me but as I went higher to the peak of the mountain, I still have some coughing but I knew it was no longer due to what I have eaten but I was already experiencing the effect of higher altitude. Finally, I was able to reach the 2nd peak at Son Forca. It’s time to run again!

Tip: Every time you swallow your food, make sure they are chewed to pieces and follow it up with water. Eat your food while you are hiking.

@Passo Tre Croci (Km 28)/Average Speed: 5:03 KPH

I was surprised to see the runners ahead of me after clearing the peak that they were hiking/walking. What is happening to these runners? The road was wide, non-technical, and flat and they are walking? So, I started to run without using my trekking poles and it was an easy run that I was able to pass more runners! After a few kilometers, it was now another downhill switchbacks until we reached a narrow asphalted road on a flat area which looks like a farm with lots of big horses. I was behind a white guy who avoided the trail as the horses were on the trail and I just went pass through those horses as I tried to drive them away from the trail. The guy said that he will not risk doing what I’ve done since he might be kicked by one of the horses. I smiled and I started to talk to him. I found out that the guy is from Auburn, California, USA and I told him that he is supposed to be at the Western States 100 Endurance Run, either as a runner or a cheerer! He said that he has some running friends who are joining this year’s edition and I said I have also two of my friends who are Filipinos who are also joining the event. I asked him to run with me up to the timing mat of the 1st Cut-Off Time Checkpoint but he prefered to just hike.

I was happy I was able to cross the 1st Cut-Off Checkpoint with a buffer time of 32 minutes!

1st Cut-Off Time Checkpoint @ Km 33.5 in 6.5 Hours/Average Speed: 6.26 KPH

To be continued….








%d bloggers like this: