After six months of blogging on this site, I retired from the active military service and created a team of elite runners which was then called “Team Bald Runner (Elite)”. I had then the best running team in Local Races in the country consisting of active soldiers from the Philippine Army and Candidate Soldiers for Enlistment to the Philippine Army. The team was coached and supervised by three (3) local coaches who were active soldiers (also) and about to retire from the active military service. One was an officer with a Rank of Captain and the two other coaches were senior Non-Commissioned Officers or Enlisted Men. The Officer and one of the Enlisted Men were IAAF sanctioned Level 3/4 Coaches while the other Senior Enlisted Man was a former Local Marathon Champion of so many Corporate-supported Marathon Races and winner also in International Marathon Races (Southeast Asia) in the 70s and early 80s.
During those days, my team won almost all the weekly fun runs and local marathon races, to include the early editions of Ultra Trail Running Events sponsored by one of the Outdoor brands. Their prizes were their personal incentives and I never had any share from their earnings. It was my way of helping them and motivate them to improve in their way of living. Almost all of them came from poor families in the provinces and longing to enter the military service with the running talent that they possess. I am proud that I became the bridge and instrument for them to enter the military service as most of them now have rise up from the ranks of Private to Staff/ Technical Sergeants, and for the smart ones, they became members of the Officer Corps. I had also the chance to bring them to International Races in Asia in IAU-sanctioned and world corporate sponsored races. In all these international races, they brought pride to our National Pride and Flag without any support coming from the Government.
The whole Team were housed and supported by me for three years. And one of the Multi-National Corporate Brands in the country had supported the Team for 6 months with the objective of qualifying them to the National Pool of athletes for the Marathon distance. Despite such effort, the support to this Team was not sustained as to the cohesiveness of the team and in terms of financial resources. There had been personal differences among my Coaches plus the fact that most of my runners became regular soldiers of the Philippine Army and some were re-assigned to different units outside Metro Manila. When the Team was dissolved, these three Coaches went on their own lives. One continued to develop runners in the “grassroots” level in the province where he is now residing. One is already immigrant in one of the temperate countries in the West. And the other one is still active as a Coach in Metro Manila. I think one of the Local Qualifiers for the Boston Marathon is being handled by this Coach. You can ask around about this Local Coach if he is still available to be your Coach and be able to guide you to qualify for the Boston Marathon.
For some of the former members of the Elite Team Bald Runner, I have seen them as “Coaches” to some new runners whenever I do my daily running workouts at the Philippine Army Parade Grounds’ Jogging Lane in the early morning or in the late afternoon.
As I have monitored in the Social Media for the past 6-7 years, I have read and seen Coaches on running giving their services to new runners and I am not sure where they got their IAAF Certification or other related Running Coach Certification as Running Coaches. I am not questioning their credibility but, personally, it is very irritating to hear new runners calling a certain average/competitive runner as a “Coach” as their title to them! This personal observation goes also to my former members of the Elite Team Bald Runner.
Why am I mentioning this thing? Because there are so many pretenders in the local running community. I am very sorry to say this one and it is my opinion based from my personal experience and observation of what I see and hear around. Just because they (Local Coaches) can finish a Marathon Race in Sub-3 or Sub-4 hours, they are now allowed to be given the title as Coach. More often, if they always give you some advise and you feel you are getting stronger and faster, the tendency is for you to call this person as your “Coach”. I know, I am becoming “judgmental” on this but that is the reality nowadays. Just be aware that at some point as you progressed in your running career, you will experience what they call “running plateau” where the same workouts that are being fed to you by your Coach will no longer result to a better performance on your part and that will be the time that you are almost a few minutes or seconds before you can qualify for the Boston Marathon. This will be your greatest dilemma or challenge.
Always remember, if you want the services of a Coach and if you don’t want to pay, YOU are the best Coach to yourself because Running is the experiment of one! And you are the most reliable to be able to “Listen To Your Body”. But if you have the time and money, get the services of a PROFESSIONAL Coaching Service and you will continuously progress towards the attainment of your goal without any injury.
(Note: Starting in my succeeding posts, I will be sharing what I have learned from CTS based from the training workouts given to me from those four (4) months leading to the 2017 Revel Canyon City Marathon. I will be requesting a $2.00 donation (not compulsory) if you think my suggestion/advise will be useful to you and in your training leading to your goal to qualify for the Boston Marathon. You can send it through Pay Pal through my e-mail address: email@example.com. Such donation will go for the maintenance of this website and Internet connection service. Thank you very much!)
My friends and contemporaries would always tell me that I am CRAZY to be running ultra marathon distances in the mountains in the country as well as in Asia and the United States. I just smile because that is the best description we (as ultra runners) could get to those who have not yet experienced our sports. But now, more ultra runners have extended their body limits and endurance by introducing a 200-mile endurance mountain trail event which has doubled the famous 100-mile distance which is now being accepted as the NEW Marathon Distance in Ultra Running. The runners of this new event could be the CRAZIEST of them all and since it was introduced only last year in the first edition of the Lake Tahoe 200-Mile Endurance Run, three of these events had been scheduled for this year and called the Grand Slam of 200-Milers (it was supposed to be 4 races: Colorado 200; Arizona 200; Lake Tahoe 200; and Bigfoot 200 but the Arizona 200 was cancelled).
Let me introduce to you the CRAZIEST Ultra Runner who just recently finished the 1st edition of the Bigfoot 200-Mile Endurance Run——Conrado Bermudez Jr! Being the FIRST Pinoy to have finished this mountain ultra trail running event, it would be proper and fitting to have his story in running to be published here as one of the main highlights of this blog with the hope of inspiring others and telling to the world that we, Filipinos, are very strong and resilient in nature.
Conrado Bermudez Jr, or fondly called as “Jun”, finished the 200-Mile Race in 94 hours, 26 minutes, and 30 seconds, placing himself as #40 among the 59 finishers where 80 runners started in the morning of Friday, August 7, 2015 at the Mt Helens National Monument in Washington State. The race has a cut-off time of 108 hours which is equivalent to 4 1/2 days, forcing the runners to complete 45 miles per day during the race. The following is the general description of the race as taken from its Website:
“The Bigfoot 200 is a trail running event in the Washington State that seeks to give back to the trails by inspiring preservation of the wild lands and donating money to trail building in the Pacific Northwest. The race is a point to point traverse of some of the most stunning, wild, and scenic trails in the Cascade Mountain range of Washington State. The Race ends in Randle, WA after traversing the Cascade Mountains from Mt St Helens to Mt Adams and along ridge lines with views of Mt Rainier, Mt Hood, and more!
The race will bring together people from all over the world to tackle this incredible challenge. With over 50,000 feet of ascent and more than 96,000 feet of elevation change in 2015 miles, this non-stop event is one of a kind in both its enormous challenge and unparalleled scenery. The race is not a stage race nor it is a relay. Athletes will complete the route solo in 108 hours or less, some without sleeping.”
Jun finished the race with barely 6 hours of sleep during the race! He was supported by his wife, Kat, their daughter and running friends who would meet him in Aid Stations where there is vehicular access. For more details of the race, one can visit the following link:
Jun is a native of General Santos City, graduate of the Philippine Military Academy belonging to Class 1996, a Special Forces Airborne, and Scout Ranger of the Philippine Army before his family migrated to the United States.
In my interview with him on the later part of last year after he finished the other 3 100-Milers in the Grand Slam of Ultrarunning (except Western States 100); he recollected that he first personally met me when he was the Aide-De-Camp of the Commander of the Southern Command in Zamboanga City and I was then the Commander of the Task Force Zamboanga. The year was 2000 and he was barely 4 years in the military service. He went further to tell me that he got inspired by my blogs and photo running galore through my posts in our PMA Bugo-bugo Facebook Page.
Jun finished the prestigious Boston Marathon Race in 3:11:14 hours.
The following are the some of the data about Jun and the answer to the questions I’ve asked him:
1. Home Province-Gen. Santos City; Age-42 ; Height- 5’9″; Present Body Weight-146 lbs ; Schools Attended (Elementary to Graduate Schools)-Notre Dame of Mlang, Noth Cotabato (Elem), Notre Dame of Dadiangas College-High School Dept; PMA Class-1996 and Special Training in the Military-Scout Ranger, Airborne.
2. Places of Assignments and Positions held in the Military/Philippine Army:
Platoon Leader- Alpha Coy, 25IB, PA as Ready Deployment Force (striker battalion) of 6ID in Maguindanao, Sultan Kudarat, Cotabato Province. My platoon was also involved in capturing Camp Rajamuda in Pikit, Cotabato Province in 1997.
Company Commander- Bravo Coy, 25IB, PA , mostly deployed in Maguindanao. My company was also deployed in the front lines of Matanog and Buldon and was very instrumental in capturing Camp Abubakar.
3. Present Job & Working Hours-Security Officer in the United Nations Headquarters in NYC and works on day shift; City of Residence in the US-Jersey City, New Jersey; Wife’s Job- ER Nurse; Gender & Number of Children- one daughter
4. Brief Background of Running (during Childhood up to College and as Cadet of the PMA)
I started running when I was 7 years old. I grew-up in a farm and the only playground we had was an open field and trails where we would run and tag each other. In elementary and high school, I was so engrossed on soccer games than any other ballgames. This is why when I joined the PMA, I discovered that I was a decent runner because I was always in the lead pack when we had our 2-mile run as part of our physical fitness test. I also represented my company (PMA) in various races but most of the time I bonked because I usually go all out at the start and faint halfway through, which resulted to my ER visits. My style of running then was with a “do or die” mentality; no technique, no proper hydration and nutrition. It was just a plain “old-school” way and lots of brute force.
5. Best time in 5K- 19:22; 10K-42:08 ; Half-Marathon-1:26:52 ; and Marathon-3:11:14 All were done in 2013.
6. Brief story on your exposure to ultra distance running events—-first 50K; first 50-miler; first 100K; and first 100-miler.
I started joining races in 2012. That year I only finished 2 marathons. I was following your blogs and postings about the Bataan Death March 102 and 160 and the other races you directed and I got inspired by the spirit of the running community, and it was that I got curious about ultrarunning, especially the 100-mile distance.
To start my ultrarunning quest, I signed-up for a local flat, out-and-back, looped course. Thinking that 50km was just over a marathon, and 50 miles was just 2 marathons, I signed-up for a 100k, which was held in March 2013 in New Jersey. I’m glad that I met some new good friends there, who are now like a family. I was so proud that I finished in that muddy, swampy, and cold course third place. My wife and daughter were there for my first ultra. As a solitary person, running alone for a day was not such a big deal. The feeling of finishing a long distance further boosted my spirit… I got hooked. Then I signed-up for my first 100 miler scheduled three months after. It was in June in the inaugural Trail Animal Running Club (TARC) 100-Mile Endurance Run and the first 100-mile run in Massachusetts. The race started at 7 pm Friday with a cut-off of 30 hours. The course was in a 25-mile flat trails with some creeks spread along the way. I was very enthusiastic to train knowing that some of my friends are also running the race. As part of my preparation, I was reading some blogs and race reports, and I even asked your advice on how to deal with the distance. You discussed to me the proper nutrition and hydration and also incorporating hike into running. The course got indescribably muddy, with most sections in knee-deep mud in every mile, but with my grit and determination, I was able to finish despite a big number of DNF in the race. I felt reborn and my spirit was so high. It took me a week to recover from the pain.
In November, I did my first 50-mile race as a finale for the year. The JFK 50 Mile is the oldest and the largest ultramarathon in the US. The course is a combination of road and trail. It passes through the Appalachian Trail and C&O Canal Towpath then ends in an 8-mile paved road in Maryland. The course was pretty easy and fast. This is where I met some new hardcore ultrarunners from the Virginia Happy Trails Club.
After running all long distances, I signed-up for my first 50k as part of my back-to-back training for my incoming six 100’s. The Febapple Fifty was held on Saturday of February 2014. Then the next day, I ran the Central Park Marathon. The Febapple race was fun. The course was filled mostly with knee-high ice and snow in a rolling hills of South Mountain Reservation in New Jersey. It was quite a tough race because the ice turned slushy and it was a bit hard to run. I still managed to finish in the top ten.
All of my first attempts of these distances were mostly to get me into groove to venture and discover ultrarunning. I realized the 100-mile distance is my favorite.
7. Training Preparation in your 100-Miler Races and Nutrition Strategy in your Races. How do you balance your training with your work and family? (*I will discuss my training in item # 9).
In short ultra races, I carry a handheld bottle or belt hydration system. They are lighter that I could run faster. I take one salt tablet every hour but if I sweat a lot, I take two every hour and nothing at night when it’s cold. In aid stations, I eat potato, banana, watermelon, and PB & J aside from the Ensure that I carry as my basic load. I make sure I take more nutrition at the early stage of the race. I also drink ginger ale and Coke/Pepsi to refresh my mind from the lows.
I come home from work around 8pm and do my chores and help my daughter do her homework. If all is done, I relax for awhile and train. It usually takes me an hour or two to finish my training. I sleep around midnight and wake-up at 6am. I am fortunate that my wife is also supportive of my passion as she herself is an ultrarunner. And our daughter is also our number one cheerer. So far, everyone is in sync in the family.
8. Were you aware of the US Grand Slam of Ultrarunning? Since you missed the Western States 100 this year, do you intend to take a shot on the 2015 US Grand Slam of Ultrarunning?
I did not have my qualifier for Western States last year. I was already aware of the Grand Slam of Ultrarunning, so to get the feel of it, I tried to sign-up for six 100-mile races. I put my name in Massanutten Mountain Trail 100 and Wasatch Front 100 for lottery and fortunately, I was accepted. Since I have proven that I could finish multiple races in a gap of 3-5 weeks, I have more confidence now to challenge myself in GS in the future. There’s only a slim chance for me to get into Western States with one ticket but I will make sure I will apply every year to increase my chances. If not, I am planning to do more challenging 100-mile mountain races next year. It just sank-in that what I did was insane. Every time I finished, I cursed myself for signing-up and promised myself not to do 100’s anymore. But a couple of days after, I feel that I am ready to go again. Thus, if ever I am accepted in Western States in the future, I won’t hesitate to join the Grand Slam.
9. Knowing that you are a “lowlander”, how did you train for the 100-mile mountain races that you finished? How did you cope up with the possibility of encountering “high altitude” sickness in your latest two 100-milers?
My training was focused in strengthening my legs, ankles, and feet in battling the rigorous technical terrain. But 90% of my training was indoor because of my busy schedule, and I have a child to watch that I could not leave at home if my wife is working or training for her ultra events. I usually do stairs workout, climbing up and down, up to 250 floors without rest every two weeks, which is a great way to improve my VO2max and giving me more mountain legs. Most of the time, I abuse my incline trainer/treadmill, which goes to 40%. I use it for incline hike/run with 10-15 lbs of rucksack together with my 2.5 pounder ankle weights. Although I hated speed workout, I still do my 5k in treadmill and this keeps my pace honest. Sometimes I do my trail long runs in the weekends with my friends but most of the time, I am stuck on my treadmill. Treadmill running is boring but it gives me more mental conditioning to tackle the distance. Aside from that, it also preserves my feet from the hard pounding of the pavement. I don’t really track my weekly mileage because I don’t have a proper training plan that I follow. I just listen to my body and do whatever I feel I need to work on. And to avoid injury, I do strength and core workout twice a week.
In an attempt to combat altitude sickness, I was taking iron, B complex, and vitamin C supplements. But these didn’t really help much. I still got more vomitting in Leadville (12,600 ft highest altitude) after mile 60 and had some also after mile 70 in Wasatch.
10. How did you balance recovery and preparation in between those 100-milers for the 6-month duration of your ultra events?
I treat every race as my long run. After the race, I relax, stretch, and foam roll for 3-4 days to get rid of the pain. I also come back to work 2 days after the race. At work, I stand for 6 hours. I think standing at work and walking from home to train station and to work helps my fast recovery. At the end of the week, I start doing easy runs again. Then the next week, I go back to my usual training routine. My taper starts 2 weeks before the next race. I did this routine in my last four 100 milers. In fact, I was feeling fresh every time I start the next race and my spirit gets stronger. I was amazed that I was able to do sub 20 hours in 3 100 milers. Although I did not achieve my goal of finishing Leadville 100 in sub 25 and Wasatch Front 100 in sub 30, I am still ecstatic that I finished those races SOLO (no pacer, no crew) and without getting injured. When I finished Leadville 100, I focused more on recovery by just doing stretching, hiking and easy runs. It was in Leadville that I suffered much because of the altitude and my mistake of not hydrating properly. I had nausea and I threw up every time I ate and drank after mile 60, and I was also suffering from a bad stomach issue. Wasatch is harder than Leadville. But due to my proper hyrdation and nutrition, I felt better and stronger although I still had gastrointestinal issues around mile 70, but later I managed to cope with them by slowing down and taking my time at aid stations to recover.
11. What are your tips and advise to those who would venture to mountain ultra trail running events. What would be the things that you have to improve upon if ever you want to improve your performance in your previous 100-milers?
It takes a lot of discipline. Training involves time away from your family and it is important that no matter what, family comes first. It is helpful if your family is supportive, so that is paramount in your quest for ultrarunning and paramount in the list of things you have to make sure you obtain, foremost.
Never be afraid of the adventure. It is not always about the destination (aka finishing) but the journey. That is my advice to other runners.
Personally, I think I need to improve on certain strategies like hydration and nutrition. Also, not just to eliminate issues like GI problems that come with certain races, but— more importantly— how to perform well regardless of these problems because, lets face it, problems encountered during races MAY NOT ever go away. So it is a matter of pushing past these issues and finishing strong. Thats what I need to work on.
12. Aside from the 2015 US Grand Slam of Ultrarunning plan, what is in store for you in the coming ultra running years?
I want to venture into other Ultra races. The challenging ones, in particular. There are many races out there to explore with challenging course and beautiful sceneries. When they go hand in hand, they become priceless experiences, especially when you finish them. Like I said, mountain 100-milers are my favorite, but that is not to say I will not try to explore on distances beyond that. We’ll wait and see.
Jun could not stop wanting for more and he is now one of the few mountain ultra trail 200-mile single stage finishers entire the world. For the past two years, he has the following 100-miler mountain trail races with their corresponding finish time in his belt :
TARC 100-Miler in Westwood, Massachusetts (June 14, 2013) —-25:19:27 hours
New Jersey Ultra Trail Festival 100-Miler in Augusta, New Jersey (November 23, 2013)—-18:53:31 hours
Massanutten 100-Miler in Front Royal, Virginia (May 17, 2014)—-28:05:55 hours
Great New York City 100-Miler (June 21, 2014)—-19:33:14 hours
San Diego (California) 100-Miler (June 6, 2015)—-22:16:27 hours
After his sub-24 hour finish at the San Diego 100-Mile Endurance Race, I told him that he has to rest and recover in between his races to let his body free from injuries brought about by over racing or over training in ultra distances. I even told him that he has to prepare for the possibility of being selected in the lottery for the Western States 100-Mile Endurance Race if ever he registers to join the race. I emphasized that I am betting on him that he will be the FIRST Pinoy Ultra Runner to be awarded the “One Day-24 Hour” Silver Buckle in the said race and I am sure that it will take another generation of Pinoy Ultra Runners to surpass such accomplishment.
My prediction on his ultra running career brought not a single word from his mouth but instead responded to me with a smile. Jun is a silent type guy and does not openly brag about his ultra running finishes on the Social Media and he does not even have a blog or journal where he can relate and share his stories in his ultra races. However, my interview with him has a lot of tips and advise for those who would like to embark on mountain ultra trail running, most specially to those who are in the lowlands and for those who don’t have access to the mountains or simply lazy to be in the outdoors.
Before we parted ways in Lake Cuyamaca in Mt Laguna, San Diego, California, he intimated to me that his ultra running career is not complete if he will not be able to finish the Grand Slam of the Bataan Death March 102/160 Ultra Marathon Race! Hopefully, that will be the day that Jun will be able to meet the whole Pinoy Ultra Running Community in his homeland.
This is what I said to Jun, “Get your Western States 100-Mile Silver Buckle first before coming home, Cavalier!”
I was expecting that the 2014 edition of this race was to be conducted for the benefit of the victims of Typhoon Yolanda but instead, it was cancelled and the Race Organizer opted to donate a part of their budget for the recovery and rehabilitation of the people of Samar and Leyte.
Many of the runners were frustrated to hear this news and I was one of them.
And my ultra running friends were not also happy about the news. For the past editions/years, the Condura Skyway Marathon had been always and became the post-recovery run for all the participants of my Bataan Death March 160K Ultra Marathon Race as both races are one week apart.
But runners would not have to wait any longer for the good news about the next edition of the Marathon Race. In a few weeks after the actual schedule of the event, the Race Organizer had announced that the 2015 event will be for the benefit of the HERO Foundation. Being a part and former soldier, I was happy to know that this event will benefit the families who were left behind by our fallen heroes who died fighting against the enemies of the State and threats to our peaceful way of life.
Exactly one week before Race Day, elements of the Special Action Force (SAF) of the Philippine National Police encountered in a firefight agains the separatist groups in Mindanao, MILF and BIFF, resulting in the death of forty-four (44) and the wounding of others. This incident became a national issue where the public called for an immediate action for the arrest, apprehension or killing of those who are involved in this dastardly act against our troops.
Thus, in the minds of all the runners, this Marathon Race had become an instant “platform” for them to sympathize with the “Fallen SAF 44 Heroes” and for a united call for the government to give justice where it is due.
Training and Preparation
I did not have any specific training program leading to this race except for the my training program which is in preparation for me for the Trans Lantau 100K Trail Run which will be held in the middle of March of this year. Such training program was so specific that my mileages should be done in the mountains. But with my trips to the different provinces since the start of the New Year, in order to coordinate with my Ultra Races for this year where I am the Organizer and Race Director, my training runs were solely on paved and flat dirt roads.
Instead of having more vertical climbs/gains in my training, I opted to improve on my speed by doing tempo runs on the road and flat dirt roads. I had also the chance to have my rest and recovery in-between runs for a more extended period. And trips outside Metro Manila to Aurora and Albay Provinces became my tapering period a few days before Race Day.
I have also prepared my mind on this race and think of it as a Long Steady Distance (LSD) weekend run with a faster speed while my HR monitor will not breach more than 162 beats per minute.
Since all my runs for the past two years were devoted to trails and with a hoard of new trail shoes in my “trail running arsenal”, I have to choose the lightest shoes for this race and had to try them for a couple of times in my tempo runs. The choices were between the INOV-8 Roclite; SALOMON’s LAB Sense 3; or ALTRA’s Superior 2.0. I selected the Salomon LAB Sense 3 as it is the lightest among the three!
In order to arrest my sweat from reaching my feet and shoes, I prepared my Headsweat (for my head), Buff (for my neck), Long-sleeved PAU Shirt for my body), and Compresport Calf Sleeves, and Drymax Socks.
Race and Nutrition Strategy
Being an “old-school” marathon runner, I consider Marathon Running as a Speed Endurance Event where walking is integrated while drinking my two cups of water as I leave in every Water Station. In-between those Water Stations, one has to run and jog as fast as possible!
Knowing what my body is capable of as an “experienced and old” marathon runner, I opted to use the “negative split” way of racing this event. If I had prepared properly for this race, I had opted to use the “even pace” strategy where my race pace at the beginning is maintained throughout the race. My experience in ultra running and consistent advise from my Coach dictate that my pace at the beginning should be slow and progressing to a faster pace towards the last half of the race up to the Finish Line.
On nutrition, I had a full meal rich in fats and carbohydrates one a half hours before the start of the race; snacks of carbohydrates 30 minutes before the race; one Gel every hour; drink water every Aid Station; last Gel to ingest was a GU Roctane; and a reserve of Stinger Waffle as my “reserve solid” food just in case of emergency.
I’ve been away from the road running crowd for the past two years and it was the members ultra running community and my readers in this blog who approached and greeted me as I joined my co-runners in Wave I. It took us 30 minutes to wait from the time the Wave A runners were released from the Starting Line. Those 30 minutes were devoted to talk to some of the ultra runners within my Wave Group and review in my mind my race & nutrition strategy. As we got nearer to the Starting Line, I had my simple prayer to myself and thought of my Officers and Men who died under my Command during my stint and tour as a Military Officer and lastly, to those of the PNP SAF 44 soldiers.
My slow jog on the first 400 meters was the most memorable part of this race as I saluted every time I would approach a SAF member holding a framed picture of the Fallen SAF 44 who was standing in attention on the left side of the road. Yes, it was a slow jog but saluting 44 times is the best that I could do to honor these men who unselfishly offered their lives in the name of peace and safety for the citizenry and our country.
I started at the back of the Wave I and waited to make a move on the first uphill climb on the Skyway. I passed a lot of the slow and walking participants on this part. Knowing the whole course’ profile, the first 8-10K is a slightly uphill climb and it worked well with my slow pace as it served as my warm-up. On this first 10K of the course, I would maintain my slow speed of 4.6 miles per hour being aware of my running form; hydrating myself as I would reach the Water Station; and most of all talking to some of the runners and acknowledging their greetings as I passed them.
For about a minute or two, I was able to talk to a couple, Miguel and Cachelle, and kept my pace with theirs. I was happy to see them running together. As with Miguel, I did not see any signs of limping from his gait and strides as he fully recovered from an unfortunate accident while participating in one of my BDM “test runs” two years ago in the Pampanga area. Looking at them together, I knew they would be able to enjoy and finish the race. I will not be surprised to see this couple to be back running in my ultra races soon! I had to beg off from them as I wanted to continue with my own pace as knowing that they are enjoying and having fun with the race.
When I reached the 10-Km mark, I was already enjoying the windy and cool atmosphere of the early morning. I have increased my speed to 5 miles per hour and I was surprised that I was too comfortable with such pace. I ingested my first Gel once I reached my first 40 minutes while I was approaching a Water Station. Two cups of water were enough to bring the gel to my stomach and let it provide the much-needed energy to my machine!
At the 13-mile point, my speed had reached at 5.6 miles per hour and I never let that speed to decrease all the way to the Finish Line. At times, I would reach up to 6.0+ miles per hour on the downhill portions of the course. In my tempo run workouts, I could still run a 10K race with a time of 55+ minutes but forcing myself to this kind of speed in a marathon race without the necessary speed training will be courting for an injury that might jeopardize my training for and participation at the Trans Lantau 100K. There is no point to take a risk on this race.
I kept reminding myself that this race was part of my training for an ultra trail run in the middle of March.
And my rituals were repeated as I reached nearer to the Finish Line——ingested my Gels every hour after my first Gel at 40-minute mark from the start of the race; reached for two cups of water (only, No Gatorade for the whole race) in every Water Station; would pass other runners at the Water Stations by running up to farthest end of the table and walk quickly & briefly while drinking the water; making sure that my empty cups would land in those garbage bins provided by the Race Organizer; by just waving my hand or simply greeting back to those runners who call my attention or greet me; no unnecessary “chit-chat” to other runners on the last half of the course; by allowing other runners to pace with me or run along with me (without any conversation); and try to pick-up and increase my pace through some quick “surges” on the uphill portions and on the last 10K of the course (all downhill to the Finish Line).
It was still dark when I reached the Finish Line. I finished the race with an Official Time of 4:40:19 hours and ranked #569 out of 5,022 Finishers.
I did not realize that I could still run this fast considering my age of going to 63 years old in 3 months. Maybe with a more focused training in the Marathon distance, I still could run this fast and hopefully, could still have a shot to a Boston Marathon Qualifying Race, the proper and traditional way!
But on second thought, I will remain as a Trail Ultra Runner and consider the Condura Skyway Marathon as my ONLY yearly Road Marathon where I could be in touch with the marathon/road running community in the country.
1. Marathon Running is an Art and a Skill. Racing is about You and the Distance. Every runner needs Endurance and Speed to have a very successful finish. One has to compete with oneself and not with any other runner.
2. Marathon Racing is NOT a time to socialize. “Socializing” is done after the race. As compared to Ultra Running, Ultras are races where one has to “socialize” from the start up to the finish and beyond the race itself. Sometimes, Ultras’ “socializing” starts during training and preparation.
3. Proper Nutrition Strategy is the Key to a successful Marathon Finish coupled with proper Hydration technique. Gels are the best immediate source of nutrition in a Marathon Race. Eating a full meal few hours before the race and later, a light snacks few minutes before the race always worked positively in my races.
4. Racing Strategy is dependent on one’s training and preparation. If you are NOT fully-prepared and trained for the event, be contented to aim for a Finish without any injury, and not for any PR or best time for a Marathon Race.
5. No complaints and “whining” in a Marathon Race. Before Gels and Sports Drinks were invented, Marathon Races have ONLY Water as support for all the runners! Try to strive and train for the simplest and most basic way of running a marathon race.
6. Be LIGHT. Wear the lightest running kit and try also to run light with your body. It is not yet late to learn how to run light by using your forefoot or mid foot as you run by feel.
7. Taper Properly. Since the race is done from Midnight to the early morning, runners are practically sleepless on Friday night, considering that the trip to the event area is outside the Metro Manila. It is advisable to have a complete rest and sleep for at least 7-8 hours every night on the last week prior to Race Day.
8. Marathon Race should be a part of an Ultra Race training and preparation in order to improve one’s speed and endurance. I really did not have a focused and dedicated training for this race. This marathon race was part of my weekly ultra training program where it was to be a “back-to-back” long runs where each day would be a 12-mile run. Instead of two days of 12-mile a day run, I did it for one day/one workout with an excess of 2.2 miles. My average total weekly mileage for the past three weeks leading to this race was from 47-50 miles.
Running Kit & Accessories
Running Shoes: Salomon S-LAB Sense 3 Ultra Trail Shoes
Sweat Absorbers: Headsweat and Buff
Shirt: PAU Long-Sleeved Shirt By A Perfect White Shirt
Shorts: Salomon Trail Running Shorts (Bermuda)
Calf Sleeves: Compressport
Socks: Drymax (Trail Running Socks)
Cycling Gloves: Specialized
Nutrition: 2 pcs of VFuel Gels (Fudge Brownie); one GU Gel (Salted Caramel); one GU Gel (Roctane); and 2 pcs of Stinger Waffle (Reserve)
Race Belt: Ultimate Direction SJ Signature Series
Watches/GPS: Garmin 310XT with HR Monitor and TIMEX Watch
Congratulations to Tonton and Raul Patrick Concepcion (Race Organizers); Rio Dela Cruz (Race Director); and to the rest of the Condura Skyway Marathon Team for this well-organized and international-standard marathon race which honors our “present day” heroes in the military and armed services and supports their dependents through the HERO Foundation.
Three years ago on July 31, 2011, I made my Personal Record Time to reach the peak of the famous Hill Taklang Damulag from Fernandez Hill inside the “Molave Complex” of Fort Magsaysay, Palayan City. I was able to record a finish time of 52:37 minutes where the highest peak has an elevation of 409 meters with a route distance of 2.7 kilometers. I started to record my Garmin Forerunner 305 once I departed the marker at Fernandez Hill until I was able to touch the white-painted Cross on top of the peak of Taklang Damulag. My hike was only one-way as I was able to descend on the northeastern part of the hill towards Sitio Baccao.
In this post where I stated about my experience in this blog, I mentioned that that such distance as a race course is very short and the elevation of the mountain/hill is very low but if one thinks of running up and down to this mountain for four times in a single event, then you have a workout like you have hiked or run to the top and back in a high mountain.
A year after my hike from Fernandez Hill To the Peak of Hill Taklang Damulag, I invited some of my running friends to join a formal race which I called “FKT @ Taklang Damulag” which I consider as the FIRST Fastest Known Time (FKT) Trail Run In The Country which was attended by only five (5) runners. The Course Record for the Event was made by Dannin Arenzana with a time of 59:32 minutes! The following is the story about it: https://baldrunner.com/?s=FKT+%40+Taklang+Damulag
On the first day of this year’s Taklang Damulag 100-Mile & 50-Mile Endurance Runs which happened last December 13-14, 2014, I thought of having my training run by doing some “hill repeats” from Fernandez Hill Marker to the Peak of Taklang Damulag and back. On this day, I was scheduled to finish a distance of 10 miles or 16 kilometers.
I carried one hand-held bottle with the intention of making my refilling of water at the Fernandez Hill Complex where the Aid Station of the Race is located every time I finish one repetition of the hill repeat which is equivalent to one FKT (Fastest Known Time) route. I also used my ALTRA Lone Peak 1.5 shoes for the traction I need for the downhill run back to the starting area.
I started slowly and tried to peak up my pace whenever there is a flat portion of the route. I continuously jog my way up along the trail as I passed the usual three (3) streams on the first kilometer of the route. The trail was slippery due to damp brought about by a light shower of rain the night before. It was no problem to my trail shoes. I was surprised that I was tirelessly going up along the trail and breathing heavily but I could not feel that I was getting tired. I felt fine and my HR Monitor showed that I was on the mid-130s of my Heart Rate. I said there is no way that my heart rate is too low despite the intensity of my pace.
The trail route became more challenging due to the presence of rocks which were eroded as part of the widening and improvement of the trail few years ago. A simple mistake of stepping on these rocks would make someone trip or fall on the ground due to imbalance of one’s footing. One has to be careful to land each foot due to the unevenness of the single-track trail. I knew that I would be able to reach the first Rest Station which is a concrete “waiting station” after making a sharp left turn/switchback and I was still maintaining my jog.
After a few minutes, I was able to reach the Second Rest Station and I readied myself for the start of the steepest portion of the trail. Two years ago, there was a Bamboo Hand Rail standing and supported by two bamboo posts where one could hold as you plant your feet higher and higher towards the peak. All I could see was old wooden cross along the trail and it warns me that I was only 300 meters away from the peak of the Hill. Slowly, the steep part of the trail became lesser in incline and I know that I was about to reach the marker telling all the hikers that the Peak of the Hill is very near.
Finally, one has to get his satisfaction of reaching the peak of the mountain when you see a pathway made of rocks. These pathway of rocks leads to the Concrete White Cross on the Peak of the Hill. As soon as I reached the White Cross, I had to touch/tap it and I was on my way back to the trail where I came from and back to the Fernandez Hill Complex. I glanced on my Garmin Watch and it registered a time of 31:32 minutes!!!
I was excited to find out how fast I was even if I did not recall what was my recorded time on my first timed ascent to this hill 3 years ago. I knew that I was faster than my first attempt. So happy about my performance, I tried to stay focused on my run back to my starting area. I took time to avoid those rocks and not to be very aggressive on the downhill run. My ALTRA Lone Peak 1.5 was very responsive and I did not have any slip or slide on the damp surface of the trail and on the rocks. I did not hike or stopped along the way except when I had to slowly approach and cross the three streams along the route. I was very attentive to my footing and I could not afford to break my ankles or trip my foot or fall on the ground due to some mistakes.
I still had water in my hand-held water bottle as I got nearer to the finish line. It was still cold in the early morning when I started my run but I would take some sip of water as soon I started sweating during my uphill climb to the peak of the hill. Once I reached the flatter sections of the trail, I would sip again some water from my bottle and this ritual was repeated every 5 minutes until I reached the starting line. After I crossed my imaginary finish line at the Fernandez Hill, I glanced at my Garmin Forerunner Watch and it registered a time of 1:11+ hours! Not bad!
I think I was able to rest for about 2-3 minutes by refilling my hand-held water bottle and by walking to the location of the Water Hydration Point at the Aid Station located at the View Deck of Fernandez Hill and back to the starting line. It was time to go back again to the Peak for my 2nd Repeat.
Prior to my start of my first run to the peak, a group of soldiers from the Special Forces Regiment were dropped by a 6 X 6 Military Truck by about 400 meters ahead of my starting area and they were ahead of me by almost 15 minutes. On my last 500 meters before reaching the Peak of the Hill, I was able to pass them one by one. They were carrying their backpacks, some carpentry tools and digging tools, too! Aside from the soldiers who are stationed at the Peak of the Hill, I have also those soldiers whom I have passed along the trail as my witnesses for my run towards the Peak.
I just took my time and maintained my jogging for my second repeat of my climb to the peak of Taklang Damulag. The soldiers stationed at the peak of the hill were surprised to see me back to their location as I immediately proceeded back to the starting line after I tapped the White Concrete Cross. Once again, I was very slow and focused to my footing as I descended from the hill and I was bale to avoid those rocks scattered on some portions of the trail.
My ritual once I arrived at the Fernandez Hill area was the same—walk to the View Deck; refill my water bottles; and walk again back to the starting line. I was already on my third repeat back to the peak of the hill as the sun was coming out from the clouds. It was starting to get hot as I was running on my first kilometer of my third ascent to the hill. I had to drink more water from my hydration bottle as I progressed to the peak of the hill. Five hundred meters from the peak, I started to meet those soldiers who have finished their job/task as they descended back to Fernandez Hill. They greeted me and surprised that I was back again towards to the peak of the hill. I just thanked them for their greetings and smiled at them as I continued my jogging.
For the third time, I made a tap to the concrete white cross and asked one of the soldiers for some water to douse my head and face as I could feel already the heat of the sun. It was already 11:00 AM. I took a sit on a chair while the soldier got me a half liter of water. I immediately doused the water on my head and on my buff and it gave me some comfort and relaxed feeling. After saying “Thank You” to the soldier, I was back on the trail back to the starting line.
One kilometer away from the starting line, I started to meet the first two runners of the 50-mile race and then the third runner on my last 500 meters. I had to side-step and stand still on the side of the single-track trail as I wait for the runner to pass me. I would greet and cheer them as they continue their climb.
I was thinking of doing my fourth repeat to the peak while I was on my last 200 meters to the starting line at the Fernandez Hill. I finally decided to take some time to rest and then eat some solid food at the Aid Station before I would decide to continue or not for my 4th and last climb for the day.
After I ate my lunch, I looked back on my watch and found out that I was able to run a total of 10+ miles and my programmed schedule for the day was already attained and complied. So, I finally decided to end my run for the day and made already a plan to do another “hill repeats” on the following day.
I know that this “crazy” effort that I’ve done is spreading from one soldier and Officer to another in Fort Magsaysay and by this time, it is already well-known for the entire Philippine Army. I consider this feat as a record for me (62 years old) and as a Retired Major General of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. And I will be coming back to improve this record in the coming years, whether it will be the fastest time for the climb to the peak and back to Fernandez Hill or for the number of times that I could do on the “hill repeats” in one day/setting.
Who knows, this could be the birth of another challenging trail running event in Taklang Damulag—-“Taklang Damulag FKT Challenge” (6 Hours & 12 Hours Timed Event) where the one with the most number of “hill repeats” wins the event.
It was nice to renew my ties with the people that I’ve met during my active military service now that I am retired. The former Municipal Mayor “Lofre” Gironella of Salcedo, Ilocos Sur was my host during my stay in the area of Ilocos Sur for two days. I have found out that he was responsible in extending the paved road from the Poblacion of Salcedo to Barangay Bulala, Salcedo, a distance of 6 kilometers, and situated the road on the side of the mountain, thereby avoiding at least 13 river crossings at the Buaya River. The trip from Salcedo to the Poblacion Gregorio del Pilar had been shortened due to his efforts. I’ve seen also the presence of hanging bridges on top of the river which could be used by hikers when the river is too deep to be crossed. The former Mayor is fond of planting trees during his three terms and one could see how thick the forests in their mountains. He is proud to say that there is no illegal logging or “charcoal making” industry in his town.
I told him about my plans of hiking the General Aguinaldo Trail and promote its awareness to the public so that history will be remembered and tourism will boost in their area. He pledged to help my project in coming up with permanent markers along the route. He also briefed me on the prevailing security and peace and order situation in the area and the developments & infrastructural structures that were established since I left the place.Practically, almost all the road networks in the far-flung municipalities in Ilocos Sur are already inter-connected and the cellphone signal system in these areas are present and efficient.
In my hike to the Poblacion of Gregorio del Pilar, I was able to talk to the Bamboo Raft Guy whose job is to bring motorcycle-riding persons across the river coming from both sides. It takes the Raft Guy (I forgot to get his name) about 30 seconds to pull the wire as the raft would move across the river. Each motorcycle-riding person would pay him Twenty Pesos (P 20.00) for the effort. He told me of another path/way if we don’t want to take his raft but just the same our feet would be damped and wet with lots of water falling from the side of the mountain where the trail is located. I know that his business is only good for the rainy season and soon his raft will be put into oblivion since Mayor Lofre told me that there is a plan to construct a concrete bridge so that there will be no more river crossings for hikers and vehicles between the towns of Salcedo and Gregorio Del Pilar.
I saw a “sari-sari”/mini-store beside the road after I passed the intersection of Gregorio del Pilar and Sigay Roads. There was an old man sitting on a bench with his arms on the table in front of him. I asked him for two bottles of soft drinks and gave him my payment. I started the conversation in our dialect, Ilocano, and my short “pitstop” became longer to almost 45 minutes as we were joined by another guy who stopped by at the store with his motorcycle. As the conversation became longer, I found out that the guy with motorcycle is a retired Police/PNP and the owner of the store was also a CAFGU & Police Informant.
After introducing myself and telling them about my stint in the area in the mid-90s, they were able to recall and remember me of the things that I’ve done in the area. They remember that I’ve been constantly patrolling/hiking the Salcedo-Gregorio del Pilar route with my soldiers; provided Civil-Military Operations & Medical Missions in the Municipalities of Sigay and Gregorio del Pilar; but what is more significant for them to recall and remember is the realization of establishing a hiker’s camp near the peak of Mt Tirad, beside the spring water source in the mountain. They suspected me then as a “treasure hunter”, thus making the “camp” for my soldiers. However, I told them that the hiker’s camp was made as the “catalyst” for tourists to visit Mt Tirad and the Historical Marker where General Gregorio del Pilar was killed. Due to the Hiker’s Camp, it attracted visits of top officers and Generals of the AFP and PNP, then to the relatives of General Gregorio Del Pilar from Bulacan, then leading to an annual visits of the Cadet Corps of the Armed Forces of the Philippines/Cadets from the Philippine Military Academy (PMA), most of all, it became as “rest area” for the residents of Abra who would like to take a shortcut through Mt Tirad Pass. Both of them were nodding their heads as I was explaining to them that I was the “first” Tourism Officer in their area.
Macario Burgos, the Tourism Officer of Gregorio Del Pilar, gave a lot of vital information about the tourism developments in their town. Mang Gorio, a resident of Barangay Mabatano and whose residence is located on the trailhead to Mt Tirad Pass, died a few years after I left the place/area. Mang Gorio would tell me then the details on how the Filipino soldiers under General Gregorio del Pilar would prepare their defensive positions along the trails leading to the peak of the mountain and how they fought the Americans. He would also vividly relate the whole story on the Battle of Tirad Pass and how the young General was killed during the firefight.
Mr Burgos was six years old when I was assigned in the area and he would know me by my name from a soldier who happened to be my security detail from the time I was the Battalion Commander until I retired from the service. My security detail is married to a resident in Barangay Concepcion of the town who happens to be his Aunt. Obviously, he knows where I was assigned from the time my Battalion Headquarters left the area, in Mindanao, and before I retired from the military service.
Macario updated me on the latest research he made on the Battle of Tirad Pass. He told me that the survivors of the Battle of Tirad Pass remained in the area and had their respective family instead of going back to the Tagalog Region. He mentioned at least five of them with their respective locations within the confines of the municipality. He even told me that the grandson of the US informant, Januarius Galut, who led the Americans to a trail to another mountain summit that outflanked the positions of the Filipino defenders of the mountain pass, made a research to prove that his grandfather was forced and under duress by the Americans to be used as a “guide”, instead of being known as a “traitor” who was paid by the invading forces. The Galut Clan are still presently residing in Sigay and within the boundary of Salcedo and Galimuyod.
He explained that there are no tourist facilities, like hotels, home stays , and restaurants within the Poblacion because the tourists would proceed immediately to the trailhead in Barangay Mabatano to register and pay a Permit Fee of Twenty Pesos (P 20.00) per person and then proceed to the General Greorio del Pilar Shrine/Monument or go to the peak of Mt Tirad, establish their camp by using their personal tents, sleep thereat overnight, go to the peak of Mt Tirad for photo-ops in the early morning the following day, and then go back to the Poblacion to catch up with the morning trips of jeeps to Candon City. It should be noted that Commercial Vehicles from the Poblacion of Gregorio del Pilar to Candon City is only available in the morning. The same commercial vehicles would go back to Gregorio Del Pilar in the afternoon, coming from Candon City. The Poblacion is thereby used as a “Drop-Off” point for arriving tourists in the afternoon and then as a “Departure Area” for the same tourists on the morning of the following day.
After I briefed Mr Burgos about my intention of re-visiting the place to re-trace the route that General Aguinaldo had taken at the turn of the 20th century, he told me about his story on his hike from the Poblacion Gregorio Del Pilar up to Cervantes, stating the trail condition, the distance and time/period he was able to cover the said distance. He told me that it took him 4 hours to hike from the Municipal Hall of Gregorio Del Pilar to the Poblacion of Quirino, a distance of about 22 kilometers. From Qurino to Cervantes, the trail that General Aguinaldo took is already a paved road where a small portion/river crossing before Cervantes is not yet paved. The distance from Qurino to Cervantes is 27 Kilometers. He added that the area that covers the route is peaceful.
Lastly, he reminded me that the Metal Plaque (A Dedication Message For The Hikers and People of Gregorio Del Pilar For The Construction of the Hikers’ Camp) that was carved and cemented on the face of big rock within the vicinity of the Hikers’ Camp near the peak of Mt Tirad is still there for me to see. That would be a nice mission for me to take a picture of it because my name and the name of the Municipal Mayor of Gregorio Del Pilar then were inscribed in the said plaque.
Next year will be the 7th edition of the Bataan Death March 102K Ultra Marathon Race (BDM 102) and I firmly believe that this running event opened the awareness of our local runners on the possibility to finish a running event more than the distance of a Marathon Race. Its historical significance and the experience of past finishers had lured a lot of new marathon runner-finishers for them to train and finish the race. And slowly it is becoming more prestigious that you can not call yourself as a “full-blooded” ultra marathoner among the local Filipino runners if you have not finished this race. Better yet, if you consider yourself as a Race Director/Organizer of a local ultra running event.
Almost yearly, the course record of the BDM 102 had been broken by what we consider as our “elite runners” and nothing happens after that for them to be exposed to other ultra running competitions abroad and find out how they would compare themselves to international runners. With the help of ultra running friends and former comrades in the military service, I was able to expose some of these elite runners in three instances but these were the notable results: (1) Alquin Bolivar, an active Philippine Army soldier set a National Record for 100K with a time of 9:04:23 hours and placed #6 among the fast ultra runners of Asia in an IAU-sanctioned Asian 100K Championship Road Race in Jeju, South Korea in 2010 and (2) Marcelo Bautista, a 9:45:59-hour finisher of BDM 102, who placed #15 in the 2013 Hongkong 100K Trail Ultra Race among 1,250 runners coming from different countries with a time of 12:08:42 hours making him a qualifier for the prestigious Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run in California, USA.
Due to different factors and reasons of which I don’t have any control, I could no longer afford to send such “elite” athletes to international ultra running competition. If TNF Philippines could not even afford to send the Champion of its yearly TNF100 to any of the Southeast Asian TNF100 events, how much more for a “pensioner” like me who does not have any profit from having less than 100 runners in my regular ultra races.
There are potential “elite” ultra runners among us who would like to be exposed to international races but I have the observation and personal opinion that they lack two of the most important considerations or attitude which are very paramount for me aside from the fact that they lack the financial resources: Loyalty and Humility.
Loyalty? Do I need to define what is loyalty? Humility? Do I need to define this word also? If you are one of the local ultra runners who know me personally or had been reading my blog since the time I created this, you would know what I am talking about. If you are new in this blog and don’t know me personally, you can always “search” for my rants and random thoughts in my past posts.
So, if you have the influence or the capability to send our elite ultra runners to international competition, you can do also your share in this effort. If you are one of the “Big Shots” in the Government Service or in the Private Corporate World, you can be a great help to these potential elite runners making sure to test them of their “loyalty and humility”.
For those who have the time, money and resources to participate in international races and considered as our “elite” ultra runners, the whole local ultra running community will be behind you to cheer and pray for your safety in your travel and for a competitive resolve to be faster and stronger than the other runners.
This brings me to a more focused observation to our “elite” ultra runners who are competing (not participating) in an international ultra running event. It is assumed that if you are an “elite” ultra runner, you are supposed to compete with the best of the other international runners. There is no doubt that your sole purpose and focus in this race is to be able to finish the race as fast as you could within the confines of your skill, talent, training and mental fortitude. It is assumed also that you have figured out, through your training and preparation, the best race and nutrition strategy for such event. There is NO point of thinking that you are there to simply to FINISH the race event. The ultimate aim of an “elite” ultra runner is to be able to land and place as one of the podium finishers (top 3 or top 10), period!
For the “middle-of-the pack”, their purpose and goal is to be able to pass or overtake as many runners as they can before they cross the finish line. These are the ultra runners who keep on coming back every year to improve their Personal Best or PR times for the event. They find satisfaction to beat a friend or an opponent or a training partner, whether their satisfaction is for bragging rights among other runners or silently praising himself/herself that he/she could improve some more. These are serious runners who always find ways and means for them to be faster, stronger and smarter ultra runners. They keep on improving with the end view of someday joining in one of the international ultra running events as part of their “bucket list” given with a well-balanced family and job/professional career. I can say in my opinion that these are the “Silver Medalists” in the past BDM 102 editions.
The “back-of-the pack” are mostly “whiners”, “fakers” in their training, pressured by their peers to join, old and aging runners who would like to put a tab on their “bucket list” before they fade away (that’s me!), non-believers to accept that they are little heavy in weight and very slow in running and ask a lot of unnecessary TLC in Aid Stations, those who don’t accept that they are injured in their training, and those who always have a laminated printed copy with them of their targeted split time in every kilometer post along the route in order to avoid being cut-off from the race. I call these runners as “hit or miss” ultra runners.
As more ultra running events, whether road or trail, are being organized in the country, there is a possibility of more runners being lured into joining ultra running events and you can easily distinguish them as the “elite”, “middle-of-the pack” or “back-of-the-pack” ultra runners. I just hope that their interest will not end once they finish the BDM 102. As for the elite runners, I am still confident that private individuals and/or corporate brands will be able to support and send them to prestigious international ultra running events, whether they are in Asia/Australia, Europe or in the USA/Canada, in the years to come.
If former President Marcos was able to invite past Boston Marathon Champions and Marathon Olympic Medalist in the past to be as special guest/runner and if MVP can bring a whole NBA Team to the country to play with our National Basketball Team or send our Basketball Team to play tune-up training games to a popular and former NBA Champion Team in the USA, I have the strong belief that our ultra runners will soon be running side by side with elite ultra runners worldwide or for these world’s elite runners to be running in our local ultra races.
I hope and pray that these things will happen before I finally fade away from ultra running as a “back-of-the-pack” runner!
In the military, there is a training or school for “Pathfinders” and they invaluable in airborne operations. They “Light The Way” for the incoming paratroopers and make sure that their landing zones are properly marked and safe. Such expertise and skill can be learned with a 3-week training in a Pathfinder’s School/Training Facility.
I had the chance to meet and see how these airborne soldiers were trained when I was in the US Army Infantry School in Fort Benning, Georgia, USA in the mid-80s.
I did not realize that this will be my role as the promoter of ultrarunning/ultra marathon events in the country. Since I started to love ultra marathon, I have been a pathfinder for ultra routes whether it is on the roads and trails.
It was very convenient to be a “pathfinder” on the road ultras as I can easily pinpoint the route or place on the map and then actually run through the route on my own. Most of the ultra marathon events that I organize and direct were born or established this way–actually run the route and find out the elevation and distance.
As I shifted more on trail runs in the mid-part of this year, I practically transformed myself as a “pathfinder” in my playground. As I get farther and farther on the distance that I could cover during the day, I would take note of places where I could rest, refill my hydration bottles with water, “engage” people or residents along the route/trail, and establish distance markers or points.
It is the responsibility of the “pathfinder” that his “follow-on” forces will not be lost as he leads them to their “landing zones”. For the past weeks, I had been accepting interested runners to have a glimpse of my playground and most of the time, someone among the group gets lost. But I am glad some would find their way back to where we started or just keep still in their location until we find them where they are located. Sometimes, I would laugh and tell the person/s who got lost that they are my “offerings” to those spirits that guard the mountains!
As of now, the trails that I’ve “found” in the mountains are for training purposes for me and for those who are interested to see the place. I don’t usually invite runners to join me in my training in the mountains as most of them have family and work to attend to during the weekdays. For some, they have also their respective “playground” which is more accessible to them from their residences and offices.
Being a “pathfinder” is a hard task as it takes a lot of time of patience and discipline. But if you love nature and the outdoors, your time in the mountains looking for trails and other land features is worth the task as you can share it to other people to see and to feel.