Before we continue with my series on How To Qualify For The Boston Marathon, I would like to mention my first Coach in Ultramarathon before I applied at the CTS Coaching Service. When I started running ultra trail events, Karl Meltzer had been one of my Idols as he would win as Champion, at least, one 100-mile trail ultra race per year. Now, he is considered as the Winningest 100-Mile Ultra Runner In The World. You can check it out in his website here.
From 2014-2016, I have been coached by Karl Meltzer and I subscribed to his Training Plan Only which cost me $ 300.00 every 3 months. It was a very simple arrangement, he asked me for my personal data and then sent me a separate e-mail message for the list and illustrations of strength exercises that I can do as part of my training. Later, he would send me my 3-month training schedule in miles with one day of the week as Rest Day. No specific description of running workout was stated in the number of miles that I have to run daily. However, my weekly mileage would be ranging from 50-55 miles per week as my Average Mileage. When a race is about one month away, he would increase my weekly mileage to 60-65 miles per week. I can still remember that most of my runs were then progressive runs on the trails. All my communications with him were through e-mails. No nutrition advise and no feedback system in my daily workout was discussed. It was purely running on trails with no elevation requirements. He was not very technical and specific in my training program. However, I am not sure if his more advanced and more expensive training program would include nutrition and other feedback system. In fairness to the Coaching/Training I got from him, I became a stronger and faster trail runner.
In my interview with the Senior Coach of CTS before I started being their athlete, I told him that I was a former “client” of Karl Meltzer’s Coaching for two years and maybe, such information gave him the assurance that I had already the experience of being coached by an elite ultrarunner and he would gauged me on my present condition as an ultrarunner. By the way, a runner being coached by Karl Meltzer is called a “client” while CTS call their subscribed runners as “CTS Athlete”. I think there is a big difference there in terms of impression/opinion on how to describe the “coach to student relationship” in each Coaching Service. Personally, I would prefer being called a CTS Athlete as it impresses other people that you are a member and integral part of their Coaching Service.
When Hoka One One Shoes came up with their Shoe Model with the monicker name “Speedgoat” of Karl Meltzer, I wrote a Shoe Review of the said shoes as I was one of the few who introduced it in the local trail running circuit. That is how I idolize and respect this guy. Actually, if not for the Covid-19 situation, I would have the new Speedgoat right now in my possession and ready for another Shoe Review.
I will continue with my series, How To Qualify For Boston Marathon, tomorrow. Thanks for reading.
I am not trying to force-feed you with the training that I did with CTS as I want to share my story from the time that they accepted my application as one of their CTS athletes. I was just lucky that I was able to contact Jason Koop when he was advertising the publication of his book on Ultrarunning in May 2017 and asked him if CTS accepts a 65-year old runner.
After I applied on line on their Website, I was asked to answer (on line) a questionnaire, asking my personal data, experience and number of years of training, and if I had a recurring running injury. After a few days, one of their Senior Coaches contacted me through e-mail and gave me instructions on how to set up my Premium Training Peaks Platform by giving me my Signing-In data. I think it costs me $70.00 as full time payment for my subscription with Premium Training Peaks. Two of my GPS Watches (SUUNTO Ambit 3 Peak and Garmin Forerunner) were linked to the said Training Site Platform. Everything (data) that my Coach need to knowabout my daily workout are uploaded to the Training Peaks and you can not fake your effort on those data. The Senior Coach had briefed me about the terms being used on the description of each workout and the specific data that are incorporated in the workout. Above all, my workouts were given to me in the number of hours and minutes and not by the number of miles or kilometers that I have to run in each day. My Coach asked me what is my preferred REST Day for the week and I said, I would like it on Mondays.
My Coach would send me my training workout for two weeks and each day I should give my feedback how my body felt in terms of effort from EASY to Very HARD, the rank measurement is from 1 to 10 with Rank 1 as Very Easy and 10 as Very Hard. It is a also a “must” that you send a short message as how you felt during and after the workout. Your feedback description will be gauged in terms of your fitness condition, fatigue, and motivation.However, your feedback will be matched with numerical data captured from your GPS Watch and as seen on Training Peaks. At the end of the week, you can easily see your totals in terms of the total number of hours and the total of miles/kilometers you covered from those hours.On those first days as CTS athlete, I would review the Book on Ultrarunning by Jason Koop making sure to know the description and details of each workout I was given to do.
It is worth mentioning that the Coach would prescribe in each daily workout the following description: (1) the number of hours and minutes of your total workout; (2) each workout is described from its warm-up period (in minutes), main workout (in hours and minutes, depending how long is the period), cool-down period (in Hours/minutes); and (3) the type of terrain where the Coach would suggest you to run, whether it is flat road, trail, or in a course with hilly or steep elevation. The Coach would suggest also your “Total Score Stress” (TSS) where Training Peak would refer it as Running Total Training Stress (rTSS). Depending on what type of workout, the Coach will designate an rTSS score for a specific workout (Easy Run, Endurance Run, Tempo Run, Hill Repeats or Interval). The higher the score, the more the stressful the run. Thus, your workout will be quantified in terms of training stress for a specific running workout. Once I upload my workout from my GPS watch, my rTSS for the workout will be immediately compared with the suggested rTSS from my Coach. Most of the time, my workout rTSS would not surpass or equal my Coach rTSS. But in my feedback, I felt that I am wasted as a result of the workout. Anyway, whether I can equal or not on the required rTTS, my personal observation was that I was running stronger every week.
For the first two weeks of training workout, I was given a mix of Endurance Runs, Tempo Runs, and Recovery Runs from the duration of One Hour & Thirty Minutes to Two Hours. In the succeeding weeks, I was introduced with Hill Repeats. After three weeks, I was asked to conduct a “20-minute field test”. It is done by having a 15-minute warm-up run first and then I did my fastest 20-minute run along a flat paved road, and then had a cool-down for 30 minutes. The result of my “20-minute field test” determined my Average Pace for the Tempo Run. The Average Pace would be my target time whenever I do my Tempo Runs. Most of the succeeding weeks will be devoted to Tempo Runs and Hill Repeats! I was surprised that my Tempo Run’s Average Pace would be faster than my usual Tempo Pace. Before, I could not breach less than 9:00 minutes per mile pace with too much fatigue and pain to my legs and body after each workout. But after3 weeks of CTS training, I was able to breach the 9:00-minute barrier and with more regular “test runs”, I was able to record a 8:09 minute per mile paceand then lowered it to 7:30-minute pace. With my age and not-so-perfect running form and short legs, I could not believe how fast I could make those leg turn-overs whenever I do my tempo runs on a flat paved road. Since I was preparing for ultra trail runs in the future, I did not have a chance to run on the oval track. I guess, I could run faster if those “20-minute field test” runs were done on an oval track.
One month before the Javelina Jundred 100-Mile Endurance Race, I was given more time for my Endurance Runs on trails in my Playground and they would last from 4 hours to 6 hours. CTS would not allow their athletes to run more than 6 hours in their Endurance Runs for the basic reason that the runner could not recover in a span of one to two days. CTS wants their athletes to be fresh and feeling stronger after a day of recovery. The training concept on those four months was clear to me as it followed the training concept and principles written in the book of Jason Koop—-assessment of my body on the 1st two weeks, followed by fast runs through tempo runs and hill repeats, and then Endurance Runs on the last weeks leading to the target race.
Bottomline, with those 4 months leading to JJ100, I was not injured, my body was always fresh and recovered on Tuesdays, and felt becoming stronger during my Tuesday runs.
In the next succeeding posts, we will go to the details of my daily workouts.
Training Plans On The Internet & Professional Coaching Services
From the age of 45 years old to 64 years old, the range of Qualifying Time for Men’s is from 3:20 hours to 3:50 hours. And for the Women’s in the same range of age, it is 3:50 hours to 4:20 hours. Those qualifying times are very hard to attain if you are not consistent in your training. So, what should you do? You have two options: Download a Training Plan in the Internet or simply follow the suggested Training Plans at the back of every Running Book published and available in the market (that is one option). And the other option is subscribe to a Professional Coaching Service where you could apply with a considerable amount of monthly fee or a fee for the whole package deal of the Training Plan. In the number of years that I have been a runner, I have tried both and at the present I am under the supervision and coaching service of the CTS.
Let us talk first with the FIRST Option of getting a Training Plan in the Internet or in the back pages of Running Books. You can do that and most likely, you will not pay for anything or if you download those training plans with a fee, it is still very cheap and affordable. However, you should be consistent in following your training plan. Nobody will monitor you except yourself. As long as you follow the scheduled workouts and you attain your desired pace or speed to a certain distance, there is no problem. Most of these training plans consider your weekly mileage as the barometer of your weekly performance. You will realize that your training program will ask you to do more of your mileage to become faster. These training plans will not consider or measure your body condition after every workout and you have only your Strava or any Training Platform where you can download the data from your GPS Watch and see the basic distance, time of duration of your run, pace/speed. elevation, and your heart rate. Your watch might recommend also the number of recovery hours every workout but most of the time, such data is not always accurate.
If you are training on your own, you have to consider visiting the Jack Daniels’ VDOT Running Calculator. All you have to do is to input your Boston Marathon Qualifying Time and it will calculate your Race Pace for the Marathon; your Training Pace for each type of running workout, and Equivalent Pace/Speed for each Distance from 1,500 meters to Marathon Distance. If you can attain your Target Goal Time in 4-6 months, then you are very good and very consistent in your training. But remember, these training plans should be supplemented with better hydration, nutrition, strength training, recovery periods, and flexibility exercises. On this site, you can ask for a custom plan depending on the number of weeks you select as the duration of your training. An example is: You pay $100 for a Training Plan for 24 weeks based from your target goal time.
When I applied for Professional Coaching Service with CTS, the book, “Training Essentials For Ultrarunning: How To Train Smarter, Race Faster, and Maximize Your Ultramarathon Performance” by Jason Koop was just published and available in the market in May 2016. I immediately bought the book and personally contacted Jason Koop through Direct Message on Facebook and asked him if I can qualify to apply for their Coaching Service even if I am about to reach the age of 65 years old. He replied positively and the next days and weeks, I was asked to answer some questionnaire about my running, set up my Premium Training Peaks, and I had my first telephone conversation with my designated Coach. So, in the middle of June 2016, I started my training geared towards a “smarter and faster” ultrarunner. If you happened to read the book of Jason Koop, you would find out how scientific is their approach to make you a long-lasting ultrarunner. And for the past 4 years that I have been a “CTS athlete”, they have valued to maintain my healthy condition as a runner so that I can enjoy running as long as I live.
For the first 6 months as a CTS Athlete, I subscribed to their Premium Plan with One Month Free with a monthly subscription of $300. You can click on their site if you want to know more of their Coaching Services. For the past 3 years, I downgraded to their Select level where I am paying a subscription of $185 per month with a yearly contract. But before last year, I was paying then $175 per month. I am not telling or suggesting you to apply also for a Professional Coaching Service as most of these more popular and credible (not “fly-by-night”) ones have the number of athletes to attend to, are filled-up already. You are very lucky if you will be accepted as one of their CTS athletes but you may never know. You can try. I must accept that those first 4 months that I have trained with CTS, I became stronger ultrarunner but my “gut problem” due to heat was always my weakness. Slowly, I have progressed through the years with the help of my Coach on this problem. I can say that CTS accidentally helped me to qualify for the Boston Marathon.
What is the difference between CTS and this Training Plans in the Internet? There are so many differences. First, CTS measures your training output by the time (number of hours) you put in to your weekly training schedule. Those Training Plans in the Internet measure your output by the number of miles/kilometers you run for the week. CTS monitors my daily workout through the Premium Training Peaks and I have once in two weeks telephone conversation for 30 minutes with my Coach. My Coach had never been changed since the time I started to be enrolled with their service. You could just imagine the relationship I have developed with my Coach for the past four years.
In the coming days, I will mention in my posts the details of my training workouts leading to the 2017 Revel Canyon City Marathon Race.
It was an accident or spur of the moment when I decided to register for the 2017 Revel Canyon City Marathon Race after I DNF at the 2017 Javelina Jundred 100-Mile Endurance. I was mentally and physically devastated when I was driving from Mesa/Phoenix, Arizona to Los Angeles, California on October 29, 2017 after the event. It was supposed to be my first 100-mile race with the CTS Coaching Service which I started to enroll in the middle of June 2017. I was too confident that after 4 months of training under my CTS Coach, I would be able to finish the Javelina Jundred. However, at Mile 38, I started to have a “stomach problem” and that I had to “throw-up” my ingested food and the fluids that I have taken few meters after I left the last Aid Station. It took me 34 minutes to finish Mile 38 and walked all the way to the end of the 2nd loop at the elapsed time of 10:42+ hours. I rested in my tent for almost 16 minutes to recover and find out if I can still take in some fluids and food. However, my body took a lot of beating due to the heat of the day. I decided to DNF with the elapsed time of 10:56+ hours at 42 miles with another one hour of buffer time to rest some more. But on hindsight, while I was thinking on my way back to Los Angeles, I should have slept and spent the whole one hour for my body to recover and just in time for the heat of the day to cool off as it was already early in the evening.
Reviewing my data on Training Peaks during the said event, I had 4 Peak Performances and an Average Pace of 14-15 minutes per mile which I consider to be above average from my past performance considering that it was too hot that time. My recurring problem with my gut due to the heat really zapped my body physically and mentally. As a consolation, I would think also that the elapsed period (4 months) that I was with CTS Coaching Service was not enough for me to moulded as an ultrarunner at the age of 65 years old. I talked to my Coach and I told him what really happened and he gave me advises and suggestions on how to manage my nutrition problem. He suggested for me to take some rest the following week and do some easy runs for my recovery.
The day after I arrived in Los Angeles, I don’t know what came into my mind when I tried to browse for any race to be held within the Los Angeles area in the coming days and weeks. Surprisingly, I came across the Revel Canyon City Marathon Race which is to be held on November 4, 2017, six days after I DNF at the Javelina Jundred, and I registered with the aim to finish the race. I immediately called and informed my friend, Rowell Ramos, to monitor me during the race and if he has the time, meet me at the Finish Line. Qualifying for the Boston Marathon was never in my mind to be my goal when I registered in this race. I just wanted to run and finish a race!
And the rest is history. I have to photo grab the data which I retrieved from Training Peaks where you can see the Ten (10) Peak Performances that I did in the said Marathon Race which are self-explanatory.
Will I ever go back to Phoenix, Arizona, USA to finish this race? Why not?
Unfortunately, the Revel Canyon City Marathon Race that I joined was the last edition of the said race. It is now being held in Big Bear, California. This year, I am registered to join this year’s edition with the hope that the Covid19 restrictions will be lifted soon.
There are two things that you would think with this story. Is the CTS Coaching Service where I have enrolled and subscribed was the main reason why I was able to qualify for the Boston Marathon? Or Was it the Downhill Elevation of the Revel Marathon Course contributed to my faster time for an Old Runner with the age of 65? Neither of the two were the main reasons why I started my journey to the Boston Marathon. It is the “Man In The Arena”!
Most of the stories I have posted in this blog for this year were blog or journal on the daily adventure of Thomas Combisen during the 2020 Hongkong Four Trails Ultra Challenge which was held during the Chinese New Year last January.
The conversation between Thomas and Andre Blumberg in this video validates and proves that Thomas will be going back for the iconic 10th Anniversary Edition next year of this event. Hopefully, we will be back to normal to travel to other countries in the next months. As of now, Thomas is back in his training for this event and be able to finish it in sub-60 hours.
At this moment, I am compiling all the posts and stories of Thomas Combisen from the time he joined my Running Events and his exposure to International Events under the International Association of Ultrarunners (IAU) and Trail Ultra Races sanctioned by ITRA. I hope I can come up and publish an Ebook about his adventures in Running.
As I was browsing on my past posts/stories in this blog yesterday, I came across with this “insight” which I have written on February 14, 2014 (Valentine’s Day) and never was able to publish it in this blog. I was wondering what could be the reason why I was not able to post this as this post answers the BIG “WHY” I have been to ultramarathon and thus, creating an iconic Ultramarathon Event in the country which is the “Bataan Death March 102K Ultramarathon Race”. And this is my insight as an ultra marathoner (road and trail) and a Race Director and Organizer of Ultra Running Events which up to now is still true and applicable up to the present.
It is almost SIX years when I started to float the idea of conducting an ultra marathon race in the country and in this year of 2014, it will be the 6th edition of the Bataan Death March 102K Ultra Marathon Race. On hindsight, I have been thinking why I organized this kind of road running event and slowly made it as something to be proud of among runners in the country.
It all started when I saw a website of a marathon event that is named after the Bataan Death March which is being held in the desert of White Sands, New Mexico, USA. I saw this website when I was still in the active service in 1999. After a year, I implemented the same concept of the race among the units of the Philippine Army and made it as a Team Competition to include the US Army & Marines contingent based in the country. Although the race covered only 25 kilometers of the Bataan Death March Route, it became a success even if we did not ask for any Registration Fees from the Team Participants. It was simply sponsored by the Philippine Army, through my Office as the Deputy Chief of Staff for Training and Education, G-8. In simple terms, I was the Chief Trainor & Educator of the Philippine Army nationwide!
If I can still remember it right, I only gave Trophies to the Top Three Teams and there were NO Finisher’s Medals and Finisher’s T-Shirts. Our office and my staff gave packed lunch to all the participants and we parted ways as happy competitors and runners. In the same manner, our civilian guest runners were just treated with the said packed lunch at the finish area.
Sadly, when I got transferred to Mindanao for a Combat Commander position, my BDM efforts just died and forgotten.
Fast Forward. Retirement and the Freedom to Run in any place and time of the day gave me a more focused attention to the Ultra Races that I’ve organized in the past. Of course, my being a Retired Major General of the Armed Services had also helped me in my coordination with the AFP, PNP, and the Local Governments. And whenever any of my ultra races is being concluded with all the finishers enjoying their triumph and victory, I always get a heart-warming feedback of “Congratulations For a Successful Event!” from the other runners, friends from Facebook, and from the thousands of followers of my blog.
It is a very humbling feeling when I get such feedback and it is already enough “compensation” for the preparation, coordination, risk, sleepless and tiring moments just to be able to monitor the safety of the runners and the progress of the race.
Personally, success to me in every race, is NOT in the number of registered runners. I would be happier if I have lesser in the number of runners whom I personally know and who would stick to follow my Race’s Rules & Regulations. Furthermore, I would be happiest when I hear stories among my runners on how they help each other in order to finish the race. These ultra runners whom I usually call “the usual suspects” are aware that the registration fee that they have paid to join the event is NOT enough to pay for my “Talent Fee” for seeing to it that they are safe and secured during the event.
But, most of the reasons for a Successful Event is attributed to the Competing Runner himself/herself. In ultra races, a runner can not “fake’ his performance backed with lackluster training and preparation. It takes a lot of pounding on the ground, discipline, determination, positive attitude, and critical problem solving if an ultra runner wants a decent finish in a race without any injury or “issues”. So, if a runner registers a Course Record Time for the event, it becomes a motivation for the others to work harder in their next training & preparation. Success for a runner is being able to overcome one’s inner demons, pain , suffering, and other personal challenges!
Success does not mean profit or money that a Race Organizer would earn from each event. Since I am not being backed up or sponsored by any Corporate Entity, a runner’s registration fee would be spent for the Podium Finisher’s Trophies, Finisher’s Medals, Finisher’s Shirts, Certificates, Race Bibs, Tarpaulins, Payment For Marshals & Event’s Staff, Ambulance/Medical Team Services, Planning & Coordination, Timing Services, Food For Runners at the Finish Line, and Travel Expenses. Sad to say, I am not being paid for being the Race Director!
To tell you the truth, I am getting richer from my “tax-free” monthly pension and “tax-free” interests of my investments and rentals to my properties. Even without organizing or directing ultra races, I will be happy and contended sitting on my rocking chair while listening my music from my Bose Sound System and scrolling/reading your Facebook status on my MacBook Air and Apple iPhone!
Success, therefore, to me in races is developing friendships and maintaining those friendship so that in every race, a runner would learn something for him/her to be a better person. Better would mean stronger, healthier, more matured, more friendly, and have a better outlook in life.
The highest level of success is when ones experience as a Runner and Race Director/Organizer is being shared to others and such experience becomes an inspiration to emulate. And this blog has that main objective to share my experience to everybody.
Thank you for reading this article. I hope you enjoyed it and have the motivation to challenge yourself to run and adhere the outdoors for the greater good of a healthy lifestyle. Please subscribe to this blog for more updates and stories. Thank you!
It was accidental when I saw a post on Facebook of a certain runner with a quotation from a person with the name “Stu Mittleman“ that intrigued and caught my attention while I was drinking my hot coffee in one of the mornings last week. I immediately “googled” the name of Stu Mittleman and I was shocked to find out his feats and accomplishments in the world of Ultrarunning or Ultra Marathon.
During his popularity in Ultra Marathon, he set world records in single stage and multi-day running events. He even set a Official Record in Running Across America during his days. But what got my focus and interest in him is his book which he had written and entitled: “Slow Burn: Burn Fat By Exercising Slower”. I immediately browsed on Amazon about the availability of the said book and after reading its Sample feature, I bought its Kindle Edition for $6.99 and read every chapter of the book.
Since last week, I have been applying his training principle and techniques in my Long Runs, Tempo Runs, and Recovery Runs. His training principle is anchored on ones Heart Rate as expressed in Beats Per Minute (bpm). His Upper Limit of Heart Rate is computed as 220-Age X 0.85 and the Lower Limit of Heart Rate is computed as 220-Age X 0.70. Your Easy/Recovery Runs should be below your Lower Limit of HR; Endurance Runs should be in between the Lower and Higher Limits; and Speed/Interval/Anaerobic Runs should be above your Upper Limit.
At my age of 68, my Upper Limit is 130 bpm and my Lower Limit is 107 bpm. However, I have adjusted my Lower Limit to 112 bpm and my Upper Limit to 125 bpm after I have been following this principle for the duration of one week. For a typical one hour running workout, I would jog for the first 20 minutes within my Lower Limit of bpm; next 20 minutes is done in between my Lower and Upper Limits of bpm; and the last 20 minutes will be within the Lower Limit of bpm. One can adjust the period of time for each phase of the workout by shortening the first and last 20 minutes to come up with a longer duration for the 2nd phase of workout.
As a result by following this training principle and technique, my recovery in between my daily workouts were faster and my runs were more relaxing and comfortable. My breathing is easier, most specially, if I am running outside my backyard using my Buff as my mask. I could also focus more on listening to my body and have the pleasure of looking around my environment most specially when I am running along the highway.
On the nutrition side, I would start my runs without any fluid and food intake in the mornings and could last up to 2-3 hours without food intake and with regular intake of water every 15-20 minutes during the run. The fats stored in my body would be the source of my energy throughout the workout. However, once I finish my workout, I would immediately have my food consisting of lesser carbohydrates but more on protein and fats. I think my waist size had reduced from Size 29 to Size 28 because of diligently following Stu’s training principle/technique!
I am highly recommending this book for those who love and passionate on ultramarathon races and timed/endurance events. This is also good for those who would like to start in walking, jogging, and running to improve one’s health and immune system.
Thank you for reading and please subscribe to this blog for more stories and updates!
After finishing the 2020 Borneo Ultra Trail Marathon (BUTM) 106K Race in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia on March 15, 2020, the Philippines was put on strict Lockdown due to Covid-19 upon my arrival in Manila in the early morning of March 17, 2020. From the Manila International Airport, I immediately went directly to my Playground, driving my personal vehicle, in the Province of Bataan which is 110 kilometers away northwest of Metro Manila. This is the place where I spent those “Lockdown” period/days as imposed by the Government due to the pandemic brought about by Covid-19.
Having surrounded with hills and mountains in my Playground and with a “Backyard Loop” once I step out of the door of the house, I maintained my daily training with the hope that the races where I registered would still be held as scheduled.
A new ultra trail race of KOTM (King of the Mountains) series in the Cordillera Region, Pulag 100K Ultra Trail Race, would be in its first edition on April 18-19, 2020, was supposed to be my next race for the year. But because of the prevailing situation in the country, the Race Director deemed it to be cancelled for safety reasons. Despite this situation, I did a “virtual run” on the date of the event in my Backyard Loop where I finished 50K in 11 hours and some minutes!
For the month of May, I was supposed to go to California, USA and join the 2020 Western States 100-Mile Memorial Day Training Runs for the said weekend. I made already my accommodation reservation and I was glad I was not charged for it. Also, I was glad that my travel reservations were not scheduled before the Lockdown was imposed.
By the end of this June, I was supposed to go to Europe as I was accepted in a lottery to join the 2020 Mont Blanc Du Marathon 42K Race in Chamonix, France but it was cancelled by the Race Organizer/s. I guess, I opted to have my registration on a “roll-over” for the 2021 edition.
Before the end of May, I was able to request for the refund of my registration fee for the Eiger Ultra Trail Race 51K as the Race Organizers announced on the earlier part of May that this event is also cancelled. It was supposed to be my second time to visit the Jungfrau-Interlaken-Grindelwald Region in Switzerland.
So far, those are the four Trail Races/Events which are cancelled due to the Covid-19 situation. I was fortunate that I did not plan ahead and spend some money in advance for my travel arrangements.
The following were the reasons why I joined this trail race: (1) This race is my first trail running event for the Season 2020 and my second trail running event after I renewed my subscription as a CTS athlete since the middle of November last year; (2) This is supposed to be a part of my training in preparation for my 2020 TransLantau 50K participation in Hong Kong as my last Long Run (whether I finish the race or not); and lastly, (3) To confirm and validate my training which was given as a part of my weekly workout—the use of weighted backpack for hiking for at least once a week.
Since the RD of the event is a friend of mine, I sent him a message of my intention of joining the race being the first edition of this event. He was glad that I would be attending this race. In the later days before the race, I asked him of the directions going to the venue as I am not familiar of the other side (eastern) of Itogon, Benguet. Two days before the event, I was able to trace the route going to venue, coming from Baguio City. With the help of a local living in Sitio Dalupirip and working as the Municipal Nurse of Itogon, Benguet, she guided me all the way to the end of the cemented road leading to the populated area of the Sitio. Having seen the overall location of the event, I knew already that the terrain will be challenging as well as the prevailing weather in the area. The place is surrounded with higher mountains and not so much of vegetations on the mountains we will be running, I expect that we will be fighting with the so-called “canyon heat” while we will be running under the heat of the sun.
From The Podium Hotel where I usually stay in Baguio City, it took me at least One Hour drive to Dalupirip, arriving at 2:30 AM of Sunday (Race Day). From the end of the paved road up to the Start/Finish venue (Covered Court), it is a good one-kilometer distance, crossing the river on a cable suspension bridge which is only good for motorcycles and pedestrians with a wide cemented footpath leading to the Covered Court surrounded with rice fields.
After I registered and checked-in with the RD and staff, I went back to my vehicle to prepare my things. At 3:30 AM, I was back at the Covered Court just in time for the start of the briefing by the RD.
Race Proper/First Loop
The race started at exactly 4:00 AM and it was still dark and my new Neo Headlamp was on. I positioned myself at the back of the pack, as usual, with the thought to just follow the runner in front of me. The plan was to enjoy the route/event; pass as many as runners along the route and finish within the prescribed cut-off time of 12 hours. On thefirst kilometer we passed by in-between houses within the Sitio of Dalupirip along a cemented pathway until we reached the road that leads to the Starting Area from the place where I parked my vehicle. We turned right into a paved path and the ascent started and the runners formed a “Conga Line”, a single-file formation going up to the mountain. I think I was able to pass 3 runners at this section and then suddenly the runners in front of me stopped, trying to look for ribbons/markers. The runners argued if we were in the right track or not and some of us “backtracked” to find the last ribbon along the route. At this point, we heard shouts from the Marshals below us and loud sounds from horns of motorcycles indicating that we were in a wrong directions. We were advised to return to the Start Line and follow the proper route on the first 1-2 kilometers as advised by the RD. As I passed the Starting Line (again!), the RD advised me and the other runners that the cut-off time will be 13 hours due to the delay we encountered. As I glanced my watch, almost40 minutes had elapsed already and I was confident that I could finish this race in less than the new cut-off time.
I was joined by a runner who knows the route and we were together for the first two kilometers until I went ahead of him. Since it was still dark, I hiked slowly in between rice fields until I reached a trail that ascends towards the first mountain of the course. The trail was very steep that I was forced to use my trekking poles. I just contented myself to just follow the lights in front of me and at the middle of the steep trail to the peak of the mountain, I started to pass more runners who went ahead of me. Through consistency and patience in steady hiking with the aid of my trekking poles, I was able to reach the peak of the mountain and it was already early in the morning as the sun rises in the east. I was amazed by the beauty of the mountains around and the river that flows at the feet of the mountains. It was a relief to hike and run on the flatter portions of the mountain until I reached the first Aid Station. I refilled my water bottles and ate a bite of sandwich and I was joined by two runners, Elle Alvarez and a guy, in the said Aid Station. Loiue Ganayan told me that I am ranked #30 runner to reach the said Aid Station. I left the Aid Station ahead of the two runners and I observed that the trail follows a water canal until I descended in the said mountain. However, in one of steep descents, Elle Alvarez was behind me calling me “General” and asked if she can pass me so that she can have some time to pee at the bottom of the mountain. It was the last time I saw her. In about one hour from the Ambasa Aid Station (Km 10), I was already on my way back to the starting area to complete the first loop/mountain which is called Mt Marikit.
I think I was ahead of more than one hour with the prescribed cut-off time at this point. At the Dalupirip AS/Start/Finish area (Km 17), I refilled my hydration bottles and immediately left the area. I started to hike and run as the first 2 kilometers was flat until I reached a long hanging cable bridge. I brought out my sunglasses from my pack as I could feel that the sunlight was getting brighter and the air was becoming warmer. My friend Bong Bernadez was at the cable bridge as he was taking pictures to all the runners crossing the said bridge.
The road was still concrete as I followed the path in between rice fields and some populated areas along the route. As I left the populated area and the rice fields, I just followed a concrete road until I reached another end of a long cable bridge on the side of Dalupirip which looks very new and more modern and I was at the Tabu Aid Station. I refilled my hydration bottles, drank a glass of Coke,and ate two slices of rice cake before leaving the place. After crossing the cable bridge, the route became a wide dirt road which have slight ups and downs and at this point I was following a lady runner who was steadily hiking with her trekking poles. After two kilometers, the ascent was continuous and started to feel the heat in the said place. It was good there were small pipes and strips of bamboo connected to the side of the mountain where potable water was flowing. I took some time to douse my head with the cold water but after a few meters of hike and run, I would feel again the heat on my body.
Finally, I reached the Tivang Water Station (Km 28). I stopped, refilled my bottles with water, and ordered some Coke, Eggs,and Boiled Banana from the local peddlers thereat. I guess, I took a lot of time for the first time to rest and eat at this point. I took some time to rest andhave stayed here for almost 25 minutes. With enough water, I left Tivang and slowly passed some runners ahead of me. It was a relentless 3-kilometer distance of climbing from Tivang to the Peak of Mt Pigingan (Km 31). My trekking poles were helpful at this point. The Peak of Mt Pigingan looks like an “arrowhead” that it took me 10 minutes to reach it from the its base which has only a distance of 10-15 meters.
To give justice for all the hardship, pain and heat to reach the Peak of Mt Pigingan, I asked the Marshal to take a picture of me with the marker as the background. I had a chance also to have a picture of Bob/Robert, a British trail runner, who arrived ahead of me in the said peak. I did not take a few more minutes to stay in the place and slowly made my way down to the base of the peak. As I moved going down from the mountain, I met a lot of runners who were asking me how far was the peak. I have to answer them through some estimates which was nearer in distance than the real thing. I really did not want them to be frustratedif I told them the truth.
Finally, I reached Tivang Water Station (Km 34) and I ordered the same food that I have eaten before I went out towards the peak of Mt Pigingan. I stayed here for another almost 25 minutes and brought with two pieces of Ice Candy. I thought we were going to follow the route for the 32K runners from Tivang but only to find out that we have another mountain peak to reach which is Bantic (Km 37). It is another relentless uphill climb for 3 kilometers under the heat of the sun. The Ice Candies I had with me were very comforting but with the steepness of the climb, it gave more toll to my tired knees and legs. But through patience and lots of 10-seconds rests along the exposed route, I was able to reach the peak and hoped to have a faster downhill trek towards the next Aid Station.
I guess, I was wrong! The winding single track downhill route was so tricky and steep that I could not increase my speed at this point. Some portions were covered with dried leaves and some have loose tiny rocks which would cause my trail shoes to slide even if they have aggressive studs on their soles. The descent is another 3-kilometer distance which most of the sections are very steep. At this point, I was thinking that I could no longer reach the Tabu Bridge Aid Station within the cut-off time of 12 hours. As I reached the base of the mountain at the Langag Water Station (Km 40), I refilled my hydration bottles and immediately left the said AS. I finally crossed the bridge and reached Tabu Aid Station (Km 42) with barely 2 minutes before the cut-off time.
At the Tabu Aid Station, I entertained the idea of eating a glass of Halo-Halo (concoction of sweet fruits, milk, sugar, and crushed ice) but after eating it, I started to have an “acid reflux” (aka throwing up the fluids and foods I have ingested in the said Aid Station). The marshals and some of the runners offered help by giving me some medications and ginger tea to ease my stomach problem. I was asked by the Marshal if I would declare myself as DNF at the said AS since I have only 35 minutes to spare before the cut-off time of 13 hours but I replied that I would try my luck to just run and hike up to the Finish Line.
Five kilometers in 35 minutes? In the end, I was able to cover a distance of 4 kilometers only when my watch registered a time of 13 hours. After this, I just simply hiked until I reached the Finish Line. I found out later at the Finish Line from the RD that there were more than 20 runners behind me who were declared as DNF at the Tabu Aid Station.
Post Race Assessment
I am still happy that I was able to finish the race even if my time was longer than the prescribed cut-off time of 13 hours. My training using my “weighted backpack” gave me confidence to hike relentlessly on steep uphill climbs. The heat experience I got from this race was just part of my training for my future races but I need more of these type of races for me to adjust to hotter environment. I need to fix my problem on the occurrence of “acid reflux” during my ultra races and better learn how my body would prevent this from happening. I stayed and spent so much time at the Tivang Aid Stations (going to the peak and back) and at the Tabu Aid Station on my way to the Finish Line. Lastly, in KOTM races, expect the published distance to have an additional bonus distance of either 1-2 kilometers.
Overall, I am happy with my performance in this race.