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Thomas Combisen @ The 2019 Hongkong Four Trails Ultra Challenge (HK4TUC)

7 03 2019

(Note: Support Crew in this Race is strictly for the purpose of providing transport to the Runner from one transition area (end & start of the trail) to another and to prepare in these transition areas the needed hydration/nutrition and gears of the runner. In addition, to monitor the progress of the runner through the event’s live tracking website)

This year’s race is the 8th edition of the Hongkong Four Trails Ultra Challenge popularly known as HK4TUC or “Hongkong Four”. I have written a story/post on this blog about the first finisher which was considered as “survivor”, who happens to be a Pinoy Ultrarunner in the person of Jag Lanante who is a Registered Nurse based in Thailand. Since then, the event had evolved as the “toughest” ultra trail event in Asia and in the world. Aside from the fact that the event is always held during the Chinese New Year celebration where most of the commercial establishments and public transportation are closed or limited in numbers.

What makes this ultra event as the toughest one, even if there is No Registration Fee, are the following: (1) There are NO Aid Stations and each runner should be on “self-sufficient” on his/her needs along the route; (2) Runners are NOT allowed to have Support Crew along the route not until they reach the Transition Areas (Start or End of each Trailhead/Trailend); (3) The Four Trails must be ran in the reverse direction starting with the Maclehose Trail that has a distance of 100 kilometers; then the Wilson Trail that has a distance of 78 kilometers; then Hongkong Trail that has a distance of 50 kilometers; and lastly, the Lantau Trail that has a distance of 70 kilometers; (4) I really don’t know if this had been introduced in the past editions that there are intermediate cut-off times at the end of Maclehose Trail which is 18 hours and at the starting line at the Lantau Trail on or before 56 hours; (5) Relying on the existing Old Trail Markers along the route for direction is a challenge to the runners, most especially, at the Maclehose and Wilson Trails as some sections overlap to each of the trails. Sometimes, a simple arithmetic mentally could do the trick! (6) Lastly, most of the trails are made of cemented stairs and some portions are on paved roads. But each runner must be warned that there are stairs that have narrow steps has a width which is half of the length of ones foot. These kind of trail steps need a special trick in running the descents or downhills.

Thomas Combisen & PAU

When the registration and submission of letter of intent to join this race was announced last July 2018, I asked two of our PAU runners, Thomas Combisen and Ronnel Valero, to send their respective letter of intent to Andre Blumberg, the Creator, Race Organizer and Race Director of the event. After few days, the RD told me that he could accommodate only one runner from PAU, out of the rest of the Pinoy Ultra Trail runners who submitted their letter of intent. The RD had emphasized that he would prefer another female runner to join the only Pinoy he would choose through his own screening process. After some exchanges of messages during the screening process, the RD decided to choose Thomas Combisen to represent PAU and the Philippines.  I find out later after few months that Kristian Jorgensen, from Denmark and residing in the Philippines was returning for his 2nd attempt to finish the HK4TUC, and he is also representing the Philippines.

After finishing the Salomon Cappadocia 120K Ultramarathon Race in Urgup, Turkey last October, we were planning to recon the Hongkong 4 Trails through hiking last November 2018 but due to work, Thomas requested me to cancel or postpone our plan depending on the availability of time. The days passed and with work demands, the recon did not push through. I gave to Thomas the book that Andre Blumberg gave me on the description of the Hongkong 4 Trails and told him to review the book as his reference.

Lunch Meeting With Irene & Jurg In Hongkong

During my trip in Hongkong last August 2018, I contacted and met a couple of Hongkong locals to help me on the details on how to transport Thomas from one trail to another during the event. The couple, Irene Montemayor and her husband, Jurg were very friendly and cooperative as they know and familiar with all the Hongkong Trails as trail runners/hikers. Irene and I had become Facebook friends after she won the 2016 Translantau 50K Ultra Trail Race. With this meeting and assurance from the couple, I knew that the problem of transport/logistics for Thomas during the event was a done deal and had been solved.

Race Proper

The 29 qualified runners to join this year’s event assembled beside a road and under an overpass where the end of MacLehose Trail is located. The runners were required to be in the assembly area at least 1:30 hours before the Gunstart at 9:00 AM on the first day of the Chinese New Year. Since this is a “Fat Ass” Race, there was no Race Bib and other “loot” to receive except for reporting to the RD to be briefed on the carrying/wearing of a “tracking device” by the runner; have each runner to have their Pictures/“Mugshot” taken; listen to the Final Briefing of the RD; have a Group Picture for the HK4TUC Class of 2019; knowing each other among the runners; and wait for the Gunstart. The race started at exactly 9:00 AM of February 6, 2019.

29 Members Of the HK4TUC Class of 2019

After taking a video of the runners few meters from the Starting Area, our Team had to leave the area and went back to our Hotel and monitor the movement of Thomas and the other runners through the Live Tracking link provided by the RD as I would like to take advantage of the Free WiFi provided in our place of accommodation and be able to monitor in a laptop which has a bigger screen and could be easily zoomed as compared to having the race being monitored through the cellphone. One of my companions/team members (who has a cellular data) informed me that Khristian and Thomas were leading the group after 30 minutes from the start. I was surprised to learn this and I had a lot of impressions in my mind why Thomas was so fast on the first 10-15 kilometers of the MacLehose Trail. Knowing the capability of Thomas on road and trail running, I was confident that he will be able to tone down his pace as the race progresses along the MacLehose Trail.

Trail #1: MacLehose Trail (100 kilometers)

The first 4 hours was uneventful until Thomas went off course as he went all the way along Tai Po Road instead of going up along the Overpass to cross the Tai Po Road after passing the Kam Shan Country Park. He ran downhill along Tai Po Road for about 2 kilometers when he realized that he could not see any Trail Marker, he was advised by the RD to return to the overpass and look at the Trail Marker thereat. This was Thomas first experience of being lost along the course. In my estimate, he wasted 30-40 minutes on this part as he was going uphill for him to go back to the overpass. After this, he was very careful and deliberate in his movement making sure that he is following those MacLehose Trail Markers. 

Thomas Along The Maclehose Trail

When the evening came on the first day, the second challenge was to run and cross those sand on the beach in four different sections with him trying to find his exit towards the Dam. It took him few minutes to locate where the trail was as he was leaving the last section of the beach. Thomas did not panic and he was able to finally reach the Dam and in a few kilometers towards the Finish Line of the MacLehose Trail. Thomas was behind a Lady Runner (Sarah) for a few seconds when he reached the finish line of the MacLehose Trail. He had a 15-minute buffer time before the cut-off time of 18 hours. 

End Of Maclehose Trail

Our Logistic Team was there to meet Thomas at the end of MacLehose Trail and asked him what he needed before we leave for the trailhead of the Wilson Trail. It took us 2-3 minutes for Thomas to change his shirt and hydrate and we took off immediately with a Taxi where we advised Thomas to sleep while we were en route to the next trail. The trip from MacLehose to Wilson Trail is a 50-mile travel which would take us 50 minutes to One Hour of travel time. We did not talk to Thomas and let him sleep as we traveled to next stage.

Trail #2: Wilson Trail (78 kilometers)

We arrived at the trailhead of the Wilson Trail in less than one hour and immediately Thomas ate rice and tinolang manok and refilled his pack with water and some solid food. In a few minutes, he left the trailhead rested and fed. We were confident that he will make-up for his lost time in MacLehose Trail as we were able to catch up with at least 3 runners at the start of Wilson Trail who finished the First Leg way ahead of Thomas. We were back to our Hotel at 4:00 AM of the 2nd Day confident that Thomas will allow us to doze off for some hours from monitoring on his movement. But as we opened our laptops, we found out that Thomas got lost at 1.5 kilometers from the start of Wilson Trail. (Note: Our Logistic Team did not sleep for the first night waiting for Thomas to finish the MacLehose Trail and bringing him to Wilson Trail and attending to his needs before jump-off)

Thomas was able to get back to the trail after a few minutes. But after one hour and 15 minutes, Thomas went off course again after passing Km 11.5 at Nam Chung Country Park and I could see in the Live Tracking that he was going down from the mountain at a very fast pace and about to reach the sea shore when he realized that he was off course. It took him some time to go uphill to find out the place where he veered off from the trail. Another lost minutes on this 4th lost of Thomas along the course. At Km 22.5 (Wilson Trail Post #127), instead of veering left along the Wilson Trail, Thomas went directly due south and hit another trail that was way off course. He was able to run another 2 kilometers after he realized that he was off course. As he was going back to the Wilson Trail, he met Soken, the Japanese runner going down on the wrong trail where Thomas was coming from. Thomas warned him that it was a wrong trail and that he had to return but Soken insisted that he was on the right trail.

Lost Moments @ Wilson Trail

Once Thomas reached the intersection, he spent a lot of time trying to locate the Wilson Trail Marker and he told me that he rested here for more than hour. It was evident that Thomas took some time to stay in the said place as his tracker was not moving at all as gleaned from the Live Tracking. After resting, he was able to get back on the trail and Thomas was moving as fast as he could.

Almost 2-Hour Stop At This Point

As he reached the populated area at Wilson Trail Marker #99 at Tai Po Tau Drive, Thomas was looking for a Grocery Store as he needed some water/hydration drinks. The heat of the day was taking its toll to the runners as the 2nd day was hotter than the first day. He went off course again looking for a Grocery Store and he was able to get his drinks/water. However, after 500 meters, instead of turning left at Lam Sen River (Km Marker Wilson #98), he went straight ahead and missed the turn. Thomas was able to get back to the trail when he saw that he could not see any Trail Marker on the course he was running.

Because it was the 2nd evening, Thomas did not notice the intersection of MacLehose Trail with the Wilson Trail. Instead of turning left, he went straight to the MacLehose Trail after the Wilson Trail Marker #66. He lost another 1:30 hours in going back to the Wilson Trail.

About 8 kilometers from the MRT, the battery of his tracker was depleted and there was no way for us to know where Thomas was. We had to contact him by phone and we were able to monitor him as he moved and progressed during the night.

In my interview with Thomas, he missed the last trip of the MRT by 1:30 hours and he was able to sleep at the MRT Station for almost 2 hours and took the first trip to continue his Wlison Trail Leg. As he moved on the remaining 7 kilometers of Wilson Trail (Hongkong side) on the 3rd Day, we estimated that he would arrive at the transition area at 8:00-8:15 AM. Thomas finally arrived at 9:15 AM, completing the Wilson Trail in almost 29 hours! (Note: If Thomas did not get lost most of the time at the Wilson Trail and would have taken the last trip of the MRT (12:50 AM on the 3rd Day), he could have shaved off at least, 4-5 hours!)

Waiting TAXI For Thomas @ The End Of Wilson Trail

Trail #3: Hongkong Trail

Using a Taxi (waiting for us), it took us from the transition area in Wilson Trail to the Shek O Road Bus Terminal for about 30 minutes. We let Thomas took some drinks and food and let him take a nap on the move inside the Taxi. At the Shek O Road Bus Station, Thomas ate rice and Pork Sinigang and refilled his pack with water and food. Initially, we were lost and confused in looking where the trailhead was and asked a lot of locals in the area. After looking and reading at HK4TUC RD’s Guidelines and Notes, I realized that the Shek O Road sign is the start of the Hongkong Trail up to the Old Wave Bay (going back to where we came from while riding in a Taxi). We advised Thomas to run and hike along the Shek O Road towards the intersection and hit the road going to the Old Wave Bay until he would reach the Hongkong Trail Course Marking/Posts. 

It was already 10:00 AM on the third day when Thomas left the Shek O Road Bus Terminal with the advise that we have to arrive at Mui Wo and take the Ferry before 5:00 PM. While I was in the Bus on my way back to the Hotel, I was trying to compute if Thomas can make it at 5:00 PM at Mui Wo within the duration of 7 hours. I was confident that he could make it with no more possibility of getting lost along the Hongkong Trail. With no fresh battery in Thomas tracker, it was very hard to estimate on how much time or the near exact time will Thomas arrive at the Victoria Peak. I was hoping that he could make it in 6 hours despite the fact that HK Trail is a net uphill climb before we could bring him to the Central Ferry Station and be able to arrive at Mui Wo before 5:00 PM on the third day.

Our Logistics/Transport Team was already at the Peak before 4:00 PM and we decided to hike along the HK Trail to meet Thomas. We covered the last 3 kilometers without meeting Thomas and waited for him in a Country Park. After 30 minutes, knowing that he could not make it at 4:00 PM at the end of HK Trail, we decided to go down farther along the trail to finally meet Thomas. As we were going down on the stairs for about 50 meters from the Park where we waited, we finally met Thomas! We immediately joined him for a brisk hike until he finished the Hongkong Trail. Thomas reached the end of Hongkong Trail at 6:35 PM on the 3rd day. His unofficial estimated cumulative time is 57:35 hours for the 3 trails. Thomas missed the cut-off time to start the Lantau Trail in Mui Wo by 1:35 hours.

Thomas At The End Of Hongkong Trail

Knowing the rules of the event, Thomas’ journey on his attempt to finish or survive the 2019 HK4TUC has to end. We took some pictures and waited for our ride back to the Hotel and later got a Taxi.

Thomas was still smiling and strong when he finished the Hongkong Trail. I did not see any limp in his steps/strides while we walked and looked for a Taxi on our way back to the Hotel. Thomas told me that the Pork Sinigang he ate before he started the HK Trail gave him the strength and speed to reach the halfway mark (Km 25) in 2:46 hours! But because of too many tourists who were hiking and walking along the narrow HK Trail after the halfway mark, he could hardly run and maintain his speed/pace and he was forced to walk with the tourist trying to dodge and not being hit by their umbrellas!

Trail #4: Lantau Trail (70 kilometers)

Thomas did not start to run on this trail, instead, we went on a tourist mode to see the island on the following morning.

Thomas With RD Andre Blumberg @ Mui Wo, Lantau

Results

3 Finishers

6 Survivors

20 Retirees

Finishers:

1. Kristian Joergensen, Denmark (based in Philippines), 55:52 hours

2. Tomokazu Ihara 井原知一, Japan, 57:42

3. Nikki Han, United Kingdom (based in Hong Kong), 58:20

Survivors:

1. Abimanyu Shunmugam, Singapore, 64:03

2. Lau Chun Man, Hong Kong, 65:26

3. Chris Kwan Yee Ting 關綺婷, Hong Kong, 66:10

4. Leon Jiang Liang Jun 蒋良君, China, 66:52

5. Habiba Benahmed, France (based in Hong Kong), 68:54

6. Knattapisit Krutkrongchai ณัฐพิสิษฐ์ ครุฑครองชัย, Thailand (based in Hong Kong), 73:28

Finishers & Survivors Split Times

Conclusion

After his shower and recovery meal at the Hotel, we talked about his experience and assessed the things that went wrong and the things where we can improve for the next edition.

In my opinion, without the cut-off time of 5:00 PM on the 3rd day to reach Mui Wo (Lantau), Thomas would have continued the race and hoping to finish the Lantau Trail in 17 or 18 hours, he could have finished within the cut-off time of 75 hours as a “Survivor”. As a consolation/cheer and to compare to what he had achieved on his first attempt to finish the HK4TUC, I told him that Jag Lanante was the first “survivor” or “last man standing” on his first attempt in the HK4TUC and finished the race in 81+ hours with the aid of trekking poles then. But Jag Lanante came back stronger as a sub-75 “survivor” on his 2nd attempt and finally as a sub-60 Finisher on his 3rd attempt. 

Thomas is just starting to warm-up and he is now thinking on how to finish this race as a “Finisher” on the next edition. As I told him on our way back to Manila, “Thomas, Finisher Number 10 will be waiting for you as your Lucky Number on the 9th Edition of the HK 4 Trails Ultra Challenge!” 

In behalf of Thomas, he expressed his thanks and appreciation to the members of the Team Thomas Logistics Team consisting of Irene Montemayor & Jurg; Chari Sevilla; Scarlet Heart; PAU Staff; and myself for the journey/adventure and memorable experience on his attempt to finish the HK4TUC.

Congratulations and here is my snappy salute to you, Hero Thomas!  

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Race Preview: 2019 Hongkong Four Trails Ultra Challenge (HK4TUC)

7 02 2019

Here is a Repost of an article from Ultra 168 of Australia about the 2019 Hongkong Four Trails Ultra Challenge.

RACE PREVIEW: 2019 HONGKONG FOUR TRAILS ULTRA CHALLENGE (HK4TUC)

The 298km trail ultramarathon with 14,500m elevation gain consists of running all of the four long distance trails in Hong Kong. Namely the Maclehose trail (100km), the Wilson trail (78km), the Hong Kong trail (50km) and the Lantau trail (70km) in a single, non-stop effort.

HK4TUC has become widely recognised internationally through the documentary Breaking 60, which features four participants from the 2017 challenge.

This year 29 athletes from 13 nationalities aged 20 to 52 will race. “The field is diverse with only 7 participants from Hong Kong running. The others joining from countries as far away as the United Kingdom, New Zealand and the United States. We are particular proud to welcome 11 female participants to take on the tough Challenge this year,” said Andre Blumberg, Founder of HK4TUC.

Runners must be self-sufficient along each of the four trails. They are run in reverse of the normal direction with no course markings. There are no aid stations and no outside support such as pacers, crew or stashing of supplies permitted on the trails. Participants will only have support between the four trails, but the clock continues non-stop towards the 60 hours finisher cut-off. Furthermore, trekking poles are banned this year in an effort to bring the event back to basics.

Participants who complete the course within 60 hours are declared finishers. Those who complete within 75 hours (the final cut-off time) are declared survivors. Additional cut-off times are 18 hours to complete the first Maclehose 100km trail and 56 hours to commence the final Lantau 70km trail. There have only been six finishers in the history of the Challenge, with three women completing the distance too.

Eleven former participants are returning this year including two 2018 survivors, Meredith Quinlan from Australia and Abimanyu Shunmugam from Singapore. Both are gunning for a sub-60 hours finish this year.

Other notable entrants include:

HK4TUC Women

  • Habiba Benahmed (France, based in Hong Kong): Habiba dropped early in the 2018 edition. She has revamped her training for the better and finished Top 5 in all four of her races last year.
  • Sarah Pemberton (HK, based in Indonesia): Another early drop in 2018, Sarah grew up in Hong Kong. She has ramped training significantly, with a lot of time spent on the course. She won the TTF Hong Kong 115km in early 2019.
  • Nikki Han (UK, based in Hong Kong): Nikki had a confirmed slot back in 2015. She had to pull out however before the start due to injury. Nikki has spent ample time on the course, and had a couple strong local race performances, plus a sub-36 hours 2018 UTMB.
  • Xiao Jing 肖静 (China): More recently Jing focused on road and timed ultras. However, she Tor des Geants, plus multiple Hong Kong trail ultras under her belt. She mostly finishes in the Top 10.
  • Yang Fei Fei 非非 (China): Fei Fei mostly races in China and Hong Kong and finished Top 6 in all of her 2018 races ranging from 50km to 100km. She’s got the speed, but it will be interesting to see how she holds up over the extended, sleep-depriving distance.

 

HK4TUC Men

  • Kristian Joergensen (Denmark, based in Philippines): Kristian ran in 2018 and lead for pretty much all of the first day. He then dropped out overnight on Wilson trail. Since then, he significantly stepped up his training. He recently spent several days rehearsing the course for tackling the 2019 edition. Kristian won the Pulag 100km, Clark Miyamit 50mile and came 2nd place in Rizal Mountain 50km and TMBT 100km last year.
  • Ian Seabury (Unites States): Ian is based in Los Angeles, California. He has raced and placed well at many of the iconic US 100 miles trail ultras over the years. This includes the Chimera 100, Zion 100, Angeles Crest 100, Pinhoti 100 and Born to Run 100. In 2017 he completed the Grand Slam of Ultrarunning in very respectable times including a sub-24 hours Western States 100 and sub-27 hours Wasatch 100. Interestingly, he raced the inaugural Hong Kong 100 back in 2011.
  • Thomas Combisen (Philippines): Thomas is one of the strongest ultra runners in the Philippines and regularly clocks around 1,500km in races alone each year. In recent years his focus is more on road and timed ultras. He has raced non-stop distances of 250km or above at least three times.
  • Steven Ong (Malaysia): Steven is one of the strongest ultra runners in Malaysia currently. He has has a solid background on both trail and road. Since October 2016 he placed on the podium in each of the 15 races he finished. Winning 11 of the 15. Notable wins include the 2017 Panoramic Ultra Trail 100 miles in Thailand, as well as the 2018 TITI 250km road ultra in Malaysia.
  • Tomokazu Ihara (Japan): Tomo-San has run ultras for at least ten years. His speciality is the 100+ miles distance of which he completed 47 and frequently finished within the Top 10. These include 6 x HURT 100 with a 4th place at the recent 2019 event and 3 x Angeles Crest 100.
  • From an Aussie perspective, watch out for Christian Warren. UK national, but living over in Australia with some excellent pedigree, which includes 6 x TNF100 / UTA, 3 x Buffalo Stampede 75km. He has also raced internationally, including the 2017 Lavaredo and 2018 Tarawera 100mile. Along with UTMB, as well as Hong Kong 100 and TNF100 Hong Kong.

 





Official Result: 2018 Taklang Damulag 100-Mile Endurance Run

17 12 2018

8th Taklang Damulag 100-Mile Endurance Run (2018)

SOCOM Headquarters, Philippine Army, Fort Magsaysay, Palayan City

5:00 AM December 15 To 3:00 PM December 16, 2018

Cut-Off Time: 34 Hours

Number of Starters: 8 Runners

Number of Finishers: 5 Runners

Percentage of Finish: 62.5%

Starters Of The Race

RANK      NAME                TIME (Hrs)

  1. Jovencio Luspian (Overall Champion)—28:52:25
  2. Gibo Malvar (1st Runner-Up, Overall)—32:42:51
  3. Graciano Santos, Jr (2nd Runner-Up, Overall)—32:42:53
  4. Edwin Fernandez — 33:00:21
  5. Carlito Don Rodas — 33:14:32

Overall Champion Jovencio Luspian

2018 Talking Damulag 100-Mile Run Finishers

Congratulations To All The Finishers!

See you next year!





Race Report: 8th Clark-Miyamit 50-Mile Ultra Trail Run (CM50)

28 11 2018

Race Report: 8th Clark-Miyamit 50-Mile Ultra Trail Run (CM50)

The score is now 3-2! For the past six years since 2012, I finished successfully the Clark Miyamit 50-Mile Race for three consecutive years, starting when I just turned 60 years old. I was lost on the last 3 kilometers to the Finish Line in the 2016 edition missing the cut-off time where I could had finished it easily. And then I volunteered as the Aid Station Marshal at AS3 in last year’s edition as my way of giving back to the trail running community in the country.

In my past Race Reports of this event, I made sure my story to be detailed as I can remember so that future trail runners who would like to join and challenge themselves with this event had some background on what to expect along the route and get some lessons and tips about my training/preparation; nutrition and hydration strategy; and those detailed things on what to do if things would go wrong. Until this time, I would re-read and review all my previous posts about my Race Reports whenever I have plans of joining this event. The RD, Atty Jonnifer Lacanlale is a very good friend who would readily accepts me to run his event in a short notice.

As everybody knows, I posted on Facebook that I finished the race but beyond the cut-off time of 9+minutes and I am considered as an Official DNF of the event. Out of 205 starters, I could had been the last finisher at #162 ranking and would had defended my self-imposed title as the Oldest Finisher of this Badass Event. And I was devastated and frustrated once I crossed the finish line for not being able to implement on my Race Plan—reach the turn-around point/Peak before 9:00AM; leave AS 4 after coming from the Miyamit Falls on or before 12 Noon; reach AS3 at 1:30PM; and a “go-for-broke” and “survival” mode on the last 4:30 hours for a distance of 22+kilometers to the Finish Line.

Cut-Off-Times

I failed “big time” on the last section of the plan where I had 4:30 hours of time to run a distance of 22+kilometers. If I finished the race within the prescribed cut-off time of 18 hours, I would not be here explaining those things that went wrong during the run. I would have easily said that everything went right and mentioned some “glitches” that challenged me to endure in order to reach the finish line. The runners who were with me on our descent from AS4 and AS3 towards the Finish Line were surprised that I faltered on the last 19 kilometers (AS2) up to the last last 8 kilometers (AS1). With those who were with me “fighting for the last golden minutes” (I think there were 5-6 of them whom I passed on the last kilometers, who are younger), I am sorry for giving them a false expectation or hope of telling them that we could still make it before 6:00PM. What I was trying to instill in them was to fight for their last strength and breathe in order to cross the finish line….they should have the “do or die” attitude to reach and cross the finish line, end their suffering, and of course, collect their deposit of P500.00!

You might say that I am “sour-graping” or looking for some excuses for not being able to finish this race as what I had planned for. But this is me, I had been a runner throughout my life and a fighter and passionate in this sport. It is in my brain, blood, and my body system. Whether I fail or succeed, I will still be a runner. And this is what really happened…..

  1. My Coach prepared a Training Schedule for me after finishing the Salomon Cappadocia 63K Medium Race (in the middle of October) in preparation for the MILO Finals Marathon which will be held on December 9, 2018 in Laoag City. I told him that I would like to finish my BQ time of 4:10 or faster for my age of 66 years old in the said race. So, since then, everything on my workout was for a Marathon distance. However, two weeks ago, I told him that I will be joining a 50-miler trail run and just be able to finish the event as an LSD. I lied on the reason! Actually, I was trying to earn my UTMB/ITRA Points in this event and maybe, improve on my ITRA Performance Index. He told me not to join the event but I could have the option to choose a lesser distance and I told him that I could downgrade to the 60K event. He replied that 60K was too much for me and he was against it. So, the only choice I had was for the 10-miler event which I did not mention to my Coach. For the past days, I just kept silent and followed my prescribed training every day but on two weekends before the CM50, I would increase the number of hours of hiking in the mountains with my trekking poles in the company of one of my ultra running friends who joined and successfully finished the 60K course. My Coach silently knew that I was “hard-headed” and he would see my posts on Facebook that I am going for the CM50. This was my first mistake…not following the advise of the Coach whom I am paying for his services. Lesson learned: Let the experts do their work and strictly follow their advise!

@ AS3 Going To The Finish Line (Photo By Trail Ready)

2. For the first time, I decided to use a HOKA One One Speedgoat2 for this race, instead of my New Balance or ASICS Racing Flats or my Salomon Speedcross 4 which I’ve been using before. At Kilometer #8, while approaching PUNING’s RESORT my left foot hit a small rock imbedded on the road and I tripped, making my left knee hit the ground first, and then my right knee, and then followed with my two hands which acted as my brace to protect my face from hitting the ground! It was a hard fall as the ground was hard and solid, not a sandy ground! Shit! This tripping/falling to the ground was happening again early in the race with a pair of HOKAs on my feet. This thing happens to me all the time whenever I wear these HOKAS! I knew it was going to happen because I am natural “shuffler” when I run! Even if I was wearing the brightest headlamp available in the market, Lupine Lighting System, at that time, a sloppy “shuffler” runner like me should not wear HOKAS in a trail race. The impact of the fall on my knees would bring back havoc and pain as I descended from the peak down to Barangay Sapang Uwak. Lesson learned: I should have used my Salomon Speedcross 4 or Speedcross PRO or my new NB Racing Flats!

3. I bought the most expensive Trekking Poles in the market——GIPRON Trekking Poles and they are the lightest! I used them once or twice in my short runs and they were fine. But during my ascent and descent to and from the Peak (during the race), they gave me some “pain in the ass” as the string would loosen its hold on the different segments of the pole. Instead of the usual 3 segments in the Black Diamond and Leki Poles, GIPRON are folded in 4 segments. I would stop whenever the segments would loosen as both poles create a weird sound as they hit the ground. I would tighten the string only to find it loosen again after a few meters. It was stop and go for me fixing on this problem. Because of this problem, it slowed me down and just distracted my focus to maintain my speed/pace. A lot of runners had passed me on my way down from the Peak to the Falls because of this predicament. After a day since the race, I sent a message to an ultra running friend in Hongkong and sent him a picture of the locking system of the GIPRON Trekking Pole and told him my experience during the race. He told me that the trekking poles were not LOCKED when I used them during the race. He instructed me to pull the string harder until I could see a small knot on the string and let that knot to be anchored on the slot at the top end part of the handle! Another SHIT again!!! I saw the small knot as I pulled the string harder away from the handle! I was cursing and laughing when my friend told me that “I was not the FIRST one who experienced this SHIT on these trekking poles!” Lesson learned: Ask the manufacturer of this expensive trekking poles to enclose some written instructions on the package whenever they ship out to their buyer! Not even the video on YouTube would tell you about the presence of this small knot (on the string) on these trekking poles!

UNLOCKED Without The Appearance Of the Small Knot

4. Whether I apply Anti-Chafing Stick or “thing” on my Red Salomon S-LAB Sense Shorts or not, they still give me chafing on my groin areas! Yes, I have my chafing already as early when I was at Km 19 and it became worst when I was on my way back from the Peak. After the race, I could see the chafed areas as big as the size of a 10-Peso Coin on my left and right groin areas. When I finished the Salomon Cappadocia Ultra, I had the same chafed areas but they were not as deep and big; and did not give me so much pain during the race. Lesson learned: I should always bring an Anti-Chafing Stick as part of my Mandatory Gear for 50K and up races.

Last 22K To The Finish Line (Photo By Elle Alvarez)

I did not have any problems with my nutrition and hydration strategy during the race. I had enough water, electrolytes, and “solid” foods with me stashed in my hydration vest’s pockets and inside the pockets of my AMIHAN GoLite Belt. My Ice Bandana was always full of ice whenever I stopped at the Aid Station. I don’t think I stayed so long in the Aid Stations as I would eat the prepared solid foods most specially at AS4 and 3 (on my way back to the Finish Line) which were manned by special friends in the ultra running community.

The Race Organization; Trail Markings; Aid Station Services; and the prevailing Weather during the race were the BEST, so far, in the history of this race. Thanks to Atty Jonnifer Lacanlale for this International Standard Badass Event and for his Outstanding Leadership to make this yet another successful event.

Congratulations to all the Runners! Hopefully, I will be strong enough to join in next year’s edition!

Miyamit Falls (Photo By Dhan Punzalan)





Conrado Bermudez, Jr: The FIRST Filipino To Finish The US Grand Slam Of Ultrarunning

21 11 2018

Sometime in August 2015, I featured Conrado “Jun” Bermudez, Jr in this blog as the First Filipino Runner/Ultrarunner to have finished a 200-Mile Mountain Trail Single-Stage Endurance Race at the Bigfoot 200-Mile Endurance Race in Washington State, USA. It was in the post in this blog where I wrote about his background and running accomplishments since he became a passionate runner. For this year, 2018, he finished the Ultimate Award in Ultrarunning in the United States which is the “Grand Slam of Ultrarunning” Eagle Award and I was able to send him an e-mail to congratulate him on this inspiring feat which is considered as a “dream” to be accomplished among the best ultarrunners in the world. I also sent him some questions to answer of which I am now publishing his answers in this blog.

BR: Congratulations on your 2018 US Grand Slam of Ultrarunning finish! That’s a huge accomplishment and biggest pride for being the First Filipino to receive the Eagle Award in Ultrarunning. You are now Finisher #354 out of the 363 Finishers of the GSU since this award was created in 1986.

As usual, hoping that you will have the time, I am sending you some questions for you to answer which I will publish in my blog. There is no deadline though as I know you are still resting and recovering.

Jun: Thank you for this opportunity to be included on your blog, sir. Thank you also for mentoring me when I started my ultrarunning way back in 2013. As a Filipino citizen, it is  a great pleasure and honor to represent our country in this sporting event. My heartfelt gratitude to all the support!

As a 45 year-old runner, joining the Grand Slam was a no-brainer. There was no shadow of doubt not to join. It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and this chance may not be available to me in the future. If it is going to happen by that time, I may not be physically that capable anymore for the challenge due to old age.

Jun Bermudez Western States 100 Picture

BR: What is your feeling now that you have finished the US Grand Slam of Ultraruning with an impressive time of 106:52:09 hours and the First Filipino to have received the prestigious Eagle Award in Ultrarunning?

Jun:  I am deeply delighted and humbled to be part of this 32nd year of the Grand Slam of Ultrarunning, a special historical event in ultrarunning world. It still feels surreal that I was able to finish them and trace the footprints of the first finisher, Thomas Green, in 1986 and the grandfathers of the five 100 milers. These races are the oldest 100 milers in the US or probably in the world with the Old Dominion 100-Mille Cross Country Run for 40 years, Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run for 41 years (the oldest in the world), Vermont 100-Mile Endurance Run for 30 years, Leadville Trail 100 Run for 35 years, and the Wasatch Front 100-Mile Endurance Run for 38 years. Just to be entered in the Grand Slam of Ultrarunning events, itself, is a privilege. It takes a lot of luck in the lotteries (Western States 100, Leadville 100, Wasatch 100) to get entered in the same year. All of the races, except Wasatch 100, do not give provisional entry anymore. For non-lottery events, the Vermont 100 is a first-come-first-served basis and the registration sold out in less than 15 minutes when it opened, and the Old Dominion 100 got filled up weeks before the event date which normally did not happen in previous years. My success was not possible without the support of my friends and, of course, the encouragement, the love and understanding of my wife and my daughter. 
BR: You are one of the few Eagle awardees who finished and completed the FIVE Races in a span of three months, what was your recovery in between these races?
Jun: The Grand Slam is arduous to complete. The three to four weeks of minimal time for recovery between races and the cumulative fatigue put so much toll on our body.
 
 I ran two road marathons in April (Boston and New Jersey) prior to the Old Dominion 100 (02 June). I started my taper three weeks before the race day so my body could fully recover. In between races, my first week of  recovery consisted of moderate stretching and no running, which were slow hiking and light spinning workout. For the first two days after the race, I was doing ice therapy on my feet to remove the inflammation. And mostly during the period, I was doing a dynamic compression of my legs  to  flush out waste and hasten muscular recovery. Also, I am sleeping with my legs elevated almost every night even when I am not on training because I spend so much time on my feet at work with the load (tactical gear) on my body. I was taking Essential Amino Acids (EAA’s) complex to include Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAA’s) to stop muscle tissue breakdown and reduce muscle soreness. It would take three to four days after the race for my legs to feel fresh and pain-free again. I was also consistent with my bodyweight strength workouts all throughout the Grand Slam.
 
In the second week and onwards, my recovery usually started with 30 minutes of easy running then alternated the next days with spinning and short tempo or intervals (controlled pace) on the treadmill. 
 
A week before  race day, I spent most of the days resting and sleeping. My routine was
taking two nights of having eight to ten hours of sleep two to three nights before the event so I would regain my energy and not be sleepy during the race. Although my recovery plan was not perfectly executed,  I was still able to prevent injury and was able bounce back to be prepared for another adventure, and nailed them one by one to enjoy the experience.
 
Below is the illustration of  events with their respective dates:
 
Old Dominion (02 June, Saturday) > 3 weeks >
Western States (23 June, Saturday) > 4 weeks >
Vermont (21 July,  Saturday) > 4 weeks >
Leadville (18 August, Saturday) > 3 weeks
Wasatch (07 September, Friday)
 
BR: It seems that you did not have any “issues or concerns/injury” in every race, how did you manage to fight the “demons” (heat, exhaustion, muscle cramps, if any, GI issues, altitude, and “bonking”) during these races? What was the “hardest race” in this series of race?
 
Jun:  My body held up very well. I do not have injuries since I started running ultras in 2013 except for my sprained ankle that I twisted during the HURT 100-Mile training in early December last year. I think my training on incline trainer/treadmill has preserved my legs to be stressed and injury-free. With my work schedule, at least 85% of my training was conducted indoor.
 
100 miles is a long journey but a manageable distance. For that long, I experienced nausea, vomiting, GI issue, and cramping during races. But I embraced them as my “normal”. I approached these races in a simple way, to control them by  avoiding mistakes.  As  my spiritual endeavor, I ran the five races solo (no pacer, no crew) and dug myself deeper and fighting the adversities alone. One key to success is I put my heart and soul in this endeavor.
 
In my training, I focused on the elements that could eventually hit me during races. Since these are summer series, heat is the biggest factor. The US west coast has a dry heat with extremely high temperatures while the east coast has high humidity that brings to higher heat index. Twice or Thrice a week I was doing heat training on my incline trainer from one hour to a maximum of five hours wearing a double layer of thermal gear and raising our room temperature to make it hotter. To complement my heat training, I was wearing my armored vest at work for the whole day even during the hottest days. During the race, I was wearing a hat, bandana, and arm sleeves where I placed ice cubes in them.  All of these help to neutralize my body temperature. So, for heat, I was really prepared and it did not bother me during the races.
 
Another element that  is quite difficult to prepare is altitude. It is the most dominant factor that resulted to a huge number of DNF (Did Not Finish). Shown are the high altitude races of the Grand Slam with their corresponding highest elevation:  Western States 100 (8,750 ft/2,667 masl), Leadville 100 (12,600 ft/3,840 masl), and Wasatch 100 (10,467 ft/3,190 masl). There are also significant sections of the courses that are above tree line. This is my weak point as a sea level flatlander. I incorporated speed work on my training since running on altitude is ran at slower pace. Although it does not really contribute on acclimation, it is still beneficial to run the race faster in order to have enough buffer from the cutoff and finish it with less pressure. 
 
Among the Grand Slam events, the Old Dominion 100 and Vermont 100 have the fastest courses with 66.27% and 79% finish rate, respectively. Old Dominion has a cutoff of 28 hours. They are a runner’s race since the climbs are not long and steep. But the Old Dominion could be surprising. The Sherman Gap section is a steep technical climb. These two courses are on low elevation but with high humidity. In Western States 100, I suffered a lot of cramping in most parts of my legs starting at the early miles until halfway. The second half was even worse when I had a stomach issue. The course is point to point mountainous terrain but it got easier in the second half with the course going more downhill than uphill. I felt that among these races, my body was beaten up the most here. Despite the heat, it has 81% of  finish rate. In Leadville 100, cramping was not that significant but I was nauseous the whole time. I did not have solid food intake all throughout the race. Every solid I took just went out. I went to Colorado 13 days before the race. But even with acclimation, breathing during a long climb in Hope Pass was a struggle. The air is just so thin that I could not push hard. The cutoff of 30 hours also made the race harder. The high altitude and fast cutoff contributed to a low finish rate of 57.9%.
 
The most difficult event for me is the Wasatch 100. It has a 62% finish rate. After four races, my body was  not primed to run anymore, especially that my legs felt sluggish. The nausea hit me after a quarter of the race and I could not take solid food again. The course has more climbing and it is on high elevation. It was also the second hottest temperature in the history of the race. This year a significant number of bees were scattered in different sections of the course, which was difficult to avoid. Some got stung 14 times. Fortunately, I was only hit twice. Although this is the most technical course of the Grand Slam, this also has the most beautiful scenery. During this race as I was to retrospect the past four races, and the long journey of trials and tribulations, I was feeling highly and spiritually rejuvenated since it is already the finale of my Grand Slam journey. 
 
I have some friends and compatriots who shared  the trails with me and it  lifted my spirit and energy. Thanks to Casey Fisher (Old Dominion, Western States, Leadville), Jovencio Luspian (Western States), Tim Aquino (Leadville), Kian Vicera(Leadville), Philip Pagdanganan (Leadville and Wasatch), and Ryan Espulgar (Wasatch) for friendship. The memories we have will be forever etched in my heart.
BR: What would you recommend or advise to Filipino Ultrarunners who would plan to complete or join this series of Ultrarunning Races?
 
Jun: The new system  of the Grand Slam (started two years ago), which includes four of the five events with Wasatch 100 as a mandatory race, has given more opportunities for runners to join without undergoing through the virtually impossible selection process of the Western States 100. 
 
The Grand Slam events per se involves time and  money. As a starter, if a runner can afford the financial and logistical burden, and manage the time schedule, non-running-wise, he is ready to tackle the series. We just live once anyway. Taking the Grand Slam challenge is a priceless opportunity and a big milestone.
 
In the Grand Slam, a runner can choose what series he wants to attempt. A total of 18 finished this year from 28 starters. These are the variations with the corresponding number of finishers:
 
1) original version: Old Dominion, Western States, Leadville, Wasatch Front. None (except the two who did five races)
2) pre 2017 version: Western States, Vermont, Leadville, Wasatch Front. Seven
3) Old Dominion, Western States, Vermont, Wasatch Front. Six
4) Old Dominion, Vermont, Leadville, Wasatch Front. Three
5) Old Dominion, Western States, Vermont, Leadville, Wasatch Front. Two
 
 In my personal point of view, the core of the Grand Slam are the Western States and the Leadville, aside from Wasatch Front which is mandatory. Missing either one of them could mean not a “complete” satisfaction for me. Leadville is known for being a grandslam-killer. And these two races are icons in the annals of the 100-mile races worldwide, especially the Grand Slam series.
 
Another step is to find a Western States 100 qualifying race that has more climbing and elevation in order to get used to the mountainous course. Applying for lottery every year gets a runner more chance to be picked. 
 
In Leadville 100, there’s a 50% chance to be selected in the lottery. In the essay part of the application/registration, a runner has to indicate his willingness to be entered into the Grand Slam and make a convincing story of his  running journey to get a better chance to be selected. Although it is a lottery, I still believe that the race organizer gives considerations to this special request. 
 
Wasatch Front 100 is the mandatory and final race of the Grand Slam. It is also a lottery and the chance of getting in is high. If in case a GS entrant will not get picked in the lottery, the race organizer gives a provisional entry, meaning the entrant has a chance to run Wasatch if he is successful on his third race.
 
Another aspect to consider is the physical and mental readiness of the runner. Experience is a huge factor. So, doing back to back races that have difficult terrain is a good test. This is also to develop the physical stamina as well as to harden the mental fortitude of the runner. Most of the time, it is the indomitable spirit that brings the runner  to the finish line.

US Grand Slam Of Ultrarunning Eagle Award & Finisher’s Buckles

 
BR: Having closely followed your Ultrarunning feats and accomplishments, you have only 2 DNFs, Barkley Marathons and UTMB. You redeem yourself in the 2017 UTMB and you finished in one of the coldest UTMB race. Do you have plans of going back to Barkley? What are your future races?
 
Jun: The Barkley is not in my thoughts right now. Being out there knowing the difficulty of the course, that five loops is an impossible feat. It is arguably the toughest race I ever experienced. I gave my all and had managed to finish one loop. I do not have a definite race for next year except for the Boston Marathon. I threw my name for  lotteries in Hardrock 100 (5th year application)  and Western States 100 (1st year application after getting in this year). There are some interesting races that I want to do in the future, maybe another mountain 200 miler and road ultramarathon. Some of the races that I did are also worth coming back. I love the electrifying spirit of UTMB, Leadville, and Western States, and also the old traditional and small community feel of  the Old Dominion.
BR: Lastly, Did you get the services of a Professional Coach in preparation for this year’s events and what shoes did you use in your Grand Slam Races? 
Jun: I did not get the services of a Professional Coach and I did my training on my own. I used the Hoka One One Mafate Speed 2 for Old Dominion and Western States and Hoka One One Mafate EVO for Vermont, Leadville and Wasatch Front.
 

Thank you, Jun for answering my questions. Your answers are considered as “Gold Mine” for those ultra runners, Filipinos or Non-Filipinos, dreaming to be a Finisher of the US Grand Slam of Ultrarunning. Keep inspiring us and good luck on your future runs/races.





Race Report: 2018 Salomon Cappadocia Medium Trail 63K Race

24 10 2018

Race Report: 2018 Salomon Cappadocia Medium Ultra 63K Race

Introduction

After my early on the race DNF at the Maideira Island Ultra Trail Race (MIUT) in April 2018, I immediately looked for another Ultra Trail World Tour (UTWT) Event where I would join even if I was already registered to join the TNF Lavaredo 120K Ultra Race on the last weekend of June 2018. When I DNF at Km 65 at the TNF Lavaredo 120K Ultra due to “altitude sickness”, I have evaluated myself and accepted that I am already getting older and weaker despite the fact that I’ve been training consistently for my races. Having thought of my past DNF, I was able to assess myself that I should run shorter/medium ultra trail races which are less than 100 kilometers to regain my confidence to continue doing international trail running events.

As soon as I was going back to Manila from Madeira, I reviewed the remaining races for the UTWT and I found out about the Salomon Cappadocia Ultra Trail Races which is scheduled on the third week of October 2018. Through a close and good friend who is based in London, Great Britain and had visited Turkey in the past, I made her a request to find out the details of the said race even if I could easily read the details of the said race in the Race Event’s Official Website. It was on the first week of May that I decided to join the said race. From there, I was officially registered to join the Medium Ultra which is 63+K distance. Later in the month, I asked my top trail runners who are regular runners in my BR’s Events and representing the Philippine Association of Ultrarunners (PAU) if they can join the event and take a shot at the longer distance which is the 119K event. Finally, we made a team of three (3) runners in the Medium distance (63K) and two (2) runners in the Ultra distance (119K). It was later, in the following months that another Filipino trail runner, Alex Yap, registered also to join the Ultra distance event. For this year’s 2018 edition, the Team PAU/Philippines is represented to join this event for the FIRST time!

My trip itinerary with our Team will be discussed in a separate blog to include our accommodation in Urgup, Cappadocia, Turkey. This is to include my training and other administrative activities related to the Race.

Salomon Cappadocia Poster/Logo

Salomon Cappadocia Ultra Races Statistics

Race Proper

The Cappadocia Ultra Trail (CUT) 119K and Cappadocia Medium Trail (CMT) 63K Races started at exactly 7:00 AM of Saturday, October 20, 2018 at the Town Center of Urgup with 300+ CUT starters and 500+ CMT starters. So, 800+runners were at the starting line raring to go for their respective distances in a cold morning. After some greetings and briefing by the Race Director/EMCEE, the race started where I placed myself and my Pinoy co-runners for the CMT at the middle of the pack. The two Pinoy runners for the CUT were positioned in front of the runners.

Cappadocia Medium Trail 63K Elevation Profile/Details

The first 2 kilometers were on an uphill cobble-stone wide road where I could easily find my space once I left the starting line. Once the road leveled up, I was already few meters away from the start of the trail/dirt road where later we have to cross the paved highway going to the center of Urgup. Once I was on the wide dirt road, I was already feeling comfortable with my pace aside from the fact that we had a familiarity of the place due to a recon run on the first 9K of the route two days before the race day. As the wide dirt road would become narrower into a single-track trail, I would pass the slower runners who would form a “conga” line from the sides of the trail. This had been my routine on this part of the course, most specially, on the ascending portions of the trail. There were some flat portions where I could run and hike on short steep ascents until we reached a cobble-stoned paved road leading to a populated area where a “Stone Castle” is located. We passed this town and we descended to a very steep cemented stairs until we reached again a dirt road.

Cappadocia Ultra Trail Start/Finish Area

First 3-4 Kilometers of the Route

Cappadocia’s “First” Castle

It was my plan to have an average speed of at least, 6 kilometers per hour on the first 10K of the course just to able to reach the first checkpoint so that I could have a buffer time of 20 minutes. And that is what I did. I reached the first checkpoint in 1:30+ minutes and I did not have to waste any time inside the Aid Station after I refilled my bottles with water. The place is called Ibrahimpasa which 10.8 kilometers away from the Start Line. I picked up 3 slices of Apple and placed them inside my Salomon Vest pocket. It took me at least one minute in this Aid Station. From this Checkpoint, it was another paved road going to the very peak of the mountain which is lined with houses. It was drizzling and cold but I enjoyed the coolness of the day and the air around me. Once at the peak, everything after was about 7-kilometer downhill where I was surrounded with the beautiful scenery of the mountains and hills on both sides of the trail. The scenery consisted of rock formations and rocks with some holes in them. I knew that the distance from Checkpoint 1 to Checkpoint 2 is 17 kilometers but I was confident that my two bottles of water and drink mix were enough for my hydration for the whole distance due to the cold weather. Although I have an empty hydration flask in my pack as a reseve for my hydration drinks, I was not able to use it during the whole duration of the race.

Route Scenery

The descending portion from the peak ended in a populated area with cobblestoned roads with commercial establishments on both sides and some parking areas. Race Marshals were there to point to us on which direction to take once we approach a road crossing. Because of the different electric posts and trees abound on both sides of the streets, there were tape markings tied on these posts and trees aside from those sticks with flag being being placed on strategic places and corners of each street turn. and As I got nearer to Checkpoint 2 which is called Uchisar, another populated area with houses and commercial establishments, I could see two pointed stone castles from afar but I need to pass through tunnels and canyons on a single-track trail. There was an incident where I bumped my head on the on the upper portion of the tunnel when I was not able to bend my body at a lower level just to be able to clear and pass through the tunnel. A Malaysian trail runner, Bryan Kho, was tailing behind me when this incident happened and he shouted to me, “Ingat, Sir”! (Be Careful, Sir!). And I said, “Thank you!”. I am glad that was the only cave with the lowest ceiling over ones head! The 63K route has a lot of tunnels to pass through and most of them are wide and big enough for the runners to pass through.

Cappadocia’s Second Castle

On a winding and uphill route going to the Checkpoint 2 (Uchisar), most of the runners in front of me would bring out their cellphones and took some pictures of a garden with lots of flowering plants beside the road. I was not tempted to bring out my phone and promised myself not to take any pictures of anything along the route before the start of the race. Finally, I reached the Uchisar Aid Station which also served as the Checkpoint 2. It is located inside the “Rock Castle” and I estimated that I was able to add another 15 minutes to my buffer time which was already 45+minutes in total. I did not stay long in the Aid Station after I refilled my bottle; drank some water and Coca Cola; and finally mixed my powdered nutrition. I left a lot of runners at the Aid Station who arrived earlier than me. I was already approaching Km 28. as soon as I left the Aid Station.

Camel Along The Road

Few meters from the Aid Station is a very steep descent that runners in front of me would stop and look for other part of the route where their trail shoes would be stable and prevent them from sliding. Although I did not have any trekking poles, I was happy that I decided to use my Salomon Speedcross 4 as it gave me the appropriate and stable traction on those loose and steep downhill runs. On the downhill, I observed that there were lots of tourists along the route and there was a group of children who were very noisy as they trekked the trails where we shared with each other. I avoided these children until I reached a paved highway with some Police and Race Marshal directing the traffic as runners would cross the Highway. It was at this point that I was able to see a Camel and because of my excitement to see one for the first time, I brought out my Cellphone and took a picture of the animal and a “selfie”!

Cappadocia’s Camel “Selfie”

From the Highway, it was another descending part of the route with rock formations on the left side and I was amazed with the beauty of the place. It was starting to heat up as the sun would show from the cloudy sky but the air was still moderately cold. I would be running with other runners on a wide dirt road which is sandy and loose on this part of the route. There are other parts which are muddy but my trail shoes would manage to maintain its traction. On these flat sandy trail, I would increase my pace and race with the other runners, making those runners in front of me as my “targets” to overtake. At this point, I was confident that I would be able to finish the race in less than 10 hours based from my prevailing speed as recorded by my Garmin GPS Watch. But I think, I celebrated too early!

I finally reached Checkpoint 3/Aid Station 3 in Goreme which is Km 35.5 with one hour and 15+minutes as buffer time and I was able to meet Akyut, a very popular Turkish ultrarunner who is finished the Spartathlon for so many times, as the Chief Marshal at the said Aid Station. I refilled my bottles and grabbed some apple chunks/cuts and stashed them in my vest pockets; ate some chocolate raisin bread; and drank some Coke. I was frustrated to find out that they don’t have any Ice which I intend to use for my Ice Bandana. I think this is the place where I stayed longer for about 4-5 minutes.

Rock Formation Scenery Along The Route

I started running on a flat terrain for about 1.5 kilometers from the Goreme Aid Station until I reached another paved road where I merged and joined the runners of the 38K distance event. As I left the paved road towards the trailhead, I was joined by these 38K runners who can still run through the trail on the ascents while I would hike on such parts of the route. I became irritated and uneasy whenever I could hear the footsteps of these runners who would be a group in 5-6 runners or more on a “conga” line. I was courteous enough to side step on the trail whenever they would be behind me and I was able to do this for so many times. Knowing that the distance to the next Checkpoint is 12.7 kilometers with two peaks/mountains to pass, I knew that my pace and speed had slowed down. Aside from the passing 38K runners, the ascents and descents were more technical, steeper, and more challenging. I was already having some signs of early cramping at this point but I was able to manage it through my nutrition and tempering my speed/pace. This part of the course slowed me down and I conclude that this is the hardest part of the course! However, this part of the course could be the most scenic and most beautiful, too.

As I was about to descend from the second mountain, the 63K and 119K runners were separated from the 38K runners and I was happy to be alone again on the trail. This is where the scenery would be amazing again. The single track trail would be tricky/technical because it is along the side of the rocky mountain where either side of the mountain would be very steep and scary to look to the bottom of the mountain. The downhill on the side of the mountain has long switchbacks but there are steep short ascents and descents in-between. Finally, I reached a descending cobblestoned road that leads to a populated area which is lined up with commercial stores with their local products. After a short right turn from these stores, I would see the Aid Station at Cavusin which is Checkpoint 4 and located in a small one-story building on the corner left side of the road.

Mountain Peaks & Castles

I refilled my bottles, drank water and coke, ate some slices of their chocolate raisin bread and stashed some slices also inside my empty ziplock bag. I already knew at this point that my buffer time of one hour plus had been reduced to less than 30 minutes and I really needed to get back fast on the trail route. I was following a male runner which was 10 meters ahead of me and after about 200 meters, I was faced with steepest incline of the course which took me almost half hour to reach the first level portion which later became much steeper after one kilometer. I call this portion as “Kiss The Mountain” (where the slope of the mountain is on your face) and there is no established trail as I reached the peak of the mountain. I was passed by a tall and younger male runner with trekking poles when I reached the peak of the said mountain and our eyes met with each other and smiled to one another. At this point, I was already cursing myself why I did not bring my new GIPRON Trekking Poles with me. Anyway, it was only at this part of the race where I thought I would have needed the aid of my trekking poles.

I could not believe when the peak of the mountain is a plateau where we would run for at least 2 kilometers and descending to a trail on the side of the mountain for another 3-4 kilometers. As I start to descend from the mountain, I would see the next Aid Station which is the Fifth and Last Checkpoint at Akdag, but it was still another almost 3 kilometers afar before reaching the Checkpoint. On these last 2 kilometers to the Checkpoint, the trail was very steep and the soil was very loose that almost all the runners in front of me had to slow down. But my reliable Salomon Speedcross 4 did the work for me as I put more speed on my downhill run. I reached the Akdag Checkpoint with about 30+ minutes as a buffer time from the cut-off time of 10:30 hours. With almost 9 kilometers to the Finish Line, I knew I would be able to finish the race in 11+hours. I refilled my bottles for the last time and mixed my nutritional powder which would be enough to bring me to the finish line.

Rock Formation Along The Route

The last section of the course is a vineyard with a rolling terrain which I would run the flatter sections and brisk walk the ascents. I could hear the sounds of the passing vehicles from the highway and it was my gauge on how I was progressing in my run towards the finish line. The sounds were becoming louder as I got nearer to the Highway but it was becoming darker as the sun was already setting to the west horizon. I was passed by a couple of male and female runners who are locals in Turkey and I made them as my “guides” towards the finish line. They were also kind enough to wait for me as I appear around the bend to make sure that I was following them. I decided not to use my headlight as I knew the street lights would be able to illuminate the last meters to the Finish Line. As soon as I crossed the Highway, it was my last 800 meters towards the Finish Line and everything was all downhill! However, I was very careful on the last few meters of the cobblestoned road because the road was rough and the cobblestones were not lined evenly flat that I might trip on them with a single misstep. (I found out later that some runners had fallen and tripped themselves on this road before they crossed the finish line).

Live Update Time Of Finish

I crossed the Finish Line in 11:36+ hours, which is almost one hour before the race cut-off time of 12:30 hours! I was happy and I was able to redeem myself from my past DNFs in the Ultra Trail World Tour races where I registered. This finish gave me much more confidence to join and tackle more international trail races in the future. Aside from my personal satisfaction and accomplishment of this race, my Team PAU made a history as the FIRST Filipino Team of Ultra Trail Runners to have finished the Cappadocia Ultra Trail 119K and the Cappadocia Medium Ultra 63K Trail Events.

Salomon Cappadocia’s Ultra FIRST PINOY Finishers (From Left: Alex Yap, Thomas Combisen, Khristian Caleon, Jovenal Narcise/BR, Rodrigo Losabia, & Ronnel Valero)





On Having A Professional Coach

22 09 2018

On Having A Professional Coach

I started to get the guidance of a Professional Coaching Service in my ultrarunning/running in the middle of June 2017. Actually, it was my second experience to get the assistance of a Coaching Service abroad. The first one was with Karl Meltzer and it lasted for one year although I was the very basis Coaching Program that I have enrolled in. I became a very strong ultra trail runner in a short period of time and his Coaching/Training Schedule made me finished 3 successive finishes in the Clark Miyamit 50-Mile Ultra Trail; 2 Finishes in the Translantau 100K; and Tarawera 100K finish in New Zealand. My two attempts in the San Diego 100-Mile Endurance for two successive years did not go as planned because of GI issues related to excessive Heat Exhaustion in a desert environment and Nutrition problems. On hindsight, it maybe due also to overtraining and lesser appreciation of rest and recovery in between training blocks or in between race events.

When Jason Koop, author of Training Essentials Of Ultrarunning, published his book, we started to become friends on Facebook and that I would be one of the first to purchase it. And even went to the extent of recommending it to my FB friends after getting the full appreciation of his scientific approach to ultrarunning training. It took me sometime to read the book and started to apply its concepts in my daily training. Not until an advertisement popped out on Internet that CTS was offering One Dollar First Month Fee for their Coaching Service. I immediately sent an inquiry to Jason Koop through Direct Message and he replied to me instantly with a positive note. I told him that I am a 65-year old and I need to be a better mountain trail ultrarunner.

After a week of processing, I got a designated Coach and Premium Training Peaks platform where I can upload the data from my GPS Watch and at the same time, where I could see my Training Schedule. John Fitzgerald is my Coach and he would give me feedback almost everyday and I could arrange a scheduled phone call or simply send him a SMS regularly if I need some inquiries or inform him about my feeling/s during and after workout. He would know my races and adjust my training based from the information available from the event.

After one year being an athlete of CTS even if I failed in my scheduled Ultra Races last year and this early part of 2018, I admit that CTS and Coach John Fitzgerald were the primary factors/reasons why I was able to qualify for the 2019 Boston Marathon and most of all, not being “burned out” in every training block and in between my racing events.

On hindsight, I think I have over estimated myself in choosing very hard races in Europe & USA which are part of the Ultra Trail World Tour (UTWT) series. I should have chosen those shorter ultra versions of these races which could had served as my initial exposure or recon runs in these very challenging races. However, at this time, I knew that I am ready to go back in these places/races and more confident to finish these races with the support of CTS.

For an old and passionate runner like me, CTS will be my partner and guide to tackle more challenging ultra mountain trail races in the future.

For more particulars about the CTS Professional Coaching Services, you can contact them here at www.trainright.com 








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