LESSSONS LEARNED: BATAAN 52K “TEST RUN”
1) Race Strategy—The only “goal” in running an ultramarathon race is to be able to finish the race within the prescribed “cut-off time”. Depending in one’s training and preparation, a runner must be able to determine his average pace and factor in his time for his rest in every Aid Station and time for brisk walking and other interruptions along the race route. In my conversation with Jerry aka High Altitude, I told him about the differences between running a marathon and an ultramarathon race. I would like to share my insights about such differences to my readers. In a marathon race, a runner has a target time goal to finish whether it is sub-3 hours, sub-4 or 5 hours while in an ultramarathon race, the runner has only one thing in his mind—to survive the distance and be able to finish within the prescribed cut-off time. A marathon runner talks and tries to satisfy his programmed split times whenever he reaches the following points—10K, 15K, half-marathon, 25K, 30K, and 32K for his last 10K distance before the finish line while a runner in ultramarathon does not follow any split times along the way. In a marathon race, it is an embarrassing experience if you walk along the route as you need to finish your race within the targeted goal time while in ultramarathon race, incorporating walking in between runs along the route is a “wise move” for every runner. In a marathon race, a runner is expecting to reach his “wall” after running a distance of 32 kilometers for the simple reason that this is the longest distance he had reached in his long steady runs during his training while in ultramarathon, a runner does not force himself to reach his “wall” but instead tries to prevent that “wall” from coming to him.
2) Hydrate and Eat—It is important to drink water or sports drinks along the way. During the “test run”, I always make a habit to sip water from my bottled water every kilometer marker that I reach or pass making sure that I will not experience being thirsty along the way. However, once I reach the Aid Station, I see to it that I drink at least one cup of water or half of the bottled water. During the test, I always eat one boiled egg and one boiled banana every time I stop at the Aid Station making sure that I have a source of energy during the run. Gatorade and Propel Drinks had been helpful for my replenishment for electrolytes and I regularly drink them in every Aid Station. I observed that by eating something, whether it is a boiled banana, boiled sweet potatoe (camote), Sky Flakes Crackers, Cloud 9 Chocolate Bars, boiled eggs, or sports gels/sports bars in every Aid Station, I can run without any feeling of being tired and sluggish. I believe that by regularly eating some solid foods and drinking water in every Aid Station, it prevented me from reaching my “wall” and I did not experience any cramps or soreness on my body for the whole duration of the run.
3) Listen To Your Body—I perspire a lot during my runs and it gives me a warning to drink more water/sports drinks if I observe that I am no longer perspiring. Sometimes, the color of my urine would also determine if I need to hydrate myself. A yellowish color of my urine would warn me to drink more water along the way. If you can’t urinate and perspire for some time during the run even if it hot, it is a sign that your body needs more water and there is a need to drink more water/sports drinks. If you feel some pain in any part of your body, try to observe by slowing down. And if the pain persists, you better walk and observe if the pain will go away. If something happens to your stomach and you need to take your crap, immediately drop by in one of the gasoline stations and use their toilet. If you feel a hot sensation on your head and starting to have a slight headache because of the heat of the sun, take a water-soaked foam/sponge and drip some water on top of your head and let your runner’s cap to be damped/wet as a coolant..
4) Rest But Keep On Moving—You can rest in the Aid Station but keep on moving your legs. You can sit but don’t take so much of your time sitting as your legs would become more stiff after standing from the chair. Try to rub or massage part/s of your legs where there pain or soreness while resting. Also, try to stretch the muscles which you think had contracted in the course of running for some time.
5) Respect The Sun—It was surprising to observe that the sun was on our backs while we were running from Abucay, Bataan to San Fernando, Pampanga. The heat of the sun was our main “enemy” during the run. I had to use my special “bandana” which have some “crystals” in it that expands when soaked in water and have it soaked in cold water every time I reach the Aid Station. I usually tie this “bandana” around my neck when I run with the heat of the sun. Aside from the bandana, I place a water-soaked foam on my upper back to cool-down the effect of the sun’s heat on my back. My running cap with a cover for my nape had also helped me a lot. On the last 15 kilometer of the “test run”, I also use another water-soaked foam to put water on top of my head by slowly squeezing the foam. The cold water doused my head made me more relaxed and focused with a “cooler head”. The use of a sunglass is a must to protect the eyes from the glare of the sun and the road. It also protects the eyes from dusts and debris caused by wind and vehicles passing along the road. The sunglass was also helpful in protecting our eyes when we passed by a burning field where the embers were scattered by the wind and were moving towards the runners.
6) Running Apparel—When dealing with the sun and running in longer duration, I usually use any white long-sleeved performance T-shirt. I have such shirts from NIKE, The North Face, and Patagonia. However, I chose the Patagonia shirt because it is soft and it would easily dry up while I am running. The running cap with a cape on the nape is a must. It was my first time to use a tight compression shorts for an ultra distance and it worked well during the run. However, it was my first time to experience a “burning” sensation on my crotch while I was seated inside the car on my way back to Manila. I guess that my crotch was not fully ventilated while I was running the distance with the use of the tight compression shorts. I never experienced such “sensation” or feeling whenever I use my TNF or Patagonia Trail Running Shorts. I hope to have more time to run under the heat of the sun with the use of my trail shorts in order to validate my observation that such shorts is better when running an ultramarathon distance as it promotes more ventilation to the body. During my dinner-conversation with Ben Gaetos, he observed that some of the runners during the “test run” were wearing dark-colored shirts and some were wearing tight compression pants up to the ankle underneath a running shorts. He advised that runners must be wearing light-colored long-sleeved shirts that do not absorb much heat from the sun and running attire must not be layered. On Running Shoes, for the entire run, I used the ASICS Gel-Kinsei 2 for the comfort and stability of my running feet and it passed the test. I’ve been using this shoe in my long runs, “runabouts”, and midnight to sunrise run and I am satisfied with its performance. I was surprised to see lots of melted asphalt on the outsoles of my shoes which shows how hot the sun was during the run. As for the running socks, my local PUMA thick socks protected my feet from blisters.
7) Safety, Potable Water, Medical Assistance, Manpower, and Logistics Support—As the race organizer, these are the things that should be taken cared of for the benefit of the runners in an ultramarathon event. The race organizer must be able to feel and experience what the participants are experiencing while running the race so that he can predict and anticipate the needs of the runners. There are no frills and festive mood at the start and finish areas of an ultramarathon race. There are no Emcees, no festive music and loud speakers, no balloons, no late registrations and walk-in participants during race day, and no politics involved. What is more important is to support the needs of the runners in terms of food, water, medical support, safety, and motivation to finish the race..
8) Ultramarathon Support Costs A Fortune—Whether you are a runner-participant or the race organizer, managing and running an ultramarathon race event cost a lot of money, time and resources. The participants in last Sunday’s “Test Run” could attest the degree of logistical support given to them just to be able for everybody to successfully finish the run. It is my objective and overall interest to help each one of the participant to finish the ultramarathon event within the required cut-off time of 18 hours on D-Day. Even if I announced that runners must be able to support their own participation for the “test run”, I also prepared the basic support for those runners who did not have any support vehicle just to make the run as orderly and efficient as possible for everybody.
9) “Lapses” and Other Concerns Identified—It was through this “test run” that we were able to identify some lapses and problems in the conduct of the ultramarathon race. We are making some corrections and adjustments to make the needs of the runners more responsive during race day. Much to my desire to require each runner to monitor their weight before, during and after the race to determine if they are losing more water from their body and needs to be hydrated but I was advised by experts that there is no need to monitor each runner’s weight in a 100-Km race. Such medical protocol is usually done in 160-mile or more endurance runs. But just in case, there will be a simple and brief check on the weight of each runner at the starting area and at the finish line to determine if a runner is a victim of dehydration. A reduction of 3% of the runner’s weight at the finish line means that the runner is dehydrated and he needs to drink more water or sports drinks.