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2018 TNF Lavaredo 120K Experience (Part 6)

3 07 2018

2018 TNF Lavaredo 120K Experience (Part 6)

Post Evaluation: TNF 120K Ultra Trail Race

What Went Right?

  1. Clothing & Gear: I think I used the best clothing gear, from trail shoes to my headlamp lighting system. My “layering” of my upper garment was perfect with a sleeveless Uniqlo shirt inside my Red PAU short-sleeved shirt with my Patagonia “Houdini” Windbreaker Light Jacket. I feel warm with my MIUT Buff/neck Gaiters; Compressport Headband and Salomon Running Cap. I had Giro Cycling Gloves with my LEKI Carbon Trekking Poles. My Salomon Speedcross 4 was perfect for the trail in Lavaredo which I used for two months in my training leading to the event. I was using a Salomon EXO Twinskin Short (Red) which was light, comfortable, and provided me with warm feeling during the night run.
  2. Salomon 5L Sense Ultra Hydration Vest & Pulse Belt: My Salomon Vest carried all the Mandatory Gear and Nutrition Needs for the whole course/event as I opted not to have any Drop Bag at Km 66/Cimabanche Aid Station. My Salomon Pulse Belt was perfect for my Trekking Poles; additional nutrition (Skyflakes) and Cellphone.
  3. Training: My “mountain and hill repeats” were very effective for the uphills and downhill runs for short duration/distance along the course.
  4. Nutrition & Hydration: I only have 5 pieces of Power Gels for emergency situation; 6 pieces of KIND Power Bar; 4 packs of SkyFlakes Crackers (Condensada); NUUN tablets: and two pieces of empty Ziplock.
  5. Pacing & Average Speed During The Race: I have a lot of lessons learned from my early DNF at MIUT in Madeira, Portugal. I needed to be very light during the race and trained for heavy loads (3 Liters of Water + Food) in my daily long runs in my Playground. I was satisfied with my average speed/pacing during my run at the TNF Lavaredo until I was slowed down with dizziness and pain on my knees.

Salomon S-Lab Sense Ultra 5 Liters

What Did I Do To Make It Right?

My frustration in MIUT last April gave me a lot of lesson learned and I was able to adjust things during my training. My early arrival in Cortina gave me the time to adjust with the weather and the altitude. However, I should have visited Tri Cime and other higher elevations of the course by Bus but with my lack of knowledge of the area, I was limited in trying to find the first and last few kilometers of the course. My CTS Coach John Fitzgerald sent me his last guidance with the gist/bottomline of focusing on the things that I could control during the race (nutrition, pacing, and mindset) with hiking with purpose and positive attitude. I learned a lot of variations on how to use the trekking poles during my training leading to this race. I really wanted to hike the uphills more efficiently with the trekking poles. I had more “push-ups” repetitions during my training days in order to make my shoulders stronger than what I had during MIUT.

Bringing lesser gels, bars, drink mix, and lighter mandatory gear (Salomon Bonatti Waterproof Jacket & Pants and Columbia Long-Sleeved Shirt) made my weight lighter during the run. I also carried lesser volume of water from the start to lighten my load but also carried an extra collapsible Salomon Foldable Bottle just in case I needed more water during the hotter part of the day.

After hiking the uphills, I would run at an easy pace on flatter and downhill portions of the course which gave me enough time to reach the First Cut-Off Time Checkpoint and put in more buffer time at the Check Point in Rifugio Di Auronzo.

Bring at least two empty Ziplocks in your pocket (easily accessible) for obvious reason.

Last Message Of My CTS Coach

What was NOT quite right during the race?

I opted to run the downhills on the early part of the course without using my trekking poles, most specially, on the seemingly flatter sections but they are actually gradual descents. I was thinking that I would be faster in running the downhills by not using the trekking poles but I was wrong. If only I have used my trekking poles on all the descents, I could have saved my quads and my knees from having pain even if I was slower by a few minutes. My old knees and legs need some cushioning when running the descents to preserve them for the last half of the course which has more descents.

I should have started to ingest my solid food on the start of the uphill climb from Lake Misurina to Rifugio Di Auronzo while on the move and not at the middle of the climb with a 3-5 minutes short stop and rest.

I should have NOT stayed so long at the Aid Station in Rifugio Di Auronzo and spent a lot of time sitting and talking with the Indonesian guy. I should have limited my stay there by simply eating the soup pasta, drinking my Coca Cola, and refilling my bottles while I was standing. I could have shaved at least 10-12 minutes of my stay here.

I really could not understand why I did not take the risk of taking some Aleve tablets to relieve the pain on my knees after the first switchback from Tri Cime/Peak of Lavaredo. I usually take these pain relievers on the middle of my race just to anticipate the pain on my knees which was very effective in solving the situation I am in in my past finishes.

At The Peak Of Lavaredo

What is the best-case scenario?

1. With a buffer time of 40+ minutes from Rifugio Di Auronzo, I should have maintained it up to the next Cut-Off Time Checkpoint in Cimabanche and gambled any remaining buffer time in every Checkpoint up to the last Cut-Off Time Checkpoint before the Finish Line.

2. I could have used my trekking poles more on the downhill/descents to save my knees/legs and be able to hike relentlessly with purpose up to the Finish Line. The time that made me faster to run or hike on the flatter and downhill sections without the trekking poles was nothing if I could have saved my legs and knees and be able to pass the Cut-Off Time Checkpoints.

3. From the start, one bottle of water/electrolyte mix (500 ml) is enough up to Km 33 to make my load lighter from midnight up to early morning due to the colder air/weather. One bottle filled with liquid in one bottle and another 1/2 bottle of liquid, totaling to 750 ml is needed from Km 33 up to the Aid Station in Rifugio Di Auronzo (Km 50). Carrying just the right amount of water on my vest could significantly reduce the weight I was carrying. Which translates to lighter load to my knees and legs.

What steps can you take to improve?

1. More strengthening exercises to my leg muscles. More push-ups and core exercises for my upper body.

2. More time to train for very LONG downhill running or hiking with the use of trekking poles. Downhill running/hiking distance should be at least 10 up to 20 kilometers straight down, whether they are steep and technical or not. (Note: Never stop using the trekking poles once they are deployed; in uphills, flats, and the downhills.)

3. More Mountain Downhill Repeats! Simply, the reverse of Hill/Mountain Repeats where one has to run or hike the downhill faster than going up to the mountain. This time, using my trekking poles!

4. Bring a lot of BUFF. One for the Ear Cover; one for the Mouth & Nose for the absorption of fluids due to “running nose”; and one for the neck. In addition, I can bring an extra BUFF to be looped on my wrist just in case I need a cloth to absorb some cold water from the streams to douse my head and neck during hotter part of the day.

5. If I have the time, I could have visited/recon by Bus or Car the highest peak or highest location along the course in order to acclimatize or take a brief hike.

The Intense Look @ The Dolomites

To be continued…

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2018 TNF Lavaredo 120K Experience (Part 5)

2 07 2018

2018 TNF Lavaredo 120K Experience (Part 5)

Ride From Cimabanche to Cortina

After the Aid Station Marshal told me that I can no longer continue the race since I arrived at the Aid Station beyond the cut-off time of 1:30 PM of Saturday, I entered the Big Tent and ate some of the remaining food and drank some Ice Cold Coke. I was told to wait for the remaining runners on the road approaching the Aid Station before we could board the Bus waiting to bring us to Cortina. While waiting for the other runners, I brought out my dry long-sleeved Columbia Shirt from my Salomon Hydration Pack and removed my Patagonia Windbreaker and the rest of my upper clothing as they were wet from my perspiration. I was able to change my clothes and ready for the trip back to Cortina.

After about 40 minutes, all of the rest of the runners who were cut-off at the said station were accounted for. There were 3 ladies and 9 men, to include myself, and I have the impression that I am the oldest among the DNF runners.

The asphalted road from Cimabanche to Cortina seems to be a road that connects to all the mountains in the Dolomites. The road was not busy with traffic as I could not see or meet along the road big trucks and commercial buses. I could count with my fingers those private vehicles who were plying along this road. I slept for awhile until two of the younger runners (in their 40s) started talking to each other and they are Italians. They were comparing notes using the map on their Race Bibs on what went wrong with them. Although I could not understand what they were talking about, they were pointing on the descending portion from the Peak of Lavaredo to Landro as they talked to one another, the same section where I had my problem. I just smiled and tried to doze again.

After almost one hour, the Croatian/Polish lady was dropped in front of her Hotel which was along the highway, and 1.5 kilometers aways from Cortina. The bus finally stopped in front of the Olympic Ice Stadium and all of the remaining runners to include myself, alighted from the Bus. From there, I was limping while walking and carrying my things to reach my Hotel which about 650 meters from the Olympic Ice Stadium.

Sleep & Rest @ Hotel Cortina

I immediately had my hot shower and changed to my sleeping clothes. I ate whatever “left-over” food and fruits in the room and prepared instant noodles before I finally went to bed. At this time, it was already 5:00 PM of Saturday. I did not bother to check the Ultralive website about my personal data during the race and to those of the remaining Pinoy runners on the course. I was really tired and sleepy at this time.

View From My Room, The Morning After

I woke up at 6:30 AM of Sunday and I was happy that I was able to sleep more than 12 hours. I prepared a hot coffee and as I started to drink, I opened my Laptop to find out what happened to the rest of my Filipino friends. Since the cut-off time for the TNF Lavaredo is 5:00 AM of Sunday, I knew that the race was over already. I checked first on the LiveUltra page of Arwin and I was surprised that he DNFd somewhere in Km 90. I wonder what happened to him since I knew and was confident that he would be the one to finish the race with an impressive time because of what I’ve been reading and seeing on his training in Abu Dhabi, Dubai through his Facebook status. After looking at Arwin’s Page, I went to check if what happened to Rodel and I was surprised that he was able to finish the race in 29:23:10 hours. I was really happy that, at least, one of us in this year’s edition was able to finish the TNF Lavaredo 120K Ultra. I tried to review his time in every Cut-Off Time Checkpoint and I was impressed that he was able to make it in every checkpoint in a single digit number of minutes before the cut-off time in every checkpoint. I wonder what it was like for him to be catching up with the cut-off time in every checkpoint after the Cimabanche Aid Station (Km 66.9) and with those relentless uphill climbs on the second half of the course plus the cold weather during the second night.

Another View From My Room, The Morning After

Post-Race Meeting With Team Pilipinas

I have assumed that Arwin and Rodel had already left Cortina and took the Bus to their Accommodation place which is 20K from Cortina but after few minutes of browsing on Facebook and the results of the TNF Lavaredo on my Laptop, I received a Personal Message from Arwin asking me if we can meet at the Hotel to exchange notes and share our experiences with one another. Since I liked the idea of sharing ones experience with one another during the event, I asked them to proceed to the Hotel and I would wait for them at the Veranda/Main Porch of the Hotel overlooking the bridge and road leading to the town proper, the same place where we met and talked last Thursday.

Cortina’s Hotel Corona

I immediately came out of my Hotel room and went to the Hotel’s Porch to wait for Arwin and Rodel. After about 15 minutes, as I was going to the Hotel’s Porch, I saw them from the road leading to the Hotel walking slowly. I could understand and relate what these two gentlemen were feeling at that time looking how slowly they walked towards me. I immediately asked them if they need to have a shower as I offered my Hotel Room to them just in case they needed it. But they declined as they wanted just to share some stories with me. Arwin told me that that he had temporarily cleaned himself while he stayed at the Olympic Ice Stadium after he was transported from where he DNFd. Rodel also declined as he told me that he was able to change to dry clothes already and would be much better for him to take a shower in their place.

Dependance Hotel Corona/My 2nd Floor Room

We sat and we started to share our own experiences. I told them what happened to me at the switchback descent from the Peak of Lavaredo to Landro——twice experiencing dizziness and severe pain on my left knee that caused my slow pace. Arwin, on the other hand, shared his experience and he told us that at the same section where I had some dizziness, he was able inhale a “cold air” that went inside his lungs and made him feel weak on the uphill climbs after Cimabanche. As he struggled at the uphill climb from Km 80 to Malga Travenanzes, he said, that he was feeling weak and lots of hikers/runners had passed him at this section to include Rodel. He finally DNFd at Km 90+ at Rifugio Col Gallina. Rodel told us that he had almost been cut-off from Cimabanche (Km 66.9) up to the last Checkpoint of the course. He could not believe that he was able to run, non-stop, from Malga Ra Stua (Km 76) to Plan De Loa for about 3-4 kilometers just to be able pass the checkpoint and then at the Peak of Col Del Bos (Km 92) to Rifugio Col Gallina (Km 94). He told us that he was praying “non-stop calling all the saints”, his parents and his relatives while he was running and hiking to these Checkpoints.

Breakfast With Team Pilipinas

We talked for almost one hour and half at the Porch until I asked the Manager of the Hotel if I can invite my friends for the Breakfast Buffet and I will be willing to pay for their bill. The Manager said, “You can invite them for Breakfast and it’s FREE for them!” Wow! I was surprised to hear such generous words from him! Stefano, may the Good Lord bless you always! So, we continued sharing our stories while we had our Breakfast Buffet on the morning of Sunday.

Hotel’s Breakfast Buffet

We stayed at the Hotel’s Restaurant sharing lots of stories and observations during the race until the Breakfast Buffet was closed at 10:00 AM.

We parted ways later as I can see on the faces of Arwin and Rodel that they are about to doze. They left the Hotel and walked to the Bus Terminal which is just few meters away from the Hotel.

I really appreciate this kind of conversation and exchange of experiences among Filipino runners while joining an international running event abroad. These guys are real people who are very graceful in defeat and humble in victory.

I told them that I had posted already a Facebook status that says that I DNFd at the event stating directly the cause of my failure. I asked them also to do the same as most of our Facebook friends are eager to know our personal “drama” in the said event. I promised to these two gentlemen that I am going to document, through this blog, all the things that we experienced in this event and I told them that it will be a very detailed one which be used as a guide for future local Pinoy runners and other interested runners around the world.

Even if I was not able to finish this race, just a short glimpse and description of what I went through, would be able to provide a part of the puzzle of what makes TNF Lavaredo a race to experience and what makes the Dolomites as one of the best mountain scenery destinations worth visiting.

Recovery Walk @ Cortina

I went to bed once I got into my room after breakfast. I was able to sleep until after noon time and woke up at about 2:00 PM.

I decided to have my recovery walk in the afternoon to the Town Center, shop for some souvenirs and look for a place for my early dinner. As I left the Hotel, I met some of the runners, some who DNF also and some who finished the Ultra and shorter races. They were leaving the Hotel for the Bus Terminal and enrollee to their respective countries. I will post a separate blog for these runners whom I met during this event.

World War II US Military Jeep @ The Bus Terminal

As I was walking along the main road of the center of the town, I saw Hayden Hawks, the Champion of this year’s TNF Lavaredo 120K at the Event’s Arc. We had a picture and a brief conversation as he told me, after telling him my name and my country, that he has an Uncle who is a Filipino, married to his Auntie from Utah, USA. He asked me if there are Ultra Running Events in the Philippines and I told him that I am the Race Organizer/Director of the Bataan Death March 102K Ultra Marathon Race. He told me that he had not yet visited the Philippines and he might consider visiting the country in the near future.

Meeting With Champion Hayden Hawks

Before dinner, I was able to really go around the town, getting inside the Cortina Church to pray which I found out to be a Minor Basilica, checking where the Bus terminal is located, looking for Sports Stores where I could buy some souvenirs, and just simply sitting on those benches along the main road of the town while looking at the people walking around. This was the time that I could also see a lot of runners wearing their Finisher’s Vest/Gilets as they are also doing their recovery walks. I felt envious with these runners wearing their Vests/Gilets and I really respect them for what they had done, whether they finished the TNF Lavaredo 120K or the shorter Cortina Trail 48K, they really conquered the Dolomites!

Inside The Cortina Basilica

As I was sitting on one of the benches, I saw Tess Geddes, a Filipino Ultrarunner who is now the Race Organizer and Director of the Grand To Grand Ultra Marathon Race in Utah, USA. She joined the shorter Cortina Trail 48K and we shared some stories while we were sitting on the bench. After about 30 minutes of conversation, we parted ways as I was trying to look for some running attire which I saw being used by some runners during the event.

Sitting Along The Cortina’s Main Street

Meeting With Grand2 Grand Ultra’s Tess Geddes

As most of the restaurants in Cortina opens at 6:30 PM for dinner, I tried to walk around some places farther from the town center as I waited for the opening of the eating places. Finally, I was able to find a restaurant that offers a fine dining cuisine and I rewarded myself with my last dinner in Cortina. The best steak in town!

Best Steak In Town

I continued my celebration in my Hotel Room with two bottles of local beer before going to bed on my last night in Cortina.

To be continued…





2018 TNF Lavaredo 120K Experience (Part 4)

30 06 2018

2018 TNF Lavaredo 120K Experience (Part 4)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lake Misurina

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

@Lake Misurina/Average Speed: 3.81 KPH

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

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

Rifuego Di Auronzo

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

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

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

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

Peak of Lavaredo Mountain

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

@Rifugio Di Auronzo/Average Speed: 3.13 KPH

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

Tri Cime Of The Dolomites

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

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

My ONLY “Selfie” During The Event

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

Landro To Cimabanche

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

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

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

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

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

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

To be continued…





TNF Lavaredo 120K Experience (Part 2)

29 06 2018

2018 TNF Lavaredo 120K Experience (Part 2)

Hotel Accommodation In Cortina D’ Ampezzo

Whenever I look for hotel reservation in my international races, I always ask Mr Trip Advisor or Mr booking.com. I am not that type of a runner that contacts the Race Organizer or Race Director and send inquiry or questions about what and where I can be accommodated or where I would dine/eat and buy some groceries. And worse, when a runner ask for what transport arrangement or trip schedule one would take to reach the place of the event. This is the very reason why I would not answer queries of international runners if they are interested to join my races or PAU Races. Mr Google is more efficient than me, period!

Once I paid the registration fee of 120 Euros for the TNF Lavaredo 120K Ultra, I tried to scout my possible choice of hotel or accommodation in Cortina.I was initially booked at Hotel Natale for 6 days for 990 Euros and a Free Charge for the reservation. However, after one month, I found out that the Dependance Hotel Corona which I think nearer to the Start/Finish and to the Ice Olympic Stadium (Venue for Race Packet-Pick-Up & General Headquarters of the Event), was cheaper than Hotel Natale. Before I booked for my Hotel accommodation, I asked Mon Beleno where he stayed during his previous year’s participation in the event. I tried to book at the said Hotel but all the rooms were already reserved. Knowing that Hotel Corona was cheaper, I cancelled my reservation at Hotel Natale and confirmed my reservation with Dependance Hotel Corona with a reduced price of 660 Euros plus Community Tax of about 30 Euros for my 6-day stay.

I did not bother to contact or send e-mail to the staff of the Hotel on how I would be able to reach the place after I arrived at the Bus Terminal in Cortina. It is always my practice to look for a Taxi at the Bus Terminal and ask the Taxi Driver to bring me to the Hotel by giving him the printed address of the said place.

During my bus ride from Marco Polo International Airport to Cortina, I was seated with a Lady who is a local in Cortina but does not have the description as a runner. After Arwin Sta Clara and Rodel Castillo alighted from the bus, 20 kilometers from Cortina, I could see beautiful formation of rocky mountains on the horizon. The lady started a conversation and told me that the mountains I was seeing will be those mountains that the runners will reach or pass by. After some time during our conversation, I asked her where is the location of the Dependance Hotel Corona from the Bus Terminal and if there are Taxis around to ride to bring me to the Hotel. She said to me not to worry as she would point to me the direction and streets to take as the distance could be hiked in 5 minutes. The lady, Sandra, happens to be the owner of a Gelato Store across the street from the Bus Terminal and her store is closed from June to October because this period is considered as their “lean months” for tourists and visitors. Basically, Cortina is a skiing location and visitors would flock to the area starting in November up to April/May.

As we approached the Bus Terminal of Cortina, Sandra was waving to a man standing beside a car at the Parking Area and I thought the guy is a Taxi Driver. After we alighted and got my luggage from the Cortina Express Bus, he talked to the guy and I found out that the guy is her husband and she asked to drive the car to bring me to Hotel Corona as Sandra left us to proceed to her Gelato Store across the street. I thanked Sandra for the hospitality which I did not expect. In less than 2 minutes aboard the car of Sandra, I was already in front of the door of Hotel Corona. It was already 9:00 PM of Tuesday when I arrived in Cortina but it was still daytime. The days are longer than nighttime in this part of the world and it is summer time in Italy.

At The Porch Of My Hotel Room (Upon My Arrival)

My room was nice and it has a porch with beautiful scenery around. There is also a Bus Stop for the local Dolomiti Bus in front of the Hotel. It has a Free Wi-Fi and Free Daily Breakfast Buffet from 7:30 AM to 10:00 AM. The room is being cleaned and supplied with fresh towels every day! Though the Daily Breakfast had been the same throughout the 6 days that I have stayed, I really enjoyed the food and a chance to meet and speak with some of the guests of the Hotel during breakfast. I will reserve a separate blog or story on the persons that I met while I was staying in the said hotel.

First Meal and Stroll In Cortina @ 9:30 PM, Tuesday

It is really a 5-minute leisurely walk from the Hotel to the center of the town of Cortina when I tried to look for an open convenience store to buy some bottled water and groceries; and to find a place where to eat for dinner. There was no convenience store opened and I learned later on the following day that there is only ONE Grocery Store in town! It’s the La Cooperativa De Cortina which is multi-story modern building with all the things that a department store should have. First Floor is the Grocery Store/Bakery/Pasta & Salad Bar; 2nd Floor is where Signature Brands of Clothes are located; 3rd Floor is Household and Kitchen Needs; and the 4th Floor is an Outdoor Sports Store.

There was only one open Pub and Restaurant place at that time of the night where I was able to order the Best Hamburger I’ve tasted in Cortina! Before midnight, I was already in my bed and slept soundly till the following day.

First Run & Recon of Cortina on Wednesday

After breakfast, I went to the center of the town of Cortina and I was able to see and have my picture taken at the Start/Finish Arc of the TNF Lavaredo. I went to the Cooperative Store where I bought some groceries and browsed some of the running gears at the Sports Section of the Building. I was able to buy a Salomon Pulse Belt where I could stow my trekking poles at the back of my waist. It is worth 30 Euros and I was glad that there was only one stock left for my size, Small.

TNF Lavaredo/Cortina/Skyrace Start & Finish Arc

I had my lunch at Hacker which serves the best and cheapest Panini in town. I was not able to finish the whole order and I had the remaining portion as “take away” for my dinner.

In the late afternoon at 5:30 PM, I went out of the hotel to run for one hour and tried to trace the first 8 kilometers of the course. It was an easy run but I think I got lost after running for about 1.5 kilometers from my Hotel and went to a different trailhead but I had a taste of the surface texture and nature of the trail of Cortina. My plan for an hour of easy run became almost two hours because of more time appreciating the beauty of the mountains all around me. I got nearer to the walls of the mountains and I was able to see the true color of the rocks and hear the rushing of water coming from the sides of the mountains where I passed. I though the trail is flat but as I uploaded the data from my Garmin GPS watch, I found out that I was able to gain at least 1,000 feet for a 7-kilometer one-way run. This 2-hour run made me adjust and acclimatize with the surroundings in the area. I knew that I was in an altitude of almost 5,000 feet above sea level and I observed my breathing and how my body would react to the altitude. It appeared that my body was able to adjust to the altitude for the past day since I arrived in town.

Typical Lavaredo/Cortina Trail

Race Packet Pick-Up @ Ice Olympic Stadium (Thursday AM)

After breakfast at the Hotel, I went to the Ice Olympic Stadium in Cortina (Cortina hosted the Winter Olympics sometime in January-February 1956) for the Race Packet Pick-Up which is 650-meter walk from my hotel. After my mandatory gear check with the Staff of the Race Organizer, I was given my Race Bib, RFID Tag, Commemorative Event’s Shirt, and Event’s Bracelet Ribbon. I had my picture taken with my Race Bib in front of the Events’ Logo Tarp. From there, I went around the Expo and I was able to buy a Salomon Bonatti Waterproof Pants which is very much lighter than the one that I have. The Salomon Pants goes in pair with the Salomon Bonatti Waterproof Jacket that I have already. These are reliable mandatory gears that I must have if I intend to run more European Mountain Trail Races in the future.

Winter Olympic 1956 In Cortina

I was able to meet the Sales Representative/Manager of Buff in Italy, Maurizia Grosso, who was able to give some discounts of their TNF Lavaredo products and other items. She was very friendly and impressed that I was the only one among the runners who was NOT dressed with a running attire. It was a nice compliment when she told me that I dressed elegantly even if I am old already. Oh, well, I might have over reacted by her comment that I was able to buy more of her BUFF items from what I’ve had planned to buy. After my sales transaction with Maurizia, I immediately left the Ice Stadium and proceeded back to the Hotel.

Cortina’s Olympic Ice Stadium

I changed to my running gear and went out for a one-hour hike on the last 3-4 kilometers of the course which passes in front where my Hotel is located. It was sunny when I had my hike and I observed that the Race Organizer had really made sure that the trail is even and clean. They widened and scraped the trail and if there is uneven patches, they placed some soil or crushed rocks on them. There were ribbon markings already along the route and they are very visible. In less than one hour, I was back at the Hotel.

Hike On The Last 3 Kilometers Of The Course

Meeting With Team Philippines

Arwin Santa Clara and Rodel Castillo contacted me and we communicated with each other to meet at my Hotel after my hike. I gave them PAU Shirt each as gift and Arwin gave me a RP Flag Bluff which I intend to bring with me during the race. We met and talked with each other; exchange and shared our Race Strategy with one another; and running experiences. We extended our conversation with an early Dinner at Hacker Restaurant in the center of Cortina. We separated after dinner as they have to catch up with their Dolomiti Bus back to their accommodation place. We agreed with each other that we will see each other at the Starting Area before the start time at 11:00 PM of Friday. In summary, I told them that I would try my best to pass through the first Cut-Off Time Checkpoint at Km 33 and if I can build some buffer time, I will slugged it out to the finish line if I will not incur any injury. Rodel was seemingly the most silent among the three of us and he told us that he will just try to finish the race. Arwin, on the other hand, was very confident to finish race without any concern of being cut-off on the Checkpoints along the course. We wished each other good luck!

Team PINOY: Arwin, Me, and Rodel

Sleep, Eat, Rest on Friday

It was a complete “rest/sleep and eat” ritual during the day on Friday for me and during my awake period, I would prepare my running kit and nutrition needs. At 9:00 PM, I was already changing to my running attire while eating whatever food that was available in my room. At 10:15 PM, I was already on my way out of the Hotel and in 5 minutes, I was already at the Town Center trying to squeeze myself to reach my place at the Starting Area. 15 minutes before the start time, I was able to locate Arwin and Rodel and we talked and wished each of us for a safe run and strong finish. Arwin and I would still have time to go to the Toilet to pee which is few meters from the Start Area. Just imagine almost 1,700 runners packed along the main narrow street of Cortina and with the presence of supporters, relatives, friends and locals in the area, Cortina was on a festive mood and it was noisy. The EMCEE was talking in Italian and the RD delivered the final briefing and what I did understand was his explanation that there will be “No Raining Forecast” during Race Day!

Start Of The Race

The rendition of the Musical Score of the movie “The Good, the Bad, and The Ugly” entitled “The Ecstasy Of Gold” was played and it was the signal that race was about to start. Arwin and I were surprised that the race has not started at exactly 11:00 PM and after 3 minutes, we finally heard the countdown from 10 to Go in Italian! Diece…Nove…Otto..Sette…Sei…Cinque…Quattro…Tre…Due…Uno…Go!

To be continued…





2018 TNF Lavaredo 120K Experience (Part 1)

26 06 2018

2018 TNF Lavaredo 120K Experience (Part 1)

I applied for the lottery to join this year’s The North Face Lavaredo 120K Ultra Trail Race in Cortina D’ Ampezzo, Italy once the application for lottery was opened last October 2017. I was not hoping to be picked up in the lottery as I am always on bad luck with regards to Race Lotteries. Then I was surprised that I was included among the 1,500 runners who were picked up in the lottery. I just laughed it out when I knew the results as I wasn’t sure if I will continue or not because I was registered for the Madeira Island Ultra Trail (MIUT) Race in Portugal in the month of April 2018 due to some budgetary constraints. Moreso, when I was informed and requested by Ms Tess Leono to be her Chief, Support Crew for his participation in the 2018 Badwater 135-Mile Ultramarathon Race on last weekend of July 2018. It came as a double surprise to me that I will be going to the US after one month or less from my participation at the TNF Lavaredo in Italy on the last weekend of June.

It was a hard decision for me to continue or not with my TNF Lavaredo and instead focus my financial resources for my trip to the US to be as the Lead Support Crew in her 2nd attendance/participation to the Badwater Ultramarathon. But there are things that are unexpected and things that I’ve forgotten where I could source such financial resources for my trips. I was just a matter of proper planning and programming or some resourcefulness that I was able to solve the problem. God has its mysterious ways when you believe in him through prayers and good positive deeds to other people in need!

The registered with the amount of 120 Euros (almost P 7,500.00) for the 120K Trail Race through my postpaid Credit Card. Through “Trip Advisor” and booking.com, I was able to select my hotel accommodation and bus reservations. I was able to select the Dependance Hotel Cortina which was the cheapest during the time that I made my booking/hotel reservation. It was only a week before my departure for Italy that I made my reservations for my bus tickets from Venice to Cortina and back to venice for my flight back to Manila.

Hey, it’s not easy to apply for a visa in any country for that matter if it requires that you have some source/s of income; some savings in the bank; some investments; and some real estate properties that you personally own. I think being old, retiree, and pensioner (and lots of visas outside the Southeast Asian Region) gave me more edge or advantage to have my visa approved in other continents like Europe, North & South Americas and Iceland!

The application of visa for a visit in Italy is totally different than the other Schengen Nations as they have their own VIA (Visa Italy Application) and as compared from applying through VFS where most of the European countries contract the acceptance Visa Applications for their countries. Most of my Visa Applications through VFS were approved in 3 days (the fastest) and 5 days (the longest wait). My Visa Application for Italy was approved in 9 days without even informing me that my application and supporting papers were submitted already to the Italian Embassy in Manila. Plus the fact that the Parking Area at the VIA is very limited as compared to the building where the VFS is located. Be prepared to pay P100.00 for 3 hours at the VFS and P50.00 for 3 hours at the VIA. VIA and VFS offices are located at the Pasong Tamo Extension Street in Makati City. If you have the money to spare, one could get their Premium Service where a staff of the office would attend to you personally with coffee and snacks but be prepared to pay double for the visa application. For my Italy Visa Application Premium Service, I paid P6,000+ and I had to pick-up my visa at their office within a designated time of the day.

Departure At The Clark International Airport

Air Transport/Flight, Accommodation and Bus Transport Arrangements

It was already when I arrived from Madeira, Portugal that I finally decided to push through with my trip to Italy and that was before the end of April. I asked Mon Beleno and Jerome Bautista about their flight arrangements and accommodation bookings to include on how to finally arrive at Cortina D’Ampezzo as they were the two Pinoy runners who participated and finished in last year’s edition. The hotel accommodation was very expensive in Cortina D’Ampezzo and I was surprised! 1,000 Euros for 6 days stay in Cortina is really very expensive! But I was able to book my hotel stay for 600+ Euros for 6 days which is about 5-minute walk to the City Center. I was able to get a cheap Flight Ticket via Qatar Airways saving me at least $250 for the Round Trip Ticket with my Flight Departure at the Clark International Airport (on the early evening of Monday, June 18) and arrival at the Manila International Airport on the 29th of June. My flight was from Clark to Doha, Qater (for 9.5 hours) and then Doha, Qatar to Marco Polo International Airport in Venice, Italy (for 5.5 hours) but with a lay-over of about 7 hours in Hamad International Airport (from 12 Midnight to 7:00 AM the following day). My lay-over period served as my training for the sleepless nights for the race! As for the Bus Transport to Cortina D’Ampezzo which is 2-hour trip from the Marco Polo International Airport, costs from 12-18 Euros, depending on the Company name of the Bus. The selection of bus service transports are available at the website of the event. I took the FLIXBUS from Marco Polo International Airport to Cortina D’Ampezzo which I scheduled at least 3 hours after my scheduled arrival in Venice. I made this right decision as the line before the Border Police Booth (Immigration Bureau) was congested where three airline flights (Emirates, Turkey Airlines and Qatar Airlines) arrived at the same time. It took me 1.5 hours to exit the Airport from the time I left the door of the plane and getting my check-in baggage at the luggage conveyor. The traffic of passengers was worse than what we usually have at the Maila International Airport! I had a lot of buffer time to wander around the airport and eat my first authentic vegan Italian Pizza in one of the restaurants inside the Airport.

At The Hamad International Airport, Doha, Qatar

Traffic Before The Border Police Of Italy @ Marco Polo International Airport

It was already 3:30 PM in the afternoon of Tuesday, June 19 when I tried to get out of the Airport Building to locate where the Bus Terminal was located. The FLIXBUS Terminal (Bus Terminal for all the Buses at the Airport going outside Venice) is located at the left side of the Airport Building (if you are facing the building) and it is about 150 meters from the Exit Door of the building. From the Exit Door turn right and follow the Pedestrian Lane with a Shade on the side of the Road and then another turn right to cross a street and you could see a big vacant lot where buses are waiting. The lot has only one waiting shed with a limited seating capacity.

On my way back from Cortina D’Ampezzo to Mestre or Marco Polo International Airport, I took the ATVO Bus Service. These Bus Services only caters to passengers who made their Seat Reservations through ONLINE or through the INTERNET. These Bus Services don’t allow walk-in passengers or have Ticketing Offices at the Marco Polo International Airport. (Note: Mestre is the Main Terminal of Bus/Train in Venice)

The weather during my arrival in Venice was hot and clear skies, the same temperature and sunny skies that we we usually have in Manila. If I am not mistaken, it was 27-28 degrees Celsius.

The FLIXBUS that would be our transport service from the Marco Polo International Airport to Cortina was late for 30 minutes and when the bus arrived, we were surprised that the bus was a Cortina Express Bus! The bus was almost full when it picked us up at the Airport and my Reserved Seat was no longer applicable in the Cortina Express and I just took a sit in one the vacant ones at the 2nd row from the Driver. I was surprised that two of my Pinoy companions who are also participating in the said event were also riding in the said bus as they boarded at Mestre Station.

The distance from Venice to Cortina is almost 160 kilometers and it would take at least two hours to travel the said distance aboard a bus. The two Pinoy runners, Arwin Sta Clara and Rodell Castillo who came from the Middle East, alighted from the bus in a town, 20 kilometers before reaching Cortina. They greeted me and they said that they are booked in one of the hotels in the said town. They promised me that we would meet on Friday at Cortina at the Race Pick-Up/Exposition site which is the Ice Olympic Stadium.

TNF Lavaredo 120K Ultra Logo

To be continued…

(Note: I will try my best to document my experience in this race, as detailed as possible, so that other local runners as well as other subscribers of this blog will be informed on what to do to prepare for the said race)








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