Chasing The Best Runners!

Part 2: Laguna Lake 200K Ultramarathon Relay
Complaints, Violations, and “Lapses”

The first thing that I’ve observed during the conduct of the race on its first day is the traffic along the road from the 1st transition area in Barangay Sucat Hall in Sucat, Muntinlupa City to SM Sta Rosa, Laguna. Some runners had been “sideswept” by vehicles which were competing with the narrow streets. The volume of the traffic was exacerbated by the number of “vehicle caravans” and “sorties” of local political condidates going around their respective jurisdiction on this day. The Race Officials were able to count at least eight (8) different “caravans” or groups of vehicles of politicians which we encountered along the way from the Starting Area to Los Banos, Laguna!

The traffic was standstill that one of the teams used motorcycles in bringing its next runners to the next transition areas. This a clear violation of the rules and regulations of the race as one team must have only one Support Vehicle where the rest of the runners would ride and the only means where the runner would be transported from one transition area to another.

The worst problem on the first day was the absence of the promised water aid station in every 3 kilometers. Most of the runners complained about the absence of water being provided to the runners along the race route. The motorcycle escort for each runner were not properly briefed about their function and job description for the race. There were conflicting rules and regulation as to what was the job description of each motorcycle escort for each runner. The lack of water aid station along the route resulted in the collapse of one of the runners before he reached the third transition area. The runner was not able to complete his designated segment as he was brought immediately to the nearest hospital. His team was declared DQ or DNFed.

1st Day Finish Line @ Laguna Provincial Capitol

Sometimes, You Need To Remind People

At the 4th transition area, I was able to talk to Thumbie Remigio, Race Director, about the lack of water stations and some violations incurred by the other teams. Thumbie immediately refered me to the Race Organizer, Emmet Penson about the lack of water stations and he informed me that the violations made by the other teams were noted. I did not know that even my teams incurred some violations! However, Mr Penson was at the rear part of the race and I decided to see him at the Finish Line later during the day.

Being impatient of waiting for the arrival of Mr Penzon at the Finish Line, I immediately approached Chairman Ed Manda of the Laguna Lake Development Authority and introduced myself. I told him about my observations on how the race was being conducted by telling him about the problem on the hydration supply for the athletes and the news about one of the runners being brought to the hospital. Based from his answers to me, I concluded that he is not a “runner”, not even a “jogger”!

When Mr Penzon arrived, I immediately talked to him and told him about the concerns of my runners and some “lapses” in the conduct of the race. He listened and I was talking to a guy whom I believe could not even run and finish a 3K race in 20 minutes! I suggested to Mr Penzon that something has to be done to correct the “lapses” on the 1st day as the next day’s leg will be longer, more challenging because of more uphill climbs and the expected higher temperature of the day.

I really don’t regret “lecturing” these people who think that organizing a road race (and an ultramarathon race!) is a simple event.

Overall Standing After One Day

Team Antipolo is headed by PATAFA National Coach Roy Vince whose runners are members of the Athletics National Pool. They are leading the race by so much minutes but they violated some rules in transporting their transition runners by using their motorcycles. I could not even see if they have really a Support Vehicle with them. I was really impressed on the speed and endurance of these athletes and I was thinking that if they win the 1st Prize of P350,000, it will be a good incentive for these athletes who are training to represent the country as the government lacks the necessary support for this athletes.

Team Philippine Air Force-BROOKS was on 2nd Place but the presence of Ed “Vertek” Buenavista and the PAF Elite Runners would be a challenge to overtake this team.

PAF-BROOKS Team Led By Ed "Vertek" Buenavista

My team, Elite Team Bald Runner #1 was on 3rd Place and the other Elite Team Bald Runner #2 was on 4th Place with 16 minutes in-between them.

Team McDonald’s was on 5th Place consisting of Jun Lozada, Jessie Ano and the rest of the known fast runners you see regularly at the ULTRA Oval Track.

2nd Day: From Sta Cruz, Laguna to Tiendesitas, Pasig City

Rene Desuyo, First Runner: “Small but Terrible”

The race started at 5:30 AM infront of the Provincial Capitol of Laguna in Sta Cruz, Laguna.

Photo-Ops With Chairman Manda With the Runners Before The Start of 2nd Day

First thing that I’ve observed was the arrival and presence of additional Maynilad & Manila Water Pick-Up trucks to reinforce/augment the roving water stations deployed on the 1st day. All these pick-up vehicles were filled with water containers and personnel/crew. After driving for about 2 kilometers, I observed that there was a Water Aid Station using one of the pick-up trucks and cups filled with water! The crew of the pick-up truck were on the ground ready to hand in these cups filled with water to each of the runners.

I was happy to see a big improvement on the hydration support for the runners! Even the motorcycle escorts for each runner were instructed to bring with them dozens of handy bottled water in their pack properly tucked on their respective back seats! If I am not mistaken, there were at least more than a dozen of roving pick-up vehicles as Water Aid Station that “leap-frog” in every 2-3 kilometers along the race route. Even the motorcycle escorts were seen very responsive to the needs of their runners.

Rene Desuyo of Team Bald Runner Leading The Pace

Rene Desuyo, my team’s first runner, was leading the race with two other runners. After cruising the first uphill climb in Cavinti, Laguna with almost 13 kilometers covered, he immediately sped up and told me later that he was bored with the prevailing pace. He left the two runners on the downhill and was able to gain 4+ minutes ahead of the second runner as he finished in the transition area at the Municipal Hall of Mabitac, Laguna. Rene Desuyo covered the 27K distance in 1:40+ hours!

“Houston, We Have A Problem!”

Jack Espana, our second runner, got the relay “baton” from Rene Desuyo and he started to run from the Mabitac transition area towards the new Jalajala Municipal Hall, a distance of almost 30 kilometers! It was the longest segment of the race! I was hoping that Jack Espana will be able to maintain his pace with the said distance knowing that his longest race so far was a half-marathon race! We waited for him at the 25-Km pont but we decided to proceed to the next transition area. Little did we know that he slowed down on his pace after he reached the 20-Km point.

Jack Espana Was Still Strong & Fast At This Point

The first runner to arrive at the 2nd transition area was the runner from Team Antipolo and the roving water aid station informed us that our runner, Jack Espana was already walking with the remaining 3 kilometers from the transition area. All of us panicked that our runner might collapse along the way and unable to reach the next transition area. This could be the end of my Team Bald Runner #1 where I am the designated “driver” of the Support Vehicle. However, I knew that the Race Officials were able to provide a lot of water along the way and there is no way that my runner will collapse due to “heatstroke”.

I decided to meet him (Jack) by driving our Support Vehicle but after I started the vehicle and moved a few meters, one of the rear tires burst and I have a flat-tire! There was no way we could support our second runner except by sending Rene Desuyo and my staff to meet and cheer him to jog and not to walk towards the transition area. One of the soldiers from the Philippine Air Force and the drivers of the Team BR-Professionals support vehicles helped me in changing my tire with the reserve tire.

Finally, Jack arrived at the transition area and our 3rd runner, Patrick Gongog left as the 5th runner of the race with the objective to stay focused and be able to catch up with the other 4 runners. Our team was lagging behind from the fastest runner by 20-25 minutes and we don’t want to squander the 16 minutes that we accumulated on the 1st day from the 4th place team! The remaining three runners were instructed to run their best pace and finish the race.

2nd Transition Area @ The New Jalajala Municipal Hall

The Chase Begins

While changing my tires, I requested the Philippine Air Force team to transport my two remaining runners to the next transition area just to ensure that my runners will be ready once the arriving runner reached the transition area. After 20 minutes, our support vehicle was ready to go and we tried to catch up with our 3rd runner. From here, we made sure that our runner was within our sight and gave support through the motorcycle marshal. We had to “leap-frog” every 1-2 kilometers. We arrived at the 3rd transition area with enough time to prep-up our lady runner/4th runner.

I was surprised that Patrick was able to slowly gain some time we lost on the second segment of the race. He really tried his best to gain more speed and distance despite his non-exposure to 10K or half-marathon road races! I found out later that he is a 3K & 5K runner in the oval track as he is a part of the FEU Athletics Varsity Team. He tried his best to maintain his pace up to the transition area in the Tanay Town Hall. He was able to gain/reduce our delayed time by 6-8 minutes after he finished the distance of 19.3K.

Nhea-ann steadily reduced the gap on the leading runners as this was a segment for the lady runners. I consider this segment as the “hardest” one with two big uphill climbs at mid day! This is the Tanay-Binangona leg which has a distance of 19 kilometers. Nhea-ann is a very strong runner and she was able to maintain her pace on those two big uphill climbs and I was surprised that she was still sprinting on the last 600 meters towards the 4th transition area! She was able to close the gap from the fastest runner by 10 minutes and we are only 2 minutes away from the 4th runner!

Alquin Bolivar’s Run to The Finish Line

With the fast time delivered by our lady runner, Nhea-ann and Patrick, Alquin was confident that he could overtake the 4th runner and close in the gap with the 3rd runner. We had to “leap-frog” every 1 kilometer to make sure that our runner is fully supported by the motorcycle marshal. After 12 kilometers, Alquin was able to overtake the 4th runner. Alquin was not able to speed up because of the heat of the sun as he regularly douses his head and legs with cold water. Alquin really tried his best and “dig deeper” for his strength on the last 7 kilometers. He was able to close in the gap by almost 7 minutes. He was not able to overtake the 3rd runner (Team Bald Runner #2) as the 3rd runner finished 3 minutes ahead of him. But there was no worry among the members of the team as we had 16 minutes of lead time to spare which the team earned on the 1st day of the race.

LL200K Ultramarathon Relay Route

“The Race Is Over Until It’s Over”

When Jack Espana reached the 2nd transition area in Jalajala, Rizal where our team lost a considerable time, my runners were all silent and I could see sadness & frustration on their faces. I was sad, too! But, I need to challenge and motivate the remaining runners to give their best for the remaining segments of the race. Well, this is where “leadership” should come in! The flat tire was just a temporary problem which can be solved immediately but trying to “fire-up” the fighting spirit of my remaining runners needs final verbal instructions to each of the runner. I told them, “the race is not yet over, it will be over once you reach the Finish Line. Do your best on the road, we’ll pray & we’ll give you 100% support in every 1-2 kilometers”.

Every time I release a runner to the next transition area, I have to brief them on the task at hand and motivate them some more to do their best. Once a runner finishes his/her segment, I personally meet them and pat them on their shoulders and tell them what they have accomplished—“you were able to close the gap by 7 minutes or 10 minutes or 6 minutes and you are a strong and fast runner. you did an splendid job of closing the gap” and remind them that the team will land on the 3rd place with the other team trailing behind us. I let them take a shower with our ice cold water to lower their body temperature and have them changed to a dry clothes before we move to support our runner on the road. Once the runner is inside the Support Vehicle, it’s time to feed him/her with food and sports drinks!

Awarding Ceremony @ Tiendesita’s

My teams tried their very best but they could have done better. Our Team #1 & #2 placed 3rd and 4th places, respectively. The Team #1 where I was the Manager/Coach & Driver got P 105,000 as Cash Prize with a Trophy, Individual Medals & Certificates. The Team #2 won P 80,000 and Finisher’s Certificates! Rene Desuyo as the fastest runner in the 1st segment for the 2nd day received an individual cash prize of P 5,000. As the Coach/Driver, I was awarded with a CASIO watch (I thought I heard it was announced by the Emcee as SUUNTO watch?)

The following pictures show all the happiness of all the runners during the awarding ceremony:

We Got The Bronze Trophy for the Team BR #1
Rene Desuyo Receiving His Cah Prize as Lap Winner
Team BR#2 Receiving Their Prize as the 4th Placer
Team BR#1 Receiving Their Cash Prize, Trophy & Medlas
BR Receiving a CASIO Watch (not a SUUNTO!)
We Share Our Celebration With Team BR-Professionals

I hope the Laguna Lake Development Authority will have the 2nd edition of this race next year and hold it during the cooler months of the year! It would be nice to have the route of the race reversed with a separate category for the average runners. To encourage more runners to participate, it is suggested to incorporate also a 50K, 100K, 200K solo races with the 2-day relay race.

The race was fun and memorable to everybody. Congratulations to Team Antipolo for being the Champion and the Team PAF-Brooks for getting the Second Place. They deserve their awards and they did well in this race. And to all the Teams that competed in this historic ultramarathon relay race.


Pictures: Laguna Lake 200K Ultramarathon Relay

May 1-2, 2010/From Pasig City to Sta Cruz, Laguna on the 1st day and back, passing through the towns of Pagsanjan-Lumban-Mabitac-Jalajala-Tanay-Binangonan-Taytay, Rizal

The following pictures were taken on the first day of the Relay Race from Tiendesitas, Pasig City to Sucat, Muntinlupa up to Sta Rosa, Laguna-Calamba-Los Banos-Calauan-Santa Cruz, Laguna.

Team BR-Professionals With Ed "Vertek" Buenavista of the PAF-Brooks Team
Chairman Ed Manda of LLDA Led The Opening Ceremony Before The start of the Race
The Most Hardcore Runners at the Starting Line
And There They Go! 5 Runners; 5 Segments; & A Total of 100K On 1st Day
Rene Desuyo Finishing 3rd On The 1st Segment
2nd Runner Jack Espana
Nhea-ann Barcena as our Lady Runner/4th Runner
Alquin Bolivar, our 5th & last runner leaving the last transition area

 This particular Elite Team Bald Runner placed 3rd in rank after the race’s 1st day/leg was declared finished and another Elite Team Bald Runner finished 4th Place on the first day, too! My fastest team finished the 1st day leg of 100K distance in 5:45+ hours. The other Elite Team Bald Runner finished the 1st leg in 6:01+ hours.

The two teams of the Team Bald Runner-Professionals were able to finish the 1st leg within the prescribed cut-off time of 10 hours. Out of the 18 teams, 4 teams were DNFed at the end of the ist day of the race.

All the runners were provided with meals, softdrinks and lots of water during their overnight stay at the Laguna Provincial Sports Complex in Sta. Cruz, Laguna. Almost all the runners slept at the said Complex.

At 8:30 PM, all the runners were already on their bed and ready to sleep as they were expected to be served with breakfast as early as 4:00 AM the following day.

It was announced that the race shall start on the second day at 5:30 AM as the race shall cover a distance of 110 kilometers to the Finish Line.

The 2nd day event was full of drama up to the Finish Line.

To be continued…

Laguna Lake Ultramarathon Relay…WTF?

The Laguna Lake 200K Ultramarathon Relay Race was supposed to be conducted on the last quarter of last year but because of the damage brought by Typhoon Ondoy, the race was postponed indefinitely. However, early this year, the Race Organizers had decided to continue the race after the flooding brought about by the overflowing of the Laguna de Bay Lake to its surrounding localities have subsided.

There were lots of discussions of this and that about the problems of Laguna De Bay as a result of the flooding brought about by Typhoon Ondoy. But it seems that the first solution for the cleaning of the outlets of the lake; the dredging of its silted bottom portion; and the removal of illegal settlers on its banks and tributaries is the conduct of an ultramarathon race. I heard during the opening ceremony of the race that the Race Organizers would like to create “awareness” of the benefits and use/contribution of the lake in the overall environmental development and economy of Metro Manila. I really do not understand why the Race Organizers and Sponsors have to spend millions of pesos for the sake of conducting an ultramarathon race which is a forte of only a few of the total number of runners in the country.

2 Days; 5 Segments Per Day; 5 Runners; 200K Total Distance; 12 Hours Cut-Off Time

Well, since I am a sucker in a lucrative ultramarathon race that has a Cash Prize of P 350,000 for the First Prize, I tried to find out the rules and regulations of the said race where I could field the members of the Elite Team Bald Runner and I am glad the Kenyans were not included among the qualified list of teams for the said race. You seldom find a road race that has lucrative cash prizes for the top teams. In one of the basic rules, I found out that each competing team must be able to have 5 members. Out of the 5 members, only two elite runners are allowed, two non-elite runners, and one lady runner.

As most of my “boys” were made to compose the Philippine Army Team, they still carry the name of Team Bald Runner and two teams were formed as our “primary teams” for the Top Cash Prize. However, another Team Bald Runner was formed where I was designated as the Official Driver of the Support Vehicle of the Team. This team is supposed to be called the “left-over” among the Elite Team Bald Runner. This particular team consists of Rene Desuyo, Jack Espana, Patrick Gongog, Nhaea-ann Barcena, and Alquin Bolivar.

The rules and regulations of the race showed strict observance of how the runners are transported to each transition area in every leg as each runner is supposed to run at least 20 kilometers each day of the two-day event. The other four runners are transported by the team’s support vehicle from one transition area to another one in each leg of the race. The race organizers are also strict on the littering of waste and to include some restrictions on providing support to a runner on each leg,  like a runner must not get support from its support crew/vehicle while he is running as the Race Organizer promised a Water Aid Station in every 3 kilometers along the route. And there were other instructions at the Starting Line which are in conflict with those written rules and regulations. I had a feeling that Murphy’s Law will catch up with the road race.

The race started at the Tiendesitas Area in Pasig City at 6:00 AM with 21 runners (the 1st runners for each of the 21 teams that competed for the race). There is an instruction that the support vehicle could not “leap-frog” and give food and/or water support to the runner along the way. So, being the driver of the team’s support vehicle, I abided with the rule and just passed by our runner while the other four runners on our team are with me in our support vehicle.

Before I reached the first transition area at the Brgy Hall of Sucat, Muntinlupa, I saw Ed “Vertek” Buenavista with bloodied knees and legs as he was bumped by a motorcycle rider while he was doing his “warm-up” run on a congested road as he was supposed to be the second runner of the Philippine Air Force-Brooks Team. This did not prevent him from quitting from the race but I observed that he had a different and slower frequency of leg turn-over. Rene Desuyo, our first runner, finished 3rd with a few seconds away from the 2nd runner.

Jack Espana received the belt with the race bib from Rene Desuyo at the Transition Area and he was off on the road. Rene rode with the rest of the other runners and we immediately left for the next transition area, SM Sta. Rosa. After one hour of running, Jack Espana arrived as the 4th runner. He was relieved by Patrick Gongog as the 3rd runner of the team.

The third leg was problematic as the traffic was standstill on the route of the race. Patrick was so fast that he was able to outrun the motorcycle riding marshal escort that was caught in the traffic. However, what I observed was that the heat of the sun was already becoming a problem with the rest of the runners. Most of them were running slower but I could not see any water stations along the way. The Water Aid Stations promised by the Race Organizers every 3 kilometers along the route was nowhere to be located. Even my1st and 2nd runners were complaining about the absence of the much-needed water along the race route. Aside from the absence of the water stations and the inability of the roving aid stations to provide water to the runners, I have also the problem of bringing my fourth runner to the next transition area before Patrick reaches the transition. The traffic was endless and not moving!

Sometimes you need to be brave and decisive in overtaking other vehicles infront of you if you want to free yourself from traffic. I had only 2-3 minutes to spare at the transition area (Los Banos area) before Patrick arrived. I was surprised that Patrick arrived as the 3rd runner! The third runner collapsed a few kilometers from the transition area and the runner was brought to the nearest hospital. I suspected that the runner had an early sign of “heatstroke”.

Nhea-ann took off from the transition area as the 4th runner of the team and 3rd ranking runner. Nhea-ann was still strong when she arrived at the Office of the Laguna Lake Development Authority at Calauan, Laguna as the next transition area. Alquin Bolivar took the baton and he completed the 1st leg of the race up to Santa Cruz, Laguna. The team finished the 1st leg in 5:45+ hours, unofficially.

The 1st team to arrive at the finish line was the Team Antipolo of Coach Roy Vince; 2nd team to arrive was the Philippine Air Force-Brooks Team; and the 3rd team to finish was our team! At least 5 minutes (unofficially) separate each of the top 3 teams in their Finish Times. However, the first two teams have violated some basic rules and regulations of the race which were brought to the attention of the Race Organizer and/or Race Director. But later tonight, I was informed that my team had been reported with some violations, too!…WTF???

The team finished the race before noon today. Other teams DNFed but the two teams of the Team Bald Runner-Professionals were able to finish the 1st leg of the race within the cut-off time of ten (10) hours. Congratulations to these road warriors!

Tomorrow will be a battle of speed, endurance, against the race course, against the heat of the sun, against ourselves, and getting the least number of violations imposed by the officials.

Note: Pictures will be uploaded in my next post.