Gear Review: Uniqlo Heat Tech Crew Neck Long-Sleeve Shirt

Some of my subscribers to this blog have requested me to feature Gear Reviews on the Apparel/Running Kit that I am using in my races, running workouts and hikes. And so for this year 2020, I am featuring my first Gear Review whose brand name is not so popular as a Sports brand name and it is considered as a brand for Casual Wear. This is the UNIQLO brand which had been introduced in this country few years ago and had expanded in almost all the key cities in the country. This is a Japanese brand and it suits to us as Asians.

For this post, I am featuring the UNIQLO HeatTech Crew Neck Long-Sleeve Shirt which I bought few weeks ago purposely as a casual wear, an inside shirt, for my Business Suit/Coat which I intend to use during my International Flights outside the country. Actually, I bought three (3) pieces of this shirt. I got the Dark Green, Red, and Blue colors. Each has a tag price of P 790, a price which is very much cheaper than any of the long-sleeve shirts with a popular sports brand name.

UNIQLO Red Long Sleeve Crew Shirt

It says in its item specification that the shirt is light and warm but not bulky. It has cropped sleeves and stay hidden under shirts or jacket, if used as an undershirt when wearing under a jacket, coat or another buttoned shirt. The comfort features include bio-warming, insulating, moisturizing, moisture-wicking, anti-static, anti-microbial and self-deodorizing. The material of the shirt is stretchy and has a shape-retaining material. I got size SMALL and it feels comfortable to my body as it is not fitted like a compression shirt.

At noon time today, I went out from my house for a two-hour hike into the hills and along the slopes of Mt Roosevelt (the highest elevation in my Playground which is almost 2,000 feet above sea level). As a part of my training, I was carrying a backpack with a weight of 24 pounds of water bottled in four 2-liter bottles and an additional frozen water in one 1-liter bottle. I was carrying also some trail foods and a cellphone.

Having started at noontime, the sun was hot and the sky was without clouds, I was surprised that I started to perspire after two kilometers of intense hiking on a continuous uphill terrain. I usually start to perspire after running for one kilometer. But with the heavy weight I was carrying, I thought I would perspire after hiking a few meters from the gate of my compound. The shirt was very comfortable as I started to perspire as I was going up to Mt Roosevelt as I passed the distance of two kilometers. Even if the color of my shirt was in dark green, the feeling of my skin from the shirt was not too hot but it was cooler than what I expected. It was only after I reached the peak of a hill where the base of an electric power tower is located that I felt that I was drenched with perspiration. I reached this peak in 1:05+hours and I decided to have this place as my turn-around point.

I decided to bring down my backpack and bring out the trail food and my cellphone at the base of this electric transmission tower for some rest, hydration and ingest my nutrition. My UNIQLO shirt was entirely wet from my perspiration but I have observed that the damp of my shirt provided me the coolness to my body. After a few minutes of eating, drinking and taking some “selfies” from my cellphone, I started my hike again and back to where I started.

Even if it was too hot while I was on my way back, I still feel that my body was so fresh and refreshed by the damp shirt. The wet shirt has a cooling effect to my body and I felt I was not perspiring while I was hiking on the downhill and uphill. I finally reached the gate of my compound after 2:17+ minutes. As I removed the shirt from my body, I have observed that the shirt did not retain much moisture and it was very light as compared to other moisture-wicking shirts from popular sports brand names where they are very heavy once they are drenched with my perspiration.

With the price of 790 Pesos, the shirt has  eight (8) colors: White, Light Gray, Dark Gray, Black, Red, Dark Green, Blue, and Navy. I am planning to look for a white color for this Uniqlo shirt in my next visit to their store.

With its cheap price, comfortability, and lightness when wet, I am highly recommending this Uniqlo shirt for Ultra Runners, whether they are on the road or trails.

Mountain Hiking With UNIQLO Dark Green Long Sleeve Crew Shirt

(Note: I am NOT a Sponsored User of UNIQLO Products)


Raising The Bar

Next year will be the 7th edition of the Bataan Death March 102K Ultra Marathon Race (BDM 102) and I firmly believe that this running event opened the awareness of our local runners on the possibility to finish a running event more than the distance of a Marathon Race. Its historical significance and the experience of past finishers had lured a lot of new marathon runner-finishers for them to train and finish the race. And slowly it is becoming more prestigious that you can not call yourself as a “full-blooded” ultra marathoner among the local Filipino runners if you have not finished this race. Better yet, if you consider yourself as a Race Director/Organizer of a local ultra running event.

Almost yearly, the course record of the BDM 102 had been broken by what we consider as our “elite runners” and nothing happens after that for them to be exposed to other ultra running competitions abroad and find out how they would compare themselves to international runners. With the help of ultra running friends and former comrades in the military service, I was able to expose some of these elite runners in three instances but these were the notable results: (1) Alquin Bolivar, an active Philippine Army soldier set a National Record for 100K with a time of 9:04:23 hours and placed #6 among the fast ultra runners of Asia in an IAU-sanctioned Asian 100K Championship Road Race in Jeju, South Korea in 2010 and (2) Marcelo Bautista, a 9:45:59-hour finisher of BDM 102, who placed #15 in the 2013 Hongkong 100K Trail Ultra Race among 1,250 runners coming from different countries with a time of 12:08:42 hours making him a qualifier for the prestigious Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run in California, USA.

Due to different factors and reasons of which I don’t have any control, I could no longer afford to send such “elite” athletes to international ultra running competition. If TNF Philippines could not even afford to send the Champion of its yearly TNF100 to any of the Southeast Asian TNF100 events, how much more for a “pensioner” like me who does not have any profit from having less than 100 runners in my regular ultra races.

There are potential “elite” ultra runners among us who would like to be exposed to international races but I have the observation and personal opinion that they lack two of the most important considerations or attitude which are very paramount for me aside from the fact that they lack the financial resources: Loyalty and Humility.

Loyalty? Do I need to define what is loyalty? Humility? Do I need to define this word also? If you are one of the local ultra runners who know me personally or had been reading my blog since the time I created this, you would know what I am talking about. If you are new in this blog and don’t know me personally, you can always “search” for my rants and random thoughts in my past posts.

So, if you have the influence or the capability to send our elite ultra runners to international competition, you can do also your share in this effort. If you are one of the “Big Shots” in the Government Service or in the Private Corporate World, you can be a great help to these potential elite runners making sure to test them of their “loyalty and humility”.

For those who have the time, money and resources to participate in international races and considered as our “elite” ultra runners, the whole local ultra running community will be behind you to cheer and pray for your safety in your travel and for a competitive resolve to be faster and stronger than the other runners.

This brings me to a more focused observation to our “elite” ultra runners who are competing (not participating) in an international ultra running event. It is assumed that if you are an “elite” ultra runner, you are supposed to compete with the best of the other international runners. There is no doubt that your sole purpose and focus in this race is to be able to finish the race as fast as you could within the confines of your skill, talent, training and mental fortitude. It is assumed also that you have figured out, through your training and preparation, the best race and nutrition strategy for such event. There is NO point of thinking that you are there to simply to FINISH the race event. The ultimate aim of an “elite” ultra runner is to be able to land and place as one of the podium finishers (top 3 or top 10), period!

For the “middle-of-the pack”, their purpose and goal is to be able to pass or overtake as many runners as they can before they cross the finish line. These are the ultra runners who keep on coming back every year to improve their Personal Best or PR times for the event. They find satisfaction to beat a friend or an opponent or a training partner, whether their satisfaction is for bragging rights among other runners or silently praising himself/herself that he/she could improve some more. These are serious runners who always find ways and means for them to be faster, stronger and smarter ultra runners. They keep on improving with the end view of someday joining in one of the international ultra running events as part of their “bucket list” given with a well-balanced family and job/professional career. I can say in my opinion that these are the “Silver Medalists” in the past BDM 102 editions.

The “back-of-the pack” are mostly “whiners”, “fakers” in their training, pressured by their peers to join, old and aging runners who would like to put a tab on their “bucket list” before they fade away (that’s me!), non-believers to accept that they are little heavy in weight and very slow in running and ask a lot of unnecessary TLC in Aid Stations, those who don’t accept that they are injured in their training, and those who always have a laminated printed copy with them of their targeted split time in every kilometer post along the route in order to avoid being cut-off from the race. I call these runners as “hit or miss” ultra runners.

As more ultra running events, whether road or trail, are being organized in the country, there is a possibility of more runners being lured into joining ultra running events and you can easily distinguish them as the “elite”, “middle-of-the pack” or “back-of-the-pack” ultra runners. I just hope that their interest will not end once they finish the BDM 102. As for the elite runners, I am still confident that private individuals and/or corporate brands will be able to support and send them to prestigious international ultra running events, whether they are in Asia/Australia, Europe or in the USA/Canada, in the years to come.

If former President Marcos was able to invite past Boston Marathon Champions and Marathon Olympic Medalist in the past to be as special guest/runner and if MVP can bring a whole NBA Team to the country to play with our National Basketball Team or send our Basketball Team to play tune-up training games to a popular and former NBA Champion Team in the USA, I have the strong belief that our ultra runners will soon be running side by side with elite ultra runners worldwide or for these world’s elite runners to be running in our local ultra races.

I hope and pray that these things will happen before I finally fade away from ultra running as a “back-of-the-pack” runner!

Mountain Hiking, here I come!

Mt Whitney & PCT Within My Reach
Mt Whitney & PCT Are Within My Reach

Steps In “Peak Bagging” & Suggested “Tips”

The following are my personal suggestions if you want to experience “peak bagging” in any of our mountain peaks. It is assumed that you are already a seasoned runner, being a trail runner is one of the qualifications for such an experience, and it is better if you are a marathon runner. However, it is best if you are already a seasoned mountain trekker, hiker or camper.

1. Have a Plan. If you have a steady job or work where you earn a living, planning for a “peak bagging” experience takes a lot of consideration. You need ample time, scheduling, financial support and lots of positive motivation to push through with your plan. Once a quarter (every 3 months) would be a nice schedule or every time there is a long weekend (3-day vacation). The location of target mountain should also be considered in terms of its accessability from your place of origin. Of course, it will be more expensive if the location is farther from your place.

If you have a family, bring your family with you and share your passion to your wife and to your kids. If they are not interested with your outdoor activity, you can bring them with you to your destination and have them stay in a resort or place where there are other alternative outdoor activities to be experienced.

If you are a retiree, like me, enjoying your time and have a love for sports and outdoor adventures, then going out of the city and looking for different places, “peak bagging” is better than reading the news dailies, watching the TV or letting the days passed by in shopping malls/coffee shops or spending a lot of time in your car due to traffic in the metropolis.

2. Make your own research. There are lots of mountaineering resources in the Internet for your mountain destination. There are also mountaineering groups on Facebook where one can get information direct from the person you want to contact. At least, you must have a FB account to have access on these groups.

My favorite mountaineering resource in the Internet is our very own Gideon Lasco at http://pinoymountaineer.comas he categorized each mountain peak by regions and he recommends an ITINERARY for each mountain visit. However, other important data for a runner to know are not stated in his description of each mountain. Mountaineers don’t usually measure their trek to the mountain peak in terms of distance (number of kilometers/miles) but in the number of hours it would take the hikers to reach the summit. So, if they say that a hiker/camper could reach a certain peak in 5-6 hours, an average trail runner could run to the peak in 2.5-3 hours, one-half less the time for a camper/hiker to reach his destination. Faster runners could do it 1/3 of the time a hiker can do to reach the summit. However, other detailed data and information can be gathered from the comments of the his readers in every post in his website.

3. Train for Hill Running. In “peak bagging”, you need to run when the trail is flat or when you are descending along the trail and brisk walk when the trail is uphill or steep incline. For you to be consistent and faster in reaching the summit, your legs must be strong. Strong legs are developed by hill repeats as it mimics your leg turn-over during trail running. As an alternative to hill repeats, one can do strengthening exercises in the gym or at home. One can do some leg squats, lunges, stair walking and core exercises anytime of the day!

4. Prepare your apparel & equipment. Your normal running kit would suffice but as you go higher in elevation, the temperature would become colder. It is a must that you bring a light jacket stowed on your backpack/camelbak which you can use when you are freezing cold. Hand gloves are also advisable as the temperature would be freezing on top of the mountain. If your hands are starting to be numb and cold, it is a signal that you must start your descent from the mountain. Water-proof jacket is also helpful as most of the higher mountains would receive some rains usually when they are covered with clouds. Runners cap is also mandatory as it keeps the escape of heat from your body and at the same time protect your head from accidental “head-butts” from fallen trees and some branches as you pass underneath them. Hydration pack is a must! If you want to stay longer in higher summits, prepare to bring a bonnet that would cover your head and ears.

5. Prepare For Your Hydration/Nutrition. I usually bring water only in my hydration system. I was surprised that my Nathan bottle filled with water was the only water supply that I brought when I “peak bagged” Mt Pulag for a distance of 15 kilometers. Maybe its the cold weather on the higher altitude and the raining prevented my body from losing more perspiration. I usually bring “power bars” and gels in my “peak bagging” activities. They are lighter and my stomach is already used to them. At the Mt Ugo Trail Marathon, I brought my Nathan “Sprint” Handheld Bottle for my Gatorade Mix even if I was holding trekking poles. Gatorade was my extra source of electrolyte if my “peak bagging” activity is a race/competition.

6. Travel Light. I use racing flats/minimalist shoes (NB MT 101) and compression shorts & shirts on my mountain running. If I use Camelbak Hydration Pack, I only fill 1/2 up to 3/4 full of water in its bladder. I only carry minimal number of gels, power bars and Gatorade mix in my pack. Sometimes, I would pack the lightest windbreaker to my pack instead of those heavier outdoor technical jackets. My ASICS Windbreaker which I bought in Jeju, South Korea could be the lightest windbreaker that I have among my running kit. Hopefully, I would be able to buy the Patagonia Nano Jacket, my “dream jacket” for higher altitude “peak bagging”, in the near future. It can be folded and stowed in your packet.

The cheapest version of a jacket/windbreaker/poncho which you can bring is the black commercial trash bags that are available in the supermarket. Get the largest size of trash bags in the market. Simply make a hole on the closed end of the bag where you can insert you head, thus, you have a raincoat for your body and backpack. It is a must to carry at least 2-3 pieces of these black trash bags in your daypack as they serve also as trash bags for the litter you could see along the trail, camping areas or at the peak of the mountain.

7. Trekking Poles. A pair of trekking pole is an invaluable equipment for an old trekker/hiker like me. They are useful in crossing streams and rivers; keep you balanced on uneven and slippery grounds; provide anchor and support for stronger lifting of the body on steep ascending parts of the mountain; and lessen the impact of ones feet on the ground. It takes a simple time to practice to use these trekking poles. It is advisable to use those “bike gloves” (half of the fingers are exposed) when using trekking poles to avoid blisters on your hands. On descending and flat parts of the trail route, I would carry them as if they are my batons in a running relay.

8. Prepare For Contingencies. In trekking/peak bagging, you should always “respect the weather”. If the weather would not allow you to reach the peak, it is best to retreat and make another attempt on a day with good weather. The mountain will always be there, it will never leave from his location. In a good weather, if you start your “peak bagging” in the morning, expect to reach the peak when the sun is already on top of you which means that it is already noon time. The heat of the sun would make you perspire some more and you must be able to hydrate yourself regularly. In case of any encounter with the wildlife, like snakes, deer, wild pigs, cows, or bats, just ignore them and don’t disturb them. Your main mission is to reach the peak of the mountain and not as a hunter.

9. Invest On A Light & Reliable DayPack. A DayPack can store your hydration needs (water bottles + 1.5-liter bladder), additional clothing apparel, first aid kit, food, electrolyte tabs/mix, lighting equipment, and trekking poles.

10. Know Some Protocols/Etiquette/Culture of the People

a. In popular mountains which are being visited by most campers/mountaineers, you need to pay a permit fee and attend an orientation lecture from the personnel of DENR. It is best to register yourself to the barangay hall/barangay officials where the mountain/trailhead is located or to the nearest police or military unit/detatchment in the area before pursuing your activity. On the same manner, inform them on your departure from the place. There are some barangays that would ask P 20.00-P 40.00 as permit fee per person in lower elevation mountains.

b. Be prepared to get a “guide” for a fee. The guide must be requested from the Barangay Officials so that there is accountability in case of any complaints from the hikers. In Mt Apo, I paid P 350.00 for my guide but I paid him an extra tip of P 150.00. In the Ambangeg-Pulag Trail, I paid P 500.00 for my guide which is good up to 5 persons. But for the longer and harder Akiki-Pulag Trail, a guide will cost you P 1,800.00. Even if I don’t need the services of a porter, it is worthy to note that each porter is being paid a minimum of P 500.00 for every 15 kilos of weight. I always see to it that I have a guide in all my “peak bagging” feats.

c. LNT or Leave No Trace. This is the number ONE Rule in any outdoor activity which is “common sense”. Except for Mt Pulag, all the other mountain trails and peaks that I bagged have trashes. I really don’t know if the locals are the one’s littering their trash along the trails and on the peaks or the visitors.

d. Silence Means Good Weather. There is no point why hikers/trekkers would shout on the top of their voice if they see nice scenery and vistas along the mountain trail or while they are at the peak of the mountain. There are also groups of campers that would bring intoxicating liqour on the peak of the mountain and drink to their hearts content and noisy as a result before retiring to their respective tents. Other would mimic or answer the sounds from the birds through their loud voices or involve themselves in loud conversations and laughter while hiking along the mountain trail. All of these are “toxic or pollutants” on the peaceful environment of the forests and the mountains. Local people would predict unfavorabe weather a day or two after such “noise” are done in the mountain!

e. Smile & Greet Everybody you meet along the trail. Find time to talk to them even for a few seconds. Your message should be clear that you are there to simply have a quick look of the place or just passing through. Always be positive on your comments and observation of the place.

f. Most of the mountains in the Cordillera Region & along the Bansalan Trail to Mt Apo have vegetable farms on the foot and slopes of the mountain. You should not mess up or step on the growing plants on these garden/vegetable farms. Never try to harvest or pick any of the vegetables or root crops as you pass by these farms. Most of the farms have cabbage, carrots and potatoes.

11. As much as possible, make a journal or document of your peak bagging activity in every mountain that you visit or attempt to make in reaching a summit. There is no shame if you could not make the grabbing in your first attempt as the mountain will always be there waiting for you. If you have a Garmin/GPS Watch, it would be nice to get the following data: Duration of Peak Bagging Activity from your specific Starting Point to the Peak and back; Distance recorded; Altitude of the Peak; Profile Elevation; Average HR; and other data taken from the equipment. Your personal experience will somehow inspire others to go to the outdoors and be interested in “peak bagging” activity.

(Note: Pictures from Mt Pulag, Mt Natib, Mt Ugo, and Mt Timbac)