Video: Filipino Finishers Of The UTMB 106-Mile/171K Ultramarathon Race (2011-2019)


This is a Photo Video that I posted on You Tube with the objective to document the past accomplishments of our local trail runners in international trail running event like the UTMB. This video will be also an instrument for others who will be inspired to join this event in the near future. Thank you for watching.

 

 

 

 

Better Trail Running Instructional Video


Two weeks ago, while browsing on the YouTube and trying to revive and locate my YouTube Channel which I created 5-6 years ago when I was staying for a vacation in the United States, I was able to come across this instructional video about Trail Running.

I think this could be one of the best instructional videos on trail running. Attached is a video entitled, “Better Trail Running Instructional Video”. I hope you will like this and be motivated always to hit the trails every day.

Thank you for watching this video. Happy Father’s Day!

How To Qualify For The Boston Marathon (Prologue)


It was an accident or spur of the moment when I decided to register for the 2017 Revel Canyon City Marathon Race after I DNF at the 2017 Javelina Jundred 100-Mile Endurance. I was mentally and physically devastated when I was driving from Mesa/Phoenix, Arizona to Los Angeles, California on October 29, 2017 after the event. It was supposed to be my first 100-mile race with the CTS Coaching Service which I started to enroll in the middle of June 2017. I was too confident that after 4 months of training under my CTS Coach, I would be able to finish the Javelina Jundred. However, at Mile 38, I started to have a “stomach problem” and that I had to “throw-up” my ingested food and the fluids that I have taken few meters after I left the last Aid Station. It took me 34 minutes to finish Mile 38 and walked all the way to the end of the 2nd loop at the elapsed time of 10:42+ hours. I rested in my tent for almost 16 minutes to recover and find out if I can still take in some fluids and food. However, my body took a lot of beating due to the heat of the day. I decided to DNF with the elapsed time of 10:56+ hours at 42 miles with another one hour of buffer time to rest some more. But on hindsight, while I was thinking on my way back to Los Angeles, I should have slept and spent the whole one hour for my body to recover and just in time for the heat of the day to cool off as it was already early in the evening.

Training Peak’s Data On My Javelina Jundred Run

Reviewing my data on Training Peaks during the said event, I had 4 Peak Performances and an Average Pace of 14-15 minutes per mile which I consider to be above average from my past performance considering that it was too hot that time. My recurring problem with my gut due to the heat  really zapped my body physically and mentally. As a consolation, I would think also that the elapsed period (4 months) that I was with CTS Coaching Service was not enough for me to moulded as an ultrarunner at the age of 65 years old. I talked to my Coach and I told him what really happened and he gave me advises and suggestions on how to manage my nutrition problem. He suggested for me to take some rest the following week and do some easy runs for my recovery.

The day after I arrived in Los Angeles, I don’t know what came into my mind when I tried to browse for any race to be held within the Los Angeles area in the coming days and weeks. Surprisingly, I came across the Revel Canyon City Marathon Race which is to be held on November 4, 2017,  six days after I DNF at the Javelina Jundred, and I registered with the aim to finish the race. I immediately called and informed my friend, Rowell Ramos, to monitor me during the race and if he has the time, meet me at the Finish Line. Qualifying for the Boston Marathon was never in my mind to be my goal when I registered in this race. I just wanted to run and finish a race!

My Peak Performances In The 2017 Javelina Jundred 100 & My Best Performance In An Trail Ultra Race

And the rest is history. I have to photo grab the data which I retrieved from Training Peaks where you can see the Ten (10) Peak Performances that I did in the said Marathon Race which are self-explanatory.

Will I ever go back to Phoenix, Arizona, USA to finish this race? Why not?

Unfortunately, the Revel Canyon City Marathon Race that I joined was the last edition of the said race. It is now being held in Big Bear, California. This year, I am registered to join this year’s edition with the hope that the Covid19 restrictions will be lifted soon.

There are two things that you would think with this story. Is the CTS Coaching Service where I have enrolled and subscribed was the main reason why I was able to qualify for the Boston Marathon? Or Was it the Downhill Elevation of the Revel Marathon Course contributed to my faster time for an Old Runner with the age of 65? Neither of the two were the main reasons why I started my journey to the Boston Marathon. It is the “Man In The Arena”!

Thank you for reading!

What Is Success In An Ultra Race?


As I was browsing on my past posts/stories in this blog yesterday, I came across with this “insight” which I have written on February 14, 2014 (Valentine’s Day) and never was able to publish it in this blog. I was wondering what could be the reason why I was not able to post this as this post answers the BIG “WHY” I have been to ultramarathon and thus, creating an iconic Ultramarathon Event in the country which is the “Bataan Death March 102K Ultramarathon Race”. And this is my insight as an ultra marathoner (road and trail) and a Race Director and Organizer of Ultra Running Events which up to now is still true and applicable up to the present.

It is almost SIX years when I started to float the idea of conducting an ultra marathon race in the country and in this year of 2014, it will be the 6th edition of the Bataan Death March 102K Ultra Marathon Race. On hindsight, I have been thinking why I organized this kind of road running event and slowly made it as something to be proud of among runners in the country.

It all started when I saw a website of a marathon event that is named after the Bataan Death March which is being held in the desert of White Sands, New Mexico, USA. I saw this website when I was still in the active service in 1999. After a year, I implemented the same concept of the race among the units of the Philippine Army and made it as a Team Competition to include the US Army & Marines contingent based in the country. Although the race covered only 25 kilometers of the Bataan Death March Route, it became a success even if we did not ask for any Registration Fees from the Team Participants. It was simply sponsored by the Philippine Army, through my Office as the Deputy Chief of Staff for Training and Education, G-8. In simple terms, I was the Chief Trainor & Educator of the Philippine Army nationwide!

If I can still remember it right, I only gave Trophies to the Top Three Teams and there were NO Finisher’s Medals and Finisher’s T-Shirts. Our office and my staff gave packed lunch to all the participants and we parted ways as happy competitors and runners. In the same manner, our civilian guest runners were just treated with the said packed lunch at the finish area.

Sadly, when I got transferred to Mindanao for a Combat Commander position, my BDM efforts just died and forgotten.

Fast Forward. Retirement and the Freedom to Run in any place and time of the day gave me a more focused attention to the Ultra Races that I’ve organized in the past. Of course, my being a Retired Major General of the Armed Services had also helped me in my coordination with the AFP, PNP, and the Local Governments. And whenever any of my ultra races is being concluded with all the finishers enjoying their triumph and victory, I always get a heart-warming feedback of “Congratulations For a Successful Event!” from the other runners, friends from Facebook, and from the thousands of followers of my blog.

It is a very humbling feeling when I get such feedback and it is already enough “compensation” for the preparation, coordination, risk, sleepless and tiring moments just to be able to monitor the safety of the runners and the progress of the race.

Personally, success to me in every race, is NOT in the number of registered runners. I would be happier if I have lesser in the number of runners whom I personally know and who would stick to follow my Race’s Rules & Regulations. Furthermore, I would be happiest when I hear stories among my runners on how they help each other in order to finish the race. These ultra runners whom I usually call “the usual suspects” are aware that the registration fee that they have paid to join the event is NOT enough to pay for my “Talent Fee” for seeing to it that they are safe and secured during the event.

But, most of the reasons for a Successful Event is attributed to the Competing Runner himself/herself. In ultra races, a runner can not “fake’ his performance backed with lackluster training and preparation. It takes a lot of pounding on the ground, discipline, determination, positive attitude, and critical problem solving if an ultra runner wants a decent finish in a race without any injury or “issues”. So, if a runner registers a Course Record Time for the event, it becomes a motivation for the others to work harder in their next training & preparation. Success for a runner is being able to overcome one’s inner demons, pain , suffering, and other personal challenges!

Success does not mean profit or money that a Race Organizer would earn from each event. Since I am not being backed up or sponsored by any Corporate Entity, a runner’s registration fee would be spent for the Podium Finisher’s Trophies, Finisher’s Medals, Finisher’s Shirts, Certificates, Race Bibs, Tarpaulins, Payment For Marshals & Event’s Staff,  Ambulance/Medical Team Services, Planning & Coordination, Timing Services, Food For Runners at the Finish Line, and Travel Expenses. Sad to say, I am not being paid for being the Race Director!

To tell you the truth, I am getting richer from my “tax-free” monthly pension and “tax-free” interests of my investments and rentals to my properties. Even without organizing or directing ultra races, I will be happy and contended sitting on my rocking chair while listening my music from my Bose Sound System and scrolling/reading your Facebook status on my MacBook Air and Apple iPhone!

Success, therefore, to me in races is developing friendships and maintaining those friendship so that in every race, a runner would learn something for him/her to be a better person. Better would mean stronger, healthier, more matured, more friendly, and have a better outlook in life.

The highest level of success is when ones experience as a Runner and Race Director/Organizer is being shared to others and such experience becomes an inspiration to emulate. And this blog has that main objective to share my experience to everybody.

Success Is Being Healthy At The Age Of 62
Success Is Being Healthy At The Age Of 62

Thank you for reading this article. I hope you enjoyed it and have the motivation to challenge yourself to run and adhere the outdoors for the greater good of a healthy lifestyle. Please subscribe to this blog for more updates and stories. Thank you!

Cancelled Races & Trips Due To Covid-19


After finishing the 2020 Borneo Ultra Trail Marathon (BUTM) 106K Race in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia on March 15, 2020, the Philippines was put on strict Lockdown due to Covid-19 upon my arrival in Manila in the early morning of March 17, 2020. From the Manila International Airport, I immediately went directly to my Playground, driving my personal vehicle, in the Province of Bataan which is 110 kilometers away northwest of Metro Manila. This is the place where I spent those “Lockdown” period/days as imposed by the Government due to the pandemic brought about by Covid-19.

Having surrounded with hills and mountains in my Playground and with a “Backyard Loop” once I step out of the door of the house, I maintained my daily training with the hope that the races where I registered would still be held as scheduled.

Sacrifice Valley Ridge Trail

A new ultra trail race of KOTM (King of the Mountains) series in the Cordillera Region, Pulag 100K Ultra Trail Race, would be in its first edition on April 18-19, 2020, was supposed to be my next race for the year. But because of the prevailing situation in the country, the Race Director deemed it to be cancelled for safety reasons. Despite this situation, I did a “virtual run” on the date of the event in my Backyard Loop where I finished 50K in 11 hours and some minutes!

For the month of May, I was supposed to go to California, USA and join the 2020 Western States 100-Mile Memorial Day Training Runs for the said weekend. I made already my accommodation reservation and I was glad I was not charged for it. Also, I was glad that my travel reservations were not scheduled before the Lockdown was imposed.

By the end of this June, I was supposed to go to Europe as I was accepted in a lottery to join the 2020 Mont Blanc Du Marathon 42K Race in Chamonix, France but it was cancelled by the Race Organizer/s. I guess, I opted to have my registration on a “roll-over” for the 2021 edition.

Before the end of May, I was able to request for the refund of my registration fee for the Eiger Ultra Trail Race 51K as the Race Organizers announced on the earlier part of May that this event is also cancelled. It was supposed to be my second time to visit the Jungfrau-Interlaken-Grindelwald Region in Switzerland.

So far, those are the four Trail Races/Events which are cancelled due to the Covid-19 situation. I was fortunate that I did not plan ahead and spend some money in advance for my travel arrangements.

Stay Home and Stay Safe!

Virtual Run In My Backyard Loop

Race Report: KOTM Marikit-Pigingan 47K Trail Race (First Edition)


Race Report: KOTM Marikit-Pigingan 47K Trail Race (First Edition)

The following were the reasons why I joined this trail race: (1) This race is my first trail running event for the Season 2020 and my second trail running event after I renewed my subscription as a CTS athlete since the middle of November last year; (2) This is supposed to be a part of my training in preparation for my 2020 TransLantau 50K participation in Hong Kong as my last Long Run (whether I finish the race or not); and lastly, (3) To confirm and validate my training which was given as a part of my weekly workout—the use of weighted backpack for hiking for at least once a week.

Since the RD of the event is a friend of mine, I sent him a message of my intention of joining the race being the first edition of this event. He was glad that I would be attending this race. In the later days before the race, I asked him of the directions going to the venue as I am not familiar of the other side (eastern) of Itogon, Benguet. Two days before the event, I was able to trace the route going to venue, coming from Baguio City. With the help of a local living in Sitio Dalupirip and working as the Municipal Nurse of Itogon, Benguet, she guided me all the way to the end of the cemented road leading to the populated area of the Sitio. Having seen the overall location of the event, I knew already that the terrain will be challenging as well as the prevailing weather in the area. The place is surrounded with higher mountains and not so much of vegetations on the mountains we will be running, I expect that we will be fighting with the so-called “canyon heat” while we will be running under the heat of the sun.

Conversation With RD Jonel Mendoza Before The Start

From The Podium Hotel where I usually stay in Baguio City, it took me at least One Hour drive to Dalupirip, arriving at 2:30 AM of Sunday (Race Day). From the end of the paved road up to the Start/Finish venue (Covered Court), it is a good one-kilometer distance, crossing the river on a cable suspension bridge which is only good for motorcycles and pedestrians with a wide cemented footpath leading to the Covered Court surrounded with rice fields. 

After I registered and checked-in with the RD and staff, I went back to my vehicle to prepare my things. At 3:30 AM, I was back at the Covered Court just in time for the start of the briefing by the RD. 

2020 Marikit-Pigingan 47K Trail Run Elevation Profile

Race Proper/First Loop

The race started at exactly 4:00 AM and it was still dark and my new Neo Headlamp was on. I positioned myself at the back of the pack, as usual, with the thought to just follow the runner in front of me. The plan was to enjoy the route/event; pass as many as runners along the route and finish within the prescribed cut-off time of 12 hours. On the  first kilometer we passed by in-between houses within the Sitio of Dalupirip along a cemented pathway until we reached the road that leads to the Starting Area from the place where I parked my vehicle. We turned right into a paved path and the ascent started and the runners formed a “Conga Line”, a single-file formation going up to the mountain. I think I was able to pass 3 runners at this section and then suddenly the runners in front of me stopped, trying to look for ribbons/markers. The runners argued if we were in the right track or not and some of us “backtracked” to find the last ribbon along the route. At this point, we heard shouts from the Marshals below us and loud sounds from horns of motorcycles indicating that we were in a wrong directions. We were advised to return to the Start Line and follow the proper route on the first 1-2 kilometers as advised by the RD. As I passed the Starting Line (again!), the RD advised me and the other runners that the cut-off time will be 13 hours due to the delay we encountered. As I glanced my watch, almost  40 minutes had elapsed already and I was confident that I could finish this race in less than the new cut-off time.

I was joined by a runner who knows the route and we were together for the first two kilometers until I went ahead of him. Since it was still dark, I hiked slowly in between rice fields until I reached a trail that ascends towards the first mountain of the course. The trail was very steep that I was forced to use my trekking poles. I just contented myself to just follow the lights in front of me and at the middle of the steep trail to the peak of the mountain, I started to pass more runners who went ahead of me. Through consistency and patience in steady hiking with the aid of my trekking poles, I was able to reach the peak of the mountain and it was already early in the morning as the sun rises in the east. I was amazed by the beauty of the mountains around and the river that flows at the feet of the mountains. It was a relief to hike and run on the flatter portions of the mountain until I reached the first Aid Station. I refilled my water bottles and ate a bite of sandwich and I was joined by two runners, Elle Alvarez and a guy, in the said Aid Station. Loiue Ganayan told me that I am ranked #30 runner to reach the said Aid Station. I left the Aid Station ahead of the two runners and I observed that the trail follows a water canal until I descended in the said mountain. However, in one of steep descents, Elle Alvarez was behind me calling me “General” and asked if she can pass me so that she can have some time to pee at the bottom of the mountain. It was the last time I saw her. In about one hour from the Ambasa Aid Station (Km 10), I was already on my way back to the starting area to complete the first loop/mountain which is called Mt Marikit.

Going Down From The Peak Of Mt Marikit Before Completing The 1st Loop

Second Loop

I think I was ahead of more than one hour with the prescribed cut-off time at this point. At the Dalupirip AS/Start/Finish area (Km 17), I refilled my hydration bottles and immediately left the area. I started to hike and run as the first 2 kilometers was flat until I reached a long hanging cable bridge. I brought out my sunglasses from my pack as I could feel that the sunlight was getting brighter and the air was becoming warmer. My friend Bong Bernadez was at the cable bridge as he was taking pictures to all the runners crossing the said bridge.

My Official Attire For My 2020 Trail Races (Photo By Bong Bernadez)

The road was still concrete as I followed the path in between rice fields and some populated areas along the route. As I left the populated area and the rice fields, I just followed a concrete road until I reached another end of a long cable bridge on the side of Dalupirip which looks very new and more modern and I was at the Tabu Aid Station. I refilled my hydration bottles, drank a glass of Coke,  and ate two slices of rice cake before leaving the place. After crossing the cable bridge, the route became a wide dirt road which have slight ups and downs and at this point I was following a lady runner who was steadily hiking with her trekking poles. After two kilometers, the ascent was continuous and started to feel the heat in the said place. It was good there were small pipes and strips of bamboo connected to the side of the mountain where potable water was flowing. I took some time to douse my head with the cold water but after a few meters of hike and run, I would feel again the heat on my body.

Finally, I reached the Tivang Water Station (Km 28). I stopped, refilled my bottles with water, and ordered some Coke, Eggs,and Boiled Banana from the local peddlers thereat. I guess, I took a lot of time for the first time to rest and eat at this point. I took some time to rest and  have stayed here for almost 25 minutes. With enough water, I left Tivang and slowly passed some runners ahead of me. It was a relentless 3-kilometer distance of climbing from Tivang to the Peak of Mt Pigingan (Km 31). My trekking poles were helpful at this point. The Peak of Mt Pigingan looks like an “arrowhead” that it took me 10 minutes to reach it from the its base which has only a distance of 10-15 meters.

Single Track Technical Trail To The Peak Of Mt Pigingan From Its Base (Photo From Internet)

To give justice for all the hardship, pain and heat to reach the Peak of Mt Pigingan, I asked the Marshal to take a picture of me with the marker as the background. I had a chance also to have a picture of Bob/Robert, a British trail runner, who arrived ahead of me in the said peak. I did not take a few more minutes to stay in the place and slowly made my way down to the base of the peak. As I moved going down from the mountain, I met a lot of runners who were asking me how far was the peak. I have to answer them through some estimates which was nearer in distance than the real thing. I really did not want them to be frustrated  if I told them the truth.

At The Peak Of Mt Pigingan (Arrowhead Peak)

Finally, I reached Tivang Water Station (Km 34) and I ordered the same food that I have eaten before I went out towards the peak of Mt Pigingan. I stayed here for another almost 25 minutes and brought with two pieces of Ice Candy. I thought we were going to follow the route for the 32K runners from Tivang but only to find out that we have another mountain peak to reach which is Bantic (Km 37). It is another relentless uphill climb for 3 kilometers under the heat of the sun. The Ice Candies I had with me were very comforting but with the steepness of the climb, it gave more toll to my tired knees and legs. But through patience and lots of 10-seconds rests along the exposed route, I was able to reach the peak and hoped to have a faster downhill trek towards the next Aid Station.

Picture With Robert/Bob @ The Peak Of Mt Pigingan

I guess, I was wrong! The winding single track downhill route was so tricky and steep that I could not increase my speed at this point. Some portions were covered with dried leaves and some have loose tiny rocks which would cause my trail shoes to slide even if they have aggressive studs on their soles. The descent is another 3-kilometer distance which most of the sections are very steep. At this point, I was thinking that I could no longer reach the Tabu Bridge Aid Station within the cut-off time of 12 hours. As I reached the base of the mountain at the Langag Water Station (Km 40), I refilled my hydration bottles and immediately left the said AS. I finally crossed the bridge and reached Tabu Aid Station (Km 42) with barely 2 minutes before the cut-off time.

Shit Happens

At the Tabu Aid Station, I entertained the idea of eating a glass of Halo-Halo (concoction of sweet fruits, milk, sugar, and crushed ice) but after eating it, I started to have an “acid reflux” (aka throwing up the fluids and foods I have ingested in the said Aid Station). The marshals and some of the runners offered help by giving me some medications and ginger tea to ease my stomach problem. I was asked by the Marshal if I would declare myself as DNF at the said AS since I have only 35 minutes to spare before the cut-off time of 13 hours but I replied that I would try my luck to just run and hike up to the Finish Line.

Five kilometers in 35 minutes? In the end, I was able to cover a distance of 4 kilometers only when my watch registered a time of 13 hours. After this, I just simply hiked until I reached the Finish Line. I found out later at the Finish Line from the RD that there were more than 20 runners behind me who were declared as DNF at the Tabu Aid Station.

Group Picture Of Some Of The Runners Behind Me @ Tabu AS/Bridge (Photo From Facebook)

Post Race Assessment

I am still happy that I was able to finish the race even if my time was longer than the prescribed cut-off time of 13 hours. My training using my “weighted backpack” gave me confidence to hike relentlessly on steep uphill climbs. The heat experience I got from this race was just part of my training for my future races but I need more of these type of races for me to adjust to hotter environment. I need to fix my problem on the occurrence of “acid reflux” during my ultra races and better learn how my body would prevent this from happening. I stayed and spent so much time at the Tivang Aid Stations (going to the peak and back) and at the Tabu Aid Station on my way to the Finish Line. Lastly, in KOTM races, expect the published distance to have an additional bonus distance of either 1-2 kilometers.

Post Data From My GPS Watch On The Event

Overall, I am happy with my performance in this race.  

Journal Of “Team Thomas” @ 2020 HK4TUC (Third & Last Day)


Journal Of “Team Thomas” @ 2020 HK4TUC (Third & Last Day)

There is a big difference between Thomas performance last year and this year’s HK4TUC. Last year, Thomas started the Hongkong Trail at about 9:30 AM on the third day of the event. This year, Thomas started Hongkong Trail at 9:05 PM on the second day, a big 12-hour difference earlier than last year.

After Thomas left Shek O Road, we went back to the place we are staying to monitor his movement through the Racemap App. After one hour, Thomas called us to confirm if he was following the correct track along the Hongkong Trail and we confirmed that he is in the right track. As compared from last year, Thomas did not have any problems in locating or seeing the Trail Markers because it was daylight. Compounded with the colder temperature and darkness along the trail, Thomas took time to confirm the location of the said Markers. After midnight, we went to bed as we were confident that Thomas will finish the Hongkong Trail and be able to catch up the 7:00 AM Ferry ride to Lantau Island the following day.

We expected Thomas to be approaching the end of Hongkong Trail at 5:00 AM and set our alarm clock at 4:00 AM. Before leaving our place at 5:00 AM, we called Thomas to confirm his position and we found out that he had “acid reflux” and he had to rest and take some sleep for his stomach to settle. He slowed down due his stomach condition and the cold temperature during the night and early morning. We estimated that he could not make it on the 5:00 AM Ferry trip and adjusted our schedule to leave our place. We expected that an early arrival at Victoria Peak/Finish Line of the Hongkong Trail will expose us to the cold wind in the early morning. We estimated that Thomas could not make it in the 5:00 AM Ferry trip and delayed our ride towards the Finish Line of the Hongkong Trail.

Thomas At The Finish Line Of Hongkong Trail

We finally left our place at 8:00 AM to the Victoria Peak. The wind was cold when we arrived at the said place and they were few people around as the business establishments were still closed. We entered a small enclosed space at an entrance in one of the buildings in the area to prevents us from the cold winds. I decided to jog and walk along the Hongkong Trail to meet Thomas along the way. After running for 1.6 kilometers, I saw Thomas walking. I called him, took a picture and turned around, jogged ahead of Thomas of about 20-meter distance towards the Finish Line. I immediately called my companion to warn them that Thomas has only 1.5 kilometers to the Finish Line. In a few minutes, Thomas crossed the Finish Line at the end of the Hongkong Trail at 8:42 AM, almost 48 hours after the Start of the Event. We immediately boarded Thomas to our waiting Taxi for our short trip to the Central Pier to catch our 9:00 AM Ferry trip to Lantau Island. During our 13-minute ride in the Taxi, Thomas was able to eat the Rice Porridge with Chicken we prepared and drink some Hot Ginger Tea. 

Thomas Sleeping Inside The Ferry Boat To Lantau

After a lot of Red Light Stops along the way, we were able to board the Ferry at 8:55 AM, barely 5 minutes before the departure time. Once we settled and locate some seats for a space to let Thomas sleep and lie on his back, the Ferry Boat left the Pier. Thomas went immediately to sleep even with the loud noise of the boat’s engine and the loud conversation of a group of Filipino Ladies seated near us.

After 50 minutes of Ferry Boat ride, we arrived at the Lantau Island’s Silvermine Beach Ferry Pier in Moi Wu. We established our “pit stop” under a tree near the McDonalds and immediately prepared to resupply him and change his attire. He again ate a Hamburger from McDonalds and drink a hot coffee before leaving the place.

Thomas was able to recover immediately from his brief sleep during the Ferry Boat ride and the food/drink he ingested during his “pit stop”. Some of the local runners and volunteers approached Thomas offering him a Hot Bath and some Massage at the Lantau Base Camp  Store but he declined such offers as he was decided to leave the place immediately. Photo Guava of Hongkong, one of the Official Photographers of the Event, took a lot of pictures of Thomas en route to the Start of the Lantau Trail. He even asked me to take a picture of Thomas and him during the short hike to the Trail. At 10:25 AM Monday, January 27, 2020, Thomas started his run at the Lantau Trail Marker #139.

Thomas At The Start Of The Lantau Trail

Thomas finished the Hongkong Trail in 11:36 hours which is too slow as compared to his Finish Time last year of 8:30 hours which was considered as the 2nd fastest time to finish the said leg. If not for the “acid reflux”, darkness along the route, and the extreme cold temperature during the night, Thomas could have finished a faster time or equaled his time last year.

2020 HK4TUC “Retired” Runners

During the day, more runners were declared as “Retired” or in simple runner’s term as “DNF” (Did Not Finish). After a total of 15 runners who were “retired” on the 1st and 2nd day, another 5 runners “retired” on the third day. At present, a total of 20 runners were declared as “Retired” in the afternoon of the Third Day and only 13 runners remain along the Lantau Trail with the hope that some of them will be declared as “Finishers” and the others as “Survivors”.

As we left our place to ride the Ferry Boat to Lantau, 7 runners have already finished as “Finishers”, with a time of sub-60 hours. It is just a waiting game on what time will Thomas reach and kiss the Mui Wo Mail Post and be declared as “Survivor”. 

Official Mugshot Of Thomas (Picture From HK4TUC FB Page)

We met Jurg, our original member of Team Thomas and husband of Irene from the Philippines whose family resides in Hongkong, at the Central Pier and joined us for the final push, support and cheer to Thomas. We arrived at Mui Wo’s Silvermine Beach Ferry Pier in Lantau at 11:00 PM with the expectation that Thomas would arrive at 1:00 AM on the fourth day, Tuesday, January 28, 2020. We initially stayed at the Pier and within the vicinity of the Mui Wo Green Mail Post due to the cold winds. We finally settled at China Bear Resto/Pub near the Pier where we comfortably waited as the place was heated. After the establishment closed at 1:00 AM, we transferred to the 7-11 Store where we were accommodated by the Cashier who is a Senior Citizen. We bought food and drinks while waiting for Thomas. We  also stayed at the Base Camp Sports Store to monitor the progress through the Racemap Application of Thomas’ movement towards the Finish Line. 

Kissing The Mui Wo Mail Post (Picture From HK4TUC Facebook Page)

Our waiting time was too fast that in a few hours, Thomas was already on his last 2.5 kilometers to the Finish Line. Finally at 5:50 AM on the 4th day, January 28, 2020, Tuesday, Thomas kissed the Mui Wo Mail Post at 68:50 hours and he was declared as the “3rd Survivor” for this year’s edition of the HK4TUC. Andre Blumberg, the RD/RO of the event, congratulated Thomas and he was impressed on the transformation on the performance of Thomas as compared last year. After the traditional Champagne shower on Thomas, and as a parting statement, Andre Blumberg announced his personal invitation for Thomas to join the 10th Edition of the HK4TUC next year which Thomas immediately accepted.

Training for Thomas for the 2021 HK4TUC will start next week!

Journal Of “Team Thomas” @ 2020 HK4TUC (Second Day)


Journal Of “Team Thomas” @ 2020 HK4TUC (Second Day)

Thomas started the 2nd Leg of the event at Wilson Trail at 16:25 Hours, which was 1:25 AM of January 26, 2020, Sunday Morning. Ahead of him was a 78-kilometer distance during a cold and rainy night. Thomas was feeling cold at the start but having eaten a lot of food and keeping himself on the move, he will surely regain his pace and tempo during the run. After Thomas left, we immediately fixed our things, packed the used clothes/attire of Thomas and threw the trash at the Trash Bins at the Starting Area. We immediately took the Taxi which was waiting for us to bring us back to the place where we are staying. As we arrived in our place, we immediately checked the Racemap Application to find out if Thomas was on the right track. We were glad that Thomas was on the right track and we immediately rested for the day at 3:00 AM on the second day. Last year, after 1-2 kilometers from the Starting point, Thomas got lost and we had a sleepless on the first night at that time when more additional “lost moments” had to be corrected.

I woke up at 8:00 AM on the second day and immediately checked on the tracker of Thomas and he was doing fine without any “lost moments” as compared to his experience last year. Our monitoring team advised Thomas to call us once he reaches the MTR Station at Lam Tin and once he crosses the Quarry Bay and reaches the MTR Station at Tai Koo on the Hongkong Island side. From these calls, we would be able to estimate the time we would meet Thomas at the Finish Line of the Wilson Trail Leg. But with the lagging time as depicted by Thomas tracker, we decided to give an ample buffer time to wait at the said place before Thomas arrives.

We arrived at the end of the Wilson Trail Leg at the Tai Tam Country Park in Stanley Gap Road at 5:00 PM with the hope that Thomas would be arriving in 30-45 minutes. In a few seconds, we witnessed the arrival of the 4th Runner Abimanyu from Singapore and since Thomas was ranked as the 8th or 9th runner as seen on the tracker, we prepared ourselves to wait for some more time in the said place.

Thomas Along The Wilson Trail (Photo From Facebook)

Thomas Along The Wilson Trail (Photo From Facebook)

The cold wind from the sea was blowing on our faces as we waited for Thomas but our Team was entertained by two Pinay runners who are working in Hongkong with their stories about the race and what they have prepared in terms of food for Thomas and to the rest of the Pinoy Runners. They even mentioned to me that Christian Villoria from Pangasinan, also a worker in Hongkong, is waiting at the Bus Station at Shek O Road for more food and drinks for the Pinoy Runners. We had a lot conversations with Tha Na and Josephine and they entertained us while waiting for Thomas. I decided later to hike the 1,000+ steps or the last 600 meters of the trail and tried to wait for the arrival of Thomas. Instead, the #5 Runner Chiang from South Korea came out from the vegetated portion of the trail and he was running at an easy pace going downhill. I greeted and congratulated and told him that he is only 500 meters to the end of the trail.

Thomas After Crossing Victoria Bay (Photo By Lloyd Belcher)

After almost 3 hours of waiting, the #9 Runner Karen from Hongkong, the leading Lady Runner of the event, arrived at the Finish Line and we knew that in a few minutes, Thomas will be arriving next. Finally, Thomas arrived at the Finish Line of the Wilson Trail Leg at exactly 8:00 PM of Sunday, January 26, 2020 with a time of 18:30 Hours to finish the whole Wilson Trail.

Thomas Finishing The Wilson Trail

At 8:10 PM, we left immediately the end of Wilson Trail to the Shek O Road for Thomas to start the Hongkong Trail Third Leg. It took us a 22-minute ride on a Taxi to the Bus Stop at Shek O Road which is officially the Starting Area of the Hongkong Trail. Upon arrival, Thomas checked-in with Andre Blumberg and we set-up for the “pit stop” for Thomas. Thomas ate his dinner with the food we cooked for him and the food brought by Christian Villoria. Christian was there to meet us once we alighted from our Taxi ride. The NHK Japanese TV Network guys were also there to meet us with their Video Camera and Lights. They even interviewed Thomas while he was eating his dinner and focused their video camera on the food prepared for him. They were interested to see Fried Tuyo (fried salted sardines), Pork Adobo, and Sinigang Salmon Head (Sour Soup with Salmon Head) as Thomas food for dinner.

Thomas At The “Pit Stop”

Thomas With Christian Viloria

After eating, refilling his hydration vest with water and food, and changing his socks and attire, Thomas was ready to start the Hongkong Trail which has a distance of 50 kilometers. Before he left the starting point, Tomokazu “Tomo” Ihara, a sub-60 Finisher in last year’s HK4TUC and also a classmate of Thomas in last year’s event, advised Thomas that he is in the halfway (in terms of time elapsed) of the event and he needs to complete the remaining 120 kilometers in less than 24 hours to be able to be declared as a Finisher of the Event. Tomo said that it will be an easy task for Thomas to take the 7:00 AM Ferry trip to Lantau Island and be able to finish the Lantau Trail before the 60-hour cut-off time. Tomo was surprised to see how Thomas improved on his performance this time as compared to last year. In a conversation with Tomo, I told him about Thomas “lost moments” on the beaches of MacLehose Trail, lots of intersections at the Wilson Trail & mistake of going to the MacLehose Trail, and delays for looking the right MRT Platforms at the Lam Tin and Tai Koo Stations. 

Thomas left the Shek O Road at 9:05 PM of Sunday, January 26, 2020 and we expect him to finish the Hongkong Trail in 8 hours or at 5:00 AM of Monday January 27, 2020.

Thomas At The Start Of The Hongkong Trail

To be continued.

Journal Of “Team Thomas” @ 2020 HK4TUC (First Day)


Journal Of “Team Thomas” @ 2020 HK4TUC (First Day)

This year’s event is the 9th edition which is usually held on the Chinese Lunar New Year with the runner completing the famous Four Trails in Hongkong starting at the finish of MacLehose Trail in Tuen Mun, then to Wilson Trail, Hongkong Trail and last is the Lantau Trail. Each trail route should be finished in the reverse direction with a cut-off time of 60 hours. There is a cut-off time of 18 hours to complete the MacLehose Trail and each runner would be able to start the Lantau Trail, 4th trail and last, before the 55th Hour as the Cut-Off Time. A runner is considered Finisher if he/she completes the Challenge within the 60 hours cut-off time by January 27, 2020 at 9:00 PM and complying with the rules. Each runner should cover the Challenge without any outside support while they along the trail. It is only after each trail or before starting another that a runner could be given an outside support. A runner who fails to finish within 60 hours may continue with the Challenge and will be recognized as Survivor if they complete the Challenge within the cut-off time of 72 hours, which is Tuesday, January 28, 2020 at 9:00 AM.

The Team Thomas was the first to arrive at the starting line at 6:30 AM of Saturday, January 25, 2020 which is the day of the Chinese New Year. The Team was the first to be interviewed by NHK, the National TV Network of Japan, which will be covering the whole event. The Reporter have interviewed Thomas and myself, asking, what would be our respective roles during the event. After almost one hour, the runners and their respective Logistic Team arrived in the area. It was the usual the “meet and greet” among the those who finished and survived the previous editions and the incoming participants. Each runner was issued a “Tracker” and an Official “Mugshot” was taken from each runner. The briefing started at 8:30 AM and the usual Group Picture of the Participants was taken.

There are 33 participants of this event for the 9th edition consisting of runners coming from different countries who applied and had been invited to join this event. At exactly 9:00 AM yesterday, the event started.

Group Picture Of The 2020 HK4TUC Runners (Photo By Lloyd Belcher)

Thomas started at the back of the pack on the first few meters of the course. Aside from the Team Thomas usual members of the Logistics Team from the Philippines, he was cheered by his eldest sister, Marina & nephew John who came all the way from Toronto, Canada, purposely to watch the start the event with Thomas and niece Carol who works here in Hongkong. Thomas sister and nephew came to Hongkong for the first time! After 30 minutes that the runners had left the area, we went back to our respective Hotel to monitor the progress of Thomas tracker and position through the Racemap application.

With Thomas experience last year and our Recon Runs, I am confident that Thomas would be able to finish the MacLehose Trail without any problems or “lost” moments. I did not set a time for Thomas to finish the 100K distance but as long as he can improve his last year’s time of 17:40 hours, which was 20 minutes before the cut-off time of 18 hours, he will be fine and on target to finish or survive the Challenge. I did not ask Thomas if he can finish it within the 60-hour cut-off time but I encouraged him to finish as a Survivor.

Last year, there were 3 Finishers and 6 Survivors. So far, after 8 editions, there are only 9 Finishers of this Challenge, to include, the Race Director/Organizer, Andre Blumberg. The locals in Hongkong call those who finished and survived this Challenge as “Heroes of Hongkong”. Thomas failure to start the last trail, Lantau, was the “fire” that inspired him to prepare and train for this 9th edition. We came back to Hongkong last August 2019 to recon the Lantau Trail for two consecutive days.

After a slow start from behind the pack, Thomas finished the first 30 kilometers in 3:30 hours and he progressed to number 3 and then to #4. He was ranked at #4 as he reached 50K in 6:53 hours. We were informed by the Race Organizer that the trackers will be refreshed or reset every 10 minutes. As we observed from the movements of the Trackers on Racemap, we are having a delay of at least 15 minutes from the “real-time” location and time of each runner. Compared from our experience in monitoring Thomas last year, this year’s tracker’s performance was not good. Practically, the trackers were not giving us the “exact and real-time” location and time of the runners. There might be some problems with the Satellite transmission for the trackers in some stages of the course or the rain during the late afternoon and during the evening might have some effect to the transmission. Whatever was the problem with the trackers, our Team was able to adjust with the expected time of arrival of Thomas at the Sai Kung Country Park which is the finish area of the MacLehose Trail. 

Our Team expected and calculated that Thomas would be able to finish the first trail in less than 15 hours and we were at the finish line at least 1.5 hours before the said time. The first runner from Japan, Takashi, reached the finish line at 13:50 hours and we tried to locate Thomas at this time. Thomas had still 8 kilometers to the finish line when the first runner arrived. Calculating the distance and pace of Thomas, we expected Thomas to arrive in one hour and ranked as the 4th Finisher. Surprisingly, another runner arrived as the 4th runner with few minutes ahead of Thomas.

Finally, Thomas arrived at the Sai Kung Country Park in 15:04 Hours and I immediately met him as soon as he reached the finish line. I escorted him to where our Logistics was located and did what was needed to be done to him. He changed his clothes/attire, charged his cellphone with a Power Bank, and then ate the food we had prepared for him. In 7-8 minutes, we were in a Taxi on our way to Nam Chung Public Toilet as the starting line of the Wilson Trail. It took us 45 minutes for the trip and it was raining. Thomas was able to sleep inside the Taxi during the duration of the trip. Thomas did not have any issues when he arrived at the Finish Line of the First Trail. He was still strong and happy that he improved his time from last year’s time.

Thomas Running Along The MacLehose Trail (Photo By Lloyd Belcher)

We arrived at the Starting Line of Wilson Trail at 16:00 Hours. Immediately, set-up the remaining food that we brought and let Thomas eat again. After repacking his hydration vest with food and water, Thomas left the Start of the Wilson at 16:25 Hours. Thomas was feeling cold because of the rain and encouraged him to eat some more. We gave him some fruits and rice packs and he left the area strong and determined to finish the race.

To be continued. 

Journal Of “Team Thomas/PAU” @ 9th HKTUC (Recon Runs)


Journal Of “Team Thomas/PAU” @ 9th HK4TUC (Preparatory Stage)

January 22, 2020 (Wednesday)——Team Thomas/PAU departed Manila aboard Cathay Pacific at 8:00 AM and despite the delay of 30 minutes for our departure, we arrived at the Hongkong International Airport at 10:30 AM. After changing our money to Hongkong Dollars, buying our SIM Card with Unlimited Data, and loading some money to our Octopus Cards, we took the Airport Bus to our Hotel. After lunch, we settled and rested the remaining part of the day.

January 23, 2020(Thursday)——Thomas and I woke up early in the morning and prepared for our Recon Run at the MacLehose Trail. We took the MTR and Bus until we reached Sai Kung. From Sai Kung, we took the Green Taxi up to the start of the Section 2 of MacLehose Trail. We made sure all the parts and intersections in the said Section were carefully studied and marked by Thomas. This was the part where Thomas spent a lot of time looking for the trail, most specially on the beach sections of the course. With all those stops to eat and hydrate, picture taking, and talking to some people along the way, we finished our Recon Run in three hours.

In one of the Rest Pavilions along the trail, we met Johse from South Africa as he was on his second day hiking the MacLehose Trail, carrying his tent and food provisions for six days in his big backpack. He was resting when we started talking to him. He intends to finish hiking the MacLehose Trail by Tuesday as he takes his time enjoying the scenery and resting along the way. He had been taking a lot of pictures with his camera whenever he was resting for the day and night.

The Beach Area Where Thomas Got Lost Last Year

At the 2nd village that we reached, Sai Wan Beach Village, we stopped at the first eatery establishment for water, Coke, and Pocari Sweat. The place did not have any food to offer but it was good that we carried with us a piece Tikoy from Camarines Norte. That would served as our lunch during the hike. As we hiked farther from the business establishment, we reached the Campsite/Beach and we appreciated the beauty of the sea and sand. We took some pictures in this place. According to Thomas, he did not know which way to go once he reached this section as it was already nighttime. We took time to see some markers for him to know which way to go this time.

As we moved further, I was able to see the Sun Dial and took some pictures of it. After which we reached the Sai Wan Stargazing Site. The place is very beautiful and we took some pictures on the said place. Thomas will no longer see these markers and places once he passes during the HK4TUC as it will be nighttime.

Thomas @ Sai Wan Beach Campsite

As we entered the Tai Long Village, Thomas pointed to me the place where he bought some food and soft drinks. Near the said place, an old man in half-naked attire was eating his lunch. As he glanced at me, he asked me if I am a Catholic and what country I come from. I said, “Yes, I am a Catholic and I am from the Philippines”. He immediately stopped his lunch and asked me to follow him as he went into an uphill stairs until he was leading me to an Old Small Church. He said that St Mary’s statue is inside the Church and it is 120 years old and the church was constructed 60 years ago. He said that every weekend/Sunday, a lot of Filipino, mostly Filipino Ladies would visit and hear mass in the said Church. His name is Philippe and he maintains the cleanliness of the church and its surrounding. He said that he is cutting the grasses to prepare the church for the weekend’s mass and visit of devotees. He said that he is 78 years old! I took some “selfies’ with Philippe and Thomas, the Altar with Mama Mary and the Church. When Philippe left us to continue his lunch, Thomas and I offered some prayers to Mama Mary. I hope and pray that a miracle will happen to Thomas this weekend’s run!

“Selfie” With Philippe @ Mama Mary’s Old Church

Two kilometers before reaching Pak Tam Au, the end point of Stage 2 of the MacLehose Trail, I heard some fast footsteps behind me as I was jogging fast to reach the Rest Room. I did not bother to look behind me as I was focused to maintain my pace. On the last kilometer of the section, I asked Thomas to take some pictures of me while running. With the brief stop that I had to talk to Thomas and hand him over my phone, the guy behind passed me and I was surprised to see him as we did not see him along the trail. After the picture taking, he was ahead of me and reached the Rest Room first.

After he got out from the Rest Room, I asked him the direction going to Sai Kung and that started our conversation. I forgot to get his name but according to him, he finished the Vibram HK 100 five years ago and never came back to improve his time because of knee problems. Instead, he hikes carrying his camera. While waiting for the Bus To Sai Kung to arrive, he told us that he purposely hiked along the Section 2 and reached a place to take some pictures of a plant’s flower that blossoms only  at the start of the Lunar Year. It is only this part of the year that the flowers bloom and they bloom in downward position. He showed to us the pictures that he took from the said flowers and they are beautiful. The flowers have some white and red color combination. We were amazed by the beauty of the flowers to the point that we forgot to ask his name and the name of the plant. We suspect that he had to veer off from the trail route and reached some peaks just to locate and take some pictures this plant.

Thomas @ Bus Stop To Sai Kung

We boarded the Bus to Sai Kung and had our late lunch in one of the Noodle Shops before taking the Mini-Bus that would take us to the MRT Station. 

January 24, 2020 (Friday)——Due to incidents of being lost at the Wilson Trail for so many times, Thomas was not able to catch up with the last trip at the MRT Lam Tin Station for him to cross the Quarry Bay enroute to Hongkong Island for the last leg of the Wilson Trail before reaching Stanley Gap Road. Once the MRT opened on the 3rd day, Thomas spent so much time inside the MRT trying to figure out what Platform was he going to take. He had to ask the locals for directions where to take the MRT up to MRT Tai Koo Station before reaching the Wilson Trail at the Hongkong Island side.

So, we recon and rehearsed this part of the route and Thomas was able to recall and review the the route. I think we were able to hike about 5 miles tracing this route aside from our trips with the MRT Subway. To make my hike/recon more challenging, I carried a backpack with a weight of 20 pounds consisting of four (4) 2-liter bottles of water. 

Hiking With My 20-Pound Backpack

On our way back to the MTR Lam Tin Station, we saw an old local Chinese man about the age of 80s pushing his wife on a wheelchair on an uphill climb of about 200 meters long. I asked Thomas that we should help the old guy in pushing his wife. So, we did it and we alternated in pushing the wife until we reached their destination. Some of the old guys that saw our effort to help the old couple were cheering us for what we did. It was a good workout for me with the weighted backpack I was carrying.

On the second day here in Hongkong, Thomas and I were able to successfully recon the places where Thomas got lost and places where he spent so much time figuring it out which way to go. Thomas gave me the assurance that his confidence had been boosted with our Recon Runs for the past two days.

In a few hours, the whole Team will take a ride to the starting area for the event. Good luck and have fun, Thomas!

To be continued.