A few weeks after I finished the 2017 Revel Canyon City Marathon Race, I received an e-mail telling me that my Official Pictures and Video are ready to be uploaded. I was surprised to receive such message, most especially, when such documentation service from the Race Organizer had provided such to all the Finishers for FREE! This is the beauty and advantage of the Revel Races being held in the US. Most of their races are downhill, lesser in number of participants, Boston Marathon Qualifier, cheap as compared to others, no lottery, and free pictures/videos. They have also high quality “swags” like Finisher’s T-Shirts and Medals. At one time, they gave a Free Pair of Goodr Sunglasses.
The following is the video of the Race and it is personalized for me as a souvenir for the race. It is unfortunate that the 2017 edition was the last edition of this Marathon Race in Azusa, California. The Race Organizer had transferred the venue to Big Bear, California and I missed to join it last year.
Thank you for watching this short video. And thank you for dropping by.
Whenever I join ultra races abroad, I usually make my bookings on motels through their websites. I never had the experience to bring my camping gears and set up my tent in camp sites near or within the Starting Area of a trail ultra race. Since I was planning to join the CCC @ UTMB this year (but I was not lucky to be picked on the lottery) and try to stay on Airbnb in Chamonix, France, I looked for “homestays” in Rotorua, New Zealand on the Internet. Staying in New Zealand in an Airbnb accommodation would be a nice “first-time” experience for me prior to going to other races in Europe.
After some browsing on the Internet, I found a place which has so many positive feedback from the people who stayed in the said house. Considering the cheaper amount to be spent as compared to staying a Hotel or Motel in Rotorua, the house is located near the start of the event and the place is quiet and affordable. Looking at the Profile Picture and the name of the owner of the house, I was able to conclude that they could be Asian and it would much easier to communicate and to be relate to them since we belong to the same Continent. So, I made the decision to book for my accommodation in this place. For a duration of stay for 8 days, I was able to pay almost P 20,000 to include some fees.
Upon my arrival at the Town Center of Rotorua, NZ, I called for a Taxi which was waiting for passengers as the right side of the building. The driver is a 75-year old guy and he took some time to look at the address of my destination and glanced at his reference of the places of the city. Then another Taxi Driver asked him if he has any problem on our destination since it took him a couple of minutes to move his Taxi from where I boarded. The other Taxi Driver told him what street to take and the old guy realised where the house is located. It took the Taxi Driver less than 10 minutes to reach my destination.
It was already 9:00 PM when I arrived at the house and the Hosts, Gillian and William Ma were waiting for my arrival. They are very nice hosts and very helpful in giving me some directions to go to some places in the city; very responsive to my needs in the house; and give me some information about the city. They had been in the said house for the past 5 years and they are still childless. I told them about the reason why I was in Rotorua and they were surprised to know that there is such an international event happening in their neighbourhood without them knowing it. Much more surprised when I told them that I will be joining the 102K distance event and they could not believed it since they have known that I’ll be turning 65 years old in 3 months. Of course, I told them also that I am a retired officer with the rank of Two-Star General of the Armed Forces of the Philippines on the second day of my stay in their house. On the early morning of the second day of my stay in their house, I had a lengthy conversation with Gillian and we had to get to know more about her and her husband and the things/places to visit in Rotorua.
My room has a Double Size Bed with a view of the frontyard of the house with a wide glass window draped with a rolling curtain. It has a locker room and equipped with an electric fan. I was wondering why there was no air-conditioning unit for the room but by opening the window with a small space, I can feel the cool air from the outside to be entering the room. However, I was warned by my Host to close the window during nighttime because some flying insects would be attracted to enter the opened space of the window because of the light from the room. The bed, comforter, and the pillows are very clean and comfortable. However, I have to walk for about few feet outside my room for the toilet and bathroom. The toilet and bathroom are separate rooms but there was no problem for me as they are considered as “common” bathroom & toilet for the guests. I was lucky that I was the only guest for the first three days when a Lady from Switzerland occupied another room in the house for an overnight stay after I finished the race.
Their address is: 11 Carroll Place 11, Rotorua, Bay Of Plenty 3010, New Zealand.
Warm-Up Run To Redwoods Park
After a breakfast of hot coffee and quaker oats, I prepared for a brief run to the Redwoods Park from the house which is about 2.5 kilometer-distance to its entrance and there is another one kilometre to run from the Gate/Entrance to the Visitors Center of the Park. I surveyed the actual place where the Starting Area of the event is located and I had the chance to inspect the trail of the park not knowing that the first kilometre of the race will follow the asphalted road towards the mountain.
After some picture-taking of those things inside and within the Visitor’s Center, it was time to engage with the personnel of the park. This is where I met Katrina who told me that she has two other Pinoy personnel working with her in the Park. Before we ended our conversation, we had a “selfie” where she approved of it.
I returned to the house jogging with a faster pace and I found the weather and the cooler breeze to be like Baguio City during summer time. I knew already that we will have a very hot weather on race day. While I was jogging, I was able to pass a commercial centre which is called Redwood Center which is about 50 meters from the entrance of the Park. From what I’ve seen within the Commercial Center, I knew already where I would eat my lunch for the day.
I had my second shower in Rotorua and prepared to walk again for my lunch at the Redwood Center. After lunch, I took a Bus Ride to the Town Center for some shopping of souvenirs from Rotorua. Bus Rides are very efficient and orderly in Rotorua. All you have to do is remember the Bus Route Number and pay NZ$ 2.35 for the said route and have the option to transfer to another Bus Route Number within 30 minutes after you are being dropped by the first bus you have taken for FREE. All you have to do is to inform the Driver that you are transferring to another Bus Route after alighting from the Bus, so that he can give you your ticket for the next bus transfer you will be taking. As you board to the transfer Bus, inform the driver that you are transferring from another Bus and give your ticket. The Bus Route goes only on a One Way Loop which means that the next scheduled ride always comes from the Town Center and not from the Turn-Around Point of the Bus and pass on the same road where I was picked up! All the Bus Stops have the scheduled time of arrival posted on a pole adjacent to the Shaded Bus Stop. I have observed that the Bus arrival on the Bus Stop near the house where I stayed was always prompt and on the dot. The Bus Stop near the house where I stayed is only 50 meters away!
When I learned about the Bus Transport System in the area, there was no need to take the Taxi. However, the schedule of the Bus starts at 7:00 AM and ends at 6:00 PM. If you want a ride after 6:00 PM, take the Taxi by calling the number 07-348-1111 as you could hardly see any Taxi roaming around the streets/roads in Rotorua. Once you call the number and state your location where you can be picked-up, the Taxi will be there with you in few minutes!
(Note: It is advisable to buy a Sim Card for your Cellphone at the Auckland International Airport as soon as you arrive for the cost of NZ$ 39.00)
Change Of Schedule/Itinerary
Even if I have friends on Facebook who are presently living or residing in New Zealand, I did not send them any PM or give them a hint that I need some help or need answers from queries I would like to ask from them. I just patiently read the instructions stated on the Souvenir Program of the Tarawera 100 Ultramarathon Race and then use the Google/Google Maps to get answers from concerns and queries where I need some answers.
My stay in New Zealand was focused in joining and finishing the race where after the race, I would go back to Auckland and board my flight back to Manila. Just simple as that! However, a sudden change has occurred in my schedule.
A PMA Cavalier (PMA Alumni Class ’81 and former Officer of the Philippine Navy) whom I had the opportunity to work with during my assignment in the Philippine Military Academy as a Tactical Officer and member of the General Staff of the Headquarters PMA as the Assistant Chief of Staff for Intelligence and Security, sent me a message and welcome greetings for arriving in New Zealand safely. After an exchange of messages on Facebook, I called him using my cellphone. I found out that he is now residing in Wellington with his family and he is inviting me to visit their place before going back to Manila if there is a way that I can squeeze his invitation in my schedule. I said, Yes, why not?
Looking at my schedule that if I can finish the race before midnight of Saturday, I would take the first trip by bus on Sunday for a 7-hour bus ride to Wellington to rest and at the same time enjoy the view along the route, have a brief tour of the city immediately after arrival, stay overnight in their house, then have another bus ride back directly to Auckland on Monday and then depart for Manila on the morning of Tuesday. It was a hectic schedule that played in my mind but it is doable. However, my friend has a better suggestion for my schedule. The bus ride from Rotorua to Wellington was fine as I will be seeing the sea, the different city centers and landscape of the North Island of New Zealand while I was resting in the bus and have a chance to have some picture-taking during the brief stops in the Bus Stations along the way. Upon our arrival in Wellington, my friend would bring me to their house and have a home dinner with his family and then Rest Overnight. He suggested that I would take the last Jetstar Flight from Wellington to Auckland on the following day, Monday so that I he can bring me to a city tour the whole day before my departure. The schedule was perfect! He advised me to simply book my trip On Line through the websites of the Bus Company and Jetstar. He even generously gave the details of his Credit/Debit Card for me to use for this purpose. Of course, I declined since I have an e-card prepared for this trip.
So, in a matter of few minutes after our conversation, I was able to book for my bus ride to Wellington and Jetstar Flight back to Auckland. My excitement to finish the race became secondary objective and my trip to Wellington became the primary objective of my remaining stay in New Zealand.
Little did I realize that this change of schedule will greatly affect or have an impact on my performance during the race.
On an early Monday morning, I woke up at 3:30 AM and drove all the way to the trailhead of Mount Baldy with the thought that I would be the first one to “summit” the peak for the day.
From my house to the trailhead was an easy drive for 45 minutes and it was still dark when I arrived at the Parking Area at Manker Flats. While I was preparing my things (hydration pack and shoes), another vehicle arrived and parked across the road where I was preparing my things. The other vehicle had two hikers in it and they immediately opened their vehicles’ trunk to retrieve their packs and went directly to the trailhead. They were 5 minutes ahead of me when I finally started after taking a pee in one of the Portalets.
They were wearing headlights as I saw them in front of me for about 200 meters. I was not wearing a headlight and I was confident that the light from the moon could easily illuminate the dirt road towards the commercial establishment at the Ski Lift. Before I was able to hit my first mile, I had already overtaken them after I greeted them. As I moved ahead of them, I could still hear their conversation as they were taking their time for the hike.
Being confident that I was already the first one on the trail, I maintained my hiking pace until I reached the Ski Lift’s Commercial Center. It was already daybreak when I reached the place and nowhere I would find find the two hikers behind me.
As I passed the Ski Lift’s Commercial Center towards the Devil’s Backbone Trail, I saw a Rescue Truck parked at the end of the Fire Road, the farthest that a four-wheeled vehicle would reach towards the peak of Mt Harwood. I was thinking that those guys aboard in it were just ahead of me but as I saw at the horizon and the trails above me, I would not see any individual/hiker ahead of me towards the peak of Mt Baldy.
Looking at a distance ahead of me, I would see the Devil’s Backbone Trail and it looks like a very challenging and intimidating ascending part of the trail where both sides have steep slopes that the lowest portion could not be seen. If anybody would slip or feel dizzy and plunge to any of the sides of the slope, I would suspect that a hiker would be hard to be rescued from atop the trail. But if you are already standing and doing your hike at the said place, you can feel that your courage is slowly taking over your mind and for you to be able to cross this dreaded part of the trail. As you passed this trail, you are rewarded with a higher elevation and a flatter portion of the trail with the peak of Mt Harwood in front of you!
I decided not to “peak bag” Mt Harwood as I was trying to be fast as possible in reaching the peak of Mt Baldy. As I was hiking on this flatter portion of the trail, I had my first sip of water and I started to feel some perspiration on my back as I was wearing my Uniqlo Water Repellant Windbreaker.
Finally, I was on my last mile before the peak of Mt Baldy! After about 200 meters, I saw a hiker going down from the trail and I said to myself that the guy could have started way ahead of me! He looks like he is a good hiker with all those beard and moustache on his face and the hiking boots he was wearing. He was not using trekking poles. A simple greeting and look on each others eyes as we met were part of the usual practice among hikers and it feels a good sign of showing respect to one another on the outdoors.
On my final 100 meters towards the peak of Mt Baldy, I met two hikers with backpacks and trekking poles telling me that a helicopter will be arriving at the peak in 45 minutes and my understanding of the message was that there was an urgency for me to reach the peak and spend a short/quick time at the peak. I said thank you to the two hikers as I moved faster and closer to the peak.
Few meters from the peak, I have observed that there were lots of stakes with orange ribbons tied on them that were placed surrounding the peak of the mountain. I concluded that those ribbons were markers for the pilots of the helicopters for them to visually know where exactly they would land. On the peak, I saw three (3) guys with big backpacks and orange jackets whom I assumed to be those who rode in the Rescue Truck parked along the trail going to the mountain. They were lying on their backs and talking to each other and not minding about my arrival in the area. They were inside the area where those pile of rocks formed in a semi-circle which I believed is being used for those hikers who would set their tent and sleep for over night in the area. The pile of rocks is so high that it can protect strong winds from hitting a pitched tent inside the semi-circle area.
I could still remember where one of my ultra friends who lives in Los Angeles had to stay and camp at the peak of Mt Baldy for one week as part of his training for the 2015 Angeles Crest 100-Mile Endurance Race. He would pitch his tent at the peak and then hiked and run towards the Ski Lift’s Commercial Center and then back to the peak during the duration of his stay in the mountain. I guess, camping in the said area is FREE as long as one has an Adventure Pass displayed on ones vehicle at the trailhead. As a result of his training, the guy finished the race in less than 24 hours!
I spent almost 30 minutes at the peak, taking some “selfies” and eating my nutrition bars/trail mix fruits & nuts, before starting my descent from the peak. On my way back, I started to move faster and run the flatter sections. If the descending part of the trail is smooth and without any roots or rocks, I would run and quicker with my pace.
I did not stop at the Ski Lift’s Commercial Center as they were still closed but three (3) SUVs suddenly arrived at the area full with “newly-recruited” Park Rangers and they were instructed to proceed to the establishments. I said to myself that I had to run 3.5 miles down to trailhead and be able to finish my hike before 10:00 AM.
As I was running down along the Fire Road, I could hear the sound of an approaching Helicopter to the mountain but sad to say that I could no longer have the view of the peak of Mt Baldy. Whatever, the activity that was being done in the area was part of the regular training being done in response to any contingency or emergency situation that is usually being experienced among hikers in the area. This is what I call being prepared and work’s efficiency among those people responsible in the safety and protection of the parks.
At 10:30 AM, I was driving on my way back to the house in Downtown, Los Angeles.
My next plan will be to pitch a tent at the peak and sleep thereat for an overnight stay!
The race starts on Midnight of May 10, 2017 in front of the Provincial Capitol of Ilocos Norte which is located along Rizal Street in Laoag City.
From Rizal Street, runners will go on easterly direction until they reach the second street intersection and then TURN LEFT along the so-called BACARRA Road. The Bacarra Road goes on a northerly direction towards the town of Bacarra. After passing the Bacarra Bridge, the runner follows the Highway towards the town of Pasuquin and by-passes the Poblacion of Bacarra.
The runners will pass the town of Pasuquin as he/she proceeds to the town of Burgos. The Kilometer #50 Checkpoint will be located in front of the Burgos Municipal Hall.
After passing the Windmills in Burgos and Bangui, the runners will be on their way to the Boundary of Pagudpud. Once they reach the intersection/junction going to the Poblacion of Pagudpud and towards the Province of Cagayan, runners would have covered a distance of 72 Kilometers.
After 18 kilometers, runners will reach the famous Patapat Bridge and hopefully, the last runner will pass this place while there is still daylight. Patapat Bridge is Kilometer #90
After 10 kilometres, there is a flowing water from a hose from the side of the mountain which is very near to a road repair construction due to mountain slides. This is the Kilometer 100 mark of the route.
After 2 kilometres, the runners will reach the Ilocos Northe-Cagayan Boundary Arc (Kilometer 102).
From this point, runners will be going downhill towards the town of Santa Praxedes and to the plains of Claveria, Pamplona, and Abulog until they reach the famous Magapit Bridge, the Longest Suspension Bridge in the country.
The Pamplona Welcome Arc is Kilometer #150 and the Pamplona Poblacion is Kilometer #160.
Eight Kilometers before the town of Allacapan is marked as Kilometer #200.
Upon reaching the Magapit Bridge, the runners would have reached Kilometer #226.
After crossing the Magapit Bridge, runners will TURN LEFT towards the town of Lal-lo, Cagayan and proceed to Aparri, Cagayan. The runners will pass the DUGO Intersection (Dugo, Camalaniugan) on their way to the direction of Aparri until they will reach Km Post 0578 which is 4 Kilometers before reaching the town of Aparri. At this Kilometer Post, runners will TURN-AROUND back to the DUGO Intersection and then TURN LEFT towards Santa Ana, Cagayan.
The DUGO (Camalaniugan) Intersection is Kilometer #244.5 and the Km Post 0578 which is the TURN-AROUND point is Km #251. Upon reaching back to DUGO after coming from the TURN-AROUND Point, the runners should have covered a distance of 258 Kilometers.
From the DUGO Intersection to the Finish Line in Santa Ana, Cagayan will be a long-stretch of flat road of about 62+ Kilometers. The Finish Line will be at the LA PERLA INN which is 10 Kilometers away after passing the Santa Ana Welcome Arc.
When everybody was still sleeping on the early morning of the First Day of the Year 2015, a “low-key” ultra marathon race event was about to start in Hongkong. The ultra event is called the “Hongkong Four (4) Trail Ultra Challenge” (HK4TUC) which had been founded and organized by Andre Blumberg, a German executive based in Hongkong who is a “par excellence” ultra trail runner who lately had finished the Grand Slam of Ultrarunning in the USA and the Lake Tahoe 200-Mile Endurance Run, the first 200-mile trail run done in the United States.
Andre Blumberg, five years ago, had to run the four famous Trail routes in Hongkong for four days, running each trail course each day. The following are the trails: MacLehose Trail with a distance of 100 Kilometers; Hongkong Trail with a distance of 50 Kilometers; Wilson Trail with a distance of 78 Kilometers; and the Lantau Trail with a distance of 70 Kilometers. The total course distance is 298 Kilometers. The total elevation gain is 14,500 meters!
Andre’s feat in running these trails gave him the idea for the other ultra runners to experience the challenge, thus, the birth of the HK4TUC. To make the event more challenging and exciting, he imposed a cut-off time of 60 hours and runners have to run through the trail courses on a reverse direction. If the books or publications about the Hongkong Trails are presented on chronological Stages, from 1-10 or from Start to Finish, as the case maybe, the race event starts from the FINISH area and ends at the START area or from Stage 10 to Stage 1. The clock does not stop when the runners had to be transported from one trail course to another, by land or by the sea ferry.
The event’s rules and regulations are very simple. There is NO Registration Fee, No Medals, No Finisher’s Shirt, No Aid Stations, No UTMB Points, No Competition or Rankings, and No Checkpoints. However, runners can take advantage of the convenience eateries/stores and vending machines along the route for their food and drinks. This is simply a “self-support” event. Bragging Rights is the only Prize for Finishing this Event.
After four years of its existence and with an average of 4-5 participants each year, there are only four (4) finishers in this event since January 2011.
Jag Lanante is the FIRST Filipino to make an attempt on this most dreaded ultra running event and he is one of the four ultra runners who were brave enough to toe the line at the Starting Area in MacLehose Trail. I happen to know him by his name only through Facebook and had never seen him in person. But I have so much respect in him as I found out about his running accomplishments which I gathered from his Facebook Wall from the time we became as FB “friends” since the middle part of last year.
I was sick with Flu (cough and colds) and I was bed-ridden for the duration of this event from Start to Finish but I would be able to glance and peep through my Laptop if my Internet connection is strong from time to time, most specially during midnight and early morning. It was through the HK4TUC Facebook Page that I was able to monitor the progress of the event. Four ultra runners——Two Lady runners from Singapore (Jeri Chua, the favorite one to finish due his previous finishes in the Tor Des Geants and UTMB and Janelle Seet who would take numerous trips from Singapore to Hongkong to train and recon the trails for the past two years; One local runner from Hongkong (Paul Wong); and One Pinoy who is based in Bangkok, Thailand who happens to be Jag Lanante.
Jag was considered as the “underdog” and the “weakest” among the four runners as he comes from a “flat and plain” Bangkok elevation whose training consisted of 500-meter loop course in a Parking Area in a Private Hospital in Bangkok where he works as a Nurse and he does his running in between his 9-hour work shifts, most of his running workouts are done in the early morning. He would also sneak in and secretly pass through their Security Guards if he needs to use the building’s emergency stairs for his “stair climbing and hill repeats” just to put in some elevation gains in his routine. On his “off days” and weekends, he would go to a nearby Public Park which has a 2.5K loop (flat again!) and do his runs in loops where he would only take note of the number of hours he would run, however, his longest running time would be at least 6 hours. Worst information about him is that this trip for the event is Jag’s FIRST trip to Hongkong! He is not accustomed to the cold weather environment of Hongkong and the hilly terrain of the course. He was equipped with his Salomon Hydration Backpack where he stored his food (all bread), water and extra clothing/jacket; a $7.50 worth of Casio Watch which he was using for the past 8 years; and a borrowed HOKA One One Tarmac Shoes! Initially, Jag did not have with him a trekking pole! He would later borrow the trekking pole from one of the runners who DNF’d midway at the MacLehose Trail (1st trail course of the event). Right from the start of the course, he was already a complete picture/description of a “failure” of an ultra runner who would attempt to finish this dreadful and brutal event, a simple example of a DNF runner!
And for this reason, my attention would be focused on the progress of Jag Lanante as to where he was during the event. I would make a bet to my “inner self” that Jag would “throw the towel” once he finished the Wilson Trail course (2nd Trail). So, I decided to close my laptop, took my meal, ingest my medications, and went back to bed. I said to myself, “there will be No Finisher” in this year’s event.
I guess, I have to eat my words and committed a mistake of an early misjudgment on the capabilities of Jag!
I found out that while I was sleeping on the first day of the year (due to the effect of my medications), the four runners started the event with a perfect Hongkong weather, blue skies and the sun shining hot providing a perfect running weather for the participants. Jeri Chua from Singapore took an early lead from the other three runners and she was ahead of the expected time of arrival in every stage of the MacLehose Trail (in reverse, of course!) but surprisingly had to deal with her recurring knee injury which became very painful on her part and could hardly maintain her targeted pace. She declared herself as DNF after running and hiking on the course for about 14 hours. She was not able to complete the 100K MacLehose Trail course. Jag Lanante and Paul Wong finished the MacLehose Trail together with a time of 21:30+ hours. The last runner, Janelle Seet finished the 1st trail leg in less than 27 hours but she was already complaining of blisters which made her to register a slow finish time to complete the first trail course.
Jag and Paul were together in their land transport (Taxi Ride) to the next staging area for the 2nd trail course which is the Wilson Trail, a distance of 78 kilometers. They were able to take a nap while being transported to the starting area of Wilson Trail and that was equivalent to a 45-minute power nap! After being served with Hot Soup and some foods at Nam Chung, Jag and Paul started together for the 2nd trail leg, Wilson Trail. However, being a local runner of Hongkong and thorough knowledge of the trails, Paul Wong started to run faster than Jag Lanante that resulted him to pull away for the lead starting at Pat Sin Leng and finally finishing the Wilson Trail in less than 50 hours. He was already on the third day and barely 10 hours more to go before the cut-off time.
What happened to Jag Lanante after Paul Wong left him on the early start along the Wilson Trail? Jag would tell me that he got at least, two “lost moments” at the Wilson Trail——the first lost moment was when he was left alone by Paul when it was so cold and was sleepy to be more focused on looking for the trail markers. He missed the trail marker in going to the 8 Immortals of Hongkong as he was “sleep walking” for 2 hours going down along the trail only to realize that he could no longer see any trail marker. He would go back up again to finally locate the trail marker; the second lost moment was when he reached Taipo (village) as he could not determine from the map provided by Andre as to where the Wilson Trail would re-start again after hitting the village. Jag’s problem was exacerbated when he impulsively asked a Chinese lady who can speak and understand a little English as to where the Wilson Trailhead is located. Jag was instructed by the Chinese lady to go to the end of a river but Jag was frustrated to find out that the lady gave him a false/wrong instructions. Jag started to panic as he went going around the village trying to find out where the Wilson Trail Marker is located. He tried to compose himself, prayed, and relaxed at the same point/location where he entered Taipo. He decided to wait for the arrival of the last runner, Janelle Seet, knowing that the lady has a lot of friends cheering her along the route who are familiar with the route. Finally, Jag joined Janelle for the final push to finish the Wilson Trail leg. Jag’s total “lost moments” time would add up to almost 7 hours! Jag and Janelle finished the Wilson Trail in 54 hours or 2:00 PM actual time on the third day!
The transition or travel time from the “finish line” of Wilson Trail to the “start of the Hongkong Trail (3rd leg) is very brief/short as both locations are very near to each other. Paul Wong was already ahead despite of the 10-hour remaining time before cut-off time and Jag and Janelle were barely on a 6-hour time before the cut-off time. All the remaining three runners decided to still push through with the event but it was already a “Survivor Challenge” as to who would last to finish the event and be able to kiss the green Mail Post in Mui Wo, Lantau Island.
Obviously, Paul Wong was the first runner to start the Hongkong Trail and he was leading for some hours. Jag Lanante and Janelle Seet started later for the 3rd leg of the event. From the very start of the Hongkong Trail, Janelle had to beg off and allowed Jag Lanante to get ahead of her. Jag regained some energy despite numerous and countless “low moments” after finishing 178 kilometers with a very small amount of time to rest and sleep. He was determined to finish the event but he has to reach Victoria Peak and be able to catch up the earliest ferry ride to Lantau Island for the last 70K of the event.
It was only when he was on the last 6 kilometers of the HK Trail course that he knew that he was already the leading runner among the three “survivors”. He was met by Vic So (2014 HK4TUC Finisher/“Survivor”) along the course to cheer him and informed him that he was able to pass Paul Wong at Km #25 when he went inside a market to eat. Jag finished the HK Trail at Victoria Peak before midnight on the third day and he was able to catch the ferry ride scheduled to leave HK for Lantau at 12:30 AM/Midnight on the 4th day. Paul Wong arrived at the Victoria Peak at 1:00 AM of January 4 while Janelle Seet finished the HK Trail later in the evening. Unknowingly from Jag, the two runners finally decided to “throw the towel” and cease from taking the ferry ride to Lantau. The reason? Extreme exhaustion and sleep-deprived conditions!
Jag Lanante was able to know that Paul Wong and Janelle Seet finally decided not to push through with the Lantau 70K leg from Andre Blumberg who escorted him to Lantua Island. The information was sent through Andre’s cellphone. Jag had already spent 65 hours since the start of the event and he was on the starting line for the Lantau 70K leg!
I was thinking that Jag was able to sleep during those transition/transfer trips from one leg to another but I was wrong! He told me that he was able to sleep for three times only——first was at the end of Km #33 along the Wilson Trail when he slept while waiting for his order in a Noodle Shop/Eatery; the second one was during the 30-minute ferry ride from HK to Lantau Island; and the third one was a 5-minute nap he requested from Andre while he was experiencing some leg cramps at the Lantau Trail.
Knowing that he was the ONLY runner left in the event and way, way beyond the cut-off time of 60 hours, he asked Andre if he is still be a part of the event and considered as a Finisher in the history of the event. Andre would reply him that this event is not a race and therefore, there are no DNFs, however, if he decides to survive and finish this event, he will get the much-needed support from him no matter how many hours would it take him to reach and “kiss” the green Mailing Post at Mui Wo. Paper, the wife of Andre who is a Thai, informed Jag that the his co-workers in Bangkok are rooting for him to finish the event as he unknowingly seen the cheers and words of encouragement posted by his friends in Thailand through the HK4TUC Facebook Page.
These words of encouragement from Andre and Paper drove and fully motivated Jag to finish the event. Lantau 70K Trail Course is a hard one with 3,300 meters of vertical gain, Jag has to be focused and be able to endure the pain, exhaustion, hallucinations, sleep deprivation, blisters, distractions and there is no room for him to get lost along the course. He has to finish this event.
But there is a more pressing situation and uncompromising reason for him to finish the event! He and his wife have to catch a flight back to Bangkok and he has only 19 hours before his plane leaves at 8:00 PM on the evening of January 4! He thought, at all cost he has to be in that plane with his wife no matter what happens!
With pure grit and determination despite some doubts for him to finish the last 70 kilometers of the event, Jag was able to finally kiss the green Mail Post in Mui Wo with Andre waiting for him with a Champagne Victory Spray of Moet Rose that served as an informal “body shower” to mask the smell of dirt and perspiration from Jag’s body before proceeding to the Airport. Jag finished the Lantau 70K Leg in 16:30 hours which was in actual time at 5:30 PM of January 4, 2015, 4th day of the event, finishing and surviving the whole event with an official time of 81:30 hours.
After a quick informal conversation/congratulatory greetings and picture-taking among the runners and the RD’s team friends and volunteers, a taxi was waiting for Jag and his wife to bring them to the Airport in order to catch their flight back to Bangkok scheduled to leave at 8:00 PM that evening. I am sure that the 3-4 hours flight time from HK to Bangkok was the best sleep that Jag experienced in his lifetime!
After making sure that Jag had fully recovered from his “brutal but inspirational” finish at the 2015 edition of the Hongkong Four Trail Ultra Challenge, I sent him a Personal Message on Facebook to congratulate him for being the “FIRST Pinoy Ultra Runner to Finish” the said event. This Facebook conversation led me to ask some questions about him and his experience during the event. Thus, this story is posted as an inspiration to all the readers of this blog, most specially to our Pinoy Ultra Runners.
To answer the mystery on the toughness, pure grit and determination of Jag to finish the event as I am not convinced that his one year training on a “flat, plain and boring” loops in his Hospital’s Parking Area and Bangkok’s Public Park prepared him for the event. There could be more information about this humble and ever-smiling runner as to why he has a “strong heart and a positive mental attitude” to finish this most feared ultra running event among the locals of Hongkong and other ultra runners in nearby Southeast Asia, despite the fact that the event is free; a chance to tour the nice scenery of Hongkong on foot; and a good reason to shed off those accumulated calories brought about by the Holiday Season.
My fellow ultra runners would be able to read “between the lines”, so to speak, as I mention the following facts about Jag and his “running career” and background:
1. Jag is 29 years old, a native of Davao City and had been an OFW as a Nurse in Bangkok, Thailand for so many years. He started to train and run for the past 4 years. He is married to Kathleen Faith who works also in the same hospital with Jag. They don’t have any kids.
2. He finished his primary and secondary schoolings in Davao City but decided to finish his BS in Nursing at Mountain View College in Bukidnon after his parents would not allow him to be admitted to the Philippine Military Academy (PMA).
His best finish time for a Marathon Race is 3:10+ hours which was held on his Birthday, four months after his Boss introduced him to running.
3. His first ultra was the 2013 TNF 100 but four months later, he finished as #10 in a 50K trail run event, both were held in Thailand. And since then, he tried his best to run everyday and prepare for the HK4TUC.
Lastly, I would ask him what would be his next ultra race. He replied to earn his FIRST 100-Mile Buckle in one of the ultra races in the Philippines if his work schedule’s leave would match the scheduled date of his choice of event. But he gave me a 100% assurance that he will be back for a repeat with a better performance at the 2016 edition of the HK4TUC.
I replied back to him immediately, “It will be a honor running with you on the First Day of 2016 HK4UTC on the early miles of Stage 10 of the MacLehose Trail!” His silent answer is depicted on the picture below!
Congratulations Jag, the FIFTH Finisher in the history of the Hongkong Four Trails Ultra Challenge!!! My snappy salute to you and from the rest of the Pinoy Ultra Runners here in the Philippines and abroad!
Details of the Event are posted on the Facebook’s Event Page for the 3rd Edition of this Race. The start time of the race will be at 4:00 AM and the cut-off time is 12 Hours. The following is Facebook link.