Through my research on the Internet, I have the following data on the Oldest Finisher of the famous Ultrarunning Races in the World:
At the Leadville 100-Mile Endurance Race in Colorado, USA, Charles Williams holds the record of the oldest man to ever complete the race, which he did at the age of 70 in 1999. He was featured in the August 1999 issue of GQ magazine, which compared his training for the race to that of a professional football player. The race has a cut-off time of 30 hours. (Wikipedia)
At the Badwater 135-Mile Ultramarathon Race which is considered as the “Toughest Footrace In The World” in California, USA, the oldest male finisher ever was Jack Denness, at the age of 75 years old and he is from United Kingdom. He finished the said race in the 2010 edition of Badwater 135. The race has a cut-off time of 48 hours. (Wikipedia)
“Battling a 46:30 cutoff, 73-year-old Christophe Geiger of Switzerland crossed the finish line with just five minutes to spare. It was his fourth consecutive—but first successful—attempt at completing the race. The only participant in the Veterans 4 division, he became the oldest finisher of UTMB in its 13 years of existence, and was arguably the most admired and beloved person in the Chamonix valley this week.” (Runners World Magazine)
Nick Bassett, 73, finish before the 30-hour overall cut off at the 2018 edition of the Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run, he became the oldest finisher of the iconic 100 miler, crossing the finish line in Auburn, California, in 29:09:42 hours. Ray Piva set the previous Western States 100-Mile record back in 1998 at the age of 71. (Runners World Magazine)
Looking on the above mentioned data/information on the Oldest Finishers of famous Ultrarunning Events in the World, it is observed that all of them are at the age bracket of 70 years old and above. Obviously, the background of these runners are very impressive being myself as a marathon and ultramarathon runner. They are better, stronger and faster than me during their peak days and years as compared to my capability when I was younger. However, with the proper training and preparation, I could also have the goal to finish some of these races, maybe, one or two of them before I finally end my career in running. God permits.
I will let these ultra runners as my inspirations in my future endeavors in ultra running, whether on the road or trail. I am now 67 years old and I hope to run more years and be able to reach the 70s. It is time to be more healthy, more smart in training, improve on my nutrition, and consistent in my workouts. It will be a tall order to follow the footsteps of these Old Finishers but I know I can do what they have done. The process will be long, hard and challenging but it takes some guts to start and do something to attain such goal. I expect that there will be some failures and lessons to be learned from them but the goal to finish these races will be a priority. You will read my progress in this blog.
Here is a Repost of an article from Ultra 168 of Australia about the 2019 Hongkong Four Trails Ultra Challenge.
RACE PREVIEW: 2019 HONGKONG FOUR TRAILS ULTRA CHALLENGE (HK4TUC)
The 298km trail ultramarathon with 14,500m elevation gain consists of running all of the four long distance trails in Hong Kong. Namely the Maclehose trail (100km), the Wilson trail (78km), the Hong Kong trail (50km) and the Lantau trail (70km) in a single, non-stop effort.
HK4TUC has become widely recognised internationally through the documentary Breaking 60, which features four participants from the 2017 challenge.
This year 29 athletes from 13 nationalities aged 20 to 52 will race. “The field is diverse with only 7 participants from Hong Kong running. The others joining from countries as far away as the United Kingdom, New Zealand and the United States. We are particular proud to welcome 11 female participants to take on the tough Challenge this year,” said Andre Blumberg, Founder of HK4TUC.
Runners must be self-sufficient along each of the four trails. They are run in reverse of the normal direction with no course markings. There are no aid stations and no outside support such as pacers, crew or stashing of supplies permitted on the trails. Participants will only have support between the four trails, but the clock continues non-stop towards the 60 hours finisher cut-off. Furthermore, trekking poles are banned this year in an effort to bring the event back to basics.
Participants who complete the course within 60 hours are declared finishers. Those who complete within 75 hours (the final cut-off time) are declared survivors. Additional cut-off times are 18 hours to complete the first Maclehose 100km trail and 56 hours to commence the final Lantau 70km trail. There have only been six finishers in the history of the Challenge, with three women completing the distance too.
Eleven former participants are returning this year including two 2018 survivors, Meredith Quinlan from Australia and Abimanyu Shunmugam from Singapore. Both are gunning for a sub-60 hours finish this year.
Other notable entrants include:
Habiba Benahmed (France, based in Hong Kong): Habiba dropped early in the 2018 edition. She has revamped her training for the better and finished Top 5 in all four of her races last year.
Sarah Pemberton (HK, based in Indonesia): Another early drop in 2018, Sarah grew up in Hong Kong. She has ramped training significantly, with a lot of time spent on the course. She won the TTF Hong Kong 115km in early 2019.
Nikki Han (UK, based in Hong Kong): Nikki had a confirmed slot back in 2015. She had to pull out however before the start due to injury. Nikki has spent ample time on the course, and had a couple strong local race performances, plus a sub-36 hours 2018 UTMB.
Xiao Jing 肖静 (China): More recently Jing focused on road and timed ultras. However, she Tor des Geants, plus multiple Hong Kong trail ultras under her belt. She mostly finishes in the Top 10.
Yang Fei Fei 杨非非 (China): Fei Fei mostly races in China and Hong Kong and finished Top 6 in all of her 2018 races ranging from 50km to 100km. She’s got the speed, but it will be interesting to see how she holds up over the extended, sleep-depriving distance.
Kristian Joergensen (Denmark, based in Philippines): Kristian ran in 2018 and lead for pretty much all of the first day. He then dropped out overnight on Wilson trail. Since then, he significantly stepped up his training. He recently spent several days rehearsing the course for tackling the 2019 edition. Kristian won the Pulag 100km, Clark Miyamit 50mile and came 2nd place in Rizal Mountain 50km and TMBT 100km last year.
Ian Seabury (Unites States): Ian is based in Los Angeles, California. He has raced and placed well at many of the iconic US 100 miles trail ultras over the years. This includes the Chimera 100, Zion 100, Angeles Crest 100, Pinhoti 100 and Born to Run 100. In 2017 he completed the Grand Slam of Ultrarunning in very respectable times including a sub-24 hours Western States 100 and sub-27 hours Wasatch 100. Interestingly, he raced the inaugural Hong Kong 100 back in 2011.
Thomas Combisen (Philippines): Thomas is one of the strongest ultra runners in the Philippines and regularly clocks around 1,500km in races alone each year. In recent years his focus is more on road and timed ultras. He has raced non-stop distances of 250km or above at least three times.
Steven Ong (Malaysia): Steven is one of the strongest ultra runners in Malaysia currently. He has has a solid background on both trail and road. Since October 2016 he placed on the podium in each of the 15 races he finished. Winning 11 of the 15. Notable wins include the 2017 Panoramic Ultra Trail 100 miles in Thailand, as well as the 2018 TITI 250km road ultra in Malaysia.
Tomokazu Ihara (Japan): Tomo-San has run ultras for at least ten years. His speciality is the 100+ miles distance of which he completed 47 and frequently finished within the Top 10. These include 6 x HURT 100 with a 4th place at the recent 2019 event and 3 x Angeles Crest 100.
From an Aussie perspective, watch out for Christian Warren. UK national, but living over in Australia with some excellent pedigree, which includes 6 x TNF100 / UTA, 3 x Buffalo Stampede 75km. He has also raced internationally, including the 2017 Lavaredo and 2018 Tarawera 100mile. Along with UTMB, as well as Hong Kong 100 and TNF100 Hong Kong.
Starting this week, I have created a Podcast where anybody could listen to anything about my experiences in running, most specially in Ultra Running/Ultra Marathon, whether they are about my training workouts or races. It will be a mixture of road running and trail running experiences.
I hope listening to my Podcast’s Episodes will be informative and entertaining to everybody. Thank you!
Initial episodes are all in the Filipino Dialect to cater to runners within the Philippines and to those Filipino runners abroad. BR will try his best to publish some Podcast in English in the future for the understanding of non-Filipino runners.
In my nine years as a Race Organizer and Race Director of Ultrarunning events in the Philippines, I have observed two distinct “mortal sins” of our local ultrarunners. I have mentioned these sins/concerns in my Race Reports as I am also guilty on these in my previous races, whether they are road or trail races.
First “mortal sin” is starting too fast on the course. Most of the runners are too excited to start the race and due to such excitement, the race strategy that one had prepared to be followed is completely lost and gone from the mind of the runner. Aside from the excitement, the fact that you are still running as a group among the starters adds the idea that you are better and faster than the runners in front of you! Your mind thinks that the race is just another 10K or a half-marathon distance or a marathon distance where you can easily finish the race without hiking or walking along the course.
A fast start on a race makes the runner to be uncontrollable even if his/her support crew would advise him/her to slow down. The sight of another runner, whether he is located in front or behind, gives a feeling of insecurity to the runner. Most of the time, it is that “macho” attitude that you can easily pass the runner in front of you to the point that you would observe every movement of the runner trying to find signs if the runner is slowing down. On the other hand, you have also that “fear” that you would be passed by the other runner behind you, knowing that the runner is weaker than you from your past running events with him. As much as possible, you would not like to be overtaken by that runner.
There is also the thinking or misconception that you are trying to be fast at the beginning or early phase of the race so that you have enough “buffer” or “miles on the bank” as spare if ever you will be walking or hiking on the later stage of the race. Most often, such “buffer” could be easily squandered or wasted by the second “mortal sin”.
Second and most abused “mortal sin” is staying too long for rest and “refueling” in a “pit stop”. Which means that if, in event that a Road Ultrarunner sees his/her Support Vehicle, the tendency of the runner is to stop the run (still far from the Vehicle) and then walk for a few meters to reach the Support Vehicle. Once the runner reaches the Support Vehicle, he/she can not decide which one to do first: drink, refill the bottles, or eat some food. More often, runners would forget to refill their bottles even if they stayed too long in their “pit stop”. Sometimes, they would simply sit if there is a chair being offered by their Support Crew. Even if their bottles are still filled with water and there is no need to stop, the mere sight of their Support Vehicle gives an excuse for the runner to stop and approach the vehicle. Even if they have still food stashed in their hydration pack, the runner would still ask for some food from their Support Crew.
In road or trail ultras, there are runners who would not like to sleep in the Aid Stations or near their Support Vehicle. Others would take it easy, compute their “buffer” time, and then simply take a nap or sleep. There is nothing wrong with sleeping or taking a nap during the event but this habit takes a lot of wasted time for the runners. If you have properly trained yourself for the expected night runs and did your assignment, then there is no need for you to have an extended sleep during the night run. I know of seasoned ultra runners who have trained for their night runs and made used of their training during the actual event. The result is that they have better finish times!
To some, their rest is coupled or combined with unnecessary change of outfits, change of shoes, and/or change of socks! In most of my ultra races where I’ve joined, the outfit that I have on the start of the race is the same outfit that I have once I cross the finish line. I am very fortunate that I’ve never experienced any blisters on my feet or chaffing on any part of my body during my races. I sweat a lot during races but I don’t change my outfit when they are wet even if I have extra dry outfit in my drop bags waiting at the Aid Stations!
There are some runners who would take a shower while the event is on-going. I have observed a lot of runners in my BDM Races who find time to have their shower at the halfway mark! I am not sure if they are doing this ritual when they are training for it. It is fine with me as long as they finish the race within the cut-off time of the event.
When the runner reaches and crosses the finish line, he/she is very happy and emotional that he/she had finished the race. However, once the Official Result is posted and published, the runner would scan on the list of finishers and look for the ranking of the other runners. Most of the time, the runner could not believe that another runner had a faster time than what he made in the event. That’s the only time that he/she would think of those times squandered or wasted because of these two “mortal sins” of every ultra runner had experienced.
The challenge now is to have a better time for the next edition! And this is the “third mortal sin” of every ultra runner! However, there are so many ways to avoid this “third mortal sin”. If you have a problem of controlling your pace or speed once the race starts, you have to relax and remember those training days you have put in preparation for this race. Start slow to warm-up your muscles and then slowly increasing your pace during the run. Listen to your body and gauge your pace on the effort you are exerting during the run. That is only half of the story. The other half is to be able to maintain your hydration and nutrition strategy to fuel up your body as you increase your pace. Whether it is a road or trail ultra race, I always start behind the pack of runners and slowly inching my way to the middle pack or among the upper 50% of the runners or sometimes finishing on the upper 20% of the runners.
With regards to being “hard-headed” in expecting comfort from the sight of your Support Vehicle or the location of the Aid Station, there are so many things that you should remember. First, do not stop and refill your bottles with water if you haven’t consumed anything from your bottles or hydration pack. If you want to eat, consume first the food you have stashed in your hydration pockets before you get refills from your Support Crew. Second, if you intend to refill your bottles and get some foods, make it fast and systematic! You should be back on the road and continue your run in less than 1-2 minutes! Third, for those would like to take a “nap”, make it short and ask your Support Crew to force you to wake up after the agreed number of minutes of “nap” time! Fourth, there is no need for showers, change of outfit, change of shoes and socks, and “selfies” during the race. Everybody smells the same once a runner is drenched by his/her sweat! As for the outfit, whatever worked comfortably with you during your LSDs in your training, use them! Fifth, train your self to eat and drink while you are power-hiking as this would minimize your time in the Aid Stations. Sixth, whether it is road or trail ultra, organize your needs in plastic containers with markings on what point or Kilometer point where you need such items stored inside them (placed inside the Support Vehicle in Road Ultras). In ultra trail races, make sure you know the items you placed inside your Drop Bags or better yet, have a list with you in your pocket as to which items you have in those Drop Bags.
If you commit these “mortal sins” repeatedly or had committed them and you want to improve on your performance, practice my advise during your runs as they are not hard to follow.
Thomas Combisen, the lone representative of the Philippines, finished and set a National Course Record at the 2016 IAU Asia & Oceania 24-Hour Endurance Run held in Kaohsiung, Taiwan last November 19-20, 2016. He officially represented the Philippine Association of Ultrarunners (PAU), the National Federation on Ultrarunning, and was invited by the International Association of Ultrarunners (IAU) to join this yearly event. He ranked #8 among the 27 International Runners with a total distance of 203.45 Kilometers covered during the duration of 24 hours of continuous running. The international runners represented the following countries: Australia, New Zealand, Japan, South Korea, Mongolia, Chinese Taiwan, and the Philippines.
Thomas Combisen qualified to join this prestigious running event for being a consistent Champion and Podium Finisher in PAU Races for the past years. He won in all the 200-Km+ distance races; set the Course Record for the Manila To Baguio 250K Race in 38:59:53 hours; and about to be awarded as one of the three candidates for the PAU 200K Grand Slam Award and to be considered as the Champion in this 4-event race as he won the past three races, namely, West To East 280K Run, Manila To Baguio 250K Run, and the North Coast 200-Mile Race.
Thomas Combisen is a native of Sagada, Mountain Province and works as a Civil Engineer in one of the Land Developers in Metro Manila and suburbs. He had been an active member of the Philippine Association of Ultrarunners for the past three years.
The Letter of Invitation from the IAU and the Chinese Taipei Ultramarathon Federation, as the Host and Race Organizer was officially received by the PAU last August of this year and Thomas Combisen was chosen and informed that he will represent the country in this international ultra marathon event with three (3) months of focused training. Major General Jovenal Narcise AFP (Retired), President of the PAU met with Thomas as soon as the Invitation was received and he informed him of the details of the race, how he will train and prepare for the race, and for him not to worry of the expenses for the travel, accommodation in Taiwan, and other logistics needs for him to join the race. He was advised to prepare his travel papers (passport) and PAU will support for his visa application for Taiwan. On a weekly basis, Thomas was advised to report on the progress of his training to the President of PAU.
The 2016 IAU Asia & Oceania 24-Hour Championship Endurance Run was held on November 19-20, 2016 at the World Games Stadium Area in Kaohsiung, Taiwan with 27 International Runners from IAU-sanctioned National Federations and 450 Local & Foreign Runners under the Open Category. The race started at 3:00 PM of Saturday and ended at 3:00 PM on the following day, Sunday. Runners had to run a loop course with a distance of 1.75 kilometers. The loop course has two RFID timing mats placed at the Start/Finish and at the midway of the loop course that would record the time of the runner, the number of loops and distance the runner has covered during the event. The loop course has two Aid Stations and other amenities that the runner could use during the event. Pacers were not allowed and competing runners were not allowed to pace each other for the duration of two loops. Such violation would result to immediate disqualification of the runners.
Our main goal in this race was for Thomas to finish at least 200 kilometers during the duration of 24 hours just for him to gain experience.
On the first two loops, Thomas was leading the race with a comfortable pace of 8:30+ minutes per loop and he told me that he felt easy on the pace and I advised him to just maintain the said pace and make sure to hydrate as often as possible. On the third loop, most of the international runners (IAU-sanctioned runners) started to speed up their pace until Thomas landed on the 4th place on the 5th hour of the race since it started. During the nighttime running, he maintained the ranking of #6. He finished 100 kilometres in 10 hours and 40 minutes and I advised him that our main goal of reaching 200 is doable.
Thomas crossed the Start/Finish RFID mat with 200 kilometers covered with one hour before 3:00 PM and I advised him to just have his recovery run until the horn was sounded to officially end the event. As the event ended with sound of horn and gun fired, Thomas was able to officially register a distance of 203.45 kilometres and placed overall #8 among the 27 International Runners.
As a result, Thomas Combisen had officially set a National Record for a Filipino Runner with a distance of 203.453 kilometres with a pace of 7:05 minutes per kilometre for a 24-Hour Endurance Run.
The following is the Official Result on the Podium Finishers (Top 3 runners) among the IAU-sanctioned International Runner with their respective pace:
For the Male Category:
Barry Loveday (Australia)——235.868 kilometers (6:05 min/km)
Takayoshi Shigemi (Japan) ——230.868 kilometers (6:14 min/km)
John Pearson (Australia) ——224.849 kilometers (6:24 min/km)
Thomas Combisen’s performance on his first international exposure in IAU-sanctioned Championship Races is considered as a success and excellent performance on his part and whole RP Team. Our participation to these kind of events will continue despite the lack of corporate sponsors and financial support coming from the Government.
From the words of Thomas Combisen, he said, “Sir, if not for you, my dream to join an international running event would remain as a dream and I will remember this experience throughout the rest of my life as this is something very special to me and priceless that money could never, never ever buy!” I just smiled and replied to him, “This is just the beginning of your international exposure as more races will come in the future. Keep your feet on the ground and keep on improving on your training as I have plans already for you to join the 2017 edition of this race!”
Since I finished the 2nd Zamboanga Mountain 50K Run, I did not run regularly for the next 3 weeks and then resumed my daily training two weeks prior to the conduct of this event. Most of my daily training consisted of road runs where I included “strides” and tempo runs within the middle of each running workout. I made some hill repeats per week and two weekends of long hikes in my mountain trail “playground” which lasted for 5-6 hours every workout. On those two weeks of training, I made it a point to have a full day rest on Mondays and two days rest before the event.
While on training, I was eyeing to join the shorter event which is 25K because I wanted to finish the race in 4 hours; go home to Manila early during the day; and my long runs prior to the race were less than 25K. However, while driving to Doña Remedios Trinidad (DRT), Bulacan, I have finally decided to join the longer distance event which is 50K with the thought of going around the 25K-loop twice. Knowing how organized and loaded with logistics in all the MGM’s events that I’ve joined (I guess, I joined all of them!), I finally decided to join the 50K event as soon I checked-in at the Starting Area.
Sometimes, I need to challenge myself and take the risk as to how far I can go in terms of testing my physical and mental limits as a result of my limited period of training; test my gears/equipment; and test my nutrition and hydration strategies.
While it was still dark (2:45 AM) at the Caribbean Resort in Doña Remedios Trinidad (DRT), Bulacan when we arrived, I could see lots of personal vehicles parked and runners wandering around inside the resort; preparing their gears; and taking their nap while waiting for the event to start. I could see the “usual suspects” or “addict” runners in trail running but I could not see lots of the faster ones. I was wondering if there is another trail running event being held for the weekend or it is a sign that most of them are still recovering from the trail event a week before this one.
Few minutes before the start, the Race Director briefed us about the course/map; elevation profile; and the locations of the Aid Stations/Checkpoints/Marshals. However, the briefing did not specifically mention about the rivers to be crossed; the slippery rocks to be climbed/trekked and the numerous waterfalls to be climbed. From the description of the course, I expected that my shoes will be wet throughout the race so that I decided not to use gaiters and calf sleeves. Instead, I used my light Salomon S-LAB Trail Shoes and the thinnest Drymax socks. I took time to review the map course and asked for some clarifications as we have to pass a certain checkpoint for three times. We were advised that the Marshal in the said checkpoint will write a certain “mark” on our Race Bibs to show or indicate that we have passed the said checkpoint for three times. (Looking at my Race Bib after the event, I saw the numbers 1-2-3 written on my Bib). I made sure that I will not get lost during the race.
The race started promptly at 4:00 AM for the 50K distance event. I took time to walk the first few meters while I turned on my PETZL Reactik+ Headlight. From the entrance of the Carribean Resort, we turned right into an asphalted road and after a flat portion, it was all uphill where I would hike and run trying to keep up with the pace of the other runners in front of me. But I have to maintain my pace with the thought that I would not like to “bonk” on the last half of the run.
For almost one hour and 45 minutes, I was running and hiking trying to focus on what my headlight’s beam was directed in front of me. I was quite bothered with the Nathan Handheld bottle that was strapped on my left palm that the water inside in it was getting out from its sipping valve as I swing my arms. To keep the water from being wasted, I had to drink the water regularly instead of just ignoring the leak. With this situation, I was always in need of water 2-3 kilometers away from the next Aid Station but I just relaxed with my predicament as I can easily scoop some water to drink on the rivers and waterfalls along the route, this is to include the free-flowing water from hoses in some of the houses in the area and man-made wells along the side of the road.
It was already daybreak when I reached the peak of the first “major” climb of the course and it was relatively downhill and flatter portions of the course. Some of the road was paved but most of it was wide smooth dirt road. I tried to increase my pace even if I would glance on my watch that I was having an average speed of 4.2 miles per hour. To me, this is already a big improvement and I was happy that my training (“strides”/hill repeats/tempo runs) is paying off and getting positive results on my numbers/data from my GPS Watch.
I was regularly ingesting 2 capsules of Salt Sticks every hour and made sure that I have at least two pieces of Coffee Candies inside my mouth. Every 2 hours, I would ingest those packs filled with “Jason Koop’s Bacon & Egg Rice Balls” which I copied from the Ultrarunning Book of Jason Koop. On the major climbs/ascents, I would ingest CLIF Energy Gels (Mocha) with water. All my nutritional needs were stashed inside the pockets of my NATHAN Hipster Waist Stretchable Belt (Size: Medium). I prepared 4 packs (each pack in a ZipLoc) of Jason Koop’s Rice Balls which is equivalent to eight (8) balls. At the Aid Stations, in total, I only ate 4-6 pieces of Jelly Ace, one piece of Hopia, drank two glasses of Ice Cold Coke, and ate 3 slices of native “Biko”/native rice cake. With this regular concern on my hydration and nutritional needs, I did not experience any “bonking” or any cramps on my legs during the run even if it was already hot on my last 10K to the Finish Line.
For the 50K runners like me, we were treated with so many surprises! I was thinking that we just simply cross a lot of streams and rivers but in reality, we were practically running with and/or against the flow of the water! And these streams and rivers where we have to run have a lot of slippery rocks underneath the water which made my running and hiking unstable. And for the rivers, some are deep up to one’s breast (depending on your height) and most of them have strong current but the current would bring one to a shallower portion of the river.
For the lots of waterfalls? I thought the route would lead the runners to just simply pass the bottom of the falls but we were wrong! We had to climb the waterfalls and reach the source of the water because that is where the route was! I could not believe it! Aside from climbing these falls up to where the water is coming from, we have to descend from the falls, too! In doing these ascents and descents on raging waterfalls and on the sides of these waterfalls, the rocks where one has to hike were slippery and sometimes you have to take time to select a small notch or crevice on the rocks to place your shoes and fingers to propel you upwards. Practically, were crawling or “rock climbing” on a slippery waterfalls on our way “up or down”. As these waterfalls were inside a forested area, I had to switch on my headlight just to be sure and see where I would hold on those slippery rocks! I am just wondering how those women runners were able to pass through these parts of the route. I highly appreciate their strong will and courage to go through these challenging parts of the course. My snappy salute to you! This “loop” is the most significant part of the course as I have to slow down but I enjoyed the challenge while I was tailing the first women to win this course!
The so-called “small loop” of the course is also challenging but not as hard as the first loop with those river running and waterfalls’ rock climbings. However, the “small loop” has the deepest river crossing and lots of steep uphill climbs but I tried to run the downhill and flatter sections and “power hike” those ascents. One has to go through this “small loop” for two times and this was where the heat of the sun would take its toll to most of the runners. I have to take time to dip my body to the rivers to cool off and drink lots of water on “small wells” along the route.
Finally, I was on my last 15K of the course before the Finish Line. One kilometre from the last Aid Station, a photographer was waiting and ready to take my pictures. I saw some water falling on the side of the road that I have to take time to have my “shower” to bring down my body temperature. The photographer asked for a “selfie” and I acceded to his request. He told me that the next Aid Station (last one) is already near.
The wide trail ended on the banks of a wide river where I could see a rope. I took time to rest and look around and found out that there are markers/ribbons leading me towards a hanging bridge, not knowing that I have to go back to the same river after coming from the last Aid Station and now using the rope to cross the wide river! So, I was treated with “Biko”/native rice cake and ice-cold Coke at the last Aid Station. I engaged some conversation with the volunteers and I sensed that they don’t know me. I found out that this is the first time that we, “outsiders”, were the “first” to run on these trails as most of the forests and lands are not yet exploited by “squatters and illegal upland farmers”. They told me that I could still catch up with the 3 runners ahead of me but I was not sure about their information. I was glad that they provided me with with some positive thoughts!
The paved road from the Aid Station led me to the same river that I’ve crossed using the Hanging Bridge but I have to cross now the river with me holding the rope tied across the river. Next, the markers led me to a single-track trail going up to a mountain where the trail has a lot of slippery rocks and inside a forest. It took me some time to reach the peak and then the dirt and muddy road leading to the Poblacion of DRT, Bulacan. I have to run on the middle portion of this trail as both sides had been depressed and became muddy due to the tire tracks from a truck that goes up to the peak of the mountain. It was a mix of jogging and power hiking as the trail is rolling in terrain and once I was out of the forested area, I could see already the roofs of structures of the town of Doña Remedios Trinidad (DRT), Bulacan. I know that once I hit the paved road, everything will be downhill to the Finish Line.
I finished the race in 8:45:50 hours. The staff at the Finish Line was expecting me to finish later in the afternoon and they were surprised to see me approaching the resort’s gate/entrance earlier than they have expected.
As a word of advise, don’t bring your iPhone to this event. I did not bring my phone as I did not want to be distracted with the temptation of taking some pictures of the route and I made a good decision. The remaining salt tablets after the last river crossing got melted and the candies became sticky syrup but my rice balls were properly sealed in their ZipLoc that they were dry all the time. If you decide to bring your iPhone, make sure to use a hydration system that have pockets higher than your breast/chest and have them sealed in a waterproof plastic packs.
I highly recommend this event to those who are looking for nice scenery, “laid back” trail running event, well-organised/stocked Aid Stations and well-marked course, and very challenging course.
Congratulations to Dabobong Angeles and his Team for this successful event. Congratulations also to all the Finishers of the 50K & 25K events!
After I finished the first edition of this race last year, I promised to myself that I would join every edition of this race as long as I am still strong to run an ultra distance event. I would make this race as my evaluation run as part of my training for my future ultra races here and abroad.
Three months ago, I have started my training for this race but instead of doing it on the trails and places where there are considerable elevation gain and/or loss, I have to do my training on the paved streets. I have to follow the usual training program and daily mileage which I have followed for the past three years of ultra running training. However, these street running workouts had to last for about two months before I had to go back to trail running.
The only difference with my training this time as compared for the past 3 years, is my desire to be faster as I grow older. I placed more emphasis on the conduct of “strides” during my daily runs and do at least two times of “tempo” runs during the week. Weekends would be devoted to long runs up to 18 miles with a faster average pace.
On the third month, I did a lot of hikes in the mountains on weekends which would last up to 6-7 hours and on weekdays, I would do 8-9-mile runs on trails with an elevation gain/loss of at least 2,000 feet every workout. This is where I would train myself on my hydration and nutrition with only water as my fluid intake. I tapered for about two weeks which consisted of hikes and easy runs in my “playground”.
What is good with this race is that the Hotel (Palmeras De Zamboanga) where I stayed is the Starting and Finish Line of the event. I went out of my room 20 minutes before the start with enough time to greet and have “photo-ops” with the other runners. Before I went out of the Hotel, I was greeted with free sandwich and hot coffee at the end of the hallway and was able to take advantage of this offer as part of my stay in the hotel. I knew that the coffee and the sandwich would be enough for my food intake before I reach the first Aid Station at Km #8.
The race started promptly at 5:00 AM after a short prayer and 57 starters left the starting line. It was still dark when we were running along the street leading to the Pasonanca Park but the streetlights were enough to light up our way. Knowing that the first kilometre is flat, I made an easy pace and just followed the runners in front me. At Km #3, a runner started a conversation with me and I asked if my prevailing running pace would be maintained up to the finish line and replied him, “Yes”. And then asked permission if he would be allowed to pace with me during the duration of the race. And I said, “Yes”! We would be running side by side from this point up to the Finish Line. At that time, we were on a speed of 4 miles per hour as gleaned from my Suunto Watch.
It was my intention to maintain the said speed throughout the race. As I had predicted before the race, I have announced on Facebook that I intend to improve my ranking of #17 and finish time of 8:34+ hours from the result last year. Actually, my target goal was to finish the race below the 8-hour time and maintain the speed of 4 mph up to the Finish Line.
We reached the 1st Aid Station (Km #7) without any problem and tried my best to run through those ascents without any brief walks or hikes. I took me less than 2 minutes to refill my bottles with ice cold water and eat some suman. From the Aid Station, we had to follow the paved road as the route became a “roller-coaster” and it started to be warm. After about 4-5 kilometers, we reached the 2nd Aid Station in front of an Elementary School. I had to refill my hydration bottle with ice-cold water, douse some ice-water on my head and face as the day was starting to be hot. I ate two ripe bananas and I was back on the way. From this Aid Station, it was the start of a single-track technical trail which has some rocks, mud, and flowing water.
As I tried to speed up my pace on the descending portion of the trail which was muddy and slippery, I started to feel some “cramp” on my left calf and I asked the runners behind me to pass while trying to walk my way down the trail. I was still running downhill but I made sure to slow down my pace. I brought out some of salt tablets and ingest some and kept it to my mind to regularly ingest some every hour during the run. After a few seconds and minutes, I was able to regain my pace and it was just a matter of time before we would reach the first Turn-Around point which happens to be the Zambales Elementary School.
At the start of a newly cemented road inside a thickly vegetated area in the course, we met the two leading runners. This is where I started to hike the ascending parts and run the flat portions and descending parts of the route and kept on drinking my water in my handheld bottle during my hikes. As we got nearer to the Turn-Around point, we had to meet those runners who just left the 3rd Aid Station at the Turn-Around Point which happens to be in a School. As I count the number of runner that I and my companion-runner would meet, I was ranked as #12 runner with my partner as #11.
In last year’s edition, I stayed in this Aid Station (Km #16) for a longer time as I tried to ingest more food and drink lots of water and craved for sweeter drinks. I even had more pictures taken with the other runners whom I was able to catch up in the said Aid Station. For this year, I was surprised to see a Zamboanga local runner who was still sitting and trying to cool off in the Aid Station when I arrived. “Chabby” is a very fast and strong ultrarunner and he beat me last year by almost one hour. I had to ask him his situation and he said that he was ok. But, I was brief in my stay by having my bottles refilled with water and then take in a mouthful of spicy noodles which gave me a little “jolt” and in less than 5 minutes, I was out of the Aid Station with my “partner” in tow.
It is a continuous uphill climb from the Aid Station and after about 1 kilometre, we started to meet the other runners behind us who were on their way to the Aid Station at Km #16. After passing the newly-paved road inside the thick forest, we were back again to the single-track trail before reaching the next Aid Station. Unknowingly, Chabby was few seconds behind us and we were together at the said Aid Station. However, he opted to stay behind as he changed his attire and wanted to rest for awhile. After refilling my bottles and eating some fruits, hard-boiled eggs, and rice delicacy, we were out of the Aid Station. The dreaded “Gulod De Medio” was already in my mind as I left the Aid Station! However, we passed another runner after about a kilometre away from the Aid Station. That makes me #11 and my partner as #10 as we battle the next ascent and the heat of the sun!
As my running “partner” and I were about to climb the “Gulod De Medio”, we saw a runner clad in black attire (with 2XU tights) in front of us within a distance of 20 meters. I made my pace faster with the intention to close the gap with between us with the runner in front of us. As we were in the steep ascent of the “Gulod De Medyo”, the runner saw us trying to get nearer to him but as soon as he reached the peak, he started to run faster! At the middle of the steep ascent, I started to slow down due to fatigue and the heat of the sun but I had to exert more effort but slowed my pace just to be able to reach the peak. I knew that as soon as I passed the peak, it was a gradual descent to the next Aid Station.
I took some Ice Cold Coke and native rice delicacy at the Aid Station and after refilling my water bottle, we left in a hurry! I knew that the course/route to the next Aid Station was a generally downhill. However, the heat of the sun was the one which prevented us from increasing our pace. At this point, it was our last 18 kilometres and in a matter of time, we would be able to reach the next Aid Station.
Finally, we reached the Aid Station and the lady volunteers were excited to see me that they asked me to have some pictures with them! Since I needed time to rest and ingest more food, I allowed them whatever pictures they could take while I was there. I guess, this is the Aid Station that I rested the longest time on the course because of the heat of the sun and the fact that the course will be uphill from this point to the next/last Aid Station. I ate drank a lot of Coke while ingesting two pieces of their local Suman with Latik which are bare (without any banana wrap). I thanked the lady volunteers for being there and for being able to serve us with the foods we needed. This one of the very reasons why I keep coming back in this race——very happy, very encouraging , and very helpful and beautiful lady volunteers!!!
I consider the next segment of the race as the hardest as one has to go uphill to the last Aid Station. It is not about the steepness of the segment but it is the continuous and gradual ascent that will force the runners to hike on the exposed portions of the road from the heat of the sun. This is where we could see again those who are trying to catch us from behind and from the distance we had made as a “buffer”, we can safely say that we will be able to maintain our rankings up to the finish line!
Reaching the last Aid Station was a relief as from this point, it is the last 7 kilometres of the course which is all downhill. We did not stay long in the Aid Station after we refilled our hydration bottles and ate some bananas. I carried a “Sakto” Bottle of Coke and my Handheld Bottle filled with water and I was confident that my liquid/water was enough for me up to the Finish Line but I was wrong! My running partner had to share some of his water and the Race Organizer had to place another Aid Station in about 3-4 kilometres from the Finish Line because of the heat of the sun. The descending portions of the course was steep and some are still rough with gravel and small rocks but the concrete pavement was too much for my knees but my legs were surprisingly prepared for the beating and pounding of my feet. My strides were short but quick and I was able to increase my pace as I took advantage of the gravity. It was the heat of the sun that really gave some problems to my body. However, I was prepared for it as I brought a lot of salt tablets and “coffee” candies; and really focused on my hydration strategy. The Aid Station at the last 3-4 kilometres was very helpful to everybody and I was able to regain my strength and keep my pace up to the finish line.
On the last 1.5 kilometres to the Finish Line, my running partner begged off that he should stop and slow down for awhile because of leg cramps and I replied to him that we should finish together. But he started to walk while I was maintaining my running pace. I guess, he was very courteous and respectful enough to offer the 10th place to me as a guest and a Senior Citizen! At the Finish Line, I found out the complete name of my running-partner, Marvin Sicat, who happens to be a close friend of one of my “pioneer” runners in the Bataan Death March 102 Ultra Marathon Race.
Finally, I crossed the Finish Line in 8:04:30 hours even if my plan was to finish in sub-8 hours with a ranking of 10th finisher. I was able to improve my time for almost 30 minutes and my overall ranking by 7 slots and I attribute my improvement to my quick turn-around at the Aid Stations; having a running partner/“pacer”; training with more “strides” and tempo runs on paved roads on the first two months; and later on the last month prior to the race on my hikes to mountains with higher altitude. My focused nutrition and hydration were also followed where I had to drink water regularly, eat solid foods in the Aid Stations, ingest my salt tablets regularly every hour, and regularly placing some coffee candies in my mouth.
The Zamboanga Runner’s Club and their Race Sponsors did an outstanding job for this race to be a successful one. I highly recommended this race to all my readers to this blog, most specially to those who are ultra runners, local or foreigners. It is worth the trip to Zamboanga City. Next year, I will be back!
I started my serious training on this event in the month of December of last year (2015). Monday in every week was my Rest Day and almost everyday was devoted to running on flat and hilly terrains. My average mileage for my easy runs and tempo runs was 7-8 miles. My longest run in the mountains would be 7-8 miles during the months of December and January and followed by hikes with the same route the following day. However, in my weekends or Saturdays, I would run a distance of 50-60 kilometres on flat & paved roads for my endurance runs. And on the following day, Sunday, I would go out for a hike in the mountains for a distance of 7 miles. I did this LSDs for 4 consecutive weeks. My tempo runs would be included in my flat long runs on Saturdays and lots of faster downhill running from the peak of the mountain where I usually do my recovery or daily runs. I never visited any oval tracks and do some speed intervals during the period of my training but I did a lot of hill repeats of 1 kilometer distance (run in going up and then easily jog or hike in gong down) with repetitions ranging from 10-15 repetitions, at least once a week!
My participation in last month’s Condura Skyway Marathon was also a part of my training as my gauge if my previous ultra distance LSDs were making me a stronger runner but not necessarily a faster one. I was happy that I did not encounter any “cramping/bonking” issues during the said race.
On the last 4 weeks before the event, I did at least 3 sessions of double-traverse in the mountain that I used as my training ground/playground and in every session, I would register a total of elevation gain of 4,250+ feet within a distance of 14 miles (22.4 kilometres) which I usually finish in 5:45-6:00 hours. In these 4 weeks, I was already using my trekking poles during the runs as well as practiced on how to tie or untie them from my hydration pack while on the move. I would also practice on how to hold them with my hand while on the run. I discovered that I was more comfortable in holding both the trekking poles with my left hand rather than holding the each pole on each hand while on the run on flats and downhills. In this way, my right hand is free to grab my food or hydration bottle from the pockets of my pack.
Two weeks before the race, I had my last double-traverse in my mountain with my best effort; without any “pit stops” and eating/drinking on the move, using my trekking poles, and with a faster pace. This workout registered my fastest time of 4:58+ hours for the course! One week before the race, I joined my race, 5th edition of the Fort Magsaysay To Dingalan 65K Ultra Marathon Race, and finished it in 9:19+ hours. Since the elevation profile of the course is hilly, I knew I would get a lot of leg speed and strength on the ascents and descents and be able to fine tune my nutrition/hydration strategy. On the rest of the days before the event, I just did easy 8K and 5K on Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively. However, I got so much time to sleep and recover before my flight to Hongkong.
Comparing my training this year’s event and that with last year’s, my training in the 2015 edition was more in volume and intensity. But in this year’s edition, I had more rest and recovery days and the use of trekking poles were contributory to my faster splits in the different Checkpoints. Additionally, I improved on my nutrition with the use of CarboPro, instead of using GU/Energy Gels every hour during the run. Being smart of not staying long in Aid Stations and by-passing the earlier ones had also contributed to my faster splits in the different Checkpoints.
Nutrition & Hydration
During my training and preparation, I’ve never used my stash of CarboPro since I only use them in my races. Instead, I used only water; Succeed Salt Tablets; SkyFlakes Crackers; and Coke which I buy at the turnaround of my double-traverse located in a populated area.
During the race, I brought and stashed 14 servings of CarboPro in my Salomon Hydration Pack which I intend to use one serving in one Simple Hydration Bottle filled with water within two hours of running/hiking. I would drink it with my Clif Blok Chews or Clif Meal Bar or with the foods available in the Aid Stations.
I was consistent during the race of consuming one serving of CarPro in between Checkpoints. I would leave the Checkpoint with one bottle mixed with water while the other bottle is filled with the CarboPro Powder without water. As I reached the next Aid Station, I would bring out the bottle with CarboPro powder and ask the volunteers to fill it with water. Once it is done, I would leave the Aid Station immediately and walk while getting one serving of CarboPro from my pack and have the powder fill in the other empty bottle. This drill was done regularly in every Checkpoint in the course.
I brought also Jack N Jill X.O. White Coffee Candies stashed in my Ultimate Direction Race Belt that has two zippered pockets. I would place two candies in my mouth and play them with my tongue while on the run. This would provide me with continuous supply of sugar to my nutritional needs aside from my CarboPro and Chews. One of the pockets of my ASICS shorts was designated as my trash pocket for the wrappers of these candies and the ziploc plastic bags for my CarboPro Mix.
I forgot to bring SkyFlakes from the Philippines but I was lucky to find out that there were crackers being served in the Aid Stations. So, every time I would reach the Aid Station, I would get two packs of crackers and put them in my shorts’ pockets and I would eat them during my run. But I advise you to be careful when you eat their crackers because it made me choked during the run. I stopped choking and coughing when I drank most of my CarboPro Mix!
When there is a chance to eat their Hot Noodles in the Aid Stations, I would mix them with Salami slices and they gave me the much needed fats and salt to my diet. I would also pick-up their Nutella Sandwiches, Raisins, and Chocolate bites as I leave the Checkpoints. I started drinking Coke at Km #44 and every Aid Station thereafter.
Bottomline, I did not have any nutrition or stomach issues during the race. It could be the prevailing cold temperature or cold weather of the day that contributed from having no problems with my digestive system. However, there was only ONE Problem that I’ve encountered during the race…
Peeing During The Race
After leaving the Starting Line and about to enter to the trailhead, a distance of about 1 kilometre, I was already irritated that I need to pee immediately! There was no amount of controlling it that I had to urinate on the side of the street near a fence while the rest of the runners were waiting for their turn to enter the narrow trail. For the rest of the course, I would pee in every 3-4 kilometres!
There are times that I would enter their Public Toilets situated along the popular and visited trails but most of the time, I would just pee beside the trail most specially in the mountains. There was a time that I did not know that a lady runner was running behind me when I just decided to side-step and just pee beside the trail without any cover.
Surprisingly, I did not have the urge to pee when I was battling with the strong winds and fog as I was ascending to the Sunset Peak as well as when I was going down to the Checkpoint in Pak Mong (Km 85).
On hindsight, my regular peeing was a sign that I was regularly hydrated and did not have a feeling that I was “bonking”. Actually, I only ingested two Succeed Salt Tablets during the run.
I could have peed for almost 20-25 times during the race and if it took me 30 seconds to pee, then I would have spent a total stop time of 10-12 minutes and if I would enter a Public Toilet, each pee time would be longer than 30 seconds! I am not sure how I will solve the problem of not peeing so many times in a cold weather environment during a race. I am an expert already in peeing while on the run or on the move but I only do such thing during night running. I did this thing in last year’s participation in this race though where I would here laughter from the runners behind me upon seeing the traces of moisture drops on the dry trail ground as their lights would see them.
On Apparel and Running Kit
During my training in the mountains, I was using alternately, the ALTRA Superior 2.0 and INOV-8 Race Ultra 270 trail shoes. I have observed that the ALTRA shoes was giving me more comfort and cushioning but less in sole traction with the muddy trail/ground/slippery rocks. On the other hand, the INOV-8 Race Ultra’s soles are very aggressive to muddy trails and slippery rocks and there is comfort on my feet in the toe box section but lacking in cushioning. With the help of a weighing scale, I finally decided to use the ALTRA Superior 2.0 because it was lighter than the INOV-8 Race Ultra by 53 grams!
My gray-colored ASICS running shorts had been my favorite shorts since I bought it before the 2015 CM50. It has a side pocket on the left side that fits with my IPhone; a big zippered back pocket; and big slanting pockets on both leg portions of the shorts. I usually use it with my Under Armour Compression Shorts as my underwear/brief and it never gave me any rashes on my groin and butt.
The same as last year, I was using a compression shirt/muscle shirt without arm sleeves (by Adidas) and a white PAU long-sleeved shirt as my Uppers. I brought two Jackets (Uniqlo Water Repellant Down Jacket & Columbia Water Repellant Windbreaker with Hood). I used the Uniqlo Jacket on the 1st half of the course and the Columbia Jacket on the 2nd half which was proven to be very effective against the strong winds in the mountains and maintained my body heat temperature despite of the cold condition of the night. I was using my old Shenza Compression Calf Sleeves; Drymax Trail Socks; and Dirty Girl Gaiters. To protect my ears from getting cold, I used the Mission Buff (Blue-colored) which is thicker and longer in size than the other buffs in the market. For my cap, I used my old white Under Armour Runner’s Cap.
My trekking pole is made by Black Diamond which is the old version of the Ultra Distance Z-poles which is 120 cm. long. It is always partnered with my old and trusted Specialized Cycling Gloves!
I bought the new version of the Salomon S-LAB 5-Liter Hydration Pack on the mid-part of last year and it was my 2nd time to use it in a race. Instead of using the Salomon plastic bottles that go with it, I replaced them with Simple Hydration Bottles with the reason that they have bigger openings where I could easily pour my Powder Mix from the Ziplocs containers that I use. What I like in this hydration pack is that it has a lot of expanding zippered pockets as well as back main compartments which can accommodate my jacket and my nutrition needs. I could easily tie and untie my trekking poles while on the run or on the move without removing my pack from my body. The same is true when trying to reach for my nutritional needs.
I’ve been using a Mission Buff for the past two years and I’ve selected it for the Hongkong event because it is thicker and longer and it is advertised to maintain coolness to the body but for the prevailing situation during the race I’ve used it as a cover to my ears from the cold temperature and at the same time absorb the sweat coming from my head. The buff did its work and it was very useful for me during the race.
Medication & Drugs
Once I ingested the Hopias (Chinese Bread), which I brought from Manila, few minutes before the start of the race, I took 2 pieces of Aleve tablets and one capsule of Immodium. After eating my egg sandwich (Km 55) before trekking the Ngong Ping 360 Emergency Rescue Trail, I took another 2 pieces of Aleve Tablets.