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2018 TNF Lavaredo 120K Experience (Part 3)

30 06 2018

2018 TNF Lavaredo 120K Experience (Part 3)

Past Pinoy Finishers Of TNF Lavaredo 120K

  1. Simon Sandoval: He is based in the Philippines. Finished the race in 2014 with a time of 23:33:35 hours, the first Pinoy to finish this race with the best time so far.
  2. Mark Fernandez: Finished the race in 2016 with a time of 29:44:46 hours. He is a Registered Nurse based in Europe, presently in Germany.
  3. Jerome Bautista: Finished the race in 2017 with a time of 26:13:37 hours. Jerome is based in Metro Manila, Philippines.
  4. Ramoncito “Mon” Beleno: Finished the race in 2017 with a time of 27:10:58 hours. Mon is based in Hongkong.

All of these four past finishers don’t have a blog or detailed story about their finish on the said event, except for the Facebook “status” posted by Jerome and Mon after they finished the event last year. However, I was able to contact them through Personal Messenger and asked them about their Travel Arrangements and Accommodation but I did not ask about the details of the route and things to anticipate during the race. However, I am not sure if they will share to me the details of the course/event even if I asked them. Oh, well, I think they were not generous enough to share their stories of pain, hardships, problems, concerns, and tips for victory (?) to overcome this very challenging ultra trail running event. This is the reason why I am doing this blog with a lot of details and be able to share my experience with the other runners, whether I was in pain/frustration and in happy mood!

TNF Lavaredo 120K Elevation Profile

Race Proper

Arwin, Rodel, and I started at the lower one-third of the runners and we initially walked for a few seconds and started to jog along the paved road of Cortina as we cleared the Start/Finish arc of the event. All of the runners were heading to the north direction, passed by the commercial establishments with people and audience cheering on us. We ran along the main highway until we veered off to the left on a short descent and started to climb up to the trailhead. The jog became an easy run for me but I could no longer see the backs of Arwin and Rodel as they were faster than me.

Before The Gun Start

My trekking poles were stashed with my Salomon Pulse Belt and I was running on an easy pace along the seemingly flat highway but I could feel that it was gradually going uphill because I can feel the tightness of my breath and I slowed down but I was happy that I can keep up with my planned speed of 6 kilometers per hour. I brought out my trekking poles as we approached the trailhead. The runners in front of me suddenly stopped and found out that the entry to the trailhead was packed with runners that I had to wait for my turn to enter it in about 2 minutes as only two runners abreast could fit into the entry of the trail. However, as we climbed along the trail, the width widened and each of the runners had some space to hike and jog the uphill. At this point, I had my own space and relentlessly used my trekking poles to reach the higher elevation of the trail. The trail was wide and not technical in nature and some are asphalted at the start but later became as soft soil trail.

Tip: For the faster runners, they can sprint the first 2.5 kilometers of paved road up to the trailhead to avoid the “bottleneck or traffic” of runners preventing them for some wasted time of waiting. For the back of the runner, if you ran the 2.5 kilometers from the start, the “bottleneck or traffic” is a good way to force one to rest and stabilize ones heart rate and breathing.

The following photo grab of my start on the “liveultra trail” shows that I was able to clear the starting timing mat after 4 minutes, reckoned from 11:00 PM and with 3 minutes of delay from the start, I was able to cross the start timing mat in one minute from the place I was positioned.

@ The Start Of The Race

There are 1,700 runners but only 1,650+ actually started the race.

The uphill climb from the trailhead was a regular switchback that continuous to climb some sort of a peak but it was hard to determine the overall surrounding since it was still dark. What I knew was that we were in a forest. I was using my Lupine Headlamp and had it adjusted at its lowest lumen-adjustment which is about 70-80 lumens and was just enough to illuminate 2-3 meters ahead of me. I intended to use this headlight for entire the course after I have tested that its maximum light adjustment (which is 750 lumens) can last for about 12 hours and its low light adjustment can last for 60 hours. Arwin, Rodel, and I discussed that nighttime in the Cortina mountains would come at 9:30 PM (recommended time to put on the headlight) and the early light in the morning at 4:30 AM (recommended time to put off the headlight). So, in summary, we need 5.5 hours for the 1st night and then another full 7 hours for the 2nd night, totaling to 12.5 hours of burning time for our headlight for the entire course. However, in order to anticipate some problems with my Lupine lighting system, I brought with me my Silva Headlamp (70 lumens) with 6 AAA Batteries (3 inside the lamp and 3 as reserve) in my pack which is very light.

Tip: Find time to test the burning time of your Headlight, whether on its “low and high” mode. From the burning time, you can now adjust to the period from of the event’s course “early evening and early morning” times in order to compute, at least, the number of burning time needed to finish the course.

As we reached the first peak (Km 7), I was surprised to see some people cheering us and some flashing of camera. Every time I saw people cheering us along the trail, I would always say “Thank you” and they would reply, “Bravo” or “Ciao”. Wow! They are still awake at 12 Midnight just to cheer us going up to the mountains! I really like the Italians!

As compared to MIUT, I was happy that I could see more headlights behind me, which means that there are more runners behind me, rather than I was one of the few ones at the tail end of the runners. I did not purposely look behind my back to see the runners behind me but in a switchback, as I turn in at the curve uphill, I could glance from my peripheral vision the lights below me! And there are lots of moving lights below me!

First 7K Of The Course (This Photo will be bought soon!)

At the start of the first downhill of the course, I remembered what happened to me at MIUT that I have to wait and stop for the slower runners in front of me to move to resume my running which cost me the extra 5-minute time to be cut-off very early at the first checkpoint @ Km 14. At this time, I was a “bad-ass” to the other runners that I had to pass or overtake them without a word, instead, switching the “maximum brightness” of my Lupine Headlamp to warn the runner in front of me that somebody is very close behind them. I really did not know how many runners I overtook at this point. There was also a group of 7-8 runners in front of me that I overtook where the lady heading this group was shouting after I passed them. What the heck? I really didn’t care what the Italian lady was saying. I was focused not to be cut-off at the first Cut-Off Checkpoint at Km 33.5!

At the bottom of the first descent, my Race Bib was tagged by a Marshal holding a timing scanner and he pointed the direction going to the trail. I think the place is called Plan De Ra Spines which is Km 12. I knew that from the trail the Marshal pointed to me was the start of another ascent. After about 3 kilometers of ascent on switchbacks, it leveled off and I was able to run and I knew I was getting nearer to the First Aid Station, Ospitale!

@Ospitale, First Aid Station @ Km 17.5/Average Speed: 5.94 KPH

From the Hotel, my two Salomon Flask Bottles (500ml each) were filled with my NUUN mix but as I was walking to the Start Line, I was already sipping and hydrating my body from one of the flask bottles. Before the start, the other bottle was already one-half filled with my liquid mix. I thought of myself that I would be lighter during the early part of the course with less water/liquid in my pack. I was surprised that I have few more drops of liquid from the bottle where I’ve been drinking from the start.

The cold weather in the night and early morning prevented me from perspiring profusely. Since I am a “heavy sweater”, to the point that I could lost 1.5 pound of water from my body in my one hour trail run workouts in my Playground (even if I have ingested one liter of water/mix during the run), I was surprised that I have only ingested almost 1/4 of liter before reaching the first Aid Station in Ospitale (Km 17.5) and that is a duration of 2.5 hours running time from the start!

Tip: If you want to be light and fast on the first 15 kilometers, you can carry only one bottle (500 ml) filled with water or liquid mix.

Few meters before Ospitale, I finally saw the back of Rodel and I called his attention and we greeted each other. Since I don’t have the intention of staying long in the Aid Station as it was filled with a lot of runners. I just refilled my empty Salomon Flask Bottle with water and put one tablet of NUUN and I was back on the trail. The timing mat for the Aid Station was some few meters after the table of food and water. I continued with my hike as I knew I was headed for the 2nd peak of the course. I was not sure if Rodel went ahead of me or he was left behind at the Aid Station. What I knew was that, I did not spend one minute in that Aid Station.

I could no longer remember or recall the nature of the trail from this point as I was focused to beat the cut-off time at Federavecchia, the 1st Cut-Off Time Checkpoint at Km 33.5. I must be able to clear the 1st Cut-Off Time Checkpoint in 6.5 hours. But what I recalled was that I started to have some “running nose” which I could not control by sniffing back to my nose! So, I just let them flow from my nose while purposely hiking relentlessly to the peak of the mountain. From time to time, I would use the BUFF that I wrapped around my right wrist to wipe my nose. It started to get cold that my ears were becoming numb and I put on the hood of my Patagonia Windbreaker over my head and pulled down my Compressport Headband lower to cover my ears, this gave some warmth to my face and head. But the worst feeling that I remembered was my hands getting numbed due to the cold weather. As per weather forecast, we would feel freezing temperature of ZERO Celsius from 3-5 AM and I think that was what I was feeling at that time with the rest of the runners. I was wearing a thick cycling gloves with my trekking poles and I could feel my fingers to be bloating and numb due to the cold air and higher elevation. I have a full gloves in my pack and I did not want to waste time of pulling them out and thus, maintained using what I was wearing already with my hands.

Tip: Use your BUFF to cover your nose and mouth when you think the air you are breathing is too cold for you. You can also cover your mouth ONLY in order to let your “running nose” fluid to be absorbed by the cloth.

Tip: Your collection of BUFF or neck gaiters is very useful in mountain trail running, they are effective also in wiping your fluids from your “running nose” if they are “looped” on your wrist. Bring, at least, 3 pieces of Buff.

I thought of eating solid food to generate heat for my body and I was able to ingest one of my KIND Bars with Nuts and shredded coconut. I was able to ingest the whole bar while hiking but after a few seconds, I started to cough heavily! Shit! Some of the shredded coconut were stucked to my throat that were causing to the irritation. I have to drink one half of my bottle flask content just to flush down those coconut flakes in my throat. It relieved me but as I went higher to the peak of the mountain, I still have some coughing but I knew it was no longer due to what I have eaten but I was already experiencing the effect of higher altitude. Finally, I was able to reach the 2nd peak at Son Forca. It’s time to run again!

Tip: Every time you swallow your food, make sure they are chewed to pieces and follow it up with water. Eat your food while you are hiking.

@Passo Tre Croci (Km 28)/Average Speed: 5:03 KPH

I was surprised to see the runners ahead of me after clearing the peak that they were hiking/walking. What is happening to these runners? The road was wide, non-technical, and flat and they are walking? So, I started to run without using my trekking poles and it was an easy run that I was able to pass more runners! After a few kilometers, it was now another downhill switchbacks until we reached a narrow asphalted road on a flat area which looks like a farm with lots of big horses. I was behind a white guy who avoided the trail as the horses were on the trail and I just went pass through those horses as I tried to drive them away from the trail. The guy said that he will not risk doing what I’ve done since he might be kicked by one of the horses. I smiled and I started to talk to him. I found out that the guy is from Auburn, California, USA and I told him that he is supposed to be at the Western States 100 Endurance Run, either as a runner or a cheerer! He said that he has some running friends who are joining this year’s edition and I said I have also two of my friends who are Filipinos who are also joining the event. I asked him to run with me up to the timing mat of the 1st Cut-Off Time Checkpoint but he prefered to just hike.

I was happy I was able to cross the 1st Cut-Off Checkpoint with a buffer time of 32 minutes!

1st Cut-Off Time Checkpoint @ Km 33.5 in 6.5 Hours/Average Speed: 6.26 KPH

To be continued….

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2018 TNF Lavaredo 120K Experience (Part 1)

26 06 2018

2018 TNF Lavaredo 120K Experience (Part 1)

I applied for the lottery to join this year’s The North Face Lavaredo 120K Ultra Trail Race in Cortina D’ Ampezzo, Italy once the application for lottery was opened last October 2017. I was not hoping to be picked up in the lottery as I am always on bad luck with regards to Race Lotteries. Then I was surprised that I was included among the 1,500 runners who were picked up in the lottery. I just laughed it out when I knew the results as I wasn’t sure if I will continue or not because I was registered for the Madeira Island Ultra Trail (MIUT) Race in Portugal in the month of April 2018 due to some budgetary constraints. Moreso, when I was informed and requested by Ms Tess Leono to be her Chief, Support Crew for his participation in the 2018 Badwater 135-Mile Ultramarathon Race on last weekend of July 2018. It came as a double surprise to me that I will be going to the US after one month or less from my participation at the TNF Lavaredo in Italy on the last weekend of June.

It was a hard decision for me to continue or not with my TNF Lavaredo and instead focus my financial resources for my trip to the US to be as the Lead Support Crew in her 2nd attendance/participation to the Badwater Ultramarathon. But there are things that are unexpected and things that I’ve forgotten where I could source such financial resources for my trips. I was just a matter of proper planning and programming or some resourcefulness that I was able to solve the problem. God has its mysterious ways when you believe in him through prayers and good positive deeds to other people in need!

The registered with the amount of 120 Euros (almost P 7,500.00) for the 120K Trail Race through my postpaid Credit Card. Through “Trip Advisor” and booking.com, I was able to select my hotel accommodation and bus reservations. I was able to select the Dependance Hotel Cortina which was the cheapest during the time that I made my booking/hotel reservation. It was only a week before my departure for Italy that I made my reservations for my bus tickets from Venice to Cortina and back to venice for my flight back to Manila.

Hey, it’s not easy to apply for a visa in any country for that matter if it requires that you have some source/s of income; some savings in the bank; some investments; and some real estate properties that you personally own. I think being old, retiree, and pensioner (and lots of visas outside the Southeast Asian Region) gave me more edge or advantage to have my visa approved in other continents like Europe, North & South Americas and Iceland!

The application of visa for a visit in Italy is totally different than the other Schengen Nations as they have their own VIA (Visa Italy Application) and as compared from applying through VFS where most of the European countries contract the acceptance Visa Applications for their countries. Most of my Visa Applications through VFS were approved in 3 days (the fastest) and 5 days (the longest wait). My Visa Application for Italy was approved in 9 days without even informing me that my application and supporting papers were submitted already to the Italian Embassy in Manila. Plus the fact that the Parking Area at the VIA is very limited as compared to the building where the VFS is located. Be prepared to pay P100.00 for 3 hours at the VFS and P50.00 for 3 hours at the VIA. VIA and VFS offices are located at the Pasong Tamo Extension Street in Makati City. If you have the money to spare, one could get their Premium Service where a staff of the office would attend to you personally with coffee and snacks but be prepared to pay double for the visa application. For my Italy Visa Application Premium Service, I paid P6,000+ and I had to pick-up my visa at their office within a designated time of the day.

Departure At The Clark International Airport

Air Transport/Flight, Accommodation and Bus Transport Arrangements

It was already when I arrived from Madeira, Portugal that I finally decided to push through with my trip to Italy and that was before the end of April. I asked Mon Beleno and Jerome Bautista about their flight arrangements and accommodation bookings to include on how to finally arrive at Cortina D’Ampezzo as they were the two Pinoy runners who participated and finished in last year’s edition. The hotel accommodation was very expensive in Cortina D’Ampezzo and I was surprised! 1,000 Euros for 6 days stay in Cortina is really very expensive! But I was able to book my hotel stay for 600+ Euros for 6 days which is about 5-minute walk to the City Center. I was able to get a cheap Flight Ticket via Qatar Airways saving me at least $250 for the Round Trip Ticket with my Flight Departure at the Clark International Airport (on the early evening of Monday, June 18) and arrival at the Manila International Airport on the 29th of June. My flight was from Clark to Doha, Qater (for 9.5 hours) and then Doha, Qatar to Marco Polo International Airport in Venice, Italy (for 5.5 hours) but with a lay-over of about 7 hours in Hamad International Airport (from 12 Midnight to 7:00 AM the following day). My lay-over period served as my training for the sleepless nights for the race! As for the Bus Transport to Cortina D’Ampezzo which is 2-hour trip from the Marco Polo International Airport, costs from 12-18 Euros, depending on the Company name of the Bus. The selection of bus service transports are available at the website of the event. I took the FLIXBUS from Marco Polo International Airport to Cortina D’Ampezzo which I scheduled at least 3 hours after my scheduled arrival in Venice. I made this right decision as the line before the Border Police Booth (Immigration Bureau) was congested where three airline flights (Emirates, Turkey Airlines and Qatar Airlines) arrived at the same time. It took me 1.5 hours to exit the Airport from the time I left the door of the plane and getting my check-in baggage at the luggage conveyor. The traffic of passengers was worse than what we usually have at the Maila International Airport! I had a lot of buffer time to wander around the airport and eat my first authentic vegan Italian Pizza in one of the restaurants inside the Airport.

At The Hamad International Airport, Doha, Qatar

Traffic Before The Border Police Of Italy @ Marco Polo International Airport

It was already 3:30 PM in the afternoon of Tuesday, June 19 when I tried to get out of the Airport Building to locate where the Bus Terminal was located. The FLIXBUS Terminal (Bus Terminal for all the Buses at the Airport going outside Venice) is located at the left side of the Airport Building (if you are facing the building) and it is about 150 meters from the Exit Door of the building. From the Exit Door turn right and follow the Pedestrian Lane with a Shade on the side of the Road and then another turn right to cross a street and you could see a big vacant lot where buses are waiting. The lot has only one waiting shed with a limited seating capacity.

On my way back from Cortina D’Ampezzo to Mestre or Marco Polo International Airport, I took the ATVO Bus Service. These Bus Services only caters to passengers who made their Seat Reservations through ONLINE or through the INTERNET. These Bus Services don’t allow walk-in passengers or have Ticketing Offices at the Marco Polo International Airport. (Note: Mestre is the Main Terminal of Bus/Train in Venice)

The weather during my arrival in Venice was hot and clear skies, the same temperature and sunny skies that we we usually have in Manila. If I am not mistaken, it was 27-28 degrees Celsius.

The FLIXBUS that would be our transport service from the Marco Polo International Airport to Cortina was late for 30 minutes and when the bus arrived, we were surprised that the bus was a Cortina Express Bus! The bus was almost full when it picked us up at the Airport and my Reserved Seat was no longer applicable in the Cortina Express and I just took a sit in one the vacant ones at the 2nd row from the Driver. I was surprised that two of my Pinoy companions who are also participating in the said event were also riding in the said bus as they boarded at Mestre Station.

The distance from Venice to Cortina is almost 160 kilometers and it would take at least two hours to travel the said distance aboard a bus. The two Pinoy runners, Arwin Sta Clara and Rodell Castillo who came from the Middle East, alighted from the bus in a town, 20 kilometers before reaching Cortina. They greeted me and they said that they are booked in one of the hotels in the said town. They promised me that we would meet on Friday at Cortina at the Race Pick-Up/Exposition site which is the Ice Olympic Stadium.

TNF Lavaredo 120K Ultra Logo

To be continued…

(Note: I will try my best to document my experience in this race, as detailed as possible, so that other local runners as well as other subscribers of this blog will be informed on what to do to prepare for the said race)








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