Category Archives: ultra distance running

Starstruck with Scott Jurek

Prior to the Event

Who would have known I would meet one of the great ultramarathon runners in flesh?  To me, Scott Jurek (SJ) is only one of the characters in the book, “Born to Run”. It never crossed my mind the day would come when I could finally meet this runner in person.  Thanks to Jonel Mendoza and the FrontRunner Magazine team for bringing this jaunty fellow to the country.

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                                              Receiving the prize won from Scott Jurek himself

Boggling with notion on how I started counting the remaining days for the meet up and the great event, when an unprecedented travel assignment and run training schedules two weeks prior to the occasion were extremely tight and it was not possible to do a personal errand such as purchasing the ticket for the SJ Live. Rap on it having a muddled mind and excitement all at the same time that I got the dates fogged up.   Yes, I was at the venue two days earlier thinking that December 10 was a Monday instead of a Wednesday.   Can you conjure how flustering it was to ascertain my cognomen is nowhere to be found in the list because the event is still yet to happen? Whew! What a blooper! Looking back, I realized that I needed to roar at myself for this befuddlement.

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                                                                            The fuel belt I won
During the Scott Jurek Live!

The talk started with a video montage about him and how he came about as an accomplished runner. The presentation showed practical inputs on running: having the right attitude, getting out of the comfort zone, to be informed, getting good nutrition, keep pushing and testing your limits, to stay humble, turning setbacks into advantages, and be passionate about what you loved most—running. 

                                                                   One of the winning tickets

 It was really awesome grinning at this perky guy while listening to his pep talk during a run with the Tarahumara Indians, with the late Caballo Blanco in the book Born to Run, and great races such as the Badwater, Spartathlon in Greece among others… it was a surreal moment.  SJ is not only a gigantic ultra distance runner but also an academic icon.  He graduated in secondary school as class valedictorian and completed a Masters Degree in Physical Therapy.  Can you beat that?  One word: starstruck.  An open forum followed after.

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                                               Got his autograph. Super thanks, Scott Jurek!

When my ticket number was called during the raffle, I think it was redemption. What happened two days earlier, was in fact, a blessing in disguise.  Yeah, I won a fuel belt awarded by SJ himself plus a photo taken with him.  To top it off, each got an autograph and a photo op with him again.  I could not ask for more.

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                                                                    Scott Jurek, author of Eat and Run, in action

I Shall Return 50K Ultramarathon 2013 Finisher

Two years have passed since last ultramarathon race, which was the Bataan Death March (BDM) 102-km race.  I found myself wanting to go back and do another ultramarathon.  While searching online sometime in June, I chanced upon a link of an ultramarathon to be staged in Tacloban City.  I’ve never been to this part of the country since there never was any occasion to go there.  In fact, my only recollection of the place was from a photo of my late father with my older brother taken at the famous San Juanico Bridge.   I knew I’d love to visit it one day.   What better way to go back to long distance running than by joining the I Shall Return 50K Ultramarathon, a fitting race name for a returning long distance runner like me.    
Arrival in Tacloban City and Race Preparation
The good thing was the hotel’s location is pretty close to a mall so looking for a good place to eat and buying whatever I need in the race would be easy.  Though food and drinks are provided at the aid stations, I bought myself my own energy drinks. My rule of thumb: never try something new on race day.
I came back to the hotel as soon as I can and had each energy drink labeled with my name and aid station number as aid stations are spaced approximately every 10 km apart. I hadn’t been able to sleep so I had showered, prepared my race gear, and killed time and thought I could arrive early at the venue and still not appear too worried.  The reasons perhaps were not having enough long runs plus the extra weight I gained lately. My only consolation was I had the chance to train for three weeks focusing on core, endurance and speed exercises at the very least with the help of Coach John Lozada, my running coach.  But I knew the preparation was not enough.  Faced with these quandaries and crazy as it may sound, I literally conversed with my feet and body telling them not to get cramps and help me reach the finish line.  To lighten things up, my goals were (1) to finish within the 10-hour deadline; and (2) get to see the longest bridge in the country, the San Juanico Bridge.  
Hours before Gun Start and During the Race
Not one familiar face at the race venue when I arrived.  I just took a seat and waited for the race to start.  Few minutes later, I saw Jonel’s arrival, the Race Director and editor-in-chief of Frontrunner magazine, and the only recognizable face I could find in the crowd.  Distribution of race bibs and a briefing on the race route then followed.  During the briefing, we were informed that portion of the route would be in total darkness due to a power failure that was announced earlier.  Meaning, we would be running in the dark from 2am until 4am or 5am.  I could only expel a deep breath after learning this, silently praying I would make this better and not get lost going around the city and for my guardian angel to guide me as my eyesight isn’t that good.  The only game plan I could think of was to follow those in front of me.  The race started with a prayer led by no other than the Race Director himself and a group photo op ensued at the start/finish tarp.  It was almost 2am.
To my relief, I was not alone (the highway is reminiscent of BDM) on the road. Marshals, either riding in their cars or on tricycles, were there to light our way. Sometimes they stayed at the back and every now and then went past us to give directions to help ensure safety of runners. Glad there was a bike following with an extremely bright headlamp.  It turned out it wasn’t even what I thought it was when I heard male voices and a pair of running footsteps behind.   As minutes raced by, I started to feel dizzy from the headlight coming from one of the runners.  To solve the problem, I stopped and waited for them to overtake me then stayed following them.  
Immersed in deep thought and oblivious to everything else, I almost didn’t notice the shout and signals of the marshals at the rotunda near the 10km or 12km aid station.  In the next hours that followed, the two gentlemen became my instant guides and companions.  They were kind enough to offer me whatever supplies they have.  Took some and politely declined the next time I was offered.  In my estimation, the aid station, where I could take my own drink and food, couldn’t be that far. 

The many facets of ultra distance running in Leyte
(Photo courtesy of N. Fevidal)
Down the highway we came across with a support crew who eagerly offered us bananas, chocolates, water and soft drinks.  As the race progressed, one of the gentlemen who were running with me decided to proceed.    A few minutes later the other one followed suit.  But before leaving, he advised the driver of his support vehicle to escort me.   These people are my angels, an answered prayer. 
Left alone now I watched the early morning sun slowly creeping up the horizon, running steadily till I overtook two more runners.  I stopped for a while to exchange pleasantries with them afterward told them to slowly jog with me so we could reach the aid station together.  The small steps brought us to Magsaysay Boulevard near University of the Philippines, Tacloban.  I liked the place as the boulevard was lined with trees making it more pleasant for running.  There were joggers as we passed by the area.  

Running at the San Juanico Bridge with Noreen Fevidal
(Photo courtesy of N. Fevidal)
One of the main surprises running in this event was being supported by a stranger, a lady runner, who paced with me, offered me water to drink, and even encouraged me to at least finish fourth odds in women’s division.  This unexpected vote of confidence though warmed my heart all I could do was smile knowing there were other faster runners in attendance.  Anyhow, I think I did a good job finishing the race.  To top it off, crossing the San Juanico Bridge (Leyte to Samar, and vice versa) was a bonus indeed!   Not bad…  Not bad at all…

Congratulations to all of the finishers in this year’s I Shall Return edition

Super duper thanks to Noreen (for pacing me), Norman (for the photos), Jonel (for facilitating my registration), Jojo Yu of R8 Cycling and Stars Cafe and Bar (support), Brian (support), Glice, John, Edgar, Frederick, Nap Ocampo (distributing my foodstuff at each aid station), Mark, the marshals ( ensuring safety of runners) among others. 

A Chock-full and Colorful Tidbits Taken from Born to Run Book

I kept notes while reading the Born to Run book, and also wrote down some of its interesting things, line of thoughts, facts, quotes, etc. in my journal.   I’d encourage you to read this book.  It’s a fantastic read! 

Here’s a list of those, mostly to let you see a glimpse of what it is all about:
Tarahumara Indians and Caballo Blanco

Tarahumara, a near-mythical tribe of Stone Age superathletes.  Pronounced Spanish-style by swallowing the “h”: Tara-oo-mara.  Tarahumara alias Rarámuri—the Running People, healthiest, most serene people on earth, greatest runners of all time.

Caballo way of running:  Lesson 1: Get behind me — Lesson 2: Think easy, light, smooth, and fast—start easy because if that what’s you get, that’s not so bad.  Then work on light [meaning effortless] like you don’t give a [damn] how high the hill is or how far you’ve got to go.  When you’ve practiced that so long that you forget you’re practicing, you work on making it smooth.  You won’t have to worry about the last one—you get those three, and you’ll be fast.

All About Running

We were born to run; we were born because we run.

Runners are assembly-line workers; they become good at one thing—moving straight ahead at an steady pace.  Athletes are Tarzans—swim, wrestle, jump, swing, strong, explosive.

Running wasn’t about winning.

The reason we race isn’t so much to beat each other but to be with each other.

The real mutants are the runners who don’t get injured.  8 out of 10 runners are hurt every year.

Running is tough on your legs.

You don’t stop running because you get old.  You get old because you stopped running. — DD

Everyone thinks they know how to run, but it’s really as nuanced as any other activity.  Inefficiency is guaranteed and injury is inevitable.

Kenyans have super-quick foot turnover.

It takes eight years until you run your best time—eight years up, eight years down (true for both genders).

The way to activate your fat-burning furnace is by staying below your aerobic threshold—your hard-breathing point during your endurance runs.

Endurance is all about conserving energy—the brain’s department.

Only go as fast as you can while holding a conversation.  

The faster you can run comfortably, the less energy you’ll need.

Speed means less time on your feet.

“… so focused on speed and couldn’t understand how endurance could be an advantage”

What good is endurance on a battlefield built on speed?

All About Distance Running—Marathon, Ultramarathon

Know why people run marathons? Because running is rooted in our collective imagination, and our imagination is rooted in running.  Why do so many people hate it?

Distance running is an outrageous threat to the integrity of the knee.” — American Association of Orthopedic Surgeon report conclusion

Ultrarunners had no reasons to cheat because they had nothing to gain; no fame, no wealth, no medals, they don’t even get the prize money; all you get from winning an ultra is the same belt buckle as the guy who comes in last.

Advanced ultrarunner weapon: instead of cringing from fatigue, you embrace it.  You refuse to let it go.  You get to know it so well, you’re not afraid of it anymore.

Shoes and Barefoot Running

Shoes block pain, not impact! Pain teaches us to run comfortable!  

From the moment you start going barefoot, you’ll change the way you run.

Micah True or Caballo Blanco, 58

I only had the opportunity to meet Micah True aka Caballo Blanco or White Horse from the pages of Born to Run written by Christopher McDougall. Thanks to fellow runner Master Eo for lending me the book three years ago. 

Related:
Born to run: a must read book
Born to run, the book: in a nut shell

Micah was famous for his advocacy of running free.  I even promoted the book in this blog, got some important running tips and wrote them in my running journal, and even placed one of his famous running quotes, “Running should be free, man,” on my blog’s sidebar.


Micah’s story inspired me to try ultra distances and a little barefoot running.  His feat in long distance running is incomparable and truly amazing!    
I learned of his passing (Please see story here) just recently from fellow runner Master Mykolant or Mykol.  

May we all be inspired by this legendary figure to run happy and free.

Magnolia Purewater Mayon 360° Albay Ultramarathon (2nd : 2012 )

The race around Mayon Volcano is back!

The Province of Albaywill host the second edition of Mayon 360° Ultramarathon on April 21, Saturday. This world-class race is an 80-kilometer ultramarathon around Mayon Volcano also known internationally as a 50-mile run around the world’s most perfect coned volcano. It is the first ultramarathon event in the Bicol Region, wherein an ultramarathon means running more than the traditional marathon distance of 26 miles or 42.195 kilometers.

Runners will be taken across the circumferential scenic mountain side of the Mayon Volcano through the Pan-Philippine Highway—Sabluyun Road—Karangahan Boulevard—Tabaco-Legazpi Highway crossing 7 municipalities, 3 cities, and 77 barangays (villages) of the province of Albay.
Mayon 360° Ultramarathon was conceptualized by the Junior Chamber International (Legazpi City Chapter) in partnership with the Liga Ng Mga Barangay (Albay Chapter), Philippine Association of Ultrarunners (PAU), and through the leadership of Governor Joey Sarte Salceda that the project was funded and successfully implemented. The event was held to support the various tourism programs of the Provincial Government of Albay and considered as one of the highlights every month of April during the celebration of the Magayon Festival.
In its second year, the event is now dubbed as Magnolia Purewater Mayon 360° Albay Ultramarathon, which reflects the entry of a major corporate sponsor, Magnolia Purewater, signifying that Magayon Festival is gaining market traction!
Through the concerted efforts of the barangays, runners will be welcomed with aid stations every five kilometers. Local folks along the route will showcase their hospitality, provide information about their barangay, and give encouragement and support to runners. This same support at the grassroots barangay level, with close to 700 volunteers, made the 1st  edition of Mayon 360° Ultramarathon a resounding success and garnered the Philippines’ Best Sports Tourism Event award given by the Association of Tourism Officers of the Philippines.
Magnolia Purewater Mayon 360° Albay Ultramarathon will be giving cash prizes of more than P230,000 with separate categories for local and international runners. The event is currently the cheapest ultramarathon (P850 only) in the country.  Said race is sanctioned by PAUas one its official races. A pre-race briefing will be held on April 20 at 5 PM at the Albay Provincial Capitol Building where the participants will be treated to a carbo-loading party. The race has a 15-hour cut off time and will start at 4AM on April 21 at the PeñarandaPark, Legazpi City.
For complete event information, please visit Mayon360.com.

Good Luck to All Bataan Death March 102KM Ultramarathon Warriors!

Nearly a year had passed when I had the chance to run this prestigious ultramarathon event.  And on Sunday, March 4, another batch of Bataan Death March runners will brave the same path to honor the memory of our WWII brave fallen soldiers. 
To all ultra marathon runners in this race, I wish you all well. 
Be safe and reach the finish line!

Bataan Death March 102 Ultramarathon Race Through the Eyes of a Support Crew

I was not the one who wrote this article.  But Carmen, one of my support volunteers, did.  This blog post is the fruit of a request to let the readers catch a glimpse of how a volunteer support works during an ultramarathon race.  Read on …

Trails and Thrills: My BDM 102 Journey
by Carmen Cabiles
Photos by Carmen Cabiles

Preparation time

As soon as Roselle said that she was doing BDM 102 right away I offered to be her support crew. Much has been said about the race, the same token I have heard a lot of tell-tale stories from former support people. And since this was no ordinary race, doing support for an ultramarathon was volunteer work big time. But it was three months after when this realization started to sink in.

I remember sending her a text message, “if in your heart and mind you have no doubts about this race then go for it”. I had confidence in Roselle that she was doing the needed preparation and we need not worry.  And I had no doubt that she was strong enough to finish the entire 102 km in one piece.

Three weeks prior to race day I insisted that we meet up as a team. Busy as we were with our respective jobs, we had to find time for this. Aside from myself, there was Raff who I have fondly tease “the Hall-of-Famer BDM support crew” and you will find out later why. The first meet up was to think and list down the essentials needed for Roselle and the support crew which includes the driver. This came in easy especially for us girls since it was like second skin to plan and organize.
The group’s second meeting at Seattle’s Best, Bonifacio High Street 
The next weekend again another meeting this time to discuss our game plan. Complete with notes and race route map, we had to plot from 0 KM to KM 102 the stopovers and Roselle’s needs. We were joined by Ziggy (who designed our shirts, a gift from Roselle) and Dhenz a.ka. Running Pinoy, who shared a heapful of suggestions from his own BDM experience. Since Raff was a previous BDM support crew we agreed that he was in charge in taking care of directions and coordinating with the driver; while I was going to oversee the food and drinks of Roselle.

Race weekend

KM 00, Starting point of the infamous Death March

We arrived at San Fernando around 11:00am. First things first, we agreed to check out the entire race route not just for Roselle’s sake, but also to familiarize ourselves with the markers, gas stations, intersections, convenience stores, sari-sari stores and other possible spots and landmarks we would be needing during the race. Again, Raff’s familiarity with the area came in handy to actually give some tips to Roselle like where to turn, which road to take and all that. During the day it was all too easy to take note of all these. But keeping in mind that race starts at 10PM and the landscape might look a bit different.

We finally arrived at the inn around 4:30pm. Worried that Roselle had barely three hours to rest and sleep became a concern. And we still had to organize our things and do last minute cooking for our rice and boil water. We also had to make sure our driver can still have some power nap since we need him to stay alert for the whole race period.

Roselle and I shared the room and we both couldn’t sleep. After resting for an hour we started getting ready. She was in good spirits except for the occasional “Carmsmatapos ko kaya ang race?” (Carms, can I finish the race?) Roselle refrained from replying to her text messages so that she could start focusing on the race. She did not want to carry her cellphone while running but I had to be firm and insisted she should. The moment I said that I felt I was now wearing my support crew hat. We were not there to baby her, but to look after her.  

On our way out for dinner en route to the starting line, it started to rain and felt chilly. Good thing it didn’t last for long by the time we reached KM 0 it was merely drizzling.  We escorted Roselle to where all the runners gathered and as expected, a lot of them wanting to do photo ops and pose at the starting line with Race Director Sir Jovie a.k.a Baldrunner. After taking a couple of shots of Roselle we hurriedly left for KM 7. As a race policy our first meet up with our runner was at that point. There was a handful of support vehicles already parked when we got there.

KM 0 – KM 50

Raff and Arnel (our vehicle driver) handing out Pocari drink

The support crews around us were just as energized as the runners themselves. Cheering broke the silence of the cold night when the first runner arrived. The thrill of waiting for your runner pass by was equally exciting as we watched the others breeze through. One after the other the parked vehicles started to move again after meeting up with their runners.


It was rather easy to locate the kilometer markers because of the swarm of cars and vans parked on the side. As each vehicle opened its trunk you can tell we all had the same stuff: gallons of water, ice chests, bananas, Gatorade, rubber shoes and towels.

The cool wind of Bataan blew through the night almost lulling us to sleep, but from 10pm till 12midnight we were up on our toes and resisted dozing off. Roselle requested that we meet up every 3km from the planned 5km because of the dark. We realized it was unreliable to watch out for the markers because there were missing ones. There was one time I saw an almost submerged marker I had to get down from the vehicle, stoop and take a picture to figure out which marker number it was. While at it, I started feeling something crawling on my feet ….ants! I jumped and dashed to the van. Raff was not spared and we were both scratching the next 10 minutes. 
Tarp placed at the back of each support vehicle

In between our meet up with her, our entertainment came in the form of watching Karate Kid and Raff’s harvest time for his Smurf’s Village game. One time, we were so engrossed watching the movie we didn’t notice she ran past us!

We choreographed an ala-Broadway-left-right kick while chanting “all the way” as we welcomed her at several points. Aside from keeping our energy up, we were trying to keep her in a good mood, too. At times we had bits and pieces of the story behind Bataan Death March. To say it was an interesting conversation piece is an understatement.

By 2am everything slowed down. We were seeing less and less support vehicles, and our adrenalin was starting to crash. As the lone female, I was challenged to relieve myself since I didn’t have the luxury of options. My first stop was at a “bar”, not the Makati-kind of bar, with a few ladies sending off their male customers out the door. Our driver had to come with me so he could use his charms while seeking permission for my free use.

I needed to go again 2 hours after, this time at a police headquarters near a municipality office. What else can I say but, “when you gotta go, you gotta go” even if it means having to close your eyes and shutting off your sense of smell.
Roselle telling Raff her Nike Lunar Glide is causing her some discomforts
Around this time, she was approaching her KM 42 and no major complaints yet, except for a change in her running shoes plus, “Pagod na ako.” (I’m tired.) All we had to say was, “Selle, done with your first “mary”, isa pa OK ka na!” (Selle, done with your first “mary”, one more time then everything’s OK!) We were planning on buying decent breakfast but we couldn’t find any. No choice but to wait at KM 50 where all runners and support crew meet up once again. While waiting for her, we started making our hot drinks plus the peanut butter with banana sandwich courtesy of Raff; our “little kitchen” got busy. First thing she wanted to do was change into fresh clothes, but with that, only had little time left to eat breakfast. Raff was constantly calculating her time vs. her pace and we had to cut short her break time if we want to meet the cut-off time. 
The little kitchen at the back of the car


KM 51 –KM 80

This started between 7am-8am. The weather was the opposite of the day before. It was bright and sunny which translates to h-o-t, which is not so good. We were hoping to have some drizzle and rain showers but the sky was too clear and far from cloudy.

Roselle on her way to the Municipality of Samal,Bataan 
We had to prepare our stock of ice and fill up our chest to prepare for the long, humid day ahead of us. Out came the hand towels and spray bottle as we soaked them in a separate pail. From KM 50 – KM 65 we were meeting her every 5 KM. But after that, she requested to meet up every 2.5 KM. The heat was starting to feel unbearable.

When we reached KM 70 (around 10 AM) our meet ups became more frequent at every 1 – 1.5KM.  It was obvious the heat was draining her. Raff placed a rolled-up bandanna with ice cubes in it around Roselle’s nape; while I sprayed ice-cold water non-stop on her face and legs. She has been complaining of her sunburned legs plus some discomfort on her thighs she kept requesting for liniment. She was no longer running or jogging. She walked slowly the next 10-15 KMs. 
Busy as a bee every time our runner stops

We did not wait anymore for her to approach the van. As soon as we saw her, Raff and I took turns in running towards her, either with the cold drink or spray bottle. It was also necessary that many times both of us had to run to her aid. It was becoming more and more tedious to feed her, she was resisting even her GU. At this point, we had several food trays with different variations of food  which we kept switching. It was only Jelly Ace she feasted on and never turned it down. Sometimes she would not even want to sip her drink. 

KM 80 – KM 90

No matter how much we pushed her, it was evident she was wrestling from within. Her weakened voice, with the same question over and over, “Kaya ko pa ba? Abot ba ako sa cut-off?” was getting into us. (Do you think I can still make it to the cut-off time?)

How else to cheer her on? Raff asked me for new lines to say but I replied, “What else do you say when she keeps asking the same thing?

This is the area where support vehicles had to take a detour and leave their runner for about 7 KMs. It was almost 12 high noon, air was dry and dusty everywhere. We felt helpless not being able to be with Roselle. As Raff made another time computation, we almost surrendered to the idea she might not meet the cut-off time and instead he said, “Let’s pray…”  At that moment, all I could think of was for her to finish the race in one piece with no serious injury.  The three of us were quiet, Raff and our driver took a quick nap, while I stared into the distance. Feeling poignant as I recalled again Bataan Death March, and under these circumstances gave me an idea of what the soldiers struggled with… 
Waiting ...
After waiting for almost an hour, we finally spotted Roselle. Without telling her of our time computation, we went about the usual routine while still cheering her on. We were faking our emotions like seasoned performers! Raff couldn’t have said it any better when he told her to “just walk faster and don’t stop”.

KM 90 – Finish line

Roselle slowly started to pick up her pace. It was a combined walk-jog-walk this time. We had this target runner and she kept an eye on this one.  Funny that she would still remind us to take our lunch and finish off the food we had. Without her knowing that we had skipped our meal, we simply said, “Yes” whenever she would check on us.

With the sun beating down on us, Raff and I were spending more time now on the road than inside the van. We played it by ear and disregarded any KM reading. Cold drink plus cold towel compress on her legs was what we gave her with forced small bites of banana or choco bar. She kept asking, “Malayo pa?” (Is it still far?) and our usual reply was, “Sus, konti na lang.” We made it sound as if she had just a few hundred meters to go! She had her second wind, and we just have to give that final push. At the rate she was going, we knew she was actually going to meet the cut-off time as long as she refrained from walking.

Roselle’s drive at this point was to get it over and done with. For us, it was eager anticipation as well. Just as she was drained, we were exhausted. With the remaining 5 KMs, we decided not to get in her way so as not to lose her momentum. She kept flashing her thumbs up sign as we cruised past her. 
Roselle’s walk-jog-walk strategy … almost there

And finally, after more than 17 hours, we made our last turn. Raff and I got down from the van, and walked on the left side of the road as we waited for Roselle from the bend to cross the finish line. The crowd cheered on.  I took a shot of her before crossing the line. She did it! Raff and I were silent. Our mission accomplished we can now start relaxing.

She did it!
(L-R: Carmen, Roselle, Race Director Sir Jovie a.k.a. Baldrunner, Raff, and Dhenz)

Post Race Insights

1.       I now have a deeper appreciation for Bataan Death March and why it is a significant part of our history.  Every Filipino should get to know this story.

2.       Being a support crew is a lot of work! And you take this seriously. Do not volunteer if your intention is to simply have a field trip and take pictures. It is work.

3.       Be ready not to get any sleep, nor have a decent meal. Most of all, you can’t complain.

4.       Stay alert at all times and move fast. You make proper coordination with your runner every meet up; you watch out for the markers or synchronize your vehicle’s odometer; you plan ahead and prepare the food before your runner reaches your vehicle. This goes on non-stop for 18 hours.

5.       It pays to have at least one experienced BDM support crew in the team. Hats off to Raff for good planning, I’ve learned to put balance in preparing an ultramarathoner’s food tray.

6.       As the support crew, we are our runner’s number one fans! *We let them ramble, complain, cry but we stay strong and positive for them. We don’t give in to their negativity.

Raff and I had to put on our happy faces and a cheerful disposition every time we would meet up Roselle.  Despite the fact that we were also running low because of no sleep and limited food intake. It was almost scripted and routine whenever we say, “Madami din naglalakad; keep going steady lang!” in an animated fashion. And the many times Roselle would lament, “Kaya ko ba ito?” we were quick to catch that with, “Sus, madami ka ng nalampasan!” As soon as we retreat to our vans we would calculate and start to worry about the cut-off time. In fact, when we reached the 12th hour (around 10am next day), we hit critical point because she was slowing down due to heat and exhaustion. Raff said a couple of times, “Start to pray.
7.       Volunteer at least once in your running career lifetime for BDM 102. It is not just a race, but a remembrance in honor of our fallen soldiers. It is a glimpse into our dark past. And we dare say never again.
The inscription at the back of KM 102 marker


How I Prepared and Trained for BDM 102

I believe my preparation for BDM 102 started when I finally joined the 1st Philippine Association of Ultrarunners (PAU) 50K race in Tanay, Rizal.  It was followed by running more PAU races, like the P2P 70K race (from Pasuquin to Pagudpud in Ilocos Norte) and T2N 50K race (from Tagaytay to Nasugbu, Batangas).  My performance as a runner during the (65+5) 70K race in Ilocos Norte was my gauge whether I would join BDM 102 or not. I felt fine after the race.  There were no major issues except for common soreness in the body and legs.  It was not an easy decision when I finally signed up for BDM.   I was afraid and apprehensive at the same time.  Receiving the official invite via e-mail from Sir Jovie a.k.a. Baldrunner, I knew then there was no room for postponing it. I had to dance to the music.
 
The first thing I did was to look for a 100-kilometer training program that would best suit my performance as a runner.  I’ve found one from an online source, http://ultrarunning.co.nz/content/100km-training-programme, and I personally customized it against my previous races as well as my available or remaining time before the BDM 102 race in March of 2011.  I got my invitation sometime in September 2010.  That would mean training would start on November 2010 and end on March of 2011 to complete the 16-week 100K program. 
 
Mondays and Fridays were REST periods.  Rest days I considered my free time to do stuffs other than running.  Training days included Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays.  Wednesdays would always be an eight-kilometer run, jog pace.  Tuesdays and Thursdays were intense in terms of repetitions.  It would always be a 15-kilometer distance either at a half or marathon pace.  Saturdays and Sundays were considered long runs ranging from 1 hour to 5 hours of back-to-back running.  It was really tiring, especially, that I’d do my training after work.   
 
Did I strictly follow the program?  My answer  would be a Yes and No.  Yes, in terms of being committed to it.  No, because there were times when I just couldn’t follow the program for some reason.  Well, one issue that women runners have to face with is, with all the changes in hormone levels that occur during menstrual cycle, you’d expect speed workouts to suffer.  Another No, when I lost my mother last year.  I was exhausted and kind of overwhelmed for a while.  I was back to running only sometime in January this year.  There were weekends when I couldn’t do the long runs because I was afraid to go out too early in the morning without any companion.  Most of my ultramarathon running friends was also busy preparing for their 100-mile race then so that left me running on my own most of the time.  
 
Sometimes there were times, I just couldn’t help it when you began to question why you are putting yourself under so much stress, that sometimes self pity would set in, especially, when you’d be running alone at the Mall of Asia grounds, seeing some people there having a good time, and here you are running back and forth because it’s part of your training.  But again, as a runner, to be focused is the main ingredient for one to be successful in his/her endeavor.  
 
I became more nervous as race day was getting closer.  I wasn’t sure whether my preparation was enough or not.  My failure to run on Saturdays or Sundays was usually compensated with swimming.  I would spend one to two hours at the Makati Aqua Sports Arena (MASA) swimming pool.   After running 2.5 to 3 hours on Sunday morning, I would then go swimming in the afternoon. 
 
Two meet ups with my support crew were also scheduled to discuss the route, strategy, hydration, food, supplies, among others.  It was a bonus that Dhenz a.k.a. Runningpinoy, 2010 BDM finisher, volunteered to offer his knowledge and experience in one of the meet ups.  
Indeed the spirit of voluntarism goes on and on in so far as BDM 102 is concerned.  Despite the short notice, Ziggy volunteered to bring the shirts as a surprise during the meet up.  
 
I just couldn’t let them down.  The shirt tells it all! Come race day, it would be my mantra, “102 all the way!”
 
What I also could bank on was my accumulated mileage based on my participation in PAU ultramarathon races for the past ten months, plus two marathons during the first quarter of the year.
 
Runners were also required to submit medical clearance.  Non-compliance means DQ or disqualified.  My cardiologist didn’t give me any clearance until I took another stress test. Thankfully, results showed good heart and blood pressure conditions. 
 
Weeks before the race, logistics wise, I was ready.  I met my support volunteers twice and discussed with them my food and hydration needs including coordination instructions during the race.  When all of these were settled, it was time to slow down.  I reduced my activities during the week, thus, getting to bed early to take some rest.  Two nights before the race, I relaxed my body and treated BDM weekend as if it was a non-race day.  I found it effective.  I got what I want, a sound sleep.  Both are considered equally important for an optimal performance.  This strategy worked for me. 
 
I used my Garmin Forerunner 305 during my training days for two reasons:  (1) to see my average pace; and (2) to log my mileage each week. On race day, however, I decided not to use my Garmin.  I didn’t want to feel pressured watching my pace from time to time so I used instead my Ironman Timex watch set its timer feature to 18 hours. 
 
I didn’t join any of the test runs for three reasons: (1) to save on expenses; (2) the schedule of the test runs didn’t fit my training plan; and (3) running back-to-back ultramarathon and full marathon not my cup of tea.  I’m not made of steel.  I believe that the body can only take as much.  Every runner is different.  If other runners can do it, well, I let them be.  As for me, it’s clear that my body couldn’t take that much stress. 
 
I was clueless what to expect of the route since I didn’t join any of the test runs.  I, together with my support crew, checked the route on race day itself.  We left Manila at around  9AM.  It was a rainy Saturday morning.  We arrived  at San Fernando, Pampanga around 11AM.  Our first stop was at the 102-kilometer marker, then, we followed the old road where one marker after another was placed along the road where the infamous death march took place.  
 
We had our second stop in Balanga, Bataan City.  We had our lunch there and made some last minute shopping for additional supplies needed.  
We arrived at the zero-kilometer marker in Mariveles, Bataan around four in the afternoon.  We took the long way down since a vehicular accident happened at the zigzag road hours before our arrival at KM 7.   I only saw the uphill course when the road was declared passable again. 
 
That left me with three or so hours (to rest or take a nap) before start of the race…    

What Happens After an Ultramarathon?

I felt so fine right after I finished running an ultramarathon. In fact, I walked and could even go up and down the stairs (without limping) like as if I didn’t run quite a long distance one weekend.

Not been into running like what I used to. Well, except for a slow 6.5K, just two days after the race. That was it. Last month’s mileage was only that distance. I didn’t even register for any race. Running a 5K or a 10K seemed to be so easy. If you’ve been running a 21K or a 25K per night, not as a race, but as part of your training program, then you would understand what I’m trying to say.
What I’ve experienced, I don’t consider as burnout as I still love to run. I believe it’s my body’s way of telling me, “Hey, I deserve to rest after working so hard.”
What I have been up to lately? Living like a normal being. Getting enough rest and sleep. A rare treat for me. Why? Well, my weeks for the past years, since I’ve been addicted to running, were normally about running, running, running, and racing.
Been swimming though as cross training. But no matter how much I like to swim, running is still what I love to do. And so, right before writing this post, I decided to run around Bonifacio High Street. And I was glad to have reached at least 10K.
How long really is recovery time? In my opinion, it depends really. Some runners can recover quickly that they’re off to another race again. For some it takes time. Others would even hibernate for a while. I came across a site on Ultramarathon 101. Some of the tips posted are interesting.
Here’s a sample with my comments: Recovery from the Big Race (Source: http://www.wny-ultra.org)
~ If your legs are sore (i.e., it hurts to run), then don’t resume running until you are pretty much free of pain. Typically this takes 3-4 days if you have, for instance, trashed your quads. – I ran after two days. I could walk with no limping, no soreness at all.
~ While your legs hurt, do something else for active recovery. Walk if you can do that with tolerable pain or ride a bike. Avoid impact exercise until the legs stop hurting. – Even if it didn’t hurt, I took a swim for active recovery. I could swim more than a kilometer with no rest. I tell you, I was even surprised of myself.


~ When you can resume running, go easy and give your body a chance to repair any lingering damage. – Yeah, it was an easy run for me that I even employed walk breaks.

~ As you resume training, you should find your short runs will feel good within a week or two at most. You may even be able to run a decent 5K after two weeks recovery. – I didn’t run for a month. I rested.

~ If you try a long run only a couple weeks after a hard ultra, you will probably feel very tired and sluggish after 10-15 miles. I have found my endurance comes back slower after an ultra than my short race speed (what little speed I have, anyway). It usually takes about 4 weeks before a long run feels comfortable to do. – I agree.

~Allow 3-6 months between ultras to 1) adequately recover, and 2) adequately train for the next race. The longer the race and the harder the effort, the longer the gap between races should be for optimal performance. – Correct! But most of the ultra distance runners I know don’t wait for three to six months. After a week or so, they’re off running (and racing) again. Hmm… what kind of runners are they?

The Path to Ultramarathon Running: 2nd PAU P2P 65K++ Road Race in Ilocos Norte, August 29

Whaaat?!”
“That’s far!”
“Why are you doing it?”
“I don’t see myself running beyond 42K.”
“Wow, the farthest I’ve run is 21K.”
“I’ll support you but I won’t be there physically.”
“Good luck.”

Do the statements above sound familiar? Do you hear them from your friends or, may be, from your own family?

I get those reactions when I tell them I’m running an ultramarathon. Long pause. Period. Silence.

Sometimes I get a blank stare and in their eyes silently asking me, “What the heck are you talking about?” Even a friend of mine told me, “I support you but I can’t be there.” Some would even shake their heads as if I’ve lost my mind.

I couldn’t blame them for thinking so considering that a majority of people have never had the experience of running it in almost a day. At times, I get the support I need like seeing a couple of happy faces excited enough to tell me to just reach the finish line.

On Sunday, August 29, I took the challenge of running an ultramarathon dubbed as the 2nd Philippine Association of Ultrarunners (PAU) P2P 65K Ultramarathon Road Race, held in Ilocos Norte. The race started in Pasuquin and ended in Pagudpud. Have you noticed why I placed the plus sign in the title? Well, the total distance we ran is not 65K but 70K. One of the big surprises in store for us.

The Day before Race Day: One Big Heart, One Community

Someone told me before that the best way to discover and learn the way of life of people is to visit either a church or a public market or both. Was I glad that part of our itinerary included a stopover in one of the churches in Laoag City. However, it never happened for we had to check in first at the resort in Pasuquin, which is more or less ten kilometers from the city proper of Laoag.

Since it was a Saturday, most of the runners I was with wanted to visit a church in the municipality hoping to attend an anticipated Mass. We got the surprise of our lives when the parish priest of Pasuquin, after discovering that we are some of those who would be competing in the next day’s race, offered to celebrate the Eucharist with us instead. What a generous heart!

In that instant, the runners became the church. Every one took part not only in the celebration but also served in the different ministries as well—liturgical music, collectors, lectors, and altar servers.

The priest, in his homily, shared something about the ultimate goal of a race. He gave us a glimpse of St. Augustine’s biography and his own race against life. And, he blessed all runners to have a safe and enjoyable experience in Ilocos Norte.

Race Day: Burgos Lighthouse, the Rock in Kapurpurawan, and Bangui Windmills as Kilometer Markers

The starting area is in front of Pasuquin Municipal Hall. Majority of the runners were already there and busy taking photos. There even was a long queue waiting for their turn to have a photo taken at the starting line under the Arch of Liberty. The race started as scheduled with the group singing the National Anthem first. It was followed by the reading of a Prayer for Ultramarathon Runners led by Doc Topher aka Doc T.

Ultramarathoners at the Starting Line (Photo courtesy of Dan Callanta)

This is, may be, the first time that the locals will witness an ultramarathon race in their province. At this time of the year, though it’s rainy season throughout the country, Ilocos Norte is still considered warm. But the weather cooperated that day. It wasn’t so hot even if the sun was up early. And, at times it played hide and seek with us.

I don’t have much to say about the initial part of the race up to twenty or so kilometers. One or two runners paced with me. Sometimes I conversed with them. At times, I joked with those around me. But the rest of the way, I just ran silently. I even calculated that at the rate I was going, I could, may be, finish the race in less than twelve hours. Maximum would be twelve hours. I crossed my fingers.

Pacing with Don (Photo courtesy of John Jeffrey Avellanosa)

At KM23

(Photo courtesy of Pepsi, a fellow runner and one of our support volunteers)

Reaching Burgos town means seeing the Burgos Lighthouse, a structure on a hill made during the Spanish Colonial times and the highest in the country. If you’re strong and fast, then, you can run the uphill climb. But if you’re a bit conservative or unsure, you can either walk fast or run down it real quick. I didn’t stay long though to truly savor the view. Time spent up there was just enough to have a couple of photos taken and I ran back again.

(Photo courtesy of John Jeffrey Avellanosa)

At KM 30.3

I stopped at our support vehicle to change shirt and hydrate. When I was about to proceed, Dhenz aka Runningpinoy arrived from the Kapurpurawan trail. He warned me that the way going to it, aside from being a long one, is also quite tough. Each runner I bumped into along the trail would always say it’s difficult. Majority of them warned me to be exta careful with each step as the stones are sharp. I wondered what really lies ahead.

With Kapurpurawan Rock as background and flanked by newfound friends, Jeff and Mico, both from Team Ultra (Photo courtesy of Toto aka Run DMD)

The Kapurpurawan Rock (Photo courtesy of Michelle Logan)

Though the trail is indeed difficult, but the reward given by Mother Nature is breathtakingly beautiful. Again, I didn’t stay long enough. Coming down from the Rock, I passed by a marshal who gave me the necklace string. I walked the trail again.

On my way back, a runner named Rico caught up with me. Man, he can really walk fast! No wonder as he’s a mountaineer. To just be in sync with his steps, I had to hold on to his backpack. I heard footsteps behind us. Doc T came out and caught up with us. Both of them walked very fast and I was left behind.

Walking alone now, with only the tall grasses, the path, the sun and the clouds above me as my companions, I conversed with myself. I asked my muscles to cooperate since it’s still a long way to go.

I tried to run but the stones protruding along the path stopped me or else I would trip over. My soles started to ache. After all, I was wearing a pair of running shoes not fit for a trail.

And when I walk, I feel an occasional very sharp pain under my left kneecap. I think I’m fortunate not to have had any major, major injuries. But in long distance running, the knees received the shock equivalent to three times our weight every time our feet hit the ground.

The smartest thing to do in this case is walk. So, to date, it was the longest walk I’ve ever done so far.

For someone who’s not really used to walking in a race it was like a slap on my already wounded pride. And I can only smile about it. But again, I have to respect not only the distance but also my body, especially, my knees. After all, I’ve got only a pair of them. It can never be replaced. No matter how strong the will is, but physically, one is still dependent on what the body can do. It can only take as much.

It was a relief to finally reach the highway after a grueling eight-kilometer walk under the scorching heat of the sun.

At KM44.4

One more to go, Bangui Windmills here I come. With each kilometer marker conquered, I crossed it out and marked as “Mission Accomplished” in my mind. It’s as if I’m playing a computer game, when after an opponent is knocked down, it’s on to the next level.

I know how fast Carina is but when I saw her walking almost all the way, I couldn’t help but ask her about it. I even offered to finish with her. But at the back of my mind, I also aimed to finish at around 3PM but this, too, was not achieved. Carina told me to go ahead and I did. But I wasn’t too far from her. I waited for her up to an aid station where another marshal told us to hydrate and eat before leaving for Bangui Windmill area.

It was another unpaved trail. We had no recourse but to walk. The course was part trail and part concrete road.

The route, a steep road going down, can be very difficult, especially, for someone who’s feeling a nagging pain in the knees. I slowly maneuvered the downhill portion of the road by walking backward.

It was in that area where three runners caught up with us, Nonong aka CamoteQ, Doc Art, and Rey of Frontrunner. We just walked and shared stories. Also, I didn’t get to have a photo taken at the Bangui Windmill Project. Rey stopped in Bangui to meet some of his friends while we continued to walk. It was a welcome respite to see finally the highway marked “PAU this way”. We were on the right track.

At KM64.7 and the Last Kilometers Before Reaching the Finish Line

Everything seemed to be working out well. The pain in my knees has subsided. There was even help offered by other support vehicles. My mantra was reach the finish line before five o’clock.

My Garmin registered eight more kilometers to finish. But at some point, before reaching the town of Pagudpud, it ran out of battery. To keep track of time, I asked some of the townspeople along the way.

During a stopover at the support vehicle I also asked Joy, one of the support volunteers, how far I was to the finish line. The only answer I’ve got was,”59K then down to go.” May be, I could beat the deadline I set for myself after all.

I already employed the run-walk-run method. But the town of Bangui and its highway seemed to be almost endless. And as I reached the town of Pagudpud, one by one, I passed each runner who had passed me. I couldn’t help it but I was bothered, bewitched, and bewildered to note that the time and distance I’ve run the past minutes seemed to be longer than I expected. I was a bit sad that I didn’t make it to the deadline. But when I’ve found out later what caused it, I was jubilant in the end. A whooping Yessss for finishing the 70-kilometer ultramarathon race!

Happy to reach the FINISH LINE (Photos courtesy of Michelle Logan)


The supposed-sixty-five-kilometer ultramarathon race from Pasuquin to Pagudpud, ended up as a 70-kilometer race instead. One of PAU’s big surprises again!

Many, Many Thanks

To the people who made this trip possible and fun at the same time–Tere aka El Capitana, Carina aka the Flying Boar, the Parish of Pasuquin, the townspeople of Ilocos Norte, the support volunteers namely Pepsi, Jai, Joy, Maan, and JR. Super thanks also to fellow ultramarathoners. You know who you are. There are no words to describe how grateful I am.