Category Archives: ultra marathon

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.

                                              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.

                                                                            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.

                                               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.

                                                                    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. 

Bataan Death March 102K Finisher Thanks Everyone

A sneak peek of the third edition of Bataan Death March 102K Ultramarathon Race that took place on March 5-6.  It started at 10 o’clock on Saturday night, from the KM 0 in Mariveles, Bataan and ended in San Fernando, Pampanga at 4 o’clock on Sunday afternoon.  

Running Diva on her way to the finish line at KM 102 in San Fernando, Pampanga.  

More STORIES to come about this historic adventure of mine soon!  Stay tuned!

I usually thank persons at the end of my post.  This time, however, I’d do the opposite.  They are, in the first place, the supporting actors who made the running screen alive.   Let’s start the ball rolling!
First and foremost, I would like to thank Carmen C. and Raff S., both are runners and multisport enthusiasts, for volunteering to be my support crew.  Raff’s previous experiences as a support volunteer during the 2nd edition of BDM 102 greatly helped.  Words are not enough to thank you guys but I really appreciated what you did. 
To Sir Jovie Narcise a.k.a. Baldrunner, BDM Race Director, for encouraging me to join the PAU races.  Your advice I heeded to take it easy during the first 7KM of the race and it paid off during the last stretch of the race.  Listen to counsel and accept discipline (from Proverbs) really holds true!

To Ziggy, a runner, strong swimmer, and a triathlete, for volunteering to design and print the BDM T-shirts worn by my support crew during the race.  Thanks, too, for the discount, Zig.  More clients in the future! 
To Dragon BongZ, for donating one case of Gatorade. 
To Masters Neil a.k.a. Crashburn and Rachel a.k.a. Eichbar, for the cooler. 
To Dhenz a.k.a. Runningpinoy, for your inputs on the route, hydration and food requirements, which are considered important for an ultramarathoner to know. 
To Arnel M., our driver, from Filcar Transport Services, who volunteered his time with no hesitation at all. 
To fellow ultramarathon runners, for your presence, support and encouragement, especially, during the last 30KM of the race.  

To Wap and Doc Toto a.k.a. RunDMD for pacing with me and accompanying me, especially, in areas where it was too dark and somewhat dangerous for lady runners.  
To Coaches John Lozada and Rio Dela Cruz for your support and “GO” signal that I could do it.  Thank you Coach John for being patient with me.
To my friends and fellow runners from, thank you so much.  Many, many thanks also to Marga a.k.a. Margalicious for the beautiful bouquet of flowers you gave me as I crossed the finish line.  What a way to finish, eh? (If you know what I mean?)
To Jonel M. a.k.a. BugoBugo85, Frontrunner Magazine editor, ultramarathoner himself, la la la, for bugging me to join BDM 102.  Thanks for believing in me.  Same goes to Luis a.k.a. Ginger Bread Man and to Rodel a.k.a. Argonaut for telling me, “O, ikaw naman next year.  Kaya mo ‘yun!” (It’s your turn next year.  You can do it!) 
To Team Boring members Pojie, Gab, Doc Roy, Aron, Ambow Kulit, among others, thank you so much for inviting me to do that long run with you in the wee hours of the morning at the Mall of Asia grounds.  It was a great help to conquer my fear of running during those ungodly hours. 
To those whom I failed to mention here, from the bottom of my heart, thank you so much!

To God be the glory for protecting all runners and keeping them from harm.  

On Foot from Tagaytay to Nasugbu, Batangas: 4th PAU 50K Ultramarathon, November 14

My aim for this year was to only complete Runrio Trilogy. And look where it brought me, not only one ultramarathon race, but three.

How did I make it possible? Oh well, there were key persons who influenced and never stopped egging me on to try one. I was the skeptic. But somehow their confidence in me gave me the courage to venture into ultra distance running.

Trying out the 50K race sometime in May, I would say, was never part of my plan, but some sort of a personal challenge to conquer fear of running beyond the 42K distance.

After I finished my first ultramarathon, I’ve come to realize that indeed it was possible as long as you put your heart to it. Even if training would never be that easy.  And where goals or reasons why run that distance, in the first place, were put to test.

Ultra distance running can be daunting with its physical and mental challenge.  I couldn’t agree more. The formula that worked for me every time when in a race was a personal mantra, “You’ve done 42K, a full marathon, what’s 8K added to it as warm up.  Reach the finish line!” Funny.  Strange.  Yet worked for me.

If you asked of my thoughts while running an ultramarathon, well, sometimes there were none.  Sometimes they were just random thoughts like “I prayed”, “I recalled experiences in the past, both good and bad”, “I enjoyed the view”, “I admired Mother Nature”, “I pondered on my experiences as a runner”, “I don’t know”, “Not sure.” And the list would go on and on.

Running an ultramarathon wouldn’t be easy but the reward, as you reached the finish line, ah, would be cherished forever.

Going back to my story, the Tagaytay-Nasugbu race, I opted to do it this time on my own sans any volunteer crew. The only support I had then was the drop bags I left with the race marshals at KM20 and KM40 aid stations. Since I hardly use hydration belt or fuel belt, I had only a bottle of water, hand held, and some GU gels, to last me until KM20.  One of the best things running an ultramarathon is, even when done guerilla running, support will always be there.

How I tackled the race? The only strategy I could think of then was to run the first thirty or so kilometers within the range of six to six thirty pace per kilometer.  I crossed my fingers.

I was doing alright but I got sidetrack with a series of kidney break and looked for a place to relieve myself. It was a good thing there were hotels and inns along the way.

The route wasn’t as difficult as Tanay, Rizal (my first 50K ultramarathon in May). Quite the exact opposite in terms of terrain, most of it was downhill. Plus, the weather that day cooperated.

As I reached Nasugbu, I couldn’t help but smile and felt like one of the brave persons in history as I saw the welcome arch with the inscription, “Maligayang Pagdating sa Lalawigan ng Magigiting” (Welcome to the Province of the Brave).

Within the twenty or so kilometers, it was here where I had to slow down and paced with Aaron or Aron, a member of Team Boring of  Aaron is a strong and fast runner. He was one of the finishers in the recently held PAU 70K Ultramarathon in Ilocos Norte.  I paced with him until he told me to run ahead.

I was somewhat confident I could finish the race within six or so hours, but as I was about to run past another runner, my attention was caught when he suddenly called me by my moniker, so I decided to slow down and chatted with him for a while. During our conversation, he made mention of some blog names, known in running community such as The Bullrunner, Jazzrunner, Baldrunner, among others. I learned he drew inspiration to run his first ultramarathon, the 4th PAU, also from blogs that he read and followed. I paced with Macky until at the bend, across Shell Gasoline Station in Nasugbu.  I ran ahead, supposed to hydrate, but opted to run the rest of the kilometers instead.

Running Diva, during the last two hundred meters, on her way to the finish line. Many thanks to Vener aka Run Unlimited for the photo below.

Did I reach my goals? My answer would be a YES and NO.

I failed to run the first 32K within the pace I set for myself. I didn’t finish within the number of hours I also set for myself, but I reached the finish line within the cut off time. I finished my third ultramarathon this year, beyond what I dreamed of.

I’ve met  friends along the way, thankful to those who followed this blog, and glad to have paced with fellow runners whose goal was same as mine: “to reach the finish line”. I was not able to use my drop bags in any of the aid stations.

Many thanks to Joy of Team Boring for the photo below (receiving the mug trophy at the finish line with Sir Jovie aka Baldrunner, PAU Race Director). Joy finished her first marathon at the recently held New York Marathon. Straight from the airport, she headed for Tagaytay to support to fellow runners and teammates of Team Boring.

Of course, I couldn’t have done it alone. Either guerilla running or with support crew, fellow runners, family, and friends would always be there.

Many, many thanks to the following persons who made it possible for me to reach the finish line. To the hotel staff who prepared my-so-early-requested-breakfast; to Chelly and Team CB for the bread with peanut butter; to Cindy of Team Boring for keeping my stuff safe and for checking in on me during the race; to Macky for the Omega pain killer and hydration, Aaron and Mar aka Forefoot Runner for accompanying me; to I Love Kamote Team for their cheers; support crew of other runners for handing out water in cups; to the children along the way who gave me water and high fives; to Sir Jovie aka Baldrunner and Team Baldrunner for the cheer and support and magic drink; to Pao for your support; Team Boring for the ride back to Manila, and to those whose names I failed to mention here.  Again, thank you so much!

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

“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.

What An Ultra Runner Is …

While browsing the Net, I came across with, a site describing what an ultra runner is, in a funny way. Visit the site for the complete list. The distance is measured by miles (1 mile = 1.609 km).  Here are some of my favorites.


You Know You’re An Ultra Runner If …
By: Various Authors

You have more dirt on your shoes than in your garden.

You get more phone calls at 5:00 AM than at 5:00 PM.

You don’t recognize your friends with their clothes on.

You have more buckles than belts.

6AM is sleeping in.

Your feet look better without toenails.

Your idea of a fun date is a 30-mile training run.

You’re tempted to look for a bush when there’s a long line for the public restroom.

You don’t think twice about eating food you’ve picked up off the floor.

You can expound on the virtues of eating salt.

When you wake up without the alarm at 4AM, pop out of bed and think, “Let’s hit the trails.”

When you can recite the protein grams by heart of each energy bar.

Your ideal way to celebrate your birthday is to run at least your age in miles with some fellow crazies.

Your ideal way to have fun is to run as far as you can afford to with some fellow crazies.

You know the location of every 7-11, public restroom, and water fountain within a 25-mile radius of your house.

You run marathons for speed work.

You have more fanny packs and water bottles and flashlights than Imelda Marcos has shoes.

You visit a national park with your family and notice a thirty-mile trail connecting where you are with the place your family wants to visit next, which is a 100-mile drive away, and you think, “Hmmmm.”

Someone asks you how long your training run is going to be and you answer, “Seven or eight … hours.”

People at work think you’re in a whole lot better shape than you think you are.

You actually are in a whole lot better shape than you think you are.

Your weekend runs are limited by how much time you have, not by how far you can run.

You always have at least one black toenail.

You buy economy-sized jars of Vaseline on a regular basis.

You think of pavement as a necessary evil that connects trails.

Your friends recognize you[‘]r[e] better dressed in shorts than in long pants.

You really envied Tom Hanks’ long run as Forrest Gump.

You carry money around in a zip lock bag because store clerks complained that your money’s usually too sweaty.

Any time a plain old runner talks about her/[his] aches and pains, you can sympathize because you’ve already had that at least once.

You don’t need to paint your toenails; they’re already different colors.

You start planning the family vacation around races, and vice-versa.

When you start considering your next vacation location on the merits of its ultras only.

You spend you entire paycheck on running gear, ultrabars, and entry fees.

You become a quasi-expert on different detergents so as to not “hurt” your tee shirts.

You leave work early to hit the trails.

You wear T-shirts based on if you’ve had good workouts when you’ve worn them before.

Have a trail shoe collection that would make Imelda Marcos envious.

You walk up the stairs and run down them.

Peeing in the toilet seems unnatural.

You start wearing running clothes to work so you’re prepared for afterwards.

When the start of a marathon feels like a 5K and you’re wondering, “Why is everyone in such a rush? Where the ##@@**!! is the fire?

You sign up for a 10K and you strap on your fanny pack because you never know where the aid stations are.

You bring your own drinks.

You are the only one walking the uphills.

You run it a second time because its not far enough to call a training run (and you were racing the first time through).

You are the only one around who is eyeing the bushes THAT way.

Your number of toes to toenails doesn’t match.

You drink from a water bottle at the dinner table.

You know you’re an ultra runner when a prospective employer asks for a photograph and all you have [are] race photos.

You know you’re an ultra runner when your crew tries to keep you motivated by saying, “You’re in second place and only 6 hours behind first with 25 miles to go!

You bother to argue about (discuss the meaning of) what an ultra runner is!

When you don’t finish on the same day as the winner.

When you meet the opposite sex you see:
A possible crew.
A possible pacer.
A possible search and rescue team.
A possible race director.
A possible source of race entry fees.

You ask advice of hundreds of people on a list, looking for answers you have already determined to be correct, taking hold of only those, and running with ’em.

Your wife asks you the morning after your first 50-miler if you’re still planning on that 100K in five weeks, and you say, “Sure!

bdm finish

You strap on your water bottles and walk the hills … in a 5K race and consider that your 10-minute pace is a blistering pace.

People praise you to the high heavens for being able to finish a marathon, and you feel insulted.

You do a triathlon and it is your RUN time that is slower than the years when you specialized in triathlon.

You are told *not* to run another marathon during the next few months (because that would be bad for your health), and you really follow that advice – by immediately sending off the entry form for your next 50/100-miler.

Somebody asks about the distance of an upcoming race and you, without thinking, say, “Oh, it’s just a 50K.”

You’re running a marathon and at mile 20 say to yourself, “Wow, only 6 more miles left, this is such a great training run!

You’re embarrassed that you’ve only done 50Ks…

You go down a flight of stairs, uh, backwards, after an ultra and everybody laughs.

No one believes you when you say, “Never again.”

You refer to certain 100-mile races as “low-key”.

You number your running shoes to distinguish old from new, since they all look dirty.

Prior to running a difficult race, you check to see if local hospitals and urgent care centers are in your PPO [preferred provider organization or health care provider].

The only time major household projects get done is in a taper or race recovery.

Everything in your life, everything, is organized in different sized Ziploc bags.

You call a 50-mile race “just another training run”.

You think a 100-mile race is easier than a 50-miler because you don’t have to go out as fast.

You say, “Taper? Who’s got time to taper? I have a race coming up this weekend.”

You have to rent a car to drive to a major event because you and your pacer own stick shifts and neither will be able to drive them on the return trip.

You actually DO drive a stick shift home with a severely pulled left hamstring.

You meet someone of the opposite sex on the trail of a 100 and all of conversation is about what color is your urine, can you drink? And were you able to dump?

Ya [You] know you’re and ultra runner when a girl changes her tank and her bra in front of you and all you do is take another drink of water, look at your watch, get up and tell your pacer, “Let’s hit the trail.”

On a long drive you see the road signs listing various mileages to different places and think of how long it would take to get there on foot rather than by the car you’re driving.

You’ve started a race in the dark, run all day, and finished in the dark (if you’re lucky).

Your non-ultrarunning running friends look at you strange[ly] when you tell them that 10:00/mile is a fast pace for a 100-mile race (not to mention most ultras).

You don’t hesitate to lie down in the trail (anywhere) when you are falling asleep on your feet during the early morning hours on the second day of a 100-miler; and it feels so comfortable.

Finally …

You know yo’re an ultrarunner when you actually sit down and read all of the postings about, “You Know You’re An Ultrarunner When …” and can laugh and relate to all of the comments.

Baptism of Fire in Ultrarunning

1st PAU 50K Run, Tanay, Rizal
Photos courtesy of Emil Ancheta aka Decipher

With the persistent but gentle prodding of Jonel aka BugoBugo85 plus the encouragement of some running friends like Sir Jovie aka Baldrunner, Francis, Mel, Gab, Luis aka GBM, Rodel aka Argonaut among others, what reasons do I have “not to” try ultra running? They saw dormant potentials that I never realized existed. If people believed that I could, then may be it was time to venture into something new.

And so, I decided to go for the 1st PAU 50K Run by informing Sir Jovie via text message to reserve a slot for me. I informed Coach John about it and I was allowed to run, on a condition, to treat it as a long slow distance (LSD).

For some reason, I didn’t have time to register nor claim my race packet personally as there were other commitments that needed to be done first. I requested instead Tere aka El Capitana to register me. That taken cared of, all I needed to do was wait for race day.

Days after I registered, Gab of, told me that he would pace with me. My dilemma was whether I could maintain his pace considering his experience with ultra marathon running. But like Joseph aka Prince who paced with and never left me during the Run for Home race, he assured me that he would run with me from start to finish.

He also asked about my plans concerning support during the race. I answered, “None”. No plans at all. No support. Just wanted to run PAU. I just wanted to treat it just like any other race.” I quote Sir Jovie, “run it guerilla-type.” But he pointed out in one of our practice runs that having a support group would be beneficial as there were areas in Tanay, Rizal, where one couldn’t buy any drink or food along the route. I was hesitant to having a support for the simple reason that I was not used to it. In addition, I was too shy to ask persons who could volunteer to support me. Also, I was already satisfied with the four drop-off stations where I could leave my supplies. But in the end, I relented by sending a text message to Jet to include me in the group.

As agreed, the group met at SM Megamall’s grocery store. I arrived at the store half an hour earlier than the agreed time. Jet, Pojie, and Mac were already doing some grocery shopping. We left Ortigas at past 8PM and arrived at Aaron’s place in Sampaloc, Tanay, Rizal at almost 10PM. After exchanging pleasantries with Aaron’s family, we called it a night. I couldn’t sleep since I was in a new place. When I finally dozed off for deep sleep it was already time to get up. At 3AM, I was awake already with no less than two or three-hour sleep. “This was like running Pasig International Marathon with not enough sleep again. Just hope I wouldn’t experience that painful cramps again,” my thoughts while preparing my stuff for the race.

It was like a reunion at the starting line upon seeing familiar faces of some of my running friends. I knew some of them were surprised to see me in this race.

Runners at the starting line

The mood was festive. One could feel the excitement of everyone. I was a bit nervous about this race since I didn’t know what was in store for me or what would happen out there. Various thoughts played inside my mind. I even said to my leg muscles to cooperate and not to allow cramps to happen. I did appreciate what Mel, a BDM102 Finisher, told me, “I know you do run fast, but this time take it easy.” And the countdown began … “Five, four, three, two, one!” It signaled the start of the race. The first 13 to 15KM were mostly uphills. Anyhow, it was a indeed a nice experience to commune with nature while running even if the ascent after the turnaround point was just too difficult for a first timer in ultrarunning. It was my baptism of fire.

It was so hot that day that I couldn’t help but pray for dark clouds to appear and give us rain. After the turnaround point (KM35), miraculously, it did drizzle a little for a few minutes just enough to cool us down. God is truly with us!

While writing this post, I was at a loss for words to describe my running experience in Tanay. It was a great relief indeed to finally reach the finish line, after using the run-walk-run-strategy, with barely a minute left to beat the eight-hour cut-off time. I finished the 50K race in 7:59.14 (in hours).

I’m truly grateful to Rod, Mac, Aaron, Karen for their invaluable assistance ensuring that we’re properly hydrated, not hungry, and for going to that extra mile without asking for any reward. Thanks to Pojie and Prince for the shared jokes and laughter. Also, to Tere and Sir Jovie for facilitating my registration. To Marga and Pepsi for pacing with me toward the finish line. Many thanks to Aaron for welcoming us in your home so that we have a place to stay before race day. And to Gab for doing a superb job, for being a true blue runner, for pacing with me from start to end. Without you guys I couldn’t have done it.

My bad, how could I forget to mention Vic aka Hagibis in my recap?! Vic thank you so much for the ride from Ortigas to Aaron’s place. And congrats, too, for your strong finish.

Fellow runners who volunteered to support us–Rod, Edwin, Karen, and Mac


My Ultrarunning Experience As Seen Through These Pictures

Traversing the zigzag roads

You need to get off from the road and give way to avoid the possibility of being hit by them

KM35, turnaround point … 15 kilometers more to go before reaching the finish line

Mel, BDM102 Finisher, on his way to the turnaround point at KM35

One of the water stations provided manned by Team Baldrunner elite runners

This is just a portion of the total race course as seen from afar

Our support vehicle with fellow runners who volunteered to support us during the race

Sierra Madre Hotel, the finish line

A different way of finishing a race

Finally, too relieved upon reaching the finish line

Pojie aka Forefoot Runner

Jet aka Jetaime

Receiving the trophy and finisher’s shirt from Race Director, Sir Jovie aka Baldrunner

Takboular, Pojie, Argo, Jayrulez, Prince, Flyingboar

As we’re headed home, I couldn’t help but felt awe at what we’ve achieved and was also amazed upon seeing the roads we ran earlier that day.

Trail Running Ultra Marathon: a Personal Narrative by Someone Who Finished TNF100

Discover tales of awe-inspiring tale of real people in their quest for self mastery…” Yes, that’s what my blog says. Having said that, here’s a personal account of someone who conquered the risky 100-kilometer trail running race held in Baguio City organized by The North Face. No pictures were included in this post since his trail running experience was already vividly described.

Here we go … read on.


Alright, this is yet another oxymoron. How can bitter be sweet? How can heaven co-exist with hell? Anyhow, allow me to put some context. I’ve always romanticized Baguio as the abode of the gods, where the tired clouds, like huge cotton candies, crawl down to rest and quietly fly again at dawn. A tranquil place of motley flowers and a refreshing sea of greens. A spot so artistic and fertile of lofty ideals. A pathway perfect to trudge after a cleansing downpour. And play with pine cones, even golf balls, and pine needles amidst magnificent sights. This is the Baguio I’ve known. The Baguio I’ll always treasure. The nostalgia of my dreams.

Since my childhood, I’ve always looked forward to heavenly vacations in Baguio. I am glad that these dreams turned into memorable realities. Biking and endless swinging at Burnham. Cotton candies, ice creams and skating in John Hay. Counting lights that dotted the hills before bedtime and innocently asking why a “smoke” comes out of my mouth as I wake up. Plus the knitted sweaters and blankets and bonnets that would want me to sleep forever. This is Baguio, my personal Olympus. Fast forward. So when I learned that the next The North Face (TNF100) is in Baguio, my heart pumped so much excitement. However, since I just finished the Bataan Death March Ultramarathon (BDM 102), I tempered myself. I knew, I still needed to recover and wouldn’t have time to train afterwards. But one day, I passed by TNF at Glorietta IV. I was surprised to see fellow BDMers on the list. Later, I was informed that many more signed up. Eventually, including Team Blas. Kelly is to fly from Singapore and TR has gotten a leave.

Are you signing up,” I was asked. “Oh no, not now, I’ll think about it,” I quipped. Then rushed out of the store before any hasty decision took place. But the pull of Baguio is just too strong and irresistible. Few days after, I went back to register. “Are you signing for 11 or 22?,”was the next question. “Hmmm… can I try, 100?” was my quick response. I got a blank stare in front of me. I was told that only few finished the TNF100 last year and that the trail this time is ultra difficult. And what more, the fee is P2K compared to P500 in both 11 and 22KMs. I sensed that TNF wanted me to realized what I am signing for. I pondered for a while. Then I nailed a big decision, “I’ll sign up for 100KM.” Thanks to BDM102 and my “mountainous 2009” for my renewed confidence. “I may fail eventually, but at least, I’ll give it my best try,” I kept convincing myself.

Upon signing up, I left everything to fate. I never joined any races after the BDM or ever did any serious long run. In fact, I had an easy climb to Mt. Pinatubo for recovery. Later, I found myself jogging around Sampaloc Lake in San Pablo then off I went to an eight day backpacking adventure during the holy week and just before the TNF race, a weekend beach-bumming in Calaguas Island and Bagasbas beach. And what did I get? Blisters for running barefoot in the white powdery sand and bruises as I stumbled on a nylon used to anchor a boat . “Oh no, this is not supposed to be? Not just before an ultra race.” But it happened already. Nothing else can be done. I can only accept my fate and retired to my tent when it rained hard. I was already musing, “Is this a prelude to my TNF escapade? Shall I instead back out?

Ok, I dreaded the thought of visiting a Sports Doc not because I fear to be admonished but because I might not be allowed to run. Instead, I self-medicated. I asked forgiveness from my body and pleaded that it heals well and fast enough for the TNF. The body is not a thoughtless machine. It is an amazing entity in itself. It is self-sustaining. It responds properly. It cooperates like a faithful companion. I vowed to give it a day off before the race. So I was in Baguio a day before the event.

Apart from attending to some personal concerns, I likewise planned to visit a sick friend who was diagnosed with a Stage IV cancer. We spoke over the phone instead. She was in pain but still wished me well for the run. This time, I acceded to her invitation to stay at her unit at Burnham Suite (BS) just a few meters from the TNF Base Camp. There could be no perfect place but nearest the Base Camp. She has always encouraged me to visit Baguio but I never had the chance till the TNF. There must be a right time for everything. Nothing is purely coincidental. She was happy that I finally did. I am likewise thankful for her kindness. I couldn’t easily grasp for answer when she asked me, “How do you deal with pain?” I can only introspect, “Pain in the body may not necessarily bring sorrow to the soul.” Somehow, I was expecting to let her know my stories on pain management after the race. But this will never happen again since she has happily faced and escaped pain victoriously. I just learned today that she already passed away.

My TNF race was somehow loaded with thoughts of life, friendship and death. The last time I was in the city was during the wake of my friend, Jerome, who fell down in a cliff with his motorbike at Marcos Highway in 2008. At his wake, I was with friends: American Devorah and entrepreneur Leonie. As destiny would call it, Devorah likewise died last year due to an illness and just now, Leonie. I trekked Mount Santo Tomas with Devorah and spent much time in John Hay with Leonie and Jerome. And now, I am running The TNF100 from Burnham to John Hay to Loakan Airport down to Camp6 up to Mount Santo Tomas and Mount Kabuyao and back.

And what more. A few weeks back, Paeng, a friend in the office, also died. And before he did, he told me, “to take care and enjoy.” He held my hand and I knew it was goodbye. He likewise died of cancer being a second-hand smoker. Before, I left for the race, I received a “How are you?” message from Doc Cely, my friend’s wife. I can only excitedly tell her about my run. I likewise assumed that my departed friend is happy with my TNF100 like he did with my BDM102.

These circumstances really brought back memories of timeless friendships during the race. The trail likewise made me reflect on life. Life is short. It must be spent in a worthwhile way. It must be enjoyed.

The TNF Briefing

I brought so many food and Gatorade supply for the race. When I deposited them at the TNF station, I was asked, “Are you going on a picnic or a race?” I can only laugh in response. It was here that I met more trail runners from AMCI, UPM, Team Blas and the rest of the BDMers. It was an instant reunion of sort. I was likewise visited by my Camiguin-based friend Rosalie who happened to be in Baguio that time.

We sipped some hot lemongrass tea at Cafe by the Ruins after the briefing at the City Hall. I shared her victory when she received the acceptance text message from Fullbright to attend a two-year scholarship at the New York University. She likewise humbly allowed me to browse a book featuring artists who can change the world. There are three Filipinos, I think, in that book and Rosalie is one of them. Her happiness is infectious. “You enjoy your run and am sure you can make it well,” she continued, “See you at Times Square on New Year’s eve.” Rosalie is one of the most positive person I’ve ever known. When she was in Hong Kong, she qualified for the expedition team in South America for several months. Whatever she conceived, she turned them into realities. Our path would cross again in Palawan, Davao and then Camiguin. Her inspiring words gave me much empowerment for the trail that I had to tread.

By 8:30PM, I was back at my room. Took dinner. Fixed my things and then slept. By 12 midnight, I woke up and couldn’t get back to sleep. I spent some time at the veranda just reflecting on what will transpire within 30 hours the moment I get out of BS. I conditioned my mind running through the 100KM maps, consisting of a first and second loop. Just doing so was already tiring. But I kept a pledge: No turning back.

Soon after, I showered and got ready for the race. I went to the starting line for check-in at 2:30AM. Let’s get it on. We were probably around 300 to begin with since both 50 and 100KM runners depart at 3AM. After the gunstart by Mayor Rey Bautista and the Tourism Director, the runners frantically secured their places. We were like a swarm of fireflies headed to the hills. Initially, I was wearing my Petzl headlamp but upon arrival in John Hay, the pitch dark and thick fog overpowered its glow. I stopped and used my more powerful Led Lenser lest I would also stumble on pine roots and roll over a ravine. I had to “step-No-step-Yes” to avoid the scattered horses’ wastes. And eventually used a trek pole to ease my acrophobic tendencies.

The trail run alone within John Hay is knee-pounding. I sighed with relief when we arrived at Loakan Airport. The air was refreshingly cool and the sun is yet sleeping. Going down to Camp6 is a bit tricky and treacherous. Kennon Road down below is ones destination with a slight mistake. The tireless marshals carried Petromax on their shoulders to ensure that the dangerous cliffs are well lighted. Morning has broken when I arrived at the zigzag road. I was basically with mountaineers at this point. Crossing the hanging bridge at Camp6 is a signal for our ascent to Mount Kabuyao. The Bued river is almost dry and the mountain was burnt. The trail dust is therefore mixed with ashes. Since I am wearing shorts without any gaiters, my legs soon looked like I was headed for an Ati-Atihan contest. I thank God for the perfect weather, otherwise, if it rained, my hands and face would have perfectly fitted a Maskara festival too. Anyhow, I remember running through another hanging bridge. I dared not look down. I fixed my vision ahead. Otherwise, I would unnecessarily tremble. When will scientist develop a pill for acrophobia?

I took my breakfast along the trail. Then passed through some vegetables gardens of bell pepper and tomato and then potato and then carrots. Oh yes, there were also Baguio pechays. Then some flowers, too. All these beautified the already scenic trails that we were navigating. At times, I would stop and just gaze around the horizon. Everytime I felt tired, the TNF banners splattered across the trails reminded: “Endure the trail.” Not the endurance that makes one suffer. In fact, the trails only increases the endurance threshold of one’s body.

Since there was a cut-off time atop the mountain, I pushed a bit. The summits are always the penultimate dreams of mountaineers. There is a different high when one is on top of the world. Only breathtaking views and far away from the maddening metro noise. Upon reaching the radar at Sto. Tomas, I had lunch. Again, I paced with fellow mountaineers till I was certain that I met the first cut-off time. I think, we were three hours ahead. Soon after, I had to relax and enjoy the views. At this point, my companions have gone ahead. The descent back to camp6 was another 3 hours. Three hours in solitude is a rare reward. I can be extroverted but I am also comfortable being alone. Such solitary moments are meaningful instead of empty. I can listen to myself. I can watch my thoughts. And I can plan clearly. Enjoying oneself is truly empowering in ultras. If one is afraid of being alone, that’s the end.

I had the chance to look back and thank from my heart all those who had been understanding and supportive to my activities. I likewise quietly sought forgiveness from those whom I’ve hurt knowingly or unknowingly. Ultra running can only make one more humane in many ways. Ultra running provides a lot of time to contemplate on so many things that can readily be taken for granted.

The descent from the German house to Camp6 is a bit technical. I had to aid myself with ropes so as not to fall. Thanks to the marshalls for preparing them. At certain points, the trails were already overused, hence, chances of sliding were high. Thanks to my reliable pole for keeping me balanced. Prior to reaching zigzag road again, I was distracted by a loud roaring sound. It sounded like a tempest of sorts. Later on, I was awed by a landslide. Rocks and boulders madly crushing each other down at the fastest pace. It was an apocalyptic sight. Soon after, silence. Deafening silence. Everything finally settled down.

Such poignant scene became a powerful metaphor for me. No matter how crucifying the situations are, to the point that it feels like the end of time, everything balances in the end. Everything becomes stable once more. The point is, just don’t easily give up. Soon enough, this had to be my battlecry in finishing the race.

I safely arrived at the hanging bridge once more. “Buti naman at naka-smile ka pa na bumaba,” was the complement of the tindera at Kennon Road. “Dahan-dahan lang po ako Ate,” my thankful response, “Napakaganda po dito.” Next challenge is the ascending climb back to Loakan. I was trekking with a runner who fell and so limping on every stride. Soon, I was with Ron, a fellow BDMer. He has DNFed in the past two TNFs. Hence, determined to make it this time. On our uphill climb, we found Kelly from Singapore. She requested us to alert the marshalls and the medics. She was hyperventilating, “I feel so dizzy and I am seeing stars in front me,” said Kelly. I brought out my first aid kit. She chose to take one chewable Bonamine. Kelly is a seasoned ultra-runner across the globe, “but this one is different,” she explained. I wouldn’t want to leave her but she told me to go ahead and go on with the race. Sunset has set in and it was starting to drizzle. I was worried a bit. I haven’t seen TR at all in the race. I thought, he must be informed of Kelly’s condition. But as I went on, I met the marshall and the para-medics to aid her. I felt secured that she is safe. Ron and I had to push ahead. My rest stops would soon become frequent. I drank some Yakult at a sari-sari store. My stomach refused to take in water and Gatorade anymore. It must be too drowned by them after 16 hours.

Terestial Naughty Fairies

I soon found myself going through Scout Barrio and John Hay’s trail for more than three hours all by myself. l switched on my headlamp again. It dawned on me that it was the second night of not sleeping and still in constant motion. I just steadily focused on every step. Slowly but surely. Till I had surreal experiences. I was sensing that I was trekking with others when I certainly am alone. Sometimes, I felt someone was behind me. At times in front or far ahead. I reasoned out, I must be too tired. I must be hallucinating already. I crashed all my fears though. I must be tough at all cost.

But wait, didn’t I also do my craziest teenage mischief in Baguio during one summer vacation? At midnight, after a birthday party, my friends and I decided to “ghost hunt” along rumored haunted houses and places? And all we got was sleep deprivation. We would scare ourselves to death at nearing footsteps and the slightest of sounds. Till the security guards supposedly protecting those houses would shout, “Anong ginagawa nyo dyan?” We would run inside our getaway car and rush away. We then taunt the person who got scared the most and laugh to our hearts content. Since then, I never believed in ghosts.

Back to the TNF, I decided to sleep instead of struggling. I prayed that the snakes won’t lie next to me. “Snakes, I won’t stay long. I just need a rest,” I pleaded. I slept with my headlamp on hoping that fellow runners or marshalls would notice me. But no one did. I soon woke up and it was around 10PM. I started trekking anew. I soon met runners who are already back for their second loop. “You still have enough time,” was their encouragement, “But please find a companion when you take your second loop.” They were trekking in fours or fives. I quickly got out of John Hay and then met also the AMCI team for their second loop. I arrived safely at Base Camp. I was told I can take dinner and afterwards resume my run. Since I felt very dirty, I decided to go to Burnham Suites instead. Took a hot shower. Changed clothes. Ate dinner and again, I decided to sleep. I left it all to fate, if I still hear the alarm. Otherwise, I am safely back to bed and that should be perfect.

Trudger Night Freak

But yes, by 12 midnight, I woke up. Laced another pair of shoes and with a new outfit this time, the organizers didn’t even recognize me when I told them #721 is ready to go. “Are you sure, you still wish to go?” was their very polite remark. I smiled back with a, “Yes.” I again started trudging till I reached the hospital at Military Cut-off. The marshal was a bit concerned that I am alone but I assured him that I would be fine. He accompanied me up to the old gate of John Hay. From there I caught up with Paolo, a BDMer who was trekking with Jubs and his friend. Less than 100 meters after, Jub’s friend couldn’t make it anymore. Paolo asked me to move ahead and they will just catch up. To combat my surreal experiences, I played on a song from my mobile phone that was recorded by Jerome (+). I was surprised that the lyrics contained, “Do you hear the child who wants to run with wind…. and you’re running safely to the ends of the world.” At that point, I was but a free child running with Baguio’s cool breeze to nowhere.

Soon after, only Paolo and Jubs arrived. Three of us were then trekking when we met Red, another BDMer, who was lost twice in the trails. Red and Jubs walked ahead while Paolo and I were taking our time. They would wait for us after the long descent at the US Embassy. We soon met the group of Tobias and Mercy of AMCI, the group of Sir Jonel and another AMCI Team (Yob, Manny DS and Manny T.) If Red was lost and I had surreal experiences, Sir Manny T. later informed me that Yob had been telling them that they are five trekking together. They had to shake and remind him that they are just 4. They would find out that Yob is trembling. Such is the TNF. It would alter your state of mind to the brink.

Jubs, Red, Paolo and I soon arrived at Loakan Road. We rested for a while. Till Paolo exploded a bomb, “Guys I think, you need to go ahead. My legs are already very painful”. I started making some calculations. “Guys we have a lot of time, it is still 7 hours to go. We can still do it.” Jubs added, “Paolo you can join us till the airport and decide from there”. Paolo acceded to the idea. But the pain has grown into intolerable level already. Upon crossing the airport, Paolo declared that he is quitting and it is only around 3:15AM. Our cut-off is at 10AM back to Base Camp.

It was pitch dark and I was uneasy to leave Paolo behind. I called the attention of the marshalls to look after him. “You are determined to proceed. So finish it. Don’t worry about me,” said Paolo. Red and Jubs are now out of sight. I had to catch up. I was experiencing my second wind at this point. I felt so strong once more. Eventually, Jubs, Red and I caught up with two Skyrunners. They were three initially but one already DNFed. So there we go, another long and winding trail of Loakan. We had to wake up the marshals everytime we passed by their tents. They must be dead tired logging in our bib numbers. It was almost 5:30AM when we were back at Scout Barrio. We had to trek faster to avoid the trail congestion. The 11 and 22KM runners were already trail running.

Temperance Nobility Fortitude

At this point, I was very relaxed already. I knew, I would make it to the cut-off time and so I had to enjoy early the morning walk in John Hay. It was night time when I had my first three rounds. My companions have already gone ahead. It was inspiring to meet the fresh runners of the day. Many of them were already saying congratulations when they learned I am on my way to the 100KM finish line. One even stopped and asked, “I am already hard up with 22 how much more with 100?” But one said, “Wow, I will also try that.” It again dawned on me that I was already running/trekking for two days due to their persistent questions. Their energy was so uplifting. I managed to run with them for the last three kilometers to the finish line.

I didn’t know that there is a separate lane for 11, 22 and 100KM. I was signaled to take the “100” lane. I was happily running alone in the lane and the people likewise shared the happiness. The Race Director, Neville Manaois, soon congratulated me. I really couldn’t recall much what happened afterwards. I just found myself being tossed in the air by fellow mountaineers for a job luckily and happily done. Soon after, some 11/22KM runners wanted to have their pictures taken with me. I am not used to this, so I quietly faded away and went back to my room to eat fruits, bathed and rested. I didn’t even bother to go down for the awarding ceremonies. I just watched from the veranda.

At 3PM, Baguio was drenched with rain. I woke up. Gazed the horizon. Look above and thanked God.

I may have experienced a hell of difficulties at the City of Pines but the experience only made me stronger. Baguio will forever be my paradiso.

After the TNF100, here are my 30 TNF tips and memories in surviving the most ultra challenging trail run.

1. Think No Fear
2. Think No Force
3. Thank Nice Folks
4. Thank New Friends
5. Think Noble Freedom
6. Trudger Night Freak
7. Take No Fly
8. Take Nothing Forgranted
9. Tag New Fortunes
10. Think No Failure
11. Try New Fascination
12. Taste Nocturnal Feast
13. Try New Fashion
14. Think Nothing but Firmness
15. Trials Never Forever
16. Treat Nomads Fortune
17. Toilet Nowhere Found
18. Timeless Newness Freshness
19. Test New Friction
20. Trick Nimble Fatalism
21. Treat Nervous Fatigue
22. Terrestial Naughty Fairies
23. Test New Favorite
24. Teemless Nothingness Freezed
25. Tiptop Nighest Fitness
26. Tranquil Novel Fain
27. Trip Next Fun
28. Temperance Nobility Fortitude
29. Terminator Numerator Frekonomics
30. Term Never Fixed

Many thanks to FR Hortelano, BDM102 Finisher, TNF100 Conqueror, and PAU 50K Finisher, for sharing his TNF100 story and for allowing me to post it in my blog.

Random Thoughts on Bataan Death March 102-kilometer Ultra Marathon

I’m no ultra marathon runner. Not yet. But who knows? I’m no historian either. But I love knowing our history. So, I took a trip in 2001 going to Bataan and visited Dambana ng Kagitingan also known as the Shrine of Valor. It is atop Mt. Samat in Pilar, Bataan, a shrine to commemorate the gallantry of approximately 75,000 Filipino and American soldiers. In 2005, I visited another shrine, the Capas National Shrine, in Capas, Tarlac, known to be the final destination for those who had actually survived the Death March from Bataan. Many died in Camp O’Donnell, approximately 29,000+. The shrine was built as a memorial to the Filipino and American soldiers who died in Camp O’Donnell at the end of the Bataan Death March. At least, visiting those shrines taught me something about WWII and the death march.

Anyway, I wanted to share with you about ultra marathon. It’s from a friend of mine who finished his first ultra marathon during the recently staged BDM102.

It really fascinated me to know runners who reached, crossed the finish line, and finished a 102-kilometer run. Daunting distance. Amazing feat.

Here is his story …

In memoriam: Brave Daring Men

(Very Deep Memories of a Newbie)
by FR Hortelano, BDM 102 Finisher, Runner, Mountaineer
How can such a simple activity provide such a profound experience? How can ultra running be lesson-filled?
How was I initiated to my kilometric runs? Eight months ago, I started running my first kilometer. Kept on slowly increasing it until it reached 5, 10, 15, 21, 32, 42, 50 then 102. Never at all did I realize how low my self-trust is till I started to run. I didn’t believe in my capacity to finish every run but as I went on and on, I discovered that what I initially thought as impossible, has become possible. These mere dreams slowly become realities. There were 186 of us who registered initially, then 142 after the 50K test run, then 104 finally finished.

Last Saturday, our run started just before midnight in Mariveles [also known as] KM 0 where the infamous death march started. We were running uphill for the first seven kilometers. Afterwards, the moonlight complemented our headlamps to show the path. I took the walk-run strategy (walk uphill and run downhill). After sometime, I found myself running alone in the dark. By 2AM, I met some drank men who just came from some roadside karaoke bars. Some dogs. Some creepy feelings. But I didn’t allow them bother me.

By 4:30 AM, some more people are on the road in Pilar, Bataan. Masses must be starting early on Sundays. I would slow down in every church of different denominations to also remember God so my run is safe and secure. The buses just don’t give way to runners in this country. I even saw vehicular accident along the road.

As I was running slowly, I inquired a fellow runner, “Am I still on time?,” he replied, “Yes, but in ultra marathon, you should not even be thinking.” I pondered on what he said. Later, I realized that self doubt and worries will lead a runner to nowhere. When one is set on the road, the runner must simply enjoy every stride. Focus. Concentration. These two are very important. Anything enters the mind when it thinks that it has not yet gotten sleep. It’s hot… it’s tired… It will only convince the runner just to stop and what the heck.

I continued on my run happily after that remark. I merely focused on running and enjoying every stride. It worked. Once you enjoy what you’re doing, anything hard becomes easy. I was supported by lots of runners and support crew who are all strangers to me. I was “adopted” by many along the route. They provided water, banana, gatorade, and many more. My heart was overwhelmed with the sincere support of each one. There was no feeling of competition. The aim was just to assist each one reach the finish line. I felt a community of mutually supporting runners.

After my 50K in Abucay, Bataan, I took breakfast. Then rested. Changed clothes and thought, I can rest on my laurels. This is it. But after munching my veggie diet, I experienced a sudden wave of energy. Wow! Where did it all come from? My mind suddenly became very alert, as if I had a sound sleep the whole night. Given such a fresh feeling, I started running anew. My goal is just to reach 60KM. Later, I found out, I was already reaching more and more kilometers, from 70 to 80.

When we entered Pampanga province, Lubao town particularly, road construction is ongoing. So with the furious sun, the blinding dusts, the lahar sand that creeps into our socks, the gravels, how can one possibly run? I managed to brisk walk either on the far right or far left side of the road. After sometime, I didn’t feel the heat anymore. It may have helped that I had white pants and long sleeve shirt. But my entire body just miraculously adjusted to the sizzling heat (41 degrees Celsius). I just kept on and on.

Around KM95, with 7 more KMs to go, I was already thinking of my work. I didn’t want to use all my energy. I can’t afford to be absent. My mind wanted to quit. It had the justifications not to continue. I sat down, removed my socks and all the “sandy-intruders”. My mind was battling to continue or not. Then, a fellow runner told me, “come on, you are already there, just a few kilometers more then rest.” I got up slowly and since then, I didn’t entertain any other thought again. I just went on and on and on. Walked anything elevated and run as fast afterwards. Upon reaching the last 4KM, I took it slowly already. I was confident that I am in. I took it as my cool down exercise. Gently ran and walked to the finish line at 17:33 hours. Cut-off is 18:00 hours.

Looking back, how did I manage to finish? What made me do it? Why am I even doing it in the first place? Nothing mind-boggling actually, I just enjoyed what I was doing.

I enjoyed learning. And for as long as I still can learn from my activities, I will continue. The lessons are life-changing even from running, more so in ultra marathons. I admire others who are naturally patient, enduring, persevering and disciplined. I am not. Running provided me the portal to learn what endurance coupled with wisdom is all about. I am innately courageous and it was my capital, with God at my side.

Here are some random thoughts from a newbie runner who merely intended to be a paying bandit in the Bataan Death March 102KM International Ultra Marathon on March 6-7, 2010 from Mariveles, Bataan to San Fernando, Pampanga. His ultra-mediocre aim could only be elevated by highly spirited, kind, and generous people who joined the BDM 2010 as runners, organizers, support crew, and plain onlookers.

1. Ultra running is about endurance with wisdom

· If one’s personality is addicted to speed and quick results, one is likely to fail in ultra running that mandatorily requires lots of patience and perseverance.

2. Complaining won’t work

· If one begins to curse the dark, it will only respond, “it’s because your headlamp or flashlight is not bright enough.”

· If one begins to scream at the stray dogs, they can only bark louder, “this is our territory, respect us.”

· If one begins to curse the sizzling sun, it will only shout, “my task is to shine, yours is to run.”

· If one begins to complain about the uphills and downhills, both will chorus, “we don’t have a choice, we were created this way.”

· If one complains on uncooperative muscles, they’ll scream, “come on, give us time, we are adjusting slowly, we are alien to this experience.”

· If one may complain about his body, it will revolt, “so do I.”

· If one complains about the sand that intrudes into his shoes, it will shout, “whoever told you to wear a highly ventilated shoes in a lahar area.”

· If one complains about the dust, all the more, the blinding dust will fly right into his face and taunt, “why didn’t you bring any mask anyway?”

· If one complains about the speeding vehicles, the drivers will only yell, “this is our work, yours is but a luxuriously hobby, give way.” The ultra marathon then ends with an ultra-complainathon.

3. Be realistic. Deal with what is in your hands.

· The sun, the sand, the road, the dark, etc. are beyond one’s control. But preparing well will definitely mitigate their adverse impact on one’s run. The body eventually adjusts.

4. You can only beat yourself

· You can only compete with yourself. If you set your eyes on others, that’s your end. You will not enjoy your run. Your ego will keep bothering you. Your pride will scream, will shout, will nag. Your muscles become stiff. You become cranky to all. You will frown all the way, aged, and then finish the race. What a race that was! Instead of victorious feelings, you are unhappy in the end.

5. Enjoy the run

· There’s no way to go but enjoy. Anything difficult becomes easier when it is enjoyable.

6. Focus and contrate

· Take each step at a time. Slow down in front of churches and pray to God for safety. Only think of uplifting thoughts.

7. Trust

· Running an ultra is initially impossible. With trust in the self, others, and God, you will be surprised how immense your physical and inner power is. You will be supported by fellow runners and their support crew. You will discover a lot of kind people. You will treasure every minute. You will value your body. You will be grateful with your life.

8. Train

· Training need not be stressful. As the body adjusts to increasing kilometers, there’ll be pain. As they say, pain is mandatory but sorrow is optional. You may train with others but never rely on them. You are fully accountable to your own training.

9. Run for a good cause

· The BDM is one good, great, and ultimate running destination for the strong yet humble runners.

10. Thank and give back

· Offer a sincere prayer, thanks, to all the organizers, your supporters, the locals, and God for making you reach the finish line.

The story above was originally the author’s scribbled thoughts. I was inspired by what he wrote that I asked him to write his experience and allow me to post it in my blog. If you’re one of those who might want to give it a “go” for ultra marathon, I hope his story and insights inspire you.

I salute the BDM finishers for your courage and perseverance!

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running: a Memoir (A Must Read)

Remember that time when I personally recommended the book entitled, “Born to Run,” for you to read? Well, here’s another good read. This book was given to me as a birthday gift last year. But it took me eight months before I finally opened its pages. When I saw its title, especially, with the word, memoir, it seemed to me another boring book. I was wrong. The adage, “Don’t judge the book by its cover,” really holds true.

Weeks before the Condura marathon, I took out the book from the magazine box, peeled off its plastic cover and started to read the foreword. I couldn’t stop turning the next pages.

Haruki Murakami, the author, shared his personal experiences, real feelings, thoughts, and philosophies both as a runner and as a novelist. I could relate to some of his experiences, his reasons for running, and why he is silent when running. Interesting to note are his struggles as a newbie runner, as a marathoner, as a triathlete, and as an ultra marathoner. Here’s a special preview of his thoughts.

On Running

“Running is sort of a vague theme to begin with, and I found it hard to figure out exactly what I should say about it.”
“I’ve never recommended running to others.”

On Long-Distance (Marathon) Running

“Some people are suited more for marathon …”
“If some people have an interest in long-distance running, just leave them be, and they’ll start running on their own…”
“Marathon running is not a sport for everyone…”

On Being Competitive

“… When it comes to a game against someone, the competitive aspect makes me uncomfortable.”
“… I never cared all that much whether I beat others or lost to them.”
“World-class runners, of course, want to outdo their closest rivals, but for your average, everyday runner, individual rivalry isn’t a major issue.”

Interesting, eh? Find out more on what he said about runner’s blues, the difficulties he experienced the first time he rode a bike as part of his training for a triathlon, how he learned to swim, and many more.

Try to get a copy since this is not that expensive. It’s now available in local bookstores.