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Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Death By Ultra Summer Series 2012

Summer was supposed to be filled with a lot of time under the sun, swimming by the beach or taking a long vacation somewhere far from the city. But not for me. I chose to do something different last summer. And it's been a long plan since I've had a (^%*$@%;%^ DNF (Did Not Finish) last January which jumpstarted this idea. Yes folks, I did 3 ultra events for 3 consecutive weeks (dafuq?!).

Why the hell did I do it? First, I need to get stronger. My DNF in the previous BDM 160 was a mess that forever scarred my career. I want to release all of the frustrations by becoming stronger in the ultra distances.  It tick off a switch in my head that I need to train hard for me to be better next year!

Second, I want to prove that it is really doable. Dean Karnaze have done consecutive ultras for 45 days. I saw Papi Jonel did it when he was raising funds for the storm victims last year (4 consecutive weekends). Then why can't I? 3 ultras should be bearable if you use the right formula :)

Third, I just want to explore and enjoy summer. It's a weird way to spend one but I want to visit different places --- on foot!

Episode I: Bohol Ultramarathon (80K)

First stop would be the ultra from bohol. Organized by the Cebu Ultrarunning Club, the race will start from Panglao Beach and ends at the Chocolate Hills. It's my 2nd 50-miler race and also my first time to be in Bohol so I was really excited with this race. Also, Rodel Cuaton aka Argo will be joining here as part of his vacation.

The gunstart was exactly done at midnight. I have no idea on the total number of participants but I guess it's around 150++. The first part of the race was flat as we cruise thru the Panglao area towards the city. It was relatively flat and I was pacing with Raffy and Ambo during this time towards the darkness.

The rolling hills started as we approached the city proper (20+ km) then became flat as we head towards the Loboc area. We were running with the sea at our side though I was not able to appreciate it since it was really dark. I ran out of water as I approach km 42 so I really slowed down to conserve energy. Refilled at the aid station, I continued my run-walk strategy towards km 50 where a light breakfast was served.

I think km 50 is at the Loboc town proper if I'm not mistaken. From here, the road started to go uphells like the ones in Tanay only nastier. The sun had already peeked and the heat starts to rise. I have to conserve my energy for the last 50 km since the roads were all ascending. It was tough because I felt fatigued already though I knew I need to sustain my pace. And so I did a lot of walking...

I was actually refreshed when I reached the man-made forest (around km 61-63). It was actually cool and refreshing! Plus I was so awed and amazed on the work they did to establish such a place. It was a bit dark since the trees covered the forest floor and the fresh air was really revitalizing! Too bad I only had a short time in that place as I continued my journey to finish the race.

The last 10 km was a killer! It was flat and hot already! I can feel the pain in my feet! Though I was saved by the aid station that the UNGO running club had set-up. If only I was not chasing after the time, I would had stayed a little longer and enjoyed a sip of Tuba (coconut wine) with matching pulutans! :))

As I approach Carmen, I saw the legendary hills that I only see in postcards and pictures. It was stunning! It made me picked up a decent pace to jog the last few meters of the race. Turned-right towards the viewing deck, the last 300-400 meters were SHOTGUN-level ascend but since I know I'm near the finish line, I ran. After a few minutes I finally nailed the first leg!

We had a big lunch at the finish line before we headed out to a buffet dinner at the Loboc River (waited for Jumbo Argo to arrive at the finish line). I observed my legs and noticed that though I had soreness around the calf area and pain in the ball of my foot, I'm still strong.

That's good news because I only had roughly 6 days to recover for the insane 2nd leg...

(to be continued)

Episode II: Four Lakes 100 km Trail Ultra

Exactly 5 days after that escapade in Bohol, I started my journey up north to run my first 100K Trail Ultra. The Four Lakes 100 km Trail Ultramarathon is a signature route of our beloved Michael De Mesa Jonel Mendoza in the settings of Kayapa, Nueva Vizcaya. I've done the 42K Trail Marathon here last April 1 (the April fool's marathon) so I'm quite familiar with some parts of the route plus I did enjoy the scenery and challenges this route has to offer.

We had a 6 hours trip to Baguio and 3.5 hours trip down to the municipal hall of Kayapa. We were greeted by the usual suspects (I was looking for BR) and a few new faces. A briefing was conducted shortly then a usual photo ops before we proceeded to the inn (the same inn where we stayed before). We had an early dinner of pansit, fried chicken and tons of extra rice (carbo loading) before we went to our room to rest and sleep.

We woke up at exactly 230 am. I prepared my stuff already and drop bags the night before. I took the freezing water bath (#&$*#&$% ginaw!!!) to refresh myself before I wore my gear. At the starting line, a short ceremony was done and we were released at exactly 4:30 am.

The first 24 kms was the same route as the marathon before. Though this time I had brought a trekking pole to aid me in the uphells and had to start slower to conserve the energy for the rest of the race. The route is still beautiful; now there were no dense fog and the sun is actually shining brightly. The mountainside is very beautiful and you can see some of the peaks peeking like islands on a sea of fog :).

I reached the baseline of Ugo in 3 hours. Same elevation, same #&*$*%&$ difficulty of climb. Upon reaching the summit, I asked the marshall to take my picture before heading down towards the Old Spanish Trail. This route is quite interesting because it was really narrow (single track) and one wrong step will send you rolling down the steep mountainside. I had a few close call because I was always checking my pace and time; thankfully I didn't fall or had a major accident.

At the end of the trail is a steep downhill where some of the marker flags were missing. I think we've lost 20 minutes here looking for the right path. Major Ron and Doc Toto had caught up with me here so I had some companions throughout the race.

Finally, we found the right trail! We ran towards the Kayapa Market Proper where the 3rd aid station and get our first drop bags. There was a feast of breads, eggs, hot noodle soup and even halo-halo to refuel. My good friend "Red Horse Runner" Rey Jimenez was the marshall in this station. I took some time to rest and eat up because we still have a long way to go before the next major aid station. Also, Rey warned us about the upcoming route: It's pure uphell!

At first I didn't pay any attention of what Rey mentioned. He must be kidding. But I took back my words, after the long hanging bridge, the #&$*%$&% route was a MAJOR UPHELL! No kidding! It's probably around 30-40 degrees incline of pure uphell. At this point, I can feel the cramps on my quads were already acting up. Since I'm with Major and Doc Toto, we agreed not to attack the hills and took time to reach the top.

That was the longest uphell of my life. Imagine, every 100 meters we have to rest and catch our breaths! Then we saw ate Che Bihag, cruising thru the uphills as if she was walking in a park! Life is so unfair! We were so chicked!

Anyway, it was good to know that the actual distance (5 km) was only 3 km before we reach a minor aid station. The Amelong Labeng Barangay hall served the sweetest sweet potatoes that I've ever tasted! We refilled our water bags here before heading towards the next landmark. It was actually around noon so it was a hot already.

Towards the next landmark, we have to traverse a wide dirt road. It was wide enough for a truck to pass thru though it was muddy. We call this trail as PAASA (paasa na sa susunod na liko, peak na!). It was a winding path where we felt like were circling the mountain! At this point, my cramps were becoming worst as it  attacks almost every 15 minutes. After a while, we were able to reach the summit. We were not really sure if there was a marshall at the actual cell site so we went near it just to found out that there are none. Better safe than sure!

I had applied some liniments on my quads and thighs already to recover from the cramps. It helped for a while as I was able to jog a couple of times going down the summit. I also remembered somewhere waiting for Major Ron to catch up with us so I had the liberty of lying down the grass fields to take some rest. It was actually funny because I almost dozed off to sleep :))

When Major arrived we continued our run-walk towards the highway. I had already consumed all of my water around 2-3 km away from the aid station so I was in panic mode. Damn, it was already hot and after a while, we were in the highway. We started to jog towards the Castillo Aid station (km 54) to refill and rest. I was already contemplating of downgrading to 60 km already at that point. The cramps and mental demon were too much but thanks to Doc Toto, he pushed me and did not let me quit. We took our time to rest and eat at that station. One by one, runners are popping out of the trail and joined us while we rest. A envy those who did 60K as they only had 6 km left and they will be done with their agony. After 20 minutes, we continued our trek towards the remaining part of the race...

The next landmark would be our first lake. And the inclines were again, killers! Why the hell would a lake be on top of a mountain #*$($*%#. I have no choice but to continue as we want to at least have a decent pictures while there is still some sunlight. It was a nice sight because a fog was on top of the Buaca lake. Talk about creepiness!

I noticed that the cramps were already gone and I think I'm on my way to recovery :). It was a good sign!

The second lake can be found at the bottom of a huge mountain wall. I swear it was so steep that one wrong move will make you tumble to your death. And a #&$*%(% kalabaw was blocking our way down! We managed to cross alive and trekked towards the Dayap school (which has #&*$&%$ incline again) which is km. 62. It was already dark so we wore our headlamps again and re-fueled big time!

The next landmark we need to cover would be the twin Nayao lakes which unfortunately we were not able to see since it was night already. The path was rocky and rolling, I swear it was the longest 12 km of my life! In between the route, we rested in a waiting shed for a few minutes while Doc Toto was recording a short video to document our experience.

There were sections in this route which is very creepy and you don't want to be stuck without lights. There were killer inclines, eroding edges and even a short river crossing. There was supposed to be a waterfall somewhere in the forest, we heard it but we can't see it because it was too dark. At the end of it is the Banaw school where Isko was waiting to serve us some hot soup, milo and iced tea! I was already too tired at this point and I requested him if I can doze off for a few minutes before heading out again. I did while being covered in a blanket near a fireplace! It was heaven for me as it helped me regain some energy. By the way, at this point, it was very very cold that we need to keep on moving to avoid freezing to death.

After 30 minutes, we started our journey back to the Dayap school. It was almost midnight and I was estimating what time should we be back in order to beat the cut-off. It was a long run - trek with us having short rests in between to recover. I even tripped on our way back since I stepped on a loose rock! I felt the wound in my knees and was scared that I was injured. I tried to walk to see if I was injured and after a few steps the pain went away. I'm too close to finishing this race to quit!

After 3.5 hours, we were back in the Dayap school. Again we re-fueled and refilled our water bags before we set out to the next aid station. It was rather a short run/walk when we reached the City border where I finally got my last drop bag which contains my secret weapon. It was the energy drink the yaya ambow gave me before I went to Kayapa. I took a few shots and gave doc some. I felt an energy rush so without further adieu, we started our way towards the mossy forest again. I swear I feel so refreshed after a while and I was able to climb that mossy forest in a very fast pace!

Last 8 km. We reached Bundao at exactly 630 am in the morning. The energy drink effect was slowly wearing away so we tried to jog it off a bit. A huge skin chaffing has built up in my thighs making it hard to run or even jog. I really just wanted to finish the race so I lived thru the pain and trekked the downhills. It was the same last part of the previous marathon so I know it was very near. I began counting down the remaining distance until the last 500 meters.

At last, after a grueling 29++ hours, I finally crossed that darn finish line! Man I cried when I finished because I can't believe how I survived that ordeal. I was even speechless in happiness and fulfillment. But what mattered most is I am done and I got that kick-ass running man medal! And that marked my first century trail ultramarathon.,

I have one more race scheduled and the last one is another hardcore trail route...

Episode III: Taklang Damulag 50K
(to be continued)

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