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Wednesday, November 14, 2012

1st West Coast 200: Through Insanity and Miracles

West Coast 200 was a different breed of monster. It was a multi-day staged ultra that happened last Nov 1-4, 2012 from Remy Field, Subic to Hundred Islands, Lucap, Pangasinan. Out of 33 starters, only 29 crossed the finish line in this one of a kind race in the Philippines. It aims to replicate the multi-day adventure run done by Sir Jovie last year (the first time he was bitten by a dog) and shared the route with us ultra-addicts. How did I end up joining this @*#&#$%# fun run?!


Everything started after BDM 160. I was still left thinking why the hell did I DNF'ed when Sir Jovie posted the invite for the event. Out of impulsiveness, I signed up and became the first runner to signify his intent in joining the maiden event. It took me at least 3 weeks to realize, what the HELL am I THINKING!? 200K, how the hell am I going to survive that. But alas, the dice has been rolled and I can't back-out anymore since I don't want to be labeled as a "Taklang Damulag". Then again, the thought haunted me for months!

One last run before the big day!

Training began as early as summer this year. I did B2B2B ultras to gain the necessary endurance for the race. I experimented with different formulas and techniques in surviving ultras; from doing it in self-support, introducing new supplements and post-race rituals. Heck, I even ventured into doing trail ultras to strengthen my core and quads! (if you can remember the Death by Ultra Summer and Rainy season series, this RACE is the reason why the hell I did those insane ordeals). But still I can't say I'm ready until raceday. Nobody knows if I'm really fit to do such a feat because of my disastrous experience in this year's BDM 160. Too late for that as race day was getting nearer everyday...


My battle plan was simple: 1. Get a decent support crew 2. Bring enough support food 3. Take it easy 4. Don't Panic. I was lucky enough to get Harry Duruin as my driver/support to help me in the race. I was not expecting anyone to join my support crew because the schedule was really messy as it conflicts with a National holiday. It was also his first time to support and I was so thankful on the patience and help that he provided all throughout.

We left Manila on October 31 early evening. We were not able to book any hotel because we arrived late in Subic. No choice but to sleep in the car and wait until the gunstart. We were feasted by mosquitoes plus the anxiety kicked-in early so I hardly got any sleep. I know it will be very difficult but the show must go on; we went to the starting line (Remy Field) at around 4 am to pick-up the bib and do our preparation.

I was surprised that there were 33 crazy ultrarunners who joined the event. It was nice to know that these guys and gals had set some of the time away from their family to join this maiden event. After prepping up we entered the field already and awaited for some final instructions from BR. At exactly 5:00 am, WC 200 had started!

The insane starters of the WC 200!

Day 1: Burn Baby Burn!

Day 1 covered Subic, Zambales to Botolan, Zambales (73 km). We exactly have 12 hours to complete the today's course which I thought was quite justifiable and attainable. The first part of this leg is quite familiar; it was the same route as the last 5 legs of the Epic Relay! 5 different people did that stretch till San Narciso and now it will only be a single-staged route for the WC addicts!

I know it was hilly on the first 3K as we left the gates of Subic. I tried to maintain a decent pace to conserve energy and still have the strength to continue on the succeeding legs. Harry was waiting for me at km 5 but I did not feel hungry nor thirsty yet because I brought along a Simple Hydration Bottle (ayan Tin may libre ka ng ads from me :))). So I signaled him to wait for me at km 10 and continue my run.

At km 15 after the support car issue

I was actually waiting for the support vehicle to go past me when I left him from the km 5 mark. 1 km...2 km... suddenly I became worried because the car didn't passed yet. I was surprised when one of the support crews told me the car wouldn't start. Damn! It still too early to get such a problem. I forgot to instruct him how to start the car properly. I rode the support car to go back to km 5 but luckily, I spotted my car passed us so I asked the driver to drop me off where I was picked up. That was a relief!

Back at the run, I sped up a little to talk to Harry and asked what happened. My hunch was correct that he didn't disarm the alarm before starting the engine. I've lost some time already but I'm determined to finish this so I sped up and try to catch up with the other runners.

I've maintain a good pace from km 5 to 35 with short stops to eat and drink from the support vehicle. I was able to catch up with Tin and TJ at around km 30. The sun was already up by that time and it was getting hotter. I switched to Galloway method (6:3) to conserve more energy while maintaining a good pace. I've maintained it until km 45 where the heat was really unbearable. No clouds, no rain and no wind... it spelled disaster for those who are not used to running under hot conditions. I found myself walking already as I don't want to suffer from a heatstroke.

At km 30, before the "banana" shot

Papi Jonel caught up with me during the long stretch of San Felipe. We chatted about the insanity, strategies and worries about the race. Papi was still strong as he continues to do a steady pace ahead of me. I tried to catch up but I don't want to burn up on day 1 so I just continued walking towards the next town.

Sobrang initttttt!!!

Harry already started doing the support every 3 km to survive the heat. I was getting bored with the usual food and drinks in the support car that I bought a few food along the way. I had some spanish bread and a bottle full of pineapple juice, refreshed my palate with the different flavor! At that point (i believe km 55), I felt something nasty on my left foot. So I just continued my power walk until we reach the boundary of Botolan.

Ubos na lakas! Dila na lang ang puhunan :))

On the last 5 km, the sea is already a spectacular view. I'm already tired of running and walking but the view distracted me. Upon reaching the Botolan bridge (soon to be jump-off point of Pinatubo 100 km next year), I started to gain some speed. I instructed Harry to go straight to the finish line already as I thought I can handle it from there. I ran the last 500 meters and finally, after 10 hours, 15 minutes of running I completed the first leg of the WC 200.

Last few kms before the finish line!
Landian sa Finish line (Day 1)

At the finish line, I sat down and had a short chat with the finishers and BR. I took my recovery drink and asked Harry to reserve the room already. We waited for Totoy to finish before we went our way to the hotel.

I also discovered I acquired a small blister on my left foot. uh-oh, this is bad. I still have 2 days left and this will make it more difficult...

We had our lunch/dinner at Inasal and went back to the hotel to catch some sleep. There is no time to socialize as we only have a few hours left before we start the 2nd day of hell!

DAY 2: Crossing the Borderline

We woke up at 3:40 am. #&$^%*$% nobody has set the alarm!!! Thank God I woke up at just the right time to prepare our stuff and start the race on time. We left the hotel at around 4:30 am, a few minutes after BR. I checked the blister under my foot, it's still a bit painful but bearable. I don't have a choice so I covered it up with leukoplast before wearing my shoes. It's too late to pop it out as it can spell disaster on that morning's run.

Upon arriving at the starting line, I had a chance to check with the other runners. Majority are still sleepy, some of them slept at the Poblacion in their tents. It was still dark when BR asked us to gather at the starting line to give his final instructions before gunstart. Before that, I would like to thank Judy for treating us with a superb lugaw! It was delicious and just enough to warm our stomach! Hindi makatarungan ang sarap! :D

Day 2: 32 na lang kami! :(

The route for that day was from Botolan, Zambales till Infanta, Pangasinan (71.5 km). BR described the route as full of uphells and downhells, rolling hills in between plus our friendly sun to fry us up. The cut-off was 14 hours so imagine how difficult the route was (weary runner + punishing course = wasak)?! But my goal is to finish earlier than the cut-off and enjoy a few hours of slack and rest.

The gun popped at 5 am and we were released from the starting line. I noticed that this time, the pace are slower compared to the 1st day. Probably everyone is still not recovered or are still weary from yesterday. I tried to pace with Alfie and Reynalynne for the first 20 km to cover as much as I can before the sun cook us up. Alas I can't do the same pacing as yesterday because as early as the 20th km, the route had hills already :(. No choice but to slow down and walk those darn uphells.

I caught up with Totoy at km 20 but I had to drop my pace at km 30. I noticed that I felt weak already! Plus the blister was painful at this point :(. The heat was not helping as well so I have to power walk and tried to survive until I reached the support vehicle.

Still strong at km 20!

Things turned from bad to worst because I was beginning to experience the same symptoms I had when I DNF'ed in BDM 160. I didn't want that to happen so I said to myself that I will have to rest and eat some solid food to recover in the next pit stop. And that's what I actually did.

With the Bigotilyong Aleman (walking the long uphill)
Alfie who ironically enjoyed the heat of the 2nd day!

Upon reaching km 35, I sat down and ask Harry to get the canned tuna paella and some softdrinks as I wanted to eat. Also Bob Castilla reached me while I was eating so I offered him some food and water before he left. I knew it will consume some of my time but I did the right thing. After that short stop, I felt refreshed so I continued my way to Candelaria, Zambales.

Harry Duruin, my reliable support/driver all throughout the race :D

Since it was really hot, I had a few stop overs to buy some halo-halo (I think I had 3). While resting and waiting, I talked to some of the locals and asked them about the place. They were surprised and called me insane for running from Botolan to Infanta. I just laughed at them and I knew that this is the same reaction I'll get when I told them my story (it was so hot that within 3 minutes, the ice in my halo-halo had melted already without even mixing it!)

Somewhere in km 45, near a burger joint

I was power-walking for 20 km to conserve strength and recover from the heat. As much as I wanted to run, I really can't as I still have one more day left in this epic race. I told that to Harry and he said he was getting bored! :)). I just tried to keep myself cool by dousing and pouring water all over my body to disperse the heat. I also felt my blister was getting bigger and another one has developed on the other foot :(

We've reached the town of Sta. Cruz at around 2 pm in the afternoon. I was already gaining my pace again but due to the trucks, I have to cut it off shortly. I had enough shares of trucks and motorist almost sideswiping me during the race! The distance for the km 63 pit-stop was too long and I saw Harry waiting for me in-front of a local videoke bar. He told me the legend of INPANTY (because of the old lady walking around in her undies) :)) and how near I am from the finish line. A few travelers (I think they came from Potipot) rolled down their windows and asked how long were we running. I told them "200K lang po" and I heard them curse and laugh before they left :))

At last, I've reached the Zambales-Pangasinan borderline. I really want to finish the leg so badly that I tried to ran and gain some speed when I saw the km 1 post. But it was wrong: I know that I have to pass a few more landmarks before the finishline. And what's more disappointing, there is another KM 1 post!!! Man, I'm so screwed so I gave up and continue power walking until I reached the cemetary. When I verified that the finish line is indeed really near, I jogged and ran; finally, after 11:23 hours I finished the 2nd leg of WC 200.

At the finish line, we've waited for CJ to arrive and compared notes with the rest of the finishers. They too found it difficult; with the route profile and hot weather. I took my recovery drink and removed my shoes to check on my blisters. They were BIG and PAINFUL so I planned to pop them out once we were at the hotel. CJ arrived already and after he recovered, we informed BR that we were leaving and searched for a place to stay.

Blisters galore!

I can't hardly walk because of the blisters but there were no pain on both legs. Fatigued but not painful which means I still have a good fighting chance to finish the darn race. But the blisters will be a huge roadblock as it stings every time I walked. Hay.

We didn't had anytime to go around and find a place to eat so we ordered some cup noodles and ate it up with the remaining pieces of bread from the car. I was so hungry but I had no choice as I can barely walk that night.

Our room in Sta. Cruz, Zambales!

CJ recovering?!
One more leg to go and TIME will be our number challenge...

Last Day: Of Miracles and Recovery

Finally, it was the last day. It would be a night run so we still have some time to rest and recover. I checked my blisters and still they are tender :(. I decided to pop and drain them already to promote healing before the race.

While waiting for the evening:

- We had breakfast at the INPANTY carinderia. It is where I discovered there was such a thing as Fried Chick (micro chicken) and Microporkchop that looks like a mini-cassette tape!
- Lunch at Mang Inasal for the NTH time. We told the tricycle driver to bring us to Chowking at the town plaza and he brought us to Mang Inasal! ("Dito po ang Chowking ay Mang Inasal"). Sakit sa ulo!
- Popped and drained my blisters! It was still stingy but I had no choice
- Brought some coconut juice after Totoy took all my supply during day 2
- Watched BAGETS! (JC Bonnin in the house!)
- some other random things in the hotel...

5:30 pm when we left the hotel and went back to the starting line. We had a short dinner of barbeque and rice before meeting up with the rest of the runners. BR informed us that instead of 7 pm, the race will start at 8 pm for a cooler weather. Well, that's fine with us as I had more chance to talk to my fellow runners and ask them about their experiences (inggit ako kina Papi sa kanilang tinuluyan...)

With Michael De Me... Papi Jonel :))
A few of the runners waiting for the gunstart
With the lovebirds...

The hardcore ultramen and woman!

The last leg will be from Infanta, Pangasinan to Lucap, Pangasinan (57 km). The finish line would be at the light house near the port of the boats going to the Hundred Islands. It was a night run so I expect the cooler temperature to be at my advantage. Though the TIME BARRIER still worried me, 10 hours to complete a 57 km run after doing 145 km in the past 2 days seems to be overkill. Plus I'm bothered about the blisters on both feet, that was the first time I experienced such in my ultra career.

We were released at exactly 8 pm. Oh, BR warned us about the dogs. I was expecting that they were leashed, I was so wrong! As early as km 5, stray dogs flock the road slowing us down to shove them off and avoid being bitten! Darn, those pups from BR's past run did became BIGGER! :))

The weather was cold alright; up to a point where I was already shivering! But it helped me maintain a good pace during the first half of the race. I never felt the fatigue on my way to Dasol, Pangasinan. Though I noticed each time I stopped at the support vehicle, the pain on the blisters are damn excruciating! I have no choice but to continue with the pain because I really wanted to finish the race!

Km 18, we were greeted with the family of RJ KnightRunner. They gave us water and sweet saba while taking our picture. It was great hearing them cheer for us as we continue our run in the darkness (thanks RJ!).

RJ's parents
Dasol Aid station!

I noticed that the route, should it be done in the daytime, is comparable to the 2nd day in terms of elevation profile. There were a lot of uphells and downhells with random dog attacks! I was busy focusing on my pace that I was quite surprised that I still have the energy to run those inclines in the darkness. It was a miracle!

When I reached km 35, I can feel the fatigue creeping up on my legs. At that point, I caught up with Jorell which was speeding on the first half as well. Good thing I had someone to pace with and get rid of the boredom in the darkness. Though I had to stop at km 46 because the blisters are getting unbearable, I asked him to go ahead.

Jorell resting!

Wasak na!

Man, both feet was aching because of the swollen blisters. Runners were already passing by but I really need to solve the blister problem. I wiped my feet dry and remove the moistures from my socks. I taped them again to prevent from getting bigger before I regain my pacing. It was another miracle as I was able to completely recover and set a fast pace despite what happened earlier!

Reached Alaminos junction at around 1:30 am and from that point I decided to power walk to recover. I wanted a strong finish plus I saw that long incline going to Lucap. I had Harry stopped by at km 53 to refill my water and eat a few bites before telling him to proceed to the finish line. From that point, I sped up and sprinted towards the finish line.

Dogs were barking and the end is still far but I really wanted to finish the race. I was hitting 4:30 mpk according to my Garmin. It is quite astounding for someone who's suffering from blister pain and acquired almost 200K already for the past 3 days! I never slowed down as I saw the flash from cameras taking pictures at the finish line. Every step was like coming from a fresh set of legs and at exactly 3:10 am of November 4, 2012, I finished the inaugural WC 200 multi-staged ultra in the country!

At the finish line! (ang itim ko!)
Runners with their awesome support crews

Happy Ultrarunners! (mga siraulo!)

Team Powerpuff Boys (Alfie 2nd over-all, Reynalynne ladies champion
Totoy 6th place, Yours truly 9th place)

1st WC 200 Ultra Finishers!


I ranked 9th out of 29 finishers (33 starters) which is an added bonus to this awesome feat! :D My total time is 29:xx:xx hours, sweet!

Ang mga Ungasis!!!

It took me a while to accept that I finished the race already even a couple of days after. You can see the post of my fellow runners who obviously still had hang-over from the epic adventure. Next year, BR plans to have a single staged race of the same route with a 36-hour cut-off. I'm still contemplating about it but who knows my crazy instincts will bring me to the starting line!

Till my next adventure! (lintek na BDM 160 yan, kung anu-ano na ginagawa ko para lang ma-distract sa iyo!)

Special thanks to:
Harry for the awesome support and driver in this insanity
Judy, Lyra, Running photographers, Jorell, Carl for the pictures
Sir Jovie for creating insane events and proving that such crazy runners will accept his challenges
God for the guidance and protection of all runners throughout the race (Praise the Lord!)

Race details can be found here

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