Archive for May, 2009

31
May
09

The Earth Run Weekend

The recently concluded Earth Run proved to be deliverance for Advertising and Events from their “not-so-good” previous race as they had not only a great venue and route, but also a very fun event.

The Good

As I previously mentioned the race had an excellent route for 3K, 5K, and 16K.  I guess you can’t go wrong with McKinley Hill.  There were also a lot of prizes: medals for top 10 in all categories, finisher’s shirt for the top 100 for each category finishers, a loot bag with product samples from sponsors, a certificate, and lots of other raffled prizes.  There were also plenty of water stations along the route.  Overall the program was fun helped a lot by the excellent hosts of the program.  This race was for the benefit of Green Peace.

My loot bag

The Bad

3K, 5K, and 16K started all at the same time!  This resulted in heavy human traffic in the start area.  That coupled with the early uphill made for quite a slow start. The water cups on the stations also caused a little issue as these cups were ridiculously small—just enough for one gulp!  You may even think these were disposable shot glasses so you really have to take two or more if you’re really thirsty.  For a run with “Earth” in its title that wasn’t very earth-friendly.

Overall aside from the hiccups of race start and the water cups issue the race was good.  I’ve only seen quite a handful of races with good programs while the rest are waiting for long distance finishers and this was one of them.  Congrats to the organizers and the hosts for doing a great job of keeping us entertained to stay until the awarding ceremonies.

Post race pictures.  Can you see my TNF100 souvenir tan line?

Post race pictures. Can you see my TNF100 souvenir tan line?

In the Presence of Medaled Runners

The takbo.ph runners are starting to earn respect from the community as the team managed to have 3 runner-placers: Wilnar, 10th place for Men’s 5K, and Pepsi and Doc Pink, 10th and 5th place respectively for Women’s 5K.  Congratulations!

Top 10 Placer’s Medal

Top 10 Placer’s Medal

29
May
09

TNF100: The Chronicles of an Ultra Trail (Part 3) The Prequel

TNF100: The Chronicles of an Ultra Trail

Our TNF100 adventure started much earlier than the usual. We headed off to Clark, Pampanga Friday morning and by lunch time we were already at SM City Clark for final shopping and lunch. Traveling through North Expressway was really fast.

Walking on the elevated walkway towards SM City Clark

Walking on the elevated walkway towards SM City Clark

SM City Clark was huge! It’s very similar to US-style malls.

SM City Clark was huge! It’s very similar to US-style malls.

The mall is modern although it kind of remind me of airports abroad

The mall is modern although it kind of remind me of airports abroad

After a hearty lunch and some “liquid carbo-load” we were off to our home for the night, Eagle’s Inn. It was a pretty cheap, decent, and quiet place to stay in and it’s just a few meters from Holiday Inn where the final briefing was to take place. The people there were also very accommodating (Filipino hospitality) and they were willing to serve very early breakfast for us so it fits us perfectly.

Hey ho, it’s off to the Inn we go!

Hey ho, it’s off to the Inn we go!

Our home for the night, Eagle’s Inn

Our home for the night, Eagle’s Inn

Clark reminds me a lot of US because certain areas resemble sights seen in the US. It used to be a US-controlled facility so it’s not a coincidence to look as such.

Except for the electric posts you may say that this could be anywhere in the US

Except for the electric posts you may say that this could be anywhere in the US

Street signs (who’s Bong?)

Street signs (who’s Bong?)

See how this left turn (only) sign painted on the road differs widely from standard Philippine sign?

See how this left turn (only) sign painted on the road differs widely from standard Philippine sign?

6PM at the Molave Function Room of Holiday Inn, Clark the final race briefing was held along with our complimentary dinner from TNF. The updated race guidelines were mentioned and for the last time AS4 drop bags were collected for those who weren’t able to do so.

Holiday Inn, Clark, Pampanga

Holiday Inn, Clark, Pampanga

Our dinner menu consisted of a Caesar Salad, Grilled Chicken with Mhakni Sauce, Penne Pasta with Meat Sauce, Buttered Vegetables, Fruit Salad, and Iced Tea (Filipino-style). Simply recalling these makes me hungry.

Dinner menu

Dinner menu

Dinner! Yum!

Dinner! Yum!

It was a pretty short briefing. We returned back to our Inn soon afterwards to finalize our things and rest for the big day to follow. We had our breakfast by 1:30AM and we left for Expo Filipino by 2:30AM via a jeepney.

Chris, Pat, and I. Who would’ve known that it would be the three of us again in the end?

Chris, Pat, and I. Who would’ve known that it would be the three of us again in the end?

Our complete gang

Our complete gang

It was a quick trip for a very, very long day ahead—and before the base camp was fully set we were already goofing around the area. At that time we didn’t have any idea what great adventures lie ahead, all we had was the moment and the company good friends. But even if the outcome was still hidden as the dark road ahead of us, one thing was clear—the race was to begin with our first step. Where it leads to and how far, that’s something we will know shortly… and the countdown began, 3… 2… 1…

TNF100: The Chronicles of an Ultra Trail [ Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 (The Prequel) ]

28
May
09

TNF100: The Chronicles of an Ultra Trail (Part 2)

TNF100: The Chronicles of an Ultra Trail

I noticed that the route I’m taking is moving me away from Expo Filipino.  I actually don’t remember the way back to the base camp since it was dark when we left so I just followed where the route lead me to.  I was still seeing race markers along the way so I know I’m not lost, and I even saw a friend on the way back from this route.  I was just concerned that it was taking too long to where this route leads to, and I was very, very bored.  The sun was setting and I’m the only person on the road!

The lone runner on the road

The lone runner on the road

The road of solitude

The road of solitude

I realized that I don’t know how to frown

I realized that I don’t know how to frown

Eventually the route leads me to a subdivision-like area but it was a little creepy because there were quite some abandoned structures along the way.  Finally I saw an MP where I got another bracelet, and was instructed to turn around and follow the signs.  Darkness was upon me again so it’s back to the headlamps and blinkers again.  Wow, I was moving before sunrise, the sun had already set and I still haven’t returned to base camp!

Bracelet collections as I head back to base camp

Bracelet collections as I head back to base camp

Along the dark road of solitude only the fireflies kept me company.  There was really a lot of it along the road attesting to how clean the air is.

Finally, base camp.  I was surprised to see all the guys I thought were behind me to be there.  I told them that I came to get “the last bracelet” but then I realized that I exceeded the halfway point and completed 60K of the race!

Apparently the strong wind and rain wrecked base camp so by the time I got there the Marshals were probably busy rebuilding base camp so nobody was able to assist me (and probably why I didn’t see the tents).  During this period the race was also suspended for two hours so all the runners that arrived at base camp weren’t allowed to leave, so they were all there.  When I arrived the organizers finally made the decision to alter the second loop course (skipping the multiple river-crossings in Sta. Rosa and do the “road of solitude” again afterwards to compensate for the lost distance) and a few minutes after the race resumed.  Being “lost” proved to be advantageous for me as I was able to finally run along with my friends on the second loop.  The bad thing was that I hardly had any rest nor food, and we were on our way—40K to go!

I was so glad to be running with people I know: Chris and Pat.  Since we’re not strangers to each other it was a comfortable group to be in—that made the dark frog-infested trail seem much friendlier.  It’s still difficult but at least you know you have people you can count on.

One by one we passed through each of the Marshal Points and Aid Stations, sometimes snoozing a few minutes to be rid of sleepiness.  By this time we were moving almost an entire day so we were naturally tired so even while walking we were sleepy—no amount of energy or sports drinks were able to snap us out of it so a quick power nap was the only solution.  I think we just had a bit too much of it that many were able to catch up with us.

The final blockade leading to AS4 was still annoying even after we snoozed a little before tackling it.  And it isn’t really fun to rappel early in the morning.

On AS4 the final reloading took place.  Our group decided to rest awhile while others decided to finish the course.  I really wanted to catch some sleep here but unfortunately there were so many mosquitoes there that didn’t allow me to.

On the final leg we saw sunrise for the second time during the race, this time we were running towards it.  We were basically on “auto-pilot” during this very long course, and by the time we got back to the Mega Dike our distances between each other started to widen.  I’d admit that heat is a weakness for me so I just went on a pace comfortable to me.

Upon arriving at base camp my feet were just full of blisters and partly swelling.   I ran the last 30K with no socks so my feet were just battered.   After quickly putting on some of my heat gears and socks I walked as hastily as I could sustain to finish the job.  It was scorching hot by that time and at one time I almost felt like fainting; fortunately I was able to control it with the right hydration.

I don’t know what time it was so I was in a rush fearing I may not make it within the cutoff time.  My GF405 was dead, my phone was turned off (ran low on batteries), and I don’t have other watches with me.  Then I realized that my camera displays time!  What a relief it was to see that you’re well within the cutoff time!

Eventually I saw my buddies Chris and Pat along this final leg and also in the order we planned that night.  We even finished in that same order, although not at the same time as we had anticipated.  Chris finished first, followed a few minutes later by Pat, and then a few minutes more by me. Pat and I arrived at about 10AM, and with the two-hour race suspension our official time would come in at about 28 hours—the longest (in all aspects) and most difficult race I had so far!

With my fellow ultra-men: Chris and Pat after our finish

With my fellow ultra-men: Chris and Pat after our finish

Running towards the finish line was a special moment for me.  Believe it or not I actually ran towards that line (but of course it wasn’t very fast) because I felt that moment was made for me—I was the only one crossing the line and the people who were cheering adds to that euphoric feeling you have for accomplishing an achievement!  Definitely, just finishing this race was enough for you to be proud to be called an “ultra-man,” and nobody can take that away from you.  I’m so glad and honored to be able to run alongside a company of ultra men and women, and now to be one as well.  Congratulations!  We made it!

TNF100: The Chronicles of an Ultra Trail [ Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 (The Prequel) ]

27
May
09

TNF100: The Chronicles of an Ultra Trail (Part 1)

TNF100: The Chronicles of an Ultra Trail

This is the story of my first ultramarathon trail race, TNF100.  This race combines the excitement and adventure brought about by nature’s trails with the unforgiving distance of an ultramarathon—a lethal combination many are not able to endure.

Our race started very early.  Even before the base camp was completely set up we were already “playing” in the assembly area—perhaps too excited with the race we’ve long been waiting for.  Many seem to have really prepared for this race, whilst I was just savoring the moment—the moment of truth is here!  I only had one goal—to finish.  It doesn’t matter if I had to finish last and crawling—just do it or don’t, no “trying.”

This was the actual time, although it was a few seconds off “Garmin Standard Time”

This was the actual time, although it was a few seconds off “Garmin Standard Time”

Few minutes before gun start

More than an hour before gun start

Finally, the runners were called to assemble.  The assembly area was in front of Nayong Pilipino beside Expo Filipino.  As addicted to pictures as we are to running, we went up front with the “elite” runners to be included in pictures (and even videos).  Even if we’re not as popular as some of these guys at least we have pictures taken with them (feeling elite as well) sometimes even just as a background for them.

Lining up at the starting area

Lining up at the starting area

3:58AM (on my GF405) the race officially started.  Everyone had their headlamps and blinkers (mandatory gears) so we were like fireflies in the dark.  After some distance we were lead to Parwa River—a very wide river and full of lahar.  Lahar is pretty much like sand except that when it’s dry it’s like asphalt.  Regardless of the lahar tall grasses still manage to grow in the area making the route seem like a mixture of running on the beach and on trails—and yes many got lost temporarily because of these grasses.  By the time we were out of these grasses my running buddy Sean William and I were separated from our group.

Initially we were all avoiding stepping on the water to keep ourselves dry but we were just fooling ourselves in doing so, and eventually we really had no choice but to get wet.  As we were traveling on the river the sun silently paints the sky red as it slowly rises.  Sometimes good things are just behind us—all we need to do is look back.

Looking back—the sun quietly paints the sky red as it slowly rises

Looking back—the sun quietly paints the sky red as it slowly rises

Keeping your shoes dry was futile

Keeping your shoes dry was futile

Walking on the river

Walking on the river

Other runners behind us with sunrise on the background

Other runners behind us with sunrise on the background

It was pretty much light up by the time we arrived at Aid Station 1 (AS1) which was near a hanging bridge.  From here we headed off to my favorite trail area of the race, Haduan.  I liked it a lot because it was difficult, steep, and a little dangerous.  I understood quickly why the organizers didn’t want runners to cover this area in the dark—it’s really that dangerous in the dark!  The Haduan trails eventually lead us back to the river.

View of the sunrise from Haduan

View of the sunrise from Haduan

My running buddy Sean William upon our return to the river

My running buddy Sean William upon our return to the river

Finding our way to the trails leading to Sta. Rosa

Finding our way to the trails leading to Sta. Rosa

The countless river-crossings in Sta. Rosa area came next. The difficult part really wasn’t crossing the river—it’s just that you had to climb a mountain then go down to cross one, and do it all over again many times!  We were also initially told that the rivers weren’t that deep nor fast moving but when we got there some were above-knee deep and some had strong currents that bamboos or ropes were placed to grab onto.  Of course because of these river-crossings our feet were constantly wet during most of the race.  We also always had to worry about sand getting everywhere after crossing each river making running uncomfortable.  As a consolation all these rivers were really clean and even had fishes in it.

One of the countless river crossings.  We thought at first it was a bridge but it was actually a guide to hold onto because of the strong current.

One of the countless river crossings. We thought at first it was a bridge but it was actually a guide to hold onto because of the strong current.

Shorty after AS3 my GF405’s batteries ran out.  I and my partner were taking longer than expected to arrive at our target area that time, AS4, where most of our support supplies were.  Both of us at that time were starting to have some knee problems due to the knee-breaking terrain of Sta. Rosa.  My partner brought along some patches to relieve our pain but I think our knees were too dirty that it won’t stick.  Reinforcing it with plastic strips only worked for a while but eventually the patch and the strips peeled off.  By this time the sun was high in the sky so we were also feeling the heat.  I was virtually limping my way on this route until some good Samaritans offered me a painkiller—in a few minutes I totally forgot about the pain but of course I still had to be cautious since only the pain was gone, the injury was still there, just being masked.

One of the dirt roads along the route

One of the dirt roads along the route

Just when we thought we were near AS4, a huge obstacle blocks our path.  The trail leading to AS4 goes up a very steep mountain (with ropes to help us up) and after some distance we had to virtually rappel down using the ropes they placed.  The things you have to do just to reach AS4.

First 32 of 100K route of TNF100 Philippines 2009

First 32 of 100K route of TNF100 Philippines 2009

It was early afternoon when we finally arrived at our oasis, AS4.  Finally we can eat food.  Unfortunately our bags were not protected from the heat so everything’s hot!  It was good for my canned goods but bad for my sports drinks.  That place was a good place to catch up with other runners, rest, and restock your supplies.

After some time we decided to head off and finish the first loop.  It was a very long day and we still had a long way to go!  The bad thing about leaving AS4 was that the route after it was very hot!  There was very little shade in the area, the road was very difficult to walk onto, and the next Marshal Point (MP) and AS were quite far away!  The good thing was that the terrain was “normal” and we even had the pleasure of having cold sodas and water.

One of the views upon leaving AS4

One of the views upon leaving AS4

It was a pretty boring long route

It was a pretty boring long route

We’re thankful for the shade of the clouds

We’re thankful for the shade of the clouds

It was here when my running buddy and I parted ways, but of course there were many runners on the route so none of us were alone.  I passed by several runners along the way and met some new ones to chat with along the way.  By that time the most common question was “are you going back?”  I myself weren’t so sure at that time if I could make it through the cutoff time if I did with my pace but I found some strongly-willed runners that were willing to “do-it-again” that motivated me to continue.  It was already difficult running the trail in daylight so it would be much worse at night and you’re alone.

Back on the lahars of the river on the way back to base camp

Back on the lahars of the river on the way back to base camp

We were on the Mega Dike when nature just went mad and poured heavy rains and strong winds on us.  I found myself running alone in the strong rain (wearing a trash bag as a lightweight substitute for a rain coat). I don’t see my new buddies behind me so I just continued pushing through the rain which eventually stopped just as I was arriving on Expo Filipino.  Upon arriving at the area I was confused as there were no Marshals to be found!  I just followed the signs but it didn’t return me to base camp.  Uh oh!

TNF100: The Chronicles of an Ultra Trail [ Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 (The Prequel) ]

25
May
09

One Hundred Kilometers: TNF100

Success!  One hundred grueling, agonizing, and body-breaking kilometers conquered!  Congratulations to all my fellow TNF100K solo survivors!  That was definitely one of the most difficult races in all aspects and I’m so proud to be part of such an elite group.  Watch out for my TNF100 story soon as I recover and prepare my story of this one of a kind ultramarathon trail race.

21
May
09

Countdown to TNF100

I can’t believe it, the moment of truth is coming, and my excitement is definitely building.  TNF100 Philippines is almost here!

Today, Thursday, is my last day at the office for the week.  Because of this I have to finish every task that I have, hastily—all because of this race.  So in a way I was rushing work so I can join a race!  We’d be off for Clark tomorrow morning, and really, I can’t believe that race day is almost here!

For the past few days I’ve been pretty busy dealing with what to bring.  Thankfully last Tuesday I was able to finish packing my AS4 bag (the one that I left with the organizers to bring to Aid Station 4, some 35K from the start area of 100K route) but the weird thing about it was that it was almost all food!  I jokingly refer to the two batches of grocery purchases I had to fill up this bag as “takot mauhaw” (afraid of thirst) and “takot magutom” (afraid of hunger).

Takot Mauhaw!

Takot Mauhaw!

Takot Magutom!

Takot Magutom!

Of course not all of these items went on this bag, some I took for my base camp bag.  After handing over my AS4 bag to the organizers last Tuesday I suddenly realized that I hardly have food on my base camp bag (relative to the other bag).  This bag would contain the other non-food necessities like clothes, chargers, lights, etc. and aside from this I’d be wearing my trusty Sandugo Pilot hydration bag throughout the race.  Support groups aren’t allowed on the trails so these three bags would do the job for me.  Of course this doesn’t mean that the race organizers don’t have to do anything on their part—my support bags were setup with the assumption that the organizers would provide us runners with adequate water at the very least.  We would definitely appreciate it if there were more.

The previous trail run early this year was my most expensive one until TNF100 came along.  There were so many required items that I have to buy (since I only started running barely half a year ago) but I learned a lot during the process.  The trail running aspect of this ultra brings forth one of the things I also love doing—trekking, and many items I got for this race I can use on my future climbs.

This would be my second trail run but my first ultra marathon race.  I’ve had an LSD of ultra marathon distance before but here in TNF100 I’d be attempting to do my longest run so far—100K.  Yes you read it right, 100 kilometers.  I mentioned that this would be my first attempt at the hundred, and just finishing it is a huge accomplishment.  Hopefully He would allow me to finish this race and do it still in good condition.  Good luck to all runners!  Hope that we all have a safe run!  Enjoy and don’t forget to respect the trails!  (And I hope it doesnt rain!)

19
May
09

TNF100 Race Update 3

The updated race map is now online via http://www.thenorthface100.ph/the-north-face-100-race-details.html, unfortunately it’s of low resolution and not that legible even on screen.  Hopefully TNF issues a better print of the map before race day.

TNF100 Route (Sacobia, Clark)

TNF100 Route (Sacobia, Clark)

Here’s a recommended read posted by Pinoy Ultra Runners for all participants to have some more idea on what to expect on race day.




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The MIRACLE isn’t that I finished.  The miracle is that I had the COURAGE to START
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