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!
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!
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!
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!
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The Chronicles of an Ultra Trail: