Archive for June, 2009

30
Jun
09

Botak 100: From an “Active Spectator’s” Perspective (Part 2)

After a few kilometers within UP Diliman Campus we exited on Katipunan Ave. and found ourselves running inside a very nice subdivision.  From that point everything for me was unchartered territory—I’m glad that I have my GF405 with me to keep track on where we’re going.  Eventually we arrived at Tumana Bridge that links Quezon City and Marikina City.

One of the nice subdivisions along the route

One of the nice subdivisions along the route

Tumana Bridge

Tumana Bridge

The early part of the Marikina route was uneventful until the intersections came—we were confounded by a myriad of street crossings!  At this part it felt a little like a trail run—there are hardly any directional signs, but it’s a good thing that marshals were placed and were really active at work.  The only problem was that directions were given by the marshals verbally so if you’re forgetful it may lead to getting lost.  You also need to do a lot of judgment calls because sometimes the corner that the marshals refer to is not the next corner but the last corner along the route (yes it was confusing).

Setting aside the confusing roads, the sidewalks in Marikina were excellent.  Marikina has the best bike road network in Metro Manila which also leads to excellent run-able sidewalks.

The commendable sidewalks of Marikina

The commendable sidewalks of Marikina

While the roads weren’t a problem, the route kind of felt “forcibly fitted” to obtain 100K as there was a couple of “ends”—long segments that eventually lead to a 180 degree turnaround.

After finding our way out of the streets of Marikina the route leads finally to the riverbanks—arguably the most interesting segment of the route.  It was really long—there were no water stations and stores around, and support vehicles can’t get in making this one of the more challenging areas of the route as runners have to be self-reliant—a tradeoff for having fresh air and riverside view.

The view of the riverbanks

The view of the riverbanks

At the end of the riverbanks trail below Marcos Highway was a much needed water station which was also a turn-around point.  Runners henceforth have to run back and eventually forth on the other side of the river where the takbo.ph aid station was located—roughly 78 kilometers of the race upon their return from the end of this riverside’s route.

Seeing this sign is like seeing relief

Seeing this sign is like seeing relief

Takbo.ph’s aid station was a huge relief for runners where there were lots of supplies including food and medicated ointments.  It was an oasis at the other end of the race—runners can have their rest while volunteers cater to their needs.  Even if I didn’t run the entire route leading to the station I felt relieved after seeing it, knowing that I have a place I can rest and recuperate.

Food at takbo.phs aid station (or whats left of it)

Food at takbo.ph's aid station (or what's left of it)

Pat and I parted ways after the Marcos Highway station: I went straight to the takbo.ph station to recover, while Pat continued with the route.  While waiting for Pat to arrive several runners passed (and some even stopped) by the station and I was able to see how the station volunteers worked—service from the heart!  Everyone was willing to lend a hand and foot whenever needed just to provide good service to their stakeholders, the runners.  Truly, these are dedicated volunteers in service for the sport we all grew to love, running.

After going forth, back, and forth again Pat was finally able to get his rest at the takbo.ph station where he got “spa treatment.”  I was almost envious to be an official runner of the race at that point because of the attention given to runners that went our way.

Pats spa-treatment courtesy of Marga-licious

Pat’s spa-treatment courtesy of Marga-licious

Eventually the last group of runners (including Pat) was on their way back for the final leg of the grueling 100K route—the last 12K to UP Diliman.  This time around it was Doc E, Doc Roy, and Bong Yu’s turn to pace him—time to bid last goodbyes and well wishes.  If we all could we’d all probably pace Pat all the way back to the finish.

Pats pacers: Doc E, Doc Roy, and Bong Yu

Pat’s pacers: Doc E, Doc Roy, and Bong Yu

As for me and the rest of the takbo.ph volunteers it was time to pack up and call it a day—and what a wonderful day it was for all of us.  We may not all run 100K but all of us saw a different side of running from different perspectives—and that made us know ourselves more.

Acknowledgments

To the dedicated marshals, thank you for your assistance to the runners and putting their safety first.  Any road race would fail without your support.

To the volunteers of the race particularly to the takbo.ph aid station crew, thank you very much for your services!  Just your presence on the race gives relief to the weary runners and your assistance was really well-appreciated.

Special thanks to Reinier Pacific for sponsoring takbo.phs aid station!

Special thanks to Reinier Pacific for sponsoring takbo.ph's aid station! (Courtesy takbo.ph)

To the race officials, thank you for having an effort to improving your races and to the Race Director Neville Manaois congratulations on having a great race!  Thank you for pushing the race to continue and for finding new routes for us to discover.

Conclusion

Honestly this was one of the toughest races for me to appraise.  Here are my thoughts:

  • I didn’t like the fact that there were shortages of directional signs and water stations (which are to be expected on an ultramarathon), and the route was a little confusing, but
  • I loved the fact that runners were well taken cared of: at times each runner had his own personal road marshal on scooters (Pat and I had one going to the riverbanks), the road marshals were really of good assistance, and there were good support at the Start/Finish area.
UP - Marikina leg of Botak 100 route (a bit short as my GF405 ran out of batteries again)

UP - Marikina leg of Botak 100 route (a bit short as my GF405 ran out of batteries again)

Yes this race had some shortcomings but for me the Race Director’s honest intention to provide runners with a good and safe race pulled it off in the end so I’d rate this race as Good.  I was only able to experience a good sampler of the race but I loved that experience and was at times sorry for not being an official 100K runner.  Had it not been for the “ends” all along the route and the inverted (but functional) and shortly-supplied directional signs I would’ve given this race an Excellent rating.  Congratulations Botak for choosing the right people and having a good race.  I hope you learned your lessons and I hope next time we see an “Excellent” Botak race.  Welcome back!

29
Jun
09

Botak 100: From an “Active Spectator’s” Perspective (Part 1)

Botak 100 was the first road ultramarathon set entirely in Metro Manila with routes spanning the cities of Marikina and Quezon City and being an “active spectator” I got to see this race from a different angle this time around.

I called myself an “active spectator” during this race because unlike a normal spectator that only sees the event by the sidelines I was actually participating in the race, and no not as a bandit runner, but as a pacer for one of my friends doing the 100K leg.  I guess it’s inevitable for an ultrarunner like myself to stay on the sidelines as a spectator when his 10 mile race got deferred.

“You’re a running addict if:
You run an ultra, unregistered, call yourself a pacer,
just for the fun of it.

A pacer is the nearest support person a runner could have.  Yes, aside from moral support runners do need other means of support.  In this case a pacer can serve as a courier for a runner’s basic supplies but more importantly a pacer’s purpose is to keep the runner in line with his target pace, and of course companionship during those really dull moments of the race (which is a significant amount during ultras).

Background

I am registered to run Botak 100’s 10 mile side event but due to some viral issues the side events got postponed to a much later date.  Because of this I suddenly found myself run-less for the last weekend before my Milo Marathon debut.  Refusing to call it a taper, I devised of some means of getting these frantic feet moving—and the idea of being a pacer for the Botak 100 succumb.  Truth to be told, if Milo Marathon wasn’t there the week after I would’ve probably run the ultra as well.

The idea of pacing came to me when some of my takbo.ph friends mentioned that they’ll be pacing Pat (The Running Safety Pin) for the last 10K leg of his 100K race.  Looking at the 100K route I was really curious about the second half of the route in Marikina City so I asked Pat if he wanted a pacer for the second half.  I don’t think he really needed it though but maybe he figured what’s going on in my mind and agreed with me running with him on the start of the second half from UP Diliman to our takbo.ph Aid Station in Km 80.

Based on what we agreed upon pace and the assumption that the race starts on midnight I estimated Pat to be within UP Diliman grounds by around 5-6 AM but the race actually started at 1AM, and due to some unforeseen circumstances he actually arrived in the area much later.

The vastness of Commonwealth Ave. diminutizes runners

The vastness of Commonwealth Ave. diminutizes runners

A Road Marshal’s View

I eventually found myself waiting at the Ylanan gates of UP Diliman where all 50K and 100K runners would eventually enter since the Start/Finish area which was the Km 45 for the race was just a few meters away.  Of course being a crucial spot there are marshals there so while I was waiting for Pat to arrive I got to see how a real marshal works—it’s not easy!

The Ylanan Gate of UP Diliman Campus

The Ylanan Gate of UP Diliman Campus

The marshal on this point had a difficult job of making sure he/she sees the runners approaching in both directions and leading them the right way.  While that task doesn’t seem difficult enough, he/she can’t really leave his/her post (which would occasionally be under the heat of the sun if it wasn’t for the clouds) even if there seems to be no runners arriving.  Runners arrive sporadically so there’s really not much “safe time” to leave the post unattended.  Killing time would be one of the toughest issues here since the race was an ultra and waiting time is very long.  Kudos to the marshals that do their job!

Marshals at the Ylanan gate hard at work

Marshals at the Ylanan gate hard at work

The Story

It was around 7AM when Pat arrived.  We headed off to the Start/Finish area where runners can have their rest and also eat.  You also get to see 50K runners finishing their race (after another lap around UP).  The mood was festive and I even get the chance to talk to the ultra race director Neville Manaois and hear his side of the story.  Based on the no-frills start/finish area I see this race as a straightforward as it can be—you get what need and not much of the commercial stuff (except from partners and sponsors of course) which I think was nice.

The utilitarian Start/Finish line

The utilitarian Start/Finish line

One by one some of my friends running the ultra arrived including my friends from TNF100 so I guess you can say that it’s a reunion of ultrarunners.  It was also the birth of new ultrarunners including one of my friends from takbo.ph Luis who successfully finished his first 50K race.  Congratulations!  Welcome to the club!

After a few minutes rest Pat and some of our TNF100 gang were off for the second half of the race.  It was very exciting for me that I’d be running on areas I’ve never been to, another running adventure for me that was about to begin.

(To be continued)

Don’t worry Nevs I won’t stress you with my race verdict, yet.

25
Jun
09

Run for Home: Globe – Ayala Land City Run for Habitat for Humanity

For the first time disposable electronic chips are to be used in a regular race, and aside from this feat and a great route, this run is also for a cause: to help build homes through Habitat for Humanity to benefit the Kapit Bisig Para Sa Ilog Pasig Project.  This run features a 3K, 5K, 10K, and 21K race and will be held on Bonifacio Global City on Sunday, July 19, 2009.  For more details on this race visit http://site.globe.com.ph/web/runforhome/.

Online Registration

Being in partnership with Finishline.ph online registration is an option but there’s a catch: the actual registration fee varies widely.  Online registration may be the most convenient way for you but let me warn you though that this is the most expensive way.

Registration Experience

I was so excited about this race because of the timing chip so early on I decided to register via Fitness First, one of the registration partners on the event.  It was convenient and hassle-free as compared with Globe Business Centers.  The fee was P300 which was way cheaper than online but alas when I found out that I was still paying too much!  I found out during my chat with friends that when you register at Globe the P300 fee actually goes to your load and they simply register you for a 5-day unlimited text service for P80 making your registration virtually fee!  I actually felt duped by this!  I know this race is for a cause but when you start asking for different registration fees for the same event it’s not fair!  I’ll be glad to shell out P700 for a 21K race if that’s the actual fee but when you ask some people P700, some P300, and some virtually free, that’s a little concerning.  Deciphering their race fees posted online was also trivial so you can’t really tell early how much the actual cost is until you actually registered.

Best Cost Option

The best cost option is to go to any Globe Business Centers and register there.  Yes you will wait, and wait, but your P300 will go directly to your load, P80 of which will be used to register for 5-days unlimited text service (Globe-to-Globe of course) so you virtually have a free race at the same time helping generate funds for the cause.

25
Jun
09

5th of July, 2009: The Road to the Marathon is Set

The fifth of July, 2009 at the Manila eliminations race of the 33rd Milo Marathon, the road to the marathon is set, and I’ll be having my debut. Yes, you read it right—after almost 11 months since my first race ever and 7 months since my first Milo Marathon experience, I’m taking the big leap and would be running my first marathon.

Set for my Marathon debut

Set for my Marathon debut

I originally planned to have my first marathon next year because earlier this year I thought it was too early. With some unexpected twists of events I eventually found myself doing an ultramarathon, and now to be a “complete” ultramarathoner, a full road marathon.

Choosing My Stage

It was actually Craig who first urged me to have my first marathon this year. Back then we were actually talking of staging it in Subic International Marathon on October 24 but eventually the plan was pushed back to the Quezon City International Marathon a week earlier, until the talk of having a takbo.ph support group was initiated.

Being a “regular runner” I do not have the resources to put up my own support group. With the overwhelming support I’ve seen from my takbo.ph family I was persuaded to take the leap—even if Milo Marathon was way too early for my plans. After TNF100 my plan was to start my marathon training this July with June being my recovery month from the ultramarathon—and now I’m having my marathon in July!  I’ll have an excellent support group and I’ll be having a debut on the country’s premiere running event—sounds like a plan.

Training you say?

I’m not mocking the marathon for joining it seemingly unprepared; in fact I had the most reservations in joining one because I regard it higher than my ultramarathon. Yes I may lack speed training that I so badly need but I am hoping that the endurance training I had for TNF100 would fuel me enough to at least make it through the curfew time. Deep in my heart of course I so desire to reach my dream of finishing my first marathon at 3:59:59 to qualify for the finals, but then simply finishing one within the curfew is already an accomplishment—one that gives me chills due to a concoction of excitement and apprehension.

Taking the Plunge

The main deciding factor for me in finally doing a marathon after less than a year of running was definitely the support. Yes, running is an individual sport—it’s non-spectator, a grave abuse of your body, and a mind game as well—but all these “tortures” seem to blur when you know you have your friends at your back supporting you. Those cheers may not affect you physically but they do boost people’s morale.

I’ll keep these words in mind (You can do it)

I’ll keep these words in mind (You can do it)

Acknowledgments

Thank you to my takbo.ph family especially the Milo Support Group! Your support means a lot to us who will be braving the marathon. Thank you very, very much from the bottom of my heart and I really appreciate all your efforts.

To the Almighty who gave me a willing and capable body and mind to face one of the most grueling challenges I impose on myself I am forever grateful. May His grace drive me to finish in good health.

To my fellow Milo Marathoners good luck to all of you! May God give us that day and help us conquer the challenges of the marathon. God bless us all!

Stop Dreaming

To those dreaming to do their first marathon, stop dreaming and start doing! I was once a dreamer like you but if I stayed “dreaming” I wouldn’t have made my dreams into reality. Running gives you the opportunity to know yourself better and know your limits; and with that you’d know which path you’d take to get from dreaming to living it.

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

– John “The Penguin Runner” Bingham

25
Jun
09

BOTAK-100 Update: Race Schedule Changes

I received a text message from Botak yesterday stating the significant changes to the race schedules of the impending Botak-100.  To summarize, the changes are:

  • Only the 50K and 100K ultra marathons will continue on midnight of June 28, 2009.
  • All side events (1mi, 5mi, and 10mi) are rescheduled for August 23, 2009.

Here’s the actual text message I received:

Hi mam/sir. This is from BOTAK. BOTAK Paa-Tibayan have make some adjustment 4 their event. The ultra-marathon 100km and the half marathon 50km were stilljune 28, 2009 but our side event 5miles,10miles and street mile race is change on Aug. 23, 2009 for more information pls. Contact our race organizer orthe botak management… Thnk you

The primary reason Botak gave why these side events were rescheduled was to accommodate school participants who are undergoing quarantines and class suspensions brought about by the Influenza A (H1N1) issue.

Although the reason was sensible I’m not sure if the number of participants from these categories in 5mi and 10mi make up the majority that would be reason enough for the rescheduling.  Personally I was looking forward to the 10mi race this Sunday as it would be my last race (and run) before Milo Marathon Manila Eliminations so I was very, very disappointed with this news.

21
Jun
09

Men’s Health All Terrain: Back on Trails

The All Terrain Race can be described as salvation for Men’s Health—the race was n a different caliber that everyone seemed to forget the past mishaps of races by Men’s Health.  This was of course made possible by the race’s new organizer finishline.ph and with that, blazing fast race results.

The Trails

It’s either I’ve had too much trails under my feet or I’m just too demanding—I find the trail route of this year’s race, to put it bluntly—pretty boring.  I know it’s very difficult to find good trails to hold a race but coming off TNF100 you can pretty much understand what I mean.  The trails were dull because it was virtually flat and man-made—nature still is best when it comes to outdoor activities.  In fairness to the organizers, this was in fact the first “real” trail run I’ve ever had because you can really run 100% of the route—you can even set a new PR since it is much like running on unpaved roads except for the winding course and mud puddles.  It is excellent for a trail run but the degree of difficulty is very low making this race an excellent venue for beginners to be introduced to trail running.

My Story

We arrived at the assembly area more than an hour before call time so we had a lot of time to spare—taking pictures!

With my takbo.ph family: Carina, Mar, Chelly, Jinoe, Me, and Vicky

With my takbo.ph family: Carina, Mar, Chelly, Jinoe, Me, and Vicky

One of the nicest sunrises I’ve ever seen

One of the nicest sunrises I’ve ever seen

For a race this size there surely are quite a lot of portalets

For a race this size there surely are quite a lot of portalets

The start line

The start line

That’s a lot of feet!

That’s a lot of feet!

The 15K trail run started at 5:41AM.  We initially planned for the “picture-taking pace” but the narrow trails and numerous runners eventually got us separated.  Add to that the lack of interesting views to take pictures, before we knew it we were running on our own.

15K race start

15K race start

Entering the trails

Entering the trails

The first of several mud pools along the trails

The first of several mud pools along the trails

The view of the long line of runners along the trails

The view of the long line of runners along the trails

Not before long I realized that the trail may not be as interesting as I had expected—there were no mountains nor hills in sight—only tall grasses and the ridiculously winding trail that was made specifically for bikers.  It was nice that the air was fresh but eventually you’ll tire of the endless grass.  There were a few interesting spots along the way though.

A view of the golf course where the trail was just outside of

A view of the golf course where the trail was just outside of

Being a bike trail there were bike-oriented features along the route, including my favorite spot on the course, the bike ramp.

The bike ramp which was my favorite spot on the course, too bad I’m not on wheels.

The bike ramp which was my favorite spot on the course, too bad I’m not on wheels.

One of a few bridges that line the trails

One of a few bridges that line the trails

Noted.

Noted.

The course wasn’t completely within the trails—the route crisscrosses the asphalted road that it runs parallel to.

The course wasn’t completely within the trails—the route crisscrosses the asphalted road that it runs parallel to.

As if the repetitive view wasn’t enough we had to endure the first 5K of the 15K route again for the final 5K leg.  The most surprising thing about this race was getting to the 15K mark—it’s not the finish line!  The 15K mark was well within the trails—the 15K route was actually 15.4K!

View of the finish line

View of the finish line

Coincidentally I met some of my friends running the 10K course on the road leading to the finish line so we were running side by side for a good several meters.  I didn’t want to ruin their “photo-finish” so I sprinted ahead to be able to take their pictures.  So there I was sprinting to the finish and there was a person ahead of me, walking.  Of course right after crossing the finish line I’d inevitably overtake him because of our difference in speed but I was a bit ticked off by one of the lady “marshal” that said “no overtaking please”—it’s not like after a sprint to the finish line I’d stop dead on my tracks to avoid overtaking the person ahead of me.  Besides our time were already logged so it wouldn’t matter.  To those who may potentially encounter such in the future, don’t stop!  Stopping abruptly may cause injuries on your part, just make sure that you don’t bump into the person (or any object) ahead of you.

15K Route

15K Route

Post-Race

For the first time I had a free massage after the race.  There were also some free items from sponsors and raffles.  There was also a live band to keep the crowd entertained as the bikers arrived.  Of course PhotoVendo was there to take our souvenir pictures, and as a part of takbo.ph we even had a group picture (although with a small group set as the others haven’t yet arrived at that time).  Overall this was one of the better post-race assembly areas I’ve seen, although for the bikers it was their pre-race.

Conclusion

Good:

  • Easy trail perfect for introducing trail running to beginners
  • Accurate kilometer markers along the route
  • Lots of marshals along the route
  • Plenty of water stations
  • Excellent location
  • Lively assembly areas
  • Quick results

Bad

  • Trails had low level of difficulty (for me at least)
  • Trail distance was longer than announced (for 10K and 15K)

Overall Rating: Good

17
Jun
09

Freedom Climb Chronicles (Part 3: Day Two, The Summit of Pico de Loro)

4AM: Time to get up.  The day of the assault to the summit has come.  It was a first time for me and a few in our group to reach Pico de Loro’s beak, I mean peak, and despite seeing the pictures there’s nothing better than actually being there.  Excited?  Yes!  (But still sleepy)

Begin the assault

Begin the assault

Welcome!

Welcome!

5AM: The assault begins!  The sun still hasn’t risen up but it is definitely starting to light up the sky.  The trails were barely visible at that time but it was gradually getting brighter.  Gab and his group would be staying at camp and cook breakfast for us (thank you guys!) so we were able to leave a lot of things and trek light. This was very beneficial for us since the ascent got much more difficult and steep.  Along the way we passed by the last campsite before summit where numerous groups were camped and also met a lot of fellow hikers as well.  It was an endless exchange of greetings.

At the last camping area before the summit

At the last camping area before the summit

Finally, the moment of truth.  The most challenging part of this adventure was getting to the summit itself.  There’s nothing to hold onto on these parts but grass!  Add to that the very steep gradients and wind!   At this point if you’re scared of heights there’s only one direction you should look: up!

Endless Fog

Endless Fog

6AM: After amassing strength to conquering the final leg the summit was upon us.  It wasn’t a very big area so not very many people would fit.  We were glad to be the first to arrive but unfortunately we were deprived of the legendary panorama—the clouds were so thick the visibility was very short.

The RunHikers at the summit of Pico de Loro (myself behind the camera)

The RunHikers at the summit of Pico de Loro (myself behind the camera)

While waiting for the sky to clear up

While waiting for the sky to clear up

With our event shirt on

With our event shirt on (Pepsi behind camera)

After staying at the summit for about an hour with no signs of the sky clearing up anytime soon we decided to head back down.  On our way down we encountered all the other hikers coming up to the summit for the flag raising ceremonies of the Freedom Climb event.  We were so excited to reach the summit that we forgot our flags at base camp.  We also didn’t expect the ceremonies to be that late (it was past 7AM when we crossed trails with the people heading the event) so it was unfortunate that we didn’t get to be with the actual ceremonies.

This was the best view we got of the other peak

This was the best view we got of the other peak

Low visibility: these fellows were just a few meters away from us

Low visibility: these fellows were just a few meters away from us

Time to head back to camp

Time to head back to camp

Pic stop en route (Mar behind the camera)

Pic stop en route (Mar behind the camera)

Upon arriving at our base camp breakfast was waiting for us—how sweet!  We didn’t really have long time to spare so after eating we packed all our things and started to scale down before 10AM.  Like our earlier descent we met more hikers on our way down but surprisingly enough this batch looked like they were going to the mall as some were wearing short shorts and slippers and some even brought along their little kids.

The sky cleared at the summit just when we were at base camp :(

The sky cleared at the summit just when we were at base camp 😦

The entire gang

The entire gang

Upon arriving at the jump off point our service was there but unfortunately it wasn’t the same RunHiker Mobile—it was a van.  Yes we all fit (barely like sardines inside the can) and it has air-conditioning but it’s not as charming as the previous one.  Before finally heading off for Manila we stopped by some eateries along the way for some “real” food.  A few of us were dropped off along the way so it was just the core RunHikers on the final stop.  Trekking being a physically-demanding activity it was just natural that we were hungry and stopped by a nearby bakeshop for deserts.  This was the end of our Pico de Loro adventure but this was not the end of our weekend activity.  What happened next was an entirely new chapter.

Notes to remember

Notes to remember

I would like to thank Mar and Gab for making this memorable climb such a wonderful experience for us especially the first timers.  Likewise, thank you to the hardcores: Cindy, Ayen, Ana, Joseph and Sir Gary for supporting us and making the adventure fun.  Thank you all for bearing with the lesser-experienced wanna-be mountaineers like myself!  I hope you enjoyed it as much as we do and hope to have more stories with you guys.  To my fellow RunHikers thank you for the company and it was always a pleasure to do anything with you guys.  This is definitely just the beginning of many more activities to come.  (Some photos on this series from first to current courtesy Rodel, “the Argonaut”)

RunHikers post-climb

RunHikers post-climb

The RunHikers

No longer are we just runners.  No longer are we just hikers.
We are the RunHikers!




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The MIRACLE isn’t that I finished.  The miracle is that I had the COURAGE to START
– John “The Penguin Runner” Bingham
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