Archive for February, 2010


National Geographic Channel’s Earth Day Run

In celebration of Earth Day’s 40th Anniversary, National Geographic Channel is excited to announce its very first NatGeo Earth Day Run on April 18, 2010 at the SM Mall of Asia.  This fun run is open to all interested runners who are willing to participate in the 3K, 5K and 10K races.

Proceeds will go to building sustainable eco villages to withstand environmental disasters like last year’s Ondoy flooding and to support a global competition to rebuild climate resilient communities designed for a greener environment.

Through this event, NatGeo aims to promote Earth Day and its global mission to inspire people to care about the planet.

Help save the environment.  Join the NatGeo Earth Day Run!

For more details, please call Agatep Associates, Inc. at 635-9355-60 and look for Glaiza Porneso (loc 160); fax: 635-0516.

You may also register online at


BDM Test Run 2: Recon

February 21, 2010 together with some fellow BDM participants we returned to Mariveles, Bataan to continue where we left off from our last test run.  Most of the group weren’t able to join the previous test run so we started at +Km00.

Single-file as stated in the rules 🙂

Bataan Economic Zone

On the way to the base of the mountain

The start of the steep ascent (with one of our support vehicles)

Right: Km 3 BDM marker

Common sign around this area

There’s also this one

Still climbing

To BR: Sir could we request that you ease the rule about staying on the left side of the road, particularly between Km 4 to 6?

It is much more dangerous to stay on the left side from Km 4 to Km 6 as these were the steepest part of the route, there are no areas for pedestrians, there’s a deep ditch, and it has a lot of blind curves.  It was very dangerous during daylight, what more during night time?

Close calls

For everyone

We initially planned to run just the first 7K of the route but due to good weather we extended it further until +Km10.  Cramming for mileage?

Downhill after +Km7

From +Km10 we headed off to +Km50 to take some pictures, and after a brief stay went on our way towards +Km87, the final 15K of the BDM route.  We decided to run this final leg to give us some idea and feel of the route.  But before we got there a lot of unexpected twists greeted us.

Group shot at +Km50, courtesy Jet Paiso

Under Construction

Unexpectedly a lot of road works greeted us on our way to +Km87.  What’s alarming was that typical of Philippine construction sites there’s not much room for pedestrians as half of the road was being constructed and the remaining half for vehicles.  This was in +Km68 and +Km82.

To BR: Would the “keep left” rule remain even if there’s no space on the left?

Road works; taken from the back seat of our vehicle

More road works, +Km84

+Km87, still under construction

To summarize road works are in +Km68 followed by one before +Km82 all the way to +Km90.

Expect roads to be like this

Beyond 90

After managing the confusing roads at +Km90 it’s pretty much “easy” on the way to +Km101, in fact if it weren’t for the blazing sun and the shade-less road it would’ve been nice.  Finding +Km102 (San Fernando, Pampanga) gave us some interesting challenge and arriving there gave us some idea of what to expect on race day.  Hopefully during D-Day itself we arrive in a good condition as we were during this test run.

Former San Fernando Rail Station: the finish line for BDM102, the beginning of the ordeal for Death March prisoners, the end of lives for many.

Death March historical marker

Brief history from the historical marker: At this railroad station of San Fernando, the Filipino and American prisoners of war who had been marched all the way from Bataan to Pampanga, in one of the ghastliest forced marches in history, were loaded like cattle on boxcars where, because every compartment was packed to the limit, many suffocated or were crushed to death during the trip to Capas.

San Fernando Railway Station historical marker

Why so serious?

After everyone arrived and got settled it’s time for some group picture with the BDM +Km102 marker.

Presenting the Bataan Superbods! 😀

Of course you probably know by now that right after that shot we all “scrammed” towards the nearest restaurant for lunch!   It was already about 3PM so you have some idea how famished we were!  Ahhh, the ultra-life!

10 Class Video

If you’ve heard of a “class picture,” goes even further with its own “class video!”

For whatever the reason this video came about would be a “secret” for now.  Stay tuned to find out what it’s all about but I got a feeling that some of you may already know. 😀


I Survived Mount Pulag (Part 2)

Apparently I wasn’t the only one who needs to be thawed.  At around 3AM I was hearing voices in our camp and I’m hearing water was being boiled for coffee—just the thought of hot coffee in your tummy during this freezing setting is already heaven.  I was still reluctant to get outside for coffee, but I was more reluctant to go back to sleep!

Earlier on we had planned to wake up at around 4AM and climb at 4:30AM—we feared that because of fatigue we may not be able to wake up early.  Ironically it was too cold that we weren’t able to sleep well or woke up too early.  Only a few “warm bodies” weren’t glad of the turnout of events as their sleep was disturbed.  After a while, our group leader gave in and started checking who’s awake, and so started our day.

Early morning at campsite, courtesy Carina

Assault to the Summit

Even before 4:30AM struck we were off for the summit, our belongings left at the campsite.  Despite enjoying much lighter weight mobility was still limited—our headlamps were the only light source, it was cold, the elevation was getting higher, and the ascent was getting steeper.

Break of dawn: the white spots are headlamps of fellow climbers

Still climbing to the summit…

Finally at the summit! Officially Mt. Pulag is 2,922 masl but my GPS survey reflects 2,944 masl

Our group wasn’t alone at the summit

Waiting for sunrise

First light of Valentine’s Day, or the (Chinese) New Year whichever you prefer


The mist covers the mountains below

The shadow of Mt. Pulag

My dirty and worn out Kayano 13: Mt. Pulag certified!

The sea of clouds…

…and the shadows of the mountains

Thumbs up (I’d give it two but my other hand is holding the camera :))

Back to Camp

Around 7AM hikers started their descent, and so did we.  As much as we wanted to stay we still have our camp to pack-up. 😦

By 7AM we started our descent back to camp to pack-up

By that time we could see better the route that we took early on in the darkness

A lone tree in the sky

Close-up of the lone tree

Still amazing views

Rocky road to campsite

After some brief rest and eating it was finally time to say goodbye to this lovely place.  After everything’s been packed (including the trash) it’s time to retrace our route back to Camping Ground 1, then eventually to the Park Ranger Station for lunch.

Goodbye Mt. Pulag! Until we meet again…

On the way back…

At Camping Ground 1 (2,570 masl), courtesy Pepsi

Hep! Pic-stop on the way to the Park Ranger Station, courtesy Pepsi

The sign that marks the start of the trail, courtesy Carina

By lunchtime we arrived safely back to the Park Ranger Station at Babadak where we had sumptuous lunch!  It may seem simple but out in the mountains it was a luxury as we even have cold sodas (softdrinks) with our delicious meal.


It was also here where our jeepneys service picked us up again to return us to Baguio City, but first we need to have a few stops along the way.

Protected Area Office

Before finally going back to “reality” the first thing any hiker must do is log out at the Protected Area Office.  Here you can also get your last minute Mt. Pulag souvenirs such as shirts, key chains, bonnets, etc.  You may also wash up or take your bath here.  The cold water shouldn’t be much of a problem since it’s not as cool here as in higher places.

Lazy afternoon at PAO

Note: You’d still be faced by many more kilometers of dusty unpaved roads on your way back to Baguio City so taking a bath is hardly effective

Sidetrip: Ambuklao Dam

After PAO it would be back to the supercalifragilisticexpialidocious-ly winding road but before we all fall asleep we asked our driver to inform us when we’re in the vicinity of Ambuklao Dam since we’d be passing through it.  And after alternating nap sessions and kilometers of road we finally reached the viewing area of the dam.  It was almost 5PM then.

The dam and the river; El Niño is definitely being felt in the region evident by the little water output of the dam

Our jeepney service with our loads on top

The road is already paved in this area

Baguio City

Eventually after some more time of the dizzying road we arrived in Baguio City, just shortly after sunset.  Like with running, what would you expect from hikers but to eat!

Scene from the very busy restaurant called…

…Good Taste


We were so lucky that despite being a “holiday” we were able to get some seats in this very popular restaurant.  My lucky stars must be shining on me as it was my first time in Baguio City (technically second because the first was when we got here the previous day).

Afterwards, it was a quickie to the market to buy some more “pasalubong” (souvenirs).  For me I highly recommend Ube and Strawberry Jam, the latter a bit expensive but worth every penny (if I knew it was “that” good I would’ve bought more!).

Getting around this city was pretty easy with cabs (taxi) as unlike in Metro Manila fares are very, very cheap.  This may primarily be because they don’t use air conditioning (for obvious reasons).  For those who haven’t been here note that while there may be AUV-type (FX) taxis around the rear seats are removed limiting capacity of all taxis to six passengers (driver excluded).

Back to Reality

It was a whirlwind weekend adventure for us as we successfully survived Luzon’s highest peak Mt. Pulag.  Truly this mountain can’t be “conquered” as you have to “survive” it.  Coming here at this time of the year and experiencing all that we had made this truly an adventure we won’t soon forget.  I’m so glad that the parks are taken cared of well by the government and the residents, and I hope it would stay that way for generations to come.  This will definitely be not the last time Mt. Pulag will see me, but for the mean time it’s time for us to go back to our regular lives.



I was so tired of our adventure that I honestly didn’t know what road our bus took to the Metro.  Unfortunately our bus was very much like Mt. Pulag—cold!  I was wearing just my normal tee at the time so it was another dash of misadventure for me—but unlike in Mt. Pulag I still managed to get some sleep (and had developed the talent to stay warm :)).  Note to self: always keep your jacket in handy!


I Survived Mount Pulag (Part 1)

Mount Pulag became my “date” last February 14, 2010, Valentine’s Day.  It was also Chinese New Year that day so you may say there were at least two reasons that made that weekend special.

Mount Pulag (16°35′0.86″N 120°53′0.93″E) is the highest peak in the island of Luzon, Philippines at 2,922 meters (9,587 feet) above sea level.  At such height there are many unique things you can experience, but particularly for me I was seeking once again that “winter feeling.”  Little did I know that I’d be getting much, much more than what I bargained for.

Baguio City

Baguio City is considered the Philippines’ summer capital because of its much milder than Manila weather (normally 10°C cooler) due to its high elevation (around 1,500 masl).  It is a six hour bus ride from Cubao, Quezon City, and it was our first stop in our journey.  Arriving at 4AM in the city we were greeted by gusts of chilly winds, which was around 10°C then—time to put on the layers!

(I so wanted to try that strawberry taho but I was afraid my stomach may “argue” with me so I have to postpone it for my return to Baguio a few months from now ;-))

Note: Buy your return tickets upon arrival in Baguio City to evade long queues

Kabayan, Benguet

From Baguio City we took our pre-hired jeepney service to Kabayan, Benguet.  It was a slow, few hours drive with winding, twisting, ascending, descending, and rough dirt roads.  Using the word zigzag would be an understatement to describe it (supercalifragilisticexpialidocious-ly zigzagging perhaps?).  I almost lost what’s left of dinner during the commute, thankfully we had a quick stop somewhere along the route for breakfast (although my tummy still wasn’t in the mood for some work so coffee and pandesal would suffice for the moment).

A significant portion of the road was rough and unpaved so jeepneys normally hired for this job are pretty covered to provide some shelter from the dust (but it’s not as air-tight as buses and the like).  Despite its Spartan look it packs a lot of power than many 4x4s!  It had to if it were to carry more than a dozen people carrying heavy loads up (and down) the mountains on anything but tamed roads.

Typical jeepney service to/from Kabayan, Benguet

Mt. Pulag National Park

As with most protected areas you can’t just climb any mountains as you wish—you have to register with DENR (Department of Environment and Natural Resources) and secure permit or whatever obligations are required. It is also for your safety so that the authorities may know anytime how many people are within their jurisdiction hence it’s a step everyone should follow everywhere it is mandated.


The Mount Pulag Protected Area Office was the site for briefing and registration for this climb, and it proved to be a very pleasant experience as we were shown an informational video aside from some instructions on how we can help preserve the pristine beauty of the mountains.  We were also given emergency numbers we can contact and some helpful advice.  Before leaving though make sure you’ve paid the P200 fee per person (entrance, camping, LGU, etc.) as you need to present it to the Park Ranger Station to proceed.

Note: You may rent blankets here in case you forgot to bring one


This is required

Banners from different groups that have been here decorate the area inside and out

Park Ranger Station

After the short but pleasant briefing and registration we were off to the farthest point our service can take us, the Park Ranger Station in Babadak, still in Kabayan, Benguet.  You can say that the first step towards the summit begins here (and inversely, end) so any last minute preparation should be done here.  There’s water and restrooms here so you can freshen up before your assault.  Porters can also be hired here if you don’t feel like carrying your load towards the camping area (P250 one-way).

Ranger Station

Note: Guides are required (to help watch over the environment and the hikers themselves) who will take you to the camping sites: P500 per groups of five, additional P100 per person in excess of

Before continuing our journey we decided to have our early lunch here as Camping Ground 1 is about half an hour away, and Camping Ground 2 is around two hours further!

Starting our ascent from Ranger Station: 2,510 masl

Camping Grounds

From the Park Ranger Station (about 2,500 masl) it is still about 7.5 kilometers to the summit—a 400 meter ascent!  You can opt to head straight to the summit and hopefully catch the sunset, or like us set up camp in Camping Ground 2—roughly 2K before the summit.

This photo reminds me of a scene from the movie “Avatar”

Note: The last water source during our hike was in Camping Site 1; spring water further up the trail had dried up due to the prevailing El Niño

After about two hours of managing the trail (at picture-taking pace) we arrived at our destination for the day, Camping Ground 2 (about 2,700 masl).  From here we had a good view of the summit which is still at least 2K away and 200 meters above.

Mt. Pulag summit 2K away from camp

Approaching Camping Ground 2

A unique feature of this campsite was the restrooms both for men and women.  Although it was merely a hole in the ground, it does offer privacy and also prevent wastes from spreading everywhere.  As part of our briefing, Mt. Pulag is considered sacred by the residents and as such “nature calls” have to be addressed only on designated areas.

Hers and His

Home away from home

Inside my tent: my eeePC charging my GF405 at 2,700 masl

Temperature at the campsite dropped rather quickly with the sun slowly setting so our dinner was prepared early while sunlight was still available.  By 5PM we were already having our dinner and shortly afterwards sleep was the agenda—you can’t blame us for skipping the traditional “socializing” as the darkness of night was quickly engulfing the campsite, not to mention that the temperature at the time was already falling near freezing!

Panoramic view of our camp

High Altitude Sickness

Many of us were experiencing headaches, including myself, for quite some time since our ascent to the campsite.  Back then I thought it was just the lack of sleep that induced my headache but since many of us were suffering the same it had to be more than that.  Upon googling it up I found the culprit—high altitude sickness, normally experienced at elevations as low as 2,000 masl but more typically above 2,400 masl with headaches as one of its symptoms.  It can’t be diagnosed beforehand who will experience it and not everyone will have it.  Sleeping it proved to be a cure for me but there were still some that still had it the following day.

Camping Ground 2: 2,721 masl

Nature’s Call

It was one of my earliest bed times ever at 6PM—sunlight was almost out, and you don’t want to hang around outside where it was almost freezing and very windy (think wind-chill).  As they say, “early to bed, early to rise” and that was exactly what happened.  That night I was awakened by the need to address nature’s call.  Going outside my tent was the last thing on my mind as cold winds were violently blowing outside so I thought I’d hold it until our call time at 4AM.  We all know that if we must go, WE MUST GO!  I was shocked when I looked at my watch: 10PM—I thought it was already early in the morning!  Of course there was no possibility of holding out till 4AM so reluctantly I had to venture outside my tent.  With all the clothes I could wear, my headlamp, and all the guts I could muster, I went into the dark and freezing world outside (it was around freezing that time, no kidding!) and go to the restroom about a hundred meters or so away (remember that you should only do your “business” in designated areas here).  It was quite an experience to do such, but for braving the cold you get rewarded by nature with the most spectacular night sky I’ve ever seen!  I can only describe it to you as it can’t be “seen” by my camera: clear skies with practically no clouds with stars unbelievably so many.  Of course as much as you want to savor that moment you’d want to rush to your tent as soon as the wind blew on your face!


Sleeping when you’re tired is pretty easy—except when you’re freezing!  As the hours passed, the temperature dropped even further, eventually below zero (degrees Celsius).  Occasionally I’d be awaken by the cold and by simple adjustments I can compensate but eventually I ran out of clothes and paraphernalias to wear, I was still cold, and the temperature was still dropping!  I honestly was scared!  Not even my winter clothes I wore for winter in Ohio in much colder temperatures were enough. I realized that back then even if it was much colder I was active and awake, and spent only for a few hours max outside, not sleeping outside in a tent!  I feared that I may fall asleep and have hypothermia.  Indeed lasting through this night was survival.

Continued: Part 2


You’ve Got Mail!

An unexpected surprise came into my mail today that made my already awesome day even better:

From Singapore Sports Council… I wonder what it is 😉 (yeah that’s how our local mail is treated, moving on…)

Tada! My SCSM 2009 Finisher’s Certificate

I actually forgot all about it, and I’m glad I did because now it came as a surprise.  And good thing that it still holds my marathon best time.  And yes, it’s laminated and it even comes with a zip-lock bag (for your Finisher’s shirt in case you want your finish time printed on it, see below).  I-love-it!

Wear your best time on your finisher tee (click to download instructions)



Condura Run 2010: Déjà vu

Condura Run 2010 realized the vision of the Concepcion brothers of having their own marathon race.  For many runners out there it was also the realization of their dreams of running their first marathon.  For me I just realized that I want to run this race—no pressure, no commitment, and no target—just enjoy the ride.  It was the first marathon in the country for this year, and it was also my first race for the year—after two months of slumber.

Socks, bibs, gels... good to go!

Coming into this race was like coming into my first marathon—I was practically unprepared.  During my first marathon I was essentially fresh off my first ultramarathon, TNF100, so my training was centered on endurance, not speed.  Likewise now my body is being prepared for yet another ultramarathon, BDM102.  No disrespect to the marathon, I wasn’t totally unprepared—prepared to endure but not to be fast.  As a regular person with no special genes for running I can only choose between endurance and speed—I can’t have both.  Just as with my first marathon this race was a mere test—a test of my “raw” skills.  This was why I refused to commit to any pacing duty.  This was why I didn’t have a specific target time.

For the first time in months I saw many of my friends that I missed dearly.  Not before long the marathon had begun.  It was 4AM and it was still dark. I was off to a great start and I was exceeded my expectations.  First 5K in 26 minutes, 10K in 54 minutes—I guess SIM was a good training after all for running blindly in the darkness!  13K, the Skyway ramp—here we go!  Gradually the ramps were sapping my energy, 15K in 1:24, still within a decent time but I was starting to eat away my early gains.  By that time I felt hunger—I usually get hungry after 21K and its early onset is not a good sign!  And I didn’t have my regular marathon food this time! The next 5K saw my pace drop to below 6min/km finishing the first 20K in 1:56—uh oh!  I wasn’t even completing the first half in 2 hours!  (But at least was able to beat my last year’s 21K time also on the Skyway albeit a slightly different route)  Energy gels are great but I was feeling the effect of lack of nutrition.  From that point I know that everything was going downhill for me, while the Skyway’s uphills had barely been covered!

Slowly but surely runners overtook me—I felt like I was exerting the same effort but looking at my GF405 I was actually doing my “cruise speed” during BDM Test Run!  My body had automatically switched to ultramarathon pace!

Uphills + ultramarathon pace + forefoot strike = plantar problem! I don’t know when and where exactly it happened; all I know was that I had this annoying feeling on my right thigh and by 30K I was totally spent, both my plantar was aching, and my pace was hitting the 7min/km mark. Goodness, I was craving badly for a banana.

Fortunately upon our return to Buendia it was raining bananas—or so it seemed!  I was just so happy to see so much friendly faces, many of which I do not know but whole-heartedly offered bananas and even massages to those wanting it—you all know who you are and to us you are all angels, thank you very much!

I love my banana! Courtesy Jinoe Gavan

Of course my pace didn’t improve immediately as I was starving for nutrients but I managed to hang onto 7min/km pace.  Steady as I went enjoying every bite from that banana I got when I suddenly heard someone from behind speaking loudly, “excuse me but could you spare me half of your banana?”  On my mind the thought of “but we just passed by those bananas…” came, but of course as a fellow runner I understood that you wouldn’t ask for something from another person if you don’t really need it, so I think you know how it went.

I think I had just swallowed my last bite of banana when I was upon the final stumbling block—the Kalayaan flyover.  This was when I enforced my ultramarathon rule, “walk during uphills.”  I’ve yet benefitted from that banana, the sun was starting to heat up the surroundings, I was exhausted, and it’s about 7K to go!  The result was a staggering 8 minute pace for 35-36K!  I think this can be referred to as the Galloway Method? 🙂

Final 5K, 32nd Street.  It was just a matter of time until our “ordeal” was over but even if the terrain relaxed the sun refuses to make running easier as it shines bright above us, and it was just around 8AM!  Of course it was obvious at this point that I wouldn’t be making any new personal record with this race, and just with my last long run (BDM Test Run) I just thought “let’s get this over with so I can eat!”

I have a ridiculously fast metabolism but for some weird reason bananas don’t “kick-in” as fast as I wanted.  The half banana I took about 8K ago was just starting to take effect at 40K but late as it came it was a welcome boost for my final kilometer—finish strong!  41-42K at 5:56 and the last few hundred meters at 5:10 pace!

The Marathon Route

Crossing the marathon finish line is always special no matter how many times you did it before.  That was especially true if you had a particular difficulty with the race.  “Easy” races make you proud, but it’s the “difficult” ones that keep you groundedreminding you that you’re still human—breakable.  In the end I was able to keep the time I mentioned to be my “target” to all that kindly asked: between 4 and 5 hours finish (safe, whew!).  Later on I found out that my average pace luckily was still within my recommended long run pace.  A marathon ran with ultramarathon pace ending as a long run—interesting!  Now my only problem is how to get back that 3,000 calories burned…

Lessons Learned

  • Don’t try anything new on race day (yeah blame it on the socks, hehe)
  • Eat properly and hydrate well before the race (you don’t want to run hungry quite early)
  • You can get away with any races without training, but not with marathons!  (Unless you want to finish in 8 hours or more)
  • There are always lessons to be learned (as long as your cup is not full)

Special thanks to Sir Amado Castro, Reinier Pacific, and the volunteers for the bananas and their wonderful service.  Thank you as well to my family for the cheers, support, and of course pictures!  Thank you Sir Ton and Pat Concepcion for a memorable race and to the race volunteers, race marshals, and everyone involved that made this race possible.  See you next year!

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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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