With TNF’s introduction of a 50K leg (as a replacement to the venerable 100K relay) many runners were encouraged to do their first trail ultramarathon, and surprisingly with my circle of friends many of which were ladies! Of course there were also a select few first timers (within my network at least) that braved the 100K. Then there were also the “avengers” seeking revenge for the “tragedies” that the past TNF100 brought onto them.
Let’s Get it Started!
Saturday, April 24, 2010, 3AM, the toughest race of my life thus far has begun. As if the difficulty that is TNF100 isn’t intimidating enough, coming into a race with one good knee and the other on a “walk-only” mode was really frustrating—the ingredients to an adventure of a lifetime, or a disaster in the making.
Initially I thought that the course didn’t have much runnable routes so I won’t be left behind much with my “walking knee” but as it turned out it had so much more flat courses than last year’s. As such my short term goal was just not to be left behind alone—I wouldn’t want to go inside the trail in the darkness of early morning alone. I’ll admit that I have very little sense of direction so getting lost, especially in my condition, wasn’t an option if I were to finish this race within cutoff time of 30 hours.
Originally I was with the company of female friends doing their 50K ultra trail debut but since I don’t have the luxury of time I had to move on ahead, practically alone, while my knees were still feeling good, merely following the trail of lights runners ahead were beaming from their blinkers. As long as I’m not totally alone I won’t get lost.
Sunrise came early and up until that time the route was generally going down. From about 1,500masl in Burnham Park (Start) we were heading towards the lowest point of the race at around 840masl (660m descent). As with TNF100, what goes down will come up. But before the downward trend bottomed out we were presented with really narrow trails—you get to see and hear the road below which was a bit frightening. Down below there was a station waiting for us serving water, boiled bananas, and sweet potatoes where many of us took a quick break. It was about 5:30AM, around 16K (aerial/GPS) into the route. It’s all uphill from there.
Up, Up, Up
Those who scouted the route described the route in one word repeated thrice, “up!” And they were right. From 840masl we’d be heading towards the highest point of the race at about 2,250masl (1,410m ascent) oftentimes steeply. At this time I was again practically alone but since it was daylight, I didn’t mind. The route was well marked so it was foolproof for me, at least at that time. Eventually I was able to catch up with some friends along the very tiring ascending route which made the trek more pleasant. It was very daunting to tell them when they asked that we’re only around 21K into the route, and the short term target was km35 where our supplies were. Knowing how much further we had to cover was disheartening, particularly at the pace we were going, but there’s nowhere else to go but up!
Our confidence skyrocketed through the roof at the sight of “km35.” At first I thought it was weird because my GF405 was telling me it’s only km22-ish so we assumed that the terrain covered was computed and not the obvious aerial/GPS distance. Nonetheless we were just so happy and surprised that we reached km35 that soon! Next target, do the “10K” loop and finish 45K before cutoff. The first cutoff was to be implemented in km45 and was set to expire 3:30PM—and it wasn’t even 8AM yet! We were even so confident that we actually thought of bringing only our hydration supplies with us for the next 10K, only that we were still required to bring all the “required” items. So after a quick refill we were off for the next “10K.”
The early part of the next “10K” was pleasant—we were running through the clouds, literally! We were also blessed with cool cloudy weather so walking was nice—there’s hardly any point in running as even walking was very challenging! This section leads to the highest point of the race, 2,250masl, at Mt. Sto. Tomas.
Not before long my GF405 left me, shortly before reaching km30 around 9:45AM (or about 8K after “km35”). Henceforth I had no idea how fast or slow I was going, my elevation, or what time it was (I still had my cellphone for timekeeping but it was impractical to take it out of my backpack just to check the time). It was all climb and still no “U-turn” in sight! Uh-oh! I think we were duped into false hopes and now the actual distance was being compensated! We were walking for so long and it seemed endless. Asking fellow runners already heading back wasn’t very encouraging. Asking them how far you have to go they’d say something like, “Around two—two hours more.” This is what an ultramarathon was all about. Keeping in mind how long I’ve been walking, how long I have to cover before reaching the turn, and how long I needed to return, it definitely wasn’t just “10K.” And I thought I was safely behind the cutoff time! Would I make it back to the “real” km45 before 3:30AM?
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TNF100 2010 Chronicles: