My TNF100 2016 Chronicles would not be complete without the stories behind the scenes, before and after the race. This is also where I got to look back at the event and note my observations and lessons learned.
TNF100 was actually out of my mind until some casual conversation I had with fellow bloggers on our way back to Manila from Subic, just after we did Salomon X-Trail. At the time, I was just toying with the idea but sometime later, Aileen of Primer Group of Companies asked me if I wanted to join. Of course I would not miss this chance! TNF100 holds a special place in my heart because it is my first ultramarathon. And its Baguio leg was one of my most memorable races ever. And so we could say that the rest is history.
We arrived in Baguio a day before the race, just in time for the briefing. It’s the largest TNF100 briefing I’ve ever seen in terms of attendance and I felt like a newbie. It’s nice to see some familiar faces though that I’ve not seen in years! The briefing though basically just went through what was already in the website. Only the allocation of food per runner and the announcement that personal support crews are allowed were the only new information mentioned.
We went back shortly after the briefing and after a brief rest, we were back in Camp John Hay for dinner. The weather was much cooler than I had anticipated (as the heat in Metro Manila where we were from was scorching) so that got factored in with what I’m going to be wearing on race day in just a few hours. After we got back to the hotel, everything that I was supposed to bring and wear were prepared, and got a few hours of sleep. Since I’m running 50K instead of my usual 100K, I had an extra hour of sleep! But we still arrived at the starting line in time to witness the 100K sent off.
After spending slightly more than half a day in the trails of Baguio, I was back at the activity area, soaking wet and feeling really cold. And it was just bustling with activity that I really didn’t know where to go. I didn’t have anything checked in at the baggage counter so I don’t have any change clothes. Some water seeped through my bag when it rained but thankfully I still had a towel that remained dry which I used to wipe off some wet spots in my jacket. It’s made of a plastic-like material so it easily got dry. And so to help me retain some more body heat, I took off my soaked top and put on my jacket. I also used my towel as a shawl. Everything else below the belt remained soaked.
Then I looked for something warm to eat. Packed lunch was prepared for finishers, which was really nice, but it was the cup noodles I was looking forward to, to get some warmth. I had to wait for them to boil water though so I consumed my ration first to gain back some calories.
I was hardly rested when we heard an announcement that the leader of the 100K is approaching the finish line! It happened so fast that I was hardly able to get a decent shot! That’s so amazing! He ran twice my distance and he finished just a few minutes after me!
All along this time I remained standing. There were plenty of seats but none was available and at least half of them were occupied by non-runners. Good thing some folks gave their seat to the 100K champ as he really needed it. Interestingly, he seemed like he’s in the same predicament as I was—cold! After a while I finally had a seat and got some rest. I think my pants already got dry then.
The good thing about running 50K is you get to finish on the same day and not get as wasted as when you do 100K. Walking and doing stairs are still really challenging, but you still have energy left to do things. I actually woke up the following day pretty early despite sleeping not so early.
It’s the 22K and 11K runners’ turn the following day. We 50K runners understandably didn’t bother covering their gun start as we focused on getting rested and enjoying our sumptuous hotel breakfast. And then we’re off to the public market of Baguio to get some souvenirs (or more accurately, pasalubong).
After dropping off our purchases at the hotel, we’re back in the activity area to witness the awarding ceremonies and some of the 100K finishers just coming in.
And then I noticed that some 100K and 50K finishers were carrying these tokens similar to what we had back in 2009. These are car plates with a TNF logo in the middle: black for the 100K finishers and white for the 50K. I didn’t know that TNF100 still have tokens for 100K and 50K finishers so I didn’t bother with it as I thought it was for podium finishers only. Much, much later on while we were already on our way back to Manila did we know that they’re for the first 250 finishers of 100K and 50K legs. The total number of participants were much less than that figure so every finisher should have one. It was not announced during the briefing and there was no mention of it during the awarding.
After witnessing the awarding ceremonies, some members of the media got the chance to interview the winner of TNF100, Jan Nilsen, regarding his thoughts about the race. His remarks also made me think of things that could be improved for the race overall and for myself with lessons learned. Let’s start with some of things that could be improved for the race:
- Electrolytes. Runners were expected to complete all mandatory gears before they’re allowed to race, in turn, we runners, also expect that TNF100 would provide the items they committed to runners as stated on their website and during the briefing, most especially as items as critical as electrolyte drinks. I’ve heard stories before the race that TNF100 don’t provide everything they say they would, and I didn’t believe it until I actually experienced it. And it’s not just the electrolyte drinks that were missing! Hopefully, next year TNF100 acts like The North Face brand we know.
- Routes. There was no mention of changes with the 50K route so we were expecting that AS3 is at 27K (as stated in published maps) and not 30K. And there was no mention that the 50K is over 52K! A more accurate disclosure would’ve been highly appreciated as we tend to plan our strategies based on these distances. And running through a dump site isn’t exactly charming (they could’ve partially covered it with a tarp or something to make it less obvious).
The items above can be traced to poor communication and disclosure. If they simply disclose what they can provide accurately and in a timely manner, we runners could compensate for the things lacking. Just as we complied with the mandatory gears.
But there were things that I really liked about TNF100:
- Marshals. They are the unsung heroes of the race! They are always so friendly and ready to give you directions and cheer! Occasionally, they even give their own personal supplies to some runners in need! I actually almost crossed the wrong bridge on my way back had it not been for that nice old lady marshal.
- Routes. I’m torn whether I find the route difficult as my knee was in pain and I had cramps everywhere on both legs, or easy as I finished 50K in 12 and a half hours. Nonetheless, the sights were just stunning (except for the dump site) and the animals lining the routes made things more interesting. There were also a lot of potable natural spring water all along the route which were lifesavers for us runners!
- Runners. I’m really proud to have run with a great bunch of folks with TNF100! Sure, the leaders were highly competitive, but the rest of the folks were nice and friendly (most of them at least!). When I had my major cramp, a runner allowed me to use his roll-on liniment to help ease the cramp (thank you so much whoever you are!).
- Weather. I just love the cool Baguio weather! Sure, it got hot around noon but is was so much more bearable than elsewhere in the lower altitudes of the country. The temperature during the 50K event was from 15°c to 32°c.
- Finisher’s Medal. I’ve never had a TNF100 finisher’s medal before as we used to only have a finisher’s token, but I really find it so lovely! It’s of great quality and it can also be used as a bottle opener—how cool is that! I actually thought that this had replaced the finisher’s token.
- Finisher’s Token. This token is a great source of motivation for us when we feel like giving up and is something we always proud to show off after the race. It separates TNF100 apart from other races and it’s nice to know TNF100 still have this. It would be nice though if we received it shortly after we finish (I still have yet received mine as of the moment).
- Finisher’s Meal. While the meal isn’t really gourmet, I really appreciate it as anyone who just finished an ultramarathon would attest, you’d finish hungry!
For me, here are some of my lessons learned:
- Use the baggage counter and deposit change clothes, perhaps some food, money, and other things that could be of use
- Bring some cash on the trails! There were some stores along the 50K route of TNF100 selling, among other things, soft drinks and sports drinks.
- Bring ORESOL (Oral rehydration salts) in case electrolyte drinks are not available.
- Bring liniments in case of cramps. Not just for yourself.
- Place things inside plastic or zip lock bags in case of heavy rains or water crossings.
I’m glad that TNF100 is still here and has much more following than before. Despite some of its shortcomings, I still find it one of the must join races in the Philippines, most especially now that they’re back in Baguio. It still has some way to go, but I hope to see it become one of the major ultra-trail races in the region.
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To Aileen and Primer Group of Companies, thank you for the chance to join TNF100 on its return to Baguio!
To all finishers, Congratulations! 😀
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TNF100 2016 Chronicles: