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A Most Unexpected Journey, Part II


It was the weekend when most of my friends were doing the Mt. Sembrano 25KM trail race and since it fell on a Saturday, I just couldn’t abandon my clinic works and join them. And so I messaged our Payasso FB group if anyone was up for some Sunday trail fun. A day passed and it looked like I’ll have to do it solo. Until I got a message from Meljohn (BoyP) of his planned trek to Matulid Falls which looked really dinky in the FB page he created.
But any BoyP invite I have learned not to ignore, recalling our 2012 accidental adventure which lasted the whole day. Check this out.https://rundmd8.wordpress.com/2013/03/23/a-most-unexpected-journey/

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And so I arrived at McDonalds near Ever Commonwealth at 4 AM. We were 7 in all including Doc Pitot, Dan & Russelle, Chito & Ariel. We left for Rodriguez, Rizal by 4:30 and after one endless descending drive to our starting area, we set out by 5:30 AM. So it’s a non-stop assault and more climbs along a dusty trail studded with bald brown mountains on both sides. 3 hours later (12 KMs), after more slopes and uphills, we found ourselves venturing into a forested zone peppered with white boulders, some the size of trucks. We coasted along until we reached a centuries-old giant tree lording the forest land. Soon, the plunge began with no end in sight. It only settled once we set foot on the river banks as we traced its winding meandering route.

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We were truly in the middle of a tropical forest replete with towering trees, oversized roots and cascading ferns. I thought we were the only outsiders there with a sprinkling of locals every now and then. Along the way, we encountered lumberjacks with finely cut boards of timber hanging on their backs and marching up to deliver their goods and get paid P350-P500 per board delivered. As we went deeper, we saw patches of newly burnt fields, some with ancient trees on their last struggle before being surrendered for charcoal making in a random exercise of the kaingeros. Definitely, certain sectors are making a hay from Rodriguez’s last swaths of remaining forest growth.

Freshly burned forest, anyone?

Freshly burned forest, anyone?

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By 9:15 AM, the rumbling sounds of Matulid Falls came, pulling us in to behold and enjoy its fascinating beauty. We stayed for a good 30 minutes to swim in its cool clear waters, refresh and eat. Now this was the highlight of this journey and totally worth the effort.

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In our return trip, we took another path less steep, this time tracing the river up as we scrabbled over boulders and crisscrossed the river many times. It still was a struggle but with new sceneries, it wasn’t as bad, especially when one is joined by a lumberjack with 50 kilos on his back. Once we reached KM 25, we took our short meal of halohalo, trail mix and bread.
The final 12 kilometers still featured mild hills but relatively, it was all descents which we took in with gusto and speed. We really had no choice as master BoyP, the brain, clock and compass behind this journey, had an itinerary by the hour to be followed. So every time we were seen slowing a bit, chitchatting or stopping, he would bring out his imaginary whip and crack it at us (like horses). So a little over 2 PM, we reached our starting point, took in some beer and kikiam before calling it a day.  It was a total of 36 kilometers and worth every step of the journey, indeed.

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Goodbye, Matulid for now…

The road back took me 1.5 hours as we passed through Quezon City’s depressed areas of Payatas going up. It took us almost a full day but it was truly worth the trip.

Amazing photography by Dan Sagayap Alvarez & Doc Richelle Perez.  Now, I’d want me a GoPro camera myself!

point of entry: toyang / san isidro, rodriguez, rizal
approx distance: 36 km (2way)
local guide: not available for now
fee: free as of now
trail description: open trails (to the last sitio), kaingin trails, river crossings
chances of getting lost: 3 / 10
side trip: simbahang bato, pamintinan falls, kipot falls, puray falls, sitio inuman, balagbag, oriod, deadmans trail, japanese tora2 (to be explored)


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Surviving my third 100KM Trail Race


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This is my second Four Lakes 100KM Race (since 2012) and the journey never gets any easier, albeit more familiar and easier to navigate (but only in the day time).  Fortunately, we had a purpose – to remember and dedicate all 100 kilometers of this race to a fallen former Team Boring mate & Milo Apex coach Leo Tugade (Toel) whose riddled body was discovered a day before…

So this was basically the main event in the first quarter of my 2015 running calendar.  All the strengthening, conditioning, speed runs, registered road races (including the 7-11 marathon) and LSDs all culminated to this.   This was also my first 100KM trail race since my knee surgery almost 1.5 years ago.  And so we showed up at the Kayapa starting line in Nueva Vizcaya, 30 minutes before the 4 am gun start, feeling the mountain chill and palpable anxiety among the 90 100KM runners (a whopping jump from 26 in 2012).

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I had me a younger pace partner (from Ronnel Go in 2012) in Van Denn Cruz who was most helpful and efficient in the uphills and the downhills.  As indicated in the elevation graph, it was going to be one continuous climb with minimal descents in the first 10 kilometers.   The energy and eagerness was quite high and with limited visibility on perspective (of the actual ascents), everyone was in a competitive mode.  Daylight has struck when we reached Domolpos (KM17, AS2) with most of the elites already descending from Mt. Ugo.  It was a slow continuous struggle towards the peak but we finally reached it and had our customary peak shots.

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11088490_956009927742857_4390580792323940895_oThen it was time to take on the Spanish Trail – 13 kilometers of stunning views and endless descents into AS4 (KM35, Kayapa Market Proper) which runners should reach within 8 hours or less.  Fortunately, we reached it at 6:30 but we stayed long enough to gobble the appetizing meals and cheap halohalo.  T’was 30 minutes of heaven.

dejavu from 2012

dejavu from 2012

Then came the looong and breathtaking climb up to Amelong Labeng into that steep hill where the cellular phone tower is situated.

the blue mountain at the back is where the celphone antenna (look for the pointed structure) can be seen.  view taken from our room in Kayapa.

the blue mountain at the back is where the celphone antenna (look for the pointed structure) can be seen. view taken from our room in Kayapa.

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from that river was where we started this climb

We took short breaks in between but the surge never stopped in the face of the scorching heat and the ticking clock.  Until the downhills came, albeit too steep and daunting.  But we managed the way Ronnel and I did in 2012.  A few more descents and we were down Castillo Village (KM49, AS5).  It was 2:30 PM, 2.5 hours before the cut-off time into Dayap (KM56).

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2012

2015

2015

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2012

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2015

Van, trying to part the green sea...

Van, trying to part the green sea…

Many opted to take their time and rest while we left in a huff, recalling the taxingly continuous route to Dayap in 2012.  And good old memory served us right because the journey was truly ambiguous and paved with DNF-prone moments, what with the endless and steep way to top.  We reached it at 4PM and had an hour to devour something piping hot, change to new socks and refresh a bit.  Before we left at 5PM, a few late comers tried to make the cut but heartbreakingly failed.  It was a difficult scene to take as the mountains started to be cloaked in darkness.

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2012

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2015

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golf, anyone?

By night time, the game changed with poorer visibility, fogging, near freezing weather and some rain but we kept pushing, very slowly lest we end up by the deep valley/raging river below.  The road to Ambasa Pass (KM62) will always be difficult to ascend with its irregular path strewn with broken rocks and irregular terrain.  But we persisted.  After an eternity, the downhills came along with the long road to Banao.  I thought that having passed this way before, the going would be a breeze.  Of course, I will be proven wrong and my patience tested until the enigma that was Banao finally came in sight via that small light by the hill.  30 minutes of warming up and sustenance and we were on the return trip to Dayap (10:30 pm).  We scrambled on an irregular and constantly changing trailway on the way up to Ambasa (KM76) until the down hills came.  It was easier than the climb, for sure.  But with low visibility and road studded with sharp rocks here and there, we were reduced to ambling and jogging our way down.  Finally, Dayap beckoned and we knew we had only 18 kilometers to go.

After a brief rest, we continued our descent to Pangawan (KM85) into the elusive Mossy Forest which required another endless (and final!) climb as we kept searching for the yellow ribbons.  We were already a group of 10 runners so it was easier to grope in the dark with 20 eyes.    Soon enough, we entered its verdant chambers and just kept going for nearly an hour or so.  It was one endless tunnel with no end in sight and relatively more sinister in the dark.

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and my protegee finally starts to move a tad faster…

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the dawning in Kayapa…

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last of the hanging bridges…

 

At the break of dawn, we were starting to go down, at last.  I knew from the graph that this was one endless descent towards the finish line and would have been fast and a blast (as in 2012). But with my partner Van, wrecked and in pain (no injury but pure fatigue), I had to play the motivational pacer to trick him into moving. Fortunately, he responded in small continuous steps and some minor jogs.  Van’s longest ultra trail race before this was just the CM60KM last year so this was quite expected.  But banking on his youth and proper training, I knew he’d survive this one.

Soon (after running out of motivating and encouraging words), the finish line came into view and all the fatigue, sleepiness and hunger dissipated and I just wanted to take a bath and brush my teeth. 27 hours and 04 minutes it was.10360605_906607579401846_4962151996739348468_n11096776_351523868383208_706755844_n 11087004_351523858383209_889387462_n

Salamuch Frontrunner Magazine for one memorable and prestigious race, and of course my bib and the goodies! Cheers!

Photography by Ahon, Chinky Villavicencio, Randy Bierso and Frontrunner.


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A 4:11 at the 7 11


Technically, our 711 Marathon last February 22 was a mere training run to rack up some mileage for something bigger – the Four Lakes 100KM 2 weeks later.  So there were no big expectations and great preparations.

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Some gym workouts with P90x & T25…

What we did weeks before was hone our trail skills and speed ability.  The last two Tuesdays and Thursdays before the race, we took on the UP academic oval to join our Payasso 2200 group for 4-5 rounds of 2.2KM intense speed runs.  We already expected to be pushed to our limits with our VOmax (characterized by me wheezing in the last 50 meters) and hopefully our lactate threshold which might lessen cramping in the future.  But of course, the ordeal never gets easier.  An hour later, we were panting like hell, soaked to the bone and ready to dive in to a sumptuous dinner – our main motivation, really.

with our Payasso 2200 family!

with our Payasso 2200 family!

our prize for all the night's work!

our prize for all the night’s work!

A week before 7 11, we did our trail LSD on the hills of San Mateo.  Two hours into our aimless wandering, we found ourselves in the middle of a trail race with familiar characters popping from the cogon trail (David Buban, Eric Concepcion, etc.).  And so we opted to join them, albeit taking the reverse route and try to approximate its 35KM distance.  When Doc Doctolero told us that this was one difficult race, we prepared for the worse.  28 kilometers and six hours later, we found ourselves finally on the Start/Finish line of the Sandugo Trail Run at Pintong Buhangin.

And Dave wins 3rd place for 45-49 y.o. category at the Sandugo 35KM trail race!

And Dave wins 3rd place for 45-49 y.o. category at the Sandugo 35KM trail race!

Race Day

After sleeping for around 3 hours (went to bed at 6 but was already awake by 9 pm), we set off for the Filinvest Business Center where we claimed our race kits.  30 minutes of partial dozing at the parking area then we ventured into the starting line.  Being part of Wave A, we go to start at exactly 12 midnight.  With fewer runners (unlike in the Condura Marathon), we had most of the skyway for ourselves.

The weather was perfectly nippy with a slight breeze to dispel any signs of humidity.  It’s my second time to do a full marathon at the Skyway and memories of a boring, monotonous route kept popping.  Van & I started in the midpack group but my early enthusiasm separated us.  Soon I found myself pacing with Kharl Ocampo, a co-BDM runner from way back who had soaked in the triathlon scene for the last 3 years.  Latching to a triathlete meant one has a full update of the current time and pace via his trusty Garmin.  It was a 5:30 – 6 minutes every kilometer.40444-A

By KM10, Van finally caught up with me.  He was pointing to an elite and leading female runner.  Soon enough, we were pacing by her side.  We learned she’s the 5th among the women and a bike was following her every step.  It was a sweet consistent pace which passed thru the sloping track of the skyway.  We were hardly panting so I guess we were able to adjust to her manageable but consistent speed.  Until we finally overtook her and we started following the 4th lead female.

So far, so good.  Nearing KM 21, I distanced myself from Van while keeping up with Ms. lead runner.  It was a constant blast of 80s, 2000s and current music which kept me hammering on – sometimes I’d fire up for a few minutes when the beat was unstoppably fast and then jog when the energy had wane a bit.  But I was hardly stopping even when the Skyway went around loops with big ascents.  I just kept saying to myself that I’m going to keep moving while the cramping hasn’t reared its big ugly head.

Back in the 80s:  Trying out my new head band - most useful, indeed!

Back in the 80s: Trying out my new head band – most useful, indeed!

Throughout the race, I didn’t keep tabs of my time.  I just knew that at 53 minutes, we reached KM10 and 1:56 for KM21.  After that, it was up for the running gods to take me to the finish line.  But the combination of that fresh leg feeling, the absence of any major discomfort/injury, the perfect night weather (sans energy-draining sun but with mean cold breeze at the final 10) and the generally flat terrain kept me pushing and enjoying every kilometer.

In the last 10 kilometers, fatigue finally caught up with me.  Thus, some walking had to be done but was kept within inter-post distances.  A bit of negative feeling also settled – a mix of frustration (just how far is Crimson Hotel still?), tiredness and yes, hints of cramping.  Fortunately, I was able to push out them in the farthest recesses of my brain and was soon flying into the final 2 kilometers, as the Skyway toll booth and the glimmer of the Alabang skyline appeared in the near horizon.

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During this time, I had no idea of my time (there were no large digital clocks by the finish line – boo!) but I knew I was in for some surprise that Feb. 22 morning.  Indeed, after the smoke has cleared (711 management released 2 RunTime records, adjusting the latter by 2 minutes), my finish time was 4:11:57 (chip time was 4:11:44), slicing around 2 minutes from my Stockholm Marathon finish of 4:14 and 6 minutes from my Baltimore Marathon’s 4:17.  Finally, I have a local full marathon finish time I can be proud of.  The closest I got was a 4:23:36 (QCIM 2012), 4:24 (Milo Marathon 2013), 4:24:37 (Condura 2013) and 4:25 (RUPM 2013).  So I guess, it’s not about the weather but the preparations and training one undergoes that make for a good finish time.  Cheers, everyone!


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The Last 5 months, part II


Milo Finals 2014 (21KM)

I got the bib for this run cheap (thanks Jenny Aggangan), after it was rescheduled a week, after an impending storm which hardly carried any rain or wind.  Even if it was a Saturday (Dec. 13), the 4:30 am gun start assured us that we would be on our way home before 7 am.  Since I failed to qualify in my last 2 attempts for the Milo finals, the 21KM slot was a chance to be part of this exciting race.

It was a relaxed pace for me in a race with hardly any expectations.   I just wanted to enjoy an actual registered road race before the holidays come barging in and take me out of my training groove.  But when I’d realized I had done a 52-minute run in the 10-KM leg, I knew it was time to focus and put my speed legs in motion, without causing any undue stress or cramping.  Fortunately, nothing untoward happened and I hardly stopped or slowed down while being powered by my Ipod sounds.

By the time I reached the finish line, I couldn’t believe I registered at 1:56, which is really one of my fastest 21KM time.

With Team Rancho runner Dennis!

With Team Rancho runner Dennis!

 

with Yhel who's running against sexual descrimination...

with Yhel who’s running against sexual descrimination…

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Our clinic meme for Christmas 2014!

 

Holiday, Celebrate

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Despite of a hectic holiday sked, I still managed to attend Scott Jurek’s seminar on trail running c/o Frontrunner magazine.

 

 

 

 

 

 

And so the Christmas season came swooping in and the whole country partied every night like it’s 1999.  So how was I able to balance my lifestyle with this perverted bacchanalia?

By doing lots of gym workouts, of course.  Apart from my gym group workouts (I have tired out of lifting barbells and dumbbells alone), Van and I started doing a combo of core, upper and lower workouts, coupled with mean cardio and plyometrics routines.  Welcome to the world of P90x and T25…

Back to the gym

We started with this compact workout on the last week of December.  Our condo gym where my clinic is situated is an air conditioned space filled with 3 thread mills, all-in-one machines and numerous dumbbells and barbells.  Fortunately, very few tenants go to the place so it was perfect for our compact routine, requiring usually some dumbbells and our old yoga mats.

We started with just P90x, choosing the 45 to 55-minute exercises, targeting specific or general body parts and requiring a lot of cardio-vascular and strengthening workouts.  At the end of each exercise, we were drenched to the bone and our system shaken like hell.  The workouts were not running specific but once in a while, we do some fast runs, core exercises, lots of plyometric jumpings and burpees.  It was a nice reminder of our Milo Apex running school which still has to resume on April 2016.   P1090815    

 

 

 

 

 

P1090817P1130749After a few weeks, feeling perhaps more flexible and stronger, we incorporated Focus T25 with a 30-minute version of P90x.  Our schedule covers Monday to Friday but we miss out a day or two, especially when we feel really beat up and the call of a massage seemed more sensible and exciting.  A few weeks more and we felt a lot stronger in the core, the upper and lower body parts but would this really translate to an improved running form and resistance?

So every Sunday, we take to the trails in our lame attempt to bring back our trail legs and train for the Four Lakes 100KM.   At first, it was a lot of huffing and puffing, balancing and difficulty to fly the down hills but a lot of persistence and we were enjoying the slippery earth, the hills and the fresh verdant environment.

More Tales from the Trail

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dave. chinky, toto, van & jing

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So on the first part of 2016, we were usually slugging it out on the trails of San Mateo.  My running buddy Dave guided us through his regular route starting from our village in Marikina, passing through Silangan, San Mateo into the trails, hills and hinterlands of Timberland and back.  There are endless uphills, even while still on the road and the route is challenging but still very safe.  For two weekends, Dave along with Chinky and Jing re-oriented us to their secret training ground and we were hooked.  Finally, it’s trail training we can do regularly without travelling all the way to Cavite or Laguna.  As Dave put it, “pareho lang naman di ba?  Ba’t pa tayo lalayo?” or something to that effect.

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Last Feb. 8, Sheila, Jenny & Jonas joined us in a relaxed LSD originating from the clinic leading into San Mateo where a wrong turn brought us to Timberland clubhouse, going down the wall into Silangan then back to the clinic via Fortune, Marikina.  It was grueling since Jonas’ pace was quite furious but we were just glad to have survived it, even if Van and I were still thrashed even 2 days later.

The next week, trying to re-trace the route created by Dave, we chanced upon Chito, a veteran ultramarathoner, harking back to my BDM days.  He was on his way to Wawa dam area and of course, we had to tag along.  We passed through more hills, regular trail ways, endless down hills and a snaking river.  23 kilometers later, we reached Wawa dam with its colonies of makeshift thatched structures welcoming us with their assaulting videoke champ wannabes (‘All by myseeelf….’).  It was unexpected, a bit difficult but had some of the best views of the Montalban mountains (including the twin peaks which Bernardo Carpio purportedly separated with his bare arms) & pristine river and a good chance to renew ties with an old friend.11009089_10206302635222891_5188909837424885683_n 17783_10206302632142814_4644453578464418083_n

 

 

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toto, van, chito

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Team Rancho

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In between workouts when I find the time to wake up early, I’d lace my trainers and run around the village next to ours.  Our team is called Team Rancho and our route covers around 10 kilometers of ascents and descents.  During the runs, we’d insert speed runs and up hill climbs just to get the blood pumping and the adrenaline flowing.  At least, once a week, I meet up with Bon, Carlene, Dennis, Fatima and Rob – some of the best people to join on the road.

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Our lung-busting speed run (100m & back) at the Marist oval.

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Once in a while, the Agas (Bon & Carlene) treat us to a hearty breakfast in their plush residence after a run.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Luneta to Tagaytay 64KM

This is my first ultra road run in ages so it was but expected since I need to burn more miles with my impending 100KM race.  The race started by 12 midnight at KM 0 by the Luneta Park traversing Roxas boulevard then makes a turn after 4 kilometers into the endless Aguinaldo highway passing Paranaque, Muntinlupa, Cavite then finally Tagaytay.  Our bladders were filled with frozen 2 liters of Pocari sweat which was a sip away but later on was too vomit-inducing sweet.  So Van and I had a blast running, walking and taking stops to eat every hour.

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The weather was cool and with the sun out of the picture, it was the best opportunity to start burning the miles and overtake other runners.  Along the road were rows of gaudy post lights which seemed abandoned after Christmas, honky tonk bars at every corner, unhospitable side walks (where false step can send one tumbling), smoke-belching trucks and tricycles.   Morning finally came when we were already at Silang, Cavite and nearing Tagaytay.  Walking and running, we had fun playing catch and outrunning some of these competitive runners who routinely look back to check out would-be overtakers and such.

By the time we made a turn towards the SVD compound (KM 50) where the sloping roads had us speeding up and down, a new found energy in a greener and cleaner environ enveloped us.  It would take around 2 hours to finally reach the finish line (after 9 hours) just by the entrance of the old Palace in the Sky when the sun had come out gloriously.  I was ranked 93 out of 375 runners.  Thanks to Prince Production for this memorable run.  Cheers!

Can’t wait for March to come marching in…Ooops!  It’s already here!

Photos courtesy of Day Spotted, Dennis Centeno, David Buban & Frontrunner magazine


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The Last 5 Months, Part I


Signing on again…

It’s been a while, I know.  My apologies for keeping you, guys in the dark on my whereabouts.  So aside from all the trainings (practically the last 5 months), I sneaked in a holiday travel (Nov.), Christmas Reunions and Get-togethers, House/Clinic re-dos (Dec.-Jan.), pocket trips here and there and of course, it was at this time when patient volume balloons (Oct.-Jan.).  So after a long day, I barely am in my senses to even write something or even finish a few pages of a book (Fevre Dream by GRR Martin).

So Let’s Look Back…

Milo Lipa Eliminations

This was my second attempt to qualify for the Milo Marathon Finals in December.  We had 1.5 months to train for this combining gym workouts (spinning & definition classes at Gold’s gym), speed runs at the Marikina Sports and the UP Oval (Payasso 2200), and a bit of Milo Apex sessions at the QC circle

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at the Milo Apex running school, sporting our Payasso t-shirts….

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squat. burpee. run.

Unfortunately, the running gods were not on our side that September 14, what with cold breeze and pelting rain harassing us, as we navigated semi-flooded and partly-lit streets (it’s brownout across Lipa city due to storm Luis) which in the latter part featured descents (whee!) and ascents (aawww!).  Perhaps, I wasn’t that well trained for a few kilometers into the 21KM, I was experiencing fatigue and occasional cramping (for the nth time).  Oh well. 02:01:22  it was.

the final struggle....

the final struggle….

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spell f-r-u-s-t-r-a-t-i-o-n

drenchly happy...

drenchly happy…

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Ippudo (ramen) heaven on my 49th!

Ippudo (ramen) heaven on my 49th!

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a birthday surprise from Team Kulit…

Run United Philippine Marathon 2015

This was perhaps, the main reason why I lost interest in blogging.  Yep, RUPM was supposed to redeem my Milo marathon debacle, over 2 months later and 4 days after I turned 49.  With our regular Milo Apex (M & W) coupled Payasso 2200 (T & Th) sessions, I was confident I would avoid the same cramping conclusion from my last marathon.  We tried to pace a bit in the first 21KM (unlike in the Milo marathon) clocking around 2:10.  Soon enough, stabs of muscle hardness started appearing out of nowhere.  Later on fatigue, burnout and cramping conspired to reduce me to walking in the last 7 kilometers.  When my unofficial pacer Van finally said “lalakarin mo na lang ba ‘yan hanggang finish line?” (will you walk all the way to the finish?), I almost said yes (I admit that’s what I really had in mind).  But the question piqued my pride and I started to picking myself up, even if I was shuffling and waddling (to vary the pressure on my sole) like a newly castrated eunuch.  Not in the plan but 4:55 ain’t bad for my 16th full mary.

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schwinging in Schwedagon, Myanmmar

Schwinging in Schwedagon, Myanmmar…

downtime by a public park in Yangon...

downtime by a public park in Yangon…

Back to the hills!

A few days of sulking (and walking like an astronaut), we were back on the trails in preparation for the my first ultra-trail race since…hmmm TNF 100 in 2013.  That’s how long it’s been so it was a struggle (to say the least) to find my trail steps but once everything fell in place, I was flying and having a blast.  Dave was our trail master along with Van, Chinky, Reylynne, Tricia and the rest of the gang.

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The Hills are Alive!

At the start of November, we joined the CM60 recon run while trying to retrace the route I ventured in in 2012.  We only did 45KM, out and back.  But it tested our patience and strength.  Good thing I had Van & Alfred with me to take me through those challenging up hills and technical descents and kill boredom.  After 8:30, we reached the Clark parade grounds, weather beaten while feeling more confident for the real race on Nov. 20.

with Sensei Alfred, ultramarathon veteran and a cornucopia of stories...

Post-recon shot: with Sensei Alfred, ultramarathon veteran and a cornucopia of experiences & stories…

A week later, we took on the Purgatory 30KM (c/o Frontrunner magazine) from Japas to Boko, Benguet.  It was a magical route which entered a mossy forest verdant and virgin from human intrusion (t’was heaven in Purgatory!) and a protected oasis before going to more up hills and finally descending into really mean and technical descents.  Who would have thought it would take us 6:55 to finish a 30KM race?  Our skills and guts were really tested with the steep killer and sometimes slippery (strewn with pine needles) downhills.  Hopefully, it made us stronger and more familiar with technical trails.

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if this is purgatory, I need not go to heaven...

if this is purgatory, who needs heaven?

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on top of purgatory with Van & CJ

on top of purgatory with Van & CJ

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stopping to smell the ferns and mosses…

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Clark to Miyamit 60KM

I was supposed to do this 2013 (the 80KM edition) but since I was still recuperating from that knee surgery (chondroplasty), I had to withdraw from my trail dream for me time.  After recovery, strengthening and training for a year, I found myself at the starting line with Van, my running partner throughout the 60KM distance.  The gun start for both 80 & 60 kilometers were at 12 midnight of Nov. 23 so paces were varied.

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outside, day starts to dawn

We rounded up the Clark field roads before entering the laharlands with our trusty headlamps to guide us through shifting sands, gushing rivers and mean climbs.  We were finally led to the trails which soon enough started ascending until the angle kept increasing and the calves were put to the ultimate test.  I had done these hills so many times so I was no longer overwhelmed but the difficulty level never diminished.  With a constant hiking mild pace with little stops, we finally reached Miyamit Falls after 6 hours and 15 minutes and had our obligatory dip in its cool waters which revved up our energy in no time.P1130210

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ladies & gents, the incomparable Miyamit Falls!

We were quite confident to finish within our 12-hour goal.  My 2012 experience had us doing a negative split, with our return trip faster by 45 mins.  And so we started our descents while walking the minor up hills.  By the time we entered the Sacobia river area, I was reduced to just walking and had a hard time forcing my foot to run.  Soon there was a struggle in my climbs as the sun kept badgering us (we would later learn that this was the hottest edition of the 3 CM races).  I had to stop many a time to recover as my breathe was labored and the palpitations more felt

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But we kept hammering even if we knew we had slowed down tremendously, courtesy of moi.  Along the expanse of the endless lahar landscape, we were trudging and enjoying to keep our wit and sanity intact.  In short, we were thrashed like hell.  We only came to our senses when we saw lone female runner (Tess Leono), a few meters from us.  So we started jogging-walking along the streets of the Clark complex into the finish.  After 13 hours and 30 minutes, we reached the finish line scrambling like the Last of the Mohicans.

with our PAYASSO 2200 classmates under Prof. Jon las Bruces (CM60KM champ for 2 years, so far).

with our PAYASSO 2200 classmates under Prof. Jon las Bruces (CM60KM champ for 2 years, so far).

Here’s my Facebook status then:  It’s my longest ultratrail/mountain race this year and it’s a darn reminder of strengths and mostly weaknesses, both physically & mentally. The first 30KM was already bitch but at 6:15 up to Miyamit Falls, we were quite excited of a 12-hour finish, and so the descent towards Sapang Uwak was testy but still manageable & quite swift. By the time, we reached the final 23 kms., I was thrashed and could hardly jog as the minor cramping had set in so we had to do it in walking mode, except for the down hills (some of which have lost their tracks that we had to slide down on our butts). My lowest points were the last 3 intense climbs where I had to do some stops to recover. By this time, hallucinations, dehydration, negativity and thoughts of quitting had set in but my partner Van kept pushing me (and this is where I realized how old I am).  It was a lot of endless, brain-frying and monotonous trudging across lahar lands before we reached AS1 when i realized Van has already bonked himself. The final 10 kms. had us struggling across the great expanse of planet lahar with the final push and run inside Clark (Tess Tess Leono was a few meters behind us). It’s been quite a journey and I underestimated it (why my 2012 50M race was so much easier compared to this is beyond me).

Photos courtesy of Dhona Castillo of Run Lipa, Dr. Evelyn Ponce, David Buban, CJ Paran, Team Ayala Triads and Team Payasso 2200.


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Frontrunner Article #6: confessions of a REFORMED Road Addict


It is hard to understand addiction unless you have experienced it. 

Ken Hensley

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576426_4328505525482_1094496118_nI’m a 48-year old runner who got into this despicable habit 5 years ago when age had taken over and my life had become too humdrum and a total blah.  I wanted to prove to the world that I can still be physically capable of doing things out of the ordinary even if my whole life revolved around movies, music and root canals.  The last time I sweated buckets and panted like my lungs were about to burst was in 3rd year high school, eons ago.  I travelled across the basketball court twice to follow that darn orange orb and I knew I was never going to be an athlete from that moment on. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

So who was I kidding?   At my age, it seems so absurd but then dreams (and delusions) are what we make them to be.  The temptation of the asphalt eventually took over and I found myself (gasp!)  running.   I thought it would be just a momentary diversion from clinic routine but the more kilometers I burned, the more I wanted to conquer.  I knew it was no longer going to be healthy for me – I was losing my hard earned gym muscles and looking lanky, parched and dugyut & marupok plus I was getting stronger and faster.  Friends, if I ever found time to meet them, hardly recognized the pretty boy behind the sweat, mud and limatik bites.  Soon they started distancing themselves and treated me like a pariah to society and their tony gatherings. 552010_3630932808879_1140876786_3531933_224589835_n

It was a lonely existence on the road until I found myself in the circle of addicted brethrens called Runners Anonymous.  We were faceless souls clad in our muddy trainers and trying to wrestle with our obsession on the road.  During our weekly sessions, we shared our travails and tragedies in running (how to eliminate that limatik once it has entered our nether regions, etc.) but it would always climax on the road and us trotting reluctantly at first then suddenly bursting into something close to flying, like bats out of hell.  I tried to resist it but soon found myself sliding deeper into the hole I had dug myself into.  And there was no looking back.


The trails and mountains beckoned  and I was hooked like a limatik on a runner’s juicy calf.  I had advanced and taken my dependence into the next level.  When before I was already satisfied with my 21Ks and full marys, this time around, I was craving for more miles until I dropped unknowingly into the rabbit hole of ultramarathons.   I found cohesion and common footing with creatures who find no meaning in words like pain, cramps and uphells.  They just keep running until they reach the finish, in the absence of fun fare, trophy, shirt nor pictures.  Our supplier of this addiction was this pot-bellied guy who runs around shirtless and maps out our recon run where trails twist and hills thrive.  And we devoured everything that BoyP offered.27921_4328508805564_1656006467_n

Perhaps, my lowest point would have to be my plunge into the most evil of them all – ultra trail races.  Imagine hiking around a mountain on a late night in shivering temperature and the constant wind at our backs. We were like zombies feeling our way in the dark after 22 hours of racing in ever changing terrains and weather conditions.  And we were enjoying ourselves like hell.  I know.  It was that bad.  I feel like I’ve been dropped into the lowest level of inferno.  I’m even nauseated while encoding this most shameless episode in my life.  Now pass me the smelling salt, please?

Before this deadly habit could spiral out of control, redemption and hope suddenly came like lightning out of the blue.  Late last year, I was forced by circumstances to get off the road (still wondering why, watch out in the next issue).  It was I believe the most beautiful miracle to have come to my 5-year running history.  It was most life changing as I saw the demons of this addiction I can no longer escape from.  Now nature has done its work and I’ve been sober from the road for 4 months now.29633_4328503485431_1269788313_n

Life has been good and given me a new lease to a normal life.  I have let go of my road cravings and have turned to eating all sorts Ramen noodles during dinner since I need not wake up too early in the morning to lace up my shoes and take to the road and take off like a…turtle…sorry  that was wrong.  I’m still in my withdrawal period.  I shall overcome this.  Soon.

It was most difficult in the early period but soon enough, I got the hang of it.  I mean security guards have started acknowledging my presence and people were once again gravitating towards me like I really existed and not just a blob in their swanky universe.  Life can indeed be a party and I’m really enjoying myself to death.  But.  Lately, it’s been suffocating.  I still feel like I’m an outsider in this phoney urban jungle.  Any chance I can get out of this hollowed cage?

523575_10150798226535039_730485038_11334663_283015995_nHelp me.  I’m already having sleepless nights and if I ever doze off, I dream of trails, mountains and pissing along open spaces.  I know I will be able to fight off these demons – I just have to think of broken toe nails, frost bites and endless rising trails but then…images of being on top of Mt. Pulag, running with buddies (now my blocked off FB friends) at Kayapa at 12 midnight in the midst of rain and wind keep popping up.  I plead for understanding…should I get into Greco-Roman wrestling? Maybe Parkour or jujitsu.  Crocheting, then?  Can I just run now?  Please…

Photos taken at

Mt. Pulag, Pico de Loro, Porac, Pampanga & Tanay, Rizal            149403_309145152495818_100002010070333_684535_1550490870_n


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The Mapua Intramuros Run: A Run through History


 

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how to run with college students…

For some time now, this race had been spearheaded by Jossie Ng, the Mapua professor wife of one of my longtime Voltes Team mates, Chris. Many a time, I was invited to join but circumstances just didn’t allow me to (last year was our Ironman relay and the year before that, I was recovering from dengue). Finally, on its 5th edition, I was finally able to join the Mapua Run last Aug. 10.

It seems trivial to wake up at 4 am, head out west into the walled city and just run 6KMs but running around Intramuros offered a whole new running experience and a different perspective in Philippine history. At 6 am, along with Mapuan students donning the official red & yellow shirts, we blasted off the starting line (and whispered to myself, “it’s Payasso time”). It’s my first time to take on a race under 10KMs so I knew I’ll be able to keep pushing myself into the finish. I just kept in mind that it’s only 3 rounds of the Academic Oval, in Payasso pace, of course.

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two deep breaths in, two breaths out…

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Notice our synchronized pace and foot fall…

10329124_1508536322716979_1119331532240243717_nVan set the pace early on so it was more controlled as we took on the cobblestone alleys of the walled community for two rounds. Running with our group was the whole family of Bon & Carlyn Aga, including 5 year-old Max and 2 year-old Tamara, being pushed by Bon in her stroller. Intramuros is a merry mix of colonial buildings, old churches, government offices, repurposed commercial establishments and colonies of informal settlers. Overall, it was weird fascinating experience to be running in a place that’s been around for centuries. There were instances when I was faltering and had to slow down a bit and in the last round, some episodes of coughing ensued but thankfully, I survived this one into a furious finish.

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the last 50 meters…

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walking around the walled city while awaiting for the rest of the gang to finish…

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Team Jopher (that’s for Josie & Christopher Ng) volting in…

My time was 34:57 so at 6.9KMs (the route was extended due to some road blocks), it’s still within the 5mins/km pace I had targeted. The morning was capped with one of our Rancho Team mates, Fatima Mae Tiburcio placing 2nd in the 3KM category (Cha from Milo Apex was third and both were co-dentists). Our gracious hosts, Chris & Josie Ng prepared a sumptuous breakfast for the group. Later, we attended the Sunday services at the airconditioned and newly-refurbished Manila Cathedral and would have loved to move around and explore the sights but we were itching to get out of our sweaty running gears. Maybe next time…

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(L-R) Van, Cris, Barry, Carlyn, Bon, Rob, Mae, Mark, Cha…

Photography is courtesy of Red Knight (a.k.a. Emman Tiburcio) – salamuch!!!

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