I run…therefore I am

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My Milo Lucena 21K story: 6 seconds between triumph and tragedy

A week after that devastating Milo Marathon finish, I trained a week after – for 3 weeks (courtesy of Coach Alfred Delos Reyes) with all the requisite strenght trainings (c/o Van Denn Cruz), speeds & LSDs. I had my gels & saltsticks ready and travelled 300 kms to get to the starting line and what do you know? All it took was a mere final 1.5 kms to nip my Milo dream off its bud.


when the going gets tough, the tough gets walking…and dragging.

T’was a controlled pace in the first 3 kilometers (at 5 mins/km) with Rollie DC pacing me along with Payasso boys Ariel Tuto Aquino, Chad Akol, Arnold Banaay along the rolling terrain of Lucena. Then the boys disappeared in the distance as I kept hammering with what I hoped was a sub-5 mins/km pace (KM 10 was reached at 51 minutes).

when cramping strikes...

when cramping strikes…

Then came the second half with its steady but continuous ascent as the sun revealed Lucena’s scenic places. In the final turn-around (about the final 6.5 kms), I was flying with the music and the cool weather pushing me downhill. I was hitting my target times using a 1:50 pacelet.

The moment I saw the SM tower (the final kilometer) was when the cramping went full blown and I had to slow down – drastically. I couldn’t find an alternative style of jogging without aggravating the little devil – even tried moving sideways but to no avail. The clock was ticking but I forced myself to keep moving and finally reached the finish at 1:56:05 (a minute beyond my qualifying time).

And so ends my quest for my Milo Marathon qualifying time. But who knows, exactly next month, it will go up to 2:00. Nah, I’m going back to the trails for the mountains are a-calling…11959962_1025669990800108_5534863970172745875_n

Call me Mr. Cramper and I won’t take offense.

Epilogue.  My final time of 1:56:05, I would learn later was only 6 seconds over the qualifying time of 1:55:59.  Sorry I wasn’t aware that 59 seconds or less the official qualifying time of 1:55 was still acceptable.  Now had I pushed myself easily during those final meters, I would have easily qualified but it’s those lessons in running which would keep me going.  Anyway tomorrow (Oct 1), my new qualifying time will be 2 hours for my new age category.  11913020_10206412316578375_138977169_n


the final scene – but a second mat would read at 1:56:10

Milo Lucena 2015 - resultsCheers!

Photos by Dan Alvarez Sagayap and Runaholic.


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Hope & Despair at my 18th Full Marathon and 5th Milo Marathon


At the starting line with Dennis & Van…

A timer and a 4:00 pacelet (c/o Alfred Delos Reyes ) guided me throughout my journey where I slowed down when I felt I was going too fast and vice versa (180 steps/minute only c/o Scott J.) The last 4 nights before the race, I was waking up at 3 am and reading for an hour Scott Jurek’s Eat & Run so most of my inspiration came from that book.  Among them:  maintaining my forefoot strikes which are the most efficient since it uses the elasticity of the Achilles tendon and the arch of the foot.  Thus, less energy is lost.  Foot should be landing slightly in front of one’s center of mass.  Also, I should be breathing abdominally using just the nose – which was quite difficult, really.

By KM 32 (3:01), I was over by 1 minute which isn’t bad since my qualifying time was at 4:10 – I just wanted to have enough time when the inevitable started.

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running is controlled falling


so far, so good



It went full throttle after the final turn around in Tramo. After KM32, I was forcing myself to keep moving but the cramping would suddenly stab me from behind and I was reduced to stopping and losing a bit of balance (I felt like Moses with my arms out and trying to part Roxas blvd.). Thankfully, there were kind-hearted runners to support me from falling and after a few seconds I’d get going. Many offered to help me sit by the sidewalk but that wasn’t in the plan. I was thinking of Scott doing the Hardrock100 with a broken ankle and I was flying (more of jogging, really).  I had to also remember even in moments of desperation, to keep my posture proper – shoulders behind and arms bent 45 degrees at the elbow.  I had to also lean a bit forward but not at the hips so the body is still one straight line.

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5 kilometers into the finish and already beyond my target qualifying time, the major hardening disappeared so I slugged it out without awakening the major cramping. I was thinking of running through thin ice or hot coals so the steps were light and fleeting – a bit slow but it burned the miles. I didn’t want the same episode last year of a cramping finish so a 4:30 wasn’t so bad. Quite happy that I wasn’t grimacing at the last 200 meters (where photographers abound) and was taking in all the good vibes from the crowd


the final struggle…



whew, finally made it!



no more, that’s it. I’m no longer running…



My Milo experience (5:49, 4:52, 4:24, 4:36) hasn’t always been my best but I vow to keep coming back even into my 60s (when my QT has reached 4:30 hehe). Now that’s one vow I will keep. My profuse gratitude to Coach Jim Saret & Toni Saret and my MARRS (Milo Apex R2 Running School) running family for making our 3-month training lotsa fun, informative and competitive. Thanks to Jonel C Mendoza for all the tips (1 GU ever 45 minutes). Now where the hell do I buy those salt sticks?

Capturing my moments of ecstacy and agony were the Running Photographers (Pido), Dennis Centeno, Flat Ironman, Lakbay Buhay, Run Lipa & the Official Milo Marathon photographers (Dhona Castillo).


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My Valley Trail Challenge 50KM








Being a part of the Frontrunner family, Valley Trail Run has held a special place in my running history for it was one of my first experiences on the trail.  Suffice to say, I bonked big time in 2011 (57 kms at 8:45) but I kept coming back in 2012 (28 + 7 kms at 4:01) and 2014 (50 kms at 6:57).


looking dishevelled before my costume change…


with Milo Apexers Van & Tel

glairold recella

RD Jonel orienting the 50K participants…


At the start with Lou & Alfred, Simon & Doodsie…

This year, perhaps to keep the tradition burning and to burn some mean mileage a month before the Milo Marathon, we signed up again.  We entered the Nuvali compound by 12 midnight along with fellow ultrarunners Alfred & Lou delos Reyes.  For the first time, this race was starting really early requiring us to don headlamps (previous editions commenced at 5 am).  About 150 runners burst out of the starting line at 2 am.


T’was a swift start for me and Van as we joined the midpackers on a rolling romp through the dark narrow corridors of trees and grasses.  We latched on one strong trail runner and it was one countinuous pounding cycle after another with the cool breeze and the dark (when nothing feels far and endless) to push us on.  6 kilometers into the race, Van was already struggling so I kept pulling him along.  Soon enough, we knew we had to part ways as I kept on with my neck-breaking pace on trails, roads and loose soil.   I’ve experienced Nuvali with the sun in its scorching glory so I’d want to reduce the amount of that experience for this edition.  And so I kept pushing myself with my trusty mini-Ipod.


to the turn around…


and back.

Over 3 hours later, I reached the midpoint and learned I was in the Top 10.  So I kept moving even if fatigue had started setting in. Once the sun had fully risen, it was a struggle to keep moving across the expansive cogon fields but I managed. Each of the designated station was a cornucopia of food, energy gel and all sorts of liquid refills.  And the ice supply was aplenty – a real treat for my hydration pack every time.


looking good and feeling fine on the trail.


with our trail running friends…

Nearing the final 14 kms., our small platoon of 8 runners were bunched together and bursting with renewed shared energy, bonding and sharing trail stories.  Soon, we found ourselves searching for ribbons, trying alternative routes before finally tracing back to our trail lead.  We had lost a good 30 minutes (around 2 kilometers).  But once back on the route, I just kept jogging with intermittent walking along the rolling terrain plus some nice shaded areas to boot. 7 hours and 40 minutes later, I was crossing the finish line, a bit thrashed but in high spirits. Oh and a #15 place ain’t bad after making tuhog-tuhog (overtaking) some runners in front of me.

Thanks to FRONTrunner for one satisfying but really testy route, especially the construction areas and that agaw buhay (life threatening) dike where one misstep can send you tumbling down deep concrete creek. It was great to see the trail running community come in full force either as race marshalls, sponsors or runners. Valley Trail challenge will always be an annual pilgrimage for me and the years to come. Cheers to all who made an effort to help us – the famished and tired runners along the great trails of Nuvali and pushed us to the finish!

Check out the official results via the FRONTRUNNER website ~~~

Thanks to Glairold Racella, Joma Sison & Alex Jones for capturing my Nuvali trail race moments!  Cheers!

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My brief history with the Milo Apex R2 Running School

382592_10150402890261172_657011171_8749911_1237550111_nIt was around 2011 when I found myself in the expansive grounds of the Quezon City Memorial Circle.  A friend recommended the running program after a few sessions at the UP Oval with coach Jojo Macalintal (of TeamMac fame).  For 3 months, we were taught the basics on running and beyond.  The schedule of Monday & Wednesday evenings plus a long run on Saturday remains to this day.  By 6 PM, we’d start our regular warm ups followed by a series of strengthening drills and culminated with a few rounds around the monument.

with coach Jim Saret

with coach Jim Saret

The first few seasons of my attendance was very sporadic, owing to my difficulty and disgust of threading around QC’s disjointed traffic jams, shallow acquaintances and distant connection with the coaches.  I was also focused more on ultrarunning branching into trail running then.

come hail or rain...

come hail or rain…


Caution: very Hot!

It was only in 2012 that I began to connect and relate with fellow runners and found detours to take me to QCMC faster that I became a regular attendee of the Milo Apex R2 running school (MARRS).  It has become a tri-weekly habit that I never fail to miss except in cases of long vacations and whatnot.  It’s during the April edition when we experience the incessant afternoon rains of June & July which could mar or discontinue a perfect workout but most of the time, the sessions continue and we had gotten used to the cold winds and the pelting rains.  We just think of the rewards after – usually a piping hot bowl of beef noodles.


having fun and being one…

This 10th Season (which started late April this year), under the willing guidance and tutelage of Coaches Jim & Toni Saret, MARRS has raised the bar to make every WILLING participant fitter, stronger and faster.  An emphasis here on willing since usually after the first month, about a third of us have already left, for various reasons.  This time around, except for a few absentees, the QC edition has managed to keep its roster intact.  And so, we keep taking on the weekly challenges which not only hone our running form & skill but strengthen the other body parts besides the legs.  Whew!

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raising our vibrating rods…that’s how it’s called, I think.



getting a mean stretching from this big guy – Coach Pep to loosen my tense leg muscles.

The main reason of this active and consistent participation, I would surmise, is the introduction of new coaches and physical therapists from the national team.  So don’t blame us if we feel like national athletes, motivated, guided and pushed to our limits by the country’s best athletic support team.  Each season culminates with a major marathon (Milo marathon, Metro Manila edition for the April edition and the Milo finals for the September edition) and with these season’s high volume of participants, expect MARRSians to shine come July 26!  Now this just got my heart thumping…

Thanks to Rickpets Lens for taking the time to visit us last Monday (22 June 2015) and taking most of these pictures of MARRS-QC in action.


the regular group warm up…

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I. am. a. MARRSian.

I. am. a. MARRSian.


i wanna be a cowboy and you could be my cowgirl…



drenched in sweat & QC grime but still looking strong…



MARRSians we are…to infinity & beyond!

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Pacer Me


Our promo meme which required a day of pictorial sessions.

And so the dust has settled and a day after playing Official Pacer at the Run United 2, 32 kilometer category, it’s time to incise and reflect on this business of pacing in races. Here are some insights one might consider before accepting this job, beyond the prestige, the free bib and all the privileges that come with the role:



Pacing requires preparation, both physically and mentally.

And so I got the invite from Ms. Vimz Mendoza to join the RU2 pacers group over a month ago and promptly took on the 32 KM distance with a 3:15 time. It’s my first time take on this role and excitedly recommended running friends Van (3:15), trail devil Dave (3:40) and Reylynne (who failed to show up). We were in the midst of our Milo R2 Apex running school (though we had minimal speed training and mileage) so I figured this would be easy peasy, keeping in mind my last full mary in February where I breached the 32 kilometer mark at around 3 hours.


The RU2 pacer briefing coincided with the media launch of the Run United Philippine Marathon 2015.


Tagumpay Bros represented: with McCoy & David.

I was imagining the night before the race of our 3:15 trio egging, chanting and pushing a battalion of runners into the finish line, sounding like some lord commander battling the wildlings beyond the wall. Unfortunately, it remained only a movie in my mind…


Pacing means keeping an average, if not constant pace throughout a race.

So after a little research, I learned that pacing required me to maintain a pace of 6:06 throughout the race with some minor adjustments in between. Now this seemed simple enough, right? But then with someone like me who loves to take off fast at the start, adjust a bit in the middle and slow down in the final kilometers, this was a major issue.

But on race day, that’s what we tried to do. My 3:15 trio with Bobby Go & Van Denn Cruz tried to maintain a pace of 6 minutes per kilometers even if everyone was flying out like bats from hell. Armed with just a lap watch, Van stayed within our target pace (5 kilometers at 30 minutes, etc.). I latched on to him with Bobby a few meters away. We were targeting a faster pace in the first 10 kilometers for certain adjustments at the third hour. But owing to our slow start, we reached KM10 at exactly one hour. Now if we could only go a bit faster but kilometers 13 (1:18) and 18 (1:48) came and our pace remained at 6.  Bobby Go was nowhere in sight.

There were some runners who joined us a few kilometers later, but soon dissipated when the going got tough. And so it was with me. Around KM20, I couldn’t keep up with Van and I had to let him go ahead. Van, now the only 3:15 pacer on time, brought with him his loyal following (up to the finish at 3:14++). So at this time, all three 3:15 pacers were running separately.

Pacing is a selfless endeavour.

Soon I was taking more time to hydrate and recover. Buendia Avenue became my battleground as I combat fatigue and boredom (I forgot my mini-Ipod). At this time, I’ve been resigned to missing my target finish time, unless I suddenly developed the surge and run faster. All the while, I was mindful of the reason why I was there that Sunday morning. So whenever, some weary runner started keeping up with me, I tried to maintain my assigned pace and just kept going. I’d remind them that I was already running short but they still joined me even when I would slow down, every now and then. So thrashed as I was, I still found some energy to prod my equally tired minions.

the final struggle...

the final struggle…

Pacing can be fun, if not done alone (and the small c hasn’t reared its head).

By the time I entered the CCP area, cramping started to make its presence felt – first in increments and soon in big waves. I was reduced to lots of walks (and sudden stops) and short jogs that I had to rip off my pacer bib, lest some lost soul started hounding me, hopeful of a 3:15 finish. I had to vary my steps from heel strikes and strange plodding to ward off the cramping and was no longer eager to help others. Still, I managed to strike up some quick talks with certain walkers and push them to get running in the final 2 kilometers.

Soon, I chanced upon certain pacers who were already washed up, as well. We just kept burning the final meters until the finish line loomed from afar. The final surge was a full on attack and by 3:29 I finished my pacing duty. Not in the grand glorious fashion I had envisioned it but it was one soul-searching, core-scrutinizing experience (tagos sa buto) I wouldn’t trade anytime soon.

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jon las

An endless buffet, confetti and finisher medals for the patient & brave pacers!

So would I take on another pacing duty again? Hell yeah. But first, I need to train more properly on the ways of strengthening, energy conservation and mileage planning. I just need to remember the care, sustenance and recognition we received yesterday and I’m there. Add up the smiles, admiration and camaraderie from the runners we’ve touched and and helped and it’s one duty that’s almost close to a calling. Or a religion.


A big salute to the RU2 pacers, courtesy of Active Health!

Photography by Dan Alvarez Sagayap, Les Letsky, Blue Zapanta, Jon Las Bruce, Mark Andrew, David Buban and  Art Mendoza

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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.

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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



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.


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.


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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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.






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.


and my protegee finally starts to move a tad faster…

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the dawning in Kayapa…


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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