alternate title: Di ‘nyo kami kayang Pasuquin maskin Pagudpud na kami
Our journey begins months before the actual Aug. 29 run – weekly trainings 2x during weekdays and long runs on Sundays, revving up to longer 3x weekday fast runs and extended runs on Sundays (including that ‘LSD’ 30k run in Tanay and the 40k run from Tiendesitas to the Fort weeks into Aug. 29).
It had been a hectic, grueling and testy two months but a week ago, I knew we were ready as we stayed away from the pavement and concentrated on dining table – carbon-loading and hydrating.
The dilemma me & my running buddy, Dave faced was setting up the logistics on – traveling & accommodations, service vehicles arrangements and other finer points (like where to buy ice or to freeze our fuelbelts the night before) – in the far north fiefdom of Ilocos Norte. A meeting last Tuesday with PAU (Philippine Association of Ultrarunners) president and run organizer, Gen. Jovy Narcise (aka baldrunner) cleared up a lot of things as the people from takbo.ph decided to get 3 service vehicles to serve the needs of around 25 runners during the whole stretch of the run. Now my mind is learning to relax.
We traveled Friday night going up to Laoag and surprisingly had a nice though interrupted sleep but I felt we had quality slumber time which we continued into the early Saturday morning. Breakfast consisted of bagnetsilog and empanada, our only foray into Ilocano dishes during the whole visit, keeping in mind to only eat familiar foods before a race.
We found time to walk around Laoag (quite walkable and clean) and take our token shots on its iconic landmarks.
By lunch time, around half of the Manila runners congregated at the only mall in Laoag to iron out the final details and to purchase our supplies for ‘d-day’.
After attending mass and buying our final provisions, we arranged everything – the food bag, the apparel carrier, the extra shoe holder, camelback, belt bag and our ‘costume’ at the starting line.
Now we only had to sleep, even if it hardly came. By 3 am, we were up and about and ready to conquer the road from Pasuquin to Pagudpud, if only we could find that jeepney to bring us to kilometer 0.
Let the run begin
The town plaza of Pasuquin featured a concrete arch fronting its townhall. This was where the profile picture of each runner was taken, while they were still looking fresh and dry.
After Dr. Topher read out the Runner’s prayer, the 130 or so runners set out in the darkness and began the 70 kilometer sojourn.
Dave and I joined the group of Poch hoping to speed up while the energy is still up and the sun hasn’t come out. Soon enough, they disappear in the horizon as we couldn’t keep up with their higher than 6 minute/kilometer pace.
The sun would hardly appear behind the clouds throughout the day, expunging Ilocos’ notoriously hot weather.
As the kilometers extend, the place revealed itself little by little – the rugged rocky topography, the verdant hills, the blue wild seas and the never ending white sand coastlines.
Along the way, we meet up with other runners including Team Logan – Logan along with his son Justine in his ubiquitous stroller. Goodness, friendship and sharing abound throughout the road as runners never fail to share a smile, a story, an energy bar or a bottle of Gatorade.
Major major pictorials
First stop on this run-cum-tour was the Burgos Lighthouse where an ascending trail led to our first pit stop. The breathtaking view of the beach from the cliff with the winding steps leading up to the Cape Bojeador lighthouse was enough to bring back our energy – to take more pictures.
The same would happen in the second pit stop with the runners, after surviving the rocky and winding trail, are rewarded with one of nature’s most impressive creations – the Kapurpurawan rock formations. I will let the pictures speak for themselves. Suffice to say, we stayed for almost 30 minutes – climbing and posing on every segment of the humongous structure as the cameras clicked away. This was definitely, for me, the highlight of this race.
In between each major stop, we were nourished and taken care of by the volunteers of takbo.ph who manned all 3 of our support vehicles. It was a good decision to place all our bags and supplies in the third jeepney since we didn’t have a hard time keeping up with them. So when the need to change shirt (I didn’t), shoes & socks (I did) was needed, they were just a few kilometers away. They also knew how to ease one’s cramps, blisters or dwindling spirits.
It should be mentioned that on the way to our last pit stop, we had a nice yummy surprise – a real lunch of rice and higado courtesy of Topher and Galo with his own support vehicle from Vigan.
The way leading to the Bangui windmills was another winding trail, this time descending towards the beach to reveal a series of white behemoths generating wind energy.
We traversed the beach which stretched all the way to Pagudpud. A few windmills later, we take another track which finally exited into the highway.
The real run begins
T’was great to be back on pavement. This was around kilometer 50 and the blisters which I felt creeping in finally revealed minor globules in the inner forefoot. No amount of band-aid or micropore tape would ease the mild pain but I pursued. Dave, for his part started feeling the initial pangs of an impending cramp. While I was able to take major strides (2-min runs, 1-min walks), he opted to take it easy as the sensation in his hamstring area kept bothering him.
And so on the road to Mordor, Frodo finally lets go of Samwise to continue the sojourn this time with – Chris, a younger warrior from the West. We continued with the 2:1 tempo averaging a 7:36 mins per km pace, pushing our way past a few runners. Soon the black gates of Mordor were upon us….
We enter the tree-lined streets leading to Saud with minor descents and uphills. On the last plunge, I found myself hitting the road by my lonesome self, soaking up some dynamism from the children’s high fives. A last minute decision would slow me down on the last 8 kilometers. As I pass by our support jeep, I opted to change into my old running shoes with the aim to relieve my worsening blisters.
At every step, I could feel the inside webbing of my shoes as it tries to batter the swollen ball of my feet. I pass by 2 more runners already walking on the last leg and try to keep moving before the dreaded cramps would set in on me as well.
By this time many of the runners’ cars were exiting the resort but majority of runners were still around to clap for my day’s accomplishment. Dave would come in 30 minutes later, overcoming his cramps and learning to jog a little while the sensation was away every few minutes. Now, that’s one determined runner.
I took my customary pose as I received the PAU 65km trophy and my purple finisher shirt but more than anything, it was the day’s fun and learning experiences which I would treasure forever. Plus the new friends I met along the way. As Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler would put it “Life’s a journey, not a destination…