I run…therefore I am


Trials, Tribulations & Triumphs: The long and endless road from Pasuquin to Pagudpud

alternate title:  Di ‘nyo kami kayang Pasuquin maskin Pagudpud na kami

65K Primer

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). 

pagtakbo na po ang buhay namin

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 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.

'handa na kami'

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.

cholesterolic delight

We found time to walk around Laoag (quite walkable and clean) and take our token shots on its iconic landmarks.

the sinking bell tower

the colonial provincial capitol building

runners of every color and shape

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.

ready for battle, sir

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.

eto na...eto na...

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.

sugod mga kapatid!

Pa'ano ba gamitin 'tong *&#^@ Garmin na 'to?

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.

first sight of the beach

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.

I heart Ilocos!

push it really good.

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.

cape boreador

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.

we're the kings of the world!

kakaiba talaga

the boys of summer

last na lang po

Sorry, I lied!

In between each major stop, we were nourished and taken care of by the volunteers of 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.

now I'm freeeee fallin...

the winds of change...

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….

10 kms to go....daw.

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.

I finally see the Saud town landmark but it would take at least 2 more kilometers before I would cross the finish line. 

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.

toasted to a crisp...

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…


Da Doo Run Run

Pre-Run Jitters

Things are not looking up.  Less than 10 days before the PAU 65 km run in Ilocos, I’ve been waking up at 2:30 am and unable to sleep thereafter.  Last night I tried warding off wakefulness by reading the Frontrunner magazine but instead of getting sleepy, I got more excited until I realized it was 5 am.  Today (3:36 am), after being aroused from sleep an hour ago, thoughts from the mundane to the serious crisscross my mind so no amount of tossing around the bed could knock me out to sleep.

So here I am, partly donning my running outfit, typing furiously just to let go of these thoughts (thinking of the moment) before they vaporize.  I wish I had the guts to run around the block at 3 am in the morning but the better half of me says otherwise.   So, I might as well make the most of this unholy hour.  Here they come:

  1. What gimmick can we (along with my run buddy Dave) do while crossing the finish line?  Last PAU 50 km run, it was running topless (which got into Frontrunner magazine pages) but was never in the plan.  After running more than 8 hours under the blistering summer sun before the presidential elections, our singlets had literally left a burnt mark on our bodies.  So what to do 3 kilometers into the finish line but strip the top off and go commando.  Currently, I’m pondering on donning something outrageous (ala Tessa Prieto-Valdes) on the last stretch.  But by the time I have done 60 kms, I’m sure, thoughts of putting on a headdress or a mask would have blown away into the South China Sea.  I’m seriously considering doing push-ups (at least 12) once we crossed the finish line, that is, if we still have the powers.  Definitely, I’m sewing RUN-DMD on my singlet for some shameful publicity.
  2. I’m also a little concerned on my diet – gotta to go more strict and detailed on what I devour (literally).  By Sunday, I plan to make a diet plan for the next 7 days.  Once we reach the finish line, Lechon I heard is waiting for us in the post-run celebration.  Looking forward to that.
  3. All the other details such as accommodations, transportation, support vehicles and drinks & food preparations before and during the race also keep showing up.
  4. Trivial thoughts on our run outfits, gadgets, minor requirements and the turn-over every stop also bug me once in a while.
  5. I’m also planning on making a detailed plan on every 5 km stop (if our support vehicle(s) would allow).  These include outfit changes, drink requirements, food intakes, pictorial opportunities, etc.  Understandably, Dave goes cuckoo whenever I relate these little strategies giving me a look like I’m planning to penetrate Pentagon.  But that’s me.

So I guess, that’s it.  The tension can build up for me whenever I think of details, days leading into a run especially on something we’ve prepared for a long period of time.  But I’m hoping these will all ease out when everything have been ironed out next week.  I just hope the stress level in the clinic won’t add up to all of these.  But we can never tell.  Life as in running is full of surprises.  I just hope it’s a nice one.

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Returning to Calvary (and loving it)

Returning to Calvary     (and loving it)

A thought entered my mind just yesterday when rains and wind were blasting my face – after Christ’s ordeal and death then resurrection, did he try going back and looking through the ordeal he went through?, most especially the road to Calvary (most of the stations of the cross, actually).  I’ll bet that He will just laugh it off on how he survived it all, in the face of the lynching crowd and the weight of the cross.

Well my PAU 50K last May didn’t bear the heaviness of anything except my tired body, buoyed only by good running shoes and energy drinks, weighed down by the summer heat and a dwindling confidence.  So yes, it was Calvary for me times 10.

How hell can turn into paradise in a matter of months is beyond me, maybe it was the packed mileage (or kilometerage) or the verdant scenery or the cool weather.  But our 30K LSD run yesterday in prep for the Ilocos 65K was such a breeze for me.  With the more than 60 members of the, we began as early as 4:30 am sans a trace of light at the Sierra Madre resort.  The camaraderie and fun spirit of the group was just infectious so all the sleepiness turned to eagerness and excitement.

The route is such a sight as darkness revealed little by little the landscape with the slow rising of the sun beneath the clouds.  The fog enveloping the hills feels like floating in Lothlorien.  The atmosphere was light as runners stopped almost every 5 kilometers to share drinks & foods while taking group pictures here and there.

In the back of our mind we were already picturing the series of sudden descents before the end of the 15K turn and of course the inevitable return going up the same hills.  But with a more positive vibe, the lovely temperature (about 10 degrees lower than in May), a breathtaking scenery (we never realized that in the brown and dry summer) and a bouncy running group, I really had a blast conquering what seemed so formidable and harrowing before.

By the time the road went up and up, the winds coupled with strong rains finally soaked us all so all the contraptions had to go and be stored safely in any of the support vehicles (I had my garmin, celphones and extra drinks in 3 vehicles).  The fear of flying tree trunks or G.I. sheets hitting us never crossed my mind but rather childhood memories of playing under the rain.  I was enjoying this.  Finally I have conquered my Calvary.

Dave timed the pacing at 20 mins of slow run and 5 mins of walking.  Whether it was an uphill or flat pavement, we had to run once 5 mins was up.  At one time our group also included Rosel (the running diva), Joseph and Topher – some of the runners who will be with us in Ilocos.   I’m hoping the same relaxed and fun atmosphere would exist on Aug. 29.  Because this is how I’d want to do an ultrarun with new friends (passionate but not too competitive) I’d meet along the way.

We reached the endpoint before the 5th hour and I hardly felt any tiredness or pain (sleepiness would set in later), perhaps it was the people, the cool weather, the inspiring scenery and new found confidence.  I’ve reached my Golgotha and am now ready to be nailed on the cross of PAU 65K.

P.S.  Never had a sumptuous meal after a long run but the bulalo and rice (plus the eggs and adobo) we had at a nearby carinderia really caps it all.  It didn’t hurt that we were surrounded by the well-meaning, friendly and passionate co-runners of  Salamat po!!!