It’s one of those times when you find yourself easily submitting to something fun and exciting then midway through it, you realize you want to bolt out and just go home but then, there’s no turning back. The only way to get out is to finish that damn whole course. I entered the Nuvali Trail Run with a little swagger having recently finished the Bataan Death March 102 but then this was to be my first ultra run after 2 months. Trails? I’ve survived the baddest of ‘em all – the Pinatubo 50 km run last October, sans blisters or dead toe nails.
So why am I melting like a popsicle in the middle of the day? We started running (around 200 of us in the 57 km category) at 5 am along Nuvali’s open trails bordered mostly by cogons and in rare times fully grown trees to shelter us from the rising sun in the latter part of the day. I’ve already survived the first loop (a good 28.5 kms) and was pushing towards the last 15 kms. and I swear, I was slouching due to some back pain (caused by the camelback I lugged along in the first loop). I usually run upright with my head up and a lot of smug. Now I’m breathing fast and heavy. My mind is trying to ignore the messages my legs are sending: ‘I’m blistering both left and right’, ‘My knees (more on the right) are starting to buckle down due to pain upon each step’, ‘Both my hips are starting to feel the pressure and pain is starting to build up’, ‘Le nails are coming off’, etc., etc.
But of course, I erase ‘em all and continue trudging through relatively sloping terrains. If one is to look at the topography per area (say 25-30 kms), it would seem like an easy course but compounding it over the course of a 9-hour period, well, that would be one tragic story for my feet and legs. I used my good old reliable Asics Cumulus II for this one. It has survived the lahar and boulders of Pinatubo and protected my feet throughout so this would be a picnic. Btw, the crater run passed through several rivers (or some streaming water) while Nuvali had only one shallow river to contend with.
So why in blazes are the feet sensing pain at every step – an impending plantar fasciitis? Blister galore? Cramping? I have no intention of removing the shoes and checking for the casualties of war, that will have to wait after I cross the 57th km. mark. So I drown my head with 80s music once the distances among runners stretch and one is left on his own universe. I have tried to save up that list of songs for BDM 160 next year, hoping I would hear them for the first time then, and it would sound fresh and would push me when the body can no longer go on. But I had to mine the song catalog to get me going…I also had to extract from of my BDM 102 diary just to keep my flagging hopes and spirit up. Yes, it was that taxing. I feel like I’m starting all over again in running.
I had been pushing myself for the last 7 hours that anything beyond it might lead to some major injury (the hips or the feet maybe) and spoil my plans for the Manila International Marathon this Sunday. Fortunately, I found a pacer in the final 10 kms. in the person of a more fit Siosan Baysa, one of the toughest female ultrarunners. We mostly walked (and talked a lot) while running in the downhill portions of this race. Finally, I can enjoy this run without the pressure (the cut off time was nearing) and the competitive mood.
It was a nice culmination to a trail run which seemed easy and relaxing until it started straining us with its uneven topography and winding track, culminating in one enjoyable walk then jog into the finish line with a new found friend. And we reached it at 8:58, about an hour ahead of the cut-off time. My average pace read 9:13 mins/km.
Looking at the list, about 50 runners DNFed (did not finish) while another 30 or so failed to make it to the 10-hour cut-off time. My partner Dave, along with an about-to-DNF Chinky reached the finish line much later. Theirs was a story of losing and finding one’s mojo, of willing to fight the odds even if they’re stacked against you and of battling over one’s demons and emerging victorious.
Now this is one race overwhelmed by stories of losing, of quitting and achieving. It’s all riddled with calluses, blisters, cramps and dead nails. But for sure, everyone felt great that day, having survived (or not), having finished (or not), making it into the cut-off time and managing a strong finish. Everyone had a story to tell.
For me, it’s the day when I’ve returned to the long missed world of ultra and trail running, when I pushed myself to run faster in an uneven and winding course, when I felt thirst (and hunger) after long hours under the sun, when I pushed myself mentally to just keep going (now it’s dawning on me – my Nuvali experience was more difficult than BDM 102 but my selective memory can be quite unreliable), and when I finally learned that each run is always different, regardless of one’s experience, perseverance and mental toughness.
Special thanks goes to Ina Estoesta, Julius & Angie Danas of Team Boring for the invaluable support during the race, for Junrox (Florito Roque) and Carlo Serrano for the memorable shots.