I run…therefore I am


The pain! The pain! (or how I learned to stop worrying and loved that blister)*

*My apologies to Mr. Kubrick for demeaning Dr. Strangelove

The day before I was to take part in the PAU Fort Magsaysay 60km ultrarun, I sat staring at my 2” x 1” oval unhealed blister – a painful reminder of the CDO-Dahilayan 57km Trail Run just a week before.  Thinking that it would shrink and disappear just like the Nuvali blister nearly a month before, my CDO badge was belatedly popped only last Wednesday (upon Dr. Topher’s suggestion).  2 days later, it was still tender and sensitive to finger pressure.  Just how far will my feet take me (with the blister carrying my whole body weight) for next day’s 60km race?  5 kms?  Maybe 15 kms at the most.  Then I can just DNF (did not finish).  Or maybe I can just DNS (did not start) and lighten up my weekday dental appointments.  And treat Saturday patients with my mind in Nueva Ecija?

remember me?

Friday clinic was quite hectic so I got home by 6:30 pm.  I was still in luck to have slept for 2 hours before the whole Buban family showed up in front of our house at 11:15 pm.  We reached Fr. Magsaysay, Nueva Ecija by 2:30 pm with enough time to meet up with co-runners and Team Boring.  The Boringers hired 2 vans to support members who will be running – a total of 13 plus 7 race supporters.

The Team moments before the battle begins...

I positioned myself in a slightly lit corner of the parking area to coat lé blister with rolls of leukoplast tape and a layer of Vaseline under my thick Drymax socks + extra cushion on my right foot.  This was a desperate experiment that would fail big time.

with some of the Boring newbies at the starting line...

The first 5 kms. I felt like I was walking on water.  Dave & I planned to go fast in the first 30 kms while the sun hasn’t fully shone  and maybe just walk/run in the final 30.  It’s a plan that had worked for me in my last 2 trail runs and we hoped it would do wonders on the Central Luzon road.  As we left the Fort vicinity into rolling paved roads, we chanced upon Keshia (who will eventually become #17 and the 2ndfastest female finisher) and Larry (of the Fairview Runners).  We talked and ran with the sun rising from the horizon by 6 a.m.  So far the feet were hardly feeling any pressure.

good morning, Nueva Ecija!

Larry, Keshia, Toto, Dave on the attack

The steepest and longest ascent came early to usher in the start of the blistering pain on my right foot.  I had resolved to nurture and love that little devil into the final kilometer.  It is but a one layer of skin which would eventually regenerate underneath.  It’s not a major injury like ITBS or Plantar Fasciitis which may render me cripple for weeks if pushed to its limits.

just keep running, just keep running...

When my mind is unable to delete it, the pain felt like a million needle pricks on the anterior sole of the right foot at every step.  It becomes excruciating when I put my body weight on the right side so I tend to use my left foot more (or my right heel).  Unfortunately, Mr. Lefty was exhibiting signs of plantar fasciitis and mini-blisters, as well (just like in CDO).

Soon enough we were running along the highway (surprisingly with lesser vehicles) lined by trees and surrounded by fields with waterways.  Every 7 kms., Team Buban (including Paz & Dave’s 4 sons) were there to replenish our drinks and solid food requirements.  Later, it dwindled to every 5 kms. then 3 kms. when the sun was at its blazing & scorching glory.

refreshing sites early in the run...

with Dave & Bong: don't let the lovely scenery fool you (we were scorching at this time)

By 7 am, it was way up and beating hard on the weary runner.  3 hours and 30 minutes after, we reached the halfway point, still relatively strong.  And we got the most pleasant surprise of our running lives – we were ranked #38 & #39!!!  This was most elating to Dave who had been used to finishing in the bottom group.  I had advanced a little in the rank department during the last 2 runs (#56 in Nuvali & # 66 in CDO) but to be in the Top 40 was just unbelievable.

At this point we knew we should be monitoring our ranking (or maybe break into the top 30).  No one will know that we were in the top 40 at km.30 but the final ranking will forever be etched in the annals of PAU running history.  And we kept trudging on, suddenly aware of the other runners in front and behind us.  We intend to keep the status quo.

Somewhere in km.36, we were climbing another uphill with no flats in sight – I was parched, hungry and cramping on my right calf.  It’s one of those mind busting moment when I felt I was just going to burst into flames.  After what felt like eternity, we finally see the Boring & Buban vans nestled right under the mango trees.  It was time to have a real meal – I scarfed my remaining spaghetti noodles before they could spoil.

ahhh...just in time!

10 minutes later we were invigorated and refreshed – ready to take on the final 23 kms.  The blister – it’s still there, of course.  In fact, the pain has expanded into the middle part. But once you’ve dealt with the little sucker – assess the extent of inconvenience and havoc it would wreak – it simply slithers in its little corner becoming almost incognito.

At km. 45, we linked up with 2 ultra virgins & Boring team mates – CJ Palparan & Chap Grande.  Both nearing DNF mode, the two were melting from the heat and were being weighed down by various injuries here and there.  Dave, ever the motivational guru, started to barrage them with words of encouragement and positivity.  “Feel the air around you, breath in and take in all that energy.”  “Summon the trees, drain the mountains of its power to push you.”  It was working.  We were gliding with the wind powered by nature’s forces, along with our 4 individual strength entwined together into one potent force, in our mind, at least.

Mountain 1, heed my command to take me to the finish line!

And then the uphills began.  At first they were just mild ascents progressing into real climbs that one is forced to just nimble his way up the concrete byway.  Problem is the slower the movement, the longer and greater the contact of the foot is on the pavement, especially when one tilts the body forward in ascending slopes.  At this point, almost everyone was just winging it, like Auschwitz Jews marching into the gas chamber.

when the going gets tough, the tough.........go walking

But since we were bunched with competitive participants, a runner would suddenly surge from behind and start overtaking (nanunuhog) the contenders in front.   Some were seriously guarding their ranks, they kept glancing back for some surprise attack.  Of course, we took part in this hilarious cat & mouse game we used to dismiss when we were in the bottom pack.  So this is how it is to be running with ‘giants’. I’m just imagining the bloodbath in the Top 15.

seize that runner!!!!!!!!!

My overly emotional partner would take it quite personally (bombarding him with colorful adjectives) when someone suddenly sneaks up from behind and just lets us eat his dust.  I told him it was a race so we were no longer contending with ourselves but all the 113 runners.

last shot before the final.........walk into the finish.

Km. 55, after non-stop mild and dangerous uphills, I felt fluid flooding my sole and the contact with the skin is more palpable than ever.  The last 5 kms. had me and Dave just walking throughout.  Not even the downhills warranted a free fall.  The pain at every step was becoming a bother, I was slightly limping.  Dave had sensed it (as we recalled later) but we never bothered bringing it up (and what – flood our minds with negative thoughts).

pain is temporary...blah blah...

We suspected runners from behind were miles away so we felt secured when we saw signs of the final destination.  Until out of nowhere, one runner (Rodel Montejo) suddenly materialized in front of us 100 meters into the finish line.  Dave manages to make a dash.  I attempt to catch up with him but the cramping on the right leg suddenly shows up.  And so I allowed Rodel to go ahead.  I muster some kind of run into kilometer 60.  Which was a good thing because just 50 meters awau were 5 other runners marauding to the finish line.

km. 60 with Dave, Rodel, Sir Jovie & me

After the customary medal/t-shirt presentation from Sir Jovie Narcise (aka Baldrunner), I settled in one of the nipa huts and peeled off every layer of armor from my right foot.  Underneath it all was a swollener oval blister and just below it was a baby blister reddish, swimming in yellow fluid and crying in pain.  I wanted to tear up myself upon seeing the creature but I’m in an all new level now – I finished #40.  I’m a tougher and stronger runner now so a whispered ‘eeeew’ sufficed.

Special thanks to Carlo Serrano, Bave dela Cruz, Paz Buban & Team Kamote runners for the unforgettable pictures…sa uulitin!

Midnight in Dingalan...

Epilogue:  A fourth of the Team Boring members and the Buban family hied off to a nearby resort in Dingalan to stay overnight and enjoy the place.  In morning, I joined them at the beach and my blisteraccumulated some of the black sands so when I got home, I had to slice the lesion and irrigate the particles off.  Last Friday, I was able to run 15 kms. with Dave.  And the tale of the blister continues…


the final picture, hopefully

with Dave & McCoy

chillaxing with team Boring...


A Series of Unfortunate Injuries on the Trail to Dahilayan

The CDO Connection

The first time I saw the CDO-Dahilayan Trail Run pop on my FB page, I knew I was going to be part of Mindanao’s first Ultramarathon.  You see, my ties with CDO go a long way back to 1990 when I was part of UP-PGH’s Dental Externship Program.  When you spend 24 hours at the emergency room and 8-hour duties at the Out-Patient Department for 5 days together every week, you’re bound to get close with fellow dental externs, some coming from Cebu, Davao and Cagayan de Oro.

PGH wonder years...

Beyond the confines of our dental cubicles, our 2 batches (the seniors & the juniors) were never short of get-togethers, outings and a lot of bonding.  Even when the program ended, the excursions continued.  In CDO alone, we’ve visited Drs. Johnny Lu (my cubicle buddy) and Danny Antolin 3x since.  This year was my fourth.

White Island, Camiguin (2007)

Cris, Malou, Johnny, Danny

Pre-Run Rituals

We touched down at the CDO airport last Thursday afternoon and were promptly whisked off by Danny to the Dynasty Court Hotel, 30 minutes into Michelle Estuar’s seminar.  The place was packed and we met up with Francis Velasquez (the race director), Johnny and the rest of the organizing group for this ultrarun.  Jonel & Francis gave the final instructions to many of the participants who were feasting on the delicacies for the carbo-loading party, including a roasted pig, stuffed with lemon grass.  I know – 2 days to a long trail run, one should be stuffing on pasta and sweet potatoes but what’s a guy to do when faced with that crackling brown lechon skin but dig in…yum.

final words from Francis and Jonel...

The next day I was supposed to be relaxing and investing on some sleep but Danny had other plans in mind.  He toured us around city into the soon-to-open CDO international airport.  And finally settling at their family beach house where we took off from the beach paddling into the middle part of the sea to swim and snorkel.  The corals, starfishes and marine life are still intact and quite thriving. It was an fun-filled, invigorating morning, as expected from a CDO jaunt.

Danny, the coco juice extractor

Idyllic relaxation before the battle...

We met up with Johnny at Candy’s (owned by his sister in-law at Limketkai) for our late lunch.  We devoured the delectable salad, spinach pizza and pasta and the to-die-for (I  know, very Alicia Silverstone) desserts, with me finishing off all the leftovers.  I was the only one running in a few hours, right?  We split up at around 4 pm with Dan, Malou & Cris travelling ahead into Dahilayan with Johnny driving me to the hotel where Boring Team mates Doc Topher, Bong & Juvy are already comfortably ensconced.

Last decent (and unforgettable) meal at CANDY'S

An hour of preparations and final arrangements and I plopped myself on my foamed bed.  At 10:30 pm, I was hoping I had dozed off even for a few minutes after hours of lying down and writhing around.  At 12 midnight, everybody gets up to go down and search for some meal along the street.  I stayed along and partook of my inasal chicken we earlier purchased at Steve’s.  Still tasty.

Good Borning, CDO!

And it all began…

BoRiNg time...

baby, you're a firework!

At 2:45 am, we were in front of the CDO city hall – Doc T, Bong, Juvy, Doc Art & I in our Team Boring shirts.  The atmosphere was buzzing with excitement and electricity (and some trepidation for me).  Of the 172 runners, 30 are from Metro Manila.  Sparks and fireworks fly from the starting line as runners shoot out to the city streets at 3 am.  Soon enough, the road ascends in long distances.  My plan was to finish the first 27.5 kms in 4 hours so I could just walk the final kilometers.

smile though the legs are struggling..

I run along Bad Boy Bong (Bernadez) who was also pacing Berns Ong who was eyeing a podium finish.  Their tempo even on the uphills was quite brisk so I let them go at around 15 kms., after many a chases.

mistaken identity (people along the road mistook Berns to be Sen. Cayetano): thus the cheering, Pia, Pia!

one of the many awe-inspiring views...

Jacob: Dawn Runner

As we left the city, the roads give in to verdant mountains and fields and trees.  With the sun finally creeping out of the clouds, the runners take a respite from the numerous ascents to enjoy the stunning scenes.  I would run along 2 new friends along the road – Fred Casino (works in Ortigas but CDO in origin) and Jacob Mendoza (Zamboanga-based) who would beam me out of my monotonous running stupor.  We would zip in and out of each other’s zone until finally, the descents came in and I was riding like the wind.

with Fred before another ascent...

running down a dream....

I finally caught up with Bong & Berns along with our designated support jeepney.  I changed to my long sleeve running shirt just in time for the entry of the blazing morning sun.  At 7:09 am, I finally reached the halfway point (27.5 kms.), still on fresh legs though hints of cramping on the left knee, right calf and quadriceps were bubbling up.

Now if only all roads were like this...

Let the sunshine…

A few kilometers into Camp Philips, Del Monte area, the road would suddenly angle up so steeply, forcing us to hike up as the air becomes thinner and the muscles more fatigued.  American in planning and lay-out, Camp Philips was such a refreshing sight for the weary runners with its enormous trees, open gardens and friendly neighborhood, offering pineapples, bananas & juice drinks at its many stations.

a banquet of delight

Alas, the cool breeze gave in to hectares upon hectares of pineapple plantations.  And I welcome the heat and the endless, lonely walks but not for long.  I was getting giddy.  This is where my feet start to give in.  Blisters from the Nuvali trail run start to surface so every step on the angular pebbles can be a real ordeal.  Mr. Right foot produces an island of blister while Mr. Lefty is showing signs of an impending plantar fasciitis.

cue in: Zephyr in the skyyyyy....

To make matters worse, my MP3 player which has been pushing me to glide on many portions of the race finally conked up in the middle of the pineapple wilderness.   Roads that were paved for most of the way had transformed into uneven pointy rocks.  So what’s a guy to do 15 kms. into the finish line?

a)            Attempt to pop up the frigging blister.  It almost happened when one of the guys at the water station suddenly brandished a Swiss knife.  Close call.

b)            Attach a protective foam around le blister.  Simple eh?  But what if the foam is just ¼ inch in diameter and the wound is 2-inch wide?

c)            Keep moving and offer every excruciating step to family and loved ones.  That’s what I did – all my wishes and hopes for them.  Plus I offered the run to my brother Fred and my close friend Dr. Maricel Vinluan, both July 9 birthday celebrants.  It was also a time to pray.

a view to a kill....

Many ultrarunners know about this – when the body can no longer go on, you let the mind take over.  It worked for me at the Nuvali Trail Run & the BDM 102, so it should work now.  Unexpectedly, during BDM 102, I battled with fatigue, sleepiness and the heat.  There were no real physical injuries I needed to delete from my system.  At both trail runs, it was blister galores at every step of the last kilometers.  Soon enough, I learned to wrestle with that beast (instead of ignoring it) every time it comes around – I face it, do something about it and continue with my journey.  As in real life…

Soon enough, signages of the Dahilayan Adventure Park start popping up.  My road to Golgotha turns out to be 2 kilometers of further ascents through muddy trails.  As I cross the finish line, the rains welcome my arrival.  It was exhilarating and refreshing. Race Director Francis and Christine (Johnny’s wife) were on hand to welcome me 8 hours and 40 minutes after I had left Cagayan de Oro City.

the moment!

my preciooouusssss!


a.       I missed out on the Dahilayan Zip Line (Asia’s longest) but swear to be back and enjoy a full day of its many rides and amenities.  But maybe I should watch ‘Forever & a Day’ before that.

b.      The reason we had to leave Dahilayan early was to attend a dinner tendered by Johnny for us.  And I had my fill of all the lechon skin I could munch on.  I have suddenly become a fan of roasted pork.

a fitting climax of the CDO adventure...

c.       I never got to eat my food implements for this race.  The reason – besides having a well-stocked water/food station, barrios in many areas prepared sabas, camotes and boiled eggs, handing them out to famished participants.  Plus more food coming from co-runners.  It’s a wonder my tummy didn’t act up.

Thanks to Marge Auyong-Velasquez, Runner’s Circle, & Dr. Emmanuel Tiburcio for the great pictures!

Postscript:  Cris and I left for Manila Sunday morning arriving at 7:30 just in time for my induction as active member of the Endodontic Society of the Philippines.  I was still limping from that blister and dozed off many times during the whole day seminar.  Something’s gotta give…

I zzzzzzzolemnly swear....