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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
And it all began…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…