Just got up on a Sunday morning with partner Dave and his family in an airconditioned room in Sual, Pangasinan. Still limping from giant blisters on both feet but exhilarated on the turn of yesterday’s event – the PAU 65 km. ultrarun from Bolinao to Sual, Pangasinan (a.k.a. the Western Pangasinan 65 km. Ultramarathon). To say that this has been one of my greatest performances in an ultrarace would be an understatement. Let me go back from the start.
Though lacking in sleep at the starting line, I’d say I was quite conditioned for this race – been doing my weekday runs (3x a week), my long runs (Marikina to BGC/Marikina to Timberland and back), gym & yoga work outs. Hints of my old plantar fasciitis were still there but those blisters have healed beautifully. But just in case, I mummified the forefoot area with wads of soft gauze offered by Kokoy Delmo. I guess my blister dilemma has never been a secret.
Our plan (along with partner Dave) was again to run fast in the first half (32 kms.) while the sun isn’t high enough and one can still dash with enough energy and exuberance. It had worked before and hopefully, it would do wonders again. Ultrarun’s recent girl wonder Keshia Fule had become a friend and I arranged to tail her in the first 15 kms. We positioned ourselves in the lead pack, just behind the likes of Junrox, Alfred and other mamaws.
The route coming from Cocos Resort in Bolinao was quite dark. Thankfully we had fellow Boringer CJ Paran lighting our way. Going out into the national highway, our group included Keshia, Berns Ong, Boringers Bong Bernadez, Kokoy Delmo with Dave a few meters behind. The heart-thumping pace was quite fast by my standards but I was learning to keep up with the group using a breathing technique I learned from yoga just last Thursday – 1 deep breath in and 2 breaths out.
I was guessing we were in the Top 20 with only one runner overtaking us. So the pressure to keep going and deflecting any ‘marauders’ was quite too much. Around km. 12, Keshia had accelerated in front with CJ and I, a hundred meters apart. It’s a triumvirate line we maintained for 5 kilometers before they disappeared from my view.
The road (compared to the Ft. Magsaysay run) was quite comfortable with minimal long ascents and some nice downhills (a favorite). Otherwise, it’s generally flat. I kept moving quite fast, trying to reach my 32-km. mark with the sun beginning to rise and scorch the asphalt road and our bodies. At km. 24, I changed to my reliable Under Armour white long-sleeved top to lessen upper body sun burns. The Buban (Dave’s family) support team were there at every 5 kms. for our food/drink requirements and a lot of encouragement from Paz. Unfortunately, this would last only up to the early 40s.
A limping Kokoy caught up with me for some quality talk: [setting: an endless road ‘shadowed’ by rows of electric post and wires]
Kokoy: Ang sakit na talaga ng talampakan ko…
Toto: Pards, meron din akong nararamdaman pero ‘wag na natin pag-usapan ‘yan…sa finish line na lang…
Signs of forefoot/heel pain (practically 75% of the sole) were rising from the surface but when the long downhills came, I just kept gliding down – doing a trick Coach Titus had taught me before – run in one line while swaying the hips from side to side. “Now, I’m free, free falling” (Thanks Tom Petty). At km. 40, feelings of tightness and pressure from my Asics Cummulus and thick Drymax socks can no longer be ignored so I changed to my looser NB 1064. The pressure disappeared but the blisters had begun to emerge like some swamp creature from a B-movie. I had to use the sweltering asphalt road instead of the rocky/grassy side walk to avoid any straight on pressure on the blistered area (awww!). Unfortunately, overtaking buses easily occupied the other lane and many times almost side swiped me by a hairline. One can feel that vacuum of air when the close call happens.
We entered the bustling town of Alaminos at km. 45 but by this time I had been orphaned from the Buban support vehicle, just like in BDM 102. I knew I had to rely on goodhearted ultra supporters along the road. But since I was in the front pack, service vehicles were few and far between. I had to contend with neighborhood sari-sari stores for my provisions. I never imagined gulping Coke in a run but one takes in what’s available. There were moments when I felt I was dehydrated (my urine was turning dark yellow) so I kept imbibing liquids of various colors, left and right.
At this point, I had used up my running energy so I was walking in big strides (reminiscent of Wap Flores during BDM 102) with short bursts of running upon some prodding from my 80’s new wave hit list from the Ramones (I wanna be sedated), REM (End of the world) to Suzanne Vega (Left of center). Along a desolate highway entering Sual, 3 mamaws emerge from the scorching heat – Team Ungas/Powerpuff Boys Totoy, Ronnel & Ambow were a mirage in maroon, white & black. I joined the guys hoping to get some inspiration and power while trudging the final 13 kilometers or so.
Many second winds later, I had moved forward and created a comfortable distance from them while thumping to newer music (‘Hey Soul Sister’, ‘The Dog Days are Over’, among others). The final 6 kilometers was a series of rolling terrains with mild uphills and a nice descent to the finish line. Unexpectedly, after targeting Snail Runner Fernando Cabanero for some time, he was joined by ultra idol Jonel Mendoza (maybe it’s our age). It was a nice friendly chase involving free drinks and ice from their service vehicle (wo-manned by Running Contessa Ivy).
At the final kilometers, Totoy emerges from behind and ‘makes tuhog-tuhog’ the two. I wanted to join the chase but those blisters – well you know too much of my blistering history. By 9:05:21, I crossed the finish line and was welcomed by Sir Jovie Narcise. The place was quite spare and the claps were minimal. So this is how it is to finish near the top. Yup, #16 is the highest rank, I think, I will ever capture in my running career so I savored the moment. It has been an exhilarating day, punctuated by a surprising climax but I can’t continue with this blister syndrome if I plan to finish BDM 160 next year. Oh well, time to go back to the drawing board.
‘Cause really now, I have no aspirations of being crowned ‘The Blister King’…
Special thanks goes to the great photographers along the road for the capturing those moments I will forever cherish: Jesus Roque (Junrox’s brother), Allan Roy L. Martos (Team CB), Ivy (The Running Contessa), Francis Coles & Rona Dizon (Team CB). You guys rock!