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Surviving my third 100KM Trail Race



This is my second Four Lakes 100KM Race (since 2012) and the journey never gets any easier, albeit more familiar and easier to navigate (but only in the day time).  Fortunately, we had a purpose – to remember and dedicate all 100 kilometers of this race to a fallen former Team Boring mate & Milo Apex coach Leo Tugade (Toel) whose riddled body was discovered a day before…

So this was basically the main event in the first quarter of my 2015 running calendar.  All the strengthening, conditioning, speed runs, registered road races (including the 7-11 marathon) and LSDs all culminated to this.   This was also my first 100KM trail race since my knee surgery almost 1.5 years ago.  And so we showed up at the Kayapa starting line in Nueva Vizcaya, 30 minutes before the 4 am gun start, feeling the mountain chill and palpable anxiety among the 90 100KM runners (a whopping jump from 26 in 2012).



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I had me a younger pace partner (from Ronnel Go in 2012) in Van Denn Cruz who was most helpful and efficient in the uphills and the downhills.  As indicated in the elevation graph, it was going to be one continuous climb with minimal descents in the first 10 kilometers.   The energy and eagerness was quite high and with limited visibility on perspective (of the actual ascents), everyone was in a competitive mode.  Daylight has struck when we reached Domolpos (KM17, AS2) with most of the elites already descending from Mt. Ugo.  It was a slow continuous struggle towards the peak but we finally reached it and had our customary peak shots.


11088490_956009927742857_4390580792323940895_oThen it was time to take on the Spanish Trail – 13 kilometers of stunning views and endless descents into AS4 (KM35, Kayapa Market Proper) which runners should reach within 8 hours or less.  Fortunately, we reached it at 6:30 but we stayed long enough to gobble the appetizing meals and cheap halohalo.  T’was 30 minutes of heaven.

dejavu from 2012

dejavu from 2012

Then came the looong and breathtaking climb up to Amelong Labeng into that steep hill where the cellular phone tower is situated.

the blue mountain at the back is where the celphone antenna (look for the pointed structure) can be seen.  view taken from our room in Kayapa.

the blue mountain at the back is where the celphone antenna (look for the pointed structure) can be seen. view taken from our room in Kayapa.


from that river was where we started this climb

We took short breaks in between but the surge never stopped in the face of the scorching heat and the ticking clock.  Until the downhills came, albeit too steep and daunting.  But we managed the way Ronnel and I did in 2012.  A few more descents and we were down Castillo Village (KM49, AS5).  It was 2:30 PM, 2.5 hours before the cut-off time into Dayap (KM56).







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Van, trying to part the green sea...

Van, trying to part the green sea…

Many opted to take their time and rest while we left in a huff, recalling the taxingly continuous route to Dayap in 2012.  And good old memory served us right because the journey was truly ambiguous and paved with DNF-prone moments, what with the endless and steep way to top.  We reached it at 4PM and had an hour to devour something piping hot, change to new socks and refresh a bit.  Before we left at 5PM, a few late comers tried to make the cut but heartbreakingly failed.  It was a difficult scene to take as the mountains started to be cloaked in darkness.






golf, anyone?

By night time, the game changed with poorer visibility, fogging, near freezing weather and some rain but we kept pushing, very slowly lest we end up by the deep valley/raging river below.  The road to Ambasa Pass (KM62) will always be difficult to ascend with its irregular path strewn with broken rocks and irregular terrain.  But we persisted.  After an eternity, the downhills came along with the long road to Banao.  I thought that having passed this way before, the going would be a breeze.  Of course, I will be proven wrong and my patience tested until the enigma that was Banao finally came in sight via that small light by the hill.  30 minutes of warming up and sustenance and we were on the return trip to Dayap (10:30 pm).  We scrambled on an irregular and constantly changing trailway on the way up to Ambasa (KM76) until the down hills came.  It was easier than the climb, for sure.  But with low visibility and road studded with sharp rocks here and there, we were reduced to ambling and jogging our way down.  Finally, Dayap beckoned and we knew we had only 18 kilometers to go.

After a brief rest, we continued our descent to Pangawan (KM85) into the elusive Mossy Forest which required another endless (and final!) climb as we kept searching for the yellow ribbons.  We were already a group of 10 runners so it was easier to grope in the dark with 20 eyes.    Soon enough, we entered its verdant chambers and just kept going for nearly an hour or so.  It was one endless tunnel with no end in sight and relatively more sinister in the dark.


and my protegee finally starts to move a tad faster…

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the dawning in Kayapa…


last of the hanging bridges…


At the break of dawn, we were starting to go down, at last.  I knew from the graph that this was one endless descent towards the finish line and would have been fast and a blast (as in 2012). But with my partner Van, wrecked and in pain (no injury but pure fatigue), I had to play the motivational pacer to trick him into moving. Fortunately, he responded in small continuous steps and some minor jogs.  Van’s longest ultra trail race before this was just the CM60KM last year so this was quite expected.  But banking on his youth and proper training, I knew he’d survive this one.

Soon (after running out of motivating and encouraging words), the finish line came into view and all the fatigue, sleepiness and hunger dissipated and I just wanted to take a bath and brush my teeth. 27 hours and 04 minutes it was.10360605_906607579401846_4962151996739348468_n11096776_351523868383208_706755844_n 11087004_351523858383209_889387462_n

Salamuch Frontrunner Magazine for one memorable and prestigious race, and of course my bib and the goodies! Cheers!

Photography by Ahon, Chinky Villavicencio, Randy Bierso and Frontrunner.

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A 4:11 at the 7 11

Technically, our 711 Marathon last February 22 was a mere training run to rack up some mileage for something bigger – the Four Lakes 100KM 2 weeks later.  So there were no big expectations and great preparations.


Some gym workouts with P90x & T25…

What we did weeks before was hone our trail skills and speed ability.  The last two Tuesdays and Thursdays before the race, we took on the UP academic oval to join our Payasso 2200 group for 4-5 rounds of 2.2KM intense speed runs.  We already expected to be pushed to our limits with our VOmax (characterized by me wheezing in the last 50 meters) and hopefully our lactate threshold which might lessen cramping in the future.  But of course, the ordeal never gets easier.  An hour later, we were panting like hell, soaked to the bone and ready to dive in to a sumptuous dinner – our main motivation, really.

with our Payasso 2200 family!

with our Payasso 2200 family!

our prize for all the night's work!

our prize for all the night’s work!

A week before 7 11, we did our trail LSD on the hills of San Mateo.  Two hours into our aimless wandering, we found ourselves in the middle of a trail race with familiar characters popping from the cogon trail (David Buban, Eric Concepcion, etc.).  And so we opted to join them, albeit taking the reverse route and try to approximate its 35KM distance.  When Doc Doctolero told us that this was one difficult race, we prepared for the worse.  28 kilometers and six hours later, we found ourselves finally on the Start/Finish line of the Sandugo Trail Run at Pintong Buhangin.

And Dave wins 3rd place for 45-49 y.o. category at the Sandugo 35KM trail race!

And Dave wins 3rd place for 45-49 y.o. category at the Sandugo 35KM trail race!

Race Day

After sleeping for around 3 hours (went to bed at 6 but was already awake by 9 pm), we set off for the Filinvest Business Center where we claimed our race kits.  30 minutes of partial dozing at the parking area then we ventured into the starting line.  Being part of Wave A, we go to start at exactly 12 midnight.  With fewer runners (unlike in the Condura Marathon), we had most of the skyway for ourselves.

The weather was perfectly nippy with a slight breeze to dispel any signs of humidity.  It’s my second time to do a full marathon at the Skyway and memories of a boring, monotonous route kept popping.  Van & I started in the midpack group but my early enthusiasm separated us.  Soon I found myself pacing with Kharl Ocampo, a co-BDM runner from way back who had soaked in the triathlon scene for the last 3 years.  Latching to a triathlete meant one has a full update of the current time and pace via his trusty Garmin.  It was a 5:30 – 6 minutes every kilometer.40444-A

By KM10, Van finally caught up with me.  He was pointing to an elite and leading female runner.  Soon enough, we were pacing by her side.  We learned she’s the 5th among the women and a bike was following her every step.  It was a sweet consistent pace which passed thru the sloping track of the skyway.  We were hardly panting so I guess we were able to adjust to her manageable but consistent speed.  Until we finally overtook her and we started following the 4th lead female.

So far, so good.  Nearing KM 21, I distanced myself from Van while keeping up with Ms. lead runner.  It was a constant blast of 80s, 2000s and current music which kept me hammering on – sometimes I’d fire up for a few minutes when the beat was unstoppably fast and then jog when the energy had wane a bit.  But I was hardly stopping even when the Skyway went around loops with big ascents.  I just kept saying to myself that I’m going to keep moving while the cramping hasn’t reared its big ugly head.

Back in the 80s:  Trying out my new head band - most useful, indeed!

Back in the 80s: Trying out my new head band – most useful, indeed!

Throughout the race, I didn’t keep tabs of my time.  I just knew that at 53 minutes, we reached KM10 and 1:56 for KM21.  After that, it was up for the running gods to take me to the finish line.  But the combination of that fresh leg feeling, the absence of any major discomfort/injury, the perfect night weather (sans energy-draining sun but with mean cold breeze at the final 10) and the generally flat terrain kept me pushing and enjoying every kilometer.

In the last 10 kilometers, fatigue finally caught up with me.  Thus, some walking had to be done but was kept within inter-post distances.  A bit of negative feeling also settled – a mix of frustration (just how far is Crimson Hotel still?), tiredness and yes, hints of cramping.  Fortunately, I was able to push out them in the farthest recesses of my brain and was soon flying into the final 2 kilometers, as the Skyway toll booth and the glimmer of the Alabang skyline appeared in the near horizon.


During this time, I had no idea of my time (there were no large digital clocks by the finish line – boo!) but I knew I was in for some surprise that Feb. 22 morning.  Indeed, after the smoke has cleared (711 management released 2 RunTime records, adjusting the latter by 2 minutes), my finish time was 4:11:57 (chip time was 4:11:44), slicing around 2 minutes from my Stockholm Marathon finish of 4:14 and 6 minutes from my Baltimore Marathon’s 4:17.  Finally, I have a local full marathon finish time I can be proud of.  The closest I got was a 4:23:36 (QCIM 2012), 4:24 (Milo Marathon 2013), 4:24:37 (Condura 2013) and 4:25 (RUPM 2013).  So I guess, it’s not about the weather but the preparations and training one undergoes that make for a good finish time.  Cheers, everyone!