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The CM50 2015 Chronicles: when Frodo & Sam went to Mt. Doom and back…


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RD Jon in his element at the starting line…

Except that there’s no peak to speak of, a landslide had cut off 2 kilometers going there. And there’s really no Frodo or Sam between me and Van because during this 80-km journey, we took turns taking the lead and burning the miles. It’s the landscape, really, which recalled the barren desert scape of Mordor laden with shifting river and lahar lands, endless hills, mountains and ascents plus one stunning and enormous waterfalls to conquer before reaching the turn-around and going back to where it all began – the Clark Parade Grounds.
Checking out the runners at 12 midnight (1 hour before the gun start), I can safely say that Van & I were the most well ‘stocked’ with our backpacks brimming with provisions, including 2 liters of frozen Pocari Sweat each while others were as minimal as one can get. We were here the year before, of course, but we just did the 60KM edition (which had a 16-hr cutoff). This time it’s the ultimate badass distance of 80 kilometers (18-hr cutoff) which I finished in 2012, so why the apprehension and uncertainty?Picture3
The race had already reached an international level (meaning it’s become a qualifying race for some of the most prestigious trail races including the UTMB, once the required points are reached) that we found ourselves running side by side with around 30 foreign participants. A total of 180 had registered yet around 140 only started (135 finished), if only to give one an idea of this race’s reputation. 2 kilometers from Clark, we entered the lahar area, crisscrossing mini-rivers and sand hills. Van took the lead while I glided along in the dark. [brain: so this is what we shall pass through later in the afternoon, if we ever make it on time – will we get scorched and go cuckoo, as last year?].

going Sacobia river marvin de guia
7 kilometers and 55 minutes later, we reached Aid Station (AS) 1 and everyone seemed hot to trot. We told ourselves that we just had to keep burning the miles while the sun is still out and the energy is still on a high. So we went up, up, up through that endless stairs, thickets, cogon passageways and wherever the reflective markers led us. At least thrice, we had to use all fours to make the descent but the dark melted one’s perspective and one hardly notices how steep he’s going down. [brain: let’s see how you’d do with the sun in its scorching, searing presence on the return trip].mg
Passing through the Sacobia River, one had to sashay around obstacles of rocks and mild valleys. My once powerful lamp I purchased a month ago was suddenly waning (I forgot that its extra large battery required charging) that I had to let Van light our way. AS 2 (KM18) was near the passage into the cogon and corn fields, leading to the Sandbox area and skimming the SCTEX. Soon, we were descending and entering barangay Sapang Uwak. The ascents began but less than an hour later, we reached AS 3 (KM23) at 4:30 am. Quite fast by our standard but by the time we ventured towards AS 4, Van was getting bored and sleepy. I, myself, was also feeling the fatigue and the struggle of those endless and very steep climbs. But we persisted keeping our slow but constant pace and sustaining ourselves with enough water and food to last a day.12246924_10208439637206605_8747272606471558824_n mvdg
Finally after an eternity (5:45 hours), we saw the colorful AS 4. We hardly stopped and kept on conquering more hills on the way to the peak. Mr. Sun was already in its full glory but we were shielded by the hills around as we kept enjoying the cool weather and the stunning views even with the increasing elevation. There were a few rolling terrains but we knew we were ascending, one step at a time. The lead runners started packing the trail and we knew we were near the turn-around. News reached us that 2 kilometers (a total of 4, really) had been cut off due to a landslide and I knew that we will be making the cut. I reckoned a total of 1 hour had been deleted from our race.
To while away my time, I counted the runners coming in to determine our standing. At the turnaround point, I placed us at 110th so I told Van that we should get in at least into the Top 100 (let’s do some tuhog-tuhog). It was more of a joke, really but the guy had a resurgence of energy, especially with the endless downhills that when we got to AS4, we had reached 93rd place. The ranks would keep shifting, for sure but that second wind definitely boosted our waning spirits.
AS4 was led by singing diva Benj Termulo who helped us rest and replenish before going down to the wondrous and surging Miyamit Falls. The cool dip, including some customary washing and removal of the accumulated pebbles, never failed to bring new life and energy after 48 kilometers of continuous struggle. We left AS 4 (or 30 kms to go) with 8 hours and 15 minutes to go – that’s less than 4 kilometers per hour.12274382_10208439637726618_625927526128809819_n
598542_4241173742242_660676977_nI had to take the lead at this time since Van’s energy had diminished after that cool dip (I know, very strange indeed). And so the endless search for AS3 started. With the inclination of our descents in full view, I could hardly grasp the difficulty and complexity (read: rocks and rocks abound) of these same hills we trotted on with gusto a few hours before. It was daunting at first but we got the hang of it – gliding down fast then walking up to burn the miles, as fast as our knees and legs can take.
Sanctuary in the form of AS3 finally came with Joma Sison, prodding (blaring at our ears, actually) us weary runners that we have 23 kilometers to go at 6 hours before the cutoff. We had definitely slowed down by this time, reduced to walking with minimal jogging going to AS2. KM 18 (AS2) to KM 7 (AS1), I knew, would be the most harrowing with around 3 steep long climbs and passages through high grassy lahar alleys, river ways and slippery downhills with the searing sun following us. So we kept the pace going.12278691_10208439638646641_6324379105681172586_n11224668_10208439637046601_5029486402918876995_n (1)
This was perhaps the most positive stress (Will we make the cut?) I needed to help me push myself and follow Van who’s back to his vibrant self (Yes, it’s the age. Period). He told me later that he just wanted to end our little ordeal, faster and sooner. During our race, we hardly exchanged words except when we needed to eat, piss, rest a bit (more of me) and make some calculations and estimates on the time and distance (still me).
The final few kilometers leading to Puning Spa (near AS1) was as endless, long and boring as I had imagined it to be but with the soft sand to navigate on, movement was slow and dragging. Soon the concrete road came and we were flying towards KM 7 and we knew in a matter of 2 hours, we will be cleaning our shoes and hanging our feet.12294866_10208439638246631_3600173574872158778_n
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The journey along planet lahar was cooler than I had perceived. It was around 4 pm and the shadows of the hills had blanketed our way but I was still lazy to run. I told Van I’d run once we reached the Clark vicinity. We were already savoring our accomplishment at this point. Once inside Clark we managed to jog and trot a bit then dash into the final 300 kilometers to the cheers and congratulations of the waiting crowd. We reached the finish line at 16:53:45 ranking 98th and 99th.
And yes, it was gratifying, life-affirming, glorious and precioussss as I dreamed it would be…Picture2
Casualties of war: Minor sunburns on the neck, legs and face (though I imagined Kris Aquino agonizing in pain if it happened to her), chaffing galore on the nether regions and the soles of both feet (I used my old Asics road shoes since my Salomon felt tighter from all the trainings and races prior).
Congratulations to Atty. Jon Lacanlale for keeping the fire burning in the local trail running scene with CM50 and all its variations. Our profuse gratitude to all the Aid Station marshalls for keeping us sustained and taken care of during the race duration (special mention goes to Benj, Chips & Joma). Thanks to BoyP and Team Marupok for all the trail training sessions (text text soon) and our Milo Apex R2 QC group for our tri-weekly trainings. Special shout out goes to all the old and new acquaintances and friends we met on the trails and the mountains. I guess I’m back but first I got to find me a new pair of trail shoes with a wider toe box.
Special thanks go to Dr. Evelyn Ponce & Dr. Doodsie Mallari for our medical clearances.
Thanks to Alfred and Simon (congrats on your new CM50 PRs!) for the endless post-race stories and keeping me awake during the 2-hour drive home. Alf & Van had dozed off once we hit NLEX. And for my ever sleepy partner, Van for struggling to maintain our sanity and strength in the face of monotony, fatigue, rising temperatures and fluctuating elevation during the race.
Gorgeous photography by Running Photographers, Raceday, Arnold Banaay, Marvin de Guia & Adrian Aquino


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50 kilometers for this 50-year old


Since October is my birthday month, what better (and maddening) way to conclude my 50th name day than with a 50KM Trail Run. The elevation graph seemed simple enough but DBB Mountain Rockstar trail run is one deceptive little devil along the mountains (Mt. Batolusong) of Tanay & Baras, Rizal. The truth (and ordeal) unravels as one starts trudging those endless scenic ascents. We started early at 4 am and the initial onslaught, powered with excitement and anticipation was quite fast, as we clambered over boulders and crossed rushing rivers and waterfalls. But in the back of my mind, I knew it would be a pain, going through the same route backwards on the return trip.

ready to rumble!

ready to rumble!

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Morning greeted us with a sea of clouds near the summit and an ocean of cogons swaying by the wind plus our first assault on Rangyas peak, a moderate climb passing through a bamboo cover capped by some mean rock climbing to reach the top. So far, everyone was having the time of their lives.

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Next goal was to take on Bundok Susong Dalaga – another endless ascent where the turn-around gave each runner a star (a 50K finisher should have amassed 7 stars on his race bib).
By mid morning, the sun has come out in its full glory and assaulting the final peak (the radar), a mere 400 meters of lung-busting climb can deplete one’s energies. My partner Van was already a bundle of negative vibes but we persisted. Finally, we were led to our mini-oasis, a wade through the cool rivers of Kay Ibon waterfalls. It was a time to get our senses back and prepare to final descent (featuring very sharp drops among rivers and ravines) to KM 25, the turn around point and starting line.

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By this time, Van had decided to remain in the cool, comforting gymnasium of Barangay San Andres while I made my way back to take on the final 25 kms. The climb back on the same path had me stopping and resting many a time – the fatigue and the heat was already taking its toll. This was very similar to my TNF 2013 experience from KM54 going up but more difficult, I think. Maybe it’s the age.

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Passing through the same waterfalls and rivers, I reached my first climb to conquer on midday afternoon. I knew I wasn’t going to finish this race if I kept stopping throughout. So I went through the motion of taking on the snaking path of Radar mountain by moving for a minute then taking 30-second pauses. It was a regular pace which yielded good results. And in the heat of the moment, my spirits were lifted.

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Now it’s time to get to Susong Dalaga but first I had to pass through the many trail ways, mostly irregular strips of land shaped by the rushing waters from the mountains during the rainy season. I put my trail senses in active mode so I barely slipped nor tripped. With the scorching heat breathing on my neck, I had to take my breaks, regularly checking on my palpitation, urine color, nutrition and overall mental and physical conditions.
The hikes the second time around were more taxing and I felt I was moving on quick sand. But the diligence paid off. I reached Susong Dalaga turnaround point and was on my way to the final peak of Rangyas. Compared to that morning, the area was a lot sadder with very few runners in view. The saddest part was that they were already going down while I still had to climb up. A good 30 minutes later, I got my star.

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If going down that boulder from the peak was a breeze in the morning, the second time around and 35 kilometers later, I was like an octopus holding on to dear life. My senses were already wracked up and my muscular responses (coupled with cramping on both the lower hamstrings) were a bit slow. Finally after what felt like eons, I reached the grassy areas and the marshall said I have 8 kilometers to go and everything was downhill.
Of course, I never believe everything I hear. And rightly so because the that final 8 kilometers felt like eternity that I thought I might have taken a wrong turn but the yellow ribbons abound so I was never in doubt. Finally, the rushing sound of rivers and my most dreaded encounter – the drop along the river which fortunately had 2 marshalls to guide us through. But it was starting to get dark so I traipsed through more rivers and cogon trails but the end was nowhere in sight.ddadgada
During our fast start that morning, I knew this part was short and sweet. Finally, the main road beckoned. A short turn and I got my final 7th star. I reached the finish line at 5:40 pm (13:40) and night time has totally cloaked the place in darkness. But I was glowing with satisfaction and relief. I just survived a 50KM ordeal – and the hardest, so far in my short trail history. Well, what do you know – I’m a mountain rockstar!  FYI, elevation gain was at 3,600 +++!

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Thank you Dabobong (Rayman Delos Angeles), MGM production and the best trail race marshalls (particularly to Ronnel & Doc Joyce, Dianne, Daphne, Dexter, Bong and all the those helpful MGM team) one would ever encounter in the mountains for organizing and ably managing this memorable, grueling but eventually fulfilling experience. Cheers everyone!
Gorgeous pictures c/o Ariel Tuto Aquino, Eric Socrates, Ronnel Go, Tantoy Faustino and Dexter Salonga Dela Cruz.12195819_1100628869947969_1747658179772187260_n


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My Milo Lucena 21K story: 6 seconds between triumph and tragedy


A week after that devastating Milo Marathon finish, I trained a week after – for 3 weeks (courtesy of Coach Alfred Delos Reyes) with all the requisite strenght trainings (c/o Van Denn Cruz), speeds & LSDs. I had my gels & saltsticks ready and travelled 300 kms to get to the starting line and what do you know? All it took was a mere final 1.5 kms to nip my Milo dream off its bud.

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when the going gets tough, the tough gets walking…and dragging.

T’was a controlled pace in the first 3 kilometers (at 5 mins/km) with Rollie DC pacing me along with Payasso boys Ariel Tuto Aquino, Chad Akol, Arnold Banaay along the rolling terrain of Lucena. Then the boys disappeared in the distance as I kept hammering with what I hoped was a sub-5 mins/km pace (KM 10 was reached at 51 minutes).

when cramping strikes...

when cramping strikes…

Then came the second half with its steady but continuous ascent as the sun revealed Lucena’s scenic places. In the final turn-around (about the final 6.5 kms), I was flying with the music and the cool weather pushing me downhill. I was hitting my target times using a 1:50 pacelet.

The moment I saw the SM tower (the final kilometer) was when the cramping went full blown and I had to slow down – drastically. I couldn’t find an alternative style of jogging without aggravating the little devil – even tried moving sideways but to no avail. The clock was ticking but I forced myself to keep moving and finally reached the finish at 1:56:05 (a minute beyond my qualifying time).

And so ends my quest for my Milo Marathon qualifying time. But who knows, exactly next month, it will go up to 2:00. Nah, I’m going back to the trails for the mountains are a-calling…11959962_1025669990800108_5534863970172745875_n

Call me Mr. Cramper and I won’t take offense.

Epilogue.  My final time of 1:56:05, I would learn later was only 6 seconds over the qualifying time of 1:55:59.  Sorry I wasn’t aware that 59 seconds or less the official qualifying time of 1:55 was still acceptable.  Now had I pushed myself easily during those final meters, I would have easily qualified but it’s those lessons in running which would keep me going.  Anyway tomorrow (Oct 1), my new qualifying time will be 2 hours for my new age category.  11913020_10206412316578375_138977169_n

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the final scene – but a second mat would read at 1:56:10

Milo Lucena 2015 - resultsCheers!

Photos by Dan Alvarez Sagayap and Runaholic.

 


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Hope & Despair at my 18th Full Marathon and 5th Milo Marathon


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At the starting line with Dennis & Van…

A timer and a 4:00 pacelet (c/o Alfred Delos Reyes ) guided me throughout my journey where I slowed down when I felt I was going too fast and vice versa (180 steps/minute only c/o Scott J.) The last 4 nights before the race, I was waking up at 3 am and reading for an hour Scott Jurek’s Eat & Run so most of my inspiration came from that book.  Among them:  maintaining my forefoot strikes which are the most efficient since it uses the elasticity of the Achilles tendon and the arch of the foot.  Thus, less energy is lost.  Foot should be landing slightly in front of one’s center of mass.  Also, I should be breathing abdominally using just the nose – which was quite difficult, really.

By KM 32 (3:01), I was over by 1 minute which isn’t bad since my qualifying time was at 4:10 – I just wanted to have enough time when the inevitable started.

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running is controlled falling

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so far, so good

 

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It went full throttle after the final turn around in Tramo. After KM32, I was forcing myself to keep moving but the cramping would suddenly stab me from behind and I was reduced to stopping and losing a bit of balance (I felt like Moses with my arms out and trying to part Roxas blvd.). Thankfully, there were kind-hearted runners to support me from falling and after a few seconds I’d get going. Many offered to help me sit by the sidewalk but that wasn’t in the plan. I was thinking of Scott doing the Hardrock100 with a broken ankle and I was flying (more of jogging, really).  I had to also remember even in moments of desperation, to keep my posture proper – shoulders behind and arms bent 45 degrees at the elbow.  I had to also lean a bit forward but not at the hips so the body is still one straight line.

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5 kilometers into the finish and already beyond my target qualifying time, the major hardening disappeared so I slugged it out without awakening the major cramping. I was thinking of running through thin ice or hot coals so the steps were light and fleeting – a bit slow but it burned the miles. I didn’t want the same episode last year of a cramping finish so a 4:30 wasn’t so bad. Quite happy that I wasn’t grimacing at the last 200 meters (where photographers abound) and was taking in all the good vibes from the crowd

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the final struggle…

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whew, finally made it!

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no more, that’s it. I’m no longer running…

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My Milo experience (5:49, 4:52, 4:24, 4:36) hasn’t always been my best but I vow to keep coming back even into my 60s (when my QT has reached 4:30 hehe). Now that’s one vow I will keep. My profuse gratitude to Coach Jim Saret & Toni Saret and my MARRS (Milo Apex R2 Running School) running family for making our 3-month training lotsa fun, informative and competitive. Thanks to Jonel C Mendoza for all the tips (1 GU ever 45 minutes). Now where the hell do I buy those salt sticks?

Capturing my moments of ecstacy and agony were the Running Photographers (Pido), Dennis Centeno, Flat Ironman, Lakbay Buhay, Run Lipa & the Official Milo Marathon photographers (Dhona Castillo).


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My Valley Trail Challenge 50KM


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2011

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2012

2014

2014

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Being a part of the Frontrunner family, Valley Trail Run has held a special place in my running history for it was one of my first experiences on the trail.  Suffice to say, I bonked big time in 2011 (57 kms at 8:45) but I kept coming back in 2012 (28 + 7 kms at 4:01) and 2014 (50 kms at 6:57).

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looking dishevelled before my costume change…

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with Milo Apexers Van & Tel

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RD Jonel orienting the 50K participants…

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At the start with Lou & Alfred, Simon & Doodsie…

This year, perhaps to keep the tradition burning and to burn some mean mileage a month before the Milo Marathon, we signed up again.  We entered the Nuvali compound by 12 midnight along with fellow ultrarunners Alfred & Lou delos Reyes.  For the first time, this race was starting really early requiring us to don headlamps (previous editions commenced at 5 am).  About 150 runners burst out of the starting line at 2 am.

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T’was a swift start for me and Van as we joined the midpackers on a rolling romp through the dark narrow corridors of trees and grasses.  We latched on one strong trail runner and it was one countinuous pounding cycle after another with the cool breeze and the dark (when nothing feels far and endless) to push us on.  6 kilometers into the race, Van was already struggling so I kept pulling him along.  Soon enough, we knew we had to part ways as I kept on with my neck-breaking pace on trails, roads and loose soil.   I’ve experienced Nuvali with the sun in its scorching glory so I’d want to reduce the amount of that experience for this edition.  And so I kept pushing myself with my trusty mini-Ipod.

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to the turn around…

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and back.

Over 3 hours later, I reached the midpoint and learned I was in the Top 10.  So I kept moving even if fatigue had started setting in. Once the sun had fully risen, it was a struggle to keep moving across the expansive cogon fields but I managed. Each of the designated station was a cornucopia of food, energy gel and all sorts of liquid refills.  And the ice supply was aplenty – a real treat for my hydration pack every time.

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looking good and feeling fine on the trail.

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with our trail running friends…

Nearing the final 14 kms., our small platoon of 8 runners were bunched together and bursting with renewed shared energy, bonding and sharing trail stories.  Soon, we found ourselves searching for ribbons, trying alternative routes before finally tracing back to our trail lead.  We had lost a good 30 minutes (around 2 kilometers).  But once back on the route, I just kept jogging with intermittent walking along the rolling terrain plus some nice shaded areas to boot. 7 hours and 40 minutes later, I was crossing the finish line, a bit thrashed but in high spirits. Oh and a #15 place ain’t bad after making tuhog-tuhog (overtaking) some runners in front of me.

Thanks to FRONTrunner for one satisfying but really testy route, especially the construction areas and that agaw buhay (life threatening) dike where one misstep can send you tumbling down deep concrete creek. It was great to see the trail running community come in full force either as race marshalls, sponsors or runners. Valley Trail challenge will always be an annual pilgrimage for me and the years to come. Cheers to all who made an effort to help us – the famished and tired runners along the great trails of Nuvali and pushed us to the finish!

Check out the official results via the FRONTRUNNER website ~~~

http://frontrunnermagph.com/official-results-valley-trail-challenge-5-and-race-directors-report/

Thanks to Glairold Racella, Joma Sison & Alex Jones for capturing my Nuvali trail race moments!  Cheers!


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My brief history with the Milo Apex R2 Running School


382592_10150402890261172_657011171_8749911_1237550111_nIt was around 2011 when I found myself in the expansive grounds of the Quezon City Memorial Circle.  A friend recommended the running program after a few sessions at the UP Oval with coach Jojo Macalintal (of TeamMac fame).  For 3 months, we were taught the basics on running and beyond.  The schedule of Monday & Wednesday evenings plus a long run on Saturday remains to this day.  By 6 PM, we’d start our regular warm ups followed by a series of strengthening drills and culminated with a few rounds around the monument.

with coach Jim Saret

with coach Jim Saret

The first few seasons of my attendance was very sporadic, owing to my difficulty and disgust of threading around QC’s disjointed traffic jams, shallow acquaintances and distant connection with the coaches.  I was also focused more on ultrarunning branching into trail running then.

come hail or rain...

come hail or rain…

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Caution: very Hot!

It was only in 2012 that I began to connect and relate with fellow runners and found detours to take me to QCMC faster that I became a regular attendee of the Milo Apex R2 running school (MARRS).  It has become a tri-weekly habit that I never fail to miss except in cases of long vacations and whatnot.  It’s during the April edition when we experience the incessant afternoon rains of June & July which could mar or discontinue a perfect workout but most of the time, the sessions continue and we had gotten used to the cold winds and the pelting rains.  We just think of the rewards after – usually a piping hot bowl of beef noodles.

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having fun and being one…

This 10th Season (which started late April this year), under the willing guidance and tutelage of Coaches Jim & Toni Saret, MARRS has raised the bar to make every WILLING participant fitter, stronger and faster.  An emphasis here on willing since usually after the first month, about a third of us have already left, for various reasons.  This time around, except for a few absentees, the QC edition has managed to keep its roster intact.  And so, we keep taking on the weekly challenges which not only hone our running form & skill but strengthen the other body parts besides the legs.  Whew!

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raising our vibrating rods…that’s how it’s called, I think.

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getting a mean stretching from this big guy – Coach Pep to loosen my tense leg muscles.

The main reason of this active and consistent participation, I would surmise, is the introduction of new coaches and physical therapists from the national team.  So don’t blame us if we feel like national athletes, motivated, guided and pushed to our limits by the country’s best athletic support team.  Each season culminates with a major marathon (Milo marathon, Metro Manila edition for the April edition and the Milo finals for the September edition) and with these season’s high volume of participants, expect MARRSians to shine come July 26!  Now this just got my heart thumping…

Thanks to Rickpets Lens for taking the time to visit us last Monday (22 June 2015) and taking most of these pictures of MARRS-QC in action.

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the regular group warm up…

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I. am. a. MARRSian.

I. am. a. MARRSian.

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i wanna be a cowboy and you could be my cowgirl…

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drenched in sweat & QC grime but still looking strong…

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MARRSians we are…to infinity & beyond!


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Pacer Me


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Our promo meme which required a day of pictorial sessions.

And so the dust has settled and a day after playing Official Pacer at the Run United 2, 32 kilometer category, it’s time to incise and reflect on this business of pacing in races. Here are some insights one might consider before accepting this job, beyond the prestige, the free bib and all the privileges that come with the role:

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Pacing requires preparation, both physically and mentally.

And so I got the invite from Ms. Vimz Mendoza to join the RU2 pacers group over a month ago and promptly took on the 32 KM distance with a 3:15 time. It’s my first time take on this role and excitedly recommended running friends Van (3:15), trail devil Dave (3:40) and Reylynne (who failed to show up). We were in the midst of our Milo R2 Apex running school (though we had minimal speed training and mileage) so I figured this would be easy peasy, keeping in mind my last full mary in February where I breached the 32 kilometer mark at around 3 hours.

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The RU2 pacer briefing coincided with the media launch of the Run United Philippine Marathon 2015.

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Tagumpay Bros represented: with McCoy & David.

I was imagining the night before the race of our 3:15 trio egging, chanting and pushing a battalion of runners into the finish line, sounding like some lord commander battling the wildlings beyond the wall. Unfortunately, it remained only a movie in my mind…

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Pacing means keeping an average, if not constant pace throughout a race.

So after a little research, I learned that pacing required me to maintain a pace of 6:06 throughout the race with some minor adjustments in between. Now this seemed simple enough, right? But then with someone like me who loves to take off fast at the start, adjust a bit in the middle and slow down in the final kilometers, this was a major issue.

But on race day, that’s what we tried to do. My 3:15 trio with Bobby Go & Van Denn Cruz tried to maintain a pace of 6 minutes per kilometers even if everyone was flying out like bats from hell. Armed with just a lap watch, Van stayed within our target pace (5 kilometers at 30 minutes, etc.). I latched on to him with Bobby a few meters away. We were targeting a faster pace in the first 10 kilometers for certain adjustments at the third hour. But owing to our slow start, we reached KM10 at exactly one hour. Now if we could only go a bit faster but kilometers 13 (1:18) and 18 (1:48) came and our pace remained at 6.  Bobby Go was nowhere in sight.

There were some runners who joined us a few kilometers later, but soon dissipated when the going got tough. And so it was with me. Around KM20, I couldn’t keep up with Van and I had to let him go ahead. Van, now the only 3:15 pacer on time, brought with him his loyal following (up to the finish at 3:14++). So at this time, all three 3:15 pacers were running separately.

Pacing is a selfless endeavour.

Soon I was taking more time to hydrate and recover. Buendia Avenue became my battleground as I combat fatigue and boredom (I forgot my mini-Ipod). At this time, I’ve been resigned to missing my target finish time, unless I suddenly developed the surge and run faster. All the while, I was mindful of the reason why I was there that Sunday morning. So whenever, some weary runner started keeping up with me, I tried to maintain my assigned pace and just kept going. I’d remind them that I was already running short but they still joined me even when I would slow down, every now and then. So thrashed as I was, I still found some energy to prod my equally tired minions.

the final struggle...

the final struggle…

Pacing can be fun, if not done alone (and the small c hasn’t reared its head).

By the time I entered the CCP area, cramping started to make its presence felt – first in increments and soon in big waves. I was reduced to lots of walks (and sudden stops) and short jogs that I had to rip off my pacer bib, lest some lost soul started hounding me, hopeful of a 3:15 finish. I had to vary my steps from heel strikes and strange plodding to ward off the cramping and was no longer eager to help others. Still, I managed to strike up some quick talks with certain walkers and push them to get running in the final 2 kilometers.

Soon, I chanced upon certain pacers who were already washed up, as well. We just kept burning the final meters until the finish line loomed from afar. The final surge was a full on attack and by 3:29 I finished my pacing duty. Not in the grand glorious fashion I had envisioned it but it was one soul-searching, core-scrutinizing experience (tagos sa buto) I wouldn’t trade anytime soon.

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An endless buffet, confetti and finisher medals for the patient & brave pacers!

So would I take on another pacing duty again? Hell yeah. But first, I need to train more properly on the ways of strengthening, energy conservation and mileage planning. I just need to remember the care, sustenance and recognition we received yesterday and I’m there. Add up the smiles, admiration and camaraderie from the runners we’ve touched and and helped and it’s one duty that’s almost close to a calling. Or a religion.

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A big salute to the RU2 pacers, courtesy of Active Health!

Photography by Dan Alvarez Sagayap, Les Letsky, Blue Zapanta, Jon Las Bruce, Mark Andrew, David Buban and  Art Mendoza


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The Last 5 months, part II


Milo Finals 2014 (21KM)

I got the bib for this run cheap (thanks Jenny Aggangan), after it was rescheduled a week, after an impending storm which hardly carried any rain or wind.  Even if it was a Saturday (Dec. 13), the 4:30 am gun start assured us that we would be on our way home before 7 am.  Since I failed to qualify in my last 2 attempts for the Milo finals, the 21KM slot was a chance to be part of this exciting race.

It was a relaxed pace for me in a race with hardly any expectations.   I just wanted to enjoy an actual registered road race before the holidays come barging in and take me out of my training groove.  But when I’d realized I had done a 52-minute run in the 10-KM leg, I knew it was time to focus and put my speed legs in motion, without causing any undue stress or cramping.  Fortunately, nothing untoward happened and I hardly stopped or slowed down while being powered by my Ipod sounds.

By the time I reached the finish line, I couldn’t believe I registered at 1:56, which is really one of my fastest 21KM time.

With Team Rancho runner Dennis!

With Team Rancho runner Dennis!

 

with Yhel who's running against sexual descrimination...

with Yhel who’s running against sexual descrimination…

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Our clinic meme for Christmas 2014!

 

Holiday, Celebrate

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Despite of a hectic holiday sked, I still managed to attend Scott Jurek’s seminar on trail running c/o Frontrunner magazine.

 

 

 

 

 

 

And so the Christmas season came swooping in and the whole country partied every night like it’s 1999.  So how was I able to balance my lifestyle with this perverted bacchanalia?

By doing lots of gym workouts, of course.  Apart from my gym group workouts (I have tired out of lifting barbells and dumbbells alone), Van and I started doing a combo of core, upper and lower workouts, coupled with mean cardio and plyometrics routines.  Welcome to the world of P90x and T25…

Back to the gym

We started with this compact workout on the last week of December.  Our condo gym where my clinic is situated is an air conditioned space filled with 3 thread mills, all-in-one machines and numerous dumbbells and barbells.  Fortunately, very few tenants go to the place so it was perfect for our compact routine, requiring usually some dumbbells and our old yoga mats.

We started with just P90x, choosing the 45 to 55-minute exercises, targeting specific or general body parts and requiring a lot of cardio-vascular and strengthening workouts.  At the end of each exercise, we were drenched to the bone and our system shaken like hell.  The workouts were not running specific but once in a while, we do some fast runs, core exercises, lots of plyometric jumpings and burpees.  It was a nice reminder of our Milo Apex running school which still has to resume on April 2016.   P1090815    

 

 

 

 

 

P1090817P1130749After a few weeks, feeling perhaps more flexible and stronger, we incorporated Focus T25 with a 30-minute version of P90x.  Our schedule covers Monday to Friday but we miss out a day or two, especially when we feel really beat up and the call of a massage seemed more sensible and exciting.  A few weeks more and we felt a lot stronger in the core, the upper and lower body parts but would this really translate to an improved running form and resistance?

So every Sunday, we take to the trails in our lame attempt to bring back our trail legs and train for the Four Lakes 100KM.   At first, it was a lot of huffing and puffing, balancing and difficulty to fly the down hills but a lot of persistence and we were enjoying the slippery earth, the hills and the fresh verdant environment.

More Tales from the Trail

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dave. chinky, toto, van & jing

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So on the first part of 2016, we were usually slugging it out on the trails of San Mateo.  My running buddy Dave guided us through his regular route starting from our village in Marikina, passing through Silangan, San Mateo into the trails, hills and hinterlands of Timberland and back.  There are endless uphills, even while still on the road and the route is challenging but still very safe.  For two weekends, Dave along with Chinky and Jing re-oriented us to their secret training ground and we were hooked.  Finally, it’s trail training we can do regularly without travelling all the way to Cavite or Laguna.  As Dave put it, “pareho lang naman di ba?  Ba’t pa tayo lalayo?” or something to that effect.

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Last Feb. 8, Sheila, Jenny & Jonas joined us in a relaxed LSD originating from the clinic leading into San Mateo where a wrong turn brought us to Timberland clubhouse, going down the wall into Silangan then back to the clinic via Fortune, Marikina.  It was grueling since Jonas’ pace was quite furious but we were just glad to have survived it, even if Van and I were still thrashed even 2 days later.

The next week, trying to re-trace the route created by Dave, we chanced upon Chito, a veteran ultramarathoner, harking back to my BDM days.  He was on his way to Wawa dam area and of course, we had to tag along.  We passed through more hills, regular trail ways, endless down hills and a snaking river.  23 kilometers later, we reached Wawa dam with its colonies of makeshift thatched structures welcoming us with their assaulting videoke champ wannabes (‘All by myseeelf….’).  It was unexpected, a bit difficult but had some of the best views of the Montalban mountains (including the twin peaks which Bernardo Carpio purportedly separated with his bare arms) & pristine river and a good chance to renew ties with an old friend.11009089_10206302635222891_5188909837424885683_n 17783_10206302632142814_4644453578464418083_n

 

 

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toto, van, chito

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Team Rancho

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In between workouts when I find the time to wake up early, I’d lace my trainers and run around the village next to ours.  Our team is called Team Rancho and our route covers around 10 kilometers of ascents and descents.  During the runs, we’d insert speed runs and up hill climbs just to get the blood pumping and the adrenaline flowing.  At least, once a week, I meet up with Bon, Carlene, Dennis, Fatima and Rob – some of the best people to join on the road.

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Our lung-busting speed run (100m & back) at the Marist oval.

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Once in a while, the Agas (Bon & Carlene) treat us to a hearty breakfast in their plush residence after a run.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Luneta to Tagaytay 64KM

This is my first ultra road run in ages so it was but expected since I need to burn more miles with my impending 100KM race.  The race started by 12 midnight at KM 0 by the Luneta Park traversing Roxas boulevard then makes a turn after 4 kilometers into the endless Aguinaldo highway passing Paranaque, Muntinlupa, Cavite then finally Tagaytay.  Our bladders were filled with frozen 2 liters of Pocari sweat which was a sip away but later on was too vomit-inducing sweet.  So Van and I had a blast running, walking and taking stops to eat every hour.

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The weather was cool and with the sun out of the picture, it was the best opportunity to start burning the miles and overtake other runners.  Along the road were rows of gaudy post lights which seemed abandoned after Christmas, honky tonk bars at every corner, unhospitable side walks (where false step can send one tumbling), smoke-belching trucks and tricycles.   Morning finally came when we were already at Silang, Cavite and nearing Tagaytay.  Walking and running, we had fun playing catch and outrunning some of these competitive runners who routinely look back to check out would-be overtakers and such.

By the time we made a turn towards the SVD compound (KM 50) where the sloping roads had us speeding up and down, a new found energy in a greener and cleaner environ enveloped us.  It would take around 2 hours to finally reach the finish line (after 9 hours) just by the entrance of the old Palace in the Sky when the sun had come out gloriously.  I was ranked 93 out of 375 runners.  Thanks to Prince Production for this memorable run.  Cheers!

Can’t wait for March to come marching in…Ooops!  It’s already here!

Photos courtesy of Day Spotted, Dennis Centeno, David Buban & Frontrunner magazine


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My 4th Milo Story:  The Art of Cramping to the Finish


 

 

Since the final week of April to early June of 2014, we’ve been training and working out like hell (via the Milo R2 Running School) with our eyes trained on the big day of 27 July 2014 – The 38th Milo Marathon, my 15th full marathon.  We peppered our training with biweekly Payasso speeds (a month before) and some official races (RU2 32KM, Soleus Nuvali Trail Run 50KM, etc.).

training on a rainy day...

training on a rainy day…

 

Days before, even in the face of restlessness due to tapering and decrease in physical activities, I was savoring 8-hour sleeps and eating quite prodigiously so I was confident I had the factors of a strong performance by my side.  Did I mention that the Manila Bay weather was the perfect nippy kind?  So at 3 am by the starting line, I was confident of nailing this race and qualify for the Milo Finals at 4:10 or faster.10553389_770105099718762_3013718194619994303_n

 

The starting line was brimming with hope (this year’s qualifying times have been increased by 10 minutes) and electrified as we set out around the reclaimed area into Roxas boulevard, leading towards KM0 (Rizal Monument) then heading towards the Uniwide area then back into Buendia Ave.  Van and I paced each other for a good 6 kilometers before he took off with me just a few meters away.  It would be this way until KM26.  At 54 minutes, I finished my first 10 kms. while reaching the 20th at 1:56, still within my sub-2 goal.  At KM25, I was struck down by mild crampping every now and then.  I just ignored it and kept on with my steps.

Now, how do I finish thee?

Now, how do I finish thee?

 

By the time we were rounding out the streets of the Global City, the inner thighs (adductor muscles) of both legs were hardening and becoming bothersome that I had to make stops for some liniment (?) sprays which hardly had any help.  Soon, I was already slowing down as runners from behind started overtaking me.  But I was still within my goal by KM30 (that’s the start of the Kalayaan flyover returning to Buendia Ave.) at 3 hours flat.

 

So that’s technically, 12 kms. to burn for 1:10 if I want to qualify for the finals, still within my possible limits if the contractions would diminish.  Unfortunately, the muscular twitching worsened by the time I entered Buendia, where I started my cycle of run/walk/stop.  Two capsules of Mefenamic Acid were of little help to diminish the burden and discomfort.  With the clock ticking, I soldiered on and not let all my preparation and training go to waste. 10353645_10204655792932863_5928639691568124344_n

 

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Almost there, baby…

Upon finally reaching Roxas Blvd., I knew I won’t be able to reach my goal but I was also bent on not throwing it all away.  I’ve been caught in worse situations than this and have always pulled myself out of the muck.  Once I got to the MOA Arena area, the cramping grew more painful and the episodes longer, slowing me even further.  Finally, for what seemed like eternity, the final 800M of Ocean Drive came into view.  Photographers were strewn at every corner, recording our final surge into the finish.  Unfortunately for little old me, the most I could muster was a lame jog for every time I tried to push myself, the twitching would surface again like some creature from a 50s B-movie.

 

Just crossed the finished line here - frustrated and relieved in equal parts.

Just crossed the finished line here – frustrated and relieved in equal parts.

After 4 hours and 36 minutes, I finally reached the finish line and an hour later, after resting from pounding the pavement, all that cramping disappeared.  And my latest 42.195 saga ended, not in a spirit uplifting manner but still a memorable experience to ponder on, analyze and pick some lessons from.  In a week or two, I will have gather most, if not all facts, opinion and studies on cramping for at the end of the day, knowledge and the right information easily trumps out any physical ordeal that comes my way.  Cheers, everyone!

Our Milo marathon group, post race...

Our Milo marathon group, post race…

Photographs are by Photo-Ops, Jon Las Bruces, Running Photographers, Bon Aga and Adrian Aquino


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Back in the High Life – Races (Part II)


The last few months had been quite hectic, both in my personal and professional life but it was also during this period when I started running more races with the kilometers stretching into the Milo Marathon last month. Let’s look back at my races, both road & trail, pre-Milo Marathon…

Runs.

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Dawn breaks by Taal Lake…

Taal 360 25KM. This we took up upon the invitation of friends Joseph Baltazar and Bon Aga of Prince Productions, last May 24.  We took a banca from Talisay going towards Taal Island where the race had just started at exactly 7 am. We followed the final pack of runners going up the Taal peak which was really just another lake in the middle.  But we never got to reach it for soon enough, we saw the leadpackers going down and promptly followed them. We soon found ourselves by the shoreline where the route circled the circumference of the island, more or less.  The place would have been enchanting with its semi-pristine greenery, cobalt blue lake waters and the awesome volcano as the backdrop. P1090590

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Too much human intrusion in one of nature’s hideaway…

Except for the fact that human migration to the island had rendered it molested and trashed, both in the water and the land. It would have been a pleasure running by the beach sans the fish pens, all sorts of domesticated animals and more wastes all over. It was a challenge to be running around the man-made structures that Van even got caught in a net by the shore. More eyesores were the three soaring towers of an SMDC condominium jutting out of the Tagaytay summit. So wander no more why Taal Volcano was recently removed by the UNESCO from its list of heritage sites. That’s human greed at its finest, I’d say.

Anyway we just kept trudging in the face of scorching heat and unstable sandy terrain. Soon we started traversing the island as the ascents started towards more verdant surroundings. At one point, we found ourselves in a black desert planet. The terrain was rolling consisting of cogon areas, rocky façades, plantations and sparse trees – mildly difficult and scenic in parts.

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Four hours later, we reached the finish line and took our poses, medals and packed lunch. Total distance of our run was at 28 kms. Across the island we took in a more sumptuous lunch courtesy of the mayor of Talisay, a friend of Bon.10363700_1508928222659798_7279538895707261844_n

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Back to mainland with Bon and the rest of our group…

Run United 2, 32KM. It’s my longest road race since last year’s Run United Philippine Marathon so I had a mix of excitement and trepidation. At 4 AM, we started the race across the Rizal Monument (Km 0). There’s quite a heavy volume of runners but soon we were sparsely spaced out across the gaudily lit Roxas Boulevard (think Sputnik lights galore).

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In the Zone along the boulevard of broken dream (& tacky lamp posts)…

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fly me to the finish…

My first 16 kms up to the Cavitex U-turn had a jolly steady pace, powered by songs from my iPod mini. At some point I was shimmying (okay, I was dancing) across the boulevard taking in all the positive vibes of the morning. It would have been perfect to have kept such a constant pace and attitude but in the last 10 kms, a cocktail feeling of boredom, sleepiness, fatigue and restlessness came upon me. Soon enough, I was doing some stops and walking more.

No injuries or discomfort were experienced but I was slowing down, perhaps due to under training. Or probably because once daylight had set in, I had a picture of the enormity of the task I had to traverse ahead. After 3 hours and 11 minutes, I finally reached the Rizal obelisk, quite satisfied with my effort for the day.10363933_845346928826767_5528595440542338242_n

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Back shot with Tagumpay Bros…

World Vision Run 10KM. Subtitlted: Unveiling TB to the World. Now this was a challenge presented to our newly set-up team, the Tagumpay Bros – to run 10 km, sub-1 hour. That day at BGC, we showed up in our colorful, new and nicely fitting blue shirts. The last time I took on an official 10 km race was during Buddy Race last year and was ably paced by buddy Van to a 48-minute PR.

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A veritable speedy start in the first 500 meters…

I wasn’t expecting that much actually with this one (just finish an hour or less) but I was also eager to test my mettle on speed runs. Throughout the race, I just kept hammering on the pavement, huffing like there’s no tomorrow. A few moments, I slowed down a bit but hardly stopped. Soon, the finish line came into view but I kept moving on, not knowing who my co-runners in the 10 km category were (the 5-km have joined in by then).10477954_1527223650839580_2986209684472437616_n

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With longtime running companion Dave Buban…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The finish line indicated I clocked in at 49 minutes! I was #14 – not bad for a Sunday morning last June 20. As a bonus, co-Tagumpay Bros McCoy Lontoc placed 3rd and all the boys of the team finished within an hour.10409750_1490394767864468_5795522434163957897_n

1900394_10154009165075226_1440365264_oSoleus Nuvali Trail Run 50KM. It’s my first ultra trail race (again) since last year’s TNF100 and surprisingly, a pleasant over-all experience, even with mild cramping in the final kilometers. The last time I ran this part was in 2012 with Team Kulit such that by this time, many new structures have risen and sprawling development was all over the area. At 3 am, it was a dark start but runners with their headlamps were bunched together so most of the path was relatively lit. In a kilometer or so, we would be forming a line as the trail narrows and the elevation rose and fell mildly.Medal+Lanyard

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I was still trying to rediscover my trail groove in the early portions of the race.  Soon enough, I was enjoying the sites and sceneries with the rising of the eastern sun.  We were moving across open terrains of cogon hills and snaking dirt paths.  Jogging gave way some hiking and walking when the going got tough.  It was a delight in seeing old trail friends after quite some time.  Of all my running friends, I feel closest to my ultra trail family and they were there in droves.

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Well, hello trails! I. am. back.

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In between trails, wide roads of most developing communities broke the monotony of the greens. The sun was dancing in its full glory when I reached the turn-around point at KM25. I didn’t the do the customary heat training before but the long sleeve white tops were doing their job to prevent me from frying. The long ordeal of retracing back the same path was broken frequently by runners on the other side, struggling towards the midpoint. By lifting their sagging spirits, I myself was powered by their smiles and appreciation.

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A cramping finish…

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With fellow Milo R2 Apex classmates…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the return trip, around 8 kms into the finish, the cramps came out of nowhere, slowing me down when I needed to push myself. I countered the discomfort by doing some heel strike running. It helped me pick up the pace and soon I was overtaking some of the walkers. The last few hundred meters had me struggling as the hardness on the calves doubled so I had no glorious shots to boot. At 6:57, I finally reached the finish line in one piece though slightly fatigued and broken. And my return to the trails had begun…

Recovery lunch at Little Tokyo with Van, Alfred and Noemi...

Recovery lunch at Little Tokyo with Van, Alfred and Noemi…

The amazing shots are courtesy of Red Knight, Takbo.ph, Flat Ironman, Tara Trip Tayo, Prince Productions and Running Photographers