April 17, 2016
Adversity introduces man to himself
This was running through my mind as I hopped over another river crossing, my socks drenched in sweat and water, and my head pounding from the searing heat. My feet felt like they weighed tons and my lips were dry and cracked, yet I still had about 13 kilometers to go. I was seriously doubting my ability to finish, but with a grandslam on the line, I powered on.
Warning: This is going to be a very long post. I have much feelings about this race.
On the list of crazy things I never thought I would do was to run an ultramarathon, a race greater than the standard marathon distance of 42 kilometers. After running my first marathon last year, I told myself that it was just 8 more kilometers. But that road marathon was just so mind-numbing, I didn’t really want to repeat the experience again. Enter trail-running.
After my first official trail race (Conquer Leg 1), my road racing attendance dropped significantly. I was a convert. Running in the mountains was personally more rewarding, seeing that I was a hiker prior to being a runner. I loved the outdoors first before I loved running, and so combining the two was happiness.
Believing I could run longer on the trails, an offroad ultramarathon just might be possible. So after my trail marathon (Conquer Leg 2), I decided to ramp up the training for the series’ final leg, a brutal 50 kilometer run in the highlands of Tanay, Rizal.
Having friends who have completed the series before, they toldme stories about the final leg and how difficult it was. Fearing the worst, I focused more on preparing myself, even running almost everyday for it. I also made sure to get some altitude training by hiking every weekend prior to the race. Fear is a great motivator, folks.
Although I was steadily improving my times, I still had my doubts. 50 kilometers is a long way, and I have never run that far before. So the day before the race, I took the day off work and psyched myself up to remove all the negative feelings. Still, the respect and fear for the distance lingered.
I tried to think about other things as I made my way to the venue with my friends. We joked a lot, I ate a lot of fishballs, I pooped a lot before the race, I meticulously checked double-checked triple-checked my gear, I tried to sleep. I did everything but think about the distance.
While waiting for the 00:00 gunstart, my friend Rosalie arrived to take photos of the event, we eased ourselves by observing the happenings at Tanay Adventure Camp, namely a youth conference being held at activity area.
I also took some pictures with my friends to forget the stress. Seeing all of them in gear made me proud to even be standing in the venue with them. I can’t believe I’m here! Aaaaah!
The gunstart was delayed an hour because the bulk of runners were stuck in traffic, so I had a bit more time to get nervous and sweat through my underarms. Thankfully, my friends helped me walk off the nerves.
Finally, there was a call for all runners to assemble for the race briefing. We were told the general directions as well as some last minute reminders. I listened carefully as I haven’t attended the recon run for this.
Finally, with everyone briefed and ready, we all lined up behind the green starting line as the Race Director counted down.
As the count reached zero, we all sped off. This is it! I was running my first trail ultra!
I’m not going to recount every kilometer of the race, because even I will get bored with all the details, so instead, here are some of the thoughts and lessons that entered my mind as I was running the course:
- Oh god, I’m chafing. I couldn’t believe that I was chafing in my underarms as well as my inner thighs because I’ve already road-tested my gear beforehand. But I guess 50 kilometers is a way different beast than a half-marathon. Even my pink jersey that I’ve worn for numerous races chafed. I guess it’s time for me to finally bring out some lube.
- Ohhhh, my stomach. One of the best parts of the races by Conquer is the amazing food at the aid stations. They really make sure that the runners are taken care of. There was lugaw, kakanin, sugared cheese bread the runners call “J-Co,” softdrinks and buko juice. I was eating my way through the distance until I felt a rumbling in my stomach at ~Km32. Fortunately, there was a kind local who offered their bathroom at no price. Thank you, Nay, whoever you are. God bless your soul.
- I need a headlamp. I guess this depends more on the type of terrain, but I was stumbling along the trail because I only had one hand free as the other one was holding my torch. On more technical trails, two hands are needed for maneuvering and a headlamp can surely fix that.
- Power hike! Power hike! Some of the uphills along the route just never seemed to end! They reminded me that I am just a trailwalker, not a trailrunner. But there was just no other way but to suck it up and hike it up. More elevation training for me.
- Tangina ang init! It was El Niño season so even the early morning wind was a bit lacking. Once the sun was up, it was scorching. I did my best to go as fast as possible in the dark to minimize the distance when the sun rose, but as it caught me along the trail, my resistance fell. I’m no stranger to the heat and I actually loved it at first, but the prolonged exposure just drained me of my stamina. More heat training for me.
- Is this still the right trail? There were moments when I was doubting the route I was on, with no one in front and no one behind me, I was afraid I was gonna get lost and die, isolated from everyone. But thankfully, I didn’t and the trail signs of Conquer were pretty visible along the way. I had some friends who got a bit lost but thankfully everyone was accounted for. So always look out for trail signs and when in doubt, ask a marshal or a local.
- Block the pain! These three words were told to me by Lady, and I took them to heart especially during uphills and in the last few kilometers of the race when my legs refused to cooperate. Fatigue was setting in and my muscles ached with every step, but I was familiar with my limits so I just gritted my teeth and didn’t mind the discomfort. I wasn’t able to run for very long, but at least I was moving.
- Magalit ka, putangina! No denying it, anger is a really good source of adrenaline. In the final kilometers, I was spouting off curse words here and there. I was walking with my middle fingers in the air already (sorry, nature, I don’t mean to offend you). But channeling that anger into energy was very helpful. I was even able to jog a bit uphill while angry. So, I guess you can use anger to your advantage, just don’t direct it at other runners.
- Grandslam ito, puta! Probably the last string I was holding on to so that I wouldn’t dare DNF the race. I’ve never completed a series of races before and ever since I joined the Tarak Ridge 25km, I vowed to complete this one. I had thoughts of not finishing, but when the grand slam award was so close, I didn’t dare throw in the towel.
- Lord, thank You. Because the Race Director liked to see the runners in pain, the last kilometer was an up and down mountain bike trail right outside the finish line. Imagine seeing the finish, being so close, but then you still have a wild uphill to tackle before crossing the line. But in the end, I did it. I was able to finish while eating my last bit of trail food (Thank you, Choco Mucho, and Cloud 9 Salted Caramel).
I finished the race in a daze. Yet I was all smiles as Sir Jigs, the Race Director, shook my hand and hung the medal on my neck. Finally, I finished an ultramarathon, something I never thought I’d be able to do.
And of course, having finished the series, I was able to get the grandslam award! Thank you so much, Conquer!
What a day this was, what a lovely, lovely day. Not seen in the pictures was my awkward shuffling around the venue since I was unable to walk normally. With the adrenaline gone, the soreness took over and my legs felt the abuse of the 50 kilometers. But I was content. I embraced the pain, knowing that I triumphed over it.
Of course, I wouldn’t have been able to do this without all the friends I’ve made in the trailrunning community. They are the ones who inspire and motivate me to go out of my comfort zone and to give it my all. Indeed, I was fortunate enough to have support where the only doubter was myself. For them, I was fully capable of finishing even when I thought I couldn’t. So I offer my gratitude to them for believing in my capabilities even when I didn’t. *insert tears here*
Firstly, to the Big Guy up there, for making all external conditions favorable. Thank you for these opportunities to show me that there are indeed greater things outside my comfort zone. All these for your greater glory.
To my family, for the unknowing support even if I don’t tell you guys the distance I’m running. This is for you as well. I love you all!
To Team TUSU, for all the valuable experience and lessons. For the laughs and the encouragement every single day, alam niyo na yan. Para ito sa inyo.
To Lady and Team Innova, thanks for the ride. Last slot na naman nakuha ko, haha. Dean, salamat sa tiyagang pagdrive sa Sierra Madre. Good luck sa karera.
To Dap and MJ, grabe. Thank you sa paghatak sakin. The last ~8 kilometers were brutal, but seeing you guys pushing despite the pain and the heat made me give more than what I thought I could. The way to the finish was way more bearable thanks to you guys. Congratulations, we did it!
To Kap Omeng, Mam Asia, and the other members of TMTR, thanks for talking to me along the trail. It’s not obvious, but a simple conversation or a few exchanged words helped me push through the distance. Grats!
To the other runners, mga kapatid, congratulations sa ating lahat. From the first to the last, we did it. See you on the next runs.
To my friends who knew the craziness I was getting into and believed in me, thank you.
Lots of thanks to Team Conquer, and all the other groups who marshaled and kept the runners safe. You guys are amazing and as usual, you provided great service. Sir Jigs, you did it again! Great event. Looking forward to the next one.
Race: Conquer Assault 50km Ultramarathon (TAC50)
Finish: 08:37:19 (Rank 11/70)
Food: [Self] Gatorade, H2O with Hydration Salts, Choco Mucho x5, Cloud 9 Salted Caramel x3
[Aid Stations] H2O, Softdrinks, Buko juice, Jco, kakanin, lugaw
Gear: Lagalag Lagok 1 Hydration Bag (with Basekamp 2L Bladder), Vamos Socks, Salomon X-Scream Citytrail Shoes, Cateye Torch
Cheers and see you on the trails!