I have always been curious to how it was to run an ultramarathon under Bald Runner — the man known for his BDM (Bataan Death March) 102/160k ultras. Having heard stories on how tough his race events were given that there were no hydration stations provided, where a support team was an option, how hot it was due to a late gunstart and how strict BR was with his rules, I was scared to even try.
Then came T2N (Tagaytay to Nasugbu) 50k ultra, the easiest of his running events they say. With a downhill route, ultrarunner friends said it was perfect for BR newbies. Just to satisfy my curiousity, I registered for it and surprisingly hubs agreed in running it too, making it our 1st ultra together .
Being a Runmania baby, I have been used to “alagang Runmania” where there was no need to worry about hydration and nutrition as the organizer who would usually have that covered.
For T2N, even if I was told there would be stores along the route, I worried big time. Being self-support with no official hydration points to rely on, I had to pack 1.5L of water in my bladder, some more water in my simple hydration bottle, a banana, several energy gels, a chocolate bar and two boiled eggs. That’s on top of the other things I may need along the way such as toiletries, meds and money.
It was a pleasant surprise to see familiar faces when we boarded the shuttle service early Sunday morning in Alabang. We met up with more familiar faces at the assembly point in Tagaytay. Most had no idea hubs and I were running.
Um, surprise! 😀
After everyone had claimed their race bib, we were gathered together for the race briefing where the route, cut-off and rules were discussed by Sir Jovie. Rules such as single file only, no headsets, courtesy in overtaking, no crossing the street, etc.
Just when the briefing was done with and we were going to take a group picture, this happened.
Our vanmate Rona’s leg fell right through a drainage grill cover. The grill had missing slots that had been replaced with wood. Unfortunately, with us being in the dark and with weight applied on top of the wood, down went Rona’s leg straight up to just above her knee. She couldn’t pull it out as much as she tried. Good thing, a fellow runner had a tool which he used to slightly open the slots a bit to free her leg. We were worried if she would be still be able to go on with the run, but she did.
The group picture pushed through as planned.
The countdown was led by BR himself and we were sent off.
At the start of the run, everyone was r-e-a-l-l-y running strong. As in! 😮 In fact, it was too strong for me that I couldn’t keep up with how fast they were actually going. 😮
I was like, “Wow! These runners came prepared and really trained hard for this!”
As for me, my legs felt hard and stiff and somewhat like hot in the calves. They felt heavy for some reason. This is probably how it feels when runners say that their legs felt like logs for mine certainly felt just like that.
Maybe I didn’t get to warm up enough? Maybe it was because I chose to miss out on 2 runs and 2 bike crosstraining from my last ultra 2 weeks ago and was undertrained? Whatever the reason was, I had to slow down and run at my comfortable pace. My 5k run all the way warm-up was scratched off my plan as I proceeded with my 3:1 run-walk intervals as early as Km 1.
It was a never-ending taking turns of overtaking and being overtaken with several runners in the first few kilometers. Later on as the gaps in between runners became bigger, I was running after good friend, Marielle who I couldn’t overtake (not that I intended to) as she was running all the way. Strong girl!
She stopped after these pictures were taken as we were going uphill as I later found out she suffered from cramps. 😦
From there on, I was running solo. I tried entertaining myself with the great view. I followed my GU time every 10kms, but skipped on the eating every 10k in between the energy gel intake. I felt the GU was sufficient enough to keep me going.
Okay, fine. I was just too lazy to stop and dig through my hydration vest for some food. :p
It was a lonely run. I preferred looking down on the road than looking way beyond to how much further I had to go. I was taking one step at a time.
Soon enough, the cool Tagaytay air was gone and was replaced with the heat of the sun. I felt a need to drink more often and replaced my food intake sched with soda intake. I know, I know. It wasn’t a good idea, but the sugar rush just pushed me further. I lost count to how many sodas and mineral water I bought along the way.
With so much fluids (still being cautious not to overdo it), the need to pee was also there. Since it was broad daylight and the houses and stores were open, I took the chance to stop at a carenderia to ask the lady if I could possibly use their toilet to which she willingly agreed. She even cleaned it fast before letting me use it.
Then it was back to running, walking and more running.
Green With Envy
Under the heat of the sun with my energy slowly fizzly away with the heat, I began to envy all those runners with a support crew. As they ran with just a water bottle in their hand, there I was running with everything on my back. I envied how they were pampered and given all their needs, from drinks, food, spray, a good massage. I envied how when I was dying from thirst (well not really, but felt like it), the 3 male runners ahead of me stopped as their support crew crossed the road to hand them refreshing buko juice in plastic bags. I envied how with just one request, they’d get it at once or at their next stop.
My sari-sari store hydration points weren’t always readily available. At times when I needed a cold drink, the store would be closed, would be on the opposite side of the road (we weren’t allowed to cross to the other side) or the stores available would be those selling suka, tuba or would be a long line of talyer shops. *ugh!*
After having eaten a whole chocolate bar taking bites every few kilometers, I felt it was time to eat again for the final last 10k push. Having had ran 60kms just 2 weeks ago came as an advantage as I felt 50k was now an easier distance to overcome.
I think this was the only time I really sat down to enjoy my banana, softdrink and chat with the Ates minding the store. They kept asking me what the prize was for the run. :p
The 10k Homestretch
It was one long and never ending asphalt road that could only fit in two vehicles going in opposite directions. As we ran at the edge of the road, we were forced to jump off it and run on the soil and rocks beside it to avoid getting hit by the cars. Let’s not forget the cars who’d speed up to overtake other cars from behind us. I think it’s much more dangerous running in the daytime when the roads are busy compared to night ultras when cars aren’t that many.
At this point, I was truly grateful for those support teams who extended their support to other runners aside from the ones they were really supporting. I was grateful for the team who offered chocolates along the way. I was grateful for KB of Photo-Ops who called me over and asked if I wanted a cold spongebath and before I could answer gave me one anyway. Grateful too, for a girl who after giving cold spongebaths to the guy and girl runner she was supporting ahead of me, offered and gave me one, too, two times along the route. I was grateful for the Lola who allowed me to get some water from their drum to pour onto myself and the Lolo who hosed me down in another house.
Water spritzers weren’t enough in this kind of summer heat. What really helped were baths though they evaporated quickly was refreshing enough to cool us down for awhile. I was grateful for Team Monumentum Milers who filled up my water bottle when there were no stores in sight. I was grateful for vanmate Laico who kept me company during the 2nd half of the distance as we took turns going ahead of each other. I was grateful for Runbisyo for the food they offered along the way. I was grateful for Team Matindi for the food they offered and the words of encouragement and all the “Okay ka lang?” as their support car passed by. These all made a big difference.
The Last 3k
The energy was still there as I could still keep up with my intervals, but it was the heat that made me feel like I was going to faint any minute. Throughout the run, I kept taking a puff of my handy white flower. I kept looking at the dusty road I may have to fall onto in case I did pass out, but changed my mind as I was wearing white and didn’t want to get all dirty. 😀
I got another cold spongebath care of KB of Photo-ops who was there for another runner and Sheryll who I was tailing from behind. I told Sheryll it would be nice to have a cold soda at that moment and she told me there would be stores at the 3rd turn. Being her 3rd T2N, she’s memorized the route already. 😮
When I saw a store, I did just that. I bought an ice cold softdrink… like for the nth and last one, too, as the finish line was a few meters away. I made another stop at a waiting shed where the Team Kabitenyo was. They offered me cold water and a banana for my last push. They even assured me it was really near. Rassette and Cecille (BDM grandslammers) were on the other side of the road cheering me on as well.
“500m to Petron”, the sign across the street said. Must’ve felt like 5k more.
Then, there it was.
Police men lined up, runners waiting.
It didn’t really look like a finish line that I had to ask to make sure.
I was then directed to go to BR who was waiting.
Me: “Ang hiiiiiiiiiiiiirap!”
BR: “ Mainit lang talaga ngayon. Did you sign up for BDM? This is just the tip of the iceberg.”
Me: *My eyes almost popped out of its sockets*
So, yeah. I made it.
After several GUs, bananas, liters and liters of soda and water, chocolate bar, 6 spongebaths, sniffing of white flower, I actually made it.
It was tough, wait… REALLY tough, but I made it.
I am amazed at how those who have done BDM 102k and BDM 160k have managed to do so. You guys are just unbelievable.
The route was easy compared to my past ultras. Although it’s not really all downhill as it involved rolling hills in the beginning, the uphills weren’t that long and were sustainable as you could run your way to the top without the need to break it into segments. For me, I think it’s the easiest ultra route I’ve ran so far. What made it difficult was the late gunstart which resulted in running under the sun. As all my past ultras were ran mostly in the dark, I had difficulty dealing with the heat in this one.
When I see runners proudly wearing their finisher shirts from BR events, I now understand and I can now say I’ve ran one. 🙂
What I Love About Ultras
I love the ultra running community. I love the friendship and camaraderie that gets carried on from one ultra to another. When you’ve all shared the experience of pushing yourself to the limit and manage to come out of it together, it makes the connection special. I also think that when you share a common passion to do extreme things like this is what binds ultrarunners together. It’s the craziness. 😀
* Photo credits: Running Photographers, Photo-Ops, Team Matindi, Diwata ng Bicolandia, Dana de Guzman, Run Lipa
Distance: 50km (50.41 on my Garmin)
Rank: 57th out of 188