I wonder who on earth came up with birthday runs? Some usually even run their age. I guess it’s a runner thing. When I searched for events that would fall near or on my birthday, this one was the one that fit it best. Yeah, never mind if it was a 50k ultramarathon. The thought of starting an ultra on the eve of my birthday, still be running at the stroke of midnight and to be able to reach the finish line on my birthday sounded cool to me. 🙂
Everything was planned except for the training. Having joined quite a number of race events for May, my body pleaded for rest. It was as if my training felt more like straining. The laziness slowly crept in and a backache presented itself a week before raceday. With a 4 week total mileage of only 60km including the taper week, I was doomed. Folks, don’t try this at home. 😀 I had to rely everything on pure muscle memory. Good luck to me.
I began entertaining the thought of a DNS (Did not start), but decided to push through anyways. I made a deal with myself that if for any slightest reason I felt I wouldn’t be able to finish the run, I’d throw in the towel and settle for a DNF (Did not finish) birthday run instead. *ouch*
It was my 3rd time to be at the same starting point for an ultramarathon. T2K (Tagaytay to Kawit) and T2M (Tagaytay to Maragondon) both started there as well and were done in the cooler early months of the year. Both ultras didn’t start out that well with my legs feeling heavy during the 1st few kilometers, so I was expecting the same thing to happen again with this one, but luckily didn’t.
The gunstart was at 11p.m. (June 18) at Ayala Serin in Tagaytay and cut-off at 9:00a.m. (June 19) at Ayala Solenad in Laguna. After the race briefing by Race Director Pat Maranan and picture taking, we were sent off.
My Race Plan
It was the usual easy 5k run all the way warm-up (if I could sustain it) and a 3:1 interval (3 mins run: 1 min walk) for the rest of the distance. Since RunMania’s hydration points weren’t evenly distributed this time as they had strategically placed them in well-lit areas or corners where we had to make turns, I planned to take my GU every 10k and just eat food from hydration points whenever I’d come across one of their hydration stations.
Cavite to Laguna? Most people assume that it’s an all downhill route. Wrong! It’s a downhill, uphill and downhill again route.
The 1st 20k was a breeze being the downhill and flat part of the route running through the streets of Tagaytay alongside the fast moving vehicles.
Upon reaching the 25km mark, well, let’s just say it was where the fun began. It started off with, I wouldn’t say uphills yet, but short inclines. Then came the flats, slight downhills and longer inclines. The inclines were still “runnable” that I managed to stick with my intervals even during uphills.
When the inclines became steeper and more frequent as in series, I decided to drop the intervals as the running uphill was slowly draining my energy. I decided to run and take advantage of the flats and downhills and walk the uphills instead. It was one roller coaster route minus the upsidedowns, of course.
During the Race
It drizzled a couple of times before it finally did rain. It wasn’t a downpour, but just a light one just enough to refresh us. Not every runner enjoys running in the rain because you’re more susceptible to blisters, heavy shoes and clothing, but I’m one of those few who enjoy it (the running in the rain, I meant) and wished it had rained even more. It wasn’t as hot or humid as I didn’t need a call to pour water over myself.
I’m used to running in dark roads during ultras, but I have to say THIS has got to be one that had darkest route ever! If I’m not mistaken, there were 3 l-o-n-g parts of the route that we ran in complete darkness. Well, not complete darkness yet, as there was still the full moon hiding behind some clouds to the right above the high trees (if you were to look up), the light from the runner’s headlamp way in front of you (if he was still in sight) and your own headlamp.
Speaking of headlamps, mine decided to slowly lose it’s shine during that time. Talk about perfect timing! I had just enough light to see if there were holes on the road and to see and realize that a few feet on our left where we ran was a steep cliff with no safety barrier at all. With the really faint light I was relying on from my headlamp, I tripped 2 times on a road hump and once on a huge rock. Luckily, all these didn’t lead to a bad fall or injury.
Most of the male runners I saw ran in two or more in a group. I ran solo. *cringe* How crazy was I to be running alone in the dark being a female? Yes, ultras are not for the the ordinary breed on runners.
Not being able to see much, sleepiness started to be felt and a few seconds of closing my eyes every now and then during the dark areas as I walked was a total bliss.
During the 2nd half of the route, we ran through a small winding road that had tall grass on both sides. From afar you could see houses which looked like we were running through a subdivision that was still being developed. Sorry, couldn’t really tell with all the darkness. The road could only fit in two cars. No extra space for us to run on the sides. Thankfully, only the support vehicles on the right were around. This was where a blue(?) van kept me company once in awhile. It was the only support vehicle I saw along the way and its headlights (even if it flickered) was a big help for me to see the road better. The driver at one point even asked if I wanted a banana and handed me one. Thank you!
There were several dogs who roamed the streets freely in one long stretch of the route. Several just barked at the runners passing by, but it was still scary with the thought that we could easily be attacked from behind.
My close encounter was when I was happily running a steep downhill slope and out from nowhere came a barking dog running uphill right towards me. We both stopped one foot from each other as I let out a loud shriek before moving on. Had I worn my HRM, I’m pretty sure my heart rate must’ve jumped all the way to the red zone at that very moment. From then on, I made sure there were no dogs around if I was going to run fast. There was another time that I felt something poke me from behind my knee as I was walking behind two male runners. As I slowly turned around, it was a dog who had poked his nose on my leg who must’ve wanted to take a sniff off my salty tights. So yeah, there were the scary intimidating dogs and just the curious ones, too.
Although RunMania isn’t that strict with the rules of their ultras (or perhaps they’re tired of runners who keep breaking them anyway), this is the first time that I’ve noticed that a lot of support vehicles parked on the left side of the road where we ran. Everytime I’d spot one, I’d glance across the street to see if there was any reason why it couldn’t be parked there. Perhaps there was no space? Nope. I’d see there always would be. Ultra newbies? Nope. I’ve seen their teams join in recent ultras as well. A lone support crew perhaps? Well, you can always leave the vehicle, cross the street with the necessary stuff and wait for your runner like what others do.
I just find it quite unfair for the other support vehicles that take the trouble of parking across, crossing the street to support their runner while some gets the easier way of just parking where the runners run.
I think only the official support stations should be allowed on the left side if ever. Actually, I missed spotting the hydration stop where the boiled egg was as I must’ve mistaken it for a support vehicle of some other runner parked on the left side.
Keeping the support vehicles across the street and prohibiting the runners from crossing to the other side also helps in preventing the so called “ninja moves” or “teleportation” where runners get a hitch to be dropped off at darker areas to continue running when no ones looking. Oh, should I mention that there was a runner suspected of teleporting in this event, but wasn’t reported? You know who you are. Shame on you.
Plus, there were support vehicles who were tailing their runners which is a no-no.
Last few kilometers
How can you tell if it’s the last 10k when running a RunMania ultra? The ice cream, of course! I stopped at the ice cream hydration station to drink up, but didn’t bother to get a cone. Other runners just grabbed theirs for take out. I think everyone was in a hurry to finish the race. I squatted and tried to stretch out my back which was already aching at that time.
The last 10k involved running through the main road leading to Nuvali. Finally, a great overlooking view of the city and the sky in shades of purple and pink as it was almost sunrise. Sorry, wasn’t able to take a picture. I was busy either counting the meters I ran or counting the seconds left to a walk interval. In other words, I was getting close to my zombie mode and trying to distract myself.
It was rolling hills and it felt like it was never going to end at all. Still made stops once in awhile to bend over and give my back a good stretch which was already killing me. Passing by a busted Maynilad pipe along the road felt like one of those showers in some running events. The downside was it made the road wet and since it was downhill, it felt like we were running on a stream going down.
The last 2k was frustrating. There was a road that we had to enter and run several meters before making a u-turn to head out the opposite direction of where we had entered. At that time, many runners who still had enough energy went ahead to the finish line. Strong finish!
It was kind of weird as it didn’t look like the normal finish lines. Our newbie shuttle bus driver even commented that the finish line could’ve been better more livelier had they some music or something, but I didn’t mind as the only thing important to me was knowing I WAS FINALLY DONE.
I couldn’t be more happier that there was no bonus kilometers for this one and Pat stuck with his promise of just 50k. That’s a first! 🙂
My bonus came as an unexpected surprise of landing the Female 2nd runner up. 🙂
I guess I was just lucky as the female ultra mamaws were nowhere in sight and that I had stayed nearer the front at starting line.
* Just for people who aren’t familiar with ultras, most don’t have timing chips and everything is based on gunstart.
My Thoughts On this Ultra
This wasn’t an easy route. Well, I guess in RunMania’s level of difficulty, this was already easy. The uphills weren’t the RunMania kind of uphells. What made this hard was the series of uphills and downhills during the 2nd half of the route that can be draining. Yeah, especially if you lacked in training, like I did. 😦
I love how both the starting and finish points were at malls where there were clean toilets to clean ourselves up at.
There were a lot of signages this time that it was near impossible for any runner to get lost along the way. “Basta wala kayong makita na sign, wag kayo liliko” (“As long as you don’t see any sign, don’t make a turn.”) that Pat said also helped.
Except for the positioning of the hydration points that wasn’t consistent in distance (I had to approach a support vehicle to ask for a water refill during the long stretch with no hydration point… thank you Urban Runners!), food, ice and hydration was more than enough.
Overall, it was a well organized ultramarathon and a good one at that.
Congrats RunMania on your 3rd year! Feels good to be Alagang RunMania.
Of course, my ultramarathon experience wouldn’t be the same without the people who share the same passion for ultras and running. I always look forward to the post race chickahan and hopefully next time the bulalo and halo halo pushes through. 😀
* Sorry wasn’t able to take pictures of everyone… too tired.
I am truly thankful for everything and everyone that made my birthday ultramarathon a memorable one. Love you guys.
* Photo credits: RunMania, Happy Panda, Aquizzed Snaps Photography, Caliraya Runners.
Distance: 50k (49.92k on my watch)
Official Time: 6 hours 10 mins 23 secs
Overall Rank: 29/313
Female Rank: 3/50 (?)