Conquer Air Flow 50? 😶
Benedict Meneses? 🤔
Oh, okay. 😒
I’ve seen the Conquer Airflow 50k Windfarm Ultramarathon event page pop up on my Facebook feed several times, but it never got me interested.
With just the mention of those two names automatically translated to “trail run” to me.
That was until a runner friend on mine tagged me in one of her posts did I really look into what the event was all about.
It turned out that it was a road ultramarathon with just 1.5km of rough road.
Soon after, good ultra friend Syd PMed me to ask if I had signed up for it. Actually, he nagged me into joining it. 😝
With most of the ultras we’ve done being in the Quezon province area, I was convinced to try Rizal area this time. When my “visa” from hubs was approved, we registered for Conquer Air Flow 50 at the last minute and it was a go.
This was the 1st road ultra organized by Benedict Meneses under Conquer. It was an out and back route from Tanay Adventure Camp.
Gunstart was at 2a.m. and we arrived with just enough time to get our race bibs and to prepare ourselves.
As we gathered outside, familiar faces (elites actually) and ultra veterans were seen amongst the crowd, most of which had been personally invited by Race Director, Benedict himself.
The usual race briefing was done
followed by a group picture (at least we all tried to fit in one) of all the runners before we were sent off.
Since most of the runners were experienced ultramarathoners except for one brave first timer, it was a strong start. The start of the route was a pain. With the road tilted to an angle as we ran at the leftmost side of the road where it was at the highest point, it was a pain in the ankle.
I watched veteran ultramarathoner Roselle Abajo run on the lines in the middle of the road where it seemed more leveled and much easier, but for me was too risky as any vehicle could come out unexpectedly.
It was a downhill route in the darkness. There was a part that didn’t require much effort as the steepness just made us run down at a faster pace. Thanks to gravity.
When we reached the flat part of the route, the distance between the runners became longer and longer.
With every corner turned, I desperately tried looking for runners in front or behind me, but not a single light from the headlamp or reflection from their reflectors was to be seen. I started to worry if I was still on the right route or was lost at the moment.
That’s why you can imagine just how happy or maybe relieved I was when I finally saw a group of runners at the side of the road crowding a small table in the dark. It was an aid station at Km 25.
“Ate Jah! Lugaw?” was the first thing I heard as I approached the table. It was Mark who was waiting for his relay partner as it was also the transition point. The hot lugaw seemed so tempting, but I didn’t want to try anything new on raceday, so I just chugged in some water, refilled my simple hydration and left.
After a running quite a distance from the hydration stop, here comes Roselle Abajo running towards my direction. 😳
I asked her, “Pabalik ka na?” to which she replied she was heading back to the aid station to get her hydration that she had left behind. Yikes! 😣
I continued with my 2:30 intervals (2 minutes run: 30 secs walk). This was the first ultramarathon I was trying out this interval as I’ve always used the 3:1 (3 minutes run: 1 minute walk).
Learning from my mistake from my last ultra where I went out too fast, I kept chanting the letters C-O-N-S-E-R-V-E over and over inside my head.
The Start of My Struggle
The darkness was soon replaced by light and the flat road by a slow uphill road climb to where the wind farm was. Everything was going fine until I reached KM30 where my lower back started to ache slightly. The ache got worse as I tried my best to stick with the intervals. From there on, it was a “run as much as you can and walk if needed” kind of interval.
There was a viewing spot (where the carinderias, souvenir shops and many people gathered — from tourists, motor riders, cyclists, tourists) and where some runners stopped to eat. As a runner from Team Care waved at me from the carenderia inviting me to eat, I declined the offer as I wanted to get a glimpse of the wind mills. Okay, fine! I just actually forgot to bring my wallet and wouldn’t be able to buy anything. 🙄
Benedict mentioned at the race briefing that they had attached a Conquer banner at the wind farm to keep us company as it would get lonely up there.
Yup! He was right. ☹️
run walk rampa alone, I would have to say has to be the loneliest ultra that I’ve ever ran. The view was awesome, but with no one in sight except for occasional cyclists, bikers or those in cars passing by, it was definitely lonely.
Too lonely I would say.
With nothing much to see, but the same path for a long stretch, it just made the route seem endless.
We were warned about a 1.5km stretch of rough road.
We were also warned that it could get muddy if it had rained and it did the day before. “Oh, a little mud won’t hurt”, I thought to myself.
Now THIS, I did not expect. 😳
I didn’t quite expect the whole path to be covered with mud that you’d have to go through it.
Being road runners, we tried our best not to get our shoes muddy by holding onto whatever we could hold onto at the side even if the tall grass was like sharp blades or the small plants had tiny thorns. 😖 I’m glad there was only 2 muddy obstacles.
So, yeah. I continued on with my running, walking, walking, resting, stretching, bending intervals. A few runners started to overtake me which I didn’t even mind. They were nice enough to ask if I was okay and encouraged me to push on.
After a distance of struggling, the Km35 aid station was just perfect.
It was under the shade of a tree that had a stall selling bananas and other fruits with a bench just waiting to be sat on. There was water and a box half full of halved cheese bread in it. The marshal encouraged me to rest first. Actually, even without his invitation, I definitely intended to.
As I nibbled on my cheese bread, I asked them how far I still had to go.
“Malapit na. Pagkalabas into, kalsada na tapos diretso na.”
I don’t know why I needed to ask when my GPS clearly stated I had 15 looooong kilometers left to go. 😐 I guess I just wanted to hear the words “Malapit na!” even if I know wasn’t true to boost me.
As my elbows rested on my knees and I stooped forward to release the tension from my back that was already killing me, the marshal said upon noticing my reflector “TBR ka pala?” He then shared he was from Batch 2012. Nice!
I then asked him if ever I decided a DNF, was I going to be picked up from where I was? I was really entertaining the thought of it when Roselle arrived and shared the bench with me. She bought a banana, ate it and decided to proceed.
Running With An Ultra Veteran
“Ano ma’am? Tara na?”
“Sabay na tayo.”
“Halika na. Mas okay kasi na may kasabay.”
I’m glad she got me off my feet for I’m pretty sure if not for her, I would’ve stayed at the aid station a lot longer and probably would’ve finished the whole box of cheese breads. 😆
We walked uphills and ran downhills and flats. I could see that she was still full of energy. I took the opportunity to ask tips from an ultra veteran who has done 260km ultras. 💪💪💪 I learned that she doesn’t use power gels and relied only on real food and hydrite. I really need to learn to get off my being GU dependent. Aside from it being expensive, there comes a point when it doesn’t seem to work on me anymore.
As much as I wanted to run with her till finish line, my back stopped me from doing so and I had to tell her to go ahead.
Alone again. 😭
Temptations of a DNF and Painkiller
I was overtaken by a runner and another and yet another. My 5th female rank slowly slipped further and further down. To me then, it was just numbers. The only thing I had in mind was to go as much as I could.
I noticed that every time I ran or jogged, my lower back ached. It seemed like the pounding of the road was being absorbed by my lower back. It was far worse than my last ultra. It wasn’t an injury as whenever I stopped running, the pain would disappear. My legs were strong, but it was my lower back that was getting the best out of me. Noks! 😂 May ganon?
Since we were required to bring a first aid kit with us, I kept thinking of popping in a painkiller. I was so tempted to do it, but kept thinking of the effects (masking out pain of other possible injuries turning it worse) that I decided to bear the pain for the remaining 10kms. Like yeah, how long can 10kms be, right?
Who are you fooling, Jah? 😭😭😭
I really didn’t mind.
Then the reg fee that hubs had paid for me to run this crossed my mind. 😳
Okay, time to push harder. 😂 Laban!
The Last 10kms
Having reached the end of the long road from the Wind farm to a turning point that led to the city road again was a race volunteer marshal with a nice little chair beside him. Of course, the chair was too inviting that I had to sit to give justice to the chairs existence.
I looked up at Manong and asked him, “Malayo pa po ba?”
“Malayo layo pa.”
“Alam mo Yong dinaanan nyo kanina? Doon pa!”
Thanks Manong for being really honest. 😖
I just really wish you could’ve said, “Malapit na. Konti nalang.” 😆
Serves me right for asking. 😂
I stood up and continued with my struggle. I didn’t let pass any opportunity that I saw I where I could sit, whether it was a huge rock on the road, the road barriers, benches… just anywhere. Even the grass at the side of the road seemed to be calling me to lie down on it.
It was a walk all the way… the longest I’ve ever done for any race. With one hand or both at my back, I really was doing a rampa. 😂
It was great to see Syd (all freshened up and already wearing his finishers shirt) near the finish line to cheer me and snap pictures of my last few steps to it.
And just like that, it was done. 😓
My whining to RD Benedict turned into a smile when the medal was put around my neck and the unique Windmill trophy handed to me.
“Well deserved” he uttered.
I couldn’t agree more.
A few minutes of exchanging stories with Syd while I sipped on my chocolate drink, rest, stretching and a good cold bath had me back to my happy self. My lower back pain was gone.
Although the postrace meal came hours late, I think it has to be the best postrace meal I’ve had (even if the rice was a bit undercooked). The hot soup was enough to make our tummies really happy. 👍
My Say on The Race
It was a good route and well organized. Kudos to Conquer and Benedict and his staff for a job well done. Not bad for a first road ultra. I love the really unique windmill trophy that actually spins.
The only complaint I have would be the warm water at the hydration stations. *ugh* The only time I was able to get really cold water was at the last one along the city main road which also had kutsinta and saging na saba to go with it.
The late food to feed the hungry runners especially those who finished earlier would need some working on too.
Overall, it was a good race.
Not exactly a “good race” for me as in how I faired, but a good race. You know what I mean.
As to will I be back next year for a revenge? Until I solve my lower back issues, I think I’m keeping away from uphills and downhills for the meantime. 😶
Photo Credits: Active Pinas • RUNtastic Photography
Distance: 50k (49.43 on my Garmin)
Overall Ranking: 27/84
Female Ranking: 8/20