This was an unplanned run. With an approved visa (um… sort of 😜) from the hubs, I signed up for Laguna to Rizal 60k ultramarathon at the last minute just because I missed running long distance. I wasn’t sure I’d get in because by then the finisher trophies, medals and shirts must have already been ordered and made. I realized that I was past the “race token collector” phase when I was willing to not receive any of the finisher post race memorabilia. All I wanted was the bib, rights to the hydration stations and of course, the mileage. Despite being a really late registrant, I still got in with the promise of the add-ons anyway.
The traffic in Los Baños was terrible as expected. Our new shuttle van driver who a bit disoriented added to our being late. As we spotted some runners on the road, we had accepted the fact that we had already missed our gunstart only to realize they were the ones running the 160km ultra. There were 2 Runmania ultramarathons that overlapped each other — the Calabarzon 160k (started Friday night from Tagaytay) and L2R 60k (Saturday night) from Lusiana which covered the last 60k of the Calabarzon route.
It was drizzling and cold when we got to the venue. We weren’t sure if we were at the right place as there were no runners in sight and only a few people up on stage who turned out to be the Runmania staff. Since another van of runners was still on its way, the gunstart was delayed a bit.
It was actually a bit surprising to see the low turn out of runners. It could be because most ultrarunners were tapering for another big ultra event in 2 weeks time, others might have joined another ultramarathon by a different organizer also on the same date or perhaps because the run was announced late. Nevertheless, mob or small crowd, rain or shine, the show must go on.
The route was the typical Runmania kind. “Madali lang yong routa” (The route is easy), as RD Pat Maranan described it at the briefing. The hard part only happens towards the end where the uphill is he claimed. Then again, “easy” has a different definition in Run Mania’s dictionary. 😉
My Race Plan
With a small group of runners to run with (42 for the 60k), I noticed how these runners came well prepared. Hey, come on. This wasn’t a 50k ultra, but a 60k one, what do you expect? No one dared to walk until past 5km and they were running fast for an ultra at 6:40ish/km. I didn’t want to be left behind so I tried to keep up with them. 😖
As usual, I ran the first 5km (warm up pace) and started with my 3:1 (3 minutes run: 1 minute walk) interval only after it.
As I have been wanting to break free from being a GU-dependent runner, I only took in one an hour prior to gunstart. I had brought honey. I also brought a bag of Jelly Belly which I took 1:1km at first then decided to take 1:2kms instead. I had intended to take my baby potatoes every 5kms, but since the Jelly Belly was sufficient, I only popped in a spud or 2 when I felt like it.
These actually kept me going, huh?
No Right to Whine
As I ran with two male runners, we came across a runner couple in purple shirts walking hand in hand. They were runners from the Calabarzon 160km ultra. They looked really exhausted, but just kept putting one foot in front of the other. It was almost as if they were sleep walking. 😴 We walked beside them to ask how they were. We could barely get a smile from them as they shared they have been at it since last night with just 5 minutes of sleep. After some words of encouragement, we went ahead. I thought to myself that I had no right to complain as we were only doing a fraction of what they were tackling.
During some of my ultras late last year, I experienced lower back pain. The last time it ached was during an ultramarathon in Rizal where I had to walk the remaining 20km of the 50k ultra. This time, as early as Km23, my lower back pain started to make its presence felt. 😳 It was a different kind as it crawled down to the upper part of my right butt. What butt? 🤣
I had to make the intervals easier at 2:1 and later when it wasn’t helping at all, shortened it even more to 30:15 (30 secs run: 15 secs walk). TBR batchmate Chek came into mind who managed to complete a marathon distance in 8 hours just by walking. I could just walk it out, right? Sige, Jah. Convince yourself. 🙃
I made it to Km 30 hydration point where I gobbled down a whole boiled egg they handed to me. I wanted to DNF at that time, but good friend Larry who was there at that station as well refused and told me to tag along with him.
At the back of my mind, I was like, “Okay. I’ll stop when I see the next hydration station or when a Runmania staff passes by.”
As I tried my best to follow Larry from behind, the ache just didn’t want to go away. After awhile, I pleaded for him to go ahead as I didn’t want to drag his finish time down. With no runner in sight in front or behind me, I felt so alone in the dark. 😳 I kept going, following my run: walk intervals (which by then had become mostly walk) and food intake to the best that I could. The back ache was making me stop.
At one point, I sat myself at the side of the road and tried to tape my back like I did during my last ultra. Too late. I really should’ve taped it earlier. 🙄
I was now sure of my decision to DNF.
Weird thing is, I was pretty okay with it. 😉
In the past ultras where I’d say I’d want to DNF, most of the time they were just words being uttered out in exhaustion, but I’d still find myself going. When I said I wanted to DNF now, I really meant it this time. 😐
It could be that I lacked sleep. It could be because I was heavily “bleeding” (not that I’m not used to running on red days). I really think it was just the back. #GettingOld
With my final decision, I couldn’t stop moving forward until the next hydration as there was no way I could tell them. Serves me right for not bringing my phone for an easier way out. 😩
I struggled. 😥
Every vehicle that passed by, I hoped was a Runmania one which I could flag down. Whenever I saw a car parked on the right side of the road with its blinkers on, I’d wish it was already the hydration point, but wouldn’t be. 😭 Most of the runners were self-support so I couldn’t get any help.
I felt helpless. 😭
I jogged and walked on until I reached a fork. I stopped at one side of the road as I finally saw a runner coming in from behind. I waited so I could ask if I was on the correct road.
As I sat on a huge rock on the side of the road and as the silhouette of the runner with the headlight came nearer and nearer I asked, “Tama ba to?” (Is this the right? — referring to the road). The reply I got?
“Ate Jah? Ikaw ba yan?” (Jah? Is that you?) It was Rhaymond who I’ve always seen in past ultras I’ve joined. It was a relief to see someone I knew along the way. After telling him of my um, current condition, I asked him to go ahead and kindly inform the next hydration of my DNF. It took some convincing for him to actually leave me. He stopped twice or so to check if I was still tailing him from behind until he was then nowhere in sight.
Stroll in the Park
So, yeah. With help on its way, no finish time in mind, I tried to enjoy the run despite the aching back. I needed to pee and was more than happy when I finally came across a gas station that was actually open. Happiness, especially when they had really clean comfort rooms. 😁
Happiness part 2 came after I crossed a small side street. Surprise! It was the hydration station and the ambulance. 😁😁😁 Oh yes, it was my ride waiting for me. 😜
The marshals at the hydration station and Larry who I caught up with again were expecting my arrival as the first thing they asked upon seeing me was, “Ano? Di na kaya?”
I headed straight to the ambulance across the street. The staff asked where I was hurting and told me to sit down first. Later they suggested I lie down on the stretcher inside the ambulance to which I declined. They offered that they spray my back with the linament and offered me food such as their meals, bananas and even pan de sal. I had to keep assuring them I was fine when one of the guys told me they just wanted to make sure I was receiving their Alagang Runmania. ☺️
They also encouraged me to finish the remaining 20kms++ saying I was nearly there already, but I said no. Hey, come on! I was already seated comfortably where I was. Thank you. 🤣
After waiting for several more runners to pass by as they wanted to make sure there were no other “casualties” coming in, we left and made our way to the finish line. The remaining route was made up of c-r-a-z-y uphills. We passed by runners who were mostly walking their way up. I resisted the urge to open the window to scream out “Go runners!” to the runners. 😝
It was a good decision for me to DNF. I don’t think my back wouldn’t have been able to survive the agony of the remaining 20k++. 😵
The ambulance certainly did its job of bringing me safely to the finish line. When I had wanted to get off just before entering the finish line, they decided to cross it with me in it. 😖
I had to slowly sneak around the finish line just so I wouldn’t get that much attention (of the usual photographer, time keeper and welcoming crowd) when RD Pat upon seeing me there early approached me to ask what place I was. 😂
As we waited for the runners of the van to be complete, my friends couldn’t help poking fun of my DNF. Since I didn’t finish the whole distance of 60k++, they came up with these crazy suggestions of what my finisher shirt and trophy should look like. 😂
I was even teased as I drank a tetra pack of chocolate milk with them questioning if I really needed a recovery drink when I just rode an ambulance. 😛 Such bullies I have as friends.
On My 1st DNF
Did not finish.
Did not filit. 😜
Did not fush. 😜
I think this has to be the best meaning of DNF.
DNF… did not FAIL.
DNF doesn’t make you less of a person. It just proves that not all races end the way you want it to. There will be days when you’ve done everything to prepare for a race and yet one small factor can just ruin it all.
Sh*t happens and if it does, you stand up, learn from it and move on.
This happened to be my first race event for 2017 and my 1st DNF. 😐
I may have not gone home with any of my usual post ultra goodies or have written this blog entry as a race I’ve finished. I did however go home with something new — newfound friends and a new experience to grow from.
I’ll be back with a better back. 😂
Photo Credits: Aquizzed Snaps Photography • Pat Maranan
Date: February 11-12, 2017
Distance: 60km (DNF at 42.6km)
Runners: 40 finishers + 2 DNF