Having been a TBR Dream Chaser twice, I wondered how it was to be part of a support crew for a run. Sure both have a common goal of supporting the runner and seeing to it they make it to the finish line, but being a support crew obviously is different. For one, as a TBR Dream Chaser, the runners will come to you as you stay comfortably inside your tent. A support crew on the other hand will be following the runner inside the support vehicle all throughout the whole distance. The amount of time one also gives as a crew is way longer than just being a TBR Dream Chaser.
When I was asked by a BDM102 survivor if I was willing to be part of her support crew, I said yes (with prior visa approval of the hubs, of course). Unfortunately, she never pursued her plan to be a BDM Grandslammer. That was when two of my ultrafriends, Laico and Jay-R who were in desperate need for an additional member for their support crew asked if I was willing to be part of theirs.
I said yes.
It’s always advisable to get people you really know to be part of your support crew— people you know you can rely on whatever happens, people who you won’t mind seeing the best and worst of you.
With the support crew complete (Nurse Lynn, Laico’s friend/ Roadeaters team mate; the driver, Jay-R’s officemate and myself), they agreed to meet down North on the eve of the running event and depart at 8p.m. Since I still had a school activity to attend to that same afternoon and wasn’t sure I’d make it on time, I was willing to take a bus to the starting venue in Mariveles. Take note, willing — all for the love for these two.😋
Fortunately or unfortunately, I was able to go hitch a ride with the team because of the many delays they encountered.
Do your supply buying way ahead (like the weekend before) and not a few hours prior to departure. This will save you from all the unnecessary stress as all you need to do during those hours is rest.
So yeah, on my way to the bus station, I found out that Laics and Jay-R had only started to buy the stuff needed for the run. They ended up buying a stool and a thermos when they could’ve just brought one from home. Food seemed like they just grabbed whatever they thought they would want to eat and drink during the run such as 1 liter bottles of softdrinks, Gatorade, loaves of bread, a can of spam, cans of Vienna sausage, flat tops, a bunch of bananas, apples, cookies, instant cup noodles and coffee. They also bought plastic forks and spoons, paper plates, wet wipes. I’m not sure if they even had brought any first aid kit, but I had mine with me just in case.
Make sure the support vehicle to be used is in tip top shape. You wouldn’t want your support crew to be supporting you on foot. 😵
Another cause of delay was that our assigned driver had difficulty in making the car start. There was a certain technique to making it start — something that the driver had yet to figure out.
We were finally able to leave a little past 11p.m. As Laico kept chatting away inside the car as he always does, we had to remind him to get some rest. Only the driver stayed awake as everyone tried to get some needed shut eye. Before we knew it, we were already at the starting venue earlier than expected. Instead on spending the hours of waiting prior to gunstart getting some additional sleep, Laics and Jay-R, ourselves included mingled amongst the other runners and their support.
As the gunstart neared, Laics and Jay-R prepared for the run while Lynn and I kept thinking of where we’d get ice.
Bring all if not most of what you need already. Don’t think that you’ll just buy along the route.
We had 2 blue water containers without any water in it. There was an icebox with no ice. A newly bought thermos with no hot water. (We had to buy coffee from 7-11 and poured the hot water in the thermos instead of their styro cups. We also bought the 3 gallons of mineral water from there.)
I think being a little O.C. when it comes to planning won’t hurt.
I saw a support vehicle who had a small chest of drawers that had all their stuff organized at in it. The support crew knew which drawer to pull out for what the runner needed at that moment. I saw other teams had brought small foldable tables with them, definitely convenient when feeding the runner. Some even brought a cookstove to be able to heat the food they brought. This also reminded me of Doc Dhona who had everything labelled for her BDM support team last year. She had put the food that she wanted in containers and had labelled them which KM she wanted it given. Less thrash and less waste, right? 👍 Think of watermelon already sliced and ready for consumption in these see-through containers as well as chips and other food.
I guess this can apply to the runners’ change of clothes as well with it being packed into small bags already. This is definitely a big help for the support crew to keep them from guessing.
We missed the gunstart as we were busy buying additional supplies and proceeded to the 1st pitstop at Km7.
It was uphill for the 1st part of the route and Laics was in the lead pack. He looked pretty strong and at the back of mind, something told me we might be finishing the run early.
As expected at the first few pistops, they were still okay and would stop only for a really quick water refill.
As the sun slowly started to come out, the waiting at the pitstop took longer.
We realized our two runners had not yet eaten breakfast. Neither have we. We asked them what they would want for breakfast so we could prepare it for their next stop. By this time, Jay-R had overtaken Laics.
Remember that you need to take care of yourself as well. In other words, eat! 🍽
As we leapfrogged to our next pitstop, I decided to eat up.
We had been waiting for quite sometime when we felt there was something wrong. There were no other support vehicles along the road or runners passing by.
Make sure you have briefed the person who’ll be in charge of the driving about the route. Give them a map or a print-out and make sure they know which roads to take especially along the tricky parts.
We had to backtrack and realized we had missed a small turn that we were supposed to take into the inner streets. By the time we found Jay-R, he was hungry.
When Laics arrived, he was r-e-a-l-l-y hungry. As he wasn’t contented with finishing one cup of instant noodles, he asked for another one and finished it as well. He kept telling us that he was just hungry and he’d be okay after his food intake. We asked what he wanted for lunch and just like Jay-R, he wanted something with soup.
Don’t be too bossy towards your support crew. Remember that these people sacrificed their whole weekend for you when they could have been doing something else.
Expect your runners to get cranky and when they do, be prepared.
I have heard stories of runners getting really cranky when they’re tired especially during the last stretch of the ultra. Oh, I should know. 🤣 It’s expected, but we didn’t expect it to be happening THIS soon. 😜 It could’ve been that Laico lacked the sleep, was stressed out by a lot of things or was just plain “hangry”.
Along the way, we were able to find a water refilling station and had our two containers refilled. As for the ice, we started out with those 3 pesos ice sold at sari-sari stores before we eventually found a hidden 7-11 that still had ice, as most of the support vehicles were hoarding them as well.
Since we couldn’t find any soup (I joked of buying beef cubes to dunk into the hot water that we had… I was joking, but it was also half meant 😜 #DesperateMoves), we ordered Laics and Jay-R Jollibee burger steaks and ordered our lunches as well. Laics barely touched his food and again requested for a cup of instant noodles.
The sun was already up and shining and we told him he had to push harder in order to make it to the 50k cut-off at 2p.m. Laics constantly reminded us that he wanted cold water to be ready for pouring over his head and one for refilling his water bottle at every pitstop. Opo, Koya. 😜
We caught up with Jay-R at the 50k cut-off where we handed him his lunch. Just like Laico, he didn’t feel like eating the burger steak and opted for instant noodles as well. After eating, resting and stretching and even going live on FB for awhile, Jay-R left on his way to the 2nd cut-off at Km102 at 11p.m..
Laico arrived minutes later where he rested a bit and replenished himself. Asked how many kms per pitstop he wanted, he still said 5km.
RD Jovie Narcise informed the runners that there was an aid station at Km52 sponsored by the Orani Runners where runners would be treated to sponge baths, massages and food. I think this is one pistop the runners enjoyed the most.
At that time of the day, it was sizzling hot! 😖😖😖 It sure made us support crew glad that we weren’t the ones running under the heat of the sun.
At one point, I felt sorry for the runners who were being fried out in the open. When I found a small shade under the tree on the side that the runners were running on, I crossed the road with my spray bottle and sprayed the runners with mist. I know it wasn’t much as they needed ladels of water to cool them down, but thought it may help in whatever small way it could.
Next time, bring a small bucket filled with ice and water with sponges to pour over you. This helps a lot in cooling and refreshing you once again.
The gap between Jay-R and Laico had stretched even longer. This had us waiting for Jay-R and taking care of him before going back to look for Laico. We were going back and forth to make sure both their needs were taken care of.
It was definitely tiring. 😓
A support vehicle for two or more runners sharing it would work if they have the same pace. If they have totally different paces, this makes it difficult for the support crew to watch over both.
As it started to get dark, we handed the reflective vest and headlamp to Jay-R. He still wanted something with soup for dinner and had gone ahead. We made sure he was full and would be able to keep going until we come back for him after Laico arrives.
Upon seeing Laico, we handed his reflective vest and headlamp and told him we were going to look for their dinner. He had requested that we shorten the leapfrogging to 3km, but we had to explain that food for them was our top priority.
Make sure you runner eats. If you have to spoonfeed him, do so.
We were able to buy our dinner for take out, buy rice and free soup for our runners. We looked for Jay-R and fed him with a cup of rice with soup which to him tasted so good even if the fats of the soup had started to solidify. 😮 He ate a lot before proceeding to his last stretch to cut-off 102km.
We then looked for Laico to feed him his dinner of the same thing. It was a good thing that he ate it all. I handed him back his watch which ran out of battery and I had charged back in the car. We told him to go on as we run after Jay-R again.
The next time we saw Jay-R, he was making his way to the last stretch to Km102. As we arrived there, the 2nd support vehicle of Laico’s running team, Roadeaters finally arrived. I stayed with Jay-R at the check-in point while the rest went back to make sure Laico was on his way and would make it to cut-off.
Ultras like these needs planning — from running pace, running target, when to rest, what food to eat and when, etc. Simply put, logistics.
I was impressed at how the other running teams came prepared. When one runner arrived at the 102k check-in, his support crew took his vest and headlamp and led him to his already ready mat for sleeping where he was to take a nap.
Another team had two bowls of lugaw ready for their runners while another team in the parking area had their runner face down on a mat and was being massaged and stretched by a support crew.
Jay-R wanted to wait for Laico and would run with him, but when he had been waiting for almost and hour, he figured that he had to go ahead.
Laico arrived at the check-in with like 20 minutes to spare and looked really disoriented. I had to call him more than once for him to stop and check-in. He then sat at the side of the road, leaned forward and wanted to throw up any second. Laico didn’t look good at all. 😔
The now two support vehicles planned on what was our next step. Originally, the 2nd support vehicle was supposed to take over as Lynn and I take a rest from our support duties. Instead, Lynn and I were to continue supporting Jay-R and Laico’s team would take over Laico as they knew him better.
It now sounded easier with just one runner to look after, right? Not really.
Next time wear something that’s easy to spot you from the rest of the runners at night.
As we now travelled on the highway with four lanes of fast moving vehicles (imagine huge trucks and buses! 😳), the runners were now smaller in view from a far distance. We never realized that tracking a runner in the dark was hard especially that most of them wore the same color of neon yellow. The only additional marker we’d look out for was the design of Jay-R’s reflective vest.
After one pistop where Jay-R requested for spam, we went ahead again by 5kms or so. It had been a long day and was getting late into the night. Ervin, our new driver assigned from Roadeaters suggested that Lynn and I nap while waiting. He was keeping himself awake with the game he was playing on his phone. I didn’t want to sleep, but it just happened. 😴
The 3 of us fell asleep! 😳
It’s best to take shifts in supporting. Drivers need an alternate as well if possible.
Unsure if Jay-R had already passed us or was still on the way, we had to make a u-turn and look for him. When we did, I attached a blinker on his back so it would be an easier way to spot him amongst the runners.
As if the sleeping incident where the whole support crew dozed off once wasn’t enough, it happened again. 😴😣🤣 Looking for Jay-R became more difficult as he did some sleeping of his own, too. At one point, our support vehicle passed by runners sleeping in front of the emergency area of the hospital twice only to realize one of them was him.
The next time our support vehicle made a stop, I decided Jay-R needed someone to pace him already as he kept taking naps everywhere. I changed into my running clothes (I wasn’t prepared, pramis! 🤣) and was ready to go with him.
As Ervin and Lynn left me with Jay-R, they went back meet up with the support vehicle for Laico as they lacked a reflective vest. It was good to hear updates from the other support vehicle that Laico was slowly running again despite the many times he had thrown up. He was determined to give it his all.
Jay-R and I proceeded to run as I asked him what intervals he could manage to keep up with. We started with a good 2:1 (2 minutes run: 1 minute walk). I constantly reminded him to tell me to slow down if needed.
This time, I kept losing him from behind as he kept making pee stops. 😝 He later on jokingly asked if we could do 2:1… 2 minute walk: 1 minute run. 😳 When I gave him the stare, he suggested 1:1. Nakuha sa tingin. 😂
We saw our support vehicle once again as they stopped to give Jay-R some drinks. They then sped off again ahead of us. Several kilometers of running, we saw them across the road.
No one was alighting from the vehicle.
They did it again. 😝
They had fallen asleep. 😜 It was a good thing Jay-R was still okay and didn’t need anything at that time yet, except that I had wanted to get rid of our vests and headlamps as it was morning already.
With the 1:1 run:walk intervals that we were following, Jay-R managed to catch up with the other runners and overtake even several. By this time, Ervin and Lynn had finally woken up from their long sleep and were back to support duties. 🤣
Support teams were now nicely sharing whatever they had to Jay-R even constantly cheering him with “Malapit na!” (…which was so untrue! 😭) and “Congrats!”. We could see the tall needle monument on our left and knew it was only a matter of time that Jay-R would be done.
…or so we thought. 😭😭😭
Passing by the entrance to the park on our left, we had to go up to a steady uphill and make a u-turn there before going back down and entering the park. As the sun started to shine more brightly, the u-turn seemed endless. It was pretty hard not knowing how many kilometers we had left to run.
I was getting tired by then. 😞
Like what right had I to whine when the one I was pacing had been at it for hours? I was actually running on empty, except for the 2 flat tops I popped in during one of the pitstops. I kidded Lynn that I needed a sub. Since she was more than willing to do so, I let her. 😃
I rode in the support vehicle as I tried fueling myself up with cookies or what have yous inside the support vehicle. Ervin and I drove up to see how far the u-turn was. We went beyond the u-turn 😂 and when we had returned, Jay-R and Lynn were already on the other side making their way back down.
I was okay already by then and I stepped back in to finish off the pacer duties. By the time Jay-R was endorsed back to me by Lynn, he was already complaining of pain in his knees. He couldn’t do any more intervals and suggested that we just walk and walk was what we did.
You’re role as a pacer is to do everything to make the last stretch bearable. Entertain, be positive about everything and spread the good vibes.
It’s a good thing that Jay-R is one jolly runner. From start to the last stretch, I didn’t hear him complain and has always been happy despite being really exhausted.
We finally caught sight of Laico who was being paced by his team mate from Roadeaters across the road. Happy to see him on his feet, I left Jay-R for awhile as I crossed to the other side to give him a power hug. I was willing to take over pacing him and willing to go back up the u-turn had he not ignored me. 😶 Hmp!
Okay, back to Jay-R, I go.
Near the corner of the part where we were to cross the road to make it to the park entrance, Jay-R saw a gasoline station and said he needed to “go” 😳. As I waited by the side of the road trying to hide under the small shade a signage had made, I watched and counted the runners pass by one by one.
😶 7 runners and 1 pacer.
Jay-R had no idea he was taking that long.
Out came Jay-R and success! 😁💩
We finally crossed the road and went into the park entrance. I told him to go for it. He gathered up all the strength in him and gave it his all as he ran slowly towards the finish line. 🤧
Nah! He didn’t cry.
I didn’t cry, but I was overflowing with happiness to see a good friend achieve his goal. 😬🎖
Laico also made it to finish.
Honestly, in the many races that I’ve ran with him, it was a different Laico I saw as I supported him. How he struggled, walked and put up a good fight makes him a true BDM warrior. 👊
Dear Runner and Support,
When all is done, whether you’ve achieved your goal or not, after all the good and bad, forget everything and be back to being friends again. ✌️😝
Congratulations to all the BDM warriors! 👊👊👊
As for me, it’s been a hell of a great experience being a support crew to BDM160.
Thank you so much Laics and Jay-R for giving me this chance to be part of your BDM Grandslammer dream.
Thanks to the rest of the support crew as well, Team Roadeaters and Rona.
Thank you too, for making me see what the BDM hype was all about and for letting me experience a portion of BDM160 experience… BDM27.33km of it. 🤣
Perhaps, next year? 🤔
Support again. 😛
Photo Credits: Chek Mercado • Orani Runners • Mary Lynn Valdez • Chaser pictures: Mark Chico/ Jaymie Pizarro