Ultra #12: Run With the Master 50k Ultramarathon

Who exactly is the master they’re referring to you may ask? Well, if you’ve been running for quite sometime already, you would know it’s no other than Victor Ting or “Master Vic” as he is more known by the running community.
As a senior runner, he has done more than a hundred marathons, his very 1st marathon being the Johnson & Johnson Band Aid Marathon way back  in 1982 where he clocked in at a time of 3 hours and 26 minutes. 😳😳😳 Oh! …and that’s just for starters as he has managed to break his marathon PR in the races that followed.

As his Facebook event page kept popping up on my newsfeed,

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I was drawn to it for several reasons.
1)  It was something new — new organizers, new people, new route.
2)  Their tagline “A Pilgrim Run to the Holy Mountain Mount Banahaw got me. *sigh*  I miss Banahaw. The last time I ever stepped foot on it was like 13 years ago for my mountaineering org induction.

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Banahaw Guis guis trail.

Joining this event would be the closest I could get to it again since it’s closure some years back. ❤️
3) Browsing through last years’ event and seeing most of the runners were seniors made me think.  🤔

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If they managed to finish it, how hard could it be, right?  🙄 Um, right?
4)  This was for a good cause. Their beneficiary was the Kinabuhayan Elementary School. How many runs nowadays actually think of organizing a race event with beneficiaries in mind and not just themselves benefiting from it?

So, there. It was a go for me.

I was a last minute registrant.
Yeah, I know. If I was THAT interested, why the late registration then? Let’s just say that after my last ultra where I DNF’ed for the first time because of lower back pains, I was still trying to test the waters to see if my back was okay and ready to hit the roads again.
I wasn’t going to push myself too hard for this one and considered this as my LSD. Besides, it’s easier to run a longer distance in a race event than to run around the village on my own. If there was a need to DNF again, so be it. 😐

Race Day
Gunstart was at 3a.m. We were there by 1:30a.m. Oh well, better early than panicky late. I found myself amongst a different crowd of runners at the starting venue — mostly of the older generation who looked really fit/ mamaws. 😋  There were only a handful of familiar faces that I saw around. Goodness! Even the runners I shared the shuttle service were all new to me, except for one.
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As usual, the “not so good in directions” me barely listened to the route briefing as I wasn’t familar with the place. I was content with their assurance that they had a marshal at designated turns to keep us from losing track. 👍

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Groufie of the 50k runners before gunstart.

One thing that glued to my mind during the briefing was when they said, “113 kayo na tatakbo. Kailangan 113 din kayo makakatapos.”  (“There’s 113 of you running. We expect 113 to finish.”) Oh, great! There goes my DNF plan if ever. 😖 *pressure*

Race Plan
What race plan? 😝 As usual, I ran the first 5 kilometers to warm up followed by my experimental 30 seconds run: 15 seconds walk interval… a first time for a race event. I only took in one energy gel prior to the race and ate sugar coated gummy candies when needed.

The Route
The route involved flat, uphills- uphills- uphills followed by downhills- downhills- downhills, repeat. There were inclines that were “runnable” and there was just a portion that only those who were used to such could.

The Trail
It was in the first half of the route that we were made to run off road where we ran on soil with small and big rocks on it. All this we ran in the dark. I had to stop and wait for the runners behind me when I lost the runners’ headlight I was following and wasn’t sure which trail to follow when there was a fork.  Trail markers would’ve been useful if no marshals were available to guide us on the trail part.

Convo during the trail: 
Senior runner: “Nakita mo ba si Roselle?” (Have you seen Roselle?) — I’m pretty sure he was referring to Roselle Abajo, one of the ultra female veterans running the race as well.
Me: “Ay, opo. Nauna na po siya.” (Oh, yes. She went ahead.)
Senior runner: “Ikaw palang kasi nakikita ko na babae.” (It’s because you’re the first female I’ve seen so far.”)
Me: “Ay, hindi po. Marami na po nauna. Andyan nga po si Melanie, e.” (Oh, no. A lot have already gone ahead. Even Melanie is there.”)
Senior runner: “Sunod ka lang sa akin. Hahabulin natin sila.” (“Just follow my lead. We’ll catch up with them.”)
Me: 😳 “Ay, sige po. Mauna na po kayo. Wala po akong balak habulin sila.”  😶 (Um, never mind. You go ahead. I have no intention of catching up with them.”)

The trail certainly wiped off a chunk from our energy level… well, at least in mine. 😶

Back on The Road
The return on the road greeted us with series of inclines where a u-turn and hydration station offered “bukayo” on top of the bananas, water and rocksalt that was available. From there it was back down.
As the sun came up and as we ran on one of the roads uphill again, the 25k runners joined us. There was a short off road through a series of stores selling souvenir items (mostly bracelets) from Banahaw.

The Stairs
In through more narrower paths, we finally made it to the top of the dreaded stairs. 😫

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It was a steep walk down. Yes, you had no choice, but to walk it.  My two hands never let go off the railings as I descended for fear of missing a step as the steps were uneven both in width and height.

“Ang laki ng kinakain ng oras nito!” (“This is eating up a lot of our time”), one runner commented. True, I thought. After the off road and now the staircase, this wasn’t your ordinary ultra.

At the base of the stairs which led to some boulders and a checkpoint, our bibs were punched and instead of the usual ribbons given to mark a u-turn, we were handed rosary bracelets to wear.

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As some runners took their time to take souvenir pictures at the falls (myself included 😜) ,

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some even bathing under it for its said  healing powers, I started making my way back to the top.

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 * Mark Joseph “Aga” Casidsid also known as the blind runner guided by John Earl Susamo also ran the event. If they were able to do it, so can anybody else.

I paced along with some senior runners who stopped every few steps to catch our breath until we made it up once again. We passed by one of the hydration stops again at one of the corners of the road and water had ran out as this was a common point of both the 25 and 50k runners. Good thing, I still had enough on me.

The Uphill to the Pancit Stop
Next stop, pancit stop!
It was a steep uphill all the way to where the pancit u-turn was. Every runner making their way down had something to say.
“Malapit na!” (“It’s near!”)
“Unli uphill!”
“Konti nalang, mga 1km!” (“Almost there, around 1km!”)
“Mga 500m nalang!” (Only 500m to go!”)

After several stop and walk, another one comes running down, “Mga 500m nalang!” (“Only 500m to go!”)   Wait, what? 😳 Like, how many 500m are there in a 500m distance?  😝

Even if most of the runners were new to me, everyone tried pushing each other with words of encouragement or a simple nod along the way. See! They’re actually a nice crowd. Intimidating at first, but actually friendly. 👊
Remember how I thought the race would be fairly easy based on last years picture that mostly had older runners in it? Well, these older runners turned out to be the stronger ones in this event. 😳

My lower back pains started to slightly make its presence felt and I had to walk it out. I lost the runner I was pacing with as he sped up when we were told the pancit u-turn was really near… for the nth time. 🤣
As I made it top of a sharp uphill curve, a photographer stood in the middle of the road.

“Kasali ka ba sa takbo?” (“Are you part of the run?”), he asked as I approached. 😳 For awhile there, I thought I had taken a wrong turn when there was no other turn 🤔 only to find out he was just teasing. 😋

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When you’re enjoying your walk and the photographer asks you to run for picture purposes and you follow. 😀

A few meters after the pictorial spot, there it was! 😁😁😁
It was a whole plastic basin of pancit just waiting for us

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… just as Master Vic had promised. 😁

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I sat, ate and rested for a bit.  The marshal explained to us that our u-turn was supposed to be farther up the road, but since they were only informed the night before they needed permits for it and weren’t able to secure it, we couldn’t proceed. This meant that the route had to be cut short of the 50k distance. With my slightly achey back, it was actually totally fine with me. No problem. Really.  🤣

Before heading back down, I spread out a thin layer of the blue omega on my lower back after one of my sports tape had come off. It was pretty helpful in masking out the ache.   👍 Since I had just eaten, I took my time to let the food settle by walking back down.

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Good thing Albert didn’t ask me to run again for this shot. 😀

Running Downhills
Other runners who were used to running downhills went ahead of me. I stayed with my intervals and refused to really run downhill all the way like I used to for fear of making my backache worse, if not today than in future runs as a result of it.

A little after I had made my way down, I saw the runners that had gone ahead of me in one of the sari-sari stores. I wondered why they had stopped since we hadn’t reached that far from the pancit stop and they couldn’t possibly be hungry already. I later found out that one of the runners had tripped on a hump as he was running downhill making him land right smack on his face. 😣 See, children. Running downhills can be dangerous.

Heading Back to Where We Started
It was an easy route going back to where we started as it was mostly downhill and flat. What made it difficult at times was when the sun would play peek-a-boo from behind the clouds and shine its brightest every once in awhile especially during the last few kilometers.
There were a lot of sari-sari stores where buying whatever needed was easy. I’ve stopped drinking soda during ultras after I replaced it with energy gels. Since I have recently stopped using gels except for just one prior to gunstart,  I had a strong urge for cold soda as I felt I really needed the sugar rush to carry me through the remaining distance.

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The 30 sec: 15 sec Run: Walk Interval Experiment
It’s usually at Km 30 that I start slowing down as I enter the “zombie state” 💀 as I would call it. It’s where I’d have to drag myself to finish the remaining distance, dreading every step and questioning myself what I had gotten myself into and where the feeling of exhaustion just completely takes over.  😩 Pretty much like bonking or hitting the wall, but not exactly like it.
Well, it never happened with this ultra. I could still run towards the end of the run and I didn’t take as much rest stops as I’d usually do (or it could be perhaps because the distance was 5km short?). 🤔
Anyway, I was still enjoying the run towards the end and wasn’t blacked out on what I was passing by. I know my finish time wasn’t that good, but given a choice between finishing happy and finishing miserable, I’d go for the first. 😌

My Finish
I got to the finish line when majority of the runners were already done. Most had already rested, eaten and changed into their finishers’ shirts. I was just happy to have made it especially as it was starting to get really hot as I arrived. 

 

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Yey! I’m back with my take out bread from the last aid station. :p

Post Race Goodies
Aside from the medal, trophy,

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finisher’s shirt and cap we were also handed loot bags. It something runners rarely get in races these days.

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The finishers’ meals could also be topped off with dessert of  ice cream drops that they gave out to anyone who wanted some.

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After stretching, resting and chatting with some friends,


came the awarding.

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King and Queen of TWTM, Edwin de Mesa Grimaldo and Melanie Malihan.

What makes this different from most ultras was that they had age categories. It meant more chances of making it to podium even with the younger faster ones around.
Surprise! Surprise!

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Who would’ve expect that despite arriving 30 minutes after the female of my age category was done, I still managed to get a spot in the podium. 😝 3rd place 40-49 age group. Pssst… just for the record, I should let you guys know that there were only 5 of us females in the same age group, so it’s really no biggie. 😉

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With the Master himself, Victor Ting. 🙂

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My Take on Run With the Master 50k Ultramarathon

Route ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Really good. Perfect for those training on their uphills and practicing their downhills. Total workout of uphills, downhills and stairs. Lots of stores along the way.

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Aid/hydration stations ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.75
Sufficient except for the one aid station where water ran out because of both the 25k and 50k runners sharing it.
Food at Aid Stations ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Water, bananas, boiled eggs, bukayo, rock salt… what more can you ask for? I almost forgot about the pancit at one u-turn and bread towards the end of the run in another station.
Marshals ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
They were really friendly and were all in high spirits. Hubs said it was probably because I was a female, but I don’t think so.
Race Director ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
It’s the first time I actually got to interact with Master Vic. When there was a slight misunderstanding with my late registration, he made ends meet. Yes, he responds to FB PMs — something I didn’t quite expect of him. When he handed me the trophy, he remembered me and said, “Ikaw pala si Jah Santander.” (So, you’re Jah Santander.) He’s an easy person to approach and talk with.
Post Race Freebies ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
The trophy and medal were nice. The sublimated finishers’ shirt was of good quality (Botak) and the loot bags were a plus. Post race meals with ice cream drop desserts were good as well. Let’s not forget the rosary bracelet they gave at one of the u-turns as souvenirs from Banahaw.
Age Category ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Of course, who wouldn’t want podiums to be categorized not only by the gender, but by the age as well, right?
Beneficiary ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Kudos for the run having a beneficiary. It’s always good to run for a cause and not just for ourseleves.

For a registration fee of P1,700, I think this race was well worth it and I’d recommend it to anyone wanting to try a mix of road, trail and stairs.  😜

My only suggestion: Additional marshals in the trail route at the forks. If not, trail signs would do in place of them especially for those who are not familiar with the route.
My only rant: After having joined ultras where most of them ended in venues where runners could actually take a complete bath at, my only wish was that we could do the same for this one. 😩

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We sooo want to take a bath! 😦

All in all, congratulations to Master Vic and Team Saint Lazarous for a successful event! It was a good one!

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Photo Credits: Team Saint Lazarous • Albertthebackpacker.com • Roda Juzza Pataneo • Florydette Cuales

Distance: 45.31 (of the supposedly 50k)
Time: 7:20:56
Overall Ranking: 78/113
Female Ranking: 8/12
Female AG Ranking: 3/5

Expenses: P1,700 registration fee + P580 RT shuttle service

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