Monday, February 27

Vinta UltraMarathon 2012

I haven't been to Zamboanga. So when my friend Rica posted a race on this place I said go, even without putting much thought about it. This will be my cool down to my HK100 kilometer trailrun a week ago in Hong Kong, a 50K run cool down, I thought. But will this really be a cool down for me?

Rica found a friend who can offer an accommodation and transportation for us to go around the place prior to the race. That makes me so excited that I decided to book for my flight and pay the registration fee for the event.

Vinta Ultra, we said, aside from the run we will search the famous Vinta of the Zamboanga Peninsula, it turn out this colorful sail boats only come out on a special occasion every October. Anyway, we just enjoy our stay in the city by savoring the place's yummy seafoods and visiting beautiful places without thinking so much of the race. Upon showing the race map to our hosts, they said it's going to be a far distance away from the city without also telling us of the terrain. I got excited thinking I get to see more places on this race. 

The first two days we spend going around the city and eating  so much yummy seafoods, without even thinking of the race on the last day of our stay in the city. It seems like we are here for the sightseeing and not the race itself. 

With almost healed legs, the sore on my legs that I've been feeling the past few days after my HK100 a week ago is now totally gone, probably the walking around the city also help recover. My right leg has one dead toe nail, one small blister and a minor pain on the knee which I did not feel anymore as well, I am now ready to face another challenge. 

The past days, just when we wish for a cloudy rainy not so sunny day, that did not happen, so it is expected that the race day will be another bright sunny day.  Saturday, I have again my monthly period, something I did not expect on this race, I did not prepare for it but good thing I bring with me full tights,  even if I have in mind using  shorts due to the weather, I have no choice but to have long tights despite the hot sunny day. I do not want another bloody legs on this run.  Sunday come, it's already our long run day.  There are 4 of us coming from Manila who lives together in Lyne's house for this race. Wake up earlier than the ring of my alarm clock, prepare and get ready for the event. We all agreed this will be an easy pace for us, just a cool down for me and Zean, the very first ultra for Rica and a slow race for FR as well.  Zean and FR promised to take the race slowly and pace with us. After taking breakfast, my stomach started not to feel too well. I have to go to the toilet twice before the race started for nature calls. So a super good luck to me, doing an ultra road run with an upset stomach and having my monthly period. 

As we arrive more than 30 minutes  before the gun start, there are already few runners around at  the starting area.  Upon claiming our race bibs, we take some pictures, relax, meet other runners both from the city and others from Manila, and I do another visit to the restroom. Surprisingly Sir Carl from Smart and Ariane are there too, though Sir Carl is not running, only Ariane. We are released at exactly 5:00am. A super goodluck to us, we really do not know what we are  putting ourselves into on this race. 

The first 14 kilometer is just following the highway from the gun start at Golden  Orchid Hotel going to Ipil. It's still early, the sun is not out yet and  I am glad we do not have to share the road with so many motorists. The four of us just take a slow pace, sometimes I am on the lead with FR. Zean and Rica is just following us at the back. I enjoy the view, as we run further distance, it leaves the city structure and it becomes more of the wider horizon of trees and plants. We take note of several newly build subdivisions, the designs are just so modern. Upon reaching the 8 kilometer mark, a water station is already available, though we are not hungry yet, Zean decided to get water and pack of chippy, yes chippy, upon the request of Rica. Service to the highest level.

After several kilometers, the sun is already up, and another support crew is waiting, bringing some ice candy. At first I thought of  not taking one, I am still ok, not hungry, not warm. We continue with our highway adventure, another water station appeared, at this time with cracker and water. I thought of not taking anything yet, I can feel my stomach not really   on a very good state. My sanitary napkin is still ok, what is not ok with  me is my stomach, I got so conscious that whatever I'll take will upset my stomach,  so I only drink water, not even gatorade. 

The 14 kilometer marker is the turn left sign going to Barangay Guisao.  The sun is already up, bright and shining, a sign of a bright sunny day ahead of us. We still  run together, the four of us. From the highway, the turn starts with a downhill road followed by an uphill one until it reaches a community, with more trees, rice paddies, vegetable plantation,  bushes and grass. It becomes greener and  there are now less artificial structures around and less vehicle pollution, something I love to see.  At the 16 kilometer mark is another turn left going to the mountain slopes of the area. We hydrate again at this mark, eat some crackers and drink more water. I can feel my stomach is already starting to get upset again. I did not think about it and just focus on my pace. After few kilometers of flat is already an uphill road with times that it goes down a bit but goes to another uphill as well. At times it's rough road. It's at around kilometer 20 that I can feel I really need to use the restroom. Nature calls and I really cannot stop it anymore. I tell the group to just go ahead and I will stop for a toilet break. I asked one house, at first the lady is hesitant, they do not have a clean toilet, I don't mind, I even want  to do it in the bushes anyway. So there  it goes. After several minutes I resume my uphill adventure now just alone, passing by some runners sometimes. There are some photographers riding a car or motorcycle that pass by and took pictures of us. Most of the time we greet locals and they are amazed how far we have been running. At one community there are several children bringing some flaglets forming two lines greeting each runner that will pass. I did not get a chance to take picture of that but it feels great to see them. I hope I inspire them to go into running when they grow up someday.

taken from zean's album
After few kilometers I catch up with my running mates. There are already few runners coming back and saying we are almost to the 25kilometer turn around point. But ofcourse that did not happen soon. At this time most of the road is now down hill, to the next down hill up to the next super down hill. I can imagine how this will be on the way back. I run last among the four of us, I do not want   to put so much pressure on my knees and might get injured on the downhill road. As much as I wanted to race til the bridge, I just really cannot. The turn around point is already visible but it's still a downhill run. After few minutes, finally reach the station, hydrate, eat cracker again take some pictures, then decided to leave after FR ahead of Zean and Rica.  The sun is totally out and it's just shining to it's brightest. I  think  of stopping somewhere and use the toilet again. But after several minutes Rica and Zean catch up with me, I tried to move faster on the uphill road but I just really cannot. I keep on thinking at some point I will ask again a house where I can use the toilet or just do it in the bushes. But I continued running. 

taken from zean's album
There are few runners who did the half relay that finished the first half and now on motorcycle going back to the starting/finish point, some of them  asked me if I am ok, what do I need, I forgot I needed some  more tissue paper, I almost consume what I brought on my first toilet stop. Oh well, I only thought of asking one after the first vehicle asked me. I thought I should ask on the next support crew that will come.  As I deal with the downhill road, it's now becoming very hot. I pass by some male runners, other pass by me too. At some point a support vehicle is park on a downhill road asking if I need water, banana, gatorade, ice. Having the tissue in mind, I asked for it. Unfortunately they don't have. I just asked some electrolyte drink and more ice. I  have been thinking my worst scenario if I run out of tissue paper and if ever  nature calls again, I might use my precious headware which I do not want that to happen. I am thinking I cannot take more solid yet. And off I go with my adventure going down. Zean and Rica is not  within my sight anymore, I am sure  they are far ahead of me already. At some point I wanted to ask again at the house where I asked first for a toilet break, but I thought I can still wait for it until some time. 

taken from Zean's album
I just take my time going down, I know I am almost the 16 kilometer station. It's already hot, I already wish I brought with me a small towel where I can wet with ice cold water at the water station and put on my head. Most of the time I just run on the side portion of the road, until from a far I thought  there is a meter long stick without me realizing it's a snake. I am less than a meter close to it. To my surprise I shouted and that scared the snake, it comes to an attack position, without looking back I rush to my fastest pace without thinking the pain in my legs. That was my closest encounter of the a snake and it scares me to death. After few kilometers I already reach the 16 kilometer marker and to my surprise my running mates are at the sari sari store waiting for me while drinking soda. I hydrate more and refill my hydration bottle and get some crackers. I feel I need to eat, I am just really afraid to take my energy gels it might upset my stomach more. Finally I use the rest room after Rica did and she offer her wet ones. So kind of her, unfortunately the sari sari store did not sell any tissue paper. 

After my toilet adventure we started our way back to the main highway, now on a scorching heat of the sun. There are few kilometers left on the local road before a right turn to the main highway, there are still trees on the sides, so our approach is run for the next shade, when on the shaded area we walk  then run again as we come to the next exposed area. It's really very very hot. But upon reaching that signage of the main highway, it was just really totally a blistering heat of the sun that greet us. Totally hot all over. We are like bread baked in an over with heat coming from the sun  above and heat below from the ground. Still our approach is to run to the next shade but on the highway there are just really very minimal shade. We just continue with our walk jog approach. Upon reaching kilometer 14 I started to take one pack of Gu energy gel. With only cracker, one piece banana and 3 candies on almost 7 hours of on the road, I can now feel my sugar level going down. I need to have something despite my stomach condition.

After sometime on a never ending highway road going back to the starting/finishing line, to our surprise,  buko for sale. FR already stop for one and we thought of stopping as well. I am hesitant of getting one but I thought the water of the buko will help me hydrate. After finishing it, I can now feel I need to go to the toilet, it's not later but now. We are on the middle of a highway with out any house, it's bushes beyond the highway fence. I step over the below the waist fence and find my spot among the bushes, nature calls,  hearing the vehicle pass by or the voices of some runners that also take some buko did not bother me at all, I just need to do it on that place. It was a relief after that break.

And off we continue  with our adventure on the highway under the heat of the sun. I can now feel my  face, arms, shoulders totally burned from the sun. I just pray nothing will happen to me, I am so afraid I will get dehydrated from lack of fluid intake or even very less solid for the past several hours. And aside from that I was thinking the heat might be too much and heat store might strike. I am just thankful to the vehicle crew who offers water, that gives us time to hydrate and wet our head to cool a bit. At the kilometer 8 marker, I was thinking we are almost there, 42K done, 8K more under two hour time. With this we just focus on our way back, after Rica stop to a gasoline station for a toilet break which I did not do, I started looking for the next gasoline station, we pass by three but all on the right side, nothing on the side of the road where we are. I am so tempted to asked on some stores, clinics and even karenderya for a toilet break but I just continue. Until we pass another water station on the right side of the road just beside a gasoline station. We decided to take a water break, but I  go straight to the toilet. When I come back Zean and Rica waited for me. So happy to see them.

from Sir Carl's album
We continue having Zean on the lead me at mid and Rica at the back. After the wet market of fresh sea foods I know we are almost there, but ofcourse that did not come soon as well. There are still several intersections we pass. The weather cooperates, some clouds cover the sun making our last stretch of run less irritating to the skin, though I am already totally red, my skin is now bunred. After passing by the intersection of Jollibee and Chowking, I know very well we are almost there, but the tall building of the Golden Orchid Hotel is still not visible. It's really like taking forever to the finish line. When I see the Marcian Hotel, I know we are almost there, until the marker of the finish line is just visible several meters away. Yahoo, finally we are done. 8 hours 35 minutes of running under the heat of the sun.

I am so glad to cross the finish line with my running mates, Zean and Rica, FR finish few minutes ahead of us. The organizer of the race Jonel is also there waiting before we cross the arch of the finish line with Sir Carl. And surprisingly our support Cherrye, Leni, Joji and Claudien are there too. It's just feels great seeing them cheering for us as we cross the finish line.

I survived my first road ultra and finish the run injured free and thankful nothing happened to me despite my condition. Rica did a strong finish too, she is fast  and strong despite this is her very first time to do such long race in that heat and terrain condition. I'd like to commend Zean and FR for staying with our pace despite the fact that both of them can run faster and finish way ahead of us. So thankful.

I'd like to congratulate the Zamboanga Runner's Club and Front Runner, for a successful event. Their constant monitoring on the runners especially on the way back to the finish line really is a big help. Job well done.

Another adventure conquered. 

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