Tuesday, March 13

1st All-Women Ultra Marathon 50K 2012

I never really thought of joining this event, upon seeing the post of  my friend Pie, I did not give it a thought at all. And after that, I see more  update posts on the wall of the race site, I still did not give it a thought either. Though I haven't been able to run in Cebu yet, I can't imagine running 50 kilometer on the city, most of the time that I drop by Cebu before going home to the province, all I remember is how humid the place is. I can imagine the same on the race proper. Obviously, I did not go through the details of the race. Later I found out the race will happen on the evening.

But it was when I saw the finisher shirt and the medal, that I gave it a thought. I think it's nice to have such limited edition shirt, what a bragging shirt to wear someday, I thought. Without reservations I send a message to my friend Merlits Dunkin from Cebu. She said, this will be race like no other aside from the fact that it will be a race just for brave female runners, the race will also happen in the evening. Oh, so this will be an evening run, I thought. 

Hhhmmm....I think I can consider that. And she said, this will be like a party on the street, there will be lots of food on the hydration stations not very far to the next one. And the fee is very  very reasonable. Everything fall into place, Merlits promised to host my stay in the city, how generous of her, I was able to coordinate easily to the organizer for my registration and fee and I was able to get a reasonable plane fare as well. Ok, I'll give this a go even if I just  run an ultra 2 weeks prior to this schedule. 

When the route map was released, I got excited, such a long route indeed. I am not so familiar with Cebu, even if I grew up in the Siquijor and been to Cebu most of the time, I never really come to know the many places, probably because I am always in a hurry every time I am there. So I just look at the piece of paper but it was when Merlits discussed to me about the route that I become anxious. There will be places that it will be totally dark and no houses at all. There will be  an area that it will be dangerous to motorists especially at dawn and there will be stray dogs too. Now I am not just excited but also scared.  But at least I know, this should be something that I should be prepared of.

Hoping for my luck and bringing so much prayers  that God will grant me a safe trip and a safe race, I fly for Cebu early morning of Saturday.  After I settle in my friend's place, I just eat breakfast and sleep. I thought it would be best for me to take a good sleep. I am so scared I might feel sleepy on the race proper. While I doze myself into sleep my friend Merlita who is also running just keep on eating almost the entire day until few hours before the race. Two different ways of preparing for quite a long race. After we get ourselves ready, we head to the starting point of the race an hour before the gun start,  at Ayala Center.

This will be the very first all women ultra race in the history of ultra running in the entire world. What originally was planned to accept just 100 participants, on the final day it reached 178 brave women, almost double to the original target number of runners.

Upon reaching at the starting point, we take our time to take  pictures, this will be our chance to have  a better shot while we are still at our best form. There are already runners around stretching and doing some warm ups. After several more minutes we proceed to the check in area and sign the waiver form ( in my case for I register online). Then all the runners proceed to the starting line for a photo opt just few minutes before the gun start. My strategy on this race, just smile, pace myself, be alert and mindful of where the turn around points are for I do not want to be lost. I also keep in mind my friend's advise about my speed, but I don't think I can push myself that fast, I haven't been running on that speed before. The most important thing for me is to enjoy and run safe, always on the safe side of the road.

As the count down ended and all of us are released for a happy start, I just follow the lead. From Ayala Center, it made a turn heading to Waterfront Lahug, (I don't even know where that is) at first all the runners are at the left side of  a one way traffic road until the road merged  and I am already at the middle of a two way traffic of cars and vehicles. This is kind a weird and scary, I thought. Until a roving marshal lead us to the right side of the road, it leads to a long uphill road. Honestly, I really do not have any idea where will it lead but I just enjoy the uphill. I thought this is just like my Antipolo lsd. As I made my first 5K turn around it is now a down hill slope all the way down. The turn around point already has hydration, food and lots of cheerers too. I just get one banana and proceed enjoying my way down.

After that I really do not know what places we had passed, some parts are dark and besides I am not really familiar with the place and landmarks. It's flat all the way and I just follow where the runners in front of me go. I even lost track of counting how many kilometers I have done already. I just keep on running being mindful of a runner in front of me to make sure that I am on the right route, and not lost. Upon reaching an intersection, I made sure that there is a marshal assisting me. I am just too scared I might be bumped by an upcoming vehicle. There are streets that are totally dark and even if roving marshals and police are around, I still use my headlamp at first holding it on my hand but later on I put it on my head already. After several kilometers, there are aid stations full of water, electrolyte drink, food of your choice like chocolates, cookies, banana, egg, noodles, etc. At first I did not get any food nor water, I am still ok, I just made use of what I have on my hydration belt. But after almost two hours on the race, I really feel I need to go to the rest room. I did not mind it at first, but I really cannot hold it anymore either.  There are no portalets along the route, I have to wait for another either restaurant, fast food chain or gasoline station, that did not happen soon but when I see petron gasoline station even if it's on the opposite side of the road, I negotiated the traffic and just use the rest room. That took me a while as well.  And I resume with my running again. Some runners go ahead of me, sometimes I overtake other runners. I just take my own pace, I know it will still be a long race to the finish line.

As we are done going around the flat area of the city, we make the very first crossing of the new bridge going to Mactan. Climbing the first bridge is just really fun for me. Seeing the city lights from afar, feeling the cold breeze of the wind under the light of the moon is just really amazingly beautiful, I can't help but pull out my camera from the pocket of my hydration belt. I wish for the twinkling of the stars but there was none. The sweat and the effort of making one step forward is just nothing compared to the reward as early as this part of the race.  And the first crossing of the bridge is followed by a second one until the 3rd, the fourth and the fifth. We cross 3 bridges five times at the middle of the night when the city is all asleep.

On my fifth and last crossing of the bridge, I know it will already lead to where the finish line is, but how long will it be I really do not know.  As I turn left a roving marshal on motorcycle said it will only take me 9 more kilometers to reach the finish line and others shouting at us that we are almost there, not bad, that won't be too long anymore, I thought. But as it turn out this portion is just really a long never ending run on a flat road. Though  the road is well lighted some parts are a bit dark before it reaches the next lighted post, and since I am negotiating with the incoming fast vehicles I have to put on my headlamp all the time while running on a very small part of the edge of the road before landing on the side with gravel. There are times motorists are just really fast that I have to be alert and mindful all the time.

The thought of being safe keep me awake even if it's already dawn. After sometime a marshal said it's just another 5 kilometer more, as I go on, one said 200 meters to go and then as I  turn right another 2.5 kilometers, after that I just thought of not counting the distance anymore. I just go on running, I can already feel the pain on my small toe on the right foot and the muscles on  both my legs are already aching. All I can think of is the finish line. And finally, a little passed 5:00am a signal from the first marshal saying run to the next person then turn left, I just can't help but sprint, I just want it to be done. Upon reaching the finish line, it's still dark but the atmosphere is already festive, the announcer has so much energy to say my number my name and I think a lot more, I can't even remember anymore what was it. I like the feeling that everybody is happy upon each runner cross the finish line, and a medal hanged on my neck after.

All I can say, never in my wildest dream will I ever thought of  running on the streets of Cebu at the middle of the night until the wee hours before it gets bright the following day. That was a long but really a fun one. The organizer really did a great job on this event, a very well planned one. Every minute details has been thoroughly think off. The support staffs both roving on bike and motorcycle and those at some specific posts are just very helpful for keeping each and every runner  safe especially on the major intersections and on dark parts of the road. The aid stations has been very kind and patient on consistently asking us what we need as we pass by each one of them and has been very creative on coming up with not the usual running food and other stuffs like watermelon, ice cream n cone, mirror and lipstick (which I thought ' what the'...hehehe), the rose with stem though I thought it could have been nicer if that has been handed to each runner upon entry in the resort but nonetheless I really appreciate it, to name some of that which I find really unique.

The medic team is always ready with their eficasent spray and omega pain ointment. Towards the last 10K stretch those liniments has been very helpful. The photographers on different areas has been a constant reminder for me that I should still smile and feel great for another shot will be taken. I just hope they will post it at the wall of the fb event account on public so that I can grab pictures as well. The finish venue is just really relaxing, spacious enough for all the participants and the support crew.  It's  a perfect place to relax and recover after a long hard run. The endless  supply food is also great, though I cannot eat that much after a race but at least I have something right after more than 7 hours of having no solid food at all. And I love the organizer for waiting each one to finish the race even if it is way beyond the cut off  time.  Truly, it feels great that each participant's effort has been acknowledged even if it has long been the cut off time (coz I saw some races that organizers and support will just leave once the cut off time has passed). And the effort of each volunteer team has been acknowledged as well.

Really, no enough words can thank you all for a wonderful weekend. I congratulate not just to the winners but also to all the finishers, the organizers and  the support crew for a job well done. I gain not just a very memorable experience but also friends. I am thankful that I finish the race injured free and with that I am always grateful to God for giving me the strength to conquer another ultra race.

Congratulations to my friend Merlita and thank you so much for your generosity. It will always be remembered.



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