Monday, August 20

I Shall Return: An Intense 51K Ultramarathon Challenge 2012

"It's more fun in Tacloban." A phrase I heard from my friend Merlita A. Dunkin when we finally get a room where we can stay the night before the race. It was a last minute decision that I will stay with her for the night, and I am glad I did, it was just fun having her, though we have to sleep early, still we were able to update things about each other.

As our alarm finally ring, we need to prepare and leave the hotel, we just did a warm up jog to the starting line really excited. There were already runners around, some familiar faces. My friends from Manila were not around yet. We just did our usual routin: after check in, did minor stretching and taking pictures here and there. I stand at the starting line hoping that everything will turn out fine with me this day. I miss  last night's briefing and I only had one look at the race map, I did not even study it well, so I decided to  carry a copy  incase I will need it but really I hope I will not open it along the race.

Come 4:00am, all the runners are finally released. It's still dark, but despite the early start with the road open to motorists, there are several things I have in mind to be careful of on this race: not to miss any turn which might result  to being lost, not to be hit by any running vehicle, no injured legs, knees or ankle due to any uneven part of the road or ground or the  gutter of the road and most of all not be bitten by any stray dogs. I put on my headlamp with the hope that the incoming traffic will notice me at the same time I will make sure I will land on even surface of the road. There are parts of the road  that are dark even still inside the streets of the city proper. I started my run just  concentrating on my pace, more often than not there are more runners that catch after me, I pass by other runners but just really very few of them. My motivation at this time is minor goal of catching up a runner infront of me, most of the time I did, sometimes I did not.

As the day breaks, it is evident that this day is going to be a very hot day for all of us. We have been reminded by the Race Director before we were released to constantly hydrate, which I did. After almost two hours on the road, I finally decided to bring out some  jelly beans, I know very well I already need food. Some runners especially from the same region had support vehicles but there are also runners like us  who do not have any support vehicle at all and just rely on aid stations and on grocery stores that we will pass along the route and ofcourse our own provision of food and water that we can carry on the entire course. On this race, there are only two aid stations that are far apart. Without me noticing of the distance after more than 2 hours of running I finally come across the first aid station. Been thinking if I will drop by and get something as I am approaching the area, but I finally I decided to slow down, and grab some food. I still have water,  though after this stretch I keep on thinking about not getting some cold drinks or at least wetting my head and buff as it gets hotter after this mark. I grab as much food as I can, fresh banana, hard boiled egg, and puto. These foods sustain me until the next aid station.

As I go further, it's just really getting hotter and the main highway is now getting  busier with the passing of big trucks, big buses, tricycles, motorcycles and even bicycles. I just have to be very extra careful running, making sure that I am on the safe side of the road. The course of the race is just totally flat, no variation at all. With the green scenery and a smell of the grass that is wet from the evening dew, I just really enjoy my run. Most of  the time I still imagine the beautiful scenery of the mountain ranges from the most recent trip that I had with the good memories in mind. That has been my very inspiration on this run, happy thoughts, happy memories on this long hot run.

Signages of San Juanico Bridge has been visible after several hours on the road, until I reach an intersection that has the second aid station. Here I meet my friend Merlita. She just finish the bridge part and on her way to the gulf course section. She reminds me to hydrate, replenish cold water on my bottle and eat more food for it is just really very very hot on the bridge. It's not even past 8:00am yet. After having enough water and pouring some ice chilled water on my head,  my face,  arms and body, I proceed to the bridge. The sun is just shining to its brightest even if it's still an early part of the day. On my way up to the bridge I already meet runners going down. I can feel the heat but the view of the bridge that connects two provinces with the background of the blue sea below and blue skies above is just spectacular sight to enjoy its beauty. Truly, the heat of the place  is being compensated by its beauty. Thank goodness, the turn around point is not that far than I thought it will be though I already condition myself that this is going to be a two kilometer distance. On my way back, there are more runners coming, I just continue, enjoying the splendid beauty of the place but missing the view of the big jelly fish below.

On my way back to the aid station before going to the uphill 3 kilometer golf course, I decided to hydrate again, at this time I decided to use my buff as holder of ice cubes provided on the station. After getting food enough that my one hand can carry, I pour water again on my body from head to toe, now my both feet, socks and shoes wet, bringing the ice cubes inside my buff I decided to tackle this another hot uphill course of the race. With the ice cubes on my head, it really helps cool me down. I just concentrate on my pace  but on some parts I just cannot make any slow stride run anymore so I applied the alternate 50 steps of walking and 50 steps of running. It is an effective strategy  for me, and as we ascend to the slope of the golf course, I can't help but really walk already but I still manage to catch up with other runners. On my way down, I did some slow pace of running again until I come back to the aid station. My strategy on the ice cubes is just really really  very helpful so I replenish my buff with ice cubes again, eat food while hydrating, pouring ice chilled water on my body and replenishing my bottles, and carry as much food as my hand can.

I have 12 more kilometers to tackle, that's what the others said. I really did not keep track of the distance that I covered but rather I want this race to be done for its really getting hot. After replenishing all that I need, I left for the final stretch. I noticed the road there after is a bit cooler compared to the two stretched of uphills on the bridge and the golf course, probably due to the shade from the houses, trees and buildings help. I stay on one side against the traffic, but despite my being at the edge of the road already, there are times I just had to go down on the rough road side, being side swiped by big trucks and buses would be very possible. At times I noticed my steps are not so stable anymore and I wable a bit my ankle and knees as I negotiate to step forward. I know I am already tired but I also cannot afford to be injured at this time. Concentrating on my steps, I just continue running on small slow strides. I am already tired and I really cannot run any faster anymore. Even before reaching the very last aid station, my ice cubes inside my buff that I put above my head all are melted and gone. So I just hope the station will not be that far for I am already struggling under the scorching heat of the sun. There are times I meet vendors of ice cream and buko but because I do not want to stop and dig on my belt pocket for a money, I let go of the thought of buying ice cream or buko juice but the thought of having one keeps on bothering me until I cross the finish line.

Finally, I arrive the last station and my hope of supply of ice cubes, ice chilled water and food are still available. I replenish all my supply again, at this time making sure that I have enough ice cubes on my buff, get more food and pour water again. We are now going to tackle the very last 4 kilometer stretch of this race. But this is going to be at the city proper, I have to make sure of the right route at the same time be extra careful with the very busy traffic. True enough, the turn is just confusing, thanks to the help of the other runners in front and behind me and  of others'  support vehicle who keep on guiding me. That was a very big help as I manage to get out of this last stretch of maze under the scorching heat of the sun. As I pass by the Provincial Capitol, I thought where is the statue of Mac Arthur? I guess I miss that part. The last few kilometers is just like forever, until I pass by a runner who has long been done just waiting for a fellow runner. He has ice candy with him, without hesitation I asked for it. He said it's just 500 meters more and it's going to be done.

Yahoo, my desire to reach  the finish line grows stronger as  I can now feel the heat on my entire body and I know I got tan lines already. As I turn, I can now hear the sound system with the Race Director announcing the names that cross the finish line, at 10 am 35 minutes I officially cross the finish line. I managed to improve my pace much faster than my previous race of the same distance on the road. The real challenge for me on this race is the blistering heat of the sun and safety from the vehicles. For others they call this race a fun run, for my friend Mayette who cross the finish line with one minute to spare before the cut off time she calls it a dying run for she almost fainted after finishing the race. As for me,  I am glad I finish the race safe and healthy. It's great seeing running friends around and I am glad I meet new friends along the way. Salute to all runners who take the  courage to run this race and congratulations to all who finish the run. Congratulations to my friend and inspiration on the road and trail Merlita,  for despite her no training prior to this run, she managed to place third on the Women's category. Truly she is an inspiration.  Congratulations to my lady friends as well, to  Rica, Kat and Mayette, another ultra conquered, such a job well done. Such a women power for us. Congratulations also to the organizer for a job well done. The support on the aid stations are just superb, it helps a lot get us through the blistering heat of the sun.

Indeed, it was a run with so much fun under the intense heat of the sun. Another ultra conquered, another mileage added. Til the next ultra adventure on the road or on the trail. Keep smiling, no whining.

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