Wednesday, September 19

PAU National Championship 2012: A Test of My Patience

Philippine Association of Ultrarunners' (PAU) National Championship, my very first over a hundred kilometer road race. I come to this run with two goals in mind: to be at the starting line no matter what happens and to have dinner with Rica Mendoza on the second night after the race. In between that, I am sure I am still on the road trying to drag myself to finish the race within my target time. Recovering from a flu and a sore legs from a weekend's unavoidable major leg work out, I am not sure how I will really perform on this race. 

I know too well that it is going to be a 110km distance, a distance I have been wanting to test how my body will perform, a race I have been longing to join for I wanted to increase the distance that I will cover on a race.  But this will be  my very first over a 100km on a road as well, my past 4 100km races were all trail.  And what made things more challenging on this race aside from my physical state was the fact that we have to be self contained, not sure  which part of the course will there be an aid station or a sari-sari store and with no support vehicle we decided to carry a full hydration pack, mine weighs 4 kgs before the start of the race when it is still dry. 

We left Manila a day before the race with a typhoon, we arrived at the Island of Guimaras with a continues rain. The sea is rough, the road is wet, the entire day is cloudy and gloomy. After we settled at our foster family's home, we picked up our race bib.

An hour before the gun start, together with the other 45 runners for the 110km  and 35 runners for the 50km  we gather at the starting line really excited. It's always  great to see familiar faces of ultra runners around. Just before we were released for a start, a heavy downpour of rain again. So as we started running 10 minutes before the time I am already wet up to my shoes. Even if we are still on the streets of the town early part  of  the race, it is already pitch dark all over. Very minimal street lights, houses are far apart from each other. It is only the light from our headlamps that one can see illuminates  infront of us. From cemented road, it leads to a hardened limestone road, rough road then to a mud road. The first three hours I was with 50km runner Mish Maravilla and Wesley Noel OraƱa. Maintaining my pace, we are together in the flat, uphill, downhill pitch dark part of the road. Until I realized, I have to slow down for I will be doing more than a hundred km as compared to them that will be doing just 50km. 

I move further on the dark part of the road alone, surprisingly there are aid stations available every after 10km and a roving aid station too. I can feel the weight of my load but I cannot do anything about it as well. I need it for me to survive on the race. 

As the day breaks I covered more than 40km already, I long to reach the 50km mark. I maintained a steady pace alone on the road, there are times other  runners  catch up with me and times  I catch up with other runners too. As I patiently move further, I finally see part of the road where there are more vehicles, finally the 50km mark. I reach the place almost 7am, with out resting my legs, I just replenish food and drinks and leave. 

50km done. The next more than 30km is a road with rice paddies on both sides. The scenery of the countryside is just so beautiful. They day is still gloomy, the sun comes out for just a very short time. After sometime, my stomach is already looking for real food, rice and any viand. Unfortunately, this stretch of the road since it's all  farm land, has less community so no karenderya too. I have to wait for a while before I can satisfy my craving for real food. Despite the gloomy weather, I was already thinking of ice cream, halo halo or even ice candy. But to no avail. 

And this part of the course is just really taking forever, I love the scenery of the rice paddies but at this time I just really wish this part will be over. I just wish after the hilly part will be an end of the rice paddies down there. But that did not happen soon. I really have to deal with it for some time. 

Being on the road for more than 11 hours now, I can already feel some pain on my legs, Alaxan has become my best friend from this time on. I can feel the weight of my pack now slowing my pace. I walk not just on flat parts but all the more on uphill part of the road. This starts to frustrate me for this is not how I perform on my other races. Until I catch up with Al R. Casas a little almost 70km. I was surprised for I know he is far ahead of me. From then on we become partners on the road. He calculates the overall distance that we need to tackle, while I take joy of few more kilometers to the next municipality. 

Both of us celebrate with joy in every kilometer of mileage covered. The last few kilometers, a support vehicle of other runners offered to take our pack and just bring a hydration bottle. Such a great difference. We can now run faster but as we move further with  sore legs we just have to settle on a combination of run walk run strategy. Our very goal now is just to cross the finish line still bright and injured free. I thank Al for patiently reminding me to just slow down, not to force myself to do a faster pace on a sore and aching legs. I started to become impatient to myself. 

The last 5km is just taking forever. With now blistered feet, it's just too painful to step on an uneven asphalted road. Those pointed pebbles on the road is just not very friendly to my blistered feet. I've been longing to see the very few establishments in the town, the very sign that we are almost to the finish line. 

Finally, past 4pm, the most awaited road signs in town is now visible. Al asked me to cross ahead then he followed at the back. I thank Al for patiently pacing with me, I thank him for being there when I was sooooo sleepy on the road, when I was soooo hungry, for reminding me to stop for few minutes and rest my legs, something that I could have not done when alone on the road. I thank Sir Jonel for offering his support vehicle to us, that was such a great help, I thank my team for a fun filled crazy weekend on the running oval of  Guimaras. I thank my friends and loved ones for all the prayers and well wishes, all of it means a lot to me. Most of all I thank God for giving me the strength to cross the finish line with a great smile. Salute to all the brave souls who dared to start and finish the race. Salute to Yob Red for finishing overall 7th place, to Al R. Casas for persistently pacing with me, to Andrew Alcedo and Kuya Roger Villareal for finishing the race, to Alen Alban, you prove that everything is a mind game, to Bernard, this will be the start of the many ultras and most especially to my partner in this crazy runs Rica Mendoza, you are one tough lady out there. You showed to us that everything can be done no matter what the situation is. Til the next ultra race guys. 

Another race conquered, another mileage added. Next stop will be SG100km race.

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