Saturday, December 22

2012 Taklang Damulag 100 Mile - Pushing Farther

Taklang Damulag 100 miler runners
Photo courtesy of Andre and Paper

It's exactly 20 months ago that I finally got inspired by Arvin Arcilla and Joyce Pacquing to run my very first full marathon. Running longer than 21km for over 7 years was never in my vocabulary. I never thought that very first full marathon started it all and there was never looking back, since then it was not just full marathon that I got hooked into, even much longer distances on a more frequent basis with 110km as the longest. So when a friend mentioned of running Taklang Damulag (TD100) 100 mile, without  second thought I said yes. I do not know how to do it, but I have one thing in mind, I want to test myself how my body will perform on a distance longer than what I had run. 

Two month prior to this race I have been running several ultra races with one multi staged race and a full marathon two weeks prior to this. I know too well that I am not in best shape to do this race. But hoping that my body will fully recover with the two weeks left, I was down with flu with a severe cough and colds. Good thing my condition got better few days before the race. Am I really prepared physically to do this distance? I will never know unless I will try it.

Thanks to BoyP
I cannot think of what particular food I want to eat. Coming from a multi staged race that most of my food were instant noodles, bread and oatmeal, on this race I cannot think exactly what kind of food I want to eat. I know I got to have at least 3 full meal within the race. There will be four aid stations that will definitely serve food but to what kind of food, I also do not know. Grabbing some food from my left over on my Cambodia race and adding some bread, noodles and fruits, I hope that I will leave on each aid station with  sufficient food to sustain me for the next 32 hours. And I am hoping as well that I will be able to catch up the van and Cally for I know she will prepare a good food not just for my two Malaysian friends but also for me. 

At exactly 5:00am on December 15 my adventure on my very first 100 mile race started. I was just on my normal pace on the first few kilometers running side by side with Yob Red as we agreed to run on this race together. The course on this part is  a combination of rolling rough  and paved road, crossing some rivers. I was doing pretty ok traversing several minor ascends and descends. Until few kilometers farther I encouraged Yob to do his own pace, move ahead of me for I know he will perform far better and faster than pacing with me. I still maintain the pace that I am comfortable without noticing that I have passed Bacao and Palali station. On my way to the 27th kilometer (Nazareth Station), Alen already passed by me, checking my time, I am still on schedule. I refill water, drink more soda and eat sweet potato at Nazareth, tried to pee and left 15 minutes earlier than my target time. 

The next 24 kilometers to Fernandez Hill is just like forever. The route is mostly flat paved road along the populated area sometimes passing through the main highway until it enters the trail upon approaching the station. I am now running on my own and I can now feel the heat of the morning sun. This is going to be another very hot race for me. At some point I stop to buy ice cubes hoping this will help  cool my body down. This stretch also starts my longing to stop of a toilet break. I know as early as this part that something is already wrong with my bladder. 

I tried to drink more water but all the more I need to stop and pee. On the less populated area I have to do it  on the side of the road beside the bushes. This is the same situation as I had two months ago, this time may be a bit better  but can there be any better when I can feel my bladder is not functioning well on this 100 mile race. I hope my situation will not get worst but I also do not know how I should make it better aside from drinking lots of water. 

Finally reached the most awaited  Fernandez Hill but more than an hour delayed than my personal target time. I have been longing to have something cold, really cold. I was glad to see Cally for I know she has food for me. I eat a little, drink more soda and go to the toilet again. After replenishing some food, I left for the first small loop. It took me more than 3 hours of complete the loop, more than an hour delayed again from my target time. Upon reaching Fernandez Hill finishing the first loop I see Sir Jonel and Major Ron, they already decided to pull out from the race. Despite my getting slower pace, I did not think of stopping from the race, at least I will be able to finish half of the course. Hoping that it will be easier on the second loop was a big mistake. Still on the ascend part of the second small loop to Taklang Damulag peak, I was already very very very very sleepy. God, I've been wanting to stop and lie down on the trail or at the waiting shed but the thought that I am alone and the thought that there might be a snake or something motivates me to go on. But this was not easy. On the part that there was a hand railing, I just hold and cling into it while my eyes closed. I already used all my tricks to keep me alive and awake yet my eyes just want to close. And to think it is not dark yet, the sun did not set yet, it's not even 5:00pm yet. I know I will be in big trouble going down. Upon reaching the peak, more than asking for water, I asked for a chair where I can lie down and asked the soldiers to wake me up after 5 minutes. I am just too sleepy, very very sleepy. 

In less than 5 minutes Doc Sherwin arrived. He promised to pace with me going down which I gladly joined.  But before we proceed  I asked to stop by the toilet again. Indeed, Doc Sherwin was such a big blessing, I become more alive and did not notice my being sleepy anymore and did not mind my need to stop for a toilet break. I had to concentrate on my pace for Doc Sherwin is really walking a very fast stride. I don't want to be left and walking on this dark trail all by myself. He kept counting on the several river crossings that we have to do, thank goodness to no rain, there was never a cross that we got wet on this part of the course. We arrive Fernandez Hill with 45 minutes to spare to the cut off time of 16 hours. I already see my one and only other lady runner Stephanie at the station decided to pull out from the race as well. Not very encouraging but I just have to go one. The last 6km back to where we started is already forever. I am already tired, exhausted, sleepy, hungry and dehydrated. 

Using my trekking poles I trudged the asphalted and paved road with my eyes closed most of the time, on auto pilot mode. Doc Sherwin was very kind to wait for me at  some point to lessen the gap of the distance between us. At some point I just woke up already off road on the bushes and one time almost fell at the water beside the road. Alen already overtake us. Doc Sherwin still stayed on my side. So many things going on my mind, I wish we will already reach Socom so that I can rest. I also thought of stopping already there, but at the back of my mind this will defeat my very purpose of running this race, running much longer than what I did before. One loop will only give me 83km. Upon reaching the airstrip, I can now see two more lights coming towards our direction. Until I noticed my two pacers meet me. They helped me go through the last few kilometers to finish the first loop of this race. I reached Socom 45 minutes past the cut off time.  Some of the 100 mile runners that pulled out from the race are also at the Nipa Hut resting. I do not know what to think, I do not know how I look. All I know is that I want to have something, I want to eat. I haven't been eating the past few hours. 

Sir Jonel informed us that who ever wants to proceed to the second loop may go even beyond the cut off time. Over a plate of food and a glass of soda with Oresol (hydration salt) prepared by Ronnel Go, I have to think and contemplate, with my condition will I really proceed to the second loop. But thinking that my two pacers traveled all the way here to pace me and they cannot run any distance at all will really break my heart. They did not pressure me to decide, in fact after eating and going again to the toilet they asked me to rest, take a 15 minute sleep which I did. When my 15 minute is over which I am not even sure if I really ever slept at all, I decided to proceed despite the fact that Alen and Doc Sherwin already decided to pull out from the race. 

The second loop is very much different than that of the first loop. It may be cooler now for there is no sun at all  but the trail signs and arrows are just too far apart to locate. And the dogs at the populated areas are just too alert with their duties of guarding their territories. Thanks to the presence of my two pacers, they are just too alert to shoo the dogs away from us. 

My condition did not get any better even without carrying anything anymore, infact it got worst. I pee more often on the road and I started to vomit. I thought I'll take things one station at a time. If  I feel my body can still take the pressure I will move on but if not I will stop on the nearest station. After reaching Bacao station, another one runner decided to stop, we move on. On our way to Palali, I was just too sleepy again. I cannot wait for the next station and beg to sleep on  the next waiting shed, 5 minutes I thought will be enough and we move on. After sometime, my pacers think of a strategy, on flat areas Frantu holds my one hand while Mark pulls my other hand. On ascend parts, Frantu will push my back for me to move a faster pace. Upon reaching Palili I beg to have a longer sleep, 20 minutes. The soldiers were already deep asleep at the hammock which we have to wake them up and ask to vacate one hammock so that I can have a good rest. It's already dawn. 

After 15 minutes, we proceed to Nazareth, another 11 kilometers on the road. My condition did not improve, I thought I can always stop at Nazareth. But upon reaching the station the day already break, I eat a slice of bread from my drop bag and had a hot choco. Washing the bread from the hot choco helped me swallow the food but I did not even finish it. I need to go to the toilet again. I told my pacers, from this point to Fernandez Hill will be another 24km which took me so more than 4 hours to reach the next station. Determined to reach the next station my two pacers wanted to proceed, so we tackle this part already day time. 

So ironic just when it's already bright, at some populated intersections we cannot see any trail signs anymore and I was just too exhausted to think where exactly we pass the day before. My two pacers at times has to search at some junctions before we can proceed. Having been no appetite to eat what ever I have on the hydration pack, I requested for ice candy or ice cream. Mark managed to get a pint of ice cream for me.We stop again at the local restaurant where I stop on the first loop to pee,  now to pee again and get more ice cubes, put all our hydration bladder with enough ice to cool our fluids. At some point I was thinking of getting buko but already no available at the area where we were at. 

Mid morning we are still on the road and already fighting the heat of the sun. We are still giving our best effort though I really cannot run any faster anymore. I already told Mark and Frantu I think I can push myself up to Fernandez Hill but I am not sure if we will have enough time to do the two inner loops. I said I will give my best shot at Fernandez Hill the station that will serve as my finish line, which I did, reach the station at exactly 12:00noon. Been on the field for 31 hours on a 134km distance. I am very much happy with what I accomplished. Of course I want very much to finish the 100 mile race, my mind is very much willing to do it, to push further but my body just cannot push much longer and much faster. 

I went back to SOCOM with a happy face. I may not have the buckle and the trophy, I may be at my worst physical condition, exhausted, wasted, tired and dehydrated, but at least I know now how it is to be running a longer distance. I bring with me so much lessons that I can learn on my next 100 mile distance. I finish a distance far longer than I thought I can. And I am so happy for that. I congratulate all the runners who were brave enough to stand at the starting line, I salute all the finishers for a strong finish. You all inspire me to keep on dreaming running a longer distance. I also thank the people around me who inspire me to do this race.  Thank you to Sir Jovie and the rest of his crew for a great job. I will be back next year with a hope to be a little wiser by then. 

A note to self:
1. Never ever run several ultra races less than a month prior to the a 100 mile race. Rest and recover and recover well. 
2. Have a good sleep several nights prior to the race. 
3. Plan my nutrition well and force oneself to eat. 
4. Drink plenty of water and lessen intake of soda. 
5. Improve my speed for the next 100 mile race. 
6. Pacer is a big help, never hesitate to get one.

It's been a great year 2012 of running for me, a year of exploring new horizons, racing longer distances, going to new places and making new friends. I end my year with 18 races from full marathon and beyond not counting the shorter distances:  4 full marathons, 4 100km distance, 7 between 50-80km distance, 2 more than 100km distance and 1 multi staged race.

I may have ups and downs, but there is one thing I am always grateful of, I meet lots of great people along the way, some of them leave a mark in my heart, some them become my new found family. Happy holidays to all.

TD100 2012 Photos
The Map 
Another Map

1 comment:

  1. May be overly used, but truly inspiring, Cheryl. You've come a long way, and you've done really well. Everyone would be proud of you, especially me.

    New heights await in 2013. Go for them, Cheryl.