First 50 Days of BaBAe

It’s time to move on from my DNF (did not finish) in last year’s Clark-Miyamit 50 Miles (CM50) Trail Ultramarathon. I informed the race marshals that I’m done at Km50. I started ill, and my condition got worse during the race. Coming back to Cebu, I was diagnosed with pneumonia. I made it a point, together with my wife Espie, to rest and regain my health before I’ll go back running. I thanked GOD that I was able to make my comeback exercise last Feb 1, a short 5km trail run at the back of our office.

My DNF experience was a learning one, too. I figured I have to train not just harder but smarter, as well. It’s good that I have my Cebu Trail Runner friends who gave me all sorts of advice and encouragement, most notably our “elders” (joke!) Meyux and Lyra.

I also learned that I should not rush in regaining my fitness level, that it’s better to slowly build your strength, speed and endurance. I’ve read about the importance of base building, about working out at aerobic heart rate only, about slowly building those mileage, etc. So I thought my running year should start with this kind of phase, thus the formulation of BaBAe (Base Building-Aerobic) for 100 days starting Feb 29.

BaBAe’s objective is simple and realistic, considering my busy schedule at work. The first 50 days should compose of controlling the heart rate at 135-150 bpm (beats per minute) only, never minding the pace at all, then reaching at least 40km of running/hiking per week (with long runs at only 16-21 km), combined with climbing at least 5,000 feet elevation gain. In doing so, I got the chance to explore more the trails of Liloan and Consolacion.

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Hiking with Jennet & my wife Espie in Tilhaong, Consolacion.

The second 50 days should still be at 135-150 bpmย heart rate, but upping the distance to 50km per week (with long runs at 21-25km), combined with climbing at least 6,500 feet elevation gain. Other activities would also be incorporated like mountain biking, strength training and yoga.

Today is my 50th day of BaBAe and I decided to summarize what I’ve done so far. By the way, in terms of fitness level, I already felt a lot of improvement from my sick self three (3) months ago. My weight has gone down from 91kg to 89kg, my heart rate is now more stable, my strength is coming back, and my endurance is improving. Here’s my short summary:

No. of workout days: 32 days

Total distance: 303 kilometers

Total elevation gain: 30,009 feet

Total time: 55 hours 22 minutes

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Single track trails in Tabla, Liloan. (photo by Bruce Lambatan)

At this point, I still haven’t enlisted to any trail race. I want to join the Argao Highland Endurance Trail Run 25K this May 15. I haven’t run this event yet but I’ve seen the race pictures on Facebook. I thought it’s a fun and exciting route.

GOD willing, my ultimate goal this year is to go back to CM50 this November. I’m hoping and praying and preparing that I’ll be a better version of my trail running self come race day so that I can finish it. Until then, I’ll see you on the trails. GOD bless everyone!

My MF42 Story (Part 2 of 2): Km26 to Finish Line

Having pulled through with what seemed to be a DNF (Did Not Finish) situation for me in the first half of my MF42 2015, my heart was filled with thanksgiving when there’s no more trace of stomach pain from Km12 onwards. At this point, I still have 16 kilometers more to tread, starting with the downhill single track to Miyamit Falls, which is more or less two (2) kilometers from AS3. I figured I still have a chance of finishing below eight (8) hours, which is my original target for this race.

The descending path to Miyamit Falls was quite steep, narrow and slippery. These kind of terrain has been my Achilles’ heel in all my trail runs that it slows me down every time because I’m quite heavy, I don’t possess a good balance and have this fear of falling. But alas, my footwear is holding up my 87-kilogram frame quite well! I recently got a Salomon S-Lab Sense 3 Ultra SG and it proved that its deep lugs can withstand those steep, narrow and slippery trails despite my weight, giving me the confidence to run downhill with lesser worries. Also playing a big role in lessening my concerns on the mountains are my Ahon Gaiters, which really prevented those small pebbles, mud and dirt from entering my shoes all throughout. I got zero blisters when I’m done with the race.

Got my second ribbon at the second turning point (Km28) after 5hrs52mins as I stand in awe at the majestic Miyamit Falls. I’m blessed to witness the twin falls in its full force, the current rushing with gusto, probably because of the non-stop rain brought about by the typhoon that hit the area during the week. The cold water was so inviting that I’d dipped myself and relax for a while, spending about 15 minutes refreshing myself as I prepared for the final stretch. It’s also a plus that a few of the trail masters – Ahon head honchos Atty. Aldean Lim and Ronald Declarador, and Ms. Majo Liao, were marshaling at Km28-Miyamit Falls. I didn’t let the chance slip away without taking pictures with them!

Three-fie at Miyamit Falls with the Ahon head honchos, Ronald & Aldean. (Photo by Ronald Declarador)
Three-fie at Miyamit Falls with the Ahon head honchos, Ronald & Aldean. (Photo by Ronald Declarador)

The most difficult part of the route, for me, was actually the uphill back to AS3 from the falls. It’s like you suddenly become very lazy after an invigorating bath on the waterfalls. It took me about 30 minutes to climb back to AS3, where I had another round of bread and Nutella, haha!

One of the fastest Filipina trail runners, Ms. Majo Liao.
One of the fastest Filipina trail runners, Ms. Majo Liao.

It was mostly downhill from thereon, including a slippery portion somewhere between AS2 and AS1, where some rocks are covered with moss. My legs and knees felt comfortable in running the downhills, which surprised me because I usually felt pain and fatigue on my previous races if the last portion is downhill. Maybe I would credit it to the strengthening exercises I’ve done religiously at least once a week for my core, hips and legs.

Arriving back at AS1 (Km39) after 7hrs50mins, I knew my sub-8hrs dream is not anymore achievable. But that’s ok, I would be able to finish the race when hours earlier I was considering DNF. Whereas I was running comfortably to complete this marathon, I underestimated that there’s still this one (1) kilometer stretch of uphill towards the Alviera grounds and into the finish line. The weather also became very hot at this point. It seemed like the longest kilometer as I power hiked this segment while pouring water on my head every now and then.

Finally, I crossed the finish line with the RD congratulating me and announcing my racebib number 4019! As of this writing, I’m still awaiting for the official results to be posted but as per my GPS watch, Based on official results, I completed the course after 8hrs20mins2secs, 50th overall (43rd male) out of 91 finishers within the cutoff time. As recorded by Garmin, I ran 42km with 2,200m elevation gain. It was another humbling and learning experience for me, and I achieved my purpose – which is to acclimatize with the route. I’m grateful to our Lord for giving me the opportunity to see His handwork – the beautiful mountains and waterfalls – and to meet new friends! In fact, some of the veteran trail ultramararathon runners like Mark Tibo-oc and Ian gave me a lot of CM50 pointers after the race. I’ll keep in mind guys everything that you’ve said. Thank you very much and see you in November!

My MF42 memorabilia.
My MF42 memorabilia.

My congratulations to Atty. Jon for a successful event, and my gratitude and salute to all the marshals, volunteers and armed men on duty for keeping us safe, well fed (Nutella!) and hydrated all throughout the event. This is one trail marathon I would surely recommend to all my running friends in Cebu!

Can I just stay here and not finish the race? (Photo by Ronald Declarador)
Can I just stay here and not finish the race? (Photo by Ronald Declarador)

My MF42 Story (Part 1 of 2): Km0 to Km26

A bunch of Cebu Trail Runners (CTR) decided to join the Clark-Miyamit Falls Trail Ultramarathon 50 Miles (CM50) in Pampanga this November, and I thought I’d hop in as well. Dubbed as one of the most, if not the most, difficult 50-mile trail race in the Philippines, I figured having some fellow “bisdaks” preparing and running by your side (in principle, most of the time, because I usually train alone) will add extra boost and confidence on our part. In most of my races, especially trail, I would try to make some sort of reconnaissance to get a feel on running the route. Thus, I chose to join the Miyamit Falls Trail Marathon (MF42) last Oct 4 2015, which is part of the CM50 Trail Race Series. I inserted the event to become part of my training.

I rode the Shuttle’s Best van from Quezon City and arrived at the starting line in Alviera, Porac, Pampanga at around 2:30am. The race will start at 5:30am. During those three (3) hours, I made sure I get some sleep, visited the comfort room, claimed my race kit, prepared my gears and socialize with the other runners. I went there knowing nobody, but went home gaining many friends – the beauty of ultramarathons!

That mandatory(?) gears picture before every race.
That mandatory(?) gears picture before every race.

A short race briefing was given by the Race Director (RD) Atty. Jon Lacanlale, sighting that because of the typhoon that hit the area during the week, the course is expected to be slippery with some portion soak in rain for days, and that the cut-off time is extended by an hour (11 hours for 42km) because of it.

MF42 runners at the starting line. (Photo grabbed from CM50 FB page)
MF42 runners at the starting line. (Photo grabbed from CM Trail Races FB page)

I started the race at a comfortable running pace, around 7:00/km, hydrating myself after a mile as I passed by the bridge crossing Sapang Uwak. My hydration plan is to drink water after every mile or 15 minutes, whichever comes first, and occasionally gulp some drinks familiar to me in the aid stations. I also brought about 100ml of Intra Juice, half is to be consumed at the peak (Km19), and half after climbing back from Miyamit Falls (Km30). I reached AS1-Km3 after 23mins and ate some watermelon there, before proceeding to climb the steep rocky portion.

The steep rocky uphill portion after AS1. (Photo grabbed from CM Trail Races FB page)
The steep rocky uphill portion after AS1. (Photo grabbed from CM Trail Races FB page)

An hour has passed since gun start and my stomach began to feel weird. We passed by some Aeta homes and I asked if they have a comfort room I can use (so stupid and ignorant of me to ask), and of course, they would reply they have none. They pointed me, instead, to an area across their homes with tall grasses. So before I reach AS2-Km7, I’d unload on the bushes. Good thing, I always bring wet wipes, dry tissue and alcohol as my sanitary kit when trail running. I’d gulp a GU Gel afterwards. My nutrition plan is to alternately take a GU Gel or eat a Nature Valley granola bar every hour, and occasionally eat some food familiar to me on aid stations.

But my stomach never got better. In fact, it grew more painful. I began to wonder if it’s the Jollibee spaghetti that I ate before traveling to Pampanga, or was it the lechon that I brought and shared dinner with my Tita Susan and cousin Allan in their Quezon City home where I stayed, or was it the snacks I took at the bus station. I was currently on a muddy and uphill section around Km10 when I can’t bear the pain anymore and had to unload for the second time. The problem is there’s no bushes to hide because this portion is a side-of-the-mountain trail, where the left side is cliff-like and the right side is wall-like. I looked behind and saw no runner near, so I quickly unload beside the trail and cleaned myself up. I’m beginning to feel weak at this point.

To make matters worse, about 500 meters before AS3-Km12, I’d discharge again, this time back in the bushes. I’d use up all of my sanitary kit and felt deficient while walking towards AS3. I asked the marshals if they have medicine, but unfortunately, they have none. I requested for some liniment instead and rubbed it on my stomach. I sat down and thought about discontinuing from the race after running 12 kilometers in 2hrs30mins. I felt sick and dehydrated already. I prayed and asked God to guide me in making my decision.

MF42 Aid Station 3. See those Nutella? (Photo by CJ Paran)
MF42 Aid Station 3. See those Nutella? (Photo by CJ Paran)

Then a fellow runner, Ian Pabatao, who’s running with Lex Cusay, gave me his Loperamide. I met both of them earlier because we rode the same shuttle van. I overtook them at about Km8 and informed them about the stomach pain I’m experiencing. I went ahead of them, but they reached AS3 first. When Ian saw me, he jokingly hinted that I did something back there in the bushes, to which I acknowledged and told him my circumstance. I took the medicine and continued resting while they proceeded. After about 20mins, I felt better and started to feel hungry. I drank Gatorade and ate some bread and Nutella (yes, Nutella!) from AS3. I sensed some energy back in my body, and before I knew it, I’m ready to go! The Lord sent Good Samaritans and His message to me was very clear, “Don’t quit! Go and finish the race!”.

The Good Samaritans, Ian Pabatao and Lex Cusay, at Miyamit Falls. (Photo by Lex Cusay)
The Good Samaritans, Ian Pabatao and Lex Cusay, at Miyamit Falls. (Photo by Lex Cusay)

The next seven (7) kilometers was an uphill assault on single track towards the peak, which is near the caldera of Mt. Pinatubo and the highest point of the route at 1,079mASL according to Garmin. The peak is the first turning point. There are no aid or water station along this portion, so I loaded up my three (3) water bottles before tackling the climb. I got my first ribbon after exactly four (4) hours, becoming the 74th runner to reach the peak.

Going back to AS3, I had my very first encounter with a snake in all my trail runs. A black snake, about the size of my thumb and about 3 feet long, crawled fast along the trails and into the bushes. I just observed it from a distance, then ran away from it. I made it back to AS3 (Km26) after 5hrs30mins. I ate another round of bread and Nutella and drank Mountain Dew before going down to the second turning point, which is the Miyamit Falls.

Please click here for the continuation of my MF42 story…

Fight the good fight. Finish the race. Keep the faith.