Just this week, I got a notification from WordPress that it’s my second anniversary. How fitting that after two years, my blog would be about my very first 75-kilometer ultra marathon experience! Yes, I managed to finish the 1st Camotes Island Ultramarathon last May 19 2013! And here’s how it went:
Before The Race
May 18 2013. The event will start at 10pm in Santiago White Beach Resort. I arrived at the venue about 2:30pm, together with G6 teammates Carmelo Ouano & Mel Masota, and fellow ultrarunners Jean Dalumpines, Allan Delantar and Wilmer Mondigo. Carmelo provided us a free ride from Metro Cebu to Danao City, where we took the 12noon trip to Camotes Island via Jomalia Shipping.
We ate dinner at 4:30pm, then rested (well, more on chatting while lying down) for a while in a rented room nearby. All of them, except me & Carmelo, came from Bohol 50-50 Sundown Ultramarathon last month, and yeah, they have a handful, wait, more than a handful, of experiences to share!
At 9:30pm we were all at the starting line, warming up while listening to the race briefing. Although it’s a starry night, it was still very dark and it would be my first time running through this kind of enigma. But I’m comforted by the prayer of King David in Psalms 23 which he declared:
“The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: He leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: He leadeth me in the path of righteousness for His name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for Thou art with me; Thy rod and Thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: Thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.”
It was also my first time to carry a big belt bag during a race. I thought everything inside my belt bag were essential to sustain my longest travel on foot, so far.
The First 21km: Alone In The Dark
The race started exactly 10pm. A few meters away from the starting point and it’s almost pitch-black. We passed by a few houses with lights on. It’s impossible to see the road without a headlamp or flashlight. I paced with Carmelo using the 1.8 km run – 200 meters walk intervals. For a moment we were side by side each other until I noticed I’m running alone. Carmelo opted to take it easy and join the ‘partey-partey’ group of Mel, Jean, Allan and other runners. From Km7 to Km21 I am running alone, although I passed by some runners. Despite running on my own, I enjoyed the darkness coupled with the sound of the waves and the cool air splashing on my face. You see, we were practically running on a coastal road. I clocked 2 hours 56 minutes.
Km22 to Km29: From Solo To Quartet
In between Km22 and Km23, I noticed the power walking duo of Wilmer and Ariel Pellejera a.k.a. ‘Vahn Helsing’. Their power walk pace is the same as the average pace of my intervals. We repeatedly passed by each other during that span. I got curious because I know they were spending less energy and still covered the same distance that I have, so I decided to join them. Then, Joseph Delima caught up with us and we instantly became a group of four (4) power walkers! All of us didn’t have previous acquaintances, well maybe only in Facebook, but we bonded like we’ve known each other for so long! That’s the beauty of ultramarathons! Time check: 4 hours 24 minutes.
Km30 to Km39: No More Belt Bag
The belt bag provided all the nutrition and supplies I needed, but at the same time I became more and more uncomfortable with it as I grew tired of traveling on foot. I never really had the chance to train with it, having bought it just a few days before this event, which proved to be a big mistake! I kept tightening the belt bag around my waist so that it will not move. The more I tighten, the more I am squeezing my stomach, which eventually caused pain. Upon reaching Km30, I decided to drop the bag to the mobile support station and go on with my handheld hydration bottle only. I felt lighter, but the stomach pain still won’t go away! A few meters of running and the pain became unbearable that I prompted for a potty break. Good thing I just refilled my water bottle so I was able to clean myself up! Wilmer, Vahn and Joseph were kind enough to wait while I disengaged myself with some unwanted burden, hahaha! They were also kind enough to offer me a portion of their hydration after I used up mine.
From thereon, I felt much better. The group also decided to change strategies and use the 9 minute – 1 minute run-walk intervals so that we’ll be warming up and sweating to counter the cool breeze and the feeling of sleepiness. What do you expect?! It’s 3 a.m.! Joseph turned on his music about this time, so it helps! Running time: 6 hours 13 minutes.
Km40 to Km50: Water Please!!!
Approaching Km40, our hydration were almost used up but it’s okay because we’re expecting to bump into the mobile support anytime soon. During the race briefing it was mentioned that the two (2) mobile support stations will be situated every 10km, or every 5km if the distance between the runners are not far from each other. My Garmin FR405 beeped 41 km but still there was no mobile support in sight! We thought maybe the distance between the runners are now far, resulting into this situation. Upon seeing a ‘lantay’, a long platform made of bamboo, we decided to rest and recharge ourselves for about 10 minutes. Joseph offered his liniment and I rubbed it on my legs and feet, easing some fatigue and weariness.
We continued our journey, even though some of us have zero water already. We were worried because it’s still 4 a.m. and the stores in a quiet island like Camotes usually open at past 5 a.m. We walked the uphills and ran the downhills, until we chanced upon the support vehicle of one of the runners, Joy Grimard. We never hesitated to shout and ask for water and they obliged by stopping and gave us Gatorades because they also ran out of water, but it’s alright! For us, it’s a tremendous relief!
At Km44, the official mobile support finally passed our way and we were able to refill our nutrition and hydration! We continued running and walking, experimenting on different intervals, until we arrived at an open store. We drank softdrinks while Vahn gulped coffee, conditioning ourselves for the final stretch, which will be under the heat of the sun. We hit 50km after 8 hours 8 minutes and it’s already 6 a.m.! Garmin FR405 also ran out of battery at this time, and my mobile charger just won’t work on a fully depleted battery, one of the many ‘you should try it on training first’ lessons that I have!
Km 51 to Km 56: Hot On The Mangroves
This is the first of the two most difficult parts of the route for me. It will pass through the Poro-San Francisco Mangrove Highway under the heat of the sun. The stretch is a 2km straight road with no trees for shade, just mangroves foresting the sides of the concrete pavement. We actually passed by the stretch earlier in the route, but it’s during night time. Joseph came up with the idea of run-walk intervals for every electric post we passed by, which is about 200-300 meters interlude. It helped us because it took out our focus on the heat and just move forward using the ‘electric post approach’! Good job, Joseph! At this point also, the sole of my feet started to hurt because of the continuous pounding on the road, which is mostly asphalted with some rocky, uncemented portion. But thank GOD, I was able to counter the discomfort by running on grass on the sides of the road! Time check: 9 hours 49 minutes.
Km 57 to Km 67: From Quartet To Duo, Then Reunited
After surviving the dreaded Mangrove Highway, I thought I spent a big chunk of my energy. After all, this is already the most prolonged that I’ve gone on foot so far. My previous longest was 50km via my first ultramarathon last year. Aside from that, it was getting hotter and hotter! Wilmer and Joseph maintained their pace, while Vahn and I saw a ‘lantay’ that is tempting us to sit and rest. So we gave in, and I almost reclined on my back but was prevented by Vahn because I might fall asleep!
Vahn started moving and I followed shortly. I followed his lead of running the roads without shade, and walking if shaded. Soon, we caught up with Wilmer and Joseph again, and we continued with the intervals of running the roads without shade and walking if there’s some shade from the trees. We continued with running and walking, then resting to wait for the others, until we reach the final turn, which had a road sign stating ‘Santiago 8km’ to the left. Time elapsed: 11 hours 42 minutes.
The Last 8 Km: The Longest 8 Km Of My Life!
Wilmer encouraged everyone that nobody moved ahead of us since Km 40, and that it looked like we’re part of the Top 20! The guys were indeed fired up and they sped away! Except for me! Yes, his words are truly encouraging but at the same time, I think I hit the dreaded ‘wall’! Almost 12 hours of traveling on foot and my mind became so disorganized that I had to stop by a store and gather myself. It helped that the store owner kept on asking questions, engaging me into a conversation, and I realized that quitting is never an option for me! Truly, GOD send angels, especially in our most difficult times!
If I can’t run, I will just walk the long, straight, hot road, all 8 kilometers of it! This is the second of the two most difficult parts of the route for me! I walked for 5km non-stop, almost crying at some point, even passing through a tempting ‘lantay’ again but I did not yield this time. Patrick Manulat overtook me during this time. Then I felt some cramps creeping on my right thigh that I stopped for a while. Two more runners, Dondon Ypil and Boyet Casas, overtook me and encouraged me that the finish line is very near!
I stood up, prayed, then walked for a few minutes before running again. I counted my steps just to distract me, and soon, I realized I am running quite well. Later on, I saw the ‘Welcome to Santiago’ sign and it gave me a boost! I ran harder and faster until I can see the end point. I could not explain how I felt when I reached the finish line! All I could do was shout, “Thank You Lord!” as Tony Galon, the president of the Cebu Ultrarunners Club (CUC) which organized this event, handed me the race token after 13 hours 20 minutes 35 seconds, the 20th finisher! All those time I was praying and God finally fulfilled my prayer! Praise God from whom all blessings flow!
After The Race
Looking back, I realized that I achieved my personal goals in joining this event and these are learning more about my body, how it would react to running/walking for a lengthy period of time, and experimenting on my gears, which one I will bring on my next ultramarathon. But aside from that, I gained more because I developed many new friends, which I consider as my most fulfilling achievement! Carmelo, Wilmer and I boarded the 4pm trip of Jomalia Shipping back to Danao City, then Carmelo gave us another free ride going home! Thank you very much! And thank you very much as well to the organizers and support crew of the event, namely Tony & Alfie Galon, Ledoy & Bjane Mendoza, John Domingo and all others who made this event a memorable one! Last but not the least, thank you to my wife Espie for always loving and supporting me in my sport! God bless all of you!