For the past three (3) months, I’ve been running and mountain biking almost exclusively on trails and hills in Consolacion and Liloan. I even participated in my first ever duathlon event via the 2nd Ilaya Duathlon Race Challenge last May 17, finishing the 5km run-25km bike-5km run off-road course in 2hrs50mins19secs. I also tried improving my overall core strength to the point of enrolling in a nearby gym to seek assistance from trainers. Although my training took a long halt during the start of June because of a viral disease, I really felt some betterment in my body. This is actually in preparation for a second attempt of finishing a trail ultramarathon within cut-off time later this year.
When Prince Multisport and Team Lingam Events announced that they will host a new race called Cebu City 360° 72K Ultramarathon, which will pass through the mountain barangays of the city and having a total elevation gain of 4,400 feet, I figured this could be a venue to test if what I perceived as improvement in my overall fitness would translate into improvement in performance. The last time I participated in a road ultramarathon was the CUC 100K Ultramarathon Leg 3 some two (2) years ago, where my knees and calves were completely thrashed.
Before the race started at 12:00 midnight of July 19 2015, my very supportive wife Espie texted me to beat my personal best because she will prepare food for me at the finish line, which stirred motivation inside of me. I comfortably ran the relatively flat first 21km of the route, pacing myself at 7:17/km. I see to it that I drink fluids every mile & take some calories every hour, stopping by the aid station of Kevin Hacey Camacho and the Talisay City Runners Club (TCRC).
It helped that I have my Free Runner-mates Romy, Joseph & Carl as vehicle support crew. This was actually my first time to have a vehicle support crew, but our arrangement was that they will only support me up to km21. Then I would just carry all my food and water in my vest from thereon. But after experiencing the excitement and camaraderie amongst the runner participants, the aid stations and the other supporters, they told me that they changed their mind and wanted to tag along until the finish line. That’s good news for me!
I tackled the very dark road and continuous ascent from Lagtang to Manipis, reaching the junction at km32 in 4hrs24mins. It was on this stretch that I felt my training was really paying off, especially on the roads without concrete. It’s like I’m running on hard-packed rocky trails, one of my favorites.
After eating watermelon from the Toledo Adik og Dagan (TAD) aid station, I proceeded running. In my mind, I’ll target to reach the Sudlon II exit to the Transcentral Highway (TCH) at 6:30am. I was running the downhill portion of km36 (5hrs4mins) quite fast when suddenly I came crashing down really hard! Boom! I looked around and there was no one in sight. I sat down, assessed myself for any injuries and examined the area where the accident happened. Unfortunately, I tripped on an unpainted road hump resulting into a lacerated left big toe as I’m using my newly-rehabilitated 800km-old Kai Maka Running Sandals which lacked upper foot protection. I also got several wounds on my feet, knees, hands and elbows. I never saw the hump because my headlamp is fading. I remembered I haven’t changed batteries for my headlamp since it was purchased last December. Lesson learned… the hard way.
I rested for a while, contemplating if I can handle the pain and continue, or just call it quits. I prayed and asked for God’s guidance on what to decide. A marshal riding a motorcycle passed by me and offered me a ride back to the nearest aid station so that I can be treated. I told him, instead, to look for and inform my support vehicle about my mishap. I was carrying a first aid kit in my vest, which is inside the car. I gathered myself and slowly walked until I came to a house where the owner is already awake. You see, it’s still 5:20am and almost all residents in the area are still asleep, I assume. I knocked and told him about my circumstance, and asked if I can have some soap and water to clean up by wounds. I’m very thankful that he obliged. As I washed my lesions, my support vehicle arrived and gave me my first aid kit. I also asked for a nail cutter from another resident so that I can cut the torn skin in my left big toe. The experience was bloody, but somehow and I managed to sanitize my wounds. Surely the Lord sends angels whenever we call to Him for help!
My support crew was hesitant to leave me but I told them I can manage. I walked the next 3km, passing by the TCRC support vehicle, who offered me breakfast. It’s a welcome sight as I needed something to relax my mind after what happened, and almost always, food relaxes me ahahaha!
I ran and walked and stopped twice to adjust the bandage in my left big toe, until I reached km47, the start of the TCH portion, after 7hrs12mins, way off my original target time of 6 1/2 hrs. I arrived at the next aid station, which is km50, after 7hrs42mins. At this point, I can feel fatigue is taking its toll on me, plus a nagging pain in my right hip as a result of utilizing my right leg more than my left leg to propel me forward, favoring my left big toe wound, which keeps on dripping blood. I gulped at least two (2) jiggers of Intra Juice to cope up with tiredness. I wore my vest and parted ways with my support vehicle, letting them wait for me at the Family Park in Talamban, the event’s start/finish line.
From thereon it was mostly downhill with only two (2) more major climbs, approaching Ayala Heights and approaching Tops. Initially, I thought it would be easier, but with my left big toe wound, it’s much harder – the more downhill, the more pounding, the more pain, the more blood it gushed. I had to stop by km57 again to re-dress the wound, 9hrs4mins into the race.
Heat was also becoming a factor as the sun shone bright during the day. I slowly jogged the downhills, favoring my left foot, and power hiked the 2 uphills mentioned above. I stopped shortly for some eggs and Coke at the Ungo/G6 Runners aid station at km62.
Upon reaching Budlaan km66, fellow Free Runner Regz, supposedly also a member of my support crew, greeted me with his mountain bike. He said he will accompany me up to the finish line. As I was slowing down, getting exhausted and experiencing some lower abdomen cramps, Regz kept encouraging me to go for a strong sub-12hrs finish. I drank the rest of the Intra Juice I brought, gave Regz my vest to lighten up my load and ran with every strength that’s left of me on the last 3km, reaching the end line officially in 11hrs51mins10secs. I ranked 65th overall out of 191 starters. It was a delight to see Espie waiting for me at the finish line, together with my Free Runner-mates Yangyang and Xhian, as well as my support crew. My GPS watch recorded 73km and I did beat my previous fastest time of 13hrs for the same distance. To God be the glory!
At the end of the race, I came to realize that:
1. “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” – 2 Corinthians 10:17. When I crashed on the road, it also crushed my game plan, my target time, my ego. Little did I know that He allowed that to happen to remind me that my success is not because of myself, but because of Him who gave me the ability to succeed.
2. “Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails” – Proverbs 19:21. I thought I had the perfect road map for the race, but when things got awry, I mulled over discontinuing the race. In every journey of our life, God allows detours to bring out the best in us. He brought out my innermost determination, perseverance and will to finish, making my journey not just memorable, but a meaningful one.
3. “I have said these things to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” – John 16:33. For whatever trouble we will face, we are comforted that we will never face it alone. If God is with, who can be against us?
Eleven (11) days after my up-and-down struggle, I can still feel its effects, especially my left big toe. I’m worried about this Sunday’s Ironman 70.3 Triathlon (Mixed Relay category) because I tried running the other day and the toe still hurts. For now I’m resting and praying my feet will be ready come race day. God bless everyone!