I’m mad, I’m sad, I’m angry, I’m anxious, I’m afraid, I’m excited – all kinds of feeling got stuffed inside me as I toe the starting line at the Filinvest Mimosa+ and Quest Hotel in Clark, Pampanga, last Nov 26 2017 together with six (6) of my Cebu Trail Runner (CTR)-mates for the 2017 edition of Clark-Miyamit Falls 50 Miles Trail Ultra (CM50).
It will be my third attempt to finish this +/- 86km out-and-back route of gravel road, fire trails, dirt road, river and lahar crossings, muddy single tracks and some concrete pavement with +/- 3,200m ascent/descent within 18 hours. My first attempt was in 2015, where I DNF’ed after 50km due to fever. Last year, I’m on target to breach the allowed time but my gut failed and I continuously vomit starting from Km62. I did finish the course, but went over 34 minutes beyond the 18-hour barrier.
This year, I set my sight towards one goal (in running, at least): finish CM50 within 18 hours and erase all unfinished business together with it! One of my CTR-mate, Richard Manila, whom we fondly called #rmanilacoaching, advised me that “You don’t expect different results if you keep doing the same things!”. His statement became my overall guide in preparing for the race.
But my preparation was never without obstacles. In March, I constantly complained of severe pain in my sinuses. Doctors diagnosed it to be polyps in my sinuses, which led to surgery in April. Because of inactivity and medication, my weight went up from 89kg to 93kg. In May, I started not eating rice. Our CTR founder, Meux Cordova, introduced me to ketogenic diet, a high fat, low carb diet which could be beneficial for people who are into endurance sports like ultramarathon running.
By June, I started running 5K’s and short trail hikes on weekends. I slowly increased my mileage and added mountain biking by July in hopes of starting a 4-month training plan by August. However, my sinuses began to feel uncomfortable again. I’d took medicines again. CTR-mate “Quick”-Silver Cueva, who is a health & diet buff himself, suggested that maybe I should take probiotics to improve my immune system. I heed his advise and gradually, I felt my overall health improved. It’s also in August that I went full blast on “keto” diet, and by month’s end, my weight went back to 89kg. My September and October went well, hitting my target distance and elevation gain total for the months. I felt confident after every weekday short and medium distance runs, and the long weekend runs with my CTR-mates.
Then came the first two weeks of November, which should have been my peak weeks beforing tapering, when a painful sinus infection hit me again. Somehow I felt panic. Inside me I’m screaming “Oh no! Not now! Not now please!”. But it is what it is and I just have to deal with my situation. I was sidelined for those two crucial weeks and was prescribed with antibiotics again. My confidence turned into worry, but I never dwell on it. I always declare Romans 8:28 “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.”.
Fast forward to race day, with two training peak weeks removed, weight down to 83kg, I have mixed emotions at the starting line. I prayed that if it’s His will, I will finally finish this race within cutoff time. But if not, I will still trust Him because He has better plans for me.
Race director (RD) Atty. Jon Lacanlale send us off at exactly 1am. As with other trail ultramarathon events I joined, I always bring with me a copy of my target times from one aid station (AS) to another. I arrived at Km 11 AS1 (near Puning Spa, before the stairs) 11 minutes earlier than my target 1hour35mins. I refilled my soft flasks with water, and mixed it with medium-chain triglycerides (MCT) oil and Tailwind Nutrition. I also planned to eat a slice of Spam and cheese every 1.5 hours.
Going to AS2 Km 18, me and CTR-mate “Master” Jacob Ong momentarily got lost for about a kilometer before finding the right route. We missed a hard right turn in the lahar section. Because of the boo-boo, I was late by 8 mins for my AS2 target time, clocking in 2hrs46mins.
I spent very little time at AS2 and proceeded to AS3 Km 23, where the drop bags were situated. My planned time to reach AS3 is 3hrs41mins, and arrived on the dot, 3hrs41mins. I refilled water, changed my socks (it’s filled with lahar), ate some food, then went on my way. I started using trekking poles as it is generally going up from this point to the peak of Mt. Miyamit.
The AS3 to AS4 section is critical because it’s a +/- 9km segment with +/- 715m climb. Slowly climbing, I can feel the temperature is dropping as I got higher. Because of the cool weather, I began imagining myself lying on the bed in an air-conditioned room, relaxing. Then my eyes begin to close. Then I slipped. And I realized I’m walking with my eyes closed! I can’t help it, I feel so sleepy! I’m like sleep walking until AS4 (sigh of relief) after 5hrs58mins. I said to myself I need to wake up because I’m already 19 minutes behind my target time.
From AS4 to the peak also has a similar +/- 9km with +/- 715m ascent profile. Only that it’s muddier… and really, muddier than last year! It’s another slow climb and I landed at the +/-1215mASL peak, which is about 3 kilometers from the caldera of Mt. Pinatubo, after 8hrs26mins. I rested for a couple of minutes then started my descent. I realized I have to be faster going down because I’m already almost half an hour off my target.
But going back down to AS4, then to the falls, would be equally challenging because of the “chocolate moist cake-ish” mud. I slipped and fell twice on my butt on that section, before getting to the majestic Miyamit Falls. Time check: 11hrs7mins. I started to worry about my target difference, which now stands at 1hour3mins!
After cleaning the mud out of my shoes, socks, shirt and shorts, I began ascending back to AS4, then descend to AS3, clocking in 13hrs38mins, way, way short of my target 12hrs19mins. I refilled my vest with food from my drop bag, ate & drank from what the station offered, then walked away. I have only less then 4.5 hours left to cover the remaining +/-23km and +/-460m climb. Inside me, I started praying what I prayed at the starting line, “Lord, if it’s Your will, let me finish within cutoff. If not, I will still trust You have better plans for me”.
Ultra running veteran George Javier was leading a group of seven (7) runners after Sapang Uwak Bridge, and he said, “We need to “double time ’cause we only got 4 hours left”. I’ve heard of George Javier’s reputation to finish ultra races within cutoff time, so I thought I’d stick with his group to have a better chance of finishing. I also thought he meant running fast when he said “double time”, but he maintained walking — fast-paced walking! At some point, when I looked at my watch to check our pace, we’re walking at about 9:00/km. Wow, that was really fast! Maintaining the pace from AS3 to AS2 (14hrs43mins), then to AS2 to AS1 (16hrs8mins), I’m ecstatic because I’m witnessing how power walking is done in trail races! During that time also, I decided to ditch my target times and just focus on not getting behind with the group.
We’re now on the final stretch, the last 11km. By now the pack that George Javier is pacing became 13 runners (from 6). He’s instruction was to power walk the lahar section until we reach the cemented portion, where we will all run the final 3.5km to the finish line. CTR-mate Jacob Ong caught up with the group with 5km to go. We would power walk the remaining lahar section until we set foot on the road with 38 minutes to go. Once we’re on concrete, we were all running. I didn’t mind the big blisters that I have (4 on my left foot and 5 on my right) or the fatigue I’m experiencing. Once GOD opens a window of opportunity, I believe it’s man’s responsibility to grab it. And grabbing I did as I ran my heart out. Entering the hotel’s premises, about 50m to the finish line, I told Jacob we’ll finish side by side. I was jumping and shouting because finally, we did it! After 17hrs56mins we finally crossed the finish line! That’s 4mins before cutoff time! My CM50 journey has come full circle after three long years! Praise GOD! Wooohooo!
Congratulations to Atty. Lacanlale for another successful event, and my heartfelt gratitude to all the marshals, officials and volunteers, to mention a few (I wanted to mention everybody but I don’t know your names) JoMa Sison (AS4) and “The Bald Runner” Jovie Narcise (AS3). All of you guys did great! To George Javier, thank you very much for pacing and teaching us how to power walk! To my CTR-mates, who have been my training partners all year round, especially to “Master” Meux for influencing ketogenic diet, I never had any gut problems this time, thank you! To the doctors who treated me and took care of my health, thank you! To my executive at Union Galvasteel Corporation for allowing me to take a leave the day after the race, even if I’m supposed to attend a meeting at our head office, thank you! To my family and friends who are always praying for me, thank you! And to my one and only Espie for always supporting me in this crazy hobby of mine!
I’m planning to rest for the remainder of 2017, but Mt. Mago Trail Run in Danao City, Cebu just popped up the calendar for Dec 30. Well, I guess, I’ll see you on the trails! GOD bless everyone!