Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Eco Trail de Paris 78km

I signed up for the Eco Trail de Paris back in 2014 but after I sprained my ankle at the Lantau 100km just 2 weeks before the race, I was able to postpone the race to 2016 due to the insurance package that I took out during the signing up.  Unfortunately, as I was the only staff left in the office, I wasn't able to apply for a longer leave to truly enjoy Paris.  Nevertheless, I was still very excited to meet up with Christelle whom I first met on a trail running trip to Orang Asli organised by Trail Running Singapore when she was working in Singapore few years back.  :)

Day 1 - Arrival in Paris
I arrived in Paris two days before race day on Thursday, at around 08:00am!  Christelle was on her way to the airport to pick me up.  It was about two years since I last saw her although we kept in touch occasionally via Facebook.  The weather was a little chilly in mid March in Paris.  Traffic from the airport was very smooth as well.  We did some grocery shopping before dropping by her apartment where she cooked some delicious pasta for lunch.  After lunch, Christelle accompanied me to the hotel to check in my luggage before we headed straight out to the race pack collection expo by train.  It was a huge expo but unlike our Singapore Expo where the Halls were numbered and positioned in sequential order (e.g. Halls 1 to 6, etc), it wasn't the same in Paris.  We walked a fair bit before finding out the exact location of the hall.  Security was tight as every visitors were subjected to bag checks.  I picked up my race pack before checking out the rest of the exhibitors.  It was not like those expo I had seen in Singapore, South Africa or USA.  But there were more things to sight see in Paris so we left after a quick visit!  Christelle brought me to the major sight seeing spots before we had dinner and wishing each other the best of luck!  (Christelle for the lazik and me for the race).

Christelle's Bedroom Wall and Pasta Creation!

Race Expo Pick-Up!

The Many Beautiful Sights of Paris!

Day 2 - Free And Easy
I slept till late morning, had breakfast, before heading out to check out the race pick-up point at the Saint Quentin-en-Yvelines Train Station.  I took a train to the station so that I won't need to waste unnecessary time on race day.  Unfortunately, finding the line in the train station was very confusing and I got lost inside the maze due to the different type of train systems available to the commuters!  Luckily, I was using a multi-day pass and was able to enter / exit the gate without requiring to pay.  Eventually, I was locked out from entering the gate (probably due to multiple entry in the same entrance) and a service agent advised me to walk on the road surface so that I could identify the building where I was supposed to go.  Once I locate the train, the ride to Saint Quentin-en-Yvelines Train Station was smooth as it was a direct train.  The next thing to check out was the race ending point, which was at the Eiffel Tower.  With the race starting at 12:15pm and me likely to take up all the time available for the race, meaning I would finish around 01:00am on Sunday, it would make sense to find out the route back to the hotel.  Once I recced the route, I went back to get ready my race stuff.

Checking Out The Race Pick-up, Race Finishing Line and Getting Ready!

Day 3 - Eco Trail de Paris 80km
Since the race starting time was 12:15pm, I need not wake up at unearthly hour.  In fact, I had breakfast at the usual time and an early lunch before heading to the start.  Upon reaching the Saint Quentin-en-Yvelines Train Station, I followed the runners to board the bus to the start line.  It was getting windy and I decided to hide in a tent.  Just before the flagged off, it started to drizzle.  :(  One thing I learnt from running in wet weather, was to keep myself as dry as possible even if I didn't feel cold from the wind or rain.  I put on my rain jacket and gloves before commencement of the race.  After running for about 10 minutes, I warmed up and had to remove my rain jacket.  The trails in Paris was relatively flat.  Well, at least from start to Check Point 1 at Buc which was 22km away.  (There were a total of 6 check points including the one at Eiffel Tower).  Course markings were sufficient and at road intersections there were marshals to guide the runners.  We ran through woods, forests and parks.  It was nothing like our MacRitchie Reservoir.  The trail was smooth and I need not pay special attention to where I should land my foot.  In fact, this was one of the few races where I was able to enjoy the nice scenery.  I arrived at Buc after 2hrs 59mins of running with 45mins of buffer time.

 At The Eco Trail de Paris Starting Line!

Getting Ready At The Starting Line!

I stopped to take my gel before heading out.  Check Point 2 at Meudon was 23km away with no cut-off time.  This section of the trail had more upslopes and downslopes and I took the opportunity to walk the upsloes to save energy.  Unfortunately, I wasted a bit of time trying to confirm if I was on the right track as I wasn't paying attention to the course markings on one occasion.  On another occasion, I completely missed the course markings. Luckily, a runner shouted out to me from a distance.  How he guessed I was doing the same race I didn't know but I was very  grateful.  Otherwise, I might be lost completely.  With the sun setting, I slowed down even more.  I told myself to keep moving or I would feel cold, miserable, and risked missing the cut-off for the remaining check points.  Near to Check Point 2, the route became confusing as runners were required to run through a park and some steps.  I located Check Point 2 soon after but unfortunately it was dark and I didn't feel I was dressed appropriately to tackle the remaining trails.  Besides, there was a Meudon Train Station nearby.  If I continued, I might not meet the cut-off and it would be difficult to get back to the hotel.  Once I was satisfied with my excuse, I pulled myself out of the race after 7hrs 27mins of running.  :(

Running Statistics for Eco Trail de Paris!

Day 4 - Bon Voyage
I was not surprised that I DNF as I was already worried about tiring myself out and not being able to wake up on time to catch the flight at 12:00pm back.  Given that the total elevation change was a modest 1,500m over 78km and that it wasn't a technical trail, I still had hope that I could finish the race within the 12hrs 45mins cut-off.  I would be back to tackle this race again but shall give myself ample time to reach before and after the race, so that I could concentrate on running the race and need not worry about missing my flight home.  Paris, a place to sight see, relax, enjoy and of course to experience trail running.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Mactan Speed 50 Ultramarathon 2016

The Mactan Speed 50km Ultramarathon in Cebu was my 2nd race in 2016.  It was about 4 weeks after the Pistol Ultramarathon in end Jan and organised by Blue, a friend that I met through another good friend, Cheryl, in Philippines.  Traveling to most part of Philippines was never easy with the exception of Cebu.  I managed to book for 2 nights accommodation with Blue's recommendation.  The hotel was about 1.5km away from the start/finish line and less than 5km from the Cebu International Airport.  I arrived in the morning and was given an early check-in.  After laying out my race kit, I went to nap.

Starting Line Of Mactan Speed 50 Ultramarathon in 2016!

The Mactan Speed 50km would start at Lapu Lapu City Hall and was an out-and-back race with an official cut-off time of 8 hours!  The race commenced at 10pm at night so I had the whole day to laze around in the hotel room.  At about 6pm, I had a quick dinner at a nearby restaurant before heading back to the hotel to get ready.  It was a warm day so I was glad it was a night race.  In fact, the Mactan Speed 50km would be the second time that I would be running in Cebu during the night (with the first being the first edition of the Cebu All Women 50km in Mar 2012 - another road race)!  :)

Dinner Was Beef With Rice & Egg!

At 09:00pm, I took a cab from the hotel to Lapu Lapu City Hall even though I could walk there in less than 20mins.  :p  Blue and his group of volunteers were already there, setting up the place.  I said hi to Blue and asked him for some details of the race.  He showed me the map with the distances between the various aid stations indicated.  There were a total of 5 aid stations with the one towards AS2 also an out-and-back section.  The distances between the aid stations were not exactly 5km apart.  Instead, they were placed where they were due to the locations.  There was also a cut-off time of 4 hours at 02:00am at the turn-around at AS5 which was about 25.19km from the City Hall.

With The Race Director, Blue (Right); Route, Distance and Cut-Off Time (Left)!

I left Blue to settle his stuff as he was very busy as the Race Director.  After I collected my bib, I waited with other runners for the conduct of the brief.  The brief was held on time and we had our group photo taken prior to being flagged off at 10:00pm sharp.

Race HQ And Race Start @ Lapu Lapu City Hall, Cebu!

Start To AS5 25.19km
As usual, I started off quite slowly.  We turned into the main road after leaving the Lapu Lapu City Hall.  Traffic was heavy with many vehicles.  I shouldn't be surprised as it was a Saturday night!  But what bothered me was not the traffic and the vehicles but rather the smoke coming out from them.  Uuuurrrrgggghhhh.  I guessed that's what road runners would face when signing up for road races with no road closure.  Along the junction, there were traffic police to direct the traffic to allow the runners a clear path to run which was something you would not find in Singapore.  For that, I was grateful for their presence.  After running past the junction leading to the airport, the traffic became less heavy.  Still, we had to be very careful as we were running with the traffic rather than against it.  Soon I reached AS1 the first aid station at around the 5km mark.  I refilled my water bottle, took a watermelon, thanked the volunteers before I continued my run.  On my right, I could see the airport.  Once in a while, there would be planes taking off and landing.  That's probably the most interesting sight of the run unlike in the day, you could see more things in a foreign country.

 AS1 - The First Aid Station!

Soon, I met the front runners who had turnaround at the AS2 out-and-back section.  Boy, they were fast.  This stretch of road was small and mostly dark with few street lamps lighted up.  Even at this hour, there were still people awake playing pools or chit-chatting by the road side.  Stray dogs were abundant as well.  Luckily, I was not afraid of them.  I continued plodding along and counted around 8-10 ladies ahead of me.  The turnaround AS2 aid station was next to the Barangay Hall.  Again, they had water, Coke and watermelon.  I took some Coke and left.  On my way out, I saw some runners going for their AS2 out-and-back section and was glad I was not the last runner.  The completion of the shorter out-and-back section saw me joining back to the main road.  Just before the bus interchange was AS3!  As I didn't need anything, I continued running.  There were karaoke shops along these stretch of roads, where people were belting out songs at the top of their voices!  It was really refreshing and took my mind off the running.  By then, I found my rhythm and picked up my pace.  There weren't many runners around me though I could see a few lights in front of me.

The Punta Engano Barangay Hall!

Then, I came to a major cross junction where there were policemen directing me to make a right turn.  I knew I should be near to the AS5 turnaround.  I was getting sleepy and was thinking if I should stop by the 7-11 convenient store to get a can of ice coffee.  I decided against it and pressed on to see what would be available to the runners at the turnaround AS5 aid station.  Unfortunately, they didn't have much.  I said thanks to the volunteers and retraced my steps back.  A check on my watch showed I took about 3 hours 30 minutes to complete the half way distance.  This meant I had 4 hours 30 minutes for the remaining 25km.

U-Turn Point to Finishing
On my way back, I stopped at the 7-11 convenient store to buy a can of ice coffee.  After drinking, I felt refreshed and kept running.  Although it was night time, the humidity was rather high.  I guessed that was the reason why I felt lethargic.  But thankfully, the can of ice coffee really did wonders.  In a short time, the caffeine kicked in and I started to find my rhythm.  Soon, I was able to run at a more consistent pace with more running than walking.  Once in a while, I even managed to catch up with other runners, who were mostly walking.  I reminded myself of my target, and that was to complete the race before the sun rise.  I should be able to make it since I had additional 30 minutes as buffer time.  The remaining journey was largely uneventful since it was early morning.  There was also less traffic on the road.

AS2 - The Second Aid Station Next To Barangay Hall!

Soon, I reached the intersection where runners had to do the small out-and-back small loop towards AS2 for the second time.  I met a couple of runners on their way back to AS1. There were no people playing pools or chatting by the road side by then and the road looked more eerie.  Luckily, I wasn't afraid to run alone and besides, I was running in a city!  After leaving AS2, I knew I was another 10km before the finishing and my morale was getting high.  Unfortunately, I was hit by the second bout of z monsters and it slowed me down although I was still running (more like jogging).  I cursed at myself for buying only one can of ice coffee earlier.  :(  I whipped out my iPhone and calculated the distance to the Lapu Lapu City Hall - about 7.5km more.  This meant that I should be reaching the last aid station soon!  By then, the airport runway was on my left but there were few planes taking and landing at that hour.  I took a longer time to reach the AS1 checkpoint as I was walking more than I ran.  After a quick refill of water, I press on.

As the z monsters were winning the war, I decided to walk the remaining way since I had plenty of time.  Besides, I didn't look like I was going to over take any runners nor were there runners overtaking me.  I kept going though my mind was switching off.  Soon, I noticed more vehicles on the road and the day was getting brighter. I walked past some shophouses which were still closed and I was grateful to the volunteer who directed me to cross the road safely though there were no vehicles nearby.  He also told me that I was very near to the City Hall.  The next familiar building I saw was the hotel where I was staying!  I knew I was very near - just another two streets and I would be turning left into the finishing line!  I finally completed the Mactan Speed 50km in a respectable time of 7 hours 30 minutes 10 seconds, which was good enough for winning the 1st place 40-49 women's age group, 6th women and 22nd overall!  :)  Disclaimer: Champion lady was aged 48 with a timing of 6:13:00.  Since I was not in the top 3 but the next finisher in the 40-49 age group, I was deemed to achieve a 1st place in the 40-49 age group.  :p

Left: My Favorite Breakfast from Jollibee!  Right: Completion of the Mactan Speed 50km!

Blue presented my hard earned medal and trophy!  It was a very pleasant surprise even though I knew my timing wasn't fantastic.  All finishers were also given a finisher tee and a packet of breakfast from Jollibee - my favourite!  I thanked Blue who directed a great race before taking a lift from a volunteer back to the hotel.  I wish there are more of such age group awards being given to runners for the races in Singapore.  It could spur more runners to do their best or to inspire more to take up the hobby of running to keep fit.  And to Cebu, I hope to be back soon!

 My Finisher Tee, Medal and Age-Group Trophy!

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Pistol Ultramaraton 100 Miles 2016

Two years ago, I arrived in Knoxville, TN just minutes from midnight of 4 Jan (Saturday).  It was about 8 hours before the start of my Pistol Ultramarathon 100M race and my check-in luggage had been "in-transit" in Washington since my flight was delayed on Thursday (scheduled arrival) and Friday (yes, again) due to heavy snow storm across the USA.  Luckily for me, I had a set of running gear in my carry-on bag.  Kindness shown by a race volunteer and a fellow-runner meant that I was able to start the race.  Unfortunately, I was too tired after not being able to get a good sleep in the past 48 hours.  Still, I was allowed to drop down from 100 miles by completing 100km.  I wasn't happy so in December 2015, I decided that I should go back to Knoxville in January 2016, hoping to nail the 100M this time round.

Pistol Ultramarathon 2016!

This year, I again timed to arrive in the town of Alcoa 2 days prior to the start of the race and hoping for good weather.  Luckily for me, although the weather prediction was a low -1 degree Celsius, there was no snow storm predicted and so I arrived in Knowxville as scheduled.  :)  I managed to get a good night sleep on Thursday, while on Friday, I slept till late morning.  Then, I went to the Alcoa High School in the afternoon to attend a talk by David Horton, a very accomplished ultrarunner who completed the Appalachian Trail (AT, 1991) and Pacific Crest Trail (PCT, 2005).  I also met the RD, Will Jorgensen who remembered me.  I picked up some cool swags like the Injinji toe socks, a race bag, water bottle, a pair of arm warmers, a Tailwind endurance fuel, 2 packets of Fuel 100 Electro-Bites, a cotton event tee and a dri-fit event tee!  I had a quick carbo-loading pasta dinner, which was included in my race registration before going back to the hotel for an early rest.

 Cool Swags (Top); David Horton's Sharing (Bottom Left); Pasta Carbo-loading (Botton Right)!

On Saturday, I woke up at 6am, had breakfast, changed and checked-out from the hotel.  I brought along my drop bag using the race bag given.  At the Alcoa High School, I decided to place my drop bag inside the hall even though that meant I had to detour about 50m to the hall and out again.  But that also meant that my drop bag would be dry (in case it rained or snowed).  I kept myself warm by waiting in the hall and drank a bottle of Chicken Essence - my special concoction to keep my energy level high.  Three minutes before the scheduled flag-off time at 8:00am, I reluctantly moved outside of the hall to the starting line.  At 08:00am sharp, RD Will flagged us off!  Runners running the 100 miles had to complete 10 loops, which meant that each loop was 10 miles long.  One loop comprised of a big loop followed by a small loop, almost like the figure of 8.  Also, new for this year, runners must finish the distance we started.  I.e. unlike 2 years ago where we could drop down, there was no change in race distance once you started the race.

 Start / Finish Line!

For the first loop, I could feel the cool air even though I was wearing long tights and long sleeves shirt.  But 10 minutes or so, I warmed up and started to feel better.  In fact, it didn't feel that cold at all.  There was a slight breeze but it wasn't anything that bothered me.  Running the Pistol Ultra was like running along our East Cost Parkway's Park Connector, i.e. on concrete pavement.  There were a lot of trees (though they were bare) on both sides of the pavement as we ran through the park, and some road crossings which I could vaguely recalled from two years ago.  The route was mostly flat with some climbing near the turn-around for the big loop.  I also remembered the famous aid station at the turn-around.  After coming back to the start/end point, I went for the small loop and completed the 1st loop in 2hrs 25mins 15.79secs.

The Pistol Ultramarathon Running Route!

There was another aid station at the start/end point and I helped myself with the food, topped up my drink bottle before I commenced my second loop.  By then, the sun was out and the weather was excellent for running.  There were runners in front and behind me but mostly, they were in front.  We also acknowledged to each other when we ran past one another back to the start/end point.  Most of them would give encouragement with a smile, a nod, a thumbs up, or a simple "way to go".  This was what's so great about doing a race, running in loops as you can see and greet other fellow runners.  For this loop, I was still enjoying myself.  Still, I slowed down a little and completed the loop in 2hrs 35mins 3.96secs.

Fellow Runners I Met During The Race - It Was Indeed A Joyous Occasion!

For the third loop, I started to get bored and decided to count steps while running.  I ran 1,000 steps, before doing a recovery walk of 200 steps.  I also broke up the bigger loops into 4 segments on my outbound run: segment to railway crossing, segment to the bridge and mobile toilet, segment to the lake, and the turn-around aid station segment and back.  The counting of steps wasn't boring and kept my mind occupied rather than thinking about the distance or laps I still had to cover.  It felt manageable but I knew it won't be long before I got bored again.  Also, I was slowing down even more.  After completing the third loop in 3hrs 2mins 13.12secs, I decided to take a break and had some food before heading out for my fourth loop.

Approaching the Rail Crossing (Left); Lake (Top Right) and Xmas Tree (Bottom Right)!

When I commenced my fourth loop, it was in the later part of the afternoon.  I felt tired and ran lesser steps and walked more.  At the same time, my stomach wasn't feeling particularly good and I was not sure if it was due to what I ate earlier.  I managed to hang in there till I reached the mobile toilet.  The toilet break was a great relief and I felt so much better after that.  Still, I needed to slow down.  A fellow runner, who was doing her 5th loop, saw me struggling and asked if I was okie.  I thanked her for her concern and I tried to keep up with her.  She also asked if I was the one who took part in the race two years ago, before advising me to wear an additional layer as the weather would be cooler during the night after the sun had set.  Then, I regretted not bringing any long-sleeved tee-shirt which I had brought previously.  :(  In fact, I didn't bring additional clothing at all.  At this point, the word DNF flashed through my mind.  Nonetheless, the fourth loop was completed in 3hrs 17mins 13.54secs.

That's Me Running Alone Most Of The Time!

For my fifth loop, I somehow found my groove again probably due to a settled stomach.  At the same time I was feeling cold with the sun gone.  I picked up my pace a little and while I was not able to quite match my pace for the first two loops, I was closed to the same pace for the third loop.  Then, thinking positively helped me to focus on the task ahead and that was to complete the loop.  However, it was agonizing as I knew I had another 5 more loops to cover.  At the Woody Aid Station, I stopped for some hot chicken soup.  It tasted so nice that I decided to ask for another serving before reluctantly forcing myself to continue running.  After the big loop, I continued the smaller loop which I felt rather eerie during the night as it was very quiet with lots of trees in the park.  I hurried and completed the loop in 3hrs 9mins 53.69secs.

The World's Famous Woody Aid Station!

Just before I completed my fifth loop, a fellow runner going for his small loop told me the good news that the 100M runners only need to complete 9 loops instead of 10.  That was due to a longer distance of approximately 11.1 miles instead of 10 miles recorded per loop.  It was both good and bad news for me.  The good news was I left 4 more loops before completing the race!  Hurray!  But the bad news was that I should not quit.  I quickly asked around the volunteers at the start/end line if I could borrow a sweater as I was getting really cold.  A volunteered gave up her sweater without second thoughts.  I also saw RD Will, who confirmed the news.  Whether that had to do with me improving by almost 2 minutes for my sixth loop, I won't know for sure but it was definitely an incentive.  I completed my sixth loops in 3hrs 8mins 12.14secs:)

By the time I started loop 7, it was in the wee hours of the morning.  It was the kind of time where I felt extremely sleepy.  I badly wanted to lie down and sleep but yet, I knew doing so would mean I would most likely suffer a DNF.  And so I decided to take a short rest back in the hall and drank another bottle of Chicken Essence.  It perked me up a little though by then, no matter what I ate or drink, I would still slow to a crawl.  In fact, I ran / walked more like a zombie.  Even so, I didn't slow down by much and completed the seventh loop in 3hrs 31mins 54.04secs, while for my eighth loop, I managed to maintain my speed by finishing it in 3hrs 31mins 20.86secs.

The Early Morning View Of The Lake!

At the start of my last loop, I knew I would complete the race even if I strolled through the entire way.  Since I had written down my expected finishing time of 29hrs 00mins with the winner judged based on the smallest margin between expected finishing time and actual finishing time, I knew I had to walk slowly if I were to win the contest.  And so I walked.  Enjoying the views for one last time.  At the Woody Aid Station, I thanked the volunteers there before making my way back to the start / finish point.  There, I asked if anyone could accompany me as pacer for the last small loop and Eleanore came forward without hesitation, despite her working through the night supporting the aid station.  From there, I occupied myself by talking to her.  It really make my last part of the journey most memorable.  Eventually, I completed my last loop in 4hrs 13mins 49.83secs for an overall finishing time of 28hrs 54mins 56.97secs, with just a 5mins difference from matching my predicted finishing time!

Eleanore & Me With The Pistol Ultramarathon Belt Buckle!

The Pistol Ultramarathon was truly a great race and a highly recommended one (less the part on running in loops).  Although there were only 2 aid stations, both were extremely well stocked, especially the Woody Aid Station!  It was known as the "Near-World Famous" aid station but to me, that's was a world class aid station.  It had hot soups, hot drinks, cola of different kinds, chips, food, fruits and a nice heater.  They also had chairs and blankets for runners who wish to keep warm while sitting next to the heater.  As for volunteers, all I could say was that they were exceptional.  While they welcomed you at their aid stations, they would also coax you out instead of allowing the runners spent too much time warming the seats.  Without their encouragement, I would have DNFed.  Without one of them giving up her sweater, I would have stopped.  And without Eleanore's pacing me for my last small loop, I would have missed the final cut-off.  It was indeed a perfect race and I was glad that I came back to nail the race this time round.  A big thanks to Will and his merry men!

Completing The Pistol 100 Miles Ultramarathon!

 The Official Timing Certificate!

Monday, July 13, 2015

1st Bulacan 360 60K Ultramaathon 2015

This year would be all about road races and as part of my training and preparation for Badwater 135, I decided to sign up this new race in Philippines!  Once again, I relied on a great friend's help - Cheryl kindly assisted me to make payment for the race and I was glad she could also accompany me for this trip and run the race.  (Interested runners had to deposit the race fees for most races in Philippines as the races do not offer online registration.  This was both good and bad - good due to the payment mode (I guessed), race fees were affordable but bad for overseas runners as you either had to get a local friend to help you register, or make a trip to remittance company like Western Union to transfer the race fees.)  Race fee for the 60km race was very affordable at PHP1,600 (S$50.80) or PHP1,800 (S$57.20) for late registration.  Cheryl also helped me to arrange the traveling to Bulacan and the accommodation there.  I couldn't imagine what it would have been like traveling alone and making my own arrangement.  Traveling in Philippines was in fact, very challenging and tedious, even for locals.  If I could recall, our journey from the airport in Manila, comprised of:

Airport Bus to City (PHP20 = S$0.65)
City Bus to Van Station (PHP30 = S$0.95)
Van Ride to Bulacan (PHP60 = S$1.90)

(Alternatively, you could take the MTR to and from the van station to take the Airport Bus which would cost PHP28 (S$0.90) instead of PHP30.)

It was about 9:30am when we eventually arrived in the city/town of Bulacan, after traveling for almost 3 hours from the airport.  Cheryl had arranged for a friend, Katrina, to pick us up at the mall, as we would be staying at Katrina's home.  Katrina was also an accomplished runner herself and she was more than happy to meet up with old friend and make new ones.  We went inside the mall when it opened at 10:00am to get the food and drinks for the race.  Once done, I decided to get something from my favourite fast food in the Philippines - Jollibee, for early lunch.  We then hopped onto a jeep (yes, all 3 of us) and the jeep brought us to the race start area to take a look e we would be starting the race at 10:00pm at night.  After a quick look around, we continued the journey and arrived at Katrina's home.  :)  She had 2 dogs - a big one and a tiny one.  And both loved to bark at me!

Left: Church Next To The Start; Top Right: In The Jeep; Bottom Right: Jollibee!

As I was extremely tired from taking the midnight flight, and didn't really sleep well on the plane, I decided to take a nap in Katrina's room.  In order to reach her room which was 2 levels up, I had to climb to another "dining area" a level up.  At this 2nd level, they "duplicate" another set of stove, fridge, etc just in case of flooding from heavy rain or typhoon, which happened previously.  I thought it was an ingenious idea to do so.  This meant that the family could prepare food if flooding really occurred.  Katrina's room was above this 2nd level.  Its wall was orange in color and she had a lot of movies posters, and figurines, etc.  :)  And of course, there were many finisher medals hanging on her wall as well.  I quickly changed and went straight to nap.  I woke up at about 6pm plus and have a light dinner with Cheryl.  Then I decided to go back to nap!  And so did Cheryl! :)  We eventually got out of bed at about 8pm.  Their other friend, Marie, who was also sharing the support car had arrived by then.

We changed and went downstairs to the car.  Katrina and her friend (the driver of the support car) were busy getting ready the things that we needed for the race.  I didn't know Cheryl actually arranged for a support car.  I had planned on running with my hydration belt and all the gels I need (about 5 - 1 gel after every 10km), while depending on the official race support points at every 10km mark.  I had done that previously during the Davao 50km so even though Bulacan was 10km longer, I should be fine.  Since Cheryl had arranged, I would keep that option open but a lot would depend on how the 3 of us run (if we were too far apart, it would be tough for them to support us).  However, I did deposit my sports drinks and spare gels, etc in the car.  :p  We reached the Start Line at around 9pm.  There were many runners already there.  Most of them Filipinos.  We proceeded to collect our race bibs.  At about 9:45pm (thereabout), the Race Director, Joseph Prince, gave a detailed briefing on the race.  Unfortunately, I could understand none of it as he delivered them in their local language.  Luckily, Cheryl, Marie and Katrina were there to share with me the pertinent points of the race.  At 10:00pm sharp, the RD promptly flagged us off.

 At The Start Of The 1st Bulacan 360 60km Ultramarathon!

The race started at 10:00pm so I would still run into the morning so I should be able to build some mileage towards Badwater.  My strategy for the race was simple: break up the race into manageable 10km segments so I had 6 segments to tackle in total.  The late start was both good and bad.  Good because I didn't need to drag myself out of the bed for the race start but bad because I had to run in the dark for at least 8 hours.  Nevertheless, with so many runners around me, and the road was illuminated up by the runners' headlamps and blinking lights, it felt like a party.  In fact, I did not even need to switch on my own headlamp!  The first segment was along this straight road.  I was amazed that at that hour, traffic was still pretty heavy.  So we had to be very careful.

Then, I noticed an ache on the bottom of my right foot.  I tried to focus on my surroundings and other runners instead, hoping that it would go away.  It did.  For a while.  And came back.  I reached the first aid station at around the 10km mark before midnight.  As I still had sports drink with me, I didn't fill up my bottle as they only had plain water.  But I took a gel with their plain water before I continued running.  Cheryl was ahead of me and probably way ahead, while Marie was further back but I couldn't see her.  I focused on my breathing and was always on the looked out for traffic.  By then, the runners were more spread out but I could still see some runners in front.  Before I reached the next aid station, I saw Katrina and the car!  I waved on to her to let her know I was good.  And they updated me of the change in plan.  Since we had the official aid station every 10km, they would meet up with us every 5km in between.  What a brilliant idea! I reached the second aid station at about 1pm plus.  I took another gel and continued running.

For the next 10km, the ache came and gone.  It was the same kind of ache that I felt during the Twilight Ultra Challenge.  Could it be due to standing and walking in heels for 2 half days?  It could well be the reason as I was someone who took great care of my body when training and racing (unless the pain was due to fall).  And the only reason why I had the ache was because I wore heels, which was bad for running.  But since I was still making forward movement, and the ache was still endurable, there was no reason for me to quit.  But I decided to take more walk breaks in between my running.  I met Katrina again and swapped a new bottle of ice cold Gatorade.  This period of the run was much quieter with lesser traffic.  But the runners were spread out by then.  I still had not seen Cheryl and reckoned she was running well and much ahead of me.  I was not surprised at all as she had the speed to run fast and endurance to run long.  I reached the third aid station slower than the previous 2 segments.  I took another gel with water.  It was about 4am in the morning.

I told myself that I had to cover at least 45km or even 50km before the sun rose up.  But I was perfectly fine if I had to run under the sun too.  This was the reason why I signed up for the race.  However, I knew that we still had to go back to shower, and travel back to Manila so that I could catch my flight back in the evening.  I saw Katrina again and swapped for another new bottle of Gatorade.  She told me that Cheryl was way ahead of me while Marie was some distance behind.  I guessed that could be the reason why she won't be able to find me at exactly the mid-way point between the official aid stations.  This was fine as supporting 3 runners of all different speed was both tiring and difficult.  I thanked them and continued.  This was the hardest segment as I wanted to sleep and I ended up "sleep-walking" the entire 10km before I finally reached the fourth aid station.  Day broke and the air was cool though I knew it won't be long before the sun rose!

It was past 6am and the traffic started to build-up again.  Running on the road in Philippines could be very challenging.  This was because they did not have proper pavement.  We ran on the road shoulders which could be dangerous if motorcycles decided to overtake from the right (Philippines was left-hand drive as with driving in the USA).  It happened to me before in Ocho Ocho last year but luckily, I had not met with such an incident for this race yet.  However, some of the shoulders were still under construction which meant that we had to run next to the road (when there was no traffic) or run on the under-construction shoulder, which had gravels all over the surface.  This made the running and walking painful especially with the ache underfoot.  Towards the next aid station, I also noticed that some part of the roads were under construction as well.  Hence there would be marshallers at the end of the road to direct the traffic since it was a one-lane, two-way traffic.  It was no fun at all.  So it was a step at a time to the next aid station.

By the time I reached the fifth and final aid station, the sun was shining full blast on the earth.  I didn't meet Katrina but it didn't matter as I still had my Gatorade and had replenished my gel when I last met her.  I was reduced to a walk (but more likely a death march as I was by then suffering).  Luckily, we were running in and out of the shades of trees.  Katrina eventually drove past and I was able to replenish my Gatorade.  Cheryl had done very well and had completed her race some time back!  (She was either 1st or 2nd Runners-up!)  :)  They had to go back to Marie as she was much further back.  I thanked them and told them to leave as I had everything I need to get to the finishing.  Traffic by then had gotten really heavy, especially when I was approaching the road crossing.  I wasn't sure if I would make it to the other side of the road as the traffic doesn't seem to stop.

Luckily, a police was there and stopped the traffic.  I thanked him and continued.  It was a few KMs later before I reached another road crossing!  The police again, helped stopped the traffic so I could cross safely.  He also told me that I was about 2KM away from the finishing line!  This was a huge relief as I thought I had walked for a long time!  (It was about 10:15am!)  My right foot felt terrible though painful was not the correct word.  Soon enough, I saw a runner crossing the road not far in front and entered a lane (or building).  I pushed on and saw a marshaller directed me to cross the road.  Right there, at the front of the building, was Joseph Prince, the RD!  I had finally completed the 1st Bulacan 360 60km run!  The RD presented me with a medal and trophy!  (Every finisher had a medal, trophy, a personalised finisher tee and a packet of food).  I was also happy to see Cheryl.  Katrina had also arrived and the plan was to drop off Katrina so that she could pace Marie to the end while Cheryl and me would head home for a shower.

Finisher Goodies!

Marie was in high spirit when we saw her!  We wished her well before leaving.  (Turned out that Marie was a very active ultra runner in the Philippines.  Though she was slow, she never gave up.  Cheryl and Katrina updated me that Marie completed the race eventually.)  As for me, I felt fine the next day although the ache remained whenever I stepped off my right foot.  I won't say this was a highly recommended race as we were running through the night and through the city.  There wasn't much scenery and it was boring.  Also, traveling to that area was a daunting prospect!  Nevertheless, the race fee was very affordable, considering the many finisher goodies given to the runners.  For those who wish to explore that part of Philippines, the race was a good option.  :)

Marie (left) and Katrina (right) Refueling before the Last Stretch!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Badwater Cape Fear 2015

I have decided at the start of the year, that I would want to take part in more US races this year.  So I signed up for the Badwater Cape Fear, Badwater Salton Sea and prayed very hard I would be selected again for Badwater 135.  No particular reason except to test myself against the races put on by RD Chris Kostman.  :)

Badwater Cape Fear @ Bald Head Island, NC - 21 March (Photo courtesy of Adventure CORPS, Inc)

Traveling and Accommodation
For an overseas runner, it was difficult to get to Bald Head Island where the race would be held.  You could choose to fly to one of the nearby airports (e.g. Myrtle Beach, SC or Fayetteville, NC, both of which were approximately 70 miles and 105 miles respectively from the Bald Head Island Ferry Terminal, Southport), or you could fly into Wilmington International Airport, which was still some 34 miles away.  Due to my indecisiveness in planning which airport to fly into, I ended up having to either pay a premium price of S$3,200/- (approximately US$2,300/-) for my air-ticket.  To get to the ferry terminal, I booked a 45-50 minutes taxi ride for US$70/- which was fairly reasonable.  After a flight delay which resulted in missing the connection flight to Wilmington on Thursday night (and had to spend the night at the airport), I eventually reached the ferry terminal on Friday morning, at 10:50am, just 10mins before the next ferry out to Bald Head Island!  Luckily all these while, Rodney, whom I would be sharing the accommodation on the island, updated me on the travel arrangement, weather, as well as cellphone coverage on the island.  After the 25min ferry ride, I reached the island and Rodney was there to welcome me!  We took a short walk to the golf cart, the most common transportation on the island, where Rodney drove to Ibis Rooster - the name of our rented house!  (As most houses required you to rent the whole house, it was very expensive for runners who went alone.  The cheapest house would cost me US$275/- per night for a minimum of 2 nights.  So I decided to share the accommodation with Rodney where I only paid US$105/- per night for 4 nights.  This still worked out cheaper than if I booked for a 2-night stay.  On top of that, I need not worry about getting lost on the island with Rodney around.)  :p

Top Left: Arrival @ Wilmington Airport; Bottom Left: Rodney & Golf Cart; Right: Iris Rooster!

Runners Check-in, Social Mixer, & Carbo-loading
I decided to sleep through lunch as I had a throbbing headache, probably due to the lack of proper sleep in the last 48 hours.  In between, I woke up to pack my drop-bag for the Fort Fisher location and passed it to Rodney (who was so kind to help send in my drop-bag).  Rodney had to take the ferry to go over to Hampton Inn Hotel on the main island to drop off the drop-bags.  He was back to Bald Head Island at about 3:30pm, and we went to collect our Race Packet (runners' check-in) at the Bald Head Island Conservancy.  I was not sure if the RD, Chris, could remember me.  But I guess he did.  After we gotten our "mugshot" taken by Chris for the webcast, we went back to the house to put our stuff before heading out to Coastal Urge for the social mixer.  The social mixer was like a party where pop music was played and runners mingled around and had beer (or plain water).  I looked around and saw the runners all looking so professional, so experienced, and so knowledgeable.  I felt intimidated and decided to just walk around on my own and take photos of them instead.  I bumped into a guy, Todd, who would be running his first Cape Fear.  Todd was very friendly and we chit chat for a while together with his father (or father-in-law who did last year's Cape Fear) and Rodney.  At about 6:00pm, we decided to pick up some stuff from the supermarket next door.  Once done, we headed towards the pier where Mojo Restaurant would serve bottomless pasta (as many plates of pasta as you could fill your stomach for the price of one) for the runners.  As I wasn't that hungry, I had just a plate of pasta.  Then, it was back home to prepare the race kit and rest early for the race.

 Runner Check-in @ Bald Head Island Conservancy!

Social Mixer @ Coastal Urge and Todd with Dad (Bottom Central)!

Carbo-loading Dinner @ Mojo's Restaurant, Next To The Pier!

Race Day
I woke up at 6:15am, had my breakfast and changed to get ready.  By 7:00am, we were both ready to go to the start, which was at the lighthouse.  It was a nice morning but it felt very cold.  After Rodney had parked the golf cart, we took a short walk to the starting line.  There, I met Sandra for the first time.  Rodney, Sandra and myself had teamed up to take part in the Badwater Salton Sea in May.  So it was nice to meet up before the actual race.  We chit-chat and posed for photos.  I noticed more runners had arrived in the early morning.  I tried looking out for the other two runners from Singapore but didn't see them.  At 7:51am, they sang the national anthem before Chris flagged us off!

 Old Baldy Light House (Left); Me, Sandra and Rodney (Right)!

Race Start - First 12 Miles
The first 12 miles of the race was on road, including a 1.5 miles in a trail.  Then the 50km runners would run an out-and-back loop of 20 miles on the beach while the 51.4 miles runners would run 2 out-and-back loops of 40 miles on the beach (or thereabout).  Although the cut-off for the 50km runners was 9 hours, runners running the 51.4 miles race must cleared the 50km within 8 hours so that they had sufficient time (6 hours to be exact) for the 2nd loop.  I didn't know why but I would find out soon.  Not wearing a watch for the race might not be the best idea but I knew I just had to make do with my iPhone since I left my Suunto Ambit 3 in the office.  :(  I set myself a target of 2hrs 30mins for the first 12 miles, and 5hrs for the first loop of 20 miles.  This would give me 6hrs 30mins to complete the second loop of 20 miles.  It was a frantic start and I found myself somewhere near the end of the pack.  Sandra and Rodney were running next to me but I lost them even before reaching the 2-Mile mark!

 Start Of the Badwater Cape Fear 2015! (Photos courtesy of Official Photographer)

And so, I just ran my usual race - a slow start but consistent pacing.  I was running all by myself along with 1~2 runners in front and another 1~2 runners behind.  However, I couldn't tell if they were running the 50km or 50-Miles event.  As I turned into Stede Bonnet Wynd (after 6 miles), I saw a few runners running towards my direction (after 9 miles) though I was not sure if they were the leaders.  Running on the roads of Bald Head Island was very safe as there were very few cars.  Whenever possible, I would run the tangent.  Just before reaching the mid-way point before the beach segment, I saw two volunteers standing at the entrance of a trail head.  They waved me into the trail and I was happily dodging low-lying branches, hopping over roots.  The trail segment didn't look like having a proper path so it was narrow.  I quickly caught up with a lady running the 50km and she politely let me passed her.  The trail segment was short so it wasn't long before I emerged out from it and completed the 12 miles in 2hrs 25mins!

First Out-And Back Loop - Next 20 Miles
After a quick pit-stop, I left the check-point, which was also the finishing point, for the beach.  Before the race, Rodney had told me the beach was as hard as the road.  I wasn't sure why was that as the beach I ran on (St John Island, Singapore) was soft, which made the running difficult as you need to expand more energy.  I found the beach harder than what I thought though not as easy as what Rodney had described.  Being a slow runner meant that I could check out the footprints left by earlier runners, though running on their footsteps wasn't a great idea unless you could plant your feet in exactly where their footsteps were.  The waves were coming in and out and it was a beautiful day.  Birds were also seen flying over the ocean and beach, while others even stood near the waves!  Before I reached the "mid-way point" on the outbound segment of the first loop, I saw a topless guy speeding past me!  He was followed by another 2-3 guys and a lady!

The "mid-way point" was 6 miles from the finishing which meant that I need to cover another 4 miles to reach Fort Fisher location - the mid-way point of the out-and-back loop.  I took a gel and made my way to Fort Fisher.  Before I reached Fort Fisher, I saw Sandra and further back was Rodney.  I asked the volunteers at Fort Fisher for a time-check when I eventually reached there and I was happy to be on target.  I was on a high for my return trip to complete the first my first loop.  I also find it extremely easy to run on the beach.  By then, it was low tight and runners were running where the water was previously.  I guessed the reason it was easier was due to the sand being made compact by the waves earlier in the morning.  I didn't even need any walk break on my way back though I did feel kind of demoralised when the front runners of the 51.4 Miles race complete their race even before I completed my first loop.  :(  I finished the first loop in 7hrs 2mins!

Second Out-And Back Loop - Next 20 Miles
By finishing the first 50km in 7hrs 2mins, it gave me close to 7 hours to cover the 2nd loop.  This meant I could take some photos as well.  Though I didn't like loop courses, it was bearable as there were no waves that looked the similar.  Also, there were also more kids playing near the beach although the same people were still patiently sitting near their fishing lines, waiting for their catch.  I noticed that the waves were beginning to come up higher onto the beach.  So the "hardened" beach path for running was getting narrower and narrower.  The last 2 miles was tough as I had to move higher up the beach with the tide coming in.  I managed to maintain the same pace as my 1st loop and completed the out-segment in approximately 2hrs 30mins.  I thanked the volunteers who helped me to refill my water bottle before heading home for the last 10 miles.  It was about 5:15pm and I had about 2hrs 30mins of daylight before night falls.

Aid Station At The Turn-Around Point, Fort Fisher!

The Beach Near Sunset!

As soon as I stepped back onto the beach, I knew why RD Chris had stipulated for runners to complete the 1st loop within 8 hours.  This was to allow them more time (6 hours) to complete the 2nd loop of 20 miles (thereabout).  More time was needed because the tide were coming in and runners had to run on the soft beaches, as compared to late morning and early afternoon, when the tide was low.  It was very difficult by then as I was tired.  I tried to run nearer to the water whenever possible.  But in doing so, I had to be mindful of the incoming tides and on a few occasions, when I wasn't alert enough to avoid the tide, or misjudged in how far the tide would be coming in, I found my feet soaked in the cold waves.  I was mostly walking by then but enjoying the brilliant sunset.  Night fell at around 7:45pm so I had to use my headlamp that I brought.  Near the end of the beach, the tide had come all the way into the bushes and I had to walk the short distance submerged in the waves till I exited the beach, onto the road and crossed the finishing line in 12hrs 34mins!

The Mid-Way Point of the Out-And-Back Stretch!

The Beach Before Last Light!

Overall Verdict - 9/10
It was another great race put on by RD Chris Kostman!  Difficult (for the slow runners) but with enough training and perseverance, one should still make the cut-off.  The last 10 miles of the race was really tough for the slow runners as the tide was coming in and it made running more difficult but fun.  For the last segment, it took me approximately 3hrs 5mins to complete, which was an hour slower than the same segment for the first loop.  Runners were blessed with great weather as the rain stopped on Friday.  Although the wind could be strong along the beach, once you were nicely warmed up, it was actually nice to run which could be why some of the top male runners were running topless.  The 3 aid stations had well-stocked food and drinks and they never ran out of food / drinks for slow runners.  All the volunteers were so encouraging and helpful and I hoped they had as much fun as us runners.  :)  Without the enthusiasm of RD Chris and his team of volunteers, as well as fellow runners, I would not have as much fun.  Then again, one must train sufficiently and prepare for rainy weather so you would not be fearful of Cape Fear!

At The Finishing Point With Rodney and RD Chris!

With Men's Champion, 51.4 Miles (Left); With Trasie and Rodney (Centre); Breakfast (Right)!

Monday, March 16, 2015

Davao 50km Ultramarathon 2015

It had been a while since I last raced in Philippines and I thought it was a good opportunity to run there over the CNY long weekend.  After some research, I found out that Blue was organising the Davao 50km Ultramarathon.  As the registration was closing soon, I quickly asked Cheryl if she wanted to do the same race when I came back from USA at the end of January.  Unfortunately Cheryl had a prior arrangement to pace a friend in another race and couldn't join me for this race.  Nonetheless, she assisted me to register for the race and to reserve a room at the Eagle Ridge Resort, which was where the race would start.

Pre-Race Activities
Traveling in Philippines was always a challenge to me.  So it was great when you know someone staying locally.  I chanced upon Hydee's reply in Davao 50 Facebook Page and asked her about transportation to Eagle Ridge Resort and where I could get supplies of water and food as I was told there was nothing in Eagle Ridge Resort.  Instead of giving me specific instructions, Hydee picked me up from the airport on Saturday morning, after she saw my message on Friday night!  She drove to Eagle Ridge Resort, waited for me to check-in, then drove to the SM Davao City Mall - a shopping complex where I could get my supplies.  As she had other race-related stuff to settle, Hydee left after I insisted on buying her a breakfast.  Before she left, I told her that she could come over to my room to stay for the night since there were 2 beds in the room.  She thanked me for the offer and said she would consider.  After she left, I went to buy my groceries from the supermarket.  Once done, I took a cab and went back to the Resort for a nap.

 Left: Arrival At Philippines' Most Beautiful City - Davao! Right: Breakfast With Hydee @ SM City Mall!

I slept for almost 3 hours till 5pm!  It was important as I had not had enough sleep taking the midnight flight.  When I stepped outside my room, I saw Blue and his merry men (2 of them) busy sorting the suppliers for the race.  Another runner stepped out of his room (next to mine) and Blue started sharing about tomorrow's race.  The race would be shorter than last year.  I.e. we won't need to run a further 2km to the top of the hill where the heli-pad was and back.  So we would be running 50km instead of last year's 54km.  From our conversation, I understood Blue's concern.  But he assured us we would be safe and he would provide a vehicle to track us.  This was due to the presence of the opposition (or was it rebel? - I couldn't recall) who were just a stone's throw away and carrying long arms (rifles).  I wasn't worry since I was an Asian and looked somewhat like a fellow Filipino.  :p  However, there were 3 Caucasians and one of them flew in from USA just for the race, while the other 2 were working locally in the Philippines.  Nevertheless, I was glad Blue had been meticulous in ensuring the safety of runners and that all should had a good race experience.

 At The Start Line: Eagles Ridge Resort With Race Director - Blue & His Volunteers!

After Blue had settled most of the things for the race, we went to Jolibee for dinner.  I didn't know why but I always loved Jolibee.  It was cheap (for me) and value-for-money.  I ordered 2 beef steaks (more like beef patties) with rice and a Coke.  It was yummy!  Once we are done with dinner, I tagged along with them to get ice for the race.  Then, it was back to the resort for an early night at 8pm  Before I slept, I managed to get my race bib from Blue!

 Dinner With RD Blue & His Volunteers!

Race Day
I woke up at about 11pm.  Took some water and went back to sleep again.  Suddenly, I heard someone knocking very loudly on the door!  It startled me for a while and I went out to open the door without wearing my glasses.  It was Hydee standing there and for a while, I thought the race was about to start!  But the time was 2:45am.  I thanked her for waking me up and went back to change even though I had set my alarm clock to ring at 3:00am.  I usually prepared my stuff the night before so it took me only 10mins to get ready.  I had my bread and went to the hall for a briefing session at 3:15am.  Blue covered the race in great details.  He informed us about the aid stations at the 10km, 20km, 30km mark.  Basically, they would only serve plain water at the 10km mark while the 20km and 30km mark had solid food (e.g. porridge) as well as sports drink, water. Once the briefing was over, runners were able to clarify any points pertaining to the race.  At 3:50am, we went to the start line and await the final countdown with rest of the runners!

 Briefing To All Runners Prior To The Race!

Back in my mind, I was busy calculating what time I must reach back at the Resort, so that I had sufficient time to wash-up, take a taxi to the airport for my flight check-in at 14:00pm.  (The flight leaving Davao was timed at 16:00pm).  The distance between the end point and start point at Eagles Ridge Resort was about 22km.  So the drive back would take about 30mins (depending on traffic).  Plus another 30mins for me to wash-up and pack, and another hour for the taxi ride to the airport, it meant I needed to complete the run at 12:00pm but preferably the earlier, the better.  This worked out to about 8 hours to complete the 50km road race which I thought was highly possible.  Nevertheless, I told myself to check my progress at every 10km, then at the turnaround point at 36km, and finally at the last water station about 8km to the finishing line.  At 4:00am (3:58am by my watch), Blue did the countdown and flagged us off.

 At The Start Line - All Ready!!! (Photo courtesy of Davao 50 Facebook Page.)

Elevation Chart For Davao 50km! (Photo courtesy of Davao 50 Facebook Page.)

Start Of Race
As I was standing in front at the start, I had a clear view of how many runners ran past me.  First, a bunch of fast guys blasted away!  Then, the first lady ran past me before I even reached the gate to the resort.  After I ran out onto the main road, another lady ran past me.  About 30mins more or so, a group of 3 ladies ran past me, wearing the same attire.  And then another one or two, and I lost count.  But not Hydee.  As the road was lighted up by the street lamps, I did not use my handheld lights.  Running in the night meant I could concentrate on my breathing and running instead of worrying about speed.  It wasn't cold nor was it humid, which was a little surprised.  There was also little traffic on the road.  I slowly got into my grove and didn't feel I was running uphill at all.  At approximately 5:13am, I reached the first aid station at the 10km mark.  I was surprised as this worked out to be about a 8km/hr speed (or 7:30mins/km pace).  As briefed by Blue, they only had water there.  So I took the opportunity to have a gel and wash it down with water.  I also filled up my handheld bottle with some water before I thanked the volunteers and moved on.

For the next 10km, I told myself to stay relax and maintain my effort, knowing that the first 20km was as flat as it could be.  Then I came towards 2 short segments of the road where there were no street lights on either side of the road.  I was glad that I had my handheld lamp with me.  I might have passed a lady as she passed me with her pacer.  I recognised her from the attire she wore.  She was running strong and steadily pulled away from me but I managed to catch up with her when she stopped with her pacer at the support bike to get some refuel.  I overtook her but not for long as she managed to pass me again when she was done.  I reminded myself to maintain my cadence and never push too hard.  Soon, the sky was getting brighter as the day broke.  And I could see another lady further up front.  Both of us past her soon after.  I was feeling great.  I noticed the traffic was getting heavier.  The 20km mark should be closed by as the water station was in the middle of the town.  I saw 2 men waving at us to make a left turn.  I made my move to past the lady.  Before long, I saw the 20km aid station and stopped to have a gel and water, took some sports drink and left.

A quick time-check confirmed that I was even faster than my first 10km: 6:22am!  I was pleased with my effort but knew that the hard part was coming.  After I left the water station, a right turn led runners up a gradual uphill.  I could also see runners further up - most walking.  Some runners were keen to put in the extra effort to past runners whenever they saw runners slightly ahead.  I preferred to run my own race.  Besides, I knew that running (or power walking) uphill was my specialty so I just had to bid my time.  Slowly, I past a fellow lady runner.  Then a couple of guys.  I learned from running in Comrades, that no matter how steep or how long the uphill was, one should never walk all the way up to the top.  So for gentler uphill, I would run a longer distance before I reward myself a walking break.  I managed to reel in a few more runners who were content to walk.  I approached a junction and saw the volunteers waving at me to turn left.  I also saw some runners taking a break at a road-side stall while I continued running and walking.  Before I reached the 30km water station, a guy flying past me on the other side of the road!  Traffic was lighter.  Then a car drove by slowly.  Blue popped his head out and shouted to me that I was the 3rd woman!

That was a complete surprise although I knew I had passed a few ladies.  It motivated me a bit.  Another 3~4 guys past me on their way back to the finish before I eventually reached the 30km aid station, including one who ran barefoot!  I had wanted to try the food provided at the aid station but it didn't look too appetizing.  So I opted to take another gel with plenty of water.  It was 8:00am and 4 hours of running.  I also asked if they had Gartorade.  A volunteer passed me a grape-flavoured Gartorade.  I thanked them and left, determined to catch the lady in front.  With 6km to go before turnaround, I jogged more and power-walked less.  There was another guy just ahead and we were trading passes every time one of us power-walked.  There was a support car waiting for their runner and asked if I needed anything.  I was grateful they had Coke with ice, which was refreshing after drinking Gartorade and water for the past 4 hours.  A guy on the opposite side then told me the turnaround was 2km away!  This was great news!  Then, I saw the leading lady running with grace while bombing down the descend!  I re-focused on my aim of catching the lady in front and extending my lead over the lady behind.  I saw the 2nd lady making her way back before I reached the turnaround.

It was around 9:00am at the turnaround.  I took some Coke before I made my way back.  It was a slight uphill before the actual descend.  By then, I was running and running fast in full flow!  The hill didn't feel as though it was all that steep when I was running and power walking up earlier!  I also knew that I would certainly finish the race well before my target of 12:00pm even though I still had 14km to go.  Instead of focusing to shorten the gap between myself and the lady in front, I thought a better option maybe to maintain or widen my lead over the lady behind.  I knew if I could run fast, she could certainly run fast after the turnaround as well.  I kept a look out for her while trying to run as fast as the gravity allowed me to run fast without having to push myself too hard.  The kms really flew past on my way down.  About 12mins after the turnaround, I saw the lady powering up the hill.  I kept running as though I was being chased by an invisible predator and I covered the 6km downhill in about 40mins.  I arrived at the 30km aid station (now 42km) at around 9:40am.  I saw the two guys helping Blue the previous night.  They told me the finishing was about 8km away.  :)

 Left: Along The Race Route; Right: At The Eagles Centre - The Finishing Point! (Photo courtesy of Davao 50 Facebook Page.)

I thanked them and continued running.  I noticed road markers at every km so I could estimate the remaining kilometers left.  The downhill also sort of level up.  A group of volunteers waved me to turn right at the junction and I was about 3km to the finishing.  I was running on the right side of the road and I wondered if I should cross.  Traffic was heavy so I decided to stay on the right.  I slowed down a little.  There was no runner in front nor behind.  I took out my iPhone and tried checking how far I was from the Eagle Centre, which was the finishing point.  Signal was bad and the map didn't load.  So I kept my iPhone and ran/walked.  I was feeling exhausted.  Few minutes later, the guys on the jeep wave frantically at me to cross over the other side of the road.  I waited for the traffic to clear before running across.  They left once I had crossed safely.  I knew I was near and continued running until I saw a volunteer standing at an entrance.  He signalled me to turn left into the road, which eventually led me to some uneven road.  There were cars on both side of the road before I eventually reached a barrier.  I crossed the barrier and followed a foot-path right to the finishing point!  Blue was there to greet and congratulate me and in fact, all the runners!  I was very happy to clock a 6:39:04 50km timing and this fear of not making the flight had earned me a rewarding 3rd place finish!  :)  After the race, runners were given a lunch box.  Unfortunately, my mind was thinking about getting back to Eagle Ridge than refueling for recovery.  Luckily, a Davao runner who would be driving past Eagle Ridge to get home, gave another runner and I a lift back to the Resort.  A superb and happy ending to an otherwise tiring trip indeed!

 Finishing The Davao 50km Ultramarathon In 6hrs 39mins 04secs! (Photo courtesy of Davao 50 Facebook Page.)

 Top Three Of The Women's Category!!!

Verdict: 8/10
Overall, the race was very well organised with enough water and sports drinks provided.  However, it would be great if the RD could put some of these information earlier on the event website.  Also, for overseas runners, it would be nice if we could have our own drop bag(s) to put the food that we normally eat.  Safety wise, I had not been thorough for this race as I didn't know that there was a mandatory gear list.  Hence, I didn't have the mandatory reflective vest or blinking lights.  It would be good if the RD could do a simple gear check prior to the race so that the runners could start the race with the required gear.  Luckily, traffic was light in most sections of the road except those that cut-through the main town and towards to late morning.  Also, the drivers were attentive when driving.  Last but not least, the effort by the RD to give out age-group winners no matter the size of participants, was an excellent way to encourage newcomers and promote ultra running to the wider running community.  With a race fee of only PhP1,550.00 (about S$48), it was certainly value-for-money and for those who have never visited Davao, go for it!

* Check-point timings yet to be rectified by RD.