Monday, May 2, 2011

TNF100 Philippines - CamSur

I attempted but failed in 2010 TNF100 Philippines which was held in Baguio City.  I would deem to be disqualified as I took in oxygen after running out of breadth.  So I decided to call it a day instead of finishing the race.  Besides, my headlamp's battery was running so low that I couldn't see the marking in the dark.  :p  For this year's race, the organiser changed the location to CamSur.  From what I know, unlike Baguio City which is situated at about 1,400m elevation and 8°C cooler on the average than any place in the Philippines, CamSur is much warmer with a higher humidity.  Nevertheless, I decided to give it a try again and Blas helped me to register for the race as there was no online application option available.

Vivian sent me to the Budget Terminal after her tuition class on Thursday night.  My flight to CamSur's Naga Airport via Manila departed on Friday early morning and I arrived at the resort by late morning.  Blas meanwhile, took the free bus transport from Manila and he arrived soon after me, after a 8-hour bus ride!  Once we checked into the resort, I went for carbo-loading lunch with Blas and Russel (a Korean runner stationed in Manila).  They went into the city after lunch to stock up some drinks and food while I went back to the resort to catch up on my sleep.  At around 4pm, I woke up to open the door for Russel.  I found out from him that Blas decided to watch a movie with Estan and they would be back slightly later.  We decided to wait for them at the resort lobby where the race briefing would be held at 5pm.  By then, many other runners were already there together with their family.  I saw Francis and Paul, fellow Filipino runners whom I met in the BDM or in last year's TNF100 Philippines.

Arrival @ Camsur and Lunch...

The race briefing started at 5pm sharp.  Blas arrived just before the briefing commenced.  The organisers outline the rules and regulations, as well as the route for both 50km and 100km.  For the 100km participants, we would start and end at the CamSur CWC Resort while for the 50km participants, they would be ferried to the start line approximately 50km away and end at the same CamSur CWC Resort.  The organisers also went into details the actual route, what to expect and the various check-points.  Last but not least, the organisers also mentioned that all successful finishers would get a trophy (top 3 will get the gold, silver and bronze trophy while the rest will get a black trophy, all in the shape of a running figurine).  The top 10 runners would also get a medal, while top 50 runners in each category would also receive a visor!  Wow... :)  After the race briefing, I went to collect my race packet.  There was a slight problem but Blas sorted it out for me eventually.

TNF100 Philippines Race Briefing...

We went back to our room after the briefing to prepare our gear required for the race.  All participants would have their gear checked by the race officials prior to the race so we had to ensure we had everything we need, especially those mandatory items.  Otherwise, we wouldn't be allow to start.  This would be the first time that Russel did a 100km race as he was more of an avid hiker than a trail runner.  He asked a few questions on the attire, etc but I wasn't able to advise much as it is pretty personal when it comes to ultramarathon.  What works for me may not works for him and I wouldn't like to be responsible for someone's failure because he/she had taken my advise.  Not especially when it was for the actual race.  Nevertheless, I did mention certain things that I would be bringing (e.g. the number of gels I would carry with me, what I put in my drop bag which I deposited after the race briefing, etc).  I also found out that Blas would be doing the 50km race instead of the 100km!  Uuuurrrrgggghhhh... Once we are more or less done, we went to the same restaurant for our carbo-loading dinner before an early night.

Race Aid Stations, Race Packet and Carbo Loading Dinner

I woke up just after 2am.  By then Russel had already cooked himself a nice breakfast.  :)  I had 2 pieces of bread and a packet of Milo.  We left at almost  the 3am towards the direction of the resort lobby.  But was told that only participants for 50km needed to assemble there to take the transport to the start while the start for the 100km was along the road near to the restaurant where we had lunch and dinner.  I wished Blas good luck for his 50km before retrieving our steps towards the 100km start with Russel.  When we reached there, we had to check-in to have our mandatory gears checked.  Once that was done, I sat down and go through the various check-points, distances and estimated timings.  There were a total of 14 check-points.  But the distances indicated in the route map was not very clear cut, especially after A6.  I also recalled during the race briefing that after entering CWC, we would be running another loop within CWC although the race director did not mention the distance nor the difficulty/obstacles in the final stretch.  In hind sight, it was something that the race director could have done so that the runners would be prepared better mentally.  10mins before race start, it drizzled!

Pre-race Gear Check and Race Start Point...

The race director flagged of the race start and amid the slight drizzle, everyone of us were in good spirit!  The distance to the first Check-Point A1 was 9km.  We were running mainly on road, before turning into some kind of back lane.  By then, the drizzle had stopped.  The back lane was wide and there were houses on our left and right, with some farms (based on my smell) in between the houses.  I tried to save the battery on my headlamp by making use of the light from other runners.  The ground was largely flat and even.  At the end of the houses, we cut-across some kind of plantation with a footpath that leads out to another rows of houses.  I reached Check-Point A1 at around 5.25am, with Russel not far behind.  I tooked some drink, refilled my water bottle before heading out.

Distance covered: 9km

Check-Point A1 - Distance Covered: 9km

From Check-Point A1 to A2, the distance was a manageable 6km.  We were still running on pavement.  But straight ahead, I could see some mountains looming nearer and nearer!  They looked intimidating as they became nearer and higher.  It wasn't so much about the going up that I feared.  It was the going down that I worried.  And I knew if we went up a mountain, there would come a time we had to come down it.  I just hoped that it would not be as bad as I thought.  Soon, I reached Check Point A2 at around 6.10am, although I didn't feel as though I had covered 6km for this section, and for a total of 15km.

Distance covered: 15km

Check-Point A2 - Distance Covered: 6km

The next section of the race was also a manageable 6km, or so I thought.  After leaving Check-Point A2, I finally entered the trail!  I love running the feeling of running inside the trail (or forest).  Somehow, the air seemed fresher when I was out in the nature.  I had a spring in my legs and was enjoying my run.  Soon, I encountered the first hill.  And the next one.  And another one further ahead.  It was never ending.  In fact, on some portion of the route, there were ropes that were tied from trees to trees as runners could use the ropes to pull themselves up.  I didn't have to use it as I was strong going up.  But when there was a downhill, the ropes were certainly very useful.  In fact, at some of those technical sections, there were volunteers stationed to ensure we successfully completed the "obstacles".  I then came to the first "river crossing" just next to a waterfall.  Luckily, there were rocks which we could step on and I managed to keep my feet dry.  I arrived at Check-Point A3 around 8.15am!

Distance covered: 21km

Check-Point A3 - Distance Covered: 6km

Check-point A3 to Check-point A4 was the furthest apart in the race with a distance of 11km.  I topped up my water bottle before continuing my race.  I couldn't remember much except that the 1st male runner for the 50km race zoomed past me!  He was soon joined by another runner.  Then another runner.  And another runner.  The 1st female runner for the 50km race also ran past me but I didn't register fast enough to shout out to her for a job well done.  Then the weather turned nasty.  It started raining again and although it was not heavy, it was more than just a drizzle.  I was rather demoralised although the weather was not cold.  I just disliked the feeling of running knowing that your shoes would be soaked with rain water.  Then I saw Blas!  I wasn't surprised to see him but I was happy that he was running very strongly despite the rain.  He told me be strong and press on.  Aiyoh, at that point, it was easier said than done!  :p  Luckily, the rain didn't stay for long.  Further up, I saw another lady runner and I shouted out to her that she was in 2nd place.  A further 3 to 4 more ladies running the 50km passed me, by the time I reached Check-Point A4 at 10.20am.  I ate a gel which tasted so horrible that I wanted to puke.  :(

Distance covered: 32km

Check-Point A4 - Distance Covered: 11km

I took a bottle of mineral water before leaving for Check-Point A5, which was about 9km away.  I had not seen Russel since I last saw him at the first check point.  Sometimes, it is easier to have someone to run with whether that someone is faster or slower than you.  At least, you can pace or push one another.  Especially for me during the night portion of a trail ultramarathon as I could be quite blind.  I tried my best to cover as much ground as possible during the daylight hours.  Then hope for the best when night falls.  This section of the race was slightly less demanding than the previous section.  I spent 2 hours 25mins covering the 11km distance, reaching Check-Point A5 at around 12.45pm.  I loved the orange flavoured 100 Plus drink and the volunteers were so enthusiastic to help me.

Distance covered: 41km

Check-Point A5 - Distance Covered: 9km

I walked the next section with a Filipino runner whom I met at the Check-Point A5 aid station.  He was supposed to run with a friend but his friend was still behind.  He didn't mind walking with him till his friend caught up with him.  This section of the race was actually easy.  There was a lot of steps and was going down, except that because of the wet weather earlier, the ground was rather slippery.  The path led to some kind of a park and/or pond.  There was a river to cross and many people were jumping and swimming in the water.  Again, runners had to cross the river by jumping across the rocks to the other side of the path.  Further up, there was yet another river to cross which I did so successfully with the help of the Filipino runner.  Then I was running alone as he decided to push the pace a bit.  I reached the next check point known as Check-Point LP (Bamboo Farm - where the 50km runners started earlier this morning) at 3.05pm.  This was also where our drop bags were!

Distance covered: 48km

Check-Point LP - Distance Covered: 7km

I took out my foot powder to dry my feet.  But I decided not to change my socks and running shoes since we would be doing a loop for the next section before returning to Check-Point LP again.  I ate my orange flavour electrolyte, dumped my headlamp and windbreaker before I left for Check-Point A6.  By then, I was trying to keep pace with 2 Filipino runners.  One of the runner was Ceazar.  His friend was slightly stronger and was pushing the pace.  We almost went off course but luckily, the volunteer spotted us and shouted from behind.  We were extremely grateful.  I met Francis (whom I met in last year's BDM and TNF100 Philippines) who was on his way back to Check-Point LP.  He said that the distance to Check-Point A6 was about 5.5~6km.  I realised that the organiser meant to indicate the 11km from LP to A6 was actually from LP to A6 and back to LP again.  We power-walked and ran along some farms and there were children who were happy to high-five.  Perhaps they hardly see anyone running at their village.  We reached Check-Point 6 at  4.15pm.

Distance covered: 53.5km

Check-Point A6 - Distance Covered: 5.5km

We had a quick stop at Check-Point A6.  While there, I asked if there are any solid food available but there was none.  Ceazar and his friend asked about my refuel strategy.  I told them that I only brought with me GU gels and the orange flavoured electrolyte.  Ceazar and his friend offered to give me a can of sardine rice at Check-Point LP when we get back there.  As we know what to expect for this section back to Check-Point LP, we ran a consistent pace and reached back at the drop bag aid station at 5.20pm, 5mins faster than we took to reach Check-Point A6:)  Ceazar's friend passed me their spare can of sardine rice.  It tasted great after digesting 3 packets of GU gel, which were too sweet.  I also shared my remaining foot powder.  I guessed in ultra running events, we had to help out each other whenever possible.  I also changed my socks, shoes, and wrist band while re-packed my more powerful headlamp with spare batteries before I left for the next check point.

Distance covered: 59km

Check-Point LP - Distance Covered: 5.5km

We were told that the distance from Check-Point LP to the next check point, Check-Point A4, was around 8km.  The sky was getting dark.  I told Ceazar and his friend to go ahead as I wanted to power-walk in order to digest the sardine rice.  Soon, another couple of runners (Simon Sandoval and Alex Yap) who were pacing each other ran past me.  (I were to reach Check-Point A4 just after them later).  I didn't fancy running alone in the dark, in a foreign country.  But I loved running alone in the trail.  I found it quite fun and totally independent as there would be no one to rely on except to keep pushing yourself.  However, running past a group of local out in the night could be a different story.  But luckily, they were just having beer after dinner.  They offered me a bottle which I declined politely before pointing towards the direction of my running route.  They nodded their head simultaneously.  Just after I crossed yet another stream, I caught up with Simon and Alex.  I joined them for the rest of the route just before Check-Point A4.

Distance covered: 67km

Simon and Alex were still at Check-Point A4 when I reached about 5mins after them.  They left for Check-Point A3, which was another 8km away shortly after, as I decided to rest for a while more.  According to the map, this was the same route that we took when we ran from Check-Point A3 to A4 earlier in the day.  But I was very blind at night and couldn't recognised anything at all even though I was walking along pavement with houses on both sides.  As it was still early in the night, there were people walking around, as they were probably aware of the race.  Although the street lights were far apart, it was still bright enough and I needn't switch on my headlamp.  Then I met a volunteer who directed me to turn right into the trail.  I thanked him.  Before I proceed, another volunteer told me to switch on my headlamp, which I did so immediately.  Apparently, he had been walking between that point where I met him and Check-Point A3 as he was the person in-charge of it and had to check on his trail markings and volunteers.  He was on his way for his round and I was lucky to have him to follow.  I soon caught up with Simon and Alex again.  As Alex was struggling, I decided to push on instead, though eventually, they caught up with me just before reaching Check-Point A3.

Distance covered: 75km

The distance from Check-Point A3 to A2 was a mere 2km apart.  It was not the same route that we took earlier but a short cut.  Unfortunately, there were no more sports drink at that check-point, which was only manned by 1 volunteer.  We also met with someone with the official videographer!  He filmed and asked us how was the race and how were we feeling.  Uuuurrrgggghhhh...  So even if it was tough and we were tired, we had to look enthusiastic to describe our emotions at that point!  :p  As it was a new section, we were kind of worried if we were on the right track.  But there was really no worry as the route was properly mark and we arrived at Check-Point A2 soon after.

Distance covered: 77km

We decided to take a longer rest.  I had another GU gel and apply some foot powder to both my feet.  Simon commented that the distance showed on his Garmin watch was very accurate so far.  That meant we had another 23km to go, out of which another 8km would be inside CWC.  But none of us know how it was possible to do a 8km loop inside CWC.  After about 5mins, I left for Check-Point A1 as I didn't want to loose my momentum even if I was only doing power walking.  The pavement became easier on this section as it was mainly pavement.  I reached Check-Point A1 just after an hour of power walking.  :)

Distance covered: 83km

My spirit was high as I know I just need to cover another 9km to reach CWC, though I knew I would have another 8km loop.  Although it was late, bikes or cars would drove passed me every now and then.  It was a straight road and I tried to use the vehicles light as a gauge to estimate how much further was the road before the turning.  Then, I almost missed a turning as I walked directly into a farm!  I only noticed it as the soil was just ploughed recently.  Luckily, after moving in circle, I managed to retrieve my steps and joined back to the actual route.  Phew!  After I made a quick stop at a volunteer's tent that I spotted to remove the soil that went into my shoes, I continued and at the same time, kept looking back for any signs of Simon and Alex.  I saw none of them but I did saw 2 policemen soon after and they directed me to cross the road.  I then knew CWC was not far ahead.  :)

Distance covered: 92km

I was in high spirit when I entered CWC!  I knew the end was near and I thought no matter how tough, it shouldn't be more tough than the 92km that I had covered.  But I was so wrong about that.  Once I stepped into the trail after following the volunteer's direction, I got worried.  It was really dark and although it was mostly man-made features e.g. the steps, benches, resting area, it looked and felt eerie.  So it was steps down and steps up.  Then I came to an open grass patch, before crossing some kind of water body.  I then came out of the trail onto civilisation but another volunteer pointed me to another kind of garden.  Just after I entered the garden, Simon and Alex caught up with me and we accompanied each other for our remaining journey, including getting our feet wet as the stones were too far apart to jump over, wading through a stream, etc.  We then saw the finishing tent but they were small!  After we climbed out from the trail onto proper pavement, we reckoned we had to run along the circumference of the lake before we reached the end point.  It was tough as I could feel the water squishing inside my shoes.  The last km felt the longest!  We walked down a flight of steps into the carpark area.  Through Simon's encouragement, I picked up my paces and finished the race in 24hrs 43mins 57secs, which was also good enough for a 6th place among the ladies.  :)

Distance covered: 100km

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