The heat burned. The dusty surface, loose rocks and scree taunted every runner that goes up and down the exposed lengthy loops of the course. It looked beautiful and yeah something you won’t easily forget. Running the course again for the second year, though this time the trail is longer, it presented itself as another wonderful journey.
Early on, the first few kilometers felt great. Having that usual euphoria whenever I run and be with those who share the same loony addiction.
However, reaching km23.8 (on my watch) changed everything. It was the start of my defeat. As I was charging on downhill I struck my foot at a rock on tiptoe and a pain shoot up the inner side of my right calf. Cramps. I don’t usually worry about a ‘C’ attack as it is usually mild, tolerable, Ignorable—something that I have accepted to happen at anytime. I kept hydrating. I ate the usual stuff that I bring to give me comfort.
But dang it. From that mild manifestation came a series of attacks during my pounding. On a particular downhill, I remember holding on to this thin trunk—the only thing that prevented me from falling. This time the cramp started from both of my calves then literally it crawled up the front of my thighs to my groin then shockingly to my stomach. I could not move. It was painful. I tried to breathe really deep and hopefully to relieve me a little.. Anymore attempt to move faster contributed to the cramp’s creeping up my body. I was immobile for awhile. In pain and half breathing, I tried to look around for help (it was just my head and upper chest that could twist that time). There was no one.
I knew I cannot stay here for long. I was already falling asleep and that is not good. I remember a third me-- negotiating with my mind to tell my body not to panic and focus on how to save myself from this state. For several minutes I was just there enduring every cramp that came when I tried to move. My stomach could not take the twists. My thighs and groin felt locked still. I was as stiff and straight as a rod. I prayed so hard to push panic at bay. I don’t remember how long I stood my ground waiting for my body to move. I threw up several times when the next cramp came up—It gave me relief but made me weak and sleepy as well. But it helped me move from my spot. I slowly dragged myself to the next mark. Tears came rolling thanking God.
Slowly I walked under the heated sun, saw other runners finding their own way to relieve themselves. Perhaps, just like me—thinking how to get out of the heated trails. Cramps tugged at me again to stop. I was luck y to see a marshal and begged him to massage my locked right thigh as I told him I could not bend down. He was heaven-sent.
There was water at the last two aid stations but the water was warm to the taste. My stomach refuses to take it in, so were the food that I kept forcing into my system the whole time. Finally between km 28 and km 29 I knew I wouldn’t make it anymore to the finish. It was almost time, 30 minutes or more I suppose. I saw another marshal and told him I can no longer continue as I kept throwing up. He radioed my bib number to the registry and marked me. Seeing another marshal putting empty water jugs to his truck, I kindly asked him to drive me to safety. Bless him.
I rung the door quickly as my cramps was creeping up again, this time spreading to my obliques. Thighs were locked, my tummy was twisting again. When Carlo (Dino) let me in, I drew the last strength in me to move myself and collapse on the bed—stiff with cramps. I needed a quick massage on my tummy to relieve me. I was afraid it would go to my heart next. Cha (Javier) took off my pack, my shoes and worked on me. After that, I felt saved and safe.
Gee (Belbes) arrived next, also feeling sick but still had the strength to babble and crack jokes. Nina (need I say who she is—the ISF Secgen) was there to comfort too. We were all laughing for not finishing the race (except for Carlo who finished happiest, along with our very own Salomonster brother Rolang the Wang). I had difficulty laughing as I was cramping still but if felt good to be at home with my friends.
From experience, running teaches you to be independent and tend to your own well being. But what I have gone thru in this race is something worthy to my process. I experienced that thin red line between sanity and abandonment. Races are different. One may start well, but could end up almost empty. I was at my lowest inside those trails, my mind and my body were in a battle. Good thing the mind won.
I am grateful to have experienced this. Learning never stops. More fine-tuning in my system is needed.