Tuesday, June 18, 2013
A sea of runners gathered in front of the Capitol of Sta. Cruz, Laguna listening to the final briefing from the race director and all ready to go. And so we all did at 4:30 am. The wet streets were pounded by zooming runners aiming to go for a good time finish.
The usual self-talk was there. I reminded myself to tackle the road one step at a time. Since it’s my first time running a road ultra, the sensation is so different. The road was painful and an agony from km 43. At this point I started to miss the trails, the softness of the grass, the branches and trees I could hold on to when I get tired.
As I am a stranger to the area and did not even bothered to study the route, I just knew running up started early along a portion of Pagsanjan and Caliraya (correct me if I’m wrong) all the way to Lumban, Cavinti, Luisiana and Lucban in Quezon.
Clouds hovered promising any moment of rainfall. That at least was good news as the humidity started to get into me. I had to find a way to forget my discomfort. I started appreciating the lake of Caliraya which looked so serene in the sunrise. Support vehicles were passing me by with good cheer and comfort food to nourish and sustain their runners.
I was amazed to see some runners finding some time to devour a nice meal. But what was torture was when I heard the sound of a newly-opened ice cold soda.
Drawing from within I started to focus once again. I prayed to be numb and started to ignore the distance. Since it is all ascending, I zoomed in just on the road and my feet pounding it on third gear. The CounterPain ointment and the massages were a great help too.
Marshals were hard to ignore when they keep saying how many kilometers left and what position you’re in. I just wanted to keep going and end this as soon as possible.
At Km 43, the road was really painful to my flat feet. After running non-stop, I decided to design my survival. I engaged myself in a 10 minute-run and 3 minute-power walks. I saw the other pack of runners doing the same thing and we seemed to all agree.
At Km 50, I was still running. I thought perhaps my watch made a mistake. Then suddenly I remembered that the course has an extra 3 kilometers, making it 53 kilometers. That was the bummer that made me laugh.
Going down a curve, a marshal came by on his bike and gave me the news that I’m almost there. He said I’m the 3rd female to arrive. Hearing the crowd and seeing the end to my first 50km road ultra was a piece of heaven. I survived.
Will I do it again or do longer? I’ll think about it. For now rest and recovery is a must so I could run happy again.
Photo courtesy of Day Gbz
Friday, May 10, 2013
This account of my skyrun of Mt. Rinjani is long overdue. I got so preoccupied that it became a dilly dally. I wasn’t sure if I would ever write about it. But of course my conscience won’t allow me. Not reliving the images and the feel of my encounter of the beautiful Rinjani is just not right. I had to share it.
I don’t know how to make it short. I hope you have the time reading my story.
As I decided not to renew my working contract in Indonesia, I made sure that I climb one of its celebrated mountains in Lombok island. And like the other volcanic summits I climbed in the Indonesian archipelago, Mt. Rinjani left such a remarkable impression on me. And a big thanks to a good friend who partly sponsored this trip.
From Bandar Lampung in Sumatra, I flew to Bali then to Lombok island. Clouds hover above at touchdown on Praya airport, a few kilometers away from the old Mataram airfield. Four strangers met up with me. I was a bit scared not knowing who these people are--who are taking me to one of my dream mountains. I entrusted my life to these men thru the intercession of a very good Indonesian friend who is based in Bali.
From Praya, a place of a thousand masjid (muslim temple), we drove to Pancor which seemed like 50 kilometers away. Coconut trees, rice fields, and bananas abound the rolling hills. I saw old people carrying their produce on their heads with such good balance and grace. They remind me of home—the cordilleras.
The trip was long. Bahasa music was playing and my companions we’re engaging in Bahasa Sasak, quite more difficult to decipher unlike the standard language of Indonesia. My escorts tried to speak in their best english so they could practice. They told me stories and they made me laugh, making me more comfortable. I trusted them.
We stopped by at Aikmel in Lombok Timur for supplies. My guides promised to cook me my favorite nasi goreng and the best brewed coffee Luwak (which is by the way one of the most expensive coffee in the world. Why? I guess you already know that). Indonesian food tastes so good and mouthwatering. I’ll surely miss it when I leave Indonesia.
Just after entering the arc of National Park Rinjani, the surroundings got dark. It was so green and forested! Tall fig trees, coffee, cacao, wild orchids, giant fern tress and huge pandans abound. Monkeys were dangling from the trees, seemingly laughing at us.
From our uphill ride, there was a clearing and there I saw the imposing slope of Gunung Rinjani. The mountain’s huge and its tip so far. Clouds of smoke was coming out of the summit. Temperature dropped to about 10 degrees celsius.
Arriving at dusk at the village of Sembalun which is inhabited by the indigenous Sasak people, we bought kerosene and additional food ration. I particularly reminded our cook to buy my favorite Tempe for my dinner. My guides booked me at the Sembalun Lawang Lombok Timur Homestay. It was cozy and comfy but it was expensive. Had I known, I could have just spread out my sleeping bag nearby. Climbing in Indonesia is expensive— and you’ll be charged more if you speak English.
Two guides picked me up after breakfast around 6:30 am and drove me to Senaru—the common jump off point. In my limited bahasa, I recapped my plan for the ascent of Rinjani to Eman--the stronger guide who could run and powerwalk with me. Though he told me he was fasting, he assured me that I have nothing to worry about. We just had to stop about twice or thrice for him to pray.
The sun-kissed savannah slope was vast and humid. From afar it looked like a stretch of soft brown cotton wrap. It was exquisite. The terrain was rolling and it felt good to run. Reaching the woods was a relief. It felt cooler. This time Eman warned me of occasional drop in temperature as we head higher and to be ready to keep myself warm.
Going up the woods was technical. The surface was ashy dry--it made me sneeze a lot. During compressions, the view behind me was stunning. Drenched with sweat and quads feeling the strain after covering about 15 kilometers, I took a peek of where I’m heading to and it looked so far and yes—so high.
Exhausted and hungry now at 2:00 pm, Eman told me the best news that we have arrived at camp site which locals call Pelawangan Sembalun. We are now at 2,715 masl and it was cold. Rinjani stands at 3,726 masl. Temperature’s now 4 degrees celsius and will get colder into the night.
Dinner was a bit late as one of our porters got sick on his way up. Eman had to go back for them. I was left admiring the view of the Segara Anak (Child of the Sea) lake half-way thru the summit. The walls of the caldera were long and deep crevices and the small volcano Gunung Baru Jari (New Mountain) which was born during the 1994 and 1995 eruptions. Puffs of smoke were visible at the small crater. Looking beyond the ridges was the setting sun and the full moon that presented a picturesque drama of wonder.
I was in company of trekkers from Europe and Asia. Just like me they’re in awe at how they’re going to manage to reach the steep-sided conical summit before sunrise with its loose and steep vertical. Recalling the story of the danger at the summit due to sulfuric smoke, slipping and spontaneous eruptions, Eman told me to take it slow and keep myself close behind him. Rinjani last erupted in 2010.
Dinner was sumptuous. Brewed hot coffee and tea, nasi goreng (fried rice), telur asin (salted eggs), and noodles were served by our cook. I ate them all.
The full moon hovered like a giant golden plate against the dark horizon. It lit the campsite as we prepared for the night’s rest. It was hard to sleep as it was too cold for comfort. It’s now about –4 degrees celsius.
At 2:00 am, Eman and I started our ascent. We decided to go ahead of the other tourists to avoid huddling up at some portions of the way up the summit. The moonlight bathe the slopes in a beautiful silence and that my trudging was the only noise. Arriving at a plane ridge brought a much needed respite from my aching quads. The air was thin—it was hard to breathe.
The final assault was dizzying. It was difficult to be still as the wind was too strong to keep my balance. Eman was my eyes in the dusty and shadowy track. At 5:00 am, I was at the mercy of my optimism to summit. I had to dig in my feet for balance before making any further step. That was laborious. Behind me were tourists who looked like fireflies catching up at the ridge column.
I crawled up a few meters and dragged myself to the summit. I was in tears because I knew I made it the. I dropped myself to the ground and kissed it. The view from the top at 5:30 am and was one of the most beautiful sight I have encountered. It was too cold for me that It was hard taking photos. It was –8 degrees celsius.
Wednesday, May 1, 2013
This time I liked the subtlety—the half of it. It felt just right. I’m back in my playground, I am home. I have no qualms but I did feel a bit of an envy of those going full. But hey this is the second best thing and I wouldn’t miss it for the world.
Months before, I flew back to recall the old familiar sweet tinge run up and down my whole being. The scent of the grass, the pines, the sweat moved me while the loose edges of the rocks tickled my feet that made me dance a little. These I always miss. It makes me happy.
Good cheer filled the crowd of racers, most of them familiar stars that swarms timelines in facebook and sports pages. My eyes wandered as usual observing the emotion of the sea of faces—mostly excited, while some locked in a deep thought. I could relate more to the latter. I felt anxious, asking myself if i could finish this year. Images of 2012 played back reducing me to pieces. There’s no turning back as it is not an option. With several nights of restful sleep, I felt alive. Though prep wasn’t enough (again), I chose not to cram but rather go for several feel-good runs and verticals in my building. Fresh legs and feet, and a strong heart mattered the most I say as I came inside the shoot to be checked.
Of we went like fireflies into the darkness of the woods. Heart pounding and lungs telling that it’s functioning okay. Caught up with the middle pack at a muddy and slippery downhill. Happy with my Salomon speedcross my feet felt stable and had a good grip of the earth.
Approaching the airport strip shortly before 5am changed everything. Irritated of my windbreaker behind me did my fall so early in the race. I lost my footing at a hump and the ground just came up to kiss me. For a few seconds, I laid there on the hard surface then reflex pulled me up. As I pointed my headlamp to my knees, there was blood from different spots. My face felt funny too. The right part was thicker and blood was there too from a gash. I didn’t realize I hit my head too. My right cheek was bigger than my left and my right eye felt thicker and lumpy—just like what we see in boxing. I wasn’t sure how I looked but I was thankful because there was no pain at all. Adrenaline’s working kindly. I felt numb.
Worried of an infection, I had a medic attend to my wounds. The medic offered to cover the wounds as it was swelly but I felt better when they are exposed and dried. The sun’s up and bright and everyone I pass by and meet on the trail seemed appalled when they saw me. Perhaps I really looked horrible that time. A runner from Hongkong asked me…”oh my are you okay…did you get that running down?” I smiled and candidly said…”nah I was just stupid.” And we both laughed.
Surprisingly I lost thought of my wounds. I was busy running, walking, eating and drinking. It was terribly hot. I was tempted to join in a small group of runners resting at a very nice shaded spot. But no. I had a plan and it has to be done. Forward relentless motion. If needed, 5 minutes is max for any rest. I opted for that after the turning point just in time for some happy food.
Good cheer from fellow runners were nice to hear on the trails. Near the half-the-course mark, you would hear the usual—“it’s not that far”. Who were they kidding?, I live here—my playground. I just smiled and acknowledged.
My four-wheels were all good despite the cuts. No signs of cramps after that nonstop, long haul up. To boost that, I made sure that I had water and electrolytes and some little happy bites of something salty and sweet in between. I also took a quick cold bath at the summit and changed my shirt. I made a stop at a small store and bought ice on my way back.
Passing by a maze of pathways at a community leading to the last haul to the finish was the longest as always. Time was still good and on my side. But the sun was breathing down my neck at every turn. There was no cover at that portion of that haul. I was desperate to find a shade. I was toast and ready to fry.
Pounding my way at the John Hay area was a break. Drank more of my remaining boosters and kept moving as I drew nearer, though that stretch seemed endless. I finally heard music echoing and crowds cheering. So this is how it feels to officially finish. Addicting—I want more of this. I came inspired and will go home inspired-- to do and come back for more. It’s the sweetest moment.
Thursday, February 28, 2013
The trails are calling once again. And what a pull it is making. Arriving at Hamilo Coast for the 2013 Salomon Xtrail Test Run kept me in a pensive feel. What am I going to be in this time? But does it really matter—I just know that what I see in front of me: the cove, the beach, the hot sun, and the panorama of the trails that I, and the others with the trail itch will be running to will be full of a different kind of amusement.
The Salomon XTrail menu on March 23 offers a 6km, 12km and 24km distances to trail runners who want to bring their fitness level to the next.
Welcomed by race organizers from Salomon led by Janice Tañada – the brand manager of Salomon Philipppines and the gracious host for this year’s Salomon XTrail Run – Hamilo Coast, treated the runners, media friends, and bloggers to overflowing refreshments, and unlimited delectable food.
The pretty triathlete Pen Nepomuceno, who designed the course dubbed the road-trail route as full of ‘fun’. Showing the elevation and course map, it made me think and I’m sure the others too that it is one heck of a technical trail. Verticals were obviously there. You can’t miss them.
It’s 10 am and off we went. Pen Nepomuceno took the lead and gave us instructions on how to go about and what to expect on the trails. We were told to have a feel and the vibes of the first 6km of the 24km trail. The sun was excruciating and blinding. Thankful though of the winds from the west Philippine sea. Participants—not minding being fried under the sun, ran and walked by the beach up to the hills and back, appreciating the tranquil blue sea and the picturesque coastline which is something unusual for trail runners.
The heat would be a big factor on race day especially for those running the 24km distance. One would want to pray for rain or to have iced water at the water stops—all through out the race! The surface were like flaky and slippery due to pebbles, loose rocks and mossy pathways. Just like other runners, I dread the rocky and uneven stairs. You would feel your knees getting the intensity of the impact as you run down.
Challenging as it is and experiencing a bit of the route of the Salomon XTrail made us breathless and keyed up for race day. As we all headed back to end our test run at the white beach of Hamilo Coast, I felt my legs working again, and my lungs telling me that I’m in for a great trail run this March. What a partnership of Salomon and Hamilo Coast. See you all at the Salomon XTrail Run!
(Photos by Running Atom, Kian Vicera, Romano Cortes Jorge)
Tuesday, August 28, 2012
Bed is warm, comfortable and a magnet! Annoyingly I turned off my alarm clock—not just for days but for months. I just wanted silence.
I guess this happens to a few, but then again maybe not. Perhaps it is just me. I don’t know how it came about but I am to blame. I am guilty. It is a choice and I allowed it to happen. A few weeks ago, my rendezvous with Mt. Fuji was another dream come true. I remember bringing home a poster of it a couple of years ago from the Kinabalu International Climbathon and I knew in my heart it was set to happen. However, as I became a mediocre, I was in no shape. Training stalled and got lazy. Weeks of dullness and no action. I consciously know that I’m not fit and most importantly I was not in my running self to compete. My body and mind weren't in unison.
Strange but I kind of like this moment of inaction. If you happen to read this post and can relate to my situation, I would like it very much to hear from you about how you beat it or how you’re dealing with it. I am missing my runs---my long runs and the happy workouts.
I looked for answers. A few friends were very consoling as I told them of my slump. Replies were almost all the same. In one word, they call it a ‘phase’. A juncture of time when the body is needing something to break a monotony, though I am sure I am not a hardcore distance runner as I don’t race much.
I also searched deep within me how to get back, to find myself. It boiled down to the word: ‘choice’. I made that choice to give in to a craving that I don’t understand. I allowed it to take charge of me. Being a good runner is all about devotion and consistency. Since moving to Indonesia, I kind of lost a whole bunch of that. It sounds an excuse but half of it is true. I submitted myself to the fact that I am weak. This acceptance of my limitation is liberating…therapeutic.
At the moment, I am close to going back. I am starting to feel the itch of going back on the road again. Though I know I need to take a break again soon for one personal reason that could change my life. I have no qualms as I know that I could always go back. I just need this 'space' to give something a chance. Running and races will always be there, they won’t go away. Roads, trails and mountains would always welcome me back. That I am sure.
You’ll know when I am back.
Friday, August 10, 2012
I sat, relieved as I am done for the day’s work at school. ‘tis the time of the day when I’m in my usual hunting for quotes, which I take seriously, from great minds of running and share them daily to the running community, hoping a good amount of reflection would be done and inspire more converts.
As I settled for a good four or five quotes ready to be shared, my copy of James E. Shapiro caught my eye. One of the few fave things that I brought while here in Indonesia. I went through the pages and saw oldschool greats like Ted Corbitt, Arthur Greatheart Newton, Don Ritchie, John Jewell, Mavis Hutchison, to name a few.
It’s more than a year since I’ve been hunting and reading quotes about running and it is just sublime. Ever since, I make sure I share a daily running quote, particularly in the Baguio Running Wall in Facebook.
The book Ultramarathon by James E. Shapiro, for me, is loaded with chunks of good read of unassuming runners of great feat. I slowly read the lines again, taking them in like how I eat my favorite yogurt, delighting in the taste and understanding the flavor.
Perhaps it is just right to share some significant thoughts of Shapiro’s personal accounts of his interviews and running competitively against some of the ultrarunning world’s remarkable distance runners that runners of this current period idolize.
At the classic 24-hour run enclosed in a track oval, Jim articulated what was going through his mind while on the run.
“Go easy. Go relaxed. Save energy. Ignore the world. Forget the deep habit of every runner who loves to race which makes you yearn to close up on the pair of heels in front. The 24-hour is a special monster. It required. I felt, obedience to special laws or it would flatten the runner as indifferently as a hippo flopping down on a blade of grass.”
Shapiro also has this to say why some run.
“We do this to experience the whole with the goal of finishing steadily drawing nearer all the while, as we climb and descend in a sometimes easy harmony with the hills and the rotaries and the shoulders of countless roadways that meander through the world. Something always happens; there is a bit of fullness at the end of such a day—nothing of stunning spiritual dimensions but deeply pleasurable all the same.”
And who would forget believers such as Dr. George Sheehan, Roger Bannister, John Bingham who gave their own delivery of how beautiful running is, in their books are all a confirmation of the truth in running. Their meaningful words are reverberating and well appreciated. They’re a classic to every runner’s heart.
“The runner does not know how or why he runs. He only knows that he must run, and in so doing he expresses himself as he can in no other way. He creates our of instability and conflict something that gives pleasure to himself and others, because it releases feelings of beauty and power latent within us all.” – Roger Bannister
"It's very hard in the beginning to understand that the whole idea is not to beat the other runners. Eventually you learn that the competition is against the little voice inside you that wants you to quit."
"To keep from decaying, to be a winner, the athlete must accept pain--not only accept it, but look for it, live with it, learn not to fear it." – Dr. George Sheehan
“Frustration is the first step towards improvement. I have no incentive to improve if I’m content with what I can do and if I’m completely satisfied with my pace, distance and form as a runner. It’s only when I face frustration and use it to fuel my dedication that I feel myself moving forwards.”
“The miracle isn't that I finished. The miracle is that I had the courage to start.” – John Bingham
As my running continues, so is my love for it. The memories of my marathons, my joyful halfs, ultra trails--I just couldn’t get enough. The pull of distances longer than 26.2 miles is deep, intimate…passionate. An attraction that I don’t want to end nor cut.
Thanks to these extraordinary people, who inspired all of us to go further and rouse more souls to continue the love for running.