Tuesday, July 12, 2011

My CDO-Dahilayan 55k Trail Ultramarathon

CDO City Hall
“Congratulations, pre! Ultramarathon virgin no more,” this text I received from my good friend Gifford, an ultrarunner, uplifted me as I was traversing the long stretch of gradual inclined trail leading to Dahilayan. I was already way past the ‘wall’ of the marathon distance of 42.195 km. Where I am was in the ‘death grip’ of the ultra. 

I had registered a month before for the Cagayan de Oro-Dahilayan (in Bukidnon) 55k Trail Ultramarathon, the first and longest to be held in Northern Mindanao and the first to use timing chips.

Pre-breakfast Pastel
I started the run in the back of the pack with 10 or so runners behind me. The bulk of the participants easily climbed the first of unending uphill climbs starting at km 2. My strategy was to finish the race within the cut-off time of 12 hours by running 3 minutes and walking 1 minute. At this rate, I could arrive within 10 hours with 2 hours to spare for any eventualities. I walked all the uphill climbs and ran downhill as planned.

I was also taking in the scenic route. Taking pictures along sleepy towns and barangays as my support vehicle leaped frog me every 3-5 km or so in between aid stations.

Brgy Kil-og
There were downhill trails I could not run lest I sprain an ankle this early as my headlamp provided only little illumination along the path.

Massage midway through an uphill
When the sun rose, I was at a mountain barangay where people greeted me and children gave me high fives.

I stopped often to take in the view. There was one stretch of trail where there was not a whimper of a ghost. I had heard that Bukidnon was a rebel infested area so I ran this course as fast as I could. I did not know that barangay tanods and policemen were strategically placed nearby.

The Municipality of Libona, Camp 09 and Camp Philips were just a glimpse. A spectator in the race in a small town called Agusan Canyon asked me in tagalog if I was from Manila. “Taga Agusan pod ko, manang. Pero Agusan del Sur”. That elicited laughter from her friends.

I was enjoying the run.

Km 20 spectators
But at km 48 and almost 10 hours of running and hiking, I was feeling rather fatigued, down and sleepy. The crunching sound of gravel and stone underneath my running shoes were becoming a sickening thud. I could see nothing but rows and rows of pineapple fields under the heat of the noontime sun. 

Hours earlier at km 40, my Garmin (GPS watch) had run out of battery. I had no idea now how far to go and how much time had elapsed. That disappointed me a lot. We were only using my support vehicle’s odometer reading to get an estimate and it said 48.

At one point, I told my crew I was going to take a nap for 5 minutes but then they let me sleep for 10. When I woke, I was energized once again.

I reached aid station 50 at the end of the field. 5 more to go, I thought. I gathered my strength and power hiked the rest of the way as I could no longer run for more than 20 seconds at most due to fatigue.

After what seemed like forever, I asked a local on horseback how far yet to Dahilayan Adventure Zone and her answer was around 5-6 km. What the…! I could not believe it! A fellow runner came up to me and said they made a mistake in the sign posts. Tough luck!

Downhill portion of Camp 09
More trails!
After more walks, lunch and rest, I came around a bend and saw km 55. Yes 55! But I was nowhere near Dahilayan yet or where the party was. I hiked for more. Another sign said “850 m to Dahilayan”.

Pineapple fields of Del Monte
That was probably the longest hike I have ever felt. Rain poured down on me and mud cakes were forming everywhere. It was quite slippery to run and my shoes were carrying mud, excess weight to a tired runner. My support vehicle was slipping and sliding as it went past.

At Km 55 with 2.5 more to go
I persisted and climbed on fours as the rain intensified. Finally at the top of the hill, I saw the big letters of the word “FINISH”. I raised my arms, stood for a few moments underneath and contemplated how I managed 55 as I heard the clicks of SLRs everywhere.

I made it! Yes, ultramarathon virgin no more!

Click to enlarge ultrarunner :-)
The advantage of finishing at the back of the pack is that everybody else is lined up to see you arrive.
Elevation profile 40 of 55 km
Map from my Garmin up to km 40

I’m thankful to my support crew for staying up with me. Without them, I wouldn’t be able to make it.
F1 (Ultra)Runner

To my families and friends who kept texting me words of encouragement that I can make it;

To my fellow runners and adiks in dailymile and Facebook who motivated me all those months during my training runs;

Thanks a lot! See you on the road… and on the trails, my friends!