My sister Nano called me “kapay” (insane). I cockily called myself and the rest of those who defied distance and the blazing heat of the sun “oragon” (the very best) when we ran around the world’s perfect-coned volcano on April 5.
A novice in this most awaited ultra marathon in my hometown, I had to furnish myself with the finest armor to gratify and not to dissatisfy at Mayon 360-degree 2014.
Arriving earlier than my “adoptive” running team, I was able to have a short recon of the still uncrowded start area before I proceeded to the set rendezvous across St. Gregory Cathedral. The open 24-hour convenience store plus the company of my nephew, Yuram, assured me of my safety. This gave me time to relax as the throbbing pain in my temple due to lack of decent sleep for three straight days began. Then, came the white Montero which carried these men who accompanied me in my training runs and were set to do so on race day itself.
Whatever little waiting time we had before the four o’ clock gun start was spent in photo-op, exchange of greetings, wishes, back slaps and handshakes, shy look and smiles, and deep breathing. Our common attention was only directed when the short program began. Morning supplication over, singing of the National Anthem and playing of Albay Hymn done, I knew that I would be hearing that sound which is music to all the 700+ runners there at Penaranda Park. And as the race director, Bald Runner, sounded his cow bell, his “Enjoy the run” parting line reverberated in my mind.
Enjoy?????? How does one enjoy a 50-mile run which can be hellish due to the oppressive humidity? This I had to find out when all solo, two-man relay and four-man relay runners were released at the same time.
Running close to my pacer/coach/friend/fellow blogger, Vicboy De Lima (aka Bicolano Penguin), Noel “Ghibz” Guevara (also a newbie at Mayon 360) and Ric Lozano (a Bicol-based 83nean runner), I commenced a silent tour of three cities and five towns in my own province which i have never done before even when I was still a Bicol resident 28 years ago.
My initial run did not trigger any pain in my right pelvis. It was a good omen. I was very thankful and relieved. You see, the diagnosed pelvic instability two weeks before Mayon 360 gave my morale a pendulum swing. I underwent serious contemplation whether I had to go on with this ultra marathon for fear that I would be placing myself in jeopardy. If not for the proper training I did, my “Mind over matter” conditioning, and the overflowing support of my family and friends especially those who were waiting for me in Bicol, I would have no article about my Mayon 360 journey today. But hey, there was more than this! I got a “secret” weapon why the pain did not attack all throughout my run. Sorry, the revelation will come later.
Indeed, the absence of this lower body discomfort ramped up my adrenalin for the first 4 kilometers until my head felt heavier and my limbs became weak. I immediately informed Vicboy that I had to take my medicine after giving my temples quick massage.
So on the first stop of our support vehicle, I immediately ate boiled banana and hard boiled egg, courtesy of my eldest niece Johanna and family, before taking my maintenance plus the last pain reliever in my mini-medicine box. My movements were fast. I already had enough amount of training from my coach about this and dawdling even for a second might make me earn his snapping or worst, his ire.
Hunger satiated and pain addressed, our trio resumed our pace. Ghibz’s mobile run application was our constant reference for our covered distance. We were ahead of our targeted number of minutes per kilometer which means to say that we were a little fast. This elicited a smug smile from Vicboy which he expressed verbally. Thus, when we reached Camalig we had our episode of so much
Then, we were back to the mission at hand — advancing in our odyssey of body and mind. This is where the beasts started coming out along our way.
From km 15 to km 50, we protected ourselves from six-wheeler trucks and speedy private and public vehicles. Vicboy’s hand signal to give way to us runners was sometimes even turned blind eye to. At one point I had to yell at him to just run on the shoulder of the road lest he would be sideswiped. This realization had me holding on to my presence of mind. I became extra wary of more impending dangers. My eyes would often shift in front of me to the pavement that I was running on. Any time, I could step on a small rock or stone which could injure me. But these could be considered minibeasts, ladies and gentlemen. I had to brace myself for the beastiest among them! It was a vie between the murderous heat of the sun and the uphill at Sabluyon Ridge.
And the winner is…….?
Goodness gracious the great BALL OF FIRE!
Minus our private overflowing supply of hydration and the organizers’ provisions of hydration both for drinking and showering in most of the barangays, we could have been vanquished by this giant beast. Obviously, the Junior Chamber International-Legazpi Chapter, Liga Ng Mga Barangay-Albay Chapter and PAU (Philippine Association of Ultrarunners) headed by Jovie Narcise, saw this coming that they readied their people for the worst scenario. Aside from this impressive part of the race, the emergence of beauties, literally and figuratively, counteracted whatever exhaustion all the runners were undergoing. Exchanging quick talk with “magayon” (pretty) runners (souvenir shot served as a bonus) worked its magic on my two companions, Vicboy and Ghibz. Hahahahaha. On my part, I exchanged uplifting smiles and short infos with non-bicolano runners and fellow BUHS (Bicol University High School) alumni. Not to forget were the compassionate and hospitable residents, who prepared big buckets of water for heat relief. This warmed my hearts and I felt a surge of pride for my fellow Albayanos. In addition to the adequate supply of hydration, chocolates (Cloud 9 and Flat Tops), Fita biscuits, hard boiled eggs, buko ice candy, bananas, and salt were generously provided. I made sure that I would stop and take their offer. It was the least I could do to show my appreciation of their kindness even if we had our own ample stock in the vehicle. Small children extended their hands for a high five which was their innocent way of giving me their encouragement to shoulder on. And I did just that – to continue on no matter what happens.
At km 53, we took our light lunch at Jollibee, Tabaco City. My watch showed 12:10 pm. The hired masseuse, Liza, joined us and afterwards, gave Ghibz and Vicboy their needed massage. It was an opportune time for me to answer the call of nature and change my shirt in the vehicle. Likewise, I saw that stopover in giving the first update about our progress to my siblings in Manila and Bicol and to my close friends. Then, Ed Balcueva, one of our support crew, informed me that Vicboy had already left the food chain. In haste, I followed suit and spotted him a few meters ahead of me. I failed to inquire where Ghibz was.
From Jollibee, I did an easy walk to be able to allow my stomach to digest whatever solids I took in. It was at this time that the temperature had intensified. Well, my tangerine running top was specially designed for it making me feel fresh and comfy. After a while, I started power walking. I know, it’s not yet time for me to slow down for a fact that 27k is still a long distance to finish in seven hours. To add, anything could happen along the way. I could already feel the blisters which had cropped up on both feet. I knew my wet shoes and socks (due to my showering at almost every station) aggravated this. I tried changing to my back-up pair of running shoes before km 50, but unfortunately my feet became uncomfortable after getting used to my first pair. I reverted to it and had to silently pray that my blisters would not cause me more pain. The regular application of petroleum jelly after changing my socks temporarily abated the soreness.
From San Lorenzo to San Jose, Malilipot there was a 5-k distance before reaching the 60-k mark. This was the spot where a “catch-me-if-you-can” situation arose which led to a verbal tussle between my pacer/coach and me. I overtook Vicboy when he had his stop for his massage, and I decided to continue my run. He was only able to catch up with me when the second wave of weakness hit me. I sensed that he did not like it especially when I commented that his body language of turning his head often to check on me running close behind him was stressing me (Well, more of pissing me off!). Thin smoke was slowly emitting from his smoldering look. I waited for his contained rage to erupt.
Should we blame it to the humidity on its highest or should we blame it to the clash of mindset 20 kilometers away from the finish line?
Walking beside me, Vicboy raised the question if I could finish the remaining distance in five hours. I did not respond, but instead posed my own question if he were aiming for a new PR (personal record) because it appeared that he was worrying though in my own assessment, 5 hours is enough for me to do it. It provoked him, making him reply in tirade. I kept mum while in my mind, I wanted to do my own speech (also in straight English…haha!) and utter all the profanities which I knew. But honestly? I was wishing for a high bridge to be in sight. It could have settled everything. Yay! Ghibz, the third member of our triumvirate, had lagged behind. I wonder how he would have reacted to our ultra running “maestro” blowing his top. Well, my locus of control was working properly from the start and I was confident I would finish the race before the 16-hour cutoff time. I would not go this far without surviving my first Mayon 360 triumphantly. Thus, when we approached the vehicle for our hydration and fruit, Ed expressed his happiness in witnessing our second wind in full force. Allen Toledo, another member of our back-up team, seconded his observation.
Thanks to the masseuse, I guess the foot massage helped in calming Vicboy’s tense nerves and temper. Whoa! So when we returned to the road, I was sure there would be no round two of the penguin and cat squabble. We instead communed with our respective inner selves.
Passing San Fernando, Sto. Domingo, I was given a surprise. From afar, I saw a familiar red Adventure parked at the side of the opposite road. As we neared it, I recognized my nephew Yuji aiming his camera at us, my grandson and his mother, Lalaine. Closing the distance between us, I saw my eldest brother Yul on the driver’s seat. He smiled widely and commented about the remaining short distance while his two sons, Yuram and Nico, peered outside the window to give me the same smile. I almost gave in to my emotional side. I held back my tears. I knew how my brother worried for me when I informed him about running this 80-k run with an injury that had not been fully treated.
I remembered Vicboy telling me about the good effect on runners when they get to see their loved ones. It was not only good. It was miraculous especially after also seeing my eldest sister, Olen and her fiance, Bobbi and then my eldest niece, Johanna and her husband, Dan as I hurdled the remaining kilometers.
In the next 6k, I knew I was running strong despite the blisters which continued bothering me. The change to my red UA top bearing my WJ coat of arms seemed to have improved my performance more. Glancing at Vicboy, who now walked with me side by side, I could say that he was the one who looked more enervated, thus prolonging the time for power walk. I would wait for him to prompt me and would ask him once in a while if he were okay. He would just nod his head and inform me of the remaining time. I realized, the sun had already set on us when we entered Bonot, Legazpi City for the last 2 kilometers.
The familiar route going to Cruzada before turning left to Washington Drive gave me my first experience of blisters bursting. I thought my toe was cut when I felt it! It slowed me down but did not stop me from running. I was glad, my feet were still in synced with Vicboy’s. We had this mutual agreement that we would always finish strong and with great honor.
And after braving the poorly lighted road and encountering more beasts as we neared the finish line, I knew I would have the uber-awesome finish among my runs. My “maestro” began clapping as we approached the chute making others join him. This pumped up the exhilaration until we both finally touched the finish line and basked on the limelight and applause.
Fourteen hours, 55 minutes and 15 seconds. I ranked 349 out of 396 finishers in the solo category.
Approaching and hugging my family who patiently waited for me to cross the finish line and to cheer for me, I finally allowed my tears to freely flow. God, you are responsible for making this aftereffect extremely beautiful!
Looking for Vicboy so I could already change and join my family for a simple dinner celebration, I had another powerful photo with Ghibz and him. This perfectly captured the faces of three warriors destined for victory from the very beginning.