Mayon 360 2015: Amazing Beauty in Solitude

“Free…. To chase her aspirations and what makes her happy!” 

This is the comment posted by my good friend Gladys Nuas under this epic shot, taken by my older brother Joseph on our way to our WET (Water Extreme Tubing) adventure last April 12. 

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Her remarks aptly put in black printed letters the screaming message I wanted to put across in this picture. And yes, this photo also perfectly froze the kind of high I was in after successfully setting a new PR (Personal Record) at the 5th Mayon 360 80-k ultra marathon a day before. 
So, how did I accomplish this feat in the absence of a running companion and a support vehicle unlike in my first 50-mile run? (See related post at https://wanderingjouster.com/2014/04/10/mayon-360-2014-where-beauties-and-beasts-abound/.)
I, the Wandering Jouster, have prepared well the detailed chronicle of my second taste of this premier ultra marathon event in Bicol, my very own province. 

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Early morning of Saturday, April 11, made me wake up to my phone’s 2:30 a.m. alarm. Having the hotel room all to myself since my sister and three sons were staying overnight with the other members of our “tribe” in Diwata Imacoto Beach in Oas, I was not constricted to make any kind of movement and noise as I prepare for the flag-off at 4:00 a.m.. I was very calm while dressing up. I allotted 40 minutes to be at Penaranda Park before the gun start. I was unruffled because I would just walk a few meters from where we were billeted. Without a transportation problem, I was already all smiles at the break of dawn.
A second-timer in this race, I knew what would meet me at the assembly area. I did a quick sweep at the place which surprisingly was not as crowded as before. I saw familiar faces but I could not join them because we  are not friends. Well, I am not complaining. Hehehe… Solitude, even in running an ultra marathon, is something I would surely derive gratification from. 

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I lined up to check in my number and saw Ruben “Fards” Fajardo, one of the 83neans standing nearby. I greeted him and exchanged a brief update about another 83nean runner, Ed Balcueva who was already transported to the 40-k marker. They would be running the two-man relay, which split the 80-k distance.
After I was officially listed, I found a spot where I did short warm-up exercises. Then, my kumare/friend Elvie, who would be documenting a priest/friend run and his brother, arrived. Again, the conversation was quick after I requested her to keep my mobile phone. A few minutes later, the emcee instructed all the runners to approach the start area for the invocation, singing of the national anthem and Albay Hymn. Having run last year, I already anticipated the flow of the programme. When the Race Director Jovie Narcise, aka Bald Runner, had a rundown of the “strict” race rules, I expected the turning on of headlights, then the countdown before firing that single shot which released all the runners in the three categories: 80-k solo, two-man relay and the four-man relay. 

On stand-by
                                                                                         

All geared up
                                                                                         

The early part of my run served as a barometer whether my physical condition would be A-okay. It is during this point when the shooting pain at the side of my lower left leg would attack and make me stop. I began experiencing it before my CSM (Condura Skyway Marathon) 2015, and it persisted the whole time that I was preparing for Mayon 360. But, I allowed my stubbornness to overrule. I did not seek any professional help to know about the real cause for it; however, I made sure that I would be cleared for my hypertension issue. I may sound bragging, but my health condition a month before the race did not make me change my decision to push through with Mayon 360.
After my blood pressure had shot up again early March, I underwent three sets of laboratory tests, had an ECG and subjected myself to a treadmill stress test as per requirement by my cardiologist before she finally cleared me on April 8 to do a long distance run. I crammed for my training and once more became a “prodigal” daughter at Pegasus Fitness Camp. For the first time, I decided to have sessions with a trainer, but we were only able to meet twice since it also coincided with my accomplishing my graduate studies requirements. Based on my training chart, the Condura Marathon was my only longest distance, followed by two 30-k runs at Evia Grounds, Daang Reyna. The rest were all short ones. My cardio exercises on the elliptical machine and stationary bike filled in whatever gaps I had in my weekly training. Deep inside me, I knew it was not enough. 
Frankly, what really pushed me to be in the start area on the wee hours of  April 11 is the fact that my three sons came home with me to Bicol and would be waiting with my other siblings at the finish line for the very first time. Prior to the race, I jokingly referred to it as an added pressure, but it actually worked to my advantage.
Now, back to the action on the road. Ten minutes of continuous running minus the pain relieved me. I became very thankful and prayed that it would continue that way. My prayers were heard. Employing my own design of the Galloway method (mine is the modifiable and inconsistent run-walk combination), I succeeded in shortening the distance which I had to cover to reach the 40-k mark. With the eight-hour cut-off time to reach it, my pacing had me setting aside any anxiety. I congratulated myself when I found out that I again reverted to my usual sub-7 time for the 42.129-k distance. Mind you, I almost reached the cut-off time in the last marathon I had! 
I could feel that I was running well. My dreaded muscle fatigue and pain on my left leg have abandoned me. I found time to gaze at the rustic view along the way, sing two lines from Pharrell Williams’ “Happy”, exchange encouraging statements with fellow runners, and respond to my “kababayans” and children’s “Kaya mo pa?” query and chant with “Kaya ko pa!“, my sweetest smile and a thumbs-up.

Refreshed and bouncy

Then, one of the best parts of the run occurred.
A few minutes after I  reached Barangay Tambo in Ligao City, there was a heavy downpour! I was a drenched cat, but I did not mind it. It cooled my body temperature which invigorated me. Feeling refreshed despite the added weight due to the wet clothes and shoes, I advanced in my run while the rainfall continued.
 This is fun!” I screamed at the top of my lungs while spreading my two arms at my side. No runner was in sight and it gave me the liberty to claim that moment as mine. When the rain ceased, I knew I would dry myself under the heat of the sun as I prepared myself for Sabluyon Road. Labeled as one of the beasts in my 2014 article on Mayon 360, this road lessened its beastiness as I found myself climbing it again. Minus the extreme heat of the sun when I reached it, I found myself repeating what I did last year. At one point, I again walked backwards. My legs were already tired but they were willing to move at my silent firm command. I would immediately apply Perskindol gel and massage them the moment I could detect heaviness in my legs. If I feel that I needed to stretch or swing them, I would do it.
But you know what? I took a lot of risks and did a lot of firsts in the whole course of my second Mayon 360 just to survive it. For the first time, I accepted whatever food is offered to me in each station. Biggest help was the cloud 9 chocolates which served as my energy gels after consuming only three (they were four but I dropped one in Daraga). When pandesal was offered in two barangays, I got my share.
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I bought a hard boiled (oh, well soft-boiled really) egg in one of the sari-sari stores when the supply ran out at km 20. I bought an ice drop when the heat of the sun started beating on me in Ligao. I took my light lunch composed of  blue marlin paksiw and ginataang langka with crabs at a turo-turo at km 52 (where I was also able to remove my wet shoes and socks and apply petroleum jelly) and I had the pleasure of eating halo-halo at km 67 in-between my power walks.
They sure looked fun to anyone who would see me in each mentioned episode. But what my fellow runners did not know was my counteracting the unexpected UTI (urinary tract infection) attack at km 60. I was surprised and became a little worried when I began feeling the discomfort and pain especially after using three comfort rooms in three houses respectively. Then, what I thought as first aid came into mind. Met by one of the marshals, I was thankful when he announced about the cold shower, cold drinks, chocolates, biscuits, etc. waiting for us in that particular mark which I could not recall as of this writing. Upon seeing me, the staff thought that I would just douse my head only to see me bathing myself with the cold water and making me wet from head to shoes once more. The cold bath slightly alleviated the physical suffering while I wondered why I suddenly had UTI after ages. Was I already dehydrated or did I catch some bacteria even before the run? I didn’t spend time looking for the answer as the annoying pain started giving me shivers and prevented me from resuming my run. I repeated dousing myself with cold water in three more stations until the uneasy feeling miraculously abated and totally left me. Then, I recaptured my second wind as I found myself running strong in Sto. Domingo in spite of the torrid heat.

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If a CCTV were installed along my way, it could have recorded how at one point at km 70, I sprinted for 5 minutes straight. I overtook several runners who actually left me kilometers behind when I stopped for my lunch, making me fear that I was the last 80-k solo participant. My performance surprised me, but it was what I needed to become more thrilled to finish early when I entered Padang, the very first barangay in Legazpi City.  Looking at my watch, I calculated that it would be a big possibility for me to cross the finish line earlier than 7:00 P.M., the time which I told my family. But now, I was suddenly faced with this rub. How could I inform my siblings when I had no mobile phone with me? I was tempted to approach someone and cajoled him/her of letting me buy a load for it and call my own phone which was in Elvie’s possession. The problem is, would she dare take the call from my phone? I knew she wouldn’t. There was no way for me to inform them of my early finish and no one dared oppose my instructions to them of using their car or motorbike in meeting me just to check my progress or condition. I ain’t no rule breaker!
Now, Divine Providence interceded at the last 3-4 kilometers. Doing a power walk, I heard “Tita Mau!” from Rawis PNP Detachment. It came from my eldest policewoman niece, who served as my way in relaying the information to my family. I was a little emotional as she told me “Kaunti na lang! Kaya mo yan” when we hugged each other. It gave me another shower of magic stardust which powered me to finally set my new PR at 14 hours, 18 minutes, 21 seconds, sans cramps attack, sans blister popping. 

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4

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It was a smooth touchdown! The cheers, smiles and pride of my eldest sister Olen and brother Joseph as they followed my approach to the most coveted spot were more potent than the Stingers I took. They wiped away any impending sign of exhaustion.

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My three sons, sister Nano, nephews and godson were a few minutes late. Ironically, my niece’s sms prompt about my early finish was delayed due to Smart network problem. Darn Smart! Well, they had finally joined me and I could see the relief and happiness in my children’s eyes when they saw me safe and whole.

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As Arthur, Alexander and Lancelot joined me in this picture, it dawned on me that they will forever be more valuable than my medal and trophy. So with my family and friends whom I shared my pure joy with in this new victory. 

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Yes, Mayon 360 is truly sweeter the second time around! With the absence of  emotionally-charged incidents, I would gladly excuse a couple of drawbacks in the fifth edition which became glaring based on my experience. It seemed the supply of food was not as generous as last year’s. Even the downgrading of the soda made one runner react and made the marshal retort “Wow, brand conscious si kuya!” because he did not want to drink RC. In my case, I needed the sugar boost and my taste buds did not complain at all. When I reached km 40, I was expecting a lot of fanfare and was hoping to see the tent where female Red Cross personnel were waiting to offer free massage to runners. I was disappointed. I think if one of my friends had run, he would have been devastated. It was his unforgettable fave spot last year! Hahaha… Likewise, I missed the presence of a number of my kababayans waiting to cheer and personally offer their pails of water to us runners. In fact, I could only count in my fingers the children who extended their arms for high-five’s. And for this year, I experienced approaching and passing by roving marshals without any offer of water and even words of encouragement. Were they just busy chatting that one just stole a glance at me?  Hmmm… perhaps I appeared not needing assistance or in my present state not deserving a second look from these fellow Bicolanos. (Sniff!) Or, were they discriminatory? But, I did not see “For Our Friends Only” label on their tees! Now, let me give them the benefit of the doubt. For all one knows, they have also run out of water and words to offer me. Well, well, well… 
For the past four years, I learned that it was a contest among barangays every Mayon 360. It was a creative strategy by the local government which motivated these townspeople to extend support in any form to the runners. If I may ask, wasn’t there anymore an inter-barangay competition? If none, is this the price of welcoming a giant sponsor to the event? Hey, “I’m thinking out loud.” Let me borrow it, Ed Sheeran. 
Despite these observations, the JCI, the Race Director, and everyone who put tons of effort to make this most awaited race in Bicolandia the best, still deserve my overflowing gratitude, congratulations and salute. I am sure you are open-minded and have a big room for improvement. You know, nothing can be perfected in this world. And yes, I will still go back next year and the coming years to… (in the 83neans’ lingo)… “nail that bitch!” Ha-ha!
On a serious note, if there is one thing I learned from the fifth edition of Mayon 360, it is about finishing a race honorably. I believe obeying the race’s rule is a crucial part of it. Never in my wildest dream to be labeled as a fraud. Sadly, there were several violators/cheaters whom I personally witnessed. I was even dismayed to hear a story that a runner had the temerity to acknowledge/receive a podium-finish recognition despite using a support vehicle. What was more disgusting  is that they proudly flaunt their medal, trophy and finisher shirt in social media. I frown upon them because they call themselves teacher/coach, yet they teach their “students” the unacceptable way of winning. I frown upon them because they promote values that are not trademarks of genuine ultra marathoners. And most of all, I frown upon them because they do not respect what Mayon 360 ultra marathon embodies.

For me the glory of victory is empty if you cannot achieve it in a fair and just way. 

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logo-without-border1Photo Credits:

Sandy Catambay
Allan Hasal Maquiniana
Mayon 360 MPCI
Joseph M. Mediavillo
Running Doc
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