If running is an addiction, I wonder when I will discover its potent cure since I am at it again. This time, my “dependence” is stronger.
For the first time in my almost six years of running, I ran an ultra marathon five days after doing a marathon!
An ultra as a recovery run? To the uninitiated, this is absurdity in its purest form!
But, my id, super-ego and ego wrestled with each other to lead me to the most sensible decision a day before I confirmed with our family’s on-call driver-for-hire that I would push through with 2BatoQ (Batangas City to Quezon) 66-k ultra marathon, touted as the mini Badwater 135 in Quezon, on February 13. It was a whole day battle inside me which finally saw my ego emerging as the conqueror. Rationalizing based on Sigmund Freud‘s structural model of the psyche, I was assured that I made a sane choice as my ego acted according to the reality principle. It succeeded in pleasing my id’s drive to finally do the endurance run despite putting myself at risk rather than wallow in regret afterwards if I did not appear at the gates of the sprawling Batangas Provincial Capitol just after midnight of February 12, Friday.
I tried catching some sleep for an hour in the vehicle as there were only a handful of people who were up and about at 1:00 am. Flag off is at 3:00 am which provided me ample time to relax and allow myself to adjust to the coldness. Goosebumps had already appeared on my skin and I had to counteract them so as to maintain my core body temperature. I closed my eyes, snuggled in my malong after setting the alarm at 2:15 am and expected myself to doze off at once and soundly. I failed. Zero success in doing a catnap as apprehension slowly began creeping in into my system. I got up before the alarm sounded and started changing to my running attire.
Once ready, I got my bib number and then approached and greeted the Race Director, Rodell Mendoza. It’s my second time to be in his running event and our being friends in Facebook helped a lot in making him remember me. This was our topic in our brief exchange plus our missing the presence of a mutual friend, Vicboy De Lima aka Bicolano Penguin, who ran with me in my very first Runnin’Active’s ultra run which is the MAP (Malicboy-Atimonan-Pagbilao) in 2014. His important prior commitment had him forgoing this run which was designed to challenge every runner’s sense of mortality and immortality.
Seventeen runners! This was the final number of starters at 2BatoQ 2016. Out of 30 registrants, only 13 male and 4 female road warriors dared to be at the starting line. The small number added to my anxiety for the reason that I joined this event alone as part of my personal preparation for a longer mileage soon. Having not seen a familiar runner whom I could have a tandem with, I tried hard warding off the doubts as to my ability to finish the run. I was in the verge of pointing a finger to my super-ego for its failure to vanquish my ego, but the RD already led the morning supplication. After the documentation, I took a quick look at my fellow participants while wishing myself tons of luck silently.
At 3:05 am we were all released. My first strides were A-okay. I immediately thanked the Lord and hoped that my reserve of the other deities for the later part of my run would also be on stand by and willing to extend succor when I send the Morse Code distress signal. Ha-ha.
Relieved, I completed the first 3 km at a fast pace. Sans leg muscle heaviness, I pounded the dark pavement with focus. My performance didn’t have any trace that I hadn’t fully rested my muscles from the Condura Skyway Marathon. Was I celebrating already? Nahhhhhh. It was very premature to do that celebratory gesture for the remaining 63km (actual distance to still cover is 66.42km) had something in store for me.
A self-confessed poor navigator, I would not be able to give you a detailed description of the run route even though Sir Rodell illustrated it to us before the gun start. Truth be told, his laying down to us the directions added to my worry since I could not absorb it being unfamiliar with Batangas City geography. Thus, I was at the mercy of my co-runners in following the right course lest I lost my way. I think my hazy sense of direction plus the tickling onslaught of human weakness diminished the self-confidence I armed myself with. Little voices began telling me to withdraw from the race, have my first taste of DNF (Did Not Finish) and just go home to Las Pinas City and enjoy the comforts of my bed. But, I still continued running and contemplating while craning my neck to see the blinking hazard lights of my support vehicle. I recognized it at once but did not approach it. After a 2-minute running and a 2-minute walking combination, I progressed with my run. I knew I was the last runner, but thankfully I was not yet astray. Yebadabidooooo!
A few meters from me, I could see the running headlights of my fellow runners. In one line, they looked like medium-sized fireflies from afar. It elicited a smile from me despite the rising coldness that engulfed me as we passed through a dark downhill. I quickly checked for the “lightning bugs.” My God, these runners seemed to be indefatigable. I hadn’t seen anyone of them stopping their strides. I think I was the only one doing the Galloway program.
Then, I met my two heaven-sent angels before the king of the horizon began its ascent.
I didn’t know if it’s God or one from my stock of gods and goddesses who finally decided to send them, but I didn’t anymore find for the answer. What I knew was they were the two runners whom I decided to follow as I noticed that I could be attuned with their pacing. Their relaxed gait not to mention their warm welcome and genuine kindness, channeled to me the energy which armed me in surviving this ultra marathon.
Thanks to the food supply (i.e., hard boiled eggs, banana, “goto” or rice porridge, etc.) provided to us by the organizers at km 24, we luxuriated ourselves in this photo-op.
Yes, entering this arch, which is roughly the 37-km mark, gave us another lift to our human power which we shared with another male runner, who trailed behind us but later on had his second wind toward the finish line.
From three, we became four as we proceeded with our journey.
Having split into two pairs, I had done something which I would not (or could not) do before. Carrying a conversation while running! Indeed, my new running companions (especially Vane) had taught me how to sustain an enjoying talk in so short a time. I am sure, someone is going to react toward this new development in me. Hahahaha…
The running-talking-walking combination led to a better modification of the Galloway method that’s why we allowed ourselves to rest for a while and obliged in watermelon-eating to replenish our hydration.
Hmmm… was it really a back-up of our body water supply, or was it our last meal before our “execution” via the brutal heat of the sun along the whole stretch of the Quezon Eco-tourism Road?
Background music please to the tune of “Chariots of Fire”…
It was on this part where the merciless sun beat on us. I thought the sun was at its most vicious state during my first Mayon 360 (read related post at https://wanderingjouster.com/2014/04/10/mayon-360-2014-where-beauties-and-beasts-abound/). No, it was not. I mean “Nooooooooooooooooo!!!!” You see, I just screamed. Super long-delayed reaction. Hahaha.
How long did it take us to traverse that hellish road? I lost track. What I clearly remember was drawing strength and inspiration from my new found partner-in-crime/friend, Vane aka Speedy Turtle, and sharing stories about our respective families and us, and concocting the weirdest but the most entertaining hallucinations in the middle of a grueling ultra marathon with her. This race brought out the creative runner in us.
Roby and Fernando had gone ahead of us as we found time to rest our tired and stiff muscles under one of the few trees along the road. Vane and I grabbed that opportunity to admire the scenery before us and indulge ourselves in more “delirious” moments which were silently witnessed by the grazing cows and the rice field.
Oh yes, we had to seize that moment of serenity….
… and happiness as we completed our voyage on that 14-15 km road.
Truly, without Jerry, my one-man posse and support driver, who now stayed nearby and became true to his multiple jobs including being my personal lensman, we wouldn’t be capturing snapshots from this milestone. A very special shout out for him who was also with me during T2K (Tagaytay to Kawit), my maiden ultra marathon.
From the time I saw Vane and Roby running, I could deduce that they’re strong runners. Thus, when my pacing slowed down due to muscle fatigue and irritating blisters on both feet when we entered Guis Guis, Quezon I signaled Vane to continue her running. At that instance, the turtle has become faster than the cat.
My last 9 km was a bittersweet ordeal for me. I was bone-tired. The change to my third pair of fresh socks helped a little in soothing the pain on my feet. How I wish I could just remove my shoes and walk barefoot on the grass at the side of the road! The seemingly unending questions where I started and where I was heading to of the townspeople whom I passed by added to the exhaustion. But thanks to those who offered me water and a free jeepney ride (which I was very much tempted to take…he-he) and shouted encouraging words, they helped in boosting my locus of control and restoring my strong faith in humanity.
Two kilometers to the finish line I met one of the most difficult challenges subsumed in this run — protecting myself from road maniacs. A runner’s hand-signal was Greek to many. I have no place on the road where they are kings. So, when Jerry followed my instructions of leaving me and driving to the finish line, I used my reserved energy to claim the remaining distance as mine as I entered the art-deco inspired Town Hall and Sariaya Municipal Park where I would be safe and officially victorious before the cut-off time.
Thirteen hours, 23 minutes and 32 seconds. This was my official time in my very first BatoQ ultra marathon as Finisher #15 (see official race results at https://rodellmen.wordpress.com/2016/02/14/2batoq66-endurance-run-2016-official-results/). Serving as my reunion with the only race director whom I had the privilege and honor of receiving a warm welcome at the finish line, this event will find a spot in my top 10 most memorable runs.
Undeniably, running provides a unique arena where new friendships are forged out of camaraderie and brotherhood. Nameless faces become your good Samaritans as they offer you support, be it tangible or not. This I had received unselfishly from Vane, Roby, Fernando, Ken, Albert and Sir Kenneth, the champion in the first edition of BatoQ.
But personally, this ultra marathon glaringly revealed my masochistic streak. Despite having experienced before what one would go through in long distance runs, I still subjected myself to this physical torture and unpleasant experiences and in the end still derived immense pleasure from it. I surmise, I’m not alone in this feeling.
I found a supporter in Speedy Turtle…
…and I’m curious if this is also true with the other two podium female finishers, Cheryl and Gudelia. 😎
Well, we may be diverse in our point of view, but we will unanimously agree that we have endured everything to survive 2BatoQ 69-km Ultra Marathon with the Supreme Being’s guidance which we acknowledged after the race. Salute to all of you!
I may have missed the consistency in the availability of the water and food provision in every 10-km mark which I experienced in my MAP 50-k run, but generally Runnin’Active has again showed me why its kind of events stands out from the rest. For the second time, its impressive avant-garde race route had me defying human frailties as I put to test my discipline, will and faith to be able to reach the finish line scathe-free.
Kudos to you Sir Rodell Mendoza and to your staff! See you in the future once I have readied my full battle gear for a longer jousting experience.