03 July 2009

Botak 100 - Grand Slam


This is my 3rd ultra for 2009 and a grand slam at that. First was Bataan Death March 102K (BDM102) on April 05. Second was TNF100K on May 23-24. All 100K races.

I took some risks joining Botak 100K since I fried my right leg during TNF and was unsure if I would be fully recovered before Botak which was a little more than a month after TNF. Two days before the race, my son got sick and had to be brought to the hospital. Stressful and despite the lack of needed rest, I decided to push through with it. I do not know about you but I have so far noticed in my 4 ultras that something always unnecessary and stressful (not necessarily bad) happens before the race. It is weird. Anyway, this race was dedicated to my son and told myself I would not go home without a finisher's medal. There were also the pre-race jitters as usual. I think it comes with the territory.


My goal for Botak was simple - finish it under sub-13 hours to qualify for Comrades in 2010. I am not sure if my time (13:15 something) during Bataan 102 will suffice even though the distance of BDM102 is more than 100k - barely by 2 kilometers though. My other goal was even simpler - finish it within the cut-off time of 18 hours.


By 1AM of Sunday, both 100K solo and 50KM runners, novice and veteran alike, started their journey into the difficult but fulfilling world of ultra -where any and every thing could go wrong. The journey took us in UP, Quezon City and Marikina. Running along Commonwealth was no joke as anyone could be run over by a speeding bus, truck or any PUV. Grime, dirt and stench in the market area were enough to make you puke, i.e., if you are squeamish. To think, it was around 1AM and there were so many vehicles still plying the route all the way to SM Fairview and back. All the runners must have inhaled their lifetime supplies of smog and other pollutants. (My tonsils were sore after the race). There were also the usual drunk people along the route taunting us to drink and saying mumbo-jumbo incoherent stuff. (Photo courtesy of Run4change)

Initially, I was suprised to see a QC patrol motorbike running along with me. But several kilometers into the run, I realized this was anti-cheating measure against runners who could easily hail a cab or jeepney to ferry them close to the turn-around point in SM under the cover of darkness. He was also quick to man busy intersections which in one occasion, a cab driver nearly hit me head on. Whew! Having a companion was always good but we hardly talked because I was busy running myself to death. I must have run the 1st 50K in under 5 hours and 20 minutes. A good prospect but I knew a negative split in this race would be nearly impossible because the sun would be up anytime soon. Heat slows any runner and there is scientific basis for this. But this is another matter altogether.


By the time most runners reached Marikina for the 2nd loop, they were greeted now by the scorching heat of the sun. Bles (one of my original crew together with Shower) went out of the support vehicle and said she needed her long run. So she paced me for 10K or so. She is a strong runner with a full marathon in Singapore under her belt. I prayed for the rain to come down just like it did a few days ago. There was none this time. Well, it did rain briefly 1-2 hours after I finished. So, it did me no good. The image in my mind showed runners enjoying the brief respite. Rain during an ultra is both good and bad. Good because it cools you down and bad since it a recipe for mud and blisters. (To 2nd loop with Bless in the ubiquitous Singapore Marathon shirt. Photo courtesy of Neville of PUR)
Running along the long stretch of the Marikina River was relieving because of the trees here and there. This place was way better than Commonwealth. Some patches of backyard gardening could be seen and the scene reminded me of rural areas. It was already hot. Clouds did appear from time to time to shield us from the the sun but only temporarily. On the way to the next checkpoint, we passed by TAKBO.PH Aid Station. The towel soaked in cold water was heavenly. Thank you. We also met Josaw and Simon of PUR who graciously handed out slices of orange. Those were heavenly as well. They came running all the from the other side of the River. Josaw was perspiring profusely only to realize later on that she had her run that Sunday. Twice or thrice, we did see in CBRE van the support crew of Don, Al and other PUR members. Ligaya, Trina and Fritzie were in there cheering us on. Thanks too. (Photo from Bles taken by Shower)

We were surprised to meet a runner who seemed to be ahead of us. At this point, I knew I was 10th place overall, 6th male but we had not noticed this guy overtaking us. After a little inquiry for a little less than a minute, we realized he got lost and had incomplete bracelets. We decided to move on. Every second counted.

After finding out that this was the last loop around the River and back to UP, the mere thought of the same gave me the nth wind. I painstakingly followed by time-tested ratio of 4 to 5 minutes of running to 1- 2 minutes of walking even how tired I was. (5 minutes of running is neither too short nor long during later stage of a race and the 1 minute of rest is just enough to recover. Beyond 5 minute, you might feel too exhuasted and more than 1 minute of rest, stiff or too lazy to run again). I avoided resting for more than 2 minutes because it made me sleepy - a condition to which I have not found an answer yet. Perhaps, I was simply tired. Honestly, my main motivations were my son waiting for his medal at the hospital, sipping ice cold beer at the finish line or under the trees and friends like Boss Red and wife Rinna and Ricky and Noel who waited to see me after they ran the GIG that morning. Those got me going and steady. (Photo taken by Shower. It was hot. With sponges and the towel from Takbo.Ph aid station)

Everything was going fine until I got lost for 5-7 minutes on the way back. I did not see any marshall to tell me I should turn left instead of going straight. This was after Jollibee Marikina. Anyway. it always pays to ask...always. This was exactly what I did.

During ultra especially on trail, if you have this nagging feeling of being lost, chances are you are. The prudent thing to do is first, STOP (I mean what is the point of wasting your energy and time running and not getting near the finish line?), check your map or ask people and then retrace your steps or act accordingly.


I knew I was 10th overall and 6th male when I spotted a struggling runner ahead. I knew he was hurting and from the way he looked, it must have been cramps. He was massaging his right calf. Strange, muscle cramp never got to me during my 4 ultra races (knock on wood) except in a small race during the Singapore marathon for having nothing to eat during the last 6-8K or so. Albert (another crew), suddenly got fired up again after having paced me for more than 30K now, deboarded the vehicle. He decided to pace me again so we could overtake the runner and put a gap between us. It was a success.

It was only in Balara area did I feel the inexplicable feeling of joy and release. I always say that the finish line is only the icing on the cake. It is the space or distance between the start and finish lines that gets to you. It always does.

When I entered UP, another runner up ahead by only a few meters. So near and yet still so far to the finish line. I decide to close the gap and gave a chase. His crew on a motorbike saw me and the runner started running again. While at it, I looked behind me from time to time just to make sure the runner I overtook a few minutes back was not gaining any ground. I made a mistake of sprinting not realizing that it was still a few hundred meters to the finish line. There was not enough energy to maintain the chase. What I did not want to happen was to crash and lose the lead to the runner at the back. Instead, I let go like a predator realizing the utter futility of chasing a prey. As the results would have it, the gap was only a little over 2 minutes:
http://run4change.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/06/results_paatibyan100km.jpg (My name is misspelled).


Another challenge before the calling it a day was finishing the race under sub-12 hours. With only a few minutes to spare, I hastened the pace and finally crossed the line in 11hours and 53minutes.

The time is perfect to qualify for Comrades Marathon (90K) in 2010 which I have been planning since 2008. Qualifying time is sub 13 hours for 100k or sub 5 hours for a full marathon. This was also a PR for me for 100k road race by slicing almost 1 1/2 hours off from my time in BDM102. In my book, this is a grand slam. (Photo from Neville. Crossing the finish line and the picture says all it all.)
Firstly, I am amazed on how I could have possibly survived my 3rd 100K when all previous ultra races should have physically bogged me down. Some veteran ultrarunners said that my BDM102 and TNF100 served as "training runs" for Botak. Secondly, your choice of support crew is very important. Your crew or support can spell the difference between finishing the race well or not. It is not indispensable but it makes the race a lot heck bearable. Tap friends who are runners or ultrarunners. They know what you're going through during the race. Thirdly, know that no matter how physically strong you are, your psychological or mental attitude or focus will bring you to the finish line. Thus, hone both your physical and mental prowess. Fourthly, be kind and helpful to your fellow ultrarunners even while some of them think all about competition and winning. (During the race, I and my crew encountered the crew of one of the runners who refused to give the right directions or appeared clueless even when we were approaching the finish line. Geez, what an attitude). Fifthly, continue eating and drinking according to your needs even if everything tastes bland. Thus, always listen to your body and what it is telling you. It pays therefore to have an assortment of food items to choose from and nimble on. Our gustatory senses become unreliable also during ultra races. Finally, "I'll never give up" should be your unwavering mantra all throughout the race. It is some sort of non-negotiable goal. You will hit your lowest of lows but it never gets worse. Just remember, the race will be over soon or very soon depending on your speed.


Nathan Jon, my only son who gave me the indomitable spirit to finish the race, the medal is for you. I went directly to the hospital from the race and immediately hang the medal around his neck. He was stunned and teary-eyed and for his age (7 years), I thought I glimpsed in his eyes that he understood even momentarily the meaning of sacrifice. Frankly, when I hit my lowest of lows somewhere along the Riverbanks, his image on the hospital bed gave me the strange surge of energy to plod on. It was spiritual. (Photo from Shower. I was just dead tired).

Botak guys, Ian and Mr. Guarin. Neville of PUR for the registration, shirt, etc. and for being smart and innovative enough to give each runner a patrol guide during the treacherous run along the Commonwealth Ave.

Albert, Shower, Bles of Team Clark and Ric (driver). Albert paced me for more than 30K under the sun. Very strong as he is also an ultrarunner. Amazing he volunteered to crew and pace me even without adequate training. He just came in from Korea for 2 weeks. Shower and Bles were my crew during BDM102. Both marathoners and above all, tried and tested. They have learned to put up with the real meaning of C.R.E.W. - "cranky runners, endless waiting". Ric or "Brod Pete" drove us safely in and out of the city unscathed. Thank you to Team Clark who gave their support whether via prayer or wishes. To Clark Development Corporation (CDC) for the vehicle.

PUR Ligaya, Fritzie, Don (with Trina), Al, Gilbert, Willy, Jose, Josaw, Kiko and Simon. Thank you also to other PUR members who wished us well. It was nice to see and be with you guys on this journey. We all knew we had to pace, run, walk and finish the race on our own. Again, special thanks to Josaw and Simon for the slices of orange. I realized you had to cross the River bridge just to give us some. I appreciated the effort and I am sure the other runners as well.

Boss Red and wife Rinna both of Team Clark for waiting and serving ice-cold beer at the finish line. Refreshing.

Finally, Rick Gaston of
http://365ultra.blogspot.com/ for his usual invaluable advise and the Listers for their ancient wisdom on ultra marathoning.

To my fellow ultrarunners, congratulations. We'll see each other soon...


  1. congratulations atty jon. a very timely and truthful account, now that the long distance running bug is spreading like the pandemic flu. finally we got to read your stories.

  2. atty jon, congratulations on your BOTAK 100 finish with an impressive time. you are truly a consistent ultra runner. good luck on your comrades ultramarathon participation in may 2010. the 2nd BDM 102 in march 2010 will serve as your long run for the said event.

  3. uy he has a blog na :) congratulations on your superb finish. comrades na ito! (guesting ng team clark sa run radio ha! hehe :D)

  4. I salute you Atty. Jon for a very strong finish. At the starting line, i asked you what's your time target, you said ,'13 hours.' And yet you did it in just 11 hours, 5th overall!

    First time to visit your site (coz I don't know it yet before). I'll be your regular follower from now on) Add kta sa blogroll ko.

    God bless.

  5. Nice recap!. Congrats for the grandslam and goodluck on your training for comrades!

  6. Not only was it at night but you know some of those drivers have been drinking. Crazy to be running in the streets. You guys are all brave. Hey so how about caffeine to keep you from getting sleepy? Works for some of us. Caffeine either in energy gel form, drinks like RedBull or Starbucks Fraps or pills.

    Way to finish under 12 and qualifying easily for Comrades. I hope you get some good rest before your next planned adventure. You already told me what it is but since you made no mention of it on your post I won't say anything. Welcome to blogging.

  7. Hey Billy Dude, this is a good kind of bug.

    Sir Jovie, thanks. What new, if any, do we expect during 2nd BDM102? I undertand you're planning to hold mutiple events next year.

    Marga, good luck on your radio show. Just let us know.

    Hey Ronnie, it is almost 12 hours. You did well too, you know.

    Ralph, congratulations too! You're getting stronger now.

    Rick, I have tried Mountain Dew to perk me up and thought the culprit could be a mix of exhaustion, low fuel, etc. Or maybe I should not be suprised at all as this could be a natural occurence during ultras.

  8. Congrats on a race well run and on finally starting your own blog :)

  9. congratulations, sir! it was my dream to complete a grandslam too, but tnf100 was too much for me. good luck on your comrades bid!