25 February 2014

2014 Hardcore 100 Race Report

My 2nd shot of the 2 editions of the Hardcore 100 Miles Trail Ultramarathon Philippines held a few days ago, 21-22 February 2014. I have decided this soon to put in writing the experience while the details are still fresh, vivid and to a certain extent ... painful :) Previous race report here.
I had no grand plan coming into this race unlike last year when I was really psyched up and excited to race it despite the inclement weather. That fire was not burning inside last weekend and in fact, even before the race (training phase). I don't know why. Methinks that is very important when one has to do great in a race. You should be on fire, driven and greatly motivated to accomplish what you have set out to do. Absent that, the discomfort and all those incessant pains and whatnot during the later stage of the race would slow you down considerably. Of course, I am no authority on this. 
Race results here.
The mountains gave us good weather all throughout the race. Drizzles in the night and at dawn which further lowered the temperature but overall it was good. I heard it was around 11'C up in the mountains and perhaps colder with chilly wind. Well I can attest to that. Even a few minutes of stopping drastically lowered our core temperature and gave us some chills especially on exposed parts of the course. So we had no choice but to pick it up again and keep moving.
I am a staunch proponent of specificity of training. For ultra races like this and UTMB where it involves significant elevation gain and loss (uphills and downhills), you need to train on similar terrain. The oft-repeated "mountains in your legs" is apt and can't be ignored.
While I had substantial volume (100k plus per week) and specificity leading to the race, I seemed to have overlooked to do hill workouts. My speed session mainly involved flat fast races which are not entirely useful for a mountain race like H1 with  33,386 feet Elevation Gain and 33,412 feet Elevation Loss, courtesy of finisher Mark Jolin (USA). (Wow, 10,176 meters which is higher than UTMB! That is sick. No wonder the race is hard.). But even with that much training, if one is not fired up then what is the use then yes? More guarantee/confidence to finish perhaps but not place high enough in the ranking. Also, I seemed to require more time to recover from hard workouts now given my age or so it seems. Oh well. The only trade off is you get more experience, resiliency, confidence and wisdom. You don't give up so easily and tend to focus on general stuff rather than the small annoying details especially pre-race. In other words, race management becomes easy. Hmm, taper properly as well.
Days leading to the race were uneventful. Robert Watson and wife May (thank you!) offered me a hitch which I gladly accepted after work last Wednesday. When I arrived in Baguio City, I met up with CJ Paran and Majo Liao. I could not sleep well not because of jitters but because of the noise outside from passing vehicles. Then early morning, I hitched again a ride with Robert and the Baguio boys and stopped along the way to take these pictures:

Sang from Korea, moi and Robert Watson (Aus but based here)
At 10:30am or so of Thursday, the registration and pre-race briefing took place. I love this part because you get to meet and talk to your competitors and old friends in our small ultrarunning community. I made a mental note to gauge and write down the distances between aid stations at the back of the official race map and to sleep after the briefing. By the way, they offered us sweet potatoes (very tasty!) and brewed coffee. I ate some and declined the coffee (for better slumber). After this, we hurriedly went back to our rooms to prepare our drop bags. I had 3.

Having assessed the content of my back pack and the mandatory gear, I was really concerned about the weight of my bag. You are always torn between carrying just enough gear for light load without sacrificing safety. That is the delicate balance. Carrying all the essential equipments would mean more weight but peace of mind (hence, confidence) while less means fast but perhaps being less prepared when an emergency calls for it. I chose the mid ground. 
The registration and pre-race briefing
The evening meal was shared heartily with fellow runners. Dinner consisted of fried chicken and pork and sauteed mixed veggies (which fiber I normally avoid before a race but not this time. It was fresh and yummy and complement the other viand) and watermelon to wash it down with. We aptly called it "Last Supper". Sleep then followed and alarm was set at 11PM for the 12:01AM start. I strongly suggested to my roommates Leo and Jhonley to tape their feet for this race which they gladly did.
2014 Official Race Map
I knelt and prayed to the "Great Spirit That Moves Around Us" to give us safe passage through the mountains on top of the prayer the RD gave us. You can sense the jitters around me from the runners especially the first timers. I was just calm and collected. My goal was after all to finish with a decent time compared last year. My race mantras were "run my own race", "race management", "be positive", "do my best where I am now", "keep moving" and "for the Philippine flag". I knew who would be in the lead pack and honestly, I did not mind. I was not racing, period. Nor would I allow myself to get caught in the frenzy start. After having done ultras before, the calm, calculated restraint and confidence are there for you to utilize to your advantage.

I was worried about my tight right hip giving me a problem like it did during PSA Akyathlon two weeks ago but it was not so. I had a bigger one. More on this shortly.


Not much here except I was running with Mark and Todd both from USA and Jhonley Ballesteros most of the time. Jhonley  has good running skill going downhill. We were all within the top 10 positions. I kept reminding myself  to get to KM102 Dayap Aid Station as fresh as possible. Robert Watson had a similar goal which we discussed on our way to Baguio before the race. Weather was good. Volunteers Juvy Pagtalunan, Joyce Llanada, Teacher Leny and locals were there to assist us. I had a double sachet Milo dissolved in less hot water which was full of quick calories and made you feel like a kid again. I never touched a soda or Gatorade. We tasted their arrozcaldo as well. Refreshing. Thank you gals!

Signing the FrontRunner mag for teacher Leny at Banao around 4AM (thanks Juvy for the pix)


While traversing this route, I was hoping for the sun to rise early as usual. Something magical and invigorating about the forthcoming sunrise. It is like going through a dark tunnel and the light at the end of it is the sun. I was leading this section and Mark and Todd were a few minutes behind me. I was still feeling strong at this point but not pushing it.

Then I finally reached the area called Cabayo en route to aid station Napo-Tuyak (KM44). We had to pass through vegetable terraces section where there was an on-going irrigation. So the ground was soft and muddy. There was one particular section where one had to walk around the edge of the terrace made of mud and rocks, the width of which is probably 10 inches. The choice was obvious - run on the dry path or risk muddy shoes or falling to the next terrace.

It was not this huge the terrace but just to give you an idea

I actually stopped for a while and assessed the best DRY route possible. I have no qualm about my shoes getting wet with water but mud is different. The grime and dirt that come with it seeping in your shoes could pose trouble later on. I could actually see the water cascading from above the terrace which made the area on which I was about to cross quite wet, muddy and tricky. Finally, I decided to walk gingerly around the edge when the ground beneath me suddenly gave in. My right foot slid, lost my balance and I came hurling down 12 feet below. 2 acrobatic flips and my left thigh hit a rock midway and gave a big thud and another flip scraped my right knee causing open wounds. I ended up on my left back side  soaking in stinky mud. You are about to view my injuries after 48 hours and so, VIEWER'S DISCRETION IS ADVISED!

Is it hematoma? Perhaps this is how it feels during hazing.

It probably took like less than 5 seconds for the accident to happen before my brain finally processed it. I staggered to stand and tried to climb back up but the wall provided no good footing and was just too slippery. I could not afford another fall and so had to walk through the mud. I was shouting for Mark and Todd but they were still too far back to hear me. One thing I was thankful for was that my head did not hit any of the rocks. Otherwise, I cannot imagine the dire consequences. My TNF short got torn on the injured part and my precious Seal Skinz gloves got ripped from scraping the wall rock trying to control the fall. My shirt was just dirty.

Knee wounds were now gushing with blood and it crossed my mind if this was the end of my race. So when Mark and Todd came around, they asked me if anything was broken. I did not feel any but I had no idea how the injuries would affect my effort and performance later on. Needless to say, my morale hit rock bottom. Took a brief rest to assess my injuries and how to manage the remaining distance. To think I still had more than 120kms to go. Crap!!!

Later on, I heard some runners had some problems as well in this area.


Mark and Todd went ahead and I wanted to follow but I was still in injury-assessment mode. They were just a few meters ahead of me. I made a mental note to receive first aid treatment in the next station at Napo. So a huge shout out to Cindy Sevilla for applying antibiotic on my injuries, Myla Go for giving me medicine and food, Boo and Vivian Toledo for assistance. Thank you dearly. I owe you gals especially Myla and Cindy. Cheers.
My accident earlier haunted my solo climb over Mt. Pulag. I was too weak, hungry and demoralized. It was taking me forever to reach the peak. I could not see a single soul. Mark and Todd just took off. Ran out of food as well. Thank you Isko for the egg sandwich and dinuguan both washed down with Minute Maid I was weary to drink. It took some time before the food energized me. I thought of DNF at Babadak given my accident but my stubborn, wild and tenacious personality would have none of it. Nada! Told myself, keep moving you prick! You are not dying yet. Ok it won.
As soon as I reached Babadak, I ate (the tinola was heavenly!), dried my shoes by the stove, changed socks and slept for 30 minutes. Just to be sure about it, I asked Trace to wake me up after 30 minutes. Thank you Trace and the 4x4 crew led by Piyod! Majo Liao and I think Johnley came in after a few minutes. Both did not sleep. The sleep was in anticipation of the looming long night run ahead and to recover from the seeming weakness and injury. I HATE THE SECOND NIGHT OF A RACE. It is just tough physically, mentally and your bio clock and rhythm just go out of whack. So when I woke up, there were a lot runners from H1 and P1 categories who came in already. I was energized though. By 1:30PM, I set out alone. Feeling better now but I was always paying attention to my injuries.
After leaving Babadak, I was running alone until I chanced upon Jhonley who was walking. We decided to stick together and then somewhere along the way, Jael caught us who also decided to run with us. It was way better this way with company during the second night. It keeps one awake and alive and in a way serving as pacer to each other. I had been telling them that those runners behind should be smart enough to stick together to tackle the 12 hours or so of running in the dark. We caught up also with Mia Constantino (who must have passed by Babadak while I was snoring), 2013 Champion, who also joined us. However, she asked us to go ahead because of a nagging pain. Along the way, we caught up with Majo and her pacer Dan.
The outside part of my left knee was giving me problem now. Pain was evident going down. My right knee with wounds was also like that. I tried to ignore both but was always aware.
Finally, Dayap! We were warmly welcomed by Mark Villafuerte, Nick Pasiken, Brian Tan Seng and other volunteers. Thank you so much gents! I changed socks and removed my filthy shirt. Heavenly! We ate and slept for 15-20 minutes by the bonfire. It was now very cold and heavily foggy. After a few minutes, Shine Teh came in and joined us by the fire.
So there were 4 of us now trying to run/trek through the night - moi, Jael, Jhonley and Shine. It is always entertertaining to run with other runners. Time flies and the storytelling is good. The pain in my left knee was increasing and my butt was hurting as well. The scrape on my hip was rubbing raw against my shorts and the right knee was a little swollen.
Jael, moi and Shine (thanks Baniwas for the pix)
Somewhere along the way, we lost Jhonley. We kept shouting and calling out his name but he would not respond. Darn. I was concerned if something bad happened to him and kind of frustrated for him to leave our group given we gave each other strength to keep moving. (Jhonley finished alright but beyond the cut-off time. If he stuck with us, probably ...).We decided to move on. At Kayapa East Market, we ate and changed some clothes for the daytime running. I was just glad to go to comfort room and changed shorts. Brought my trekking poles but they proved not indispensable in finishing the race. Majo with pacer Dan went ahead. Jael, Shine and I agreed not to nap anymore.
Thank you to Baniwas family - Tom, Gay and their kids for helping us here. Kudos!
Just the thought of climbing Mt. Ugo after all those mountains would drive anyone nuts. My both knees here were giving in especially my left knee. The fall had somehow caused the pain. Every downhill step produced a sharp pain outside. Crap. Jael was also tired. Shine on the other hand still looked composed and strong. We ate and drank at Domolpos station manned by Goldy Dela Cruz, Dennis Lopez and Allan Bulos who were very accommodating. Thank you so much!
Approaching Domolpos waiting shed (photo courtesy of Domolpos crew)
We only had less than 5 hours to get to the finish line and we still had to cover 24K to go through mountains! That thought scared a little crap out of me. We could not afford DNF now, not this time! So we tried to run even if it was exhausting and painful. I knew this point would come when your body would rebel against your will to keep going. Mental grit allows you to overcome that. Shine took off after I warned them of the looming time barrier. For me, this is the hardest part. The climb to the peak of Ugo was just hell. Hot weather, fatigue, injuires and my lack of sufficient water compounded it. Basically, we were spent already. Jael and I almost reached the peak at the same time. He told me to go ahead but I retorted that I would never leave him alone. Not this close to the finish line. Told him to dig deep! He took off and went down the peak and I was trailing behind him. 
We had a little more than 3 hours to cover 17K. I was worried it might not be enough given our present condition and the terrain ahead. I was comforted though of the 10K downhill run to the Kayapa but the problem was my left knee was hurting. Can I manage to run given the looming cut-off? Jael's ankle was painful as well. Shine was ahead of us.
As usual, the demons in your head were celebrating and your body could not be willed the way you wanted it to. Only your tenacity, grit or determination can overcome all odds. My mantra now was "DIG DEEP!" and rightly so. After 4 or so kilometers of climbing, trekking and jogging, we finally reached Ansipsip or Bundao which wide trail and cold weather gave us second or nth wind. Jael took off and was running. Yes, he was running. I followed suit and was ignoring my left knee and pain in my other body parts. Told myself, I would never DNF this race! I had been through worse (WS100 came to mind) and this was no different. I was not dying yet. Pacing or warming up myself for the long downhill running, I could see Jael up ahead. I swallowed some food just enough not to bonk. I maintained my pace until I passed him and just kept running even uphills. Something fired me up inside and adrenaline was flooding my body. I was having a good time running fast downhill and could not believe was enjoying it. I even caught Majo and Dan who were perhaps surprised and knew Jael was just a few minutes behind me. This was so until I crossed the finish line. As usual, the Finish Line is always a liberation. An oasis. Was just damn glad it was over!
With enough data on elevation profile now and experience of running it twice, I can honestly say this is a very hard race. Period. Just like Hardrock 100, I also call HARDCORE 100, a post-graduate 100 mile race. One has to be ready physically, psychologically, mentally and experience wise to tackle this course. No chinks in your armor. A trail runner with enough experience can probably finish 100K races with minimal training but not 100 miles. That last 60K is akin to another 100K because of fatigue, elevation and whatnot. So respect the distance.
Above all, one has to have strong will and determination to finish it. I could safely say now after doing several trail 100-mile races that it is more of mental prowess that physical.
Thank you Jonel, Connie, volunteers, Frontrunner magazine and crew for H1. What can I say, you did a good job! Kudos.
Jon (still nursing sore butt and knees and uhm, looking for another 100-mile trail race soon :)
Thank you to my wife Lanie and family for prayers, friends who joined me during the training - Noel and Precy (for Paleo bread as well), CJ and others.
Exhausted! (courtesy of Alex Jones)

God knows how many of these we had to cross



  1. amazing will power...

    I wish to do this race someday - but it will take a lot from me.

    I will remember this post to gauge my progress (if any). :)

  2. congratulations atty... u did it again...

  3. Hey there! Thank you for dropping by. As of now, I am ok. Injuries are not that bad after all. I just need to rest as usual. Cheers and hope to see you soon!

  4. It was certainly a pleasure sharing part of the journey with you, Atty Jon! All the chatters and suffering and advices! Thanks!

    Well done on your successful quest, 2nd time!

    Rest well and run strong!


  5. Congrats again Atty.. Rest and recover..

    Thanks for sharing your experience..

  6. Hey Shine. Thank you as well. Enjoyed our chit chats. Time flew yes? Congratulations too! Next time, let us race this monster 100 miles! :)

  7. Congratulations to you Atty. Jon! I hope we can volunteer see you again next year! Oh, you still have to sign FR copies! hehehehehehe!


  8. Hey Boo, thank you so much for your support to us runners during the race. Keep it up! Cheers!

  9. Congratulations Atty, This race is something for the rare breed of runners.

  10. Yes Atty. Crazy in the slang sense of being awesome. hahahaha...

  11. "I thought of DNF at Babadak given my accident but my stubborn, wild and tenacious personality would have none of it. Nada! Told myself, keep moving you prick! You are not dying yet."

    This phrase summed it all, well, what could I say. Besides, I was totally speechless. I wish I am stubborn too, hahaha. Great job, buddy! Hope to see you around. Cheers!

  12. Good thing Atty Jon that you are blessed with such strength---physical and mental. I hope to be a part of this next year. :)

    1. Hope to see you there in 2015, Rashel. If I could be of help, please let me know. Cheers.