This is one of those races when you've earned the favor of mountain gods. Last weekend, I finally managed my 6th TNF100 out of 7 races which goes all the way back from 2008. The only edition I missed was the 2011 when it was held in CamSur. What sort of madness has possessed me to keep having the same dish (race) every year? I don't know. All I know is I am an ultrarunner. It is what I do and love. It is what it is and thus, I don't owe anyone an explanation since no one can fathom what I do unless he is my kindred in the sport.
What is significant about this race is that I managed to PR (18:49) on the same course for its 3rd consecutive run since 2012. In 2012, it's 21 ++ and then last year with almost no training, 23 ++. To what do I attribute this PR? Read on ...
The ALTRA boys - from left: Yob, Blue, moi, Raffy, CJ, Brian, Bong and Ronnel
during the pre-race briefing
Outside the pre-race briefing. Thanks to ALTRA for the shirt courtesy of Blue!
My training started after 2013 CM50 with Hardcore 100 miles as training run (just wanted to finish my now annual "pilgrimage" race) last February with PSA Skyrace and Salomon X-Trail as well. Holding Arayat Mountain Race last April also helped a lot to get in that much-needed elevation for TNF100. As in we were almost up there every weekend marking, sweeping, clearing the course.
Joining training races prior to a goal race is now a common trick among competitive runners. It helps one to gauge his strength as well as weaknesses before doing the goal race which for me was TNF100K (the last few years have been a pathetic effort on my part which translates to the local parlance "Bahala na si Batman").
So to answer the question above - to what do I attribute the PR 18:49? - SPEED sessions. Getting old in ultrarunning has its positive sides. The negative is time makes one slow. Much I dislike joining too many road races , I have strategically incorporated them in my training from 10K to full mary. I did also "unscheduled" tempo runs when my body was unusually energetic. Unscheduled in the sense that I followed what my body was telling me. While I did 2 speed sessions almost every week, I did not follow specific days to do it. So if during my easy session when my body wanted to crank it up, I followed what it told me to do so. Oh well, there were slow days too when my body felt like sleeping on the side of the trail or road! It happens. I did also 200mx4 at all-out effort. Gym twice a week and boxing too. After the incident during 2014 Hardcore 100-mile race, I religiously followed my core training. That was it. I am sure some of you know this training already. It ain't a secret. Oh another thing to spice up my training is I ran from work-house-work for several days in a week. The convenient arrangement was to leave my car (containing all my stuff) at the office and then ran home in the evening. The next morning I woke up early to run again, pick up my clothes from the car, gym (if there is time), shower and then work. Rinse and repeat. One way was 13k (26k total for the whole day). It was the easiest way for me to rack up some mileage for a week and kept my ass on the go. I tapered for 1 week and the total weekly mileage before taper reached around 105kms with quality workouts and elevation. With that load or the beauty of training properly and specifically for a race like this is that one recovers faster because the body is used to the amount of stress and thus properly adapted.
from left: Robert, moi, Nick, Jonel and Ronnel before 3AM
with Robert Watson
With Ronnel aka General Go :)
This covers from the Start up to Aid Station 5 at Kennon Road. At 3AM start, we were off. I think it was colder last year. Took it easy for the first few kilometers and hit the gas, so to speak, before entering the trail path where it was a bottle neck. I was just taking it easy and felt good overall. I made a mental note to be careful because of wet trail from the rain yesterday. All the stuff I needed was in my bag and just like last year, I did not bother to leave a drop bag at AS5 this time.
The first few kilometers of the race told me it would be a good day. That unmistakable feeling of being healthy, cognizant, strong and no tummy problem. That good vibe accompanied me throughout the race just like my Four Lakes 100K race (time was 17:25) last year. A rare treat indeed.
I reached AS5 (Kennon Road) at exactly 11AM or 8 hours and was surprised by it. The 12k route from AS4 to AS5 is always a killer what with steep downhill road and hot/exposed sections. I thrashed my quads here but gained some position. The legs could actually take some punishment from climbing mountains. I love downhill running and these old knees are still up for the job. When I reached AS5, I showered at the nearby faucet. My body was overheating a bit despite my solid heat training. As usual, this part is exposed to vehicle fumes and sun. After eating and drinking and removing debris from my shoes, I set off towards hell.
AS5 TO AS7 (KM73)
This is 20kms of "uphell" which one will have to navigate during daytime when it is hot and humid. Saw some runners bathing on a stream to cool off while the rest of us were suffering while ascending ever so slowly. The thing is you're full and bag loaded after passing through AS5 and you have to take all that weight up with you. Go figure. Well, you just have to suck it up. Ran here with Majo shortly and Thumbie (who will be my company almost to the finish line until he decided to abandon me along the way without a byword :)
AS7 is misplaced and not properly positioned. Thumbie and I were surprised to stumble upon it so close from AS6. After a few kilometers up, there is another satellite station which had the correct coordinates.
THE QUICKENING - AS8 (KM75) TO FINISH LINE
This is where it started to rain. I knew night would come upon us even when I was originally aiming for sub-20 finish time. When I picked up my headlamp, it did not want to turn on! Damn it. Batteries were new so what gives? Then I realized this is not my old reliable waterproof Fenix which I replaced with light Black Diamond and flashlight. Flashlight was working though. My advice is to bring a good flashlight for night running in cold foggy environment. Try it. You'll have more visibility on the ground than sticking a light up on your forehead.
Are some of you familiar with the movie Highlander II: The Quickening, a 1991 British-French science fiction action film directed by Russell Mulcahy and starring Christopher Lambert, Sean Connery, Virginia Madsen and Michael Ironside? You know that distinct "quickening" action when the protagonist Christoper Lambert kills an enemy?
I always get that feeling deep within me when it starts to rain, becomes foggy, cold and dark during a trail race especially when in isolation. This happened between AS8 to AS10 when I was mostly running alone. There is some sort of quickening, a desperation of some sort as if your life is on the line. So your body goes on overdrive, your senses heightened and your awareness is even more keen. It pushes you, makes you stronger and faster. It could be adrenaline but I reckoned it goes deeper within the psyche. This feeling lasted until I was trying very hard to come under 19 hours. Told myself, this would never come to pass again. I just love running the last 6KM inside the Camp John Hay. Very runnable trail. Was flying!
Noel and Isko
This observation is aimed to provide a constructive post-race feedback given the reputation of North Face as a worldwide corporate brand actively involved in ultrarunning. So this is my personal observation from running the 100k distance.
- Impeccable, superb trail markings for both night and day running. This is A++
- Awesome medal. Heavy, hip and creative!
- Nice original TNF shirt for 100k (I did not get one but it's ok)
- Improvement on the AS menu. I was glad to see choco milk drink, hot food and bread.
- Cold sports drink
- Very friendly, helpful and smiling race marshals. Somehow, their smiles lighten up our suffering.
- Nice Start/Finish area
- Availability of ice
- Well-staffed aid stations of medics, et. al.
- Strategically placed race marshals to direct runners
- On-time Start
Hmm, what else? I'll just add when I get to remember some more.
- Some parts of the course need to be swept and cleared for better footing and safety of runners. I don't mean to sanitize it.
- No finisher shirt as posted in the website (NOTE: I don't expect to have one since ROX provided me a free entry. Thank you again by the way). Organizer should come out with an acceptable explanation. Could it be that the Finisher's shirt is the same shirt that they initially gave away and thus what is written below is an oversight?
"Registration fee inclusions: 50 and 100K runners will get:
- Cash and Product Prizes for winners
- Finishers medal only
- Authentic TNF100 Race Jersey, Bib,TNF100 stickers and raffle entry
- TNF100 Finisher’s shirt for all finishers per category
- Free TNF Camp Chair and round trip bus ride Manila-Baguio-Manila for the first 5 registrants per store (50k/100k)
- Free post event “boodle- brunch” courtesy of D.O.T. CAR
- Finisher’s Certificate"
- Boiled bananas (Saba) that are NOT yet ripe for eating. They were too hard even after boiling or steaming! I mean you could not even eat them.
- Marketing hype for the race should be subservient or equal to condition and conduct of the actual race
- Aid Stations need to feed runners and thus menu needs to improve further.
- Delayed posting of race results
- Exposed drop bags to the sun ... again?!!! My friends' bag's content could not be consumed
- Inaccurate location of AS7
Should my memory improve, I'll add more to the list.
Jon (recovering pretty well and enjoying his downtime. Next year is on the 17 hour range finish ... hopefully :)
P.S. Thank you R.O.X for the free entry and Noel and Precy for the ride. All photos from FB except the medal :)
BONUS PICTURES FROM 2008 TNF100, NASUGBU, BATANGAS. I was looking for my article on this which I posted in our PinoyUltrarunners blog but Multiply.com is already dead; killed by FB :)
See my fashion taste before. Damn baduy! Hehe.
On our way out for the last 50k loop
With Eric John Luna
Yey, the finish line!
With Eric Socrates
This is in Evercrest
Oh dear, my kids were still young then!
My wife was worried the whole night!
My Team Clark
This medal is made of plastic