03 August 2012


There are events in our lives that blow us away. This is one of them.

Rick Gaston (real name is Enrique Gaston :) did a good job of narrating what actually happened during the race . . . pacer’s point of view at http://365ultra.blogspot.com/2012/06/western-states-100_28.html. So I will not go into details he has eloquently spoken of. It took me this long to finally realize I must write down my experience. The risk however is there is no easy way to do it because it will necessarily entail reliving what actually transpired. Even before beginning this report, I was already uneasy (certainly NOT traumatized!).  For the most part, I will delve into anything and everything at the risk of being incoherent and incongruous. No worries; everything was hazy anyway during the race :)


Training went well (except for occasional bouts of peroneal tendonitis in my right foot which annoyingly replaced my plantar fascitis). I focused more on trail/mountain running. Specificity of training. There is so much fun in downhill running or climbing mountain for that matter.  Mt. Matutum is the farthest mountain I climbed prior to the race. Staples are Mt. Arayat and Miyamit – closer to home. I doubt I could do this if I lived in Manila. I got to chance upon a group of climbers in some of my runs and I think gone are the days when mountaineers carried too much gear. Minimalism is viable.


It is best to travel and come early for an overseas race to shake off the jet lag and settle in gradually. For UTMB and GNW100, I came 5 days before the race and felt good. WS100 merely 3 days. Not enough. It might entail additional cost though. It is certainly not a good feeling not knowing whether one has fully recovered before a race as big and prestigious as WS100. I mean there are more important things to consider and worry about than jet lag. I suggest a minimum of 4 days to zone in.


I should have known this would be epic. All my big races were preceded with stressful weeks because of work, etc. and this is no exception. For this race, the process of looking and soliciting for sponsorship was really stressful. Following up is another matter. I need to place a bet on lotto. Winning it will make my life so much  easier :) You know when you have a family and have this passion like running which takes you to different continents, it is wise not to touch the family budget just to avoid any discussion with your spouse. Believe me it makes things easier for everyone. So this explains why I go out looking for sponsors to help with the financial costs of travelling abroad. Besides, I am not rich.

Another stress was the US visa. I have heard stories of applicants who are very qualified but get denied for some convoluted reasons. I made it to WS100 lottery even before I applied for US Visa. So you could imagine my utter consternation and frustration if for some reason my application got denied. So I have learned my lesson and that is to get a visa as early as possible. The only consolation is I can get in and out of US territory for the next 10 years. Cool since there is B ... next year or S ... :)

So the days before the race, Rick and I basically hanged out in his place following the old saying – stay off your feet. The farthest I went to is the Sports Basement, so huge it will take you at least half day to check out all the items. It is like a big warehouse. If you happen to be around the area, go check it out. You won’t be disappointed. Lots of items and gear on sale.


I remember posting in FB relaying my concern about my left knee getting twisted while taking a bath but it proved to be nothing compared to what I would experience later during the race. I thought it would give me a problem. It did not because the race threw a bigger monkey wrench.


WE bumped into Wayne Plymale before leaving for Squaw. He was running and it was cold :)

As soon as we reached Squaw Valley (the registration site) after more than 4 hours of driving, I knew the weather was not to my liking. This is another reason why it is important to come to the race early – acclimatization. Others were enjoying it though. Wind was too cold. While others were just wearing a shirt, I had to wear the hoodie WS100 sweater giveaway. Registration was easy. My race packet included a cool Official Mountain Hardwear, a cool WS100 shirt (bought a souvenir made by Asics), dark blue sweater with hood, race bib, Udo’s oil, tumbler, Moeben, Headsweat visor and Mountain Hard Wear knapsack. It was nice to finally meet Jose Nicolas in person and to get introduced to other runners via Rick.

It was nice to finally meet Jose Nicolas in person. No, that wasn't our finish time. It says 16+ hours to go before start :)

Squaw Valley used to be the 1960 Winter Olympic venue and sits at 6,200ft asl.

During the briefing, there were runners with their crew, friends and/or family. It was like a mini Woodstock type of gathering – the kind that unites all people of similar interest. So much energy, excitement and anticipation. It was in the air. There is no mistaking about it. I was just glad and thankful to be part of it. When the male elite runners and from the distaff side were presented, one could not help but in awe - these are the best or some of the best or the best in the world.

Elite men
Elite women

While listening, we bought sandwiches from Mountain Nectar Juice and Bagel. The queue was long and I knew they must be good. Indeed they were! Huge sub-type sandwiches good for 2 persons. I could only finish half of it. Rick, on the other hand, has an impressive appetite. After he ate his, he was able to devour the other half of my sandwich with such gusto :) It looked like he was the one running the next day and needing all the calories :) Met a lot of folks here – Dave Mackey, Ian Sharman, Tim Twietmeyer, RD Greg Soderlund, Andy Jones Wilkins of irunfar.com and other folks. Rick seemed to know everyone and I was not surprised given his ultra running experience and exposure.

See the qeue?

Rick with the HUGE sandwich

With Dave Mackey - an amazing athlete for over 40 years old. He broke the Master's record held by Tsuyoshi Kaburaki for a long time

Speedy Ian Sharman (more famous as Elvis runner)


We stayed in a hotel around 15-25 minutes drive  from Squaw and it was the right decision. The drive from San Francisco is more than 4 hours so it was only wise to stay in the vicinity the day before the race. We paid almost US$80 for the hotel and around US$209 for car rental of 3 days. As soon as I stepped into the room I knew right away it was an old one. You know the kind that you see in the movies circa 70's. It smelled like one too! :)

The Lake though is magnificent. Huge, expansive and very cold. It looked like an ocean to me. We did not leave the hotel and just brought food with us like sandwich, banana, water, etc. I forgot to bring the jar of almond butter. Try it. It is heavenly! I should have brought back home some with me. Needless, to say my left knee was bothering me. I thought it would pose a problem during the race but fortunately it did not. As it turned out, I had bigger and more pressing problems after all.


Okay, here is quick rundown of my gear:

Shoes & socks - INOV 8 Roclite, My old pair. Tried and tested in UTMB. Wide enough for my duck feet. I had to fix the holes in the pinky toe part which only reminded me to retire them after the race. That was what Rick said after the WS100. My cobbler did a good job by covering the holes with leather patch. Socks – Injinji, a pair courtesy of Rick’s friend (Hey Rick sorry but what was his name again?!)

Shirt – Special shirt with the Philippine flag on it, etc. courtesy of The Perfect White Shirt of Philip Arenillo. Thank you!

Shorts – TNF Flight series.

Windbreaker – courtesy of Rick. I  forgot from what ultra race Rick got it. Very light and packable. This item has seen Rick through some ultras.

Visor – Ultrasign.Up brand. I wished I brought my Mountain Hard Wear but I could not find them before flying out.

Shades – Julbo Ultra which reminds me I need to fix the lenses so they won’t misalign from their sockets during the race.

I used a pair of hand-held bottles for hydration and a lightweight vest courtesy of Rick. The vest helped me to store gels, etc.


I remember posting in FB when I woke up. It was Jonel who quickly replied and quipped that it was too early. Rick was still asleep though. Both of us had no idea how epic our day would turn out. It appeared that there were runners who stayed in the same hotel because we saw them heading out ahead of us. I normally take a bath  before the race to get that feeling of freshness but this time I did not. It was done last night before going to sleep. I figured I need all the natural oil or moisturizer on my skin to protect me from the cold elements. As soon as I woke up, it was plain brewed coffee that came first into my mind.


See the trail path behind the Start line? It goes up and up.

Runners were greeted by what I call the “silent frantic mood” in the air. There was no doubt about it. We were all excited, runners, pacers and friends alike but there was this certain calmness to it. I think most of us have learned to be calm under pressure. Something that we have learned by joining some difficult races. Now, first in my agenda was coffee then breakfast which was available for all the participants. But I had to get first my race bib. In some video clippings that I watched prior to the race, I noticed the race bibs of the participants were simple as it showed the numbers.  Only to realize that they merely folded the bib to reveal the numbers only. It made sense from minimalism point of view. Also, the 4 corners of the bib to which the pins are attached are not prone to tearing. Rick was busy talking to people. He enjoyed being around them.

Rick said he would film the start and would position himself a few meters up from the Start line. I agreed and just nodded. In a big and long race like this, it seems talking is an effort. So the tendency is to remain silent like it is an unconscious effort to preserve one’s energy. I had to pee and as soon as I came out, I could not find Rick. So I stepped outside and was greeted by chilly windy morning. Runners huddled at the Start line and around campfire. Where I came from, this was COLD already. Some were just wearing shorts and shirt. I think the last 5 minutes before the Start will always be the longest time. It is like you want to start right away so you can get the race over with but at the same time, you want it to last a little longer because once the race has started, there is no turning back. It is either you finish it or DNF.

I kept looking at my Timex and tried to remain relaxed. It is like the calm before the storm both figuratively and literally for this race. Well, we had rain, hail and some nasty weather conditions up there during the race. So that fits.


Going to Watson’s Monument 5-7 kilometers from the Start was a steep climb of more than 2,000 feet. We just kept on climbing and climbing. It started to drizzle which later on turned into rain and hail. The wind just kept blowing freezing wind. It was so cold that the skin on my face felt numb. I felt stupid also for being underdressed. The windbreaker was utterly insufficient and how I wished I brought a thicker jacket and something to cover my face. I was freezing out there and had to keep moving.  Good thing I bought a pair of cheap pair of gloves from the supermarket the day before. There was even a very strong wind that blew the dust on the ground covering us with thick layers of dust as if we bathed in it. I could still feel the dust on my scalp for the next 29 hours. So for the next several hours, we were chilled, blown, battered, and harassed by freaky weather conditions. One runner described it as “it was nasty back there”. By this time, the fog started to thicken so much that we could hardly see the beautiful landscape.


Weather was now getting better. It still rained but not enough to drench us. The trees around us protected us from the chilly wind unlike when we were in altitude and on exposed course back there.

Upon climbing Robinson Flat (roughly 43K mark), I noticed now the deterioration in my vision. It started like it was being hazy but it was still okay to navigate the course. I remember enjoying the downhill and running with such ease. I was still enjoying the race. Passed a lot of runners too especially going down and on pace for sub-24 hours. Fog still covered the course and we could hardly see the beautiful terrain. So after Robinson Flat was a short climb and it went really down all the way to Last Chance passing through 2 aid stations (Miller’s Defeat and Dusty Corners).

1-2 hours from Robinson Flat, my vision was really bothering me. I kept squinting and trying really hard to recover my vision. By this time I had lost 50% of my visual capacity but it was still enough to see the terrain and that was all that mattered. My vision impeded my pace but I always kept a positive attitude that it would get better. Keeping a positive attitude and calmness when things are not going your way during the race is significantly important.

At Miller’s Defeat station, I approached some volunteers for help but they could not figure out what was wrong with my vision. So instead of dawdling, I moved on but before doing so, I washed my eyes with plain water hoping eyes would get better. They were never the same and continued to deteriorate.


It was like looking at a frosted glass. Milky and blurry. You know you can see but it is useless. It is like in a hot spa and the only mirror you can see is always foggy even if your face is just a few inches away from it. So I was reduced to walking now. Runners I passed hours ago were now passing me. It was so frustrating because you knew you still had the strength and power in your legs but you just could not run.  

This was where I cried to high heaven … BEGGING for vision even at least 50% capacity!!! I knew I could run well because I trained for this. I was already sad, dejected and disappointed. Asking myself if I was being punished and why I deserved it. Telling myself it was cruel for this to be happening. I even debated within myself and demanded to HIM why I deserved to have my vision restored because I came to represent my country and all the ultrarunners in the Philippines! I was getting angry. But I had none of it (even got waorse later on). Amidst all of these, I maintained my faith in myself. If it seemed HE abandoned me, I would certainly not abandon myself.  

Right now, I had only 20-40% vision. I just could not see the grade, rocks, terrain and even trees. My face had to be really up close to see the details. There were several times I almost smashed myself against a tree. Like my face was a few inches from the trunk and I just had to make a complete sudden retreat.  In areas where the sun shone against the exposed course, my vision got reduced to 10%! The sun blinded me completely. So blurry that the acuity of my vision was nil. There was no choice but to stop because I could not figure out which way to go. The only solution was to wait for runners to come by and followed the direction they were headed. Sometimes I had to wait for 10-15 minutes and could only manage to gingerly walk the course for fear of getting injured which could end my race on a snap. Several times, I asked some passing runners for my condition. Some responded and others just ignored me. I understood they were focused trying to make it to the finish line. Some old folks I came across said it was altitude. This went about for several hours. The goal to finish under 24 hours had to be realistically abandoned now.


This was the worse part. 200-300 meters approaching Dusty, a runner took my arm to help me get to the station. I did not know that I was on standing on an elevated uneven ground and as soon as he took my arm, I missed my step  and sprained my left ankle! I quietly cursed and felt stupid for getting injured right now.

Rick did a fantastic job in narrating the details of what happened in Dusty Corner Station. So go to his blog momentarily now :) This was where DNF became a real possibility. With more than 100k of trail to go, getting blind now put a big dent on my confidence. You know there was so much in your mind like why this condition is happening, time is ticking, prospect of recovery, difficulty of night running ahead, race doctor pulling me out of the race, weather, etc., etc. All stressful. It was just hard to digest all those things. Funny thing is I was not tired at all.

Again, I kept on praying even though nothing good was happening. More than 1 hour had passed before my vision had improved to 40-50%. Okay I could now see some of the details of the terrain but my eyes had to stare down on the ground to see well. Good thing Rick was around to hand over my headlamp for the night running ahead. Funny thing is it took me more than 30 minutes before I finally realized it was him all along. I did not tell the doctor about my sprained ankle because that and my poor vision might be the recipe for a NO GO = DNF.

Amidst all of these, I told myself I had to give it a try. If I was going down, I would go down with a fight. I told the doctor and volunteers I did not travel several thousand miles to DNF. Not now. So much was at stake. The adrenaline rushing through my body had dulled the pain in my left ankle.


The next section of the course would be challenging in terms of terrain (up and down, up and down and night running). I would reach Foresthill by nighttime. With poor eyesight, it was no use delving into it. Rick would be available now as pacer at Foresthill. I am not sure If I told him but I was hoping he could pace me early on from Michigan Bluff around 80K mark instead. A companion at this time would surely be comforting.

At nighttime, my vision was a little better because of not too much ambient light. The problem was my headlamp. It had a strong focused beam which impaired my vision again. Damn it! It was stressing me again.

Running alone on a switchback passing through rugged forest, I distinctly remember getting paranoid when I heard some commotion in a bush above me. I immediately realized this was not Philippines. Here, bears and cougars are real! (Come to think of it, the emblem of WS100 includes an image of cougar on it!) I stopped just to see if it was a bear or something. So I ran up ahead, picked up a tree branch and made a spear out of it. If a bear or cougar decided to have me as a meal, I sure as hell would put up a fight. When you have a family of 4 kids, you will understand where I am coming from :)   


Rick was kind enough to fetch me before reaching Foresthill. He immediately told me he bought some Starbucks Double Shots. As you know, strong coffee during the night with cold weather is heaven sent. I took one and it tasted great. The bitterness of coffee provided a  contrast to sugary food I had been taking. After doing some stuff, we got going. I traded my headlamp for Rick’s Black Diamond with wide beam. Better for my vision. My spirit soared and felt better with Rick tagging along. First order of business was to determine the pace and distance vis-à-vis cut-off of 30 hours. We entertained ourselves with some chit chat, humor, etc. but the reason why we were there never escaped us. It was always there at the back of our mind.                                                                                                                                                            


Both Rick and I were doing just fine running when the terrain allowed it  and picking it up on the down hills except when it was too rocky in which case we (actually I did)  really had to slow down for fear of aggravating the sprain in my left ankle. The sprain was showing some deterioration now and I supposed that was to be expected. Things were okay until we got lost. I mean all those efforts to put a margin to our time was wasted. Rick and I kept quite because deep inside we felt disconceretd  on how things turned out. Personally, I did not delve on it as far as how it happened. Just thinking of it made me tired though. No use and a complete waste of time. By this time, runners we passed were now leading. By merely seeing them in front of us again was discouraging to say the least. Just the same we refocused on the urgent task at hand until we reached Rucky Chucky. Crossing the famous Ruck Chucky river was not hard but really icy. The water was sure as cold! Rick has more on this on his blog. We were the last few runners who crossed it.

The effort now to make up for the lost time started to stress me again to the point my vision started to dim even further. More on this in Rick’s blog. We passed by a runner on a trail who was injured and had to DNF. Since I could not see, it was later on I realized it was Jose Nicolas who successfully ran the Comrades 3 weeks ago. Rick talked to him and from what he gathered, it was stress fracture. Jose was supposed to do the Grand Slam.


I just could not figure out why and no amount of prayer would turn things around. Running 100 miles, whether for experienced and newbies, is challenging and hard enough. However, running with way less than 100% vision is something else altogether. The stresses from getting lost and trying to make up for the time were enough to cause further degradation to my vision. I remember running with 20-30% visual capacity at the most critical part of the race. By this time, we were supposed to be flying on the course. Instead, we were like walking in a park. I was just trying to contain my mixed emotion of indignation, frustration and doubt. Doubt is a killer if one dwells in it. If you allow doubt to take a hold of you, it is a sure recipe for DNF.

Now on some rocky portions, I had to hold on to Rick’s shoulders like they were my walking canes or something. Otherwise, I might traverse the course by crawling just so I would not fall down. Did you know how frustrating this was? The word 'frustration' is an understatement here. Oh yes I was praying hard and wanted to cry. Crying out to high heaven again to give me even 50% capacity of my vision. The thought of not making it within the cut-off time of 30 hours because of my inability to pick up the pace at this critical phase of the race was so stressful! 


We breezed through aid stations. There was just not enough time to tarry. Whatever conditions we were in, it never escaped me to keep up with my fuel, hydration and electrolytes. This is very important! As I wont to say, control things that you can in a race and not those you cannot like weather, etc. Right now, my visual acuity was pathetic at its 20% capacity. Sunshine blinded me completely and in some areas where there was shade I could see a little. I had to place my complete trust in Rick and in fairness, he did a fantastic job at it.

As if fate was playing its sick joke on me, I sprained my other ankle! We were on a single track with small holes on the ground caused either by dislodged stones due to the number of runners who passed by or simply by erosion. In one of those holes, I accidentally planted my right ankle and I came down shrieking in pain! I still vividly recall the painful stretch in my ankle beyond its normal range as I fell to the ground. It was quick, sharp and really painful. The thought that came into my mind was this could be the end of my journey. I was blind with sprained ankle and this. Probably, the next one could be a detour off a cliff.

As if those weren’t enough, I sprained my right ankle 15 minutes after. My God! What is this?! My ankle swelled even more. I could feel some painful sharp twitching inside.  I told Rick I needed to take a break for 1 minute or so. My left ankle was also beginning to show substantial wear and tear. I told Rick one more slip and we would be going home. So I requested him to just warn me of the terrain conditions ahead. I did realize even more how difficult his job was at this point.

So you could imagine how our hope plummeted so low like it was a rubble caused by a Ritcher scale 10 earthquake.


Despite my condition, we managed to put ourselves within the cut-off time. The huge challenge would be the hilly terrain to the finish line from the No Hands Bridge. I was sick and tired of the stress of trying to mitigate my physical condition with sanity. Sanity in terms of thinking through things and just ignoring the constant pain I was in. Rick and I discussed what needed to be done to be within the contention for the Buckle. I was amazed at how Rick handled things from his end. He seemed to be in panic but it was the calm type of panic. He had the composure and made me feel as if I was on pace for the buckle. It was the subtle of balance of reminding me to be vigilant but composed. Perhaps his years of ultrarunning and pacing duties made him what he is now. He was my eyes during the critical stage of my race. Who else could do that out there? He said "I never had a runner whom I paced who did not finish".

So we left No Hands Bridge to tackle the last difficult part of the race. You know what? We were running even how hilly the terrain was! We had to. I remember how strange it was for me to be very calm while going uphill. Like I was controlling my breathing Yoga style and heartbeat. I was in the zone and meditating. Telling myself whatever strength I have now, I have to stretch it to the finish line. Do not overdo it! I told myself “Jon, do not f#@% this up now! This is the only challenge that stands between you and the buckle. You have come this far!”.

Rick said “Dig deep Jon! which advise I dispensed to other runners before. I did not realize I would be the recipient of it this time. While writing this down I was feeling so emotional again. It was incredibly hard on that last part of the course. How to dig deep when you are already spent and broken is something you alone can figure out when the time comes. This reminds me of the saying:

"Out of sufferings have emerged the strongest souls; the massive characters are seared with scars"- Khalil Gibrain   

Finally, Rick and I both felt confident and vigilant at the same time. One false move or accident would be seriously disastrous. Rick asked me to look for a gel inside his back pack as he needed the fuel to bring us over some hills. It was getting hot also as we were on exposed terrain. We just ran fast and power walked really some steep hills. Some runners with pacers were strangely calm on those hills. I muttered how they would ever make it to Auburn at such a slow pace.

My hope buoyed up when I started to see more houses on left and right. I knew we must be very close to the track but we just kept on running. I muttered again how hilly Auburn is, thinking when would these hills end. And then there it was - the oval! I grabbed Rick’s hand and raised to high heaven, uttered a simple prayer and graciously thanked Rick.

Even as I entered the oval track, I warned myself to be careful lest I trip and fall. That would be embarrassing. All of you know the feeling associated with seeing the finish line. One word – LIBERATING!. The contrast of red tartan and white line guided me to the finish arc. Something fell to the track and I wanted to pick it up. Problem was I could not distinctly see it. I just heard a thud. Some people shouted “Forget the shades, just run. Run!”. As I crossed the finish line, I was enveloped with the feeling of utter release and was temporarily in disbelief that it was over. I was feeling bad that I could not see the people around me since this would only happen once. Somebody placed a medal around my neck as soon as I crossed the line. On the other hand, I knew a few minutes from now my adrenaline would subside and would start to feel the fatigue and exhaustion. I was asked to go to the chute for blood sample. Problem was I could not see clearly. Even finding a chair was such a chore! It was when I gingerly sat down that it all came down on me – I finished it! Tears welled up in my eyes and I had to bow my head to hide my emotions. I just wanted to release it in private and quietly.


I had been eyeing WS100 since 2009. Running my first 100 mile trail race in 2010 in Australia - GNW100 was all part of a design. It was only after UTMB (I did enjoy this race even how hard it was!) last year that I decided to try my luck in WS100. I said these two big races should be enough to convince the WS100 screening committee to give a slot for the Philippines even if my name was not lucky in the lottery. When my name was picked, I had this strange feeling something big was in the offing.  My other option was Hardrock.

Days after the race and over some beer (some of the best out there), we kept on discussing over and over how the hell we managed to finish within the cut-off. Guess Rick and I will be forever wondering and honestly, I do not think we will ever get a straight answer. Frankly, I like it that way. Mystery is good. Also after 24 hours my ankles were swollen beyond recognition. The race must have pretty banged them up!  Well I did.

Swollen ankles. This after 24 hours!

I have done several tough ultras but nothing compared them to WS100. The stress especially in the last few hours to cut-off was almost debilitating. So much was going on! It was bad enough to be blind with two sprained ankles and on top of that, I still had to manage the terrain, station cut-offs, fuel, hydration, etc. The combination of these things really was wearing me down. The hardest part was psychological. I mean the thought of making it that far into the race just to find out later on that I missed the cut-off by a few seconds or minutes would be horrible. I could have just quit at Dusty Corner and avoided the pain and suffering.

Admittedly, my condition was a valid excuse to DNF and that is understandable. This race is different though. I represented something bigger (my country and Pinoy ultrarunners) other than the personal goal to secure that buckle. This, among others, is perhaps where I got my strength from. I have always said that if you are running a race of this distance and difficulty, you have to represent something higher or loftier. There must be an inspiration. Something to rescue or pull you out from your shittiest or lowest points during the race. Something to jolt you and to remind why you are in the race in the first place. For how can you do that, when you yourself is broken and dejected. Meaning, you must draw your strength from other source and most of the time, that strength is inside you. There are ways to achieve that strength. One is LIFE lessons. Also training-wise, doing long runs ALONE in some rugged hilly terrain and away from the comfort of modern civilization and people. No 7-eleven, stores or taxi. That is why I love Miyamit (and other similar training grounds) not only for its rolling terrain but for its seclusion. You reach its peak (21km from the base including the Falls) and whatever condition you are in, you have to make your way back down because no one will help or rescue you. Pardon me but I am against constant group runs if one is training for big ultras.

Rick as a pacer is one tough dude and generous as well. He never gave up nor hinted that I should. I am sure it was also very stressful for him guiding a blind runner on such distance and terrain. That is something you don’t train for. Calm under pressure and can manage to adjust and handle what the race throws at him. That is a hallmark of a veteran runner/pacer. What can I say, Rick is the best and because of what happened, I will be always bonded and thankful to him. I have always said friendship is forged in the fire of despair, hardship, problem and difficulty and never in the refuge of comfort, joy or happiness. The latter produces peers (barkadas) but not friends. Friends are hard to come by and the relationship takes years to develop. If you have many friends like you can’t count them in your fingers, I will just wonder. So Rick thanks man. I remember Rick telling me how sad it would be to drive home without the buckle. I can’t agree more!

Could I have finished even without Rick? I don’t know. I have to admit though that the chances would be almost nil. Did I take unnecessary risk when all reasons (and sanity) dictated that I should quit? Okay it was risky but it was calculated risk. Besides, no risk is too big when you represent your country and the people you love. Did it ever cross my mind to quit? Oh yes several times! What pulled me through then? The inspiration that I represented the Philippines, its ultrarunners and my family. Why do you think you went blind? I am not sure but it seems it’s the combo of elevation, stress, cold weather, low sugar/carb diet and I might add jet lag. Did you lose your faith in the ONE up there? Almost. Will you do it again? Heck yes provided there is enough sponsorship and this time I will come with a vengeance! Sub-24 since the course is conducive to faster time (if one is not blind and well-trained in that order of importance :).

At the end of the day, ultra race is one of the perfect places to discover yourself and what innate strength lies in you. It is like life itself in a more compact, abbreviated, dramatic and colorful package. You only travel one way and once you have started, there is no going back 

Longboard is great! Rick bring some here! :)


These are the people who made things possible:

My wife Lanie, kids and family (thank you for understanding the reason for the time spent away from you), Governor Pineda of Pampanga, CDC OIC/OP Oban Jr., CDC Board of Directors Honrado, Villanueva and Mendoza, CIAC Pres. Luciano, Mayors of Angles City and Porac, Atty. Roldan, Engr. Arcilla of ANGLO, HRPC, CDC Sonny Lopez, Philip Arenillo of The Perfect White for the shirt (awesome!), ARC (Joe Matias was kind enough to ship my Julbo), my Mother for her prayers (they really work!) and friends. Best of all, Rick Gaston. You’re the man! To Pinoy ultramarathoners ,  folks you will always be an inspiration. PUR and those who monitored my progress via webcast, my gratitude. I will refrain from mentioning their particular names names since If I missed one, others would not feel good about it. Those who printed my stories like Heidi and Marie. Merci! So this is a general thank you note!  

Jon (loving the downtime and has started running 1 1/2 weeks ago)


  1. Wow! First of all I didn't realize your ankles were so swollen! You took that in my place because I recognize the carpet and hardwood floors but I don't recognize the ankles.

    My friend's name was Scott, courtesy of our mutual friend, Jon Gunderson, who went sub-30 hours at Badwater this year. We were in a men's group together at church. The Marmot windbreaker was from the Dick Collins Firetrails 50-miler. The lightweight vest was from Hydrapak. Good gear helps!

    Reading your report took me back, touche, what a race. To be honest I've never been the same since. I just started running after a 2.5 week break when my fatigue seemed to accompany me on all my runs. I'm on the mend now but that was some weekend to knock me out like that!

    Yes Bear and Cougars are real. They are there but when your day goes bad you hardly think about them. Indeed you dare them to make a hard day even harder, at least it would be something to write home about.

    The trails going to the finish was littered with DNF's. We made it buddy and I would do it again given the chance. I supplemented what you already had in you - the drive to the finish. I'm glad I could be your guide. It was an honor Jon and an inspiration I could take with me the next time i have a chance to run the event.

    Thank you for not being the first runner I paced who didn't finish!!! Haha no seriously, thanks. Western States is a deceptively hard race. You did great regarding the circumstances. Never during the time we were together did I forget that I was accompanying a representative from the ol' country. It was a privilege and an honor. I came from a good stock, we don't give in so easily.

    As I said on my blog, Mabuhay Jon and Mabuhay ang Filipino. To you and the future of Filipino ultra running. You are the present and the future. It's up to you and the folks who come after you to carry on - Mabuhay!

  2. Were you having a beer or that single malt while writing the above comment? :) I would like to have one too!

    I agree I have never been the same way as well after the race. Something clicked inside. It is deep within now like in the psyche. I think it only happens when one goes through a fire which we both did during the race.

    I was proud to have finished it but the race humbled me even more. The things that happened that weekend put things in perspective and where I was in the scheme of things. You know it is like life - it throws things at you that you find yourself down there and it is entirely up to you how to get back up.

    Hey Rick we have done our part. The Philippine flag should and will be up there flying and waving at the Start line of WS100 starting next year and the YEARS TO COME! That my friend is a privilege and an honor.

    1. Nope but I had just come home from a wedding celebration. Lots was drunk but nothing as good as the scotch I had at home. I just had a shot of that single malt you liked, then I promptly dropped my last shot glass on the floor and now it's in pieces - guess that's the only one I'll be having tonight.

      Correction on the last reply too, Jon G. actually came in just after 30 hours. He should give Scott more Injinjis. I never touch em' I'm Drymax all the way.

      I just started running again, 30 miles this past week. So far so good.

  3. been waiting for ur story. rick's a better storyteller though. hehe B for badwater, S for speedgoat?

  4. I'm speechless...awesome, simply awesome. I wanna do this, I hope I'll even have the courage to decide to do this.

    You should have a twitter/fb share button :) I wanna share this.

    See you on the road,soon!

  5. Hi Tin. Thank you for dropping by. As suggested, I have added below the icon for FB/Twitter share button. Cheers!

  6. Hey Rose, yeah he is a better writer. Running a 100 mile race screwed up whatever writing abilities I have :)

    Rick, I'll be more than happy on 30 miles/week now. I am sedentary at this time. Better get my arse out there. I have Grand Slam coming up! Ask Scott to share those Injinjis. Drymax is welcome too! :)

  7. Wow, congratulations Jon! What an accomplishment - utterly amazing. Your perseverance is astonishing. Did you ever find out what causes the temporary blindness? Did the altitude actually have anything to do with it?
    I've signed up for my first 100 miler, which is relatively tame - a beginner's 100 miler, if you will, at the C&O Canal 100. I hope to at least finish, and see what else lies in store from there.
    Great job again, Jon. Such a beautiful buckle! ;)

    1. Hey Paul. Thank you!

      I think the altitude contributed to my condition. There is now a project on this. Kindly check the blog Sea Legs Girl.

      Good luck on your first 100 miler. There is no such thing as easy 100 miler. Haha.
      You'll be fine. Just train properly and respect the distance. Good luck and thanks for dropping by! Please let me know how the race goes! Cheers.

  8. Wow, congratulations Jon! You don't know me, but I've heard of your exploits from my inaanak, Simon Pavel Miranda. Your accomplishment at WS100 is absolutely amazing. Your perseverance is astonishing. Do you have any other photos from the event, or race photographers? You are right to feel proud of that accomplishment! So what is next? ;)
    I'm happy to see from over here in Maryland that the running and ultrarunning scene in the Philippines is alive and well, thanks to RDs like you and the bald runner.
    Keep it up, and well done!
    (What a beautiful buckle you brought home, huh?)

  9. Hi. No other photos that I know of. Am unsure who took some of the photos during the race.

    Your inaanak is getting stronger. He just finished the toughest trail 50 miler. :)

    Have an inspiration when you run your first 100 miler. It will help you during your lowest of lows. Thanks and happy trails!

  10. Thanks for the tip, Jon. I believe you that there is no easy 100 miler ;) Let's see how it goes! Makikita mo sa facebook. Sa April 27 pa.