Sunday, January 16, 2011

Natural Evolution

BDM Km Post 50 in Abucay, Bataan, at 4:36 a.m.

Yesterday, I completed my first-ever ultra run: the BDM 2011 Test Run 1, which also doubled as a Philippine Association of Ultrarunners (PAU) 50k Run.  My finish time (Garmin) - 6:46:29 - was far from stellar, but I'd like to think that it was quite decent considering the challenges posted by the route (Mariveles to Abucay, Bataan - mostly rolling terrain, blanketed in total darkness) and the fact that it was my first foray into ultra distance running. I finished my maiden ultra run barely six days after doing last weekend's Cebu City Marathon.

The last couple of days before the run were also less than encouraging, as I was in Singapore from Thursday to Saturday morning -  the day of the run! - handling a very stressful contract negotiation. Saturday morning saw me taking a 9:40 a.m. flight out of the Lion City. From there, it was a whirlwind of activity. I landed in NAIA at 1:10 p.m., was home and packing my gear and supplies by 2 pm, and was en route to Bataan by 4:15 p.m. At 8:30 p.m., I was finally standing at Km 0 in Mariveles - very closely resembling a total wreck and running almost purely on adrenaline (no Red Bull or Cobra for me), anxiously waiting for the start of the next big test.

Banana break at Km 45

Six hours, 46 minutes, and 29 seconds later, I reached the BDM Km Post 50. Average pace was 8:07 min/km. For the first 30 kilometers, I used a Galloway run-walk ratio of 8:1, which I adjusted to 7:1 for Kms 31 to 40, and finally to 6:1 for the last 10.  Statistics of my run here. I survived my first ultra run - as well as the murderous inclines, the complete darkness that seemed to go on and on, the stray dogs (it seemed like there were hundreds of them!), some drunks along the interior roads, the taunting members of the third sex, and the practitioners of the world's oldest profession plying the red light strip along Roman Highway - and I LOVED EVERY MINUTE OF IT.  I'll never join another overpriced half-marathon in BGC again.

With the promotor himself - BR - at the finish point.

More than being just a "regular" ultra run, this one was in fact a test run for the first half of the BDM route. The purpose of the run was to prepare idiots like me who are insane enough to run 102 kilometers or, worse, 160 kilometers in the dead of our country's tropical summer. The run achieved this purpose very convincingly. Here are some of my most significant learnings from this experience. I know, a lot of them are common sensical, but it was just fantastic to see them "work" during an actual run:

(a) I now know that, in colder climate, running 102k is very doable. Come BDM in March, the distance won’t kill me, but the heat and humidity will. Heat training will be critical.

(b) Walk all uphills and run when it is flat. Galloway is the way!

(c) Be friendly and courteous to all people you meet along the route - especially the locals.

(d) You won’t survive BDM without a headlamp or flashlight of some sort. If you're afraid of the dark, just stay home and don't even think of doing this.

(e) The fewer runners being supported by a single support vehicle, the better. But a ratio of one runner per vehicle is best.

(f) Having the support vehicle chase (but not shadow) the runner (rather than the vehicle leap-frogging) is a viable strategy. In my case, it worked to perfection. My vehicle gave me a 10 to 15 minute lead before catching up to meet me, and we repeated this routine through out the run.

(g) When stocking up on supplies, include an allowance for other runners who may need support while their own vehicles aren’t around. You should do this for them because you would want them to do this for you. You'll never know when you will need to look to other runners' crews for provisions. 

The aftermath

And just like that, I entered the next stage of my continuing evolution as a runner.

Next up for me is the Condura Skyway Marathon on 6 February, and then the BDM Test Run 2 52k on 12 February. But for now... a two-day recovery period.



  1. Congratulations on your first ultra run, Julius! You have a pretty busy schedule ahead of you. Good luck and run safely.

  2. @ Sir Arthur - Thanks! Yes - busy months ahead, but it's all good. All set for your visit to Manila? Don't forget to pack your running shoes!

    @ Jet - Thanks pare! See you in Mariveles! :)

  3. congratulations chief! see you in Condura. =)

  4. congrats! wow, you already did an ultra! i wanna try it by 2012. :D

  5. you are right. running outside metro manila is something you can experience when you join our ultra runs. nice run!

  6. @ Rainer - Thanks. Why wait for 2012? :) If you feel you're already up to the task, game na!

    @ Sir Jovie - I'm already looking forward to the next one!

  7. Brilliant man! Thanks for sharing this with us. I wish that I could be there this year, but highly doubtful due to some constraints. I will be there, though, God Willing 2012. (3 marathons later. lol) I do have to point out one of the things that you said I thought was stellar, bring extra supplies for other runners. Love it. That is what running is all about. Take care man. Remember, you are a blade of grass.

  8. @ Kenley - Thanks a lot, bud. It's too bad your visit got held up. I know you'll get everythiong sorted out soon. Good luck on your next marathon. And remember - it's just a training run for the big one in 2012!!! Stay safe, man.