My Initiation Into Becoming A Certified UltraMarathoner

It was a rather fortunate turn of events that when I was hospitalized on October 12, 2012, the 3rd Mt. Pinatubo 50k Ultra-Trail Challenge was moved to October 21, 2012. It was originally scheduled on the 14th of October. Had it pushed through, I couldn’ve have joined the race. Thanks to the Balikatan exercises held in the area.

Barely a week after I was released from the hospital, I have finally recuperated. I finished my final exams a day before the event, October 20th. I took time to get a couple of hours of sleep when I got home. But sleep wasn’t so kind to me, so I woke half past midnight, took a bath and packed my bag.

By 2am, I have already boarded a bus heading north. As a master of powernaps (which I learned when I went back to college), I was able to doze off while en route to Tarlac. I got off in Tarlac junction (that was Capas proper). The trike driver took me to Sta. Juliana (which was approximately 24km from Capas proper) in half an hour! The fare: Php300.00.

There weren't much of us runners who courageously faced the challenged of the 3rd Mt. Pinatubo 50k Trail Challenge. Photo Credit: J. Avellanosa Photography, Jovie Narcise

There weren’t much of us runners who courageously faced the challenged of the 3rd Mt. Pinatubo 50k Trail Challenge. Photo Credit: J. Avellanosa Photography, Jovie Narcise

It was a cold morning. When I reached Sta. Juliana, the runners have already prepped up for the race. It was a rather festive ambiance despite the limited number of participants. Someone was talking over the megaphone giving instructions. I was greeted by none other than Alex and Thanatos of Climb Against Cancer Family when I got off. Then I met my Ok Ok Family, the Team Titans, my friends from ARC and other runners. I presented my deposit slip, my first aid kit and claimed my race bib. And it was my first time to meet Sir Jovie “The Bald Runner” Narcise in person. Soon after, I’m all geared up for the race and joined the rest of the runners for a photo ops before the gunstart.

The final instructions were given and the race started at about 5 in the morning. A few hundred meters from the start line, we descended to the river. I expected it to be just a few hundreds meters as well. But I was wrong. The river run stretched to at least 20 kilometers! I took my time running at my own pace. It was an upstream run. I was awed by what I saw. The natural formations of the mountain walls were just amazing.

Photo Credit: Tong Pascua Photography

With a full view of the nature, running never felt this good as the early morning wind brushes past my face. Photo Credit: Tong Pascua Photography

Looking far ahead, I could only see the green mountaintops, the endless stretch of the riverbed, sand, water running through the constantly changing water passageways, and the walls of mountains. I bumped into my friends, made new friends, and had some photos taken. Of course! How can you miss that one?! This is the one thing I really like about running. You just don’t meet the current friends, but you get to meet the new ones. And you no longer run alone. The hydration station was like a hang out station – you can grab some food and drinks to fuel you up for the next 10 kilometers or so. You can choose from boiled bananas, sweet potatoes, hardboiled eggs matched with the iodized salt, cola, some crackers, chocolates and an ample supply of drinking water. There were trekkers on board the 4x4s. And some were even excited to see us running through the sand and the running water and took photos of us. Some even cheered for us, which was more than enough to boost our stamina. There were instances of sand storms. We reached a clearing that led us to the crater. It was also a long stretch of trail, where you sometimes had to jump from rock to another or wade through the cool running water.  You can smell the scent of the freshly cut grass. The mountain scent was so refreshing. The gustling wind was cold. The sun was peeping through the clouds and piercing through the mountains and the trees.

Reaching the crated of Mt. Pinatubo for the first time was incredible. It was overwhelming! © J. Avellanosa Photography

Reaching the crated of Mt. Pinatubo for the first time was incredible. It was overwhelming! © J. Avellanosa Photography

When I reached the crater, I became so speechless. I was ovewhelmed. I can’t believe that I could really be standing on the spot where the lava and magma once flowed out, where big boulders of rocks were once thrown out. I was literally on the crater of the volcano that brought the unforgettable devastation to the properties and lives of the people in the province of Pampanga and nearby areas. Vegetation has grown back. We descended through a cobblestone pathway that led to a cottage where we had our bib numbers  and our time recorded. I joined the other runners who were taking a dip at the blue green water that formed a lake. I lingered for about quarter of an hour, and I decided to trek back. The way back was a lot easier since it was downstream. Less effort. Reaching the hydration station, I refilled my hydration gear, grabbed some food to fill my stomach since it’s gonna be another long way to the finish line. It was midday and the temperature had already crept up. Patience, determination and faith were my armors. Walking on the sand was twice the effort. So, whenever I had the chance, I took the less treaded areas where the grass grew. I felt better whenever there was water because it was cool to the feet. The last three kilometers or so was the most agonising part of the route. I could only run/jog for about five meters and I would slow down to walk. I was on the verge of exhaustion. I felt like a battery that almost empty. Reaching the concrete road, I knew that I’m barefly a few hundred meters from the finish line. Just a little push will do. I can’t explain what I feel when I saw the Start/Finish Line streamer hanging by posts. I could already hear the ringing bell that BR was holding. Soon, I heard the cheers from my fellow runners waiting by the finish line. Congratulatory and good job remarks were exchanged.

Like a father, RD Jovie Narcise, known as Bald Runner, welcomed me with a congratulatory hug. The mental and physical challenges I went through the entire race were all gone as Daddy BR put on the medal my neck. It was a mission accomplished.. errr, an initiation to the world of trail and ultra running. © J. Avellanosa Photography

Thank God for the strength that I was able to complete this challenge. Thanks to all my friends and for the new ones whom I met for making this race a more meaningful one. The trail was a great place to strengthen the friendship and to make new friends.

I finished the Mt. Pinatubo 50k ultratrail challenge in 08:33:07.
Rank #31.

Congratulations to all of us Finishers!

Click HERE for results.


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