19 teams showed up at the starting line at Tiendesitas in Pasig. The line-up consists of Army with four entries (with two teams with members from the Bald Runner elites), the Philippine National Police with two entries, while Team Bald Runner Elites, Brooks Air Force (led by Vertek Buenavista), Coast Guard, UPLB Mountaineering, LLDA Taytay, Antipolo (with athletes of Coach Roy Vince), Metropolitan Mountaineering Society, McDonald’s-Sta. Cruz, Run4Change, Maynilad Water and Team Sagul will field one squad each. Our team, the Bald Runner Professional Group formed two teams, we called ourselves the” Flash Forward and Lake Dashers “(don’t be intimidated by the BR name on it, we are regular running addicts who started running about a few months to two years ago and have been regularly attending the BR Speed Training Clinic at the Ultra)
My team, the Lake Dashers consist of Runner 1-Loo Balasoto, 2-Jucell Laya, 3-Mark Salazar, 4-me, 5-Jerry Adriano. Our 2nd runner Randy had to finally decide to pullout himself from the race Thursday morning as his injury from last Friday is still painful even with a slow-jog 3K.
We have to run 200+K for two days around the towns of Laguna and Rizal surrounding Laguna Bay.
At 5am, the starting line does not look like a regular weekend race. The scene was “fearful” and “intimidating”. I have to ask myself several times “What am I getting myself into?”…Probably the other teams while looking at us have in mind “Kasali ba talaga sila?”…
Look at the picture at the starting line and encircle the odd ones out….
We immediately left the venue without waiting for the take-off to drop our second runner. The ride gave us a taste of what is to come: traffic, narrow roads, pro-life parade, campaigns everywhere, etc.
Finally, we reached Transition No.1 to drop off our runner 2, Jucell Laya.
As we are about to leave, we learned that Vertek was sideswept by a motorcycle while warming up. I was already in the car then and as much as we wanted to check on him or check on the guy who hit him (and probably give him a punch or two – what was he thinking? This is the guy who wins gold for our country man!), we had to go as traffic is said to be worst.
We arrived with still so much time at Transition 2. Mark and Carlo started to prepare while I changed to my running clothes already. I was so nervous, I actually had about four CR breaks . As I was on my way out of SM Sta. Rosa, I bumped into Vertek who was running/warming up on his way to the restroom. Asked him how he was and learned that he will be running the third leg instead, they just switched. He even walked back to chat with us and explain what happened. Close huh!
Ali Quisay of the Elite Team Bald Runner representing Army Team A finished first at Leg One. Antipolo team on 2nd and Rene Desuyo of Team Bald Runner is Third.
Loo, our first runner was the last to arrive at transition 1. It was 8:05 am then, about 15 minutes later than Team Flash Forward. Loo took his leg in two hours, still within cutoff but it does not leave the rest of the four runners allowance to exceed two hours per leg.
The first leg was not easy as they have to traverse C5 then go inside the busy streets of ML Quezon all the way to Sucat. It was already so hot, there were no water stations except for their hydration belt water. At some point the street was flooded and they had to take alternate routes or get soaked in the flood water.
After getting the news that our second runner has left the transition 1, I started to feel the pressure. It was so hot at 8 am but didn’t bother to take shield as I wanted to get used to it. With the time we had, I will be running at around 11:30 at the earliest. The stress was somewhat relieved when I saw the lead pack of 2nd Leg arrive.
Antipolo Team got the lead at Leg 2, a few seconds lead from Elmer Sabal (an elite team BR also) of Army Team A. Jack of Elite Team BR was 3rd place, Jujit de Asis (an elite team BR) of Army Team on 4th place, Team Brooks came in fifth with the replacement runner for Vertek. It was such an experience seeing these runners sprint their way to the transition point, passing the baton (belt) to the next runner in a flash.
Five more runners have arrived, top 10 is occupied! (as if hahaha)… we were surprised when we saw Jucell limping his way to the transition points. He outrun seven runners and we are on 11th place. Mark leaves immediately.
We went to transition are and learned a speeding jeepney hit his left leg at an intersection. His left leg is swollen. He endured that pain and limped his way to the transition point. OMG! We were amazed already with his time, but got awed some more when he told us that he got lost twice. The route was a bit confusing with many intersections unmarked. Even Nam of the Team Flash Forward got lost and ran extra 4 kilometers. Nam arrived about 15 minutes after.
We had to stay and ice Jucell for a few minutes before we left the transition point. It was good that our support crew is a Red Cross volunteer. He has all the supplies-ice bag, splint, etc. The medics at the station doesn’t even have ice?!? All they have on the table was an equipment to take BP.
We left transition 2, my leg was next. We have two hours to spare to travel. Without traffic, it should take 30 minutes from there but about 1 hour with traffic. We were wrong!
We saw Mark and Carlo on our way. They are actually weaving through traffic. Mark was running at a fast pace. Worried that he might get the same fate as Jucell, we just prayed for safety for everyone. After two accidents, we all agreed that safety should come first.
10 minutes in traffic after we saw Mark, he suddenly appeared again and has overtaken us. Yes, that’s how worst the traffic is! We decided to make a U-turn and take SLEX. We called up the team of Jan and checked on the route they took. He warned me that SLEX is not moving as well. At the toll of Cabuyao, we asked for directions that will take us faster to Calamba. The manong, in a very high pitch voice said, “Diretso lang,pagdating dun sa police station kaliwa! Diretso lang yun walang sasakyan masyado. Pag may puno ng mangga may makikita kayong mga bata, bigyan niyo lang ng piso; padadaanin na nila kayo. Tulay na yun. Kaliwa kayo dun. May isang tulay. SLEX na yun!” It sounds like a joke but we just had to trust his advice. After all, he said that with all his passion in it. (Di naman siya galit). We tool a left and traverse a long isolated roads, we saw some kids along the way and had to think – eto na ba bibigyan ng piso? Pero wala pang mangga so diretso lang kami…until we saw the Mango tree and the bridge and the kids…
Yipee! We’re near. Macky called and said that traffic is moving right after Canlubang. But, oh no again! There is an Anak Pawis rally, it’s May 1, Labor day!….I called my cousin who lives in Los Banos and she said it will take us 30 minutes from where we are. (on a regular traffic situation and this is not)…Mark should be there in 15 minutes earliest, 30 minutes latest. We finally reached SLEX and ughhh traffic is still bad. I wanted to do some warm ups and stretching along SLEX already. I started preparing my gears. I should be ready to run as soon as I get dropped off. After the Batangas exit, Calamba exit was already moving. Prayers answered, Calamba traffic did not slow us down. We just entered Calamba when Mark arrived. About two kilometers from the transition point, we saw Carlo and cheered for him. He waved and after a few seconds sat on the road. It was just so perfect timing, the motorcycle has no first aid so we asked our support crew to go down with pain killers and spray salonpas.
I really had to pee at that time, I jumped from the car, got the belt from Mark, pee in a flash then left….
We didn’t get to witness the finish of the third leg but we heard that at this time Vertek has overtaken the first four runners. He caught up with about 15 minutes of distance while still fresh from an accident. He is the man! It was sad though that Darwin Lim of the Team Army A collapsed and was taken to the nearest hospital. Their team was DNFed. This is the team of Ali Quisay,first place 1st leg and Elmer Sabal, second place 2nd leg. PNP team B also pulled out from the race before the 4th leg.
Mark had a fast start at his first 15th kilometer. His supply of water ran out already midway. He had to beg for a vendor to give him pakwan, he drank from a water glass on the road which apparently he had to pay; he didn’t have money and has already drank it so he just said “Balikan ko na lang po kayo, pasensya na.”
He had to slow down the last 5k and just walk or he might suffer from heat stroke. This is the hottest part of the day.
Fourth Leg – My Run
The sun is still up at 12 noon. I left the transition point 15 minutes late, no stretching nor warm up, fresh from a stressful two hour drive. The first part of the leg was a climb from Calamba to Los Banos along the highway. There was no traffic for the first 5 kilometers but you have to endure the uphills and run the blind curves. I was hyped up to run that despite the heat and the climbs I averaged 5:15 to 5:60 for the first 5kilometers. It was so hot! I would ask for water that I can pour down on myself every kilometer. Too bad though the water was warm already. I keep telling the motorcycle escort to give me the nike bottle as that is cold but we can not seem to connect. Well, when I finally got what I wanted, it turned out, the water is not cold as well with the heat of the sun.
After 5 kilometers, the traffic of Los Banos await us. I almost got bumped by a jeepney after the LB Crossing stoplight. He blew his horn so loud just when he was 2 inches away. It was good I still have presence of mind that I was able to jump to the sidewalk filled with vendors.
It was so good to hear cheers along the way.
The support vehicles who passed by me to transport the last runner to Calauan cheered me on Kilometer 5 and 8th..
The jeepneys and cars would cheer me and say “Panalo ka na, ang layo pa ng kasunod mo!” (Of course, they started at the tail-end of the race.)
The bystanders would tell me. “Uy pangalawa ka”, or “pang-apat ka” while some would say “Naku, talo ka na ang tagal na nung kalaban mo”. (depending on what time they started watching)
I passed by a house who probably has an ongoing party and I got invited to drink or “tumagay” in Pinoy terms.
There are some good Samaritans offering me ice water and kids who were jumping while cheering me.
This helped a lot as the heat and the fast start was paying off, I was running the next 5 kilometers at 6:30 to 7 pace. I was computing then that when I left we have four hours and a quarter to spare. I need to finish in 1 hour and 15 minutes to give Jerry 3 hours to finish his leg. (Enough allowance for any possibilities.) but I was having a hard time with my wet shoes already. My feet is sore already from a small blister. (I was wearing the wrong shoes, Mizuno was not meant to cushion you from the heat of the road. At some point, it already feels like I am walking barefoot on the road.) At some point I would push harder, it was still so hot at that time and I would run at a fast pace for a kilometer. My motorcycle support would tell me to pour water as there is a runner who collapsed already. Our support was just the best on earth! He did not just do his job, we sincerely felt his concern. My thoughts went to, why should I complain, I have 13.26K to run while this guy have been on his motorcycle for about 60 kilometers already.
I was honestly praying throughout for the sun to hide. At the last three kilometers as I was midway at the town of Bay, the clouds appeared. The wind blew. The scenes turned into ricefields. It was like being transported to a different place, thank God!
I knew I was near, I tried to speed up. I still have extra energy, I know that our team can make it to cut-off time. I know that I can still run my leg tomorrow…I passed the belt to Jerry and told him to ensure safety…I finished my leg in 1:24 at around 1:06pm.
With spare time of 2 hours and 54 minutes, Jerry left Calauan. It rained. We were confident that Jerry can make it. He made it in 1:47!
The team waited for Tere to arrive, Iah took off, Tere changed her clothes then we went to the Finish Line of Day One. Again, the campaign vehicles plus the regular traffic in Sta.Cruz caught us. We saw Iah on the road still okay and running fast. We are confident he can make it. We made several phone calls to check on Jerry if he has arrived. We were at the highly congested Sta.Cruz intersection when Jerry crossed the finish line giving us a 9 hours finish time. Too bad we didn’t witness his finish.
Smacky of the UPLB Mountaineers arrived in 15 minutes while Iah arrived at 9hours and 30 minutes.
Last 30 minutes left for the other teams to finish. At 4pm, they closed the finish line.
We made it! Two teams DNFed, Two did not qualify, Fourteen Teams are off to Second Day!
Dinner was served and the awarding ceremony was held at the Sports Complex of Sta. Cruz. Most of the teams stayed there to sleep as well.
We went back to our hotel and was in bed at 9:30pm…
We dread the second day! It will be more difficult with longer distances, most parts would really be directly exposed to the sun, UPHILLS!, and a lot more…See you tomorrow! Zzzzzzzzz