‘How did you prepare for your first Ultra run?’ My friends asked one night when we saw each other at at a bloggers’ event sometime in October. It was exactly six days after I fought my way to a well-deserved podium finish in my maiden foray into the crazy world of UltraRunning (to the uninitiated, Ultra Running is going beyond the 42km marathon) and yet apart from the unsightly tan line – which, at that time, was already starting to peel making it even more unappealing but I was not minding it much because I must admit that weird-looking tan line has become a blockbuster hit of a conversation starter – I was feeling great! Not to say I didn’t suffer the brunt of Mt. Pinatubo’s unforgiving heat, rocks, sand, and what-not because damn it I DID, but I bounced back from the unpleasant aftermath quite fast. Yes, I’m some kind of an android like that.
And no, I did not train for it. Not even for a day. Because up until two days prior to the race when Dennis the Running Pinoy told me that he signed me up for the race and got me my own first aid kit from Watson’s, I was not sure I would even do it. I was in Malaysia at that time and would only return to Manila at 6PM the day before the actual race. I did NOT even get to enjoy the luxury of sleep because I had to gear up and pack my race essentials very quickly soon as I arrived home from the airport in order to meet up with fellow runners at midnight. The race venue is roughly three hours away from Manila and gun start is at 5AM. I only had time for a shower and a heartfelt prayer for safety and survival. Before braving the 1st PAU Mt. Pinatubo 50k Trail Challenge, my running resume consisted mainly of two 5k, four 10k, three 21k races, one full marathon, and sporadic solo runs here and there to try and keep my waistline looking steady and narrow at 23 inches. So you see, there isn’t much there for anyone to be able to ascertain that I’d even make it. But I am, first and foremost, a lioness. If there’s one thing I have in abundance of (apart from the very obvious charms), that would be my nerves of steel. The minute I got Dennis’ email confirmation on my Mt. Pinatubo registration, I knew I had to finish it. The how’s, why’s, and what ifs were all a-jumble in my head at that point but all that didn’t matter. I was going to finish the race – strong.
Before gun start, my fellow racers and I were happily trading playful banters and taking photos. Every now and then we would confer with the support crew to reassure ourselves that they would be right where we need them to be stationed at any point during the gruelling 10-hour cut-off race. Apart from very few people, I did not know anyone else there as I have not really been visible at any of the competitive races because of my work and travel. Surprisingly, I was not at all nervous. Perhaps because at that point, I was still in the dark as to how the whole race will unfold. Had I even the slightest hint, I’m sure I would quake in my feet a little.
At exactly 5:00 am, Sir Jovie aka Bald Runner officially opened the race and the 60+ runners including myself confidently took to the half-paved road of Sta. Juliana in Capas, Tarlac at the base of Mt. Pinatubo. It was very dark and neither I nor Dennis had headlamps on so we had to rely on gut feel and chance to keep our feet off potholes which could lead us to unwanted injuries and what-not. The paved road did not even cover a kilometer in my estimation because even before my feet could get used to the uneven path, we were running on sand (far cry from the powder-soft sand of Boracay, mind you), crossing rivulets, and getting our feet very wet in the process.
**For full stories, grab a copy of Total Fitness January to February 2011 issue in bookstores and newsstands near you.