This article by Noel “Ghibz” Guevara is part of the series that the Bicolano Penguin is doing on the recently-concluded 2014 Mayon 360 Ultra. Our years of experience participating in this most famous of Bicol ultras have shown to us that indeed the ultra way of life is full of color and challenges. Who better to write a story about it than Ghibz who is one of the more engaging and eloquent classmates in the Ateneo de Naga HS Batch 1983. He had a “shortness of breath” (SOB) experience after his gallant finish last April 5 but the way he handled the challenge that is the Mayon 360 showed to us all that the SOB decidedly stood for “story of bravery.
Now, I got your attention.
Our friend, HS batchmate and ultra-marathon ‘maestro’ Vicboy de Lima requested me to share my insights of my first ultra-marathon experience in the just concluded Mayon 360 80km Run in Legazpi City, Albay last Saturday, April 5, 2014 .
To those who react using knee-jerk curses and expletives they reserve for crazy, stupid people, yes we understand your bewilderment coupled with irrational and even profane comments. I can relate as I was on the ‘sender’s end’ when I started being pulled into long distance running by our ‘maestro’s’ ‘raging bulls’ running personality. Today, as I write this ‘insane’ ultra-marathon experience, I am now on the ‘receiving end’ to put order and sanity to this entirely different level of sport or others would say extreme and weird sport.
Let me group my thoughts on the following sub-topics:
1. Why the f…ck are we doing this?
2. 80km process – the fun, the weird and the cursing of a false sense of finish line
3. Serious stuff you can inject in transforming what you do next – in life, family, work, wellness
Why the F...ck Are We Doing This?
The answer is – who gives a f…ck? There is a line between making excuses not to do it on one side and let’s do it and sort out later how to do it, manage it on the other side. Obviously, that’s how I thought about it before as a reluctant ‘loose nuts’ victim of running. I even wiggle my fingers in circles to my head to depict those people who do it. How I leapt forward and jumped on the other side? No, it does not take an irrational behavior to just jump into this 80km ultra-marathon. It took more than a leap of faith. But that leap of faith was based on logic. Why? Three major things:
1. My running mates collectively called 83nean runners have already steadily graduated from fun runs – 5km, 10km, 15km, 21km half-marathon, to full marathon (42km). I, myself over time, have collected a lot of souvenirs from early fun run races to more serious marathons (42km) and baby ultra-marathon races (50km, 55km). Today since the past 3 years, my batchmate runners even went further to conquer 102km, 160km and the insane 200km 3-day run exclusively conquered by our very own HS batchmate monster ultra f…ker Bob Castilla. Being led as I said by the ‘raging bull’ disguised as a ‘Bicolano Penguin’ running guru/maestro Vicboy de Lima, I was dragged into this ‘mess’ early on but later, became fun-worthy and passionate about it, although not consistent , active on and off over the short 3+ years.
2. I believe that it’s human nature when you taste conquering previous goals, you tend to move on to take the next challenges, the next levels. ‘No sitting down of own laurels’. ‘You are as good as your last sale’. These are mantras engrained in me that are second nature already. Like world records, personal accomplishments are meant to be broken to new records, new heights. This is constant on my head – a logical but adventurous head.
3. It was triggered by a motivation coming from my HS batchmate Navy Capt. Ruben ‘Fards’ Fajardo. My mind was already shut off of this Mayon 360 as the online reservation was closed early. But when Fards defied the odds by saying that he would join the 80km run by paying the fee on the race day even if it is Php500 higher, I was immediately swayed to do to the same. F…ck, I can’t be classified as a coward by this batchmate – the epitome of an officer and a gentleman. That’s it. The spark that fired me up to scramble to prepare for only 1 month. Haha!
|Final spark that motivated me to join – Navy Capt. Ruben ‘Fards’ Fajardo himself already an 80km and 102km accomplished ultra-marathon veteran|
The rest of the days leading to the race day were mental and physical preparations I haven’t done for quite some time. These are:
1. Forced to purchase a new pair of shoes only to find out later I need another good second pair for a tried and tested strategy and tactics on ultra-running;
2. Week days training runs using a new uphill route stretching 2-3kms; and
3. Built running routes for 10km, 15km, 21km and even a 40km route which I still have to traverse.
The Fun, The Weird and the Cursing of a False Sense of Finish Line
The days leading to the race to be honest, was never with fear in my head. For whatever weird feelings, I felt so normal, not even excited like a child’s heart who’s about to enter Disneyland for the first time. Nor the fear of going to a hospital for a major surgery. I have a brief side story of going to the hospital in the end of this narrative. Haha!
|Preparation before the race with Team 83nean Ultraf...ers led by our ‘Maestro’ Vicboy de Lima - a ‘raging bull’ disguised as ‘Bicolano Penguin’. From left – Allen Bong Tolledo, Erning Badong, Bob Castilla and Ed Balcueva|
How can you go wrong in this race?
1. Support SUV vehicle stuffed with ‘pangkabuyahan’ package of food and drinks – c/o Vicboy ‘Maestro’ de Lima
2. Support Crew – 83nean and Chief Support Crew Officer (CSCO) Ed Balcueva with his counterpart 83nean and very close friend Allen ‘Bong’ Tolledo
3. Mobile Spa – beefed up with a lady masseur to ensure our legs and bodies will endure the rigors of the race
How do you want me to describe the race from start to finish? YOU RUN THE F…CKING 80KM RACE TO GET THE FEELING! That is the best way to describe it. Hahaha!
But on a serious note, just to wrap up the running experience, I would say:
1. Take advantage of the early distances of the race. Chat with your running buddies. Pace slowly than your training run pace.
2. Once sunshine appears in the horizon, enjoy the scenery. This is what any running is all about – appreciating the vista of your surroundings. Mayon 360 Run offers no other ultramarathon races can offer – a glorious and 360-degree view of the Majestic Mayon Volcano. As a Bicolano through and through, you cannot be any prouder at this moment of this unique nature’s grandeur. Breathless or breathtaking in a non-running sense is a very positive and appropriate statement.
|Early distance of the race. Priceless photo and priceless moment.|
3. The last half of the race is the most serious and critical part. Why? This is where you ask yourself – will you survive intact or in wreck? Quitting is a definite unacceptable mind-set, of course. We will finish crawling if so needed.
4. The last ¼ of the race is even crucial. Never did I think of quitting. Even if dizziness hit me on the last 15kms. Only later on I realized that not managing nutrition and hydration well is a dangerous key to spoiling a fun finish.
5. The last so called ‘2 km’ distance. It was a freaking cursing 4km in reality. Why the f…ck do they need to mislead anyone of us? I would even feel better if they say it’s 5km more. At least, it’s programmed and I couldn’t expect it shorter. Two kilometers that feels like eternity! Say all the expletives and cursing and I will always understand why almost all felt the same. Haha!
Serious Stuff you can Learn in Transforming One Self and What You Do Next
1. Crossing the Finish Line is an affirmation of life worth living! Sounds cheesy but you will only know if you go through this – especially running 15 hours! It’s like running away from the dreaded ‘kamatayan’ (grim reaper) behind you with his feared scythe shining from a far at night! RUN! You need to live for God’s sake. haha!
|Sweet, sweet feeling at the finish line|
|Celebrating victory with ‘Maestro’ Vicboy de Lima and our new ultra sister Mau Mediavillo-Gines|
2. The roar of audience approval at the finish line, the congratulatory hugging of friends, supporters, even strangers and equally ‘crazy’ runners. Those moments are priceless! You know it’s over! Done! Finish!
|Hug of joy. Hug of relief.|
Well, not exactly over as I thought. After catching my breath at the finish line and after dressing up for the planned road trip back, I suddenly felt some sort of shortness of breath. With a quick reaction worthy of an emergency response from my 83nean buddies, the SUV turned around and had me checked-in for diagnostics at a hospital nearby. My dizziness and sudden paranoia led to upsetting my stomach and spewed out all the hydration fluids and late food intakes from my body! Talk about déjà vu over a drinking session gone berserk! Strength even went further southward. Haha! It’s like puking in a bathroom so drunk you rest your chin on top of the shithole due to weakness.
Good thing and the best thing – the Brotherhood of 83nean Ultraf…ers as Vicboy put it, all stood by me all throughout the process of diagnosis in the hospital. Since feeling weaker and putting safety at highest priority, I decided to stay overnight to rest till the following day. No meds given. Just the usual dextrose as food and water supplement. My good old buddy Allen ‘Bong’ Tolledo stayed to look after my snoring till the next day. My wife was advised and initially panicked and felt worried, naturally. However, recollection of actual events and test results showed there are no basis to panic nor to rush to be on my side immediately, she felt a good sigh of relief. The next day, we proceeded to checking out and dropped me to my parents’ house to spend the day with them before taking a trip back home the following day.
In summary, I say:
1. Running with my 83nean runners in ultra-marathon has given me the ‘badge’, ‘sense of belonging’ or the bragging rights that I am now a truly certified 83nean Ultraf...er. Whatever that means, only people who crossed an ultra-marathon beyond 80km can feel true about it. It’s a different ‘sensation’. The bonding has further strengthened.
2. I also take pride to the fact that this band of brothers, also running and managing different families, social and professional lives, share a weird (to normal people standards) but unique sense of purpose and belonging. Again, you need to come in to experience it. We are always open 24 x 7, ready to accept, nurture and support future ultra-marathon runners.
3. Running, long distance running to be specific, has allowed me to ponder on ways and means to transition from a former super dedicated workaholic, work-oriented person to a more diverse, balanced and broad-minded individual now more conscious of my role as a responsible family-first person and as what we continue to advocate – being “running men for others”.
|The distance of the race as plotted by the GPS I was wearing|
|Official Race Result|
|The rest is history…|
|New Bragging Rights!|
And before I close, talking about ‘sensation’, I will leave this question - Is ultra-marathon better than Sex? After 80km? The answer is NO. Am I still in search to feel it better than sex? The answer is YES. So next question, is 102km finish experience better than sex? With all the historical and patriotic significance tied to the Bataan Death March, it’s highly probable it could be a YES!