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I am a Bicolano by birth and choice. By any standards, I am a slow runner but I like it that way. I look at running as a healthy and exciting way to make a difference. Together with my fellow runners from our family, school, office and the community, we use running to give back..

April 19, 2015

2015 MAYON 160 ULTRA MARATHON: An Interview With 2 Pioneers

Blogger's Note:   46 started and 37 finished within the cut off time of 32 hours.  This is the statistical story of the very first edition of the Mayon 160-km Ultra Marathon held last April 10-11, 2015.  Numbers don't lie. True but most times, cold numbers maybe not enough to paint a picture of the human struggles and triumphs  needed for the ordinary mortals to accomplish such an extraordinary feat. We are in luck this time for two of the finishers  have agreed to answer questions about their pioneering adventure.  Bob Castilla (Bib No. 1 ) and Ernie Badong (Bib No. 20) finished 6th and 20th place, respectively.  They are batchmates of the Bicolano Penguin (BP)  in the Ateneo de Naga High School Batch 1983 ("83neans"). Both were supported in the 160-km ultra by another batchmate Allen "Por Da Lab" Tolledo.  Both are veterans of more than two dozen ultra marathons in Luzon and Mindanao.  The longest that Bob has conquered is the 2013 West Coast 200-km Single Stage Ultra   while Ernie's longest is the 2013 Bataan Death March 160-km Ultra.   Both proudly donned the row5runnin shirt.  In this interview, they gamely and separately answered the questions about the 2015 Mayon 160 from the BP as well as from fellow row5runner Kevin Moral and fellow 83nean Bitoy Lorico.

BP:   When did you decide to join the Mayon 160 ultra?

Bob:  Just few days before the race.  That was April 7 to be exact due to some constraints on budget and less training hours.
Ernie:  I decided to join last year when the Jaycees of Legazpi City announced that there will be a solo category for the Mayon 160.
The pioneering batch of the Mayon 160.  The contrasting styles of Bob and Ernie are evident.  Ernie is all smiles and can be counted to be at center stage.  Bob is the stoic one, often comfortable to be at the back or the side.       

BP:  Why join the Mayon 160?
Bob:  I joined to give representation to our high school batch ("83neans") and be counted as a Bicolano participants in the race.
Ernie:  I am a proud Bicolano and this is Mayon.  It would be fun to run in our own place. I wanted to test myself "kung kaya ko pa." And just like Bob said, it's great and very memorable to run in first editions of ultra marathons. 
Bob and Ernie with eventual Mayon 160 champion Lao Ogerio at the race briefing a day before the start of Mayon 160. 
BP:  What is your goal in the Mayon 160?  Did you achieve this goal?  If yes, what are the key success factors?  If not, what are the critical factors for the failure?
Bob:    My goal is just to try again finish a 100-miler race.  Luckily, I finished the race (Bob's time is 26 hours & 35 mins).  Key success factors for me are the experience,  the determination to finish the race, and the training runs.  But my training runs for  Mayon 160 were not sufficient given my very busy schedule at work.  Actually, I had an accident  during the race where  I rolled over the construction of road shoulder in Ligao City. My feet was tripped by the stick stray of concrete that was not on the same level with the road.  This was early dawn in the morning.
Ernie:   My goal was just to finish the race within the cut off time of 32 hours.  Luckily, I finished the race in 29 something hours.  Forgot my official time.  (Ernie's time is 29 hours & 31 mins). I think my key success factors is my being determined and focused on the race.  I just thought before the race that this will be finished by 32 hours and that I will get my medal, trophy, shirt and buckle.

BP:  How did you train for the Mayon 160?
Bob:  I had back to back runs during the weekends of 6 hours.  And occasional weekday runs of 1 hour at night.  Weekday morning runs are not practical for me as I leave early in the morning for my work.
Ernie:  My training was my usual daily morning 1-hour runs.  Weekend runs at Camp Aguinaldo. One full marathon  - 7 Eleven Marathon last March 15. 

Kevin:  How do you make quality time for your family, given the training hours you need for an ultra? 
Bob:  I still have some quality time with my wife and kids during night of weekdays and weekends.  I usually have my training runs the whole day of every weekends for my back to back runs. 
Ernie:  Quality time for my family is no problem for me.  We always have bonding moments together.  Everyday I wake up at 4:30am to wake up my kids to prepare for school.  My morning runs start at 5:30am and ends at exactly 6:30am.  In the afternoon, after office hours, I do tutorials for my daughter on her daily school assignments.  As for my wife, she is happy and supportive with what I am doing now.  Masaya siya dahil madalang na daw ang pag-inom ko.  And one last thing, I see to it that we always hear anticipated mass on Saturday nights. On Sunday mornings, I am off to Camp Aguinaldo for my training run with my fellow 83neans and row5runners.   

Kevin:  Is sex part of regular training in ultra?  If no or yes, why?  
Ernie:  No.  Sex is not part of my regular training run.  Sex or without sex before an ultra does not affect my performance.
Bob:  Absolutely, yes.  This is part of training when joining an ultra because when you regularly have it, your muscle and nerves reflex more which give satisfaction and appetite to running and other strenuous sports activities.  When doing it, there is a response in the body that stimulates a corresponding point in a different part or section of the anatomy.    

BP:  What was your "battle plan" in the Mayon 160?  Did it work?  Did you have to make adjustments midway thru the race?  
Ernie:  I have no special "battle plan" for Mayon 160.  My plan was just to run.  When I feel tired, I will do the run walk thing to the finish line.
Bob:    My strategy was to stop every 5 kilometers where our support vehicle awaited.  It worked because I was able to rest at those intervals.  I made the adjustment when our support vehicle was no longer available as the support crew had to concentrate on my running companion (Ernie) who was behind already.  That was about 40 more kilometers to the finish line. 
Bob and Ernie with the Race Director Bald Runner and blogger Wandering Jouster 
The 46 brave ones at the starting line in Penaranda Park, Legazpi City
BP:  I noticed that the two of you ran together in the early goings.  At what kilometer point did one of you surged ahead?
Ernie:  Yes we ran together for the first 25 kilometers or so.  At Km 30, Bob ran ahead.  Iba talaga pacing niya.  
Bob and Ernie running together in the early morning of the first day April 10.  
At the Ligao junction going to Pio Duran, Bob beginning to pull ahead of Ernie.
Bitoy:   If there is a 3-hour time gap between the finish time of Bob and Ernie, how did the lone support vehicle managed to assist both of you?
Bob:  The support vehicle  managed  to assist the both of us in our needs.  Thanks much to Allen. The support vehicle was going to and from for both of us due to the gap.  Bugbug si Allen kasi solo flight siya.     
Ernie:  Allen did leap frogging. 
Fellow 83nean Allen manning the support vehicle. 
BP:  What was the most difficult portion of the 160-km route?
Bob:  The most difficult portion is the cemented road to and from Pio Duran because the heat of the sun will strike you when you are here in this area.  The Pio Duran U-turn is the part where I was truck with cramps on my right leg. 
Ernie:  For me, the Ligao crossing going back from the mountains of Pio Duran.  This was the time when I started to feel so exhausted and I felt so weak.  Plus, the torture of thinking the next 55 kms which will pass Ligao, Sabloyon, Tabaco, Malilipot, Sto. Domingo and Legazpi. It is also the time when I felt the blisters burning under my feet. I changed my running shoes from my white classic Hoka to the red Honka Bondi II.  It was already around 6 pm.  Feeling hungry, I told Allen to look for some pancit Bato. I also changed clothes there and ate the pancit quickly.  Thanks to our very devoted batchmate Allen "Por Da Lab." After eating, I started walking; enduring the pain of the blisters on my feet.  It was very uncomfortable and painful.  Mangilo. huhuhu.  I started  to pray...pray...pray.  
Bob at the Pio Duran u-turn station.

Ernie entering the town proper of Pio Duran
Bitoy:  In the wee hours of the morning, ano tabi mga padi ang iniisip nindo habang nagdadalagan?
Ernie:  Kung ano ano padi nasa isip ko.  Imagine nin imagine familia ko, mga aki ko, mga tugang asin mga pinsan. Mga 83neans mga ultrafuckers clasmeyts, chicks, work sa office mga katrabaho ko. Paminsan minsan igwa man sex padi. hahaha..Dae nawara ang pag pangadyi, basta ang nasa isip ko matapos ko ini, saka ako maturog nin gulpi.  
Bob:  Padi, I was doing run, walk, run and thinking of so many things  especially sex, friends, family, work, 83neans and above all focusing to finish the race. 

BP:  How did you hydrate?  What were your food for the 160-km route?  Did you eat breakfast, lunch and dinner? How?
Bob:  I usually hydrate every kilometer using my hand-held bottle and every 5 kilometers for some Gatorade and soft drinks.  For my food intake, I tried bread, noodles, rice puto, spaghetti, lugaw, chocolate and some fruits like melon and watermelon.  Yes.  I took my breakfast, lunch and dinner.  I had them during my pit stop at the support vehicle and in some carenderia along the way. 
Ernie:  Before the race,  we bought food and drinks at a grocery store.  The day before the race, my nutrition was the usual kanin and ulam. But I always order an extra rice for me. For carbo loading. Ika nga, susunugin ko naman ito.  The race started at 2am.  At around 6am, we passed Allen sitting in a small sari sari storre with tasty bread and instant hot seafood noodles. Ham spread ang palaman ng tinapay.  Sharap!  I felt so energized. That was our breakfast.  I reached lunch time at Pio Duran but what I ate was puto, eggs and softdrinks.  Most of the time, I don't feel like eating.  Just a bite of hot dog and burger which Allen bought was enough.  From time to time, I ate jellyace, bread and fruits for every 5-km pit stop.  Dinner was the pancit Bato.
Eating at one of the sari sari stores along the route. 
Bitoy:  Along the 160-km route, how many times did you "poo"?  Is it zero because of Diatabs or Immodium?
Bob:  I was able to manage and eventually avoid this thing you called "poo" due to the 2 pcs of Diatabs I took an hour before the start of the race. 
Ernie:  One time Padi, nag poo ako padi sa kadikloman kan tabaco sa may tulay sa ibabaw. Madiklom Padi kaya mayu man nakaheling. Pagka-discharge, masiramon ang pagmate.  Mayu man ako pig totomar pag nadalagan ako.      

BP:  Did you have any injuries from the Mayon 160?
Ernie:  Only blisters under my feet.
Bob:  Luckily I did not suffer any major injury.  Only little muscle pain in my thigh and some scratches from my fingers and left elbow due to my accidental fall as previously mentioned.  My running buddy Ernie can attest to this.  Still, Sunday morning, I was able to drive straight from Legazpi Cty to Paranaque City as if nothing happened.

BP:  How many pairs of shoes did you use?
Ernie:  I used two pairs of shoes:  Hoka classic for the first 105 kilometers and Hoka Bondi II for the balance.
Bob:  I only utilized one pair of shoes from start to finish but I had another pair on reserve in our support vehicle.  Both pairs are Asics donated by Ernie and another classmate Ruben "Fards" Fajardo.

BP:  Did you sleep during the 160-km race?
Ernie:  I did not sleep during the race.  I just wanted to finish the race.  My motivation was to reach the finish line and go straight to the Sampaguita Hotel to sleep.
Bob:  I took a nap in a sitting position at this race for about 10-12 minutes at Km 140 due to fatigue and lack of sleep in the prior days before the race.  Going to Legazpi City from Metro Manila, I was the one who drove straight the vehicle with only a little sleep of 1-hour in the 10-hour travel to Bicol. In some of my ultra marathons, I usually do not sleep.  What I do when I feel sleepy is to run faster.  

BP:  Where did you took a nap at Km 140?
Bob:  I took a nap on the director's folding chair that you provided in the support vehicle.  This is in the area before the road going to the Mayon Rest House.  I have the chair set up outside the support vehicle but near it.  I requested Allen to wake me up in 10 minutes and he did so.  Also, took a nap again in a waiting shed before my attack on the hills of Malilipot and Sto. Domingo. Luckily, two policemen manned this area.  I requested the policeman to wake me up in 10 minutes but fortunately, I woke up on my before the 10 mins elapsed.  This time I continue to run, walk, run the hilly portion till the peak.  Upon reaching the top, I again decided to have a rest in another waiting shed for about 5 minutes.  This is the third time I took a nap.   Actually, this is already a gamble on my part because I may fall totally asleep and may wake up when the race is already finished.  I just wanted  to rest that is why I have my nap to have a force in my pace.  But I remain focused to be awake and continue to run and pursue finishing the race.  
BP:  Which is more difficult?  BDM 160 or Mayon 160?
Bob:  For me, the Mayon 160 is more difficult compared to the Bataan Death March 160 Ultra due to more uphill terrain especially on the hilly portions going to and from the town of Pio Duran.  Plus, the fact that you will also tackle the hell portions of Sabloyon in Ligao and the one between the towns of  Malilipot and Sto. Domingo. 
Ernie:  The Mayon 160 is more grueling.  My most difficult run so far. 
Running an ultra is often a ...

...solitary task. 
BP:  What can you say about the conduct of the race?  Did the organizers do a good job?  Was the registration fee (Php 6,500) worth it?  
Ernie:  Congratulations to the Organizers for a job well done. The registration fee was just right for the event.  Sana hindi na mag mahal next year. 
Bob:  The conduct of the race is good enough. However, there are some portions/intersections in the route that race marshalls are needed to check on the runners.  They are not available when needed the most.  The organizers did a good job in securing the traffic.  Also, there were music bands greeting the runners when we pass by some schools in Pio Duran. But the announced lunch meals for runners in Pio Duran municipal hall never materialized.  We got only some snacks and drinks.  The registration fee is not worth it because the belt buckles have not yet been given.  In addition, for the finisher trophy, one cannot somehow determine if we finished a 160-km race.  No indication whatsoever.  Just Mayon 360 degree finisher. 

Kevin:  What is the distinction of veteran ultra runners to young ultra runners?
Ernie:  Veteran runners are more patient and cool.  They run slow at the start but eats you later.  That is what others call "Veteran Moves."  Tuhog ang tawag diyan sabi ni Bald Runner.  While young runners are aggressive and fast.  And they learn fast.  Ultras are not for speed runs.  Ultras are for fun. Diskarte ang kailangan. 
Bob:  I will not call myself a veteran runner because I am still new in the field of running ultra distance.  Need to learn a lot more. The only advantage  of a veteran is the experience which is a plus factor in any race.  Young ultra runners are usually fast and strong but sometimes has no patience and plan.   

BP:  Will you join the Mayon 160 next year?
Ernie:  No.
Bob:  Maybe yes. Maybe no.  Only time will tell.

BP:  Would you recommend the Mayon 160 to other runners?
Ernie:  Yes.  For a new running adventure.
Bob:  I strongly recommend to other ultra runners the Mayon 160, especially to all Bicolano ultra runners. 

So there we have it.  Candid words from Bob and Ernie.  They are usually silent. They are not comfortable with talking about their personal accomplishments. When initially asked to make a write up about their Mayon 160 adventure, one of them said he did not like the idea as such a written piece is self-serving.  The way to convince them was to paint this blog entry as an informative piece that will be of help to those who would like to follow in the foot steps of the pioneering batch of this most challenging Mayon 160. 

Bob and Ernie, in the regular things they do every day, may look ordinary. But line them up in the starting line of an ultra marathon,  release them on the road, and slowly but steadily the curious onlooker will see them evolve from the ordinary to extraordinary. 

One stride at a time.       

P.S.  Photos taken from the facebook pages of Mayon 360, Jovie Narcise, Ernesto Badong and Mau Gines.      










  1. Very entertaining interviews Bicolano Penguin.
    My snappy salute for the 2 of you fellow Row5runnin mate sir Bob and Ernie, you inspired me to keep going. Cheers!

  2. yeyyy... Finally! I was waiting for this blog Sir :) Buti nalang pumayag sila... it will be a great disappointment if they did not share their experience being the pioneering batch. What did Sir Bob means by back to back runs of 6 hrs? Sat and Sun or Morning and Evening run... Anyway Sir Congrats to all of them and their support team :)

  3. Nice article Sir Vicboy. Nakita ko nga sila sa hulihan during gunstart, and I placed myself at their back. For a beginner in 100-miler race, I admire that they are very humble and yet very strong. Congrats again!

  4. Thanks Nino. Perhaps someday, I get to interview you. It is fun to run with a promising runner like you.

  5. Another awesome and unique write up from BP.... Two thumbs up mga padi (Ernie & Bob). It seems like 160 is just so easy for both of you. Also, kudos to fellow 83nean runner Allen - for manning the support vehicle for more than 1 day.
    Ernie & Bob are living proof that age is only a number. "49 na nakaka 160 pa!"
    Congrats guiraray mga padi. There are only few human beings who can do a 160 ultra.

  6. Hi Gerly. I am happy to know that this article is something you have been waiting for. Happy to know we can be of help. By Back to Back runs on weekended, what Bob meant was going for a 6-hr run on a Saturday and then another 6-hr run on a Sunday.

  7. Congratulations Zalds on your Mayon 160 Ultra accomplishment. I would imagine you feel very much satisfied in being a pioneer in the most challenging ultra marathon in Bicol. Agree with you on the twin virtues of humility and strength. As the old wise men say, silent water runs deep.

  8. Thank you Bitoy for your comment. Thank you too for the questions you contributed in this interview. We appreciate the support you have given Ernie and Bob.

  9. For Ernie, its not part of his regular training, for Bob the pleasure make him strenghtenous.. hmmm.. how about me? hahaha.. Just like Bob, pleasure and satisfaction makes me alive.. salamat sa pagsimbag kang hapot ko po.. god bless!

  10. Batang-bata ka pa Kevin, compared to us 83neans. hahaha...But consider yourself fortunate that at such a relatively young age you have the passion for running. It is not difficult to imagine that the passion you have acquired on the road you can delightfully apply in other aspects of your life. It feels great to be alive. Carpe diem.

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