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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..

March 6, 2016

LUNETA TO TAGAYTAY III: Redemption With The Aid From The Wise


Excited. Eager. Expectant.

These are the feelings I have as the start of the   3rd Luneta to Tagaytay (LU2TA) Midnight Ultramarathon  neared. For one, this 60-km event scheduled for Feb 20 is the first leg of an ultra marathon trilogy the completion of which  I have identified as a must-do for the year.  It is part of my 2016 New Year Resolutions
Personalized bib with a preferred number for the Bicolano Penguin. Adding a personal flavor to the proceedings - Prince is a master at this. 

More importantly, the LU2TA offered a chance of redemption for me.  You see,  the last ultra marathon I joined prior to this is the Lipa to Dolores Speed 52 Ultra Marathon last July 19, 2015 which ended up in a big DNF for the Bicolano Penguin.  Even in the shorter marathon distance of 42 kms, I wasn't faring well quite recently.  The latest marathon  I joined - the Brown Race Marathon - ended also in a DNF for me. It can't be help for the doubt to start creeping in my psyche.  The doubt that perhaps the Bicolano Penguin is all washed up and is now incapable of finishing successfully marathon distances and beyond. 

How do I expunge this self-doubt from my system? No other way but to bag me an ultra.  

To do so, I needed to devise a strategy for surviving the LU2TA.  A big part of the challenge that LU2TA posed is the fact that it starts at practically sea level at Km 0 in Luneta Park and then finishes at 2,100 feet  above sea level by the  Km 64 in the Palace in the Sky Park. Most of the uphill effort comes into intense play in the last 20 kilometers and this uphill happens at the time of the day when the sun is at its merciless. 
LU2TA route map

To cope with this challenge, I cogitate the 3 + 4 + 5 game plan.  Essentially dividing the 64-km distance into 3 more bite-sized parts, I targeted completing the first 21-km  section in 3 hours, the next 21-km section in 4 hours and the last 22-km section in 5 hours. This would make the total time at roughly 12 hours, still 2 hours below the 14-hour cut off.         

Sounds like a sound strategy.  But I was well aware of  the axiom by the great military genius Field Marshall Helmuth von Moltke - "No campaign plan survives first contact with the enemy." 

I needed guidance  from a veteran who would not easily be flummoxed with the first sign of trouble with the strategy. I needed an "Obi-Wan Kenobi"  who would employ moral suasion on a young Skywalker to stick to the plan no mater what.  My fellow row5runners Bob and Ernie were running too the LU2TA but I was hesitant to request them to run with me as their pace were much faster than mine.  Luckily for me,  I saw fellow Paranaque Running Circle (PRC) member Harry Mediavillo lining up also at the starting area in Luneta Park as the gun start at midnight neared.  At 73 years of age, you can't get any wiser than Marvelous Harry. " Approaching him, I inquired if he was pacing somebody else in the LU2TA. He replied no so I requested him if he can run with me. Mang Harry readily said yes. This immediately buoyed my spirits.
With my "Obi-Wan Kenobi" Mang Harry at Km 0

With my fellow 83neans Ernie, Ed, Fards and Bob 

Further boosting my running psyche was the presence of many fellow Bicolano runners in the LU2TA. Runners from Team Caceres, Team Cropking and Isarog runners  were in abundance at the starting line. In addition, fellow running 83neans Fards and Ed,  and fellow row5runner Aura, together with her nieces, were there at Km 0 to cheer our start. Furthermore, familiar faces from the PRC were there too including its president Mannix and kabayan Del.
With Team Caceres and Isarog Runners.

With Team Cropking of Partido, Cam Sur.

With Paranaque Running Circle

With PRC's Del who is from Naga

With one of PRC's elite runner Joseph and wife
With row5runnin's Aura in our Camp Row 5 hoodie jacket. 

With Aura's nieces. Gotta get the youth vote.

At the starting area, I was approached by crowd favorite Vic Ting. Also a veteran runner at aged 70 years old, Master Vic requested if he can deposit his backpack in our support vehicle. I readily said yes but I mentioned to  him that he might have to wait long at the finish line for me and the support vehicle to arrive as I knew the Master to be a faster runner than the Bicolano Penguin despite his senior citizen status. He said don't worry and he would be patient in waiting.

With the entourage almost complete, we waited for the gun start which was originally penciled at 12 midnight sharp.  But the the scheduled time arrived but still no start. The hundreds of runners assembled had to wait for something. For the meantime, we runners were listening to the race director Prince as he offered words of advice on running safely in this ultra marathon that will pass thru major and busy highways like Roxas Boulevard and Aguinaldo Highway.
Hundreds of runners eager to start the LU2TA at Km 0 in Luneta. 

Motorized police escort to keep us safe, at least, along the very busy Roxas Boulevards (formerly known as Dewey Boulevard for old school bad asses like Harry and Vic).  

At 12:30am , the runners were sent off.  The journey to highland Tagaytay commenced with Harry and myself sticking to a Galloway run walk interval of 4 mins running and 1 min walking.   A big benefit of running with an Obi-Wan Kenobi is that the running is more disciplined and purposive.  We sticked to the 4:1 Galloway and we sticked to the 3 + 4 +5 game plan. We also had our support vehicle manned by fellow 83nean Ed and First Balfour drive r Manny wait for us every 5 kilometers.

Pretty soon, we have passed Baclaran, St. Andrew Cathedral in Old Paranaque, the Las Pinas Bamboo Organ in St. Joseph Parish Church, the Alabang Zapote junction, the town of Bacoor,  and then the town of Imus. At the border of Imus and Dasmarinas, we had our first 21 kms. I looked at my watch and we cleared it with 2 minutes to spare before it hit 3 hours. I shouted the plan is working.  Being his customary silent self, Harry just smiled back. His running form is both efficient and relax.  I have a feeling that he could easily quicken the pace but he was considerate of the slow penguin.  Funny, many would think that the 50 year old guy (that's me) would be the one to take it easy on a 73-year old but in the long road that is the Aguinaldo Highway, it was the septuagenarian that was the running caregiver to the golden boy.

The next 21-km stretch took longer for us to travel. The towns of Dasmarinas and Silang looked and felt longer than the previous municipalities. Plus, the elevation was beginning to tilt upwards.  Nonetheless, we made good progress and by the time we finish  our second 21-km stretch, we were 15 minutes ahead of the 3 + 4 + 5 timeline.  It was at this point that we caught up with the fast-starting Vic Ting in the town of Silang.  Judging from his toothy smile, he was glad to see Harry and me.

One more town to go and it was finish line heaven already.  But the Silang to Tagaytay traverse was anything but easy.  For one, the sun was already up and the heat was beating down on us mercilessly.  More importantly, the road was almost all uphill already. Since we have the discipline to walk when uphill, our trek to Tagaytay was survival walk mode with a smattering of  trudge in some intervals.  All 3 of us: 2 septuagenarians and 1 golden boy  agreed  that we will not anymore push the pace and just walk, power walk and then walk till we reached the finish line at Km 64.
The veterans and a young lady runner with less than 10 kms to go.

We could still muster up a ceremonial jog for the camera.


With less than 5 kms to go, the Bicolano Penguin is fatigued to the bone while Master Vic is gallantly strong as ever.  Support crew chief Ed could only look amusingly at the contrast. 

Many younger runners were now overtaking us along the Aguinaldo Highway.  But us veterans were content to let them pass.  We had that knowing smile that at this stage of the ultra marathon, it is better to be prudent and safe.  Pushing the pace can sometimes lead to cramps which can jeopardize the completion of the race. At that point of the LU2TA, I simply had no plans of not finishing.

And finish we did as 12 noon approached. Half a kilometer away from the Km 64 finish. Master Vic suggested that I hold both their hands when we neared and crossed  the finish line. The act was to sort of symbolize that the younger runner  was pulling the two older runners. But nothing could be further than the truth. The wise veterans were the ones that pulled me to a successful finish in my very first ultra marathon this 2016.  Both Harry and Vic, together with our support crew,  were very much instrumental in having me stick to the 3 + 4 + 5 game plan.
Hand in Hand we approach the finish line in victory.

Love the support from these 2 Jedi masters of the ultra road. Maraming salamat. Dios mabalos. 

All 3 of us  crossed the LU2TA finish line with a time of 10 hours & 56 mins. The feeling was sweet. It was redemption to be tasting again  that sweet taste of a successful finish in an ultra marathon. The doubt has been exorcised.

An ultra marathoner I am again.


P.S. Thank you for the photos from the facebook pages of Aura Reduta and Victor Ting.   
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