(It’s been more than a week since I finished my second ultramarathon but I still can’t help but think about the people, places and events that made the 2nd PAU 65k run unforgettable)

Judging by the mood and the points discussed in the Carboloading Party and Briefing five days before the race, the 2nd PAU 65k (plus plus) had everything a perfect race had to offer:  a scenic route and a race director and a staff who truly understand the runners.

Touchdown Laoag

Posing before boarding our flight

A sunny Laoag weather greeted me and the other thirty or so hopefuls on the same flight in the country’s flag carrier.  Upon checking in at the La Elliana Hotel, a sumptuous lunch was next in the order of the day at the nearby La Preciosa resto where we had our share of local dishes bagnet, poqui-poqui and my personal favorite pinakbet!  Yum yum!

After getting supplies in the city and an afternoon nap, it was another chance for me and roommate Tigerboy Junrox to meet other runners over dinner and that one last big meal before the race.  (Up until this point, I welcomed the “distractions” Laoag had to offer as for that moment at least, the nerves somehow didn’t get the better of me although it would be my longest road race to date!)

Laoag view from the jeepney

The Plan

Running with Junrox and Wilnar before sunrise

From gun start, Junrox, Wilnar and I ran together never losing sight of each other and our goal of finishing the first 30 kilometers in under 4 hours.  I was actually surprised to find out that all three of us were part of the first 20 runners to reach the first scenic spot/stop—the Burgos Lighthouse.

Drop Bags and Aid Stations

Thanks to the hydration and food I had left for my drop bags to be picked up every 10 kilometers and to the ones I had packed for our support van, and to the very generous takbo.ph support crew (and to all support crews of the other runners), I didn’t have any problems with my food and drinks during the race.  So far so good I thought.  Especially when we reached kilometer 30.3 where there were a lot of food and drinks for all the runners.  Our group, joined this time by eventual 9th placer Mari, took our time consuming eggs, bananas, crackers, water, Gatorade, cola, etc. etc. going into the first trail part of the race.

At the Burgos Lighthouse

Rocky Road

By this time, Mari positioned himself in front of the group as we made our way to the Kapurpurawan Rocks.  After a couple of slips as I made my way along the rocky path, I decided to take it easy and not force the issue, enjoy the view and save something for the remainder of the race.  We were at that point still far from completing the first half of the route after all.  My first time to experience trail running was an unforgettable one.  I agree with another runner who said that trail running makes one become more aware of one’s surroundings and think more about the path to take.  No sooner than Junrox and I started the steep descent to the tourist favorite rock formation than we saw Mari already making his way back up.

Kapurpurawan Rocks

Photo ops and more photo ops

As early as kilometer 7, the group had stopped to take photos as we saw South China Sea for the first time in the race.  We thought we had taken enough photos along the town of Burgos and at the rock formation.  But when we got to the Bangui Windmill stop, we couldn’t resist but take more photos-slash-rest as the second female runner overtook as.  Junrox quipped that at least we had more than enough souvenir shots.  I couldn’t have agreed more!

The Galloway

The Bangui windmills

It was after the windmill stop that Wilnar suggested that we do the run-walk-run strategy so we started running for 5 minutes then took a 1 minute walk break.  Later, we had to make the necessary adjustments so the 5:1 ratio became 4:1 and then to the more comfortable 3:1.  We also took another minute of power and sometimes relaxed walking whenever we felt we had to.  The aid station at kilometer 50 and the sight of the van and the takbo.ph commissioned jeep were like oasis in a desert as we got ice, ate and drank to our hearts’ content.  (I even had time to switch Gatorade and water from my drop bags with cold ones from the cooler of the support vehicles.  Thanks guys!)

Never-ending highway

When the battery of Junrox’s Garmin died somewhere after kilometer 50, we experienced probably the most challenging phases of the race.  Wilnar was still sick but somehow was able to manage our pace (he had flu three days before the race), Junrox and I were feeling something in our knees (on my part, the low 20 to 30 km weekly mileage may have been rearing its ugly head), not to mention the sun making its strong presence felt.  After Mari had surged ahead, the three of us were now joined by Julius, a runner from Vigan, who was targeting to finish the race in 9 hours.  After being passed by the third female runner, 9 hours didn’t sound so bad at all.  Heck, 10 or 15 hours didn’t either as long as we could finish the race we thought.

Ilocano welcome

Whenever I would think of pain and fatigue, aside from the welcome diversion I got from counting down to 5, then 4 and finally to 3 minutes when we were doing Galloway, another factor that helped me just keep one foot in front of the other until the finish line were the Ilocanos—to me the real number one tourist attraction of Ilocos Norte!  I tried greeting every single one Ilocano I met along the road with “hello” or “good morning” (and then after 12 noon, I had to take a mental note and started saying “good afternoon”).  I tried smiling every time and usually would also get smiles from the locals.  Some gave more than smiles and gave us our rankings at the time we passed in front of them while others offered words of “encouragement” (especially when we got passed by female runners).  Some even put drinking and a pale of tap water and a tabo at the road side so we can drink and cool down at the crucial part of the race.  Never mind the inaccuracy when one man would shout “3 more kilometers to go” only to be told later by another one “5 kilometers to go.”

Pagod at pudpod

Reaching Pagudpud at last!

Legends have it that the name Pagudpud were coined from the Tagalog words pagod (tired) and upod (worn out).  I definitely experienced both but when my patience was almost tested as I grew anxious getting nearer and nearer the finish line, Istarted feeling sad for the first time that day.  Somewhat sad that the whole experience, the whole roller-coaster ride of testing my physical and mental capabilities was about to end.  Crossing the finish line one after the other, Junrox, Wilnar, Julius and I gave everyone a pat on each other’s back for a job well done, all of us finishing a race of a lifetime in under 8 hours and 46 minutes!

THE Race Director

After joining races regularly since 2008, I’ve had my personal favorites when it comes to race organizers and the races themselves.  But after the Tanay 50k and now the P2P 65K++ run, for me THE Bald Runner has now become THE race director to beat.  Sure there are no loot bags and giveaways after his race.  But as one runner put it, his races are the only ones where the race director takes good care of the runners and shakes the hands of all finishers no matter if they come in first or last.  Thanks BR.  I couldn’t have done it without you and your team!  🙂

At the awarding ceremonywith the man of the hour ret. Gen. Jovie Narcise

Recovery run on the morning after with Totoy

Sightseeing even AFTER the run 🙂

The fruit of my labor