Overall Review: [Five Titanium Crosses +++++] For a pioneering 100-Miler race event in the Visayas, the choice of the province of Cebu is perfect. It gaves runners a challenging route, it gave them an experience of extreme heat conditions which for me, is just a walk in the park compared to the whipping heat of BDM race route. But most of all, it proved that it is indeed a hardcore event meant for the most serious of elite ultramarathoners and the most passionate of ultrarunners. A highly recommended race event for those seeking a good race route to challenge their bodies to the limits and test their capabilities to live on very minimal support as the event is very spartan in its approach.
When Jonel Mendoza of FrontRunner Magazine announced that he will be organizing the first 100 Miler event in the province of Cebu earlier this year during our dinner in Serendra, I was really ecstatic about it and really desired to join this race event. But as the months progressed, I realized that due to the tight logistics/finances that I have at the moment it would be nearly impossible for me to join this race event. So it is really amazing how provisions came my way in the form of sponsors for the registration, airfare and even the accommodations. And though I feel bad that I did not make the 20 hours cutoff time at the KM112 mark, I do know that I did the best I could. In fact, I realize that this is the most difficult race event I’ve ever been to for this year and equally it has been an amazing experience so far.
1. Race Route [7 Titanium Crosses +++++++]
Without a doubt, aside from this being the second 100-Miler [160 kilometers] race event for 2012 in the Philippines, I can safely say that I’ve done both 100-Miler race events [the other one being the BDM160 earlier this January] and so I can also be among the handful who can compare. And when I compare both race events it is with deep conviction that I share this —- the Cebu H1 Hardcore 100 Miler race event of FrontRunner Magazine is the most notorious, the most difficult, the most challenging race route that I’ve encountered between the two. True, I was no longer able to do the remaining 48 kilometers. But I’ve seen the entire race route and I ran 112 kilometers of it. And judging from the results of my GARMIN 305 and also my own eyesight, this race event has been mostly uphills or what most runners would refer to upHELLS. Imagine running about 80 kilometers going up and down rolling terrains. Instead of a roller coaster with the wind on your face, you have to traverse slow inclines in the dead of the night or go down the hills in the heat of the noonday sun with no respite from the local winds and the sun shining proudly in the morning and late afternoon.
But don’t get me wrong. I utterly enjoyed the race route! One, it was a beautiful race route. The majority of the race route passed through coastal communities and so in the early morning till the late afternoon, depending on how fast you run or walk the event you will get glimpses of the ocean on the left side of the road. In addition, I was caught off guard because I never imagined Cebu as a province with thick vegetation and much greenery. I have stayed in Cebu for nearly two months here down south of its province and it is very different from what I see here. The lush greenery of the sugar fields, the coconut trees lined up in the communities that runners traversed and the clear blue skies amidst the heat is a welcome respite from seeing mostly concrete buildings, dust and air pollution that is common in Metro Manila. So yes, the race route was fantastic. The best part for me was running in total darkness and getting to see the cloudless skies filled with nothing but the bright stars with the moon merely smiling back at me with its cresent light beaming back at me .
So yes, I would definitely pay for such an experience. I realize a lot of things while I was running. One, I realize that I really love running and that I am very passionate about it. Two, I realize that though I love running with good company I still love running alone much more though I understand that there’s more danger in running alone. Three, I also realize that it’s really more often running alone as it affords me to get to know more people and new runners. In fact, I realize that in the last four runners that I’ve been doing serious running events and ultramarathons I saw that the bulk of my new experiences and new friends come from this community that has helped me in my career. Finally, I realize that I can live without having an MP3 and learn to enjoy what is around me. Yes, I love listening to much and I would gladly listen to music for my training runs. But for ultramarathon events, I am starting to enjoy the pure silence of the dead of the night, the howls of the dogs that remind me that I’ve still got a long way to the finish line and the mad laughter of children talking to me in Cebuano and other local folks inquiring if I am still OK and if there’s something that I need while running. These things are precious to me because they are the simplest joys and simplest things that I personally tend to forget. And I just LOVE IT!
The best part of this race event happens to be the most challenging too. One a runner reaches the KM112 post within the 20 hours cutoff time, he/she still has 48 kilometers to go. And that’s not a walk in the park. Why? Imagine running 48 kilometers uphills? From the municipality of Borbon, Cebu a runner will have to take the slow incline run up to the finish line. In all my years of road running and doing ultramarathons, the longest that I’ve done uphills in any road event was about 25 to 30 kilometers which is at the Mayon360, a 50 Miler event. But imagine doing close to 90 kilometers of uphills? Yes, I am not kidding you here when I say that it is indeed 90 kilometers of total uphills from the total 160 kilometers of road. Of the 90 kilometers of uphills, 48 kilometers is a straight uphill course which is KM112 up to the finishline KM160. The rest is a rolling hill terrain going down and going up the different coastal communities. It’s going to kill your calves, your quads and your hamstrings. Which is why this race event has the word HARDCORE in it. It is indeed the most HARDCORE of race events besting event the most established ones such as the TNF100 [which I’ve joined a few times too].
So for those elite runners who is just out to prove that they are the best out there in the realm of ultramarathon road events, this event is something to look forward to in 2013. In fact, Jonel Mendoza has already announced during the race orientation that they will be staging the first FrontRunner Magazine 200 kilometer race event – which will have a single/solo category and a relay category.
2. Race Announcement [ 4 Titanium Crosses ++++]
This race event was announced around the Q2 of 2012 though I think that there was an earlier announcement. All I am saying here is that the race announcement was limited to the ultrarunning community. I could be wrong but it seems to me that there was not much buzz about this event. Unlike the Mayon360 event which had local radio programs talking about it. It felt strange that there was government support for this race event and even the mayor of Bogo City encouraged Jonel to return to Bogo to stage this event this year. And yet, I never saw any of the local Cebu sports media cover this event and even talk about it. I hope that in 2013 there can be more coverage about this event and more talk online about it. I know that FrontRunner Magazine does not care much how many people sign up for this race event. What I do care is that I wish there are more international representatives to this event. The race route is very BEAUTIFUL. The race itself offers a challenging route for those who want to challenge themselves. The race event is a great sports tourism event that the local community could adopt and be engaged in.
3. Race Giveaways [5 Titanium Crosses +++++]
In terms of race giveaways, there are only a few things but they are still worth mentioning here. All finishers of the 50 miler and 100 miler event get a dry fit technical shirt of the event. Then all finishers also get a finishers shirt which is also made up of dry fit material too. In short, runners can use these shirts for their training runs aside from wearing them to proudly show of their accomplishments. Then there are the medals for all the finishers and finally, there’s the silver finishers buckle for the 13 runners who finished the 100-Miler category. I normally do not like the shirts because I don’t like too many words written on a shirt. The more minimalist it is, the better. Even the Bible says that somewhere in Proverbs that there are times when the more the words, the less the meaning. And so I am really glad that FrontRunner Magazine is moving towards more minimalist designs that don’t scream about the event. The subtleness of the design which says “100 Miles or Bust” made me smile. And best of all, I like it because it fits like a glove [of course, you would really need the right size for it to fit nicely like in any shirt you wear].
Things to Improve:
4. Security [3 Titanium Crosses +++]
One of the things that this race needs to improve is road security. Particularly, one of the reasons that I slowed down or sped up during the race event was that there were just too many dogs along the entire race route. The dogs roamed freely in the streets and almost all of them barked back at me. Many of them would bark at me and would even follow me for a few minutes then give up entirely. This is the ONLY annoying thing for me in this race event and I think that runners would run much faster if there were less dogs on the roads or better yet – to get them off the roads just for the race event.
Other than that, I love every bit of the 112 kilometers that I ran. I love the fact that there was a motorcycle that approached me and told me that I am lost. I think that this is one of the reasons why I didn’t reach the cutoff time by 9 minutes and 59 seconds. I got lost nearly 2 kilometers and I had to catch up and run. And man, I am telling you that I really gave it my all too and ran with all my heart, with all my willpower and with all of what my mind could give me despite the fact that at KM80 I already was nursing one blister in the making and my knees were writhing in pain from all the pounding of running up and down the hills of northern Cebu.
5. Technical Support [3 Titanium Crosses +++]
I refer technical support to the Aid Station and also the registration/secretariat area. In terms of aid stations, the organizers have announced that there would indeed be limited aid stations to this road event. For the 100-Miler/160 kilometer road race event there was only the KM50, KM80 and the KM112 as an aid station. For the KM50, runners get to have a bonus aid station since it is KM30 and it is also an aid station for the 50-Miler group. So all in all there was four  aid stations for the runners. From my limited experience of 100-Miler race events and other ultramarathons, I believe that this is just not enough. The race organizers would do better to add at least two more, especially at KM130 and KM150 which are also critical junctions for the runners. I believe that if there are more aid stations at the last part of the leg, it would also encourage more participants as it is indeed more expensive to bring a support crew/support vehicle with all the works into it. Thankfully, there were a few personal support crews among the 100-Miler challengers. They were a big help to the other runners and I saw this camaraderie play out in the field.
6. Engagement [ Five Titanium Crosses +++++]
Since I don’t have my own support crew I was literally at the mercy of the open “sari-sari” stores along the race route and the local communities. And all I can say is that they were very hospitable. In fact, I was running in the dead of the night and at a very dark area when I came across one of the houses along the highway and just knocked in their gates to ask for water. It completely caught me offguard that they gave me more than water. They gave me watermelon to eat, some pastries and two bottles of water to bring along with me which is close to 1 litter of water to hydrate along the way. I talked to other runners and they also felt the love of the community as they were able to rest in their verandas and some took bathroom breaks too. So in spite of the lack of community engagement, I am still giving this a high mark because the community itself is approachable and engages itself with gladness of heart. It reminds me of the spirit of “bayanihan” of the Filipino culture.
I will not hide that I still feel a little bad that I did not finish this road race event. But like anything in life, you win some and you lose some. I remember talking to a former professor that his biggest fear is FAILURE. He told me that he has never failed in ANY academic endeavor and ANY professional endeavor which is why it scares him to death just thinking of FAILURE. Which is also why he shared that he has not taken much risk in other aspects in life. It is no surprise then why until now he remains single and that he has yet to develop even a very strong social support system outside of the church community that he is in. In fact, I am just amazed that he is even part of such a community when even the best of relationships would FAIL us on a personal basis. How then shall he feel?
I share this because when I compared my experience with BDM160 this year and with Cebu H1 Hardcore 100-Miler, I can tell you without batting an eyelash that this was the most difficult race route I’ve done this year. For the first time ever in ANY race event, I requested my pacer Enrico Caramay to massage my entire body with focusing on the legs and calves to loosen them up at the 50-miler aid station. Normally my legs stiffen up at around the KM100 distance. But due to the long uphills and inclines my legs were just too tired. From KM80 up to KM112, I got lost close to two kilometers and so I worked double time – running uphills again and downhills for the next 32 kilometers to reach KM112. I’ve never pushed myself to the limit like this and more so… I never pushed myself to the limit ALONE from KM102 onwards as in my previous 100-Miler event, I already had a pacer pushing me to move forward from KM102 onwards. I never thought that I could still muster the strength to push myself further ALONE.
But sometimes, it is when I am ALONE on the road that I get the freshest ideas for my work. Most of the time, it is when I am alone on the road that I have utter silence and have a better time to commune with God. And it is when I start to feel the pain coursing through my body that I am reminded that I can always make the choice of either give up or keep moving forward. And in real life, the hardest part is to move forward especially when one experiences road blocks and great disappointments amidst great expectations.
Yet like anything in life, there are surprises too. This event surprised me as I am thankful to Team Botabara for their trust and confidence in letting me represent them for this race event. To Doc Sherwin and Elaine, thank you for letting me experience this road race event. I am sorry that I did not make it within the cutoff time. I really did the best I could and I will work towards making sure that next year, we will have it in the bag. In addition, there’s also the surprise of good friends too who welcomed me and my pacer and hosted us in downtown Cebu City. I wish to mention his name here but he is a very private person so you know who you are. I am grateful for your hospitality and kindness. I feel like I am actually staying at a five-star hotel with the kind of treatment that me and Eric are getting from you.
I also like to thank Karen Mendoza and Hembler Mendoza of Cebu City. Thank you, Karen for the buffet lunch at PUSO Bistro and Café at Quest Hotel which also happens to be a stone’s throw from where we were staying. Thank you for the carbo loading meal. I will definitely share the experience in another blog post as the food was great and I was really filled!
I am also thankful to TEAM IGAT of Cebu, who helped massage my legs at KM35 when they saw me struggling to run. In addition, I am thankful to Arnold who I feel sad decided to DNF at around KM120-130 of the race event due to severe pain from blisters. Your company made the road race more inviting and you have such a good support crew, your own wife and family!
I also thank FrontRunner Magazine too for remembering me. Thank you Jonel and Connie Mendoza for the compression socks which is timely and useful. I’ve been using after finishing the KM112 and even using it while I was sleeping.
But most all, I am grateful to Enrico Caramay for being the best one-man support crew ever! Carl Balagot, if you are reading this – I really miss your personal support and care. You guys are now contending in terms of being an overall one-man support crew. No wonder many members of your running community is asking for your help when they do their ultra race events. I can feel the love, the concern and the compassion. You are truly amazing you guys! Hmmm.. I think I will even write about the best support crews/individuals very very soon.
Of course, I also like to mention my running family of TEAM REEBOK and TEAM UNGAS. Thank you, REEBOK for allowing me to represent you on road race events. I know Jonel was smiling because he knows that there are times when I don’t really need to change clothes at the aid stations and exchange points. But I do this not only to feel refreshed, but also to really help promote the brand and the different shoes that REEBOK has to offer. For this race event, I used the REEBOK Trail Cutter, REEBOK Zignano 2 [coming out on Q1 2012] and finally the REEBOK Zigtech Ziglite editions. I wish that more runners would discover this brand that is great for training runs…. And even better for performance sports [Out of the three, Zigtech Ziglite seems to be the best for hills repeats]. Jj of TEAM UNGAS, I know I haven’t been involved much with our team lately but I still love you guys and I also brought my ARC and TEAM UNGAS shirt with me that I also wear in between races. Yes, I am proud of being part of our team and really grateful.
The more I think about this race event, the more I realize that it isn’t just the road that made Cebu Hardcore H1 truly “HARDCORE” and inspiring. It’s the people who are hardcore about their passions in life – may it be running, supporting or simply just being themselves and smiling back at you while you run on the road. Trust me, the smiles of small children playfully running along with you can melt away some of the heaviness and pain of the human body. And in that sense, you become a HARDCORE yourself as you move towards a greater sense of peace and serenity with yourself, the road of life and what else to come.
Again, congratulations to Jonel Mendoza and FrontRunner Magazine. Until the next road event!