Mayon 360° Albay Ultramarathon

Friday, April 15, 2016

It's been a few days now since I have finished my longest ultramarathon race. A year ago, I decided to run my first ever ultra with a distance of 50k. Since then, I have finished a total of four ultras, with distances ranging from 52 to 55 kilometers. So when the registration for the Mayon 360 opened, I thought it was high time that I completed a distance of more than 50 kilometers. The Mayon 360 Albay Ultra Marathon is an annual ultra event where runners get to run 80 kilometers around the Mayon Volcano. It has three categories: 80k solo, 2-man relay, and 4-man relay. I signed up for the solo category. 

Running an ultramarathon is no joke. It's not your usual run. Thus, it took me months to prepare for this event. My preparation involved a lot of mileage runs during the weekends, which meant sacrificing gimik nights just so I can wake up in the wee hours of the morning to do long runs. I also did a lot of cross-training by swimming, indoor cycling, weight training, and circuit training. Since I found out that I would be running the whole day (with a 4am gun start), I also did some heat training to build endurance. As for my diet, I gave up eating junk food and drinking soda. I had to eat healthier, with a cheat meal once a week (read: pizza, pasta, or Japanese food). While a lot of endurance athletes do carbo-loading, I did protein-loading because it seemed effective for me. It kept me full while keeping any weight gain at bay. My diet was mostly of fish, chicken meat, eggs, fruits, and veggies, with very little to no rice everyday. And finally, I did a lot of mental preparation. The idea of running 80 freaking kilometers daunted me, and the nerves got to me, which explained why I was so stressed out a few weeks before the race. To add to that, my knee injury worsen two weeks before race day. I thought I wouldn't be allowed to participate in the event, but I was given the go-signal by my orthopedic surgeon, with the condition that I will Rocktape my knee, and wear compression pants and knee support. And that I won't force it if I couldn't.

The race was held on April 8, which was a Saturday. I arrived on Friday at Legazpi, Albay via plane around noon, and was picked up at the airport by my Ayala Triads family. We went back to the hotel so I could settle down and so that we all could get some rest, and then went out again to claim our race bibs and attend the briefing. While in the town proper, I took the opportunity to buy what I would need: some chocolates, gummy candies, electrolyte drinks, and Hydrite. We were back at the hotel by 5:30pm. I took a quick shower, got my stuff ready, and was already fast asleep at 6pm.

I woke up at exactly midnight. I took a shower and got dressed in my compression pants and tech shirt, and had breakfast with my team mates. I had a hearty breakfast of coffee, fried rice, tocino, and egg, with fresh pineapple slices for dessert. Then I went back to the hotel room to get my stuff. That was when I decided to change into a singlet. I figured that it would be hot and that I would get sunburned anyway, so might as well be comfy in a light and breezy singlet. We left before 3am and arrived at the venue shortly. I then deposited my baggage, had some photos taken, did some warm up with the team, and finally walked to the corral to wait for the gun start.

I had a great start during the race. I managed to stick to my 4:1 run-walk plan. It was around the 10th km that I started feeling bored, and decided to pace with my mates from Team SCR, Chek and Ralph. Chek was also doing the 80k solo, while Ralph was doing the two-man relay. They were on a 2:1 interval. Eventually, some time in the 20th km, I felt some pain in my left knee and I had to slow down. Chek went ahead, leaving me and Ralph behind. From there, we decided to power-walk because my knee injury was really bothering me. It was hot, but there was some breeze which made the heat bearable. The route was quite hilly at this point. I ran whenever I could, but it was really mostly just walking. I had a couple of hard-boiled eggs and a chocolate bar during the first half. I also had lots of soda, because of sugar rush. We reached the 40th kilometer marker and transition area at 6:48. Upon reaching that point, I hastily grabbed a bottle of water and continued on my own.

Past the 40th kilometer, the route was mostly downhill. That was when I found my stride again, and I found myself running again in a 4:1 interval at a comfortable pace. At the 45th kilometer marker, there were cup noodles. Since I was starving, I decided to take a rest and eat some noodles. I also ate another hard-boiled egg. When I had my fill, without feeling so bloated, I continued running. Upon reaching the 50th kilometer, I saw one of my team mates from Ayala Triads, Joreb, who was sitting down and resting. He paced with me from that point, where we even made a quick stop at this canteen to eat an actual rice meal (chicken tinola and half a cup of rice). After that we power-walked our way to the 55th kilometer where he eventually told me to go ahead. And so I did. What came next were the longest 15 kilometers of my life. From 1pm to 4pm, it was so hot that my skin got so sunburned. Both of my feet were aching because of the blisters. My shoes felt so tight that I wanted nothing more than two remove them and just go barefoot. I made a quick stop every time I saw marshals with a bucket of water, just so I can cool myself down. The sponges and water buckets provided a huge relief. The sun was almost setting when I reached the 70th kilometer. That was my last stop at an aid station since I figured that I had more than enough water with me to get me through the rest of the race. Also, I really just wanted to finish. 

I reached the finish line past 7pm. I felt like crying at first, but my happiness was too much that I was grinning like an idiot at the photographers at the finish line. 

Despite not making it in my target time, I still felt so happy when I crossed the finish line. The feeling was so overwhelming. It was a difficult race to complete and up until now, I am still in awe that I was able to do it. Thank you to everyone who dedicated their Saturday to making this event possible: to the marshals, aid station crew, and to the organizers. Thank you to the photographers who captured our moments. Big thanks as well to the kind locals of Albay who gave us words of encouragement along the way and for the buckets of water that they so freely provided. Lastly, thank you to my two running teams, especially to my Ayala Triads family. 

While I probably won't be running this race again, at least not the full 80k, I still highly recommend this event to every ultra runner out there. There was nothing quite like the feeling of running a challenging route under the scorching heat of the sun, while basking in the breathtaking beauty of the Mayon Volcano all throughout the race. For me, this is one memorable race.
rank: 220th out of 245 runners, official time: 15:14:45

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